Rhiannon Perrin – Bodleian Law Library

Hi my name is Rhiannon (Rhiannon P as we have two Rhiannon’s on this year’s trainee scheme – although luckily not in the same library!) and I will be spending the year working in the Bodleian Law Library. The Bodleian Law Library is based in the St. Cross building on Manor Road, the English Faculty Library is also in this building and next door to us is the Social Science Library, with the old Bodleian Library less than a ten minute walk away.  So far in the past two weeks I have spent my time meeting and talking to all the different staff within the Law Library and learning about their areas of expertise. This year there are two trainees at the Law Library, Laura who is based in Information Resources, and myself in Academic Services. Being based in AS means that alongside my usual tasks like shelving and staffing the enquiry desk I am also involved in scanning resources to go online both on our internal page LawBod4Students and for ORLO reading lists.

Gladstone’s Library

 

Before coming to Oxford I was working in a small residential library in North Wales called Gladstone’s Library. In many ways this was great preparation for coming to the Bodleian as every day I spent time on the enquiry desk, helping readers, cataloguing and circulating books and journals, as well as working on specific projects being undertaken at Gladstone’s Library. However, Gladstone’s Library only had 150,000 volumes whereas the Bodleian Law Library has over 550,000 so far more material for me to familiarise myself with over the next year! Before that I had just completed my LLM in International Law at the University of Sussex where I got to visit The Hague and see incredible places like the Peace Palace which is home to numerous bodies of International Law including the International Court of Justice, but most importantly (to me anyway) the Peace Palace Library, an amazing building that holds over a million volumes on International Law. Finally, before that I was doing my BA in History where I spent part of my second year working in an archive, and I enjoyed it so much I then spent the whole of my third year working in the university library.

A few of us trainees outside Christ Church College

 

I am really looking forward to spending a year in Oxford, so far it seems like a fantastic city with lots of things to do and places to visit. I am excited for term to begin and to start seeing the Law Library in full flow, with postgraduate inductions beginning in less than two weeks and undergraduates the week after that. It has been really nice meeting my fellow trainees, we’ve already had a few training sessions together and the drinks reception in the Divinity School was a great way to be welcomed to the Bodleian.

Michaelmas Reflections from the Law Bod

As I post this, there is a mere few hours left of Michaelmas term and it boggles the brain as to where the time has gone! Reading back on my first post from over two months ago has got me reflecting on how much I’ve learned since then and how comfortable I now feel in a building that has been slowly revealing its character to me. These dark, gloomy mornings must be making me emotional!

As I am based in the Information Resources team, my tasks this term have been mainly book processing, serials processing for the New Journal Display and reclassifying part of our collection. This is broken up with a several 2-hour shifts a week on the Enquiry Desk which have been great for interacting with our regular readers and learning about their area of research, as well as aiding newer readers in navigating our, often confusing, collection. I have only just gotten to grips with the layout of our ground-floor rolling stacks, and not embarrassed to admit I had to consult a map a few days ago while shelving after becoming baffled as to where the usual home was of an old, secondary collection Criminology text.

A rare sunny and quiet morning in the Law Bod. View into the main Reading Room from the Gallery.

My IR (Information Resources) work is varied and allows me the privilege of handling almost every book that comes through the library – be it through Legal Deposit, purchase or donation. Some days I’ll find myself 5 minutes into reading a book that I had intended only to skim through while stamping and tattling. Who knew law could be so interesting to an English Literature and Art History graduate?!

One of the more difficult, but very informative, tasks have been the reclassification of our Roman Law collection. My language experience has certainly come in useful as the texts are predominantly in German and Italian, but it is often hard to decipher the nuanced meanings between certain words when you are deciding on specific shelfmarks, as many words can be similar in language but mean very different things in a legal context. One language which would have been useful to be familiar with is Latin, but I decided against studying it on the belief that it would not help me while being a tourist… However, now that I am learning tonnes about Roman Law and its apparent influence on our own Common Law legal system, I can impress anyone while travelling with the Latin terms for various contracts and criminal activities, because I hear people love to talk about Stipulatio and Damnum Iniuria Datum on their holidays, yes?

‘Furtum’ is the Latin legal term for ‘theft’ in Roman Law …but of course you already knew that.

Speaking of summer holidays… the stormy, winter weather has brought the library alive with the howling of the wind circulating around the building and the thunder of the rain on the slanted roof windows. The noise is almost biblical when the rain is pouring and it still excites and awes me when it is in full force. I am really getting familiar with where the best seats are, which of our four floors is the least chilly and the quietest areas of the library, which is useful when suggesting places for readers to park up with their books for the next 8 hours. I have also aided a student in using our microfilm reader, which was a nice departure into the past from a standard query of how to search for legislation on an online database.

Best seat in the house. This nook can be found on our Gallery level, tucked between carrels with a lovely view.

Finally, our training sessions this term have been so interesting and varied, and extremely useful for day to day library work. Seeing the other trainees almost every week has been so great for catching up and reminds me that I’m not alone in being thrown into so many new experiences. I am so looking forward to heading back up north to Scotland for Christmas and Hogmanay, but I am also welcoming Hilary Term in the New Year and wondering what new challenges and opportunities it will bring. We still have a few weeks left until the Law Bod closes for Christmas, but Merry Christmas when it comes and lang may yer lum reek!

Jenna Meek, Bodleian Law Library

Me! In front of our exhibition celebrating 100 years of votes for women. Photographed by Hannah Chandler (Official Papers Librarian), @thelawbod

Hello! I’m Jenna, and I will be spending my traineeship in the Bodleian Law Library. I am originally from a town in central Scotland, and have spent the last 6 years in Glasgow where I completed my degree in English Literature and History of Art at the University of Glasgow. While I have not travelled the furthest for the traineeship, as we have a few trainees from mainland Europe doing placements with us, Oxford certainly feels like a far cry from Glasgow! Most notably, having only experienced a blend of a city and campus university in Glasgow, getting my head around the collegiate system in Oxford has been difficult. Something I am coming to realise is that Oxford likes to do things VERY differently in many respects!

I was so pleased and grateful to have been offered a place on the traineeship, but also slightly intimidated! I have no previous professional experience of working in a library, but became very familiar with my university library spending (literally) every day there during my final year. I do, however, have around 8 years of customer service and retail experience which I think will come in extremely useful when on the enquiry desk and interacting with such a varied pool of readers in a library as busy as the BLL. Secondly, it was advised that it would be preferable if the BLL trainee had a decent grasp of a few languages, which thankfully I do. This has come in very useful when completing one of my integral tasks of organizing the weekly New Journal Display which boasts many foreign language texts. However, it had not aided when trying to decide which page is the title page when processing a text written in Chinese characters!

While the BLL interior seems very new after having a refurbishment in the last few years, the building itself was built in 1959-1964. As Bryony has stated below, it shares the St. Cross Building with the EFL and the Law Faculty and creates a series of three interlocking cubes. It has a very different feel from many of the college libraries dotted around Oxford, though it has definitely been built for purpose, with four floors of space for the 550,000 texts the Law Bod holds which are mainly on open access. Designed by Sir Leslie Martin (1908-2000) and Colin St John Wilson (1922-2007), the blocky exterior is juxtaposed with the light and airy atrium in the main reading room. Jeffrey Hackney, who was a law student at Wadham College when the building opened, describes:

“My first reaction to the building was that it had been modelled on an Aztec temple and it was a constant source of pleasant surprise that there were no human sacrifices at the top of the steps. “

However, during the exam period, I imagine many students are in as much terror and as helpless as the sacrificial lamb! In actual fact, Ruth Bird, (Bodleian Law Librarian 2004 – 2017) advises that there is notable influence from Alvar Aalto’s Säynätsalo Hall, and the external brick cladding intended to blend with the stone of the adjacent Holywell manor and St Cross Church.

The BLL in 1964: Donat, John, Bodleian Law Library, St Cross Building, University of Oxford, Photoprint, 1964, RIBA Collections
Säynätsalo Hall: Accessed September 2018, https://museot.fi/searchmuseums/?museo_id=9147

One of the most interesting parts of my introductory weeks has been seeing the Official Papers holdings in rolling stacks on the ground floor. 2.5 linear kilometres of texts were moved from the basement of the Radcliffe Building to the Law Bod in 2009. Seeing reports and materials that have changed laws and the lives of people living in the UK has been a real treat and I’m hoping to do a blog post on some of the most interesting finds in the near future.

At the end of my third week, I have already learned SO much and I can’t wait to continue learning and gaining new skills from the extremely helpful teams housed in the BLL, as well as training alongside all the lovely trainees on the scheme. So far I’m not feeling the terror the sacrificial lamb, but I’ll get back to you on that once the mass of undergraduates start in a couple of weeks!

References:

Hackney, Jeffrey in Ed. Bird, Ruth, Celebrating 50 Years of the Bodleian Law Library 1964 – 2014, Witney, Oxfordshire: Windrush Group, 2014, p.5

Ibid., p.138

University of Oxford, The Faculty of Law, Accessed: September 2018, https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/about-us/about-faculty/st-cross-building

Summary of Graduate Library Trainee Training (so far)

As Graduate Library Trainee, I have had – since September – quite a lot of training. I’ve become very familiar with Osney Mead industrial estate, which is where a lot of Bodleian staff training takes place, as well as some of the more specialist cataloguing, the Bodleian Digital Systems and Services, and a few other departments. The mud spatters on my bike even time that I go down the tow path can testify to my journeys there, but the weekly trips with my fellow trainees are a chance to learn a bit more about the world of libraries, and can often offer knowledge or perspectives that are very welcome to me as a newcomer to the library world. This post will hopefully give you an insight into what kind of training we have as Oxford Library Trainees, every Wednesday afternoon.

Michaelmas term was orientation, an intensive few weeks of the systems that we use here. There was Circulation for Desk Staff, Customer Care, Resource Discovery, Working Safely, Supporting Disabled readers and discovering the mysterious workings of Aleph, our library software, all completed in September, allowing me to get up and running with the systems. October saw the start of graduate training proper, with sessions designed introduce us to the Bodleian as a whole and libraries more generally. There were visits to other parts of the Bodleian to help us to get a handle on the diversity of things that go on here and how they all hang together – from the dignified turrets of the Old Bodleian, to the Weston’s shiny new spaces, including Special Collections and Conservation, and also a trip to the leviathan behind it all, the BSF, where books go to be ‘ingested’. They are also circulated from there around all the libraries, the speed and efficiency of which was impressive. My fellow trainee David wrote a blog post on it, here. There was a session on e-developments at the Bodleian, too, which was particularly interesting. We were introduced to such things as open access, the Bodleian Digital Library, ORA as a digital repository for Oxford’s research, and some of the issues around e-Legal Deposit. (For those not in the know, Legal Deposit is an arrangement whereby five libraries in the UK are entitled to a copy of everything published here; e-Legal Deposit is the same principle for electronic works, but I am not really qualified to talk about all the complications of either system. However, there is a brief overview by a former trainee that you can read here.)

Duke Humphrey’s Library in the Old Bodleian. Credit David Iliff (Creative Commons licence).
The shiny Weston Library’s entrance hall. Credit Paul Hayday (Creative Commons licence)

Then there was training focussed more on our future as library professionals, such as the session on Professional Qualifications, which included some talks by former trainees who had completed or were undergoing their degrees. We got the low-down on what types of degree there are, where they are offered, and what to consider when applying. This term we’ve had a sort of follow up in the session on Career Opportunities and Skills Workshop, where there were some tips on CVs, networking and interviews, and some very good talks by former Law Library trainees, which were particularly interesting to me as the current Law Library trainee.

I’ve also been lucky compared to other trainees, because my supervisor lets me to do plenty of training in my role that not all of the trainees get. I’ve had training on serials and acquisitions, and these things tied into my role here, since I’m able to assist both teams: that is, I can process new journals which arrive periodically, and can help in the process of buying new things for the library. There was also a session that I attended more recently with two of my colleagues, entitled Preservation Advice for Library Staff, where we learnt about how to set up and maintain a library space that is safest for your books, plus some detail on the dangers ranged against them (the seven agents of decay, which sounds to me a bit like a fantasy book series waiting to happen). The seven agents of decay include physical forces – such as handling by readers – fire, water, pests, pollutants, light, incorrect temperature, and incorrect relative humidity. Oxford is an especially damp place (as I can testify to – I’ve already had an outbreak of mould in my wardrobe since moving here), so the everyday monitoring of collections is particularly relevant.

Humidity control is important. Photo credit to Alex Walker, Acting Head of Preventative Conservation.

This term’s training started off with a visit to Oxford Brookes Library, which was a fancy new building at their main Headington campus. We had a tour, learning about their use of space, which is divided into various zones of noise so that both quiet study and group work are encouraged, and a bit about their collections and processes. There was also a look at their Special Collections, which was quite eclectic (an artificial arm, a golden wok). Last week we had a session on effective training techniques, very useful for any kind of induction, training and indeed presentation that I may do in the future. There was also Libraries and Social Media yesterday afternoon, at which we learnt about the key principles of social media for libraries, and thought through a few of the possibilities and issues with social media in general and certain platforms for certain libraries in particular. From that session I’ve taken away a healthy appreciation of animated gifs when it comes to medical textbooks, and a newfound love of Orkney Library. (See the Wellcome Unit Library’s feed, here, and Orkney Library’s feed, here, respectively.)

Next up will be Talks on the Book Trade; Collection and Resource Description; and some visits to other Oxford libraries, including All Souls’ Codrington Library, the Alexander Library of Ornithology, the Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy and the Radcliffe Science Library. I’m also booked on to a minute-taking session, since taking the minutes at our staff meeting is one of my duties, and a session on Academic searching with Google and alternatives.

My favourite training sessions are definitely those that touch on librarianship as a whole, since what I learn every day here is about how this library works. Bernadette O’Reilly’s OLIS training course was particularly good in that respect, as was the E-Developments session by Michael Popham and Sally Rumsey. All of these looked outwards a bit, explaining, for example, how the publishing habits of publishers like Elsevier impact on the libraries’ and university’s open access policies. The tours can also contribute to this broader perspective, especially when we can find out a bit about the history of a library or, equally important, a particular librarian’s career. So training is definitely a very important and useful part of my role here, and something that is particularly special about the job of Graduate Library Trainee. I hope this gives a sense of the myriad of things that we get up to, and how it benefits us and our libraries.

Lee Colwill – Law Library

Hi! I’m Lee, the Law Library Trainee. My main experience with libraries before joining the Bodleian was as the librarian of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society’s library. This had the pretty great perk of being able to buy all the sci-fi and fantasy books our budget could handle (so, about five), but I have to say, it’s nice to have librarianship be my main focus now, not just something to be squeezed in around my degree. Said degree was in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, which is slightly more relevant to working in a Law Library than you might expect – I eagerly await the day when only my detailed knowledge of medieval Welsh law can save us from cataloguing disaster. Any day now…

The Law Library is a pretty fantastic place to work. Our collection is hugely varied, ranging from up-to-the-minute dossiers on tax law to law reports from the Elizabethan period, not forgetting the wonderful Red X Criminology section, a.k.a. the Trashy Jack the Ripper Books section (now, alas, mostly in Swindon). Almost everything is open-shelf, which means a shelving trolley might contain anything from the most recent Parliamentary publication to a book printed in the 17th century (I’m still quite excited about that one).

Bodleian_Law_Library_Reading_Room
View over the Main Reading Room

At the moment the library is fairly quiet (in terms of readers, if not in terms of actual noise levels, thanks to the building works happening at the moment), which has given me the chance to learn a lot about all of the varied work that happens here. I’m based in Information Resources, where I’m mainly involved in the behind-the-scenes work of processing new books, but I’ve also been learning about the Academic Services side of things, such as the Document Delivery Service. Recently, I’ve been helping out with induction tours for new postgraduate students. When I first arrived, I thought I’d never learn my way around, so it’s quite a relief to realise that I actually do know where most things are (although I do occasionally go up one of the more twisty staircases and realise I have absolutely no idea where I’ve come out).

One of the things I’m looking forward to in my traineeship is the opportunity to get involved with the Moys reclassification project that’s currently happening in the Law Library. The Moys shelfmark system is designed specifically for law collections and is meant to make it a lot easier to browse the shelves by subject. Since my involvement in the Great Recataloguing of the Sci-Fi Library back at university, intuitive shelfmarks are a subject dear to my heart, and I’m warped (or perhaps just boring) enough to find cataloguing really enjoyable.

That’s about it from me. I’m looking forward to learning all sorts of new skills over the next year (and hopefully becoming reasonably competent at a few of them!), and this seems like a pretty good place to do that.

Madeleine Lawson, Law Library

A belated and festive hello from the Bodleian Law Library!

Image courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries
Image courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries

I’m Maddy, one of two trainees here at the Law Bod. (My partner in crime – or rather in fighting it, considering our working environment – is Ben, who I am sure will also introduce himself soon.) I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2010 with a first class degree in History of Art, followed that with a Postgraduate Diploma in the same subject at Edinburgh University, and then went on to spend two years working in a variety of cultural institutions including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and Oxford’s own Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

With the world of galleries and museums being an extremely competitive field, around this time last year I started to consider whether there might be any other careers I could be interested in pursuing and began a daily ritual of scouring online job listings for inspiration. For quite a while there was nothing that grabbed my attention, but then one afternoon in December – just as I was beginning to resign myself to the idea that working in a museum was the only thing I could ever see myself doing and that my life was therefore destined to become one long string of unpaid internships – I came across the advertisement for the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Traineeship Scheme. Remembering how much I had enjoyed the processes of studying and learning during my time at university, and combining that with my love of the printed word, I decided that it was an opportunity that would definitely be worth exploring.

When I first found out I had been selected for the Law Library, my excitement was mixed with slight trepidation as – apart from stories I had been told by my Grandfather of his adventures as a policeman in South Wales in the fifties – my legal knowledge was basic, to say the least. Term began in a flurry of jargon and loose-leaf filing, as Ben & I muddled along trying our best to hide the fact that we didn’t even know what ‘jurisprudence’ was, let alone where in the library you might find books on the subject. (Oh, and what on earth is tattle-tape?!)

Now, three and a half months into the traineeship, I might not be able to give you the exact definition of jurisprudence but I definitely feel much more confident in my understanding of legal and library terminology. Our colleagues here at the Law Bod have been so helpful and encouraging, and I’m pretty sure I now know where most things are! While Ben is based in the Academic Services department and deals mainly with readers, I work in Technical Services and spend more time with the books. Alongside regular desk duties, I have settled into my routine of receiving the Law Library’s share of the Bodleian’s legal deposit items, processing them (which involves using the mysterious tattle-tape), sending them for cataloguing, labelling them, and passing them all on to Ben for shelving. (I’m sure he’ll tell you himself how much he loves it when I come and clutter up his shelves…) I help Lindsay, our Acquisitions Librarian, with recording orders and invoices, and I’m also responsible for the weekly display of new journals as well as a termly ‘Oxford Authors’ display. More recently, I have taken on the task of creating a list of a collection of constitutions held by the library and coming up with a new shelving arrangement in order to make them more accessible for readers. In the new year, I will also be starting to help with the ‘Bodleian Law Library Institutional Memory Project’ – an initiative aimed at celebrating the library’s 50th anniversary.

All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying library life and am very much looking forward to learning more about it throughout the rest of the year. For now, however, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a great start to 2014!

BIALL, CLSIG and SLA Europe Open Day 2013 part 2

Hello, Francesca here, Academic Services trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. Following on from Kat’s post, here’s a little of what I took away from the BIALL, CLSIG, and SLA Europe Open Day (acronyms helpfully explained by Kat below!) which we were lucky enough to attend at the CILIP head offices in London on Wednesday.

After a nice rush hour battle with the tube, I soon settled in to the talk by the first of the day’s nine speakers, each of whom gave a fascinating insight into their career paths to date. What I learnt immediately from Jacky Berry’s presentation was that there are a lot more sectors into which a professional qualification in Librarianship and Information can lead that I had imagined! Jacky’s experiences and suggestions for sectors to look in included Building and Architecture, MI5 and charities. The number of different job titles associated with the information profession is also never-ending, and it was interesting to learn of Jacky’s management of the recent redevelopment of the British Medical Association Library. It was an excellent eye-opener to the types of roles to look out for.

IALS Library
IALS Library. Image from Twitter.

I had however, gone into the day hoping to learn more about the Legal sector, whether as a law librarian in an academic institutiton, or as a researcher for a law firm. Working for the Bodleian Law Library has certainly inspired me to consider specialising withing the legal sector when I finish my traineeship, and gain my professional qualification.  Six of the day’s nine speakers either work or have worked as a law librarian or for a law firm, and we were given an insightful tour of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount of information given. (A little overwhelmed maybe, but now is the time to go away and process it!)

Two of the speakers were recent graduates, both recipients of the SLA Early Career Conference Award. Both now work as Information Officers for London law firms. It was interesting to hear from people not long ago in my position on how they got to where they are, and allowed me to see that it is something realistic for me to pursue, given my experience in the Bodleian Law Library, and my enrollment on the MScEcon Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University. Their talks gave extremely useful tips on how to make yourself stand out. Indeed, I am a little behind the times, and yet to open a Twitter account or a LinkedIn account. Marie Cannon’s talk reminded and persuaded me of the importance of these tools (when used sensibly!) in keeping up to date with developments in the sector, keeping in touch and making new connections with professionals, and in job hunting in all areas of librarianship. I shall be going home to create these this weekend! Sam Wiggins highlighted the usefulness of joining professional bodies, particularly for those in corporate sectors such as law, and trying your luck at applying for awards and bursaries such as the ECCA . ‘If you don’t ask (apply), you don’t get’!

There were also two talks from established Librarians, one from Emily Allbon, Law Librarian at City University Library, and one from Sandra Smythe, Senior Information Officer at a London law firm. It was extremely interesting (and again a little overwhelming!) to learn of the huge variety of tasks that Emily undertakes as City’s Law Librarian, from teaching and managing budgets to her work on creating Lawbore, a fanatastic directory for students of links to law resources on the web. I am still very much drawn towards attempting to stay working in an academic environment, as I thoroughly enjoy the interaction with students. However, like Kat, the idea of undertaking legal research is an inviting (if daunting!) challenge. Sandra discussed her past and current roles working for London law firms. The process of research has always been something I thoroughly enjoy, and whilst in an academic situation the students research for themselves, a role at a law firm would be a great opportunity to continue researching myself (albeit under quite demanding and time-pressured circumstances!)

As you can see, then, the open day has given me a lot of food for thought! I too would like to thank everyone involved, particularly those who spoke – the talks were thought-provoking and extremely useful at this point in my deciding what opportunities to seek, whether they end up being in the legal sector, or somewhere else. I also learnt that planning a path in the Information sector doesn’t always work, so we shall see! As mentioned by Kat, the presentations can be found on the CLSIG event pages.

BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day 2013 part 1

Kat Steiner here again, one of the graduate trainees at the Bodleian Law Library. On Wednesday, Frankie Marsden and I headed down to London for the BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day, a day of presentations and tours based at the CILIP headquarters near Russell Square. We thought we’d give you a few of our thoughts on the day, especially on what we individually will take away from it.

A few acronym explanations before we start. BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CLSIG is a special interest group within CILIP standing for Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group, and SLA Europe is the European and UK division of the Special Libraries Association. Still with me? Just the names alone were a lot to take in!

Copyright Wellcome Library
The Wellcome Library

Over the day, we heard 9 speakers, whose places of work included London law firms, the Law library of City University, the Wellcome Library, the British Medical Association, the Inner TempleLinex (a company offering current awareness tools and aggregation for subscribers), and the British Library. It was fascinating to hear the stories of how they had reached their current jobs (often by a combination of luck, enthusiasm and perseverance), and their varied positions. It particularly stood out to me how many people mentioned TFPL, a recruitment agency, as being invaluable in helping them find jobs. I hadn’t heard of them, but I will definitely be looking into them now!

There was also the opportunity to go on a tour of either the Wiener Library, a collection for the study of the holocaust & genocide, the library of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, or the library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. As Law Bod trainees, Frankie and I both chose the IALS, and enjoyed a detailed tour and talk by David Gee, the Deputy Librarian. As the library takes three graduate trainees every year, he had a lot of insight and suggestions for what to do afterwards if you are thinking of going into law librarianship.

Several speakers were also from law firm libraries, or law librarians in other institutions, and it was very interesting to hear about their jobs in detail. I hadn’t personally thought much about specialising, or moving away from academic librarianship (I’m hoping to stay at the Bodleian while I do my library school masters), but there definitely seemed to be a lot to recommend ‘special libraries’. The chance to do real legal research was very attractive to me as an academic challenge (at the Law Bod, students are expected to do their own research, although there are lots of classes to help them learn how to do it). However, I’m not sure I could cope with the increased pressure, longer hours and difficult deadlines that come along with it. The rather better pay might sweeten the pill, though.

Copyright Inner Temple Library
The Inner Temple Library

The talk that really stood out for me was from Simon Barron, a Project Analyst at the British Library. He focused on the concept of  ‘digital librarians’, and the way that technology is transforming the information profession and will continue to do so. In the days of ‘big data‘ (a current buzzword that I’m still not hugely clear on – in my understanding, it can mean data sets so large that they allow statistical programs to crunch through them and draw remarkably accurate conclusions without any attempt at explaining how the causation between the conclusions and the data works), librarians who can code, use technology, and be willing to learn new technological skills will be more and more in demand. He described his current project with the British Library and the Qatar Foundation to create a digital National Library of Qatar. This is an ambitious project, involving huge numbers of documents to be digitised, including 14th- and 15th-century Arabic manuscripts. Simon’s job seemed to involve a lot of technological problem-solving, for example ‘how do we get this data out of this piece of software and into this other piece of software without losing it, or having to do it by hand’. He explained that his coding knowledge was entirely self-taught through Codecademy and that, although he didn’t consider it his crowning achievement, his colleagues were still very impressed when he made a spreadsheet where the boxes change colour depending on the data you enter.

Simon’s talk made a big impression on me, and really confirmed my feeling that the MSc in Information Science is for me. I have some basic experience with coding good practice (a 10-week internship at a software company, writing code in Perl), and the main thing I took away is that it’s really not that hard or scary, it just requires logic, perseverance (read: stubbornness even when it doesn’t work), and the willingness to have a go even if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I believe anyone who really wants to can learn to use technology, but they may not see the point. Simon emphasised the use of technology to automate what would be fairly simple human processes. This is a great point – if you can automate a simple action on a computer (for example, removing formatting from a text file, or averaging each row in a spreadsheet), you not only save time, you make the process scaleable to much larger sets of data, which would take humans far too long to deal with, and you reduce the possibility of human error, as long as your code actually works!

Anyway, you can see that this made quite an impression. Another thing I will take away is how many things are worth joining to get more involved in the information profession. You can join CILIP for £38 a year if you’re a student or graduate trainee, definitely worth doing! You can join SLA (of which SLA Europe is a chapter) for $40 a year if you’re a student (even part-time, but I’m not sure about graduate trainees). You can join BIALL for £17 a year if you are a full-time student. You might want to consider registering with TFPL. SLA Europe offers an Early Career Conference Award, which three of the speakers had won, allowing them to go to amazing conferences in San Diego, Chicago and Philadelphia. BIALL also offers an award for the best library school dissertation on a legal topic. And, finally, Information Architect is a job title it might be worth looking out for.

That’s pretty much all I have to say for this post (I’ve waffled for more than long enough). Frankie will be talking about the aspects of the day that she really liked, and I’m sure they will be very different! I just want to thank everyone who helped organise the conference – it gave me loads to think about, allowed me to meet plenty of other graduate trainees, and generally have a great time. For anyone who wants a more general idea of the day – the slides from the presentations that everyone gave can be found on the CLSIG website.