The Edible Book Festival 2017

Our prize winning cake! Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

On Thursday 2nd March, the 2nd Annual Edible Book Festival took place at the RSL to mark World Book Day. To take part in the festival, participants enter “bookish” art pieces that need to be mostly edible. These pieces can therefore represent a book title, a book cover, a character, a plot element or theme. As this competition combined books and cake, several trainees were naturally eager to take part, and, over the course of several days, we came up first with an idea for a cake and then brought it to life!

To begin with, we decided to meet up in the aptly inspiring café in Blackwell Hall to discuss potential ideas. After much debate, we eventually decided on our book: The Maltese Falcon by Daniel Hammett. Published in 1929, this detective novel describes a series of murders connected with the Maltese Falcon – a valuable statue made by the 16th century Knights of Malta as a gift to the King of Spain. We therefore felt that this statue would be the perfect centrepiece for a cake. As the book is set in Malta, we decided that Maltesers would naturally be an excellent edible decoration for our book, and, as chocolate cake is always popular, we quickly had a sketched bake-off style design to work from. Now all we had to do was actually create our culinary masterpiece!

Law trainee Fiona watches as Chantal, Will and David decorate the cake with Maltesers. Olivia works on the falcon, the star of the cake, made entirely out of sugar paste. Photo by Jessica Woodward.

It became clear that the perfect venue for our big baking session would be the Trainee House in Iffley (a.k.a. the shared home of trainees from the Law Library, SSL and University Archives, plus Will, who recently morphed from Taylorian trainee into PTFL trainee). At our final preparation at the Blackwell Hall meeting, we allocated responsibility for the ingredients, agreeing who would purchase what, and who would brave the intricate task of sculpting the falcon in advance of the main baking session.  Luckily, we had Olivia – art-school graduate, former Downton Abbey costume-maker, and Sackler trainee – on the team.  She offered to build a feathery head and body, which would be complemented by delicious chocolate wings baked by David the SSL trainee.

Our delicious cake is slowly taking shape. We used a recipe from Nigella Lawson, called Devil’s food cake. Sinfully delicious indeed! Photo by Jessica Woodward.

The culinary evening arrived. With great festivity, we took the bus to Iffley, made a quick trip to the Co-Op, and we were ready.  As an all-knowing David recited each stage of a Nigella chocolate-cake recipe (which was Chantal his fellow SSL trainee’s recommendation), the kitchen filled with the chinks of stirring spoons and the bubbling of melting chocolate.  A dark, spongy mass took shape.  It needed to cook then cool, so we rewarded ourselves with well-earned pizza while we waited.  Finally, we gathered at the table to secure Maltesers in careful circles around the falcon centrepiece.

The final result! Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

The next morning, David and Olivia handed the cake over to the RSL staff, who put it on display alongside its competitors.  At 1pm, the RSL Lounge opened its gates to a gaggle of eager cake fans, including us!  Ideas were admired, photos were taken.  We were fascinated to see the other creations, with Far From the Madding Crowd, The Silver Pigs and The Bees proving particular favourites (if you’d like to see photos of these and more, click here).  We felt excited to observe that the voting sheet for our cake was filling up fast with audience approvals… and when the judges confirmed that we had won the People’s Choice Award, we were thrilled!

A selection of the other entries: In Search of Lost Time, Cider with Rosie, Silence of the Yams (behind the cider bottle), Grapes of Wrath and The Catcher in the Rye. Photo by Chantal van den Berg.
Jessica, Will, David and Chantal looking surpised and pleased. Sadly, Olivia couldn’t be there. Photo by Dawn Young.

The Edible Book Festival was certainly a wonderful experience; and a tasty one, seeing as we got to tuck into all the cakes after the judging was over!  Those of us who are around next year will no doubt be keen to do it again!

After the prizes were awarded, it was time to eat! After only a few moments, our cake was almost entirely gone. Our falcon is looking proud! Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

By William Shire (PTFL), Jessica Woodward (Taylor Institution), Olivia Freuler (Sackler), David Phillips and Chantal van den Berg (both SSL)

Intellectual Property Rights: I know you’ve been thinking about them!

So a couple of weeks ago I ventured into London for a conference on Questioning Rights: Disruptive and emerging (Intellectual Property Rights) IPR management practices in the arts. It was housed in Central St. Martins’ new location in the Granary building behind King’s Cross St. Pancras.

I’d intended to take a photo of it as it was looking gorgeous in the spring sunshine but I accidentally took a picture of the cake counter in the café instead.

Cake counter at Yumchaa in the Granary Building.
Cake counter at Yumchaa in the Granary Building.

As for the conference itself, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect…but what I found was an interesting and engaging conference bringing together academics, professionals and artists to talk about their perspectives on IPR.

While the first two sessions were geared more towards the creators rather than the users of works and weren’t really applicable to me, it was good to hear their preception of how IPR works and how it affects them.

A common thread that emerged was that IPR legislation in its current state is both baffling to the uninitiated and hopelessly behind the times. Most speakers seemed to agree that there needed to be a demystification of IPR and/or a move away from using IPR. Perhaps because legislation is better at addressing actions rather than intent when it comes to IP?

There’s quite a grey area between inspiration and imitation that current IPR doesn’t address and a fear that excessive reliance on legislation will stifle creativity. In their close-knit communities artists rely heavily on self-policing and reputation, but this only works if you are personally invested in the group. Once their IP moves to a wider (and relatively anonymous) audience this framework breaks down.

Design and Artists Copyright Society talked about how they helped people manage their creative legacy and its disposal, but as far as I could tell they did not have any consultants with curatorial or archival experience (or indeed any experience with the heritage sector except as artists), which seems a bit one sided. How do they address the needs of future researchers who might be interested in an artist’s creative process or social context rather than the end product? Is it even on their radar?

It was a shame that the session on ‘Making the Most of Cultural Assets’ was at the end of the day as it ran a bit long and there wasn’t really time left for discussion. I thought it was quite relevant because much of the day dealt with the need for addressing what becomes of a work once it leaves an artist’s sphere of influence and certainly know what people actually want or expect to take away from it (rather than assuming) would help in formulating policy.

My favourite talk of the day was probably Ben White’s from the British Library. It was mainly about copyright and how it affects the heritage sector. He also touched on recent legislation regarding orphaned works and the EU Observatory’s Office of Internal Harmonisation (which he assured us was not as Orwellian as it sounded). He was quite enthusiastic about the way collective licencing works in Scandinavia, France, and especially Germany; it sounds like a model that would really benefit us! So I do hope that that’s the direction licencing goes in in the UK.

For those who don’t know (including me before this talk!) extended collective licencing means that an organisation (e.g. screenwriter’s guild) can extend their mandate to cover non-members and grant licences on their behalf. The problem with this in the UK is that it’s a limited licence subject to renewal after a few years, so an organisation could potentially end up investing significantly in a collection or work only to not have its licence renewed.

A bad deal!

At the end of the day the conference certainly got me ‘questioning rights’ and where IPR will go in the future.

A Day in the Life at the SSL

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!).

20150204_121650Physical 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.

20150204_121713Book repairs

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.

Cake picnics are a very important aspect of librarianship.

If there’s one thing that appears to unite all library people, it’s a love of cake…

One of the great things about the traineeship with the Bodleian Libraries, is that you have a network of other trainees for support both socially and professionally. This year there are 18 of us all together, and this means that there’s always another trainee to talk to about your mistakes, concerns and the stress of impending library school applications.

But it isn’t all about the work. This Friday the majority of us gathered in the Bodleian tea room for a pot luck style cake picnic over lunch. The instruction was merely ‘bring desserts’. I decided upon what I believe is festive, but not too aggressively festive, shortbread, but Hannah had actually MADE biscuits, and Mandi had even brought cake from M&S, so there was a nice spread of sweet treats for us to enjoy. We decided that we should make it a regular Friday thing, and even took a picture to celebrate the occasion.

Aren’t we a photogenic bunch? Enjoying our cake picnic in the Bodleian tea room.

As I said, it’s really great to have several other people in the same boat as you. Working in a fixed term post means it can be hard to feel comfortable all the time, as well as the fact we all need to consider investing a huge amount of money in a professional qualification. A few of the group have already done one Masters degree so the thought of another can be quite daunting.

Having been previously offered a traineeship at a school elsehwere in the country, where I would have been the only trainee for miles and miles, I am glad to be part of a scheme where I know I can just shoot an email off to a mailing list, and be in the pub of an evening a few days later, trying really hard not to talk about MA tuition fees…