Tag Archives: graduate library trainee

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

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

Christ Church’s Main Library Building

View of the Radcliffe Camera from the University Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

What were your first impressions of the library?

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

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

The Lower Camera Reading Room at the HFL.

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

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

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

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

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

The spiral staircase in the East Library at Christ Church

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

What aspects of shadowing did you enjoy?

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

Christ Church’s Upper Library as viewed from the Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you describe the library you visited in one word?

Ross says: Wonderful

Leanne says: Matryoshka

The OxCam College Librarians’ Biennial Conference, Pt. I.

(The following is part one of a two-part blog post on the 2019 OxCam Librarians’ Biennial Conference. It features individual recollections of the day’s events, kindly contributed by some of the Oxford and Cambridge University Graduate Library Trainees in attendance.)

The 2019 OxCam College Librarians’ Biennial Conference, hosted by Worcester College, Oxford, took place on the 19th March in the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre. The event provided an opportunity to share ideas and updates on developments currently impacting the library services of Oxford and Cambridge University colleges. An exhibition space had been set up in the conference centre’s anteroom, allowing delegates the chance to network throughout the day with representatives from numerous organisations, including Cambridge University Press, Temple Bookbinders, Blackwell’s, and Gresswell. Upon arrival, attendees were given a welcome pack which included a programme of proceedings, some helpful maps and floor plans, a register of delegates and, of course, a complimentary bookmark.

A pictorial map of Worcester College, Oxford.

A map of Worcester College, Oxford, included in the welcome pack.

The day was divided into five sessions, two of which were the morning and afternoon plenary sessions, comprised of talks on mental ill-health in the workplace, the Cambridge Information Literacy Network, and a case study on Balliol’s Wellcome Trust funded project to catalogue the Nicholas Crouch Collection.

Images of the books constituting the Nicholas Crouch Collection.

A sample of the Nicholas Crouch Collection, since catalogued by Balliol College Library staff.

The first talk on mental ill-health in the workplace, delivered by Dan Holloway, was warmly received by the delegation and provided a positive, constructive foundation for the day ahead. Jenna, Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian Law Library (BLL) details the conference’s opening prelection:

‘Dan Holloway’s presentation was the first of the day, and he set a really good tone for the remainder of the conference by delivering a very thoughtful and open talk which conveyed important information in an informal and accessible way. Dan ran through some of the issues contributing to and exasperating mental ill-health in the work place; he considered the things we can do to aid workers with mental health difficulties and to break down stigmas, using facts and statistics alongside experiences from his own mental health story.’

After a round of informative and thought-provoking presentations, breakout sessions ran contiguous to the morning’s plenary session. The Graduate Library Trainees were asked to attend a special session led by Eleanor Kelly of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Ross Jones, Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian History Faculty Library, recounts his experience in the passage below:

‘The Graduate Trainee Special Session took place in the Smethurst Studio and served as a platform for sharing our experiences as library trainees. In all, a total of twenty trainees attended, including a party of six from Cambridge University colleges.

Discussions opened with a brief ice-breaker exercise in which we were asked to share our name and our place of work with the group. We were also asked to describe our respective libraries in one word – ‘accommodating’, ‘comfortable’, ‘warm’ and ‘antiquated’ were some examples. After a round of introductions, Eleanor organised us all into five smaller groups and prompt sheets were circulated to guide conversation towards specific talking points. These points centred on aspects of our experiences such as the skills we’d attained, any accomplishments we’d achieved, the challenges we’d faced, and the types of library work we were involved in. I think structuring the conversation in this way helped to determine the significance of any similarities or contrasts that stemmed from working in different libraries.

Towards the end of the session, the group I was in broached the possibility of applying for postgraduate courses in library-related fields and discussed whether it was preferable to enrol as a full-time or part-time student. We also speculated which career paths might suit us best in the future. It was equal parts interesting and reassuring to hear from my compeers about the various activities trainees were involved with day to day; despite the differences, it seems inevitable that every trainee will, at one point, find themselves book processing, adhering bookplates and spine labels to new acquisitions!’

Once the morning breakout sessions had concluded, the delegation broke for lunch in Worcester College Hall. It was a hurried affair as visits to an Oxford archive, museum or college library were scheduled to run concurrently in the early afternoon. Natasha, one of the visiting trainees from Pembroke College, Cambridge, reflects on her tour of the Queen’s College Library in the passage below:

‘After lunch we split into groups for one of the most anticipated parts of the day, the library visits, and the Queen’s College Library did not disappoint. Amanda Saville, the Librarian, raced through the College and Library’s histories before letting us into the Upper Library.

A photograph of the Queen's College Library's Upper Library with orreries in the central passage.

The Upper Library of the Queen’s College.

This space is the oldest part of the Library and it remains open as a student study area. A staircase connects it to the Lower Library which houses much of the modern teaching collection and before the extension the shelves were full. The New Library is the most recent extension and it opened in 2017. Hidden beneath the Provost’s Garden, it allowed the library to expand and houses the special collections and archives in a secure and environmentally controlled storeroom. Multiple new reading rooms allow for better access to the special collections and cater to a wider range of student needs. It was great seeing how popular the New Library is, even in the vacation, and how well Amanda’s team did in supporting their users throughout the different Library spaces.’

Meanwhile, Bethan, a trainee at the Old Bodleian Library, was among those visiting Exeter College’s Cohen Quad. Elaborating on her experience, she says:

‘I was given the chance to visit Exeter College’s Cohen Quad which contained a purpose-built facility for the College Library’s Special Collections. William Morris is a notable alumnus of Exeter, and some of his possessions were donated to the college. This included his many pipes and a lock of his hair. We were shown an array of artefacts, including books produced by Morris’s printing house, Kelmscott Press; there was a beautifully illustrated edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which apparently is the original ‘Kelmscott Chaucer’ and belonged to Morris himself.

The Special Collections Librarian showed us the new facility which houses the collections and archives. This included the colour-coded rolling stacks and a purpose-built metal gate used to keep the rarest items secure. She discussed the logistics of moving over 30,000 rare books and manuscripts to the site and the challenges she faced in the process.  The collections themselves were originally held in poor conditions, so each item had to be individually cleaned and restored before being moved. There was time afterwards for questions and a brief discussion about the promotion of Special Collections.’

Amy, Graduate Trainee at the Howard Piper Library of St Hugh’s College, visited the library at Worcester College and describes the tour here:

‘Mark Bainbridge, the Librarian of Worcester College, was our knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide. I think I can safely say everyone in our group had a very pleasant visit. We first climbed up an eighteenth century cantilevered spiral staircase with over 60 steps to reach the modern (upper) library, which was created in the twentieth century. It is open 24/7 and holds 65,000 volumes across two levels. These are all digitally catalogued and can be borrowed via a self-service machine. The card catalogue was discontinued in February 2006, but is still available for consultation. They acquire around 1,000 books each year and have approximately 6 years of space left before the library is full, although there is some weeding to be done which should give them a little more time. The first professional librarian to work here introduced an in-house classification system in the 1960s, which is still used today.

A photograph of the issue desk in Worcester College's more modern upper library.

The Upper Library at Worcester College.

Naturally the highlight of our visit was the handsome Lower Library, completed in 1736. Most of the shelves hold Dr George Clarke’s large bequest of books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, a great deal of which are not digitally catalogued. Sadly, we did not get to walk along the gallery, but we were a big group so this probably was not feasible. The Lower Library is open from 8am until midnight each day. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular place for students to work, so much so that they have to set out modern desks and chairs during particularly busy periods.

A photograph of the early-modern lower library of Worcester College, including busts and galleries.

The Lower Library at Worcester College.

The library team had kindly selected and displayed a few interesting items for us to view in a small room next to the Lower Library…’

A photo of Inigo Jones' copy of Andrea Palladio's 'I Quattro Libri Dell Architettura' on display.

Andrea Palladio, I Quattro Libri Dell Architettura. Venice, 1601. (Inigo Jones’s Copy)

Across town, Jenna (BLL) and Eva of Newnham College, Cambridge, were welcomed into the grounds of Oxford University’s largest college, Christ Church. In detailing their experiences, they recount the awesome purlieus and inspiring collections of the college library.

Eva:

‘It is futile to try to describe the overwhelming grandeur of Christ Church and its libraries in terms of beauty. An oddball of my generation, I am not a big fan of photographing things, preferring to just experience events and commit them to memory. The whistle stop tour of Christ Church library however had me almost instinctively reaching for my iPhone and snapping away unashamedly with the crowd around me.’

Jenna:

‘The visit to Christ Church library began with a small introduction to the college and the library by the College Librarian, Steven Archer, in Tom Quad with assistance from Emma Sillett who is the Reader Services Librarian. The grounds of the college are impressive – Tom Quad being the biggest quad of all the colleges – and you can see why Christ Church has a reputation for being one of the grandest colleges in Oxford. We then walked through the cloisters to what is actually the ‘New’ Library, which was completed in 1772 as a result of the Old Library becoming so full that they had to build another building to accommodate the amount of books that were being donated.’

Eva:

‘What was striking about the New Library was how spacious and accommodating the surroundings felt, as well as elegant. The silence felt hushed as opposed to suffocating. It was as though the prestige of the college’s history and status created an atmosphere of inspiration, rather than intimidation.’

Jenna:

‘The Library’s reading rooms are on the ground floor of the New Library, which holds the working collection, and is a pleasant mix of antiquated and classical design with beautiful iron spiral staircases and wooden shelving, contrasting with white columns and domed archways. I really enjoyed seeing students using the reading rooms, which shows that the ground floor is comfortable and accessible for students to borrow and work from.

An image of a reading room at Christ Church College Library

The wrought iron staircase and gallery in Christ Church College Library’s lower reading room.

In contrast to this though, the Upper Library was arresting in its grandeur and the smell of old books – addictive to anyone working in libraries. The upper floor consists of the college’s rare books which are mainly arranged under named shelves referencing the benefactors who bequeathed the collections. This room also holds a large amount of interesting objects, such as a hat which apparently belonged to Cardinal Wolsey and a full horse skeleton which was being used by an anatomy class at Ruskin School of Art.’

Eva:

‘The magnificent upper library, where the special collections are held is overwhelming. Our tour guide and head librarian Steven was at pains to emphasise the main function of the room is for the collections to be used and consulted, and that this was actively encouraged to potentially timid students.’

Jenna:

‘Steven had arranged for items from the college archive to be brought out for us to see, including an illuminated manuscript, one of Elizabeth I’s bibles, the foundation charter of the college, and a photograph album and draft drawings for Alice in Wonderland which belonged to Lewis Carroll who was Sub-Librarian at Christ Church during the second half of the 19th Century.’

An image of Christ Church College's Upper Library, replete with a full horse skeleton.

It’s true! There really is an entire horse skeleton in the Upper Library!

Eva:

‘The literary association with Christ Church that gets most people excited is Harry Potter, its cloisters and staircase having featured as settings for various scenes in the film series. I, however, was far more excited by another fantasy staple of fiction embedded in its history: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. To be able to stand in the same spot as Lewis Carroll did, beside his desk, and look out of the window at the ‘Cheshire Cat’s Tree’ was an eerily wonderful moment, as was being able to look at handcrafted figures of the characters made in 1900 and see original sketches Carroll’s brother drew of the book’s illustrations. I doubt I am the first to tour Christ Church and leave feeling rather like Alice.’

Jenna:

‘Overall, it was a really superb and informative tour which was well-structured but also allowed us freedom to explore the dizzying double-height Upper Library ourselves – I feel very lucky to have had such knowledgeable guides in Steven and Emma and I felt very inspired being ‘let loose’ in such a beautiful library.’

See part two of this blog post for details on the afternoon sessions attended by Oxford and Cambridge University Graduate Library Trainees!

 

The History Faculty Library’s Collections

The first weeks of February occupy the middle of Oxford University’s Hilary Term. They represent a busy time for students; the History Faculty Library’s self-collect shelves are heaving with off-site stack requests and there is rarely an empty seat in sight. Roughly speaking, this period also marks the midway point of the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Traineeship and now I feel more familiar with the library’s collections, I thought I’d use this space to share a few details about them.

Not just books: The HFL houses a variety of other items including maps and DVDs.

There are a little over 80,000 volumes at the HFL, including 1100 books in the local history section and 3,500 ‘oversize’ books on art, architecture and archaeology. Yet, it’s the main lending sequence that accounts for the bulk of this figure. Spanning three floors, the majority of the books in this collection can be borrowed by anyone with a blue reader’s card. Theoretically, this means that every current member of the University has the opportunity to take home a sample of what the History Faculty Library has to offer.

Those with a blue card like this one can borrow a variety of items from the HFL.

Though it parted ways with 473 of its rare antiquarian books when it moved from the Old Indian Institute in 2012, the library still has approximately 1,000 pre-nineteenth-century volumes in its care. A portion of these are known as ‘set texts’, which are prescribed readings for undergraduates studying Joint or Single Honours History Degrees. In certain cases, the HFL has the only available copy these readings in Oxford, making the Set Text Collection in the Upper Camera a particularly important and unique resource.

A sample of the blue-labelled books in the Set Text Collection.

The library further provides for the needs of students by responding to trends currently shaping the historical disciplines. Between March and June 2018, the library purchased just over 1100 books in the wake of a recent syllabus reform by the University’s History Faculty, whilst steps have also been taken to secure additional funding for pre-emptive purchasing in growth areas, such as global medieval history. The time spent processing these new acquisitions has been fascinating. All too often an intriguing title or profound idea has diverted my attention from the timely application of stamps and Tattle Tape. It’s a similiar story organising the New Books Display, though I think this is somewhat understandable given the premise of a few volumes in particular…

The weird and wonderful! Captivating titles at the HFL include: The Bedroom, An Intimate History; Shoplifting In Eighteenth Century England; Beard Fetish In Early Modern England; and The Known Citizen, A History Of Privacy In Modern America.

Joking aside, it has been exciting to witness an influx of research on previously neglected pasts. It seems historians are now asking more questions, about more things, than ever before. Welcoming the fruits of their labour to the HFL with a shelf mark, bookplate and dust-jacket cover has  certainly been a therapeutic way to spend a quiet afternoon!

Adding to the breadth of the library’s collections, many of these new arrivals are inter-disciplinary in nature, made worthy of a position on the open shelves by virtue of their versatility. However, some more specialist works are sent directly to the off-site storage facility in Swindon, a decision predicated on a forecast of infrequent use. Here, they are kept safe in climate-controlled conditions under the watchful eye of the Head of the Bodleian Storage Facility, or BSF. Being so far removed from Oxford doesn’t necessarily mean these books won’t see a day in a reading room though. Despite the 80(ish) mile round trip, off-site items are never more than a few clicks away from being sent to a variety of Bodleian Libraries via SOLO.

The Radcliffe Camera’s large wooden sorting table for incoming and outgoing BSF deliveries.

Though comparably modest in size, the HFL certainly punches above its weight when it comes to provision. This is, in no small part, due to a concise and effective collection development policy which sees students and academics well catered for. Yet, as one of the Bodleian Libraries, the HFL is also aided by the logistical and technical support derived from the legal-deposit library’s infrastructure. The Bodleian’s network of reader terminals, dotted throughout the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link, provide access to hundreds of thousands of e-resources, including eLegal-Deposit items. Additionally, the Radcliffe Camera’s status as a collection point for off-site stack requests puts the Bodleian’s vast reserves of print material at the fingertips of any HFL visitor. Though such a symbiotic arrangement might seem challenging, in this instance, it has proven to be a winning combination.

Ross Jones, History Faculty Library and Radcliffe Camera

 

Emma Gregory, Sainsbury Library

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.

At the Saïd Business School

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 Upper Reading Room

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.

Some of the books we offer at the library

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!

The Cafe offers a wide variety of snacks, and we also have a restaurant that provides hot and cold meals.

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.

The Economist, one of our weekly journals.

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.

Part of the re-branding involves me checking the journal labels upstairs.

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.

One of the courtyards around the Business School

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!

One of the art installations around the School

Leanne Grainger, Christ Church Library

 

Hi! I’m Leanne, Christ Church Library‘s new Graduate Trainee. I have a background in Mathematics and Physics, and have moved to Oxford from Bristol where I had been a Postgraduate Researcher in Complexity Sciences. Over the past few years I had been finding that Academic research was not for me and started searching for careers I might enjoy. After doing numerous career quizzes, I found Academic Librarian and Public Librarian popping up as my top results. I have always loved books and reading, and I spent much of my childhood at my public library with my nose in a book or taking out as many books as I could! But that’s not really enough on it’s own to embark on such a career change – so I did some reading. From careers sites, job descriptions, to this very blog(!), I found myself really excited about making information accessible, maintaining the current and growing amount of information in the world and about how to approach the new challenge in the Library and Information Sector, of digital information.

The next step was to try it out and I began working as a Library Assistant at a Public Library;  Bristol Central Library. Here I fell in love with library work. I enjoyed the day-to-day tasks, I found assisting library users really rewarding and my colleagues were incredibly supportive and lovely. From there I wanted to continue to expand my experience and continue my journey to becoming an Information Professional. I am really excited and grateful to find myself working at Christ Church Library, and to be a part of the Bodleian Library Trainee Scheme which I know will do just that.

The Upper Library

Christ Church Library houses incredible Special Collections of rare books and manuscripts in its Upper Library. These collections are often consulted by Researchers from outside Oxford as well as within. The space itself is beautiful and still remains breathtaking to me. I have been awestruck to have come across first editions of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Newton’s Principia and Alice in Wonderland signed by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) himself, Queen Elizabeth I’s personal velvet covered Bible, a tiny 11th century manuscript Book of Psalms designed to be worn on a belt, and my absolute favourite – a pop-up human anatomy book from 1660! I’ll have the opportunity to work on a project involving the Special Collections over the coming year and I am interested to see what I’ll uncover!

View from my staff desk in the East Library

My time so far at the library has been fantastic and I felt a part of the team right away. It has included a big summer book move where we moved every single book in the modern collection (a very good way to get to know the books!), processing interesting new and donated books which are constantly arriving, and now that the students are back it’s gotten even busier and I have been making up welcome packs and showing them the library ropes. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year, and I’ll be sure to add updates here as new and exciting things continue to happen at the library!

Sally Hamer, Wolfson College Library

Hello everyone. I’m Sally, and I am spending my Traineeship at Wolfson College. I am originally from Germany, but I moved to England five years ago to study History at the University of Essex. It was there that I initially thought I would aim to become an archivist. Over my time at Uni that goal became somewhat buried under the cumulative stress of studying and forging a path for myself, and I completely forgot this was something I had originally wanted to do. After my undergrad, I moved to Oxford and decided to pursue postgraduate study, settling on a Postgraduate Diploma in Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University. After the stressful last year I had had during my undergrad, my year at Brookes reawakened my passion for academic learning and the preservation of knowledge. This is when I realised that I wanted to work in Librarianship, and surround myself with the environments and people who had brought me so much joy while engaging with them.

I then undertook an internship at Magdalen College Library in order to find out whether Library work was really for me, and found that I loved everything about it. My supervisors there were incredibly kind and generous with their time and knowledge, and it is through their guidance that I arrived at Wolfson as part of the Bodleian Library Trainee Scheme.

The beautiful Wolfson grounds.
From the College website: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/colleges/wolfson-college

My team at Wolfson is very small, comprising only of me and the Librarian, and as such I essentially fulfill the role of Assistant Librarian. This suits me really well, as it means that I am entrusted with a fair amount of work and responsibility, while still being encouraged to engage as much as possible with any and all training opportunities that cross my path. In my first month here I have already attended talks on Open Access, assisted the Bodleian’s Education Librarian with teaching, and joined a Resource Workshop at the Social Sciences Library, alongside the official training sessions provided by the Bodleian. This is allowing me to gain a broad insight into Information and Library Sciences, and to understand what topics I am more interested in than others.

Our Jessup Reading Room.

Aside from my day-to-day tasks, I am largely responsible for project-managing the processing and storage of several large bequests made to the College, comprising several thousand books. It is my job to make sure these items are sent to external cataloging, then processed and stored at Wolfson. I understand that completing this project will take me the better part of my year here, as more books arrive from the external cataloging on a fortnightly basis for me to get on with as speedily as I can.
I’ll let you into a secret : this is my favourite job here at Wolfson! I find the processing of books very satisfying, and I get to have a look at dozens of fascinating volumes every day, so I could not be happier.

The boxes and shelves in my office holding items from bequests to the College waiting to be processed and shelved.

Wolfson is a Graduate College situated slightly outside the city centre, and as such benefits hugely from quiet roads and beautiful surroundings. Working at a Graduate College is wonderful, as everyone you engage with on a daily level is deeply committed and passionate about their research, making for highly interesting and varied conversation and engagement. Wolfson is committed to its values of community and egalitarianism, and I have definitely felt very welcome here. So far, I am really enjoying my time at Wolfson and at training with the other Trainees – I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!

Katie Day, Taylor Institution Library


Me in the Enquiries Room

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

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


Exterior of the Taylor Library in the early years

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

The Main Reading Room from the balcony

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

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

Bryony Davies, English Faculty Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ross Jones, History Faculty Library

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

The Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Alan McKechnie, Sainsbury Library

Hello everyone! I’m Alan and I’m the new Graduate Library Trainee at the Sainsbury Library within the Saïd Business School.

Sainsbury Library, Saïd Business School

Sainsbury Library, Saïd Business School

So, a little bit more about me and how I ended up on this traineeship. I’m from Yorkshire (East that is, naturally the best) and studied at the University of Hull gaining both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Historical Research, focusing on maritime history, in particularly nineteenth century US piracy and privateering- after all, who doesn’t love swashbuckling adventurers! I deemed piracy too dangerous of a profession to pursue myself, so instead opted to work within the maritime academic sphere Hull had to offer, becoming a volunteer at Blaydes House Maritime Historical Studies Centre (which I highly recommend any visitors to Hull go check out!). I found myself in the attic of this eighteenth century house sorting and cataloguing a large donation consisting of technical drawings of ships, early sea-charts, as well as miscellaneous research materials – some of which even appropriately still smelt of the sea (a.k.a. fish)! It was my love of working with these materials that lead to me applying to get a place on the traineeship, and six months later here I am, working in one of the world’s leading academic libraries.

Blaydes House, Hull (Hull History Centre)

Blaydes House, Hull (Hull History Centre)

So far it’s been a fairly busy start in the library. We’re currently renovating the old stack room into a quiet study area. This has meant moving large quantities of books from the stacks to another floor; it’s been a bit arduous, but should hopefully be complete by October ready for the new students’ use. My other day-to-day duties include: processing new book and journal acquisitions, reclassifying old literature, and creating the welcome packs for new members of staff. I was also tasked with redesigning and updating a large collection of database guides for the new students who have just started, as well as general housekeeping to make sure the library is in ship-shape for the start of term. I’ve also started working on the enquiry desk on my own. Luckily for me I’ve mainly been dealing with returning students who have been patient and lovely as I’ve try to help them; fortunately, help has never been far away. In terms of visitors, though, it’s been relatively quiet, but I’m foreseeing that this peace won’t last long!

So that’s about it for my time here so far, all I have to do now is enjoy the rest of my year, explore Oxford, and I’ll keep you all posted!