Thursday, January 15, 2009

Waltzing around the libraries

It's Week 0, bringing very quickly the prospect of another term. I realize I've hardly posted anything at all about my course, so before I feel deluged with reading and essays, I'll offer a glimpse of what a day is like on my course (the M.St. in the Study of Religion). The main theme will be libraries.

This is a taught course, so I have tutorials, especially on the Nature of Religion. We've already received in advance a reading list for all the tutorial sessions this term, arranged week by week. Typically they consist of books and conference papers and the first port of call is the online library catalogue - the entrance is through SOLO, which is a kind of portal offering a number of services. The two that I use most are OLIS and Oxford e-Journals. OLIS has a remarkably high proportion of the millions of (physical) items catalogued; and with the e-Journals service, the University has subscriptions to many electronic editions of journals, all of which are now conveniently available through single sign-on.

So you can plan beforehand where you need to go to find X, Y and Z. (I think it would make a nice project in operational research / mobile learning to develop a tool where you could feed in a reading list, your travel preferences (foot, bike etc) and then out pops your itinerary... actually just these kinds of ideas have been bounced around in the Erewhon project ...)

There are some grand and elegant library spaces, but for myself, I prefer to borrow books to read in the comfort of my home, with a cup of tea. So on Monday, equipped with a reading list, scribbled with libraries and shelf numbers, I descended on the town, arriving first in the Social and Cultural Anthropology library (aka Tylor Library). It's a departmental library that sprawls across several rooms and a couple of floors - fairly typical arrangement. Like many (most?) departmental libraries, it opens its doors to graduate students from around the University. It has a photocopier, but its own card system - the Bodleian photocopy card doesn't work here.

After some copying and a book loan (concerning Hindu diaspora), I jogged down the Banbury Road to OUCS to join the meditation group there just before they got started. I'm very happy that they keep this going and allow me to join after I left the department. :-)

Then lunch in college (St. Cross), a bit of e-mail in the common room, and on into town. I tried to collect lecture lists for this term from OUP, but they were closed: a sign indicated "stock taking." Hmmm.. Subsequently I popped into Blackwells, made my way upstairs to the 2nd hand department and bought a copy of 'Teresa of Avila' ('Outstanding Christian Thinkers' series) by Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Canterbury. Now I can find out a bit more about the way he thinks.

Then on to the Social Sciences Library, which is in a modern building, with large rectangular floor areas. I found their photocopiers do accept Bodleian photocopy cards and so I copied an article from a journal on diaspora, this one focusing on Muslims in Ethiopia and Canada. Afterwards, coming across the science area, I made my final call at the Radcliffe Science Library and bumped into a neighbour from the Close, who has been doing research there for many years. We exchanged a few words about aspects of healing - I'm hoping to write an essay that will focus on this in the Medieval period in relation to the translation of St. Frideswide's purported relics. More large rectangular floor spaces. I had a reference to 'BP..' (Dewey Classifications system) but initially all I could find were letters near the end of the alphabet - plenty of familiar QAs (Mathematics). Eventually found 'Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe' right towards one corner.

Curious to see the spread of libraries, I've looked at the loans record for last term and come up with the following figures (apologies for the poor formatting, but I don't find it easy to control the styling in blogger):



Social and
Cultural Anthro.

Oriental Institute

Social Sciences

Radcliffe Science

Balfour (Pitt Rivers)

Harris Manc. College

Subject Area

Nature of Religion 213 72 1
Buddhism315  12
5 14 5 7 2 1 3

Maybe a little surprising... Anyway, I hope to repeat this exercise at the end of this term.

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