Five Things I Learnt About the Codrington Library at All Souls College

Wow. This term has been super busy for me – I’m currently procrastinating from my Russian oral exam, which explains my return to blogging 🙂 this term we have been treated to many more tours around Oxford which I will attempt to cover in a new series of posts. First up is a post about the Codrington Library, which is in All Souls College. I was really excited about this one as there is a lot of mystique around the college and a certain air of exclusivity, as the college does have any undergraduates working there, just research students.

View of the Bodleian from inside of All Souls College

View of the Bodleian from inside of All Souls College

1.  Although there are no undergraduates based in All Souls College, undergrads can use the Codrington Library if they apply to the librarian. The library is so beautiful inside, that I would certainly would have done this if I had gone to Oxford 🙂

2. The library had its origins in 1438 when the college was founded. One of the co-founders of All Souls College, Henry Chichele, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, set this in motion as he saw the benefit of a library collection for the scholars there. The actual library building was completed in 1721, which was made possible after Christopher Codrington donated a legacy of ÂŁ10,000 to the college.

3. The library has some unusual non-literary treasures. These include a death mask of Christopher Wren!

4. The modern collection in the library mainly centres around law and history. They have excellent holdings on military and naval history, as well as ecclesiastical history too.

5. As well as having a fascinating early modern collection, the library is significant for it’s bibliography and book history collection. When we visited there was an exhibition entitled ‘Bibliophilia in the Codrington, 1750 to 1810’ which links to this subject.

Thank you to the graduate trainee at All Souls College for kindly showing us around the library!


Five Things I Learnt About Preventative Collection Care

Recently I was given the opportunity to attend training on mould prevention in libraries. Having previously done some work experience in an archive’s conservation department, this subject particularly interests me. Mould can be one of the worst dangers for libraries, and a terrible threat to the special collections of which Oxford has so many. Here are five things that I came away with from this information session:

1. There are two types of mould – inactive and active. Active mould is the worst kind, capable of spreading and causing decay. It can be identified by its fluffy damp qualities. The other type is inactive mould, which is only slightly less of a problem, in that it can become active under the right conditions. Unlike active mould, you can spot inactive mould by its flaky powdery appearance.

2. Different types of mould react to different stimuli. We were warned that it was a fallacy to believe collections would be safe if the relative humidity of the room was kept below 60-70%, which is generally recognized to be a safe limit. Librarians need to make vigilant checks, in order to ensure they don’t have a mould problem even if they are following best practice.

3. Mould is pretty disgusting on its own. But once present, it invites pests that feed on it to the party. Eek!

4. Organic materials found in nature (paper, leather, linen and vegetable and animal glues) are a lot more susceptible to mould than synthetic materials. This is why books with covers that have been synthetically treated (chrome tanned leather for example) will have a bit more protection.

4. It is very difficult and costly to destroy mould and save what it has infected. Gamma radiation is one of the only ways to totally kill mould (which is very impractical and expensive to use), while other forces such as chemicals, or treatment in a fume cupboard, can only help to slow it down and make it static. This is why preventative care is so important, as once you have a problem it can easily become a nightmare!

A Rainy Monday Afternoon at The Queen’s College

Luckily there was something to brighten up the gloomy Oxford weather this afternoon – a tour of the library at The Queen’s College! I’d never been to Queen’s before this, and once past the lodge we were treated to the usual Oxford Tardis-like experience of amazement that so many grand and imposing quadrangles and gardens can fit it the seemingly small space between Broad Street and High Street. Queen’s was founded in 1341, by the then Queen consort Philippa’s chaplain Robert de Eglesfield, who decided to name the college after his Queen. The library was established at this time as well, and was helped to develop by an outstanding bequest of ÂŁ30,000 in 1841 from Robert Mason, an old member of the College.

The Upper Library

The Upper Library

After passing through the Lower Library (which houses the course collection), we were taken to the Upper Library. Queen’s College Library is different as it permits the undergraduates to work in the historic Upper Library while the library staff are present, which makes a great study space for the students. We were told about how the Upper Library was constructed before the Lower Library, as library wisdom in the 1300s dictated the need to keep books off of the ground in order to protect them from the elements (quite wise!). The Lower Library (previously an open arcade) was made possible by the ÂŁ30,000 bequest. There are lots of interesting things to see in the Upper Library – this is where many but not all of the college’s rare books are kept, along with a bust of Queen Philippa, two globes (terrestrial and celestial) and an orrery (what a great word!) which is a model of the solar system.

Queen Philippa

Queen Philippa

We were told about the recent renovation work that had happened in both levels of the library. This included cleaning the ornate plasterwork on the Upper Library ceiling and removing the old wax and its accompanying dirt from the library floor. Another part of the renovation was the installation of a new heating system – this is important from a conservation perspective as the library cannot be allowed to get too hot for the sake of the rare books, but, as there are lots of students using the space, the library has to be hospitable.

Finally, we were shown some of the college’s treasures in the new made to measure display cabinet which was constructed during the renovation. This included a Book of Hours, and a bible which had belonged to Queen Elizabeth I. Cataloguing is under way to create better records of the amazing resources that The Queen’s College Library has.

Just as we left the Library, the rain began! Apart from that, I had a lovely afternoon at Queen’s – thank you for the tour!

Exploring the Oxford Union Library

This was one of the tours I was most looking forward to this term! Previously I had visited the Union a few years ago for a Valentine’s Day champagne party (so I don’t remember that much of the Union in retrospect!) and it was lovely to return 🙂

 oxford union

 Upon entering the wrought iron gates into the very summery gardens, we were greeted by the trainee at the Union. She gave us a quick history of the Union – it is not the Student Union at Oxford, but was rather set up as by a group of students who wanted to promote free thought and free speech at a time when the University was more strict on the discussion of certain religious and political issues. It was most importantly a debating society, and this is still carried on to this day, as throughout the Oxford terms speakers and debates happen regularly and are very popular!

Next we went into the Old Library, which was originally the debating chamber for the Union. We were stunned by the beautiful murals on the walls and ceiling of the Old Library – these were painted between 1857 and 1859 by famous pre-Raphaelite artists like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones and are scenes from Arthurian legends. The collection itself in the library goes far beyond historical though – serving the students that are its members primarily, the Union Library buys items from popular courses texts to a wide variety of magazines you wouldn’t find in most other Oxford libraries (Cosmopolitan, Vogue, GQ, Country Life and the New Yorker, to name a few!)

The library staff work in close contact with the standing committee that runs that Oxford Union to choose the books that will go into the library each term – this sounded like a really interesting process to be involved in, with so much input from the users you are helping.

Our tour finished with a trip into the debating chamber which has seen many illustrious speakers inside – it was a really cool place to visit, so thank you to the librarian at the Oxford Union Library!

Graduate Trainee Visits: Oxford Brookes and Jesus College

As Hilary Term comes to a close in Oxford I’m having a look back on the training I’ve been lucky enough to receive as part of the Bodleian Graduate Library Trainee scheme. One of the things I’ve most enjoyed are the visits to local libraries – and the visits this term were particularly interesting as they were to libraries that were very different to the one I work in.

Oxford Brookes University Library

Back in wet and windy January, I caught the Brookes Bus to Headington to see the library at Oxford Brookes University. I’d never visited the university before but had heard good things from friends who went there. When we arrived we were given a really friendly welcome by the library staff, and then were given a tour. One of the things that struck me was the huge range of subjects covered by the library, and the corresponding diverse journal collections dotted around the library.

The library came across as very accommodating to students’ needs – they did this by creating different zones in the libraries, so that in some zones you could study silently and in others you could work in groups. I like how many academic libraries are doing this – students learn in many different ways, and independent study will not teach you about team work or open your mind to other points of view in the same way as regular group work (in my opinion at least!)

When we visited Headington, the librarians were preparing for the imminent move into the new John Henry Brookes Building. We were given a presentation covering this and were all quite amazed when they told us how quickly they planned to move all the books into the new space. Seeing as the move was taking place during term time they were making every effort to minimise disruption to students which was great to hear 🙂

Jesus College Library

More recently, we were invited to visit Jesus College. There are three libraries within Jesus: the Meyricke Library, which serves undergraduates and is open 24/7, the Celtic Library, which is research-level collection in Celtic languages and culture, and the Fellows’ Library, which contains the college’s rare books and was renovated in 2008.

Managing such different libraries looked like a real challenge, and we were told about the various duties in Jesus College – the librarian must cater for the all the different undergraduate courses taught at Jesus, while also having a deeper awareness of Celtic Studies, and in addition pay attention to the atmospheric conditions in the Fellows’ Library so that the precious books are conserved. That would keep you busy!

As well as catering for the all the academic needs of the students, the librarians also manage the Junior Common Room (JCR) DVD collection and make these available for students to borrow. I particularly like this as it shows the college library’s role in helping with recreation as well as education, which differentiates it from departmental libraries in Oxford.

Our visit finished with quick trip into the Fellows’ Library where we saw a few of the rare books took in the beautiful surroundings, and then had tea and cake (always good!) in the library office 🙂

Thanks so much to the libraries at Oxford Brookes University and Jesus College for such informative and friendly visits!

Tab Trainees come to Oxford

Last Saturday the graduate library trainees from Cambridge came to town! We met them at the Library Camp unconference in Birmingham in November last year. They suggested we set up visits to Oxford and Cambridge, so that we could all see some more libraries and generally network 🙂 we were all for that, and so we eagerly invited the trainees from ‘the other place’ to come to Oxford!

First stop on the tour was my own library at the Business School. It was quite daunting speaking to a reasonably large group, but luckily I had prepared, by writing some notes on aspects like what different collections we had and what electronic resources we offered in the library. I love working where I do, and it was nice to offer my library as a comparison to the libraries where the other trainees work.

Next, we scooted along to St. Giles where we first visited the Taylor Institute Library, which is the Medieval and Modern Languages Library in the university. It’s very different there – even though the Taylorian and the Sainsbury library are both departmental libraries, the Taylorian is much bigger and holds a much larger collection. There are several classification schemes in operation, and lots of different reading rooms separating course and research books. Many of the rooms (like the Voltaire Reading Room) are beautifully designed and would make great study spaces!

Journals and Newspapers in the Taylorian

Journals and Newspapers in the Taylorian

Whilst in St. Giles we also visited the St. John’s College Library, which I’ve blogged about previously. We were all quite hungry by this point so we ventured to Little Clarendon Street for Oxford Favourite G & D’s for bagels and ice-cream 🙂



After lunch we headed to our last two libraries, the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) and the Social Science Library (SSL). On the way we showed the trainees the Bodleian Library and the Radcliffe Camera, which no visit to Oxford would be complete without! Having never been to the RSL before I was quite intrigued to go there – there are cool basement levels underneath the street to explore, although the RSL trainee did point out that it does get quite cold down there! He explained about the various construction work that had happened at the RSL, with various extensions being added on when more space was needed. This is the reason for the contrasting architectural designs of different areas of the building.

The Abbot's Kitchen Staircase

The Abbot’s Kitchen Staircase

We finished the day with tea and cake at the covered market (classic librarians!), where we talked about everything from Library Masters to the best pizzeria in Cambridge, and a trip to Blackwells book shop.

With a provisional date set to visit Cambridge, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the trainees again!

If you are interested in learning more about life as a graduate library trainee, check out the Cambridge trainees’ blogs:

Back to Blogging!

I love blogging…It’s an excellent way to capture my journey to becoming a librarian and all of my fun memories from being in Oxford 🙂 but like, hopefully, most bloggers, I drifted at the end of last year and didn’t post much…I blame this on Christmas and the start of the second series of one of my favourite Scandi TV shows The Bridge!

This post is an attempt to get myself back on target, to sum up what I did last year and to set out objectives for the coming year!


2013 was a truly great year for me, albeit with many tough challenges. I served as President of the LSE SU Drama Society which brought me into contact with so many creative people. I finished university and completed my dissertation, graduating in the blazing July sun with all my friends. I applied for dozens and dozens of trainee positions and was finally lucky enough to get a job in Oxford. I’ve loved working in a library for almost six months, and being in Oxford has been wonderful! Highlights include punting, starting to learn Russian, going to the Merton College Ball and drinking lots of mulled wine 🙂


My ambitions (not resolutions!) for the year – blog more about the library visits and workshops that I go to (and finish the 23 Things!), continue with my Russian (and crack the use of cases), see more Oxford colleges and apply for Library Masters degrees. I’m nearly half way through my traineeship and plan to make the most of the opportunities available! Wish me luck 🙂

Visit to the Bodleian Social Science Library

This week in Oxford we were given a guided tour of the SSL (Social Science Library), which was very interesting and thought provoking. In size, the SSL is much much bigger than the Sainsbury Library and has more staff to manage the larger collection of books and other resources. In terms of the collection it has, this is the most similar library in Oxford to the LSE library which also piqued my interest. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the visit.


So many books at the SSL!

Websites and Social Media

 Before the tour, we were given two presentations, one of which focused on the SSL’s website and it’s Bodleian LibGuide pages. So much thought had gone into the best way to present an overwhelming amount of information to a variety of different types of students! We were shown images of the SSL website over the years, and were told about what considerations the SSL had taken into account. Trying to work out how students think is at the heart of this. An example of how the website was designed with students in mind, is the decision to place a large advert for digitised versions of chapters at the centre of the homepage, where it is most likely to attract attention. We were also told about the SSL’s social media efforts, and their aim to communicate with readers in as many ways as possible. At the moment Facebook and Twitter act as primarily a way to spread information about disruption to service or new e-resources, but the future aim is that in time readers will be able to contact the library through social media to voice feedback or ask questions.


Another feature that is very impressive about the SSL is the way that they use the comments that readers send them in surveys, emails and in person, in order to consciously improve their services. Near the the front of the library, there are posters which list what negative points were raised by readers, and then next to it, describe what policies the SSL brought in to address them. I feel that this highlights an amazing level of customer care, and shows how the library is not complacent in the way it manages itself, but constantly improving. Who says Oxford and change don’t go together :)?

Library Space

One of my particular research interests is the way that libraries are built and the question of to what extent library facilities accurately reflect users’ needs. Constructed in 2004, The SSL is a relatively young library (by Oxford’s standards!). As it is all on the ground floor, this suggests that physically disabled readers were considered in the building plans which is very good. The type of facilities in the library in general also point to good planning – all the desks are by the windows (where it is most light!), and there are a number of private study carrels which students can book. I liked the inclusion of an IT Training Room, so that the library can easily provide user education, and discussion rooms which would be useful for group work alongside solo studying.

All in all the visit was very illuminating – as I work in a small team, it was interesting to see what it would be like to work in a larger library! Thank you Social Science Library for an informative tour, and the tea and biscuits afterwards 🙂 

Thing Ten: Facebook

Finally in double-digits!

Ah, Facebook. Much like with marmite, I am indeed a lover, not a hater 🙂 I go on Facebook a lot in my spare time, as it is the best way to keep up with what my friends are doing, to organise events and to share photos and the like. As with Twitter, there is room for a professional side of Facebook and many companies use the pair in order to reach new audiences, communicate better with the audience they have and the raise awareness of services they provide. A company having a Facebook or Twitter account is no longer exceptional but expected – and the absence of a social media presence can speak volumes.

When I was President of the LSE SU Drama Society, we used a Facebook page as our main means of contacting members (after email). We found that this was a great tool as we could post photos and adverts for productions, which we hoped would grab our member’s attention on their news feeds. As well as being a means to disseminate information, Facebook also gave us the opportunity for our members to provide us with information. Firstly, students could post questions that we could respond to directly. Secondly, by creating events for our shows we could gauge expected audience numbers by our users’ responses.

I am hoping to be more involved in my library’s use of social media over my trainee year, and will be looking at how different libraries inside of and outside of Oxford use Facebook. It will be interesting to see if they use Twitter and Facebook in similar or different ways.

Are you interested in learning more about Oxford University’s 23 Things for Research programme, run by the Bodleian Libraries and IT Services? Follow this link!

Thing Nine: Storify

As with the RSS Feeds, I’ve never really come across Storify. I like the sound of it – Storify helps you to create ‘social stories’ by pulling across content from Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Instagram (and anything else you can think of!) into one space.

I had a quick wander around the Storify website to see what types of events and news stories people had chosen to create a story about. I liked how the University of East Anglia had published a story about their recent graduation celebrations – this seemed like just the sort of thing to put on Storify, as so many students and their families would have been writing about the event on social media, so getting content would be quite easy. I also had a look at the story regarding the UN Climate Change Talks in Warsaw happening this week – this pulled together a live report on what was happening at the conference, videos of statements and tweets from around the world. Reading about this through Storify gave me a more well rounded understanding of the event, and it was great that I wouldn’t have to search through multiple sites to get the same range of information.

I’ve decided to create a story myself, based around the upcoming Library Camp 2013 event I will be going to in Birmingham at the end of the month. Watch this space!

Are you interested in learning more about Oxford University’s 23 Things for Research programme, run by the Bodleian Libraries and IT Services? Follow this link!