Leah Brown, English Faculty Library

In the background, there is the wooden cages in the Turville-Petre Room with our Old Icelandic-Norse collections behind them. A large wooden study table is in the foreground surrounded by brown wicker chairs.
The Turville-Petre Room, affectionately shortened to TP Room.

Hello, I’m Leah, this year’s trainee at the English Faculty Library (or EFL for short)! Though the EFL might not have the aesthetic that springs to mind when someone mentions Oxford (it is a vision of ‘60s brutalist architecture after all) our collections are no less strong than our comrades across the university libraries at large. We even have our own rare books room where readers can consult from our collections of pre-1850s volumes – although personally I would say our best kept secret is the Turville-Petre Room where our Old Norse-Icelandic collections are held.

Prior to the traineeship, I didn’t have a background in librarianship at all. I had studied English Literature for my bachelor’s degree at the University of East Anglia and knew I wanted to work with books in some capacity, but wasn’t sure where to direct my search. I then pivoted to Medieval Studies at the University of Birmingham for my master’s degree, with a focus on depictions of language and multilingualism in insular texts. The opportunity to work with manuscripts and other ephemera during my master’s, including at the Weston Library, put the idea in my head to look into working with special collections, and the rest is history.

The author of this post in-between two of our floor to ceiling stacks in the rare book room. On the shelves is a selection of books, pre-1850, mainly leatherbound. She is wearing black trousers and a brown turtleneck jumper and is standing awkwardly with slight jazz-hands.
The stacks of our rare book room (ft. a ghostly presence)

During my first month, it has very much been a case of getting the fundamentals in place before the students arrive back in Oxford en masse. This means learning how to process books, staffing our enquiries desk, and getting to grips with Alma, our new-to-everyone library system. We do, however, have the option to get a bit creative too. One thing I really enjoy about the EFL is that we have the ability to put on displays for our readers: in the past trainees have covered everything from Mid-Winter Ghosts to Fantasy Fiction. I’m hoping my display on indigenous literature will be up within the next week or so, so do feel free to pop by and have look!

In the coming months, I’m most looking forward to our introduction to special collections and conservation (of course), as well as our visit to the Collections Storage Facility near Swindon. In the long-term, I am hoping to learn more about academic librarianship, as well as whether working with collections as a librarian is a viable career path for me. The trainee scheme so far has been excellent, and I can’t wait to see what this year will bring!

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