Tag Archives: Welcome16

Sophie Welsh, Bodleian Library Reader Services

With first term over and Christmas hovering invitingly on the horizon, it’s probably about time I introduced myself on here.

Hi! I’m Sophie and I’ve been the graduate trainee in Reader Services at the Old Bodleian Library since the beginning of August. It’s difficult to remember what it was like in the blur that was my first few weeks here, besides walking the wrong way, picking up a book to pretend I know what I’m doing, and turning straight back around again. I’d like to think I’ve got into the swing of things by now, but I’m still learning something new every day.

The Old Bodleian Library is unique, both as a building and as a library (which, ironically, is a statement which could be applied to all of the libraries in Oxford). I’m surrounded on all sides by beautiful architecture, and I’m glad to say that I still haven’t got used to it, especially now that there’s a Christmas tree in the quad.

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I came to the trainee scheme straight from Exeter University, where I studied English Literature. My experience working in libraries before this has mostly been behind-the-scenes, having assisted a preservation/conservation project in the Devon & Exeter Institution Library and a digitization project working on the letters sent to Thomas Hardy in the University’s Special Collections. I’ve really enjoyed the front of house aspects of working at the Old Bodleian, especially because the front entrance and the Main Enquiry desks are often the first port of call for people coming to the University of Oxford’s libraries for the first time. Being able to find a “missing” book or provide an answer to a grateful reader or member of the public is very satisfying.

Now that term is over, the Library has become a lot calmer and I’ve had more time to work on the beginning stages of my project: phasing out the use of the handlists (aka the card catalogue). At the moment, I’m working through the handlists to decide what information is necessary and will therefore have to be put on to our digital catalogue, so that we no longer rely on the physical catalogue as a back-up. The hardest part is understanding what previous cataloguers have meant by certain abbreviations and anachronisms. I’m in desperate need of a dictionary that can translate words and phrases from Bodleian into English because at times it’s like solving a cryptic crossword. Having said that, putting my detective skills to work is quite fun.

The kind of thing I need

A page from one of the handlists (and the kind of book I need).

I’ve really enjoyed the training sessions and the scheme in general so far, and I’m looking forward to what is to come in the new year. Merry Christmas!

Book Storage Facility (BSF) Tour, 9 November

On Wednesday 9 November, the 2016-2017 Graduate Library Trainees (GLT) were  bussed to South Marston on the outskirts of Swindon and treated to a tour of the Bodleian Libraries’ £26-million strategic storage solution, the Book Storage Facility (BSF).

The BSF opened in 2010 to accommodate the Bodleian Libraries’ rapidly accumulating collection (expanding at a rate of approximately 170,000 volumes per annum). It has subsequently ingested over 8 million books, maps, manuscripts, music scores, microfilms, microfiches, newspapers, periodicals and other low-usage material from disparate storage locations in and around Oxford (including salt mines in Cheshire). It has the capacity to store 12-13 million items and potential for further expansion.

The Closed-Stack Delivery Service: The BSF retrieves and delivers requested material twice-daily to pre-selected Bodleian reading rooms. Requests are often honoured within 24 hours. On 6 October 2015, the BSF celebrated its one millionth book request (Aristophanes by James Robson to the Sackler).

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A kickstool is just not going to cut it! The trainees are dwarfed by their surroundings. The  BSF comprises 31 aisles of shelving (11.4 metres high by 71 metres long)  designed to maximise storage density. It also has “planchests” (out of shot). These are tray-based shelves designed to store 1.2 million maps. Photo: Chantal van den Berg

 

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The Room of (almost) Infinite Wisdom. The BSF’s wonderfully multifarious collection of books (from “the Art of Eating in” to the “Handbook of Phonological Development” to Alexa Chung’s memoirs) sit in special acid free, bar-coded cardboard crates with nylon grab handles and a design life of 50 years. Photo: Chantal van den Berg

Jessica Woodward (Taylor Institution Library) describes the BSF tour:

Hardly a day had gone by at the Taylorian when I hadn’t encountered the work of the BSF. Readers would come to my desk wanting to borrow or return books containing neat little white slips, my fellow trainee Will would tantalisingly allude to his activities with crates upstairs, and other colleagues would be glimpsed sifting through items for the leviathan facility to “ingest”.  You can imagine, then, that I was really intrigued to see the BSF, and our training session certainly didn’t disappoint.  

It began with several Powerpoint presentations on different aspects of the facility’s work: storage, logistics, packaging and book moving.  We learnt a lot about choosing the right conditions for books to live in and minimising the potential for wear and tear during transportation.  We were even given tea and biscuits to have while we listened, which was greatly appreciated!


We were then taken for a tour of the storage and processing areas.  Our group was fortunate to have extra time for this as our coach had arrived early.  We watched books being boxed up for delivery to our libraries, to the rhythmic accompaniment of ‘Ghostbusters’ (!). We observed a PhD student using high-tech equipment to research paper conservation, then a giant futuristic door slid open to reveal the incredible 10m-high shelving towers.  Many of us were eager to take photos to remind ourselves of the impressive scale of these.  As we wandered around, dodging the forklift trucks that were zippily picking up and depositing material, we learnt that all kinds of collections can be found in warehouse’s depths, from books to maps, paintings to toys!


Sadly it was soon time for us to take the coach home, but I came away with a lasting sense of how complex an organisation the Bodleian is and how hard its staff work to ensure readers have access to the greatest possible variety of educational materials.  I am very grateful to everyone involved in running the training session for providing such a fascinating insight into this awe-inspiring library outpost.

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Again…the BSF is vast. Its shelves span 153 miles/230km (or the approximate distance between Oxford and Sheffield).  It is also temperature and humidity controlled to create an optimal environment for its book stock. We are informed that the warehouse is fixed at 18 degrees Celsius +/- 1 degree.  Photo: Chantal van den Berg

 

 

David Phillips, Bodleian Social Science Library

Hi, I’m David and this is my overdue introduction.

I am one of two trainees at the Bodleian Social Science library (SSL). The SSL occupies the first storey of the Manor Road Building (pictured below) and opened in 2004, unifying a collection of smaller social science subject libraries around Oxford. It is a modern, accessible, Green Impact Award winning lending library. It may not have splendorous architecture draped in 16th Century tapestries or keep maps of Middle-earth, but it does boast the largest refugee studies collection in the world and is the main research centre for social scientists.

Bodleian Social Science Library

An Autumnal Shot of Manor Road Building

Comfy Seating Area

Comfortable Seating (& Penguins) at the SSL

My role at the SSL covers a catalogue of “technical services” tasks such as book processing, assessment and repair, “reader services” tasks like mailbox monitoring,  post filtering and contributing social media content  (check out our twitter feed) and serial Issue Desk duty. I also had the opportunity to lead library induction tours during 0th Week.

 

Book Repairs at the SSL

Book Repairs at the SSL

My time at the SSL is supplemented by awe-inspiring tours and informative training courses on everything from conservation to cataloguing to customer care, during which I have the opportunity to meet up with my fellow trainees.

A bit about me. I graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws in International Criminal Justice. After a brief sojourn as a legal assistant in local government, I fell into IT for a few years in Information and Knowledge Management. I could not envisage being confined to a long-term career in IT and wanted to apply my experience in Knowledge Management to an academic/learning environment with the possible aim of becoming a legal librarian – hence the library traineeship. Plus both my parents were librarians so it’s probably ingrained in my blood!

The traineeship has so far served as a novel insight into librarianship (and potentially a platform for a library related career) for which I feel privileged to have been selected. I look forward to what the next chapter holds.

Hannah, Sainsbury Library

Hi, I’m Hannah, and I’m the Graduate Trainee at the Sainsbury Library, part of the Saïd Business School. With its distinctive green ziggurat tower, the Business School is an interesting contemporary addition to Oxford’s classic skyline. The library provides study space and resources to support the School’s various programmes, including the MBA, MSc in Finance & Economics, MSc in Law & Finance, BA in Economics & Management and Executive Education courses.

Autumn colours at Oxford Said Business School

Autumn colours at Oxford Said Business School

The start of my traineeship was relatively quiet, as the lower reading room was closed to readers whilst refurbishment took place. During the replacement of the carpets, venturing out of the office was like entering a maze, as furniture kept shifting to different positions and you never knew where it was safe to walk! As well as a new carpet, reading room now has a new layout, power cubes on all the group tables and some smart red dividers to screen off group work areas from individual study desks.

The portrait of Lord Sainsbury oversees the library refurbishment

The portrait of Lord Sainsbury oversees the library refurbishment

Since then, the library has reopened and welcomed in a new cohort of students. I have now started working on the helpdesk, which has become increasingly busy, but this means that I am learning a lot about how the library works and getting to put it into practice straight away. My Sainsbury Library colleagues have been incredibly supportive in answering all my questions and helping me to settle in! Alongside desk shifts, I’ve been involved in library induction events (also known as the iChallenge – read a report I co-wrote about this here), processing new books, assembling welcome packs for faculty members, creating new signage, carrying out book repairs and updating the online research repository. All this alongside a range of full- and half-day training sessions with the other trainees, I can’t believe how much has fitted into just eight weeks!

MBA students discover library resources through competing in the iChallenge

Before moving to Oxford to start the traineeship, I worked for several years as a teaching assistant in a busy primary school and nursery, following a combined honours degree in Social Sciences at Durham University. As a TA, I had the privilege of helping children take their very first steps on their journey as readers, learning the basic skills that, once acquired, we often take for granted, but which open the door to a vast wealth of information about the world. This also involved the daily administration and care of the reading scheme, which I got to know extremely well (some texts off by heart!), and selecting the right books to meet individuals’ needs. My final project before I left was a grand tidy-up and reclassification of the entire reading book collection – a daunting but somewhat satisfying assignment! I think it was these combined experiences of working with books and helping readers which led me to apply for the trainee scheme. Now I just have to get used to readers who are a little taller, books which are a little weightier, and shelfmarks that say HD59.2 OXF 2012 instead of Purple Ladybird or Blue Star…

One quality that four-year-old school beginners and university students seem to have in common (at least, on a good day…) is a readiness to learn new things through all the channels available to them. This year I will endeavour to imitate this myself, and absorb as much knowledge as I can as the year progresses. I’m excited to see where it will take me!

Amy McMullen, History Faculty Library

Hello! I’m Amy and I am this year’s History Faculty Library trainee.

I graduated in 2014 with a degree in English Literature from Cardiff University. Since then I’ve done all kinds of jobs and volunteering whilst living at home in Solihull near Birmingham – working on a busy airport check-in during summer, dog walking, working in a bookshop, and most recently I was a barista at a popular coffee shop chain. As you can imagine, working in a library has been quite the change of pace!

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Not a bad view at work…

Although I have some experience volunteering in libraries years ago, this is my first proper job working in one, and so far Oxford has been a great place to begin my possible career. I feel very lucky to be here!

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The impressive roof of the Upper Camera

Somewhat appropriately given the subject, the History Faculty Library is a place where old and new buildings meet. I am mostly based in the Radcliffe Camera, AKA. the huge pretty circular stone building on all the postcards from Oxford. It’s easy to see how it got its iconic status, and is just as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside – it’s a shame most people don’t get to see it! Its intricate domed stone ceilings, spiral staircases and super tall wooden bookshelves make it really unique, even though it can be a bit eerie arriving in the library alone first thing in the morning. It is truly a privilege to come to work here everyday – everyone is always jealous when I tell them!

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The Radcliffe Camera staircase

However, most people don’t know that underneath the Camera are the space-age basements and hidden tunnels of the Upper and Lower Gladstone Link, which hold more of our collections (turns out a lot of people have written about history) and links to the Old Bodleian, so we can walk underground rather than dodge all the tourists in the Quad. If the Rad Cam represents the past, then the Gladstone Link represents the future. Some people say it looks like something from Star Trek – I think it looks more like a Tube station.

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The Oxford Underground…the tunnel from the HFL to the Old Bod

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The hidden treasures of the Upper Gladstone Link, with original sliding shelves designed by William Gladstone

Although I have only been here a few weeks, I have already settled into a routine at the HFL. Early morning and afternoon are usually when we receive deliveries of books in big blue boxes, ordered by readers from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon, and these are sure to increase as term begins. In between I have shifts on the reception and circulation desks – issuing books, helping students, or just dismissing tourists! I also have to fit in the training sessions with the other graduate trainees. The rest of the time is often spent processing new books (I still haven’t got the hang of the sticky back plastic) or trying to decipher the Library of Congress classification system whilst shelving returned books.

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The view from the desk in the Lower Cam

Michaelmas term starts properly next week, and as one of the biggest lending libraries in the university, we are sure to be busy! I’ve been told that working in the library during term time is completely different compared to how it is now. However, I’m enjoying the calm before the storm ie. being able to race around the city on my bike without bumping into too many lost looking students! I’m looking forward to the coming year, getting to know the university, the library and its readers, as well as my colleagues and fellow trainees. I feel very lucky to have a fantastic opportunity to experience such an integral part of the world’s top university, and I hope to take advantage of everything Oxford has to offer me!

All photos taken by me in October 2016 🙂

Fiona Mossman, Bodleian Law Library

Hello, I’m Fiona and I’m the graduate trainee at the Bodleian Law Library, the home of all things legal in Oxford. We’re based at the St Cross Building, shared with the English Faculty Library and the Faculty of Law, and there’s been a lot of renovations going on meaning that the start of my traineeship has been far from normal. The library has just re-opened for readers but is still undergoing lots of work, with the entrance and enquiries desk not yet complete and plenty of dust sheets everywhere to protect the books, and the dulcet noises of sawing and drilling filling the air. So I’ve joined at an exceptional time, with added chaos to the start of my traineeship. However that’s not prevented me from thoroughly enjoying my first few weeks, which have passed very quickly, with introductions to the teams and the workings of the library and some of the tasks that I’ll be doing over the next year.

This is not what the entrance looks like just now…

This is not what the entrance looks like just now…

Since we’ve only just re-opened, my main tasks up until now – and for the most part, since I’m in the Information Resources team – have been on the book processing side of things, and I’ve learnt a lot about the therapeutic tasks of book stamping, tattling, and labelling, as well as a little bit of shelving and loose-leaf filing. The graduate trainee gets a little bit of everything, though, and I’ll also be helping the Academic Services team, in tasks such as Document Delivery and, soon, the student induction days. From this week onwards I’ll be having my first shifts on the enquiry desk, where I’ll have to know enough about the layout and workings of the library to help readers – a daunting task right now, as the various moves and reclassification project mean that nothing is where you expect it to be! The reclassification is another major task for the Law Library, where we are moving from the in-house method to a more standardised Moys format adapted for Law collections. As yet, I’ve not done any of this, but I’m sure that I’ll be doing plenty as the year goes on.

As for a little bit about myself and how I got into the trainee programme – I’m a recent graduate from the University of Edinburgh, where I studied English Literature for the past four years, fuelling my obsession with books. My summer job as a customer services assistant at Cairngorm Mountain, where I’m from, and my voluntary activities at Oxfam bookshop and the Edinburgh University Centre for Research Collections helped to give me the experience and drive to apply to the graduate scheme, and now, amazingly, here I am. I’m thoroughly looking forward to working in the Law Library for the next year, learning from the lovely team here and with my fellow trainees at our weekly sessions, and hopefully picking up a thing or two. It promises to be an exciting year.

Jessica Woodward, Taylor Institution Library

The Taylorian ©Ed W/Flickr

The Taylorian ©Ed W/Flickr

Hello! My name is Jessica and I’m one of this year’s Taylorian trainees. For those unfamiliar with Oxford, the Taylorian is a vast maze of a library that specialises in European languages, Women’s Studies and Film Studies. (The languages used to be Western European only, but this summer the Slavonic and Modern Greek Library reintegrated with our collections, so some of the shelves now look very exotic, with Я’s, Λ’s and Σ’s everywhere.)

Each trainee at the Taylorian gets to try two distinct experiences: working at the upstairs Enquiry Desk (used mainly by readers in search of lesser-known or more specialised books) and working at the downstairs Issue Desk (used mainly by undergraduates borrowing the key texts for their course). I’m sure my fellow trainee, Will, will have lots to say about life upstairs, but here is my take on starting work downstairs.

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks so far, with about half the time spent at training sessions and the rest spent practising new skills at the desk. I have learnt intriguing things such as how to give a book a new barcode (this involves more than putting a sticker on the cover!), how to add a security tag to a book, and how to register an external reader for membership of a Bodleian library. It has also been really fun to meet essential non-human members of the team (Louis the shelving trolley and Xavier the Xerox photocopier!), decorate the Issue Desk whiteboard ready for the start of term, and discover that as staff members Will and I get the same borrowing privileges as academics – meaning we can borrow large numbers of foreign books and DVDs and keep many of them for a long time!

To finish off, a bit about my background and how I came to do the traineeship: I studied French and Spanish at Keble College here in Oxford, then did an MA in Translation at Surrey University, which I loved. During the Master’s, I managed to set up as a freelance translator, and I came out with the idea of continuing with that part-time while finding another, more stable career path to pursue alongside it. As I am an avid reader and enjoy studying and learning, I could imagine being happy working in a library.

I found a part-time job as a Library Assistant at Corpus Christi College in Oxford and was later given the opportunity to do extra hours at St Peter’s College. I absolutely loved discovering how the library world functions behind-the-scenes and learning to perform all sorts of exciting book-related tasks, so decided to build on my experience by applying for the traineeship – and now here I am! I still translate, but am lucky enough to know I am also part of another very enjoyable profession, and this has taken away the nerve-inducing unpredictability of freelancing. What’s more, I’m working with language books, which can’t do my translation skills any harm!

All in all, the first couple of weeks of the traineeship have been exhausting but very exciting. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring.