CILIP New Professionals Day

 

Rhiannon and Evie (Old Bodleian trainees) recently attended the CILIP New Professionals Day, held at CILIP headquarters in central London. The day was a worthwhile introduction to CILIP as a network of Library and Information professionals, and a great way to find out more about potential career paths and job sectors – and of course there were some freebies in there!

It was really useful and
reassuring to meet other new professionals who were all at very different stages in terms of their roles, their interests, and their educa-

freebie lanyard, post it and pencil – always a winner!

 

tion. From a historian who is completing his masters while working as a Roving Support Assistant at Coventry University, to a former zoologist who is now Local Studies Librarian at Cheshire County Archives, there were so many different backgrounds and career paths amongst the attendees. It was very helpful to chat to people who have recently completed a library qualification, and to get their opinions on different universities, the Postgraduate Diploma versus the full Masters, and which modules they most enjoyed.

The talks were generally very interesting
and gave plenty of insight into the vast scope of the Library and Information field, covering sectors and employers ranging from corporate banks to humanitarian organisations, with employees and former employers of the NHS, Civil Service, and Microsoft represented.

One of the most exciting talks was about the role of the prison librarian, which debunked many misconceptions surrounding the job, and gave an honest and fair assessment of the challenges and rewards of working in a prison library. We were also surprised and gladdened to hear about the many charities and organisations providing support and funding for prisoners who want to further their literacy and education. It was gratifying to learn what an incredible difference prison libraries can make to children whose parents are in prison, by encouraging parents and children to engage with books and learn more together.

Evie also enjoyed the talk about Library and Information professionals working in the Civil Service, finding it inspiring to learn about the pivotal role of LIS professionals in researching, organising, and collecting data for important governmental reports and projects, such as the report into the Grenfell Tower fire. Again, the talk worked to counter pre-existing assumptions about working in the Civil Service as an LIS professional, and offered an intriguing introduction to the sector as a potential avenue for our future careers. The speaker was clearly a passionate individual with a love for the Library Services and this was particularly inspiring.

One of the most important things we took from the talks was the understanding that a career does not have to be a linear trajectory ‘up the ranks’ in one sector or organisation – it is always possible to transfer skills as an LIS professional from one sector to another, always branching out to new opportunities in different environments, or to build on your experience in one area and specialise further. The event also gave me a better understanding of what sectors might not appeal to me, as well – business and corporate sector information work, as an example. It was helpful to learn more about CILIP and their role as a supportive network for people in the field, and to find out about the events and qualifications available to CILIP members as they progress in their careers, such as their Chartership programme.

After the New Professionals Day, both of us feel much better equipped to articulate our own priorities and desires for the LIS careers we would like to build, and more informed about the realities of some key sectors within the field. We are excited to share this with our fellow trainees who weren’t able to attend!

 

 

Nadia Azimikorf – St. John’s College Library

Hello, I’m Nadia, and I’m this year’s St. John’s College trainee. I graduated in July with an English Literature degree from the University of Warwick, and have been working at St. John’s since the start of August. I’ve really enjoyed my first few months as a Library trainee, although I can’t quite believe how quickly the past few months have flown by. During my undergrad degree, I worked and volunteered at my university library in a range of capacities, and I also have some (very limited) experience of working in a public library. These roles nurtured my love of books and libraries, something which has continued to grow during my trainee year so far.

Working in a college is a truly unique setting, and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. The start of my trainee year coincided with St. John’s move into a brand new Library and Study Centre. While this definitely felt like being thrown in at the deep end, it meant that I quickly familiarised myself with the new Library and how it works, as my first jobs included creating new stack signs and a new Library guide (complete with reading room maps). Since the start of term, I’ve been getting more comfortable with usual library jobs – staffing the main desk, fully processing new books and donations, creating book displays, giving tours of the new building, supervising special collections readers, and so on. I like having mini projects to do alongside the daily running of the Library – my main one this week is writing a new special collections blog post on St. John’s current exhibition.

A favourite from the current exhibition – a 1603 edition of Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. This double page shows a hand-coloured map of Iceland, complete with sea monsters and brown polar bears.

 

I’ve also been attending the Bodleian training sessions, getting to know the other trainees, and attending the various (library and non-library related) events that are always going on in Oxford. Moving through the rest of the year, I’m excited to learn as much as possible, and get as much out of my year as I can.

Julia Dallaway – Wolfson College Library

Hello! I’m Julia and I’m this year’s Graduate Library Trainee at Wolfson College Library.

Looking out of Wolfson College onto the Harbour Lawn

I started this trainee programme in September thinking I was already very familiar with Oxford as both a city and a university, having just graduated from here this summer with a BA in English Language and Literature. Yet I soon discovered a stark contrast between the medieval cottages and hallowed traditions of Worcester College, where I previously studied, and the 1960’s architecture and ‘egalitarian ethos’ of Wolfson College, where I now work. The collegiate system of Oxford University allows each college to develop a unique atmosphere, so I had to adjust to Wolfson’s quirks as I settled in. Meanwhile, the Bodleian-run training sessions I attended in Osney introduced me to a beautiful corner of Oxford I’d never encountered as a student!

Before I started my role at Wolfson, Sally (my wonderful predecessor) told me that being a trainee in a college library—as opposed to one of the larger Bodleian or faculty libraries—has real advantages, which has proved true in my time here so far. I feel involved in almost every part of the running of the library. As part of a team of only two librarians, I am in charge of processing new book acquisitions (invoicing, classifying, cataloguing, and labelling them) and ensuring the Common Room is stocked with the latest periodicals, as well as daily library tasks including re-shelving books and answering reader queries.

Starting the trainee year was definitely a case of being thrown in at the deep end. In my first week, I was watching the Librarian give induction talks and tours to new students; by the end of my second week, I was giving these inductions myself! Giving talks to groups of sometimes 15 or 20 students pushed me outside of my comfort zone (especially when the projector didn’t work!), but I was pleasantly surprised to witness myself developing a public-speaking persona capable of this challenge. I loved getting to know the names and faces of new students and, as Wolfson is a graduate-only college, getting to hear about the weird academic niche that each student is researching.

New acquisitions from the Poetry Book Society, ready for National Poetry Day
One treasure from the Stallworthy collection: an entirely handwritten poetry book, entitled Manuscript

Being a librarian has already had its funny moments, such as when I bumped into a Wolfson student at a local Tesco’s, who recognised me as his college librarian and promptly asked me where the tinned tomatoes were! There have also been creative moments, including my #LibraryTakeover of Wolfson College’s Twitter account for National Poetry Day, which encouraged students to come to the Library and pick up one of the poetry books I’d scattered around for the occasion. And there have been surprising moments: I’m currently enjoying labelling new donations to the Library—including large collections from the philologist Anna Morpurgo Davies and the poet and former Wolfson Acting President Jon Stallworthy—because of the obscure treasures I come across.

My future plans are still uncertain, as I’d love to return to academia. But I know that, at the very least, this year is teaching me an abundance of practical skills that could help me to get a part-time library job to support myself during my future studies. I also think that learning how to assist readers in finding relevant resources will make me a better researcher.

The year so far has already immersed me in the theoretical and practical training necessary for good librarianship, and I’m excited to keep learning. If you’d told me two months ago that I’d be using Aleph to catalogue new acquisitions almost from scratch, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about!

Erin McNulty – Sackler Library

Hi, I’m Erin, the trainee based at the Sackler Library, although I’ll also be doing shifts at the Oriental Institute Library, as well as the Taylor Institution Library, where I spent several years studying during my French and Linguistics BA here at Oxford. I’ve recently graduated from my MPhil in Celtic Linguistics at Cambridge, and I’m really looking forward to working in an academic environment, learning new skills, and exploring librarianship as a career option over the course of my traineeship.

I’d never visited the Sackler before starting here, so it took some getting used to, but the library has some really diverse and interesting collections! From Art and Architecture to Ancient History via Classics and Egyptology, just to name a few, you’d never get bored of browsing the shelves here.

So far my duties have included assisting readers, lending, returning, and processing books, as well as the other usual duties in an academic library. In addition, I have been involved in preparing for and taking readers on both Open Day and Induction Tours, as well as collating the feedback. Improving signage and documentation around the library is also an ongoing project at the Sackler, to which I have contributed.

Recently, we assembled a book display celebrating Black History Month on behalf of faculty members. It was a lot of fun designing the display, which will be up in the Sackler for the rest of the month. A more in-depth look at the display will also be available on our blog (shameless plug).

The Finished Product

I have also had the chance to work in the Taylor Institution Library to help set up an art event for Ruskin students showcasing the Livres d’Artiste (Artist’s Books) held in the Sackler-Taylor archives that Madeleine has been working with. These books contain works in a variety of forms by some big names, including Picasso and Dali!

One exciting project I have been involved in is the Navigation and Wayfinding project, mentioned by some of the other trainees, which aims to improve the service we offer readers by making it easier for them to find their way around the libraries. This will involve various research techniques, data gathering and analysis, as well as prototyping and securing funding for possible solutions to potential problems we identify. I will be working in a team of staff from the Sackler and Taylor, including Chloe and Madeleine, to hopefully enact positive change in our overcomplicated libraries.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time here at the Bodleian Libraries so far, and I am very excited to see what the rest of the year holds!

Daniel Haynes — Weston Library

Hello! I’m Daniel, the Quaritch graduate trainee at the Weston Library, which houses the Bodleian’s Special Collections. I’m based in the Rare Books and Early Modern Manuscripts department, which handles a range of projects, enquiries, and outreach. I studied English here at Oxford, and worked part-time in several Bodleian libraries after graduating in 2018, picking up a range of technical skills along the way and working with some incredible people. One month into the traineeship, I’ve got my own messy desk (very libraryish, I’m told), a mountainous card catalogue to sort through, three floors of underground stacks to memorise, and more analytical bibliography to learn than I can hope to remember — and I’m more certain than ever that I want a career in rare books.

‘…and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.’ [photo: Jo Maddocks]

At the Weston, subject specialists mingle with polyglots and techies; there are always exhibitions to prepare for, just as there are always researchers to assist; there are all kinds of lectures, seminars, and hands-on workshops. In short, behind the studious solemnity of its two Reading Rooms, the Weston is constantly moving (and not just because of Trinity College’s building works next door). It’s a truly phenomenal place to work.

From day one, I’ve had the opportunity to handle early printed material, such as Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica (1543) and Hooke’s Micrographia (1665) for an overseas author writing about ‘remarkable books’. Another research enquiry involved comparing bindings in our Edmund Malone collection (including rebound volumes containing the earliest Shakespeare Quartos!) to identify the trademark tools of the German binder Christian Samuel Kalthoeber. One morning, I was deep in the Weston’s labyrinthine underground stacks, wrapping up original Tolkien watercolours in polythene for transport to the Bibliothèque Nationale. This week, I’m hunting down Samuel Johnson’s signature in a book that the Bodleian may or may not possess. It’s surreal, and sometimes challenging, to be working with material as special as this in quite ‘normal’ contexts such as stamping, barcoding, wrapping, or photographing, and really reflective of the methodical, technical skills that form an essential part of working in special collections.

Blackwell Hall in the Weston, with the Centre for the Study of the Book above the open shelves. [photo: Paul Hayday]

When I’m not on training courses or learning cataloguing in the office, I’m moonlighting in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, assisting the Librarian with item-level captions for her upcoming exhibition in the Treasury. Exhibitions at the Weston channel the wealth of academic expertise from all kinds of fascinating subject areas, and I’d love to curate my own some day.

In the meantime, my own traineeship project for the year is to lay the groundwork for digitising some 3000 fine bindings in the Broxbourne collection, from private press books to manuscript genealogies of the kings of England. I’ll be talking more about this, and the importance of widening access to collections in the digital age, in future blog posts. Until then, you can check on the progress of the project here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhiannon Hartwell – Old Bodleian Reader Services

Hi everyone, I’m the other Rhiannon! What are the chances that there would be two in the same year? I’m a trainee at the Old Bodleian Library (also known as Bodley, after its founder, Thomas Bodley), alongside Evie. The Old Bod is a copyright library, so we don’t get first hand experience of loaning books to readers, but we get to do pretty much everything else!

 

The Old Bodleian library from the Old Schools Quad.

 

My days at work can include shifts on the Main Enquiry Desk, answering all sorts of questions from readers, ‘roving’ in the Lower Reading Room to re-shelve books and make sure everything is in order, spending time tagging and stamping books for our New Books Displays, or helping readers gain access to Interlibrary Loans, or books held at the Staffed Desk in the Upper Reading Room. A huge part of our day at the Old Bodleian is the deliveries each morning and afternoon from our Book Storage Facility in Swindon. We have to dress in fluorescent jackets to guide the delivery van into the Old Schools Quad, unload the boxes of books, and process them all so that readers can come in and pick them up to read (as long as they don’t take them out of the library, of course). Visiting the Book Storage Facility is one of the highlights I’m most looking forward to in our training programme over the next few months!

Before I was offered a place on the Bodleian’s Graduate Traineeship scheme, I volunteered in a community library in Cheshire, and worked as a room guide at a National Trust property in North Wales, after graduating my MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Literature back in 2018. The community library was very small, staffed mainly by volunteers, and had no acquisitions, so it was quite a different experience from the Old Bodleian – but the core elements of reader service and making sure that everyone who visits the library is made welcome and given the right support are all the same.

I’m really looking forward to the academic year ahead – even though everyone I work with keeps saying “wait till term starts!” very ominously – and all the opportunities this traineeship will bring.

 

Laura Lewis- Bodleian Law Library

Hello! My name is Laura and I am a graduate trainee at the law library, along with Rhiannon! I graduated in June from the University of St. Andrews, where I studied Theology and Biblical Studies, which I enjoyed very much!

While I was a student librarian in my school, and spent quite a lot of time studying in the King James Library in St Andrews, I didn’t have any experience of working as a member of staff in an academic library before starting the traineeship. So, there has been a lot of new information and it has been interesting to see what happens behind the scenes in a library that you may not be aware of as a reader. I decided to do the traineeship to find out if librarianship was something I would like to do long term and, so far, Oxford has been the perfect place to start thinking about it!

I’m based in Information Resources in the Law Library, so Rhiannon and I do slightly different tasks on a daily basis. I do a lot of book and serials processing, labelling, shelving, creating the new journal display and spend time on the desk. I am excited to learn a lot more over the next few months, in particular, further information on cataloguing, how the Oxford libraries all work together with the BSF, and the reclassification of certain books in the Law Library into the Moys classification system.

I’m really looking forward to this year in Oxford, it seems like a lovely city (almost as pretty as St Andrews!), with so much to see and do! Everyone in the Law Library has been so welcoming and helpful and it has been great to get to know some of the other trainees during training sessions and by visiting colleges and other libraries together on the way back from training and during our lunch times!

Tom Vickers – Sainsbury Library

Hi everyone, my name’s Tom, I’m the trainee for the Sainsbury Library in the Saïd Business School.

I’ve done plenty of things prior to being a trainee in librarianship – work in hospitality and the arts – and I’ve been living in Oxford since 2012 when I came here to study my MSt in Creative Writing. I was lucky enough to meet an alum of the traineeship a few years back and got to see what their life was like and hear about what working in the discipline was like first-hand. It turns out that misconceptions about what librarians do cuts both ways – I’d not really considered the role before since I’ve always wanted to work with people and the role seemed an isolated one. This isn’t the case at all, as my first few weeks have definitively proved. The sessions at Osney One with my fellow trainees are getting us all up to speed on so many systems, and I’ve been expanding my horizons outside of training as well – having admitted to my supervisor this is the first time I’ve set foot in a business library I’ve been finding books on all kinds of subjects I wouldn’t expect while re-ordering the stacks. Good lesson for a librarian: never make assumptions about a subject, they all have their depths and surprises. Being at the business school is a great place to learn fast – the students are entirely unafraid to ask questions and have high expectations, and the school plays host to events on a regular basis. I’ll also be working on the Wayfinding project Madeline mentioned in her first post on here, and I’ll be travelling to London as the Sainsbury Library’s representative for a conference on website archiving at the start of next month. The team here wanted me to know from day one how important they think it is to support each other and I really feel able to say yes to all sorts of opportunities as they appear. They’re a tight-knit team here and they all work flat-out, but have still found time to make me feel really welcomed. Everyone connected to the traineeship has been friendly and supportive, and it feels like every time I turn a corner I meet another previous trainee who’s found a role with the university. The traineeship alum who started this all for me is still in Oxford and was able to introduce me to plenty of other’s who’ve chosen to stay – some of whom were there to greet this year’s intake at the welcome tour and drinks!

When I was considering a change of role back in late 2018 I wanted to find something that wouldn’t just be a job but a career for me – if there’s anywhere I’m going to find out what life as a librarian is like, I think it’s here.

A few of the tools of the trade, as well as some of my favourite surprises/discoveries so far – a retro version of the orginal economic sci-fi, a great 1970s example of graphic cover design, and a beautiful clothbound copy of a study on the management of US forestry service.

Anastasia & Mary- Social Science Library

Hello!

Our names are Anastasia and Mary and we are the new Graduate Trainees for the Social Science Library (commonly known as the SSL).

Anastasia (right)- I have recently finished my M.Phil in Medieval History at Trinity College Dublin and prior to that I worked in university admin at the University of Exeter and received a BA in History at the University of Nottingham. Whilst I have no previous experience working in a library, I spent hundreds of hours in my university libraries as a student and was a frequent visitor of the library services desk, with my endless questions and obscure book queries. Whilst in Dublin I was fortunate to visit a variety of libraries and archives weekly for seminars and I have volunteered in a number of different archives up and down the country . Being a medieval historian I love old documents, artefacts, pretty buildings, and historical facts, so naturally am very excited to be living in Oxford. I love being in a university environment and am looking forward to the variation that this role will provide, where (hopefully) no one day will be the same.

Mary (left)- As it happens, I also studied history at university and am similarly fascinated by all things historical. It was while studying for my degree that I realised how much I (weirdly) enjoyed searching for resources, both through online library catalogues and physically on library shelves. (Sometimes it does feel like detective work!) My library experience before starting the trainee scheme was purely through voluntary work – whilst at university I volunteered at my local public library, then, after a short work experience placement at the Royal Engineers Museum archive, I volunteered once a week at Canterbury Cathedral library for a year. Although the SSL is very different in terms of the building and its collections, the knowledge and skills I learnt through my various experiences have definitely come in useful. Besides which, I love getting a flavour of each different type of library. I am looking forward to helping readers with their enquiries and welcoming new students when term begins – though maybe once I’ve got my head around the library system myself first!

So far in the first few weeks we have done a variety of library activities – ranging from relabelling and processing new books to scanning chapters for reading lists, and from checking and reprinting library shelf signs to watering the plants and blowing up balloons for  the open day. We have definitely been making the most of the glorious weather, making the most of our lunch breaks to explore the Botanical Gardens and several of the colleges and museums. It has been an enjoyable, but very busy first few weeks, preparing for when the students arrive in 0th week!

Madeleine Ahern – Taylor Institution Library

Hi everybody I’m Madeleine, one of two trainees based this year primarily at the Taylor Institution Library with shifts at the Sackler and Oriental Institute as well. I just graduated this spring with my BA Honours degree in History and Art History from Queen’s University in Canada, and after working in archives and museums previously I am now keen to pursue a career in academic librarianship.

A book from our special collections

 

Being a trainee at the Taylorian has been wonderful so far in part because of the extensive collections it encompasses. The Western and Eastern European languages, Linguistics, Film Studies, and Women’s Studies collections make for not only a fascinating range of library resources here but also some neat research going on at any minute. Most people gravitate towards our beautiful reading room adjacent to the main research collection stacks it seems!

 

The main reading room

 

I am primarily based at the issue desk so far, fielding reader inquiries, doing some book processing, shelving, and most recently preparing for inductions week. A favourite moment of my traineeship so far was when I got to work with Dalí, Matisse, and Picasso prints from the Strachan Artist Book collection all in one afternoon. I am really looking forward to all that is to come this year, in part because of an exciting new Navigation and Wayfinding Project that I am undertaking with my fellow trainee Chloe and a team of librarians across the Taylorian and Sackler to improve reader experience.