Tag Archives: what’s it like to be a trainee

What’s it like to be a trainee? Ashleigh Fowler, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2016-2018

I started this traineeship just over a month after graduating with a BA in English. I knew from my first year as an undergraduate that I wanted to pursue a career in archiving, and beginning this traineeship has already pushed me so much further towards my goal than I ever would have expected to be at this point.

During my time as an undergrad I had a placement in the Special Collections department at the University of Nottingham which gave me a great first insight into archiving, but this traineeship is providing me with skills that will be invaluable when I’m qualified. I had no experience with digital archiving when I started, only ever paper, but I’m finding it a fascinating aspect of archiving to be involved in. I’m especially enjoying web-archiving, which is something I never expected I would be working on before this traineeship but has become one of my favourite regular tasks. The work is so varied that I definitely feel as though I’m building a rounded and relevant skill-set. One day I might be working on a literary archive, the next I might be working with floppy disks or working in the reading room – it really is very varied.

The Aberystwyth study supports the day to day work, by providing more background and theoretical basis into what I’m doing on the job. It is hard work studying for a post-graduate diploma and working full-time, but as the work and study complement each other well and both are enjoyable it really doesn’t feel as exhausting as it sounds.

I attended an Archives and Records Association literary archives training event recently, and I’m looking forward to future opportunities to attend similar events with the chance to gain outside training and to meet others who are working in archives to see how their experience differs to that of working for the Bodleian. The training sessions with the library trainees are also useful to see how the Bodleian Libraries and College Libraries function in a wider sense, so you can get a feel for where your role fits into the Bodleian as whole… and for a chance to see the BSF in Swindon (and its 153 miles of shelving!)

Ashleigh Fowler, Nov 2016

What’s it like to be a trainee? Rachael Gardner, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2015-2017

I was new to Oxford and to archives when I started the traineeship. I studied French and History, then went to teach English in France before returning to the UK to pursue a career in archives. After volunteering in a local museum, where I was introduced to the challenges of managing digital material, I embarked on the digital archives traineeship.

The traineeship is ideal as it combines an emphasis on digital archives with more traditional skills, which means that the training is very rounded. Studying for the postgraduate diploma from Aberystwyth University helps with this too, introducing you to a comprehensive range of theoretical and practical topics. Working full time and undertaking the Archives Administration course in two years does mean that the pace is intensive, but the support from colleagues and the fact that what you are studying is directly applicable and relevant to your work, means that the process is really engaging.

I am really enjoying the variety of work: I can be working on the Bodleian Libraries Web Archive; appraising and cataloguing project files for the Oxfam archive; using different databases and programs; and attending training and conferences on topics such as preserving social media. Working in the reading rooms you also gain valuable experience of how the collections are used. I’m looking forward to cataloguing my own collections, capturing digital material and undertaking a development project with a software engineer. There are lots of opportunities to get involved, for example with the UK Web Archive, led by the British Library. For the first year of the scheme you also attend training sessions for the Graduate Library Trainees programme on topics such as manual handling, e-resources, supporting disabled readers, and digitisation projects.

Being a digital archivist trainee is very rewarding. It is a great place to work, with fantastic colleagues, and I’m looking forward to the next two years and becoming a qualified archivist.

Rachael Gardner, Dec 2015

What’s it like to be a trainee? Emily Chen, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2014-2016

As a Digital Archivist trainee, you get the best of both worlds. Not only is the programme tailored to equip anyone new to archives with the skillset you need to get a professional qualification in Archive Administration (with an emphasis on the digital curation aspect of it), but you also get to participate in the wider graduate trainee programme that the Bodleian Libraries offers.

I have a STEM background with an MSc in Ethnobotany and research experience. One of the things that really drew me to this traineeship was that I saw first hand all the data and papers generated by research groups and labs that are now born-digital. These are materials that future researchers will want to use whether to replicate experiments or to build on previous research; yet very little thought has gone into their long term preservation.

This traineeship gives me a wide range of practical experience in traditional and digital curation roles while also supporting me as I work towards a professional qualification with Aberystwyth University. Some of the things I’ve done include; working with the British Library on archiving the web, cataloguing hybrid collections, going to conferences and workshops on current issues in digital archives, and much more.

That doesn’t mean that the more traditional aspects of archives are neglected though, and because this traineeship was developed with Aberystwyth’s distance-learning course in mind, often the two dovetail neatly. While it takes a good deal of time management to juggle the two, I prefer the accelerated pace because what you learn stays fresh in your mind and you can quickly see its application in your day to day work.

I am really enjoying the experience and look forward to what the next year brings.

Emily Chen, Oct 2014

What’s it like to be a trainee? Harriet Costelloe, Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2014-2016

Being a Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist at the Bodleian Libraries has enabled me to be involved in a variety of collections work, engage with a range of individuals and expand my knowledge and understanding of archival processes relating to both physical and digital material. With an undergraduate degree and masters in History of Art and a year’s experience as an Archives Assistant, I came to the Bodleian Libraries eager to learn more about digital archiving because of its growing relevance in practices today. I have not only become competent in webarchiving and processing audio-visual material, but have also been introduced to a range of initiatives being undertaken currently to capture and preserve born-digital archives nationally. Alongside this, I have worked with and catalogued material dating as far back as the eighteenth-century, and have assisted readers at the Weston Library and been involved with the running of events and classes here. I am really enjoying working in Oxford and the breadth of the traineeship, which is complemented and strengthened by my distance-learning course at Aberystwyth. Studying for a postgraduate diploma in Archives Administration is enlightening and interesting – so far it has involved researching and submitting a report or essay every 6-8 weeks on a topic such as archival theory, preservation, appraisal and cataloguing. The work and time required to do this is made much more manageable through the support of my department, and I know I will really benefit from gaining the necessary qualification to be an archivist alongside the practical experience of the full-time traineeship.

Harriet Costelloe, Oct 2014