Archive for January, 2013

Today’s Day in the Life comes from me, Kat, the Information Resources trainee at the Law Bod. For an overview about what I do, have a look at my earlier posts: introducing myself, and a bit more about what I do. Like most of the other trainees, I have quite a few different things to get on with these days, and although this was quite a typical one for a day in the office, I also get to go on quite a few training courses, meetings with colleagues from other libraries and visits to different libraries around Oxford.

Moysing away

Moysing the USA section

9.00-11.45 : Moysing the USA section. You can’t spend much time around the Bodleian Law librarians without coming across Moys. It’s a classification system specifically for law books, arranging them by subject, and we’re gradually progressing with the mammoth task of converting all our textbooks into the Moys system. We’ve done all of the UK law section (many thousands of books), and now we’re doing the USA section. They’re not actually being moved yet, because that would be carnage with books being reclassified as we went along, but lots of the staff spend a few hours a week reclassifying the books, and recording what the new shelfmark will be when we eventually swap them all over. Then we’ll have the fun of reshelving them all! This happened in the UK section over last Summer, and it was apparently a pretty surreal experience with all the books off the shelves. I enjoy reclassifying, because it’s one of the more problem-solving things that I do – does this book called ‘Punishing Corporate Crime’ come under Criminal law – companies, or Company law – crimes? There is no right answer, the whole thing is very subjective, so the rule is generally that if you can justify your decision to someone else, that’s fine. You can also look at what other books have been given similar classifications to see if they’re about the same kind of thing. So far we’ve got through 100 pages, which is about 3000 books, so not bad going since the Summer! I’m still pretty slow, (not knowing very much about law, particularly US law, doesn’t help!), so this takes most of my morning to reclassify, write the new shelfmarks in the book, and add them to the catalogue record.
There is also the extra complication of our Secondary Collection: because law changes all the time, it’s important to distinguish between outdated or superseded old editions of textbooks and the most recent ones. So the old ones are stored downstairs in another area of the library. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always get reflected correctly on the catalogue, and sometimes things have been incorrectly shelved in the main library as well. So often doing Moys reclassification also involves finding the physical locations of the books, making some catalogue changes or reshelving, and reclassifying the things that should be on the shelf. This sheet had a whole series of books on the History of the Supreme Court which needed some shuffling around.

11.45-12.00 : Looking for catalogue records. Every week Law gets all the legal deposit books about the subject that the Bodleian has claimed. This means (in theory) any book published in the UK within about the last year can be claimed and a copy will come to the Bod, and then to us. In practice this means we get 40-50 books  a week. Some of them will already have been catalogued, but others have only a very minimal record of the title, author etc., and I save our English-language cataloguer a bit of time by having a look to see if there are any better records anywhere else that we can use. This involves searching other library catalogues (the British Library and the US Library of Congress) and databases of catalogue records from lots of libraries (Research Libraries UK and WorldCat) to see if they have anything to offer. This didn’t take very long today because there were only about 15 books to check, and quite a few were already in the British Library (the most reliable source), so that was good!

12.00-13.00 : Lunch

13.00-15.00 : Desk duty. The Law Bod is different from quite a few of the other Oxford libraries (but the same as the Bodleian itself) in that it doesn’t lend books, but we have a desk at what is called the Reserve Collection, where we ‘lend’ the most in-demand, high-use books within the library, so we can keep track of who has them and so they don’t just get left on a desk somewhere when people need them. Today I worked with a more senior member of staff at the main desk, where she could answer the phones, operate the entry gate if people didn’t have their cards, and go with readers to help them with queries. The library was very busy, so I spend most of my time lending and receiving books from the Reserve Collection, explaining that a lot of them were already out (all the first-years want Roman law at the moment!), helping readers find books in the main collection, lending ethernet cables to research students, and generally answering questions about how to do or find things. One particular DPhil student wanted to see several DPhil dissertations, which we keep on the ground floor in locked cabinets, so that involved a fair amount of going up and downstairs and fetching and carrying, but he was very grateful to have a look at them. On top of all this, I was getting on with some looseleaf filing at the desk. Lots of staff do this during their desk duties – it involves getting one of our many looseleaf binders and the new issue of loose pages, and following filing instructions to insert the new pages and remove the ones they supersede. We are pretty much the only academic library in the country that files all of the looseleaf law parts (the British Library receives the new issues, but doesn’t file them, which makes them almost impossible to use). I find it quite relaxing, although it can get a bit difficult if there are a lot of loose pages on the desk when readers are trying to borrow or return books. There were a few hairy moments where I thought the pile of returned books on my desk was going to topple over before I could check them in! Desk shifts are one of my favourite parts of my job, and I really enjoy the fact that we’re a popular library for students and researchers at all levels to work in. I recognise a lot of our regular readers now, so it’s nice to slowly build more of a rapport with them. And of course, the more I work at the desk, the better I am at knowing what we have in our collection, so the more confident and competent I am at dealing with them!

15.00-15.15 : Tea break!

New journals

New journals

15.15-16.15 : Book processing. This is a substantial part of what I do every day – remember those 40-50 books a week? When they arrive, they need to be stamped, tattle-taped (this is what we call the electric alarms that go in books) and recorded that they have arrived. I also have to tattle-tape most of the 60-75 new journals we receive each week, and they go in files behind my desk in alphabetical order, ready to go on the New Journals Display, which I update every Tuesday. Today there are only a few late arrivals by legal deposit, some new purchases, and a small pile of journals to add to the groaning boxes.

Another part of book processing is labelling, which I do once the books have been catalogued and classified by other members of the team. I finish up some of that, after which the books are ready to go upstairs to be shelved.

16.15-16.40 : Shelf-reading and shelving. This is about Moys again! We’ve just got a new edition (the 5th) of Moys, which makes some changes to the previous edition. So now, some of the books which have been reclassified already in the UK section, need to be re-reclassified to fit the new edition! A few months ago I spent quite a bit of time relabelling a big section of the housing and construction law and reshelving things. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been some more changes made, but the relabelling is now finished, and so I spent a little while checking the order of the books was correct (it wasn’t in a few places), since it’s easy to miss things when you shuffle a lot of books around. Then I spent some time shelving books which readers were finished with. I don’t spend very much time shelving day-to-day, but in term-time things can build up pretty quickly so it’s useful to lend a hand.

16.40-17.05 : Suggestions book. We’ve had a suggestions book at the main desk of the library for the last 11 years, and it’s finally full!

Suggestions book

Suggestions book

The suggestions in it have been dealt with as they were added, obviously, but it’s now my job to look at the comments and book and journal suggestions that have been written over the years and create some pretty graphs and interesting statistics about them. At the moment this involves making a huge spreadsheet with the details of each comment, and whether or not we bought the items suggested. It’s interesting to see themes and trends emerge over time, as wells as the occasional funny comment about the heating or the comfort of the chairs, or the librarians complaining about publishers who never deposit their books without being chased. I’m looking forward to really getting stuck into the data once it’s all on my spreadsheet – I’m about 1/3 of the way through at the moment.

And that’s about it! It was a pretty full-on day, but I enjoy desk shifts, and there wasn’t too much mechanically stamping and tattle-taping books which there can be late in the week, when all of the legal deposit arrives. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and have a bit of an idea what another trainee gets up to day-to-day. Do check out the other posts in this series, as our jobs vary a lot – I’ll certainly be reading to find out what traineeships are like in other libraries!

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Welcome to the third installment of trainee life! Wednesdays are training days in Oxford, so most afternoons during term time we get a talk, practical session or visit relating to different areas of librarianship. This week we had a really interesting talk about Archives and Manuscripts, detailing the sorts of work involved and examples of the Bodleian collection, including political papers which made the Politics student in me very excited.  However as this is not a typical day for me I have included a random afternoon from last week to give a better reflection of what I do most days.


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Welcome to Day 2 in the Library Trainees’ Day in the Life series: you find yourself in Nuffield College Library tower, with a somewhat jetlagged trainee who has just returned from a holiday in Tokyo! Much of today will be filled with catching up on tasks from last week, so here goes…


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It’s a short life being a trainee, only 6 months in to our jobs and already a lot of them are being advertised for the next group of trainees to take over in September.  With this in mind we thought it might be a good idea for the current trainees to blog an average day for where we work.  There is a great deal of diversity for the trainees as each work place comes with different roles and different sets of challenges, from large subject specialist libraries, to college libraries, to the university archive – no day is the same for each of us.  Hopefully the posts over the next two weeks will give you an idea of the kind of work we do, as well as pointing out the similarities and differences in each work place.

08:30 – 9:00 Opening up

As the SSL is quite a big library I don’t have to open up every day but today is my day to be in at 8.30 to make sure we can open the doors at 8.45, and there is already a group of students waiting for us to open when I arrive.  Reader and issue desk computers are switched on, discussion rooms unlocked, printer paper topped up, and holds that have not been collected by users before they expire are reshelved.  At 9am we bring in the returns box which is kept outside the library doors over night and return all the books from there.

09:00 – 9:30 Email queries

There are usually a lot of email queries to answer first thing in the morning so it takes me half an hour to get everything in the inbox answered.  With two trainees in the SSL both doing the same job we manage to keep on top of things quite well even at busy times, so the email account is checked frequently throughout the day as well.  The emails we get range from people telling us why they haven’t been able to return books, to researchers asking about access to databases or how to locate a rare report.  Some of what we get (such as requests about purchasing items or inter library loans) can be forwarded on to the most appropriate person in the library, but if it is something we can answer for them (with a bit of research ourselves) then we always try to.  We also take care of booking out our discussion rooms which are heavily used during term time.  This can take some time to do as we also update the website so people can check themselves when the rooms are available, today there is only one room booking so I can move on to the next task quickly once that is done.

IMG_20130122_11290009:30 – 10:00 Book repair assessments

As a heavily used lending library we do get a lot of books returned that are in various states of needing repair, a lot of times it is simply a badly bound book that has fallen apart just by being opened.  This morning I spend half an hour assessing the books that may need repair as the pile is getting ever larger.  I first make sure the book is showing as “in repair” on the catalogue so that readers know it is out of circulation.  There are then a series of checks such as if the book is on a reading list, if it is heavily in demand, if it can be repaired or needs to be sent for rebinding, how much it would cost to replace.  We seem to have quite a lot of books that cannot be repaired so I prioritise which ones are on reading lists as they will have to be sent to the bindery first.  Later this week we will box up the books to be sent off and arrange for them to be collected.

10:00 – 10:45 Team meeting

Once a week in term time we have a reader services team meeting.  This is a great chance for us to get together and discuss any issues we may need to know about.  It is also a good opportunity for staff to be reminded about things which may come up on the desk.   This is useful because there are a lot of new people on the team so it’s good to hear about things we may not have encountered before.  This week we’re being reminded about the change from vacation rules about storing people’s books behind the desk for them, and about our core text collection.

10:45 – 11:05 Time for a tea break.

11:05 – 11:25 Email queries

I check the email account again and notice a few long queries from readers who had returned books over the weekend but were still on their account.  I have a look for the books which I find and let them know I’ve removed it from their account.  Sometimes we have to email them back to say we can’t find the book and a few days later they let us know they accidentally returned it to another library, which his very easy to do in Oxford given how many libraries there are.

11:25 – 12:00 Book Processing

Now it’s time to do some book processing.  We get a lot of new books in from the Bodleian which we will keep at the SSL so these need shelfmarks putting on and need alarms putting in them, but we also get a lot of books we have purchased which are shelf ready.  With both types I have to check the shelfmark is correct then input data on to our system so that the book appears correctly in the catalogue.  As soon as that is done the books can be put out to be shelved or placed on the ‘New Books’ display if they’re interesting looking.

12:00 – 12:30 Issue Desk

My first stint of the day on the issue desk is just before lunch.  Every staff member in the SSL takes turns on the issue desk so we’re normally only on for an hour at a time, half an hour at very busy times.  Today is especially busy.  With term just starting there are a lot of books returning so I’m on my feet constantly returning and issuing books.  I deal with a few issues from readers about how to set up printing accounts and how to use the binding machine.  At the SSL we have information sheets for pretty much anything so after a quick explanation most people are happy to go away with a leaflet and work on it themselves.  Although sometimes things (ie computers) don’t work the way they’re supposed to so it can take a bit longer to help someone get access.

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch time

1:30 – 2:30 Issue Desk

I’m straight back on the issue desk after lunch and it’s still very busy in the library.  I have a reader who has brought a friend along from an Italian university and they would like access to study in the library for the day.  I issue them with a day pass which we can give for up to three days, any more I tell them, and you’ll have to go to Bodleian admissions to get a card.  I spent probably 5 minutes unjamming a stapler that has decided to eat some staples and not give them back, the reader I’m doing this for seems very amused when I get out some tweezers to release the blockage – I have clearly done this before.  The afternoon delivery arrives from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon so I spend half an hour scanning in the stack requests readers have ordered.  Today there are 5 boxes of books so it takes a while as I also have to keep issuing/returning/helping with enquiries at the desk.  I think the longest it has taken us to receive in one box of stack requests is an hour due to how busy the desk is.

2:30 – 3:30 Shelving

With 1000s of books being returned after the Christmas vacation the reshelving trolleys are overflowing so we try to reshelve as often as we can at the beginning of term.  We have to make sure that all reference books are reshelved within 24 hours and other items within 48, so far this year I think we’ve succeeded!

3:30 – 3:50 Afternoon break

I grab a cup of tea for my afternoon break but end up spending it checking the email account and answering some queries about late returns.  A few readers have left books at home over the vacation so they can’t yet return them.    I make sure the books are renewed to give them a bit more time to return them and I also put a note on their account to say they’ve been in touch as we always try to help people who let us know if they’re having problems returning books

3:50 – 4:30 Missing book search

When a reader reports to us at the desk that they can’t find a book a form is filled out with the details and it is the trainees job to search for the books.  This is one of my most favourite and least favourite parts of the job, usually depending on if I can find the book.  It is very satisfying to be able to help someone who urgently needs an item that has been missing for a while.  It’s also very frustrating when you can’t find it, we just have to hope it’s here somewhere and will turn up so we search every few days for missing books.  I also spend this time looking for some books that people have told us they returned but are still on their account.  We search for these books quite a few times in case they are definitely here but in the wrong place.  Today I find one missing book but the reader who wanted it hasn’t left their details so I can’t tell them it’s been found, I put it back in the correct place and hope they find it later.

4:30 – 5:00 Wrapping up the day

There are lots of other things that the SSL trainees do but this is not the kind of job where you have the same duties every day so I take a look at a list of things I need to do to see if there is anything else for today.  There are a few books from the Radcliffe Science Library which have been returned here by mistake so I contact the reader and ask them to come and pick the books up.  I realise I haven’t dealt with any incoming post today so Sara must have done it all earlier, I quickly check to see if there is anything delivered this afternoon and there are a few bits of post for staff which I pop in their post trays.  I note down that today I haven’t done anything from my list of low use books to be removed from circulation, or books to change the status from reference only to normal loan, there are also more books to be processed and we need to start processing the books going to the bindery, these are all on my list for tomorrow.

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