Michelmas Term Round-Up

Hello! Now that Michaelmas term is coming to an end, Bethan and I thought we would do a round-up post about some the things we have been up to so far.

  • PGCE workshop

In September we had the opportunity to participate in an information literacy training session for new PGCE students with the Education Librarians. This included helping the students utilise the online library catalogue and make the most of the libraries to aid their studies. We also showed them tips and tricks on sourcing academic journals, articles, and books.

Beth says – This session highlighted the importance for new students to learn key skills about using the library catalogue and finding e-resources to aid them in their studies. We got the opportunity to participate in the group work parts of the session to offer suggestions and help when needed, as well as the individual exercises. Although I was supposed to be helping with the teaching, I ended up learning a lot myself!

Emma says – Teaching the PGCE students really helped to confirm what I knew about the library system and it was a great opportunity to put some of the training into practice in a different setting.  We worked with other members of staff from the Education library and two Swiss interns so we had a lot of support! The PGCE students were really friendly and it was a good session to be a part of.

  • Training sessions: which have we enjoyed so far?

During this term we’ve had the opportunity to have practical and theoretical training at Osney. Training sessions have been varied this term, including an interactive session on customer care, an introduction to cataloguing using the Oxford library system, as well as a presentation on applying for courses in library and information studies. Here’s what we each enjoyed the most:

Beth says – In November we got the opportunity to visit the BSF, a warehouse where over 11 million of the Bodleian’s collections are held. There was an informative presentation about the challenges and logistics of the facility, as well as how it is developing. This includes issues of storage space as the collections grow, and improving sustainability to reduce its environmental impact.  We were also given a tour of the facility, which highlighted how efficient the process is to ensure that the books are delivered to the libraries on time, twice a day. Indeed, apparently it takes experienced staff members less than 45 seconds to pick a single book – which is very impressive considering the size and scale of the warehouse.

Emma says – The visit to the Weston Library and having an introduction to the Special Collections in October was a real eye-opener. After an £80m refurbishment the Weston Library, originally called the New Bodleian Library, opened in March 2015 after work began in 2011. The library now has a lot more space including areas for research, public galleries, and a cafe. It was a pleasure to be shown around the conservation department, to see the archivists at work, and to see behind the scenes at the library. As the Weston is so different from the Business library, it was a worthwhile opportunity to see the different roles within librarianship. It was great to see how the conservationists take care of the old books, maps and the libraries themselves.

The Book Storage Facility, aka the BSF, in Swindon

  • Internet Librarian International (ILI) conference, London

In October we were fortunate enough to go to the ILI conference in London due to the sponsored places offered by FLIP and NLPN. There were six of us in total that went from the Bodleian libraries and we all took away a lot from the experience. There were lots of different talks and presentations, from AI to tips for searching relevant information.

Beth says – A session I particularly enjoyed was about how libraries can utilise digital technology to increase reader accessibility. For example, a case study discussed the DAISY Consortium, which is an organisation which aims to improve the reader experience for people who are blind or print disabled by making digital talking books an industry standard across libraries worldwide. Indeed, the clear theme across the conference was about how libraries can develop in the digital age, as well as the challenges this brings. Myself and a few of the other trainees who attended contributed to a blog post for NLPN about the conference here: https://nlpn.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/internet-librarian-international-info-today-sponsored-places/

Emma says – During the conference we were invited to a session by Liz McGettigan about how to be an information professional in the 21st century. This was an informative session about how to advance our careers, what skills we would need to move forward, and how best to develop them. This was a great opportunity to see what paths were before us and give us an idea of what we could do in the future. Working in a library we are able to learn many new and transferable skills, some of which we’re not always able to recognise, so this was a great session to bring out in us what we’ve learnt so far and what sort of roles we would like in the future.

Ben Gable, Katie Day, Bethan Morgan, Jennifer Garner, and Emma Gregory at the ILI conference in October 2018.

Outside of the training programme the trainees meet up fairly often after work. For example, some of us went round the Oxford Open Doors event in September together, visiting Baliol College, Blackwells, the Examination School, and the New Theatre. We’ve frequented a game board café, where we played a variety of card and board games. Luckily, we didn’t fall out too much! Two trainees, Elspeth and Lauren, started a book club. So far, we have read Annhiliation by Jeff Vandermeer, Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, and we’re currently reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. We had the weather on our side on Bonfire Night when we went to watch the fireworks at South Park. Recently we had our Christmas dinner which nearly all of us attended. It was a great night with great food and company.

Next term looks to be quite busy. We’re looking forward to a new set of training sessions, which includes a visit to Oxford Brookes library and a visit to the digital archives. We can’t wait to see what the next year will bring!

Merry Christmas and a happy 2019 from all the trainees!

By Bethan Morgan and Emma Gregory

End of Year 2015 – Emma Quinlan

Officially, our first academic term as trainees has come to an end! Well done all! We’ve had many highs – who can forget the ‘getting stuck in a lift at the trainee reception’ episode or more recently the epic selfie with the Bodley’s Librarian, Richard Ovenden at the Bodleian Xmas Party. We have had many training sessions on a variety of subjects from Supporting Disabled Readers to How to Become a Qualified Librarian (a very informative and useful session, I might add). I think one of the highlights of the first academic term was to visit the Book Storage Facility (or BSF for short) in Swindon. A place so large it is staggering in its entirety (FYI it has 153 miles of shelving and can hold up to 8.4 million books) and very reminiscent of that famous scene in Harry Potter where Ginny Weasley causes the bottled prophecies to come crashing down in the Department of Mysteries….

BSF Swindon
BSF Swindon (Thank you, last trainee cohort for providing the pic!)

Well that’s what it looked like to me! Anyway, this first term has been an eye opener to the big world of Librarianship and I for one, cannot wait to get stuck into the training next term. First we just have to get through the festive period and all the joys that entails!

Merry Christmas everyone and have a wonderful New Year!

Intellectual Property Rights: I know you’ve been thinking about them!

So a couple of weeks ago I ventured into London for a conference on Questioning Rights: Disruptive and emerging (Intellectual Property Rights) IPR management practices in the arts. It was housed in Central St. Martins’ new location in the Granary building behind King’s Cross St. Pancras.

I’d intended to take a photo of it as it was looking gorgeous in the spring sunshine but I accidentally took a picture of the cake counter in the café instead.

Cake counter at Yumchaa in the Granary Building.
Cake counter at Yumchaa in the Granary Building.

As for the conference itself, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect…but what I found was an interesting and engaging conference bringing together academics, professionals and artists to talk about their perspectives on IPR.

While the first two sessions were geared more towards the creators rather than the users of works and weren’t really applicable to me, it was good to hear their preception of how IPR works and how it affects them.

A common thread that emerged was that IPR legislation in its current state is both baffling to the uninitiated and hopelessly behind the times. Most speakers seemed to agree that there needed to be a demystification of IPR and/or a move away from using IPR. Perhaps because legislation is better at addressing actions rather than intent when it comes to IP?

There’s quite a grey area between inspiration and imitation that current IPR doesn’t address and a fear that excessive reliance on legislation will stifle creativity. In their close-knit communities artists rely heavily on self-policing and reputation, but this only works if you are personally invested in the group. Once their IP moves to a wider (and relatively anonymous) audience this framework breaks down.

Design and Artists Copyright Society talked about how they helped people manage their creative legacy and its disposal, but as far as I could tell they did not have any consultants with curatorial or archival experience (or indeed any experience with the heritage sector except as artists), which seems a bit one sided. How do they address the needs of future researchers who might be interested in an artist’s creative process or social context rather than the end product? Is it even on their radar?

It was a shame that the session on ‘Making the Most of Cultural Assets’ was at the end of the day as it ran a bit long and there wasn’t really time left for discussion. I thought it was quite relevant because much of the day dealt with the need for addressing what becomes of a work once it leaves an artist’s sphere of influence and certainly know what people actually want or expect to take away from it (rather than assuming) would help in formulating policy.

My favourite talk of the day was probably Ben White’s from the British Library. It was mainly about copyright and how it affects the heritage sector. He also touched on recent legislation regarding orphaned works and the EU Observatory’s Office of Internal Harmonisation (which he assured us was not as Orwellian as it sounded). He was quite enthusiastic about the way collective licencing works in Scandinavia, France, and especially Germany; it sounds like a model that would really benefit us! So I do hope that that’s the direction licencing goes in in the UK.

For those who don’t know (including me before this talk!) extended collective licencing means that an organisation (e.g. screenwriter’s guild) can extend their mandate to cover non-members and grant licences on their behalf. The problem with this in the UK is that it’s a limited licence subject to renewal after a few years, so an organisation could potentially end up investing significantly in a collection or work only to not have its licence renewed.

A bad deal!

At the end of the day the conference certainly got me ‘questioning rights’ and where IPR will go in the future.

Moving to the Weston Library

It was a bit hectic being one of the first Graduate Trainee Digital Archivists, starting our funded course, and preparing for the move to the Weston; but now that we’ve started a new year I thought it would be a good time to have a look back at the first few months of my traineeship (now that I feel like an old hand!).

Though we attend many of the same skills and development workshops as the Library Trainees, our traineeship focuses on the archives sector, and more specifically, on providing practical experience with the digital curation skills necessary in our technologically driven age. The Bodleian Libraries is supported in their Developing the Next Generation Archivist project through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future programme.

You’ve probably already seen my colleague’s post about what a week in the life of our traineeship is like, so I guess I’ll talk a bit about the challenges and opportunities that have come up for us. We started both the traineeship and the first Study School for our distance learning course in Archives Administration in September. It was quite funny that because we worked together and were in the same programme people assumed we’d known each other for years when in actuality I’d only met Harriet a week ago!

The Study School was a great introduction to archival theory but when we returned to Oxford we jumped straight into the intensely practical application of packing up our department for the move to the newly refurbished Weston Library. The logistics involved in moving our sensitive collections was eye-opening though it went surprisingly smoothly except for some of our computer equipment which came out a bit worse for wear.

An office with a view. The Sheldonian Theatre in snow.
An office with a view. The Sheldonian Theatre in snow.

Once we settled into our new open plan offices (with the amazing view!) it was really good to have all of Special Collections under one roof (except when you’re queuing for the kettle on your tea break). I really enjoy the variety and flexibility we have as trainees to work on the different aspects of archiving (especially with born-digital content); and once a week I even get to see readers when I work in the David Reading Room!

An Introduction to the Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist Programme

The position of Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist within the Special Collections department of the Bodleian Libraries was a new role developed in 2014. It combines archival work with study towards a postgraduate diploma in Archives Administration.

There are currently two Graduate Trainee Digital Archivists, myself (Harriet) and Emily. A typical week for us involves:

  • Updating the Bodleian’s Collections Management Database with information from our twentieth-century accessions registers
  • Assisting the Oxfam archivists with the appraisal and cataloguing of Oxfam’s communications work
  • Invigilating in the Charles Wendell David Reading Room, where Oriental manuscripts and Commonwealth and African Archives are consulted
  • Listing, arranging, repackaging and cataloguing small collections
  • Seeking permissions for, and archiving, web sites which relate to the Bodleian’s collecting focuses
  • Working on our joint development project of improving and enhancing the Bodleian’s Collections Management Database. This involves working with a software developer to implement the necessary changes identified through consulting different users

In addition to this, we also have an afternoon a week dedicated to our studies. We use this time to work on our assignments through reading pertinent professional literature and producing reports and essays at determined intervals. As a result, we will finish our two-year contract here as qualified Archivists.

As we continue, we will also soon be involved in capturing digital collection material into the Bodleian’s Electronic Archives and Manuscripts digital repository. This will include such tasks as digitising and processing audio-visual material and ingesting and weeding data stored on deposited hardware.

For me, the best aspect of the traineeship is the variety of work we are able to do. We also have the opportunity to shape our time here to reflect the skills we wish to develop, and this has led to me assisting with certain outreach initiatives which I have really enjoyed. Furthermore, conferences, training and the Graduate Trainee sessions have introduced us to the processes and initiatives of the Bodleian, the University and the wider professional community, and helped us contextualise our work within the information management sector, as well as providing us with an understanding of the careers and opportunities available outside of and beyond the traineeship. As a result, I have been able to consider what I might like to focus on in the future, and can already see how valuable my experiences here will be when I begin my career as a professional Archivist.