Chess Law, Christ Church Library

Hi! I’m Chess, the 2020/21 trainee at Christ Church College. I’ve just completed a Masters in eighteenth-century literature here in Oxford, previously based at Wolfson, and worked as a shelving assistant in the English Faculty Library throughout my degree. Before that, I worked in a medieval cathedral, assisting the Verger team and providing guided tours. Christ Church is therefore the ideal marriage of both environments and is an incredibly beautiful, historically resonant place to work.

Unlike most of the trainees, I have been lucky enough to work full-time on site since August. This has given me the time to familiarise myself with book processing procedure and using Aleph before the influx of student arrivals; to witness what happens in a library behind the scenes in preparation for a new academic year; and to develop a feeling for this particular college’s life with its unique mix of students, fellows and clergy. It has certainly been a distinct learning curve to be involved in the transition of Covid-regulating the library during an unprecedented period of closure, from assisting with remote learning (posting books to students, providing scans, etc.) to once again functioning as an open library. I anticipated librarianship to be fairly repetitive or sedentary by nature, but the job thus far has varied widely, including enquiry desk work, collecting post, handling Click and Collect requests, collating book offers, posting on social media, navigating between our main library and separate Law library, and fetching books from our various off-site locations. I also work some evenings as a clerk in the gorgeous Upper Library, home to our special collections and uniquely open as a study space for students this year in an effort to increase our seating capacity. It is both surreal and thrilling to work here at night surrounded by rows of leather-bound volumes and illuminated manuscripts – a hat case belonging to Horace Walpole rests within metres of my desk, a rather absurd recent discovery for me as a former Gothic literature student.

The Upper Library at Christ Church, complete with socially distanced individual desks and cleaning supplies

 

Especially on my mind this year is how to support students trying to navigate studying in incredibly difficult and isolating circumstances, many of whom are encountering academic libraries for the first time. For me, helping them to avail of resources irrespective of their personal circumstances is of foremost importance – delivering books and library goody bags to self-isolating students has become the priority task of my afternoons. The most rewarding part of this job so far has been meeting Freshers, especially those coming from abroad, and introducing them to the library as well as hearing about their experiences of Oxford. I wanted to work in a college (rather than faculty) library precisely to be involved in such a community, and to encounter a variety of people researching an eclectic range of subjects. I’m gradually getting to know our library regulars and hope to provide a welcoming and reliable presence for our students in an otherwise challenging year.

Join the conversation with Twitter – an RSL event

Hi everyone, Kat from the law library here again. On Wednesday, I attended a lunchtime talk at the Radcliffe Science Library entitled ‘Join the conversation with Twitter’. It featured three speakers talking about the use of twitter by libraries, and I found it really interesting, so much so that I thought I’d share some of the things I took away. You can see a synopsis of the talk on the RSL’s Facebook page.

First, Michael O’Hagan (@OHaganMichael) talked about the research he did for his library school dissertation, which was a study of academic libraries using twitter. He looked at lots of different academic libraries’ twitter analytics, and tried to get a picture of what they used twitter for, how much interaction there was with other people, who those people were, what the interaction was about, and how popular twitter seemed to be as a method of communication. Personally, if you’d asked me to guess the answers to these questions, I might have pessimistically expected a lot of interaction and followers to be other librarians and libraries, and for there not to be much interaction with genuine readers. So I was pleasantly surprised when he explained that, actually, there seemed to be quite a bit of interaction with readers asking questions and giving feedback about library services, which is a promising sign that Twitter is a good method of communication. He also had quite a bit of advice about how to use Twitter more effectively in libraries, based on the most successful institutions he’d looked at. This included:

  • Tweet frequently! Also, given that it’s very easy to miss things on Twitter if you follow lots of people, if there’s something you really want people to notice, try tweeting different phrasings of it several times over the course of a day.
  • Follow other feeds that are part of your institution: Oxford University, the Bodleian, your department or faculty, academics who have professional twitter accounts. Then retweet things you think are interesting or relevant. This starts a conversation with other twitter accounts which may have larger or different followings, which can help to increase your exposure.
  • Keep track of what people are saying about you – if people reply or retweet anything you post then Twitter will let you know anyway, but it’s worth looking for indirect references (for example, if someone just writes ‘law bod’ in a tweet but doesn’t use @thelawbod). You can also search by location to restrict to mentions in Oxford.
  • If readers have specific questions about the library, respond as quickly as possible. Twitter comes with the expectation of immediate response, which can be a problem if you’re not checking it regularly.
  • However, don’t be creepy! If someone refers to your library in a conversation but isn’t asking a question, then maybe don’t jump in – it is going on in a public space, but having an institutional account reply to a twitter conversation between a few readers might be a bit much!
  • Use pictures and links – tweets with these are more likely to be retweeted (unsurprisingly) which increases the number of people reading them.

Next, Isabel Holowaty (@iholowaty) gave a presentation with tips and advice about using Twitter from her use of it for the History Faculty Library (@HFLOxford). She also showcased using an iPad to present via a projector, which was very cool! She recommended using a programme/app which allows you to see information about several twitter accounts without constantly signing in and out (which you have to do on the twitter website), and showed us HootSuite, the one she uses. This allows you to link all sorts of different social media accounts: different Twitters, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, even WordPress for blogs, and produces columns showing feeds for each of them. You can pick what appears in each column, for example your sent tweets, mentions, retweets or direct messages, and can search your different accounts, save searches, and tweet from any account. It definitely seemed like an alternative to just using twitter’s website (which is what I currently do), because it saves you from having to sign in and out to change account. I would be a bit worried about accidentally retweeting or following someone from the Law Bod’s account rather than my own, though! HootSuite also allows you to schedule tweets for a later date, which I thought sounded useful as well. At the Law Bod, we’ve just started a Twitter rota (more below), where different staff take a morning or an afternoon and tweet a few things they think are interesting. I’ve found since signing up that quite often I have all these ideas throughout the week and then on Monday afternoons: nothing! It would be great to be able to schedule some that aren’t time-dependent when I think of them to go out on Monday afternoon, and then just check them over on the day. Isabel also advised searching for your library to find indirect references, including all possible misspellings of Bodleian! She also pointed out that if your library has a blog, and new blog posts get tweeted about, it’s worth coming up with a punchy title, otherwise your tweets look a bit boring.

HootSuite for @thelawbod
HootSuite for @thelawbod

Lastly, Penny Schenk (@galoot) talked about my library, the Law Bod, as a case study of an academic library using Twitter. She explained that we’ve recently started a Twitter rota, and that this has massively increased our activity on Twitter, and also the variety of different things we tweet about. We try to follow mostly organisations rather than individuals, to ensure things stay professional. The rota means that we hopefully tweet every working day, which has definitely helped increase our following. She also suggested using the ‘follow friday’ meme (where Twitter users suggest a person they follow who they think writes interesting things) to build conversations with other users.

I found the talk really interesting, and definitely think the Law Bod should take everyone’s suggestions on board. I’ll by trying out HootSuite, and retweeting more things from the Law Faculty, the Bodleian, and Oxford on my Monday afternoon slots! Judging by the History Faculty Library’s almost 2,500 followers, frequent, interesting, varied tweets and retweets with links and pictures seem to be the way forward.

Thanks for reading and, if you like, follow @thelawbod or me, @kastrel (although be prepared for anything from cross stitch to formula one, as I tweet on all sorts of things).