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!