Hi, I’m Tom and I’m the trainee at the Taylor Institution Library this year.
Unlike many of the other trainees, immediately prior to taking up my position I was an undergraduate student. I graduated in July with a BA degree in History from the London School of Economics. I don’t have any prior experience of working in a library – my only previous job was as a sales assistant in a busy, grubby garden centre, an environment quite different from the Taylor’s quiet book stacks and grand décor! I feel very lucky to have started my library career in one of the Bodleian Libraries – it is the best possible place to get my first taste of working in an academic library.
The Taylor Institution is a beautiful, labyrinthine library that specialises in European languages, as well as Film Studies. It is split up into two parts – the Research Collection (of most use to those studying beyond undergraduate level) and the Teaching Collection (used primarily by undergraduates). Most of the time I am based at the Issue Desk, which is situated at the entrance to the Teaching Collection.
In my first few weeks here the most fundamental challenge I have been faced with is the difficult task of learning the layout of the library. It is fair to say that the Taylorian isn’t the easiest library to get to grips with, at least at first. However, the maze-like nature of the rooms found within this handsome building means that there is always something new to be discovered lurking amongst the towering stacks. When I haven’t been at training, I have also been gaining my first taste of the basics of library work: loaning and returning books, registering new readers, helping readers to find the material that they need, dealing with deliveries from the book storage facility in Swindon, and processing new books and DVDs (adding barcodes, security tags, etc.). I must admit though that, as the world’s least practical man, I’m not much good at wrapping new books in protective plastic.
Currently the library is not seeing much footfall, as term hasn’t started yet. I am grateful for this period of calm, before the inevitable storm that will no doubt arrive in the form of enthusiastic students come October – it has allowed me to ease myself into familiarity with the everyday tasks that will occupy me much of the time I am here. I am, however, looking forward to the arrival of the students, and I hope that I will be able to help them to access the materials that they need for their courses in the most pain-free way possible.
My first few weeks have been somewhat hectic and I still have a way to go towards memorising everything I need to and putting it all into practice, but I’m very much looking forward to the coming year in Oxford and everything that it brings.