Saturday 20 December 2014

Bodleian K B Chen China Centre Library Visit

Helen Matthews very kindly wrote up the recent CILIPTV visit to the the Bodleian K B Chen China Centre Library, which appears below- bonus points for being so prompt, especially at this time of year, Helen!:

On 17th December a group of librarians and information specialists visited the Bodleian K B Chen China Centre Library, located in the grounds of St Hugh’s College (one of the colleges of the University of Oxford). The library is inside the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building having moved from the Institute for Chinese Studies. The £21m building was funded by a number of benefactors, most notably the Hong Kong philanthropist, Mr Dickson Poon CBE (from whom the building derives its name), who donated £10m. The library is named after the late Mr K B Chen, recognising the gift from his son, Mr Henry Chen, to the college.

Joshua Seufert, the Chinese Studies Librarian, provided the tour of the library and China Centre Building. The Centre is built on what used to be tennis courts. The library is in the basement of the building but has plenty of natural light pouring in as it looks across a garden area that has been lowered from ground floor level, which the building wraps around. The building caters for those with disabilities with wide doorways for easy access and a lift, which the spiral staircase wraps around. Within the building you find images of the Chinese coin and the fleur de lys, the latter of which forms part of the College’s crest. Doors with the Chinese coin on lead to the China Centre areas whilst the doors with fleur de lys on lead you towards college areas.

The building brings together various people and departments of the University involved with Chinese studies into one place, rather than having them scattered around the city. We went into one of the lecture theatres which seats 100 people but can be split in half for two lectures to take place at the same time with fewer people. Some of the Bodleian Library’s Chinese special collections have been reproduced to display on the walls of the Centre, including the Selden map of China, bringing the library out to the rest of the building.

The library is one of the Bodleian Libraries, which offers benefits like being part of the Printing, Copying and Scanning (PCAS) service and offering the opportunity to order material from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon to the library. In fact, the library has seen an increase in library users including members of St Hugh’s College and St Antony’s College who are ordering material from the Book Storage Facility to the library because of its convenient location to them. There is a room dedicated to this material where library users can collect the material they ordered and read it in the library.

The library has 6 carrels, which can be used by readers for more quiet and private study. With these carrels they can book cabinets in which they can keep personal belongings. As well as space for private study there is a group study room with a projector and speakers for people to use as a meeting place.

The library has a special classification system for its material called Harvard-Yenching devised by Alfred Kaiming Chiu for the Harvard-Yenching Institute. Although the classification system has been phased out, the China Centre Library, and a few other libraries, use and update the classification system. New material, however, is being classified using the Library of Congress.

We were particularly intrigued by the library’s journal display, a case which had a panel for each journal title which was lifted to reveal past issues behind it inside a cubby hole. Before moving into the new library, 50m of journals were disposed of as well as 200m of material that had to be disposed of due to last minute ceiling height reductions, which means a loss of shelf space. Joshua explained that the new library has more space for library users to work at, which the previous library did not, which has meant a slight reduction in shelf space.

The tour was followed by a Q&A session as an opportunity for us to find out further information. The visit to the K B Chen China Centre Library was insightful with an great tour guide. It is excellent that the library has been included in the development of the brand new building and the amalgamation of various departments within the University in order to best provide for students and academics of Chinese studies.

Friday 5 December 2014

A day in the life of a librarian: Nora Khayi, St Hugh’s College Library, University of Oxford

This month's posting in the "day in the life" series is from Nora- our fantastic Secretary for CILIP in Thames Valley, and who is also Publicity Officer, for the South East Member Network- so a very busy lady indeed! Here is her account of a typical day:

I am the Librarian at St Hugh’s College Library in Oxford: The Howard Piper Library. The College has about 700 students (undergraduates and graduates) and is situated in beautiful grounds in north Oxford. The view from my office window looks out on our renowned garden and always surprises me by its splendour.

The Howard Piper Library is one of biggest college libraries in Oxford. This is notably due to its historical heritage: founded in 1886, the College was for woman only and, as they were not allowed into the central library until the early 1920s, Women's College libraries tend to have been built up larger collections to respond to that issue. St Hugh’s has about 80,000 books held mainly on open access. We also do have a small Special Collection with such wonders as a 1st edition of Hobbe’s Leviathan. I am responsible for the management and development of the collection as well as for providing information, resources and services to members of the College. Managing the library collection includes managing risks, opportunities, challenges and value of the collection. So let me talk you through a typical day in the library…

I arrive in College between 8:30 and 9:00 and the first thing I do is to have a coffee while checking my emails. The Senior Library Assistant goes through the morning daily tasks and there are always unexpected tasks for me such as emailing our students regarding food in the library, or our security alarm. Going through my emails I respond to queries from students and Fellows, as well as dealing with emails regarding overdue books, meetings, or training. At any time, I like walking around the library – students then have the opportunity to catch me and ask questions, or just have a chat, and I have the opportunity to remind them that no cans of coke or other liquids as well as no chocolate bars are allowed in the library.

This morning I have a meeting with the management team of College. The team constitutes Head of Departments in College in a roundtable where we discuss particular topics, events of the week and share good practices. This usually could take up quite a bit of time depending on what is happening in College. There are also a lot of emails that are circulated from this team which requires time.
One of my primary tasks is acquisition of new and relevant materials for the students. We do not specialise in any subject and I work very closely with our College Fellows who in the best scenarios are very willing and proactive at providing reading lists and emailing me every time there is a new publication of a relevant book in their subject.

I also liaise with subject librarians in the different faculties to obtain new reading lists. I spend a fair amount of my time liaising with academics and librarians and ordering books. Moreover, we also have a book suggestion form that students use to recommend books from their core course reading lists. This is rather popular among our students and on a daily basis I look into their recommendations and correspond with them. If their request is successful, I’ll order the book and let them know.

Most days, I’ll have a small pile of books that the Senior Library Assistant leaves on my desk which requires cataloguing, I also have regular meetings with the team, the archivist, the bursar, and I write policies and proposals for our library committee to discuss and approve. While term is going ever so fast, I am thinking ahead and planning projects for the vacation periods – the most recent ones have been to write an in-house classification scheme for our English section to follow the curriculum and to reclassify over 7000 books over the summer. All of this is happening while we cover the enquiries of students walking into the office because they couldn't find a book, or who need a book from the stack, or can’t find an article, or just need a stapler!

At some point in the day I have lunch, probably sat next to one of our Fellows, where discussion on the library continues, and as a result, books will be bought, Fellows will come to the library to look at their section, reading lists will be sent…or in some cases a discussion goes on and nothing will happen. I have to say that I feel very lucky at St Hugh’s, Fellows really value and appreciate the Library and are ready to get involved.

While I am writing this note, I’m looking through the office door, the lobby area is full of students working away, my emails have grown since the last time I checked and I have a pile of books on my desk waiting for me…the day is not over yet