Book hospital: repairs at the Social Science Library – Tom Dale

The SSL is a busy library. We have around 370,000 books, hundreds of which circulate every day. The more a book is used the more damaged and dog-eared it becomes: pages fall out, pages tear, spines tear, text blocks come loose, hinges detach, covers fall off…. Students pass on their wisdom to their peers in pencil, pen and highlighter (e.g. “Lol!!!”). Sometimes our books are used to mop up coffee or squash insects. We once found some banana peel gluing two pages together. We’ve seen it all.

Graf2Every single line in this entire book has been underlined.

We have strict rules governing what we repair in-house and what we send to the Conservation team. We do not touch Legal Deposit items or items which are rare, old or hard to replace. Books which are heavily used or on reading lists are usually either sent to the bindery or replaced. But even after sending those items away, we are left with a heavy load of books to repair ourselves. Our repairs are pragmatic, designed to squeeze another few months or years out of a book before it needs to be replaced. It doesn’t have to be beautiful; it just has to work.

In this post I’m going to take you through my repair of one of our books. In an ideal world we would send all of our damaged books to the team of expert conservators I wrote about in my last post, but we have too many books needing attention. I’m quite glad of that, as book repair is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying parts of my job.

book repair

This book is in a bad way. The front hinge has come loose, tearing one of the pages. The repair will involve three steps: repairing the hinge, repairing the tear and strengthening the hinge.

I started by examining the book to check for any other damage and to make sure that its structure was generally sound. There is no point in carrying out a repair if the book won’t be able to return to the shelves afterwards. Satisfied that I could get this book back into usable condition, I attached some linen hinging tape to the text block.  I folded the tape in half and attached it with the hinge facing out, which allows the spine to flex in order to accommodate the opening and closing of the book. I applied a small amount of glue to hold the ends of the tape together before pressing the spine against the tape and smoothing it together from the outside.

I repaired the tear using Hayaku paper, an acid-free tape with a water-activated adhesive. I cut enough to cover the tear and moistened it with a paint brush. When dry, it forms a bridge between the two sides, holding them together.

Finally, I attached linen hinging tape to further strengthen the hinge.

The book is now back out on the shelves. Although it’s not as good as new, it’s good enough to last a while longer. Perhaps next time it gets damaged we’ll have to send it to the great library in the sky, but for now it’ll live to be read another day.

Thanks to Clare Hunter for taking the videos.

Legal Deposit: how a 16th century librarian’s cunning idea still helps researchers today

The beautiful Stockholm Public Library. Photo: T. Mezaros
The beautiful Stockholm Public Library. Photo: T. Mezaros

In exciting (albeit belated) news, Saturday 7th February was National Libraries Day! In this age of austerity and self-service, where both public and private institutions are stretched, and arguably at risk of undervaluing the social importance of access to and curation of
culture, an annual celebration of libraries: libraries academic, libraries special and libraries public, and of course of the staff and volunteers who keep them running, using their
enthusiasm, specialist knowledge and research skills to bring readers and books together. It was a day for exhibitions, author visits, talks, special events and shelfies; to find out more, check out where you’ll find juicy library-related news items, including a speech by
John Lydon (yes, that one).

Photo: N. Webb
Photo: N. Webb

To mark the occasion, here’s my account of one of the reasons the Bodleian Libraries are key members of the global research community: legal deposit.

The Bodleian Libraries form one of six Legal Deposit (LD) Libraries in the UK; the others
being Cambridge University Library, the British Library, the National Libraries of Wales and of Scotland, and Trinity College Dublin. Each of these libraries is entitled to receive a print or digital copy of every item published in the UK. Every published item received is to be
preserved as far into the future as possible, so that a centuries-long cultural record of the
nation will always be available to scholars, authors, publishers and others who need it.

A Clever Deal

Legal deposit began in 1610 as an agreement between Thomas Bodley and the Stationers’ Company; his new library in Oxford would be stocked with everything published under royal license, and in return the Bodleian would keep these works for the benefit of future generations. In 1662, the Royal Library and Cambridge University Library gained the same privilege, forming the basis of what would later become the Copyright Act; this was
continually built upon in law to become the system of legal deposit as we currently know it.

The Long Room, Old Library, Trnity College Dublin. Photo: Mark Colliton Photography
The Long Room, Old Library, Trnity College Dublin. Photo: Mark Colliton Photography

My Place in Perpertuity

The BLL receives those LD books related to law, so one of my weekly jobs is to process these items. When the books start coming in on Thursday, on my copy of the VBD (see my previous post) I record which books I’ve received, which are missing and any conflicts.
These occur when more than one library has an interest in a particular title; a book on the Civil Rights Movement and law, for example, might be selected by the Vere Harmsworth
Library as well as us. The conflict list is emailed round to the librarians who selected the books in question, who decide where they will go based on reading lists, the perceived needs of readers and so on. I count them for our stats, then tattle and edge-stamp them.

Some of the books arrive with blue flags; these have minimal-level catalogue records and need updating. In the Aleph cataloguing module, I bring up the MARC21 record and search for similar ones, from the British National Bibliography, the Library of Congress, WorldCat, or Copac, and I pick the one that best conforms to RDA standards. Next, I save the
downloaded record as “Provisional”; it’s lovely when no error messages come up, which means I chose a good, sound record. Lastly, I hand all the books over to the cataloguing team, who use the record I downloaded as a base to work from.

Books to cross my desk recently have covered topics as diverse as oil and gas law,
cybersecurity, hate crime, the use of torture in counter-terrorism, the regulation of
tobacco; last week’s list even included a monograph we didn’t eventually get about the
legal status of whales vs. elephants.

My attitude to processing piles of law LD books, even when I receive 70 of them at once… Lewis & Clark Law School’s Valentine’s Day display, 2013. Photo: M. Cheney
My attitude to processing piles of law LD books, even when I receive 70 of them at once… Lewis & Clark Law School’s Valentine’s Day display, 2013. Photo: M. Cheney

Legal Deposit and the Bodleian

It’s estimated that overall, the Bodleian libraries receive 80,000 physical LD monographs per year, and 78,000 serials. All these resources have to go somewhere, and the creation of shelf space is an ongoing concern; Sarah and Hannah’s November blog post on the BSF gives an idea of the problem’s scale.

Overall, however, our LD entitlement benefits the Bodleian libraries immensely, in
allowing us to provide access to a much wider range of scholarly works than if we relied upon purchases and donations alone. Oxford’s libraries provide a uniquely thorough
resource for research, and it is satisfying as a librarian to take my small part in preserving the UK’s intellectual and cultural heritage in perpetuity. Were he alive today, Bodley would surely be awed at the quantity of legal deposit material being added daily to Oxford’s
collections; and it all started with his one canny idea.

Photo: Mark Power
Photo: Mark Power

Library Trainee Day in the Life (Emily Delahaye, Sainsbury Library)

Hi everyone! Last year the trainees blogged about a typical day in the life in their respective libraries so I thought I would do the same – this is what my day as a trainee generally looks like!

8.30 am – Arrive at the library and settle in. Once a week I open up the library – this involves picking up copies of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal to put in the library, emptying the book return box, sweeping the library for lost property and books left on desks, and checking that all the lights are switched on and that there is paper in the printers.

8.45 am – The whole team helps to shelve books that were put into the book return box overnight. If its term time, then we can have quite a few shelves of books to sort through, but everyone working together makes this quite a speedy process!

9.00 am – 10.15 am – Every day I spend four hours on the enquiry desk, either in the morning or after lunch. If I’m on the desk in the morning, I first sort through all the emails in the library inbox, forwarding them on to the relevant people or responding to them myself. When the post arrives there might be new issues of journals or new books for me to process and label, which is a task I quite enjoy.

10.15 am – Normally on my morning break I will go down and get a coffee in the excellent cafe we have in the Said Business School.

10.30 am – 1.00 pm – After my break I will continue to work on the enquiry desk. During term time I will be mainly dealing with student enquiries. Typical enquiries I receive include: how to find a book in the library, how to get access to one of the electronic databases we subscribe to, how to use the printing system and how to order books from the Bodleian Storage Facility (BSF). Around this time in the morning, the books students have previously ordered from the BSF will arrive, so I will check these in and lock them away securely.

1.00 pm – 2.00 pm – Lunch break!

2.00 pm – 5.00 pm – In the afternoon, if I’m not on the enquiry desk I will be at my own desk in the library office. During these hours I work on various projects, such as helping with the reclassification of parts of the library to the library of congress system. Otherwise, I might be uploading files to the library’s student project database, where current students can read their predecessors’ dissertations which helps with writing their own. Recently we had a book sale in the library, so I spent some time making a list of everything we were selling, so we could keep track, and also taking pictures of the books so we could advertise them to students.

I’m over half way through my traineeship now and I’m still really enjoying working at the Sainsbury Library – my colleagues are very encouraging and have often let me be part of the work they do, which has given me a detailed insight into the world of librarianship!

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 10

Well, better late than never, here is a glimpse of life at St.Hilda’s.

Today the Librarian has taken the 0830 start, so the opening procedures have been undertaken by the time I arrive. In general this involves opening the front door, unlocking any internal doors, closing the Lawyer’s entrance which gives them access outside opening hours, logging-on the OPACs, switching on the printers and photocopier and clearing any mess/items left on desks overnight.

0900 – Check returned books through the library management system. Student invigilators who man the desk after 5pm can accept returns but cannot remove the records from reader accounts.

Separate any books that have been recalled by readers, reserve them and contact them to let them know that they are ready for collection.

0930 – Chat about changes being made to the way we deal with book requests from Graduate students. There is a separate fund for Graduate taught courses and on feedback from the MCR at Library Committee we are attempting to improve and streamline this process.

1000 – Enquire about a book that was returned to us in error. Contact student and set it aside for collection.

Check book repairs that I left to dry overnight. One is satisfactory and ready to find its way home. The other hasn’t quite taken so I try again.

1030 – Student requests: There are a couple of book purchase requests in our recommendation book and e-mail. I check that we don’t already have the books as some students have not checked the catalogue fully before requesting. Check for availability and prices before sending off the request to the subject tutors for approval. Update the spreadsheet where we keep track of what has/hasn’t been approved.

1130 – Arrange the shelving trolleys in shelfmark order, ready for shelving later on.

1200 – Desk duty: My desk is the issue desk so when I am not in the reading rooms I will be issuing/returning books, signing out reserve shelf items, bookstands, giving paper for the printer/photocopier.

Accession some journals: Fill in the index card, add details to accessions spreadsheet, write accession number and shelfmark, stamp with St. Hilda’s logo.

Prepare book to send back to another library.

Receive approval from subject tutor to purchase book. Ring Blackwell’s who don’t have it in stock and as we try to make student requests a priority this book will be ordered from Amazon as it would be quicker than having Blackwell’s order it in from the publisher. Pass on details to the Librarian to order with the credit card.

1300- Lunch: I receive some gentle ribbing about how “orange” my lunch is – roast potatoes, chicken in some unknown sauce, beans and tomato ketchup for luck.

1400-Attempt to check-in a delivery from our suppliers but after much rooting no invoice is to be found. Detective work suggests another box will shortly be arriving.

Shelving journals: Place current subscriptions in their respective Science or Arts/Humanities racks. Shelve the previous issues with the rest of the back issues in the rolling stacks in the basement.

Take this time to give a quick patrol of the library for noise, food and drink, maintenance issues, check the printer cartridge levels and for students leaving unattended items and using up desks. I find a folder with important personal documents, (including a passport!) in a pile of papers next to the recycling bin. Save these and contact the student, who picks them up within 5 minutes. Such is the immediacy of a college library, I will sometimes not even have placed a book on the recall shelf 5 yards away from my chair before the reserver is at the desk to pick it up.

1430 – The subject tutors have all replied and it’s time to order some books. Blackwell’s will send one over the next morning and another will be ordered in and with us early next week. The tutors have asked for extra copies so I order these from our web-based supplier. It takes longer but they come pre-processed.

I create the orders on our library management system and create minimal catalogue records, which will show that these books have been ordered. The Assistant Librarian will make complete catalogue record when they arrive.

1530 – Shelving: As mentioned, no trainee goes without the daily duty. My faithful trolley and I trundle off to put some books to bed.

1615 – Wrapping up: Remove items from the returns trolley so as not to mix them with those to be returned overnight.

Redo some spine labels that have faded or fallen off.

Write this blog post.

1700 – Home time.



Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 9

Hullo! My name’s Will, and I’m the graduate trainee at the Codrington Library at All Souls College. I graduated from Merton College, Oxford in 2009 with a degree in English, and then studied for a Masters degree at the same College before starting at All Souls. Since no single day is entirely representative of my experience at work (variety being one of the main attractions of working in a college library), this little diary is a bit of a chimera, with lots of different events from my usual working week unceremoniously lumped together. Still, I hope it will sketch out some of the things you might encounter as a trainee at an Oxford College. Here goes…

8:45am – Arrive at the Codrington. Say hullo to Betty (our library scout). Open office. Switch on lights. Sigh. Put on kettle.

9:00am – Check the Fellows’ borrowing register (latterly an impressive leather-bound tome, currently an orange exercise book, soon to be an impressive leather-bound tome again). I add any new withdrawals to the relevant spread sheet, and update the book with today’s date.

9:25am – A mysterious parcel has arrived overnight. Excitement builds. It contains law textbooks and periodicals. Excitement fades.

9:30am – Open exterior door to Readers. Switch on recess lighting in the Great Library and the law reading room.

The Great Library.
The Great Library.

9:40am – I add the new law journals to our Scandex (a sort of squashed filing-cabinet used for keeping track of standing orders/journals), stamp, and then shelve on our ‘New Journals’ display. Eventually these issues will be catalogued online, but serials cataloguing is a scary business that I leave to braver people. For the moment, I notice that some of the series from last year are now complete, so I bundle them up and put them aside ready to be sent to the binders.  I add holdings records for the textbooks on Aleph (the university’s circulation and cataloguing software), create catalogue cards for them (yes, we still do this), stamp and bookplate, then shelve.

9:45am – I continue with my trainee project. This is the part of your traineeship where you’re allowed to undertake a self-contained task that will benefit the library, or conduct a bit of research into the library’s collections and history. I’ve elected to create a database of Codrington Readers up to 1900, based on signatures in the original admissions book. The library began admitting non-Fellows from the wider university in 1867, on the condition they behave nicely and sign the admissions register. Creating the database involves transcribing hundreds of signatures, of varying legibility. In many cases I have to make an educated guess, and cross-reference with the Oxford Historical Register , individual College Registers, and “other sources” (i.e. Google).  My success rate is reasonable, but progress can be painfully slow. I’ve reached the early 1880s.

10am – The team take a break and admire assorted cat pictures:                Adorable. General agreement.

10:15am – Two new readers arrive (an historian and an archaeologist). I process their applications, make up their library cards, and give them a brief introduction to the library.

10:20am – One of the new readers requests a book from the stack (something on military history). I mooch off to fetch it.

10:25am – New reader no.3 (a geographer).

10:45am – Tea time. Someone’s eaten all the white chocolate wafers.

11:30am – Much excitement. I think I have pinned down one of the more elusive signatures from the admissions register: “R. Caldwell, Tmnevelly”. Much searching turns up a Dr. (later Bishop) Robert Caldwell, an evangelist missionary and linguist who travelled widely in Southern India (“Tmnevelly”, it seems, is the transliterated name of a settlement in the modern Indian state of Tamil Nadu).

12 noon – Lunchtime! Spicy sausage with couscous and chili jam.

12:30pm – The post has arrived. A donation from the Warden (the head of the College) concerning European Merger Law, a few invoices from EBSCO (our main journal supplier), the latest issues of three journals, and a book about Early Gunpowder Artillery. I add the invoices to our accounts spread sheet and add a holdings record for the Artillery book, pausing for a wry chuckle at the author’s picture (think Bill Bailey in a jerkin). I then process the journals (more wrestling with the Scandex), and strategically ignore the donation for the moment.

My desk, looking quite tidy.
My desk, looking quite tidy.

1pm – Back to the admissions book. I’m using the 19th century registers of Lincoln’s Inn and Inner Temple in an attempt to track down a few of the more stubborn signatures.

2pm – Spend a frustrating 10 minutes attempting to locate a book in the stack, only to find it was sat in the office – 6 feet from my desk – the whole time. Grrr. Time for tea.

2:30pm – Another donation, this time from an avant-garde artist in Poznan. The book is beyond my cataloguing skills, so I pass it to my colleague Fiona. Instead, I do the easy physical processing stuff, such as the donor’s bookplate, library stamps, and pressmark. I add the title to our donations spread sheet, and write a brief acknowledgement note (discovering lots of new Polish letter-forms in Microsoft Word in the process). Eventually this note will be signed by the Fellow Librarian, and sent to the donor as a thank you.

3pm  – I carry on with my cataloguing training. I’ve already been taught how to add simple holdings records for single and multipart items in Aleph , but now I’m learning to catalogue books from scratch. This involves mastering the shadowy art of the MARC record. MARC is a sort of rudimentary programming language that allows bibliographical data to be read by machines. It’s not impossibly hard, and I’m getting better with practice, but it can be rather pedantic and fiddly. There are lots of rules and procedures to remember, and it’s a real test of my concentration. Mercifully the person running the course at the Bodleian has a sense of humour, and my practice cataloguing tasks are all for ludicrous made-up books. My favourite so far is “Proceedings of the fourth California Prune Symposium”.

4pm – I have a long chat with the Assistant Librarian about her on-going attempts to construct a database of College Fellows (current and historic). Seems very complicated. More tea required.

4:30pm – More cataloguing exercises. My concentration wavers when an external researcher arrives to view a manuscript and some early printed books. The Codrington has lots of these (about a third of the entire collection of 185,000 items dates from before 1800), and I never miss an opportunity to shamelessly peer over people’s shoulders when something interesting gets called up.

Spiral staircase in the library office (my desk is at the bottom).
Spiral staircase in the library office (my desk is at the bottom).

5:30pm – Some re-shelving (apparently a task no trainee can avoid), re-filing of catalogue cards (most hated job), and general tidying up.

6:15pm – I lock the Fellows’ door (an entrance reserved for members of the College) and do the washing up.

6:25pm – The Assistant Librarian politely encourages our few remaining readers to begin packing up.

6:30pm – Home time!

Well, I hope that’s given you an idea of an average (ish) day as a library trainee at All Souls. The traineeship for 2013/14 is being advertised now (closing date: April 5), so if you have any questions about the job please do feel free to drop me an email, either at, or via the library’s general enquiries address: You can also find more information on the library website:

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 6

[I’m posting this on behalf of Sian, the trainee in the University Archives.]


It’s Day 6 of our ‘Library Trainee Day in the Life’ series and I’m going to confuse matters a bit as I’m not actually a library trainee – I’m the archives trainee. My name is Sian and I’m the Archives Assistant at Oxford University Archives. It’s the only archives trainee post currently offered at the University and it’s separate to the library trainee programme, although I’m allowed to tag along to their training sessions. It’s a one-year post, like the library traineeships, and I believe it will be advertised around March. What happens in archives? Well, let’s begin…

8:30-8:45 – The day begins

I arrive (a task in itself as our office is in the tower of the Bodleian Library, so my journey involves a trip up a worn stone spiral staircase) and turn on my computer. I check the phone messages and the diary but there’s nothing going on. I check our enquiries email account and find that there’s only one new enquiry. Rather disappointing, but not unsurprising. The number of enquiries we get seems to vary wildly for no particular reason – one week it’s incredibly busy, the next no one wants to know anything.

8:45-10:15 – Answering enquiries

I was in the middle of researching an enquiry when I left on Friday, so I start by finishing that off. It’s a bit of a tricky one so it takes me a while. It also involves some scanning, so that’s a trip down the stairs to use the library’s machines. The new enquiry, however, is a simple one. It’s one of our most common – ‘did this person attend the University?’ For pre-1891 students, there are published registers, whilst for students between 1891 and 1932 there is a card register in our office. I check it, the person’s not there (the usual result of such enquiries), I reply.

10:15-10:45 – Bits and bobs

I update our loans register and my to-do list before starting on this post. This is a good point to say more about what my job is. The University Archives is just one section of the Special Collections department at the University and we hold the administrative records of the University itself. So that’s things like some records of the departments, matriculation records, examination records, and so on. A lot of my emails involve redirecting people to the right place! Generally, my job involves answering enquiries (from both people within the University and external), making material available for readers, and sorting through new material and cataloguing it.

10:45-11:10 – Coffee break

Coffee and KitKat – just what’s needed by this point in a morning.

11:10-12:05 – More enquiries

We had another enquiry whilst at coffee, so I answer that. It’s another ‘this person went to the University, what can you tell me about it?’ question, but a little bit more complicated this time because it involves attempting to understand the University’s examination system. (Near impossible, if you’re wondering.) We also learn that the skeleton found in a car park is indeed Richard III – how exciting.

12:05-13:05 – The reading room

Next, I go and see what’s happening in Duke Humfrey, the reading room where archives material is read. I sign out some of our material that has been finished with and return to the office. (A two trip job.) My trip to the cupboard inspires me to do a bit of spring-cleaning, so I email a couple of readers who still have material out from before Christmas. There are also four heavy boxes that want bringing to the office for a bit, so I bring two of those up. It works up a good appetite for lunch.

13:05-13:25 – Transporting material

It’s nearly lunchtime but first I take some of the material I removed from Duke Humfrey back to storage. Whilst our office and some older material are in the tower of the Bodleian, the archives themselves are mainly stored in the basement of the Examination Schools. So returning items to storage involves putting as much as I can carry into a bag and walking down the High Street. Thankfully, today’s quite nice out (but material still had to go to and fro even in the recent snow…).

13:25-14:25 – Lunch.

14:25-15:50 – Even more enquiries and more transporting material

There was some excitement this afternoon as, on returning to the basement after lunch, it transpired that the power sockets in half of the rooms had stopped working. As this included the room with the computers, I was utterly lost. Usually, my return from lunch sees me logging on and checking emails. Today, though, I went straight to my filing (more on this joy later) whilst my boss sorted out the power issue.

Once power returned and the computers were usable, I looked up some locations and put away the material that I brought over before lunch. There had been a further enquiry following one of my replies this morning, so I researched that as best I could and replied again. Sometimes answering enquiries, like this one, ends up being far more difficult than it should be because I have to try and find the exact right words to explain what’s going on – there are a lot of assumptions about what words mean and a lot of confusion about what exactly was happening when, and it’s hard to try and get across exactly what it is an enquirer wants to know in a way that cannot be misunderstood (especially when I have a rather tenuous grasp of it all in the first place). But I rather enjoy grappling with it all.

15:50-17:00 – Sorting/cataloguing

I check my personal emails for things of archive-related interest and write most of this post. And then it’s filing time. (Technically, I believe I am cataloguing, but it feels a lot like filing.) We recently had an accession of a batch of academic staff files, so my current task is to make sure they’re in alphabetical order and to put them all in boxes, noting down their dates as I go. Once I’ve boxed them all, I’ll go back through them and give each file a reference code and add them to the catalogue. That won’t happen for a while, though – today, I reached the Os. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is not the most riveting task, so I have to find a way of entertaining myself while I work. There are not many perks to working alone in a basement, but one of the few is the ability to sing along to my iPod as much as I like. I take full advantage of this – there’s nothing like a rousing rendition of Do You Hear the People Sing? to brighten up an afternoon’s work.

17:00 – Home time

So with that final insight into the life of an archives assistant, it’s time for me to go home. This has been a pretty typical day – answering enquiries, doing some cataloguing, limited human interaction. I’m aware I may not have made it sound particularly spectacular, but I do enjoy my job and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. If you like extracting information, enjoy helping researchers, are rather organised, will feel great satisfaction at the sight of hundreds of beautifully boxed and labelled files, and don’t mind constantly having paper cuts, then archives could be the career for you!

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 5

Welcome to day five in the Day in the Life series. Every day my duties and tasks vary considerably depending on where in the library I am working, so there is really no such thing as a ‘typical’ day, but I hope this post will give you some idea of what I do on a day-to-day basis as the Bodleian Library trainee.

8.45 – 9.20: The Day Begins
I arrive in work glad to get out of the cold, hang my coat up, head to the Main Enquiry Desk and turn on my computer. Many of the staff start earlier than me so the opening routine has already been completed; photocopiers and computers are turned on and the morning book replacing is underway in the reading rooms. There are three of us on Main Enquiry Desk this morning, and as it’s been relatively quiet over the past couple of days I take the opportunity to carry on re-numbering the desks in the Lower Reading Room, a project I’ve been working on for a while. I’ve been trying to do most of the re-labelling before the library opens so that I don’t cause too much disruption to readers, so I continue peeling off the double-sided tape and sticking them on each desk. Not the most exciting of tasks, but someone’s got to do it!

9.20 – 10.10: Background Tasks
I reach desk number 173 and run out of labels with only six desks to go – typical! After much searching I finally track down some more yellow paper, print some more labels, laminate them and stick them on the desks. Now I’ve finished this project I’m free to start working on the next task I’ve been given, which is to check the locations and shelfmarks of all the Classics Journals that the Bodleian holds on the open shelves. There were many books moves over the summer and we’re all still getting used to the new locations,  so it’s my job to create an an updated list of where everything is to make them easier to locate when readers ask.

10.10 – 10.30: Main Enquiry Desk.
Back at Main Enquiry Desk I read through my email inbox and catch up with everything going on in the library. I have 26 emails this morning so there is plenty to read, and a couple to reply to. The phone rings and it’s someone enquiring about how to become a library user. I explain the process to them, ask them to email us the names of any off-site books they want to see so that we can order them in advance of their visit, and put them through to the Admissions Office who can explain the process of getting a library card. I spend quite a lot of my time at Main Desk, which is the most challenging but rewarding part of the job. I love helping and interacting with readers, and the vast array of queries we get (especially via email) keeps me on my toes – I learn something new every day.

10.30-11.00: Tea break time

11.00-11.30: Outline Meeting
Each year, the Bodleian trainee has the great opportunity to assist with the editing of the Bodleian Libraries Staff Newsletter. Every Thursday the editors, a small group of staff from various libraries and departments, meet to read through the draft copy of the newsletter to correct any mistakes and make changes to the formatting ready for printing. This week we also discuss a few ideas of what we want to include in future issues and what features we’re going to promote.

11.30 – 11.55: Posters
Back at Main Desk, one of my colleagues asks me to visit each reading room of the library and put up some posters promoting a new service the library is offering. There are seven reading rooms in total and it takes me a while to walk round to each one, up and down many flights of stairs.One of my regular tasks is to sort, stamp and put up the many posters we receive at Main Enquiry Desk, and on my way around the library I take down any posters that are out-dated and make a mental note to put up the stack of new posters that have accumulated at some point this week.

11.55 – 13.00: Main Enquiry Desk
I arrive back at Main Enquiry Desk again and get down to get to sit down at last! It’s relatively busy today and we have quite a few people come up to the desk needing help with various things. I help someone over the phone who is having trouble logging in to the online catalogue, and then assist a reader in creating a photocopying account. Next, I check the two Reader Services email accounts to see if we’ve had any more enquiries today. My colleagues replied to all the ones from this morning when I was re-numbering the desks, but we check the accounts constantly throughout the day and try to reply as quickly as possible. We’ve received two enquires in the last hour so I answer both and record them on the spreadsheet.

13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch time

14.00 -14.30: Book Replacing
As the trainee I get to move around the library and work in all the reading rooms, which is great as it keeps my days varied. This afternoon I’m in the Lower Camera Reading Room, though first I take a trip to the Gladstone Link as it’s my turn to help with the afternoon replacing. New ImageAs it’s term time there is quite a lot this afternoon, but with four of us replacing it doesn’t take too long. We get stopped by readers a lot, who are struggling to find the books they need. It’s always nice to see how grateful they are when we find what they were looking for so quickly!

14.30 – 14.45: Issue Desk
Back in the Lower Camera, I log in to a computer and am immediately rushed off my feet with a queue of readers at the desk. The Radcliffe Camera is the new home of the History Faculty Library, and unlike in the Old Bodleian many of the books can be borrowed. As an undergraduate reading room which is nearly always full in term time, it’s the busiest reading room I get to work in and time flies by. Being on the issue desk involves issuing and returning books, giving readers books that they have requested from the stacks, registering new library users, processing fines, as well as dealing with general queries and assisting readers with the photocopiers, searching the catalogue and finding books.

14.45 – 15.05: Book Delivery
The afternoon book delivery arrives. We get three deliveries of books a day in each reading room of books that readers have requested from the off-site stacks, and in term time the number of books that need processing increases dramatically. It’s not too much this afternoon though, only two full boxes. We can receive anywhere up to twelve boxes of books per reading room, which quite often happens in the Old Bodleian during term. Processing the books involves taking them out of the boxes, checking to see that each book is in the right reading room, scanning them into the system, sorting them alphabetically by reader’s surname, and putting them on the shelves behind the reserves ready for readers to come and collect.

15.05 – 16.20: Trainee Project Research
Though it’s busy at the issue desk there are some moments of calm, and I get the chance to get on with other things. In between readers I take the opportunity to research more out how to create a LibGuide, which I’ll be doing as part of my trainee project. I’m also going to give a tour of the library in a couple of months to staff from another library, so I send an email to make arrangements.

16.20 – 16.50: Tea break. I take a late break as it’s Thursday so I’m doing my weekly evening duty and working until seven. Coffee and cake with a friend is a lovely way to break up my shift.

16.50-19.00: Evening Duty
Back to work for my evening duty. I usually work my evenings in the Lower Reading Room, and I’m on the reserve desk on my own for an hour while my colleague goes down to the Gladstone Link to book replace. It’s relatively busy for an evening, with readers coming to the desk to collect or return their books. When my colleague comes back, I start the shelving in the reading room while she minds the desk. As usual there are a lot of books to replace, and I manage to re-shelve two full trolleys and many piles of books that have been left on the desks. Thankfully in term time we are open until 10pm, so staff who start at 7pm can also spend an hour shelving, getting the bulk of it done so that there isn’t too much left to replace in the morning. In vacation, we close at seven, so I would start the closing routine at 6.30, but that’s the job of the staff working until ten tonight. When the next lot of staff arrive, I’m free to head home for the night.

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 3

Welcome to the third installment of trainee life! Wednesdays are training days in Oxford, so most afternoons during term time we get a talk, practical session or visit relating to different areas of librarianship. This week we had a really interesting talk about Archives and Manuscripts, detailing the sorts of work involved and examples of the Bodleian collection, including political papers which made the Politics student in me very excited.  However as this is not a typical day for me I have included a random afternoon from last week to give a better reflection of what I do most days.

Read more Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 3

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 in the Library Trainees’ Day in the Life series: you find yourself in Nuffield College Library tower, with a somewhat jetlagged trainee who has just returned from a holiday in Tokyo! Much of today will be filled with catching up on tasks from last week, so here goes…

Read more Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 2

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 1

It’s a short life being a trainee, only 6 months in to our jobs and already a lot of them are being advertised for the next group of trainees to take over in September.  With this in mind we thought it might be a good idea for the current trainees to blog an average day for where we work.  There is a great deal of diversity for the trainees as each work place comes with different roles and different sets of challenges, from large subject specialist libraries, to college libraries, to the university archive – no day is the same for each of us.  Hopefully the posts over the next two weeks will give you an idea of the kind of work we do, as well as pointing out the similarities and differences in each work place.

08:30 – 9:00 Opening up

As the SSL is quite a big library I don’t have to open up every day but today is my day to be in at 8.30 to make sure we can open the doors at 8.45, and there is already a group of students waiting for us to open when I arrive.  Reader and issue desk computers are switched on, discussion rooms unlocked, printer paper topped up, and holds that have not been collected by users before they expire are reshelved.  At 9am we bring in the returns box which is kept outside the library doors over night and return all the books from there.

09:00 – 9:30 Email queries

There are usually a lot of email queries to answer first thing in the morning so it takes me half an hour to get everything in the inbox answered.  With two trainees in the SSL both doing the same job we manage to keep on top of things quite well even at busy times, so the email account is checked frequently throughout the day as well.  The emails we get range from people telling us why they haven’t been able to return books, to researchers asking about access to databases or how to locate a rare report.  Some of what we get (such as requests about purchasing items or inter library loans) can be forwarded on to the most appropriate person in the library, but if it is something we can answer for them (with a bit of research ourselves) then we always try to.  We also take care of booking out our discussion rooms which are heavily used during term time.  This can take some time to do as we also update the website so people can check themselves when the rooms are available, today there is only one room booking so I can move on to the next task quickly once that is done.

IMG_20130122_11290009:30 – 10:00 Book repair assessments

As a heavily used lending library we do get a lot of books returned that are in various states of needing repair, a lot of times it is simply a badly bound book that has fallen apart just by being opened.  This morning I spend half an hour assessing the books that may need repair as the pile is getting ever larger.  I first make sure the book is showing as “in repair” on the catalogue so that readers know it is out of circulation.  There are then a series of checks such as if the book is on a reading list, if it is heavily in demand, if it can be repaired or needs to be sent for rebinding, how much it would cost to replace.  We seem to have quite a lot of books that cannot be repaired so I prioritise which ones are on reading lists as they will have to be sent to the bindery first.  Later this week we will box up the books to be sent off and arrange for them to be collected.

10:00 – 10:45 Team meeting

Once a week in term time we have a reader services team meeting.  This is a great chance for us to get together and discuss any issues we may need to know about.  It is also a good opportunity for staff to be reminded about things which may come up on the desk.   This is useful because there are a lot of new people on the team so it’s good to hear about things we may not have encountered before.  This week we’re being reminded about the change from vacation rules about storing people’s books behind the desk for them, and about our core text collection.

10:45 – 11:05 Time for a tea break.

11:05 – 11:25 Email queries

I check the email account again and notice a few long queries from readers who had returned books over the weekend but were still on their account.  I have a look for the books which I find and let them know I’ve removed it from their account.  Sometimes we have to email them back to say we can’t find the book and a few days later they let us know they accidentally returned it to another library, which his very easy to do in Oxford given how many libraries there are.

11:25 – 12:00 Book Processing

Now it’s time to do some book processing.  We get a lot of new books in from the Bodleian which we will keep at the SSL so these need shelfmarks putting on and need alarms putting in them, but we also get a lot of books we have purchased which are shelf ready.  With both types I have to check the shelfmark is correct then input data on to our system so that the book appears correctly in the catalogue.  As soon as that is done the books can be put out to be shelved or placed on the ‘New Books’ display if they’re interesting looking.

12:00 – 12:30 Issue Desk

My first stint of the day on the issue desk is just before lunch.  Every staff member in the SSL takes turns on the issue desk so we’re normally only on for an hour at a time, half an hour at very busy times.  Today is especially busy.  With term just starting there are a lot of books returning so I’m on my feet constantly returning and issuing books.  I deal with a few issues from readers about how to set up printing accounts and how to use the binding machine.  At the SSL we have information sheets for pretty much anything so after a quick explanation most people are happy to go away with a leaflet and work on it themselves.  Although sometimes things (ie computers) don’t work the way they’re supposed to so it can take a bit longer to help someone get access.

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch time

1:30 – 2:30 Issue Desk

I’m straight back on the issue desk after lunch and it’s still very busy in the library.  I have a reader who has brought a friend along from an Italian university and they would like access to study in the library for the day.  I issue them with a day pass which we can give for up to three days, any more I tell them, and you’ll have to go to Bodleian admissions to get a card.  I spent probably 5 minutes unjamming a stapler that has decided to eat some staples and not give them back, the reader I’m doing this for seems very amused when I get out some tweezers to release the blockage – I have clearly done this before.  The afternoon delivery arrives from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon so I spend half an hour scanning in the stack requests readers have ordered.  Today there are 5 boxes of books so it takes a while as I also have to keep issuing/returning/helping with enquiries at the desk.  I think the longest it has taken us to receive in one box of stack requests is an hour due to how busy the desk is.

2:30 – 3:30 Shelving

With 1000s of books being returned after the Christmas vacation the reshelving trolleys are overflowing so we try to reshelve as often as we can at the beginning of term.  We have to make sure that all reference books are reshelved within 24 hours and other items within 48, so far this year I think we’ve succeeded!

3:30 – 3:50 Afternoon break

I grab a cup of tea for my afternoon break but end up spending it checking the email account and answering some queries about late returns.  A few readers have left books at home over the vacation so they can’t yet return them.    I make sure the books are renewed to give them a bit more time to return them and I also put a note on their account to say they’ve been in touch as we always try to help people who let us know if they’re having problems returning books

3:50 – 4:30 Missing book search

When a reader reports to us at the desk that they can’t find a book a form is filled out with the details and it is the trainees job to search for the books.  This is one of my most favourite and least favourite parts of the job, usually depending on if I can find the book.  It is very satisfying to be able to help someone who urgently needs an item that has been missing for a while.  It’s also very frustrating when you can’t find it, we just have to hope it’s here somewhere and will turn up so we search every few days for missing books.  I also spend this time looking for some books that people have told us they returned but are still on their account.  We search for these books quite a few times in case they are definitely here but in the wrong place.  Today I find one missing book but the reader who wanted it hasn’t left their details so I can’t tell them it’s been found, I put it back in the correct place and hope they find it later.

4:30 – 5:00 Wrapping up the day

There are lots of other things that the SSL trainees do but this is not the kind of job where you have the same duties every day so I take a look at a list of things I need to do to see if there is anything else for today.  There are a few books from the Radcliffe Science Library which have been returned here by mistake so I contact the reader and ask them to come and pick the books up.  I realise I haven’t dealt with any incoming post today so Sara must have done it all earlier, I quickly check to see if there is anything delivered this afternoon and there are a few bits of post for staff which I pop in their post trays.  I note down that today I haven’t done anything from my list of low use books to be removed from circulation, or books to change the status from reference only to normal loan, there are also more books to be processed and we need to start processing the books going to the bindery, these are all on my list for tomorrow.