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

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