The day-to-day life of a graduate library trainee can be really varied, especially in college libraries, and my role at New College Library is no exception. I’ve written about a typical day containing all my usual tasks, but, in reality, what my days look like depends so much on whether the students are on vacation, whether we have an exhibition approaching, or what point in the term we’re at. During vacations, I am freer to work on projects that might otherwise be more disruptive for readers, such as stock checking or re-spacing shelves, or might take me away from my desk in the library office to consult a manuscript in our Special Collections Reading Room, or help to film a video for our Curators’ Choice series.
Although New College Library doesn’t have an information desk, our library office is very open and right next to the library entrance hall so it’s easy for readers to come and ask questions. This is the room where I spend most of my time and the first place I go when I arrive in the morning…
09:00 My day starts with a brief look at my emails and email calendar to see if there’s anything happening that day that I should know about. The thing to look out for is whether we have any readers coming in to look at special collections, as this requires a bit of preparation. Then I log on to the college intranet to book my (free!) lunch.
09:15 Then it’s time to retrieve the Click and Collect requests from the library shelves. This was an initiative started in the pandemic when library use was more restricted, but it remains popular, so we’ve decided to keep it going. Every morning I pick up a selection of requested books, and leave them, labelled, on a trolley in the entrance hall for readers to collect.
10:00 After these initial morning tasks, I have more flexibility to structure my own day. At this point in the morning, I might take a trip to the bell tower in college, to pick up some manuscripts or early printed books. Readers come in to consult items from our special collections at least once or twice a week and one of my jobs is to collect items from the bell tower so that they can temporarily be stored in our Special Collections Reading Room. When this room is being used, there is always a member of library staff present to help with enquiries and keep an eye on the rare books. If I’m doing this, I can do stationary and laptop-based tasks as well, like checking reading lists against our collections, or writing blog posts like this one!
10:30 If there’s no one looking at special collections, I’ll spend the rest of my morning getting on with work in the library office. Being based here means I’m often needed to respond to readers’ questions, but, when I’m not doing that, I work on creating posts for our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) plan for displays or exhibitions, or write some exhibition captions.
13:00 It’s lunch time! After I’ve eaten there’s often time to go into town to run a few errands, but, once the weather warms up, I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy the sunshine in the gardens at college.
14:00 Sometimes, generally in the afternoons, we host private viewings of the best parts of our special collections, either for societies or as part of a course module. These are really fun to set up as we get an in-depth look at so many great manuscripts all at once, and it’s a highlight of my job to then be able to share them with such enthusiastic readers.
If we have no out of the ordinary events happening in the afternoon, I can devote my attention to the post and unpacking all the new books, which have usually arrived by this time of day. The size of delivery can hugely vary: the most I’ve dealt with at once has been about 40 books, but normally it’s between five and ten books. The journey of a book from parcel to library shelf (also known as ‘processing’) is one in which I’ve invested many hours, but, in a nutshell, I unpack the books, write an accession card for them, catalogue them (if I can), stamp, tag, label, and cover them, and they’re ready to go!
16:30 Once I’ve finished book processing, there’s usually a bit of time to tidy up any unfinished tasks from the morning and clear any expired Click and Collect requests from the trolley, until it’s time to go home at 17:00.
Here’s a typical term-time day as the Trainee at St John’s, involving posters, returns, acquisitions, processing, and maintaining the Library’s daily Twitter updates. A day in the life here varies based on whether it’s term-time or the vacation. Over the holidays, we have very few readers, so I work on jobs which involve spending longer away from the desk, such as updating the Special Collections inventories, or minor book moves on the reading room shelves.
Working as part of a small team, the Trainee is based on the library enquiry desk. Rather than moving between shifts on different stations, I work on various tasks from my desk, and answer the occasional reader query as and when they arise!
Without further ado, join me for a day in the life of the St John’s Trainee…
9am: Get settled
It’s a three-part process:
It’s always quiet when I first arrive. I’ll check my email, the Library inbox, and the shared calendar. The contractors are still finishing up the new building, so often we’ll have an electrician or decorator scheduled to sort one specific issue.
Next, I empty the returns box and check items back in using Aleph, the library management system. Books can be borrowed for a whole term/break, so big rushes are fairly infrequent.
Most importantly: make a coffee!
After emails, my next desk-based check is our Special Collections Twitter. Sometimes there will be a popular hashtag or event, so I like to check our feed for inspiration.
This term, my tweet days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I’m working on a Tweet from scratch, I’ll find the shelf mark of the item I need, locate it in the basement store, and then take some photos. Then I’ll come back to my desk to draft the optimum 280 characters.
10:30am: check on the Law Library
It is somewhat a mystery to me why this should be the case, but if a College Library has a separate area for one subject, it’s usually law. The St John’s Law Library is on the nearby Kendrew Quad site, whilst the main Library is on the original site. It’s too small to have it’s own staff, so one of us heads over to take any acquistions or work through any shelving left by the students.
11am: sandwich collection!
One of the perks of working in a College is absolutely the lunch: I can either pick-up a pack-up at 11am, or go for a hot meal when the canteen opens at noon. Walking through the historic quads on the way to the kitchen servery naturally involves nattering with the other hungry Library staff members too.
11:15am: updating the posters
Given the changing Covid-19 regulations in College, I’ll regularly update our signage about mask guidance. There are also endless other posters to make, be it a withdrawn book giveaway, or a reminder about KeepCups next to the new hot drink machine.
When it isn’t raining, I enjoy eating lunch in the College gardens. Like many of the trainees, I’m conveniently located to pick up groceries or go for a walk at lunchtime.
1pm: re-classification work
Like many other Oxford libraries, St John’s has it’s own classification system. This has both positives and negatives! Recently, I noticed that part of the Theology section was in an unclear order, so I proposed to the Librarian that we rearrange this into a chronological order. Although we only reordered or renamed about ten headings within Theology, this meant that around 150 books had to be reassessed, and potentially reclassified. I am working through these about 25 titles at a time, updating the classifications on Aleph, relabelling, and then re-shelving the books.
3pm: collect the post and process acquisitions
St John’s seems to be quite late on the postie’s route, so I usually wait until the afternoon to swing by the Porters’ Lodge and collect the day’s deliveries. At the moment, we tend to receive between 4 and 8 new books a day, which I will process and classify. We are never short of books to process as we are working on a donation given to the Library by a former fellow!
5pm: Homeward bound
If I’ve finished my book, I like to end the day by checking out the recent literary fiction shelf, and choose a new title to borrow for my own reading. I tidy up my desk in order to pass the space over to the Student Library Assistant on duty that evening.
With the holidays fast approaching, decorations have started to appear in the Libraries and a festive spirit is in the air. For some of our Graduate Library Trainees, it has been the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year so far, and talk about some of the highlights of their role.
Heather Barr, St Edmund Hall
We brought Christmas to St Edmund Hall’s Old Library this year with a display of books and archive materials with fun festive facts and college celebrations throughout the years. Our display includes beautiful wintery paintings, including one of Teddy Hall’s Front Quad in Snow (1966), given to Principal Kelly by the artist, Alexandra Troubetzkoy (see right). Our Old Library is home to the first scientific publication to interrogate the shape of snowflakes (see left): Johannes Kepler’s C. Maiest. mathematici strena seu De niue sexangula (1611) (SEH Shelfmark 4° G 18(6)).
Keplerconjectures that they must be formed as such to optimise their tessellation, like a honeycomb. Or, perhaps there is some quality in the water that causes them to freeze in their signature hexagonal shape? Most importantly, he identifies a link between the shape of snowflakes and other crystalline formations in rocks.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without some cards! We showcased Christmas cards from the Archives, collected and saved by Principal Emden during the Second World War (see right). These cards were sent from all over the world,including from H.M.S. Satellite, a naval ship in the middle of the ocean. Some have rather topical designs, such as a bull charging Hitler, or the three wise men being guided by a shining Intelligence Corps crest! Today, these cards serve a positive reminder that even in the midst of worldwide suffering and disaster, small messages of hope and love can go a long way.
Izzie Salter, Sackler Library
As term draws to a close, the Sackler Library has become quieter and quieter. Between issuing books on the main desk, my colleague and I have donned it with decorations. Crafted out of library paraphernalia – who knew archival tying tape could be so versatile – I hope this has brought some cheer to our more loyal readers, staying here until closure. To those based locally to the Sackler, do walk past the Ashmolean one evening. It looks beautiful this time of year.
My first term as a trainee has been wonderfully varied. I have been so fortunate to work on some amazing projects at the library, as well as spending time learning alongside my fellow trainees. A few highlights of this term include presenting Japanese photography books (which I have researched regularly over the past 3 months) at the History of Art Show and Tell, working with the trainees to produce Black History reading recommendations, and learning about conservation and special collections at the Weston Library. I can’t wait to see what the new year brings, after a restful Christmas break.
[NB the Sackler Library has now been renamed to the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library]
Jemima Bennett, New College Library
New College Library Christmas started particularly early, even by Oxford standards, as by mid-November we had begun to put together a Christmas exhibition, and our Twitter advent calendar, choosing items and writing captions. I have also spent several very enjoyable afternoons wrapping books for our Surprise Christmas Loan scheme, as well as decorating our Christmas tree, and helping create an iconic book sculpture (pictured here). This term has been a blast – a wide-ranging and really relevant set of training sessions, an excellent trainee cohort, and being able to work with such beautiful manuscripts are definitely some highlights.
Lucy Davies, Social Science Library
At the SSL, we got into the Christmas mood by celebratingChristmas Jumper Day.Wearing our best festive jumpers (and masks!), we raised £142 for Save the Children. A highlight of this term has been the training sessions every week and gaining an insight into all the different jobs within the Bodleian Libraries. I especially loved the trip to the Conservation Studio at the Weston Library! I also really enjoy seeing the variety of books that arrive from the BSF every day and talking to readers about their research.
Georgie Moore, St John’s College Library
If you are following any Libraries, Museums, or Archives on Twitter, you’ll probably have noticed the annual December deluge of Christmassy content.
Outside of term time, I’m responsible for scheduling one Tweet a week, so I have been prowling our catalogue for festive material. Drafting a Tweet was part of the application process for this Trainee position, but even still I didn’t realise quite how much thought goes into maintaining a consistent tone and diversity of content.
Here are three of the tweet ideas that didn’t make the cut in December (and why not):
1. A Christmas Carol is a festive favourite for many, but Charles Dickens also contributed other seasonal stories to volumes like Mugby Junction: the extra Christmas number of All the year round (Vet.Engl.76). The small font and lack of illustrations aren’t very eye-catching for a Twitter photograph, but these advertisements provide a wintery window into Victorian buying habits: juvenile gift books, patented pickles and miniature billiards. (see left)
2. ‘The Exaltation of Christmas Pye’ – this might be cheating, but the only reason I haven’t shared this is because I didn’t find it! There are some highly quotable moments in this 17th-century mock-sermon (HB4/3.a.5.8(23)) such as when the author elevates the invention of
Christmas plum pies to the same level as ‘Guns and Printing’.
3. The Psalter (MS 82) includes some beautiful medieval illustrations. I’d wanted to caption this ‘When the waiter brings the final bill to the table after the work Christmas do’ but given the cancellation of so many Christmas parties this festive season, that felt like rubbing salt in the wound. (see left)
Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library
Although I enjoy handling books as much as the next librarian, a surprising highlight for mehas been working with various forms of online resource provision.(This is perhaps less surprising to anyone who has had to listen to me talk about scanning recently).Fromtracking down resources for reading lists and LibGuides to navigating copyright restrictionsandexploring the UK Web Archive,I’ve really enjoyed my traineeship so far, and I’mlooking forward to getting more involved with certain areas in the new year.During a recentweekend shift, I was entrusted with decorating the LawBod Christmas tree – picturedis our resident angel,which I’m told was handmade by a previous trainee.
Sophie Lay, English Faculty Library
J. R. R. Tolkien and Nevill Coghill have donned now their gay apparel – the former in a classic Santa hat and the latter in a crown of golden holly tinsel – and the festive season has fully hit the English Faculty Library. As Graduate Trainee, it’s my job to decorate the library with the aforementioned festive headgear, as well as paper chains, miniature Christmas trees, and seasonal rubber ducks to join our regular desk companion, Bill Shakespeare.
The end of term has also left a little more time for reflection on the past few months. I’d be delighted to share with you just one of the parts of my job that I’ve enjoyed the most since starting here at Bodleian Libraries. Not to be incredibly corny, but interactions with readers really do add a delightful element to your average desk-shift. From friendly and familiar faces to unexpected compliments to charming lost-and-found items (including returning a child’s hand-written note which read ‘momy I luv yoo’), there is so much joy to be had in interacting with readers.
I’ll leave you off with a final festive treat. I’ve done some digging through the rare book room and have uncovered a little treasure. While it’s not the genuine article, we do have a delightful facsimile of Dicken’s original manuscript for A Christmas Carol, in his own handwriting and with his own edits – including his signature looping and cross-hatching. Just holding it makes me feel more festive!
Emily Main, History Faculty Library
The end of term was definitely noticeable in the library as students started heading home for their holidays. However, the arrival of Warner Brothers and the closure of the Upper Camera for filming has made for an interesting end before the Christmas closure. As well as being dazzled by extremely bright lights when sitting at reception and dodging crowds of fans, we’ve had to implement a book fetching service for books in the Upper Camera and trundle our BSF book crates on a circuitous route through the Old Bod and Gladstone Link! I have loved getting to know the trainees and the team here and enjoyed the variety of my role. A highlight of the role for me has been answering enquiries of readers that require me to dive into a search and investigate their question, for example, in helping them to locate primary resources.
Ben Elliott, Pembroke College Library
Christmas is here, and it is time to reflect. This term has flown by, but it’s been a good one. Pembroke’s library consists of the librarian, me and the archivist and because it is a small team it has meant my traineeship has been distinctly unique and varied. For instance, I have delivered a library induction to visiting fellows from Pembroke’s ‘The Changing Character of War Centre’ which involved talking to a room of senior military officers and a UN advisor… definitely not daunting at all! As well, I have met some truly fascinating and brilliantly eccentric individuals along the way, some even coming as far as from Utah.
It’s been particularly fun getting acquainted with Pembroke’s special collections, rare books and art collection and sharing them with students through object sessions and talks… especially when a talk discusses a naturalist’s book in our collection which attempts to convince readers that the platypus is, in fact, a real animal despite it looking odd!
Working with the college art has been brilliant. Inspecting the conditions of the college oil paintings with a freelance art conservator and the college archivist was a highlight. Staring at a painting of a 19th-century fellow whilst listening to ghost stories of said fellow is a moment I never expected in this job, but an enjoyable surprise, nonetheless.
Juliet Brown, Old Bodleian Library
As the year draws to a close, it is nice to see everyone getting excited about the holiday season. The decorations have gone up in the Bod, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without the Old School Quadrangle Christmas tree in pride of place.
As everyone gets ready to head home for the holidays, it is also a nice time to reflect on my first few months at the Old Bod, and the experiences that have shaped my role as the trainee in this incredible building. I have been very lucky to work within an incredibly supportive team, who put up with my constant questions and have made me feel at home in my new role. As the Old Bod trainee, I have been very fortunate in having an extremely varied working schedule. From duties in reader services (answering enquiries, issuing and returning books, leading tours, shelving, assisting with book deliveries, completing book scans), through to the more technical aspects of the role (helping with interlibrary loans, book processing, preparing books for repair, relabelling), my role has allowed me to complete an extremely diverse range of tasks. In addition, my manager has been keen for me to take on my own responsibilities, which have included designing new posters for the Lower Gladstone Link, creating instructional sheets for the evening team and rehoming a cupboard of abandoned books.
A highlight of the traineeship is the opportunity to take part in sessions designed to expand our knowledge about the various areas that make up librarianship. We have learnt about the technical skills needed for cataloguing, the complex world of Open Access, the importance of social media skills, and discovered the digital tools available to students and researchers at the University. In addition, the traineeship has allowed us to visit the Weston (for an insight into the role of the conservation team and special collections) and even spent an afternoon at the BSF.
I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings, both in terms of training and with my role, after a very restful break at home with my family, dog and lots of good food.
Sadly, for many of us, the last eighteen months have seen the cancellation, curtailment and delay of countless celebrations, including birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and achievements. At the very least, we’ve been forced to relocate those festivities online and connect with family and friends via laptops and phone screens in a kind of digital limbo.
Re-emerging into the real world from this pandemic-induced Purgatory, I recently returned to Oxford, a city that I’d previously called home for many years. My arrival overlapped with many of the restrictions of the last year and a half being (cautiously) rolled back. As the new Graduate Trainee at the Taylor Institution Library (known colloquially as the ‘Taylorian’), my first week saw the steady disappearance of one-way systems, sign-in slots and restricted access for readers to many of the library’s more intimate spaces.
Like the Bodleian Libraries more broadly, many institutions and historical personages have also found their usual cycles of anniversaries and commemorations disrupted by lockdown measures and restrictions on large gatherings. Excitingly, the prospect of more freedom for staff and readers at the University of Oxford has coincided with another cause for celebration: the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), the great Italian poet and philosopher. As a result, the Taylor Institution Library, Weston Library and the Ashmolean Museum have prepared three exhibitions of works from among the libraries’ and museum’s many and varied holdings, which provide visions of, and insights into, the author’s most famous work, the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia). Works from the Taylorian’s collections are included in the Ashmolean and Weston displays. The Taylorian exhibition, ‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy’, meanwhile, also draws upon the collections of the Sackler Library, Oxford’s principal research location for the study of visual culture. Alongside my regular duties at the library (with which I’m slowly familiarising myself), I’ve been fortunate enough to join Clare Hills-Nova (Librarian in Charge, Sackler Library, and Subject Librarian for Italian Literature and Language at the Taylorian) and Professor Gervase Rosser, curatorial lead on all three Oxford Dante exhibitions, in their preparations for the display of prints, manuscripts and illustrated books spanning the seven hundred years since Dante’s passing.
The photos provided here offer a window on the range of texts and images that were chosen for the Taylorian exhibition and the process that went into preparing them for public display. I came into that process after Clare and Gervase had agreed on the works to be included and their gathering from the Taylorian’s rare books and manuscript holdings and other library locations was complete. The exhibition handlist includes an introduction to the works on display as well as a list of works they considered for inclusion.
Together, Clare and I spent an afternoon preparing the exhibition space – among the already impressive holdings of the library’s Voltaire Room.
A provisional placement of the exhibits according to the chronological layout agreed by Clare and Gervase gave us a sense of how the various prints, manuscripts and books would fit within the display cases.
Working with a number of old and rare editions – including some of the oldest books that I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand during my time in Oxford – required careful handling and the use of foam rests and ‘snakes’ (long, cotton-wrapped metal ‘beads’ designed to hold open books). Clare has a background in conservation, so provided an experienced eye and guiding hand throughout the process.
After this initial test-run of the display cases, I was tasked with assisting in the preparation of a bibliography to provide visitors to the exhibition with a comprehensive list of texts on display, and those consulted during the curation process. This not only gave me an excellent opportunity to re-familiarise myself with the Bodleian Libraries’ SOLO (‘Search Oxford Libraries Online’) catalogue, but required some further detective work to collect the full details of some of the more obscure texts included in the exhibition.
Although I’m familiar with this kind of work from my time researching and writing Russian history, and searching for texts catalogued in various forms of transliterated Cyrillic, the preparations for this exhibition included consideration of works in Italian, French and German too. Exploiting the automatic citation tool provided on the SOLO also exposed the potential drawback of relying on technology alone. Each of these languages inevitably has its own bibliographic conventions for the formatting of references (authors, titles, publishing info, etc.), not all of which are captured by auto-generation of citations. Obviously, I still have plenty to learn on that front being based in one of Oxford’s key research centres for modern languages and linguistics!
The whole process also brought home how inconsistent and incomplete some of the catalogue descriptions are within the Bodleian Libraries’ older collections and more unique items. This is quite the mountain to climb for those librarians faced with such a vast (and ever expanding) number of books, journals, periodicals and other ephemera in every language under the sun.
One particular exhibit of note is shown below:
It was wonderful to find such a striking connection between the history of Imperial Russia and Dante’s life and work!
The second set of photos below provides a view of the final layout for each display case. Supporting information to be included alongside the works was still being prepared at the time of taking, but a sense of the diversity of images and lasting influence of Dante’s work on artists, writers, print-makers and publishers across the world is evident already.
Students, faculty and staff from across the University are welcome to visit the Taylorian’s exhibition during library opening hours, from the beginning of Michaelmas term through December 2021. The parallel exhibitions marking Dante’s centenary celebrations are on display for a similar period: Ashmolean Museum (17 September 2021 – 9 January 2022) and Weston Library (8 September 2021 – 14 November 2021), which will give everyone interested in the life, history and influence of Dante the opportunity to explore the wider collections of the University.
Further Oxford Dante events, ranging from concerts to film screenings, to lectures and (of course!) at least one book launch celebrating the 700th anniversary are planned for autumn 2021.
Having now had an insight into the complexities involved in preparing, curating and displaying materials from our impressive Dante collections, the chance to come face-to-face with these exhibits sounds like Paradiso itself!
If you want to know more about Dante-related holdings in Oxford, please check out the Taylorian’s earlier blog posts in this regard (linked below):
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! I’m Simone, and I’m the trainee at St John’s College Library & Study Centre this year.
I’m currently finishing off my MA in English Literature which I’ve been studying with Newcastle University for the past year, having graduated with a BA in English Literature and French at Newcastle in July 2019. I work as an intern with Newcastle University’s Special Collections and completed temp work with the university library throughout my degrees. Before that I worked in retail, tutored French in a local school, and worked as an English Language Assistant in France during my year abroad.
I’ve been working in the College Library since the start of September, and I’m really enjoying it so far. Unlike some of the other trainees, I’ve been working on site since the start of my traineeship so I’ve had some extra time to ease into my role. As is the case in many work environments, due to COVID-19 regulations St John’s Library & Study Centre is functioning slightly different from usual. However, there has still been plenty for me to do and learn (albeit at a 2 metre distance!). What could have been an overwhelming experience has been rendered enjoyable by the lovely library team at St John’s. So far, I have been getting to grips with Aleph and classification, learning about the library’s history, and helping to make the Library & Study Centre as safe as possible for incoming and returning students.
My typical day begins with fetching and circulating any Click & Collect requests we may have received from staff and students, and then moving on to other tasks I have to do. These include collecting post, shelving, reviewing reading lists, managing the library’s social media pages, and classifying and processing new books. I have plenty to keep me busy! Throughout this year I will also create a digital exhibition with my colleagues and be involved with St John’s new Diversity & Equality Collection – both of which I’m very excited to be a part of!
Overall, I’m enjoying working at St John’s (and taking advantage of the free lunch!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what will be in store for the rest of the traineeship.
Hello! I’m Naomi, one of two graduate trainees in the Bodleian Law Library, based in Information Resources. I’m a recent graduate, having finished my BA English degree at the University of Exeter this year, so working with legal resources has been a learning curve!
The Law Library is a reference only library located on Manor Road in the St. Cross Building, which also hosts the English Faculty Library. With 1960s architecture, a high ceiling (and a new roof), original wooden desks complete with beautiful marks of wear, leather seats and brass lamps, a gallery, narrow staircases tucked among the bookshelves, and a hushed quiet, it’s an atmospheric building to explore with a wealth of resources – although slightly disorientating to navigate at first.
Beginning this role amidst the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging at times. Having started the traineeship by working virtually from home, it’s both exciting and reassuring to now be working onsite for most of the week. When onsite, we begin the day by preparing the library for readers, who can book seats for particular time slots as part of the library’s phased reopening. Being based in IR means the tasks I do often differ slightly from Ella’s (the Academic Services trainee in the Law Library). My role involves processing books and serials, building reading lists, cataloguing, labelling and shelving, as well as more front-facing work such as being on the enquiry desk and scanning requests for the Scan and Deliver service. Usually, on Wednesdays, we have training sessions with the other trainees, though these are taking place virtually for the time being. During our tea breaks, Ella and I are utilising our Bodleian keep cups and becoming regulars at the Missing Bean cafe in the St. Cross Building. Over lunchtimes, we’ve been exploring some of the green spaces near the library too – and making the most of the sunshine when we can.
I’m looking forward to the library being able to increase its capacity for readers and the energy of the new term starting. There couldn’t be a better introduction to life behind the scenes in an academic library, especially at a time when it is adapting to provide the best service it can to readers under extraordinary circumstances.
Hi! I’m Ella, and I’m one of the Graduate Trainees at the Bodleian Law Library, along with Naomi. I’m based in Academic Services, which means my role is more reader-based – scanning resources, helping with online teaching – and less involved with the cataloguing side of things. Before this, I was working in hospitality, and I also have some library experience from volunteering in libraries at school and university. I’ve never lived in Oxford before, so I’m excited to get to know the city and all of its lovely libraries (though sadly seeing them all in person will have to wait for now).
It has been a bit of a different start to the traineeship this year (judging by the previous years’ trainee introductions). For one, I spent the first two weeks working from home, getting to know all my colleagues virtually and hoping it wouldn’t be long before I got to come in to the library. When we were finally allowed to come in (after filling out many safe onsite working forms) it was slightly eerie to find that the previous trainee’s stuff was still in the drawers, and a timetable still up on the wall for guiding the potential future trainees – aka me and Naomi – around the library when we had our interviews all the way back in March. I don’t think the previous trainee had expected to be working from home for the rest of her traineeship when she left the library that Friday all those months ago, and it must have been a very strange experience.
Since then, I’ve been getting to grips with the various aspects of the library which I’ll be involved with, and all of the extra precautions and regulations we have to follow in light of COVID-19. The first 45 minutes of the day is usually spent opening windows, sanitising desks, shelving books and going over any changes in our operations. Then it’s on to the classic trainee tasks – checking emails, fulfilling scanning requests, having virtual meetings and attending training. In our breaks, Naomi and I have been trying to make the most of the last few weeks of September sun by visiting the nearby parks; now it’s colder, we’re eagerly anticipating the reopening of the various cafes close to the Law Library (which I have been told will be happening soon!)
So far, it’s been an interesting start, and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the traineeship will bring.