George White and Jennifer Bladen-Hovell at Reader Services

The Old Bodleian Library lit up as part of Night of Heritage Light 29-09-2017 (Photograph by George White)

Hello, we are George and Jennifer and we’re the two Graduate Trainees who are based at Reader Services in the Old Bodleian Library this year. We thought we’d do a joint blog so we don’t repeat any information. We’ve been working here a month, which has flown by. As with any new job, there is an awful lot to learn and we have attended a fair few training sessions already, to get us up and running with the library systems. Things are starting to make a bit of sense now – but we are still relying on our very supportive team of colleagues to help us out with the more complicated reader enquiries. Term starts next week, so the new students are starting to descend – wish us luck over these next few weeks of chaos!

George says: Before my traineeship started, I studied English Literature and History at Sheffield University – where I spent a lot of time reading in the library! After graduating, I worked in public libraries for a few years- in Rochdale, where I grew up. I loved uni and working in my local library, so working at an academic library seems like the perfect place for me. I feel especially lucky to be working in one as beautiful as the Bodleian (I keep finding excuses to visit Duke Humfrey’s, the oldest part of the building, which is particularly lovely!).

Jennifer says: Prior to becoming a trainee, I completed an MA (Medieval History) and BA (History) at the University of York. After graduating, I worked in retail for a while, alongside volunteering in my local library and applying to a range of Graduate Trainee Schemes. I’m really looking forward to my year in Oxford, and at the Bodleian specifically, with the range of activities organised for us and the responsibilities I’ll have.

The Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in the Europe; it was first opened in 1620, although it includes a much earlier library (Duke Humfrey’s Library) which dates to the 15th Century. The library has a long-standing tradition that none of its books are lent to readers – even to royalty. Charles I was apparently refused permission to borrow one – it’s good to mention this to readers, should they complain! The Bodleian is a Legal Deposit Library, which means we’re entitled to a copy of every book published in Britain. As you can imagine, this means we have an awful lot of books (around 12 million, last time we counted…) so the vast majority are housed at our Book Storage Facility in Swindon. Books can be ordered in by readers and will likely arrive the next day. As a result, staff are kept busy with twice daily deliveries from Swindon.

George in very fetching (i.e. mandatory) Hi Vis whilst doing the van delivery
Van delivering books to the Old Schools Quad

In addition to being a working academic library, the Old Bodleian is also a tourist attraction; running daily tours of the Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library. It is also, occasionally, a film set. Duke Humfrey’s Library was used as Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films. It holds special collections which may be looked at, but which must be consulted in the Special Collections reading rooms over at the Weston Library. These books are alarmed and there is a member of the security team in the library at all times. Although they don’t actually scream at you, these books are about as close as you’re going to get to the Restricted Section at Hogwarts.

As Graduate Trainees, we float between the several teams that ensure that the library functions. So far, this has included:
• Stints on the Proscholium (fancy Oxford term for reception) which has involved a lot of nice conversations with tourists and directing nervous-looking undergrads and postgrads around the maze that is the Old Bodleian.
• Covering the Main Enquiry Desk, answering telephone calls and email enquiries (these vary greatly!)
• Processing deliveries from the BSF.
• Re-shelving items used by our readers (there are lots of classification schemes used it the Old Bodleian, just to keep us on our toes!)
• And, perhaps the most useful skill in a librarian’s repertoire, helping readers connect to the library’s Wi-Fi.

Another great aspect of the Bodleian’s Library Graduate Trainee scheme is that we’ve started the job at the same time as 23 other trainees. It’s nice to be part of this network and find people with similar interests- especially having just moved to a new city, where we don’t know many people. We expect our weekly training sessions, will soon become a highlight of each week (especially if we keep up the tradition of heading to the local pub afterwards… speaking of which, we’ll say goodbye for now.)


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