It seems appropriate that we have a little shout-out to National Poetry Day from the English Faculty Library. I’ve noticed a lot of poetry books coming in to the library lately. So in the interest of sharing a poem, as suggested by the National Poetry Day initiative, I’d like to share with you some of the inner workings of our poetry collection (as well as a special little surprise) and what exactly the EFL trainee does with our poetry.
As the graduate trainee at the EFL, part of my job is doing physical processing on all the new books that arrive at in our collection (stickers, stamps, and covers). As a result, I’m lucky enough to get my hands on new books before anyone else, including our shiny new poetry books. I noticed lately a lot of books coming in labelled ‘PBS’, so I did some digging.
Here at Bodleian Libraries we have institutional membership with the Poetry Book Society. The PBS was founded by T.S. Eliot in 1953, with the aim ‘to propagate the art of poetry’. They’re like a book club that deliver brand new poetry books and magazines to their members every quarter. Simply put, we get a curated selection of contemporary poetry straight to our shelves.
Part of my job also involves preparing incoming periodicals to the library (more stickers, stamps, and covers!). For the more classic poetry fans, you may want to know that we also have a subscription to Yeats Annual – a periodical publication full of advanced research essays on the work and life of the canonical Irish Poet, W. B. Yeats. Each edition is intriguingly different in physicality and contents, and illustrations and photographs are ubiquitous in the later copies. Though publication has been delayed in recent years, we have a shelf full of these just waiting for the eager Yeats scholar to peruse.
Yes, I’m saving the best until last. One final thing that is eminently worth knowing about poetry at the EFL – one thing that I didn’t even know until today – is that there is a poem written about the English Faculty Library! U. A. Fanthorpe’s poem, In The English Faculty Library, Oxford is published in her New and Collected Poems (which is available to borrow from our collection).
“It is a charnelhouse. The quick and young
Choke on the breath of refractory clay.
Down in the cellars the dead men grumble
Resenting, resisting the patterns
We make of their bones.”
Fanthorpe, U. A., and Carol Ann. Duffy. New and Collected Poems. London: Enitharmon, 2010. Print. p.109
8am: Arrive at the library and wash my hands! Since we are a lending library (unlike the Law Library and Old Bodleian), I come in an hour before we open so I can shelve the previous day’s returns and start gathering Click and Collect requests before the students arrive. This is because our bookshelves are in close proximity to the study desks, and it becomes much more difficult to navigate around students for books while maintaining a 2m distance once it starts filling up.
The previous night’s library clerk will hopefully have arranged the books on our returns trolley in sequential order so I just have to run them back in through the self-issue machine. This is the first substantial adjustment we’ve had to introduce because of the virus – instead of returning books themselves, readers must leave their loans with us to be quarantined overnight before I return them the following morning. I then separate the returns according to their location (e.g. East or West Library, Upper Library or the Orangery). At this point, I usually log into the library inbox, open the Aleph report for Click and Collect requests, organise the shelfmarks to my liking and then print them out so that I can collect students’ requests and re-shelve returns simultaneously.
While moving around the library to shelve, I’ll also complete any outstanding tasks as I encounter them, for instance replacing the daily track and trace form, checking that the Upper Library is unlocked and de-alarmed for student arrivals at 9, and removing any student belongings that have been left overnight.
9-10.30: Once I’ve fetched the day’s first batch of Click and Collect requests, I spend the morning at the enquiry desk. Students start filing in from 9 and I answer any questions they may have while issuing out their requests and notifying each reader via email that their loans are ready for collection – a lengthy process, and one that is unique to pandemic times. I also remove any uncollected requests from previous days (we retain books for 24 hours only) and make a note of repeat offenders so I can see if they need another nudge, or extra assistance with getting books – occasionally these have not been collected because the student in question is self-isolating.
Then I’ll work through our inbox and answer emails, making note of quarantine deliveries and chapter scan requests. Our wonderful senior library assistant and the colleague I work with most closely, Georgie, will also check in with me to see what our plan for the day is, and leave book post with me to unwrap and print invoices for the new arrivals.
10.30-11: Coffee break!
11-12: Back on the enquiry desk, I spend this time processing and issuing out new books that have been recommended for purchase by students. We are fortunate to have a generous book budget so there is always a huge pile of books in various stages of processing that need covering, adding to Aleph and so forth.
Students can also request books they need by simply coming to the enquiry desk and asking, so I usually spend some time fetching and loaning out books on demand. This feels more personal than the Click and Collect service and sometimes leads to interesting conversations about students’ research. I believe that I have gotten to know our students more quickly and comprehensively this year than I otherwise would have since I’m now (perhaps to their chagrin) an intermediary figure between them and their reading.
If it is a quiet morning, I also do a little work on our reclassification project. We are moving towards Library of Congress, however a significant amount of our collections are still classified via our Roman numerals in-house system. I’ll grab 20 or so books from the Classics section (currently IX), switch them over to LoC on Aleph, print new shelfmark labels and shift them over to their new home in the PA’s in the West library.
12-1: Lunch! The librarians at colleges get free lunch and I take full advantage of this. We are big fans of the bread rolls.
1-2: More enquiry desk, more processing, more emails.
2-3.15: Georgie takes over the desk, so I am free to complete my tasks outside the library building. Throughout Michaelmas, my afternoons were dedicated to following through on delivering books to self-isolating students – mostly within college grounds, although I have also cycled to an accommodation site in Cowley for a book delivery. I’ll also swing by the lodge for more parcels, boxes and post, and fetch the more obscure books (usually requested by fellows) from our off-site locations.
3.15-4: The second Click and Collect report arrives, so I do another round of fetching and issuing books. Georgie and I might brainstorm a tweet for the library account, I’ll spend several minutes lamenting that we don’t have library cats like St. Hugh’s (the cornerstone of any truly decent social media presence), and finish my work day at 4pm.
Hello! We have now been in our roles for over two months and thought it would be a good time to share what a typical working day might look like for us both. Aside from daily desk duties and the Wednesday afternoon training sessions that are a brilliant feature of the graduate trainee scheme, we largely have the freedom to structure our days as we please. While no two days are typically identical, this ‘A Day in the Life’ timetable offers a flavour of how we organise our time…
Naomi: Arrive at the library, put things away in locker and walk up to the Information Resources (IR) office where my desk is.
Ella: Arrive at the library, make a cup of tea, get myself sorted and head upstairs to log in.
N: Sign into Microsoft Teams, check emails, write a to-do list for the day.
E: Log in to the computer, sign in on Teams and check emails for anything urgent. I’ll also check for Law Bod 4 Students (LB4S) requests at this point – LB4S is an online site available for law students with extra resources, and they can submit requests for material that they can’t find online to be added to it. If any requests have been submitted, I make a note to deal with the request later that morning.
N: Shelving books left on the trolleys throughout the library overnight and opening windows.
E: Whizz round the library opening windows (very important at present – helps ventilate, which limits the spread of coronavirus) and shelving books from the day before.
N: Morning desk duty. The library opens to readers at 09:30. Sitting at the Enquiry Desk involves signing in readers who have booked seats through the online Space Finder system, answering readers’ enquiries (e.g. explaining where certain books are located, lending power banks, giving directions to other parts of the St. Cross building), and working on other tasks that can be done at a computer, such as building ORLO reading lists (or writing this blog post!).
E: I carry on dealing with LB4S requests, double-checking SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) and ORLO (Oxford Reading Lists Online) to see if the material is available online and they’ve just not spotted it. If it isn’t, I email our Research Support Librarian, who has to go through various copyright checks to see if we can make the material available on LB4S. (She also sometimes finds resources I’ve not been able to, as she has more experience dealing with tricky legal databases!)
I’ll also do a bit of scanning for Scan and Deliver, the Bodleian scanning service. I’ll then edit them and send them through to readers.
N: Quick socially-distanced tea break in the staff room with Ella… potentially a trip to buy a coffee. Then a brief session stamping Official Papers.
E: Tea Break! An essential part of the morning. Naomi and I occasionally visit The Missing Bean Café in the building (great coffee, friendly barista, sweet treats always look delicious too) but mostly have tea and a socially-distanced natter about our mornings (Bake Off is also a popular topic of discussion – I have strong views about this year’s hosting choices). Then I’ll do some book processing – stamping and tattling if Naomi wants help, or shelving serials. I might also spend some time stamping Official Papers (OP) and attempt to shelve some OP documents (a daunting task as shelf marks can be exceptionally complex). This will usually take me through until lunch.
N: Book processing tasks such as counting, stamping, labelling and updating spreadsheets to record deliveries of purchased and legal deposit books. We are currently making headway with processing the many books which could not be delivered during the first lockdown, seeing as the Law Library was closed.
N: Lunch break. Ella and I eat together in the staff room and then go for a walk around the beautiful University Parks – we love how close they are to the library.
E: You’ll find Naomi and me in the staff room at lunchtime. Sadly, we don’t get a free lunch – the trainees at the college libraries do, and from what I’ve heard the food is delicious, and there’s usually dessert. Although our kitchen boasts a hot water tap, two microwaves and numerous coffee machines, so…
N: Time to scan some book chapters and journals for the Scan and Deliver service. After scanning them to a memory stick, I edit the PDFs at my desk and email them to readers.
E: This hour might be spent carrying on with the tasks above, digitising a resource for ORLO, updating an ORLO list or doing some of the other tasks that pop up on an irregular basis. I also help out with the LRMSP (Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme) which is a module to help undergrads get to grips with finding legal resources and using them in a moot 1. In the past couple of months it has involved looking over some students’ submissions and figuring out strategies for moving parts of the course online, and we’re currently preparing for online moots, which I might get to help clerk at.
N: I shelve some new serials. These can often be a little trickier to find and shelve correctly than books.
E: Desk duty until 17:00. Naomi has described the main tasks we do while at the enquiry desk. In the background, I’ll be updating the Spanish and Latin American Law LibGuides – online guides to the Bodleian Law Library’s resources.
N: Another tea break! Afterwards, I unpack some book deliveries in the post room and fill a trolley to take back to the office. The rest of the afternoon is spent making a start with processing them.
N: Tidy things away, say goodbye on Teams, close any open windows in the office, and go down to the staff room.
E: Time to pack up and head home!
1. Moot = a ‘court competition [which] simulates a court hearing (usually an appeal against a final decision), in which participants analyse a problem, research the relevant law, prepare written submissions, and present oral argument’ according to the Oxford Law Faculty.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Can you describe the library you visited in one word?
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.
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?
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.
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!
Hi there! I’m Emma and I am the new trainee at the Sainsbury Library at the Saïd Business School.The Business School was opened in 2002, so the building and the library is one of the newest in Oxford. The Business School has two locations; Egrove Park and Park End, where I currently work.
The Business School offers a variety of courses in business, such as the MBA (Master of Business Administration), Law and Finance, Major Programme Management, and MFE (Master in Financial Economics), to name a few. The library is split into two levels; the upper floor for silent study, and the lower floor (where the main library desk is) for a mixture of quiet study areas and group work spaces.
The library offers many textbooks on all areas of business, as well as several journals and a daily Financial Times. We also have a large number of databases that students can access to research different companies and their financial and economic data. The newer members of staff, myself included, are currently undergoing training on these databases so that we can help students with their enquiries and research.
My days are really mixed and no two are the same! Here’s a quick overview of what I did yesterday:
8.45am – Arrive at work. Today, it’s my turn to set up the front desk for the day. I turn on the computer and the lights, check the photocopiers, re-shelve books that have been returned, and make sure the library is ready for our users.
9am – The day is split into two for the desk duty; the morning and afternoon shift. I usually work one of these a day. I’m working the morning shift today which is 9am to 1pm. The enquiry desk can be challenging at times, as I don’t always know the answers to the questions asked of me, but help is at hand! My colleagues are really patient and helpful, and I’m learning a lot from their answers and training. This morning I had enquiries about how to use the printing system, where to find particular books, and which databases were best to look at for researching different aspects of a certain company. We’ve recently finished welcoming this year’s under- and postgraduate students, so the library is pretty busy now.
1pm – Lunch time. The Saïd Business School has amazing facilities, lots of different options for lunch, and the students are well cared for by all the staff here. I have a free coffee every day too! Yum!
2pm – This afternoon, I received a new copy of the Economist and two other journals. As part of my role, it is my responsibility to prepare and process the journals so that they are ‘shelf – ready’. This involves registering the journals, attaching a bar code and preparing security labels for them. I then process the older copies and store them upstairs.
3pm – The Saïd Business School is going through some re-branding so I’m working my way through changing the signs around the library. This week I’m working on changing the labels on the journal holders upstairs. I’m also going through them and making sure they’re all in the correct order.
4.30pm – Throughout the day I make sure all the books are correctly re-shelved and the library is looking tidy and suitable for our users.
5pm – Home time (already!). The days here zoom by for me. I feel like I blink and it’s the end of the day!
I love working here at the Sainsbury Library. It’s really modern with lots of green spaces available for both staff and students. When the weather permits, I like to sit outside for lunch and my breaks.
I’m learning a lot about search techniques and understanding all the different databases that we have so that I can help the students the best way I can. The days are incredibly varied and I am encouraged and helped by my colleagues everyday. Everyone here has so much knowledge that they’re willing to pass on – I’m well looked after! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store for me!
A day in the life of a graduate trainee librarian, St John’s College.
Hello – my name is Rhiannon and I’m the graduate trainee at St John’s College Library. I’ve recently graduated from the University of York where I did my undergraduate degree in English literature.
Our readers at St John’s are all members of the College, from undergraduates to Fellows, and we provide core texts on a wide range of subjects. We also have Special Collections, including manuscripts and early printed books. As part of a small team, my work is very varied, with many opportunities for responsibility and personal projects.
9 am: social media. I start the day by updating the Library’s Facebook page. Today I have a new Special Collections blog post to advertise, sharing our texts from the Reformation. (I almost immediately get a text from my mum telling me I’ve made a spelling error in the blog.)
9:30 – 11 am: processing books. This is the technical services side of the job. I classify texts and create holdings records for new stock, making it available to our readers. This includes brand new books, and older texts which might be donations or unrecorded items from the Library stores.
11 am – 12:30 pm: reader services. A visiting academic has come to look at an early printed book, so I work in the beautiful Old Library to supervise his study and make sure he gets the information he needs. The Old Library houses our Special Collections; as well as being a space to preserve and display wonderful old texts, it is very much a working library. Visitors often come from far and wide to consult unique items. While I supervise, I get on with some writing, including a Halloween themed blog post for the Special Collection blog.
12:30pm – 1:30 pm: lunchtime! A significant perk of working in a College Library is free lunch every day in the Hall. Today is a hearty pasta bake.
1:30pm – 3:30pm: donations. The Deputy Librarian and I sort through a new batch of donated books, choosing which books would be useful for our Library, which I then process. Donations provide some interesting and unusual texts; in this case, there is a wide array of theological books. Excitingly, one contains a 1940s bus ticket!
3:30pm – 4pm: RFID labels. Bringing the library up to date, one of our projects this year is to put RFID labels in all borrowable books. This will prepare them for use at self-issue machines in the new library building, due to open in a few months.
4pm – 5pm: shelving. Some good old-fashioned shelving! The library has two rooms of open shelves: the Paddy Room on the ground floor, mainly for sciences, and the Laudian Library on the first floor, mainly for humanities.
5pm: closing up. During the Vacation we close at 5pm, so I switch off all the lights and make sure there are no readers hidden away who have lost track of time.
Throughout the day, readers and visitors come in with queries and items to return. Most of my work is done at the Issue Desk so I’m always on hand to greet and assist readers.
Our year as Trainees is coming to a close. I want to take this opportunity to give you a brief overview of what it has been like being a graduate trainee at the Social Science Library (AKA the SSL) and some of the interesting things I have got up to over the year. Don’t worry, there are lots of nice pictures.
SSL staff enjoying one of the monthly coffee and cake meetings
Coming from a non-library background I was more than a little nervous about starting my Traineeship at the SSL. I met all the staff straight away, and I had to quickly learn everyone’s names and what they did. Luckily everyone was very welcoming and put me at ease. The friendless of the staff has been one of the best things about working at the SSL. We even have regular team meetings (with cake) so we are kept up to date with what everyone else is getting up to around the library.
Our workload is very varied, so getting to grips with all the different tasks is hugely important. Most of my first couple of weeks were spent being trained up by other members of staff. It was a little overwhelming having to learn so much in such a short time, but I soon got the hang of it. The SSL has one of the most exhaustively comprehensive staff manuals I have ever seen, so if you ever forget a procedure or a password it is easy enough to find.
The graduate trainees attempt to concentrate on their training session on one of the hottest days of the year.
As well as the training I have received on the job, I had the opportunity to take part in the Graduate Trainee training sessions, in which all the Trainees from across the libraries get together to learn more about a particular aspect of librarianship. These run throughout the year and cover an amazing range of topics. My personal favourites were on customer care, librarian careers and the role of the subject librarian. They are also a great opportunity to get to know your fellow trainees.
Happy to Help
Once I was all trained up it was time to get to work! One of my favourite parts of this job has been helping readers on our issue desk. This can be quite exciting when it is busy but I had to learn how to multitask and be prepared for the varied questions that came my way. I even got a shiny purple “Ask a librarian badge” for the first two weeks of term. A lot of interesting people come to our library, from new undergraduates to academic staff and visitors, and some of them have great stories. It is always satisfying to be able to help someone find a resource they desperately need. I also got to help give tours to new students across the year so they can learn how the library works.
Giving a tour around the SSL.
The great book detective
Sometimes solving enquiries at the SSL takes a bit of detective work. Whether looking for clues to work out where a missing book might have gone or asking around the Bodleian’s technical staff to work out why a reader can’t access an e-resource, we get some head-scratchers. Solving such mysteries keeps the job interesting and rewarding.
A study in Scarlet: Trying to find a missing book that could have been misshelved
Parts of a process
As well as helping readers with their enquiries, the SSL Trainees work on technical services. This mainly involves processing the new books that come in ready for readers to borrow or repairing old ones so they can go back on to the shelves. The shelves of books to process can fill up very fast, particularly at the beginning of terms when books are ordered for new reading lists. The stickering, stamping and covering of books can be almost meditative.
The SSL’s other Trainee, Tom, gets a book ready for our readers.
Out and about
One of the most fun things about being a Bodleian Graduate Trainee is the chance to visit a whole range of interesting libraries and archives. Over the year I have been privileged to visit the Conservation Department in the Weston Library, the University and Balliol archives and a variety of libraries in London. It’s fascinating to see all the different places librarianship can take you.
Visiting the Guardian: The creatures outside looked from pig to librarian, and from librarian to pig, and from pig to librarian again; but already it was impossible to say which was cuter
One of my contributions to the Bodleian libraries Instagram showing a book being processed
On top of my regular duties, I have had to take a crash course in social media. I contribute to the SSL’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as Bodleian Libraries’ main Instagram account. One of the most exciting projects I took part in was the ‘Twitter Takeover’, in which the SSL got to take over the main Bodleian’s Twitter account for a day.
In addition to working it’s also important to remember to have fun once the working day is done! It’s been lovely to socialise with and get to know my fellow Trainees. They will be one of the things I will miss the most when my Traineeship is over.
The Graduate Trainees enjoy an end of year picnic at St. Hilda’s college
I hope this has given you a flavour of life as a Graduate Trainee. I have done so many interesting things that is impossible to put them all in one blog post! It has been an enriching experience, and if you are thinking about applying, I thoroughly recommend it.
8:45am – Lock my bike up and let myself into the library, the library doesn’t open until 9 but the staff all come in a little earlier to open up properly.
8:50am – Banking! Every day I reconcile the float and put the till out.
9:00am – Another daily duty – I check the lapse list and pull items off our hold shelf to go back to the BSF, scanning them through Aleph and packing them into crates.
9:30am – I am responsible for the first reader count of the day (fortunately for me it is usually the smallest count!)
9:32am – If I have any important emails (I rarely have important emails) I will probably start responding to them at this point. Today I used this time to process some DVDs and check in journals on ALEPH.
10:15am – Today I also covered a box in craft paper…. the EFL are preparing to launch a ‘love your library’ competition to celebrate National Libraries Day. The box will be for competition entries. Sometimes you end up doing things you don’t really expect a librarian would do!
10:30am – COFFEE TIME. The EFL is usually well stocked with biscuits, nothing but one sad stale jam doughnut from last week knocking about today. Tragedy. I made do with a vegan fruit bar thing. It wasn’t the same.
11:00am – Back to work time! I spent a bit of time looking at the EFL Twitter and Facebook pages to see how our National Libraries Day posts are faring. I also packaged up some books to send back to their correct libraries – almost every day we get at least one college book returned to us, usually cleverly hidden within a pile of our books. I’m still unsure as to whether this is a deliberate ploy by the students (I mean they are a clever bunch) or if they are just a tad forgetful at times. Either way it gives me an excuse to stretch my legs and say hi to the porters.
11:30am – Stack requests! I knew I was forgetting something…. I head down to fetch up our delivery of books requested from the BSF. Two crates today which is pretty standard for the EFL. Some libraries get far more! I scan the books through ALEPH and arrange them on the BSF requests shelf in alphabetical order.
12:00pm – Lunch time…. I ate a very depressing salad which was pretty wilted. I brought this from home though so do not take it as a reflection of the trainee experience! I decided to go for a walk as it has been snowing lately (so it looks pretty outside) and I thought I’d make myself useful by popping to Tesco in town to replenish the biscuit supply ahead of afternoon tea break. I also picked up some chocolates to bribe students to act as an incentive for the competition I mentioned earlier.
12:50pm – I ate two cheese-strings I forgot I left in the fridge and immediately felt a sense of self loathing and regret.
1:00pm – It was my desk duty, so between then and 3pm I was at the circulation desk helping with reader enquiries, issuing and returning books and organising shelving trolleys. Common queries include students requesting materials from our Stacks, help with printing and help to find books.
1:07pm – Settled on the desk I open up a spreadsheet I’m working on. One of my current projects is to take stock of the journals holdings in Stack One, as we will have to clear our out stacks to make way for some planned building works. I have to make a spreadsheet which lists all the journals kept in Stack one and a record of how much space they take up on the shelves. This will help us toward making decisions about stock to withdraw.
1:18pm – One of the porters dropped the post off, it is part of my job to sort through it all. when I initially started I found it really weird opening post addressed to other people but now I don’t mind – unless an item says ‘confidential’ the majority of our post tends to be invoices, new periodicals or advertisements from publishers about new books.
1:47pm – Started writing this blog post…
2:14pm – Noticed a full returns trolley so sorted it out ready for the afternoon shelvers.
3:00pm – Desk shift over! Kevin, our afternoon library assistant always covers the desk between 3 and 5. I took the post back into the office to finish sorting through it.
3:30pm – Tea time. Time for a hard earned biscuit. I had to make the difficult choice between a custard cream or a chocolate digestive. Oh, the struggle.
4:00pm – Back to work for the last hour of the day. I usually use this time to do something technical, like process a few books or periodicals. I looked despairingly at my journals spreadsheet, but decided 4pm wasn’t a good time to go downstairs and start measuring things, so stuck to processing. This involves stamping books, adding their shelfmarks on ALEPH and adding them to our LibraryThing account.
4:50pm – It was practically the end of the day, at this point I usually write up a to do list for tomorrow, finish up any task I’m doing as I can’t stand leaving things unfinished. I may pop out to the issue desk and help decant books left around the library onto reshelving trolleys but i’m not always needed for this.
5:00pm – As it is term time, I didn’t need to do any of the closing up duties as we stay open until 7pm. Those of us not working the evening left, locking the door and putting up the sign to say to enter through the porter’s lodge after 5pm. Home time!
This is an overview of a day in the EFL! Generally I do most of the tasks mentioned every day, although no two days are exactly the same! Once we had a book returned by a pilot in the post who had found it on his plane, and another time we had a strange man walk into the library to hand over some very odd handwritten poetry (we don’t have swipe access like other libraries) so it’s certainly never boring!
As I have now settled into the Social Science Library, I thought it would be nice to write a ‘Day in the Life’ like previous cohorts have done to give a bit of insight into what being a Trainee can involve!
As there are two of us in the Social Science Library, we share the workload by focusing on different tasks each week. This week I’m concentrating on Technical Services tasks.
9.00 – I arrive at the library and meet with a member of the SOLO User Group. SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) is the Oxford University catalogue. Another trainee and I were given the opportunity to join the user group, but during the first meeting a lot of things went over my head! It’s interesting to get some background about the group (and understand the acronyms!) and I also get some useful information about distance learning options for library school.
10.00 – Time for my shift on the Issue Desk. As Trainees we are on the desk for several hours each day. You never really know what you’re going to be asked but I have just about got to grips with some of the more common queries which tend to be regarding issuing book, stack requests (more about them later) and problems with printing. Today I also change a printer cartridge and don’t get ink all over myself which I consider a small triumph.
11.00 – Tea break. Today is the Reader Services Librarian’s last day, so everyone gathers for cake (it was delicious!).
Libraries are run on cake
11.25 – Time to start on my Technical Services tasks. The main part of this being book processing. This involves doing some basic work on Aleph like adding shelfmarks. Followed by adding stamps, security tattle tape and labels. The library receives books that are shelf ready, books from legal deposit and books that we have bought online, and each needs a slightly different amount of processing (definitely no stamps in the legal deposit books!).
Physical Book processing – stamps and plates
13.00 – Lunch. Today I’m reading The Humans by Matt Haig which I would thoroughly recommend.
14.00 – More book processing.
14.30 – Back on the Issue Desk. Around this time, we normally receive our afternoon delivery of stack requests from the Bodleian Storage Facility in Swindon. I check them in to our library and add them to our stack request shelf. Luckily there is only one box today but sometimes we can get loads.
15.00 – Every week in term time we have a Reader Services meeting. This is quite useful for knowing about any new procedures or any other issues that have come up on the desk. Today we’re told about how some inter-library loans can now be taken out of the library and the procedure involved.
15.30 – Journal survey time. The SSL is currently surveying all the print journal stock to see if there is anything we can move out to the BSF or remove to make more space. As our current holdings are incorrect, I am surveying what is actually on the shelves and making a note of what volumes of each journal we have and how many metres of shelving it takes up. It is interesting to see how the design of some of the periodicals have changed over the years when we have volumes from several decades. I spot some volumes today from the 1880s that carry right on through until 2013.
16.30 – Another aspect of the Trainee Technical Services tasks is book repairs. We assess books that are in need of repair to see whether they should be replaced, sent to conservation, a commercial bindery or repaired in-house. Today I repair a couple of books that have a page loose and put them under a very high-tech weight (i.e. a brick) to dry.
17.00 – Just enough time for some more book processing. Some of the books I have been labelling need covering, which means an opportunity to channel my inner Blue Peter presenter to wrestle with what is effectively sticky back plastic and hope I don’t get any air bubbles!
17.30 – Time to go! As its the Reader Services librarian’s last day, we are off to the pub for her leaving drinks.