Like @ SAC! A Peaceable Kingdom

 

In June 2018, the Sackler Library put up a book display with our staff members’ favourite publiciations housed in the Sackler, with the aim to showcase different disciplines and areas of interest together in one place to spark interest and ideas in readers. This is Louise Calder’s account of her favourite item in our collection.

My favourite Sackler book is A Peaceable Kingdom : the Leo Mildenberg collection of ancient animals.  It’s a 2004, London Christie’s Auction Catalogue.  I first encountered it when Dr Henry Kim, then at the Ashmolean’s Heberden Coin Room, said, “You’ve got to look at this!”  He was right.  This was at the very, very beginning of my DPhil[1], and though it was definitely going to be about animals in ancient Greece, I hadn’t yet decided if they would be snakes, or pigs (Professor John Boardman’s idea), or perhaps exclusively pets.  At that point of indecision, and doubt about whether I was truly up to the job, this gorgeous catalogue gave me a bounce of delight that helped me into the next stage.

For 40 years Leo Mildenberg collected ancient Egyptian, Eastern, Greek and Roman animal representations.  Many were already published[2], but this substantial catalogue offers Christie’s exquisite, high quality images for some of the choicest in Mildenberg’s collection.  The pictures breathed fresh life into the objects, just before they disappeared again into secret, private, lucky hands.

 

 

 

During the writing of my thesis this ‘peaceable kingdom’ was a source of refreshment and supporting evidence, not only for study, but recreation too.  A prancing cheetah on an Apulian red-figure plate (Lot 80) inspired me to make an embroidered name tag (see pictures), and the Mesopotamian leopard in limestone (Lot 153) was my focus for an intensive ‘lost wax’ silversmithing project (see pictures).  Both leopard and cheetah exemplify a charm and cheer that pervade the collection.  They seem to reflect that of Mildenberg himself; delightfully pictured smiling throughout.

Back at the Sackler, my colleagues love these ancient beasts too, even down to the issues desk stationery.  Among our many novelty items, we have an eraser in the form of a faïence hippo that’s very like one of Mildenberg’s.  The eraser is actually after ‘William’, the Metropolitan Museum of Art example, but whenever I see it, I think ‘Mildenberg’, and, funnily enough, Mildenberg named his too:  ‘Hubert’ (Lot 111).

 

 

I periodically run across A Peaceable Kingdom in the Sackler.  It’s an old friend, and it gives me a sense of contentment and connection whenever I see it.

Louise Calder, Library Assistant, Sackler Library

 

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

 

[1] Calder, L. (2009), Cruelty and sentimentality : Greek attitudes to animals, 600-300 BC. Thesis (D.Phil.) – University of Oxford, 2009. v. 1: Bodleian Library, Offsite, MS. D.Phil. c.22973, Theses 605083196; v. 2: Bodleian Library, Offsite, MS. D.Phil. c.22974, Theses 605083197.  (Published as: Calder, L. (2011), Cruelty and sentimentality : Greek attitudes to animals, 600-300 BC. Oxford : Archaeopress, 2011.  Sackler Library LG Floor 622.1 Cal.

[2]
Kozloff, A. (1981), Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection. Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213f.
Avida, U. (1986), Animals in Ancient Art. Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii. pamph. [Mildenberg].
Kozloff, A. (1986), More Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection.  Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213fb.
Walker, A. (1996), Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection: Part III.  Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213fc.
Zahlhaas, G. (1997), Out Of Noah’s Ark: Animals In Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection. Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213fe.
Biers, J. (2004), Animals In Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection Part VI : A Peaceable Kingdom.  Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213ff.

Like @ SAC! Fragments and Footwear in the Costume Dictionaries of Late Eighteenth-century France

 

A dismembered torso sprawls down from the left hand side of the pediment with its right leg caught on the step (Figure 1).  Next to it, sporting an insouciant and spritely air, a pair of legs neatly crossed at the knee flaunt a set of elegant cross gaiters.  Underneath are other fragments and body parts; the bottom half of a torso without its feet, elegantly clad and protected in decorative armour. In the centre of the image a set of legs with their accompanying feet rest against some rocks.  Protecting the knees are the masks of bearded men, as if the head of their owner has somehow been repositioned.  Surrounded by other half legs and torsos the image resembles the aftermath of a grisly act of mutilation,  the dance macabre of a battlefield.

 

 

The source of this unsettling image of ornamented body parts is the Sackler Library’s copy of Michel François Dandré-Bardon’s Costume des Anciens Peuples[1] (Figure 2), printed posthumously between 1784-6, and one of a number of costume dictionaries published in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century France.  The Sackler Library’s copy is interesting because even though it was it was printed in memoriam for its author, whose portrait appears in the frontispiece with a short epitaph (Figure 3), it was deliberately produced without the luxurious bindings typical of other costume dictionaries held in the Bodleian Libraries collection in Oxford so that it would remain affordable for artists and the general public.

Dandré-Bardon was himself an accomplished history painter and one of the  leading figures of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris as well as the founder of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Marseilles.  He was from Aix-en-Provence, and studied painting under the Rococo masters Jean-Baptiste van Loo and Jean Francois de Troy.  After winning second prize in the Prix de Rome he went to study in Rome for six years.  On his return to France he went back  to the Académie as a professor, and by the end of his career headed up history painting at the school.  This was significant because history and allegorical painting along with sculpture was the most prestigious sector of artistic production, and the only genre in which works of art could aspire to the beau idéal.

 

 

In their Dictionnaire des arts de peinture, sculpture et gravure, the art theorists Claude-Henri Watelet and Pierre-Charles Lévesque had engaged with and systemised the structure, styles, purpose and aesthetic effect of ancient costume.  To supplement this theoretical engagement costume dictionaries were produced in Europe, and particularly in France, to illustrate and describe in more practical detail the different items of clothing, varieties of hairstyles, ornaments and accessories that made up the ancient way of life (Figure 4).  Particular attention was given to the clothing of the Greeks and Romans, aligning each item of clothing to its historical period, way of life, customs, and habits.

Many art critics and theorists believed that the representation of accurate clothing in works of art promoted the status of French art, erasing the shame felt by many for the licentious nature of  mid to late-eighteenth century Rococo painting.  According to Watelet, as early as the 1760s this desire for a new morality found expression in artistic circles through the inspiration of  the leading portraitist of the day, Anton Raphael Mengs[2], and was signalled in the work of Joseph-Marie Vien and his famous pupil Jacques-Louis David by the adoption of classical dress and subject matter in the genre of history and allegorical painting.  Significant attention was paid in the art criticism to the accurate representation of clothing as it became representative of the new morality, and later a growing sense of national pride.  An example of the way in which artists such as David used these dictionaries as a resource is illustrated by comparing David’s painting L’Intervention des Sabines with the detailed studies by Dandré-Bardon of Phrygian hats (Figures 5 & 6).

 

 

The style and structure of these dictionaries was varied, and each came with its own particular characteristics and idiosyncrasies.  Some of the compendiums were more practical than others in their illustration of antique clothing and household goods.  Others used contemporary or ancient art as exemplars.  Many of the dictionaries had essays or comments in the text on general philosophical issues surrounding the nature of art, ideal beauty or the status of French painting.  Others, like these volumes by Dandré-Bardon, focused more on an object-based analysis.

The resources for these dictionaries were varied.  Some authors engaged directly with the work of ancient scholars such as Pliny and Herodotus, and the works of more modern antiquarians such as the Comte de Caylus and Bernard de Montfaucon.  Most dictionaries, however, drew much of their inspiration and knowledge from the work of the art historian and archaeologist, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, whose influential  L’Histoire de l’art chez les anciens was translated and published five times in France between 1766 and 1802.

Dandré-Bardon’s analysis and images of ancient costume and accessories was unique amongst the other dictionaries in that he did not cite either Winckelmann or any ancient or modern  sources for his compendium, nor did he attribute any broader philosophic or nationalistic purpose for the work.  Yet the structure of the two volumes, starting first with the religious, civil and domestic dress of the Greeks and Romans followed by their military costume, and then systematically tracing the clothing and heritage of other ancient peoples such as  the Israelites, the Egyptians, Amazonians , Parthians, Scythes, Daces, Sarmatians, Ancient Germans and Persians, strongly echoes the interest expressed in Winckelmann’s Histoire on the clothing of ancient peoples and particularly those of the Greeks and Romans. Instead Dandré-Bardon took his accounts of garment and accessory types directly from the ancient monuments themselves.  His starting point of analysis was therefore a description of the individual garments and accessories, followed by an extensive and meticulous interrogation of the context in which they were worn.

 

 

In the text accompanying  this image of Greek and Roman sandals (Figure 8), for example, Dandré-Bardon first described how Greeks and Romans ordinarily walked barefoot except when they were travelling, hunting or in battle.  He itemised each of the shoes illustrated A to G, and then described the variety of ways in which they were secured to the foot with either ribbons, bandages or leather straps. He then demonstrated the social significance of different styles and shoes.  Patricians and senators, for example, were distinguished with a special gold, silver or ivory lunelle, which replaced the customary loop to secure the straps. He then also described and illustrated how ancients used shoes studded with iron spikes or nail heads to walk on ice or in slippery places.

The disquieting image of headless trunks, floating legs and random torsos was therefore part of a broader ethnographic drive to not only chart the details of ancient life and habits, but to provide an important bridge between antiquarian knowledge and artistic practice.  It was not sufficient for the artist who used dictionaries such as these to know the correct item of clothing to use in his work of art, he also needed to understand the context of it so that the overall harmony of the painting would not be disturbed, and the knowledgeable art critic and member of the public would be satisfied.  These dictionaries, which have been overlooked in recent times, are therefore an essential resource to understanding the significance of clothing in Neoclassical painting.

Fiona Gatty, Research Fellow (DPhil, History of Art, 2015)

[1] Watelet and Lévesque, Dictionnaire des arts de peinture, sculpture et gravure. 5 vols. (Paris: L.F. Prault), 4.636-637.638. Sackler Library: #A.Ref.1/Wat.

[2]Michel Dandré-Bardon and Charles Nicolas Cochin, Costume des anciens peuples, à l’usage des artistes, Nouvelle ed., by M. Cochin. 4 vols. in 2. (Paris Alexandre Jombert jeune, 1784-1786). Sackler Library: #KK:DAN vols. 1-2.

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

 

Like @ SAC! – Black History Month Book Display

 

Black History Month has its origins in ‘Negro History Week’, established by historian Carter G. Woodson in the US in February 1926.  It steadily grew in popularity in the decades to come before becoming Black History Month as we know it in 1970.  It finally crossed The Pond in 1987 with its establishment in the UK by Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo.  The aim of the month is to commemorate important figures and events in the African Diaspora.

To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve set up a book display in the foyer of the Sackler.  The books featured in the display cover topics ranging from the work of black artists in 20th Century Britain, to the representation of race in art; and from the influence of Africa upon Western culture in antiquity, to the existence – or absence – of racism in the ancient world.

First of all, the display features a number of books on the art of eminent black artists. Yinka Shonibare – a British-Nigerian artist known for his work with brightly-coloured Dutch wax fabric ­– is particularly prominent (Yinka Shonibare MBE, Yinka Shonibare: Double Dutch).  Wifredo Lam (Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work), a Cuban painter who melded Afro-Cuban culture with the radical artistic styles of the 20th Century, also features.  Finally, Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s provides an overview of the contributions of black artists to the modern British art scene.

Inverting the focus, the display also includes a number of books on black people in art.  Readers looking to explore representations of Blackness in art over time need look no further than The Image of the Black in Western Art, a 10-volume series (of which 3 feature in our display) that exhaustively documents 5000 years of black people in art.  A more geographically-specific take on artistic representations of race can be found in Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico, a beautifully illustrated analysis of paintings of racial mixing among Africans, members of the indigenous population and Spaniards in colonial Mexico and the racial dynamics showcased in these images.

Moving out of art and into antiquity, the display includes books representative of two thorny debates within classical scholarship.   The first of these is the infamous Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization.  In it, Martin Bernal makes the claim that ancient Greece was colonized by Egyptians and Phoenicians, and that from the 18th Century this influence was systematically obscured by Western academia.  Also included in the display is Black Athena Revisited, a collection of critical essays written in response to Bernal’s claims – a small sample of the scholarly firestorm that erupted following the publication of Bernal’s first volume in 1987.  Finally, African Athena is a more recent edited collection that seeks to re-open the debate while simultaneously moving beyond it, shifting its terms to focus on the intersections between the Greco-Roman world and Africa and the Middle East, and implications of those intersections.  The second debate featured in the display is the question of whether racism as we conceive of it today existed in classical antiquity.  In Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, Frank Snowden contends that African blacks, far from being looked down upon, were in fact respected by Mediterranean Caucasians for their martial and mercantile prowess.  Representing the other side of the debate is The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, in which Benjamin Isaac seeks to refute the view that the prejudice of ancient Greeks and Romans was merely cultural, not racial.

We hope that this display serves to highlight both the achievements of individual black artists and the influence of the African diaspora on Western culture more widely.  Furthermore, we hope that it illuminates some of the ways in which race plays a part in the subject areas covered by the Sackler’s collections.  The display will run until the end of the month, but the bibliography will remain accessible on this blog post.

Ben Gable, Graduate Trainee, Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future book displays.  Please speak to a Reader Services staff member if you are interested.

Bibliography

Bernal, Martin. 1987. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. London: Free Association Books.

Bindman, David, Henry Louis Gates, and Karen C. C. Dalton. 2010. The Image of the Black in Western Art. New ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Chambers, Eddie. 2014. Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s. London: I.B. Tauris.

Isaac, Benjamin H. 2004. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Katzew, Ilona. 2004. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press.

Kent, Rachel, Robert Carleton Hobbs, Anthony Downey, and Yinka Shonibare. 2014. Yinka Shonibare MBE. Revised and updated ed. London: Prestel.

Lam, Wifredo, Lou Laurin-Lam, and Eskil Lam. 1996. Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work. Lausanne: Acatos.

Lefkowitz, Mary R. and Guy MacLean Rogers. 1996. Black Athena Revisited. Chapel Hill; London: University of North Carolina Press.

Mosaka, Tumelo, Annie Paul, and Nicollette Ramirez. 2007. Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art. New York: Brooklyn Museum in association with Philip Wilson Publishers.

Orrells, Daniel, Gurminder K. Bhambra, and Tessa Roynon. 2011. African Athena: New Agendas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pinder, Kymberly N. 2002. Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History. London: Routledge.

Shonibare, Yinka, Jaap Guldemond, Gabriele Mackert, and Barbera van Kooij. 2004. Yinka Shonibare: Double Dutch. Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Snowden, Frank M. 1983. Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Like @ SAC! Livres d’artistes / French Artists’ Books and the Avant Garde

 

 

 

On 1st March 2016, we welcomed Dr Camille Mathieu (History of Art Department, 2014-2015) back to Oxford, and to the Taylor Institution, where she presented the Taylor Institution Library’s livres d’artiste collection. This collection includes texts by French and foreign authors; with illustrations by well-known 20th century artists such as Braque, Kandinsky, Matisse and Picasso, as well as many others. (Largely for reasons of conservation and space to accommodate it, this collection is now on long-term deposit with the Sackler Library and hence — with Dr. Mathieu’s permission — we are republishing this post on the Sackler Library’s blog.)

 

 

Dr Mathieu’s presentation was accompanied by a display, in the Taylorian’s Voltaire Room, of related items in the artists’ books collection. The following is her summary of her talk.

As far as objets d’arts go, the artist’s book is a rather hybrid form. It turns a story or a poem into an object; it lends the weight of materiality to the metaphorical weight of narrative. It is necessarily a collaborative effort: author, artist-illustrator, typesetter, printer, editor, publisher—all of these people have a hand in producing the final product. It can be presented materially—as a bound book where only one page can be opened at a time—or immaterially, as a series of leaves and pages that feed into one another. 
It was its hybridity as a medium that drew Walter Strachan to the artist’s book; his impressive collection of sheets from these books was given to the Taylorian during Giles Barber’s tenure as Taylor Librarian (1970-1996).

A teacher of modern languages at Bishop’s Stortford College, Walter Strachan became interested in the genre of the artist’s book (or, in its French translation, livre d’artiste) in parallel with translations he was 
executing of the works of poets who inhabited Paris during the first decades of the twentieth century – Tzara, Eluard, and Apollinaire, for example, whose texts ultimately featured in Strachan’s collection.

Tristan Tzara, Juste présente (Paris: Galerie Louise Leiris, 1961). Illustrated by Sonia Delaunay

 

Amassed in repeated visits to Parisian collectors, printers, and book artists and sometimes offered to the collector as gifts over several decades, the Strachan Collection is extremely diverse both in terms of the artists and the authors it represents.  It contains two of the most important works for the history and development of the genre, both of whose process of publication was spearheaded and supervised by the legendary post-impressionist art dealer (his “stable” included Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh) and book editeur Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939).

The collection includes two Vollard items — see below images: (1) What is arguably the first artist’s book ever produced in the avant-garde, early twentieth-century sense of the genre that Strachan devoted his scholarship to: Verlaine’s Parallèlement, illustrated by Pierre Bonnard (1900); and (2) Balzac’s Le Chef d’Oeuvre Inconnu, illustrated by Pablo Picasso (1931).

 

Each artist takes a different approach to the concept of illustrating the book. Bonnard’s work is arguably the more innovatively designed of the two, for his illustrations encircle the text, as opposed to providing separate, squared-off vignettes of illustration to the text, as is the case in Picasso’s work.  The rose-colored, frenetic drawing style exhibited by Bonnard in Parallèlement lends the entire production the feeling of being illustrated with sanguine chalk—a feature frequently associated in the late-nineteenth century with the Rococo drawings of Fragonard or Watteau.  This drawing style claims for the art book the purview of the luxury product.

Both Bonnard’s and Picasso’s drawings are more or less illustrative of the actual texts, providing images that generally coincide with the development of the narratives provided. In the case of the 1931 Chef d’Oeuvre Inconnu, the first artist’s book ever to be commissioned from Picasso—an artist who would go on to be prolific in the genre—the illustrations go one step further and take the power of mimesis and the pull of abstraction as their subjects; these are both underlying concepts in Balzac’s narrative as well as powerful motivators for the work of Picasso in the 1930s.  For the man who had invented Cubism (along with Braque) and whose art was currently in a broadly neoclassical phase, the importance of reconciling the live model with a kind of abstracted ideal retained all of the force with which Balzac presents it.  Picasso’s illustrations include both the more traditionally representative (the painter drawing his model) and abstract (the set of line-dot drawings that dominate the “introduction” he provides for the reader [not part of the Taylorian’ sheets from this book).

Pierre Reversy. Le chant des morts. Illustrated by Pablo Picasso (Paris: Tériade, 1948)

The successful marriage of disparate parts and influences that is represented by the genre of the artist’s book— edited, authored, illustrated, printed, etched/engraved/lithographed, and published by a litany of different people with disparate ideas—ironically finds its fullest and arguably most famous expression in this particular livre, whose text and illustrations both insist on the inability of the painter to successfully bind together the real and the ideal.

Dr. Camille Mathieu, Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture, University of Exeter

Photo credits: Nick Hearn & Clare Hills-Nova (Taylor Institution Library)

 

 

 

 

Further reading

Le livre d’artiste: a catalogue of the W.J. Strachan gift to the Taylor Institution: exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum, Ox, 1987 (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum and Taylor Institution, 1987).

W.J. Strachan. The artist and the book in France: the 20th century livre d’artiste (London: Owen, 1969)

Like @ Sac! My year as Graduate Trainee Librarian (2017-18)

 

Every year, the Bodleian Libraries takes on around 10 graduates as part of its Library Graduate Trainee Scheme. The scheme provides training and work experience in an academic library setting for those considering a career in libraries or the information-related sector, often with a view to studying a relevant postgraduate qualification. Each trainee is based in one of the Bodleian Libraries for day-to-day work, and attends a weekly training session with the other trainees. The training sessions vary from specific job-related training courses, career talks, or visits to other Bodleian departments or Oxford libraries. There is even a day-trip to London to expand our horizons and escape the Oxford bubble.

The Sackler Library is one of the Bodleian Libraries that hosts a trainee every year, and for the academic year 2017-18, I was lucky enough to be that person! Now that my time here is coming to an end, I wanted to reflect on my year and how the role of the trainee fits into the wider work of the library.

Graduate Trainee Emily Pulsford on shift at the Help Desk scanning in a returned book

 

Right from the start, I have been part of the Reader Services team, gradually becoming fully integrated into this important aspect of Sackler work and life. This has meant spending at least a couple of hours every day helping readers to: borrow and return books; locate books in the library; use other library services such as the PCs and scanners; and generally answer any queries. Desk work also involves processing daily deliveries from the offsite storage facility, and sending back books that are due to be returned there. This setup has been an extremely useful way for me to gain essential library experience. Through it, I have come to understand what it is that Oxford library users want and need, and the challenges of trying to meet varying needs, all of which is useful food for thought for future job roles. As desk duty is always done in pairs, it has also proved an invaluable opportunity to learn from supportive, experienced colleagues.

Over the course of the year, I have helped develop the trainee role (read: be a guinea pig) by shaping regular trainee responsibilities — such as co-ordinating reading list checking and inter-library loans. These tasks have solidified the trainee role by adding to the long-standing trainee task of dealing with the many books, auction catalogues and exhibition catalogues donated via Ashmolean Museum curatorial staff so they can be added to the collections. Even after nearly a year of weekly collections, I still feel a little thrill when going through the Sackler-Ashmolean ‘magic portal’ door to the museum!

One major part of the trainee scheme is the chance to work on a project and present it at the end of the year to the other trainees, supervisors and any other curious Bodleian well-wishers. The trainee project exemplifies how a successful traineeship is mutually beneficial in that the project work is useful to the trainee in terms of gaining experience and skills, and useful to the library in terms of making progress on projects and schemes that haven’t quite made it to fruition in the past.

My trainee project involved re-establishing the Sackler Library’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and setting up a blog for the library.  I have been working on the blog steadily from partway through Michaelmas Term 2017, and we launched with two posts marking LGBT History month (to read, click here and here).  It was a fantastic way for me to get to grips with the fascinating collections in the library and to think about how libraries communicate with their users about new services and important behind-the-scenes work, such as processing new books and conservation.

Graduate Trainee Emily Pulsford and Senior Library Assistant Grace Brown in an image used for the Bodleian Twitter Takeover

 

 

During the year, there have been several new service innovations to promote on the blog and social media, such as Sunday opening hours, the New Books Display, a self-issue machine and height-adjustable desks, all of which make a big difference to readers’ experience of the library.  It has also been great for me to see change first-hand and understand the importance of updating library services to reflect changing reader needs.

The blog also generated unexpected side projects such as book displays in the library.  I have enjoyed the process of selecting books on a broad topic, such as International Women’s Day, arranging the physical display, designing the poster and writing a blog post to act as ‘exhibition notes’ as well as a more permanent record of the display (which was itself temporary). Earlier in the summer, we used the display format as an opportunity to bring together staff member’s favourite publications from the Sackler’s collections.  The response was even more personal and eye-opening than I had hoped, and the display piqued the interest of staff and readers alike.

 

 

 

 

The book display for International Women’s Day
A 360 degree image of the Sackler Library lobby

 

Producing content for the social media accounts also drew on my creativity and previous experience with photography. I used the Radcliffe Science Library’s borrowable 360 degrees camera and VR equipment to take more interesting shots of the library, which was a very enjoyable part of my overall project work.

Another highlight came in July 2018, when the Sackler welcomed A-level students on the University’s Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies UNIQ outreach programme’s summer school. The taster academic sessions were run by colleagues in the Griffith Institute, but I had the chance to run a session introducing the Sackler Library and showing off our extensive Special Collections for these subject areas.

All in all, I have had a wonderful year where I have learned a lot (there’s always something new and exciting to uncover in the Sackler’s collections), worked with a great team and I hope set up projects and tasks that will carry on in the future.  There will always be plenty for new trainees to get involved with and shape their roles, and I wish the incoming trainee good luck as he embarks on his year at the Sackler.

 

 

The next step for me is an MA in Librarianship, which I am looking forward to starting this autumn.  I’ll miss working at the Sackler and I want to thank everybody who has helped make my time here special.

Emily Pulsford
Graduate Trainee Librarian (2017-18), Sackler Library

Sackler 101: Caring for our books

It may come as no surprise that ‘out with the old and in with the new’ doesn’t apply at the Sackler Library. Contrasting with our previous blog post about the New Books Display, this piece will shed light on how we look after some of the Sackler’s open-shelf collections.

As a busy research library catering to a variety of academic disciplines, it is understandable that some books may be older than others and hence more likely to suffer from wear and tear. The frequent or incorrect use of certain volumes also increases the likelihood of damage, the effects of which can manifest as broken head caps and torn pages. Cracked spines may also result from books being ‘crushed’ open on PCAS machines. To prevent such occurrences, and to protect our material for the future, the Sackler supports established procedures for the safe handling of books. Additionally, a suitable alternative for scanning fragile or oversized items has been made available to all readers. Located on the second floor, our high-resolution overhead scanner allows users to make detailed scans without having to flatten books to an excessive degree.

 

Books with broken head caps.

 

Acknowledging the paucity of available space for new acquisitions, staff at the Sackler are also involved in a ‘Space Creation Project’. One of the project’s aims is to ensure our collections continue to be housed appropriately and don’t become too tightly packed together. This will help minimise the risk of avoidable deterioration like ripped spine covers, which all too readily result from an over-zealous bid to extricate a squashed book.

When readers or staff members do identify a book as in need of attention it is temporarily removed from the shelves. This development is duly reflected on the online catalogue (SOLO) which displays a ‘sent for repair’ message below the entry in question. In certain cases a quick fix isn’t an option, so each month we earmark a certain number of volumes to be sent away to a commercial bindery. Here, our books are rebound by a specialist contractor who ensures they come back to the library looking as good as new. We make the most of this important service by selecting some of our high-circulating paperback titles to be rebound as well. Converting student staples to hardback is something we are very keen to do; it increases the shelf-life of books on reading lists and helps us to provide our readers with the publications they need, throughout the year.

 

A selection of rebound titles.

 

Information and statistics on the rebinding process.

 

The timely replacement of important core texts is another key aspect in our mission to partner readers with resources. During the routine maintenance and tidying of shelves, Reader-Services staff identify any items that may have fallen into disrepair and liaise with Subject Librarians to ensure a suitable alternative is made available. A recent result of this process has been the arrival of some shiny new copies of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, intended to augment the reference material available to Classicists ahead of the upcoming Michaelmas term.

 

The steps we take to preserve our collections are not just remedial and staff work concurrently behind the scenes to assist in preventative conservation projects like book cleaning. This process centres around the use of a conservation-grade vacuum cleaner with a fine-brush adaptor. With the correct technique this machine lifts dust from the covers and text-block of a book whilst minimising the risk of damage. Book cleaning also provides an opportunity to check for pests or mould, and should this yield any concerning results, the Bodleian Conservation team are on-hand to provide appropriate support.

 

Book cleaning in progress.

 

Typically, cleaning is done in blocks of no more than two hours to reduce manual handling, so don’t fret if you discover that the item you’re looking for is receiving some TLC ­- it’ll be back on the shelves before you know it!

Ross Jones
Library Assistant

Like @ Sac! – Staff favourites book display

 

As Trinity term draws to a close and vacation begins, it is time for another book display in the Sackler Library. Previous book displays related to celebratory months and days (LGBT History Month and International Women’s Day), but this time I decided to try something different by asking library staff members to choose a favourite publication housed in the Sackler Library. This criterion was deliberately left broad so staff could choose any format of physical item (monograph, periodical issue, pamphlet, catalogue…) on any topic within the library. I also asked staff to write a few lines about why the book was important and/or special to them.

The response was fascinating, with several library staff members immediately presenting me with their favourite book and sharing the story behind their connection with it. In the end, I have been able to display books chosen by a range of staff members, including reader services staff, subject librarians, supervisors and even our operations manager. There was a variety of reasons why people chose the books they did, but a couple of common themes emerged: books that were crucial to academic studies, and books that reminded people of a place that was special to them.

As with previous book displays, part of the aim is to showcase different disciplines and areas of interest together in one place to spark interest and ideas in readers. The display is also a chance for readers to connect more with staff and to remember that we interact with and appreciate the collections here, too.

Below is a list of the chosen books, along with the words written about each one. The books themselves are now on the display, each one captioned by the words people wrote to go with them. Some of these captions have been expanded here to tell the fuller story, and one or two should appear as full Like @ Sac! posts on the blog in good time.

I have enjoyed hearing these stories, and I hope the readers will appreciate them, too, as they browse the display, which is located opposite the issue desk and will run for a few weeks.

 

Books on display:

Aeschylus, & Fraenkel, E., 1962. Agamemnon, Oxford.

“We are very lucky in the Sackler, as the set on the Lower Ground Floor was the one that belonged to Fraenkel himself. This gives our copy a unique connection to an important period in the history of Classics in Oxford. Eduard Fraenkel was a hugely influential figure: a refugee scholar (he lost his German university post as a result of the Nazi anti-Semitic laws in 1933) he was invited to Oxford, given an academic position, and later became Corpus Professor of Latin. He brought the German style of commentary on Classical authors to an English-speaking audience and his influence on Classical philology cannot be overstated.

His ‘Agamemnon’ seminar became legendary; including in its alumnae the novelist Iris Murdoch, who wrote a poem about her experience, ‘Agamemnon Class, 1939′. By all accounts Fraenkel was both inspirational and terrifying (sometimes simultaneously). Fraenkel’s insistence on close reading, line-by-line and word-by-word interpretation, and his philological approach to the text set the precedent for the teaching of Classical Literature in Oxford for rest of the century (and beyond).

Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, for me, is the most beautiful and emotional play that has survived from antiquity. As an undergraduate I fell in love with its unique use of language and metrical patterns. Fraenkel’s commentary, for all its rigorous scholarly dissection, illuminates the play brilliantly, and has provided generations of scholars a strong foundation from which to launch their own approach to the text.”

 

Barolsky, P., 2014. Ovid and the metamorphoses of modern art from Botticelli to Picasso, New Haven.

“The Latin epic poem Metamorphoses by Ovid has been a thread running through my studies (and interests) from school through to university final exams and beyond. Many of the stories told within the poem – Pygmalion, the fall of Icarus, Narcissus – are familiar to us today through various retellings in different media.

This book is an accessible overview of how Ovid’s work has influenced (Western) visual arts in particular, and it represents a cross-over between two of the Sackler’s subject areas: Classics and art history. I especially love the Pieter Bruegel painting Fall of Icarus (reproduced in colour on the endpapers of the book and explored in Part V), as it reminds me of a school lesson where I was introduced to the Metamorphoses alongside this painting and the W. H. Auden poem Musée des Beaux Arts. This book is also a delightful reminder of how Ovid’s playful tales have taken on a life of their own and inspired artworks that are fascinating in their own right too.”

 

Bayer, P., & Waller, M., 1988. The art of René Lalique, London.

“I haven’t been at the Sackler very long, but on my first day I noticed a book on René Lalique. Although I knew of Lalique, I had not seen any of his work in the flesh (so to speak) until I visited St Matthew’s Church (also known as The Glass Church) in Jersey. It’s a wonderful example of his work and pictures of the church are on pages 184 to 186 of this book. This has also led me to a very large catalogue for Lalique, and I am sure some time will be sent looking at this and admiring the beauty within.”

 

Berne-Joffroy, A., & Dufy, R., 1983. Zigzag parmi les personnages de la Fée electricité, Paris.

“For a Francophile and fan of the artists of the “Fauve” movement there is no shortage of books to choose from in the Sackler’s collections.

The “Fauve” artists’ use of brilliant colours, botanical themes, and paintings depicting bright Mediterranean seascapes glimpsed through open windows have always cheered and uplifted me since first discovering them during my undergraduate studies of French language and culture.

It is very hard to choose one book and even harder to select a single painting but this small monograph dedicated to Raoul Dufy’s Fée électricité is my choice. The book contains a foldout at the back where the painting is reproduced in colour.

This original is a work of art on an epic scale, measuring over 600 square metres. Painted in less than a year for the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, it tells the story of electricity. Its towering rainbow-coloured panels depict both mythical interpretations and practical applications of electricity, incorporating 110 portraits of the scientists and inventors who contributed to its discovery.”

 

Carr, L., Dewhurst, R., & Henig, M., 2014. Binsey: Oxford’s holy place; its saint, village, and people, Oxford.

“During Oxbridge entrance I had to analyse Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem ‘Binsey Poplars’. Although I knew the hamlet from walking the Thames path, it was several years before I discovered its gorgeous 12th century church tucked away along a lane not far from the ring road. It’s a magical place: a little piece of ancient countryside just outside the city. It’s also a place of legends and stories: St Frideswide; Catherine of Aragon visiting the holy well; Lewis Carroll and his Binsey treacle wells. In time I got married at Binsey. This book of essays about Binsey, its environs and history is beautiful and fascinating — a work of scholarly local history to treasure.”

 

Christie, Manson & Woods., 2004. A peaceable kingdom: the Leo Mildenberg collection of ancient animals, Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 October 2004, London.

“My favourite Sackler book is A peaceable kingdom: the Leo Mildenberg collection of ancient animals. It’s a 2004, London Christie’s Auction Catalogue. I first encountered it when Henry Kim, then at the Ashmolean’s Heberden Coin Room, said, “You’ve got to look at this!” He was right. This was at the very, very beginning of my DPhil, and though it was definitely going to be about animals in ancient Greece, I hadn’t yet decided if they would be snakes, or pigs (Boardman’s idea), or perhaps exclusively pets. At that point of indecision, and doubt about whether I was truly up to the job, this gorgeous catalogue gave me a bounce of delight that helped me into the next stage.

For 40 years Leo Mildenberg collected ancient Egyptian, Eastern, Greek and Roman animal representations. Many were already published, but this substantial catalogue offers Christie’s exquisite, high quality images for some of the choicest in Mildenberg’s collection. The pictures breathed fresh life into the objects, just before they disappeared again into secret, private, lucky hands.

During the writing of my thesis this ‘peaceable kingdom’ was a source of refreshment and supporting evidence, not only for study, but recreation too. A prancing cheetah on an Apulian red-figure plate (Lot 80) inspired an embroidered name tag, and the Mesopotamian leopard in limestone (Lot 153) was the focus of an intensive ‘lost wax’ silversmithing project. Both leopard and cheetah exemplify a charm and cheer that pervade the collection. They seem to reflect that of Mildenberg himself; delightfully pictured smiling throughout.

Back at the Sackler, my colleagues love these ancient beasts too, even down to the issues desk stationery. Among our many novelty items, we have an eraser in the form of a faïence hippo that’s very like one of Mildenberg’s. The eraser is actually after ‘William’, the Metropolitan Museum of Art example, but whenever I see it, I think ‘Mildenberg’, and, funnily enough, Mildenberg named his too. ‘Hubert’ (Lot 111).

I periodically run across A Peaceable Kingdom in the Sackler. It’s an old friend, and it gives me a sense of contentment and connection whenever I see it.”

 

Crouch, C., 2014. Contemporary Chinese visual culture: tradition, modernity, and globalization, Amherst.

“Having spent my formative years in China, I was drawn to this title during a routine shelving shift. A discerning look at modern China’s contemporary aesthetic, it is at once both accessible and informative. The editor, Christopher Crouch, accommodates for a Western readership by providing a related reading list of texts in English at the end of each chapter. His command of the subject shines through in his ability to deliver a book that, whilst boasting contributions from over twenty scholars, still exhibits a clear and cohesive progression of ideas.

In seeking to explain the juxtaposition between innovation and tradition in Chinese art and architecture, this assemblage of short studies, by numerous Chinese experts, is thorough in its examination. Its broad remit gives it licence to cover a variety subjects: from the significance of rocks in traditional Chinese gardens to the decline of avant-gardism in post-industrial societies. Not simply for art students, this book is an opportunity to escape Eurocentric narratives and gain insight into the visual legacy of Asia’s economic powerhouse. What’s not to love?!”

 

Euripides, & Conacher, D. J., 1988. Alcestis, Warminster.

“With its blend of tragic and satyric elements, Alcestis is one of my favourite Classical plays. This fourth play in Euripides’ tetralogy is the only “tragedy” with a happy ending. You can find in it several themes and features common in Euripides’ dramas, such as the limits of human life, but you can also read it as the story of a woman’s sacrifice for love, and of her devotion to her husband.”

 

Lister, R., & Palmer, S., 1988. Catalogue raisonné of the works of Samuel Palmer, Cambridge.

“It was difficult to choose just one favourite book in the Sackler’s collection. In the end I chose a catalogue raisonné of an artist whose etchings I enjoy collecting and which was instrumental to my research and future interest in collecting antiquarian and contemporary prints.

I previously worked in the Museum of Modern Art in New York having studied the History of Art. But when I came to the U.K. I became interested in the work of British visionary artists such as William Blake and Samuel Palmer. Palmer had been greatly influenced by Blake and I started to collect Palmer’s etchings. Therefore, I found the reference books at the Sackler, especially the catalogue raisonné by Raymond Lister, an invaluable guide in determining the various states or different impressions of Palmer’s work, particularly those of The Bellman and The Lonely Tower. These two etchings were used to illustrate Milton’s Il Penseroso and are among his greatest works in the medium harking back to his early inspired visionary period in Shoreham. These two images reflect his unique and Arcadian view of the English landscape and have a numinous quality that makes them particular favourites of mine. I owe much of my knowledge to this helpful guide.”

 

Lorenzetti, G., 1939. Torcello: la storia, i suoi monumenti, Venice.

“This book by Giulio Lorenzetti, printed in Venice in 1939, contains black and white pictures and a folded map of the Torcello estuary showing obscure places which are familiar to me. Being of Venetian origins, I feel a mixture of pride and nostalgia every time I encounter something related to the small island of Torcello.

From the Altino region on the mainland, the first “Veneti” were searching for a site where they would be safe from barbarian invasions. They chose Torcello surrounded by marshes which impeded enemies from reaching them by “terra o mare”, land or sea. This tiny island became the first Venetian settlement.

Today its fewer than 20 inhabitants can daily enjoy the beautiful landscape in which Hemingway holed up while writing. They have the privilege of living near the Basilica Santa Maria Assunta, first built in 639 A.D. and containing wonderful mosaics to be admired on the west wall and the main apse. Two carefully protected colour prints of those mosaics are to be found inside the guide.

Ancient storage facilities for the unloading and preservation of goods have been discovered on the island during archaeological work carried out in 2017, and continuing excavations are throwing new light on the early history of Torcello, which was the cradle of ‘the Serenissima’.

This simple 1939 guide inspires me to return to this tiny island which played an important role in early Venetian history before the seat of power moved to Rialto.”

 

Lucretius Carus, T., Rouse, W. H. D., & Smith, M. F., 1975. De rerum natura, Cambridge, Mass.

“I’ve chosen the Loeb edition of Lucretius as my favourite Sackler book. As an undergraduate, I studied Lucretius for a Mods paper and two Greats papers, so I spent rather a lot of time consulting this book!”

 

Petronius, A., & Walsh, P. G., 1995. The Satyricon, Oxford.

“The only preserved episode of this novel by Petronius was the lengthy scene of the dinner in Trimalchio’s house (Cena Trimalchionis).

Trimalchio was a former slave who paid to be set free. He became this eccentric wealthy (and tacky) rich person who had all sorts of shows and displays within his house. Unfortunately his taste was very bad and the extravagant demonstration of his wealth transformed him into a caricature. On another level he is compared to Nero, as Petronius was alleged to be living in Nero’s court. The novel is a parody of Nero and his extravaganza, a parody of low morale and wealth display without any substance. The automatons and the shows that Trimalchio opts to bring within that dinner resemble the automatons and the machinery that Nero was keen on using (see the ship which would break open in the ocean and drown his mother Agrippina). On another level the usage of automatons and machines was a common practice of tyrants. Trimalchio (and subsequently, Nero), become the tyrants.

This novel has set the foundations for all Western literature novels in the manner we know them now. The story of the Cena is actually a part of the adventures of Satyricon: Encolpius (the main narrator), Ascyltus (his lover) and Giton (Encolpius’s slave but a lover of both Encolpius and Ascyltus), are caricatures of the romance novel heroes. In the place of the traditional heterosexual couple who wonder across the seas in seeking their beloved ones, we have a homosexual couple plus their lover who go in adventures whilst seeking to find their beloved ones. It examines homosexual partnerships in a way that most literary pieces don’t.

Finally, the episode of Cena Trimalchionis inspired Fellini’s film Satyricon.”

 

Plato, & Rowe, C.J., 2012. Republic, London.

“I studied English at the University of Cambridge, but one of my favourite parts of the course was a paper in philosophy. Plato’s Republic – here translated by Christopher Rowe – is a fascinating insight into ethics, the concept of justice, and the ideal state. Plato likens the soul to a city, in having three parts: the appetitive element, the spirited element, and the reasoning element, which in turn can be found in the three types of people in a city. Ultimately, Plato decides, both the individual and the city must be ruled by reason in order to be just, but this conclusion has some uneasy implications for the largest part of the population.

I once wrote an essay about this text that tried to explain a problem of the state-soul analogy using my own analogy based on prawn sandwiches. This was probably a result of all-nighter-induced delirium on my part, but I have always enjoyed analogies: picking apart the similarities and discrepancies between two things, and using one to better understand the other. For this reason, and because it reminds me of engaging discussions with some very interesting people, I have chosen this work as my favourite book in the Sackler.”

 

Emily Pulsford
Graduate Trainee Librarian

Sackler 101: Offsite deliveries

 

If there is one thing that libraries in Oxford are always short of, it’s space. The Bodleian Libraries receive around 1,000 new items per working day and now hold more than 13 million in total. This means ever more publications are vying for limited space on open-access shelves at individual libraries such as the Sackler.

Over the years, the Bodleian Libraries relieved some of this pressure by storing books in a variety of places. These ranged from below ground in the centre of Oxford itself, to offsite facilities at Nuneham Courtenay (5 miles outside Oxford) and even a disused salt mine in Cheshire. These were replaced by a new large-scale Book Storage Facility (BSF), which opened in 2010 after a three-year build and the Bodleian’s biggest ever book move, which you can read more about here.

Situated on the outskirts of Swindon, the BSF is designed to house and conserve less-frequently-used items, while making them available to Bodleian Libraries’ readers on request. As a trainee on the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Trainee programme, I visited the BSF earlier in the year. This was a fantastic experience that really helped me appreciate the logistics involved and see how the Sackler Reader Services team fitted into the bigger picture.

 

The scale of the storage shelves at the BSF.

 

When you enter the main storage area at the BSF, the scale of it strikes you immediately. The building itself is huge, resembling an aircraft hangar from the outside. Inside, the shelving units are 11.4m tall in aisles 71m long, making a total of 230km of shelving. Every book or item is stored with others of the same dimensions, so they fit into archive-standard boxes that look like long magazine files. Every shelf, box and individual item has its own barcode so items can be tracked.

 

Each shelf, box and book is barcoded.

 

The BSF’s computer system is vital to the logistics of books entering and leaving the facility without being ‘lost’. The system logs book requests that Bodleian readers place via SOLO and calculates the most efficient order for ‘picking’ the requested items on any given day. The BSF staff work through the list in order, fetching the books and scanning each one with a handheld device as they go. They do this using machinery that is part forklift truck and part cherry-picker, which can move down the aisles swiftly (but safely) and enable staff to reach the top of the high shelves.

 

The machinery used to access the highest shelves.

 

Once all the books have been fetched, BSF staff sort them according to which library they have been requested to arrive at, such as the Sackler. Staff put into each book a computer-generated white slip identifying the destination library and reader, and pack them into blue crates. A dedicated Bodleian delivery team then delivers them by van.

The BSF deliveries are an important part of the work done by Reader Services staff at the Sackler, with two deliveries coming in each day. Each delivery consists of multiple crates (with ten or more crates during peak demand in term time). While still helping readers with circulation and enquiries, staff at the desk make it a priority to process the delivery efficiently to help readers have access to their requested books as soon as possible.

To do this, we unpack the crates and scan each book in before putting it on the reservation shelves behind the desk ready for collection. We also add a friendly green slip reminding readers that the books must be returned to the desk when not being consulted.

 

Unpacking the delivery crates.

 

As with normal loans, each book has a due date for return to the BSF. The BSF computer software generates a list of due books and sends it to us every morning. We take each book on the list off the reservation shelves, scan it using the computer again, take out the green slip to be reused, and then pack all the books into crates to be collected by the delivery team and driven back to the BSF.

 

 

Art, archaeology and architecture books — the primary areas of study at the Sackler — are notoriously heavy. As a result, our deliveries are consistently heavier than other libraries’ and are a serious manual handling issue. Tuesday mornings are when we receive the longest lists of books to return to the BSF. On one term-time Tuesday morning, I counted and weighed the books we returned to the BSF so we could get a snapshot of the kind of materials people are ordering to our reading room. That morning, we sent back 58 items which weighed 38.57kg in total (meaning the average weight was 0.65kg), with the heaviest weighing 2.48kg and the lightest, a small pamphlet, just 0.01kg. As for the books coming in, our highest number of crates to reach us in one afternoon’s delivery was fourteen.

The BSF delivery system makes available for readers a huge variety of items, and it is always fascinating to see what has been ordered. While many of the items are directly related to the subjects covered by the Sackler’s open-shelf collections, some items are on more unexpected or intriguing topics, as demonstrated by the images in this post.

 

 

 

The deliveries are a great daily reminder that readers are working on cutting-edge research topics, and using the Sackler Library as a preferred working space – not just a place where books happen to be housed. For me as a trainee, it also reinforces the idea that a vital aspect of librarianship is enabling and extending people’s access to the resources they need.

Emily Pulsford
Graduate Trainee Librarian

Sackler 101: The New Books Display

Here at the Sackler Library, we really love new books. And we see plenty of them! Not only are they an essential part of the library, they also look fantastic, so we like to show them off. In the last six months, we added over 1,400 (hard copy) new books to the Sackler’s collections, and we have displayed them all, on rotation, on our New Books Display.

We think it’s important to display all the new monographs we receive, because they’re such essential research tools for Sackler readers. Each month, we post online New Acquisitions lists, but many of our readers like to browse the incoming materials physically. Much of our intake contains the latest research relating to the many subjects collected by the Sackler, which is something our readers find invaluable in keeping up to date with recent publications in their fields and emerging areas of research interest. Each week, the New Books Display offers a new snapshot of the collections on offer in the library.

The New Books Display is located on the Ground Floor, spread across two bookcases. Since September last year, all new books received by the library have been displayed together near the entrance to the Library, which makes it easier for our readers with interdisciplinary interests to gauge the range of acquisitions. Books destined for the Sackler’s lower three floors (Lower Ground Floor, Ground Floor and Floor 1) – Archaeology, Classics & Ancient History, Numismatics, and Egyptology & Ancient Near Eastern Studies – are displayed on the left-hand bookcase. Books for Floor 2 and Floor 3 – Western Art & Architecture (medieval to modern) and Eastern Archaeology, Art & Architecture – feature on the right-hand bookcase. We give all the books on display a special ‘New Books Display’ status so that when you search for them on SOLO you know where to find them.

You may notice the brightly-coloured slips inside the books on the Display, with a colour-coded week number. This is a four-week system Reader Services staff use to keep track of which books have arrived each week, so that when a book has been on the Display for four weeks, it is taken off to join the main collections on the open shelves. There is a coloured flippable sign accompanying the Display which tells readers the current week – so books with that coloured flag are the most recent to have arrived.

The New Books Display is one of the final stages in a newly-acquired monograph’s journey to the Sackler’s shelves. It begins with our four Subject Librarians, specialists in their fields, who decide which new books should be acquired. They make these decisions based on their knowledge of the subject, their familiarity with relevant courses offered within the university, their understanding of readers’ areas of research, study and teaching, and also reader recommendations.

Next, subject librarians’ orders are received by Acquisitions staff, who place the orders with selected vendors and create a minimal record for each title (researchers can use SOLO to find out whether a publication has been ordered). When books arrive from booksellers they are passed to Cataloguing staff who create the full bibliographic records you see on SOLO. The books are delivered to the Sackler Library, and Reader Services staff transfer them to the New Books Display. Lots of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure we’ve got the books that are needed by our readers, and it’s one of the most important jobs we do.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the numbers of new books we receive…

They certainly keep us very busy!

Grace Brown, Senior Library Assistant for Reader Services

Sackler 101: Sunday Opening . . .

 

. . . Research and Study in the Sackler Library on Sundays!

 

 

 

New Sunday opening hours, 2018

 

One of the aims of the Sackler Library’s blog is to provide insights into behind-the-scene activities that enable readers to conduct Sackler-based research and study throughout the year. This, our first contribution to the Sackler 101 series, discusses the introduction of Sunday opening, tells how it came about, and reports on reader response.

At 12:00 noon on 14 January 2018, the beginning of Hilary Term, the Sackler opened on a Sunday for the first time. Planned as a soft launch, and despite minimal advertising, by the time the Library closed at 18:00 the reader count had reached fifty-five and the Sackler had established itself as the University library with the longest year-round, staffed opening hours:

M-F         09:00-22:00
Sat          11:00-18:00
Sun         12:00-18:00

Within seconds of circulating to various student groups the announcement about Sunday opening, we received email responses such as the following:

“THIS IS BRILLIANT!!! The best news to arrive in my inbox yet! Thank you soooo much!”
“Now might be a good time to reiterate how grateful I am to you all for [. . .] actively working to improve it and extend its opening hours!”

Other comments arrived via our Twitter account — for example:

“Sackler Library opening 12-6 on a Sunday is life-changing.”

Once the inevitable concerns about the new initiative had been dispelled, one almost forgot that this was anything other than business as (weekend) usual – with a similar range of library services on offer as on Saturdays.

Although library operations ran smoothly that first day, Sunday opening at the Sackler had been several years in the making and not without challenges. Given that many colleges have provided 24/7 library access for years, it may seem puzzling that the Bodleian Libraries didn’t have longer opening hours more generally. (Indeed, the demand for Sackler Sunday opening dated back a decade or more.) But, then, access to college libraries is relatively easy to manage and regulate, even when there are no staff present. Spaces are smaller and are familiar to their readers (college members only). By contrast, the Bodleian Libraries estate is made up of some extremely complex buildings and collections, accessible to University-based readers and many others too, and thus it is more difficult for readers to navigate their complicated structures unaided.

So what changed?

The results of a Bodleian Libraries Reader Survey in 2012, together with various smaller consultations around the same time, made it clear that one of undergraduates’ and graduate students’ most pressing needs was increased opening hours. Subsequent financial pressure caused any plans to be shelved at that time. By 2017, however, a further Reader Survey made it clear that the need still existed and resulted in a key aim of the Bodleian Libraries Strategy 2017-2022: ‘We will improve access to highly used hub libraries by increasing opening hours to better reflect user requirements, focusing especially on weekend and vacation hours.’ (Key strategic goal 3: Access, engagement and outreach.) It was obvious that the Sackler, with its already generous year-round opening hours, its wide-ranging collections addressing the research, study and teaching needs of multiple departments and faculties, was a natural candidate for extended opening. We decided, therefore, to introduce Sunday opening asap, and that it would run, initially, on a two-year trial basis.

In order to make Sunday opening a reality at the Sackler, a number of mechanisms needed to be in place. The library’s entry and alarm system had to be reprogrammed, web pages and other signage updated, departments notified. In parallel, new job descriptions were needed, and additional library assistants had to be recruited and trained. As on Saturdays, the Sunday Reader Services staff provide basic assistance to readers (more complex queries are referred to specialist staff), carry out reshelving and stock maintenance, and are also engaged in project work.

Since Sunday opening began, word has spread and the number of readers using the library has increased week-on-week. Within one month of opening, the Sunday reader count already stood at 135. Reader numbers for the corresponding Saturdays, moreover, do not appear to have been significantly affected. Inevitably, vacation figures have been lower, but still not that far below 100.  

Judging by its current success, it seems unlikely that Sunday opening will end after the two-year trial.

Frank Egerton
Operations Manager