Archive for January, 2012

This is the second of five blog posts written for round 8 of the Library Day in the Life Project  by the graduate trainee at the Radcliffe Science Library.

9.15am: Usually on Tuesdays I would spend the whole day at the Alexander Library of Ornithology, but this week my Tuesday starts with an All Libraries Meeting.  Once a term the Bodley’s Librarian gives a talk to staff of the Bodleian Libraries updating us all on what is happening in libraries around Oxford.  Tea and coffee is provided before the meeting and I get a chance to meet a couple of people I’ve not met before.  The meeting starts with fancy fly-through presentation of the plans for the new Weston Library (due to open in 2014); goes on to cover various digitization projects, most of which I’ve not heard about before; then there’s an update on the Bodleian Libraries website development project; the proposed plans for moving the History Faculty Library to the central Bodleian site are discussed; and it finishes with a question and answer session.

One digitization project which particularly caught my attention was a project called What’s the score at the Bodleian?  The project aims to make available a collection of uncatalogued music scores from the 19th century.   The difference with this project is that once items have been digitized and made available online with basic descriptive metadata, members of the public are being asked to help make the material more easily discoverable by adding more information about it.  Does anyone know of any other projects using crowd-sourced creation of descriptive metadata?

11.15am: Arrive at the Alexander Library of Ornithology in the Zoology Department.  Start up computer, greet colleagues, have a quick discussion about our thoughts on the All Libraries Meeting and check emails.

11.25am: My first task for today is carrying on with a something I started last Tuesday.  The Alexander Library moved to its current home last summer and the listings for our geographical and subject reprints sequences still had the old shelf marks on them.  I’m updating the lists, but I’m using the box numbers that were added to help with the move, rather than shelf marks so that if there is another move in the future it doesn’t have to be redone again.  I’m starting today in the middle of the Africa part of the geographical sequence.  I check that the box name on the list matches the box name on the box, write down the box number and when I’ve done that for a reasonable number of boxes go to the library office and fill in the table I’m making.  The process is complicated by a lot of the countries having changed their names and boundaries over the years meaning there are a number of mismatches and some confusing labelling.  I find Wikipedia very useful for demystifying these mismatches!

Geographical Reprints Boxes

Geographical Reprints Boxes

12.30pm: I get to the end of the Africa sequence and take a break from the reprints listings by flicking through the lastest copy of Outline – the Bodleian Libraries staff newsletter.  An article about an exhibition at the Bodliean called The Romance of the Middle Ages catches my eye and I make a mental note to go and see it.

The librarian suggests I help her with a project to update the inventory of items in the rare books cupboard.  The shelf marks need updating since they changed due to the move in the summer.  We decide on the best way to go about the project and agree to start it next week.

12.50pm: Back to the reprints list.  I start on the last section of the geographical sequence – America.  This turns out (as expected) to be much simpler to deal with than Africa.

1.10pm: Lunch

2pm: Reprints list again

Photograph of books on biography at the Alexander Library

Biographies - just one of the resources available to me in the Alexander Library

2.50pm: I finish the listing for the geographical sequence so decide to move on to another task.  I continue an ongoing project creating summaries of the lives of people whose archives the library holds.  This should hopefully make it easier to work out whether an archive is likely to contain the information a reader is searching for and to find the best part of the archive to look in for that information.  Today I’m working on a life summary for Sir Julian Huxley, who was also the first director-general of UNESCO and did many other things as well as conducting ornithological research.

I tend to start by searching for the person in the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which is available via the university’s subscription.  Other sources include the biographies and autobiographies we have in the collections, the biography reprints we hold (which include newspaper clippings of obituaries as well as journal articles) and information I can find on the websites of organizations the person was particularly involved with.  Sometimes the information is easy to find, sometimes it is not but I enjoy a challenge.

3.45pm: Tea break time

Desk in the library office at the Alexander Library

My desk at the Alexander Library

4pm: Back to writing up Sir Julian Huxley’s life summary.  I enjoy finding information and some of the people I have researched had absolutely fascinating lives, so this is a task I find rewarding.  However, the Alexander librarian only works part time, so the library is only open to visitors three days a week 9.30am until 2.10pm.  Although members of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology have 24-hour key fob access, the library is always very quiet in the afternoon.  By the end of the day it is getting a bit lonely and I’m looking forward to getting back to the hustle and bustle of the Radcliffe Science Library tomorrow.

4.55pm: I pack everything away, shut down the computer, close up the library office and then head off home.

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Dear all, below my very late write up of Siobhán’s excellent tour of Jesus College Libraries:

On a ferociously cold and exceptionally bright December morning, the trainees assembled like penguins outside the gates of Jesus College for the next in our programme of library tours. Much like St Peter (if he aspired to an MA in Information Management) Siobhán kindly guided us in.

Quad of Jesus College.

Quad of Jesus College.

Founded (somewhat misleadingly) by Elizabeth I in 1571, Jesus College now has about 500 students and three libraries. Beginning with the 24 hour-access undergraduate Meyricke Library, Siobhán showed us Bodleian kids the delights and challenges of the college set up. The main issue, it seemed to me, was in determining at what point a “comfortable and personalised work space” turns into a “nest”.  On the plus side, it would be possible for a trainee to run a highly lucrative black market operation in lost property (trousers anyone?)[1]

Siobhán shows us some books in the Meyricke Library. (If you're very quiet and look very carefully, you might just be able to see some of the books behind Siobhán)

As it is also Oxford’s “Welsh” College, Jesus houses a Celtic Collection: a restricted library of about 8, 000 books which are maintained and developed by Jesus staff and accessed by students and academics at Oxford and from further afield.

Next on the list? The newly refurbished Fellows’ Library, originally constructed in 1677, which contains a fine collection of old bookshelves with some appropriately aged books. It also contains one of Jesus’ treasures, the dissertation of T E Lawrence, Crusader Castles. A few thousand words and a couple of architectural sketches aside, you really do have to admire a degree system that accepts “a bit of a jolly across the Holy Land” in place of finals. A special mention must also go to the exceptionally comfortable armchairs and really very illuminating lamps. More info on the library’s recent refurb can be found here: http://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/about/the-appeal

The Fellows' Library

For the cherry on an already highly impressive cake, Siobhán had orchestrated a truly admirable biscuit arrangement: from wafers, through creams, to those “more chocolate than biscuit” fellows of which the trainees are so fond. Refreshment was taken in the Old Bursary and tea and coffee was kindly provided by Jesus.

[1] Not that Siobhan has ever, would ever, or indeed could ever partake in such illicit activity.

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This is the first of five blog posts written for round 8 of the Library Day in the Life Project  by the graduate trainee at the Radcliffe Science Library.

I found out a little while ago about a project called Library Day in the Life.  Twice a year people who work in libraries and library school students share with the world what they actually do through blog posts, twitter, photos, videos or in any other way they can think of.  I think it’s brilliant idea, so decided to participate in the next round.

Although I’m the Radcliffe Science Library trainee, I don’t actually spend all my week there as we have two satellite libraries where I also work.  My normal timetable is:

  • Monday – Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy
  • Tuesday – Alexander Library of Ornithology
  • Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – Radcliffe Science Library (RSL)

So, here we go …

11am: Arrive at the Fielding-Druce Herbarium at the Department of Plant Sciences.  A herbarium is like a library with dried plant specimens instead of books, but this one also houses library material (i.e. books) and the library offices as well. The library and herbarium work together very closely.  My evening duty (5-7pm) at the RSL for this week is today, so I’m in a couple of hours later than usual.  I check my emails and book myself on to an Oxford University Computing Services course on copyright in the digital age for which booking has just opened.

11.15am:  I gather some stationery together and head up to the general reading room, which is on the other side of the building.  The reading room is accessible to department members via swipe card and not usually staffed, but this is where I spend most of my time when I’m at plant sciences as it is where the archive I’m working on is kept.

Druce Archive boxes

Druce Archive boxes

Throughout my year as a trainee I’m working on the archive of man called George Clarence Druce.  Druce was a botanist, pharmacist and strongly involved with Oxford City Council, becoming mayor in 1900.  He also seemed to keep almost every piece of paper he acquired!  My task for the year was to re-box the archive into conservation boxes and make a basic listing of what is in each box.  I completed the re-boxing stage last year and am now on to the description stage.

I start where I finished off last week – on box 12 (of about 150!).  This box contains material relating to Czecho-Slovakia (as it was then), mostly from a visit Druce made there in 1920 as part of a deputation of British journalists and includes correspondence, newspaper cuttings, tourist guides, photographs, postcards, maps, menus … As this box contains lots of unusual items and is not easily sorted into bundles, each item is described separately in the Excel spreadsheet I am using to list the contents of the archive.  I give each item a number, note down the name of anyone connected with the item and a year (if applicable), select a material type (e.g. letter, photograph, map, etc) write a general description and note down anything that might be a conservation issue.

12.25pm: Box 12 finished, on to box 14 (I’ll come back to box 13 later).  This box contains much more normal contents for this archive – four bundles, mainly of correspondence but also containing all sorts of other material, with each bundle containing material from one or two years.  For each bundle I remove any old string or wrappings (wrappings are kept separately in the box), go through the items checking the material type, look for anything particularly interesting and check for botanical specimens hidden inside letters.  Once recorded each bundle is tied up with conservation tape with a small slip of acid-free paper indicating the bundle number.  In this box I came across (among many other things):

  • a pamphlet containing a list of the rules of and a list of the members of the Pharmacy Club for 1914
  • a report of the Oxford Education Committee’s Higher Education sub-committee
  • term cards of the Ashmolean Natural History Society of Oxfordshire (these crop up fairly frequently)
  • an invitation to the opening of the Radcliffe Infirmary and County Hospital’s new buildings
Workstation with computer, conservation box containing finished bundles, a bundle yet to be done, conservation tape etc

My workstation

1pm: Suddenly realise it is lunchtime, so pack up and head back down to the library offices to back up my mornings work onto the staff network drive before going to lunch.

2pm: Head back up to the reading room to carry on where I left off before lunch.

2.50pm: Help the librarian with photographing a page from a rare book for a researcher from Holland (the copy of the book the researcher has access to is missing pages).

3.10pm: Once we’ve finished the photographing we go to look for a suitable conservation box for some of the items in box 13 of the Druce archive.  Last week I had a quick look at the next few boxes to see what might be in store and when I looked in one of the envelopes in box 13 found it contained two penknives! We decided to store these separately from the rest of the archive, so they need their own box.  They will also need to be catalogued!

3.20pm: Having found a suitable box, I head back up to the reading room to finish off box 14.

3.40pm: Box 14 finished, seems like a good time for a tea break.

4pm: Start on the rest of the contents of box 13, which turns out to consist almost entirely of glass slides.  Very helpfully quite a lot of them have little labels saying what they are of.

4.45pm: Pack up the archive, go down to the library office to back up my work again and walk down the road to the RSL for my evening duty on the circulation desk.

5pm: Arrive at the RSL.  While on the circulation desk I issue books, return books, renew books, etc, but also tend to find time when it’s quiter to get other work done.  This evening I manage to deal with some emails, order books from our off-site storage facility for a visiting reader who is visiting the library next weekend and get a bit further with the LibGuide I’m creating on reference management.

7pm: End of the day.

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Last week I attended a student conference on digital preservation, hosted by the Digital Preservation Coalition. The event was called ‘What I Wish I Knew Before I Started’, and several digital preservationists gave some very interesting insights into the skills and challenges of digital preservation. The basic message was that digital preservation is a big task which requires urgent action, but that archivists already have many of the skills needed to carry it out. I’ve posted about it at the futureArch blog, if anyone is interested in finding out more.

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Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at OUCS (Oxford University Computing Services) helping at the Research Skills Toolkit event for mathematical, physical and life sciences. These events are workshops aimed at first- and second-year higher-degree researchers and students run by staff from the Bodleian Libraries and OUCS, with each event focussing on a specific subject area.  There were 10 tasks for the participants to complete introducing IT and library tools for research.

The three tasks run by staff from the Radcliffe Science Library covered searching in, creating alerts from and exporting references from databases on the Proquest platform; searching for conference papers via IEEE Xplore and finding upcoming conferences; and basic searching, cited reference searching and journal citation reports on Web of Knowledge.  Each task was set up on computers around one table with one member of staff per task, although everyone was able to answer questions on all the tasks.  Most of the questions were about navigating the websites, finding the right links and understanding what each database was searching.  Participants also seemed to find it useful to have subject librarians there to ask more in-depth questions that came up.

These events are continuing to run for the rest of this week and I’ll be back in week 8 when more are planned.

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Hi I’m Rebecca and I’m the Graduate Trainee for the English Faculty Library. Due to a few technical difficulties I wasn’t able to post before now but better late than never!

I graduated in November from Trinity College, Dublin where I studied English Literature and History and this is my first proper grown-up job. I’m really enjoying working in the EFL, everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. My duties vary quite a bit from answering customer queries to processing new books and journals (for which you need a third hand), creating displays and wrestling with photocopiers. As time goes on I am steadily being entrusted with new tasks and responsibilities so I’m now helping with the reclassification project and will soon be lending a hand with acquiring new ebooks for the library.

So far it’s been a great year, Oxford still looks magical and I’ve made some really good friends in the other trainees. I know everyone has moved on from the introductory blog posts by now so I’m going to wrap it up with a snippet of useless yet interesting information. Its not even really information it’s just a link to the 35 most amazing libraries in the world as decided by someone. Some are pretty, some are space-like and some are just distracting. If nothing else it will teach you what a rhombicuboctahedron is. And the Bodleian makes it to number two! Take that Cambridge!

Anyway that’s it. Hope you all had a lovely Christmas.  Happy New Year!

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