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Archive for July, 2012

On July 11th, the graduate trainees visited some of the interesting and eclectic libraries in London. We each attended a tour and talk at two of the following: the London Library, the Guardian Newspaper Library, the British Library and the Natural History Museum Library and Archives. I am pleased to report that everyone enjoyed the visits, none of us got lost, and no one embarrassed Oxford too much…

TheThe entrance to the London Library - 14 St James's Square London Library is a members-only lending library, founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle. Membership is open to anyone (£445 per year), and the library is funded almost entirely by these fees. As books are never withdrawn, the constant battle for space is more acute than at most libraries. As you wander around, lost or otherwise, you notice that each extension has a distinct style, ranging from utilitarian steel shelves to wood paneling, indicative of the era it was built in. The unique classification system groups books alphabetically by subject, including, under ‘Science & Miscellany’, topics such as Love, Genius and Duelling.

The Guardian Library serves the research and fact-checking needs of the newspaper’s journalists, compiling timelines, background information and previous press coverage to support big stories. The library staff also maintains a section of the Guardian website, showcasing articles froInside the Guardian newspaper officesm this day in past years, and putting up interesting features, such as a timeline of Guardian articles about Harry Potter to celebrate the books’ 15th anniversary. The library’s physical collection amounts to one wall in the archive office, and consists mainly of dictionaries and reference works such as Who’s Who. However, the library also provides and promotes many online reference tools for reporters.

The British Library is impressively large with over 150 million items, on-site space for 1200 readers and a glass tower containing the library of King George III in the centre of the building.  The talk at the British Library was about their Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project – its highlights, challenges and workflows.  Both the tour and the talk highlighted the collaborative, outreach and digitisation work of the library. We concluded our day with a visit to the highly recommended Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands exhibition.

Inside the Natural History Museum Library

From left to right: Rebecca (futureArch), Vicky (All Souls), Jayne (MLFL), Charlotte (Nuffield), Janine (SSL), Lizzie (RSl), Matt (Bodleian), Michelle (University Archives), Rebecca (EFL).

The Natural History Museum Library is open to the public as a reference library, but is primarily a lending library for scientists working at the NHM, who can borrow an unlimited number of books. Loans are still recorded on paper, which means the library is closed for two weeks each year while the borrowing slips are checked against the sometimes hundreds of books in scientists’ offices… The archive holds records relating to all activities of the museum, from the late 18th century to the present day, and includes such documents as accession registers of specimens received by the museum, and letters from a collector about having his arm bitten off by a cheetah.

London Library and Guardian Newspaper Library by Evelyn (Union), British Library and Natural History Museum Library by Lizzie (RSL).

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On July 4th, Oxford’s contingent of graduate trainees held a showcase to present the projects we had been working on in our libraries. Each year, most of the trainees choose or are given a project to work on alongside our regular duties. These projects often reflect our particular skills or interests, as well as the needs of the library. Towards the end of the year, two of us (this time Natalie and I) organise the showcase event, and most of the trainees give presentations about our progress to an audience of our supervisors, colleagues and fellow trainees.

There were fifteen presentations this year, covering a range of topics. Some projects focussed on creating videos and libguides to help students use resources or find services. Others compared different Oxford libraries’ rules or signage to offer advice about possible improvements. The reclassification projects made collections easier, quicker and less frustrating to browse. Some of us also worked on making specific resources more available by digitising, cataloguing, creating searchable databases or, in one case, physically finding them!

In addition to the presentations, Emma Sullivan gave a short speech about the benefits of projects, both for us as trainees, and for the libraries. We have a chance to develop skills and experience that will be valuable in our future careers, both from the specific content covered, and also from learning how to plan and implement an extended project. The libraries have a chance to get a project completed that will be of lasting benefit to them, which in turn allows us to feel that we are really part of the library.

The presentations were well received, and the event was enjoyed by all (with the exception of pre-presentation nerves…)

Some of the first slides from the presentations

Here is a very brief summary, in alphabetical order, of each trainee’s project:

Vicky Arnold (All Souls) managed to track down some 17th century Russian maps mentioned very briefly in the library committee’s minutes, but subsequently lost amid the library’s collections.

Lizzie Atkinson (RSL) created video and libguide resources to showcase what the mapmaking and spatial analysis programme ArcGIS can do, and to help students and researchers decide if they need to use it.

Louise Cowan (St Hugh’s) discovered common factors influencing how frequently students disobey library rules, including whether they see the effect that breaking a rule would have on others.

Rebecca Hunt (EFL) used the University archives to research the EFL’s history, creating a booklet, a display and a facebook timeline in preparation for their centenary in 2014.

Charlotte Kelham (Nuffield) catalogued the architects’ plans for Nuffield College, discovering very different pre- and post- World War Two designs.

Liz Kennedy (St Hilda’s) reclassified the library’s linguistics section, using customised Dewey to fit with the existing system and reflect the level of detail needed.

Rebecca Nielsen (futureArch) investigated how to extract and catalogue the video files stored on an outdated type of camcorder cassette called MiniDV.

Emily Nunn (LawBod) reclassified books and ‘spring-cleaned’ their catalogue records as part of the LawBod’s mass reclassification project to adopt the Moys system, which allows law materials to be browsed by subject.

Siobhan O’Brien (Jesus) established a collection development policy and classification system for the library’s collection of books by and about Jesus members.

Natalie O’Keefe (HFL) made short explanatory videos for students (and staff…) to access online, showing how different services will be provided in the HFL’s new location within the Radcliffe Camera.

Laurence Peacock (Taylor Slavonic) took a collection of letters from an Oxford professor’s trip to Germany in 1913, scanned and catalogued them, then created a website to promote them, including a searchable database of the details and images.

Matthew Pocock (Bodleian) integrated a section of LCC books into the reading room’s existing system, planning and implementing a large book move to accommodate the reclassified books.

Stephanie Wales (SSL) reviewed different iPad apps for the social sciences, creating a lib guide of recommendations.

Janine Walker (SSL) investigated how libraries communicate with their readers, making suggestions about improving signage in the physical library space as well as keeping branding consistent online.

Evelyn Webster (Union Society) designed and began building a searchable database to record information about the Union’s debates, officers and famous speakers.

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