Martyna Grzesiak, Lady Margaret Hall

With the Christmas break (or ‘vac’ as it is abbreviated in Oxford-speak) behind us, and the new term about to begin, it feels like the perfect time to take stock of a term’s worth of experiences – especially since this is the period when some of the potential future trainees will be working on their applications and hopefully looking to the blog to see what to expect from the traineeship.

Although one might expect the job of every library trainee based in Oxford to be the same, it’s surprising to see how much our work can differ; there is a different flavour to each of Oxford’s libraries and this will determine some of what you do during your traineeship – whether you’re the voice of authority informing tourists that no, the Radcliffe Camera is for registered readers only, or, as George recounts in her post, find the reader’s slip of J.R.R. Tolkien in a book called up from the Bodleian library stacks.

The library where I work does not have quite the same claims of longevity or fame, although another of Oxford’s literary greats, Charles Dodgson (better known under his pen name, Lewis Carroll), would visit our college to trial his Game of Logic with the students. Significantly, it is part of the first college to admit female students in Oxford. Although Lady Margaret Hall has since become coeducational and students are allowed to use the Bodleian library (the fellows are no longer quite as concerned about students encountering a boy on their way to pick up some books as they were back in 1879), the rich collections of erstwhile core texts are a reminder of the library’s past.

While, unlike some of the other trainees, I had no experience of working in a library, the training and guidance both at LMH and in the trainee sessions organised by Emma soon made me feel ready to deal with the day-to-day work. The first few weeks of the traineeship were an excellent opportunity to become familiar with the lay of the land. As might be expected of an academic library, the work follows the ebb and flow of the academic calendar, and the majority of the trainee placements begin at the start of September, which gives you several weeks before term begins. With the arrival of freshers’ week, life briefly gets taken over by library induction sessions – in our case complete with an introduction to Freddie, the library’s resident resin skeleton who doubles as an anatomy study prop and the star of seasonal social media posts by the college’s Communications team, such as this tweet:


After this busy first week filled with new faces and countless queries about the library’s printing facilities, I started settling into more of a routine, with the working week broken up by the Wednesday training sessions in Osney, which have so far included talks on various developments and trends in librarianship, and a trip to the somewhat surreal Book Storage Facility. Throughout the term I have taken on several mini-projects to keep myself occupied when the day-to-day tasks are out of the way. These have ranged from processing donations given to the library by alumni and staff, to, more recently, beginning to reclassify the library’s Italian collection.

Unexpected visits from alumni, returning to the library to discover how it has changed since their graduation definitely add to the variety of the job, such as the very timely 31/10 visit by a former student, whose kind donation of a 1635 edition of the English translation of Martin Luther’s commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Galathians, together with a copy of James Ussher’s De Graeca Septuaginta (London: John Crook, 1655), allowed us to mark the quicenternary of the publication of Luther’s theses in style.

There are also opportunities to get involved with the community in your workplace during the traineeship. Recently I got involved in planning the support staff ‘Away Day’ – running a pub-style quiz for 60-odd college staff is definitely one of the unexpected highlights of the traineeship so far!

Although a significant part of the work does amount to the standard fare you might expect, i.e. dealing with loans, processing new purchases and handling reader enquiries, there is definitely enough variety to keep you on your toes and make for a very enjoyable traineeship.

I look forward to discovering what Hilary term brings – and good luck to everyone applying to the trainee scheme!

A piece of Bodleian History: Clues from the Stacks

In my first blog, I mentioned the twice-daily deliveries of books from our Book Storage Facility in Swindon to the Old Bodleian site- as well as other Bodleian Libraries.  Something exciting arrived in a recent delivery:

The Yellow Fairy Book (ed. Andrew Lang) was called up from the closed stacks. This was not interesting in itself (although it is a first edition and has a nice cover) until we opened up the book and saw that the last borrower had left their slip in there.

The Yellow Fairy Book, borrowed by J. R. R. Tolkien

That’s right- the J.R.R. Tolkien used this very book! The book mustn’t have been touched for several decades and so the slip has remained in place.

I contacted the Bodleian’s Tolkien Archivist, Catherine McIlwaine, who was able to confirm this. She explained that Tolkien looked at the book ahead of giving his famous Andrew Lang lecture at the University of St Andrews on 8th March 1939. The lecture was published as an essay entitled ‘On Fairy Tales’ in Essays Presented to Charles Williams, alongside contributions by contemporary academics such as C. S. Lewis and Dorothy L Sayers who also went on to have literary success.

Library records show that Tolkien consulted the book, among others, on the 27th February 1939. He was obviously working hard, preparing for the lecture, just ten days prior to delivering it (this makes me feel less guilty about all those essays hastily put together days before they were due!).

Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading room where I consulted the Bodleian Library’s Records

I went to Weston Library, which houses the University’s Special Collections, to look at the library records and see what else Tolkien looked at on the day. At the time Tolkien visited the library, the basement space underneath the Radcliffe Camera was a closed stack where only staff were allowed. Librarians would fetch any books stored there for readers to consult in the reading rooms. (The area is now called the Gladstone Link and is open to readers to use as a study space and to find books on the shelves themselves.)

MS. Library Records b. 618  ‘Camera Basement and Underground Bookstore Volumes fetched for Bodleian Readers’ & the inside of the book where you can see Tolkien’s name was recorded. The shelf mark ‘93 e.71’ is ‘The Yellow Fairy Book’.

The librarians recorded number of items requested each day, the time each book was requested, the shelf mark of the book, name of the reader and the seat number where they were sitting. Books were then fetched and delivered to the desk. I checked on our catalogue to see what items the shelf marks referred to.

At 10:30am Tolkien requested to see:
The Olive Fairy Book, ed. by A. Lang (1907)
The Book of Dreams and Ghosts, by A. Lang (1897)
The Lilac Fairy Book, ed. by A. Lang (1910)
The Green Fairy Book, ed. by A. Lang (1892)
Favourite Fairy Tales (Fairy tales retold) 1907
The Brown Fairy Book, ed. by A. Lang (1904)
The Crimson Fairy Book, ed. by A. Lang (1903)
The Violet Fairy Book, ed. by A. Lang (1901)
The Yellow Fairy Book, ed. by A. Lang (1894)

Later on, at 11:30am, he requested:
Fairy Gold, a book of old English Fairy Tales chosen by Ernest Rhys (1907)
The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies (compiled in 1893) by Robert Kirk
Essays in Little by A. Lang (1891)
Perrault’s Popular Tales, ed. by A. Lang (1888)
The Magic Ring, and other stories from the Yellow and Crimson Fairy Books, ed. by A. Lang (1906)
English Fairy and other folk tales, selected and edited by Edwin Sidney Hartland (1893)

As well as for use in his upcoming lecture, the stories in these books would no doubt have inspired Tolkien with his own fiction. The slip we found was left in the book at the beginning of The Dragon of the North a story about a courageous youth who defeats a man-eating dragon. He manages this feat with a magic ring, stolen from a witch maiden. Amongst many of its powers, if placed on the third finger of the left hand, it turns the wearer invisible. In the end, the ring is too powerful, and the youth learns that ‘ill-gotten gains never prosper’ when the witch retrieves the ring and punishes him for his deception. There is a eucatastrophe- the term Tolkien coined to describe happy endings in Fairy Tales- as the youth is rescued and made king.

It looks like Tolkien must have returned to consult The Yellow Fairy Book at least once more, as the slip suggests he sat in seat 23 of the Upper Reading Room- whereas the records from the 27th February state seat 22. He obviously liked that particular area of the reading room (I must say, it has a nice view of the Radcliffe Camera through the window!)

Here’s me, sitting in seat 23 in the Upper Reading Room, pretending to be Tolkien!

It was pretty thrilling to open up the book and find the Tolkien slip; and interesting to trace his steps and see what other books he used, during the period when he would have been writing Lord of the Rings. It makes him feel more real, somehow, to know that he used the library just like us!
It also makes me excited for the upcoming exhibition, curated by Catherine McIlwaine, entitled Tolkien: Beyond Middle Earth which will open at the Weston Library in June 2018.

EFL Reclassification Project

As promised in my first blog, here is an introduction to the ongoing reclassification project here at the English Faculty Library!

So, a little historical context: in 1914, when Oxford established a dedicated library for the study of English, the first librarian (Percy Simpson, whose adventures you can read about here) created an in-house classification system. Books were categorised by time period, and each author was given a unique number within those sections. For example, books by or about Jane Austen began ‘M13’ – ‘M’ indicates 1790-1830, and ’13’ was the number allotted to Austen. The system had two main strengths: shelfmarks were short and easy to remember, and the time periods were conveniently divided so that materials for a particular paper would be kept close together, making it easy for readers to browse related material.

Short, memorable in-house shelfmarks

This system lasted for almost a century, surviving two major location moves for the library – from the current site of the Weston Library on Broad Street, to the loft of Examination Schools, and then to the current purpose-built site in the St. Cross building. However, several problems emerged over time:

  1. It became unwieldy to manage an in-house classification system, particularly with the Bodleian Libraries’ move towards centralising acquisitions.
  2. There is a long-term proposal to merge the Humanities libraries in a single site at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, so it makes more sense that we all use the same system.
  3. The principle of allotting each author their own number worked well at first, but as our collection became larger, some of the more recent periods began to fill up. Because of this, new authors were being given longer and more complicated classifications, which started to undermine the benefit of the system’s simplicity.
  4. The undergraduate English degree changed. In the last hundred years, the degree syllabus has been revised a number of times, and the original divisions no longer map onto the way the degree is split up.

As a result of these factors, it was decided ten years ago that the English Faculty Library would switch to Library of Congress Classification (LCC), which is an internationally recognised system developed by the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.

Longer, but more informative, LCC shelfmarks

Since then, every new book we have acquired has been given an LCC shelfmark, and there is a long-term project to reclassify our existing stock. This involves printing out new labels for each book and editing each item’s electronic bibliographic record – as we go through, we assess each item, repair or replace damaged books, and fill in any gaps in our collection. Over the summer, my colleagues reclassified over 2000 books from the ‘S’ section, which contained post-colonial literature. Since then, we have moved on to ‘R’ (American literature), and significant progress is being made to process all 6000 items.

When we began reclassifying, we limited ourselves to vacations, as shifting the sequences requires a lot of (potentially-disruptive) book moves. Plus, there was a major building project, completed in 2016, which meant that reclassification had to be put on hold for a couple of years. However, now we are back up and running, we’ve decided to continue some reclassification throughout term and so far have had no complaints from readers.

Despite this, there is still a long way to go! As I write, just over half of our books still need to be reclassified, so it will be a few years until our entire collection is LCC. Helping (a bit) with the project has been instructive in the kind of varied behind-the-scenes work involved in collection management. It has been interesting to see the ways in which a project like this presents an opportunity to maintain and develop our collections, creating the best possible resource for our patrons.

A glimpse of the Sackler’s special collections

More than a month into my time at the Sackler, I am still discovering obscure but delightful aspects of its collections. One of my newly-acquired responsibilities is to fetch items from the closed stack areas of the library. Readers can consult these special collections items in a dedicated corner of the ground floor under the watchful eye of the desk staff, as these books are often old/rare/generally difficult and expensive to replace. These fascinating resources and gems from times gone by are kept in a variety of hidden places around the library.

One of these repositories is the Rare Books Room. Here a multitude of old volumes are kept under lock and key (read: sophisticated modern alarm system) in rolling stacks.


Inside the Rare Books Room [all photos taken by me]
Items in the Rare Books Room include:

  • folios and books containing accounts and drawings by 19th-century travellers to sites of interest such as those in Egypt;
  • accounts of famous archaeological excavations, such as Arthur Evans’ excavation of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete, some of which used to belong to the Ashmolean Museum Library collection;
  • drawings of artefactsheld at the British Museum in its early days.
Excavation reports
View of Petra in Jordan by Victorian Scottish artist David Roberts

Curious visitors to the Sackler Library may have noticed an intriguing room set back from the edge of the main reading room on floor 1 called the Wind Room. Though this may sound like a reference to something classical or elemental, it is actually named after Edgar Marcel Wind. Wind was a German academic who became Oxford’s first Art History professor in 1955, after a stint as a lecturer at All Souls. More information about Wind and his time at Oxford can be found here . The Wind Room itself mostly contains books about western art printed between 1500-1900. Because of their age, the books are treated as special/rare books, and are locked inside caged shelves that I think are actually rather attractive.

Caged books in the Wind Room

There is also an Archives Room containing archives of various Classicists and archaeologists, along with MPhil and DPhil theses, and miscellaneous pamphlets. I’ve only been in that room twice ever, and I suspect there is more to be uncovered during future visits!

The Sackler Library also houses a major research centre for Egyptology, including papyrology , and the work being done here warrants its own blog post (or even entire blog), so watch this space…


Holly Marie, All Souls College

Hi everyone! I’m Holly, and I am the graduate trainee at All Souls College, in the Codrington Library. It was whilst studying for a Master’s in English Literature at Newcastle University, where I worked closely with early printed materials, that I became inspired to pursue a career in librarianship (once you start learning about how to care for and handle books you never look at one in the same way again, which I find to be both a blessing and a curse)… So, after graduating I sought to develop my customer service skills within an information-based environment by working in a public library, a Cathedral library, and as a museum guide and a tourist information officer (amongst many other things)! Even a month on, I still cannot quite believe how fortunate I am to be situated in such a beautiful library and city, and I fully intend to make the most of the experience.

I’ll begin with a brief-ish introduction to All Souls College, as it has a fascinating history that is well worth knowing. The college was founded in 1438 by Henry Chichele, the Archbishop of Canterbury, along with Henry VI as its co-founder, and was initially built as a war memorial for those who died in the battlefield at Agincourt, where Henry VI’s father, Henry V, broke the laws of chivalry and massacred his prisoners of war. Hence, it became ‘the college of All Souls of the faithful departed’, where fellows celebrated divine service for those lost to the war. In fact, one of the most memorable parts of the college has to be the chapel, with its incredible reredos and ornate chapel screen.

(All photographs used in this blog are courtesy of All Souls College)

Its other purpose was to serve as a place of advanced study, with fellows primarily studying or teaching theology, law and medicine, and what really distinguishes All Souls from other Oxford colleges is that, apart from a few exceptions, we have never taken in our own undergraduates. I have been informed that this is in keeping with medieval practice, when fellows lived in college and students would go to them for teaching. Eventually, colleges realised that they could charge students to live on site which many began to do, yet All Souls maintained the medieval custom (can’t say I blame them).

Now on to the library… stepping out into the Great Quadrangle is a sight that one cannot easily forget, with the Radcliffe Camera peering over on the left, the immense two towers to the right, and the long library – the longest library in Europe – and its stunning sundial straight ahead. I will always remember the first time I stood in front of the library as I was walking with the librarian to my interview, trying to act cool and as though I was totally used to seeing such spectacular architecture – no biggie- and to not just stand there paralysed, with my mouth open in utter awe.

The building of the Great Library began in 1716, to a plan by Nicholas Hawksmoor, and was finished in 1751, and we now have around 185,000 volumes. We are a reference only library, though fellows are allowed to borrow, and I must admit, I do feel privileged to be one of the select few who holds a key to access the books! Our strengths are in law and history, and we have our own law reading room, the Anson Room. Knowing very little about law and being slightly (okay, very) intimidated by the sheer number of law reports and journals in there, I did treat it rather like the third floor corridor in Harry Potter and avoided it for a while, but I’d say I’m more than confident with where everything is now.

Hoping that this winter will bring snow so I can re-create this image…

This is the first ‘official’ week of term, which is exciting, although I must say I was glad to have the first month to get over the initial shock of merely working in such a magnificent library, and to ensure that when readers came in, I wasn’t wandering around looking like a lost little lamb. The pace has definitely picked up a lot (and our working hours have increased), but I am enjoying facing new challenges and taking on different jobs each day. My main roles, to list but a few, are inducting and assisting new readers, locating and delivering books to them, managing our journals collections and generally being the first point of call in the library office. I love it when I am able to help someone with an enquiry, and it is a genuine pleasure to witness readers fully appreciating and using the library.

The winding (and very creaky) spiral staircase in our office

All Souls does seem to hold a sort of enigmatic presence within Oxford, and a common assumption seems to be that we are entirely closed to readers– this is definitely not the case, and we are a very welcoming – albeit ‘unique’ – bunch here! (We also have excellent taste in biscuits). That being said, I do enjoy walking past the giant black and gold gates on Catte Street and listening in on the absolute rubbish that tour guides tell tourists about us – for example, that we are a college for retired fellows, or that we do not allow in women. I really have no clue as to where they get this information from!

The Great Library

I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year brings us all, and though I could quite happily keep writing, I must get back to work as someone has very kindly left a huge pile of books for me to shelve…

Megan Holly Burns, Oxford Brookes Library

[all photographs mine — one of the displays at our Headington Library]

I’m Megan, and I’m the Graduate Library Trainee at Oxford Brookes. Before this, I worked in my university library alongside my studies (I graduated this summer with a degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow). This is the first time Brookes have offered this scheme, so I’m a bit of a guinea pig of sorts! Though I’m undergoing my own training program here at Brookes, I’ve been attached to the Bodleian trainee program in order to attend some of the broader training sessions — best of both worlds! 

I’ve noticed a lot of other trainees talking about working in small teams, and I think this is just one of the ways my experience at Brookes is quite different! I’m currently based in the Customer Services department at Headington (I’ll be moving throughout the departments across the year); here in this department alone we have at least sixteen daytime staff, with an additional group working during out-of-hours periods (the library is staffed until nine o’clock, but is open twenty-four hours a day with swipe-card access). Our building was also built just three years ago lots of open plan spaces, bright colour and glass panelling so I’ve already noticed a huge contrast with the Bodleian buildings we saw on our tour in my first week!

[the Forum, with platform above — very shiny!]

My days are very varied at the moment, which is something I really enjoy. I’m regularly shipped off to other departments to do odd jobs, and at the moment I’m attending lots of different training sessions, too; aside from the Bodleian training program I’m also attached to the Brookes Intern Development Program which is keeping me busy (yesterday we were learning about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator; I thought for sure I was an introvert but I scored a measly nine introvert points compared to seventeen extrovert, so all I really took away from that session was a mild personality crisis).

In a normal day in Customer Service, however, I’ll typically work on the reservation list, collecting and processing (start-of-term horror stories have seen it reach seventy pages!) and then do a couple of hours on the welcome desk, with lots of odd jobs in between. This morning was a bit different I attended a ‘Welcome to Brookes’ training session, in which lots of new staff got to put questions to one of our Pro Vice-Chancellors, and find out more about the ethos of Oxford Brookes (more importantly, there was a free lunch and I ate three varieties of sandwich. Genuinely very exciting). My question was about inclusivity and widening participation at Brookes; I came to university from your average working-class background — first in the family/local girl done good — and found the experience quite daunting for a bit, so it was great to learn that Brookes are doing really good work in this field. It reminded me of a great training session we all attended last week on supporting disabled readers — these principles of inclusivity are ones I’m really hoping to put to good work in the library over the course of the year ahead!

Ivona Coghlan, Bodleian Law Library


[Image taken from the BLL page: ]

Hi, I’m Ivona and I am this year’s graduate trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. I have a Degree in English and French from the Open University and later studied a Masters in Children’s Literature at the University of Reading.  I’ve worked in a variety of jobs from bingo halls to banks but have yet to find my nook. So, on the basis that I love books of all shapes and sizes I applied for this scheme and [SPOILER ALERT] I got in.

Now my nook for this coming year is the Bodleian Law Library. As Dom mentioned in his earlier post, we are also in the St. Cross Building. The Law Library was opened back in 1964 and has four floors of interesting material in a wide variety of languages. From our impressive Official Papers collection on the ground floor to The Supreme Court: A Guide for Bears coming soon to our ‘Just In’ corner, we have something for everyone.

One of the things I am most excited about is that as the trainee I’m going to be helping out with all three departments in our library including Information Resources, Academic Services and Official Papers. For someone starting with no real library experience it seems like a golden opportunity.

So what do I do in a typical day? I’ve been here for a whole month and I still don’t think I’ve had two days that were identical.

One of my most regular duties is processing the books. This involves stamping them, adding security devices with my wand (if you want to believe I mean a magic wand, I certainly won’t dispel that notion. Hah hah) and then labelling them. This is especially important when it comes to the books we receive via Legal Deposit. It is my job to help process these as soon as possible and to make sure that any books destined for Law have not wandered off to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon or even worse…another library!

I’m also in charge of the new journal display. This means making sure we have the most up to date law journals readily available for our readers. This seems like an absolute piece of cake until you are trying to alphabetise something in the Greek alphabet!

Other than that I have the pretty standard shelving and desk duty. So far this has been a breeze but as the new term begins I expect I’m going to have to be ready to answer a lot of new questions. Hopefully I’ll be up to the challenge. If not, I am thankfully surrounded by very experienced and helpful colleagues.

I’m so excited about the upcoming year, not only to learn about librarianship but also getting to know Oxford and my fellow trainees better. For now though, I better head off to give my first tour to the undergrads. Hope I don’t get lost!

Oliver Miller, Jesus College Library

Hi, I’m Oliver and I am the Graduate Library Trainee at Jesus College. I have just completed my MSc in Security Studies, having previously studied Ancient History (both at UCL) and I am one of three trainees to have made the transfer from working for Buckinghamshire County Council’s Libraries to Oxford (all of us somehow unaware at the time that we were simultaneously applying to become trainees). After working briefly for a public library, I decided that a career in librarianship would afford me the chance to interact with many different people with varied and interesting requests, and felt that the Oxford Libraries Trainee Scheme would be the perfect place to start such a career. I managed to convince Jesus College that I could be trusted to help run their libraries, and am now preparing to help all the new and returning students and researchers.

The Second Quad of Jesus College

Jesus College has three libraries: the Meyricke, the Celtic and the Fellows’ Libraries. As Jesus has historically been the ‘Welsh college’ in Oxford, it consequently has a unique Celtic Library that houses a collection covering (perhaps obviously) Celtic languages, culture and history. As I come from a family with strong Welsh and Scottish ancestry, the college’s heritage particularly appeals to me (and is a source of considerable pride to my Welsh grandfather). However, years of holidays in Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons seemingly did little to improve my Welsh, and I am forced to rely on Google Translate when attempting to classify books with titles such as ‘Pwy fydd yma ‘mhen can mlynedd?’

Perhaps the most ostensibly impressive of my duties is helping to look after the Fellows’ Library. The library, dating from 1676-77 and having been refurbished to its full glory in 2008, houses the college’s antiquarian books, and each morning I conduct a small patrol to check that the library is in good order and that no leaks have suddenly sprung from the roof. I have been taught how to handle the collection properly, with every care being taken to ensure the books will both be preserved for future generations, but also still be of use to scholars studying them in the present day. Regardless I still feel slightly nervous when handling some of the collection; it’s not every day that you find yourself carrying a Greek Bible from 1545 signed by Philip Melanchthon!

The inside of the Fellows’ Library (© Jorge Royan, Creative Commons)

Most of my time is spent looking after the Meyricke Library, which is the main library for students at the college. Often this involves reshelving books, tidying desks at the beginning and end of the day, processing new books for the library, and numerous other small jobs that are essential to the library’s day-to-day running. I have also used my first month here to create a new signage system for the library, in the hope that new (and perhaps even old) students will be able to find books more easily. Later this week the new students will receive their library inductions, so we will soon find out whether I have helped ease their task or simply sent them on wild goose chases around the library!

George White and Jennifer Bladen-Hovell at Reader Services

The Old Bodleian Library lit up as part of Night of Heritage Light 29-09-2017 (Photograph by George White)

Hello, we are George and Jennifer and we’re the two Graduate Trainees who are based at Reader Services in the Old Bodleian Library this year. We thought we’d do a joint blog so we don’t repeat any information. We’ve been working here a month, which has flown by. As with any new job, there is an awful lot to learn and we have attended a fair few training sessions already, to get us up and running with the library systems. Things are starting to make a bit of sense now – but we are still relying on our very supportive team of colleagues to help us out with the more complicated reader enquiries. Term starts next week, so the new students are starting to descend – wish us luck over these next few weeks of chaos!

George says: Before my traineeship started, I studied English Literature and History at Sheffield University – where I spent a lot of time reading in the library! After graduating, I worked in public libraries for a few years- in Rochdale, where I grew up. I loved uni and working in my local library, so working at an academic library seems like the perfect place for me. I feel especially lucky to be working in one as beautiful as the Bodleian (I keep finding excuses to visit Duke Humfrey’s, the oldest part of the building, which is particularly lovely!).

Jennifer says: Prior to becoming a trainee, I completed an MA (Medieval History) and BA (History) at the University of York. After graduating, I worked in retail for a while, alongside volunteering in my local library and applying to a range of Graduate Trainee Schemes. I’m really looking forward to my year in Oxford, and at the Bodleian specifically, with the range of activities organised for us and the responsibilities I’ll have.

The Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in the Europe; it was first opened in 1620, although it includes a much earlier library (Duke Humfrey’s Library) which dates to the 15th Century. The library has a long-standing tradition that none of its books are lent to readers – even to royalty. Charles I was apparently refused permission to borrow one – it’s good to mention this to readers, should they complain! The Bodleian is a Legal Deposit Library, which means we’re entitled to a copy of every book published in Britain. As you can imagine, this means we have an awful lot of books (around 12 million, last time we counted…) so the vast majority are housed at our Book Storage Facility in Swindon. Books can be ordered in by readers and will likely arrive the next day. As a result, staff are kept busy with twice daily deliveries from Swindon.

George in very fetching (i.e. mandatory) Hi Vis whilst doing the van delivery
Van delivering books to the Old Schools Quad

In addition to being a working academic library, the Old Bodleian is also a tourist attraction; running daily tours of the Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library. It is also, occasionally, a film set. Duke Humfrey’s Library was used as Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films. It holds special collections which may be looked at, but which must be consulted in the Special Collections reading rooms over at the Weston Library. These books are alarmed and there is a member of the security team in the library at all times. Although they don’t actually scream at you, these books are about as close as you’re going to get to the Restricted Section at Hogwarts.

As Graduate Trainees, we float between the several teams that ensure that the library functions. So far, this has included:
• Stints on the Proscholium (fancy Oxford term for reception) which has involved a lot of nice conversations with tourists and directing nervous-looking undergrads and postgrads around the maze that is the Old Bodleian.
• Covering the Main Enquiry Desk, answering telephone calls and email enquiries (these vary greatly!)
• Processing deliveries from the BSF.
• Re-shelving items used by our readers (there are lots of classification schemes used it the Old Bodleian, just to keep us on our toes!)
• And, perhaps the most useful skill in a librarian’s repertoire, helping readers connect to the library’s Wi-Fi.

Another great aspect of the Bodleian’s Library Graduate Trainee scheme is that we’ve started the job at the same time as 23 other trainees. It’s nice to be part of this network and find people with similar interests- especially having just moved to a new city, where we don’t know many people. We expect our weekly training sessions, will soon become a highlight of each week (especially if we keep up the tradition of heading to the local pub afterwards… speaking of which, we’ll say goodbye for now.)


Dom Hewett, English Faculty Library

Hi! I’m Dom, and I’m the Graduate Trainee based at the English Faculty Library. I did my undergraduate degree in English here at Oxford, and then studied for a Masters at Bristol, focusing mainly on British literature from the 1920s and 30s. I am in the slightly unusual position of having used the library I work in as a student, though when I arrived for my interview the front door was no longer where it used to be, so things do change!

The EFL is located just outside the centre of town, based in the St Cross building, which we share with the English Faculty, Law Faculty and Bodleian Law Library. The building is a Grade II* listed example of 1960s brutalist architecture, so a little bit different in style from the Radcliffe Camera or Taylorian Institute, though similarly confusing to navigate.

[Image taken from the EFL’s website]
We have significant teaching and research collections for English Literature and Language, in addition to the imaginatively-named Rare Book Room (which is fun to poke around), and materials for the postgraduate degrees in Film Aesthetics and Women’s Studies. We are also a reading room for the wider Bodleian Libraries, which means that our patrons can request books to be delivered here from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon. The EFL is a busy library with a wide variety of things going on, which makes for an interesting place to learn about librarianship!

So, what might a typical day look like?

8.45-10am: arrive at the EFL; turn on the printers upstairs and check that they have enough paper and toner; make up the cash float for the till; process expired hold items and prepare them to be sent back to storage.

10am-11.30am: process the new delivery and take them out to the issue desk; perform a head count of readers; make a cup of coffee; shelve any journals which have been used and update the spreadsheet.

11.30-1pm: update twitter; check the enquiries inbox; go on the issue desk for an hour.

1-2pm: lunch break (the famous ‘Missing Bean’ coffee shop in our building is reopening today, which we’re all very excited about).

2-3.30pm: process the pile of new journals and books; look through our records to see if any journals have failed to arrive on time; update our New Books Display; escort a couple of readers to our Old Norse room.

3.30-5pm: fetch something for a reader from the Rare Book Room; work on a display for the library; go on the issue desk for another hour; help close up and shoo lingering readers; home.

Apart from vastly understating how many biscuits are consumed in a working day, this is a fairly representative picture of what I do. So far I have been here for a month, which has gone extremely quickly. It has been reasonably quiet as most of our students have been away from Oxford, giving us time to make progress on the ongoing reclassification project (which I will do a post about in the future, get hyped). Fingers crossed it doesn’t get too hectic when they all return their vacation loans at once! Luckily my colleagues are on hand to help out (also when I get confused about our concurrent classification systems). Plus they’re a lot of fun to work with!