Tom Dale, Social Science Library

Hi all, I’m Tom, one of the new trainees in the Social Science Library (Clare, my fellow trainee, will introduce herself soon).

library entrance 20140216

I’ve held part-time positions in seven Bodleian Libraries over the last 18 months, and I’m delighted to finally have one job in one library (the life of an itinerant library assistant is a tiring one). My aim throughout my first year with the Bod was to get onto the trainee scheme. Now I’m on it, my aim is to learn as much as possible.

The SSL is the largest lending library in Oxford and serves a diverse group of readers. The ethos is user-centric – we are here to satisfy the information needs of social scientists, PPE students, characterful members of the public and anyone else who walks through our door. There is always a lot to do, from the short-term – staffing the issue desk, sorting the post, processing books to go out onto the shelves – to longer-term projects. The SSL relies heavily on its trainees, so we have been on a steep learning curve. This keeps the job challenging and rewarding.


Whenever I enter a library for the first time I ask myself the same question: what’s weird about it? There’s always something. Every library is distinctive in its approach, collection, reader base and atmosphere.

The SSL is weird in its normality. Some Oxford libraries reside in ancient labyrinthine buildings, use arcane classification systems and seem to be open to just a few select acolytes. The SSL is housed on one floor of a bright new building, uses a simple and common classification system and is open to most people who have an interest in using it. It feels more like an efficient modern business than part of a centuries-old organisation.

As noted above, our role is diverse. I am particularly interested in the technical services aspect of it, but I’m pleased to be doing a bit of everything. After this year I hope to continue working for the Bodleian while doing an MSc in Information Science. Beyond that, who knows? This job is preparing us for an array of potential career paths. The future’s bright! The present is book processing.

One comment on “Tom Dale, Social Science Library

  1. Hello,

    I am the current Graduate Trainee at University of Chester. If you would be at all interested in getting in contact to share experiences please contact me via email.


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