Madeleine Ahern – Taylor Institution Library

Hi everybody I’m Madeleine, one of two trainees based this year primarily at the Taylor Institution Library with shifts at the Sackler and Oriental Institute as well. I just graduated this spring with my BA Honours degree in History and Art History from Queen’s University in Canada, and after working in archives and museums previously I am now keen to pursue a career in academic librarianship.

A book from our special collections

 

Being a trainee at the Taylorian has been wonderful so far in part because of the extensive collections it encompasses. The Western and Eastern European languages, Linguistics, Film Studies, and Women’s Studies collections make for not only a fascinating range of library resources here but also some neat research going on at any minute. Most people gravitate towards our beautiful reading room adjacent to the main research collection stacks it seems!

 

The main reading room

 

I am primarily based at the issue desk so far, fielding reader inquiries, doing some book processing, shelving, and most recently preparing for inductions week. A favourite moment of my traineeship so far was when I got to work with Dalí, Matisse, and Picasso prints from the Strachan Artist Book collection all in one afternoon. I am really looking forward to all that is to come this year, in part because of an exciting new Navigation and Wayfinding Project that I am undertaking with my fellow trainee Chloe and a team of librarians across the Taylorian and Sackler to improve reader experience.

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.

William Shire, Taylor Institution Library

Hello! I’m Will and I’m the second of the two trainees at the Taylorian this year. Before coming to Oxford, I studied German and Spanish at Durham and therefore working at the Taylorian – Europe’s biggest Modern Languages Library – is a really great experience! It means I can use my language skills on a day to day basis and (attempt at least) to learn the basics of new ones, especially as the Slavonic Library has now moved into the Taylorian as well.

As my fellow trainee Jessica mentioned in her post a few weeks ago, the two trainees at the Taylorian are split between the Issue Desk and the Enquiry Desk. For the first half of the year, I will be working on the Enquiry Desk and so I thought I should write a short post about my duties and the first few weeks at work here!

As I am on the Enquiry Desk, my work is completely different every day as we never know what a reader may want! Most days I have to help readers (especially freshers!) find books in our labyrinthine Research Collection, but I also have to answer queries from academics, process new books, and handle some donations.

The Enquiry Desk
The Enquiry Desk

Additionally, I am in charge of the daily delivery from the BSF in Swindon. As the Taylorian has around 500,000 books but only enough space for around 150,000, this means that a lot of readers order items from the Book Storage Facility! We get two deliveries every day (one at 9 and one at 2), and I collect these books, process them, and then put them ready for collection in the Main Reading Room – a beautiful room and easily my favourite in the library!

The Main Reading Room
The Main Reading Room

My first two months at the Taylorian have gone so quickly but I’ve really enjoyed them – I feel very lucky to be here. We’ve have had a lot of training, and then library inductions to give to the new cohort of freshers so I’ve always had a lot to do! I look forward to spending the rest of my year as a trainee here, and hope to post on the blog sometime in the future – especially as I might be helping to organise an exhibition next year!