My trainee project saw me inventory the book collection of Bishop John Hall (1633–1710).
The project’s long-term aim is to see a complete, up-to-date inventory of Hall’s book collection enabling it to become a searchable collection for researchers, staff and students. Hall’s collection consists of works by Classical writers, and more modern books such as Wood’s History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford.
Hall was Master of Pembroke from 1664 to 1710 and Bishop of Bristol, as well as one of Charles II’s domestic chaplains. He was ordained as a Presbyterian before becoming an Anglican minister and maintained strong Protestant sentiments throughout his life. On his death, Hall left all his books to Pembroke. Until this point, the College did not have a proper library, and books were kept in an upper room of St Aldates Church. Knowing that more room would be needed, Hall had library space constructed above Broadgates Hall (Pembroke’s medieval precursor, former library and now the SCR), while the dining space for the Fellows was below. This situation remained until the building of the dining hall in the 1840s, after which point, the books took over the whole of Broadgates, spreading through the rooms of Old Quad and taking space elsewhere in College. Eventually in the 1960s, the situation became untenable, and the McGowin Library was built.
For my project, I worked with Laura Cracknell, the college librarian. The first step was to cross reference the 1970s’ card catalogue of Hall’s books to a recent handlist of the Hall collection, noting books’ shelfmarks. This information was converted into a large Excel database listing all of Hall’s books, or so Laura and I thought. When I assessed the stack which stored Hall’s books, I discovered that there were a number of books that corresponded to the themes of Hall’s collection which were not documented in our recent records. Laura and I teamed up and noticed that some of these books had Hall’s bookplate inside. This was puzzling. Taking a step back to assess this problem, we chose to then delve further into history and compare the library’s recent documentation with that of Hall’s personal catalogue of his collection which he wrote in 1709. This allowed us to address problems in the recent documentation of the Hall collection. I made a list of all of Hall’s books which were not recently documented, but nevertheless sat on the shelves in the stack and were recorded in Hall’s 1709 catalogue. In doing so, Laura and I realised that our 1970s’ card catalogue had not recorded nearly half of what Hall had recorded in 1709, and therefore Hall’s collection was much larger than what we first thought. This project took a surprising turn and it will require further work to better understand the scale of Hall’s book collection in order to create an inventory.
This project has taught me how to manage a historic collection and the trials and tribulations that comes with working with historic catalogues and documentation that you inherit from predecessors. As well, it has been fascinating to learn more about college history and to experience working with special collections.
Today is a Thursday and it’s Easter vacation and we only have a few readers in.
This means the librarian and I can tackle projects which we cannot do during term time, such as devising weeding strategies for overcrowded subject sections, addressing inclusivity in our collections, reclassifying, collection stocktakes, special collections research etc.
Hopefully this day in the life offers a glimpse into the variety that comes with being a college trainee, and also what trainees can get up to in vacation time since this is often not mentioned on the blog.
Arrive at Pembroke. I say hello to the porters and pass by the bust of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, who also stands guard in the Bodleian’s quad. Escaping William Herbert, I walk through Old Quad and to the library. I set up base camp for the day in my office which I share with Laura, the college librarian. On Thursdays and Fridays, I say hello to the college archivist who lives next door in the library building. Since, Thursday is today, I say hello to the archivist.
8.30am – My day starts
8.30 – 8:40am
I start by looking at my emails (personal and library inbox) and the shared library and archives outlook calendar. We have a conservator visiting in the afternoon. I answer emails and flag complex emails which require more thought, such as missing book claims or special collections queries.
If today were a Friday, I would gather the temperature and humidity data from the Tiny Tag data loggers that are placed in our rare books room and stack. I would download their data and record them in a folder and then analyse trends in temperature and humidity.
8:40 – 8:55am
I tidy the reservations shelf and download an Aleph recalls report and update circulation. I refill the library’s printer.
Depending on the time of term, I can walk into the library met by mountains of books, so I time manage accordingly.
Today, I am met by only a fair few books. I check in these books on Aleph and place them aside to shelve immediately after.
It is good to get shelving done before the majority of students arrive. Although, it’s important to remember that shelving is a continuous task and to not let it dictate your working day. As I shelve, I am often met by stray books which I re-shelve.
I check the library’s pigeon hole for post and deliveries. Two boxes stare at me. This means one thing – book deliveries, and processing. This can be a lengthy process.
I attempt to open the parcels neatly, I fail. I discard a now tattered cardboard box in the recycling bin. I cross reference these books with our budget spreadsheet. I check to see if any of the book deliveries are requests and will process these books first. This often leads to mysterious cataloguing encounters which are best worked through with coffee. Today, however, I only have a few requested books to process, some for fellows and some for students.
One requested book is about the symbolism of the colour green in art history. As an art history graduate, I am obviously distracted by the book. But, I resist from reading and process promptly and inform the student that it is ready for borrowing. I place the book on our reservations shelf.
I update the budget and file the delivery invoices.
Planning the afternoon, ahead!
Completing the essential library duties, and because it is vacation time, I now have freedom to plan my day in accordance to my individual trainee project and ongoing projects be this: stocktakes, collections management & development, reclassification, preparing displays etc. Often, I reserve afternoons to do my homework for the Bodleian Cataloguer training.
I often plan to do a little task of my trainee project every few days. This approach also works well with large projects.
11.00-11.40am … John Hall
Planning project work, I suddenly remember seeing a portrait in college of the individual that my trainee project is revolved around. It’s almost as if the portrait haunts me.
I then find the portrait of John Hall on Art UK. Hall’s serious stare reminds me to crack on exploring his collection. I don’t argue, and dutifully contemplate my trainee project.
My trainee project sees me investigate and manage the Right Reverend John Hall’s (Bishop of Bristol and Master of Pembroke, 1664–1710) book collection. The collection has not been looked at in decades, so I am the lucky person to manage and research it!
At the beginning of Hilary Term, I started to ask myself: In our stack, do we have the Hall collection that our card catalogues from the 1970s recall that we have, and do we have what John Hall’s 1709 catalogue records? Also, some of Hall’s book have remnants of a chain which makes me question whether Pembroke once had a chained library. I contemplate these questions. Getting to know Hall is fun, he is an interesting character who paid for the completion of Old Quad and his lodgings, which is now the Samuel Johnson Building. The cobbles on Pembroke Square still show the path from the front door of Hall’s Lodgings to St Aldates church. This path is smoother than the cobbles to
ensure that Hall didn’t trip whilst walking to church.
I evaluate the progress I have made so far, asking how far I have come to solve these questions, whilst examining, with fresh eyes, my excel database that I have made, and what I am to do with this moving forwards.
A fellow comes by the office with their new book. It’s about interpreters in 16th century China and relationships between China and Britain. I then answer emails.
Lunch in hall! A nice moment to eat with the entire college staff across all departments.
1.00-3.00pm … Special collections! Rare books, Samuel Johnson, French clocks and knife boxes
It’s Easter vacation and the few readers we had in the morning have now trickled out. In this afternoon of quietness, I assist the librarian and archivist with our special collections. Typically afternoons during term would consist of more shelving, book processing and be mostly reader services orientated. However, today is rather different.
I help the librarian with attempting to identify strange glitter-like markings which we find in one of our rare books. Is it recent graffiti, or ink that has changed colour over time? New College Notes 10 (2018), no. 6 helps us to figure out what is at play. It turns out we unexpectedly found traces of ‘pounce’. (I will let you read New College’s brilliant article to discover what pounce is). I later assist Amanda, the archivist, to photograph the conditions of Samuel Johnson’s writing desk, a French late 19th century Louis XV style clock and George III mahogany and tulipwood banded knife boxes. The furniture conservator arrives and I have a nice chat with them about his work. I worked with the Furniture History Society during my master’s, so it’s fun to be able to apply what I learnt during that time.
A highlight of my traineeship has been understanding and exploring what collections work is, and can be.
I tidy my office and sort out the towering stacks of old journals. They are economics and biology journals, but the odd British history journal catches my eye.
In the spirit of tidying, I then organise a pile of donations. I give them a new home, a.k.a one of my empty shelves. This donation consists of a bunch of Lord of the Rings, and Middle Earth related books. I then draw Gandalf to accompany their new home, next to my desk.
Earlier on in Hilary, I showcased our collection of Tolkien letters to Sophie, the trainee at the EFL. It’s always nice to find yourself working with Tolkien related material.
This term, I have been handed the reigns of purchasing acquisitions. I order a list of requested books for students and fellows. I update the budget accordingly.
3.30-3.45pm… I set a test for myself – “can I find these objects?”
In moments of peace, which is a world away from the busy Michaelmas term, I sometimes reserve a small moment of the week to have a general explore of the stack.
This may seem an odd thing to do, but I find that practising the ability to locate objects deep down in stacks, not only familiarises myself with Pembroke’s collections (which is handy for enquiries) but it makes me more efficient at collections work. After all, being able to locate objects and information is a skill. Plus, it’s fun!
I scan through the special collection catalogues. I jot down interesting rare books and objects making note of their classification and then head down to the stack to find them. I once found a 19th century judge’s wig.
Today, I locate a collection of military medals, including an OBE awarded to a “college servant”; his medal is paired with “his licence to occupy a College room”. I jot down his name to find in The Gazette (this is where the king’s/queen’s New Year and Birthday honours lists are published) to research at a later date.
I read the new module of my cataloguing training and take notes. I plan how to approach the practical elements which I will do tomorrow. I find cataloguing rewarding work – making information discoverable and accessible is hugely fulfilling.
I finish my remaining admin. There are no new books to shelve, so I catch up with my emails. I then do a final sweep of the reading rooms and tidy up. I jot down tasks to do tomorrow.
Special thanks to Josie from the Law Library for the transcription.
What is a college?
Heather (St Edmund Hall): A college is a community of students and staff who are all part of Oxford University, but within the university community they’re also part of their own separate college community. Most colleges have undergraduates and postgraduates, but some colleges are postgraduate only. Some colleges are very big with lots of students and staff, and some are much smaller.
Georgie (St. John’s): Students can get accommodation, catering, and teaching through their college, and as part of that, the college will have its own library.
Jemima (New): There may appear to be some discrepancy between older and newer colleges but they essentially all do the same job for their students. Even though some of them look bigger or older or have a particular reputation, they all serve the same purpose.
How does the library fit into the college?
Jemima: I think generally a college library will cater for most undergraduate academic needs, but from my experience (as a graduate student here) there was more of an expectation that a college library wouldn’t cater for more in-depth academic research. Whether that’s true or not, a college library is definitely more of a centre for undergraduates, perhaps because it’s seen as less overwhelming than a bigger Bodleian library.
Ben (Pembroke): Yes, the library is at it’s heart a hub for students. We have a few postdocs and fellows who use our library, but mostly it’s used by undergraduates and taught postgraduates who all study a wide array of disciplines, reflecting our growing library collection. We’re open 24/7 and the library is also open for all Pembroke staff. Also our library is a space for holding Pembroke’s archives and special collections which attracts visiting researchers and research students.
Heather: It’s definitely more of a direct service for the students, and I think it’s interesting that when people apply to Oxford or Cambridge, they don’t really think about the fact that they’ll have a college library, but it’s actually a really important aspect. It’s really there to cater to a student’s own needs, so at Teddy Hall, for instance, we buy a lot of student requested books, which something you can do through your college library, but is not something Bodleian libraries tend to do.
Lizzie (All Souls): All Souls Library is mainly there for the Fellows* (as there aren’t any undergraduate students at All Souls). The Fellows can request that we buy books, and also if a particular Fellow with a particular research interest is there for a number of years, we can develop a significant collection relating to that interest. But the library does serve a dual purpose because it is also open to external readers. Because the college doesn’t have its own students, if there is a book that is highly requested across the university, or quite expensive, the library will buy that book so that it’s potentially available to all students.
*Fellows are senior members of a college, whose responsibilities typically include teaching, research, administration, and participation in the college’s governance.
Georgie: Another thing to mention is study spaces. College libraries mean that the students who want to use the library can do that somewhere which, in a lot of cases, is near to their accommodation.
Heather: We have height-adjustable desks, and printing and photocopying facilities and they all get used a lot. We’re open 24 hours and you can see from the records that there are people in here throughout day and night.
Jemima: That’s actually a good point: I think a key difference between Bodleian libraries and college libraries is that Bodleian libraries aren’t open as late as college ones. At New, we’re not open 24 hours, but we are open until 2:00 in the morning. I would say that a college library is accessible at most times of day whereas the Bodleian is less so.
Lizzie: At All Souls, all the books are confined so readers can’t borrow them. That means the library is used more as a study space, since it’s very quiet and there are fewer people taking books off shelves, as all the books are locked up (though you can request me to get them for you). The library also serves as a venue for the college for events such as Encaenia, or drink receptions. Sometimes you can be participating in college stuff more than library stuff.
Can you describe your Library in three words?
Heather: Church, friendly, busy.
Ben: Unintimidating, 1970s, welcoming.
Lizzie: Unique, architectural, research.
How many staff members are there in your Library?
Jemima: We have four of us in the main office, basically full-time, then there’s the Archivist, the Curatorial Assistant (who was a trainee last year, and is now part-time), and a Shelving Assistant in the mornings in term time. I think it’s a relatively big team for a college library.
Ben: In the library team, it’s just me and the Librarian, so I often wear multiple hats and juggle jobs such as invigilating researchers, cataloguing, shelving, dissertation-binding, reading list creation, purchasing acquisitions, rare books enquiries, and lots more. Working in a small team is great! There is always something to do, and you gain a well-rounded, and sometimes unexpected experience.
Lizzie: We have a Librarian-in-Charge & Conservator, Senior Assistant Librarian, Assistant Librarian for Digital Resources, and a Graduate Trainee (me!), as well as this, we have the following staff who are part-time: Assistant Librarian for Rare Books, a Clerk to the Archives, and the Serials Librarian (who does cataloguing).
Heather: So, at Teddy Hall, it’s me as the Graduate Trainee, James the Librarian, and Emma who is the Assistant Librarian, and our Archivist, Rob, who is in two days a week. He’s also the Archivist at Oriel and I know that it’s quite common for archivists to be shared across colleges. We also have a Library Fellow on the Library Committee.
Jemima: Yes, I think our Fellow Librarian is involved in important decision-making but I barely see him from day to day. I don’t have very much contact with him at all. It sounds like a similar setup.
Lizzie: I see my Fellow Librarian every day. They do the top-level college stuff and there’s a lot of committees so they sit on those as well.
What’s distinctive about the collection in your Library?
Ben (Pembroke): As much as it is a collection reflecting Pembroke’s history as an institution (Pembroke was founded in 1624), we do have some more rogue objects, often things connected with alumni or past staff, such as Tolkien’s letters (we have an amazing letter where Tolkien writes to a friend that he is starting a book called The Hobbit which he hopes will be a success), Samuel Johnson’s desk, Samuel Johnson’s teapot, a fountain pen used by Lyndon B. Johnson, oh and a WWII Japanese sword!
Jemima (New): We have a very good manuscripts and early printed books special collection – I think that comes with the age and wealth of the college. In fact, about 30-40% of my time is spent invigilating readers who come to use our Special Collections for research.
Heather (St Edmund Hall): Something distinctive about our lending collection is that we have lots of student requests and new acquisitions – we’re working hard to try to diversify what we have. At the moment, I am starting to decolonise our history collection.
What kind of interactions do you have with Library readers?
Heather: Readers ask pretty much anything and everything – I spend about half my time on the issue desk. Our library is in a 12th-century church, so we also have people coming to see the building.
Ben: Fairly, a lot! Questions can be anything from “how do I find this book?” all the way to, “Would it be possible to see ‘x’ manuscript?”. During COVID peaks, when students are self-isolating, I deliver books around college to them. My workspace isn’t usually at an issue desk, but at the start of the year I gave lots of induction talks, so now the readers know who I am. This means they are confident to pop into my office, or stop me around college to ask me questions.
Jemima: We don’t have a specific issue desk (everyone is based in the office), so I don’t interact with readers as much as you two do. But that doesn’t mean they don’t come to the office with questions, mostly if they’re having problems with the self-issue machines or they want to borrow a book but don’t have their Bod (library) card.
How does working in a college compare with your expectations?
Jemima: I hadn’t anticipated how much social media, exhibitions and ‘internal outreach’ work I’d get to do. It’s really nice that so much of my role is about sharing the collection with people in college.
Ben: At Pembroke, the Library and Archives work together a lot of the time, which makes the job all the more fun. I can be climbing ladders in order to hang pictures in the hall one minute, then in the next I can be in the depths of the stacks, then helping out with object talks for students or working with furniture and pictures conservators the next, all the way to reader services enquires. However, I think that’s the product of my library team being so small.
Jemima: Yeah, I think it’s worth saying that I think college library jobs are really varied in terms of what you do and the influence you’re able to have.
Do you get involved with other parts of the College?
Heather: Actually, that’s another thing I was surprised by: you’re part of the College team as well as the Library team. I’ve worked with the Communications team to set up a Library Instagram, and worked with the Housekeeping department on the sustainability project.
Jemima: Although as Graduate Trainee I don’t interact with other departments that often, as a Library and Archives department we collaborate with JCR and MCR committees (similar to a college-based Student Unions) to organise tours, and with the college Warden (i.e. Principal or President) on things like exhibitions.
That concludes our discussion about college library life! We managed to get through the whole thing without mentioning the free college lunches. Oh, no, wait…
With the holidays fast approaching, decorations have started to appear in the Libraries and a festive spirit is in the air. For some of our Graduate Library Trainees, it has been the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year so far, and talk about some of the highlights of their role.
Heather Barr, St Edmund Hall
We brought Christmas to St Edmund Hall’s Old Library this year with a display of books and archive materials with fun festive facts and college celebrations throughout the years. Our display includes beautiful wintery paintings, including one of Teddy Hall’s Front Quad in Snow (1966), given to Principal Kelly by the artist, Alexandra Troubetzkoy (see right). Our Old Library is home to the first scientific publication to interrogate the shape of snowflakes (see left): Johannes Kepler’s C. Maiest. mathematici strena seu De niue sexangula (1611) (SEH Shelfmark 4° G 18(6)).
Keplerconjectures that they must be formed as such to optimise their tessellation, like a honeycomb. Or, perhaps there is some quality in the water that causes them to freeze in their signature hexagonal shape? Most importantly, he identifies a link between the shape of snowflakes and other crystalline formations in rocks.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without some cards! We showcased Christmas cards from the Archives, collected and saved by Principal Emden during the Second World War (see right). These cards were sent from all over the world,including from H.M.S. Satellite, a naval ship in the middle of the ocean. Some have rather topical designs, such as a bull charging Hitler, or the three wise men being guided by a shining Intelligence Corps crest! Today, these cards serve a positive reminder that even in the midst of worldwide suffering and disaster, small messages of hope and love can go a long way.
Izzie Salter, Sackler Library
As term draws to a close, the Sackler Library has become quieter and quieter. Between issuing books on the main desk, my colleague and I have donned it with decorations. Crafted out of library paraphernalia – who knew archival tying tape could be so versatile – I hope this has brought some cheer to our more loyal readers, staying here until closure. To those based locally to the Sackler, do walk past the Ashmolean one evening. It looks beautiful this time of year.
My first term as a trainee has been wonderfully varied. I have been so fortunate to work on some amazing projects at the library, as well as spending time learning alongside my fellow trainees. A few highlights of this term include presenting Japanese photography books (which I have researched regularly over the past 3 months) at the History of Art Show and Tell, working with the trainees to produce Black History reading recommendations, and learning about conservation and special collections at the Weston Library. I can’t wait to see what the new year brings, after a restful Christmas break.
[NB the Sackler Library has now been renamed to the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library]
Jemima Bennett, New College Library
New College Library Christmas started particularly early, even by Oxford standards, as by mid-November we had begun to put together a Christmas exhibition, and our Twitter advent calendar, choosing items and writing captions. I have also spent several very enjoyable afternoons wrapping books for our Surprise Christmas Loan scheme, as well as decorating our Christmas tree, and helping create an iconic book sculpture (pictured here). This term has been a blast – a wide-ranging and really relevant set of training sessions, an excellent trainee cohort, and being able to work with such beautiful manuscripts are definitely some highlights.
Lucy Davies, Social Science Library
At the SSL, we got into the Christmas mood by celebratingChristmas Jumper Day.Wearing our best festive jumpers (and masks!), we raised £142 for Save the Children. A highlight of this term has been the training sessions every week and gaining an insight into all the different jobs within the Bodleian Libraries. I especially loved the trip to the Conservation Studio at the Weston Library! I also really enjoy seeing the variety of books that arrive from the BSF every day and talking to readers about their research.
Georgie Moore, St John’s College Library
If you are following any Libraries, Museums, or Archives on Twitter, you’ll probably have noticed the annual December deluge of Christmassy content.
Outside of term time, I’m responsible for scheduling one Tweet a week, so I have been prowling our catalogue for festive material. Drafting a Tweet was part of the application process for this Trainee position, but even still I didn’t realise quite how much thought goes into maintaining a consistent tone and diversity of content.
Here are three of the tweet ideas that didn’t make the cut in December (and why not):
1. A Christmas Carol is a festive favourite for many, but Charles Dickens also contributed other seasonal stories to volumes like Mugby Junction: the extra Christmas number of All the year round (Vet.Engl.76). The small font and lack of illustrations aren’t very eye-catching for a Twitter photograph, but these advertisements provide a wintery window into Victorian buying habits: juvenile gift books, patented pickles and miniature billiards. (see left)
2. ‘The Exaltation of Christmas Pye’ – this might be cheating, but the only reason I haven’t shared this is because I didn’t find it! There are some highly quotable moments in this 17th-century mock-sermon (HB4/3.a.5.8(23)) such as when the author elevates the invention of
Christmas plum pies to the same level as ‘Guns and Printing’.
3. The Psalter (MS 82) includes some beautiful medieval illustrations. I’d wanted to caption this ‘When the waiter brings the final bill to the table after the work Christmas do’ but given the cancellation of so many Christmas parties this festive season, that felt like rubbing salt in the wound. (see left)
Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library
Although I enjoy handling books as much as the next librarian, a surprising highlight for mehas been working with various forms of online resource provision.(This is perhaps less surprising to anyone who has had to listen to me talk about scanning recently).Fromtracking down resources for reading lists and LibGuides to navigating copyright restrictionsandexploring the UK Web Archive,I’ve really enjoyed my traineeship so far, and I’mlooking forward to getting more involved with certain areas in the new year.During a recentweekend shift, I was entrusted with decorating the LawBod Christmas tree – picturedis our resident angel,which I’m told was handmade by a previous trainee.
Sophie Lay, English Faculty Library
J. R. R. Tolkien and Nevill Coghill have donned now their gay apparel – the former in a classic Santa hat and the latter in a crown of golden holly tinsel – and the festive season has fully hit the English Faculty Library. As Graduate Trainee, it’s my job to decorate the library with the aforementioned festive headgear, as well as paper chains, miniature Christmas trees, and seasonal rubber ducks to join our regular desk companion, Bill Shakespeare.
The end of term has also left a little more time for reflection on the past few months. I’d be delighted to share with you just one of the parts of my job that I’ve enjoyed the most since starting here at Bodleian Libraries. Not to be incredibly corny, but interactions with readers really do add a delightful element to your average desk-shift. From friendly and familiar faces to unexpected compliments to charming lost-and-found items (including returning a child’s hand-written note which read ‘momy I luv yoo’), there is so much joy to be had in interacting with readers.
I’ll leave you off with a final festive treat. I’ve done some digging through the rare book room and have uncovered a little treasure. While it’s not the genuine article, we do have a delightful facsimile of Dicken’s original manuscript for A Christmas Carol, in his own handwriting and with his own edits – including his signature looping and cross-hatching. Just holding it makes me feel more festive!
Emily Main, History Faculty Library
The end of term was definitely noticeable in the library as students started heading home for their holidays. However, the arrival of Warner Brothers and the closure of the Upper Camera for filming has made for an interesting end before the Christmas closure. As well as being dazzled by extremely bright lights when sitting at reception and dodging crowds of fans, we’ve had to implement a book fetching service for books in the Upper Camera and trundle our BSF book crates on a circuitous route through the Old Bod and Gladstone Link! I have loved getting to know the trainees and the team here and enjoyed the variety of my role. A highlight of the role for me has been answering enquiries of readers that require me to dive into a search and investigate their question, for example, in helping them to locate primary resources.
Ben Elliott, Pembroke College Library
Christmas is here, and it is time to reflect. This term has flown by, but it’s been a good one. Pembroke’s library consists of the librarian, me and the archivist and because it is a small team it has meant my traineeship has been distinctly unique and varied. For instance, I have delivered a library induction to visiting fellows from Pembroke’s ‘The Changing Character of War Centre’ which involved talking to a room of senior military officers and a UN advisor… definitely not daunting at all! As well, I have met some truly fascinating and brilliantly eccentric individuals along the way, some even coming as far as from Utah.
It’s been particularly fun getting acquainted with Pembroke’s special collections, rare books and art collection and sharing them with students through object sessions and talks… especially when a talk discusses a naturalist’s book in our collection which attempts to convince readers that the platypus is, in fact, a real animal despite it looking odd!
Working with the college art has been brilliant. Inspecting the conditions of the college oil paintings with a freelance art conservator and the college archivist was a highlight. Staring at a painting of a 19th-century fellow whilst listening to ghost stories of said fellow is a moment I never expected in this job, but an enjoyable surprise, nonetheless.
Juliet Brown, Old Bodleian Library
As the year draws to a close, it is nice to see everyone getting excited about the holiday season. The decorations have gone up in the Bod, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without the Old School Quadrangle Christmas tree in pride of place.
As everyone gets ready to head home for the holidays, it is also a nice time to reflect on my first few months at the Old Bod, and the experiences that have shaped my role as the trainee in this incredible building. I have been very lucky to work within an incredibly supportive team, who put up with my constant questions and have made me feel at home in my new role. As the Old Bod trainee, I have been very fortunate in having an extremely varied working schedule. From duties in reader services (answering enquiries, issuing and returning books, leading tours, shelving, assisting with book deliveries, completing book scans), through to the more technical aspects of the role (helping with interlibrary loans, book processing, preparing books for repair, relabelling), my role has allowed me to complete an extremely diverse range of tasks. In addition, my manager has been keen for me to take on my own responsibilities, which have included designing new posters for the Lower Gladstone Link, creating instructional sheets for the evening team and rehoming a cupboard of abandoned books.
A highlight of the traineeship is the opportunity to take part in sessions designed to expand our knowledge about the various areas that make up librarianship. We have learnt about the technical skills needed for cataloguing, the complex world of Open Access, the importance of social media skills, and discovered the digital tools available to students and researchers at the University. In addition, the traineeship has allowed us to visit the Weston (for an insight into the role of the conservation team and special collections) and even spent an afternoon at the BSF.
I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings, both in terms of training and with my role, after a very restful break at home with my family, dog and lots of good food.
Hello! I’m Ben, the graduate trainee librarian at Pembroke.
Before Pembroke, I studied English Literature and History of Art at York. Deciding that staring at art and calling it “studying” was for me, I then completed a master’s in History of Art, also at York. Making the southerly trek from North Yorkshire and the beautiful city of York – a place I was lucky to call my home for 4 years – to Pembroke, I felt strangely at ease. Pembroke’s 1970s library building is scarily similar to York’s stunning, and monolithic concrete-acropolis of a campus (which I loved). This is not to say Pembroke is a 1970s creation. Its foundation in 1624 makes for some beautiful quads and buildings whilst being the stage for J.R.R. Tolkien putting pen to paper writing The Hobbit and seeing Samuel Johnson explore the English language.
In my spare time, I like to sketch. One of my recent sketches, see below, is of Pembroke’s Fellows Staircase:
Throughout university, I volunteered and interned with museums, galleries, archives and country houses discovering that collections work and education are what I found to be most interesting, enjoyable and fulfilling. So, for me, working in an academic library was a brilliant opportunity to explore these fascinations further. I look forward to delving into the bizarre world of college libraries exploring their endlessly unique special collections, and in Pembroke’s case, its art collection!