We welcomed our new 2019-20 trainees to Oxford last week and we have 20 trainees this year. Most of our trainees are based in the Bodleian Libraries, 5 in our colleges and we have 1 Digital Archives trainees. Pembroke College and the Bodleian’s Rare Books department have recruited a trainee this year and they are looking forward to being part of the scheme. The Law Library and Taylorian have both recruited an extra trainee this time as well. They attended the Trainee Welcome session last Wednesday and have a packed training programme this term to get them up to speed with the skills and knowledge they need for the start of Michaelmas Term. They are looking forward to their tour of the Bodleian and drinks in the Divinity School this week where Amy Warner-May, Associate Director of Scholarly Resources, will welcome them to the libraries.
Our trainees will be introducing themselves on the trainee blog over the next week or two, so do follow their progress throughout the year. We wish them a happy and successful year with us in Oxford!
As the 2018-19 trainee scheme draws to a close, we have listed our immediate plans for the future in this blog post. Hopefully this will be useful to anyone thinking of applying to the scheme, or for the next cohort of trainees to have some sense of where they might be heading in a year’s time. All the best to the new trainees starting in September, and good luck to any future applicants to the scheme.
I’m going to be doing the full-time Library and Information Studies MA at UCL, with a focus on manuscripts, palaeography and historical bibliography. I’ll also be working part-time at New College Library as Special Collections Curatorial Assistant.
I’ve loved my trainee year at St Hugh’s – the work has been diverse and interesting, my colleagues (and the cats) are lovely, and the training sessions have been really useful. I’ll be staying on at St Hugh’s for another 2 years as a Library Assistant, while doing the long-distance Library and Information Services Management MA course at the University of Sheffield. After that, who knows? Might stay in Oxford, or might try and find a Librarian position back home in Scotland. I’ve enjoyed working in an academic library with a modern working collection, so I’ll probably look for roles in similar libraries (but won’t limit myself). The trainee scheme has taught me a lot, and has been an excellent gateway into the profession. Made some friends too – I’m sure we’ll help one another through the masters.
Admiral Flapjack, one of the St Hugh’s College cats.
I really enjoyed my time at the Sainsbury Library. My colleagues were all so welcoming and made me feel part of the team instantly. They were always happy to answer my questions and help me whenever I was stuck. The trainee scheme was a great way to meet other people as well. It was particularly helpful when moving to a new city as it’s great to have other people in the same boat to talk to. I finished my traineeship at the Sainsbury Library at the end of May and moved to St Hilda’s College where I am now the Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach Officer there. A bit of a change from libraries, but I’m really enjoying my new job and having new challenges.
I learnt a great a deal throughout the year, learnt new skills, and met some lovely people. One main tip, if you do apply, don’t be daunted by subject specialist libraries! The Sainsbury Library is a business library, and I’ve never studied Business or Economics and I really enjoyed my time there. If you’re interested in libraries, books, the University of Oxford, definitely apply for the graduate scheme! You never know where you’ll end up!
Next year I will be studying for the Sheffield University MA Library and Information Services Management, part time via distance learning. I will also be working mornings as a Library Assistant at University College, Oxford (commonly referred to as Univ), just over the road from where I am currently based, so I’m not moving far.
After a brilliant year at the Bodleian Law Library, I will miss all my colleagues and fellow trainees in Oxford lots when I return back home to Glasgow to study for a MSc in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde. I am hoping to be able to get a part-time job in libraries while studying full-time for my masters, and I am very excited but also slightly apprehensive about what the future will bring – wish me luck!
I finished the Taylor traineeship early, at the end of June, in order to start my new, permanent part-time position as Library Assistant across the Taylor, Sackler, and Oriental Institute Libraries, which I have been working in for a month already! Come September, I will be adding studying at UCL, as I take my MA (part-time) in Library and Information Studies. I’ve had a wonderful time as a trainee, and I’m so excited about where I’m going next!
I will be working as a Senior Library Assistant at St. Anne’s College Library, while completing my LIS MA part-time at UCL come September. Having been completely new to libraries when I started as a trainee, I would have never had the skills or confidence to go into my new role or further study without the traineeship, and am very grateful for the year I’ve had!
I have really enjoyed my graduate trainee year at Christ Church Library and the experience really confirmed for me that I really do want to work in Library and Information Services. As such I applied for an MA in Library and Information Services Management at the University of Sheffield, which I will be starting this September. This will be through distance learning and I will be studying part-time over two years. I am also really fortunate to have the opportunity to continue working full-time at Christ Church Library as a Library Assistant for the next year. Both working full-time and studying part-time will be a challenge, but I am really glad I can be working in a library alongside my studies as I think it will keep me motivated and hopefully what I learn in one will help me in the other!
I’m going to work on a project in Croatia, ‘Mapping and documentation of industrial heritage’, in Ivanic-Grad. It’s organised by Culture Hub Croatia, in partnership with Friends of Heritage and European Heritage Volunteers. They organise short placements around Europe for young heritage professionals. I suppose it’s a kind of chance to use archival skills in a setting where they are trying to develop a public profile of their heritage.
Rebecca delivering her presentation at the trainee showcase in July 2019.
I have really enjoyed the Bodleian Graduate Library Traineeship; everyone has been incredibly supportive and receptive, and I will miss my fellow trainees who are leaving Oxford to pursue opportunities elsewhere – I wish them luck!
During the traineeship, my nisus has been toward achieving a place on a library-related Masters programme, so I was pleased to learn earlier this year that I have been accepted to study Library and Information Services Management at Sheffield University. The course is a distance-learning programme taught on a part time basis, which means I can continue to live and work in Oxford. Having recently secured a permanent position here as a Library Assistant, I am a little apprehensive over the prospect of balancing professional and academic commitments, but after speaking to some of my colleagues, I realise I am not alone in this respect!
This year, many Graduate Library Trainees expressed an interest in shadowing a fellow trainee from another Oxford library. Colleagues from Bodleian Staff Development worked to facilitate this and fortunately Leanne and I were able to spend an afternoon at one another’s workplace. Leanne is the Graduate Library Trainee at Christ Church (ChCh), one of Oxford University’s largest colleges, while I’m the trainee at the Radcliffe Camera, home to the Bodleian’s History Faculty Library (HFL).
The nature of each traineeship can vary considerably depending on the remit of the library, its size and the nature of its collections. These differences are magnified when the logistical and operational nuances distinct to each library are accounted for. Shadowing at another library provides an opportunity to experience these differences in context, to consider some of the factors impacting other library services and to critically reflect on the practices of the libraries we normally work in.
After our afternoons of shadowing were over, we decided to write a joint blog post to recount our experiences, using a Q and A as the basis for encapsulating our opinions. Suffice to say we had fun!
Why did you want to shadow at the library you chose?
Ross Jones, History Faculty Library: Having spent the majority of my time working and studying in the Bodleian Libraries, I welcomed the opportunity to experience the day to day goings-on of a college library; I wanted to learn about the parameters a college library was expected to operate within and how this might affect the services they are able to provide. Given the familial nature of a college environment, I was also eager to discover what kind of learning cultures a more insular and exclusive library service helps to inspire.
Leanne Grainger, Christ Church Library: As a trainee in a college library I was keen to shadow a trainee within the Bodleian Libraries to find out how the experience differs in a larger library team as well as within the larger Bodleian Libraries’ structure.
What were your first impressions of the library?
Ross says: Friendly and ambitious. Oxford is saturated with historic buildings and architecture of seemingly every kind. This has led me, albeit guiltily, to become a tad indifferent to the awesome facades boasted by the libraries of many of the older Oxford colleges. To me, the most impressive feature of a library is the service it provides and I was struck first and foremost by the welcoming personalities of Christ Church’s library staff and the grand designs they had for improving their service.
Leanne says: Grand. Iconic. Busy – especially considering it was vacation! The History Faculty Library is currently situated in the Radcliffe Camera, a well-known landmark in Oxford, which is beautiful both inside and out. Even though I was shadowing Ross during the vacation it seemed pretty busy and I imagine it is an extremely popular study space within Oxford.
What did you find to be different in comparison to your own library?
Ross says: The book-request service. Having secured a generous budget for purchasing, one of Christ Church College Library’s many strengths is its ability to provide students a significant stake in its Collection Development Policy by allowing them, in a sense, to build a reader-curated collection. If a student needs it and the library doesn’t have it, you can be sure a copy will be bought (within reason of course!). I was amazed to learn that the record time for fulfilling a request was just a matter of hours, with staff going above and beyond to deliver the requested item to the reader at their desk.
Leanne says: That anyone with a reader’s card can use the library! It has a diverse range of readers to cater for, and even has a section of the library that is a laptop free zone for readers to use to get away from the noise of keyboard tapping! As a college, the library is predominantly only for our own students and has no where near as many readers. With a larger team at the HFL, Ross covers the front desk on a rota, usually about 3 hours a day, which is quite a lot less than the half day if not the whole day I usually work at the front desk! A bigger team also seemed to mean that everybody has particular roles and responsibilities, whereas I find I get to do a bit of everything. The HFL also seemed to not be as involved in acquisitions and cataloguing as at ChCh, as these are done centrally within Bodleian Libraries.
What did you find to be the same in comparison to your own library?
Ross says: The day to day challenges of working in an 18th century building. Where spiral staircases and galleries abound there will invariably be a multitude of issues with running a modern library service. Facilitating access for mobility-impaired readers, shelving in precarious positions and struggling with antique furniture and fixtures were all too familiar aspects of library work at Christ Church.
Leanne says: I feel like I can only think of more differences! However, it was fascinating when similarities popped up. Redirecting tourists at the front desk, rather packed lost property shelves and a Library of Congress classification system were all very familiar! A lot of the routine tasks such as the processing of books felt similar too. The book covering in particular, with book sleeves for dust covers and lamination of paperbacks (but I’d highly recommend commando covers!).
What aspects of shadowing did you enjoy?
Ross says: The variety of environments. With Christ Church boasting an upper and lower library, a separate 24-hour Law library, the Allestree Library, a variety of rare book rooms and an archive room hidden away at the top of a tower, it’s a wonder Leanne and the rest of the team manage to keep on top of it all! With everything as spaced out as it is, I imagine resources are stretched pretty thin at times, but having a backstage pass to it all for the day made for a truly enchanting experience.
Leanne says: I really enjoyed exploring the space and learning about the HFL being a library within a library – the HFL doesn’t own the space it’s in, the Bodleian does! This has drawbacks in terms of having space to expand into, which is a huge issue even for libraries with their own space. There is overlapping of the HFL collections and the Bodleian Library collections in the Gladstone Link, which is underneath the Radcliffe Camera and between the two libraries, which was interesting to get my head around! I enjoyed getting to be a part of the daily delivery of books from the off-site store at Swindon, there are some interesting things that get delivered. I also like that I was able to process a new book that now has its shelfmark written inside in my handwriting.
What benefits do you feel are unique to the trainee role of the library you visited?
Ross says: As Leanne says, working at a college library tends to involve a little bit of everything. At the History Faculty Library, where roles are more compartmentalised, my main focus is Reader Services and this means chances to work with bibliographic records are few and far between. At Christ Church, Leanne often creates and edits holdings records, which is a useful transferable skill to have when it comes to pursuing a career in libraries!
Leanne says: The trainee project that Ross has taken on this year I feel highlights a unique aspect to the HFL – that it is a subject specific library in History. Ross is looking into improving the provision and accessibility of the History set texts, which I think is a useful and transferable experience. For example, Ross has carried out a survey of the students who need to use these texts to find out more about how and if they use them. I especially feel that the most unique feature of being a trainee at the HFL is it being a library within a library. Learning to navigate the different collections of a shared library space and getting to observe and learn how those collections an d that space is managed I think will be uniquely valuable experience.
What ideas or procedures might you think about implementing in your own library after visiting?
Ross says: Minor cosmetic changes to improve the readability of shelf marks. The library staff at Christ Church have used an ongoing reclassification project as an opportunity to trial some simple and effective ideas to improve the browsing experiences of readers. In retro converting the classification sequences in the lower library to Library of Congress, staff at Christ Church have decided to print out shelf mark labels on yellow stickers rather than white ones to aid those readers with dyslexia or Irlen syndrome. They also print their labels so that the first line of each shelf mark will appear at the same height on each book spine, regardless of how many cutter numbers a shelf mark might have. This makes it easier to follow the sequence along the shelf. Every little helps!
Leanne says: At Christ Church Library we are already looking into using the bindery where Ross sends worn books to be rebound. I talked to my Librarians about the system that Ross uses to regularly send books that are in need of TLC to the bindery and we’re now looking to adopt a similar strategy to be more efficient with our rebinding budget. Talking to Ross about his trainee project has also inspired and motivated me to look into improving the promotion and visibility of collections that are particularly important to students, including the accessibility equipment we provide.
Can you describe the library you visited in one word?
(The following is part one of a two-part blog post on the 2019 OxCam Librarians’ Biennial Conference. It features individual recollections of the day’s events, kindly contributed by some of the Oxford and Cambridge University Graduate Library Trainees in attendance.)
The 2019 OxCam College Librarians’ Biennial Conference, hosted by Worcester College, Oxford, took place on the 19th March in the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre. The event provided an opportunity to share ideas and updates on developments currently impacting the library services of Oxford and Cambridge University colleges. An exhibition space had been set up in the conference centre’s anteroom, allowing delegates the chance to network throughout the day with representatives from numerous organisations, including Cambridge University Press, Temple Bookbinders, Blackwell’s, and Gresswell. Upon arrival, attendees were given a welcome pack which included a programme of proceedings, some helpful maps and floor plans, a register of delegates and, of course, a complimentary bookmark.
The first talk on mental ill-health in the workplace, delivered by Dan Holloway, was warmly received by the delegation and provided a positive, constructive foundation for the day ahead. Jenna, Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian Law Library (BLL) details the conference’s opening prelection:
‘Dan Holloway’s presentation was the first of the day, and he set a really good tone for the remainder of the conference by delivering a very thoughtful and open talk which conveyed important information in an informal and accessible way. Dan ran through some of the issues contributing to and exasperating mental ill-health in the work place; he considered the things we can do to aid workers with mental health difficulties and to break down stigmas, using facts and statistics alongside experiences from his own mental health story.’
After a round of informative and thought-provoking presentations, breakout sessions ran contiguous to the morning’s plenary session. The Graduate Library Trainees were asked to attend a special session led by Eleanor Kelly of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Ross Jones, Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian History Faculty Library, recounts his experience in the passage below:
‘The Graduate Trainee Special Session took place in the Smethurst Studio and served as a platform for sharing our experiences as library trainees. In all, a total of twenty trainees attended, including a party of six from Cambridge University colleges.
Discussions opened with a brief ice-breaker exercise in which we were asked to share our name and our place of work with the group. We were also asked to describe our respective libraries in one word – ‘accommodating’, ‘comfortable’, ‘warm’ and ‘antiquated’ were some examples. After a round of introductions, Eleanor organised us all into five smaller groups and prompt sheets were circulated to guide conversation towards specific talking points. These points centred on aspects of our experiences such as the skills we’d attained, any accomplishments we’d achieved, the challenges we’d faced, and the types of library work we were involved in. I think structuring the conversation in this way helped to determine the significance of any similarities or contrasts that stemmed from working in different libraries.
Towards the end of the session, the group I was in broached the possibility of applying for postgraduate courses in library-related fields and discussed whether it was preferable to enrol as a full-time or part-time student. We also speculated which career paths might suit us best in the future. It was equal parts interesting and reassuring to hear from my compeers about the various activities trainees were involved with day to day; despite the differences, it seems inevitable that every trainee will, at one point, find themselves book processing, adhering bookplates and spine labels to new acquisitions!’
Once the morning breakout sessions had concluded, the delegation broke for lunch in Worcester College Hall. It was a hurried affair as visits to an Oxford archive, museum or college library were scheduled to run concurrently in the early afternoon. Natasha, one of the visiting trainees from Pembroke College, Cambridge, reflects on her tour of the Queen’s College Library in the passage below:
‘After lunch we split into groups for one of the most anticipated parts of the day, the library visits, and the Queen’s College Library did not disappoint. Amanda Saville, the Librarian, raced through the College and Library’s histories before letting us into the Upper Library.
This space is the oldest part of the Library and it remains open as a student study area. A staircase connects it to the Lower Library which houses much of the modern teaching collection and before the extension the shelves were full. The New Library is the most recent extension and it opened in 2017. Hidden beneath the Provost’s Garden, it allowed the library to expand and houses the special collections and archives in a secure and environmentally controlled storeroom. Multiple new reading rooms allow for better access to the special collections and cater to a wider range of student needs. It was great seeing how popular the New Library is, even in the vacation, and how well Amanda’s team did in supporting their users throughout the different Library spaces.’
Meanwhile, Bethan, a trainee at the Old Bodleian Library, was among those visiting Exeter College’s Cohen Quad. Elaborating on her experience, she says:
‘I was given the chance to visit Exeter College’s Cohen Quad which contained a purpose-built facility for the College Library’s Special Collections. William Morris is a notable alumnus of Exeter, and some of his possessions were donated to the college. This included his many pipes and a lock of his hair. We were shown an array of artefacts, including books produced by Morris’s printing house, Kelmscott Press; there was a beautifully illustrated edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which apparently is the original ‘Kelmscott Chaucer’ and belonged to Morris himself.
The Special Collections Librarian showed us the new facility which houses the collections and archives. This included the colour-coded rolling stacks and a purpose-built metal gate used to keep the rarest items secure. She discussed the logistics of moving over 30,000 rare books and manuscripts to the site and the challenges she faced in the process. The collections themselves were originally held in poor conditions, so each item had to be individually cleaned and restored before being moved. There was time afterwards for questions and a brief discussion about the promotion of Special Collections.’
‘Mark Bainbridge, the Librarian of Worcester College, was our knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide. I think I can safely say everyone in our group had a very pleasant visit. We first climbed up an eighteenth century cantilevered spiral staircase with over 60 steps to reach the modern (upper) library, which was created in the twentieth century. It is open 24/7 and holds 65,000 volumes across two levels. These are all digitally catalogued and can be borrowed via a self-service machine. The card catalogue was discontinued in February 2006, but is still available for consultation. They acquire around 1,000 books each year and have approximately 6 years of space left before the library is full, although there is some weeding to be done which should give them a little more time. The first professional librarian to work here introduced an in-house classification system in the 1960s, which is still used today.
Naturally the highlight of our visit was the handsome Lower Library, completed in 1736. Most of the shelves hold Dr George Clarke’s large bequest of books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, a great deal of which are not digitally catalogued. Sadly, we did not get to walk along the gallery, but we were a big group so this probably was not feasible. The Lower Library is open from 8am until midnight each day. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular place for students to work, so much so that they have to set out modern desks and chairs during particularly busy periods.
The library team had kindly selected and displayed a few interesting items for us to view in a small room next to the Lower Library…’
Across town, Jenna (BLL) and Eva of Newnham College, Cambridge, were welcomed into the grounds of Oxford University’s largest college, Christ Church. In detailing their experiences, they recount the awesome purlieus and inspiring collections of the college library.
‘It is futile to try to describe the overwhelming grandeur of Christ Church and its libraries in terms of beauty. An oddball of my generation, I am not a big fan of photographing things, preferring to just experience events and commit them to memory. The whistle stop tour of Christ Church library however had me almost instinctively reaching for my iPhone and snapping away unashamedly with the crowd around me.’
‘The visit to Christ Church library began with a small introduction to the college and the library by the College Librarian, Steven Archer, in Tom Quad with assistance from Emma Sillett who is the Reader Services Librarian. The grounds of the college are impressive – Tom Quad being the biggest quad of all the colleges – and you can see why Christ Church has a reputation for being one of the grandest colleges in Oxford. We then walked through the cloisters to what is actually the ‘New’ Library, which was completed in 1772 as a result of the Old Library becoming so full that they had to build another building to accommodate the amount of books that were being donated.’
‘What was striking about the New Library was how spacious and accommodating the surroundings felt, as well as elegant. The silence felt hushed as opposed to suffocating. It was as though the prestige of the college’s history and status created an atmosphere of inspiration, rather than intimidation.’
‘The Library’s reading rooms are on the ground floor of the New Library, which holds the working collection, and is a pleasant mix of antiquated and classical design with beautiful iron spiral staircases and wooden shelving, contrasting with white columns and domed archways. I really enjoyed seeing students using the reading rooms, which shows that the ground floor is comfortable and accessible for students to borrow and work from.
In contrast to this though, the Upper Library was arresting in its grandeur and the smell of old books – addictive to anyone working in libraries. The upper floor consists of the college’s rare books which are mainly arranged under named shelves referencing the benefactors who bequeathed the collections. This room also holds a large amount of interesting objects, such as a hat which apparently belonged to Cardinal Wolsey and a full horse skeleton which was being used by an anatomy class at Ruskin School of Art.’
‘The magnificent upper library, where the special collections are held is overwhelming. Our tour guide and head librarian Steven was at pains to emphasise the main function of the room is for the collections to be used and consulted, and that this was actively encouraged to potentially timid students.’
‘Steven had arranged for items from the college archive to be brought out for us to see, including an illuminated manuscript, one of Elizabeth I’s bibles, the foundation charter of the college, and a photograph album and draft drawings for Alice in Wonderland which belonged to Lewis Carroll who was Sub-Librarian at Christ Church during the second half of the 19th Century.’
‘The literary association with Christ Church that gets most people excited is Harry Potter, its cloisters and staircase having featured as settings for various scenes in the film series. I, however, was far more excited by another fantasy staple of fiction embedded in its history: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. To be able to stand in the same spot as Lewis Carroll did, beside his desk, and look out of the window at the ‘Cheshire Cat’s Tree’ was an eerily wonderful moment, as was being able to look at handcrafted figures of the characters made in 1900 and see original sketches Carroll’s brother drew of the book’s illustrations. I doubt I am the first to tour Christ Church and leave feeling rather like Alice.’
‘Overall, it was a really superb and informative tour which was well-structured but also allowed us freedom to explore the dizzying double-height Upper Library ourselves – I feel very lucky to have had such knowledgeable guides in Steven and Emma and I felt very inspired being ‘let loose’ in such a beautiful library.’
See part two of this blog post for details on the afternoon sessions attended by Oxford and Cambridge University Graduate Library Trainees!
(The following is part two of a two-part blog post on the 2019 OxCam Librarians’ Biennial Conference. It features individual recollections of the day’s events, kindly contributed by some of the Oxford and Cambridge University Graduate Library Trainees in attendance.)
After a busy morning of exhibitions and talks, and an insightful afternoon of visits, the delegation returned to the conference centre for the final few sessions of the day. Our story of events picks up again with Emmy, Graduate Library Trainee at Lady Margaret Hall, and her reflections on the Library Exhibitions On A Budget Session:
‘When we had returned from our lunchtime visits (and of course had a break for tea and plenty of cake) it was time for another breakout session. This time the trainees were spread between the different rooms. I had signed up for a session on how to produce library exhibitions on a budget, led byVictoria Stevens.
As an accredited library and archives conservator, Victoria had lots of experience to share with us! Some of her tips included:
Make your own book cradles andVivakleaflet stands.
Think about what story the objects tell, and don’t squash too many of them into your arrangement.
If you do have some money to invest, consider purchasing alight logger.
Watching practical demonstrations and handling samples of display materials helped me to understand how these can be custom made in the library, as long as we are careful to chooseconservation-grade materials. As I am a trainee at a college library, I am lucky enough to work with our small but interesting collection ofrare books, so I am excited to try out some of these ideas back at the library.’
In a separate seminar room, Rowan, the trainee at St John’s College, Cambridge, was attending the session ‘Speed Dating with Special Collections’. Co-hosted by colleagues from both universities, the session touched upon the strengths and weaknesses of different outreach strategies in raising the profile of special collections:
‘Julia Walworth, of Merton College, Oxford and Anne McLaughin of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge ran a session which allowed participants to all get involved discussing the pros and cons of different special collections outreach strategies. Online initiatives were popular, with many libraries making use of social media to highlight a particular item each month. However, it was raised that the main followers of library Twitter accounts are often other libraries, meaning that other options need to be utilised to engage a variety audiences. Such strategies, it was suggested, could include regular exhibitions and open days as well as practical workshops. The collaborative nature of the session meant we could learn of strategies that involve those less likely to already be accessing special collections. For example, inviting school groups to use the collections within their curriculum allows early engagement with historical materials, well before university. With all outreach strategies, there is a good deal of planning and preparation that goes into the finished strategy, and this has to be taken into account when deciding what will work best for each library. However, it pays off in the end.’
Meanwhile, Isobel of Queens’ College, Cambridge, had chosen to join the breakout session about fundraising for special collections. Lead by Naomi Tiley, the session helped to elucidate some of the issues inherent in fundraising projects. It also proved a useful introduction to the afternoon plenary session, which considered in detail Balliol College’s Wellcome Trust funded project to reclassify a collection of early modern texts, collated and bequeathed by Nicholas Crouch:
‘I attended two sessions on the topic of fundraising for special collections – a common necessity for many Oxford and Cambridge colleges. The first was a breakout session, run by Naomi Tiley of Balliol College, Oxford, where attendees were encouraged to share their experiences of fundraising, and offer observations and advice for future projects. As a topic outside of my direct experience to date, but very much in line with my personal career aspirations in rare books librarianship, I found the session extremely interesting and informative. It was especially useful to learn about potential funding bodies and application processes within the practical context of real-life projects and planned funding applications.
Following the breakout session, we returned to the main lecture theatre for the final plenary session of the conference. Focusing once again on fundraising for special collections, the presentation explored a case study undertaken by Balliol College, Oxford in conjunction with theWellcome Trust. Naomi Tiley and James Howarth (Balliol College andSt Edmund Hall, Oxford) were engaging speakers; incorporating question-and-answer based dialogues as they took us step by step through their project to secure funding for cataloguing theNicholas Crouch collection. The session was particularly informative about not only fundraising, but also both in-house and outreach opportunities that can evolve from special collections cataloguing and subsequent improved accessibility.’
As the day’s business drew to a close, all the trainees agreed that the conference had been a thoroughly inspiring day of talks, visits and networking. We all gathered a tremendous amount of practical information from the sessions we attended and took away many new ideas to implement in our current libraries and in the future. As trainees, being able to meet and hear from so many professionals in the field was hugely valuable (as was sharing our library experiences with fellow trainees from ‘the other place’!). Our only regret was that we couldn’t attend all of the breakout sessions, because they all sounded brilliant! Those of us attending as the official delegate for our respective libraries certainly had plenty to report back to our colleagues.
On behalf of us all, thank you very much to Worcester College for hosting, to all the conference speakers and sponsors, and to the organisers — Liz Kay (Brasenose), Emma Sillett (Christ Church), Diana Hackett (Nuffield), Eleanor Kelly (St. Hilda’s) and Marina Sotiriou (Lincoln).
Amy Douglas – St Hugh’s College, Oxford
Isobel Goodman – Queens’ College, Cambridge
Emmy Ingle – Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
Ross Jones – Bodleian History Faculty Library and Radcliffe Camera
In a previous post I promised to introduce some new members of the Lady Margaret Hall team: Benny (the college cat) and Beyonce, Michelle and Kelly (the college rabbits) have been doing a wonderful job in their roles supporting welfare in the college. Recently though, there hasn’t been as much grass poking through for them to snack on, as LMH has been covered in snow. This is giving the college a cosy, festive feeling even though we are already halfway through term, so in this post I thought I would give an insight into what went on in the library over the winter vacation. (And of course, there will be some photos of Benny and the LMH bunnies.)
While the library might be fairly empty of students over the vacations, there are still plenty of tasks to complete. There are heaps of books hurriedly returned before the end of term, and headphones, socks, and even a pomegranate that have been left behind. But it’s also a chance to catch up on projects that we have less time for during term. Over the recent holidays, this meant an opportunity to start planning and researching the graduate trainee project (which I’m hoping to base around library accessibility issues) as well as an upcoming exhibition showcasing some of our rare books. It also gave me time to make a start on the process of reclassifying a section of the library.
As I have mentioned before, I’m interested in medical knowledge and information, so my supervisor and I decided that it would make sense for me to re-evaluate the healthcare section of the library. As Amy explained in her post, the main part of this process involves analysing books in this section and assigning them a new shelfmark, based on a more current classification framework than they were previously organised by. So what is classification?
Classification is a way of organising knowledge. The idea of sorting library materials into classes has been around for centuries – it’s present in the 7th Century BC Library of Ashurbanipal clay tablets – but collections have not always been arranged in the most helpful order. In a modern library, classification systems create a logical layout for browsing, as well as assigning each item a place so it can be easily found. A classification is attached to the item based on its form and contents, and this correlates with its place in the shelving order. The shelfmark or call number can also include other information: publication date, author, title, edition, volume, copy number, height, acquisition number…
There are various systems of classification, and different Oxford libraries use different systems. Some have their own unique system; several others use Library of Congress. Each system has advantages and disadvantages in its usability. Each also derives from its own specific time and place, and therefore reflects cultural ideas about the value of and relationship between areas of knowledge.
For example, the Library of Congress system, widely used in North American academic libraries, arranges materials in a way that does not reflect Native American and First Nations worldviews or allow for the diversity of these cultures. It also places Native cultures in the ‘History’ section despite these cultures still being present today. Librarians designed Indigenous classification systems in response. Several of these have been adopted in Indigenous collections, such as Brian Deer Classification which was developed by Kanien’kéhaka Mohawk librarian Brian Deer in Canada in the 1970s.
At LMH we use Dewey Decimal Classification, developed by American librarian Melvil Dewey between 1873 and 1876 – but like many libraries we adapt it to our particular needs, and our law collection operates a separate system. As the name suggests, the style of Dewey Decimal uses numbers. Each main class of knowledge is given a ‘hundred’ number, such as the 600s for ‘Technology’ in the 23rdedition of the DDC schedules. Within that, the ‘tens’ are divisions under this umbrella: 630 for ‘Agriculture’, for example. Each of these is broken down further into sections, giving us 636 for ‘Animal husbandry’. At this point, if we wanted to be more specific, we could start to add decimal places. 636.8 is (domestic) ‘Cats’; 636.82 is ‘Shorthair cats’, like Benny.
However, books that take different approaches to the theme will be in different places: our book on cats in mythology is in number 398, while if Benny wrote an autobiography it might be placed in 920. There are often multiple possible classifications for a book: How broad or close does it need to be? Where should it go if it spans several disciplines? Where would our readers expect to find it? Which of our existing books should it be classed with? And then there are tables allowing further expansion of the number, based on facets like location and time period.
To complete the shelfmark, we add the first three letters of the author’s last name, and other fields if necessary. If we had two copies of Benny D Cat’s autobiography, they might be labelled 920 CAT (A) and 920 CAT (B). This new style of shelfmark is another reason why we are reclassifying our collections; previously we arranged items by acquisition number. By arranging by author and year we hope to group and order our materials in a way that helps our readers navigate them. It’s also an opportunity to cover faded shelfmarks with more legible labels, and to weed out old editions of textbooks that are no longer being borrowed.
Some of the reclassified books are moving to completely different locations, causing a bit of an upheaval in the medical sciences room. But by the time the bunnies are hopping around in the sun again, our skeleton Freddie might be looking less confused about where all the books have gone.
My name’s Amy and I’m the graduate trainee at the Howard Piper Library at St Hugh’s College. I moved to Oxford from a small town on the west coast of Scotland, where I had lived most of my life so far. It was a big move – I didn’t know anyone in England and had only briefly visited Oxford twice before. Although I desperately miss tattie scones and haggis – and don’t get me started on the awful tap water – I really enjoy living here. There’s so much to see, and there are always events going on. And I think I’ve finally got the hang of Oxford’s jargon, after spending a few weeks under the impression that ‘battels’ was just a spelling mistake.
I recently completed an undergraduate degree in Digital Media and Information Studies, a CILIP accredited course, at the University of Glasgow. In my final year, I worked part-time at various public libraries in my local area. There I received a solid grounding in core library tasks, such as shelving and dealing with all manner of enquiries at the front desk. One morning I helped two grooms from entirely separate weddings print off their speeches, within an hour of one another, for weddings later that day. I filled in a Universal Credit application for a man who had never used a computer before, ran Lego and board game clubs, worked alone at smaller branches, and borrowed a mountain of books because it was impossible not to. I even got to stamp books out to people – we had no self-service machines, so circulation was entirely manual. I loved all of it, and the experience cemented my desire to pursue librarianship as a career. Books have always been my thing, so it seemed like the right path to take.
The Upper Reading Room.
Although St Hugh’s College was founded in 1886, the current library building was opened in 1936. It currently holds around 75,000 books on a wide range of subjects, all classified under the Dewey Decimal system. We also have a modest rare book collection. I won’t provide an account of the history of St Hugh’s and the library here, but I recommend reading into it. St Hugh’s may be one of the younger colleges, but it has a fascinating past nonetheless, involving women’s suffrage and its time as a military hospital specialising in head injuries during the Second World War.
Holly, me and Nora at our book repair workshop, delivered by the wonderful Victoria Stevens.
There are only three of us in the library team, so I have quite a few responsibilities. I have a daily checklist of things to do, such as shelving, posting on our social media accounts, checking the CCTV for people setting off the book alarm at the door and walking around the library to make sure everything is okay. I empty the two book bins every morning and afternoon (we staff the library 9-5 on weekdays but it’s open 24/7), and as term goes on the situation gets more silly – the students stuff the first bin until it’s overflowing, but when I open the second bin there’s hardly anything in it. At the end of term, they pile the books on the floor outside of the bins. I also undertake more time-intensive tasks and projects, such as processing new books and redesigning the library posters.
In the library, no one can hear you scream internally.
One big project I’ve been working on since November is reclassification. Essentially, over the last eight or so years (and undoubtedly at least a couple of years more ahead) the books’ shelfmarks have been gradually changed from an old version of Dewey Decimal Classification to Dewey 23, the most recent. This will move a few books around to different subject areas, but more importantly will give them extra numbers and letters in their shelfmark. This will make them so much easier to shelve and find. It’s one of my favourite things to do at work – figuring out the correct shelfmark feels like an investigation, and Dewey is my favourite classification system. Some of the books are simple enough to classify, while others require a bit more deliberation (and could fit in more than one place). Relabelling hundreds of books can get a little tiresome though.
Testing out some of the new study aids on a cold day in the office.
I intended to write and publish this introductory blog post not long after I started the traineeship five months ago, but I’ve been so busy that I put it on the back burner for ages. My initial concept was to write down my fears about this job and then, further down the line, write another post to assess how far I’d come. Thankfully I can say that I am not rubbish at book processing – I’m awful at wrapping presents, so this was a major concern – and while I have seen a few spiders around the library (such as the time I had to dust away an entire cobweb with a spider in the centre, on some bookshelves), none have literally jumped out at me.
The library team on the College’s Christmas Jumper Day.
Working in a college library means being part of the college community. At lunch we sit and chat with staff from other departments in the dining hall (as we eat our free meals!). There are numerous events throughout the year to attend, such as: staff coffee mornings, bake sales and raffles, Christmas lunch, Christmas tree decorating, and gatherings at the Principal’s Lodgings. One particularly exciting development was the arrival of two kittens, who were just four months old when the College adopted them. They are brother and sister: the male ginger is called Professor Biscuits, and the female tabby is Admiral Flapjack (though I just call her Jack). They are very sociable and adore all the attention from staff and students alike. Once cat flaps are installed around college, they will be let loose and allowed to roam (almost) wherever they please.
Once I have completed the trainee scheme, I plan to undertake a postgraduate degree in librarianship. I’ve been exceedingly lucky to have been asked to remain at St Hugh’s for a further two years as a full-time library assistant, so I will do my masters part-time distance alongside this. After that, who knows!
The first weeks of February occupy the middle of Oxford University’s Hilary Term. They represent a busy time for students; the History Faculty Library’s self-collect shelves are heaving with off-site stack requests and there is rarely an empty seat in sight. Roughly speaking, this period also marks the midway point of the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Traineeship and now I feel more familiar with the library’s collections, I thought I’d use this space to share a few details about them.
There are a little over 80,000 volumes at the HFL, including 1100 books in the local history section and 3,500 ‘oversize’ books on art, architecture and archaeology. Yet, it’s the main lending sequence that accounts for the bulk of this figure. Spanning three floors, the majority of the books in this collection can be borrowed by anyone with a blue reader’s card. Theoretically, this means that every current member of the University has the opportunity to take home a sample of what the History Faculty Library has to offer.
Though it parted ways with 473 of its rare antiquarian books when it moved from the Old Indian Institute in 2012, the library still has approximately 1,000 pre-nineteenth-century volumes in its care. A portion of these are known as ‘set texts’, which are prescribed readings for undergraduates studying Joint or Single Honours History Degrees. In certain cases, the HFL has the only available copy these readings in Oxford, making the Set Text Collection in the Upper Camera a particularly important and unique resource.
The library further provides for the needs of students by responding to trends currently shaping the historical disciplines. Between March and June 2018, the library purchased just over 1100 books in the wake of a recent syllabus reform by the University’s History Faculty, whilst steps have also been taken to secure additional funding for pre-emptive purchasing in growth areas, such as global medieval history. The time spent processing these new acquisitions has been fascinating. All too often an intriguing title or profound idea has diverted my attention from the timely application of stamps and Tattle Tape. It’s a similiar story organising the New Books Display, though I think this is somewhat understandable given the premise of a few volumes in particular…
Joking aside, it has been exciting to witness an influx of research on previously neglected pasts. It seems historians are now asking more questions, about more things, than ever before. Welcoming the fruits of their labour to the HFL with a shelf mark, bookplate and dust-jacket cover has certainly been a therapeutic way to spend a quiet afternoon!
Adding to the breadth of the library’s collections, many of these new arrivals are inter-disciplinary in nature, made worthy of a position on the open shelves by virtue of their versatility. However, some more specialist works are sent directly to the off-site storage facility in Swindon, a decision predicated on a forecast of infrequent use. Here, they are kept safe in climate-controlled conditions under the watchful eye of the Head of the Bodleian Storage Facility, or BSF. Being so far removed from Oxford doesn’t necessarily mean these books won’t see a day in a reading room though. Despite the 80(ish) mile round trip, off-site items are never more than a few clicks away from being sent to a variety of Bodleian Libraries via SOLO.
Though comparably modest in size, the HFL certainly punches above its weight when it comes to provision. This is, in no small part, due to a concise and effective collection development policy which sees students and academics well catered for. Yet, as one of the Bodleian Libraries, the HFL is also aided by the logistical and technical support derived from the legal-deposit library’s infrastructure. The Bodleian’s network of reader terminals, dotted throughout the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link, provide access to hundreds of thousands of e-resources, including eLegal-Deposit items. Additionally, the Radcliffe Camera’s status as a collection point for off-site stack requests puts the Bodleian’s vast reserves of print material at the fingertips of any HFL visitor. Though such a symbiotic arrangement might seem challenging, in this instance, it has proven to be a winning combination.
Ross Jones, History Faculty Library and Radcliffe Camera
Hello! Now that Michaelmas term is coming to an end, Bethan and I thought we would do a round-up post about some the things we have been up to so far.
In September we had the opportunity to participate in an information literacy training session for new PGCE students with the Education Librarians. This included helping the students utilise the online library catalogue and make the most of the libraries to aid their studies. We also showed them tips and tricks on sourcing academic journals, articles, and books.
Beth says – This session highlighted the importance for new students to learn key skills about using the library catalogue and finding e-resources to aid them in their studies. We got the opportunity to participate in the group work parts of the session to offer suggestions and help when needed, as well as the individual exercises. Although I was supposed to be helping with the teaching, I ended up learning a lot myself!
Emma says – Teaching the PGCE students really helped to confirm what I knew about the library system and it was a great opportunity to put some of the training into practice in a different setting. We worked with other members of staff from the Education library and two Swiss interns so we had a lot of support! The PGCE students were really friendly and it was a good session to be a part of.
Training sessions: which have we enjoyed so far?
During this term we’ve had the opportunity to have practical and theoretical training at Osney. Training sessions have been varied this term, including an interactive session on customer care, an introduction to cataloguing using the Oxford library system, as well as a presentation on applying for courses in library and information studies. Here’s what we each enjoyed the most:
Beth says – In November we got the opportunity to visit the BSF, a warehouse where over 11 million of the Bodleian’s collections are held. There was an informative presentation about the challenges and logistics of the facility, as well as how it is developing. This includes issues of storage space as the collections grow, and improving sustainability to reduce its environmental impact. We were also given a tour of the facility, which highlighted how efficient the process is to ensure that the books are delivered to the libraries on time, twice a day. Indeed, apparently it takes experienced staff members less than 45 seconds to pick a single book – which is very impressive considering the size and scale of the warehouse.
Emma says – The visit to the Weston Library and having an introduction to the Special Collections in October was a real eye-opener. After an £80m refurbishment the Weston Library, originally called the New Bodleian Library, opened in March 2015 after work began in 2011. The library now has a lot more space including areas for research, public galleries, and a cafe. It was a pleasure to be shown around the conservation department, to see the archivists at work, and to see behind the scenes at the library. As the Weston is so different from the Business library, it was a worthwhile opportunity to see the different roles within librarianship. It was great to see how the conservationists take care of the old books, maps and the libraries themselves.
The Book Storage Facility, aka the BSF, in Swindon
Internet Librarian International (ILI) conference, London
In October we were fortunate enough to go to the ILI conference in London due to the sponsored places offered by FLIP and NLPN. There were six of us in total that went from the Bodleian libraries and we all took away a lot from the experience. There were lots of different talks and presentations, from AI to tips for searching relevant information.
Beth says – A session I particularly enjoyed was about how libraries can utilise digital technology to increase reader accessibility. For example, a case study discussed the DAISY Consortium, which is an organisation which aims to improve the reader experience for people who are blind or print disabled by making digital talking books an industry standard across libraries worldwide. Indeed, the clear theme across the conference was about how libraries can develop in the digital age, as well as the challenges this brings. Myself and a few of the other trainees who attended contributed to a blog post for NLPN about the conference here: https://nlpn.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/internet-librarian-international-info-today-sponsored-places/
Emma says – During the conference we were invited to a session by Liz McGettigan about how to be an information professional in the 21st century. This was an informative session about how to advance our careers, what skills we would need to move forward, and how best to develop them. This was a great opportunity to see what paths were before us and give us an idea of what we could do in the future. Working in a library we are able to learn many new and transferable skills, some of which we’re not always able to recognise, so this was a great session to bring out in us what we’ve learnt so far and what sort of roles we would like in the future.
Outside of the training programme the trainees meet up fairly often after work. For example, some of us went round the Oxford Open Doors event in September together, visiting Baliol College, Blackwells, the Examination School, and the New Theatre. We’ve frequented a game board café, where we played a variety of card and board games. Luckily, we didn’t fall out too much! Two trainees, Elspeth and Lauren, started a book club. So far, we have read Annhiliation by Jeff Vandermeer, Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, and we’re currently reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. We had the weather on our side on Bonfire Night when we went to watch the fireworks at South Park. Recently we had our Christmas dinner which nearly all of us attended. It was a great night with great food and company.
Next term looks to be quite busy. We’re looking forward to a new set of training sessions, which includes a visit to Oxford Brookes library and a visit to the digital archives. We can’t wait to see what the next year will bring!
From across the academic, public and specialist sectors, we were a varied group of library and information professionals gathered in Oxfordshire County Library. Ayub Khan, CILIP’s president and deliverer of today’s presentation, pointed out how distinctive this makes our profession: libraries, knowledge and information are an essential part of a uniquely wide variety of industries.
For CILIP, he explained, this is both an asset and a challenge. Very few other organisations have such a range of expertise, but how does CILIP speak for members across all these sectors? How, with the ‘international’ theme of this year’s presidency, does it become globally relevant? And who is included in the ‘family’ of L&I professionals in today’s shifting information landscape?
What unites us, CILIP has concluded, are our ethics and values. During a recent consultation reviewing its current and future role, the organisation developed a diagram of the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base. With its circular design, the PKSB diagram visually echoes the circular seal of CILIP’s Royal Charter, but updates it to specify the skills relevant to the twenty-first century. Ethics and values were placed at its heart.
We can explore what our ethics and values are, but we also need to put them into practice. CILIP’s 2020 goal is to
‘put library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society.’
Built on five priorities (things to do) and six enablers (to help do the things), it gives us a professional framework during this time of ‘revolution’ in how information and technology are integrated into everyday life. The goal is true to the Charter, but with a clear vision of the instrumental ‘benefit’ to democracy, equality and economy.
Making this benefit visible to the public, though, can require active promotion of libraries and information; in fact, it was discussed how ease of information access can prevent people from noticing the work that goes into creating that ease. Advocacy is therefore one of CILIP’s priorities (along with workforce development; member services; standards and innovation; and governance and operations). Ayub showcased some recent campaigns. Utilising social media, radio appearances, ‘Facts Matter’ badges and more, perhaps these efforts are working: we were shown an independent poll suggesting that we are viewed as trusted professionals. Still, the impact of our own role is one piece of information that we can sometimes neglect to share!
Our core identity as stewards of information is unchanged by technological advances and new social contexts. Yes, many of us share a certain delight in books, but, while books continue to be relevant, they are being joined by new ways to organise and access information and knowledge. Ayub encouraged us to work together in adapting to these fresh opportunities. As a graduate trainee, only joining CILIP this year, I am excited to continue this tradition while being part of the future shape of the profession.
Even with the help of a library, it’s hard to find the answer to what to expect from the information revolution. There was limited time to discuss future challenges – but one thing we took away from this session is that having a strong sense of who we are as a profession is a starting point for facing these challenges.