Cycling in Oxford

It is said that when a former Bodley’s Librarian asked a student what they considered essential to navigating Oxford’s libraries, the student responded “a bicycle!” Although it may not have been the response he was hoping for, many trainees past and present have found some truth in this. Cycling can be a great way to speed up your commute, get around the city centre, and explore further afield. However, we know that taking to the road can be an intimidating prospect, so in a sequel of sorts to our recent post on Commuting into Oxford, we have collated our best advice for cycling in Oxford.


Getting a Bike

There are thousands of bikes in Oxford, so if you don’t want to bring one from home, you can easily pick up a good bike for a decent price on Facebook Marketplace or refurbished second-hand bicycles can be purchased from Broken Spoke Bike Co-op, a community benefit society with charitable objectives. A bicycle trading marketplace is also available locally via Oxbike, where you can also rent a second-hand bike for the year.

The University offers staff an interest-free loan to buy a bicycle and all the safety equipment you need, with up to a 12% discount from local retailers. If you do opt for a new bike over a second hand one, it’s worth keeping in mind the very real risk of bicycle theft in the city. There’s more advice on this topic below.   


Storing your Bike

Old bike on Broad Street. Credit: Richard Walker.

It’s a very good idea to find out if your place of work has a secure place for bikes to be kept before you arrive in Oxford (and whether there a safe place to store it at home). Otherwise, you need to be prepared for your bikes (and any stealable parts) to be a target of theft. 

  • Bodleian Staff can apply for a key to the Weston/Clarendon bike shed. This is done through your manager/security. It has time restrictions on access, but better than parking on the street.  Anyone working at the Sackler, Taylor Institution and Nizami Ganjavi Libraries can also have access to the Sackler courtyard for bike storage, which is only accessible via your University Card. 
  • Several colleges offer card-secured bike storage and they may offer bike stickers with unique identifying numbers to students.
  • If your place of work does not offer a secure place to park your bike, you can register to be a member of Westgate Oxford Cycle Hub for free, which is accessed by fob on Old Greyfriars Street (open from 7am-11pm). You will need to register at the information kiosk in the Westgate.


Always try to pass the D lock through the frame and the wheel when you secure it to a bike rack.

Best advice to keep your bike safe:

  • Buy a D-lock and cable that will allow you to lock through both wheels and frame.
  • Remove the quick-release wheel and seat post skewers and replace them with standard or secure skewers.
  • Don’t have a bright, shiny new bike — buy one second-hand or allow bumps, scrapes, and grime to build up on the frame while still being careful to maintain a well-lubricated chain and clean rims and brakes. You can also add tape, paint, and other marks to both make it less attractive and more easily identifiable.
  • Take a photo of your bike and its frame number just in case you ever have to report it missing or stolen. You can also add this information to the Bike Register: The National Cycle Database.
  • Security tags or IDs can be added.
  • Accept it is not a question of if, but when, you will be a victim of theft. Decide about how much you can afford to lose and have enough money set aside for replacement parts/bikes.


Repairing your Bike

bike repair van and bicycle outside department building
The Bike Doctor at the St Cross Buildings (Law Library and English Faculty Library)

The University has teamed up with two local companies – Oxford Mobile Cycle Repairs (OMCR) and Walton Street Cycles (WSC) – to provide staff with a mobile bike repair service for punctures, brakes, cables, gears and lights.

Labour is free for staff (although not for students), as long as you use the bike to travel to and from work or on University business. You must also show your University card when using the service and will need to leave a mobile number, so the mechanic can contact you when the bike is ready to collect. You will have to pay at the point of service for any parts your bike needs, but your mechanic will give you a quote before undertaking any work. 

A mobile mechanic is first-come-first-serve, so it is best to arrive early. The mobile mechanics may also leave early if they don’t have customers so it’s best to go before work and keep your phone handy in case they send you a message requesting the bike is collected. If you explain to your supervisor, they should allow you to drop off your bike in the morning and the mechanic can let you know by phone when they are finished with your bike. The mechanics may also offer to move the bike back to their shop in case you can’t pick it up when they move on. You can see a list of when the mobile bike mechanic has their drop in on the University site.

Remember: keeping your bike in good working order is important, especially if it is your primary mode of transport. A little bit of self-maintenance can go a long way. Get into the habit of checking your tyres are pumped at a high enough pressure (and within the limits they are designed for) and free from nicks and debris to avoid punctures; clean your wheel rims and make sure your brakes are also clean and provide sufficient stopping power; lubricate your chain regularly to keep it free from rust (and your lock too); and have any potential/minor issues with the frame, gears and other moving parts checked by a mechanic before they become a bigger problem and more expensive to fix. 


Cycling Safely

Cyclists on Catte Street. Credit: Tejvan Pettinger

With so many cars, other cyclists and tourists on the roads in Oxford, it is important that you know how to ride defensively and know the roads you commute on regularly. For example, know where pedestrians fail to pay attention, the blind spots at junctions, how to get safely to the front of traffic at lights and where the bike lanes end. You have to make yourself visible and be prepared to take up space on the road so drivers will not take chances. If you want to improve your confidence on the roads, Broken Spoke gives Oxford Uni staff up to 6 hours of free bike training for all different levels (just choose ‘Paid for by the University of Oxford’ on the booking form).


Best advice to keep yourself safe:

  • Oxford’s roads are busy, especially at rush hour, so plan a safe route to work. You can plan a quiet cycle route on the University cycling page, or use the Oxford Cycle Map. Not only is it safer, but a much calmer way to get to work!
  • Make yourself visible. During Michaelmas and the beginning of Hilary term, it will be dark by the time you finish work – especially if you work until 6.30pm in term-time like the All Souls College trainee! Reflective jackets, such as these, are effective at making sure you are visible to drivers and being so shiny helps prevent buses from tailgating you at junctions.
  • You can buy discounted bike lights and locks through the University online store (and have them delivered to your place of work/college for free using the internal mail). Police will often be on the lookout for cyclists without lights during the switch over to daylight savings time in Michaelmas term and will issue fines on the spot if you do not have lights. 
  • Have a bell on your bike to alert pedestrians and other road users  – and don’t be shy about using it. 


Enjoy cycling in Oxford!

Isis Farmhouse by the river towpath. Credit: Steve Daniels

Don’t feel too intimidated! It is good to be cautious but there are many lovely routes around Oxford – cycling along the riverside to the Isis Farmhouse pub can be one of the greatest pleasures of a sunny afternoon. Cycling can also be a quick and scenic way to get to library training at Osney, along the Thames towpath or through Grandpont Nature Park. Have a look at our post about Things to Do and Places to See in Oxford, and we’ll see you at the Handlebar Café!

Things to Do and Places to See!

Quite a lot of graduate trainees end up relocating to Oxford for the job. It can be quite lonely moving to a new city – your old friends/family might be far away, you don’t know anyone local and you may struggle with living alone. Despite this, Oxford is a lovely place and definitely worth making the most of while you’re here! Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas of where to start out exploring. Many of the places you can enjoy in your own company, and some are free of charge. And to those who already know Oxford, this might just introduce you to some new places, or give you that push to check out somewhere you’ve been meaning to go for ages.


Town Entertainment

The board from a boardgame with a variety of drinks around it, as well as counters, cards, a small black teapot and the corner of someone's sandwich.
Board games and drinks at Thirsty Meeples! (photo credit: Georgina Moore)

Thirsty Meeples – roll a dice at Thirsty Meeples on Gloucester Green, a relaxed and fun board game café for new players and long-term fans. The friendly team are always on hand with recommendations in case choosing between the thousand games gets overwhelming. You book a three hour slot online, then pay a cover charge (currently £6/per adult if you order some food or drink, or £7.50 for just gaming). Then for those three hours, you can play as many games as you like! Have a sweet Oxford Fog latte in the afternoon or a cheeky cocktail on Friday night (or vice versa, I’m not one to judge).  They also serve sandwiches, snacks, and cakes, and offer an impressive tea selection. One final thing: the board games have SHELF MARKS. You can even get your shelf-organisation fix on the weekends… they don’t call it their ‘board game library’ for nothing (written by: Georgina Moore, 2021/2022 Graduate Trainee).

Cowley Road Charity Shop – Cowley has a reputation as the ‘student area’ of Oxford – its bustling main road is full of fun independent shops and eateries. For those wanting a break from typical high-street fashion brands, we recommend the charity and vintage shops that can be found here.

Hinksey Pool – a lovely open-air swimming pool located next to Hinksey Park. Tickets can be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis, or you can sign up for membership. A nice way to cool off after work on a warm day.

The Covered Market – dating back to the 1770s, this historic building holds an array of independent craft shops, food stalls, a florist and many cafés. A firm favourite of the trainees and the Oxford student population is Moo Moo’s Milkshakes, a family-run milkshake stall offering a range of flavours to enjoy separately or experimentally combine…

G&Ds – the G&D ice cream cafés are a great place to meet up with other trainees at the end of the working day. They are renowned for their delicious ice cream but also serve coffee, bagels, waffles and other deserts. There are currently three located around Oxford: George & Danver on St Aldates, George & Davis on Little Clarendon Street and George & Delila on Cowley Road. The music is great too, as long as you’re a fan of the old classics like ABBA!

St Mary the Virgin Tower, University Church – University Church played a very important role in the University’s administration around a thousand years ago. It even served as the first library before Duke Humphries was built! Today, it is a beautiful historic building in which to worship or rest and reflect. For £5 you can climb the tower (the oldest part of the church) and see some amazing views over Oxford. The Old Congregation House attached also holds a café with indoor and outdoor seating.

Oxford Castle and Prison – the tour costs around £15 and involves a lot of stairs, but lasts about an hour and is a great insight into some local history, with excellent views from the top of the tower if you go on a clear day! Would recommend for entertaining guests who like history but are unimpressed by libraries (written by: Josie Fairley Keast, 2021/22 Graduate Library Trainee).


Theatre and Cinema

The red entrance sign of the 'Old Fire Station', which sticks out over the street. The entrance is made from over stone and the words 'corn exchange' are above the red doors, showing the building's historical function.
The Old Fire Station entrance on George Street

Ultimate Picture Palace – a wonderful independent cinema on Cowley Road which showcases a range of independent (sometimes quirky!) films. The bar serves ice cream from the trainee’s favourite G&Ds ice cream parlour and under 26’s can sign up for the Five Pound Film Pass, which reduces ticket prices to just £5!

The Playhouse, New Theatre, The North Wall – The New Theatre on George Street and The Oxford Playhouse (opposite the Ashmolean on Beaumont Street)  are considered Oxford’s main commercial theatres and play host to the UKs most popular plays, musicals and theatricals. Father out in Summertown and on a more intimate scale, The North Wall Arts Centre provides classes, exhibitions, gigs, comedy nights and family events. It also supports young and/or emerging writers and performers.

The Old Fire Station – located on George Street, this arts centre is an affordable, community-rooted alternative to the New Theatre. The Old Fire Station is home to two charity organisations: the homelessness charity ‘Crisis’ and ‘Arts at the Old Fire Station’ (AOFS), which aims to involve people of all backgrounds in the performing arts. They offer standard price tickets for £13 as well a ‘pay less’ and ‘pay more’ option, the idea being that the ‘pay more’ ticket holders will cover the difference for those who can’t afford standard prices. The atmosphere is very warm, fun and inclusive, and many performers hang around for a chat in the foyer after the show!


Free Entertainment

Oxfordshire County Library – located near the entrance to Westgate shopping centre, this public library is a warm friendly space with all the sections you could want, including literature, fiction, history, local history, nature and poetry. A borrowing card is free and also gives you access to the library’s computers (including internet).

A texidermy albatross in a glass and wooden case standing on the stone-flagged floor of the Museum of Natural History.
Albatross at the Oxford Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History – although taxidermy might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the Natural History Museum uses it for educational purposes to bring to life a whole array of creatures. My personal favourite is the albatross – he is enormous! What is particularly great about this museum is that it all fits in one big room: no risk of walking in an overwhelmed daze over endless different floors, ending up exhausted by the end of the day…It is also nice to see that everyone gets the same irresistible urge to put their head between the jaws of the T-Rex skeleton! There are plenty of interactive exhibits for children, as well as a gift shop and a coffee stand outside. The Pitt Rivers Museum of archaeology and anthropology is also located just behind the Natural History Museum, crammed to the ceiling with fascinating artefacts.

Evensong – the majority of colleges hold an Evensong service on a Sunday afternoon/evening. Some colleges with bigger choral traditions will have services in the week as well.  Keble, Queens, Merton, Magdalen, New, and Christchurch choirs are all recommended. The services are free, open to anyone, and require little audience participation compared to other types of service such as Communion. It’s a great way to hear good choirs for free and experience a nice space for calm and reflection.

Oxford Botanical Gardens – thought to be Britain’s oldest botanical gardens, the Oxford Botanical Gardens were founded in 1621 to supply the University’s medical students with useful herbs and plants. In the Walled Garden section, you can see the layout of the beds in methodical rows reflects this past. It is a lovely space to relax with a book or study the different plants and their purposes. Or you might want to explore the different hothouses, which include the ‘Rainforest House’ (featuring the pineapple plant!), the ‘Water Lily House’ and the ‘Conservatory’. Several literary sculptures lurk in the gardens for you to find, including the famous Cheshire Cat and a daemon from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. There is even a ‘Lyra’s Bench’, which Pullman used as the setting of Will and Lyra’s first meeting.  Entrance is free with your Univ/Bod card!

The Headington Shark – a (very unique) art installation in the Headington area, not far from the Oxford Brookes library. There are also some nice places to eat and several charity shops nearby, if you wanted to make an afternoon of it (written by: Josie Fairley Keast, 2021/22 Graduate Library Trainee).


Nature Spots

Brown and white cat sleeping beside a potted plant on the roof of a dark pink, light pink and yellow coloured canal boat, with green foliage behind.
Cat sleeping on the roof of a canal boat (photo credit: Georgina Moore)

The Thames Towpaths – the Thames Towpath runs between Foley Bridge and the West Oxford area of Osney (where many of the graduate trainee training sessions take place), right through to Portland Meadow and beyond. There is also a towpath from central Oxford out to Jericho, which almost reaches Summertown. These paths are great for spotting the local water-loving wildlife, such as shoals of spawning fish and plenty of geese and ducks/ducklings in spring! My favourite spots to date are a black kingfisher near Portland Meadow and Eddie the Osney Heron (who has his own Facebook page). Portland Meadow is even a popular spot to swim if you’re feeling brave enough!

An iron fence in the foreground enclosing a green meadow, with black and white cows grazing on bright green grass. The sky above is blue with wispy clouds, and there is a belt of green trees behind.
Cows in Christchurch Meadow

Christchurch Meadow – a big green space right in the centre of Oxford, sometimes home to rare English Longhorn cows… The path takes you down to the Thames (where you will often see row teams practicing on the water), and then you can choose whether to loop back along the Cherwell or carry on to the University boathouses. Make sure you are aware of the opening closing times though, or you may get locked in!

University Parks – located conveniently in Central Oxford, these Parks hold a number of sports grounds as well various nature trails, such as the Oak and Thorn walks or along the River Cherwell. The Parks’ website features a helpful map of these routes, as well as a guide on the different types of trees found along them.

An expansive green park in the foreground with a view of the Oxford towers in the distance. A person stands by fencing on the right hand side, and trees frame both sides of the photograph.
Oxford at sunset from South Park (photo credit: Isabel Salter, 2021/22 Graduate Trainee)

For example, the Oak Walk features a Tibetan Whitebeam tree which blooms with tiny white flowers in late spring. The South Walk also takes you past the ‘Genetic Garden’, dedicated to genetics researcher Professor Cyril Dean Darlington. Darlington first established the garden in 1964 to showcase the evolutionary spectacle of plants, and many of the original specimens are still there.

South Park – for trainees living in Cowley, South Park might be a closer alternative than University Parks for getting out into some green space. It consists of 50 acres of parkland and offers some lovely views over Oxford, which allowed one of this year’s trainee cohort to get an excellent shot of Oxford at sunset…

Commuting into Oxford: A Whistle-stop Tour

My fellow trainees have done an excellent job of offering advice for living in Oxford, but there are a small number of trainees most years who take the opportunity of commuting into the city, rather than moving. There are lots of reasons to do this – prior commitments, domestic responsibilities, and most often saving money (Oxford rent is known for being steep). Regardless of your reasons, here’s a crib-sheet of ways to get in and out of the city on a daily basis, followed by a few tips for surviving a long commute.

Oxford Commutes


There are lots of bus routes in and out of the city, and keeping track of them can be a little complicated when they come from different providers. Most of the major towns surrounding Oxford are well connected into the city via frequent buses, and lots of the villages have routes that serve them too (though this can be more infrequent, depending on location). Abingdon in the South, for example, is served by the X1 Connector, X2 Connector, X3 City, and 35 City, among others. In the other direction, Kidlington in the North has the 2, 2A, 7 gold, and s4 gold.

If you’re going to be looking at getting the bus every day, it’s worth investing in a bus pass. Prices will vary depending on the route you travel and the provider, but in most cases an annual bus pass (for a year-long position like the traineeship) will save you a lot of money if you can afford to pay the lump sum in advance. It’s also worth noting that Oxford University offers a 10% discount on bus passes for the Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, and Stagecoach (depending on your route and the duration of your bus pass). This university also offers an interest free-loan to help you afford the advance lump sum of an annual bus pass (even for those whose routes or travel providers are not covered by the bus pass scheme). The university pays up front, and the cost is deducted monthly from your salary.


The University makes some accommodations for those who wish to drive into work. Blue Badge holders are entitled to parking permits allowing them to use disabled parking spaces close to their workplace, and there are some electric car charging points available on the Old Road Campus. Beyond this, staff can apply for a parking permit for spaces within the university. Prices vary by zones and usage, but for full-time staff who regularly park on central sites, the cost amounts to “1.75% of salary per annum for fixed days (pro-rata) + £4.80 per day for uncovered days”. It’s worth noting that there is no guarantee that an application will be approved, and I’ve been told that this process can take a while. It’s also worth noting that colleges will have their own rules about on-site parking.

For those who need to travel by car but can’t get a parking permit (or who don’t want the fuss of figuring it out, or driving in city centre traffic), I’d recommend looking into Oxford Park and Ride. This is a simple service where you can park your car in a car park on the outskirts of the city, and then catch a frequent bus into the city centre. Park and Ride car parks for the city centre are available to the North (Pear Tree), South (Redbridge), East (Thornhill), and West (Seacourt). An annual parking permit will cost £300, and will allow you to park in any of the P&R car parks as much as you want. Bus passes are purchased separately, and are available through the buss pass scheme outlined above (£377 a year).

I’m going to throw in another (slightly out there!) option for drivers. If you need a car to get to the outskirts of the city, but don’t want to fork out the extra £377 for a bus pass (or if you fancy the extra exercise!) – have you considered parking and biking? The P&R Car Parks are all within reasonable cycling distance of the city centre and most contain bike racks and/or shelters. Also, the university offers a number of incentives for cyclists; including a loan scheme to buy a bicycle and associated equipment, and a bicycle repair scheme to keep your bike in good working order. This scheme is available to all cyclists, regardless of where they’re biking from.


For those slightly further afield, trains may be a preferable method for getting in to work. You can easily catch trains to Oxford from places like Banbury, Didcot, or Reading with providers such as Great Western Railway and CrossCountry. Much like the buss pass scheme, the university also offers a train pass scheme. To quote, this offers “a 5% discount for stations between Reading and Oxford (except for journeys starting at Reading and Didcot stations where an 8% discount is available) and a 5% discount for stations between Banbury and Oxford.” For staff members who don’t meet the criteria outlined above, there is still the interest-free loan available for trains as well as buses.

Oxford train station is within walking distance of most university and college libraries. If your route ends up taking you to Oxford Parkway instead, there are connecting buses that can take you into the city centre.

How to Survive Commuting

Despite the money that gets saved, it’s no secret that commuting can be tiresome, or that it can feel like a big chunk of your day is spent in a transport limbo. Here’s a few tips from current commuting trainees on how to get the best out of your daily travel.

  • Make the commute your time, not work time: Obviously, this is time that you use to get to work, but there are ways that you can make this time your own. If you’re sitting on a bus or a train, use the time to read a book, sketch, play a video game, or whatever activity brings you a little bit of joy. It’s very easy to fill this time with doom-scrolling the news – try to keep it a little more pleasurable for yourself. Even if you’re driving a car, listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks can help you look forward to that time. I’d especially recommend singing along loudly and terribly to whatever music you’re currently obsessed with.
  • For the drivers: Get to sleep in good time: For obvious reasons, you don’t want to be overtired while you’re driving (especially if you have to get up early). Get your sleep, and get your morning cup of tea/coffee if you find that helps!
  • Be prepared for bad weather: This is especially applicable for cyclists, but keeping a spare set of clothes to change into when you arrive at work will be a big help. If you’re driving before you change over to a bus/bike, keeping a variety of coats and scarves in your boot can prove a saving grace if the weather changes suddenly.
  • Take care of your transport: Keep your bike safe and in good working order – you can find some tips on how to do this and some support services through the Bike Doctor. It’s also worth carrying a spare tyre pump and bike lock key just in case! The same goes for cars – MOTs and servicing are a legal requirement, but it’s also worth remembering to perform monthly checks on your tyre pressure and oil level, as well as keeping that washer fluid topped-up. Car problems will make your commute very difficult, so it’s worth keeping things in line for your own peace of mind.
  • Make your social life work with you: Obviously, a big appeal of the trainee program is the cohort: a group of like-minded folks who you’ll inevitably want to spend time with outside of work. Where possible, make time to spend with them (or anyone else in the city!) around your work day – go out for drinks/dinner after work some nights, spend your breaks together drinking coffee and eating doughnuts, or even meet up for lunch. There are ways that you can build your social life around your pre-existing presence in the city, to save you adding extra travel time into your weekends/evenings.
  • And finally, give yourself an out: This may sound like a strange one, but I think it’s worth saying. Your commute doesn’t have to be a permanent commitment. The graduate trainee posts are one year posts (usually) and bus passes or parking permits are purchased (at most) on an annual basis. You can look at that year as a trial period. If you decide after the year that you want to keep working in Oxford, then you have a good chance to re-evaluate your options in terms of your commute. Are you happy doing that commute in the long term? If you’re not, can you consider moving closer to the city? Or changing your method of commuting? If the answer to all these questions is no, what librarianship opportunities can you find closer to home? Keeping your options open can help you to avoid getting stuck in a bad routine.

Ask a Trainee: Applying for the Traineeship FAQs

Applications to be a Bodleian Libraries Graduate Trainee Library Assistant for 2022/23 are closing soon. Here are some answers from the current year’s library trainees to frequently asked questions about Applications and about the Traineeship.


FAQs about Applications 

Do I need loads of experience in libraries before applying? What sort of experience is suitable? 

As long as you can prove an interest in library work, extensive experience is not required. Being able to link the experience you have developed in past roles to key skills that are necessary in the library is an excellent way to prove your value with limited library work. 

Sainsbury Library enquiry desk — Customer service is valuable experience when applying for library roles

My only library experience was doing shelving in my university library before applying. What I did have was several previous part-time retail jobs that had experience I could draw on to answer interview questions. I wouldn’t worry about having extensive library experience before, any work experience is relevant and helpful! — Bodleian Law Library Trainee (Information Resources)

What might I be expected to know about libraries and information services?

It is more important to show an enthusiasm for working in libraries. And, although not required, an understanding of how to search databases and find academic resources would be beneficial. This could be a skill you have developed during your undergraduate degree, so don’t worry if you don’t have any professional experience.

If you currently have access to an academic or public library, I’d recommend speaking to the librarians and finding out more about the resources and other facilities they offer — there’s often more available than you might realise!

It is advantageous to have experience of library search tools, but this can be from your own university or local library. Oxford uses SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online). I had a play with it, so I was familiar with the system before my interview. — All Souls College Library Trainee

Do I need to already live in Oxford?

Not at all! Many of the trainees this year did not live in Oxford and several of them had never lived in Oxford before the traineeship. This year, there was even a group of trainees who moved to Oxford together and formed their own ‘Trainee House’. We have made a new page about Living in Oxford for more advice.

Not living in Oxford before or even during the traineeship is not a problem. Good public transport links (trains, buses, and a Park and Ride service) make it easy to get in and out of the city on a daily basis. I do this every day across county borders! — English Faculty Library Trainee

I wasn’t a student at Oxford. Does that put me at a disadvantage?

Absolutely not! Most of the trainees this year do not have a background with Oxford University and had not used Bodleian Libraries as a reader. Experience of Oxford University or Bodleian Libraries are not prerequisites and will not influence hiring decisions.


Can I apply if I graduated a while ago?

Of course! Some trainees in this year’s cohort applied whilst at university, but many others graduated several years ago. You do not have to apply directly after your graduation; the traineeship is also open to those considering a career change into libraries and information services too.

Absolutely! I graduated from my BA in 2018 and didn’t apply to the traineeship until 2021. After graduation, I spent two years living in London and working for an agency specialising in education. I had no idea I was interested in working libraries! The work as a trainee is really varied, so you learn a lot, whether you’ve just finished studying or have been working out of academic settings for a while. — St Edmund Hall Library Trainee

I already have an MA/MSc. Can I still apply?

Many of the trainees for 2021-22 already have an MA, MSc, or higher-level degrees. This is not a barrier to employment on this programme. However, the post is not suitable for anyone who already has an MA/MSc in Library Information Services/Information Management or equivalent.


Can I apply if I have already done a library traineeship or a library degree?

Unfortunately, no. These positions are intended for individuals who are keen to pursue a career in librarianship but would like a practical foundation in core librarianship skills at an academic institute, prior to potentially undertaking a library degree.


FAQs about the Traineeship 

What do you do day-to-day as a library trainee?

This can vary library-to-library but all the trainees from this year will be posting A Day In The Life piece in the following months, so stay tuned!


What do the training sessions involve?

Training sessions cover a variety of topics, all aimed at helping you to gain skills in core librarianship skills and expand your knowledge of the various roles within libraries. During the training year, each of us will complete a Trainee Project, which we present in a Trainee Showcase at the end of the year.

In general, we have training sessions on Wednesday afternoons; these have varied from library and special collection visits, cataloguing software training, and talks from library professionals. You can read about some of our training sessions on the blog, including our recent trips to the Book Storage Facility in Swindon and the Weston Library’s Special Collections.


Are there opportunities to pursue specific interests as part of the traineeship?

Of course! If there is an area you would like to learn more about, you can always speak to your manager, who can help you set up an informational interview with a relevant department or help you to organise shadowing.

All trainees undertake a project, usually in the spring/summer. This provides an opportunity for you to develop your knowledge in a specific area and make an individual contribution to your library. Examples of former trainee projects – from curated exhibitions to ethical classification projects – can be found on the blog.


Are there any significant differences between Bodleian and college trainee positions?

It’s difficult to apply general rules to this, as every college functions in its own way, and even different libraries within the Bodleian have variations in everything from duties to hours to team sizes. Each role is unique. You can read about daily library life at the different libraries on the blog.

Old Bodleian Library enquiry desks — reader services involves more interaction with readers

Whether you are in a college library or a Bodleian Library, you will not be missing out. Trainees visit some of the Bodleian libraries and college libraries during the training sessions, so you will have the opportunity to have an overview of the other trainees’ experience. In previous years, some trainees have organised ‘shadowing days’ in other trainees’ libraries.

You will be working as part of a larger organisational structure, in the Bodleian Libraries, and there may be the opportunity to work in different libraries for some roles. Bodleian Libraries positions are in one or more subject-specific libraries, so you’ll get some experience dealing with a very particular range of resources, while college libraries have a bit of everything, and handle things like acquisitions in a less centralised way. In my experience, you aren’t expected to have any prior knowledge of the area you end up in – my background is in medieval literature. — Bodleian Law Library / Sainsbury Business Library

College libraries, in general, have smaller teams. This means that you get to do a bit of everything. Many colleges have their own special collections, so you may have the opportunity to gain specialist experience with preservation and curating. You may be able to have some experience of being part of an Oxford college, but this varies college to college. Generally, you get free lunch, which is always a plus. Colleges are less busy out of term time in terms of customer interaction and some close during the vacations. — All Souls College Trainee


What happens after the traineeship?

If you are keen to pursue a career in librarianship, one option would be to apply for a place on a Masters in Librarianship/Information Management, though this is by no means necessary at the beginning of your career. You will hear more about the different MA/MSc courses during your training sessions so you can decided what is best for you. Alternatively, you can take the experience gained and apply for a position in a library, such as a Library Assistant role.


Any final bits of advice?

If this role sounds at all appealing to you, it is worth applying for.

Being a librarian isn’t just for people who studied English! Our trainee group this year come from a wide variety of subjects, including Medicine, Law, Politics, and Music.

There is more information about the Bodleian Libraries Graduate Training Scheme on the Bodleian Libraries website.


These are answers written by the current years’ trainees themselves to FAQs we have been messaged, or which had ourselves when applying and are subjective to trainees’ individual experience. You can read the Bodleian Libraries’ answers to FAQs about the Traineeship on the Bodleian Libraries website.