David Phillips, Bodleian Social Science Library

Hi, I’m David and this is my overdue introduction.

I am one of two trainees at the Bodleian Social Science library (SSL). The SSL occupies the first storey of the Manor Road Building (pictured below) and opened in 2004, unifying a collection of smaller social science subject libraries around Oxford. It is a modern, accessible, Green Impact Award winning lending library. It may not have splendorous architecture draped in 16th Century tapestries or keep maps of Middle-earth, but it does boast the largest refugee studies collection in the world and is the main research centre for social scientists.

Bodleian Social Science Library
An Autumnal Shot of Manor Road Building
Comfy Seating Area
Comfortable Seating (& Penguins) at the SSL

My role at the SSL covers a catalogue of “technical services” tasks such as book processing, assessment and repair, “reader services” tasks like mailbox monitoring,  post filtering and contributing social media content  (check out our twitter feed) and serial Issue Desk duty. I also had the opportunity to lead library induction tours during 0th Week.


Book Repairs at the SSL
Book Repairs at the SSL

My time at the SSL is supplemented by awe-inspiring tours and informative training courses on everything from conservation to cataloguing to customer care, during which I have the opportunity to meet up with my fellow trainees.

A bit about me. I graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws in International Criminal Justice. After a brief sojourn as a legal assistant in local government, I fell into IT for a few years in Information and Knowledge Management. I could not envisage being confined to a long-term career in IT and wanted to apply my experience in Knowledge Management to an academic/learning environment with the possible aim of becoming a legal librarian – hence the library traineeship. Plus both my parents were librarians so it’s probably ingrained in my blood!

The traineeship has so far served as a novel insight into librarianship (and potentially a platform for a library related career) for which I feel privileged to have been selected. I look forward to what the next chapter holds.

Book hospital: repairs at the Social Science Library – Tom Dale

The SSL is a busy library. We have around 370,000 books, hundreds of which circulate every day. The more a book is used the more damaged and dog-eared it becomes: pages fall out, pages tear, spines tear, text blocks come loose, hinges detach, covers fall off…. Students pass on their wisdom to their peers in pencil, pen and highlighter (e.g. “Lol!!!”). Sometimes our books are used to mop up coffee or squash insects. We once found some banana peel gluing two pages together. We’ve seen it all.

Graf2Every single line in this entire book has been underlined.

We have strict rules governing what we repair in-house and what we send to the Conservation team. We do not touch Legal Deposit items or items which are rare, old or hard to replace. Books which are heavily used or on reading lists are usually either sent to the bindery or replaced. But even after sending those items away, we are left with a heavy load of books to repair ourselves. Our repairs are pragmatic, designed to squeeze another few months or years out of a book before it needs to be replaced. It doesn’t have to be beautiful; it just has to work.

In this post I’m going to take you through my repair of one of our books. In an ideal world we would send all of our damaged books to the team of expert conservators I wrote about in my last post, but we have too many books needing attention. I’m quite glad of that, as book repair is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying parts of my job.

book repair

This book is in a bad way. The front hinge has come loose, tearing one of the pages. The repair will involve three steps: repairing the hinge, repairing the tear and strengthening the hinge.

I started by examining the book to check for any other damage and to make sure that its structure was generally sound. There is no point in carrying out a repair if the book won’t be able to return to the shelves afterwards. Satisfied that I could get this book back into usable condition, I attached some linen hinging tape to the text block.  I folded the tape in half and attached it with the hinge facing out, which allows the spine to flex in order to accommodate the opening and closing of the book. I applied a small amount of glue to hold the ends of the tape together before pressing the spine against the tape and smoothing it together from the outside.

I repaired the tear using Hayaku paper, an acid-free tape with a water-activated adhesive. I cut enough to cover the tear and moistened it with a paint brush. When dry, it forms a bridge between the two sides, holding them together.

Finally, I attached linen hinging tape to further strengthen the hinge.

The book is now back out on the shelves. Although it’s not as good as new, it’s good enough to last a while longer. Perhaps next time it gets damaged we’ll have to send it to the great library in the sky, but for now it’ll live to be read another day.

Thanks to Clare Hunter for taking the videos.

Tom Dale, Social Science Library

Hi all, I’m Tom, one of the new trainees in the Social Science Library (Clare, my fellow trainee, will introduce herself soon).

library entrance 20140216

I’ve held part-time positions in seven Bodleian Libraries over the last 18 months, and I’m delighted to finally have one job in one library (the life of an itinerant library assistant is a tiring one). My aim throughout my first year with the Bod was to get onto the trainee scheme. Now I’m on it, my aim is to learn as much as possible.

The SSL is the largest lending library in Oxford and serves a diverse group of readers. The ethos is user-centric – we are here to satisfy the information needs of social scientists, PPE students, characterful members of the public and anyone else who walks through our door. There is always a lot to do, from the short-term – staffing the issue desk, sorting the post, processing books to go out onto the shelves – to longer-term projects. The SSL relies heavily on its trainees, so we have been on a steep learning curve. This keeps the job challenging and rewarding.


Whenever I enter a library for the first time I ask myself the same question: what’s weird about it? There’s always something. Every library is distinctive in its approach, collection, reader base and atmosphere.

The SSL is weird in its normality. Some Oxford libraries reside in ancient labyrinthine buildings, use arcane classification systems and seem to be open to just a few select acolytes. The SSL is housed on one floor of a bright new building, uses a simple and common classification system and is open to most people who have an interest in using it. It feels more like an efficient modern business than part of a centuries-old organisation.

As noted above, our role is diverse. I am particularly interested in the technical services aspect of it, but I’m pleased to be doing a bit of everything. After this year I hope to continue working for the Bodleian while doing an MSc in Information Science. Beyond that, who knows? This job is preparing us for an array of potential career paths. The future’s bright! The present is book processing.

Rebecca Wray, Social Science Library

Hello my name is Rebecca and I’m one of the new trainees at the Social Science Library (SSL). This is only my third week on the job as I joined the scheme a bit later than everyone else because sadly, another trainee had to leave the scheme. I’m from Bath originally and I graduated from Oxford Brookes University in Psychology in June. Before starting at the SSL I had been working in the Oxford Brookes libraries as a Communication Intern.

Bodleian Social Science Library

The Bodleian Social Science Library

You could say that choosing librarianship has a genetic factor in my case. My Mum is a Librarian and her parents met at library school in Birmingham.  But I didn’t seriously consider the career until the realisation at university that I had become the go-to person in my circle of friends for finding obscure journal articles and referencing questions. Through various jobs at university I’d always liked helping people so working in libraries seemed like a good choice (much to the delight/horror of my Mum!).

My first two weeks in the SSL have been quite intense, with lots of training to catch up on.  The SSL is a very busy library that offers a lot of services to readers so most of the training so far has been getting me set up to work on the issue desk. Thankfully as its the vacation period at the moment my first few stints have been fairly gentle!

Other than working on the Issue Desk myself and the other lovely SSL trainee Ceri deal with other Reader Services (front of house) type tasks like answering emails, dealing with books that have been returned to the wrong library, looking after the library’s social media accounts and hunting down missing books. After Christmas I’ll be trained on the Technical Services side of things, like repairing and processing books.

Last week we also had the added challenge of putting Christmas decorations up in and around the library.  The garland mysteriously got quite a lot of attention on Twitter!

The (slightly wonky) SSL Christmas garland

So far it’s been a little bit overwhelming as there are lots of new things to learn but I’m really enjoying it. I am looking forward to things getting more familiar though, so I don’t have to bombard Ceri with so many questions!

Organising the Trainee Showcase, Anja Badock

Each year the traineeship at Oxford ends with a Showcase where all of the trainees have the opportunity to speak about their experience as a trainee at their library. This can be about a particular project they have been involved in or more generally about what they have learnt and enjoyed about the year.

This year I organised the Showcase along with Emily Delahaye from the Sainsbury Library. I must admit to having been a little nervous when I heard I would be expected to present in front of an audience as I’m sure were many of my peers. This is why when an email was circulated asking for volunteers to organise the event I decided to get involved.  Not only would it be a good chance to gain experience of organising an event (which is something I had never done before), but I figured that by being involved in the planning stages I would feel more confident on the day. I am pleased to say that I think my theory worked. I still felt a bit nervous when I stepped up to present, but I came away from the day feeling really proud of myself and I know that when I need to present in front of a large group again in the future, it will seem less intimidating.

Bodleian Social Science Library
Bodleian Social Science Library

Getting Started

I could talk for much longer about my experience of presenting, but I really want to talk to you about my experience of organising the Trainee Showcase. Knowing where to begin when we first started organising the event was quite daunting. We were lucky, however, to have the assistance of Tamsyn from the Staff Development department who explained how the Showcase has worked in previous years and helped us get a sense of the different tasks we would be responsible for organising.

Once we had a general impression about what the Showcase entailed, we started out by agreeing upon a few key things:

–          What we needed to do

–          Who would do what

–          When things needed to be completed

Making these decisions straight away made the rest of the process run very smoothly. By dividing up responsibilities we were able to share the workload so that the Showcase didn’t take too much time away from our normal jobs. We also made sure to start things off as early as possible so that we wouldn’t be rushing to get everything ready at the last minute. This also had the added bonus that if something unexpected happened (such as Emily or I became ill) we would still have time to get everything ready.

What did I do?

  1. Contacting Trainees

We started off by emailing all of the trainees to give them a basic idea of what the Showcase would be like. Once we had given everyone a chance to think about what they would like to present about, we then contacted the trainees again to ask them for the following information:

–          Whether they would be able to attend the Showcase

–          What they planned to present about

–          A short biography of themselves

–          Any dietary requirements for the buffet lunch

The main reason we needed this information was to help us produce a programme of the day that could be sent out to everyone we planned to invite. Knowing how many trainees would be speaking would help us divide up the day evenly and we wanted to add as much detail as possible about each trainee and what they would be speaking about to help our invitees decide which part of the day to come along for if they were unable to attend the entire event.

I created a spreadsheet to record attendance and dietary information and I saved each trainees biographies and presentation information in a folder. This made the information easily accessible when it was needed.

Image - mouse

  1. Sending  Invitations

When we had received everything we needed from the trainees we could start creating the programme to be sent out with our invitations. It was quite easy to put the programme together, but it was more difficult to decide on timings. There were a few keys parts of the day that couldn’t be too massively altered such as lunchtime (no one wants lunch at 11.15am), but we were also restricted by the start time as well as the number of trainees we had presenting. After some work, we managed to timetable the day quite well.

Next was to send out invitations. The trainees’ Supervisors were all invited as well as everyone who had spoken to us or trained us over the year. Due the fantastic and varied training programme offered as part of the Oxford traineeship this was a very large list of people! As with receiving details from the trainees, we needed a central location to record responses. To make this easier, I asked all those invited to contact me and I created a spreadsheet to record who would be attending and whether they had any dietary requirements.

  1. Organising Catering

We decided to offer a buffet lunch which would allow everyone in attendance to get a chance to circulate and chat with each other. We were conscious that this could be a good opportunity to people to ask questions and share feedback about the presentations we had seen so far.

Using the spreadsheets I created for recording attendance made organising the catering very straightforward. I could easily calculate how many people would require lunch as well as pass on dietary information.

This information had to be passed on to the caterers at least a week before the event which was made easy by the fact that we had contacted the trainees and sent out invitations quite a long time in advance.

 Key Skills

Obviously the main skill needed for running the Showcase was organisation. Emily and I spent time at the start planning what exactly needed to be done and we were able to reach our objectives through good time management.

Looking back at the organisation Emily and I did for the Showcase has made me realise that it was not just all about planning, but communication was also actually a big element. We needed to be able to communicate with each other so that we didn’t become confused or disorganised. We also needed to communicate with our fellow trainees, with those who were invited to the Showcase and with many other people. In these instances, we always tried our best to be friendly and approachable as well as to make our messages clear and informative so that everyone knew what was happening.Image - computer

Another common theme was being able to record information accurately and efficiently. It would have been a real challenge to plan the timings of presentations or know how many chairs to place out in the room if we hadn’t recorded people’s replies clearly.

How do I think it went?

I really enjoyed organising the Trainee Showcase because it taught me a lot about how to plan an event and it has shown me that I am very good at managing my time and strategizing. I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to work closely with Emily which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise because we work in different libraries.

The day itself was a little nerve-wracking, but thanks to the positive audience and our careful preparation before the day, everything ran smoothly and I can even say I enjoyed myself! The trainees all did a fantastic job at presenting. Everyone had clearly taken time to plan a professional presentation and it was a pleasure to discover how varied each of our experiences and projects have been.

Overall, I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to organise the Trainee Showcase. It has taught a lot about event management as well as about my own strengths and weaknesses. If you are ever offered the chance to challenge yourself, as I was in this case, I highly recommend you take it…

Anja Badock, Graduate Trainee, Bodleian Social Science Library

Luke Jackson-Ross, Social Science Library


Humble greetings from the SSL!

My name is Luke, and along with Anja I am one of the two trainees working at the Bodleian Social Science Library. I’ve been meaning to write a post on the blog for a while now, but life at the SSL is anything but quiet! To get things going I’ll follow the example of my fellow Trainees, and tell you a little about me.

This year I graduate from the University of Gloucestershire with a 1:1 in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (unlike some fancier Universities my ceremony isn’t until November!) and during my time at University I had several jobs. After deciding retail wasn’t for me, I made what I now realise to be quite an important decision. Having worked as a Student Temp for my campus Library, I was lucky enough to be promoted to the position of Library Advisor at Francis Close Hall. It was hard work at times but lots of fun; I really enjoyed working with a fantastic team of people, and I think that perhaps that was what inspired me to participate in this year’s Graduate Trainee Scheme. That and one of my colleagues at the time sent me a timely link to the advert on the Bodleian website!

As I don’t live in Oxford I’ve found the biggest challenge so far has been getting to work. Buses aren’t my favourite thing, and it’s a bit expensive to drive all the time, but I think I’m getting the hang of my routine now. It’s been really fun meeting all of the Trainees, and I’m lucky to be able to work with Anja who (just about) manages to keep me on track most of the time.

In terms of the role itself, being a Graduate Trainee at the SSL really is an experience. Despite the title, Anja and I are responsible for a number of things. A truncated list would include managing the generic e-mail account, booking group study rooms, creating and managing invoices and overdue notices, looking after the processes surrounding missing, lost, and ‘claimed returned’ books, handling the post, and lots of other more usual Trainee things like shelving and sitting at the issue desk. Though it initially seemed like a lot of work, I think it’s fair to say that Anja and I are really enjoying ourselves.

Because our role straddles the worlds of Reader Services (anything to do with helping readers – front of house stuff) and Technical Services (anything to do with managing the resources that the Library has – behind the scenes stuff), we’re getting a fantastic insight into the workings of a University Library, which even with a fair amount of experience I was still largely in the dark about in some cases. There have even been some opportunities to make original contributions to the Library – we’ve recently finished setting up the SSL twitter account at https://twitter.com/SSLBod!

The regular training supplied by the Graduate Trainee scheme has been incredibly helpful so far, and in conjunction with some of the courses offered by IT services at the University it is set to be more and more useful and informative. Everyone involved with the scheme (and especially everyone at the SSL) is really friendly, and I’m so glad I got to be a 2013/14 Graduate Trainee!

Hopefully I’ll be able to give you guys an update later in the year. Until then, ciao!

Anja Badock, Social Science Library

ImageHello, my name is Anja and I am one of the two trainees at the Social Science Library (SSL). I graduated three years ago from the University of Sheffield with a BA in History. Since then I have been working as a Learning Support Assistant in a couple of secondary schools. It was a hugely rewarding job which showed me that I really enjoy (and am quite good at) helping people in an educational setting. I was eager to challenge myself further and learn something new which is why I applied to the University of Oxford for this traineeship. I didn’t expect to be invited for an interview let alone be offered a job, yet here I am. So, if there is anyone out there considering whether it would be worth your while applying next year, my advice would be to just go for it.

As you will have noticed from the picture, the SSL is certainly not one of the most traditional of libraries at the the University of Oxford. The lack of the history, however, is made up for by the sheer amount of great experience I am being offered (as well as the stupendously friendly staff). In just the few weeks that I have been working at the SSL I have learnt so much already. Luke (my fellow trainee) and I were given quite an extensive training programme in our first week and a half. At first for me this seemed like a vast mountain of information all of which I would never be able to remember. However, thankfully, it wasn’t quite as overwhelming as it first seemed. This is a relief since in a few weeks we will be inundated with new undergraduates who will look to me for guidance (poor souls). I am looking forward to the time when many of the tasks I am only just getting to grips with seem second nature. As the SSL is quite a large and busy subject library, we trainees have the chance to experience many different aspects of library work here. From supporting readers at the desk to all of the work that gets done behind the scenes, Luke and I get a taste of all of it which should give us a really firm foundation for the future.

It has been a nerve-wracking experience moving away from my family and friends in Leicestershire, but the transition has been made really easy by the fact that Oxford is such a lovely city and I have met so many friendly and interesting people. I wish all of my fellow trainees a wonderful, enriching year and I look forward to getting to know you all better.