Applications to be a Bodleian Libraries Graduate Trainee Library Assistant for 2022/23 are closing soon. Here are some answers from the current year’s library trainees to frequently asked questions about Applications and about the Traineeship.
FAQs about Applications
Do I need loads of experience in libraries before applying? What sort of experience is suitable?
As long as you can prove an interest in library work, extensive experience is not required. Being able to link the experience you have developed in past roles to key skills that are necessary in the library is an excellent way to prove your value with limited library work.
My only library experience was doing shelving in my university library before applying. What I did have was several previous part-time retail jobs that had experience I could draw on to answer interview questions. I wouldn’t worry about having extensive library experience before, any work experience is relevant and helpful! — Bodleian Law Library Trainee (Information Resources)
What might I be expected to know about libraries and information services?
It is more important to show an enthusiasm for working in libraries. And, although not required, an understanding of how to search databases and find academic resources would be beneficial. This could be a skill you have developed during your undergraduate degree, so don’t worry if you don’t have any professional experience.
If you currently have access to an academic or public library, I’d recommend speaking to the librarians and finding out more about the resources and other facilities they offer — there’s often more available than you might realise!
It is advantageous to have experience of library search tools, but this can be from your own university or local library. Oxford uses SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online). I had a play with it, so I was familiar with the system before my interview. — All Souls College Library Trainee
Do I need to already live in Oxford?
Not at all! Many of the trainees this year did not live in Oxford and several of them had never lived in Oxford before the traineeship. This year, there was even a group of trainees who moved to Oxford together and formed their own ‘Trainee House’. We have made a new page about Living in Oxford for more advice.
Not living in Oxford before or even during the traineeship is not a problem. Good public transport links (trains, buses, and a Park and Ride service) make it easy to get in and out of the city on a daily basis. I do this every day across county borders! — English Faculty Library Trainee
I wasn’t a student at Oxford. Does that put me at a disadvantage?
Absolutely not! Most of the trainees this year do not have a background with Oxford University and had not used Bodleian Libraries as a reader. Experience of Oxford University or Bodleian Libraries are not prerequisites and will not influence hiring decisions.
Can I apply if I graduated a while ago?
Of course! Some trainees in this year’s cohort applied whilst at university, but many others graduated several years ago. You do not have to apply directly after your graduation; the traineeship is also open to those considering a career change into libraries and information services too.
Absolutely! I graduated from my BA in 2018 and didn’t apply to the traineeship until 2021. After graduation, I spent two years living in London and working for an agency specialising in education. I had no idea I was interested in working libraries! The work as a trainee is really varied, so you learn a lot, whether you’ve just finished studying or have been working out of academic settings for a while. — St Edmund Hall Library Trainee
I already have an MA/MSc. Can I still apply?
Many of the trainees for 2021-22 already have an MA, MSc, or higher-level degrees. This is not a barrier to employment on this programme. However, the post is not suitable for anyone who already has an MA/MSc in Library Information Services/Information Management or equivalent.
Can I apply if I have already done a library traineeship or a library degree?
Unfortunately, no. These positions are intended for individuals who are keen to pursue a career in librarianship but would like a practical foundation in core librarianship skills at an academic institute, prior to potentially undertaking a library degree.
FAQs about the Traineeship
What do you do day-to-day as a library trainee?
This can vary library-to-library but all the trainees from this year will be posting A Day In The Life piece in the following months, so stay tuned!
What do the training sessions involve?
Training sessions cover a variety of topics, all aimed at helping you to gain skills in core librarianship skills and expand your knowledge of the various roles within libraries. During the training year, each of us will complete a Trainee Project, which we present in a Trainee Showcase at the end of the year.
In general, we have training sessions on Wednesday afternoons; these have varied from library and special collection visits, cataloguing software training, and talks from library professionals. You can read about some of our training sessions on the blog, including our recent trips to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon and the Weston Library’s Special Collections.
Are there opportunities to pursue specific interests as part of the traineeship?
Of course! If there is an area you would like to learn more about, you can always speak to your manager, who can help you set up an informational interview with a relevant department or help you to organise shadowing.
All trainees undertake a project, usually in the spring/summer. This provides an opportunity for you to develop your knowledge in a specific area and make an individual contribution to your library. Examples of former trainee projects – from curated exhibitions to ethical classification projects – can be found on the blog.
Are there any significant differences between Bodleian and college trainee positions?
It’s difficult to apply general rules to this, as every college functions in its own way, and even different libraries within the Bodleian have variations in everything from duties to hours to team sizes. Each role is unique. You can read about daily library life at the different libraries on the blog.
Whether you are in a college library or a Bodleian Library, you will not be missing out. Trainees visit some of the Bodleian libraries and college libraries during the training sessions, so you will have the opportunity to have an overview of the other trainees’ experience. In previous years, some trainees have organised ‘shadowing days’ in other trainees’ libraries.
You will be working as part of a larger organisational structure, in the Bodleian Libraries, and there may be the opportunity to work in different libraries for some roles. Bodleian Libraries positions are in one or more subject-specific libraries, so you’ll get some experience dealing with a very particular range of resources, while college libraries have a bit of everything, and handle things like acquisitions in a less centralised way. In my experience, you aren’t expected to have any prior knowledge of the area you end up in – my background is in medieval literature. — Bodleian Law Library / Sainsbury Business Library
College libraries, in general, have smaller teams. This means that you get to do a bit of everything. Many colleges have their own special collections, so you may have the opportunity to gain specialist experience with preservation and curating. You may be able to have some experience of being part of an Oxford college, but this varies college to college. Generally, you get free lunch, which is always a plus. Colleges are less busy out of term time in terms of customer interaction and some close during the vacations. — All Souls College Trainee
What happens after the traineeship?
If you are keen to pursue a career in librarianship, one option would be to apply for a place on a Masters in Librarianship/Information Management, though this is by no means necessary at the beginning of your career. You will hear more about the different MA/MSc courses during your training sessions so you can decided what is best for you. Alternatively, you can take the experience gained and apply for a position in a library, such as a Library Assistant role.
Any final bits of advice?
If this role sounds at all appealing to you, it is worth applying for.
Being a librarian isn’t just for people who studied English! Our trainee group this year come from a wide variety of subjects, including Medicine, Law, Politics, and Music.
There is more information about the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Training Scheme on the Bodleian Libraries website.
These are answers written by the current years’ trainees themselves to FAQs we have been messaged, or which had ourselves when applying and are subjective to trainees’ individual experience. You can read the Bodleian Libraries’ answers to FAQs about the Traineeship on the Bodleian Libraries website.