Interview with a former trainee (part 5)

For the fifth instalment of our ‘interview with a former trainee’ series, we hear from Ross Jones (History Faculty Library, 2018/19), Ivona Coghlan (Bodleian Law Library, 2017/18) and George White (Old Bodleian Library, 2017/18).

 

What did you most enjoy about this experience?

A view of the Rad Cam, with the St Mary Church spire in the background
The Radcliffe Camera, home to the History Faculty Library, where Ross was a trainee in 2018/19

Ross:

It gave an unrivalled grounding in library work in Oxford.

Ivona:

You got to see a wide variety of libraries and get a real feel for different areas of library work. Personally, I also really enjoyed getting to meet the other trainees and formed long lasting friendships.

George:

The highlight was definitely meeting my fellow trainees. I made some friends for life. So much so, that I live with one of them- I teamed up with my bestie to get on the property ladder. I think the neighbours were pleased to hear that two librarians would be moving in! Recently we hosted a Trainee mini-reunion, and had 3 other trainees to stay for the May Bank Holiday weekend, which was so lovely!

 

Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?

Ross:

The training sessions I found most interesting were the tours of other libraries. The sessions I found most useful were the talks by various professionals, which covered both theory and hands on experience (like sessions about Aleph – the Library Management System – and tools for presenting).

Ivona:

The session where former trainees came in and discussed a selection of various library courses was probably the most useful. I also found seeing the archives really interesting as it was an area I knew little about.

George:

The Bodleian Libraries is such a large organisation, consisting of many different libraries and departments who are all responsible for different things. Visiting all the libraries, and hearing from colleagues about their roles, really helped me make sense of the Bodleian Libraries as a whole. All the sessions were useful, but a couple of sessions stand out as particularly interesting: visiting the Conservation Studios at the Weston Library (painstaking work, I wouldn’t have the patience) and the University Archives (they’d laid on some really fascinating pieces).

 

Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?

Some shelves with a long run of red bound journals
Some shelves within the Bodleian Law Library, where Ivona was a trainee in 2017/18

Ross:

I am writing up my dissertation this year for Sheffield. The traineeship guided me in taking the MA and choosing Sheffield.

Ivona:

I completed my PGDip in 2020. The traineeship helped me to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the different courses. It also meant I knew people from the traineeship doing the course at the same time. We did different courses but it was good to know people in the same boat. As I had no previous library experience, the traineeship helped me feel confident about the decision to pursue librarianship. This was particularly important to me due to the cost of the course.

George:

I had a place at Sheffield to study for a Masters in Librarianship for the 2017/18 academic year. However, when I got on the trainee scheme, I deferred my place. The traineeship definitely affected my thoughts on this, as it was during the traineeship that I heard about the possibility of studying for library school, via distance learning. This really appealed to me- the thought of going back to being a full-time student, with no income, was a bit scary. After talking with colleagues, I found I knew a fair few people in Oxford who’d done it- worked and studied at the same time. They warned me that it was a lot of work, so I knew what I was getting into. I applied for internal Library Assistant jobs that came up over the trainee year and got a permanent position at the History Faculty Library. Once I got this, I changed my course with Sheffield to be the distance learning course. As my friends had warned me, it was hard work! I decided to do a postgraduate diploma, rather than a Masters (essentially a Masters, minus the dissertation).

 

In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?

Ross:

Getting a sense of the bigger picture at the Bodleian. It is all too easy to think locally, but through training sessions, talks and tours, the traineeship shows you what is happening in lots of different places at once. This helps to contextualise your position in the wider organisation.

Ivona:

It improved my ability to network. It encourages you to ask questions and learn from others. It also gave me confidence to try new things even if I didn’t have prior experience.

George:

Not being afraid to ask questions. I think sometimes we worry about asking for help, because we don’t want to look stupid! However, it’s always best to ask about something if you’re not certain. Especially in libraries, where staff are always happy to help (I don’t think I’ve ever come across a mean librarian- we are so very misrepresented in films and TV!) When you first start any job, it can be a bit overwhelming- there’s a lot of information to take in at once. It’s impossible to remember everything. While you’re settling in, ask questions- even if it’s just ‘do you like working here?’ It’s a good way to get to know your colleagues and learn at the same time.

 

What are you doing now?

the wooden doors of the Great Gate with the coats of arms of the different colleges open to view the statues of the Earl of Pembroke.
The Great Gate of the Old Bodleian Library, where George was a trainee in 2017/18.

Ross:

I am a Senior Library Assistant at the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library (PTFL) and English Faculty Library (EFL), as well as a Reader Services Supervisor at the Old Bodleian Library.

Ivona:

I am currently on secondment as a Senior Library Assistant with The Biomedical Library at Queen’s University Belfast.

George:

As of December 2021, I’m a Senior Library Assistant at the Cairns Library, in the John Radcliffe Hospital. My full title is Senior Library Assistant: Collections Management & Enquiry Support (a bit of a mouthful. And, yes, I did have to check my email signature to make sure I got it spot on!) which means I spend half my time on collections (I’m learning to catalogue and classify, which I know will be very useful skills to have throughout my career in libraries) and the other half on enquiries (answering emails from healthcare students and professionals, based in the hospitals). It’s a nice mix of tasks and I am enjoying the job so far. It’s quite different to working in the History Faculty Library and there’s lots to learn, which is great.

 

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Ross:

It seemed very difficult to get proper cataloguing/technical services training as a trainee. I hope this changes so that more numerous career paths can be opened up.

George:

I loved my time as a trainee, and hope that all current and future trainees have (and continue to have) a great time and learn lots!

 

For some bonus content, feel free to check out Ross, George and Ivona’s introductory posts to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Ross: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/ross-jones-history-faculty-library/

George: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/george-white-and-jennifer-bladen-hovell-at-reader-services/

Ivona: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/ivona-coghlan-bodleian-law-library/

 

Interview with a former trainee (part 4)

It’s week four of our ‘interview with a former trainee’ series – how time flies! This week we hear from Katie Day (Taylor Institution Library, 2018/19), Natasha Kennedy (English Faculty Library, 2013/14) and Georgina Kiddy (Social Science Library, 2017/18)

 

A view of the front of the grand Taylor Institution Library, with 4 pillars and a large archway.
The Taylor Institution Library, where Katie was a trainee in 2018/19

What did you most enjoy about this experience?

 Katie:

I enjoyed how everyone was so keen for me to get to try everything! My colleagues made sure I could dive in and ask loads of questions. I also loved the Enquiry Desk and encountering such a wide range of questions and research queries!

Natasha:

The hands on experience of working in a library combined with the training. When you think of roles in libraries you initially think of cataloguing or being a subject librarian. The training showed show many more career paths and different areas to specialise in.

Georgina:

Attending the training sessions on Wednesday afternoons at Osney. This was a great chance to learn about the variety of roles at the Bodleian and across academic Libraries, as well as meet my fellow trainees.

 

Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?

 Katie:

The trip to the BSF and round other libraries (I especially remember the public library talk!) were great, but the most useful was probably the talk on library school. I knew a bit about the US route, but didn’t know where to start with the UK and that really helped me – particularly the honesty of the current students who came in to discuss it.

Natasha:

I loved the talk by Frankie Wilson, Head of Assessment as it was extremely useful in understanding what I can do to create services that readers need and want. I also found visits to other libraries such as Oxford public library to be very useful in gaining a greater understanding of the roles of Librarians in different types of libraries.

Georgina:

I enjoyed the variety of training, guest speakers and tours of archives and libraries. I think the most interesting were the tours of the Bodleian’s special collections and archives.

 

The English Faculty Library, pictured at an angle to highlight the haphazard building block shape of the building
The English Faculty Library, where Natasha was a trainee in 2013/14

Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?

 Katie:

Yes, I went part-time to UCL right after, and I just finished my MA last year! I’d applied to the traineeship to use it as a ‘taster’ before committing to grad school, and it absolutely confirmed that this was something I wanted to make my career. I picked UCL both for its Cat&Class/Organising Knowledge classes, which I thought were fascinating and not something other schools really offered, but also so that I could continue to live and work part-time in Oxford while attending library school in person. (While, as you can tell from my dates, I was only in-person for half that time, I still loved it!)

Natasha:

I attended Library School straight after the traineeship finished, working full time in the position of Lending Services Supervisor at the Radcliffe Science Library whilst undertaking the course by distance learning. The traineeship confirmed that I wanted to have a career in Librarianship, and that I wanted to gain as much experience as possible whilst doing the Masters.

Georgina:

I went on to do the 3-year MA Libraries and Information Services Management course at Sheffield University, which I have now completed. The traineeship greatly encouraged me to apply and I don’t think I would have committed to the course had I not made it onto the Bodleian traineeship.

 

In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?

 Katie:

An understanding of academic librarianship and what I wanted from my career. Also, my partner (a fellow 2018/19 trainee)!

Natasha:

Making connections with colleagues, and trying out as many different things as possible by saying yes to opportunities. I was the trainee representative on a University wide group, and asked the Chair whether I could stay on after my trainee year had ended as I had spotted a gap in representation that made sense with my new role. I have just finished a stint of chairing that same group. If I hadn’t joined, then had the courage to ask to stay on, I would never have had the experiences or career I have today.

Georgina:

I really appreciated being able to get involved with a trainee project of my own choosing and having the opportunity to present. This was something that I didn’t have a lot of experience of beforehand and so I think this stuck with me as a pivotal moment of the traineeship.

The front of the large building housing the Social Science Library, with a bike and pink tree in the foreground
The Manor Road building, housing the Social Science Library, where Georgina was a trainee in 2017/18

 

What are you doing now?

 Katie:

I’m still at the Taylorian as a Library Assistant, but by time of publication I’ll have started at the EFL as a Senior Library Assistant, with a focus on collections! I’m very excited.

Natasha:

I am the Reader Services Librarian of the Bodleian Library, and Learning Support Librarian for MSc Digital Scholarship

Georgina:

I am the Online Reading List Coordinator at the Bodleian Libraries. In this role I support the University in developing and maintaining the ORLO system to ensure readers have access to live and interactive reading lists and materials for their courses.

 

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

 Katie:

If you’re not sure whether to give this a go, this is your sign! I moved to Oxford from Chicago, and having a whole bunch of trainees in the same boat made it all much less intimidating. Also, thank you to everyone at the Taylorian for a great traineeship + three bonus years!

Georgina:

I really enjoyed our visit to London; it was a lovely addition to the traineeship experience. I went to the London Library and the Natural History Museum Library. I was grateful to Staff Development for organising this.

 

For some bonus content, feel free to check out Katie’s introductory post to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Katie: http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/katie-day-taylor-institution-library/

 

Interview with a former trainee (part 3)

Continuing with our series, this week we hear from Grace Brown (St Hilda’s College Library, 2013/14), Lauren Ward (Social Science Library, 2018/19), and Kate Courage (Bodleian Libraries, 2003/04).

 

Inside the main reading room, with views of the study space, shelves and balconies
St Hilda’s College Library, where Grace was a trainee in 2013/14

What did you most enjoy about this experience?

Grace:

In a college library, you’re working in a very small team, so I was able to get involved in lots of aspects of library work, from book ordering to attending college meetings, with plenty of customer service and processing books in between. I had the freedom to explore a few things I was interested in, such as creating floorplans and putting together a small display on the alumna Barbara Pym. One downside of a smaller team is having to take the lion’s share of the reshelving, but it quickly teaches you where everything is, and my ‘St Hilda’s Shelfmarks: A Guide for the Understandably Perplexed’ kicked off my love of documentation (a talking point at parties).

Lauren:

I enjoyed being part of Oxford’s library community, and met so many friendly and knowledgeable people during my traineeship. We had loads of opportunities to get involved with projects and events across the libraries to try things out & learn, and I learned a lot from my fellow trainees as well.

Kate:

I loved moving between departments and getting an overview of the workings of the Library as a whole. I also really appreciated the training programme, provided centrally, and the opportunity to meet trainees across Oxford.

 

Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?

Grace:

The trips to the BSF, Oxford Brookes and London libraries were a useful insight into other types of library. I was also very interested by Frankie Wilson’s session on assessment (measuring how libraries are meeting the needs of patrons), and by hearing about various librarians’ paths into their current roles.

Lauren:

I found the training session on library qualifications so useful as I was completely overwhelmed by the choices out there. It was helpful to hear from current/recent students of several library schools – talking about how their courses were structured helped me make my decision. We also had a training session introducing us to what colleagues in Acquisitions & Resource Description do to support the running of the libraries, and as they don’t have a trainee in this department it was a nice insight into a different area of library work that I didn’t know much about.

Kate:

I valued the sessions that gave an insight into other forms of librarianship, e.g. health librarianship, even though I ended up staying in Higher Education.

 

Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?

A view down a row of shelves in the social science library
The Social Science Library, where Lauren was a trainee in 2018/19

Grace:

I did my library master’s degree at Aberystwyth University by distance learning over the course of five years (2014 to 2019). I had already been planning to do the qualification when I started the traineeship. Had the Sheffield course been available by distance learning when I started, and having now been present when Stephen Pinfield has given his talk about that course to trainee cohorts, I would likely have chosen Sheffield instead. At the time, options were more limited, and I don’t remember too much about that session. The Aberystwyth course did give me a lot of flexibility to work around life and job changes, but it wasn’t very structured or hands-on. The expense (and time, if you’re working full-time) of the MA can be a real obstacle for a lot of people, and I think now there’s slightly more recognition of this.

Lauren:

I did, and I’ve just finished my MA at UCL. The traineeship helped me make the choice to do a professional qualification rather than a different MA course, as I knew I wanted to stay in libraries and wanted to do something that would benefit my future career. The training session we had on Master’s options also helped me pick UCL, as I knew I wanted to study rare books and not all schools have that option.

Kate:

I went on to a part-time masters course, while continuing to work full time in Oxford (with day release to do my course). The traineeship helped me decide to take this step and also to do the course part-time, so I could continue to work.

 

In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?

Grace:

A good overview of how different libraries and areas of library work operate. And an enduring friendship.

Lauren:

The SSL has a big friendly team and its trainees support most members of it in one task or another. I felt my traineeship there gave me such a good grounding in how a well-run library works and I’ve taken their best practice ideas with me into subsequent jobs.

Kate:

The broad overview of academic librarianship, the contacts and the opportunities for further work.

 

Bodleian Old Library building
The Old Bodleian Library, where Kate would have carried out work as a trainee in 2003/04

What are you doing now?

Grace:

I am Reader Services Manager for the Sackler, Taylor Institution & Nizami Ganjavi Libraries – we are ‘Section 3’ of the Humanities libraries group. Essentially, I oversee staffing and procedures across the three sites, as well as working towards greater interoperability between the teams (i.e. standardising how we do things so it’s easier for staff to move between them).

Lauren:

I’m a senior library assistant in the Bodleian’s reader services team.

Kate:

I am now the Academic Support Manager for Teaching and Learning at Warwick University.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Grace:

A shout-out to my first boss, Maria Croghan, who hired me as a trainee and gave me my route into the field after a number of unsuccessful applications. Library jobs are competitive at all levels, and there’s no shame in being rejected!

Lauren:

I’d encourage anyone considering library work to use the trainee scheme to give it a go! It’s a good springboard into future library jobs, and knowing I’d have a cohort of fellow trainees also made the idea less intimidating. I moved from quite far away (Hull) but I had plenty of people to get to know Oxford with, and some trainees even organised to house-share together before we moved.

 

For some bonus content, feel free to check out Grace’s introductory post to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Grace Brown, the Kathleen Major Library, St Hilda’s College

 

Interview with a former trainee (part 2)

Our series of interviews with former trainees continues! This week we hear from Duncan Jones (Old Bodleian Library, 2014/15), Gabrielle Matthews (All Souls College Library, 2013/14), and Jenna Meek (Bodleian Law Library, 2018/19).

 

The outside of the Old Bodleian, featuring the Earl of Pembroke Statue and the glass window of Duke Humfrey's Library
The Old Bodleian Library, where Duncan was a trainee in 2014/15

What did you most enjoy about this experience?

Duncan:

Working at the main enquiry desk and coming into contact with a range of readers and staff from other departments.  I also enjoyed the experience of being part of the trainee cohort.

Gabrielle:

Receiving training beyond the remit of my own library.

Jenna:

Gaining essential library experience and making friends with the other trainees! I’m still in touch with many of them.

 

Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?

Duncan:

It’s a while ago now but I remember finding the library schools session useful.

Gabrielle:

Frankie Wilson’s training on assessment has really stuck with me! Also, the library visits were really useful and interesting.

Jenna:

I really enjoyed all the visits, but I also felt that the practical sessions were the most useful, e.g. how to use the LMS (Library Management Systems) etc.

 

Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?

A view of All Souls College from the quad, featuring the library on the left hand side, and a college building on the right
All Souls Library (left), where Gabrielle was a trainee in 2013/14

Duncan:

I did the Sheffield distance learning course from 2015 to 17. The traineeship influenced me to do it but I decided on distance learning because I wanted to be able to carry on working alongside it.

Gabrielle:

I did a LIS MA programme (UCL). The traineeship did influence this decision — speaking with my line manager, my predecessors in the role, and the session about the various programmes helped me make up my mind to do an LIS MA degree.

Jenna:

I did do an MSc in Information & Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. I really enjoyed the course, and it is a very research-led university so everything is very up to date. We also had the opportunity to do a few placements which were super useful for gaining more experience in areas I was particularly interested in, e.g. cataloguing.

 

In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?

Duncan:

An awareness of roles in the academic library sector and the confidence to apply for different opportunities.

Gabrielle:

A better understanding of academic libraries and how they function.

Jenna:

Practical working experience in a HE library, which helped me get the role I’m in now. It helped me much more than the MSc!

 

The outside of the Bodleian Law Library
Bodleian Law Library (up the stairs), where Jenna was a trainee in 2018/19

What are you doing now?

Duncan:

Two part-time roles in Oxford – Lending Services Project Coordinator for the Bodleian and Reader Services Librarian at St Anne’s.

Gabrielle:

I’m currently the Senior Assistant Librarian at All Souls College.

Jenna:

I’m a library collections assistant at the Glasgow School of Art library, and I mainly do acquisitions & cataloguing.

 

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Duncan:

In my opinion, I don’t recommend working full time alongside a distance learning master’s.  It is a lot of stress to handle for 2-3 years solid.  I would consider a PG-Dip as a cheaper option as well – it still counts as being qualified but there is no need to write (or pay to study for) a dissertation.

Gabrielle:

The trainee programme is a very good way to find out if a library career is for you, and also serves as an excellent foundation for future library work.

Jenna:

I really benefitted from my trainee year, and I would urge anyone considering it to do it! I moved down from Glasgow for it, which was a fairly big move for me, but I had such a good year, and I am always keeping an eye on jobs at the Bodleian in case my circumstances change and I have the opportunity to move back!

 

For some bonus content, feel free to check out Duncan, Gabrielle and Jenna’s introductory posts to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Duncan: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/duncan-jones-bodleian-library/

Gabrielle: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/gabrielle-matthews-the-codrington-library-all-souls-college/

Jenna: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/jenna-meek-bodleian-law-library/

 

Interview with a former trainee (part 1)

The Bodleian Libraries Graduate Trainee Scheme has been running for a long time – longer than this blog has existed – providing graduates with the opportunity to gain experience in busy academic libraries, whilst learning more about the library sector and profession. The wealth of posts by former trainees is a great way to find out more about the library trainee life, but what happens next? To answer this question, the current cohort reached out to some former trainees to ask about their experience and check in on where they are now. In this first instalment, we hear from Lyn Jones (History Faculty Library, 2013/14), Dom Hewett (English Faculty Library, 2017/18), and Laura Lewis (Bodleian Law Library, 2019/20).

A view of the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford's circular library
The Radcliffe Camera, housing the History Faculty Library, where Lyn was a trainee in 2013/14

 

What did you most enjoy about this experience?

Lyn:

Having accidentally found my way to public/school libraries, I decided I’d be interested in comparing these experiences with an academic setting. The contrast was certainly significant! Initially I felt a little overwhelmed (owing partly to the recent relocation of the History Faculty Library), but it’s definitely fair to say that during my year I learned lots and never had chance to get bored. If pushed to comment on what I enjoyed most I think I’d have to be a little bit sentimental and say that the people made the experience most rewarding for me. If I hadn’t enjoyed spending time around them and learning from them I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have come back the year after…

Dom:

I loved being a key part of the team at the EFL, with responsibilities for all sorts of tasks – from book processing and staffing the enquiry desk, to creating displays and delivering information skills sessions. The trainee program was great in that it provided a social and professional network of other people starting out in library work, and many of them are still good friends of mine.

Laura:

The graduate trainee year in Oxford was enjoyable in so many ways! Some of the aspects of the year I enjoyed most were getting to know the other trainees (Manor Road Crew in particular!), cycling around Oxford and, very importantly, getting to see the different library roles within the Law Library as well as learning practical skills in Librarianship and research that I have been able to use in all of my roles since leaving Oxford.

 

Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?

Lyn:

Definitely want to highlight our BSF trip. Biscuits aside, it was genuinely interesting to see how things operate on the other side of things.

Dom:

The library visits arranged as part of the trainee program were brilliant. I particularly enjoyed trips to the conservation studio at the Bodleian’s Weston Library, and a trip to Oxford Brookes’ new library. The training session on digital preservation was also really interesting, as it was something I’d never thought about before.

Laura:

I found the training session on Early Printing very interesting and the trips to the Weston and the BSF were both great. The training sessions on cataloguing were perhaps the most useful for my future roles.

 

A view of the St Cross Building from the outside
The English Faculty Library, where Dom was a trainee in 2017/18

Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?

Lyn:

I did do the MA afterwards, though not immediately. This was partly because I didn’t have the funds at the time, but also because I wanted to be sure before committing to it (I went back to a school setting before returning to academic libraries and subsequently applying). I think the trainee session with Stephen Pinfield (Sheffield) was useful on this front; he was honest about what the course entailed and open to questions.  There’s a lot of competition for roles these days, but I think it’s important not to feel too pressured to take on the formal qualification until you’re sure it’s what you want. Not everyone can afford to do this straight away, so it’s also important to remind yourself that it’s fine to gain a bit more experience and take it on at a later date.

Dom:

I was a little unsure about leaping straight into a library qualification after the traineeship, given the financial and time investment involved. After a year’s post-trainee library work I decided that I definitely did want to continue in librarianship and took the plunge. I am doing the distance-learning Library and Information Services Management course at the University of Sheffield, and am working on my dissertation this summer. It has been challenging balancing full-time work with my part-time studies, but it has definitely helped me move ahead in my career, and the course is excellent. An academic from Sheffield came and spoke to us during the traineeship, which influenced my choice of institution, and the flexibility of the distance-learning course was a key factor for me.

Laura:

I haven’t been to library school yet but it is something I would still consider! The traineeship definitely brought it to my attention as I didn’t really know it existed before or how necessary/useful it could be for working in the Library world!

 

In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?

Lyn:

A much greater understanding of the complexities of academic libraries. Though I certainly don’t think Bodleian Libraries are typical in most senses, it was valuable to gain an oversight of the different kinds or priorities, in addition to the significant range of roles people play within these systems (and the potential to develop the kind of career that isn’t generally feasible in the public sector at present).

Dom:

Additional confidence in working with people – I had worked in cafes and a bookshop before the traineeship, but working day in, day out on the enquiry desk improved my confidence at handling challenging situations and helped develop my decision-making skills.

Laura:

The trainee year was useful for gaining unique experience in the library world and for helping me to know that library work and legal research will always be something I will be interested in!

 

A view from the Law Library balcony, overlooking the main reading room desks
The Bodleian Law Library, where Laura was a trainee in 2019/20

What are you doing now?

Lyn:

I’m currently Reader Services Team Leader in the Radcliffe Camera and History Faculty Library.

Dom:

Since January, I’ve been the Assistant Librarian at Keble College in Oxford. It’s a maternity cover position, and it has been a great chance to get new experiences, with wide-ranging responsibilities in a small team.

Laura:

I recently just finished working at the Bar of Northern Ireland as a Library and Legal Research Assistant and now work as a Paralegal in a solicitor’s office.

 

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Lyn:

If you’re entirely new to Oxbridge (as I was) don’t be put off by the complexities of the University/Bodleian Libraries. I’m still learning!

Laura:

I am very grateful for my time in Oxford and would like to thank everyone at the Law Library for a wonderful experience and for the opportunities they gave me to learn- and for always being willing to answer all of my questions!

 

For some bonus content, feel free to check out Lyn, Dom and Laura’s introductory posts to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Lyn: http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/lyn-jones-history-faculty-library/

Dom: http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/dom-hewett-english-faculty-library/

Laura: http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/laura-lewis-bodleian-law-library/

 

Cycling in Oxford

It is said that when a former Bodley’s Librarian asked a student what they considered essential to navigating Oxford’s libraries, the student responded “a bicycle!” Although it may not have been the response he was hoping for, many trainees past and present have found some truth in this. Cycling can be a great way to speed up your commute, get around the city centre, and explore further afield. However, we know that taking to the road can be an intimidating prospect, so in a sequel of sorts to our recent post on Commuting into Oxford, we have collated our best advice for cycling in Oxford.

 

Getting a Bike

There are thousands of bikes in Oxford, so if you don’t want to bring one from home, you can easily pick up a good bike for a decent price on Facebook Marketplace or refurbished second-hand bicycles can be purchased from Broken Spoke Bike Co-op, a community benefit society with charitable objectives. A bicycle trading marketplace is also available locally via Oxbike, where you can also rent a second-hand bike for the year.

The University offers staff an interest-free loan to buy a bicycle and all the safety equipment you need, with up to a 12% discount from local retailers. If you do opt for a new bike over a second hand one, it’s worth keeping in mind the very real risk of bicycle theft in the city. There’s more advice on this topic below.   

 

Storing your Bike

Old bike on Broad Street. Credit: Richard Walker.

It’s a very good idea to find out if your place of work has a secure place for bikes to be kept before you arrive in Oxford (and whether there a safe place to store it at home). Otherwise, you need to be prepared for your bikes (and any stealable parts) to be a target of theft. 

  • Bodleian Staff can apply for a key to the Weston/Clarendon bike shed. This is done through your manager/security. It has time restrictions on access, but better than parking on the street.  Anyone working at the Sackler, Taylor Institution and Nizami Ganjavi Libraries can also have access to the Sackler courtyard for bike storage, which is only accessible via your University Card. 
  • Several colleges offer card-secured bike storage and they may offer bike stickers with unique identifying numbers to students.
  • If your place of work does not offer a secure place to park your bike, you can register to be a member of Westgate Oxford Cycle Hub for free, which is accessed by fob on Old Greyfriars Street (open from 7am-11pm). You will need to register at the information kiosk in the Westgate.

 

Always try to pass the D lock through the frame and the wheel when you secure it to a bike rack.

Best advice to keep your bike safe:

  • Buy a D-lock and cable that will allow you to lock through both wheels and frame.
  • Remove the quick-release wheel and seat post skewers and replace them with standard or secure skewers.
  • Don’t have a bright, shiny new bike — buy one second-hand or allow bumps, scrapes, and grime to build up on the frame while still being careful to maintain a well-lubricated chain and clean rims and brakes. You can also add tape, paint, and other marks to both make it less attractive and more easily identifiable.
  • Take a photo of your bike and its frame number just in case you ever have to report it missing or stolen. You can also add this information to the Bike Register: The National Cycle Database.
  • Security tags or IDs can be added.
  • Accept it is not a question of if, but when, you will be a victim of theft. Decide about how much you can afford to lose and have enough money set aside for replacement parts/bikes.

 

Repairing your Bike

bike repair van and bicycle outside department building
The Bike Doctor at the St Cross Buildings (Law Library and English Faculty Library)

The University has teamed up with two local companies – Oxford Mobile Cycle Repairs (OMCR) and Walton Street Cycles (WSC) – to provide staff with a mobile bike repair service for punctures, brakes, cables, gears and lights.

Labour is free for staff (although not for students), as long as you use the bike to travel to and from work or on University business. You must also show your University card when using the service and will need to leave a mobile number, so the mechanic can contact you when the bike is ready to collect. You will have to pay at the point of service for any parts your bike needs, but your mechanic will give you a quote before undertaking any work. 

A mobile mechanic is first-come-first-serve, so it is best to arrive early. The mobile mechanics may also leave early if they don’t have customers so it’s best to go before work and keep your phone handy in case they send you a message requesting the bike is collected. If you explain to your supervisor, they should allow you to drop off your bike in the morning and the mechanic can let you know by phone when they are finished with your bike. The mechanics may also offer to move the bike back to their shop in case you can’t pick it up when they move on. You can see a list of when the mobile bike mechanic has their drop in on the University site.

Remember: keeping your bike in good working order is important, especially if it is your primary mode of transport. A little bit of self-maintenance can go a long way. Get into the habit of checking your tyres are pumped at a high enough pressure (and within the limits they are designed for) and free from nicks and debris to avoid punctures; clean your wheel rims and make sure your brakes are also clean and provide sufficient stopping power; lubricate your chain regularly to keep it free from rust (and your lock too); and have any potential/minor issues with the frame, gears and other moving parts checked by a mechanic before they become a bigger problem and more expensive to fix. 

 

Cycling Safely

Cyclists on Catte Street. Credit: Tejvan Pettinger

With so many cars, other cyclists and tourists on the roads in Oxford, it is important that you know how to ride defensively and know the roads you commute on regularly. For example, know where pedestrians fail to pay attention, the blind spots at junctions, how to get safely to the front of traffic at lights and where the bike lanes end. You have to make yourself visible and be prepared to take up space on the road so drivers will not take chances. If you want to improve your confidence on the roads, Broken Spoke gives Oxford Uni staff up to 6 hours of free bike training for all different levels (just choose ‘Paid for by the University of Oxford’ on the booking form).

 

Best advice to keep yourself safe:

  • Oxford’s roads are busy, especially at rush hour, so plan a safe route to work. You can plan a quiet cycle route on the University cycling page, or use the Oxford Cycle Map. Not only is it safer, but a much calmer way to get to work!
  • Make yourself visible. During Michaelmas and the beginning of Hilary term, it will be dark by the time you finish work – especially if you work until 6.30pm in term-time like the All Souls College trainee! Reflective jackets, such as these, are effective at making sure you are visible to drivers and being so shiny helps prevent buses from tailgating you at junctions.
  • You can buy discounted bike lights and locks through the University online store (and have them delivered to your place of work/college for free using the internal mail). Police will often be on the lookout for cyclists without lights during the switch over to daylight savings time in Michaelmas term and will issue fines on the spot if you do not have lights. 
  • Have a bell on your bike to alert pedestrians and other road users  – and don’t be shy about using it. 

 

Enjoy cycling in Oxford!

Isis Farmhouse by the river towpath. Credit: Steve Daniels

Don’t feel too intimidated! It is good to be cautious but there are many lovely routes around Oxford – cycling along the riverside to the Isis Farmhouse pub can be one of the greatest pleasures of a sunny afternoon. Cycling can also be a quick and scenic way to get to library training at Osney, along the Thames towpath or through Grandpont Nature Park. Have a look at our post about Things to Do and Places to See in Oxford, and we’ll see you at the Handlebar Café!

How we set up Oxford Libraries Trainees Twitter

Every year, the new trainees take over this blog from the previous cohort. Many of us have used the blog to research the Traineeship, the Bodleian Libraries, and the college libraries whilst applying and before our interviews. However, a lot of the Trainees first heard about library opportunities through Twitter. Following a social media training session in late October, we realised we were in a key position to expand our reach and engage with a wider audience by setting up a Trainee Twitter account. This post tells the story of how we went about planning, pitching and launching a brand new Oxford Libraries Trainees Twitter account @OxLibTrainees.

Our motivation: a Twitter account would have the advantage of being more inclusive for the trainees to make short-format posts, it would be more responsive to upcoming events, and would allow us to introduce the traineeship to a wider audience who may not necessarily come across the blog.

 

Pitching the Account

Two of us pitched our idea to Emma Sullivan, the Staff Development Librarian. She was positive about it, but we needed to have the approval of the Bodleian Social Media Team. The Bodleian Social Media Team needed to sign off on the decisions for a number of reasons, which included confirming our commitment to actively running the account.

There are 100+ existing social media accounts representing the Bodleian Libraries – many more than an institution of its size usually should have. Many of these are neglected or abandoned. To keep the Bodleian’s external presence professional, valuable and easy to navigate for external audiences, it was important that we could answer:

  • was there a genuine need for the account?
  • does it reach a specific audience?
  • can we build this audience from scratch?
  • do we have the resources to consistently post and keep followers engaged?
  • do we have a strong measure for success?

This all seemed a bit daunting, and we had a very detailed proposal form to complete. However, this proved beneficial as it made us fully consider the account’s purpose, how prepared we had to be to maintain it, and allowed us to fully comprehend the Bodleian’s strategic aims. Thankfully, we gained approval to begin, with the caveat that the account will be reviewed after six months (to ensure it was meeting the agreed-upon goals).

 

Twitter Team Assemble!

With this initial go ahead, our next task was to create a Trainee Twitter Team. We put out feelers to the rest of the trainees and — luckily — other trainees were interested! With so much to discuss and so many decisions to make, we realised that a weekly teams meeting would be required to get the account running. We decided on a Monday morning slot and got to work.

 

Deciding on our aims

We knew that our target audience would be potential trainees and young people interested in, or considering, librarianship and archives. From here, we focussed on what would make our account unique, and came up with 3 key aims:

  • the wooden doors of the Great Gate with the coats of arms of the different colleges open to view the statues of the Earl of Pembroke.
    A key symbol of our aim to open doors – The Great Gate, Old Bodleian Library. Credit: Bodleian Libraries

    ‘Opening doors’ — through placing an emphasis on sharing knowledge, we hope to unlock information for potential library trainees and other interested individuals. We recognise that libraries are meant to be the tool for which we achieve wider engagement with society, which we believe a Twitter account will ensure, as it allows for discussion and is more accessible for our target audience. We hope the stress on openness will drive up engagement, create an encouraging and supportive environment online and make librarianship more approachable as a career.

  • Reaching a unique audience — As the trainees work at a variety of Bodleian and college libraries, the Twitter account would allow us to bridge the gap between different Oxford libraries and allow external interested parties an insight into the internal workings of an academic library, particularly at an entry-level position. This stress on beginner roles within the library sector is something unique to our account, which would allow us to reach our target audience and fill a specific need as an account.
  • Promoting diversity in librarianship — A huge aim for our Twitter account is to promote diversity within librarianship through making library collections, traineeship knowledge and our experiences “more readily visible”. To encourage diversity and “attract new and underrepresented audiences”, we believe you need to diversify access to information, which can be done by expanding our web presence and creating a platform that is more discoverable and approachable to potential applicants and interested parties. As a bonus, being able to advertise the trainee posts on Twitter will increase our reach and potentially attract a more diverse range of candidates – something we consider extremely important.

 

Deciding on our name, handle, and bio

After a long discussion, supported by the use of a shared document to develop our ideas, we settled on the name, handle, and bio for the new account.

 

Name: Oxford Libraries Trainees​. Handle: @OxLibTrainees​. Bio: Library Trainees at @bodleianlibs and across @UniofOxford colleges. Opening doors for a new generation of librarians. More on our blog (link).​

 

We wanted our name, handle, and bio to reflect our aims, and make our account’s purpose clear to users. The name Oxford Libraries Trainees was chosen because it works across the Bodleian Libraries but is also inclusive of the college libraries (who are not part of the Bodleian Libraries) and leaves scope to include Library Apprentices and potentially the Digital Archives Trainees too.

For the bio, we wanted to include the ‘opening doors’ phrase, as it emphasised our aims of supporting outreach, diversifying audiences, and breaking down barriers.

 

stylised open Bodleian Great Gate in blue and gold
Oxford Libraries Trainee Twitter logo. Credit: Izzie Salter

Deciding on graphics and branding

For the branding, it was important to have a logo that reflected our aims and what our account will offer, whilst also following the Bodleian Libraries’ branding and style. We were drawn to the visceral imagery of ‘opening doors’ as a way to emphasise our goals, and it seemed perfect to use an image of the Bodleian Library’s Great Gate to remain on the theme. We opted for a line drawing, similar to the Bodleian Libraries image, to promote unity. The font was influenced by the Bodleian style guide, though we were keen to stick to modern fonts for inclusivity purposes. After making the first version, we sent it across to the Bodleian design team who helped to refine the design and approved the final format.

They also helped us to create a ‘header’ for the Twitter page. Here, we felt it was important to explicitly state our core purpose: ‘opening doors for a new generation of librarians’.

Twitter header with the name of account and tagline using Bodleian font . Oxford blue background and white and gold writing
Oxford Libraries Trainees Twitter header with our tagline

 

Deciding on content and #hashtags

With our aims and general ‘look’ established, we next needed to decide what content we would be posting. Like our branding, we wanted our content to be unique and provide insight into early career librarianship. With this, we outlined key types of tweets that we wanted to produce (often with corresponding hashtags):

  • #LibraryOpportunities: highlighting job opportunities and vacancies which are suitable for those interested in early-career librarianship
  • #LibraryFinds: interesting things that pop up across individual libraries. The trainee cohort is unique in that it spans a range of Bodleian and College Libraries. Having a shared online platform means we can highlight these different quirks across each of our home libraries.
  • #MyDayInLibraries: Mini ‘A Day In the Life’ content, or an update on interesting things that have happened to us during our day at work, that go beyond a unique find.
  • #LibraryJargonBusting: explaining library terminology. Entering a new career can be intimidating, especially when it feels like everyone is speaking in a secret language you have not yet learned. We wanted to create a regular series which breaks down these terms and makes library language more accessible.
  • Libraries as inclusive spaces: aiming to highlight areas of our libraries – and librarianship in general – which celebrate diversity. We felt that ‘opening doors’ includes giving space to more marginalised voices, and we hope to work on this through our Twitter content.
  • Training session updates: giving insight into our weekly sessions as a cohort. A unique part of being a trainee is – you guessed it – the training itself! We have been lucky enough to experience a wide variety of training sessions, from ‘An Introduction to Early Printing’, to visiting the Weston Library, to exploring the Bodleian’s Offsite Storage Facility. Library career paths can be incredibly varied and we wanted to showcase this!
  • Blog links: sharing our blog content more widely. We may be a little biased, but our blog holds a lot of valuable content about library life in Oxford. However, the internet is a big place and, if you do not know how to find it, our blog can be a little tricky to find. We noticed our blog’s views accelerated when the Bodleian Libraries Twitter began sharing links, and we wanted to take this further.
  • Photos: images of our different libraries. Oxford is certainly not without beautiful reading rooms and library buildings, and we are fortunate enough to be placed across them with opportunities for brilliant snaps.
a llama in front of the Old Bodleian
Sometimes, #MyDayInLibraries involves acting as “alpaca bouncers” for the Bodleian Library (with some llamas too)

The inclusion of hashtags was important to us for two principal reasons:

  1. It organises our regular and key tweets as a series (e.g., #LibraryJargonBusting)
  2. It makes important tweets more findable. For example, #LibraryOpportunities can be useful for those not familiar with our account to find library jobs.

Once we had agreed on some ideas for content, we then discussed a realistic and maintainable number of tweets that we could consistently put out (bearing in mind that all of us are busy with full-time jobs). We decided to aim for two or three original tweets a week, as well as sharing blog posts and career opportunities as and when they appear.

 

Deciding on an editorial approach

With a clear idea of the type of content we would like to produce, the next decision meant answering the following two questions: how should our content be communicated? Who is responsible for editing and publishing tweets?

Here, we agreed on some editorial policies:

  • Tweets must be anonymised — as we will be posting to the public about our places of work, it is important to protect trainees’ identities. So, no use of names, personal information or personal photos.
  • ‘We’ should be used where possible — this was decided to create a cohesive voice, though it is flexible to allow for content about individual libraries (done through tagging referenced libraries).
  • Tweets must be accessible — it is important for us that the account can be useful for everyone. We will do this with alt text, capitalised hashtags, measured use of emojis, etc. This means that our content will be readable on different devices, or with adaptive software

In order to ensure a consistency of approach, we decided to create the following documents:

  • A content guide – this would help to maintain the required tone and content type, as we would be getting ideas and proposals submitted from across the trainee cohort.
  • A rotating schedule for Lead Editor – this would spread the workload between the Twitter team, to allow for a consistent tone each week and to organise the workload around our jobs.

 

Deciding on measurable metrics and realistic engagement levels

As part of the feedback from our initial proposal, we were advised to think about how we would measure our success. It is important that the account is active and demonstrates that it is fulfilling the specific need we had discussed. We decided to measure our success through targets for follower numbers and the overall engagement rate.

Based on our research of similar accounts, we decided that an expected target would be to reach 100 followers for the first few months. We felt confident in making this target, as we had planned a schedule filled with original content, started to contact relevant individuals we had met through training sessions and within our own libraries to promote our account, and devised a plan to follow library-themed accounts for wider sector engagement. The list of accounts we had created to follow within the first week included accounts within the Bodleian Libraries, the college Libraries, wider library organisations (including other Higher Education libraries), and librarianship-centric accounts (like CILIP). This would boost our numbers initially, to give us a good platform to launch content, before we could start to grow followers organically.

In terms of engagement, we would use internal metric measurements to aim for a standard rate of 3%, which we would consult regularly to ensure that the content we produced was relevant to our aims and shaped to aid discussion.

 

Deciding to review the account

We decided that we would do reviews after 1 month, 3 months and 6 months (which would, sadly, be at the end of our traineeship).

1 month: launch period

  • We would use this time to grow and develop a base following, establish a steady content plan, and settle into the management of the account.

3 months: the mid-way point

  • A review after 3 months will allow us to judge organic growth and make tweaks to ensure we were achieving our aims and maintaining a consistently good level of engagement.

6 months: the final review

  • After 6 months, we would collate important data to see if we had reached our targets and met our aims, and so the account can be passed to the next trainee cohort, so they could make informed decisions in the next academic year.

 

Presenting Our Plans to the Bodleian Social Media Team

Having discussed, planned, and designed the future Twitter account, it was now time to present our plans to Rob on the Bodleian Social Media Team. We needed to demonstrate our commitment to the project and a comprehensive plan for the account. We created a detailed presentation based on the information discussed previously, taking turns to present on different areas of interest. This was followed by a brief Q&A session, where certain points were examined in more detail. Thankfully, Emma and Rob were impressed with our presentation and gave us the go-ahead for launch! Woo-hoo!

 

The Launch! Follow us @OxlibTrainees!

We know that our growth in followers and engagement will be boosted when the Bodleian Graduate Library Trainee Programme applications are open (from November to January), as that is when people will be actively seeking information. However some of the college trainee places are advertised later, and interviews were taking place in March and April, so we thought that the sooner we launched, the better. In addition, at the end of Hillary term, the trainee sessions would end for the vacation, making original content harder to source.

We launched the account on 1 March 2022. We started with a ‘soft opening’ to start building our followers before the content launch on the following Monday.

You can see our launch post, announcing who we are and what we will offer to our followers. This was posted simultaneously with an announcement on the Trainee blog to push blog viewers to follow the Twitter account.

 

Bodleian Great Gate with welcome message and a key
Our launch post

As we started following other accounts and we sent off our emails to our contact list, our followers grew. A bonus announcement from Richard Ovenden in the Bodleian newsletter meant that it was not long before we had smashed our goal of 100 followers!

We re-evaluated our goals in our 1-month review, and continue to make small changes to ensure that we are on track to meet our aims and achieve consistent engagement. We think it is going really well so far!

 

The Future of the Account

In conclusion, we hope to pass on a successful and exciting account to the new trainees next academic year. We have made this blog post to help the future Trainee Twitter teams, so they can read about our process and our aims when setting up the account – and so they can follow on from what we started. However, we also hope this post will prove useful for anyone who wants to set up a social media account for their own organisation, with some insight into the processes required to turn this idea into a reality!

 

— Courtesy of the 2021/22 Trainee Twitter Team

Things to Do and Places to See!

Quite a lot of graduate trainees end up relocating to Oxford for the job. It can be quite lonely moving to a new city – your old friends/family might be far away, you don’t know anyone local and you may struggle with living alone. Despite this, Oxford is a lovely place and definitely worth making the most of while you’re here! Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas of where to start out exploring. Many of the places you can enjoy in your own company, and some are free of charge. And to those who already know Oxford, this might just introduce you to some new places, or give you that push to check out somewhere you’ve been meaning to go for ages.

 

Town Entertainment

The board from a boardgame with a variety of drinks around it, as well as counters, cards, a small black teapot and the corner of someone's sandwich.
Board games and drinks at Thirsty Meeples! (photo credit: Georgina Moore)

Thirsty Meeples – roll a dice at Thirsty Meeples on Gloucester Green, a relaxed and fun board game café for new players and long-term fans. The friendly team are always on hand with recommendations in case choosing between the thousand games gets overwhelming. You book a three hour slot online, then pay a cover charge (currently £6/per adult if you order some food or drink, or £7.50 for just gaming). Then for those three hours, you can play as many games as you like! Have a sweet Oxford Fog latte in the afternoon or a cheeky cocktail on Friday night (or vice versa, I’m not one to judge).  They also serve sandwiches, snacks, and cakes, and offer an impressive tea selection. One final thing: the board games have SHELF MARKS. You can even get your shelf-organisation fix on the weekends… they don’t call it their ‘board game library’ for nothing (written by: Georgina Moore, 2021/2022 Graduate Trainee).

Cowley Road Charity Shop – Cowley has a reputation as the ‘student area’ of Oxford – its bustling main road is full of fun independent shops and eateries. For those wanting a break from typical high-street fashion brands, we recommend the charity and vintage shops that can be found here.

Hinksey Pool – a lovely open-air swimming pool located next to Hinksey Park. Tickets can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis, or you can sign up for membership. A nice way to cool off after work on a warm day.

The Covered Market – dating back to the 1770s, this historic building holds an array of independent craft shops, food stalls, a florist and many cafés. A firm favourite of the trainees and the Oxford student population is Moo Moo’s Milkshakes, a family-run milkshake stall offering a range of flavours to enjoy separately or experimentally combine…

G&Ds – the G&D ice cream cafés are a great place to meet up with other trainees at the end of the working day. They are renowned for their delicious ice cream but also serve coffee, bagels, waffles and other deserts. There are currently three located around Oxford: George & Danver on St Aldates, George & Davis on Little Clarendon Street and George & Delila on Cowley Road. The music is great too, as long as you’re a fan of the old classics like ABBA!

St Mary the Virgin Tower, University Church – University Church played a very important role in the University’s administration around a thousand years ago. It even served as the first library before Duke Humphries was built! Today, it is a beautiful historic building in which to worship or rest and reflect. For £5 you can climb the tower (the oldest part of the church) and see some amazing views over Oxford. The Old Congregation House attached also holds a café with indoor and outdoor seating.

Oxford Castle and Prison – the tour costs around £15 and involves a lot of stairs, but lasts about an hour and is a great insight into some local history, with excellent views from the top of the tower if you go on a clear day! Would recommend for entertaining guests who like history but are unimpressed by libraries (written by: Josie Fairley Keast, 2021/22 Graduate Library Trainee).

 

Theatre and Cinema

The red entrance sign of the 'Old Fire Station', which sticks out over the street. The entrance is made from over stone and the words 'corn exchange' are above the red doors, showing the building's historical function.
The Old Fire Station entrance on George Street

Ultimate Picture Palace – a wonderful independent cinema on Cowley Road which showcases a range of independent (sometimes quirky!) films. The bar serves ice cream from the trainee’s favourite G&Ds ice cream parlour and under 26’s can sign up for the Five Pound Film Pass, which reduces ticket prices to just £5!

The Playhouse, New Theatre, The North Wall – The New Theatre on George Street and The Oxford Playhouse (opposite the Ashmolean on Beaumont Street)  are considered Oxford’s main commercial theatres and play host to the UKs most popular plays, musicals and theatricals. Father out in Summertown and on a more intimate scale, The North Wall Arts Centre provides classes, exhibitions, gigs, comedy nights and family events. It also supports young and/or emerging writers and performers.

The Old Fire Station – located on George Street, this arts centre is an affordable, community-rooted alternative to the New Theatre. The Old Fire Station is home to two charity organisations: the homelessness charity ‘Crisis’ and ‘Arts at the Old Fire Station’ (AOFS), which aims to involve people of all backgrounds in the performing arts. They offer standard price tickets for £13 as well a ‘pay less’ and ‘pay more’ option, the idea being that the ‘pay more’ ticket holders will cover the difference for those who can’t afford standard prices. The atmosphere is very warm, fun and inclusive, and many performers hang around for a chat in the foyer after the show!

 

Free Entertainment

Oxfordshire County Library – located near the entrance to Westgate shopping centre, this public library is a warm friendly space with all the sections you could want, including literature, fiction, history, local history, nature and poetry. A borrowing card is free and also gives you access to the library’s computers (including internet).

A texidermy albatross in a glass and wooden case standing on the stone-flagged floor of the Museum of Natural History.
Albatross at the Oxford Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History – although taxidermy might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the Natural History Museum uses it for educational purposes to bring to life a whole array of creatures. My personal favourite is the albatross – he is enormous! What is particularly great about this museum is that it all fits in one big room: no risk of walking in an overwhelmed daze over endless different floors, ending up exhausted by the end of the day…It is also nice to see that everyone gets the same irresistible urge to put their head between the jaws of the T-Rex skeleton! There are plenty of interactive exhibits for children, as well as a gift shop and a coffee stand outside. The Pitt Rivers Museum of archaeology and anthropology is also located just behind the Natural History Museum, crammed to the ceiling with fascinating artefacts.

Evensong – the majority of colleges hold an Evensong service on a Sunday afternoon/evening. Some colleges with bigger choral traditions will have services in the week as well.  Keble, Queens, Merton, Magdalen, New, and Christchurch choirs are all recommended. The services are free, open to anyone, and require little audience participation compared to other types of service such as Communion. It’s a great way to hear good choirs for free and experience a nice space for calm and reflection.

Oxford Botanical Gardens – thought to be Britain’s oldest botanical gardens, the Oxford Botanical Gardens were founded in 1621 to supply the University’s medical students with useful herbs and plants. In the Walled Garden section, you can see the layout of the beds in methodical rows reflects this past. It is a lovely space to relax with a book or study the different plants and their purposes. Or you might want to explore the different hothouses, which include the ‘Rainforest House’ (featuring the pineapple plant!), the ‘Water Lily House’ and the ‘Conservatory’. Several literary sculptures lurk in the gardens for you to find, including the famous Cheshire Cat and a daemon from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. There is even a ‘Lyra’s Bench’, which Pullman used as the setting of Will and Lyra’s first meeting.  Entrance is free with your Univ/Bod card!

The Headington Shark – a (very unique) art installation in the Headington area, not far from the Oxford Brookes library. There are also some nice places to eat and several charity shops nearby, if you wanted to make an afternoon of it (written by: Josie Fairley Keast, 2021/22 Graduate Library Trainee).

 

Nature Spots

Brown and white cat sleeping beside a potted plant on the roof of a dark pink, light pink and yellow coloured canal boat, with green foliage behind.
Cat sleeping on the roof of a canal boat (photo credit: Georgina Moore)

The Thames Towpaths – the Thames Towpath runs between Foley Bridge and the West Oxford area of Osney (where many of the graduate trainee training sessions take place), right through to Portland Meadow and beyond. There is also a towpath from central Oxford out to Jericho, which almost reaches Summertown. These paths are great for spotting the local water-loving wildlife, such as shoals of spawning fish and plenty of geese and ducks/ducklings in spring! My favourite spots to date are a black kingfisher near Portland Meadow and Eddie the Osney Heron (who has his own Facebook page). Portland Meadow is even a popular spot to swim if you’re feeling brave enough!

An iron fence in the foreground enclosing a green meadow, with black and white cows grazing on bright green grass. The sky above is blue with wispy clouds, and there is a belt of green trees behind.
Cows in Christchurch Meadow

Christchurch Meadow – a big green space right in the centre of Oxford, sometimes home to rare English Longhorn cows… The path takes you down to the Thames (where you will often see row teams practicing on the water), and then you can choose whether to loop back along the Cherwell or carry on to the University boathouses. Make sure you are aware of the opening closing times though, or you may get locked in!

University Parks – located conveniently in Central Oxford, these Parks hold a number of sports grounds as well various nature trails, such as the Oak and Thorn walks or along the River Cherwell. The Parks’ website features a helpful map of these routes, as well as a guide on the different types of trees found along them.

An expansive green park in the foreground with a view of the Oxford towers in the distance. A person stands by fencing on the right hand side, and trees frame both sides of the photograph.
Oxford at sunset from South Park (photo credit: Isabel Salter, 2021/22 Graduate Trainee)

For example, the Oak Walk features a Tibetan Whitebeam tree which blooms with tiny white flowers in late spring. The South Walk also takes you past the ‘Genetic Garden’, dedicated to genetics researcher Professor Cyril Dean Darlington. Darlington first established the garden in 1964 to showcase the evolutionary spectacle of plants, and many of the original specimens are still there.

South Park – for trainees living in Cowley, South Park might be a closer alternative than University Parks for getting out into some green space. It consists of 50 acres of parkland and offers some lovely views over Oxford, which allowed one of this year’s trainee cohort to get an excellent shot of Oxford at sunset…

A Day in the Life (Social Science Library) 2.0

 

08:00

Walk to work! The sense of excitement and looking forward to the day ahead usually hits when I come onto Broad Street and walk past the beautiful Bodleian and the Weston libraries.

 

08:45Photo of a long corridor of grey bookshelves along a grey carpet with a safety ladder in the middle.

Opening up time. I do this once a week with another colleague. I like to arrive first when the library is creepily empty and still, a good setting for a murder mystery novel…I turn on the self-issue machines and printers, login to the front desk computers, check the study carrel bookings and open/close them as required. After deleting any expired holds and dragging in the overnight returns box from reception, it’s time to declare the library open by activating the automatic doors.

 

9:00 – 09:15

Emails. The SSL graduate trainee is responsible for managing the main SSL queries inbox. We often get requests to book discussion rooms and study carrels, loan books to ARACU, and remotely extend loans to students overseas who are unable to return them. Occasionally, we receive emails from authors and publishers asking if we might like to buy their books – these get forwarded to the SSL Orders team or appropriate subject librarian, but not before I have admired their bold self-advertising skills!

 

09:15 – 10:00

Book processing. The workroom at the SSL is dominated by a massive shelf of books in various states of processing, several of which are assigned to the trainee. One is exclusively for labels which are wrong or have rubbed off and need replacing. There is also a ‘low priority’ and ‘high priority’ processing shelf for books which require tattle taping, stamping and plating.

In terms of cataloguing, the ‘full processing of holdings work required’ shelf involves adding the shelf mark, location, status, hardback or paperback and reading list code (if required) to the Aleph record before bringing the item into circulation. We also have a ‘processing Bodleian Outhoused’ shelf for books selected by subject consultants for housing in the SSL while they are of current interest to researchers. The SSL is taking part in a pilot scheme where new selections can be borrowed, so these require an additional cataloguing note to indicate them as part of the pilot.

 

10:00 – 11:00Photo of a large book shelf with books inside, and several processing trolleys in front

Issue desk! AKA processing returns, loaning books and equipment, handing out items from the stack and answering reader queries. At around 2pm, the new stack requests from the BSL are delivered – these require ‘checking in’ and ordering alphabetically on the shelves behind. You’ve also got to watch out for readers bringing drinks that are not in a KeepCup and deploy a stern stare now and then to keep the noise down.

 

11:00 – 11:20

A snack and a read on the comfy sofas of our staff break area.

 

11:20 – 12:30

Scan & Deliver. Due to staff illness, I have been helping with the fetching and scanning process of our Scan & Deliver service. Normally, I work on the ‘Deliver’ element, which I will explain later. I locate the items in the library which have been requested before using ‘Hex’, our super bookeye scanner, to create the scans. After a little editing, they are ready to go.

 

12:30 – 13:30

Lunch. The SSL is only a few minutes’ walk away from University Parks. Usually, I will take my lunch down there and have a walk (or a tiptoe when passing the local geese, as they always seem ready for violence). If the weather isn’t very nice, I might have a coffee at the Missing Been café in the St Cross Building up the road or the Weston, a bit further afield.

 

13:30 – 14:30

Another issue desk shift (the graduate trainee will typically have 2 or 3 hourly shifts a day).

 

14:30

The post tray on the issue desk is usually brimming with parcels and letters by this time. I do my best to figure out what everything is and who it needs to go to. An added challenge is opening any packaging very carefully so that it can be re-used.

 

14:35 – 15:30

Scanning triage. This is the ‘Deliver’ part of the ‘Scan & Deliver’ service I mentioned earlier. I login to ‘Request Tracker’ and send off any scans that have been completed. I then triage new requests by checking that they fall under copyright law (readers can only request 5% or below of the total page count of the volume a book, or a single chapter) and that there are no alternative online resources on SOLO. The request can then be added to our ‘Fetching List’, for the scanning team to locate and scan on ‘Hex’.

 

Photo of a line of study desks with purple dividers between them. In the background, grey bookshelves full of library material.15:30 – 16:00

Missing book search. I wander sadly through the library looking for all the books on our ‘Missing Bookings’ list in the hope they have somehow made their way back to the shelf. One in particular, ‘The Mushroom at the End of the World’, has haunted me for a long time (if anyone has it at their library, please send it back!). I also get creative in terms of thinking how someone might have misinterpreted the shelf mark. I have an extremely low success rate, but it’s still quite fun…

 

16:00 – 16:20

Another break time. Usually a nap with my eyes open at this stage in the day.

 

16:20 – 16:30

A quick desk tidy, as it has started disappearing underneath tattle tape backing, chopped up bits of label and processing notes. A major part of the SSL work ethic is re-using everything that can possibly be re-used. You therefore have to have a long hard think before throwing anything into the recycling bin.

 

16:30 – 17:30

Projects. I am working on a number of projects currently. As part of the Technical Services team, I am ‘weeding’ books that need to be withdrawn or sent to the BSF, and converting hardly used Short Loans and Library Use Only material into Normal Loan. I am also working on another project to increase the accessibility of our resources by converting thousands of short loans into normal loans.

 

17:30

Home!

 

 

A Day in the Life (St Antony’s College Library)

*Posted on behalf of Eleanor Winterbottom, the Library Apprentice at St Antony’s College Library*

Thursday 10th March 2022

Although I may not be a graduate library trainee, as a library apprentice my average working day is very similar to the graduate trainees in terms of structure and daily tasks. However, if you have read the other “Day-in-the-life” blogs you will understand by now that every college in Oxford is unique in its own little ways, and each library has its own system and “house-rules” that it applies in practice. Here is a day in my life as an apprentice library assistant at St Antony’s College.

9:00 – 9:30

St Antony’s College Library is open 24/7, so Aimee (the Librarian) and I never have to really “open-up” the library in the mornings. Usually when I arrive by 9:00 there are already some eager readers sat at their desks! I do though have a list of preparatory tasks that I complete each morning. If I am in before Aimee I will turn on the lights in the library office and open the blinds, before making my way down to the basement stacks to make sure the lights are all working and that no one has gotten themselves stuck between the book stacks (luckily this hasn’t happened on my rounds yet!) I will then walk the library and the Gulbenkian Reading Room (a study space which is also open 24/7), making sure there is enough ventilation, tidying desks and chairs and checking that there are no personal belongings left lying around, before collecting any books from the returns box. When Aimee arrives I will have a chat with her about any meetings, events or visitors we have scheduled during the day, before heading to my desk in the main reading room and writing myself a to-do list.

9:30 – 10:30

The first tasks that I do on any given working day is check and action any emails and go through the daily holdings report to see if any books have been requested by readers. There are no new holdings requests today, so I don’t need to worry about that. I then process all the returns, flicking through each book to check for bookmarks and put them on the trolley ready for shelving. Today is the due date for books currently out on loan so I have a lot to get through!

Four shelves of the New Book display, with books placed on stands so that you can see the front covers
The New Books display

10:30 – 11:30

Once I’ve finished the returns I get cracking on with any other tasks that need doing. Today I have a small pile of new books leftover from the day before that need to be processed, so I attach them to the correct bibliographic records on Aleph, choose an appropriate Library of Congress class mark for them (which can take a while when every library classifies something differently!) and stamp them before adding a spine label and putting them on the shelving trolley, while adding a couple to our New Books Display. The maps of the college that we have on the issue desk are a bit crumpled and one has some water damage, so I recycle them and replace them with new ones, and I remove any out of date posters and notices from the notice board.

11:30 – 12:30

Two sets of six shelves, filled with the library literature collection
The literature collection

I am usually working on a long-term project that I do alongside my daily tasks. My current project is going through the library’s literature section and adding them to the library catalogue. This section has not been a priority in the past, as literature is not really a subject covered at St Antony’s, but it would still be useful for the collection to be on the catalogue so that the students are aware it is there if they are interested. While working on this project we receive an email from the KB Chen China Centre Library, who are interested in acquiring some of our journals that are up for donation. The project I completed in Michaelmas term was going through all of our physical journals and periodicals and checking to see which ones are fully available online and in other libraries, so that we can consider donating them to make space for resources that are more likely to be of use to our students. I head down to the basement stacks to select the requested journals and email the CCL to let them know I will bring them round in the afternoon.

12:30 – 13:30

Lunch time! St Antony’s has a communal dining hall so staff, students, fellows and faculty all sit together. The noise is a strangely refreshing break from the quietness of the library, and it’s a good chance to catch up with colleagues over a plate of delicious hot food. As St Antony’s is a particularly international college the food reflects this, and we are lucky to get a choice between three hot meals of varying cuisine, sides, salad and fresh fruit! Before heading back to the library I pop into the lodge to check if any post has been delivered. No book deliveries today, but we do have some new journals that will need to go on display.

13:30 – 14:30

After lunch I head over to the KB Chen China Centre Library with the requested journals. This is my first time visiting this particular Bodleian library, so Minh, the librarian, kindly gives me a guided tour! When I return to St Antony’s I process the new journals and add them to the display in the main reading room. We insert pink slips into the latest edition, asking people to note when they use the journals so we can collect the data for our statistics. I take the opportunity to check if any new usages have been added and add the data to the statistics.

A view of the library from behind the desk, which shows a collection of newspapers, a roll of barcodes, stamps and ink pads, the computer and the library shelves in the background
My desk in the main reading room

14:30 – 17:00

As there are no new books to be processed and it is a quiet afternoon, I spend the last couple of hours of my shift doing work for my apprenticeship. This involves a number of different things, including working on my written assignments, writing up my reflective logs on my progress and what I have learnt so far, as well as reading and research. I do this at my desk in the main reading room, so I am always juggling this with enquiries from readers who need help with printing, finding specific texts or greeting and having a quick chat with our regulars! At 5pm my work day is finished, and I pack up my desk, say goodbye to Aimee (who always works later than she should!) and head home. I’m looking forward to tomorrow where I will be meeting the graduate trainees after work at G&D’s for ice-cream!