Archive for July, 2011

On Wednesday, we concluded our traineeship through the presentation of the projects that we had worked on throughout the year. It was a wonderful opportunity to see what everyone had been working on in their libraries.

I presented my project on the digitization of the Birthday Book of George Claridge Druce (1850-1932), chemist, Mayor of Oxford and one of the great botanists of the early 20th Century, which I worked on at the Sherardian Library in the Department of Plant Sciences. I greatly enjoyed working on this project, and learned a lot, not only about Druce (a most remarkable man), but about the practice of botany in Britain during the early 20th Century (shift from natural history as collecting to a circumscribed science, and the rise of the conservation movement to preserve rare specimens in the wild rather than just collecting them).

I also learned how to design and implement databases in Access and learned some basic XML coding. The next step will be uploading the Druce database to the UK Archives Hub, where it will be made available for research.

One of my other projects at the Radcliffe Science Library involved making a virtual tour of the library, which was used during the Science Open Days at the RSL when prospective undergraduates visit the library and science departments at Oxford. The virtual tour was done using Powerpoint and Adobe Captivate. You can view it at the following link:

Radcliffe Science Library Virtual Tour

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For our trainee project we have been reclassifying the pamphlets in the SSL from an in-house classification scheme to Library of Congress. The pamphlets came over from the International Development Centre at Queen Elizabeth House in 2005 and cover a huge range of topics including constitutional and conference publications, political and economic reports. Some of these pamphlets are actually the only copies held in Oxford and often date back to the 1940’s and 50’s, so altogether they make a really interesting, almost archival collection.

Why was the reclassification needed? We are still using the shelf marks from QEH, whereas the rest of the SSL uses Library of Congress, which is familiar to our readers and they can already navigate it. Also, the boxes were messy, with unequal amounts in them, and were underused. We hope that reclassifying the section will improve their use and accessibility.

After a brief explanation of Library of Congress classification the presentation then shows the steps we go through in order to assign each pamphlet with a new shelfmark. This involves looking at the item’s MARC record to find the subject heading which can then be used to find a relevant shelfmark on Classificationweb. The final part of the shelfmark is then constructed using information taken from the MARC record such as the author’s name and the publication date. Once a new shelfmark has been found we then update the holdings so that the new shelfmark appears on the catalogue. By processing the reclassified pamphlets in the same way and keeping them all in one section we hope that they will be easy for staff and readers to find.

The project has been going really well, and we are making steady progress. We won’t finish the whole section, but we will be passing it on to another member of staff. It has been an enjoyable project, especially getting to read the pamphlets! It’s also been a fantastic opportunity to learn assigning original classification, which is a really useful skill that not everyone has the chance to learn, especially as a graduate trainee.

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Here is another of the presentations from Wednesday’s showcase.

It begins with a little history of the Union to give some of the context for presentation. Then you will find some slides about my project, writing a brief history of the Oxford Union to sell in the Library. Finally, for the library admirers among you, I spoke about, and included some pictures of the Old Library and its murals.

If you are reading this, will be working in Oxford in September, and fancy a spot of library tourism, do come along to the Explore visit, organised by Bodleian Libraries Staff Development, to see the murals and hear about the particular issues the library faces, on 20 September.

p.s. small landmark: wordpress informs me that this is the 100th post on the trainee blog – it says it is dandy!

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On 13 July, as Becci has said, the Graduate Trainees held our project showcase, where we shared the projects we have been working on this year.  The other presentations from the showcase are available here, and some are also in this blog.

My trainee project was making a record of a collection of antiquarian books that are kept in closed stacks in the History Faculty Library.  Most are from the 18th and 19th century; a dozen are older, and there are also some 20th-century books there because of their special provenance.  The majority of the books are not catalogued electronically, though they are classified.  The outcomes were:

  1. A spreadsheet document listing the books with information such as publication details, provenance and interesting annotations.  This can, I hope, be used by HFL staff and Bodleian Special Collections staff, who are ultimately responsible for all the Special Collections material in the Bodleian Libraries, in making informed decisions about the future of the collection.
  2. An HFL Rare Books blog with a post for each title in the collection, which is intended for use by readers.  It can be reached from the HFL’s website.

I was very pleased to be able to work with antiquarian books, as it is an aspect of librarianship I was interested in finding out more about (I still am, though I’m not sure I would want to work with them all the time).  I wasn’t expecting to do so much with computers and Web 2.0, but I am glad that it turned out that way, as it gave me the chance to consider aspects of library marketing and outreach, and also to think about describing books using tags and categories.

The presentation includes photos of some highlights of the collection, which are listed below.

The images of individual books are:

  1. Hickes, George: Linguarum vett. septentrionalium thesaurus / Antiquæ literaturæ septentrionalis libri duo, Vol. 1 (a book interesting for its content alone)
  2. Henrici de Bracton de legibus & consuetudinibus Angliæ libri quinq[ue] (the oldest book in the HFL, unless it’s an elaborate hoax)
  3. Prynne, William: The history of King John, King Henry III. and the most illustrious King Edward the I (probably the oldest annotations in the HFL – can anyone read the words next to the price and date?)
  4. Jolliffe, J. E. A.: The constitutional history of medieval England from the English settlement to 1485, Vol. 2 (the other end of the age-range: 20th-century author’s working copy, rebound with notes for 2nd edition)
  5. Ellis, Henry, Sir, ed.: Registrum vulgariter nuncupatum “The record of Caernarvon” (annotations showing reader – probably Edgar Bennett – engaging with text.  A recurring feature is transcription of Old Welsh place/personal names into Modern Welsh orthography)
  6. Madox, Thomas: Formulare anglicanum (belonged  to the Greenfield Doggett family, who seem to have found an ancestor in the text)
  7. Thurloe, John: A collection of the state papers of John Thurloe, Esq., Vol. 3 (contains rubbing and fragment of a previous spine)
  8. Scotland statutes: The acts of the parliaments of Scotland, Vol. 11 (found with large patch of mould extending inwards from front cover.  Now treated by conservators and safe)

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On Wednesday the trainees had the opportunity to present our trainee projects to our supervisors and fellow trainees.

My project was called ‘The Oxford Traineeship: Past, Present and Future’. It was initially meant to be a history of the traineeship, but I encountered some problems finding information (not encouraging for a prospective librarian!) so it has turned into a report on the traineeship as it is now with some reflection on the past and the future.

I started out by finding an article called ‘Evolution: The Oxford Traineeship’ (SCONUL Focus Number 83 Summer/Autumn 2006) which showed how the traineeship worked 5 years ago. I then spent some time at Osney looking through files and finally sent out a questionnaire asking the other trainees what they do on a day-to-day basis.

The following is a section from my presentation which I found interesting:

“I haven’t been able to find out the exact date that the traineeship as we know it began – I am aware of trainees from as long as 20 years ago. However, in the 1880s, Bodley’s Librarian, Edward Williams Byron Nicholson began to employ boys as a cheap form of labour with the incentive that they could have the opportunity to gain an Oxford degree. He paid them “10 shillings a week until they qualified for matriculation in the University, when they were put up to the higher wage of £60 a year” – these employees were known as the Bodley Boys. In 1948, the first ‘Bodley Girl’ was employed and was able to gain a pass degree at St Anne’s while working in the Library. Although this scheme differs greatly to the current set-up – it was more of a chance for people to gain a degree, than to gain library experience, I feel that it can be seen as an early manifestation of the traineeship. It also shows that the Bodleian, specifically, has been dedicated to the education and training of eager individuals for hundreds of years.”

See more trainee presentations here.

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Just blogging my humble little presentation from yesterday…

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While I was in Manchester for the CILIP New Professionals Conference, I couldn’t resist visiting some of the cities famous libraries. Manchester has several unique libraries, including the fabulous and historic John Rylands Library on Deansgate. The Victorian gothic architecture and many carved bosses on the high, arched ceilings make this library seem like a cathedral. The collections at the John Rylands Library feature many rare books and manuscripts, including the St. John fragment, the earliest known fragment of the New Testament from the collection of Greek papyri.

The Central Library was unfortunately closed for renovations, and will not reopen until 2013, but it is also worth visiting for its Neoclassical rotunda. The library even has its own on-site theatre company, who often perform works in historic sites around Manchester such as the Ancoats Mills.


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