Arabella Drake, History Faculty Library

Hello! I’m Arabella, the graduate trainee for the History Faculty Library, based within the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link. Previously, while studying BA English at the University of Exeter I volunteered within Penryn Campus library, an experience I enjoyed so much that I decided to work within both school and council libraries after graduating. The Bodleian Library Graduate Trainee Scheme, which offers regular training sessions alongside the chance to work within a prestigious university library, seemed like a wonderful opportunity to expand on this experience and discover what specific aspects of librarianship I find most interesting and wish to pursue further. Also, who wouldn’t want to work in a city as beautiful and historic as Oxford?!

Throughout my first month within the Radcliffe Camera I have been learning lots of new procedures, such as Scan and Deliver, Click and Collect and how to navigate and process items on the library management system. I’m also regularly timetabled on the reception and circulation desks, where I help to sign readers into the building and deal with enquiries. Fortunately, my lovely colleagues in the Camera are always nearby to help should I require it.

Now Michaelmas Term has commenced the library is beginning to get busier, however, I am continuing to learn new things. This week I have been assigned the task of selecting and processing the HFL books that are being sent off to binding to be repaired.

I’ve really been enjoying my Oxford experience so far and I’m very excited to see what the rest of the year has in store!

The Radcliffe Camera

Naomi Hart, Bodleian Law Library

Hello! I’m Naomi, one of two graduate trainees in the Bodleian Law Library, based in Information Resources. I’m a recent graduate, having finished my BA English degree at the University of Exeter this year, so working with legal resources has been a learning curve!

The Law Library is a reference only library located on Manor Road in the St. Cross Building, which also hosts the English Faculty Library. With 1960s architecture, a high ceiling (and a new roof), original wooden desks complete with beautiful marks of wear, leather seats and brass lamps, a gallery, narrow staircases tucked among the bookshelves, and a hushed quiet, it’s an atmospheric building to explore with a wealth of resources – although slightly disorientating to navigate at first.

Beginning this role amidst the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging at times. Having started the traineeship by working virtually from home, it’s both exciting and reassuring to now be working onsite for most of the week. When onsite, we begin the day by preparing the library for readers, who can book seats for particular time slots as part of the library’s phased reopening. Being based in IR means the tasks I do often differ slightly from Ella’s (the Academic Services trainee in the Law Library). My role involves processing books and serials, building reading lists, cataloguing, labelling and shelving, as well as more front-facing work such as being on the enquiry desk and scanning requests for the Scan and Deliver service. Usually, on Wednesdays, we have training sessions with the other trainees, though these are taking place virtually for the time being. During our tea breaks, Ella and I are utilising our Bodleian keep cups and becoming regulars at the Missing Bean cafe in the St. Cross Building. Over lunchtimes, we’ve been exploring some of the green spaces near the library too – and making the most of the sunshine when we can.

I’m looking forward to the library being able to increase its capacity for readers and the energy of the new term starting. There couldn’t be a better introduction to life behind the scenes in an academic library, especially at a time when it is adapting to provide the best service it can to readers under extraordinary circumstances.

Ella Burrows, Bodleian Law Library

Hi! I’m Ella, and I’m one of the Graduate Trainees at the Bodleian Law Library, along with Naomi. I’m based in Academic Services, which means my role is more reader-based – scanning resources, helping with online teaching – and less involved with the cataloguing side of things. Before this, I was working in hospitality, and I also have some library experience from volunteering in libraries at school and university. I’ve never lived in Oxford before, so I’m excited to get to know the city and all of its lovely libraries (though sadly seeing them all in person will have to wait for now).

It has been a bit of a different start to the traineeship this year (judging by the previous years’ trainee introductions). For one, I spent the first two weeks working from home, getting to know all my colleagues virtually and hoping it wouldn’t be long before I got to come in to the library. When we were finally allowed to come in (after filling out many safe onsite working forms) it was slightly eerie to find that the previous trainee’s stuff was still in the drawers, and a timetable still up on the wall for guiding the potential future trainees – aka me and Naomi – around the library when we had our interviews all the way back in March. I don’t think the previous trainee had expected to be working from home for the rest of her traineeship when she left the library that Friday all those months ago, and it must have been a very strange experience.

Since then, I’ve been getting to grips with the various aspects of the library which I’ll be involved with, and all of the extra precautions and regulations we have to follow in light of COVID-19. The first 45 minutes of the day is usually spent opening windows, sanitising desks, shelving books and going over any changes in our operations. Then it’s on to the classic trainee tasks – checking emails, fulfilling scanning requests, having virtual meetings and attending training. In our breaks, Naomi and I have been trying to make the most of the last few weeks of September sun by visiting the nearby parks; now it’s colder, we’re eagerly anticipating the reopening of the various cafes close to the Law Library (which I have been told will be happening soon!)

So far, it’s been an interesting start, and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the traineeship will bring.

Katie Allen, English Faculty Library

Hello everyone! I’m Katie, and for this (admittedly weird) year I’ll be working at the English Faculty Library. In my previous life, I taught English in Japan (as well as a few other places). I came back to the UK early in 2019 and worked in a temporary role at a school library to get a feel for whether a career in librarianship might be for me. I decided it was, applied for the traineeship, and here I am – by the skin of my teeth, as the Bodleian Libraries closed their doors due to COVID-19 measures back in March, only a few hours after my interview took place.

The EFL has now re-opened

 

Since I started at the English Faculty Library a month ago, the library has gone through several stages of its gradual re-opening plan. We’ve been scanning requested chapters to readers as part of the Bodleian Libraries’ Scan and Deliver service, and we’ve introduced a Click and Collect service too. And as of last week, readers can now book a slot to study in the library again. It’s great to have readers back in, and it’s lovely being part of a small and friendly team. I’m really enjoying the traineeship so far, despite the unusual circumstances. It’s going to be an interesting year, but at least at the EFL we’ve sorted out how to use the kettle in a safe and socially distanced way…

 

Rhiannon Perrin – Bodleian Law Library

Hi my name is Rhiannon (Rhiannon P as we have two Rhiannon’s on this year’s trainee scheme – although luckily not in the same library!) and I will be spending the year working in the Bodleian Law Library. The Bodleian Law Library is based in the St. Cross building on Manor Road, the English Faculty Library is also in this building and next door to us is the Social Science Library, with the old Bodleian Library less than a ten minute walk away.  So far in the past two weeks I have spent my time meeting and talking to all the different staff within the Law Library and learning about their areas of expertise. This year there are two trainees at the Law Library, Laura who is based in Information Resources, and myself in Academic Services. Being based in AS means that alongside my usual tasks like shelving and staffing the enquiry desk I am also involved in scanning resources to go online both on our internal page LawBod4Students and for ORLO reading lists.

Gladstone’s Library

 

Before coming to Oxford I was working in a small residential library in North Wales called Gladstone’s Library. In many ways this was great preparation for coming to the Bodleian as every day I spent time on the enquiry desk, helping readers, cataloguing and circulating books and journals, as well as working on specific projects being undertaken at Gladstone’s Library. However, Gladstone’s Library only had 150,000 volumes whereas the Bodleian Law Library has over 550,000 so far more material for me to familiarise myself with over the next year! Before that I had just completed my LLM in International Law at the University of Sussex where I got to visit The Hague and see incredible places like the Peace Palace which is home to numerous bodies of International Law including the International Court of Justice, but most importantly (to me anyway) the Peace Palace Library, an amazing building that holds over a million volumes on International Law. Finally, before that I was doing my BA in History where I spent part of my second year working in an archive, and I enjoyed it so much I then spent the whole of my third year working in the university library.

A few of us trainees outside Christ Church College

 

I am really looking forward to spending a year in Oxford, so far it seems like a fantastic city with lots of things to do and places to visit. I am excited for term to begin and to start seeing the Law Library in full flow, with postgraduate inductions beginning in less than two weeks and undergraduates the week after that. It has been really nice meeting my fellow trainees, we’ve already had a few training sessions together and the drinks reception in the Divinity School was a great way to be welcomed to the Bodleian.

Emma Gregory, Sainsbury Library

Hi there! I’m Emma and I am the new trainee at the Sainsbury Library at the Saïd Business School.The Business School was opened in 2002, so the building and the library is one of the newest in Oxford. The Business School has two locations; Egrove Park and Park End, where I currently work.

At the Saïd Business School

The Business School offers a variety of courses in business, such as the MBA (Master of Business Administration), Law and Finance, Major Programme Management, and MFE (Master in  Financial Economics), to name a few. The library is split into two levels; the upper floor for silent study, and the lower floor (where the main library desk is) for a mixture of quiet study areas and group work spaces.

The Upper Reading Room

The library offers many textbooks on all areas of business, as well as several journals and a daily Financial Times. We also have a large number of databases that students can access to research different companies and their financial and economic data. The newer members of staff, myself included, are  currently undergoing training on these databases so that we can help students with their enquiries and research.

Some of the books we offer at the library

My days are really mixed and no two are the same! Here’s a quick overview of what I did yesterday:

8.45am – Arrive at work. Today, it’s my turn to set up the front desk for the day. I turn on the computer and the lights, check the photocopiers, re-shelve books that have been returned, and make sure the library is ready for our users.

9am – The day is split into two for the desk duty; the morning and afternoon shift. I usually work one of these a day. I’m working the morning shift today which is 9am to 1pm. The enquiry desk can be challenging at times, as I don’t always know the answers to the questions asked of me, but help is at hand! My colleagues are really patient and helpful, and I’m learning a lot from their answers and training. This morning I had enquiries about how to use the printing system, where to find particular books, and which databases were best to look at for researching different aspects of a certain company. We’ve recently finished welcoming this year’s under- and postgraduate students, so the library is pretty busy now.

1pm – Lunch time. The Saïd Business School has amazing facilities, lots of different options for lunch, and the students are well cared for by all the staff here. I have a free coffee every day too! Yum!

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

2pm – This afternoon, I received a new copy of the Economist and two other journals. As part of my role, it is my responsibility to prepare and process the journals so that they are ‘shelf – ready’. This involves registering the journals, attaching a bar code and preparing security labels for them. I then process the older copies and store them upstairs.

The Economist, one of our weekly journals.

3pm – The Saïd Business School is going through some re-branding so I’m working my way through changing the signs around the library. This week I’m working on changing the labels on the journal holders upstairs. I’m also going through them and making sure they’re all in the correct order.

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

4.30pm – Throughout the day I make sure all the books are correctly re-shelved and the library is looking tidy and suitable for our users.

5pm – Home time (already!). The days here zoom by for me. I feel like I blink and it’s the end of the day!

I love working here at the Sainsbury Library. It’s really modern with lots of green spaces available for both staff and students. When the weather permits, I like to sit outside for lunch and my breaks.

One of the courtyards around the Business School

I’m learning a lot about search techniques and understanding all the different databases that we have so that I can help the students the best way I can. The days are incredibly varied and I am encouraged and helped by my colleagues everyday. Everyone here has so much knowledge that they’re willing to pass on – I’m well looked after! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store for me!

One of the art installations around the School

Leanne Grainger, Christ Church Library

 

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

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

The Upper Library

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

View from my staff desk in the East Library

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

Sally Hamer, Wolfson College Library

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

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

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

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

Our Jessup Reading Room.

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

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

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

Katie Day, Taylor Institution Library


Me in the Enquiries Room

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

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


Exterior of the Taylor Library in the early years

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

The Main Reading Room from the balcony

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

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

Ross Jones, History Faculty Library

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

The Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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