Inductions – a not-so-ordinary Day in the Life

For those not in Oxford, this week has been our Freshers’ Week, which at the Law Library meant lots of lost undergraduates appearing and needing looking after. Every first-year undergraduate law student is supposed to come to a library induction on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, organised by their college, which includes a tour, a quiz, and an introduction to the online resources that we pay for. So it’s been a busy few days for the staff, trying to shepherd them around, answer questions, get our ordinary work done, and help all the other readers as usual. Yesterday for me was a particularly unusual day, so I thought I’d blog a bit about it to give a bit of a flavour of induction week at Law.

After getting in at 8.45 to coax my computer into life and collect my notes, I went to run the first tour of the day at 9.15 with a colleague. We were expecting 15 students, but at 9.20 had only five, so I was dispatched at 9.25 to take them on a tour while she waited to see if any more turned up. Condensing a 20-minute tour into 10 meant a bit of extra pressure, but I was pleased when the group seemed to find the quiz fairly approachable by the end. It was only my second tour, and the first one I’d led had seemed a bit non-plussed about the layout of the library, but this group seemed to remember things quite well. The quiz required them to find four books from areas they will need to find a lot in their first year: Roman law, Halsbury’s Statutes, a Law Report, and a journal article. I even had a go at explaining why there was only one name in the Criminal Appeal case they were looking at – picking up bits of law here and there already! We got them, and another two who’d arrived eventually, safely delivered to the IT induction on time at 9.55, and I had time to get a well-deserved cup of tea.
When I got back to my desk, I found an exciting email waiting for me. I signed up last week to go to a talk by Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science (which used to be held by Richard Dawkins), about how social media is useful to his job. It was part of the IT Services Engage Programme, which looks like it will have a whole bunch of other interesting things over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, when I signed up, the talk was sold out, but I found an email waiting for me to tell me that I could now go. At 12.30 that day! The talk turned out to be really interesting: Marcus du Sautoy was very engaging and enthusiastic, particularly about Twitter, but also about maths and science generally, which as someone who likes to call herself some kind of mathematician, was very refreshing after a while at Law, which doesn’t have much scope for that. Hopefully I’ll get to go along to some of the other Engage talks or workshops, for example there’s one on Crowd Sourcing collections, which sounds very interesting. They’re also running a 23 Things for Research self-study programme over the term, which sounds interesting, and which I’d quite like to do. I’m not sure how it ties in with cpd23, which is for Professional Development, and I know other library people have done.

Anyway, once I’d got back from the talk, grabbed some lunch from the Social Sciences Café next door and got back to my desk, it was time to get down to work in earnest. The Law Bod is part of the legal deposit for the Bodleian. I have to say that I’m not massively up to speed about how exactly legal deposit works, but here’s my attempt at an explanation: every book or pamphlet or magazine etc. that is published in the UK has to have a copy sent to the British Library in London. Any other legal deposit library in the UK (the Bodleian, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, or the library of Trinity College, Dublin) are allowed to request a free copy within a year of publication (paraphrased from Wikipedia, please don’t judge me). Now, within the Bodleian Libraries, various different libraries receive the legal deposit books that we request, depending on the subject. And Law, naturally, gets the law books. I haven’t been able to find a good list of Bodleian libraries which get legal deposit books, but the central Bodleian, the Social Science Library, the Radcliffe Science Library, the Vere Harmsworth Library, and Rhodes House Library all do, while the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library doesn’t. But anyway, every week we get a delivery of books that our librarian has picked out from the larger list as being relevant to law (sometimes the subject librarians have to argue it out amongst themselves who gets it), and they come to my desk. I process them (stamping, recording, and security taping) before they get catalogued and classified. Soon I’ll be able to help with the cataloguing, but not until my permissions get sorted out yet again. So that took up the rest of my day really, until 5pm.

Which, sadly, was not the end of my work, because it was time for my fortnightly evening shift, until 7pm. I was working at the Reserve Collection, where we keep the most highly-used textbooks and lend them within the library to students. This is mostly to keep track of who has them, so that they can always be given out when people want them, and not get lost in some far corner of the library. I was also checking reading lists, since the Law Bod tries very hard to have a copy of all books on reading lists each year, and so every year every single one needs to be checked (63 this year, although we haven’t had them all yet) against the catalogue. Which is mostly fine, but unfortunately the one I was checking seemed to have been almost entirely rewritten, and there was quite a bit of material we didn’t have, and some which nowhere in Oxford had!

A couple of readers stood out in my mind from that shift. One girl wanted to know all about the various legal databases. I showed her OxLIP+, our way of searching for them, and then helped her to find Westlaw, a major legal database, so that she could find the case she needed to read online. This took a while, since her laptop keyboard and internet browser were both in French! But we got there in the end. Then a little while later, she came back, saying that she was having trouble downloading the case. She showed me what she was doing, and after a while the site gave her a message to click ‘open’ or ‘save’, but neither of these options appeared anywhere! Instead, a banner appeared at the top of the page, in French. Half-remembering seeing similar, English, banners myself, I managed to work out that her browser was blocking a popup that would ask her to save the document. Partly by my very rusty French, and partly just remembering the same process from previous occasions, I managed to show her how to unblock the popup, and she got the article! I felt very pleased with myself.

Another reader had a serious of complicated requests for my colleagues, which I had to help with by photocopying some of his papers, and finding him an envelope. He turned out to be a visiting student of some kind, and wanted to come back the following day to continue working, but only had a day pass for the library. Unfortunately, he waited until 7.05 to let us know about this, so with security hovering at our shoulders, and everyone ready to leave for the weekend, we had to try and sort out his permission to use the library, and explain what he should do after the weekend if he wanted to keep using it. After this, he asked for directions to another building, so we found him a map, and for another envelope, which we couldn’t get because the whole building was locked up for closing! I was impressed at how willing my colleagues were to continue to help him, even though it went well beyond our remit, and it was past closing time on a Friday evening. I only hope I could be that patient in the same situation.

At any rate, at 7.15 in the rain, I finally left the library, induction week over, and ready for a restful weekend. Thanks very much for reading my not-so-ordinary Day in the Life!

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