A year in review: – The Survival guide to being a Graduate Trainee at the SSL

Our year as Trainees is coming to a close. I want to take this opportunity to give you a brief overview of what it has been like being a graduate trainee at the Social Science Library (AKA the SSL) and some of the interesting things I have got up to over the year. Don’t worry, there are lots of nice pictures.


20160728_112458SSL staff enjoying one of the monthly coffee and cake meetings

Coming from a non-library background I was more than a little nervous about starting my Traineeship at the SSL. I met all the staff straight away, and I had to quickly learn everyone’s names and what they did. Luckily everyone was very welcoming and put me at ease. The friendless of the staff has been one of the best things about working at the SSL. We even have regular team meetings (with cake) so we are kept up to date with what everyone else is getting up to around the library.

Intensive Training

Our workload is very varied, so getting to grips with all the different tasks is hugely important. Most of my first couple of weeks were spent being trained up by other members of staff. It was a little overwhelming having to learn so much in such a short time, but I soon got the hang of it.  The SSL has one of the most exhaustively comprehensive staff manuals I have ever seen, so if you ever forget a procedure or a password it is easy enough to find.

20160720_140253The graduate trainees attempt to concentrate on their training session on one of the hottest days of the year.

As well as the training I have received on the job, I had the opportunity to take part in the Graduate Trainee training sessions, in which all the Trainees from across the libraries get together to learn more about a particular aspect of librarianship. These run throughout the year and cover an amazing range of topics.  My personal favourites were on customer care, librarian careers and the role of the subject librarian. They are also a great opportunity to get to know your fellow trainees.

Happy to Help

Once I was20160722_153017 all trained up it was time to get to work! One of my favourite parts of this job has been helping readers on our issue desk. This can be quite exciting when it is busy but I had to learn how to multitask and be prepared for the varied questions that came my way.  I even got a shiny purple “Ask a librarian badge” for the first two weeks of term. A lot of interesting people come to our library, from new undergraduates to academic staff and visitors, and some of them have great stories. It is always satisfying to be able to help someone find a resource they desperately need. I also got to help give tours to new students across the year so they can learn how the library works.


Giving  a tour around the SSL.


The great book detective

20160728_104504Sometimes solving enquiries at the SSL takes a bit of detective work. Whether looking for clues to work out where a missing book might have gone or asking around the Bodleian’s technical staff to work out why a reader can’t access an e-resource, we get some head-scratchers. Solving such mysteries keeps the job interesting and rewarding.





A study in Scarlet: Trying to find a missing book that could have been misshelved


Parts of a process

20160721_111403As well as helping readers with their enquiries, the SSL Trainees work on technical services. This mainly involves processing the new books that come in ready for readers to borrow or repairing old ones so they can go back on to the shelves. The shelves of books to process can fill up very fast, particularly at the beginning of terms when books are ordered for new reading lists. The stickering, stamping and covering of books can be almost meditative.



The SSL’s other Trainee, Tom, gets a book ready for our readers.

Out and about


One of the most fun things about being a Bodleian Graduate Trainee is the chance to visit a whole range of interesting libraries and archives. Over the year I have been privileged to visit the Conservation Department in the Weston Library, the University and Balliol archives and a variety of libraries in London. It’s fascinating to see all the different places librarianship can take you.

Visiting the Guardian: The creatures outside looked from pig to librarian, and from librarian to pig, and from pig to librarian again; but already it was impossible to say which was cuter

Being Social

One of my contributions to the Bodleian libraries Instagram showing a book being processed

On top of my regular duties, I have had to take a crash course in social media. I contribute to the SSL’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as Bodleian Libraries’ main Instagram account. One of the most exciting projects I took part in was the ‘Twitter Takeover’, in which the SSL got to take over the main Bodleian’s Twitter account for a day.


In addition to working it’s also important to remember to have fun once the working day is done! It’s been lovely to socialise with and get to know my fellow Trainees. They will be one of the things I will miss the most when my Traineeship is over.


The Graduate Trainees enjoy an end of year picnic at St. Hilda’s college

I hope this has given you a flavour of life as a Graduate Trainee. I have done so many interesting things that is impossible to put them all in one blog post! It has been an enriching experience, and if you are thinking about applying, I thoroughly recommend it.


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