Farewell from the 2021-22 Trainees

Dear readers – and we know you’re out there, this blog’s statistics have doubled in the past year, thank you very much – it’s that time of year again. We’ve been wrapping up projects and working on handover documents, and with many of us now disappearing to use up annual leave or begin new contracts, it seemed like an appropriate time to make our formal farewell to the traineeship. From setting up an official trainee Twitter to meeting some library-endorsed llamas and alpacas, it’s been a busy and exciting year, and a pleasure to share what we could of it on here. For this final post, we wanted to share some reflections and a brief summary of our future plans, as well as taking the opportunity to wish the incoming trainee cohort all the best for the year ahead – we really hope you have a good one.

Katie Ross, Social Science Library: I have loved my experience as the graduate trainee at the SSL – my highlights have been the people I work with and our regular readers who say hello every morning/afternoon! The building is also nice and cool in a heatwave… I still can’t quite believe I get to be part of the Bodleian team and have thoroughly enjoyed participating in events across the different libraries and colleges, like alpaca cuddling (!) and the Staff Conference. I think some of my most useful experiences have been giving library tours and supervising a work experience student, as these have given me confidence in taking the lead. I have also had the valuable opportunity to try out working with social media. After my traineeship, I am moving over to the Weston to do a Digital Imaging Apprenticeship with the Digital Bodleian.  

Heather Barr, St Edmund Hall: Being part of the trainee cohort has been a real highlight of my traineeship this year – it has been wonderful to share our experiences of learning-the-library-ropes! I have also loved how varied work is in a college library. From spending a week knowing a lot about Medieval Irish saints (after helping a PhD candidate), to introducing secondary school students to our beautiful seventeenth-century atlases, I have found working closely with students especially rewarding. I am delighted to be staying on at St Edmund Hall for another two years while I complete my MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL. 

Emily Main, St Hilda’s College: My first taste of library work in September was at the Bodleian History Faculty Library and I evidently enjoyed it so much that I applied for a permanent position at St Hilda’s College Library! I’ve loved being part of both teams and am extremely grateful that St Hilda’s and the Bodleian team have allowed me to continue and complete the year as a trainee. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to explore library work with hands-on experience in a faculty and college library and by visiting other libraries, such as the local public library, during our Wednesday sessions. 

Lizzie Dawson, All Souls College: I have enjoyed being part of a college during my year at All Souls, and the lovely trainees I have met. I feel I have had a great range of experiences this year and have enjoyed the variety of the training sessions. I revamped the blog as part of the blog team and co-edited the excellent posts by the trainees. I am grateful to those who wanted to participate in the new @OxLibTrainees Twitter when I pitched the idea. It is rewarding to have the chance to start something that will develop our skills and encourage future applicants to the traineeship. I feel I have gained more from the traineeship by creating something together. I have relished investigating the background of the benefactors of All Souls and using the excellent resources of the library for my research. It has caused reflection on the history of enslavement and its continuing impact.

Juliet Brown, Old Bodleian Library: Working in the Old Bodleian Library this year has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The role has allowed me to complete a variety of core library tasks, interact with a diverse range of readers, as well as taking on significant responsibilities across the wider library system. Being able to share these experiences with other trainees, as well as developing my knowledge of the wider library sector through regular training sessions, has been incredibly valuable. I am thankful for the opportunity to have spent this year training and working within the Bodleian Libraries, developing a myriad of new skills that will benefit me in future roles, and to have worked as a member of such an incredible team. 

Jess Ward, Bodleian Law Library: One of my favourite things this year has been reclassifying the jurisprudence section – who knew hours of listening to plain-text philosophy podcasts would mean that I could occasionally understand some small concept related to jurisprudence? The biggest highlight, however, was putting together a display on the English legal history of queer rights for LGBTQ+ History Month. It was something that really helped to put into perspective how recent many of these rights are, whilst also gaining an appreciation for the extensiveness of the law library’s collections – I could (gently and carefully) grab a 1760s book with a 1553 statute off the open shelf! After my traineeship ends, I’ll be making my way to the other side of the enquiry desk as a DPhil student at New College (and far beyond the enquiry desk, making a full return to coxswaining boats).

Jemima Bennett, New College: A highlight of my year in the library at New College has been working so closely with our special collections. I feel as if I’ve been given the opportunities and space to really learn a lot about manuscripts and early printed books in a way that I think not many other jobs would facilitate. I’m keen to continue working with manuscripts next year as I side-step within libraries to a PhD at the University of Kent with the Bodleian, focusing on manuscript fragments here in Oxford. My favourite elements of the traineeship have been the training sessions spent looking at different types of libraries. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the breadth of librarianship, as well as how different libraries cater to their readers. It’s also been wonderful to have in the trainee cohort such a great support network, and just a lovely group of people.

Izzie Salter, Sackler Library: Being the Sackler Library trainee this year has been a brilliant experience. Undoubtedly, my highlight is working with our special collections, alongside the help of our former Art and Architecture Librarian. Most notably, I was able to present The Japanese Box (a facsimile edition of seminal photographic works produced in post-War Japan) to History of Art undergraduates; this was an amazing opportunity to both test my speaking skills and discuss an area of art I had come to love through my time at work. After my traineeship, I will be returning to university to study Legal and Social Research, now with an enriched appreciation for academic libraries and all that they offer. I am incredibly thankful to my colleagues, across the Sackler Library and the trainee cohort, for sharing this year with me, and will miss Oxford hugely.

Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library: I’ve had an incredible year with both the BLL and Sainsbury teams – highlights include helping to pull off the first round of in-person undergraduate mooting exams since 2019, reaching the end of the Futures Library relocation spreadsheet, and peering behind the walls of so many of Oxford’s iconic streetfronts. Although the traineeship has confirmed my intention to pursue a career in libraries, I’ll be taking a brief detour for the next year as I make use of a scholarship to study an MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. I hear the Other Place has plenty of libraries – hopefully one will take me on while I’m there! 

Georgie Moore, Weston Library: Recently, I’ve joined the Bodleian’s Public Engagement team and the Old Bod Reader Services weekend team. Taking on two part-time roles is keeping my work-life varied which suits me as I like to have different things going on. Public Engagement involves interacting with various audiences, from school children to academics, but a constant is helping enthuse visitors about library collections. Aside from everything I learnt as a trainee, an unexpected benefit of the programme has been that everywhere I go in the Bodleian libraries I seem to bump into people I’ve met through the training sessions and former colleagues from St John’s, making me feel right at home.

Ben Elliott, Pembroke College: My year at Pembroke has been brilliant. I have loved managing Bishop John Hall’s collection, curating displays of artefacts (the Notebook of Thomas Atkinson, Master of HMS Victory, 1805 is my go-to object to ramble on about), working with conservators and inventorying the college archive where I found letters by John Ruskin, D.G. Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. It was also fun to meet Thomas Atkinson’s relative and show her the HMS Victory notebook; as well as, working with the Bannister family and a film crew who were filming a new documentary involving the college’s Sir Roger Bannister collection. I’m now trekking up to the Yorkshire Dales to start a new chapter as an auction assistant at a fine art auctioneer, where I’ll assist in artwork/collections/artist research, cataloguing, auction sales and curating exhibitions. I’m swapping the spires of Oxford for rolling hills, drystone walls and sheep. Next goal: appear on Antiques Roadshow. 

Sophie Lay, English Faculty Library: Working with the English Faculty Library has been a delight year-round, but the highlight of my traineeship has been getting to flex my creative writing skills with displays, blog posts, and working on the twitter account – especially helping to establish the @OxLibTrainees account, which I hope will form a key part of the traineeship in future! I have learned more than I can summarise this year, from developing my digital and customer service skills to getting to try out an antique printing press! The newest and most useful experience for me (and probably one of my favourite things about working in the EFL) has been getting to work with rare books and special collection items. Thanks to these wonderful experiences, I am delighted that I get to continue working within the Bodleian as a Library Assistant at both the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library and the English Faculty Library.

We leave you now with a limerick, penned by an anonymous trainee from this year’s cohort.

There once were a group of trainees
Who took to their libraries with ease
But with contracts soon done
And despite all their fun
Onward now to new opportunities!

a llama in front of the Old Bodleian

A Visit to the London Libraries

Back in June, the trainees were given the exciting opportunity to explore four libraries in London: the Reuben Library at the British Film Institute, the Natural History Museum Library and Archives, the Guardian Library and Archives, and the London Library. A huge thanks goes out to all of the library staff for guiding us round, answering our many questions, and giving us an insight into the wider librarianship sector. Continue reading to find out who we met, what we learned, and to see some pretty pictures we took along the way!

Reuben Library, British Film Institute

Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library

The British Film Institute (BFI) can be quite tricky to find, tucked away in the side of the Southbank Centre. However, we all made it there eventually, and were met in the Reuben Library’s reading room by Sarah Currant (Senior Librarian for Reader and Mediatheque Services), who chatted to us about the library and how it works alongside other areas of the BFI. The library can currently be accessed for free, with no need for any sort of membership card – we were really impressed by this, as well as the decision to make the space less intimidating by installing a large window in place of the foyer wall. Working in Oxford, we tend to encounter a fair amount of ‘threshold fear’, so it’s always nice to see somewhere acknowledging this in their accessibility measures.

The glass fronted reading room, with the BFI Reuben Library displayed boldly on the glass. Inside you can see shelving and comfy red chairsSarah demonstrated the BFI database to us, which allows users to search the name of a film and be presented with a page summarising all the related items held by the library. This includes details of books and articles in the collection, as well digitisations of relevant ephemera. Historically the BFI maintained collections of press cuttings, usually based around specific films; many of these have now been digitised, along with copies of programme notes from every time a film is shown in one of the BFI theatres. The copyright procedures around this sounded similar to the Bodleian’s electronic legal deposit situation – although the BFI does not hold the copyright to everything it cares for, these materials can be accessed through the reading room computers (as opposed to being freely available outside of the library).

The BFI National Archive is one of the largest film collections in the world, covering both 120 years of British film history and the wider world of international cinema. Although the library itself is not directly involved in conservation work, Sarah told us a bit about some of the challenges of this particular area – for example, cellulose nitrate film, which was commonly used until the early 1950s, is both highly flammable and difficult to extinguish, as the nitrate part essentially provides the fire with its own oxygen supply. Individual reels were commonly stored separately, to prevent one fire from destroying the entire sequence! Official HSE advice for dealing with cellulose nitrate film recommends contacting a film archive such as the BFI, as this will be better equipped to deal with such specialised materials. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that the BFI frequently becomes the custodian of film collections on behalf of other institutions.

One thing we didn’t manage to see on the day was the BFI Mediatheque, a space which allows visitors to watch various films from the archive. The material on offer ranges from modern and classic films and television to the ‘Britain on Film’ historical collection and, incredibly, digitised versions of early cinema from the 1890s. It’s certainly a uniquely impressive collection, and it was fascinating to hear how the library – whose actual holdings aren’t so different to the books, journals, and digitised materials we encounter in our own libraries – works with the rest of the organisation on events and exhibitions to help make these materials accessible to a modern audience.

Natural History Museum Library and Archives

Juliet Brown, Old Bodleian Library

LIBRARY sign displayed over doorwayThe Natural History Museum (NHM) is an iconic London tourist attraction, with visitors flocking to view the beautiful architecture, amazing animals and even a dinosaur skeleton if you’re lucky (see Dippy’s return). However, few are aware of the extensive library collection within, supporting the work of the museum scientists, postgraduate students and external researchers alike.

Huge bookcases and a first floor balcony, filled with multicoloured volumesArriving at the staff door, we made it past security and were greeted by Hellen Pethers, Researcher Services Librarian, who took us through the entrance and directly into a beautiful room marked ‘Library.’ This was previously one of five onsite reading rooms within the NHM, back when each room was dedicated to a specialist subject. Now, following the creation of a singular public reading room upstairs (for user convenience), this room is used solely by staff and for the storage of collections.

Hellen proceeded to tell us a little about the history of the Museum, from the initial collection work of Hans Sloane, through to the petition for a conglomerated collection by Sir Richard Owen. The latter’s work resulted in the construction and opening of the NHM in 1881, a beautiful building designed by Alfred Waterhouse and often referred to as a “cathedral to nature”, with its detailed engravings and terracotta designs paying homage to the natural world. The NHM has continued to expand, with new buildings and spaces created to further the study of natural history – emphasising the importance of the NHM building and its collections as a centre for research.

Museum librarian Mr Woodward Bernard Barham and his staff, 1909
Museum librarian Mr Woodward Bernard Barham (seated right) and his staff, 1909 © Natural History Museum

This is where the librarians come in, developing library collections to ensure that scientists and researchers have access to the relevant material and resources to support their research. This is a role that librarians have officially played within the Museum since the introduction of the first librarian, Bernard Woodward, in 1903. Woodward was given a huge remit, with a budget to collect all relevant materials, and he even introduced a classification system that is still used for specific collections today.

With the collection policy that no material should be removed from the library — so that scholars can track the progression of thought in a particular field – collections have expanded rapidly, now totalling over 1 million items. This includes a wide range of modern collections, e-journals, e-books, databases, rare books, manuscripts, art, and maps. Books are borrowable by staff, as well as the over 400 scientists associated with the museum, but the collections are also consulted by external members, who can access the reading room by appointment in specified opening hours.

Speaking of the public reading room, this was the next stop on our tour and an opportunity to see the public face of the NHM library. As readers request material in advance, many of the tables are pre-prepared with required resources and equipment, with the material ready to collect behind the enquiry desk. At the NHM, all library staff are scheduled to complete shifts on the enquiry desk, which Hellen explained is a great way to interact with readers and become familiar with the collections.

An open book. On the left page, an illustrated drawing of a room where people are making pasta. On the right, Italian text, describing how to make pasta specifically for nightingales.
“To make the pasta to feed the nightingales”

The final stage of our tour took us through the bookstacks and up into the Special Collections and Archives room, where we met Rosie Jones (Special Collections Librarian) and Emma Harrold (Museum Archivist) – the latter being a previous Bodleian trainee!

After discussing both of their routes into libraries/archives, Rosie treated us to a tour of a variety of material from the NHM special collections. This included:

  • A copy of Pliny’s Natural History Manuscript (Historia Naturalis) – the NHM’s oldest book!
  • A book with a recipe describing how to make pasta for nightingales (pictured).
  • A book of beautiful animal drawings (pictured).
  • A box of detailed wooden stamps (pictured).

    A detailed coloured drawing of an 8 foot long Rock Python
    The mighty Rock Python.
  • Drawings created on Charles Darwin’s voyage around the world (pictured). These were quick sketches, with the intent to be finished and coloured at a later date. Unfortunately the original artist died on the journey, but other artists were able to complete his work, and engravings were created so the illustrations could be reproduced.

Following this, Emma took over to speak about the role of the NHM Archives, particularly the relation between preservation efforts and advertisement.

Documents concerning the formation of the NHM, personal papers of significant individuals associated with the building, and various other collections are kept by the NHM Archives in an effort to preserve the history of the museum – a vital part of Emma’s role in maintaining relevant and extensive records for researchers and NHM staff alike.

Wooden blocks engraved with objects and animals from the Natural World
Wooden stamps

These collections span from Alfred Waterhouse’s original designs for the terracotta animals, through to photographs of Pole expeditions and photography competition winners from the 1980s. In recent years, certain pieces from the NHM archives have been used for advertisement of the NHM, with historic images and previous promotional posters reused for their latest campaign. This allowed the Museum to broadcast the range of collections whilst highlighting the vast history of the NHM – an incredibly effective campaign.

For more information about the NHM’s vast collection, you can check out their website and twitter below:

Website: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/departments-and-staff/library-and-archives.html

Twitter: NHM Library&Archives (@NHM_Library) / Twitter


Guardian Library and Archives

Juliet Brown, Old Bodleian Library

The Guardian Library isn’t what many would consider a traditional library, certainly not when compared to the historic academic libraries of Oxford. Situated within the Guardian headquarters in central London, this library primarily consists of the personal wealth of knowledge and significant research skills of the two librarians working in the building. For our tour we were met by Richard Nelsson, one such librarian, who led us through the bustling office space to a large meeting room, where he spoke to us about his role as Information Manager.

The Library

A view round the corner, showing large computers, desks, and a poster of Greta Thunberg on the wallAlthough the current library team is extremely small, Richard was keen to show how libraries have played a significant role throughout the history of the Guardian. Before the internet, up-to-date information was still necessary to produce informative and accurate stories, but how were journalists meant to know everything published on a particular topic? This is where the librarians came in – a team responsible for sorting through all the papers published that day, cutting out individual articles and filing them in folders differentiated by topic. For example, a single article on the miners’ strikes may go into folders on trade unions, conservative party policy, and civil protest. This collection, informally titled a clippings library, would then allow journalists to access published information on a particular topic by locating the relevant folders.

With the growth of the internet, these folders have become less heavily relied on, and the role of librarians has adapted to suit the changing needs of the organisation. Richard emphasised that librarians are still vitally important to the research needs of journalists, as they manage various information sources (including online databases, e-subscriptions, and e-books) and perhaps most significantly, provide a tailored research service. This includes finding quotes, locating relevant people, providing background information, and checking facts and statistics. Richard stated that it can sometimes be challenging to narrow down a vague enquiry, but that the variety of information and requests make it a very exciting role – if occasionally high-pressured, as journalists tend to work to tight deadlines.

The Archive

Three Cross Street Journals and an introduction to the Guardian Archives guideFollowing this talk we were introduced to Emma Aitken, one of the Guardian archivists, who spoke about her role within the organisation. This principally includes:

  • Research: Although the archives team functions under the umbrella of the Guardian Foundation, they work closely with the Guardian research team to provide images, films, audio recordings, and various other materials for the newspaper.
  • Enquiry work: particularly relating to photographs/images in the collection, though she also receives those concerning the social history (where ephemera might be used) and for fact checking purposes.
  • Collections management: managing the online catalogue, as well as the material kept in the two onsite stores (the first for paper, objects, and materials; the second exclusively for photographs).
  • Technical tasks: transcribing material, completing digital preservation projects, as well as taking responsibility for binding and storing previous volumes of the newspaper (for preservation and conservation purposes).
  • Engagement: Managing the movement, display and loaning of material for exhibitions, as well as giving talks and presentations for interested parties (including school groups … and us!).

The Tour

Following these presentations, we were first shown to the Archives workroom, where we saw a curated collection of material kept by the Guardian Archives. This included old copies of the Cross Street Journal, preserved video advertisements, old editions of the Guardian and Observer newspapers, correspondence from WP Crozier’s personal archive collection (Guardian editor 1932-44) and even pieces of the Edward Snowdon hard drive! The Guardian Archives collections can be accessed on their website or via their twitter.

Richard then proceeded to give us a tour of the office space, where we could see different departments hard at work. One trainee was particularly excited to view the audio department, where a podcast that she listens to was being recorded! Overall this was a brilliant opportunity to gain insight into an area of librarianship none of us had previously explored, and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.


London Library

Jemima Bennett, New College Library

The library entrance, up 5 stairs
The entrance to the library

Given the smart location of the London Library in St James’s Square, at least one of us was feeling slightly overwhelmed and underdressed for a tour of such a beautiful building. We’d been somewhat misinformed that it resembled a Victorian gentleman’s club, but how happily wrong we were!

Founded in 1841, the London Library (the largest lending library in Europe) is notable for its motivation to preserve the history of the library while simultaneously remaining contemporary, with a refreshing focus on diversifying its membership and collections. The library collects in a range of areas but mainly caters to writers. Collections tend to focus on the arts (the library’s website (londonlibrary.co.uk) lists these as History, Cultural Expression, and Thought & Life), with an emphasis on books you might not easily find in a high street bookshop. It has an impressive list of former members – we climbed a staircase whose walls were star-studded with portraits of great cultural figures, from Virginia Woolf, to Edward Burne-Jones, to Bram Stoker, all previously members of the library.

Other highlights include:

  • Looking through the grated floors to the basement
    The view through the floors to the basement

    a bookcase of miniature books. This collection consisted of around 350 books printed between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, all under five inches tall – some were under three!

  • An unexpected thrill of library-scale adrenaline in the back stacks. Nineteenth-century ventilation and lighting technology meant that, for all seven floors of the stacks, the floors are grated – you can look through them all the way down to the basement…
  • The classification system. Librarians always love a classification system, but this one was particularly fun. Created at the end of the nineteenth century by the London Library’s librarian, Sir Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright, this classification system was designed to fit the range of books that the library owned at the time, and has changed very little since. As a result, alongside the more usual headings of ‘Literature’ or ‘History’, you can also find ‘Science and Miscellaneous’. And further, within each category, subject headings are ordered only alphabetically. This is particularly joyous in Science and Miscellaneous, where books on crystallography sit in happy incongruity next to books on cycling.
  • The Reading Room. Even by Oxford standards, this was beautiful – a lovely, quiet, peaceful, book-lined space.

Entering the London Library is like entering The Archetypal Library, with over 17 miles of brightly coloured books on shelves, including some printed in the eighteenth century, labyrinthine bookstacks, and hidden nooks and crannies all over the building. In keeping with the whole feel of the library, the building retains many fascinating historical features: we saw some World War II reminders to ‘Turn Off The Lights’ stencilled onto the walls. The atmosphere is almost other-worldly. We all came away from the visit with a sense of having had a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening afternoon, thanks in no small part to our wonderful tour guide Yvette Dickerson, one of the Member Services team.


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!




2021-22 Graduate Trainee Showcase!

Well, we’re into the final month of our trainee year, and our trainee showcase has been and gone. Here are some of the things the organising team did to get everything in place for the big day.

  • Arranged a guest speaker. Making libraries more inclusive and accessible has been a recurring theme of our year, so we were really excited when Helen Worrell (Archaeology & Anthropology Librarian and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity Coordinator) agreed to speak to us about her work leading the EDI project ‘Changing the Narrative: Championing Inclusive Collection Development.’ We were also lucky to have Antony Brewerton (Associate Director for Academic Library Services and Keeper of Collections) speak to us about the traineeship and beyond at the end of the day.
  • Invited everyone we knew – or at least, everyone the trainees had worked closely with over the course of the year, as well as any former trainees remaining in Oxford. We also had space to offer each trainee an invite for a non-Oxford guest – one brought a friend who was interested in librarianship, and another invited the former colleague who had helped them apply for the scheme. The showcase took place on what was otherwise a normal working day, so we knew we couldn’t expect everyone to join us for the whole day – to help accommodate this, we collected all the trainees’ presentation titles well in advance so we could send out a draft programme along with the initial invitations.
  • Used RSVPs to plan refreshments. We included a question about dietary requirements in our RSVP, and kept track of this information alongside who was coming and for how much of the day. This meant that we had a clear understanding of what would be needed on the day, and liaised with Craig at the SSL to place an order with the Manor Road Building’s catering team. Unfortunately there were some issues with how this turned out on the day – we’re looking into it, and will come back to this post if we find a way to avoid this in future.
  • Scoped out the location. We visited the Manor Road Lecture Theatre ahead of the big day in order to have a look at the size and layout of the room, where the refreshments would be located, and to explore the logistics of holding the showcase both in-person and over Teams. This was a really useful thing to do – although we’d advise remembering to communicate what you find out to the rest of the trainees before the entire organising team goes on annual leave for part of July. Sorry, guys.
  • Designed a programme – with trainee contributions! Since not everyone in the audience had worked with us all, each trainee wrote a short paragraph reflecting on their year to give some introduction to the new faces. We decided to use a panel-type structure for the showcase, with three or four presentations followed by a round of questions and discussion. This allowed us to find some common ground between what was an incredible variety of projects – key themes of the day included institutional memory and the passing-on of information and skills, and various experiences of working with and presenting special collections materials. Encouraging the trainees to have questions planned for each other seemed to help with getting the ball rolling on the discussion segments.
  • Hosted a hybrid event. This was easier than we expected and proved to be a useful option for colleagues who couldn’t attend in person – we’d recommend taking some time ahead of the day to get to grips with how everything works. We collected everyone’s presentation slides on a USB in advance of the showcase, and one of us was on tech duty during each session, transitioning between presentations and ensuring the Teams call was running smoothly. Another of us introduced each speaker and handled the question sessions, and we tried to also have someone situated at the back of the room, ready to run to the IT office to find out what was going on when things didn’t go to plan (like when the entire building’s internet gave up mid-presentation). Our trainee twitter team also live-tweeted throughout the day, and we even had a guest tweeter from the Bodleian social media team in the morning!

A huge thanks goes out to everyone who helped out in advance or on the day, and to everyone who came to support us. Click the read-more for a roundup of this year’s trainee projects, with links to blog posts by those who were unable to present on the day.

Read more 2021-22 Graduate Trainee Showcase!

The Bishop John Hall collection: Creating an inventory

John Hall (1633–1710), DD, Master (1664–1710), Bishop of Bristol. Unknown artist. Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Image: Art UK

My trainee project saw me inventory the book collection of Bishop John Hall (1633–1710).

The project’s long-term aim is to see a complete, up-to-date inventory of Hall’s book collection enabling it to become a searchable collection for researchers, staff and students. Hall’s collection consists of works by Classical writers, and more modern books such as Wood’s History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford.

Hall was Master of Pembroke from 1664 to 1710 and Bishop of Bristol, as well as one of Charles II’s domestic chaplains. He was ordained as a Presbyterian before becoming an Anglican minister and maintained strong Protestant sentiments throughout his life. On his death, Hall left all his books to Pembroke. Until this point, the College did not have a proper library, and books were kept in an upper room of St Aldates Church. Knowing that more room would be needed, Hall had library space constructed above Broadgates Hall (Pembroke’s medieval precursor, former library and now the SCR), while the dining space for the Fellows was below. This situation remained until the building of the dining hall in the 1840s, after which point, the books took over the whole of Broadgates, spreading through the rooms of Old Quad and taking space elsewhere in College. Eventually in the 1960s, the situation became untenable, and the McGowin Library was built.

For my project, I worked with Laura Cracknell, the college librarian. The first step was to cross reference the 1970s’ card catalogue of Hall’s books to a recent handlist of the Hall collection, noting books’ shelfmarks. This information was converted into a large Excel database listing all of Hall’s books, or so Laura and I thought. When I assessed the stack which stored Hall’s books, I discovered that there were a number of books that corresponded to the themes of Hall’s collection which were not documented in our recent records. Laura and I teamed up and noticed that some of these books had Hall’s bookplate inside. This was puzzling. Taking a step back to assess this problem, we chose to then delve further into history and compare the library’s recent documentation with that of Hall’s personal catalogue of his collection which he wrote in 1709. This allowed us to address problems in the recent documentation of the Hall collection. I made a list of all of Hall’s books which were not recently documented, but nevertheless sat on the shelves in the stack and were recorded in Hall’s 1709 catalogue. In doing so, Laura and I realised that our 1970s’ card catalogue had not recorded nearly half of what Hall had recorded in 1709, and therefore Hall’s collection was much larger than what we first thought. This project took a surprising turn and it will require further work to better understand the scale of Hall’s book collection in order to create an inventory.

This project has taught me how to manage a historic collection and the trials and tribulations that comes with working with historic catalogues and documentation that you inherit from predecessors. As well, it has been fascinating to learn more about college history and to experience working with special collections.


Ben Elliott (Pembroke College)


Visit to the Inns of Court Libraries

Planning the trip

Heather Barr, St Edmund’s Hall Graduate Library Trainee

Lucy showing us the shelves that house the 1800s collection
Lucy showing us the pre 1800s texts

One of the really great things about the Oxford Traineeship programme is that we get to spend time as a cohort training (and socialising!) together. It is wonderful to have a ready-made network of other early-career librarians, and to be able to learn from and share with each other. I know that I have felt exceptionally lucky to work alongside the other trainees, and I have really valued the chance to learn about the workings of different libraries across the university. So, when Abi Cass (Bibliographic Services Librarian, Gray’s Inn) was looking for visiting opportunities for the Graduate Trainees at Gray’s Inn, London, I was immediately keen to get in touch! Abi and I organised a tour-swap, giving the Inn trainees an opportunity to visit a variety of Oxford libraries and a group of Oxford trainees the opportunity to visit Gray’s Inn. In addition, Abi even negotiated the Oxford trainees a free lunch at Gray’s Inn, and visits to the Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple Libraries as well, which was extremely generous. Six of us made the trip to London, where we were hosted by Lucy Fletcher (Graduate Trainee, Gray’s Inn).

A personal highlight for me was Lucy’s excellent overview of the history and role of the Inns of Temple (of which Gray’s Inn is one of four). Historically, it was the Inns which provided legal education. Today, it is still only through membership at one of the Inns that you may train to become a Barrister, and they each provide teaching support, scholarships, and – of course – libraries of resources for their members.

A statue of Francis Bacon in front of the ivy covered facade of Gray's Inn Library
Francis Bacon in front of the library


Gray’s Inn Visit

Elizabeth Dawson, All Souls College Graduate Library Trainee

A view of the reading room from the first floor gallery
Overlooking the main reading room from the gallery

We were met by Lucy Fletcher, who started her traineeship in April, but nevertheless gave us a great tour of Gray’s Inn Library and an overview of how the Inns of Court work. There are four Inns of Court: Gray’s, Lincoln’s, Inner and Temple, each of which has its own legal library. Not coming from a law background, I was interested in how barristers and law student use the space, and how much they used those pesky law reports that I am always processing in the college library I work in! In academic libraries, we have seen a decline in use of physical law reports, in favour of online versions, but Lucy informed us that barristers still frequently use the physical copies. They need to submit the original page numbers of the reports to the court and online versions are not reliable – so many would prefer to photocopy the physical copies.

The blackened facade of the only building to survive the blitz, still located in the main square. Where Charles Dickens worked as a clerk.
The original building where Dickens worked as a clerk

I was struck with how similar the architecture of the Inn and the library is to Oxford colleges. Even their terms have the same name! Although, there have been law clerks on the site of Gray’s Inn since the 14th century, the library was rebuilt following heavy damage during the Blitz. As well as the main library, we also visited the stacks upstairs, where the less heavily used and some of the pre-1800 texts are kept. Dusty, secret areas of libraries are always exciting places to visit, and we were even lucky enough to glimpse the historical plans of the building.

Another thing I found surprising was how the Inns are used as venues for other events – not just for the lawyers. Historically, Gray’s Inn mounted masques and revels; William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is believed first to have been performed in Gray’s Inn Hall. Ok, I admit I am an English Literature graduate and most of what I know of Gray’s Inn is from Dickens. Incidentally, one of the few surviving buildings in Gray’s Inn Square is where Dickens worked as a clerk!

Following the tour, we went to the hall for our lunch. Meatball marinara ciabatta and wedges – yum! It also gave us a chance to chat with Lucy about her traineeship at the library.

Website: www.graysinnlibrary.org.uk 


Lincoln’s Inn Visit

Juliet Brown – Old Bodleian Graduate Library Trainee

The building housing Lincoln's Inn Library, proceeded by a vibrant green lawn
The outside of the library building

Following our delicious lunch, Lucy helped guide us through London to Lincoln’s Inn, the second of our library visits that day. Lincoln’s Inn is the oldest Law Library in the country, and it was the only library on our tour to emerge unscathed from the Blitz, so looking around this building was like stepping into history.

After a brief introduction to the library and its collections, we were free to explore the space for ourselves, immersing ourselves in the collections and navigating the abundant staircases (one of which was hidden behind a thick velvet curtain)!

The main reading room in Lincoln's Inn Library, as seen from the second floor gallery
A view of the reading room from the second floor gallery

Lincoln’s Inn houses roughly 150,000 volumes, with a strong emphasis on English legal materials for practitioners and bar students alike – though the Library is also well known for its extensive Commonweath and Parliamentary collections. Interestingly, although the Inn libraries cater primarily to their own members, they tend to collaborate when it comes to specialist subjects. This prevents duplicate purchases of large collections and allows for the Inn’s to collect the widest range of material possible, to best support the varied research needs of their members.

Similarly to Gray’s Inn, the librarian spoke a little about the transition towards digital resources for initial research needs, though emphasised the continued necessity of physical collections for court submissions. I was most impressed with the extensive services provided by the library team, who offer an efficient document supply service, research support through their enquiry desk team, and a wide variety of training guides and courses for all members throughout the year.

Website: lincolnsinn.org.uk/library-archives/


Middle Temple Visit

Josie Fairley Keast, Bodleian Law Library Graduate Library Trainee

The third and final library we visited was the Middle Temple Library. (These mystical-sounding names come courtesy of the nearby Temple Church, in case you were wondering.)

An image of the specialisms of each Inn Library. A pdf document with the list can be found here: https://www.graysinn.org.uk/app/uploads/drupal-media/documents/library/Inn%20Libraries%20Specialisms_0.pdf
© Gray’s Inn

As with the other Inns, the Middle Temple’s collections are wide-ranging, but their specialisms include ecclesiastical law and capital punishment. Our guide, assistant librarian Jake Hearn, told us a little more about how these topics and jurisdictions are divided among the libraries (see picture to the left for Inn specialisms). For the most part the libraries follow historic tradition, but a committee of librarians meet at regular intervals to discuss newer or changing topics. For example, although material on EU law was collected by all four libraries while the UK was still a member state, there is some discussion as to whether this will change in the wake of Brexit.

This was somehow the first library where I managed to take a closer look at the shelfmarks – as a current trainee at the Bodleian Law Library, I was excited to recognise some MOYS, a Library of Congress style system specifically designed for law collections. The Bodleian Law Library is currently halfway through reclassifying our Jurisprudence (legal philosophy) collection, and upon chatting to one of the library staff, I found that we shared similar sentiments on the triumphs and tribulations of the process.

Other interesting features of the library include the photographic record of UK Prime Ministers adorning the walls, the twin Elizabethan globes situated in the upper gallery (although, full disclosure, one of them was away on display in Liverpool when we visited), and the verdant colour scheme. Although we were asked not to share any photos of this library, I highly recommend looking it up – it’s truly fabulous.

Website: middletemple.org.uk/library


Overall, our trip was a wonderful opportunity to explore a new area of librarianship, and we are extremely thankful to all of those who helped organise it, as well as those who gave their time to provide the tours and answer our many questions – we can only hope we were able to provide the same level of detail when we hosted Lucy and her colleagues Abi Reader (Graduate Trainee, Gray’s Inn) and Lily Rowe (Graduate Trainee, Inner Temple) in Oxford last month!

LRMSP – a trainee’s perspective

One of the rooms used for mooting; it is furnished with facing rows of wooden seating, with a lecturer's desk at the far end of the room.
‘The Cube,’ former economics library and present-day mock courtroom.

One of the more unusual aspects of my role in the Law Library’s Academic Services team this year has been my involvement in the Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme, or LRMSP. Although a lot of libraries offer some sort of research skills classes, especially at the beginning of the year, the LRMSP is a very different beast: a compulsory course for first year law undergraduates, involving assignments and a pass/fail practical exam. If students don’t pass the course at some point in their degree, they will not graduate with a qualifying law degree. The course is entirely run by Kate and Nicola, the Legal Research librarians – I’m based in their office, so I was inevitably going to hear a lot about it over the course of my traineeship. At the beginning of the year I’d only heard of moots in the medieval sense (which at least is still law-related; they were a form of early law-keeping through community debate) – but I was keen to find out more about the programme and what I could do to help out.

Read more LRMSP – a trainee’s perspective

Interview with a former trainee (part 6)

It is the sixth and final week of our ‘interview with a former trainee’ series! It has been really insightful to hear different perspectives on the training scheme – to understand what people have found most interesting, and also what they took away from their time as a library trainee. This week, we feature a perspective from a traineeship outside of Oxford, as we want to highlight that although many former Oxford trainees are still working in libraries today, similar opportunities are also available in libraries in Cambridge, London, and further afield. In our final interviews (for now), we hear from Freddie Hankin (Old Bodleian Library, 2020/21), and Leona Stewart (Trinity College Cambridge, 2017/18).


What did you most enjoy about this experience?


I had an atypical year because of COVID, but I would say working in beautiful surroundings with a huge library collection.


Meeting all kinds of Librarians! We were really lucky in Cambridge to have a schedule set up where we would visit a huge amount of other libraries & speak to a big variety of professional Librarians. As you’d expect, every Librarian we spoke to was unbelievably kind & helpful. It was chatting to all of them that made me so sure I wanted to keep pursuing Librarianship after the year was over.


Freddie next to the Earl of Pembroke statue, in front of the entrance to the Old Bodleian Library
Freddie in front of the Old Bodleian Library, where he was a trainee in 2020/21

Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?


Sessions on conservation and special collections were very interesting, and I really enjoyed the ones on digital archiving/open access.


The most useful training I took part in during my trainee year was learning to catalogue, & this has helped me out in every job I’ve applied for ever since. Aside from that, I took the trainee year to sit in on a many special collection seminars & workshops as I could which has prepared me for working with these collections as I do now.


Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?


I am currently doing a part-time distance Masters at the University of Sheffield in Information Management and Librarianship. I’m not sure I would have ever considered it without having done the traineeship.


I studied my MA Library & Information Services Management from the University of Sheffield straight off my traineeship. Studying the part-time, distance learning course at Sheffield meant I could work alongside studying & I took a Senior Library Assistant job at St John’s, Oxford, during that time. My degree was conferred in November 2020, but because of the pandemic I am actually only about to graduate. As I write this, my graduation is next week!


In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?


Increased confidence (and a Bodleian Keepcup).


Confidence, definitely! For me, there were so many new experiences involved in the traineeship: moving to Cambridge, my first quasi-professional role, interacting with many (many!) new people. It is helpful to view the traineeship as an opportunity to get stuck in to as many facets of library life as possible . This isn’t the case for everyone, but it was helpful for me that the staff is so large at Trinity I was a little bit surplus to requirement, so I had to ask a lot of questions & make my own work quite frequently, which has definitely helped me in the long run.  Of course, I learned a lot of more tangible things as well, like cataloguing & how to spiral bind (& spiral bind & spiral bind & spiral bind…)


What are you doing now?

The reading room within trinity college library, with a large desk and shelves in the background
Trinity College Library, where Leona was a trainee in 2017/18 (© Trinity College Cambridge)


Working as a library assistant at the Bodleian Health Care libraries, but I’m about to leave Oxford and move to France for a few months!


Currently, I am working as Acting College Librarian at Keble College in Oxford, while the full-time Librarian is on maternity leave. On her return I will go back to my permanent role as Assistant Librarian. I am also a part of the CILIP LGBTQ+ Network Committee as Events & Communications Co-Ordinator.


Is there anything else you would like to mention?


I like to look back on my trainee year now & think of it as a time when I got to experience a lot with the safety net of the more well versed Librarians around me. Although times haven’t changed that much because I still rely on my Oxford colleagues for support… It was a great time to try things out, ask questions & get a feel for whether it is the right fit.


For some bonus content, feel free to check out Freddie’s introductory post to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Freddie: Freddie Hankin & Miriam Kunin, Old Bodleian Library | Oxford Libraries Graduate Trainees

Interview with a former trainee (part 5)

For the fifth instalment of our ‘interview with a former trainee’ series, we hear from Ross Jones (History Faculty Library, 2018/19), Ivona Coghlan (Bodleian Law Library, 2017/18) and George White (Old Bodleian Library, 2017/18).


What did you most enjoy about this experience?

A view of the Rad Cam, with the St Mary Church spire in the background
The Radcliffe Camera, home to the History Faculty Library, where Ross was a trainee in 2018/19


It gave an unrivalled grounding in library work in Oxford.


You got to see a wide variety of libraries and get a real feel for different areas of library work. Personally, I also really enjoyed getting to meet the other trainees and formed long lasting friendships.


The highlight was definitely meeting my fellow trainees. I made some friends for life. So much so, that I live with one of them- I teamed up with my bestie to get on the property ladder. I think the neighbours were pleased to hear that two librarians would be moving in! Recently we hosted a Trainee mini-reunion, and had 3 other trainees to stay for the May Bank Holiday weekend, which was so lovely!


Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?


The training sessions I found most interesting were the tours of other libraries. The sessions I found most useful were the talks by various professionals, which covered both theory and hands on experience (like sessions about Aleph – the Library Management System – and tools for presenting).


The session where former trainees came in and discussed a selection of various library courses was probably the most useful. I also found seeing the archives really interesting as it was an area I knew little about.


The Bodleian Libraries is such a large organisation, consisting of many different libraries and departments who are all responsible for different things. Visiting all the libraries, and hearing from colleagues about their roles, really helped me make sense of the Bodleian Libraries as a whole. All the sessions were useful, but a couple of sessions stand out as particularly interesting: visiting the Conservation Studios at the Weston Library (painstaking work, I wouldn’t have the patience) and the University Archives (they’d laid on some really fascinating pieces).


Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?

Some shelves with a long run of red bound journals
Some shelves within the Bodleian Law Library, where Ivona was a trainee in 2017/18


I am writing up my dissertation this year for Sheffield. The traineeship guided me in taking the MA and choosing Sheffield.


I completed my PGDip in 2020. The traineeship helped me to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the different courses. It also meant I knew people from the traineeship doing the course at the same time. We did different courses but it was good to know people in the same boat. As I had no previous library experience, the traineeship helped me feel confident about the decision to pursue librarianship. This was particularly important to me due to the cost of the course.


I had a place at Sheffield to study for a Masters in Librarianship for the 2017/18 academic year. However, when I got on the trainee scheme, I deferred my place. The traineeship definitely affected my thoughts on this, as it was during the traineeship that I heard about the possibility of studying for library school, via distance learning. This really appealed to me- the thought of going back to being a full-time student, with no income, was a bit scary. After talking with colleagues, I found I knew a fair few people in Oxford who’d done it- worked and studied at the same time. They warned me that it was a lot of work, so I knew what I was getting into. I applied for internal Library Assistant jobs that came up over the trainee year and got a permanent position at the History Faculty Library. Once I got this, I changed my course with Sheffield to be the distance learning course. As my friends had warned me, it was hard work! I decided to do a postgraduate diploma, rather than a Masters (essentially a Masters, minus the dissertation).


In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?


Getting a sense of the bigger picture at the Bodleian. It is all too easy to think locally, but through training sessions, talks and tours, the traineeship shows you what is happening in lots of different places at once. This helps to contextualise your position in the wider organisation.


It improved my ability to network. It encourages you to ask questions and learn from others. It also gave me confidence to try new things even if I didn’t have prior experience.


Not being afraid to ask questions. I think sometimes we worry about asking for help, because we don’t want to look stupid! However, it’s always best to ask about something if you’re not certain. Especially in libraries, where staff are always happy to help (I don’t think I’ve ever come across a mean librarian- we are so very misrepresented in films and TV!) When you first start any job, it can be a bit overwhelming- there’s a lot of information to take in at once. It’s impossible to remember everything. While you’re settling in, ask questions- even if it’s just ‘do you like working here?’ It’s a good way to get to know your colleagues and learn at the same time.


What are you doing now?

the wooden doors of the Great Gate with the coats of arms of the different colleges open to view the statues of the Earl of Pembroke.
The Great Gate of the Old Bodleian Library, where George was a trainee in 2017/18.


I am a Senior Library Assistant at the Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library (PTFL) and English Faculty Library (EFL), as well as a Reader Services Supervisor at the Old Bodleian Library.


I am currently on secondment as a Senior Library Assistant with The Biomedical Library at Queen’s University Belfast.


As of December 2021, I’m a Senior Library Assistant at the Cairns Library, in the John Radcliffe Hospital. My full title is Senior Library Assistant: Collections Management & Enquiry Support (a bit of a mouthful. And, yes, I did have to check my email signature to make sure I got it spot on!) which means I spend half my time on collections (I’m learning to catalogue and classify, which I know will be very useful skills to have throughout my career in libraries) and the other half on enquiries (answering emails from healthcare students and professionals, based in the hospitals). It’s a nice mix of tasks and I am enjoying the job so far. It’s quite different to working in the History Faculty Library and there’s lots to learn, which is great.


Is there anything else you would like to mention?


It seemed very difficult to get proper cataloguing/technical services training as a trainee. I hope this changes so that more numerous career paths can be opened up.


I loved my time as a trainee, and hope that all current and future trainees have (and continue to have) a great time and learn lots!


For some bonus content, feel free to check out Ross, George and Ivona’s introductory posts to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Ross: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/ross-jones-history-faculty-library/

George: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/george-white-and-jennifer-bladen-hovell-at-reader-services/

Ivona: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/ivona-coghlan-bodleian-law-library/


Interview with a former trainee (part 4)

It’s week four of our ‘interview with a former trainee’ series – how time flies! This week we hear from Katie Day (Taylor Institution Library, 2018/19), Natasha Kennedy (English Faculty Library, 2013/14) and Georgina Kiddy (Social Science Library, 2017/18)


A view of the front of the grand Taylor Institution Library, with 4 pillars and a large archway.
The Taylor Institution Library, where Katie was a trainee in 2018/19

What did you most enjoy about this experience?


I enjoyed how everyone was so keen for me to get to try everything! My colleagues made sure I could dive in and ask loads of questions. I also loved the Enquiry Desk and encountering such a wide range of questions and research queries!


The hands on experience of working in a library combined with the training. When you think of roles in libraries you initially think of cataloguing or being a subject librarian. The training showed show many more career paths and different areas to specialise in.


Attending the training sessions on Wednesday afternoons at Osney. This was a great chance to learn about the variety of roles at the Bodleian and across academic Libraries, as well as meet my fellow trainees.


Were there any specific training sessions that you found particularly interesting/useful?


The trip to the BSF and round other libraries (I especially remember the public library talk!) were great, but the most useful was probably the talk on library school. I knew a bit about the US route, but didn’t know where to start with the UK and that really helped me – particularly the honesty of the current students who came in to discuss it.


I loved the talk by Frankie Wilson, Head of Assessment as it was extremely useful in understanding what I can do to create services that readers need and want. I also found visits to other libraries such as Oxford public library to be very useful in gaining a greater understanding of the roles of Librarians in different types of libraries.


I enjoyed the variety of training, guest speakers and tours of archives and libraries. I think the most interesting were the tours of the Bodleian’s special collections and archives.


The English Faculty Library, pictured at an angle to highlight the haphazard building block shape of the building
The English Faculty Library, where Natasha was a trainee in 2013/14

Following on from your traineeship, did you (or are you planning to) go to library school? Did the traineeship influence your thoughts on this?


Yes, I went part-time to UCL right after, and I just finished my MA last year! I’d applied to the traineeship to use it as a ‘taster’ before committing to grad school, and it absolutely confirmed that this was something I wanted to make my career. I picked UCL both for its Cat&Class/Organising Knowledge classes, which I thought were fascinating and not something other schools really offered, but also so that I could continue to live and work part-time in Oxford while attending library school in person. (While, as you can tell from my dates, I was only in-person for half that time, I still loved it!)


I attended Library School straight after the traineeship finished, working full time in the position of Lending Services Supervisor at the Radcliffe Science Library whilst undertaking the course by distance learning. The traineeship confirmed that I wanted to have a career in Librarianship, and that I wanted to gain as much experience as possible whilst doing the Masters.


I went on to do the 3-year MA Libraries and Information Services Management course at Sheffield University, which I have now completed. The traineeship greatly encouraged me to apply and I don’t think I would have committed to the course had I not made it onto the Bodleian traineeship.


In hindsight, what was the most useful thing you took away from the traineeship?


An understanding of academic librarianship and what I wanted from my career. Also, my partner (a fellow 2018/19 trainee)!


Making connections with colleagues, and trying out as many different things as possible by saying yes to opportunities. I was the trainee representative on a University wide group, and asked the Chair whether I could stay on after my trainee year had ended as I had spotted a gap in representation that made sense with my new role. I have just finished a stint of chairing that same group. If I hadn’t joined, then had the courage to ask to stay on, I would never have had the experiences or career I have today.


I really appreciated being able to get involved with a trainee project of my own choosing and having the opportunity to present. This was something that I didn’t have a lot of experience of beforehand and so I think this stuck with me as a pivotal moment of the traineeship.

The front of the large building housing the Social Science Library, with a bike and pink tree in the foreground
The Manor Road building, housing the Social Science Library, where Georgina was a trainee in 2017/18


What are you doing now?


I’m still at the Taylorian as a Library Assistant, but by time of publication I’ll have started at the EFL as a Senior Library Assistant, with a focus on collections! I’m very excited.


I am the Reader Services Librarian of the Bodleian Library, and Learning Support Librarian for MSc Digital Scholarship


I am the Online Reading List Coordinator at the Bodleian Libraries. In this role I support the University in developing and maintaining the ORLO system to ensure readers have access to live and interactive reading lists and materials for their courses.


Is there anything else you would like to mention?


If you’re not sure whether to give this a go, this is your sign! I moved to Oxford from Chicago, and having a whole bunch of trainees in the same boat made it all much less intimidating. Also, thank you to everyone at the Taylorian for a great traineeship + three bonus years!


I really enjoyed our visit to London; it was a lovely addition to the traineeship experience. I went to the London Library and the Natural History Museum Library. I was grateful to Staff Development for organising this.


For some bonus content, feel free to check out Katie’s introductory post to the Bodleian Libraries here:

Katie: http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtrainees/katie-day-taylor-institution-library/