This year’s Graduate Trainee Showcase was held at the Ashmolean’s Headley Lecture Theatre. In previous years, it’s been held in the training rooms at Osney, but the Ashmolean benefitted from being a space specifically designed for conferences, as well as being in a central location, which probably upped the attendance.
Full disclosure, I was one of this year’s organisers, and I’m trying very hard to steer away from being too self-congratulatory, but as far as I’m aware, everything went pretty well on the day, and everyone seemed happy (although that may have been down to the Ashmolean’s excellent catering). We won’t talk about the 15 minutes of pure panic where it looked like the presentation remote I’d brought wasn’t going to connect to the computer. Or the bit where trying to change between presentations caused the entire computer to freeze up for five minutes.
I’m going to put up a separate blog post with summaries of the talks and the text from our keynote speech, so I won’t go into huge amounts of detail about the content of the talks here. You can see from the programme that there were a huge range of subjects covered, and everyone did an excellent job of presenting. Even though I’m nominally doing the same job as all the other trainees, it was really interesting to hear about other people’s experiences in their various libraries. I think that’s one of the best parts of the Oxford traineeship scheme – even though we all have our own library that we work in, there’s plenty of opportunity throughout the year to hear about what life is like in other libraries, which is exactly what you want when you’re considering next steps in an information career.
It was also great to see so many people from throughout the Bodleian there (including some alarmingly senior people!). Despite being very much a newcomer to the information profession, I’ve never been made to feel like I’m the bottom of the hierarchy, or an insignificant part of the great machine that is the Bodleian; instead, everyone I’ve spoken to has been genuinely enthusiastic about and interested in the work I do, and I hope the same has been felt by my fellow trainees. So it was lovely to see so many people come to the Showcase, and especially to see people really engaging with the talks through the question sessions and during the breaks.
The day was organised into four sessions, each made up of three or four ten-minute presentations and a ten-minute question session. From an organiser’s perspective, having that ten-minute question session was immensely useful, as it meant I didn’t have to worry about all the talks running exactly to time – we could just extend or shorten the question session as necessary. I think (I hope!) other people also enjoyed the question sessions, since it gave the day more of a feel of a discussion rather than a series of lectures. We were also lucky enough to have Margaret Watson, Academic Services Librarian at the Bodleian Law Library, deliver a keynote speech on her experiences both as a trainee and as a supervisor of trainees, which was an excellent testimony to the value of the scheme.
The day finished with a well-deserved pizza at the White Rabbit. While I can’t say organising the Showcase was quite the cakewalk I’d optimistically hoped it would be, it was definitely a valuable experience and one that I’ve learnt a lot from.
For anyone thinking of organising next year’s one, here are my top tips:
- Know your deadlines, tell everyone you need something from a date at least a week in advance of the real deadline, and send plenty of reminder emails as that date approaches.
- Wherever possible, build flexibility into your plans. Nothing is ever going to run exactly to time, people are always going to drop out or show up at the last minute, and it’s a lot less stressful if you’ve already taken account of that.
- Make sure everyone involved (trainees, attendees, your fellow organisers) know exactly what you need from them. Also, it’s nice for people facing the nerve-wracking job of giving what’s possibly their first professional presentation to know as much as possible what to expect.
- Don’t get stuck on a train at 11 p.m. the night before the Showcase because the signalling around Clapham Junction is broken. This will exacerbate your stress tenfold. Guess how I know this.