Profile: Elizabeth Adams
Elizabeth Adams, College Librarian, discusses her career at Univ thus far, including the funniest thing she has seen in the library and getting involved with letterpress printing.
How and why did you become a librarian?
After finishing high school in Perth, Western Australia, with no further plans, I spent a couple of years travelling around the UK, Europe and Central America. My travels cemented an interest in libraries, ancient languages and living abroad. On return to Australia, I enrolled simultaneously in a Library degree (focussing on the History of the Book) and half of a Classics degree.
How did you come to Univ?
I first came to Univ in 2002 as part of the Early Printed Books Project. I spent a very happy 6 months cataloguing Univ’s historic collections so when the opportunity of coming back here more permanently arose in 2009, I took up the post of Assistant Librarian, becoming Librarian in 2011. My job, although bound by the cycle of terms, is never the same two days running – there is always something interesting going on, whether it’s starting a Women’s Bookshelf in collaboration with students or promoting our amazing historic collections.
Have you faced any challenges? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenges I’ve faced at Univ have both been space-related. Since I started at Univ, we have expanded our Library into 10 Merton Street to gain much-needed desk- and shelf-space, and rehoused or repatriated the majority of our early printed books. Both these projects depended on working with a dedicated Library team as well as other college departments – it was important to be able to advocate for the needs of our students as well as our special collections.
What is your proudest achievement related to the library?
The two achievements that come to mind both relate to the library. The first is the library expansion project I mentioned above, although I cannot take all the credit. Christine Ritchie, my predecessor, had been advocating for a bigger library since the 1980s! Secondly, the return to College of the Robert Ross Memorial Collection of Oscar Wilde material from the Bodleian Library in 2014. Since then our research has uncovered some significant new finds and opened the collection to researchers from around the world.
What are your current favourite books on the Women’s Bookshelf?
That’s a tricky one. There are lots that I plan to read, but if I had to choose two favourites, they would be Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. Reading the latter soon after its publication was quite a revelation, whilst Woolf writes so beautifully that I go back this work regularly. As a letterpress printer myself, I also admire that Virginia Woolf printed her own books by hand.
You do letterpress printing?!
Yes, letterpress is my thing. I started when I worked at the Bodleian Library, but now have my own studio (aka garage) with 2 presses and lots of metal type. I teach the 6-week letterpress course at the Bodleian’s studio and I’m also a committee member for the Oxford Guild of Printers. I have printed all sorts – posters, pamphlets, poetry, invitations, business cards, book-marks, and general ephemera. At the moment I’m working on a little folded booklet about Moby Dick for a Bodleian project, and a bookplate for a donation we received from an OM.
Is there a book every student should read?
No. I think that books mean different things to different people at different times in their lives. I hope, however, that all of our students read material outside their subject!
Do you have any advice for students at Univ?
What is the funniest thing you have seen in the library?
Either a blow-up dolphin or a loud haler. I can’t really see how either would have been helpful in the Library!
Describe Univ in three words.
Vibrant talented community.
How do you feel about the celebration of 40 years of women at Univ? How far do we have left to go?
I’m really happy to be part of the 40th anniversary of the women students at Univ. Although we have a long way to go, it is important that we celebrate our achievements whilst also learning from past mistakes. The creation of the Women’s Bookshelf in the New Library has been a great way of engaging with students, staff, Fellows, and OMs, as well as adding to my to-read list!
Women at Univ 2019. Celebrating 40 years of achievement by women students, academics and staff, and recovering the history of women in the College from 1249 to the present day.
Published: 8 April 2019