Madeleine Ahern – Taylor Institution Library

Hi everybody I’m Madeleine, one of two trainees based this year primarily at the Taylor Institution Library with shifts at the Sackler and Oriental Institute as well. I just graduated this spring with my BA Honours degree in History and Art History from Queen’s University in Canada, and after working in archives and museums previously I am now keen to pursue a career in academic librarianship.Being a trainee at the Taylorian has been wonderful so far in part because of the extensive collections it encompasses. The Western and Eastern European languages, Linguistics, Film Studies, and Women’s Studies collections make for not only a fascinating range of library resources here but also some neat research going on at any minute. Most people gravitate towards our beautiful reading room adjacent to the main research collection stacks it seems! 

I am primarily based at the issue desk so far, fielding reader inquiries, doing some book processing, shelving, and most recently preparing for inductions week. A favourite moment of my traineeship so far was when I got to work with Dalí, Matisse, and Picasso prints from the Strachan Artist Book collection all in one afternoon. I am really looking forward to all that is to come this year, in part because of an exciting new Navigation and Wayfinding Project that I am undertaking with my fellow trainee Chloe and a team of librarians across the Taylorian and Sackler to improve reader experience.

A book from our special collections
The Main Reading Room


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.


London Adventures!

The Graduate Trainees were lucky enough to visit some libraries in London at the beginning of July. We could choose two out of four different libraries, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Here’s what we got up to.

The Natural History Museum Library – Alan McKechnie 

NHM The Graduate Trainees meet Dippy the NHM’s famous diplodocus – photo courtesy of Danielle Czerkaszyn

As a part of our traineeship a lucky group of us got to explore the Natural History Museum Library and Archives in London. Opened in 1881, the library and archival collections numbers over 1 million items, including books, journals, artwork, and archival items. The materials are housed across two sites (the offsite repository being based in Tring), but there is also a growing wealth of online resources available.

Our first port of call was to meet with Hellen Pethers (Reader Services Librarian) who kindly served as our tour guide. We got to view the beautiful Art-Deco style reading rooms, with dark wood panelling, exquisite metallic hand rails, and walls lined with all manner of Natural History material – it was a real treat. One of the critical talking points from Hellen was library logistics from both the standpoint of operating a split site and how they manage collections, loans, and visitors in one of the busiest museums in London. The fetch service and the pre-order of materials before a visit works exceptionally in this demanding museum. Hellen also discussed utilising the library materials for the ‘afterhours’ educational events, such as ‘Crime Scene Live’, which is a great way of giving the public access to materials and publicising the more obscure literature which might otherwise go unused.

The next talk was with Andrea Hart (Library Special Collections Manager) who had a fascinating spread of archival and special collection material for us to sample. Andrea talked in detail about the materials, which ranged from old velum covered books too warped to even be opened safely, to exquisite botanical drawings, to photographs of the founding staff of the Natural History Museum. These we viewed under the eerie and watchful marble eyes of the busts of previous naturalists and museum curators. The sheer range of materials the Natural History Museum houses was remarkable and to be given such detailed information on these materials and their preservation was a real privilege.

The final talk was given by Paul Martin Cooper (Special Collections Librarian) who discussed creating ‘The Bauer Brothers: Masters of Scientific Illustration’ exhibition currently on display. It was fascinating to learn the fine details of exhibition planning, from choosing the illustrations, to executing the quarterly rotations to keep the exhibition fresh, to how Paul chooses what to write on the display cards – the meticulous planning results in repeatedly beautiful displays. We also discussed Paul’s exhibition publication ‘Images of Nature: the Bauer Brothers’, which gives the public a take-home sample of never before published archival material.nhm archive

Examining the museum’s special collection treasures – Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

The BFI Library – Mary Atkinson 

It was difficult to choose between the excellent libraries we had the opportunity to visit! However as I have an interest in film I decided that I would like to see how a specialist library like the BFI Reuben Library manages its collections and works within a large arts organisation. When I met Sarah, the Reader Services Librarian, her enthusiasm for the role of the library in promoting the study and love of film was infectious.

Located in a cultural hub between the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre, the BFI South Bank is the public face of the British Film Institute and hosts many screenings and events. Sarah explained that the BFI has various branches to support its aims as a major funder of film production, as well as the organisation of film festivals and events, rights clearance, fundraising and outreach work. Archives, special collections and film media are stored in their Multi Media Vault in controlled conditions. Because of this spread of activity, the South Bank location is the first point of call for enquiries from students, researchers and members of the public.

The Library is free to use and is open to everyone. I found the atmosphere warm and welcoming, with a cosy reading room, open shelf books and journals, and computers for catalogue searching and viewing digitised material. Sarah showed me some example catalogue searches to demonstrate how the library organises its complex holdings. They also hold events and talks tied in with current film screenings, and outreach activities including study sessions with A-Level Film students. The visit ended with a look at the stack where older periodicals are stored, including some brilliant early trade and fan magazines. I left feeling inspired by the range of services offered by the library, and also determined to check out the BFI’s fascinating free online resources such as the Britain on Film collection:

Danielle Czerkaszyn – The London Library

London Library book stack

One of the stacks found at The London Library – Photo courtesy of Danielle Czerkaszyn

We arrived at 14 St James’s Square somewhat unsure of the unobtrusive entrance to the London Library. We were met by the Head of Member Services, Amanda Stubbings, who gave us a guided tour and told us more about the fascinating history of the UK’s largest independent lending library, a vast building hiding behind a deceptively modest façade…

In 1841, Scottish historian and author Thomas Carlyle decided to open a private lending library after finding that many of the policies and facilities at the British Museum Library were not to his liking. Over the years, as the collections grew, the Library attracted many of the most famous names in the literary world – Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Darwin, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Agatha Christie, and T.S. Eliot – to name but a few.  Today, the library holds over one million books and periodicals in over 50 languages, whilst also keeping pace with a growing range of electronic journals and databases.

Amanda helped us navigate the maze of different spaces in the Library; from the Victorian steel framed see-through (!) book stacks to the newest space, The Art Room, redesigned in 2014. She outlined the scope of the collections, which are particularly strong in the humanities, and highlighted some of the Library’s special collections. We were amazed by the broad range of subjects covered and given that everything is arranged by subject and author, we discovered that browsing is a dream! We also learned about future projects and refurbishment plans, including additional reading desks, three more floors of book stacks, and a new reading room.

It’s safe to say that we all left feeling highly enthused by what we’d just experienced. We loved the narrow stacks, the smell of old books and friendly nature of staff and patrons, all of whom were clearly there due to a real love of books.  Membership is open to everyone for an annual fee, though the library also runs free evening tours for members of the public who fancy a quick peak.  The London Library is currently celebrating its 175th birthday so there is no better time to visit this literary gem.

The Guardian – Clare Hunter


Some trainees meet the very cute stars of a Guardian advertising campaign –  Photo courtesy of Tom Dale

In the afternoon four intrepid trainees took the tube to Kings Cross to explore the exciting world of news librarianship at the Guardian. We were welcomed by Richard Nelsson, the Information manager. He gave us a fascinating insight into why a newspaper might need a librarian and how the role has developed from organising cuttings in folders to searching through electronic databases. It was particularly interesting to learn about the different types of research performed by the research department and how they worked with both the Editorial staff and the archives. After our discussion we were given a quick tour of the rest of the Guardian’s offices, where we saw the hustle and bustle of the different departments of the newsroom. Finally we met with the Guardian’s archivist who took us through some of the incredible array of items in their basement store.   So much of the Guardian’s history was there, from sketches for a cartoon from the 1970s to photographs of Margaret Thatcher and the smashed up parts of the hard drive that held the information released by Edward Snowden! It was fascinating to be able to learn about a very different side of librarianship that we had not seen before and see where one of Britain’s major newspapers is put together.

End of Year 2015 – Emma Quinlan

Officially, our first academic term as trainees has come to an end! Well done all! We’ve had many highs – who can forget the ‘getting stuck in a lift at the trainee reception’ episode or more recently the epic selfie with the Bodley’s Librarian, Richard Ovenden at the Bodleian Xmas Party. We have had many training sessions on a variety of subjects from Supporting Disabled Readers to How to Become a Qualified Librarian (a very informative and useful session, I might add). I think one of the highlights of the first academic term was to visit the Book Storage Facility (or BSF for short) in Swindon. A place so large it is staggering in its entirety (FYI it has 153 miles of shelving and can hold up to 8.4 million books) and very reminiscent of that famous scene in Harry Potter where Ginny Weasley causes the bottled prophecies to come crashing down in the Department of Mysteries….

BSF Swindon
BSF Swindon (Thank you, last trainee cohort for providing the pic!)

Well that’s what it looked like to me! Anyway, this first term has been an eye opener to the big world of Librarianship and I for one, cannot wait to get stuck into the training next term. First we just have to get through the festive period and all the joys that entails!

Merry Christmas everyone and have a wonderful New Year!

Emilia Henderson – Taylor Institution Library

A view of the front of the grand Taylor Institution Library, with 4 pillars and a large archway.

Greetings from me, Emilia, one half of the dynamic trainee-duo at the Taylorian! The other excellent half, Philippa, will tell you more about her experiences soon, I have no doubt. Though we spend them in the same building, her days probably differ more than you might expect from mine, as should soon become clear.

Exterior of Taylor Institution (Image courtesy of Taylor Institution Library.)

Though I originally hail from Sweden, this June I completed my BA in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge (at the same time as Lee, whom you’ve already met). During the long vacation between my second and my final year at Cambridge I gained my first ‘proper’ library experience (though already an ardent user of various libraries in and around Cambridge) as a Library Assistant for the International Summer Schools programme at Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education. But for nearly two months now I have found myself at The Other Place getting my loyalties confused and learning the ropes at the Taylor Institution Library, a.k.a. the Taylorian.

Sir Robert Taylor (Image courtesy of the Taylor Institution Library)

The factors that make the Taylorian special and lend it its charm are, more or less, the same things that make it rather confusing as a newcomer. Taking its name from architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714-1788), the Institution was established in 1845 as a result of his generous bequest, and was from the start meant to occupy one wing of the yellow neo-classical building which is mostly taken up by the Ashmolean museum (though, this does lead some visitors aiming for the museum astray and they occasionally end up in the Taylor instead). In the early twentieth century, the University’s Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages was established and regular teaching and provision for its students still takes place in the Taylor Institution building. At present, there are therefore two main collections: the Research Collection (which has been assembled and added to by numerous donations throughout the Taylorian’s lifetime), for the research of modern languages[1] and literature, and linguistics; and the Teaching Collection, which focuses on providing material for undergraduates and other taught students of the modern languages faculty. As a result of this history, the library (particularly the Research Collection) has amassed numerous shelfmark systems over time with varying levels of idiosyncrasy.

One of two staircases connecting the ground floor with the Enquiry Desk, Main Reading Room and Main Stack of the Research Collection. (Image courtesy of the Taylor Institution Library)
One of two staircases connecting the ground floor with the Enquiry Desk, Main Reading Room and Main Stack of the Research Collection.
(Image courtesy of the Taylor Institution Library)

To add to both the confusion and its particular charm, the building was extended in 1938 making the library consist of two main physical parts as well as two main collections. However, since they do not always line up with each other in a straightforward way, this is a greatly contributing factor to the labyrinthine feeling of the Taylorian. It also makes directing people from one part of the building to the other fraught with potential for confusion. For example, the Teaching Collection starts on the ground floor (of the extension to the original building) whereas you get to the Research Collection via one of two grand staircases. However, the first floor of the Teaching Collection is not on the same floor as the Enquiry Desk and the Lower Stack of the Research Collection, making terms such as ‘downstairs’ and ‘upstairs’ relative concepts… Unsurprisingly, it took me the better part of my first month to learn how to most efficiently navigate the building (not to mention learn where the various shelfmarks are kept!), which I tend to tell new readers to reassure them whenever they are apologetic about feeling confused.

Enquiry Desk (Image courtesy of Taylor Institution Librar)y
Enquiry Desk
(Image courtesy of Taylor Institution Library)

So far, I have been mainly stationed at the Enquiry Desk of the Research Collection. It is aptly named since one of my main tasks is answering various reader enquiries. There is also various admin to be done on a daily basis, such as book processing (the daily transfer of items from the Book Storage Facility and back again, new acquisitions, book donations and so forth), monitoring the Taylorian enquiries and renewals-email account together with Philippa, and fetching books for first and second year undergraduates who need to wait until their final year before they can roam freely in the Main Stack of the Research Collection.

The Main Reading Room, favored (Image courtesy of Taylor Institution Library)
The lovely Main Reading Room.
(Image courtesy of Taylor Institution Library)

However, since my biggest passion is for manuscripts and other rare books I am happiest whenever I get a chance to go on an errand to the Rare Books Room. The Taylorian’s collection of rare books and other special items, while humbled by the size of equivalent collections housed in some of the other libraries in Oxford, is impressively varied nonetheless. It includes such disparate items as a tiny(!) fourteenth century copy of the Magna Carta, a wealth of sixteenth century Luther pamphlets, and a neatly framed lock of Goethe’s hair (which I only learned of by accident the other week when it was being returned from a teaching session). For more on the Taylorian’s special collections I highly recommend visiting the Taylor Institution Library blog.

MS.8°.G.26, a lock of Goethe's hair. (Image my own)
MS.8°.G.26, a lock of Goethe’s hair.
(Image my own)

My most impressive personal achievements so far include naming and baptising the only still unnamed member of the fleet of faithful trolleys which help us each day, and designing the layout of the print-out of this year’s milk rota. I am also in the process of taking over a previous trainee’s project, which will (all things being well) help dispel some of the future shelfmark-confusion, in the Teaching Collection at least. The traineeship and my time at the Taylor has been brilliant so far, with constant opportunities to learn more about various aspects of librarianship and the information profession, and I look forward to soaking up as much of the abundance of knowledge around me as I can!



[1] However, since the 1960s the Slavonic and East European collections have been housed at a different location, currently on Wellington Square.

Mary Atkinson- English Faculty Library

Hi I’m Mary, this year’s trainee based at the EFL. I studied my BA in English at the University of Sussex, then an MA in Early Modern English Literature: Text and Transmission at Kings College London. My masters was taught in conjunction with the British Library and so I was able to use some brilliant manuscripts and early printed books for my dissertation on the culture of jest-telling (very lucky that I managed to get away with making books of silly jokes my dissertation topic!). I also interned at Lambeth Palace Library transcribing their 19th century handwritten catalogue and checking books for signs of provenance. These experiences led me to consider pursuing librarianship as a career. Following my studies I spent a year in the world of tea retail (more stressful than it sounds!). The next step was getting a job as a Library Assistant in a public library, which I enjoyed very much. I loved being part of a local community, being an information detective and of course Story Time. Two years later I decided I wanted to gain experience working in an academic library, so here I am at the EFL!

Nearly two months into my traineeship, I feel like I’ve really settled in and I’m sure this year will go by far too quickly. The EFL is a really friendly place to work and I have a lovely team of colleagues who have made me feel very welcome. The EFL’s mascot, Bill (pictured, inspecting the shiny new books waiting to be processed), lives in our office and I have also inherited Thomas the Tank Engine as my desk buddy, left behind at some point by a mystery reader.

During term time the EFL is a busy lending library, providing course/research materials, study space and IT facilities for undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers. My work is really varied and includes helping readers at the issue desk and around the library, admin things like banking, emails and post sorting, helping with social media, hunting for missing books and book processing (library craft time, featuring stamping, label-making and sticky back plastic). At the moment we’re trying to think of different ways to engage with our students through social media; we now have an Instagram account, and have just launched #eflsuggest, where students vote for one of three books for the EFL to purchase. I’m also hoping to make more use of LibraryThing to promote our collections.

oxford sausage 2

I’m also responsible for our displays, meaning I can show off things I like from our rare books collection. For my first display I chose to feature 17th and 18th century verse miscellanies, including a silly one of course: ‘The Oxford Sausage’ (pictured). Not sure yet how I’ll top that one.
Another great thing about the traineeship so far has been meeting my fellow trainees; starting a new job in a new city is much easier when there are 14 other people sharing similar experiences. I’m looking forward to the rest of our year!

Sophie Quantrell – Reader Services: Old Bodleian

Hello! I’m Sophie, the Reader Services trainee for this year. I’m based in the Old Bodleian so I see Elizabeth (see above – Archives trainee) every couple of days and Danielle (also above) quite a lot!

Old Bod

I came to this position from a background in Theology (BA and MA), followed by a brief stint teaching in a secondary school, and eventually a year’s volunteering a day per week in a Special Collections library. I’m currently very happy to be here, six weeks into my Graduate Traineeship, at the point at which the world is beginning to make sense again. The last few weeks has been a deluge of information, systems and the obligatory new-job cold, though it’s been very enjoyable – the job, that is, not the cold.

To work in the Bodleian is to have a very unique library experience. It is an organisation of many layers that somehow manages to function as a fully operational academic library, a historical monument, and a tourist attraction all at the same time. It has somehow gotten the balance between the three and they exist, the majority of the time, in harmony. There are people who have been here so long that they can explain the migration of and changes to collections and buildings over many years, and people who, like me, are new to Oxford, city, university and library, and are just about functioning!

The first few weeks here have involved trying to understand how the Bodleian manages the transference, cataloguing, lending and tending to thousands of books per day while negotiating its layers of tradition, history, policy and practice. Duke Humfrey’s library is a great example of this. It has managed to achieve its goal of being a quiet and working study space while respecting its ancient trappings (really, let’s not put sellotape on the medieval panelling) and, of course, admitting quite a few tours per day. Fortunately, most of the trainees have had a few weeks of vacation to learn the ropes before the rush descends, although I’ve certainly been enjoying the beginning of Michaelmas term, book deliveries having doubled and many more people needing help around the library.

There have definitely been two things that I have found particularly perplexing as a newcomer to the Bodleian.

First of all, the classification systems are confusing at first. Most libraries have beautiful things such as the Dewey Decimal system or the Library of Congress. Not so, here! Or at least, not only. There are many classification systems, the worst to navigate being the Nicholson in the Gladstone Link but the worst to get wrong in terms of distance walked being “Hist.” and “S. Hist” which are not even in the same building.

Secondly, how did Mr Henry Aldrich manage to get two portraits of himself in the same room of the Lower Reading Room? Maybe he just thought nobody would notice…

I had had visions of my first week here being very similar to the scene in ‘The Mummy’ where we are first introduced to the librarian, Evie, sitting in a pile of books, manuscripts and bookcases which have just cascaded to the floor in one glorious domino effect. Fortunately, though, most of the Bodleian’s bookcases are attached to the wall – for the moment.

Lee Colwill – Law Library

Hi! I’m Lee, the Law Library Trainee. My main experience with libraries before joining the Bodleian was as the librarian of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society’s library. This had the pretty great perk of being able to buy all the sci-fi and fantasy books our budget could handle (so, about five), but I have to say, it’s nice to have librarianship be my main focus now, not just something to be squeezed in around my degree. Said degree was in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, which is slightly more relevant to working in a Law Library than you might expect – I eagerly await the day when only my detailed knowledge of medieval Welsh law can save us from cataloguing disaster. Any day now…

The Law Library is a pretty fantastic place to work. Our collection is hugely varied, ranging from up-to-the-minute dossiers on tax law to law reports from the Elizabethan period, not forgetting the wonderful Red X Criminology section, a.k.a. the Trashy Jack the Ripper Books section (now, alas, mostly in Swindon). Almost everything is open-shelf, which means a shelving trolley might contain anything from the most recent Parliamentary publication to a book printed in the 17th century (I’m still quite excited about that one).

View over the Main Reading Room

At the moment the library is fairly quiet (in terms of readers, if not in terms of actual noise levels, thanks to the building works happening at the moment), which has given me the chance to learn a lot about all of the varied work that happens here. I’m based in Information Resources, where I’m mainly involved in the behind-the-scenes work of processing new books, but I’ve also been learning about the Academic Services side of things, such as the Document Delivery Service. Recently, I’ve been helping out with induction tours for new postgraduate students. When I first arrived, I thought I’d never learn my way around, so it’s quite a relief to realise that I actually do know where most things are (although I do occasionally go up one of the more twisty staircases and realise I have absolutely no idea where I’ve come out).

One of the things I’m looking forward to in my traineeship is the opportunity to get involved with the Moys reclassification project that’s currently happening in the Law Library. The Moys shelfmark system is designed specifically for law collections and is meant to make it a lot easier to browse the shelves by subject. Since my involvement in the Great Recataloguing of the Sci-Fi Library back at university, intuitive shelfmarks are a subject dear to my heart, and I’m warped (or perhaps just boring) enough to find cataloguing really enjoyable.

That’s about it from me. I’m looking forward to learning all sorts of new skills over the next year (and hopefully becoming reasonably competent at a few of them!), and this seems like a pretty good place to do that.

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.