[You may notice the publication date on this, which was the last, not first, day of the course. I was so overwhelmed and so busy with the class that I did not post during the course. So this was 85% at the end of day one - the last 15% was on day 10...]
Some observations after the first part of one day:
I didn't realize that library practice was something I've developed over my life. Most interactions with libraries are with circulating libraries - you show up, find a book, get permission to take it home and go on your merry way. I have made use of the main research library at the New York Public Library, where most of their collection is not on open access shelves but are instead to be requested in advance and delivered for your use in a reading room. The main reading room is a gorgeous old looking high ceiling decorated-ish space. You generally need to wait for 30 minutes to access most of the books that someone like me (not really a scholar) would use.
I have made use of the collections, very briefly, of major libraries of deposit - the Library of Congress, the National Library of Scotland. I've never had access to a collection as vast and old as the University of Oxford. This university is enormous, and very diffuse, Each of its colleges has its own, sometimes very ancient, libraries, and the university itself has its own system of libraries as well. I am now the proud owner of a reader card for the Bodleian libraries for two weeks. I had to swear an oath to get this card:
I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.
I had to swear this out loud. Everyone else in the class had to as well - in whatever language they so chose. Of the four courses being offered at this summer school, students come from all over the world and speak a variety of languages. I heard this oath sworn today in Spanish, Polish, Greek, Turkish, Russian and Hungarian. And there may have been other languages that I didn't hear.
The collection is so enormous that I know I will barely scratch the surface of it. The system is a library of deposit for the UK, meaning they get a copy of every book published in the country. Of course, many of them are in a storage space miles away, and it may take up to 5 days to get those books. But what they have on the shelves of the various libraries is also astounding.
A huge part of my experience here I expect to revolve around libraries. It should be very interesting. I didn't know that I was working up to this my whole life!