Rhiannon Hartwell – Old Bodleian Reader Services

Hi everyone, I’m the other Rhiannon! What are the chances that there would be two in the same year? I’m a trainee at the Old Bodleian Library (also known as Bodley, after its founder, Thomas Bodley), alongside Evie. The Old Bod is a copyright library, so we don’t get first hand experience of loaning books to readers, but we get to do pretty much everything else!

 

The Old Bodleian library from the Old Schools Quad.

 

My days at work can include shifts on the Main Enquiry Desk, answering all sorts of questions from readers, ‘roving’ in the Lower Reading Room to re-shelve books and make sure everything is in order, spending time tagging and stamping books for our New Books Displays, or helping readers gain access to Interlibrary Loans, or books held at the Staffed Desk in the Upper Reading Room. A huge part of our day at the Old Bodleian is the deliveries each morning and afternoon from our Book Storage Facility in Swindon. We have to dress in fluorescent jackets to guide the delivery van into the Old Schools Quad, unload the boxes of books, and process them all so that readers can come in and pick them up to read (as long as they don’t take them out of the library, of course). Visiting the Book Storage Facility is one of the highlights I’m most looking forward to in our training programme over the next few months!

Before I was offered a place on the Bodleian’s Graduate Traineeship scheme, I volunteered in a community library in Cheshire, and worked as a room guide at a National Trust property in North Wales, after graduating my MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Literature back in 2018. The community library was very small, staffed mainly by volunteers, and had no acquisitions, so it was quite a different experience from the Old Bodleian – but the core elements of reader service and making sure that everyone who visits the library is made welcome and given the right support are all the same.

I’m really looking forward to the academic year ahead – even though everyone I work with keeps saying “wait till term starts!” very ominously – and all the opportunities this traineeship will bring.

 

Evie Brown, Bodleian Reader Services

Hello!

I’m Evie and I am one of the two new graduate trainees at the Bodleian reader services aka the Old Bod. So yes I get to work in the building Harry Potter was filmed in – pretty cool!

The Duke Humfrey's Library in Oxford

Duke Humphrey’s Reading Room – also the Hogwarts Library

I am a very recent graduate, having only finished my BA Anthropology degree in June of this year. Anthropology at the University of Bristol was an amazing experience, such an interesting subject and I cannot wait to make a visit to the Tylor (anthropology) library in Oxford.

During the last year of my degree and over the summer I worked in my local public library, which is the reason I decided to go for the traineeship here at Oxford. My experience at the public library has already been vastly different to the Bodleian – I have not had to sing nursery rhymes to babies yet or try to explain to an elderly person how to turn a computer on… I did love my experience there though, and I think it has set me in good stead for what may be to come in this new role.

So, I have been here at the Bod for two weeks now, and it is already flying by. I am finally starting to feel like I know what is going on and what I should be doing at any given moment of the day. Working in such a historic building is amazing (despite the stairs) and the Duke Humphreys reading room is definitely my favourite! I also have met all the other trainees several times thanks to several training courses we have had, and the Divinity Drinks reception we were invited to this week. Everyone is super kind and interesting – I think we are in for a fun year ahead of us!

I am excited for the undergrads to arrive in a couple of weeks, I think the phrase I have heard the most over the last couple of weeks is ‘just you wait till term starts’ every time I comment on the quietness or say something is easy! Its going to be an amazing experience, working in Oxford, and I still can’t quite believe I am here!

So that is my little hello post, I look forward to everyone else’s and to keep the blog up to date with my year 🙂

Behind the Scenes: Shadowing and Hosting between a Bodleian Library and a College Library

This year, many Graduate Library Trainees expressed an interest in shadowing a fellow trainee from another Oxford library. Colleagues from Bodleian Staff Development worked to facilitate this and fortunately Leanne and I were able to spend an afternoon at one another’s workplace. Leanne is the Graduate Library Trainee at Christ Church (ChCh), one of Oxford University’s largest colleges, while I’m the trainee at the Radcliffe Camera, home to the Bodleian’s History Faculty Library (HFL).

Christ Church’s Main Library Building
View of the Radcliffe Camera from the University Church

The nature of each traineeship can vary considerably depending on the remit of the library, its size and the nature of its collections. These differences are magnified when the logistical and operational nuances distinct to each library are accounted for. Shadowing at another library provides an opportunity to experience these differences in context, to consider some of the factors impacting other library services and to critically reflect on the practices of the libraries we normally work in.

After our afternoons of shadowing were over, we decided to write a joint blog post to recount our experiences, using a Q and A as the basis for encapsulating our opinions. Suffice to say we had fun!

Christ Church Library and Bodleian Library Stamps next to each other in the same book.

Why did you want to shadow at the library you chose?

Ross Jones, History Faculty Library: Having spent the majority of my time working and studying in the Bodleian Libraries, I welcomed the opportunity to experience the day to day goings-on of a college library; I wanted to learn about the parameters a college library was expected to operate within and how this might affect the services they are able to provide. Given the familial nature of a college environment, I was also eager to discover what kind of learning cultures a more insular and exclusive library service helps to inspire.

Leanne Grainger, Christ Church Library: As a trainee in a college library I was keen to shadow a trainee within the Bodleian Libraries to find out how the experience differs in a larger library team as well as within the larger Bodleian Libraries’ structure.

What were your first impressions of the library?

Ross says: Friendly and ambitious. Oxford is saturated with historic buildings and architecture of seemingly every kind. This has led me, albeit guiltily, to become a tad indifferent to the awesome facades boasted by the libraries of many of the older Oxford colleges. To me, the most impressive feature of a library is the service it provides and I was struck first and foremost by the welcoming personalities of Christ Church’s library staff and the grand designs they had for improving their service.

Leanne says: Grand. Iconic. Busy – especially considering it was vacation! The History Faculty Library  is currently situated in the Radcliffe Camera, a well-known landmark in Oxford, which is beautiful both inside and out. Even though I was shadowing Ross during the vacation it seemed pretty busy and I imagine it is an extremely popular study space within Oxford.

The Lower Camera Reading Room at the HFL.

What did you find to be different in comparison to your own library?

Ross says: The book-request service. Having secured a generous budget for purchasing, one of Christ Church College Library’s many strengths is its ability to provide students a significant stake in its Collection Development Policy by allowing them, in a sense, to build a reader-curated collection. If a student needs it and the library doesn’t have it, you can be sure a copy will be bought (within reason of course!). I was amazed to learn that the record time for fulfilling a request was just a matter of hours, with staff going above and beyond to deliver the requested item to the reader at their desk.

Leanne says: That anyone with a reader’s card can use the library!  It has a diverse range of readers to cater for, and even has a section of the library that is a laptop free zone for readers to use to get away from the noise of keyboard tapping! As a college, the library is predominantly only for our own students and has no where near as many readers. With a larger team at the HFL, Ross covers the front desk on a rota, usually about 3 hours a day, which is quite a lot less than the half day if not the whole day I usually work at the front desk!  A bigger team also seemed to mean that everybody has particular roles and responsibilities, whereas I find I get to do a bit of everything. The HFL also seemed to not be as involved in acquisitions and cataloguing as at ChCh, as these are done centrally within Bodleian Libraries.

What did you find to be the same in comparison to your own library?

Ross says: The day to day challenges of working in an 18th century building. Where spiral staircases and galleries abound there will invariably be a multitude of issues with running a modern library service. Facilitating access for mobility-impaired readers, shelving in precarious positions and struggling with antique furniture and fixtures were all too familiar aspects of library work at Christ Church.

The spiral staircase in the East Library at Christ Church

Leanne says: I feel like I can only think of more differences! However, it was fascinating when similarities popped up. Redirecting tourists at the front desk, rather packed lost property shelves and a Library of Congress classification system were all very familiar! A lot of the routine tasks such as the processing of books felt similar too. The book covering in particular, with book sleeves for dust covers and lamination of paperbacks (but I’d highly recommend commando covers!).

What aspects of shadowing did you enjoy?

Ross says: The variety of environments. With Christ Church boasting an upper and lower library, a separate 24-hour Law library, the Allestree Library, a variety of rare book rooms and an archive room hidden away at the top of a tower, it’s a wonder Leanne and the rest of the team manage to keep on top of it all! With everything as spaced out as it is, I imagine resources are stretched pretty thin at times, but having a backstage pass to it all for the day made for a truly enchanting experience.

Christ Church’s Upper Library as viewed from the Gallery

Leanne says: I really enjoyed exploring the space and learning about the HFL being a library within a library – the HFL doesn’t own the space it’s in, the Bodleian does! This has drawbacks in terms of having space to expand into, which is a huge issue even for libraries with their own space. There is overlapping of the HFL collections and the Bodleian Library collections in the Gladstone Link, which is underneath the Radcliffe Camera and between the two libraries, which was interesting to get my head around! I enjoyed getting to be a part of the daily delivery of books from the off-site store at Swindon, there are some interesting things that get delivered. I also like that I was able to process a new book that now has its shelfmark written inside in my handwriting.

Overlap of collections in the Upper Camera (HFL books on the left and Bodleian books on the right) .

What benefits do you feel are unique to the trainee role of the library you visited?

Ross says: As Leanne says, working at a college library tends to involve a little bit of everything. At the History Faculty Library, where roles are more compartmentalised, my main focus is Reader Services and this means chances to work with bibliographic records are few and far between. At Christ Church, Leanne often creates and edits holdings records, which is a useful transferable skill to have when it comes to pursuing a career in libraries!

Leanne says: The trainee project that Ross has taken on this year I feel highlights a unique aspect to the HFL – that it is a subject specific library in History. Ross is looking into improving the provision and accessibility of the History set texts, which I think is a useful and transferable experience. For example, Ross has carried out a survey of the students who need to use these texts to find out more about how and if they use them. I especially feel that the most unique feature of being a trainee at the HFL is it being a library within a library. Learning to navigate the different collections of a shared library space and getting to observe and learn how those collections an d that space is managed I think will be uniquely valuable experience.

What ideas or procedures might you think about implementing in your own library after visiting?

Ross says: Minor cosmetic changes to improve the readability of shelf marks. The library staff at Christ Church have used an ongoing reclassification project as an opportunity to trial some simple and effective ideas to improve the browsing experiences of readers. In retro converting the classification sequences in the lower library to Library of Congress, staff at Christ Church have decided to print out shelf mark labels on yellow stickers rather than white ones to aid those readers with dyslexia or Irlen syndrome. They also print their labels so that the first line of each shelf mark will appear at the same height on each book spine, regardless of how many cutter numbers a shelf mark might have. This makes it easier to follow the sequence along the shelf. Every little helps!

A shelf of books with their new Library of Congress shelfmark labels at ChCh.

Leanne says: At Christ Church Library we are already looking into using the bindery where Ross sends worn books to be rebound. I talked to my Librarians about the system that Ross uses to regularly send books that are in need of TLC to the bindery and we’re now looking to adopt a similar strategy to be more efficient with our rebinding budget. Talking to Ross about his trainee project has also inspired and motivated me to look into improving the promotion and visibility of collections that are particularly important to students, including the accessibility equipment we provide.

A shelf of newly rebound books at the HFL, fresh from the bindery.

Can you describe the library you visited in one word?

Ross says: Wonderful

Leanne says: Matryoshka

Ruminations From A Reading Room

As part of the traineeship, I work one late shift each Friday, which makes for a welcome change of pace. Once the 9 to 5 flurry of circulation activity subsides, a palpable calm fills the library as readers settle down to an evening of study. The shift in tempo provides a much needed opportunity to catch up with emails, book processing and other ongoing projects. It also gives me the chance to reflect on some of the things that make this experience so memorable, primarily working in the Radcliffe Camera.

An early morning snap of the Camera

Home to the History Faculty Library, this building is a regular feature of lists and literature documenting noteworthy landmarks throughout the UK. Its circular design, with baroque allusions to classical architecture, make it a feast for the eyes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, images of ‘The Camera’ pervade the city’s visual culture and manifest in a plethora of interesting ways. A staple of postcard vendors, it can be seen spray-painted to a building on the Cowley Road and is the subject of pictures in numerous shops and restaurants.  Its likeness has been reimagined in the form of key chains, book ends and ornaments in the Bodleian Shop as well.

Some of the trinkets available in the Bodleian Shop

The Camera’s role as a reading room of the Old Bodleian Library since 1860 has also brought it international recognition, and this cultural icon continues to attract large numbers of students, academics and tourists from around the world today. This trend reflects the increasing popularity of the Bodleian Libraries as a whole. Figures from the 2016/17 academic year reveal that specialists and staff across the organisation responded to roughly 7,500 queries a week, and sustained public interest has meant that the Libraries are among the UK’s top 50 most visited attractions in 2018. This got me thinking of how such an organisation meets the expectations of a complex and increasingly large demographic; the task of reconciling the contradictions between tourist attraction and academic library must be a tricky one!

Through the traineeship, I have been fortunate enough to learn about some of the ways this challenge is being addressed. During a behind the scenes tour of the Weston Library, Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections, shed light on how the building’s clever use of space helps to serve a host of different visitors. The open plan design of the atrium in Blackwell Hall means that the cafe, exhibition rooms, lecture theatre, temporary displays and information desk are visible as one seamless panorama, whilst a suspended glass-panelled gallery puts the inner-workings of the library on display overhead. It’s this architectural ingenuity that helps evoke a welcoming sense of inclusivity.

Blackwell Hall and the Weston Library’s suspended gallery

The Bodleian’s decision to accommodate for heightened levels of public interest is evident throughout the central site. In addition to hosting open lectures and workshops, The Libraries also offer a sneak-peak of the reading rooms, some of which featured in the Harry Potter films. Each week, volunteer guides perform the mini miracle of leading immersive tours through this famed network of silent study spaces, with minimal disruption to readers. Nearing the end of Michaelmas term, I am still struck by the novelty of a trail of beguilled visitors passing through the library each Wednesday to gaze at the Camera’s domed ceiling.

The ceiling in the Upper Camera

Though I’ve not been here long, it seems to me that a flexible, creative and pragmatic approach to public engagement has meant that there really is something for everyone at the UK’s largest library system. It is enlightening to learn how such a feat is achieved.

Ross Jones, History Faculty Library and Radcliffe Camera

Katie Day, Taylor Institution Library


Me in the Enquiries Room

Hi everyone! I’m Katie, and I’m the new Graduate Library Trainee based at the Taylorian this year. I’ve only recently finished my Bachelor’s at the University of Chicago, where I’d been living for five years. I had some experience with the library work at UChicago, but confined to the Google Books Project rather than direct reader interactions, so my experience of work in the day-to-day ebb and flow of a library was pretty limited.

The Taylor Institution Library, or the Taylorian, as it’s also known, is on St. Giles, at kitty-corner with the Ashmolean, and the Sackler Library the next road over. It was established in 1845, when architect Sir Robert Taylor left a bequest for a centre for the study of modern European languages, which the university then placed in the east wing of the building built to house both the Taylor and the Randolph Galleries (which later became the Ashmolean); the library was officially opened in 1849.


Exterior of the Taylor Library in the early years

In 1938 there was an extension made along St. Giles’ in order to accommodate the increasing collections that had resulted from the official establishment in 1903 of the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, which have been centred around the Taylorian ever since. The latest growth of the library has been in the past five years, with its’ enveloping of the Slavonic and East European collections (previously housed in Wellington Square).

The Main Reading Room from the balcony

Here, amongst over 70,000 books, we now have both the Western and Eastern European languages collections, alongside the Slavonic collections and the collections for Linguistics, Film Studies, and Women’s Studies, all spread between over a dozen different cataloguing systems that have all grown on themselves. My previous library was all Library of Congress (LC), so learning them all has been rather a trial by fire! I’ve yet to get irreparably tangled, but I won’t get cocky just yet.

At the Taylorian, my tasks have been pretty split between the Circulation Desk on the ground floor (come say hello!) and the Enquiries Desk on the first, next to the Main Reading Room. Amongst many other tasks, so far I’ve processed the BSF (Book Storage Facility) deliveries from Swindon, processed incoming periodicals, prepped new DVDs for shelving, designed flyers for the new library tours, and (to my great excitement) gathered materials for an upcoming exhibition in the Voltaire Room on the White Rose group. All this alongside the day-to-day of the library, getting to know my co-workers and fellow trainees, and the group trainee training sessions out at Osney, where Bodleian departments like Staff Development, IT, etcetera, are based. There’s never been one day the same as the next yet, and now term has begun, that looks as though it will only continue. So far I’ve been having a wonderful time; here’s looking forward to a great rest of the year.

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

Bryony Davies, English Faculty Library

Hi, I’m Bryony and I am the graduate trainee based at the English Faculty Library this year. I have just finished my MA in Classics & Ancient History at Durham University, where I have been based on and off since 2013 – living down south again has taken some getting used to! While at Durham I spent some time volunteering in the Classics Department Library, but other than that I am very new to the world of Librarianship.

Myself alongside our lovely bust of Tolkien – at the EFL we very much embrace hobbit dining culture… elevenses and afternoon tea breaks are very much encouraged!

The English Faculty Library can be found in the St. Cross Building on the corner of Manor Road. It shares the building with the Bodleian Law Library, and is also just around the corner from The Social Science Library so I can wave to my fellow trainees there on my way in to work. The English Faculty Library was founded in 1914 and functions primarily to serve all those reading and teaching English at Oxford, alongside other readers needing to access the collections held here. The Library holds over 110,000 volumes and subscribes to around 80 current print journals. The collection is catalogued on SOLO, and the majority of the books, except for those in our special collections, are available for loan to registered borrowers. Our special collections consist of the Wilfred Owen Collection, Pre – 1850 Collection, the Napier Collection, the Icelandic Collections, and the Meyerstein Collection.

Two of my favourite items so far in our special collections – an 1895 William Morris edition of Beowulf and our copy of The Elizabethan Zoo: A book of Beasts both Fabulous and Authentic.

So far no one day has been the same here. My duties range from staffing the issue desk, processing new books, processing new DVDs, periodicals management, managing and processing BSF material, banking, PCAS maintenance, creating displays, finding missing books, handling the post, social media (follow us on Instagram: @EFLOXF …. apologies for the shameless plug), shelving, minor book repairs and attending training sessions with the other trainees. The variety of tasks and jobs certainly keeps me on my toes, there is never a dull moment here that’s for sure.

Some books recently sent to repair that were subjected to my version of spinal surgery….

Although I am still only a few weeks in I already feel at home here at the EFL. Everyone here has been so welcoming and helpful, I can’t wait for what the rest of this year has in store.

Ross Jones, History Faculty Library

Hi! My name is Ross and I am this year’s graduate trainee at the History Faculty Library, though I’m not entirely new to the Bodleian Libraries experience. Last year, I returned from China to complete a part-time graduate programme in Historical Studies at the Department of Continuing Education here in Oxford. As I was quick to find out, the faculty library would be the first port of call for many of my research queries and most of the resources I’d need to complete my course.

The Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link

Situated in the Radcliffe Camera and parts of the Gladstone Link below, the History Faculty Library is an interesting example of an embedded library in the sense that it shares the space with another much larger library (the Old Bodleian Library) and is encompassed by a complex of historic buildings that make up the ‘central site‘. Occupying such a unique location means the ‘HFL’ enjoys an eclectic and beautifully eccentric mix of architectural features across its four floors, with stunning views over Radcliffe Square to boot.  Henry James’ quote about the peculiar air of Oxford really hit home when I walked inside; I immediately fell in love with the space and found myself wanting to spend as much time there as possible. So began a career with the Bodleian Libraries.

“the peculiar air of Oxford—the air of liberty to care for the things of the mind assured and secured by machinery which is in itself a satisfaction to sense.”          – Henry James, English Hours

Initially working as a shelving assistant, I eventually found myself involved with a veritable miscellany of library tasks. I processed incoming acquisitions, assisted with a book move at the Wellcome Unit, covered evening shifts and took an additional weekend job at the Sackler Library. It was through these experiences, and an increasingly large network of colleagues, that I became aware of the Graduate Trainee Scheme. I jumped at the opportunity. For me, the traineeship represented a chance to receive a more comprehensive grounding in a library-related profession, one that would hopefully contextualise my part-time experiences and provide a preliminary framework for studying an MA in Information and Library Studies.

Although it is still early days, I certainly feel that the traineeship is shaping up to be far more than just that. Less than a fortnight into our year-long programme, I along with my fellow trainees have been introduced to Oxford University’s discovery tools, library management systems, staff development programmes and support networks, whilst a varied workload with duties ranging from the routine to the bizarre (dissuading a tourist from flying a drone over the Camera!) has filled the time in-between.

But the icing on this splendid albeit busy cake has been the people I’ve met so far. Twenty one of us make up this year’s trainee cohort, college trainees included, and we have shared some of our introductory sessions with three foreign-placement students as well. A truly multi-national and friendly bunch, it has been fascinating hearing about past professional experiences and future plans from people who share my passion for libraries. As the year progresses, I am eager to learn how the operational and logistical challenges facing their libraries differ from my own.

Casting the net a little wider, I feel those colleagues I have come into contact with across the entirety of the Bodleian Libraries have also been very welcoming. Course Directors, Line-managers, Subject Librarians, Reader Services and Technical Services Staff have explained procedures, clarified any issues and gone to great lengths to ensure I’ve landed on my feet. I am grateful for their support and the opportunities afforded me by the Libraries.

 

References:
James, Henry, and Pennell, Joseph. English Hours. William Heinemann, 1905.

 

Sophie Welsh, Bodleian Library Reader Services

With first term over and Christmas hovering invitingly on the horizon, it’s probably about time I introduced myself on here.

Hi! I’m Sophie and I’ve been the graduate trainee in Reader Services at the Old Bodleian Library since the beginning of August. It’s difficult to remember what it was like in the blur that was my first few weeks here, besides walking the wrong way, picking up a book to pretend I know what I’m doing, and turning straight back around again. I’d like to think I’ve got into the swing of things by now, but I’m still learning something new every day.

The Old Bodleian Library is unique, both as a building and as a library (which, ironically, is a statement which could be applied to all of the libraries in Oxford). I’m surrounded on all sides by beautiful architecture, and I’m glad to say that I still haven’t got used to it, especially now that there’s a Christmas tree in the quad.

bod-christmas-tree

I came to the trainee scheme straight from Exeter University, where I studied English Literature. My experience working in libraries before this has mostly been behind-the-scenes, having assisted a preservation/conservation project in the Devon & Exeter Institution Library and a digitization project working on the letters sent to Thomas Hardy in the University’s Special Collections. I’ve really enjoyed the front of house aspects of working at the Old Bodleian, especially because the front entrance and the Main Enquiry desks are often the first port of call for people coming to the University of Oxford’s libraries for the first time. Being able to find a “missing” book or provide an answer to a grateful reader or member of the public is very satisfying.

Now that term is over, the Library has become a lot calmer and I’ve had more time to work on the beginning stages of my project: phasing out the use of the handlists (aka the card catalogue). At the moment, I’m working through the handlists to decide what information is necessary and will therefore have to be put on to our digital catalogue, so that we no longer rely on the physical catalogue as a back-up. The hardest part is understanding what previous cataloguers have meant by certain abbreviations and anachronisms. I’m in desperate need of a dictionary that can translate words and phrases from Bodleian into English because at times it’s like solving a cryptic crossword. Having said that, putting my detective skills to work is quite fun.

The kind of thing I need
A page from one of the handlists (and the kind of book I need).

I’ve really enjoyed the training sessions and the scheme in general so far, and I’m looking forward to what is to come in the new year. Merry Christmas!

Duncan Jones, Bodleian Library

I am writing this at the start of my second week here at the Bodleian.  My trainee post comes under the umbrella of the Reader Services department and at the moment has seen me based in the Staffed Reserve area of the Upper Reading Room.  We receive several deliveries of stack books from the BSF (Book Storage Facility) in Swindon each day, which are processed and then taken to nominated collection points around the site.  A Self-Collect service was introduced earlier in the year but many readers still order to the Staffed Reserve and any books older than 1900 have to be picked up from here as well.  It’s all change at the moment with the Weston Library (previously called the New Bodleian) opening to readers later this month and the rehousing of the library’s special collections in that space.

View to the URR from the quad.
View to the URR from the quad.  Whenever I look out, someone is pointing a camera at me or themselves!

I found my way onto Oxford’s Trainee scheme after graduating with an English degree in 2010 and moving through various customer facing roles including a year in a public library.  Working with the public was a good preparation for dealing with the broad range of enquiries you face somewhere like the Bodleian.  Later in the year, I will have a chance to be part of the Main Enquiry Desk team and deal with correspondence from around the world but there’s a lot to learn before I get there…