Sophie Masztalerz, Bodleian Library

Hello everyone, I’m Sophie, this year’s Graduate Trainee at the Bodleian Library. I’ve been in Oxford for just over two months now, and have really enjoyed my time here so far. As part of the Reader Services department I’m based mainly at the reserve desks, the first point of contact for readers. My main duties are to assist library users with book orders and photocopying, answering any queries they might have, as well as processing the incoming books from the regular deliveries throughout the day. Thankfully the first three weeks were relatively quiet, so I was able to get the hang of the computer system and practice answering the most common queries before the rush of term! In between readers there are plenty of tasks to be getting on with such as shelving, tagging and stamping new journals, and helping out with the major book moves that have been taking place throughout the library.Image

Unlike the majority of staff in the Bodleian, as part of my role I regularly move around the library and work in various reading rooms. This has been great so far, if initially confusing, as I’ve been able to experience a wide variety of tasks, find my way around more easily, and work closely with a large number of staff. I move between the reading rooms in the Old Bodleian and the Radcliffe Camera, which are quite different working environments – there are usually more queries in the Camera due to the higher proportion of undergraduate readers and the fact that it is a lending library, unlike the Bodleian. It has been really interesting to work in both libraries and to experience the differences in day-to-day practices.  I have also been spending a lot of time at the Main Enquiry Desk, answering enquiries over the phone and by email, which was nerve-wracking at first but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. The number of weird and wonderful questions we get asked is amazing!

A little more information about me: I’ve just graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in American Studies, and worked in various retail and customer service roles alongside my studies. I also volunteered in a small theological library last summer, an experience I enjoyed immensely, and which inspired me to pursue librarianship as a possible career. Overall, my experience of the Bodleian so far has been exciting and eye-opening. I have loved meeting my fellow trainees and exploring this beautiful city, and can’t wait to discover what the coming year will bring.

Rosie Higman, Sainsbury Library


Hi everyone! I’m Rosie and I’m the new trainee at the Sainsbury Library in the Said Business School. I’m a bit late posting on here but hopefully I can make up for lost time. I have to admit writing blog posts doesn’t come that easy to me, but here goes…  So far it has been an exciting challenge coping with Freshers’ week and the influx of new students as well as learning the ropes around the library.

Before coming to Oxford I was working in administration for Virgin Media Business for a couple of years after finishing a degree in Politics from the University of Sheffield. This was long enough for me to realise that office life wasn’t for me, and one of the things I’ve enjoyed about being a trainee is the opportunity to try out different things, and to get out from behind a desk. I have always loved reading and books, and I have a house full of them, so to be able to work in a library feels like being paid to do your hobby. So far the library has proved to be a far more interesting environment, and I have particular enjoyed supporting students to access information, and to increase their appreciation for the library! I have been keeping busy with plenty of shelving, book processing and receiving the journals as well as spending lots of time on the helpdesk getting to know our new students. I have also been producing new signs and displays to help students find their way around and advertise the library’s services and careers collection. As this is my first library job I am still on a steep learning curve but the small staff team here have been very friendly and I am looking forward to trying lots of different aspects of librarianship as well as getting to know all the other trainees.

I am particularly interested in information literacy, and really enjoyed watching the new student inductions, and I will talk more about this as the year goes on. At the Business library we also have lots of students who are doing a course as part of their continual professional development, and who have experience of the workplace. This changes the dynamic of the library, and I think this will also be an interested topic to write about throughout the year.

Niall Sheekey, St. Hilda`s College Library


Hello all! I`m Niall, the Graduate Trainee for St. Hilda`s College Library. I am a History graduate with a BA and MSc from University College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh respectively.

I have arrived in Oxford having recently worked in the University of Birmingham library and am delighted by the upgrade in architecture. Walking through the Bodleian on my way to work each morning is a wonderful bonus indeed.

I am looking forward to working this year as part of a small team in a busy library and getting to grips with the unique features of the Oxford collegiate system. This week past we had quite a number of alumni visiting as part of Gaudy weekend, some of whom regaled me with their memories of descending the back stairs from their lodgings in the dead of night to the permanently accessible library. These days only the Law students have 24 hour access in term time, student dedication is clearly on the wane in Oxford. Mercifully my first three weeks have been relatively quiet, although having spent a day and a half creating reader records for all incoming undergraduates and postgraduates I am preparing myself for the inevitable influx come 1st week.

So far I have mainly been processing new books (including the creation of spine labels with our old forgotten friend, the typewriter), accessioning journals, shelving, withdrawing items and undertaking stock moves to deal with a growing collection and the ever-present bane of libraries, lack of space. I have begun ordering books from suppliers on behalf of the subject tutors and will be responsible for this and handling student requests to purchase books during the year. As one of only three members of staff I am sure I will have a very busy year and gain a good understanding of the many different aspects of running a college library.

The library itself is a situated in the very pleasant college grounds on the banks of the Cherwell, complete with its own punts which I hope to master in the coming months. I am greatly looking forward to this year`s training with you all.

Anna Thomas, Jesus College Library

My first weeks at Jesus College have been a fascinating introduction to the life of a college library. Each of the three different collections—the soon-to-be busy undergraduate Meyricke Library, the Celtic Library, and the pre-1800s Fellows’ Library—has come with its own procedures and priorities. Last week, the Oxford Conservation Consortium came to the Fellows’ library and explained their current project of conserving the fragile vellum bindings of many of the collection. I was particularly struck by the desire to maintain the aesthetic of the library—Jesus College’s rare printed books collection being housed in its original 1679 home—and the need for ongoing conservation. Simple measures like neutral coloured book tape (instead of black or even white) are slowly making the hand of the conservator less visible to the eye and thereby preserving the authenticity of the library itself. A display we prepared for the CILIP Rare Books Conference delegates gave me the opportunity to see and handle some of our treasures, a particular highlight being the 1620 Welsh Bible translated by Bishop William Morgan. I was both inspired and daunted in the face of such a document, especially as I will be beginning Welsh classes this year!

The day-to-day is not always so obviously rich in history and the dust from leather bindings. I’ve also been learning about what it means to run an efficient library for undergraduates, and that means little room for sentimentality over books that are out of date or unused. As we prepare for the return of undergraduates, I’m anticipating seeing how the dynamics of the library accelerate— thankfully sessions like today’s circulation training will enable me to keep up the pace!

Rachel McDonald, St John’s College Library


Hello, fellow trainees!

I’m working at St John’s College library, and can’t quite believe that I’m seven weeks in already!  My first two and a half weeks were pretty much entirely taken up with the stock-check; I think you all have the pleasure of this to look forward to next summer as we approach the end of our traineeships… The good thing about it was that I am now an expert in the location of every subject in the library!

However, any sense of my being well-acquainted with the library was doomed not to last, as the Oxford Open Doors weekend approached.  For the first time, the library was opening its doors to the public as part of the city-wide event, and they weren’t going to care in which area of the library one might find John Guy’s Tudor England.  I had to be prepared for a different kind of enquiry that was undoubtedly going to be thrown at me.  When was the library built?  How many books does it house?  Whose walking stick is that?  So I should be pretty well-practised for when it’s my turn to host a tour!

Just to introduce myself a bit more: in July 2011 I graduated from the University of York, where I studied English.  I am originally from Rutland, the smallest county in England, but have been living in Oxfordshire for a year.  Before beginning my traineeship, I spent a few months volunteering in two secondary school libraries (one independent, one state), Regent’s Park College and the fair-trade shop in the city centre.

I’m really looking forward to getting to know you all over the next year.  Enjoy!

Jennifer Gallagher, Social Science Library

Hi everyone, I’m Jennifer and I’m one of the two trainees at the Social Science Library.  We are now into our third week here and most of what we’re doing has been behind the scenes as we’re not yet on the issue desk until we’ve had our circulation training (something that will change later this week).  We’re kept very busy with shelving, book processing, photocopying, answering emails, making room bookings, checking reading lists, trying to deal with the post and where it goes…along with all the training and learning.  I feel very lucky to be working in such a large, busy, and well organised library.  It doesn’t matter if I can’t remember anything I’m told, because there is an extensive staff manual!   I’m really enjoying everything so far, and everyone has made us feel very welcome.  I look forward to what the next year brings.

Ciara Murray, Nuffield College Library

Hi everyone! As you can probably guess from the picture (right), I’m Nuffield College’s 2012 Library Trainee. This is the start of my third week here, and I am slowly but surely getting to grips with my many and varied tasks! So far I’ve been doing shifts on the circulation desk; trying to remember which switches do what as I get the library ready for readers coming in each morning, and resisting the temptation to read each newspaper as I check it in. I’ve also been learning how to process new acquisitions – Nuffield gets a lot of journals and government publications – and have just begun the heady task of initiating orders (I’m being trusted with the credit card – argh!)

I’ve spent quite a bit of time going up and down in Nuffield’s old-fashioned cage lift, partly because I keep forgetting my key for the closed access shelves… I have also been acquainting myself with the label maker as I get books ready to go out on the shelves. Shelving is also playing a part in keeping me fit this year (who needs a gym membership?) as I run up and down the tower steps! Everyone here at Nuffield is very friendly and willing to help, even if I ask what seem to be completely random questions. Hopefully at some point everything will, as they promise me, become second nature, but for now I’m just enjoying the novelty of it all (and the free lunches).

Laura Johnson, History Faculty Library

Hello I’m Laura, the graduate trainee in the History Faculty Library.  I’ve had a brilliant first full week at work: book processing, shelving, going on library tours and getting to grips with the circulation desk.  I’ve been feeling particularly privileged to turn up for work every morning at the Radcliffe Camera, where the HFL has just relocated, and I’m looking forward to an exciting and sociable year ahead getting to know you all.  Please stop and introduce yourself if you see me around!

Christine Strachan, English Faculty Library

Yoo hoo everyone! I’m Christine and I’ll be spending the next year as the trainee in the English Faculty Library.  Had an awesome first week, mainly spent processing new books, journals and donations as well as shadowing on the issue desk and trying not to get too distracted by the Icelandic literature collections 🙂  I spent 4 years studying English & Scottish literature at the University of Aberdeen, graduating in 2008 with MA(Hons.).  Since then I have been living in London working in a number of academic libraries, some nice, some not so nice…. Needless to say I am mega excited about spending the next year in Oxford, getting to know you all and working in a library where the students instinctively know not to bring their KFC  in to eat.

Kat Steiner, Bodleian Law Library

Hi! As the title suggests, I’m Kat, and I’m the new Information Resources trainee at the Bodleian Law Library. There are two trainees at Law: myself, and Frankie, the Academic Services trainee. Law is one of the biggest libraries in Oxford, along with the Bodleian itself, and the Radcliffe Science Library, so there are a lot of job descriptions and names to learn, as well as four floors to navigate! Broadly speaking, to me at least, Information Resources deals with books (and journals, law reports, legislation, dissertations, etc.), and Academic Services deals with people (and interlibrary loans, document delivery, legal research courses, etc.) There’s a lot going on in both departments!

A bit of background to me: I’ve just finished a degree at The Queen’s College, Oxford, in mathematics and philosophy. I really enjoyed living in Oxford, especially living out in the town with friends, rather than in college itself, and for the last two and a half years, I also worked some evenings and weekends at the Philosophy Faculty Library, (which has now moved and merged with Theology to be the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library), issuing books, shelving, and helping readers. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to try it out full time, and so here I am! I’m hoping to find out a bit more about Library School before I decide if I’m definitely going to do it, and when and where, but if I enjoy this year then I certainly hope to go on to it in the near future.

Law couldn’t be more different from Philosophy: it has almost ten times as many items (over 450,000), and about six times as many full-time staff (probably about 20, but I haven’t counted). So, everyone has much more specific jobs, and I’ll be working as part of a better-defined team. It also doesn’t lend books out to people, so nothing really leaves the library, but the most in-demand books are kept at the reserve desk and checked out to readers using the same system as lending, only within the library. There are also a lot more rotas for things, as everyone takes their turn on the enquiries and reserve desks, as well as chipping in with shelving, checking study carrels for books, receiving deliveries of books from other places, and so on. At the moment I’m mostly having meetings with everyone to find out more about what they do and learning about how everything fits together. There are hardly any readers in, but I’m expecting it to get really busy as soon as term starts!

I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck in with all the projects in Information Resources – there are absolutely loads going on. I’m going to be responsible for changing the New Journals display every week and setting up a display of new publications by Oxford Law Faculty every term. Then there will be helping with library tours for new students, loads of cataloguing to learn as I help deal with the legal deposit books arriving every week, and the reclassification of some of the textbooks in the library to the Moys system…the list is practically endless! At the moment, though, I’m mostly shelving, getting lost, and doing lots of talking to people about their jobs, because I haven’t been trained in how to do any of these things yet! It’s only Day Two, after all. I’ve discovered, though, that shelving is a really great way to learn the layout of the library, so I’m taking all the chances I can get to do it – not difficult as all three of our champion shelvers are on holiday this week!

All the trainees were invited to a tour of the Central Bodleian this afternoon, followed by drinks in the Divinity Schools which I thought was pretty amazing. Although I’ve studied in Oxford, I never really used the Bodleian itself (I only went to the Lower Reading Room once, in the first week of my second term, to find a book for my first ever philosophy essay. I suspect now that my tutor set the book especially so that we had to visit the Bod at some point in our degrees!). The tour took us round the Radcliffe Camera, the Gladstone Link, the Duke Humfrey’s Library and the Lower and Upper reading rooms. I think my favourite places were the Duke Humfrey’s Library, followed closely by the Gladstone Link! Bizarre combination, but they both struck me as really fun places to work, although they’re poles apart. It really brought home to me what a great opportunity the programme is for all of us, since Oxford is an amazing, unique place to study, and working for the Bodleian or the college libraries allows us lots of exciting opportunities to experience completely different libraries. I’m also very much hoping to get in a trip to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon, with all its futuristic automation.

That’s all from me for now, but I’m sure I’ll be writing again in a while, when other people have introduced themselves, and I’ve got started on some of those projects!