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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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:
‘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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
The inclusion of hashtags was important to us for two principal reasons:
It organises our regular and key tweets as a series (e.g., #LibraryJargonBusting)
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!
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.
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!
Here’s a fun fact you might not know – since 1949, the Bodleian Library has maintained a range of presses for the purposes of teaching practical printing. On 23rd February, we were given a much-anticipated peek behind the Schola Musicae door in the Old Schools Quad, home of the Bodleian’s letterpress workshop. As library trainees, the focus of our session was early book printing, giving us an insight into the various processes that would have gone into producing the early printed books that some of us are lucky enough to work with as part of our libraries’ special collections. For purposes of numbers, we were split into two groups; one taking a morning session with Alex Franklin and the other an afternoon session with Richard Lawrence.
Over the three-hour session, we were introduced to three types of printing (letterpress, intaglio and planographic).
The star of the show was the letterpress printing and we got the opportunity to create our own prints. Firstly, we had an overview of the principles of printing and how letterpress printing works, then we got to have a go ourselves!
Arranging the Type
Each set, or ‘font,’ of type is kept in a specially-compartmentalised trays (upper and lower cases), with a layout designed to make it easier to reach for the most commonly-used letters. Having divided up our chosen text, we were each stationed at a font and given a small composing stick to set our type in. Piecing a sentence together from reversed letters takes some getting used to — it’s easy to miss a spelling error or upside-down letter until the proofs have been printed. We worked from left-to-right, using the handy nicks in each piece of type to make sure every piece was pointing the right way.
There is a lot to consider regarding the size of the font and the length of the lines on the pages, the size of the margins… many of the calculations were in fractions of an inch and made our minds boggle! 1/2 inch equals 72 points (the same as font sizes on computers); therefore 1 point equals 1/72 inch. You can see from the image below that our composing sticks had been set to 22 inches, as the 12 point font we were using would fit into it without any gaps remaining — or so we hoped!
Since any wiggle room could allow the type to shift or come loose during printing, we also used metal spacers to fill in the gaps between words and the ends of the lines, using a variety of pieces to keep everything in place as tightly as possible. Alex told us that a group of English MSt students recently visited to set extracts from M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong in type as a way of considering the text’s interweaving of blank spaces on the page and silenced voices in history. As we learned through setting our own phrases, those empty sections require just as much time and attention as the letters themselves. Richard also discussed the influence of the printer on how a manuscript becomes a printed book. For instance, Mary Shelley’s manuscript of Frankenstein has very little punctuation; this would have been added by the typesetters and printers. What does this mean for interpreting a text?
Once we had finished composing our lines of type, they were secured within a printing frame (forme) by an assortment of wooden blocks (furniture). Since these also have to be tightly fitted (lest we end up with type all over the floor en route to the press), this included pieces that could be expanded or loosened with a small key (quoins). Finally, our type was all set and ready to be used for printing.
Using the Presses
The workshop had many examples of presses that are used for education and for the study of printing and the history of the book. We had a brief demonstration of early printing on a reproduction sixteenth-century printing press, based upon a drawing by Albrecht Dürer. For our printing, we used a Harrild & Sons Albion Press of 1877, originally from Leonard Baskin’s Gehenna Press.
The first step in using the press was preparing our ink. Thick, tacky, and oil-based, it resembled shoe polish or treacle when first scooped out of the container. Although historical methods would call for round leather ink balls, we used a plastic roller to spread it out in an even layer, ensuring the full surface of the roller had been covered. The reason being that the leather ink balls aren’t very economical with ink when you are only printing up a small amount because much of the ink is absorbed by the leather.
Once the block had been inked and the paper positioned and protected from stray ink by a paper fisket, the whole bed was rolled under the flat weight (platen). A quick pull of the operating handle pressed the paper firmly against the inked block, and then it was time for the moment of truth! Examining our proof copies gave us a chance to catch typos and adjust block placements before setting up the printmaking production line in earnest.
Both groups had submitted some initial ideas for their prints in advance. The morning group presented a motley assortment of flowers, cats, and Vasily Grossman, and the afternoon group opted for some classic Tolkien quotes and imagery. Alex took the morning group’s ideas and used them to produce a risograph image incorporating pictures from the Bodleian’s Fox Talbot collection, which we then printed over with lines from Tom Lovatt-Williams’ poem ‘Oxford,’ while the afternoon group paired one of the quotes with a pre-made block of the Oxford skyline.
The workshop holds a variety of presses, and some of us also had the chance to try our hand at using a 19th-century star-wheel etching press for some intaglio printing.
While relief printing involves inking the raised parts of the block, intaglio is almost the opposite: the design is engraved into the plate, and, once the plate has been inked and wiped clean, the image is produced by the ink that remains in these lines.
The plate and paper are tucked beneath layers of blankets, which are then pushed through a set of heavy rollers by turning the wheel. That extra weight helps press the fibres of the paper into the texture of the plate, increasing the accuracy of the print. Dampening the paper helps this process. The result is a fine-lined image, perhaps with some shadowing from residual ink on the surface of the plate.
This section raised some questions about the replicable nature of printing – if someone was to make a print from an original etching by a renowned artist such as Rembrandt, would they then have produced a Rembrandt? Our general consensus was no: even the most historically accurate reproduction would still lack the inimitable individual touch applied through processes such as adjusting placements or applying and wiping away ink.
Richard also showed the afternoon group a stone used for lithography, a form of planographic printmaking which uses water- and ink-repelling substances on a flat printing surface to create the final image.
We all really enjoyed the session, and some of us hope to take up Alex and Richard’s offer to return to the workshop at some point in the future.
We were recommended the following books by our workshop leaders, for those who have been bitten by the printing bug and want to find out more:
We are very excited to share our insights into the libraries with you, and we hope that Twitter will introduce more people to the traineeship and promote a career in libraries.
Congratulations to the brilliant new Trainee Twitter Team, who have put in a lot of work to get the account up and running (you may also notice our fabulous new graphics across the blog and Twitter, which have been designed by one of the talented trainees)!
Stay tuned to the blog for a longer post about the process of setting up a new social media account.
Applications to be a Bodleian Libraries Graduate Trainee Library Assistantfor 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.
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.
Hello, I’m Emily the trainee at the History Faculty Library this year. It’s housed in the beautiful Radcliffe Camera and links to the Old Bodleian Library via the underground, more futuristic looking Gladstone Link. The Bodleian Library Collection lives alongside the History Faculty Library, which took me a while to get my head around, but importantly I’ve now figured out which books can be borrowed!
So far, my days have been really varied — I’ve spent time on the reception and circulation desk answering queries, processing deliveries from the Book Storage Facility, scanning material for readers, checking reading lists and processing books. The team has recently joined with the Old Bodleian Library team, which means that I also get to spend time working across there with Juliet, the Old Bodleian trainee. It adds even more variety although I still have a lot to learn — particularly on how to answer the many questions that come to the Main Enquiry Desk!
The Camera itself is spectacular inside as well as out and while the Gladstone Link might have more of a modern feel, it still has a lot of history too. You can see where the tracks would have run to transport books underground between the buildings and there are still the heavy metal sliding bookcases in the Upper Gladstone Link, which were designed by Gladstone himself!
Compared to my first few days, when readers needed to book limited COVID seating, the library is feeling much busier now the new academic year is approaching. I’m looking forward to the start of term and the year ahead!
Hello! I’m Lizzie and I am the new Graduate Trainee for All Souls College Library. I spend much of my time in the beautiful eighteenth-century Great Library, doing admin in the library office, reshelving in the stacks or haunting the cellars (where books are also kept).
My background is in English Literature, completing an MA in English Literary Studies at Durham a few years ago. After graduating, I knew wanted a career working with books. Before my traineeship, I worked in academic publishing – which crosses over a little with librarianship – and so I have had some prior experience dealing with books and databases. I heard about the traineeship through an academic librarian, but I was unsuccessful in my applications before COVID-19 hit and stopped everything, including libraries. I knew librarianship was something I wanted to pursue further so I worked remotely on a project for a college library in Cambridge to gain some more experience and applied again – and I was successful!
The library experience at All Souls is unique and diverse. Unlike other college libraries, All Souls does not have any students; instead, the library has a ‘three-way’ aspect: supporting the college’s fellows, welcoming readers from across the university, and working with international researchers. The library has been closed over the summer, so I have yet to see a Reader, but no day has been the same. During September, the library has hosted several big university events, such as Encaenia and the prize fellowship examinations.
All Souls can appear mysterious from the outside – and there are many tourists often peering in through the gates on Radcliffe Square eager to get a glimpse of Oxford’s ‘most exclusive’ college — however, All Souls College Library is open to any member of the University (as well as outside students and researchers) to apply to become a Reader, so long as you have a research need. The library has a speciality in European, Military and Naval History and Law; it is also home to many treasures of early printed books and substantial archives, as well as a significant collection of drawings by Christopher Wren. You can see more of the library’s collection which has been digitalized on the library website.
My traineeship promises to be an interesting year; I am looking forward to discovering more about All Souls and its library.