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!