Ruth Holliday, Christ Church Library

Hi! My name is Ruth, and I am the new graduate trainee at Christ Church library.

The first time I visited Christ Church, passing under the shadow of the somewhat imposing Tom tower, I was headed for my library graduate trainee interview. It felt great to return a few weeks later under more secured circumstances when I began my role this September.

Photograph of the library at dusk - a yellow glow is coming out from the windows from the lights inside.
The library at dusk

The library at Christ Church is not quite visible from the main quad, but rests through an archway and around a corner in Peckwater Quad. It is the home of countless collections, artefacts, art works – and a surprisingly high number of globes.

Prior to applying for the library graduate trainee role, I completed a degree in English Language and Literature. After graduating I made various forays into art and culture scenes, with stints in a theatre and a photography gallery. The working library at Christ Church (that is, the ground floor of the main library) actually used to be a gallery, until the book collection grew too large and necessitated a tactical relocation of the art works next door to Christ Church’s Picture Gallery.

Several interesting artworks still remain in the working library, however, from paintings to figurines and busts. My time at the inquiry desk, for example, is spent with a rather standoffish colleague in the form of a portrait of Cardinal Wolsey, the founder of Christ Church (then Cardinal College). So far, he has steadfastly avoided eye contact and remains looking off to his left with a distinct primness, but I’m sure he’ll warm to me eventually.

Christ Church’s beautiful library holds the opportunity for endless discovery, and such an atmosphere

A photograph of the Upper Library, a long room with dark wooden shelving and a light ceiling with intricate mouldings.
The Upper Library

has characterised my time here so far. Over the last few weeks I’ve been going through a list of books that a departing Professor acquired for their teaching and studies over the course of their career. My task has been to ascertain what texts from this list the library already has a copy of, and where we might stand to improve our collection. Each book on the list provides a window into a potential obsession. I could tuck in to Andrew Dalby’s Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Ancient Greece, or perhaps take my chances with Esther Eidinow’s Oracles, Curses and Risk Among the Ancient Greeks. Or maybe, on a drowsier day, muse over William Harris’s Dreams and Experience in Classical Antiquity. These are just a few of the particularly tempting titles I’ve come across on this project so far. Each one plays a part in portraying not just a career, but all the different routes and rabbit holes a subject holds within itself.

Another aspect of library life that I’ve been getting involved with at Christ Church is book processing. As    new books arrive at the library they undergo a baptism    of sorts – steps include cataloguing, covering, stamping and eventually shelving. The book covering, that protects the cover of a paperback with plastic so as to give it a fighting chance of survival out on the shelves and in students rucksacks. It is also nostalgically reminiscent of covering my exercise books when I was at school…

The deliciously orange staircase to the Upper Library


For some hardbacks in Christ Church’s collection, care has to be a little more retroactive. I’ve really enjoyed getting the chance to repair the odd wounded tome with the delightfully named ‘Oxford hollow’. This is essentially a tube fashioned from card that when placed in the spine supports both the spine and the text block without sticking them together. This allows for both strength and flexibility and therefore makes the book less vulnerable to further damage.

I have already experienced so many fascinating aspects of the library world thanks to my lovely colleagues at Christ Church, but know I’ve only just scratched the surface – I’m really looking forward to discovering what the rest of this traineeship has in store!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.