A Day in the Life (Bodleian Law Library)

Looking down on the law library's main reading room - there are rows of large wooden desks, with bookshelves in the background. This photo was taken earlier in the year, so some areas are blocked off with red and white tape due to Covid restrictions.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ve probably gathered by now that there are two Law trainees. Law is a large library, with a team working in three subsections: Academic Services (where Josie is based), Information Resources (where Jess is based), and Official Papers (technically a separate collection housed within the library, with a small team of its own). Although we share some tasks and both spend time out on the enquiry desk, there are some general differences between the two positions – the IR trainee is generally surrounded by various stages of book processing, while the AS trainee shares an office with the librarians responsible for delivering the LRMSP, an undergraduate legal research course. With that in mind, here are two days in the life at the LawBod!


Josie: I arrive at the library and make my way up to my office on the second floor, opening any windows I pass along the way. Depending on who’s already here, there may be some reshelving to do as well – although restrictions have eased a lot since the start of our traineeship, we still have some variable working patterns going on, so the division of opening-up duties changes from day to day.

Jess: I pack my things away in my locker, hanging up my coat and heading out to open some of the Law Library’s many windows. I keep an eye out for any shelving before heading up (or down) to the Information Resources office.


Josie: The first thing I do after catching up on emails and messages is check the scan request queues. Although I’m not involved in triaging requests for the library, I do a lot of the scanning, so it’s useful to know if much will come my way later in the day. Beyond this point, the shape of my day is largely determined by my fluctuating ability to sit still and focus on spreadsheets. I really appreciate being able to manage my own time here – I work on a variety of long-term projects, so once I’ve accounted for things like meetings and desk shifts, I can play it by ear and go wherever I’ll be most productive for the next while.

Jess: I clear any new emails and Teams messages, checking to see how much is on each of the shelves in the WIP (work-in-progress) room I have responsibility for, as well as the enquiry desk rota, before drawing up a schedule of tasks for the day.


Josie: I’m currently working through a trolley of jurisprudence books, part of our ongoing reclassification project. This is a good task to fill an hour or so, as there’s only so much legal philosophy I can google or translate my way through before everything starts turning to word soup.

Jess: Schedule in hand, I start the day by gathering up any books ready for labelling on the designated shelf. We have two different labels types, depending on whether a book is likely to be reclassified in the somewhat near future (more on that later) or not. I fill in the shelfmarks for the new books before printing two sheets of labels. I affix each new label to the relevant spine or the front cover if a shelfmark is particularly long (looking at you EuroComm) or a book is particularly short. Any shelfmark we expect to be correct for some time has a label protector placed over it to keep it legible for years of readers to come. These then go on yet another shelf where someone from Academic Services checks them in order to catch the (hopefully occasional) errors that seep in despite my best efforts. They are then shelved for our readers to find.


Josie: Every Monday the AS staff have a short meeting over Teams, catching everyone up on the past week’s activities and giving a heads-up for any upcoming absences or unusual occurrences. I take minutes for these and upload them to the Teams channel shortly afterwards. Once a month, I go straight from this to taking minutes for the Bodleian’s ORLO Operations Group meeting, which lasts through to lunchtime and involves many more acronyms. (ORLO = Oxford Reading Lists Online, interactive reading lists which link directly to access points for online resources). 

Jess: We usually have the Law Library staff meeting on a Thursday, where Helen Garner – the fabled Law Librarian – updates us on all the relevant changes and goings-on in both our own library and the Bodleian at large. This year, there has been plenty of information about the various changing COVID procedures and restrictions as well as questions around journals, online resources, and more. 


Josie: I keep working on the jurisprudence books for now, as I’ll be going over my suggested new shelf marks with the IR librarian tomorrow. However, being part of AS means that it’s not unusual for someone to drop by the office or message me on Teams with a quick job to do instead – getting ahead on admin for next term’s LRMSP sessions, fixing glitchy columns in the tea room budget spreadsheet, and testing out new hiring or induction materials are all part of a day’s work.

Jess: A quick stop for tea and a book. At present, I’m (very happily) weighed down with the tome that is Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s The Mirror of Beauty


The Bookeye scanner and a computer sit on a wooden desk. There is a large journal resting on the scanner, and a scanned image on the computer screen.
The Bookeye scanner (and an unusually large journal)

Josie: There are few scan requests ready and waiting, so I make a note of the details and go searching for books. Most issues get ironed out by the triage team, but a little detective work is occasionally needed – I once spent most of a desk shift using an incomplete citation to track down a Scottish law report from 1807!

We’re lucky to have a high-tech Bookeye scanner, which can split double pages, crop messy edges, and automatically makes files OCR accessible. Once the scans are done, I use a PDF editor to double-check for missing pages and reduce the file size, then fill in our record of completed scans and add the file to our repository in case it’s requested again. When the same scan is requested by multiple people, it’s often related to a particular course, so it’s useful to already have a good-quality scan that can be sent out again or potentially go straight onto ORLO or LB4S (LawBod 4 Students – more on that later).

Jess: I take an hour to complete various smaller tasks that need managing around the office. I stamp, add security, and label any books that have arrived via purchase or donation – often much smaller than our copyright deliveries. I print some new bookplates for our generous series of donations from the Supreme Court of Korea, which have their own unique design and are possibly the only thing I print in colour. I check up on the status of books that have not arrived from previous copyright deliveries, making sure they are still on their way to us and haven’t ended up at the BSF. I fix any incorrect labels, and make new ones for books that have been spotted with theirs peeled off. 


Josie: I’ll be on desk at one, so – depending on how long the scans take, and how many times the PDF editor crashes in the process I aim to take my lunch at around noon. It’s easy to spend the whole day inside, so I’m making more of an effort to take my book and lunch outside as the weather improves.

Jess: Since Thursday is Josie’s day at the SBS, I gather up the day’s scan requests so far to avoid them returning to a large stack.


Josie: Time for my desk shift! Most enquiries tend to be about navigating the library, although as we’re currently in a vacation period, the number of students in search of PCAS machines and reading list materials has somewhat decreased. I give a quick summary of the library’s layout to a visiting researcher, direct someone asking about Ted Hughes across the building to the English Faculty Library, and take another reader down to the ground floor to help them find a report in the Official Papers collection.

Jess: Thursday afternoons often hold cataloguing lessons. I’m learning to create basic records for a variety of items, known as Minimal Level Records. These records contain key information about the item’s title, author, publisher etc., allowing it to be located by any reader looking specifically for that item, or items by that author, but miss a lot of the detail in a full record (such as Library of Congress subjects) that are helpful for resource discovery when researching. However, they are an ideal place to start learning to catalogue! I create new records for a small stack of Official Papers material; going through the first few record creations in detail with Tanya before leaving me to finish the rest of the stack without supervision to check for errors later (is this homework?). 


Josie: Between enquiries, my usual desk task is an LB4S checking project. Since it’s important that law students learn to find their own resources, a lot of the undergraduate courses don’t get ORLO lists. However, we still need a way to supply digitised versions of required readings that aren’t widely accessible (the Law Quarterly Review, for example, has a 35-year gap in its online provision), so there’s a designated LB4S section on each course’s Canvas site. Since it’s been a chaotic couple of years for online resource provision, my job is to work through each course and make sure that everything is in order on the copyright side of things, as well as generally tidying up the pages and checking for any resources that have become available online since being uploaded.

A kickstool and trolley filled with books sits between aisles of rolling shelving. Some of the shelves are full, some are empty.
Moving books in the rolling stacks

Jess: A late lunch today, as I find that keeps my energy up for my evening shift. I occasionally drop by the EFL, just a staircase away, in order to exchange my poetry reads. 


Josie: After desk, I take a tea break and check the post room for blue BSF crates before deciding how to spend the afternoon. It’s been a few days since I got round to one of my other ongoing tasks, so I find an empty trolley on the ground floor and start moving some books. As a legal deposit library, we keep all the up-to-date publications on the upper floors, but also hoard superseded editions and early journals down in the rolling stacks. Inevitably, there are some overcrowding issues, so we’re working through a several-step plan to get what space we have into a more useful location. There’s something very satisfying about closing up the shelf space left for a report series we haven’t received in hard copy since the mid-2010s, but metal shelving is unforgiving of clumsiness – the clanging occasionally attracts a lost reader.

A trolley full of new Law books. Each book has a different-coloured paper slip inserted.
VBD books, ready to be processed

Jess: Usually by this point of the day, the post has arrived! The ‘Virtual Book Display’ is a list of all the legal deposit books the Bodleian has received that week, and Felicity, head of all things in Information Resources, selects the law-relevant titles that then arrive on a Thursday. I record which ones have arrived using a traffic light system on my spreadsheet, having a weekly check of any missing titles to see if they have found their way to another library or the BSF – and sometimes the shelves! Each book receives stamps and security measures before being placed on the designated VBD shelf where the library’s cataloguers – Tanya and Rebecca – pick them up. Whilst the size of this delivery varies week-on-week, it’s usually sizeable – I often process several hundred books a term!


Josie: Law books tend to be heavy, so I’m careful to leave off the book moving before overdoing it. For the last part of the day, I head back to the office and clear up any leftover tasks – shelving in the main reading room, another scan or two, or working on a blog post like this one.

Jess: Break time! I devour a quick chapter of my book and a fortifying snack


Jess: I tie up any loose ends at my desk before prepping my trolley for my evening desk shift.


Josie: Once a week I stay on for an evening shift, but not today! I finish off whatever I’m currently working on, make a quick note of anything I ought to prioritise tomorrow, then sign off for the day and head home.

Jess: Late shifts are shared out between members of library staff, and Thursday is my anointed day. There are often fewer reader enquiries at this hour, so I head to the Jurisprudence section to pick up the thirty-two titles on my sheet. My temporary stealing of books from the shelves is part of the MOYS reclassification project – the library is changing over from its old shelfmark style to a new one (MOYS, hence the name) which is a Library of Congress style system designed specifically for law books. I check over tables of contents, introductions, and skim over a few chapters to get a sense of which shelfmark is right, going outside of jurisprudence where neededand if a book is particularly opaque, I’ll dig further. The library has many foreign language holdings, so I also have a bookstand at the ready to use DeepL to supplement my language skills –French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese are most common, with some surprises! I keep a running Word document with various keywords in an attempt to improve my language skills and I like to think I am starting to get a foothold in my incredibly specific vocabulary – I cannot tell you what the verb for ‘to eat’ is in German, but I can recognise the word for ‘constitution’ about 50% of the time…


Jess: Time to go home! As my longest day of the week, I usually reward myself with pizza – and get my hours back in exchange by way of an early 3PM finish on Tuesdays.

A page of of circular test stamps, with the words 'Bodleian Law Library', various dates from September 2021, and a letter P for Purchased Copy in the centre,


A Day in the Life: Ella and Naomi in the Law Library  

Hello! We have now been in our roles for over two months and thought it would be a good time to share what a typical working day might look like for us both. Aside from daily desk duties and the Wednesday afternoon training sessions that are a brilliant feature of the graduate trainee scheme, we largely have the freedom to structure our days as we please. While no two days are typically identical, this ‘A Day in the Life’ timetable offers a flavour of how we organise our time…


A door leading to the Information Resources office
The mysterious IR office…


Naomi: Arrive at the library, put things away in locker and walk up to the Information Resources (IR) office where my desk is.

Ella: Arrive at the library, make a cup of tea, get myself sorted and head upstairs to log in.



N: Sign into Microsoft Teams, check emails, write a to-do list for the day.

E: Log in to the computer, sign in on Teams and check emails for anything urgent. I’ll also check for Law Bod 4 Students (LB4S) requests at this point – LB4S is an online site available for law students with extra resources, and they can submit requests for material that they can’t find online to be added to it. If any requests have been submitted, I make a note to deal with the request later that morning.



N: Shelving books left on the trolleys throughout the library overnight and opening windows.

E: Whizz round the library opening windows (very important at present – helps ventilate, which limits the spread of coronavirus) and shelving books from the day before.



N: Morning desk duty. The library opens to readers at 09:30. Sitting at the Enquiry Desk involves signing in readers who have booked seats through the online Space Finder system, answering readers’ enquiries (e.g. explaining where certain books are located, lending power banks, giving directions to other parts of the St. Cross building), and working on other tasks that can be done at a computer, such as building ORLO reading lists (or writing this blog post!).

GIF of Ella demonstrating the mobile shelving unit
Using the mobile shelving

E: I carry on dealing with LB4S requests, double-checking SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) and ORLO (Oxford Reading Lists Online) to see if the material is available online and they’ve just not spotted it. If it isn’t, I email our Research Support Librarian, who has to go through various copyright checks to see if we can make the material available on LB4S. (She also sometimes finds resources I’ve not been able to, as she has more experience dealing with tricky legal databases!)

I’ll also do a bit of scanning for Scan and Deliver, the Bodleian scanning service. I’ll then edit them and send them through to readers.



N: Quick socially-distanced tea break in the staff room with Ella… potentially a trip to buy a coffee. Then a brief session stamping Official Papers.

E: Tea Break! An essential part of the morning. Naomi and I occasionally visit The Missing Bean Café in the building (great coffee, friendly barista, sweet treats always look delicious too) but mostly have tea and a socially-distanced natter about our mornings (Bake Off is also a popular topic of discussion – I have strong views about this year’s hosting choices). Then I’ll do some book processing – stamping and tattling if Naomi wants help, or shelving serials. I might also spend some time stamping Official Papers (OP) and attempt to shelve some OP documents (a daunting task as shelf marks can be exceptionally complex). This will usually take me through until lunch.


Rows of shelving which are part of the Official Papers collection
The Official Papers collection


N: Book processing tasks such as counting, stamping, labelling and updating spreadsheets to record deliveries of purchased and legal deposit books. We are currently making headway with processing the many books which could not be delivered during the first lockdown, seeing as the Law Library was closed.



N: Lunch break. Ella and I eat together in the staff room and then go for a walk around the beautiful University Parks – we love how close they are to the library.

E: You’ll find Naomi and me in the staff room at lunchtime. Sadly, we don’t get a free lunch – the trainees at the college libraries do, and from what I’ve heard the food is delicious, and there’s usually dessert. Although our kitchen boasts a hot water tap, two microwaves and numerous coffee machines, so…



N: Time to scan some book chapters and journals for the Scan and Deliver service. After scanning them to a memory stick, I edit the PDFs at my desk and email them to readers.

E:  This hour might be spent carrying on with the tasks above, digitising a resource for ORLO, updating an ORLO list or doing some of the other tasks that pop up on an irregular basis. I also help out with the LRMSP (Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme) which is a module to help undergrads get to grips with finding legal resources and using them in a moot 1 . In the past couple of months it has involved looking over some students’ submissions and figuring out strategies for moving parts of the course online, and we’re currently preparing for online moots, which I might get to help clerk at.



Naomi stands at a PCAS machine scanning a book
Doing some scanning

N: I shelve some new serials. These can often be a little trickier to find and shelve correctly than books.

E: Desk duty until 17:00. Naomi has described the main tasks we do while at the enquiry desk. In the background, I’ll be updating the Spanish and Latin American Law LibGuides – online guides to the Bodleian Law Library’s resources.



 N: Another tea break! Afterwards, I unpack some book deliveries in the post room and fill a trolley to take back to the office. The rest of the afternoon is spent making a start with processing them.



N: Tidy things away, say goodbye on Teams, close any open windows in the office, and go down to the staff room.

E: Time to pack up and head home!



1. Moot = a ‘court competition [which] simulates a court hearing (usually an appeal against a final decision), in which participants analyse a problem, research the relevant law, prepare written submissions, and present oral argument’ according to the Oxford Law Faculty.

Michaelmas Reflections from the Law Bod

As I post this, there is a mere few hours left of Michaelmas term and it boggles the brain as to where the time has gone! Reading back on my first post from over two months ago has got me reflecting on how much I’ve learned since then and how comfortable I now feel in a building that has been slowly revealing its character to me. These dark, gloomy mornings must be making me emotional!

As I am based in the Information Resources team, my tasks this term have been mainly book processing, serials processing for the New Journal Display and reclassifying part of our collection. This is broken up with a several 2-hour shifts a week on the Enquiry Desk which have been great for interacting with our regular readers and learning about their area of research, as well as aiding newer readers in navigating our, often confusing, collection. I have only just gotten to grips with the layout of our ground-floor rolling stacks, and not embarrassed to admit I had to consult a map a few days ago while shelving after becoming baffled as to where the usual home was of an old, secondary collection Criminology text.

A rare sunny and quiet morning in the Law Bod. View into the main Reading Room from the Gallery.

My IR (Information Resources) work is varied and allows me the privilege of handling almost every book that comes through the library – be it through Legal Deposit, purchase or donation. Some days I’ll find myself 5 minutes into reading a book that I had intended only to skim through while stamping and tattling. Who knew law could be so interesting to an English Literature and Art History graduate?!

One of the more difficult, but very informative, tasks have been the reclassification of our Roman Law collection. My language experience has certainly come in useful as the texts are predominantly in German and Italian, but it is often hard to decipher the nuanced meanings between certain words when you are deciding on specific shelfmarks, as many words can be similar in language but mean very different things in a legal context. One language which would have been useful to be familiar with is Latin, but I decided against studying it on the belief that it would not help me while being a tourist… However, now that I am learning tonnes about Roman Law and its apparent influence on our own Common Law legal system, I can impress anyone while travelling with the Latin terms for various contracts and criminal activities, because I hear people love to talk about Stipulatio and Damnum Iniuria Datum on their holidays, yes?

‘Furtum’ is the Latin legal term for ‘theft’ in Roman Law …but of course you already knew that.

Speaking of summer holidays… the stormy, winter weather has brought the library alive with the howling of the wind circulating around the building and the thunder of the rain on the slanted roof windows. The noise is almost biblical when the rain is pouring and it still excites and awes me when it is in full force. I am really getting familiar with where the best seats are, which of our four floors is the least chilly and the quietest areas of the library, which is useful when suggesting places for readers to park up with their books for the next 8 hours. I have also aided a student in using our microfilm reader, which was a nice departure into the past from a standard query of how to search for legislation on an online database.

Best seat in the house. This nook can be found on our Gallery level, tucked between carrels with a lovely view.

Finally, our training sessions this term have been so interesting and varied, and extremely useful for day to day library work. Seeing the other trainees almost every week has been so great for catching up and reminds me that I’m not alone in being thrown into so many new experiences. I am so looking forward to heading back up north to Scotland for Christmas and Hogmanay, but I am also welcoming Hilary Term in the New Year and wondering what new challenges and opportunities it will bring. We still have a few weeks left until the Law Bod closes for Christmas, but Merry Christmas when it comes and lang may yer lum reek!

Lee Colwill – Law Library

Hi! I’m Lee, the Law Library Trainee. My main experience with libraries before joining the Bodleian was as the librarian of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society’s library. This had the pretty great perk of being able to buy all the sci-fi and fantasy books our budget could handle (so, about five), but I have to say, it’s nice to have librarianship be my main focus now, not just something to be squeezed in around my degree. Said degree was in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, which is slightly more relevant to working in a Law Library than you might expect – I eagerly await the day when only my detailed knowledge of medieval Welsh law can save us from cataloguing disaster. Any day now…

The Law Library is a pretty fantastic place to work. Our collection is hugely varied, ranging from up-to-the-minute dossiers on tax law to law reports from the Elizabethan period, not forgetting the wonderful Red X Criminology section, a.k.a. the Trashy Jack the Ripper Books section (now, alas, mostly in Swindon). Almost everything is open-shelf, which means a shelving trolley might contain anything from the most recent Parliamentary publication to a book printed in the 17th century (I’m still quite excited about that one).

View over the Main Reading Room

At the moment the library is fairly quiet (in terms of readers, if not in terms of actual noise levels, thanks to the building works happening at the moment), which has given me the chance to learn a lot about all of the varied work that happens here. I’m based in Information Resources, where I’m mainly involved in the behind-the-scenes work of processing new books, but I’ve also been learning about the Academic Services side of things, such as the Document Delivery Service. Recently, I’ve been helping out with induction tours for new postgraduate students. When I first arrived, I thought I’d never learn my way around, so it’s quite a relief to realise that I actually do know where most things are (although I do occasionally go up one of the more twisty staircases and realise I have absolutely no idea where I’ve come out).

One of the things I’m looking forward to in my traineeship is the opportunity to get involved with the Moys reclassification project that’s currently happening in the Law Library. The Moys shelfmark system is designed specifically for law collections and is meant to make it a lot easier to browse the shelves by subject. Since my involvement in the Great Recataloguing of the Sci-Fi Library back at university, intuitive shelfmarks are a subject dear to my heart, and I’m warped (or perhaps just boring) enough to find cataloguing really enjoyable.

That’s about it from me. I’m looking forward to learning all sorts of new skills over the next year (and hopefully becoming reasonably competent at a few of them!), and this seems like a pretty good place to do that.

Greetings from the Law Bod!

Hi! I’m Mandi, and this is my first ever blog post!

I’m the trainee in the Information Resources (IR) department at the Bodleian Law Library, based in the striking 60s brutalist St Cross Building on Manor Road (we share a building with the EFL.) The IR department deals primarily with information organization and retrieval, and collection management; this mainly means cataloguing, classification, processing and acquisitions. 4 of us share a large, comfortable office (lucky us!); I’m mostly responsible for labelling, and processing new accessions and legal deposit volumes. I also spend about 6-8 hours a week staffing one of the Reading Room enquiry desks.

Here's a lovely little picture of the library, taken by another member of staff.
Here’s a lovely little picture of the library, taken by another member of staff.

I’m relatively new to library work: I was previously a bookseller in a well-loved independent bookshop in Colchester. There are similarities between the two jobs, especially the customer service element of uniting readers with the right books; but stamping and labelling brand new pristine volumes felt almost like vandalism at first. Next year, I hope to take the MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL, and eventually I’d like to work with special collections or in an academic library. In my spare time I read, write poetry and experiment with cookery.

A typical week for me begins with checking the carrels for any books that haven’t been reserved to research desks. The Law Library is reading-only, so books are supposed to be loaned out to a research desk, or returned for re-shelving at the end of the day; I remove any non-reserved books, and leave a polite note for the researcher. Sometimes we have an IR meeting, where I try to take minutes and eat biscuits at the same time. Then I get on with my regular duties: stamping and tattling new books, then labelling them once they’ve been catalogued.

On Monday afternoons, I usually work in the Reserve Collection, which houses the books in highest demand; mostly textbooks for popular taught courses. Books here are loaned out to the reading room for the day, and working on the desk is a great way to meet law students and staff and get a feel for some of the material law students work with, as well as building up your biceps shelving massive heavy textbooks.

On Tuesdays, I finish tattling and alphabeticizing the new journals that came in on Monday, then add them to the New Journals Display in the reading room, and shelve the previous week’s. Law Bod books are currently shelved by legal jurisdiction, with some journals in each section, so the shelving takes at least an hour most weeks.

Wednesday is when Helen, my line manager, sends me her selections from the VBD; this is a list of all the legal deposit books that have become available that week. I print the spreadsheet as a Word document and make a note of any conflicts (books another Bodleian library has also requested.) The books arrive on Thursday or Friday, anywhere between 20 and 85 of them! I process them, and update the “blue flag” books with minimum level records. Somewhat sadly, reading through Marc tags to assess the quality of various catalogue records is the highlight of my week; it’s somewhat like reading in another language, I suppose.

So that’s a bit about me and what I do. The intrepid reader who made it this far must hold on to the prophecy of Blog Posts Yet To Come, more exciting and informative than the first; soon, fellow traveller, we shall frolic amongst them in fields of black and white.

Madeleine Lawson, Law Library

A belated and festive hello from the Bodleian Law Library!

Image courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries
Image courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries

I’m Maddy, one of two trainees here at the Law Bod. (My partner in crime – or rather in fighting it, considering our working environment – is Ben, who I am sure will also introduce himself soon.) I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2010 with a first class degree in History of Art, followed that with a Postgraduate Diploma in the same subject at Edinburgh University, and then went on to spend two years working in a variety of cultural institutions including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and Oxford’s own Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

With the world of galleries and museums being an extremely competitive field, around this time last year I started to consider whether there might be any other careers I could be interested in pursuing and began a daily ritual of scouring online job listings for inspiration. For quite a while there was nothing that grabbed my attention, but then one afternoon in December – just as I was beginning to resign myself to the idea that working in a museum was the only thing I could ever see myself doing and that my life was therefore destined to become one long string of unpaid internships – I came across the advertisement for the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Traineeship Scheme. Remembering how much I had enjoyed the processes of studying and learning during my time at university, and combining that with my love of the printed word, I decided that it was an opportunity that would definitely be worth exploring.

When I first found out I had been selected for the Law Library, my excitement was mixed with slight trepidation as – apart from stories I had been told by my Grandfather of his adventures as a policeman in South Wales in the fifties – my legal knowledge was basic, to say the least. Term began in a flurry of jargon and loose-leaf filing, as Ben & I muddled along trying our best to hide the fact that we didn’t even know what ‘jurisprudence’ was, let alone where in the library you might find books on the subject. (Oh, and what on earth is tattle-tape?!)

Now, three and a half months into the traineeship, I might not be able to give you the exact definition of jurisprudence but I definitely feel much more confident in my understanding of legal and library terminology. Our colleagues here at the Law Bod have been so helpful and encouraging, and I’m pretty sure I now know where most things are! While Ben is based in the Academic Services department and deals mainly with readers, I work in Technical Services and spend more time with the books. Alongside regular desk duties, I have settled into my routine of receiving the Law Library’s share of the Bodleian’s legal deposit items, processing them (which involves using the mysterious tattle-tape), sending them for cataloguing, labelling them, and passing them all on to Ben for shelving. (I’m sure he’ll tell you himself how much he loves it when I come and clutter up his shelves…) I help Lindsay, our Acquisitions Librarian, with recording orders and invoices, and I’m also responsible for the weekly display of new journals as well as a termly ‘Oxford Authors’ display. More recently, I have taken on the task of creating a list of a collection of constitutions held by the library and coming up with a new shelving arrangement in order to make them more accessible for readers. In the new year, I will also be starting to help with the ‘Bodleian Law Library Institutional Memory Project’ – an initiative aimed at celebrating the library’s 50th anniversary.

All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying library life and am very much looking forward to learning more about it throughout the rest of the year. For now, however, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a great start to 2014!

Join the conversation with Twitter – an RSL event

Hi everyone, Kat from the law library here again. On Wednesday, I attended a lunchtime talk at the Radcliffe Science Library entitled ‘Join the conversation with Twitter’. It featured three speakers talking about the use of twitter by libraries, and I found it really interesting, so much so that I thought I’d share some of the things I took away. You can see a synopsis of the talk on the RSL’s Facebook page.

First, Michael O’Hagan (@OHaganMichael) talked about the research he did for his library school dissertation, which was a study of academic libraries using twitter. He looked at lots of different academic libraries’ twitter analytics, and tried to get a picture of what they used twitter for, how much interaction there was with other people, who those people were, what the interaction was about, and how popular twitter seemed to be as a method of communication. Personally, if you’d asked me to guess the answers to these questions, I might have pessimistically expected a lot of interaction and followers to be other librarians and libraries, and for there not to be much interaction with genuine readers. So I was pleasantly surprised when he explained that, actually, there seemed to be quite a bit of interaction with readers asking questions and giving feedback about library services, which is a promising sign that Twitter is a good method of communication. He also had quite a bit of advice about how to use Twitter more effectively in libraries, based on the most successful institutions he’d looked at. This included:

  • Tweet frequently! Also, given that it’s very easy to miss things on Twitter if you follow lots of people, if there’s something you really want people to notice, try tweeting different phrasings of it several times over the course of a day.
  • Follow other feeds that are part of your institution: Oxford University, the Bodleian, your department or faculty, academics who have professional twitter accounts. Then retweet things you think are interesting or relevant. This starts a conversation with other twitter accounts which may have larger or different followings, which can help to increase your exposure.
  • Keep track of what people are saying about you – if people reply or retweet anything you post then Twitter will let you know anyway, but it’s worth looking for indirect references (for example, if someone just writes ‘law bod’ in a tweet but doesn’t use @thelawbod). You can also search by location to restrict to mentions in Oxford.
  • If readers have specific questions about the library, respond as quickly as possible. Twitter comes with the expectation of immediate response, which can be a problem if you’re not checking it regularly.
  • However, don’t be creepy! If someone refers to your library in a conversation but isn’t asking a question, then maybe don’t jump in – it is going on in a public space, but having an institutional account reply to a twitter conversation between a few readers might be a bit much!
  • Use pictures and links – tweets with these are more likely to be retweeted (unsurprisingly) which increases the number of people reading them.

Next, Isabel Holowaty (@iholowaty) gave a presentation with tips and advice about using Twitter from her use of it for the History Faculty Library (@HFLOxford). She also showcased using an iPad to present via a projector, which was very cool! She recommended using a programme/app which allows you to see information about several twitter accounts without constantly signing in and out (which you have to do on the twitter website), and showed us HootSuite, the one she uses. This allows you to link all sorts of different social media accounts: different Twitters, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, even WordPress for blogs, and produces columns showing feeds for each of them. You can pick what appears in each column, for example your sent tweets, mentions, retweets or direct messages, and can search your different accounts, save searches, and tweet from any account. It definitely seemed like an alternative to just using twitter’s website (which is what I currently do), because it saves you from having to sign in and out to change account. I would be a bit worried about accidentally retweeting or following someone from the Law Bod’s account rather than my own, though! HootSuite also allows you to schedule tweets for a later date, which I thought sounded useful as well. At the Law Bod, we’ve just started a Twitter rota (more below), where different staff take a morning or an afternoon and tweet a few things they think are interesting. I’ve found since signing up that quite often I have all these ideas throughout the week and then on Monday afternoons: nothing! It would be great to be able to schedule some that aren’t time-dependent when I think of them to go out on Monday afternoon, and then just check them over on the day. Isabel also advised searching for your library to find indirect references, including all possible misspellings of Bodleian! She also pointed out that if your library has a blog, and new blog posts get tweeted about, it’s worth coming up with a punchy title, otherwise your tweets look a bit boring.

HootSuite for @thelawbod
HootSuite for @thelawbod

Lastly, Penny Schenk (@galoot) talked about my library, the Law Bod, as a case study of an academic library using Twitter. She explained that we’ve recently started a Twitter rota, and that this has massively increased our activity on Twitter, and also the variety of different things we tweet about. We try to follow mostly organisations rather than individuals, to ensure things stay professional. The rota means that we hopefully tweet every working day, which has definitely helped increase our following. She also suggested using the ‘follow friday’ meme (where Twitter users suggest a person they follow who they think writes interesting things) to build conversations with other users.

I found the talk really interesting, and definitely think the Law Bod should take everyone’s suggestions on board. I’ll by trying out HootSuite, and retweeting more things from the Law Faculty, the Bodleian, and Oxford on my Monday afternoon slots! Judging by the History Faculty Library’s almost 2,500 followers, frequent, interesting, varied tweets and retweets with links and pictures seem to be the way forward.

Thanks for reading and, if you like, follow @thelawbod or me, @kastrel (although be prepared for anything from cross stitch to formula one, as I tweet on all sorts of things).

Library Trainee Day in the Life – Day 4

Today’s Day in the Life comes from me, Kat, the Information Resources trainee at the Law Bod. For an overview about what I do, have a look at my earlier posts: introducing myself, and a bit more about what I do. Like most of the other trainees, I have quite a few different things to get on with these days, and although this was quite a typical one for a day in the office, I also get to go on quite a few training courses, meetings with colleagues from other libraries and visits to different libraries around Oxford.

Moysing away
Moysing the USA section

9.00-11.45 : Moysing the USA section. You can’t spend much time around the Bodleian Law librarians without coming across Moys. It’s a classification system specifically for law books, arranging them by subject, and we’re gradually progressing with the mammoth task of converting all our textbooks into the Moys system. We’ve done all of the UK law section (many thousands of books), and now we’re doing the USA section. They’re not actually being moved yet, because that would be carnage with books being reclassified as we went along, but lots of the staff spend a few hours a week reclassifying the books, and recording what the new shelfmark will be when we eventually swap them all over. Then we’ll have the fun of reshelving them all! This happened in the UK section over last Summer, and it was apparently a pretty surreal experience with all the books off the shelves. I enjoy reclassifying, because it’s one of the more problem-solving things that I do – does this book called ‘Punishing Corporate Crime’ come under Criminal law – companies, or Company law – crimes? There is no right answer, the whole thing is very subjective, so the rule is generally that if you can justify your decision to someone else, that’s fine. You can also look at what other books have been given similar classifications to see if they’re about the same kind of thing. So far we’ve got through 100 pages, which is about 3000 books, so not bad going since the Summer! I’m still pretty slow, (not knowing very much about law, particularly US law, doesn’t help!), so this takes most of my morning to reclassify, write the new shelfmarks in the book, and add them to the catalogue record.
There is also the extra complication of our Secondary Collection: because law changes all the time, it’s important to distinguish between outdated or superseded old editions of textbooks and the most recent ones. So the old ones are stored downstairs in another area of the library. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always get reflected correctly on the catalogue, and sometimes things have been incorrectly shelved in the main library as well. So often doing Moys reclassification also involves finding the physical locations of the books, making some catalogue changes or reshelving, and reclassifying the things that should be on the shelf. This sheet had a whole series of books on the History of the Supreme Court which needed some shuffling around.

11.45-12.00 : Looking for catalogue records. Every week Law gets all the legal deposit books about the subject that the Bodleian has claimed. This means (in theory) any book published in the UK within about the last year can be claimed and a copy will come to the Bod, and then to us. In practice this means we get 40-50 books  a week. Some of them will already have been catalogued, but others have only a very minimal record of the title, author etc., and I save our English-language cataloguer a bit of time by having a look to see if there are any better records anywhere else that we can use. This involves searching other library catalogues (the British Library and the US Library of Congress) and databases of catalogue records from lots of libraries (Research Libraries UK and WorldCat) to see if they have anything to offer. This didn’t take very long today because there were only about 15 books to check, and quite a few were already in the British Library (the most reliable source), so that was good!

12.00-13.00 : Lunch

13.00-15.00 : Desk duty. The Law Bod is different from quite a few of the other Oxford libraries (but the same as the Bodleian itself) in that it doesn’t lend books, but we have a desk at what is called the Reserve Collection, where we ‘lend’ the most in-demand, high-use books within the library, so we can keep track of who has them and so they don’t just get left on a desk somewhere when people need them. Today I worked with a more senior member of staff at the main desk, where she could answer the phones, operate the entry gate if people didn’t have their cards, and go with readers to help them with queries. The library was very busy, so I spend most of my time lending and receiving books from the Reserve Collection, explaining that a lot of them were already out (all the first-years want Roman law at the moment!), helping readers find books in the main collection, lending ethernet cables to research students, and generally answering questions about how to do or find things. One particular DPhil student wanted to see several DPhil dissertations, which we keep on the ground floor in locked cabinets, so that involved a fair amount of going up and downstairs and fetching and carrying, but he was very grateful to have a look at them. On top of all this, I was getting on with some looseleaf filing at the desk. Lots of staff do this during their desk duties – it involves getting one of our many looseleaf binders and the new issue of loose pages, and following filing instructions to insert the new pages and remove the ones they supersede. We are pretty much the only academic library in the country that files all of the looseleaf law parts (the British Library receives the new issues, but doesn’t file them, which makes them almost impossible to use). I find it quite relaxing, although it can get a bit difficult if there are a lot of loose pages on the desk when readers are trying to borrow or return books. There were a few hairy moments where I thought the pile of returned books on my desk was going to topple over before I could check them in! Desk shifts are one of my favourite parts of my job, and I really enjoy the fact that we’re a popular library for students and researchers at all levels to work in. I recognise a lot of our regular readers now, so it’s nice to slowly build more of a rapport with them. And of course, the more I work at the desk, the better I am at knowing what we have in our collection, so the more confident and competent I am at dealing with them!

15.00-15.15 : Tea break!

New journals
New journals
15.15-16.15 : Book processing. This is a substantial part of what I do every day – remember those 40-50 books a week? When they arrive, they need to be stamped, tattle-taped (this is what we call the electric alarms that go in books) and recorded that they have arrived. I also have to tattle-tape most of the 60-75 new journals we receive each week, and they go in files behind my desk in alphabetical order, ready to go on the New Journals Display, which I update every Tuesday. Today there are only a few late arrivals by legal deposit, some new purchases, and a small pile of journals to add to the groaning boxes.

Another part of book processing is labelling, which I do once the books have been catalogued and classified by other members of the team. I finish up some of that, after which the books are ready to go upstairs to be shelved.

16.15-16.40 : Shelf-reading and shelving. This is about Moys again! We’ve just got a new edition (the 5th) of Moys, which makes some changes to the previous edition. So now, some of the books which have been reclassified already in the UK section, need to be re-reclassified to fit the new edition! A few months ago I spent quite a bit of time relabelling a big section of the housing and construction law and reshelving things. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been some more changes made, but the relabelling is now finished, and so I spent a little while checking the order of the books was correct (it wasn’t in a few places), since it’s easy to miss things when you shuffle a lot of books around. Then I spent some time shelving books which readers were finished with. I don’t spend very much time shelving day-to-day, but in term-time things can build up pretty quickly so it’s useful to lend a hand.

16.40-17.05 : Suggestions book. We’ve had a suggestions book at the main desk of the library for the last 11 years, and it’s finally full!

Suggestions book
Suggestions book

The suggestions in it have been dealt with as they were added, obviously, but it’s now my job to look at the comments and book and journal suggestions that have been written over the years and create some pretty graphs and interesting statistics about them. At the moment this involves making a huge spreadsheet with the details of each comment, and whether or not we bought the items suggested. It’s interesting to see themes and trends emerge over time, as wells as the occasional funny comment about the heating or the comfort of the chairs, or the librarians complaining about publishers who never deposit their books without being chased. I’m looking forward to really getting stuck into the data once it’s all on my spreadsheet – I’m about 1/3 of the way through at the moment.

And that’s about it! It was a pretty full-on day, but I enjoy desk shifts, and there wasn’t too much mechanically stamping and tattle-taping books which there can be late in the week, when all of the legal deposit arrives. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and have a bit of an idea what another trainee gets up to day-to-day. Do check out the other posts in this series, as our jobs vary a lot – I’ll certainly be reading to find out what traineeships are like in other libraries!

Inductions – a not-so-ordinary Day in the Life

For those not in Oxford, this week has been our Freshers’ Week, which at the Law Library meant lots of lost undergraduates appearing and needing looking after. Every first-year undergraduate law student is supposed to come to a library induction on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, organised by their college, which includes a tour, a quiz, and an introduction to the online resources that we pay for. So it’s been a busy few days for the staff, trying to shepherd them around, answer questions, get our ordinary work done, and help all the other readers as usual. Yesterday for me was a particularly unusual day, so I thought I’d blog a bit about it to give a bit of a flavour of induction week at Law.

After getting in at 8.45 to coax my computer into life and collect my notes, I went to run the first tour of the day at 9.15 with a colleague. We were expecting 15 students, but at 9.20 had only five, so I was dispatched at 9.25 to take them on a tour while she waited to see if any more turned up. Condensing a 20-minute tour into 10 meant a bit of extra pressure, but I was pleased when the group seemed to find the quiz fairly approachable by the end. It was only my second tour, and the first one I’d led had seemed a bit non-plussed about the layout of the library, but this group seemed to remember things quite well. The quiz required them to find four books from areas they will need to find a lot in their first year: Roman law, Halsbury’s Statutes, a Law Report, and a journal article. I even had a go at explaining why there was only one name in the Criminal Appeal case they were looking at – picking up bits of law here and there already! We got them, and another two who’d arrived eventually, safely delivered to the IT induction on time at 9.55, and I had time to get a well-deserved cup of tea.
When I got back to my desk, I found an exciting email waiting for me. I signed up last week to go to a talk by Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science (which used to be held by Richard Dawkins), about how social media is useful to his job. It was part of the IT Services Engage Programme, which looks like it will have a whole bunch of other interesting things over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, when I signed up, the talk was sold out, but I found an email waiting for me to tell me that I could now go. At 12.30 that day! The talk turned out to be really interesting: Marcus du Sautoy was very engaging and enthusiastic, particularly about Twitter, but also about maths and science generally, which as someone who likes to call herself some kind of mathematician, was very refreshing after a while at Law, which doesn’t have much scope for that. Hopefully I’ll get to go along to some of the other Engage talks or workshops, for example there’s one on Crowd Sourcing collections, which sounds very interesting. They’re also running a 23 Things for Research self-study programme over the term, which sounds interesting, and which I’d quite like to do. I’m not sure how it ties in with cpd23, which is for Professional Development, and I know other library people have done.

Anyway, once I’d got back from the talk, grabbed some lunch from the Social Sciences Café next door and got back to my desk, it was time to get down to work in earnest. The Law Bod is part of the legal deposit for the Bodleian. I have to say that I’m not massively up to speed about how exactly legal deposit works, but here’s my attempt at an explanation: every book or pamphlet or magazine etc. that is published in the UK has to have a copy sent to the British Library in London. Any other legal deposit library in the UK (the Bodleian, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, or the library of Trinity College, Dublin) are allowed to request a free copy within a year of publication (paraphrased from Wikipedia, please don’t judge me). Now, within the Bodleian Libraries, various different libraries receive the legal deposit books that we request, depending on the subject. And Law, naturally, gets the law books. I haven’t been able to find a good list of Bodleian libraries which get legal deposit books, but the central Bodleian, the Social Science Library, the Radcliffe Science Library, the Vere Harmsworth Library, and Rhodes House Library all do, while the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library doesn’t. But anyway, every week we get a delivery of books that our librarian has picked out from the larger list as being relevant to law (sometimes the subject librarians have to argue it out amongst themselves who gets it), and they come to my desk. I process them (stamping, recording, and security taping) before they get catalogued and classified. Soon I’ll be able to help with the cataloguing, but not until my permissions get sorted out yet again. So that took up the rest of my day really, until 5pm.

Which, sadly, was not the end of my work, because it was time for my fortnightly evening shift, until 7pm. I was working at the Reserve Collection, where we keep the most highly-used textbooks and lend them within the library to students. This is mostly to keep track of who has them, so that they can always be given out when people want them, and not get lost in some far corner of the library. I was also checking reading lists, since the Law Bod tries very hard to have a copy of all books on reading lists each year, and so every year every single one needs to be checked (63 this year, although we haven’t had them all yet) against the catalogue. Which is mostly fine, but unfortunately the one I was checking seemed to have been almost entirely rewritten, and there was quite a bit of material we didn’t have, and some which nowhere in Oxford had!

A couple of readers stood out in my mind from that shift. One girl wanted to know all about the various legal databases. I showed her OxLIP+, our way of searching for them, and then helped her to find Westlaw, a major legal database, so that she could find the case she needed to read online. This took a while, since her laptop keyboard and internet browser were both in French! But we got there in the end. Then a little while later, she came back, saying that she was having trouble downloading the case. She showed me what she was doing, and after a while the site gave her a message to click ‘open’ or ‘save’, but neither of these options appeared anywhere! Instead, a banner appeared at the top of the page, in French. Half-remembering seeing similar, English, banners myself, I managed to work out that her browser was blocking a popup that would ask her to save the document. Partly by my very rusty French, and partly just remembering the same process from previous occasions, I managed to show her how to unblock the popup, and she got the article! I felt very pleased with myself.

Another reader had a serious of complicated requests for my colleagues, which I had to help with by photocopying some of his papers, and finding him an envelope. He turned out to be a visiting student of some kind, and wanted to come back the following day to continue working, but only had a day pass for the library. Unfortunately, he waited until 7.05 to let us know about this, so with security hovering at our shoulders, and everyone ready to leave for the weekend, we had to try and sort out his permission to use the library, and explain what he should do after the weekend if he wanted to keep using it. After this, he asked for directions to another building, so we found him a map, and for another envelope, which we couldn’t get because the whole building was locked up for closing! I was impressed at how willing my colleagues were to continue to help him, even though it went well beyond our remit, and it was past closing time on a Friday evening. I only hope I could be that patient in the same situation.

At any rate, at 7.15 in the rain, I finally left the library, induction week over, and ready for a restful weekend. Thanks very much for reading my not-so-ordinary Day in the Life!

Kat Steiner, Bodleian Law Library

Hi! As the title suggests, I’m Kat, and I’m the new Information Resources trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. There are two trainees at Law: myself, and Frankie, the Academic Services trainee. Law is one of the biggest libraries in Oxford, along with the Bodleian itself, and the Radcliffe Science Library, so there are a lot of job descriptions and names to learn, as well as four floors to navigate! Broadly speaking, to me at least, Information Resources deals with books (and journals, law reports, legislation, dissertations, etc.), and Academic Services deals with people (and interlibrary loans, document delivery, legal research courses, etc.) There’s a lot going on in both departments!

A bit of background to me: I’ve just finished a degree at The Queen’s College, Oxford, in mathematics and philosophy. I really enjoyed living in Oxford, especially living out in the town with friends, rather than in college itself, and for the last two and a half years, I also worked some evenings and weekends at the Philosophy Faculty Library, (which has now moved and merged with Theology to be the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library), issuing books, shelving, and helping readers. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to try it out full time, and so here I am! I’m hoping to find out a bit more about Library School before I decide if I’m definitely going to do it, and when and where, but if I enjoy this year then I certainly hope to go on to it in the near future.

Law couldn’t be more different from Philosophy: it has almost ten times as many items (over 450,000), and about six times as many full-time staff (probably about 20, but I haven’t counted). So, everyone has much more specific jobs, and I’ll be working as part of a better-defined team. It also doesn’t lend books out to people, so nothing really leaves the library, but the most in-demand books are kept at the reserve desk and checked out to readers using the same system as lending, only within the library. There are also a lot more rotas for things, as everyone takes their turn on the enquiries and reserve desks, as well as chipping in with shelving, checking study carrels for books, receiving deliveries of books from other places, and so on. At the moment I’m mostly having meetings with everyone to find out more about what they do and learning about how everything fits together. There are hardly any readers in, but I’m expecting it to get really busy as soon as term starts!

I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck in with all the projects in Information Resources – there are absolutely loads going on. I’m going to be responsible for changing the New Journals display every week and setting up a display of new publications by Oxford Law Faculty every term. Then there will be helping with library tours for new students, loads of cataloguing to learn as I help deal with the legal deposit books arriving every week, and the reclassification of some of the textbooks in the library to the Moys system…the list is practically endless! At the moment, though, I’m mostly shelving, getting lost, and doing lots of talking to people about their jobs, because I haven’t been trained in how to do any of these things yet! It’s only Day Two, after all. I’ve discovered, though, that shelving is a really great way to learn the layout of the library, so I’m taking all the chances I can get to do it – not difficult as all three of our champion shelvers are on holiday this week!

All the trainees were invited to a tour of the Central Bodleian this afternoon, followed by drinks in the Divinity Schools which I thought was pretty amazing. Although I’ve studied in Oxford, I never really used the Bodleian itself (I only went to the Lower Reading Room once, in the first week of my second term, to find a book for my first ever philosophy essay. I suspect now that my tutor set the book especially so that we had to visit the Bod at some point in our degrees!). The tour took us round the Radcliffe Camera, the Gladstone Link, the Duke Humfrey’s Library and the Lower and Upper reading rooms. I think my favourite places were the Duke Humfrey’s Library, followed closely by the Gladstone Link! Bizarre combination, but they both struck me as really fun places to work, although they’re poles apart. It really brought home to me what a great opportunity the programme is for all of us, since Oxford is an amazing, unique place to study, and working for the Bodleian or the college libraries allows us lots of exciting opportunities to experience completely different libraries. I’m also very much hoping to get in a trip to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon, with all its futuristic automation.

That’s all from me for now, but I’m sure I’ll be writing again in a while, when other people have introduced themselves, and I’ve got started on some of those projects!