Tag Archives: Library trainee

Graduate trainee training continued: the end of Hilary Term and the start of Trinity Term

Our training afternoons are scheduled in line with the eight-week terms of Oxford, the names of which can bemuse newcomers to the university, though now, at the end of Trinity Term, I think that I have assimilated it. Since the last update in February, there have been many more training courses, including lots of library visits—everyone likes a library visit.

First, though, there were several talks by people working elsewhere in the Bodleian and even in other sectors, such as the session on the book trade, where we heard from people who work at Blackwell’s and the antiquarian dealer Quaritch. This was an interesting look into a different, though related, area of work. Talks by those who worked at Osney in the Collections and Resource Description department, which is a central Bodleian Libraries department, were also very interesting. This covered areas such as the processes of acquisitions (ordering, processing, and all the many and diverse tasks attached, on behalf of the main Bodleian and several smaller libraries), electronic resources (the only element of the Bodleian that is completely centralised), legal deposit operations (including developments in electronic legal deposit), resource description and open access. Much of the information here was on things that I already knew about tangentially through my work at the Law Library, or explanations of mysterious processes that I know of but didn’t know the background of. It made me feel part of the community, however, being able to nod wisely at the mention of Swets’ demise or the fact that legal deposit books beginning with ‘M’ are catalogued at Osney as part of the Shared Cataloguing Programme run by the British library.

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Blackwell’s bookshop, where much of my trainee wages have been spent this year.

In Trinity Term we have also had talks from subject librarians on the role of subject consultant, and talks by the Head of Assessment and the Head of Heritage Science for the Bodleian Libraries. We learnt that a liaison librarian, a reference librarian and a research support librarian may be a similar job to a subject consultant, but that by the same token, a subject librarian’s role is very particular to their institution and their department. The various responsibilities were covered, from those to do with the subject collection and library management duties, to reader services, library projects and outreach and conferences. We then had an exercise on handling budgets, which saw my team – in charge of the slightly larger budget for science – overspend by £14,000. Before any future employers bury their heads in their hands, I’d like to point out that the game was rigged! It was pre-ordained that science’s budget would be the one greatest hit by expensive e-journal packages and VAT increases, no matter how conservative we were with our money initially. We definitely kept our readers happy with lots of resources though, even though the central finance department probably wouldn’t be best pleased. In the later set of talks, Frankie Wilson, Head of Assessment, told us all about how to gain meaningful feedback on library services, while David Howell showed us round his bespoke lab in the Weston Library in order to tell us a bit about the role of science in uncovering library treasures, a unique aid to research and one that hit the headlines when David’s hyperspectrometry revealed an ancient Mexican codex palimpsest.

Then there were the library visits. First, to the digital archives and then to All Souls’ Codrington Library, which was a striking contrast between the old and the new: the latest in digital archiving systems at the Bodleian Electronic Archives and Manuscripts department and the long tradition in All Souls’ Codrington Library, founded in the fifteenth century. At BEAM, we learnt that a hard drive has roughly half the lifetime of a cassette tape, and digital archiving seeks to preserve many types of slowly obsolescing technologies. The challenge of collecting and storing data from diverse electronic mediums, including floppy disks, CDs and flash drives, is considerable, and we learnt about the various strategies that are in place for each of them. There is also the task of archiving the web, and the Bodleian has several areas of interest that are regularly crawled and archived, a process that is also not without its challenges. By contrast, at the Codrington, the weight of centuries lingers in the air. The beautiful hall and the wonderful librarians’ office (with its spiral staircase and wall-to-wall books, it’s every bookworm’s dream) have a history all of their own, and we had a talk from the librarian, Gaye, on both the library and some of its collections. We heard about our fellow trainee and her role in the small library team, and had the chance to ask some questions.

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The main hall of Codrington Library.

Next there was the Alexander Library of Ornithology, the Sherardian Library and the Radcliffe Science Library, which were fascinating, despite not having a single science degree among us. In the Sherardian, we heard about the Herbarium, where pressed plants that act as authority records for plant types, and are accompanied by the print collections which are used alongside the library of plants in order to support current and historical research in botany. We saw a first edition of Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’, and William Dampier’s account of his circumnavigations of the globe which brought a wealth of knowledge back to Britain (as well as being the inspiration for books such as R.L. Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’), and we also learnt about figures such as Sherard, Druce, and Fielding, important for the Oxford collections. At the RSL, after a quick tour, the pièce de résistance was clearly the 3-D printer. Having been sceptical about when I first saw it on the itinerary, I went away understanding how such technology services fit into the RSL’s ethos and enthusiastic about what we’d be shown. By offering access to such technology early on, as they did with e-book readers and will be doing with virtual reality hardware, the RSL is able to grant students and researchers access to technology that would be hard to find elsewhere, and facilitate learning through their services—in other words, exactly what a library is there for.

Vol. 01[1], t.4: Fraxinus Ornus

A page from the Flora Graeca at the Sherardian Library, digitally available.

More recently, in Trinity Term, we have branched out from academia and visited Summertown Public Library and the Cairns Library at John Radcliffe Hospital. Both gave us insights into these areas of librarianship, public and medical, which bring different daily tasks, rewards, and challenges. In particular, I was impressed by Summertown library’s collaboration with the local council, where council workers and careers advisors came to meet people in drop-in sessions to get involved in two-way training with library staff, meaning that access to computers and internet – needed for everything from job applications to housing and benefit forms – could be coupled with some of the necessary context from professionals. It just goes to show how essential libraries can be. Meanwhile, at the Cairns library, a particular added feature of medical librarianship that I enjoyed hearing about was the literature searches conducted by the librarians—yes, for free—on behalf of the doctors.

Finally, there were a few extra courses that I went on, Advanced Searching: overview of Google and alternative search tools, Annual Review Training for Reviewees, and Practical Skills: minute taking. These were all relevant for my work in the Law Library, and in particular the course on advanced searching with Google, run by Karen Blakeman, was very interesting and has affected the way that I search online. The final run of training in Trinity Term will mark the end of our afternoon sessions, and it will culminate in the Trainee Showcase, where we give presentations on the projects that we have undertaken throughout the year.

Summary of Graduate Library Trainee Training (so far)

As Graduate Library Trainee, I have had – since September – quite a lot of training. I’ve become very familiar with Osney Mead industrial estate, which is where a lot of Bodleian staff training takes place, as well as some of the more specialist cataloguing, the Bodleian Digital Systems and Services, and a few other departments. The mud spatters on my bike even time that I go down the tow path can testify to my journeys there, but the weekly trips with my fellow trainees are a chance to learn a bit more about the world of libraries, and can often offer knowledge or perspectives that are very welcome to me as a newcomer to the library world. This post will hopefully give you an insight into what kind of training we have as Oxford Library Trainees, every Wednesday afternoon.

Michaelmas term was orientation, an intensive few weeks of the systems that we use here. There was Circulation for Desk Staff, Customer Care, Resource Discovery, Working Safely, Supporting Disabled readers and discovering the mysterious workings of Aleph, our library software, all completed in September, allowing me to get up and running with the systems. October saw the start of graduate training proper, with sessions designed introduce us to the Bodleian as a whole and libraries more generally. There were visits to other parts of the Bodleian to help us to get a handle on the diversity of things that go on here and how they all hang together – from the dignified turrets of the Old Bodleian, to the Weston’s shiny new spaces, including Special Collections and Conservation, and also a trip to the leviathan behind it all, the BSF, where books go to be ‘ingested’. They are also circulated from there around all the libraries, the speed and efficiency of which was impressive. My fellow trainee David wrote a blog post on it, here. There was a session on e-developments at the Bodleian, too, which was particularly interesting. We were introduced to such things as open access, the Bodleian Digital Library, ORA as a digital repository for Oxford’s research, and some of the issues around e-Legal Deposit. (For those not in the know, Legal Deposit is an arrangement whereby five libraries in the UK are entitled to a copy of everything published here; e-Legal Deposit is the same principle for electronic works, but I am not really qualified to talk about all the complications of either system. However, there is a brief overview by a former trainee that you can read here.)

Duke Humphrey’s Library in the Old Bodleian. Credit David Iliff (Creative Commons licence).

The shiny Weston Library’s entrance hall. Credit Paul Hayday (Creative Commons licence)

Then there was training focussed more on our future as library professionals, such as the session on Professional Qualifications, which included some talks by former trainees who had completed or were undergoing their degrees. We got the low-down on what types of degree there are, where they are offered, and what to consider when applying. This term we’ve had a sort of follow up in the session on Career Opportunities and Skills Workshop, where there were some tips on CVs, networking and interviews, and some very good talks by former Law Library trainees, which were particularly interesting to me as the current Law Library trainee.

I’ve also been lucky compared to other trainees, because my supervisor lets me to do plenty of training in my role that not all of the trainees get. I’ve had training on serials and acquisitions, and these things tied into my role here, since I’m able to assist both teams: that is, I can process new journals which arrive periodically, and can help in the process of buying new things for the library. There was also a session that I attended more recently with two of my colleagues, entitled Preservation Advice for Library Staff, where we learnt about how to set up and maintain a library space that is safest for your books, plus some detail on the dangers ranged against them (the seven agents of decay, which sounds to me a bit like a fantasy book series waiting to happen). The seven agents of decay include physical forces – such as handling by readers – fire, water, pests, pollutants, light, incorrect temperature, and incorrect relative humidity. Oxford is an especially damp place (as I can testify to – I’ve already had an outbreak of mould in my wardrobe since moving here), so the everyday monitoring of collections is particularly relevant.

Humidity control is important. Photo credit to Alex Walker, Acting Head of Preventative Conservation.

This term’s training started off with a visit to Oxford Brookes Library, which was a fancy new building at their main Headington campus. We had a tour, learning about their use of space, which is divided into various zones of noise so that both quiet study and group work are encouraged, and a bit about their collections and processes. There was also a look at their Special Collections, which was quite eclectic (an artificial arm, a golden wok). Last week we had a session on effective training techniques, very useful for any kind of induction, training and indeed presentation that I may do in the future. There was also Libraries and Social Media yesterday afternoon, at which we learnt about the key principles of social media for libraries, and thought through a few of the possibilities and issues with social media in general and certain platforms for certain libraries in particular. From that session I’ve taken away a healthy appreciation of animated gifs when it comes to medical textbooks, and a newfound love of Orkney Library. (See the Wellcome Unit Library’s feed, here, and Orkney Library’s feed, here, respectively.)

Next up will be Talks on the Book Trade; Collection and Resource Description; and some visits to other Oxford libraries, including All Souls’ Codrington Library, the Alexander Library of Ornithology, the Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy and the Radcliffe Science Library. I’m also booked on to a minute-taking session, since taking the minutes at our staff meeting is one of my duties, and a session on Academic searching with Google and alternatives.

My favourite training sessions are definitely those that touch on librarianship as a whole, since what I learn every day here is about how this library works. Bernadette O’Reilly’s OLIS training course was particularly good in that respect, as was the E-Developments session by Michael Popham and Sally Rumsey. All of these looked outwards a bit, explaining, for example, how the publishing habits of publishers like Elsevier impact on the libraries’ and university’s open access policies. The tours can also contribute to this broader perspective, especially when we can find out a bit about the history of a library or, equally important, a particular librarian’s career. So training is definitely a very important and useful part of my role here, and something that is particularly special about the job of Graduate Library Trainee. I hope this gives a sense of the myriad of things that we get up to, and how it benefits us and our libraries.

Tom Dale, Social Science Library

Hi all, I’m Tom, one of the new trainees in the Social Science Library (Clare, my fellow trainee, will introduce herself soon).

library entrance 20140216

I’ve held part-time positions in seven Bodleian Libraries over the last 18 months, and I’m delighted to finally have one job in one library (the life of an itinerant library assistant is a tiring one). My aim throughout my first year with the Bod was to get onto the trainee scheme. Now I’m on it, my aim is to learn as much as possible.

The SSL is the largest lending library in Oxford and serves a diverse group of readers. The ethos is user-centric – we are here to satisfy the information needs of social scientists, PPE students, characterful members of the public and anyone else who walks through our door. There is always a lot to do, from the short-term – staffing the issue desk, sorting the post, processing books to go out onto the shelves – to longer-term projects. The SSL relies heavily on its trainees, so we have been on a steep learning curve. This keeps the job challenging and rewarding.

doorbynight

Whenever I enter a library for the first time I ask myself the same question: what’s weird about it? There’s always something. Every library is distinctive in its approach, collection, reader base and atmosphere.

The SSL is weird in its normality. Some Oxford libraries reside in ancient labyrinthine buildings, use arcane classification systems and seem to be open to just a few select acolytes. The SSL is housed on one floor of a bright new building, uses a simple and common classification system and is open to most people who have an interest in using it. It feels more like an efficient modern business than part of a centuries-old organisation.

As noted above, our role is diverse. I am particularly interested in the technical services aspect of it, but I’m pleased to be doing a bit of everything. After this year I hope to continue working for the Bodleian while doing an MSc in Information Science. Beyond that, who knows? This job is preparing us for an array of potential career paths. The future’s bright! The present is book processing.

Emma Quinlan – Kathleen Major Library, St. Hilda’s College

Hello all! I’m Emma and I am the new(ish!) Graduate Library Trainee at the Kathleen Major Library, better known as the St. Hilda’s College Library. I say newish as I started the post in April as the wonderful past trainee (Grace Brown) secured a full time job at the Bodleian through her second year at St. Hilda’s.

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St. Hilda’s Main Reading Room

So a little bit about me … I graduated in 2013 with a 1st class honours degree in Observational Astronomy from the University of Glamorgan. I specialised in solar system volcanology over my two dissertations; volcanism in the inner solar system and cryovolcanism in the outer solar system. I know it sounds star trekkie but no, there was no mention of Spock in my work! I spent most of my school life in the library – doing work, swotting up and most importantly reading Star Wars novels (I must have been the only person to do so as the librarian was shocked that I would request more books from the series …). I have fond memories of finding exciting novels to read as well as, you guessed it, finding lots of stuff on volcanoes and astronomy! A home from home, I learned that life could be exciting, knowledgeable and dare I say it, dangerous, without leaving the comfort of my chair.

My library experience (apart from being in one for the majority of my educational life) has been based on public libraries. I worked as a relief library assistant after graduating for a year and a bit before getting the post at St. Hilda’s. I fell in love with library work and interacting with the public and then everything slotted into place – librarians are awesome! I want to be awesome … I will become a librarian!
So far St. Hilda’s has been a joy. Starting at the beginning of Trinity term with lots of anxious students got me into the swing of things quite quickly. I have had the long summer to complete some small projects (yay!) and to look forward to finally meeting my fellow trainees (double yay!).

I can’t wait to get the trainee year properly underway, getting to know Hilda’s and all you trainees further and looking forward to all there is to experience in the Oxford library system.

Visit to Trinity College Library, Cambridge

On a gloriously sunny Saturday a group of trainees ventured to the Other Place to meet with our Cambridge counterparts and have a nose around their libraries. After a lovely cup of tea, our first visit was to Trinity College, where Harriet Hale, the current trainee, showed us round.

Trinity is the largest of the Cambridge colleges, founded by Henry VIII in 1546. Two existing colleges were combined to form Trinity: Michaelhouse (in existence since 1324) and King’s Hall (originally established by Edward II in 1317). It is stunningly beautiful – if I had been a student there, I’m not sure I would have ever managed to get much work done because I’d have been too busy gazing around in a gormless fashion!

The Wren Library (image from Trinity College Cambridge website: www.trin.cam.ac.uk)

The library can be found on two sides of one of the courts. The Wren Library is situated above the colonnades where Sir Isaac Newton (a member of the college) is said to have conducted experiments on the nature of echoes – quite a claim to fame. It was also interesting to hear how the colonnades were used as a hospital for wounded soldiers in World War 1 – we even got to see some photos showing the rows of beds along the corridors, with the courts simply blocked off by a temporary wall.

We headed first to the working library, which is spread over the Reading Room and Lower Library. Stocking books for all undergrad courses, it was full of hard-working students getting ready for Finals. All loans are issued at the desk by humans, and they have a large team of librarians to keep on top of this. As well as books and journals, there is a large selection of DVDs available to borrow, and it certainly seemed to be a very busy and popular library. We had a quick peek down in the Stacks as well, which were lovely and clean (something I’m not used to), and contained some rather unusual holdings: a collection of skeletons and even a couple of brains that students can borrow!

(Image taken by Lucy Woolhouse)

(Image taken by Lucy Woolhouse)

We then moved on to the ridiculously impressive Wren Library. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who also designed much of the furniture within the library), it was completed in 1695, and is simply stunning. It contains the manuscripts and early printed books that made up the collection in 1820, along with other special collections, such as medieval manuscripts, a large section of Sir Isaac Newton’s own library and much more! On display was a First Folio, a beautiful map, some fascinating notebooks belonging to Newton, and A. A. Milne’s manuscript for Winnie The Pooh. A very grand stained glass window at one end depicts the presentation of Newton to George III (with Francis Bacon looking on approvingly) and there is a rather fabulous marble sculpture of Byron, another alumni, created by Thorvaldsen and originally intended for Westminster Abbey. However, due to his tendency towards scandalous behaviour, the Abbey refused to accept the statue and so he now gazes down on hard-working students and tourists alike. No sign of his pet bear though…

(Image taken by Lucy Woolhouse)

(Image taken by Lucy Woolhouse)

I really enjoyed the tour of Trinity’s libraries: it was great to see a beautiful example of a special collections library sitting alongside a bustling, working college library. I really liked the way the two were accessible to the college members, and how open the Wren was to non-University visitors – sharing a resource like that sets such a great example. The Union Library is of interest to a great many people from outside the Union, and I am always pleased when people are excited to come and visit it – fostering interest in any kind of library has got to be a good thing in the current climate!

Many thanks to Harriet and her colleagues for letting us invade.

Library Trainee Day in the Life (Emily Delahaye, Sainsbury Library)

Hi everyone! Last year the trainees blogged about a typical day in the life in their respective libraries so I thought I would do the same – this is what my day as a trainee generally looks like!

8.30 am – Arrive at the library and settle in. Once a week I open up the library – this involves picking up copies of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal to put in the library, emptying the book return box, sweeping the library for lost property and books left on desks, and checking that all the lights are switched on and that there is paper in the printers.

8.45 am – The whole team helps to shelve books that were put into the book return box overnight. If its term time, then we can have quite a few shelves of books to sort through, but everyone working together makes this quite a speedy process!

9.00 am – 10.15 am – Every day I spend four hours on the enquiry desk, either in the morning or after lunch. If I’m on the desk in the morning, I first sort through all the emails in the library inbox, forwarding them on to the relevant people or responding to them myself. When the post arrives there might be new issues of journals or new books for me to process and label, which is a task I quite enjoy.

10.15 am – Normally on my morning break I will go down and get a coffee in the excellent cafe we have in the Said Business School.

10.30 am – 1.00 pm – After my break I will continue to work on the enquiry desk. During term time I will be mainly dealing with student enquiries. Typical enquiries I receive include: how to find a book in the library, how to get access to one of the electronic databases we subscribe to, how to use the printing system and how to order books from the Bodleian Storage Facility (BSF). Around this time in the morning, the books students have previously ordered from the BSF will arrive, so I will check these in and lock them away securely.

1.00 pm – 2.00 pm – Lunch break!

2.00 pm – 5.00 pm – In the afternoon, if I’m not on the enquiry desk I will be at my own desk in the library office. During these hours I work on various projects, such as helping with the reclassification of parts of the library to the library of congress system. Otherwise, I might be uploading files to the library’s student project database, where current students can read their predecessors’ dissertations which helps with writing their own. Recently we had a book sale in the library, so I spent some time making a list of everything we were selling, so we could keep track, and also taking pictures of the books so we could advertise them to students.

I’m over half way through my traineeship now and I’m still really enjoying working at the Sainsbury Library – my colleagues are very encouraging and have often let me be part of the work they do, which has given me a detailed insight into the world of librarianship!

Tour of the Bodleian Library

Last Tuesday we had our second trainee get together when we were treated to a tour of the Bodleian library, the Radcliffe Camera and the Gladstone Link, as well as a wine reception at the Divinity School. It was very exciting seeing behind the scenes at these grand libraries!

Old School Quad

Old School Quad

As there are quite a few of us, we separated into two groups and our tours took different routes. In my group we looked around the Bodleian reading rooms first. We heard from our excellent guide all about how books are sent from the remote storage facility in Swindon (which we will be visiting this year!), and the different ways readers can collect their requests once they have arrived in Oxford. We then headed outside to see the Radcliffe Camera (currently undergoing some construction), and travelled back to the Bod underground through the Gladstone Link. I really liked the reader space in the Link, which was very modern compared to the reading rooms in the Bod and the Camera but which still had the traditional stacks, designed by William Gladstone himself.

The Bodleian Library at Sunset

The Bodleian Library at Sunset

Afterwards, we went to a reception in the Divinity School, the university’s first purpose built teaching room which was constructed in 1488. We were joined by senior members of the Bodleian library staff and were given a very warm welcome. The librarians present all wished us well for the coming year, and were very encouraging!

 

Emily Delahaye, Sainsbury Library (Saïd Business School)

Said Business School Amphitheatre

Said Business School Amphitheatre

Hi there! I’m the graduate trainee at the Sainsbury Library. A bit on my background – in July I graduated from the London School of Economics with a BA in History. I had no experience of working in a library prior to starting this job, which I was quite worried about! However, I worked in a department store for two and a half years so I have good experience of customer-service and managing stock. I have also done two work experience spells in archives (Westminster City Council and the National Theatre’s) and it will be very interesting to compare these with working in a library.

So far I feel I have settled in well – my colleagues are all very nice (and patient!) and the Sainsbury Library is a very lovely environment to work in. It’s very modern in terms of it’s design (especially compared to other libraries in Oxford!). As well as having a huge range of books, the library also subscribes to many various electronic databases. These are very popular with the students because they provide up-to-date information on markets, companies and industries. As a history student I never got the chance to work with these resources at LSE so I’m very keen to find out more about them here!

It was great meeting all the other trainees at the first session last week – we all come from such different academic backgrounds so it should make for an interesting group! Looking forward to sessions to come, as well as all the tours of the different libraries that we have been encouraged to set up.