Tag Archives: day in the life

St John’s College Library: Trainee Introduction

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.

Legal Deposit: how a 16th century librarian’s cunning idea still helps researchers today

The beautiful Stockholm Public Library. Photo: T. Mezaros

The beautiful Stockholm Public Library. Photo: T. Mezaros

In exciting (albeit belated) news, Saturday 7th February was National Libraries Day! In this age of austerity and self-service, where both public and private institutions are stretched, and arguably at risk of undervaluing the social importance of access to and curation of
culture, an annual celebration of libraries: libraries academic, libraries special and libraries public, and of course of the staff and volunteers who keep them running, using their
enthusiasm, specialist knowledge and research skills to bring readers and books together. It was a day for exhibitions, author visits, talks, special events and shelfies; to find out more, check out where you’ll find juicy library-related news items, including a speech by
John Lydon (yes, that one).

Photo: N. Webb

Photo: N. Webb

To mark the occasion, here’s my account of one of the reasons the Bodleian Libraries are key members of the global research community: legal deposit.

The Bodleian Libraries form one of six Legal Deposit (LD) Libraries in the UK; the others
being Cambridge University Library, the British Library, the National Libraries of Wales and of Scotland, and Trinity College Dublin. Each of these libraries is entitled to receive a print or digital copy of every item published in the UK. Every published item received is to be
preserved as far into the future as possible, so that a centuries-long cultural record of the
nation will always be available to scholars, authors, publishers and others who need it.

A Clever Deal

Legal deposit began in 1610 as an agreement between Thomas Bodley and the Stationers’ Company; his new library in Oxford would be stocked with everything published under royal license, and in return the Bodleian would keep these works for the benefit of future generations. In 1662, the Royal Library and Cambridge University Library gained the same privilege, forming the basis of what would later become the Copyright Act; this was
continually built upon in law to become the system of legal deposit as we currently know it.

The Long Room, Old Library, Trnity College Dublin. Photo: Mark Colliton Photography

The Long Room, Old Library, Trnity College Dublin. Photo: Mark Colliton Photography

My Place in Perpertuity

The BLL receives those LD books related to law, so one of my weekly jobs is to process these items. When the books start coming in on Thursday, on my copy of the VBD (see my previous post) I record which books I’ve received, which are missing and any conflicts.
These occur when more than one library has an interest in a particular title; a book on the Civil Rights Movement and law, for example, might be selected by the Vere Harmsworth
Library as well as us. The conflict list is emailed round to the librarians who selected the books in question, who decide where they will go based on reading lists, the perceived needs of readers and so on. I count them for our stats, then tattle and edge-stamp them.

Some of the books arrive with blue flags; these have minimal-level catalogue records and need updating. In the Aleph cataloguing module, I bring up the MARC21 record and search for similar ones, from the British National Bibliography, the Library of Congress, WorldCat, or Copac, and I pick the one that best conforms to RDA standards. Next, I save the
downloaded record as “Provisional”; it’s lovely when no error messages come up, which means I chose a good, sound record. Lastly, I hand all the books over to the cataloguing team, who use the record I downloaded as a base to work from.

Books to cross my desk recently have covered topics as diverse as oil and gas law,
cybersecurity, hate crime, the use of torture in counter-terrorism, the regulation of
tobacco; last week’s list even included a monograph we didn’t eventually get about the
legal status of whales vs. elephants.

My attitude to processing piles of law LD books, even when I receive 70 of them at once… Lewis & Clark Law School’s Valentine’s Day display, 2013. Photo: M. Cheney

My attitude to processing piles of law LD books, even when I receive 70 of them at once… Lewis & Clark Law School’s Valentine’s Day display, 2013. Photo: M. Cheney

Legal Deposit and the Bodleian

It’s estimated that overall, the Bodleian libraries receive 80,000 physical LD monographs per year, and 78,000 serials. All these resources have to go somewhere, and the creation of shelf space is an ongoing concern; Sarah and Hannah’s November blog post on the BSF gives an idea of the problem’s scale.

Overall, however, our LD entitlement benefits the Bodleian libraries immensely, in
allowing us to provide access to a much wider range of scholarly works than if we relied upon purchases and donations alone. Oxford’s libraries provide a uniquely thorough
resource for research, and it is satisfying as a librarian to take my small part in preserving the UK’s intellectual and cultural heritage in perpetuity. Were he alive today, Bodley would surely be awed at the quantity of legal deposit material being added daily to Oxford’s
collections; and it all started with his one canny idea.

Photo: Mark Power

Photo: Mark Power

A Day in the Life (Emma Jones, Jesus College Library)

9am       I compose myself after my attempt at a power walk while checking the emails and arranging book hold requests. Then it’s time to scan in and reshelve the returned books. I put anything inappropriate left on the desks overnight (empty bottles, odd socks etc) in lost property, which as term goes on begins to resemble a contraband amnesty box.

10am     After a quick check of the environmental conditions in the historic Fellows’ Library, I collect the post. There are often book deliveries which need processing, classifying and adding to the catalogue. If a book request comes in from a student and there’s enough time, I dash out to Blackwell’s bookshop or find it online.

11am     It’s term time, so I sit in one of the reading rooms to answer queries. I’m also there to keep a tab on noise levels and behaviour, but it’s exam time so there’s a self-policed moratorium on chatter, tomfoolery, and breathing too loudly.

12pm     As part of an ongoing project, I’m looking through some of the old, low-use books we’ve earmarked for weeding. I check SOLO to ensure that there’s still an accessible copy of each book in Oxford and then withdraw the College’s copies. Getting rid of books used to terrify me, but now I secretly enjoy it. More shelf space for new books and fewer irrelevant books for students to browse through is a win-win situation.

1pm       Lunch! As Joanne at St John’smentioned, free lunches are one of the perks of working in a college library. They even have Yazoo milkshake here. As always, it’s something delicious.

2pm       Now it’s time to deal with some book donations. We’ve just finished with some German texts kindly left by a graduate, so today I’m going through a list of works which have been offered to the College’s specialist Celtic Library. As someone with only a smattering of Welsh and no knowledge of other Celtic languages, checking spellings and revising search terms to find these obscure texts can be slow work. But how many other people can say they’ve been looking for a book about medieval Cornish drama today?

4pm       Some guests are due to visit the Fellows’ Library next week, so I’ve been asked to find some rare books to display which match their interests (agriculture, apparently). I search SOLO and look through a shelflist of uncatalogued items, before going to inspect the condition of the books and look for engaging images of land surveying and silkworms.

5pm       Hometime.

A Day in the Life (Joanne Hilliar, St John’s College Library)

9am: Arrive and settle in
This involves checking and responding to emails, both from readers and external researchers, and confirming what’s in the diary for the day. We have a team of graduate invigilators who cover the early morning, evening and weekend shifts in the library, so if they’ve noted any issues or enquiries we’ll follow these up.

9.30am: Shelving
I am responsible for shelving the Arts and Humanities books in the upstairs Laudian Library. While I’m doing this I also ensure that the reading room is tidy for today’s readers.

10.15am: Book Processing
Part of my role is to process new books and journals acquired by the library. For books, this involves giving each item a barcode and shelfmark, before labelling, stamping and covering it. We have our own in-house classification system, and it’s interesting working out where each book should be placed in order to ensure easy accessibility for readers.

11am: Coffee Break

11.15am: Other Projects
I supervise a manuscript reader in the Old Library and use the time to catch up on other general tasks, such as updating the Library Facebook page and creating posters and captions for our new books display, which we change on a termly basis.

12pm: Issue Desk
I cover the issue desk while other members of staff are at lunch, issuing and returning books and dealing with reader enquiries.

1pm: Lunch
I get a free lunch every day, which is a definite advantage of working in one of the Colleges!

2pm: Cataloguing of Spike Milligan Papers
The College has a collection of papers originally belonging to Spike Milligan, which includes original manuscripts and drawings for many of his literary works. I’m cataloguing these to archival standards (this process is somewhat different to library cataloguing so has taken a bit of getting used to!) by describing each individual item in detail and uploading this information to the Archives Hub website. I also add tags and access points (using mainly Library of Congress subject headings) to aid any readers who might be interested in consulting this material.

3.30pm: Law Library
The Law Library is a separate 24 hour study space on the other side of the college, so once a day I head over there to shelve new acquisitions of books and journals and have a general tidy up.

4pm: Tea Break

4.15pm: Exhibition Preparation
For my trainee project I’m working on an exhibition, using the Library’s Special Collections to explore war throughout history. We put on two exhibitions a year in order to give College members a chance to view some of the rare books and manuscripts they wouldn’t generally have access to. My main tasks are to research the items I plan to display and write captions for them, and to design a poster and a handlist to accompany the exhibition. (Note: I wrote this post a while back but forgot to upload it until today, so the exhibition is now up and running!)

5pm: Home

Day in the Life – Archives Assistant (Emma Harrold, Oxford University Archives)

8.30-10.45: Enquiries

I start the day by reading emails and printing new enquiries. The amount of enquiries we receive varies and there can be anything from none to seven or eight in a day. Some enquiries can be answered quickly, whereas others can take hours of research into our records to answer. The University Archives holds the administrative records of the central University and these records date from 1214 to the present day.   The colleges in Oxford also maintain their own archives, and this means we sometimes refer enquirers to individual colleges for certain information as well. (http://www.oxfordarchives.org.uk/college%20archives.htm)

Enquiries are related to various aspects of the University, such as the examination systems at different times in the University’s history, past syllabus’ and requirements for degrees, information relating to departments, University buildings and ceremonial and non-ceremonial events. One of the most frequent enquiries we receive is regarding past members of the University, often from a descendent of that person or researchers looking into prominent figures who had previously been educated at Oxford. For past members up until 1891 we hold printed volumes, and between 1891 and 1932 we have a card register. The sort of information we have, dependent on when a person was at the University, can include their college, matriculation date, some biographical information, degrees and any University scholarships or prizes.

At the moment, including one of today’s enquiries, we have a lot of interest in members of the University who served in the First World War due to the centenary. For this I check the printed volume we hold which includes information about members of the University who served in the war, such as when they joined up and where they served.

10.45-11.10 Break

11.10-11.45 Imaging Request

Today, along with a couple of past members enquiries, we also had a request from Imaging Services. An enquirer has ordered photographic copies of some of our material, and this is done through the Imaging Services department based in Osney. To complete this request, I locate and extract the relevant items, package and label it and will send it out with the courier in the morning. I also update our loans register, which keeps a record of all the material being loaned to different departments.

11.45-13.30 Duke Humfrey’s Library

Part of my role is also to make our records accessible to readers. Material from the University Archives is viewed in Duke Humfrey’s Library in the Bodleian Library. Our material is stored in the Lower and Upper Archive Rooms (in the tower of the Bodleian Library), the Examination Schools and also out in the Bodleian Storage Facility in Swindon. When readers request to view items, I then either order it back from BSF using Aleph, or find and carry it to Duke Humfrey from the Exam Schools or the tower. This week a reader has ordered quite a lot of material to view, which means several trips back and forth from the Schools to Duke Humfrey to carry it all up.

13.30-14.30 Lunch

14.30-17.00 Cataloguing

In the afternoons, if all the enquiries are finished and no more material needs to be moved up to Duke Humfrey’s Library for readers, I usually work down in the archives in the Exam Schools. There I have been cataloguing new accessions to the Archives. The first collection I worked on was a series of graduate student files, which we accession every year, and involved making sure they were organised alphabetically, checking they were in the right series (ie. the right year), boxing and labelling them. Now I have finished that I am working on some files from the Events Office, which relate to non-ceremonial events in the University. This includes appraising, describing, labelling/boxing and allocating reference codes to the files and then adding this information to the existing Events Office catalogue. Once finished, it will be moved to spare shelving in the Archives and its permanent location added to our location lists so it can be found in future.

17.00 Finish