A Surprise Six Months as the SSL Grad Trainee 2.0 (Showcase Presentation)


Hello! Unfortunately, due to testing positive for Covid a few days before the Showcase, I was not able to attend and present my project. I will therefore attempt to re-create it as this blog post. By way of introduction, my name is Katie and I have been the graduate trainee 2.0 for the Social Science Library for 5 months and counting. My experience with the Bodleian began on a boring and drizzly Monday working from home, when I very unexpectedly received a call asking if I was still interested in working as the SSL graduate trainee for 6 months. I said very much so yes please, and a few weeks later packed my bags and moved from Derbyshire to Oxford. A quick disclaimer…I have not managed to undertake a formal project in my 5 months, so will talk about some core (hopefully interesting) mini projects which I have thoroughly enjoyed working on in this time.


First up: promotional campaigns. Every week in term time, we have a ‘promotional campaign’ – this involves creating a blog post, entry gate poster, LCD screen display, entrance display stand, Facebook post and Tweet, all around one central theme. For the third week of Trinity Term, I made a campaign on ‘Wellbeing’. To start, I created an entrance display stand which pointed out spaces to relax in around the SSL. These included the upstairs café, multiple seating areas in the building, the vending machine area, and green areas such as University Parks and the Botanical Gardens – with the help of Google Maps, I included how many minutes it takes to walk there so students could plan their study breaks accordingly. Whilst on my issue desk shifts I saw a total of 3 people stop to read it, which I consider a small but satisfying success! My entrance stand poster pointed out the vending machines upstairs (as they are a bit hidden), whilst also cheekily reinforcing that food or non-KeepCup drinks should not be brought into the library… A problem I encountered with my LCD display, which aimed to show the different counselling services provided by the University, was how to visually represent counselling support – when choosing my background images, for example, I didn’t want to evoke any sort of stereotype or negativity. I could have made it a plain display but this would not be very eye-catching. In the end, I went with a photograph of a tree at the beginning of dawn, as I thought this suitably aesthetic whilst also conveying a sense of hope and positivity.

I had a similar issue with representing the idea of ‘health’ in my second promotional campaign, which was titled ‘Sources of Help for Exam Pressure’. For my LCD display, I created a range of tips for how to keep healthy during exam season, such as not drinking too much coffee (super hypocritical!) and some good brain foods to snack on (outside the library of course…). My problem was that health looks different for everyone, so I didn’t want a picture of someone working out or eating a salad as my title slide. After a lot of digging on Pixabay, I found a picture of a woman happily leaping in the air on a hiking trail, and decided this was an acceptable way to represent ‘healthy’ – having the energy and peace of mind to do things you enjoy.

Whilst researching for this campaign, I discovered that the University Counselling Service has a range of free podcasts tackling issues around exam stress, such as anxiety and pre-exam insomnia. They also run free online and in-person workshops, titled things like ‘ACT-Based Anxiety Group’ and ‘Can’t Work’. For my entrance display stand, I aimed to make passers-by aware that this support exists. I created QR codes to take them directly to the website, in case they wanted more information or to sign up. I also featured these workshops and podcasts in more detail for my blog post on ‘Sources of Help for Exam Stress’. I have included my original presentation slides illustrating the full campaigns below:



I will now move on from this topic to discuss a task I was not expecting – hosting a work experience student for several mornings/afternoons across a week. This was something I was quite nervous about, as to have someone watching and learning from me felt a bit of a responsibility. I also found it quite a challenge to talk engagingly for long periods of time, especially in the morning! However, I think I managed to give them a good overview of my day-to-day tasks, and there was some opportunity for them to get hands-on experience with supervision. To prevent it getting too repetitive for them, I thought it might be nice if they could take the lead on a project – creating a Pride Month Display. They were able to select the titles themselves on SOLO, locate them on the shelves, arrange them in display form, and together we created the display graphics. They could then take photos of what we had made and take this back to school. All in all, it was a great experience (hopefully they thought so too!) and helped me to practice some rather lacking leadership skills…The strangest part was when I was asked to help fill in their work experience journal, which involved answering questions such as ‘how did you get where you are today?’ and ‘what skills do you need for your job?’. I had to scramble for a more helpful answer than ‘I’m not sure really…’, but it also gave me a moment to feel happy and grateful for what I have achieved.

Something I have found quite challenging whilst working as a graduate library trainee is helping test the new library management system ALMA. I first started with the ‘advanced search’ function, trying to use it to generate reports on things like how many books are out on loan, how many patrons owe money to the library etc. In the majority of cases, I was unsuccessful. I found it quite difficult to say whether it was me or the system who was wrong. It was also a challenge figuring out how to write understandable test ‘scripts’ which recorded exactly what steps I took, followed by the outcomes and whether these met my intended goal. I’m not sure my contribution was very helpful, but thankfully I did a bit better with testing user loan periods. I found this much easier, as I simply had to record whether the different user types had been given the correct number of days to return different loan types. The only slight hiccup was that the developers were still working on it at the same time I was testing, so the results sometimes changed day by day. It was certainly eye-opening to see the vast number of different users we have at the Bodleian!

And to conclude, something I have really enjoyed during my traineeship is helping out with the move of the Tylor Library to the SSL. For a number of weeks, we have had long rows of stacked green crates filling the library isles, and lots of empty spaces on our shelves to hold the new books. Initially, my role was to help with the physical re-processing of any Tylor items that were requested whilst still in the crates. This involved digging the book out, covering the old Tylor book plate with an SSL one and adding a spine trigger. If the reader had requested the book via email I could place a hold on it for them, but if they asked for it over the issue desk I would frantically try to remember what they look like and track them down somewhere in the library. The start-to-end process felt very rewarding. Later, I was asked to help the PADS team with processing the thesis collection. I was therefore loading trolleys full of big, musty theses, re-processing and then reshelving them, which really left my arms aching by the end of the day!




Things to Do and Places to See!

Quite a lot of graduate trainees end up relocating to Oxford for the job. It can be quite lonely moving to a new city – your old friends/family might be far away, you don’t know anyone local and you may struggle with living alone. Despite this, Oxford is a lovely place and definitely worth making the most of while you’re here! Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas of where to start out exploring. Many of the places you can enjoy in your own company, and some are free of charge. And to those who already know Oxford, this might just introduce you to some new places, or give you that push to check out somewhere you’ve been meaning to go for ages.


Town Entertainment

The board from a boardgame with a variety of drinks around it, as well as counters, cards, a small black teapot and the corner of someone's sandwich.
Board games and drinks at Thirsty Meeples! (photo credit: Georgina Moore)

Thirsty Meeples – roll a dice at Thirsty Meeples on Gloucester Green, a relaxed and fun board game café for new players and long-term fans. The friendly team are always on hand with recommendations in case choosing between the thousand games gets overwhelming. You book a three hour slot online, then pay a cover charge (currently £6/per adult if you order some food or drink, or £7.50 for just gaming). Then for those three hours, you can play as many games as you like! Have a sweet Oxford Fog latte in the afternoon or a cheeky cocktail on Friday night (or vice versa, I’m not one to judge).  They also serve sandwiches, snacks, and cakes, and offer an impressive tea selection. One final thing: the board games have SHELF MARKS. You can even get your shelf-organisation fix on the weekends… they don’t call it their ‘board game library’ for nothing (written by: Georgina Moore, 2021/2022 Graduate Trainee).

Cowley Road Charity Shop – Cowley has a reputation as the ‘student area’ of Oxford – its bustling main road is full of fun independent shops and eateries. For those wanting a break from typical high-street fashion brands, we recommend the charity and vintage shops that can be found here.

Hinksey Pool – a lovely open-air swimming pool located next to Hinksey Park. Tickets can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis, or you can sign up for membership. A nice way to cool off after work on a warm day.

The Covered Market – dating back to the 1770s, this historic building holds an array of independent craft shops, food stalls, a florist and many cafés. A firm favourite of the trainees and the Oxford student population is Moo Moo’s Milkshakes, a family-run milkshake stall offering a range of flavours to enjoy separately or experimentally combine…

G&Ds – the G&D ice cream cafés are a great place to meet up with other trainees at the end of the working day. They are renowned for their delicious ice cream but also serve coffee, bagels, waffles and other deserts. There are currently three located around Oxford: George & Danver on St Aldates, George & Davis on Little Clarendon Street and George & Delila on Cowley Road. The music is great too, as long as you’re a fan of the old classics like ABBA!

St Mary the Virgin Tower, University Church – University Church played a very important role in the University’s administration around a thousand years ago. It even served as the first library before Duke Humphries was built! Today, it is a beautiful historic building in which to worship or rest and reflect. For £5 you can climb the tower (the oldest part of the church) and see some amazing views over Oxford. The Old Congregation House attached also holds a café with indoor and outdoor seating.

Oxford Castle and Prison – the tour costs around £15 and involves a lot of stairs, but lasts about an hour and is a great insight into some local history, with excellent views from the top of the tower if you go on a clear day! Would recommend for entertaining guests who like history but are unimpressed by libraries (written by: Josie Fairley Keast, 2021/22 Graduate Library Trainee).


Theatre and Cinema

The red entrance sign of the 'Old Fire Station', which sticks out over the street. The entrance is made from over stone and the words 'corn exchange' are above the red doors, showing the building's historical function.
The Old Fire Station entrance on George Street

Ultimate Picture Palace – a wonderful independent cinema on Cowley Road which showcases a range of independent (sometimes quirky!) films. The bar serves ice cream from the trainee’s favourite G&Ds ice cream parlour and under 26’s can sign up for the Five Pound Film Pass, which reduces ticket prices to just £5!

The Playhouse, New Theatre, The North Wall – The New Theatre on George Street and The Oxford Playhouse (opposite the Ashmolean on Beaumont Street)  are considered Oxford’s main commercial theatres and play host to the UKs most popular plays, musicals and theatricals. Father out in Summertown and on a more intimate scale, The North Wall Arts Centre provides classes, exhibitions, gigs, comedy nights and family events. It also supports young and/or emerging writers and performers.

The Old Fire Station – located on George Street, this arts centre is an affordable, community-rooted alternative to the New Theatre. The Old Fire Station is home to two charity organisations: the homelessness charity ‘Crisis’ and ‘Arts at the Old Fire Station’ (AOFS), which aims to involve people of all backgrounds in the performing arts. They offer standard price tickets for £13 as well a ‘pay less’ and ‘pay more’ option, the idea being that the ‘pay more’ ticket holders will cover the difference for those who can’t afford standard prices. The atmosphere is very warm, fun and inclusive, and many performers hang around for a chat in the foyer after the show!


Free Entertainment

Oxfordshire County Library – located near the entrance to Westgate shopping centre, this public library is a warm friendly space with all the sections you could want, including literature, fiction, history, local history, nature and poetry. A borrowing card is free and also gives you access to the library’s computers (including internet).

A texidermy albatross in a glass and wooden case standing on the stone-flagged floor of the Museum of Natural History.
Albatross at the Oxford Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History – although taxidermy might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the Natural History Museum uses it for educational purposes to bring to life a whole array of creatures. My personal favourite is the albatross – he is enormous! What is particularly great about this museum is that it all fits in one big room: no risk of walking in an overwhelmed daze over endless different floors, ending up exhausted by the end of the day…It is also nice to see that everyone gets the same irresistible urge to put their head between the jaws of the T-Rex skeleton! There are plenty of interactive exhibits for children, as well as a gift shop and a coffee stand outside. The Pitt Rivers Museum of archaeology and anthropology is also located just behind the Natural History Museum, crammed to the ceiling with fascinating artefacts.

Evensong – the majority of colleges hold an Evensong service on a Sunday afternoon/evening. Some colleges with bigger choral traditions will have services in the week as well.  Keble, Queens, Merton, Magdalen, New, and Christchurch choirs are all recommended. The services are free, open to anyone, and require little audience participation compared to other types of service such as Communion. It’s a great way to hear good choirs for free and experience a nice space for calm and reflection.

Oxford Botanical Gardens – thought to be Britain’s oldest botanical gardens, the Oxford Botanical Gardens were founded in 1621 to supply the University’s medical students with useful herbs and plants. In the Walled Garden section, you can see the layout of the beds in methodical rows reflects this past. It is a lovely space to relax with a book or study the different plants and their purposes. Or you might want to explore the different hothouses, which include the ‘Rainforest House’ (featuring the pineapple plant!), the ‘Water Lily House’ and the ‘Conservatory’. Several literary sculptures lurk in the gardens for you to find, including the famous Cheshire Cat and a daemon from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. There is even a ‘Lyra’s Bench’, which Pullman used as the setting of Will and Lyra’s first meeting.  Entrance is free with your Univ/Bod card!

The Headington Shark – a (very unique) art installation in the Headington area, not far from the Oxford Brookes library. There are also some nice places to eat and several charity shops nearby, if you wanted to make an afternoon of it (written by: Josie Fairley Keast, 2021/22 Graduate Library Trainee).


Nature Spots

Brown and white cat sleeping beside a potted plant on the roof of a dark pink, light pink and yellow coloured canal boat, with green foliage behind.
Cat sleeping on the roof of a canal boat (photo credit: Georgina Moore)

The Thames Towpaths – the Thames Towpath runs between Foley Bridge and the West Oxford area of Osney (where many of the graduate trainee training sessions take place), right through to Portland Meadow and beyond. There is also a towpath from central Oxford out to Jericho, which almost reaches Summertown. These paths are great for spotting the local water-loving wildlife, such as shoals of spawning fish and plenty of geese and ducks/ducklings in spring! My favourite spots to date are a black kingfisher near Portland Meadow and Eddie the Osney Heron (who has his own Facebook page). Portland Meadow is even a popular spot to swim if you’re feeling brave enough!

An iron fence in the foreground enclosing a green meadow, with black and white cows grazing on bright green grass. The sky above is blue with wispy clouds, and there is a belt of green trees behind.
Cows in Christchurch Meadow

Christchurch Meadow – a big green space right in the centre of Oxford, sometimes home to rare English Longhorn cows… The path takes you down to the Thames (where you will often see row teams practicing on the water), and then you can choose whether to loop back along the Cherwell or carry on to the University boathouses. Make sure you are aware of the opening closing times though, or you may get locked in!

University Parks – located conveniently in Central Oxford, these Parks hold a number of sports grounds as well various nature trails, such as the Oak and Thorn walks or along the River Cherwell. The Parks’ website features a helpful map of these routes, as well as a guide on the different types of trees found along them.

An expansive green park in the foreground with a view of the Oxford towers in the distance. A person stands by fencing on the right hand side, and trees frame both sides of the photograph.
Oxford at sunset from South Park (photo credit: Isabel Salter, 2021/22 Graduate Trainee)

For example, the Oak Walk features a Tibetan Whitebeam tree which blooms with tiny white flowers in late spring. The South Walk also takes you past the ‘Genetic Garden’, dedicated to genetics researcher Professor Cyril Dean Darlington. Darlington first established the garden in 1964 to showcase the evolutionary spectacle of plants, and many of the original specimens are still there.

South Park – for trainees living in Cowley, South Park might be a closer alternative than University Parks for getting out into some green space. It consists of 50 acres of parkland and offers some lovely views over Oxford, which allowed one of this year’s trainee cohort to get an excellent shot of Oxford at sunset…

A Day in the Life (Social Science Library) 2.0



Walk to work! The sense of excitement and looking forward to the day ahead usually hits when I come onto Broad Street and walk past the beautiful Bodleian and the Weston libraries.


08:45Photo of a long corridor of grey bookshelves along a grey carpet with a safety ladder in the middle.

Opening up time. I do this once a week with another colleague. I like to arrive first when the library is creepily empty and still, a good setting for a murder mystery novel…I turn on the self-issue machines and printers, login to the front desk computers, check the study carrel bookings and open/close them as required. After deleting any expired holds and dragging in the overnight returns box from reception, it’s time to declare the library open by activating the automatic doors.


9:00 – 09:15

Emails. The SSL graduate trainee is responsible for managing the main SSL queries inbox. We often get requests to book discussion rooms and study carrels, loan books to ARACU, and remotely extend loans to students overseas who are unable to return them. Occasionally, we receive emails from authors and publishers asking if we might like to buy their books – these get forwarded to the SSL Orders team or appropriate subject librarian, but not before I have admired their bold self-advertising skills!


09:15 – 10:00

Book processing. The workroom at the SSL is dominated by a massive shelf of books in various states of processing, several of which are assigned to the trainee. One is exclusively for labels which are wrong or have rubbed off and need replacing. There is also a ‘low priority’ and ‘high priority’ processing shelf for books which require tattle taping, stamping and plating.

In terms of cataloguing, the ‘full processing of holdings work required’ shelf involves adding the shelf mark, location, status, hardback or paperback and reading list code (if required) to the Aleph record before bringing the item into circulation. We also have a ‘processing Bodleian Outhoused’ shelf for books selected by subject consultants for housing in the SSL while they are of current interest to researchers. The SSL is taking part in a pilot scheme where new selections can be borrowed, so these require an additional cataloguing note to indicate them as part of the pilot.


10:00 – 11:00Photo of a large book shelf with books inside, and several processing trolleys in front

Issue desk! AKA processing returns, loaning books and equipment, handing out items from the stack and answering reader queries. At around 2pm, the new stack requests from the BSL are delivered – these require ‘checking in’ and ordering alphabetically on the shelves behind. You’ve also got to watch out for readers bringing drinks that are not in a KeepCup and deploy a stern stare now and then to keep the noise down.


11:00 – 11:20

A snack and a read on the comfy sofas of our staff break area.


11:20 – 12:30

Scan & Deliver. Due to staff illness, I have been helping with the fetching and scanning process of our Scan & Deliver service. Normally, I work on the ‘Deliver’ element, which I will explain later. I locate the items in the library which have been requested before using ‘Hex’, our super bookeye scanner, to create the scans. After a little editing, they are ready to go.


12:30 – 13:30

Lunch. The SSL is only a few minutes’ walk away from University Parks. Usually, I will take my lunch down there and have a walk (or a tiptoe when passing the local geese, as they always seem ready for violence). If the weather isn’t very nice, I might have a coffee at the Missing Been café in the St Cross Building up the road or the Weston, a bit further afield.


13:30 – 14:30wwe

Another issue desk shift (the graduate trainee will typically have 2 or 3 hourly shifts a day).



The post tray on the issue desk is usually brimming with parcels and letters by this time. I do my best to figure out what everything is and who it needs to go to. An added challenge is opening any packaging very carefully so that it can be re-used.


14:35 – 15:30

Scanning triage. This is the ‘Deliver’ part of the ‘Scan & Deliver’ service I mentioned earlier. I login to ‘Request Tracker’ and send off any scans that have been completed. I then triage new requests by checking that they fall under copyright law (readers can only request 5% or below of the total page count of the volume a book, or a single chapter) and that there are no alternative online resources on SOLO. The request can then be added to our ‘Fetching List’, for the scanning team to locate and scan on ‘Hex’.


Photo of a line of study desks with purple dividers between them. In the background, grey bookshelves full of library material.15:30 – 16:00

Missing book search. I wander sadly through the library looking for all the books on our ‘Missing Bookings’ list in the hope they have somehow made their way back to the shelf. One in particular, ‘The Mushroom at the End of the World’, has haunted me for a long time (if anyone has it at their library, please send it back!). I also get creative in terms of thinking how someone might have misinterpreted the shelf mark. I have an extremely low success rate, but it’s still quite fun…


16:00 – 16:20

Another break time. Usually a nap with my eyes open at this stage in the day.


16:20 – 16:30

A quick desk tidy, as it has started disappearing underneath tattle tape backing, chopped up bits of label and processing notes. A major part of the SSL work ethic is re-using everything that can possibly be re-used. You therefore have to have a long hard think before throwing anything into the recycling bin.


16:30 – 17:30

Projects. I am working on a number of projects currently. As part of the Technical Services team, I am ‘weeding’ books that need to be withdrawn or sent to the BSF, and converting hardly used Short Loans and Library Use Only material into Normal Loan. I am also working on another project to increase the accessibility of our resources by converting thousands of short loans into normal loans.