Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library: Emergencies in the Library

So far these posts have focused on some of the more commonplace work that takes place behind the scenes in Nuffield College Library; the kind of work that you are likely to find going on in libraries throughout the UK. Today, let’s look at something a little more peculiar to Nuffield…

In keeping with situation affecting much of the country over the past few weeks, the library extension recently experienced two flooding episodes in quick succession, threatening serious damage to the important collection of government and official publications housed in this part of the library.

Fortunately, the library is well-prepared for emergencies of this nature (or at least as well-prepared as it can be!). The potential for flooding from the pipes running above the extension is well-known to staff, having happened on a number of occasions in the past. As such, they perform a daily check of the area, keep shelves rolled away from exposed piping where possible, and maintain a disaster kit ready for emergency situations. As a result of these preventative measures, both leaks were spotted early and staff were able to take action quickly in order to limit the damage as far as possible.


They began by removing material from the worst affected areas and putting up waterproof materials to protect what was left on the shelves, before setting to work identifying the source of the leak.  Here is a photo of some of the journals we removed from the shelves:


The second leak was more serious and unfortunately these actions were not sufficient to prevent the need to send 11 boxes of texts to a local company document restoration service for treatment. In addition, on this occasion it was also necessary to rent a dehumidifier in order to prevent further damage to books (i.e. the growth of mould in damp conditions).

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Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library: Library Treasures!

For our final blog post in the series “Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library” we wanted to highlight some of the Library’s “treasures” ie our unique and valuable resources and collections.

Firstly, from the Lord Nuffield collection in our archives, item 13/5, William Morris, Lord Nuffield’s Grant of Arms. In 1934 he was made Baron Nuffield and in 1938, Viscount Nuffield “for public and philanthropic services”. For more on Lord Nuffield’s donations, read “Lord Nuffield : a philanthropic legacy” published last year by the College. You can find it here on SOLO.

Lord Nuffield

Next, an example of one of the many pamphlets in our extensive Party Political History collection which covers the latter half of the 20th century and the entire political spectrum. This one comes from the Labour Party Collection PP Lab 1.

Thatcher's Britain

The private Library of the socialist, Fabian, biographer (and murder-mystery writer!) G D H Cole formed the basis of Nuffield College Library. He had many areas of interest which you can read about in his book “Persons and periods”

One of these interests was the English journalist, pamphleteer and radical, William Cobbett. As well as our collection of Cobbett’s writings and correspondence, we have a series of prints by the contemporary cartoonist James Gillray on display in the Current Affairs Room depicting scenes from Cobbett’s life. The full handlist of papers can be found here.


Cole also amassed a collection of maps and geographical material. This title page and illustration comes from “An historical account of the British trade over the Caspian Sea” by the traveller and philanthropist, Jonas Hanway and is kept in the Librarian’s office at shelfmark Reserve qHF 479.H:

Caspian crop

Less visually appealing, but of great significance in the history of the 20th century is our League of Nations collection, housed in the Library Extension at the shelfmark X LN – an exhaustive collection of treaties, documents and minutes of meetings. For more on the League of Nations, see the papers of former Warden Alexander Loveday who was Director of the Financial Section and Economic Intelligence Service.


Finally, the most important resource in the Library – staff!

L-R Helen Matthews, Niamh Delaney, Tula Miller, Liz Martin, Tessa Richards, Ed Smithson, Clare Kavanagh

L-R Helen Matthews, Niamh Delaney, Tula Miller, Liz Martin, Tessa Richards, Ed Smithson, Clare Kavanagh

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Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library: Inventory Control

“Inventory control” is library jargon for a stock take of our books. During the vacations we use mini barcode scanners to scan each book on the shelf, this data is then uploaded to the Bodleian Libraries  server. Once this has been done, it means that it is possible to compare what we have on the library catalogue with what is actually on the shelf.

Comparison of a regular barcode scanner and a mini barcode scanner. It may be small but it can store thousands of barcodes!

We can then generate reports which highlight potential problems, for instance:

A report on all items which have not been scanned – these can be marked as missing and then searched for.

A report on the shelf order of all the books scanned – this will tell us if anything is in the wrong place (thus making it difficult to find) we can then identify such books and put them back in the correct order.

Various other errors can be thrown up – for instance books which have been flagged as “Missing” or “Lost” in the past can be retrieved and made available again.

The overall aim behind this is to ensure that the catalogue is as accurate and up to date as possible – last summer we scanned floors 3 to 6 of the tower – that’s over 47,000 books!

Scanning books for Inventory Control – only 46,999 more to do…

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Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library: Cataloguing

Our first post to celebrate National Libraries Day focused on how we acquire new material for the library’s collection. This post will continue that process, exploring how we make the material available on the library catalogue, SOLO, for library users to see.

It is important for library users to be able to search for the material the library holds and to make this possible, librarians put information about the material into a bibliographic record, which is also known as cataloguing. You can see an example of a bibliographic record from the staff side below (click image to enlarge):

Cataloguing MARC record II

Cataloguers have some strict rules to follow when they create a bibliographic record. First are the MARC21 rules, or Machine Readable Cataloguing. These standards are for the representation of bibliographic detail in a digital form. MARC21 provides designated fields in the form of numeric codes to which the cataloguer adds the information about the material. There are fields for the title, author, publication information, and so on.

Secondly, cataloguers use RDA, or Resource Description and Access. These standards provide guidelines on how to formulate data for resources description and access. In simpler terms, they instruct how to enter the bibliographic information into the record. For example, a book’s pagination would be entered as 300 pages, as opposed to 300 p. (to shorten) or three hundred pages.

Lastly, cataloguers use Library of Congress Subject Headings. These subject headings describe what the material is about. We can see in the above image, in the 650 field, that this book is about computer crimes. It is up to the cataloguer to decide what the material is about. They then use the large list of Library of Congress Subject Headings to enter the appropriate description into the bibliographic record.

These three sets of rules are used worldwide by librarians with the aim of ensuring consistency. The guidelines change depending on the format of the material. A journal’s bibliographic record will be different from a book’s, as will a CD or DVD.

Below you can see the bibliographic record of the image above in SOLO, as the library user would see it.

Cataloguing SOLO record

All of the necessary information about the book is there but with a more user friendly appearance.

Cataloguing is an essential part of librarianship but a role that people are generally unaware of. Without a cataloguer, library users would not be able to search for the material they need for their studies and research.

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Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library: Archive collection

Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library: Archive Collections


Snapshot of archive collection

The archive collection at Nuffield College Library is an eclectic mix of material which has been donated and collated over the past 60+ years.  It includes the large and well used collections of William Morris, Lord Nuffield, founder of the College and hugely influential motoring industrialist and educational and medical philanthropist; Frederick Lindemann (Lord Cherwell), scientific adviser to Winston Churchill during the Second World War; G.D.H. Cole, Fellow of the College, an influential academic, leading Fabian, and guiding light of several left-wing groups, whose book collection greatly enlarged and improved the Library back in the 1950s and William Cobbett, radical political journalist, passionate farmer and a strong advocate of parliamentary reform.  We also hold many of his books and pamphlets.

There are many other less well-known collections though, including:

African Trade Unions (1949-1969), a miscellaneous collection of documentation relating to and about trade unions in various African nations, 1949 to 1969,  varying from constitutions to publications, press cuttings to legislation and manifestos to speeches.

Margaret Cole (1893-1980), wife of G.D.H. Cole and an important and distinguished figure in her own right. She was a prolific writer and her works encompassed biography, labour history and (with her husband) detective fiction. In addition, she was an influential figure in education and she was a prominent Fabian for over half a century.

David Davies (1742-1819) (Small Collection), a welsh clergyman in the Church of England, this collection contains some of his primary research into his important work on social history, ‘The case of labourers in husbandry stated and considered’, published in 1795.

Lord Emmott (1858-1926), British businessman and Liberal politician, this collection has some interesting correspondence with Lord Rosebery and with Liberal Imperialist M.P.’s opposed to Campbell-Bannerman’s leadership of the party, as well as correspondence on the 1907-1908 Education Bills and the Congo Reform Association. There is also a great deal of correspondence about the work of the Imperial War Relief Fund, the Save the Children Fund and the All-British Appeal Fund in 1921-1922.  There are also diaries, a collection of press cuttings and miscellaneous items such as photographs, certificates and illuminated addresses.

Gainford/Pease, a mixed collection of 6 family members papers dating from 1860-1943 covering topics such as local politics, the development of the railways and the highs and lows of the family businesses.  A great insight into 19th century English social history.

Lord Mottistone (John Seely), documents covering 1868-1947 including general correspondence, political papers, official papers, military papers, literary papers and press cuttings.  Mottistone was a soldier in the Boer and First World Wars, an M.P., served in the Colonial Office, War Office, was Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Munitions (W.S. Churchill) and from January 1st 1919 to December 22nd 1919 he was Under-Secretary of State for Air.

This is just a snippet of the material available, so please visit our archive home page for more information and consult our archive guide for information about accessing the collections.

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Celebrating National Libraries Day – Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library

Celebrating National Libraries Day - Behind the Scenes at Nuffield College Library

Saturday the 8th of February is National Libraries Day – the culmination of a week of celebrations in public, school, university and workplace libraries across the UK.

To mark the week, Oxford libraries will be sharing photos and providing explanations of some of the ‘behind the scenes’ work undertaken by their staff that readers do not normally get to see. Nuffield College Library will be participating, with a new post about a different aspect of our work every day this week. Read on for the first instalment in the series…

You will no doubt have seen the New Books and New Books by College Members displays on the first floor landing. This is a place for us to showcase our recent acquisitions, and to highlight and celebrate any new publications which members of Nuffield College have written or contributed to. But perhaps less clear for readers is exactly how the library decides which books to buy.

A great deal of the material purchased by the library is first requested by College Members (both students and academics) via the book request form on the College intranet.

In addition to this, the library receives a large number of publishers’ catalogues, which staff regularly scour for books which fit with the library’s acquisitions policy. The librarian also consults book reviews in academic and popular journals to help make these selections. Thus, a proportion of the new books each week are selected by staff at the library.

Acting as something of a hybrid of these first two methods, the library also uses an approvals system, in which a list of books which have been identified as potential purchases by library staff is circulated around College Fellows, who are then invited to recommend titles from the list which they believe the library should keep.

Finally, the library also maintains a Taught Course Collection, which is located in the Small Reading Room on the first floor. Books for this collection are purchased in accordance with the reading lists of the taught graduate courses of the main subject areas covered by the College.

Thus, the library uses a number of different methods to ensure that its shelves are kept well-stocked so that readers have access to the books they require for their research. Of course, deciding which books to buy is just the first step in that process however – as later posts in this series will seek to explain, much more work has to be done before the books are ready to go out on display.

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