We visit … Oxfordshire Central Library

Our annual Learn and Laugh week is an opportunity for Oxford Brookes library staff to explore new things and new places.  On a damp morning in May we were treated to a visit to Oxfordshire County Library. This is the county’s flagship library, and sits at the entrance to the Westgate centre in central Oxford.

We were welcomed by two of the librarians, Kate Robinson and Ian Hunter, and we were taken to the Makerspace on the first floor. They provided us with an overview of their roles in the library service before touring us around the library. 

As a musician, one of the highlights of the tour for me was the music library. It is very well resourced with music scores, books and CDs. In addition, there are  electronic sources available to members from music streaming to electronic reference books. As we continued our tour we were shown other subject areas of the library. The teenage/young adult collection is tucked in a far corner of the library so that teenagers have a space that feels “theirs”. In this collection there are teen comics, graphic novels and YA fiction.

Three members of library staff stand in front of a long row of brown rolling stacks

We were then offered a sideshow and ushered into the store room containing hundreds of books on almost antique rolling stacks. We were told there is only one engineer remaining in the UK with the skills necessary to maintain and repair this piece of vintage library equipment! 

As we continued our tour of the library, we walked past an area of the library where the Oxford City Council Customer Services and Citizens Advice Bureau have a few desks for face-to-face appointments with the public offering advice and support.

During the walkabout we were introduced to the brand new Business &  Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC) and the friendly staff provided us with a demonstration of some of the facilities. These include hybrid meeting pods, a greenscreen area and hybrid conference room.There is a access to a range of  business databases for use in the library, including COBRA,  FAME and Ibis World. The staff at the BIPC offer one-to-one sessions including help and support with business plans and marketing.

The next point of interest was the children’s library. This was an inviting well-stocked library, with books clearly displayed on attractive shelving units. The furniture has a dual role providing play equipment for restless toddlers as well as seating. As we entered the library, the morning’s Rhymetime session was just starting! These sessions are very popular and there were many parents and toddlers in attendance. We were given some time to join in with the rhymes or to wander around the library.

Sandra sits in a round children's seat with purple padding. She is reading a children's book and smiling

Following our free play we reassembled in the Makerspace area, a spacious room with a range of equipment including 3D printers, Meccano and Raspberry Pis. The Makerspace and its services is supported by trained staff and knowledgeable volunteers. Other library staff have picked up relevant skills on the job, and help provide activities such as Coding Meetups and Raspberry Jams.  

We were offered a quick glimpse of the staff workroom which contains the usual miscellania of library paraphernalia: a comfortable work space.

I followed up the tour by exploring the library’s collection of ebooks. The collection is fantastic and like the print collection is inclusive. For their collection of online newspapers and magazines they make available the Pressreader Service.  Library members  can access this for free. This  makes available an impressive collection and contains the full content for all the broadsheets (apart from the Financial Times), tabloids and foreign newspapers. as well as a huge selection of magazines on a variety of subjects.

I found that the visit has inspired me to make more use of the public library, and I have made a note to promote this to students in future library sessions. 

During Learn and Laugh Week 2022, we also had the opportunity to visit Harris Manchester College Library, which my colleagues Dan and Elizabeth have also blogged about.

— Geoff Morgan, Academic Liaison Librarian

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