Like @ SAC! From Reader to Staff Member

 

I started working at the Sackler Library in April 2019. However, I have been an intensive and daily reader at the Sackler since 2016.  Having used the Sackler as my main work space for more than two years, I had become keen to also contribute to its maintenance and functioning.

I am writing my D.Phil. thesis in the field of Assyriology at the University of Oxford. The Sackler is the main research library for any researcher in the field of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Oxford (at Wolfson College, the Library houses the Jeremy Black Collection in Near Eastern Studies, as well).

 

Excited to find the perfect book for my research!

The Sackler offers many amenities and services to the Assyriological researcher: it is a quiet and peaceful work space, and all the books and periodicals relevant for our field are conveniently accessible on the first floor.  Once you start working at one of the desks there, all the necessary materials you can dream of – as an Assyriologist – are just a few steps, or clicks, away.  The Ancient Near Eastern collection of books is comprehensive, and new accessions can be found in the new books and new journal display on the ground and first floors.  Interdisciplinary research is easily possible in the Sackler – sections covering our neighbouring disciplines — Egyptology, Classics and Archaeology — are also housed at the Sackler Library, and occasionally, you will need to make an “expedition” to the ground floor to find a volume in the Classics section, or a periodical in the Haverfield Room. Thus, one can quickly look up parallels and differences in a differing geographical region or period – and lose oneself in an interesting topic in a neighbouring field.

The Sackler is also very international in its readers.  Many visiting and permanent researchers from all around the world use the Sackler for their research, and you can easily make contact with a researcher from a neighbouring field on a staircase or in the lobby area.  I should mention that the Sackler is conveniently located adjacent the Ashmolean Museum, so that an inspiring break there is easily manageable.

 

 

When you have finished your research for the day, but would like to continue your work with the same books the next day, you can leave a stack of up to ten books at the reservation point (these can be found on every floor of the Library), using an overnight reservation slip. This prevents the books from being re-shelved the following morning and enables you to continue working exactly where you left off the night before.

Helping readers behind the issue desk.

Did I mention the library’s opening times?  The Sackler is open seven days a week: 9 am – 10 pm on weekdays, 11 am – 6 pm on Saturdays, and 12 – 6 pm on Sundays.  This means I have access to the research materials I need —  Assyriological books and periodicals (and new acquisitions) — on a daily basis (unless it is a major holiday).  Depending on your patron status – i.e. if you are a member of the University of Oxford – you can even borrow books which are not confined to the library to work with them after closing time.  If you have to meet impending deadlines, then the long and daily opening times and the option to borrow books can help a great deal.

Once you have finished using a book, you can put it on the respective trolley on each floor.  When I first became a reader at the Sackler I did not realise that there is a sign on each trolley which asks you to put books within a specific shelf mark range on it.  Assyriological books, for example, are mainly classified to what is known as ‘the 200s’ and there is trolley designated for these 200s books permanently located on the first floor.  Since I had not paid attention to the signs on the trolleys, I put my books on different trolleys at first, for example on the trolley for Egyptological books, which are classified to what is known as ‘the 300s’.  Now, that I have started working as a library assistant at the Sackler, and shelve books myself, I realise how much easier it is for the library assistants if readers return their research materials to the correct trolleys: the shelving gets done faster.  As a reader I find it a great luxury that library assistants shelve the books for me, and it ensures that the books are shelved in their proper place.

I have learned new things about the Sackler since I started working as a member of Reader Services staff.  Shelving is obviously a big part of my work, and I enjoy it, especially on the floors where I have not been a reader before, such as the second and third floors, which house the Western and Eastern art and architecture collections.  I am usually fascinated by the titles and artworks shown in these books as they show subject areas which, as a researcher using materials on the first floor, I had not encountered before.

I am very grateful for the introduction to my new job and for the support of my Sackler colleagues.  I have always felt at home as a reader and now also as a library assistant. I can only recommend to researchers that they make full use of the resources available to them in this amazing library.

Lynn-Salammbo Zimmerman
Library Assistant, Reader Services, Sackler Library
and D.Phil. candidate in Assyriology

 

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! Chronicles of a (fairly) new member of staff

 

I joined the Sackler library in March 2018 as part of the evening and weekend team, following the introduction of Sunday opening hours in January 2018. My duties involve lodge and issue desk cover, shelving, book cleaning and checking reading lists against the online catalogue.

For me, this was a complete change in working environment and hours. My previous job, which I held for more years than I care to think about, was basically Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Setting out for work at a time I was previously thinking about going home, took some getting used to but this change, as they say, is as good as a rest.

During the induction to the library a colleague and I were given a tour and we were shown the smallest and largest books held in the Rare Book Room. The smallest, an Italian book about Roman architecture, although quite deep, didn’t appear to be much bigger than a large postage stamp. The largest, an art catalogue of the Hermitage in St Petersburg, is not just coffee table size; it could actually be a coffee table!

 

 

Probably the most satisfying part of working at the issue desk is helping readers to find the item they are looking for. Sometimes this is simply directing them to the right floor or shelving area, if they already know the shelf mark. At other times it involves searching SOLO, confirming the library that holds the item and its shelf mark there.

 

A selection of the classification systems used in the Library. Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

 

When I first started working at the library I thought I would never find my way around the dizzying range of classification systems used (Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal being just two). However, with the help of my other favourite part of the job (although at times it is never ending), shelving, I soon started to become familiar with the layout. I have also revived my rather rusty and very basic knowledge of Roman Numerals. A major achievement was when I directed a reader to the right part of the library without having to use the helpful floor plans (still needed for a couple of floors though).

 

The many book sizes of the sackler. Photo by Frances Lear.

 

The other thing you do notice about shelving is the higher the floor, the bigger the books, which is to be expected when those higher floors contain Eastern and Western art, and architecture (and some Eastern archaeology) books. Luckily for me there are plenty of kick stools and steps around the library for those top shelves.

I have also acquired some new skills working in the library, one of them being the correct way to clean books. I have to confess my books at home simply have a duster flicked over them occasionally.

The range of library users is diverse, which of course means a wide variety of queries, some very simple, some technical. Handling these queries is a great way to learn, especially when I can call on my more experienced colleagues for help.

Finally, in my previous job, I was very used to customers saying they had to leave shortly to pick up their children or catch a bus but until I started at the Sackler I had never had anyone ask for my help because they needed to leave the library within 20 minutes to catch a plane to Paris.

All in all joining the Sackler has been a very good move for me and I hope to spend more time learning about its collection and resources.

 

Frances Lear
Library Assistant, evenings and weekends

 

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.