Lizzie Dawson, All Souls College Library

Hello! I’m Lizzie and I am the new Graduate Trainee for All Souls College Library. I spend much of my time in the beautiful eighteenth-century Great Library, doing admin in the library office, reshelving in the stacks or haunting the cellars (where books are also kept).

All Souls Library from North Quadrangle. The sundial is attributed to Sir Christopher Wren, who was a fellow of the college.

My background is in English Literature, completing an MA in English Literary Studies at Durham a few years ago. After graduating, I knew wanted a career working with books. Before my traineeship, I worked in academic publishing – which crosses over a little with librarianship – and so I have had some prior experience dealing with books and databases. I heard about the traineeship through an academic librarian, but I was unsuccessful in my applications before COVID-19 hit and stopped everything, including libraries. I knew librarianship was something I wanted to pursue further so I worked remotely on a project for a college library in Cambridge to gain some more experience and applied again – and I was successful!

The library experience at All Souls is unique and diverse. Unlike other college libraries, All Souls does not have any students; instead, the library has a ‘three-way’ aspect: supporting the college’s fellows, welcoming readers from across the university, and working with international researchers. The library has been closed over the summer, so I have yet to see a Reader, but no day has been the same. During September, the library has hosted several big university events, such as Encaenia and the prize fellowship examinations.

All Souls can appear mysterious from the outside – and there are many tourists often peering in through the gates on Radcliffe Square eager to get a glimpse of Oxford’s ‘most exclusive’ college — however, All Souls College Library is open to any member of the University (as well as outside students and researchers) to apply to become a Reader, so long as you have a research need. The library has a speciality in European, Military and Naval History and Law; it is also home to many treasures of early printed books and substantial archives, as well as a significant collection of drawings by Christopher Wren. You can see more of the library’s collection which has been digitalized on the library website.

My traineeship promises to be an interesting year; I am looking forward to discovering more about All Souls and its library.

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