Grace Brown, the Kathleen Major Library, St Hilda’s College

The library at its opening in 1935 (from college website)
The library at its opening in 1935 (from college website)

Hello, I’m Grace and I’m the Graduate Trainee at St Hilda’s College Library (also known as the Kathleen Major library, after a former Librarian and Principal of the college). I graduated from Cambridge this year, where I studied English at Selwyn College, so moving to Oxford didn’t feel like too much of a change. Abundance of gowns, beautiful architecture, weird terminology – yup, feels normal. I have very limited library experience; I spent a week working at the English Faculty Library in Cambridge, and then a month helping with the project of RFID-tagging all the books in my college library. After 6 hours per day of sticking tags into books, shelving seems like a magical adventure…

St Hilda’s has quite a large library for a newer, less grand college. This is because it was a women-only college until recently, and since once upon a time women were not allowed to use the Bodleian, female colleges had to build their own strong collections (as Hannah also mentioned in her post). There are a few quirks of Hilda’s library: firstly, we’re not on SOLO, as we have our own system called Heritage (note my absence from SOLO training sessions, fellow trainees). Additionally, we tend to do things rather traditionally: I am the main security system, checking bags and Bod cards, and I also use a typewriter for spine labels.

There is one other notable fact about St Hilda’s Library which I keep forgetting is the main reason people have heard of it. I was reminded when a conference guest came in today. “I have come to see the famous St Hilda’s library!”, he proclaimed. I was confused – it’s a nice library, but famous? “Yes, where the students did the video!” Oh. Welcome to the library that made national news with that Harlem Shake fiasco…

I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead – learning lots, riding out the chaos that will ensue when the undergrads turn up, avoiding being crushed by the rolling stacks, getting to know my fellow trainees better, and generally enjoying life within the great web of Oxford libraries.

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