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A belated and festive hello from the Bodleian Law Library!

Image courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries

Image courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries

I’m Maddy, one of two trainees here at the Law Bod. (My partner in crime – or rather in fighting it, considering our working environment – is Ben, who I am sure will also introduce himself soon.) I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2010 with a first class degree in History of Art, followed that with a Postgraduate Diploma in the same subject at Edinburgh University, and then went on to spend two years working in a variety of cultural institutions including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and Oxford’s own Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

With the world of galleries and museums being an extremely competitive field, around this time last year I started to consider whether there might be any other careers I could be interested in pursuing and began a daily ritual of scouring online job listings for inspiration. For quite a while there was nothing that grabbed my attention, but then one afternoon in December – just as I was beginning to resign myself to the idea that working in a museum was the only thing I could ever see myself doing and that my life was therefore destined to become one long string of unpaid internships – I came across the advertisement for the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Traineeship Scheme. Remembering how much I had enjoyed the processes of studying and learning during my time at university, and combining that with my love of the printed word, I decided that it was an opportunity that would definitely be worth exploring.

When I first found out I had been selected for the Law Library, my excitement was mixed with slight trepidation as – apart from stories I had been told by my Grandfather of his adventures as a policeman in South Wales in the fifties – my legal knowledge was basic, to say the least. Term began in a flurry of jargon and loose-leaf filing, as Ben & I muddled along trying our best to hide the fact that we didn’t even know what ‘jurisprudence’ was, let alone where in the library you might find books on the subject. (Oh, and what on earth is tattle-tape?!)

Now, three and a half months into the traineeship, I might not be able to give you the exact definition of jurisprudence but I definitely feel much more confident in my understanding of legal and library terminology. Our colleagues here at the Law Bod have been so helpful and encouraging, and I’m pretty sure I now know where most things are! While Ben is based in the Academic Services department and deals mainly with readers, I work in Technical Services and spend more time with the books. Alongside regular desk duties, I have settled into my routine of receiving the Law Library’s share of the Bodleian’s legal deposit items, processing them (which involves using the mysterious tattle-tape), sending them for cataloguing, labelling them, and passing them all on to Ben for shelving. (I’m sure he’ll tell you himself how much he loves it when I come and clutter up his shelves…) I help Lindsay, our Acquisitions Librarian, with recording orders and invoices, and I’m also responsible for the weekly display of new journals as well as a termly ‘Oxford Authors’ display. More recently, I have taken on the task of creating a list of a collection of constitutions held by the library and coming up with a new shelving arrangement in order to make them more accessible for readers. In the new year, I will also be starting to help with the ‘Bodleian Law Library Institutional Memory Project’ – an initiative aimed at celebrating the library’s 50th anniversary.

All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying library life and am very much looking forward to learning more about it throughout the rest of the year. For now, however, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a great start to 2014!

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Humble greetings from the SSL!

My name is Luke, and along with Anja I am one of the two trainees working at the Bodleian Social Science Library. I’ve been meaning to write a post on the blog for a while now, but life at the SSL is anything but quiet! To get things going I’ll follow the example of my fellow Trainees, and tell you a little about me.

This year I graduate from the University of Gloucestershire with a 1:1 in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (unlike some fancier Universities my ceremony isn’t until November!) and during my time at University I had several jobs. After deciding retail wasn’t for me, I made what I now realise to be quite an important decision. Having worked as a Student Temp for my campus Library, I was lucky enough to be promoted to the position of Library Advisor at Francis Close Hall. It was hard work at times but lots of fun; I really enjoyed working with a fantastic team of people, and I think that perhaps that was what inspired me to participate in this year’s Graduate Trainee Scheme. That and one of my colleagues at the time sent me a timely link to the advert on the Bodleian website! 

As I don’t live in Oxford I’ve found the biggest challenge so far has been getting to work. Buses aren’t my favourite thing, and it’s a bit expensive to drive all the time, but I think I’m getting the hang of my routine now. It’s been really fun meeting all of the Trainees, and I’m lucky to be able to work with Anja who (just about) manages to keep me on track most of the time.

In terms of the role itself, being a Graduate Trainee at the SSL really is an experience. Despite the title, Anja and I are responsible for a number of things. A truncated list would include managing the generic e-mail account, booking group study rooms, creating and managing invoices and overdue notices, looking after the processes surrounding missing, lost, and ‘claimed returned’ books, handling the post, and lots of other more usual Trainee things like shelving and sitting at the issue desk. Though it initially seemed like a lot of work, I think it’s fair to say that Anja and I are really enjoying ourselves.  

Because our role straddles the worlds of Reader Services (anything to do with helping readers – front of house stuff) and Technical Services (anything to do with managing the resources that the Library has – behind the scenes stuff), we’re getting a fantastic insight into the workings of a University Library, which even with a fair amount of experience I was still largely in the dark about in some cases. There have even been some opportunities to make original contributions to the Library – we’ve recently finished setting up the SSL twitter account at https://twitter.com/SSLBod!

The regular training supplied by the Graduate Trainee scheme has been incredibly helpful so far, and in conjunction with some of the courses offered by IT services at the University it is set to be more and more useful and informative. Everyone involved with the scheme (and especially everyone at the SSL) is really friendly, and I’m so glad I got to be a 2013/14 Graduate Trainee!

Hopefully I’ll be able to give you guys an update later in the year. Until then, ciao!

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My new parking space.

My new parking space.

Hi, I’m Hannah and I’m just 7 days into my role as the new Graduate Trainee at the Bodleian Library. I’m in good company as one of over 20 wannabe librarians embarking on traineeships across the university this year.

The road to the Bod began with ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ and ‘Silver Surfers’: I’ve been interested in a career in libraries since getting a part-time job at Nuneaton’s public library during my A Levels where most of our patrons were under 6 or over 60. While I was studying for my BA in French and German at Somerville College, here in Oxford, I also helped out in the library and archives over the long vacations. Somerville was a wonderful library to get work experience in; it’s one of Oxford’s largest college libraries as it was built in the days when women weren’t allowed to use the Bodleian! Luckily those dark days are over and I’m really looking forward to spending a year at the Bodleian. I can’t wait to get to grips with the inner workings of this amazing place.

Thus far I have been based on the reserve desk in the Upper Reading Room. Bodleian books aren’t for lending, and much of the huge collection is now stored off-site at the Book Storage Facility (or BSF; one of many acronyms to learn!) We unpack three deliveries a day of books from the BSF in Swindon for readers to consult here, as well as helping readers to find what they need on our open shelves. The Old Bodleian is currently undergoing maintenence works to improve the flooring (no more squeaky lino!) and lighting, so we duck under the red tape (with the permission of the workers) to fetch various volumes. We wouldn’t want any unsuspecting readers tripping into one of the gaps in the flooring in their pursuit of the Collected Works of Coleridge. There are also always new readers who might need a hand with SOLO and I’m anticipating that these enquiries will become ever more common as term time draws near. During my year here I’ll be based at several different desks and service points in the Bodleian, including the Main Enquiry Desk and heading down into the Gladstone Link, so I’m excited about the variety of work that I will get to do.

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Hullo! My name’s Will, and I’m the graduate trainee at the Codrington Library at All Souls College. I graduated from Merton College, Oxford in 2009 with a degree in English, and then studied for a Masters degree at the same College before starting at All Souls. Since no single day is entirely representative of my experience at work (variety being one of the main attractions of working in a college library), this little diary is a bit of a chimera, with lots of different events from my usual working week unceremoniously lumped together. Still, I hope it will sketch out some of the things you might encounter as a trainee at an Oxford College. Here goes…

8:45am – Arrive at the Codrington. Say hullo to Betty (our library scout). Open office. Switch on lights. Sigh. Put on kettle.

9:00am – Check the Fellows’ borrowing register (latterly an impressive leather-bound tome, currently an orange exercise book, soon to be an impressive leather-bound tome again). I add any new withdrawals to the relevant spread sheet, and update the book with today’s date.

9:25am – A mysterious parcel has arrived overnight. Excitement builds. It contains law textbooks and periodicals. Excitement fades.

9:30am – Open exterior door to Readers. Switch on recess lighting in the Great Library and the law reading room.

The Great Library.

The Great Library.

9:40am – I add the new law journals to our Scandex (a sort of squashed filing-cabinet used for keeping track of standing orders/journals), stamp, and then shelve on our ‘New Journals’ display. Eventually these issues will be catalogued online, but serials cataloguing is a scary business that I leave to braver people. For the moment, I notice that some of the series from last year are now complete, so I bundle them up and put them aside ready to be sent to the binders.  I add holdings records for the textbooks on Aleph (the university’s circulation and cataloguing software), create catalogue cards for them (yes, we still do this), stamp and bookplate, then shelve.

9:45am – I continue with my trainee project. This is the part of your traineeship where you’re allowed to undertake a self-contained task that will benefit the library, or conduct a bit of research into the library’s collections and history. I’ve elected to create a database of Codrington Readers up to 1900, based on signatures in the original admissions book. The library began admitting non-Fellows from the wider university in 1867, on the condition they behave nicely and sign the admissions register. Creating the database involves transcribing hundreds of signatures, of varying legibility. In many cases I have to make an educated guess, and cross-reference with the Oxford Historical Register , individual College Registers, and “other sources” (i.e. Google).  My success rate is reasonable, but progress can be painfully slow. I’ve reached the early 1880s.

10am – The team take a break and admire assorted cat pictures: http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/best-things-about-cat-bedtime.                Adorable. General agreement.

10:15am – Two new readers arrive (an historian and an archaeologist). I process their applications, make up their library cards, and give them a brief introduction to the library.

10:20am – One of the new readers requests a book from the stack (something on military history). I mooch off to fetch it.

10:25am – New reader no.3 (a geographer).

10:45am – Tea time. Someone’s eaten all the white chocolate wafers.

11:30am – Much excitement. I think I have pinned down one of the more elusive signatures from the admissions register: “R. Caldwell, Tmnevelly”. Much searching turns up a Dr. (later Bishop) Robert Caldwell, an evangelist missionary and linguist who travelled widely in Southern India (“Tmnevelly”, it seems, is the transliterated name of a settlement in the modern Indian state of Tamil Nadu).

12 noon – Lunchtime! Spicy sausage with couscous and chili jam.

12:30pm – The post has arrived. A donation from the Warden (the head of the College) concerning European Merger Law, a few invoices from EBSCO (our main journal supplier), the latest issues of three journals, and a book about Early Gunpowder Artillery. I add the invoices to our accounts spread sheet and add a holdings record for the Artillery book, pausing for a wry chuckle at the author’s picture (think Bill Bailey in a jerkin). I then process the journals (more wrestling with the Scandex), and strategically ignore the donation for the moment.

My desk, looking quite tidy.

My desk, looking quite tidy.

1pm – Back to the admissions book. I’m using the 19th century registers of Lincoln’s Inn and Inner Temple in an attempt to track down a few of the more stubborn signatures.

2pm – Spend a frustrating 10 minutes attempting to locate a book in the stack, only to find it was sat in the office – 6 feet from my desk – the whole time. Grrr. Time for tea.

2:30pm – Another donation, this time from an avant-garde artist in Poznan. The book is beyond my cataloguing skills, so I pass it to my colleague Fiona. Instead, I do the easy physical processing stuff, such as the donor’s bookplate, library stamps, and pressmark. I add the title to our donations spread sheet, and write a brief acknowledgement note (discovering lots of new Polish letter-forms in Microsoft Word in the process). Eventually this note will be signed by the Fellow Librarian, and sent to the donor as a thank you.

3pm  – I carry on with my cataloguing training. I’ve already been taught how to add simple holdings records for single and multipart items in Aleph , but now I’m learning to catalogue books from scratch. This involves mastering the shadowy art of the MARC record. MARC is a sort of rudimentary programming language that allows bibliographical data to be read by machines. It’s not impossibly hard, and I’m getting better with practice, but it can be rather pedantic and fiddly. There are lots of rules and procedures to remember, and it’s a real test of my concentration. Mercifully the person running the course at the Bodleian has a sense of humour, and my practice cataloguing tasks are all for ludicrous made-up books. My favourite so far is “Proceedings of the fourth California Prune Symposium”.

4pm – I have a long chat with the Assistant Librarian about her on-going attempts to construct a database of College Fellows (current and historic). Seems very complicated. More tea required.

4:30pm – More cataloguing exercises. My concentration wavers when an external researcher arrives to view a manuscript and some early printed books. The Codrington has lots of these (about a third of the entire collection of 185,000 items dates from before 1800), and I never miss an opportunity to shamelessly peer over people’s shoulders when something interesting gets called up.

Spiral staircase in the library office (my desk is at the bottom).

Spiral staircase in the library office (my desk is at the bottom).

5:30pm – Some re-shelving (apparently a task no trainee can avoid), re-filing of catalogue cards (most hated job), and general tidying up.

6:15pm – I lock the Fellows’ door (an entrance reserved for members of the College) and do the washing up.

6:25pm – The Assistant Librarian politely encourages our few remaining readers to begin packing up.

6:30pm – Home time!

Well, I hope that’s given you an idea of an average (ish) day as a library trainee at All Souls. The traineeship for 2013/14 is being advertised now (closing date: April 5), so if you have any questions about the job please do feel free to drop me an email, either at will.beharrell@all-souls.ox.ac.uk, or via the library’s general enquiries address: codrington.library@all-souls.ox.ac.uk. You can also find more information on the library website: http://www.all-souls.ox.ac.uk/content/The_Codrington_Library.

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