Tag Archives: University of Oxford

Marjolein Platjee, Weston Library

Hello everyone! I’m Marjolein and I am the new digital archivist trainee at the Weston Library. The Weston Library, or originally the New Bodleian Library, was built in the 1930’s in order to house all the books and collections that no longer fit in the Old Bodleian. However, by 2010 the Bodleian’s holding’s had outgrown this building as well. The decision was made to move the majority of the material to Swindon and to completely renovate the New Bodleian. The library reopened under the name Weston Library in 2015, and is now home to the special collections. It has two large reading rooms where readers can consult the material in these collections.

The Weston Library

So now you know where I work, but I bet you are wondering what it is I actually do. Well, I have a job that offers quite a bit of variety, which makes it exciting. On Monday mornings you can find me in one of the two reading rooms of the Weston Library to answer questions that readers have, give out archival materials and books etc.

I am also being taught how to catalogue both digital, paper and hybrid collections. This involves making a boxlist (where you list what is in each box of a collection brought into the archive), creating a cataloguing proposal, arranging the material in a way that is logical for readers who wish to consult it in the future, cataloguing it and publishing it online. So far I have really enjoyed making boxlists, as you never quite know what material you come across… The most exotic items I have encountered are undoubtedly temporary tattoos and multi-coloured, gold inscribed corkscrews. That’s right, archiving doesn’t just involve books and piles of loose paper.

Me getting materials out of the stacks whilst wearing the protective and “ever so stylish” Bodleian bobcap.

Speaking of publishing catalogues online, I am currently helping my colleagues to reformat the XML (i.e. code) behind the online catalogues of the special collections. We are doing this to transfer them to a new, better system, which will help readers navigate the online collections more easily.

Next to this, I also spend quite a bit of time digitizing media such as CD’s, cassette tapes etc. using forensic software so that the information is preserved for posterity.

Apart from all of the above, I also work on the Bodleian web archive, where we archive entire websites so anyone can still consult them after their owners have taken them offline. We are currently writing a Libguide to accompany our collection, to help readers navigate the collection and to refer them to other web archives that might be of interest to them.

I am really enjoying my time here and definitely am not getting bored with all the exciting and interesting tasks I have to do. I cannot wait to see what else there is to learn!

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!

Jenna Meek, Bodleian Law Library

Me! In front of our exhibition celebrating 100 years of votes for women. Photographed by Hannah Chandler (Official Papers Librarian), @thelawbod

Hello! I’m Jenna, and I will be spending my traineeship in the Bodleian Law Library. I am originally from a town in central Scotland, and have spent the last 6 years in Glasgow where I completed my degree in English Literature and History of Art at the University of Glasgow. While I have not travelled the furthest for the traineeship, as we have a few trainees from mainland Europe doing placements with us, Oxford certainly feels like a far cry from Glasgow! Most notably, having only experienced a blend of a city and campus university in Glasgow, getting my head around the collegiate system in Oxford has been difficult. Something I am coming to realise is that Oxford likes to do things VERY differently in many respects!

I was so pleased and grateful to have been offered a place on the traineeship, but also slightly intimidated! I have no previous professional experience of working in a library, but became very familiar with my university library spending (literally) every day there during my final year. I do, however, have around 8 years of customer service and retail experience which I think will come in extremely useful when on the enquiry desk and interacting with such a varied pool of readers in a library as busy as the BLL. Secondly, it was advised that it would be preferable if the BLL trainee had a decent grasp of a few languages, which thankfully I do. This has come in very useful when completing one of my integral tasks of organizing the weekly New Journal Display which boasts many foreign language texts. However, it had not aided when trying to decide which page is the title page when processing a text written in Chinese characters!

While the BLL interior seems very new after having a refurbishment in the last few years, the building itself was built in 1959-1964. As Bryony has stated below, it shares the St. Cross Building with the EFL and the Law Faculty and creates a series of three interlocking cubes. It has a very different feel from many of the college libraries dotted around Oxford, though it has definitely been built for purpose, with four floors of space for the 550,000 texts the Law Bod holds which are mainly on open access. Designed by Sir Leslie Martin (1908-2000) and Colin St John Wilson (1922-2007), the blocky exterior is juxtaposed with the light and airy atrium in the main reading room. Jeffrey Hackney, who was a law student at Wadham College when the building opened, describes:

“My first reaction to the building was that it had been modelled on an Aztec temple and it was a constant source of pleasant surprise that there were no human sacrifices at the top of the steps. “

However, during the exam period, I imagine many students are in as much terror and as helpless as the sacrificial lamb! In actual fact, Ruth Bird, (Bodleian Law Librarian 2004 – 2017) advises that there is notable influence from Alvar Aalto’s Säynätsalo Hall, and the external brick cladding intended to blend with the stone of the adjacent Holywell manor and St Cross Church.

The BLL in 1964: Donat, John, Bodleian Law Library, St Cross Building, University of Oxford, Photoprint, 1964, RIBA Collections

Säynätsalo Hall: Accessed September 2018, https://museot.fi/searchmuseums/?museo_id=9147

One of the most interesting parts of my introductory weeks has been seeing the Official Papers holdings in rolling stacks on the ground floor. 2.5 linear kilometres of texts were moved from the basement of the Radcliffe Building to the Law Bod in 2009. Seeing reports and materials that have changed laws and the lives of people living in the UK has been a real treat and I’m hoping to do a blog post on some of the most interesting finds in the near future.

At the end of my third week, I have already learned SO much and I can’t wait to continue learning and gaining new skills from the extremely helpful teams housed in the BLL, as well as training alongside all the lovely trainees on the scheme. So far I’m not feeling the terror the sacrificial lamb, but I’ll get back to you on that once the mass of undergraduates start in a couple of weeks!

References:

Hackney, Jeffrey in Ed. Bird, Ruth, Celebrating 50 Years of the Bodleian Law Library 1964 – 2014, Witney, Oxfordshire: Windrush Group, 2014, p.5

Ibid., p.138

University of Oxford, The Faculty of Law, Accessed: September 2018, https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/about-us/about-faculty/st-cross-building

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.

 

Danielle Czerkaszyn, History Faculty Library

Hi! I’m Danielle, the new Graduate Library Trainee for the History Faculty Library. I am based in the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link.

radcliffe-camera_image

Radcliffe Camera

A bit about me: I am from Hamilton, Ontario and completed a BA in History from the University of Guelph and an MA in History from the University of Western Ontario. In 2011 I took the plunge and moved across the ocean to England for the MA in Museum Studies programme at the University of Leicester. Following my year in Leicester, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to go back to Canada and I am still in the UK four years later!

Unlike most of the other trainees, I am new to working in libraries. I’ve had a wide variety of customer service jobs and volunteer roles- everything from a coffee shop barista to a museum intern to a front of house assistant at a major UK tourist attraction- but never a library, although the idea of being a librarian has always been at the back of my mind. During my time at university I spent a lot of time in the library and often wondered what it would be like to work on the other side of the desk. With my background in history and museums, I figured a career as a librarian wasn’t too far off since libraries often put on exhibitions with their special collections and a lot of museums have libraries and archives. Plus I have always been one to have a book on the go and love the idea of being surrounded by books! I realise librarians are far too busy to do any reading on the job but that doesn’t stop me from noting down books that I might like to peruse on my own time.

I was fortunate enough to be placed in the History Faculty Library which houses the University of Oxford’s main collection of undergraduate materials in Medieval and Modern History, as well as in the History of Art and History of Science.  It is nice to be in my subject area and among some interesting historical material- I have even found myself shelving books I recognise from my own studies. I also have the added benefit of working in a stunning historical building which is not a bad place to arrive each morning.

Radcliffe Camera ceiling

Upper Camera Ceiling

Having never worked in a library before I didn’t really know what to expect when I started at the beginning of the month. I have had a lot of training in the past couple of weeks and have done several solo shifts on the reception and circulation desks- luckily help has always been nearby! I have also done a few closing shifts which involve ringing an antique bell and shooing out the readers reluctant to leave. I think the most challenging part so far has been remembering all the required passwords and getting to grips with the vast amount of library jargon and abbreviations. Fortunately my colleagues in the Camera have been very patient and helpful as I get orientated. September is a good month to start as the library is relatively quiet, however I’ve been told nothing will prepare me for the change of pace next month when term starts and the new students arrive.

If these first few weeks are anything to go by, I am looking forward to the year ahead- getting to know my fellow trainees, becoming more confident in my role at the HFL, and exploring all that Oxford has to offer.