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 to 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

My year at the History Faculty Library, Lyn Jones

I’ve had an enjoyable and rewarding year in the Radcliffe Camera, where I’ve learned all manner of tasks essential to the upkeep of an academic library. Having spent the previous few years in the public sector, this experience has provided a valuable contrast, which I hope will serve me well in the future. Whilst I’m not sure that they’ll be reading this, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff here (both HFL and Bod), who’ve have made me feel welcome and supported throughout my traineeship.

My project for the year has been a WWI resource guide, designed to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of war. The guide highlights a range of source types, with the aim of directing people towards key providers. Divided thematically, it is hoped that it will offer a means of pointing readers towards resources of particular interest. In this sense, it is conceived of as a discovery tool rather than a definitive list. The LibGuide also showcases locally held sources, encouraging readers to explore the vast collections available within Oxford.

Whilst my research is now complete, I’m still putting the finishing touches to the project; I feel that in another life I might have taken on a slightly smaller topic! That having been said, it’s been a valuable learning experience, which I hope will be of eventual benefit to others.

I’ve made some good friends during my time here (including Atomic Burger), learned from some of the most respected professionals in the field, and been fortunate to work in beautiful surroundings. Whilst I’m still uncertain about what the future holds, I’m not sure that I could ask for much more from my year in Oxford!

(Posted on behalf of Lyn Jones)

A year in the University Archives, Emma Harrold

As I won’t be attending the trainees showcase, the organisers have asked that I do a little summary of my year here via the blog.

Unlike most of the library trainees, I haven’t had a specific project to work on during my year here. Instead, as you may have seen from my ‘day in the life’, my time is spent between researching for and responding to enquiries, making archives material available to readers and cataloguing.

Working in the University Archives has given me great experience in the general day to day workings of an archive, and also experience of the challenges of working with the records of an academic institution – especially one as old and complex as Oxford. This year I have worked on cataloguing four different collections accessioned by the University Archives, including records created by the University Events Office and records of a Faculty Library. Looking in detail at these records reveals the sorts of material created by different departments across the University, and the kind of material which is being preserved for future knowledge of, and research into, the University of Oxford. All four collections have presented different challenges with regards to cataloguing, and working on them has helped me gain experience which I will be able to take into a future role.

In my first blog post last September I said there were two things plentiful in this job, and that was information to be learnt and stairs to be climbed. Ten months later my initial perception has been proved right. I have managed to pick up lots of information along the way this year, although knowing everything there is to know about the records of the University seems an endless task! I also think my hopes of getting used to the stairs up to the tower were possibly a little optimistic!

I don't have any photographs of my work - but this is the view from where I work in the University Archives
The view from the University Archives

Outside of the Archives, this year I have also been able to attend training sessions and visits provided by the library trainee scheme. For me visits like that of the one to the conservation department currently based in Osney was very useful, it was interesting to see what happens to material when it is sent to conservation for repairs, and how the conservation team work on preventative conservation to preserve our records. I’ve also been fortunate enough through the trainee scheme to visit a number of the colleges and their libraries. The Codrington Library at All Souls, for example, was beautiful and it was lovely to have the opportunity to have a tour round it as it is so rarely open to the public.

Visit to the Codrington Library
Visit to the Codrington Library

I have also visited a few of the college archives throughout the year, which was invaluable both for myself in this current role and also to continue to add my knowledge of the archives sector as a whole. It is interesting to see the differences between the archives at an older college such as Oriel compared with the archives at a newer (former women’s) college such as Somerville.

All being well, I will be starting a postgraduate diploma in Archives and Records Management at Liverpool University (the archives equivalent of Library School) in September. This will, once completed, give me the professional qualification I need to progress in my career and apply for archivist jobs hopefully this time next year.

St John’s College Library Graduate Trainee Project, Joanne Hilliar

Curating a Special Collections exhibition on the theme of war

As I am unable to attend at the trainee showcase, I’ve written an account of my trainee project at St John’s Library instead, covering the process of organising a themed exhibition of rare books and manuscripts.

One of the reasons I applied for the traineeship at St John’s College Library was due to its fascinating range of extensive Special Collections, and the chance to explore and work with these as part of my day-to-day tasks. Items housed in the library date back to the 9th century and include some 400 manuscripts, 20,000 early printed books and significant collections of modern literary papers. In order to give College members the chance to learn more about these, we organise exhibitions displaying a number of items of interest twice a year. Each exhibition is based around a particular theme, with recent topics including a Classical A to Z and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Knowing that I would be setting up my exhibition in April, I decided to get started as early as possible and began thinking of possible themes (which gave me a great excuse to explore the collections themselves!) Three topics stood out as possibilities; witchcraft, alchemy and war. However, it turned out that we didn’t have enough variety of material to justify a witchcraft exhibition. Left with two options, I eventually decided on the theme of war – despite it not being an area I know much about – as I thought it tied in well with the marking of the centenary of WWI this year. War has become a prevalent theme in the media, with an increased topical and cultural presence.

The exhibition poster and handlist cover picture

I then had a closer look at the items I could display – choosing war as a topic made it easy to ensure that the exhibition could cover all our collections, from a 13th century Egyptian manuscript, to 17th century early printed books, to the modern literary papers of Robert Graves and Spike Milligan. The Librarian and Deputy Librarian, having a wider knowledge of the library’s collections, both suggested items to include, and I then decided on the final order. I intended this to be fully chronological, but logistical considerations (making sure all the items would actually fit in the exhibition cases without being damaged!) made this difficult. The first three cases are therefore based around different themes, before the exhibition moves on chronologically to cover the 16th to the 20th century. It sounds slightly confusing but I think it works! I learned that one of the most important things was trying to include a balance of text and image in each section in order to maintain the viewer’s interest.

The information I give in my captions for the exhibition obviously had to be meticulously researched, before being checked by the Librarian. Part of this research involved consulting a 19th century book in the Taylor Institution Library, which was a lovely place to work in and made me feel very studious!

After the exhibition was finally set up, I looked into how best to promote it. As well as using channels already in existence, such as posters, the library website and Facebook page, I took the opportunity to increase the library’s social media presence by posting on the St John’s College Twitter account and setting up a Special Collections blog for the library, (, with the first post focusing on the content of the exhibition. The College President’s Executive Assistant also included details about it in the monthly College events flyer. This part of the process showed me another important side to Special Collections work; the fact that good communication skills, both online and face-to-face, are essential in an sector which relies on gaining funding and developing innovative ways to engage readers to ensure its relevance in an increasingly digitally-focused society.

Promotion of the exhibition in the College events flyer

The range of tasks involved in completing this project reflects the opportunities the trainee scheme as a whole has given me – I’ve really enjoyed the combination of reader services and Special Collections work that being part of a College library team entails. The other projects I have been involved epitomise this variety; from sorting through 19th century letters and cataloguing Spike Milligan’s literary papers, to setting up general interest book displays and providing free squash and biscuits to students during exam time!

A selection of the treats on offer as part of our daily ‘squash and biscuits’ breaks

Overall, I feel that all of these projects and tasks, along with the training sessions provided by the Bodleian scheme, have given me excellent practical knowledge and experience of academic libraries, something I look forward to exploring in an academic context during my MA in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield.

My year as a Graduate Trainee at the Bodleian Social Science Library: Trainee Projects!

I first published this post on the old Graduate Trainee Blog (sorry about that!), so I am re-publishing it here in its proper home.

Being a trainee at the Bodleian Social Science Library has been a really interesting and rewarding experience. I’ve learnt a lot and have been involved with some really enjoyable projects, two of which I would like to talk to you about now.

Twitter at the SSL

Like most people before they start a new job I wanted to find out as much as possible about the place I would be spending the next year before I actually started. Luckily the SSL has a very good website with lots of information on it, but as a semi-frequent ‘tweeter’ I noticed the lack of SSL presence on the social media website, Twitter. In a sense, though, this was a good thing, as it meant that when I started my trainee year I knew exactly what my first project would be!

After agreeing that I would go ahead and create a Twitter account for the Library with the Reader Services Librarian, I consulted with one of my colleagues, the Senior Library Assistant (Research Support), who had already been thinking about how Twitter might be set up for the SSL. She directed me towards several books on the subject and suggested a few useful people to follow. Thankfully I was quite used to how Twitter works and it didn’t take me too long before I was ready to get started.

After looking at lots of different Twitter profiles and how other libraries had set themselves up on the website, we decided to go for a simple approach and chose SSL colours (grey and purple) for the profile’s background. The profile has since been updated to the new style which does not show the colours quite as they were originally, but the famous SSL purple can still be seen here and there!

SSL Twitter profile
The SSL’s Twitter profile

After some research and deliberation, I took the advice I found in some of the books I had read about Twitter; I created a macrocosm of 10 tweets that would act as a good example of what the SSL’s Twitter feed would be like. These 10 tweets were comprised of factual information and slightly more light-hearted and interesting things to prevent the feed from becoming too boring.  These more light-hearted posts would always be related to the Social Sciences, Libraries, or Higher Education, to keep it relevant to our readers. It was only after this had been done that we started to think about who we would follow and how we would interact with others.

We decided that, as one of the Bodleian Libraries, it would be appropriate to follow the other libraries who were on Twitter. We also decided to follow the University Colleges and departments that seemed relevant to us, and then a few external Tweeters like the LSE Impact Blog (@LSEImpactBlog) and the British Library (@britishlibrary). This all helps to keep us up to date with things that might affect us, and also provides us with new material to retweet for our followers.

Recently it has also been my job to write a comprehensive set of instructions in a Staff Manual entry for using Twitter at the SSL. As it turns out, writing instructions can be quite a length process. It has been very useful though, as by going through everything in detail I have been able to spot some ways that current processes can be improved, leading to a more effective service for our readers.

So far Twitter seems to be working well. It helps to ensure all of the information we need our readers to know is getting out where they can see it, and it provides a good method for readers to get in contact with us if they have any concerns. Of course, this can work both ways too…

Existential Crisis
I must admit I felt a little bad about this one…

SSL <3 Your Books Project

In addition to dealing with the Library’s social media output, trainees at the Social Science Library are responsible for assessing and repairing damaged books under the guidance of the Acquisitions Senior Library Assistant. As part of trying to improve the general care of our collection we decided to launch the ‘SSL <3 Your Books Project’ (also known as the ‘SSL Love Your Books Project’). This project hoped to tackle collection care at the level of readers, by encouraging them to take steps to look after the books that they borrowed from us.

While many of us worked on different aspects of the project, I was responsible for creating a small selection of bookmarks that would be handed out to readers during the week that we promoted the project. After taking various factors into consideration (like what we would like the bookmarks to look like, what message we were trying to get across, and whether we could afford to print them using a commercial maker) we decided to use a simple and colourful design on sturdy white paper-card. We decided to advertise the project on one side of each bookmark, and on the reverse each would advertise a different part of the Technical Services team at the SSL.

Here is a picture of the finished product, along with the project’s logo:-

Everybody loves bookmarks, right?
Everybody loves bookmarks, right?

In addition to this I was also responsible for writing and publishing the Blog post that would go live on the SSL’s blog, and drafting the information that would go on the SSL’s website (even where the information would be displayed and how a user might navigate towards it!). Though this took some time, I hope you’ll agree that they explain everything you might want to know about the project. These pages can all be found at and

I feel like I’ve done rather a lot during my trainee year, and I very much hope that next year’s trainees all get to experience as much as I have. This will be the last post from me as I leave next week to take up a permanent role at one of the Colleges… Wish me luck!

Luke Jackson-Ross – Graduate Trainee – Bodleian Social Science Library

Online guide to reference management

Logos of RefWorks, EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero and Colwiz

One of the projects I worked on this year at the Radcliffe Science Library was to research and produce an online guide to referencing and reference managers. The guide has been live for a while and has had positive comments from students and library staff.

Reference management software is used to keep track of bibliographic references and to save time when citing references in assignments or publications. Reference managers store and organise references and integrate with word processors to cite references in the required format. Most also have additional features such as sharing references, note taking and storing pdf files. The use of reference managers is popular in the sciences, but the guide is not subject specific and will be useful to anyone considering using a reference manager.

The guide gives an introduction to what reference managers are, types of referencing style and specific information about the reference managers RefWorks, EndNote, EndNote Web, Zotero, Mendeley and Colwiz. It also has a comparison table which compares the pros and cons and the features of these reference managers. This was the most time-consuming part of the guide to produce, but I think the most useful too. You can find the guide at

Project Showcase 2012

On July 4th, Oxford’s contingent of graduate trainees held a showcase to present the projects we had been working on in our libraries. Each year, most of the trainees choose or are given a project to work on alongside our regular duties. These projects often reflect our particular skills or interests, as well as the needs of the library. Towards the end of the year, two of us (this time Natalie and I) organise the showcase event, and most of the trainees give presentations about our progress to an audience of our supervisors, colleagues and fellow trainees.

There were fifteen presentations this year, covering a range of topics. Some projects focussed on creating videos and libguides to help students use resources or find services. Others compared different Oxford libraries’ rules or signage to offer advice about possible improvements. The reclassification projects made collections easier, quicker and less frustrating to browse. Some of us also worked on making specific resources more available by digitising, cataloguing, creating searchable databases or, in one case, physically finding them!

In addition to the presentations, Emma Sullivan gave a short speech about the benefits of projects, both for us as trainees, and for the libraries. We have a chance to develop skills and experience that will be valuable in our future careers, both from the specific content covered, and also from learning how to plan and implement an extended project. The libraries have a chance to get a project completed that will be of lasting benefit to them, which in turn allows us to feel that we are really part of the library.

The presentations were well received, and the event was enjoyed by all (with the exception of pre-presentation nerves…)

Some of the first slides from the presentations

Here is a very brief summary, in alphabetical order, of each trainee’s project:

Vicky Arnold (All Souls) managed to track down some 17th century Russian maps mentioned very briefly in the library committee’s minutes, but subsequently lost amid the library’s collections.

Lizzie Atkinson (RSL) created video and libguide resources to showcase what the mapmaking and spatial analysis programme ArcGIS can do, and to help students and researchers decide if they need to use it.

Louise Cowan (St Hugh’s) discovered common factors influencing how frequently students disobey library rules, including whether they see the effect that breaking a rule would have on others.

Rebecca Hunt (EFL) used the University archives to research the EFL’s history, creating a booklet, a display and a facebook timeline in preparation for their centenary in 2014.

Charlotte Kelham (Nuffield) catalogued the architects’ plans for Nuffield College, discovering very different pre- and post- World War Two designs.

Liz Kennedy (St Hilda’s) reclassified the library’s linguistics section, using customised Dewey to fit with the existing system and reflect the level of detail needed.

Rebecca Nielsen (futureArch) investigated how to extract and catalogue the video files stored on an outdated type of camcorder cassette called MiniDV.

Emily Nunn (LawBod) reclassified books and ‘spring-cleaned’ their catalogue records as part of the LawBod’s mass reclassification project to adopt the Moys system, which allows law materials to be browsed by subject.

Siobhan O’Brien (Jesus) established a collection development policy and classification system for the library’s collection of books by and about Jesus members.

Natalie O’Keefe (HFL) made short explanatory videos for students (and staff…) to access online, showing how different services will be provided in the HFL’s new location within the Radcliffe Camera.

Laurence Peacock (Taylor Slavonic) took a collection of letters from an Oxford professor’s trip to Germany in 1913, scanned and catalogued them, then created a website to promote them, including a searchable database of the details and images.

Matthew Pocock (Bodleian) integrated a section of LCC books into the reading room’s existing system, planning and implementing a large book move to accommodate the reclassified books.

Stephanie Wales (SSL) reviewed different iPad apps for the social sciences, creating a lib guide of recommendations.

Janine Walker (SSL) investigated how libraries communicate with their readers, making suggestions about improving signage in the physical library space as well as keeping branding consistent online.

Evelyn Webster (Union Society) designed and began building a searchable database to record information about the Union’s debates, officers and famous speakers.

Trainee Project Showcase: Graduate Trainee Projects in the Science Libraries

On Wednesday, we concluded our traineeship through the presentation of the projects that we had worked on throughout the year. It was a wonderful opportunity to see what everyone had been working on in their libraries.

I presented my project on the digitization of the Birthday Book of George Claridge Druce (1850-1932), chemist, Mayor of Oxford and one of the great botanists of the early 20th Century, which I worked on at the Sherardian Library in the Department of Plant Sciences. I greatly enjoyed working on this project, and learned a lot, not only about Druce (a most remarkable man), but about the practice of botany in Britain during the early 20th Century (shift from natural history as collecting to a circumscribed science, and the rise of the conservation movement to preserve rare specimens in the wild rather than just collecting them).

I also learned how to design and implement databases in Access and learned some basic XML coding. The next step will be uploading the Druce database to the UK Archives Hub, where it will be made available for research.

One of my other projects at the Radcliffe Science Library involved making a virtual tour of the library, which was used during the Science Open Days at the RSL when prospective undergraduates visit the library and science departments at Oxford. The virtual tour was done using Powerpoint and Adobe Captivate. You can view it at the following link:

Radcliffe Science Library Virtual Tour

Trainee project showcase – From QEH to LoC: reclassifying pamphlets in the SSL

For our trainee project we have been reclassifying the pamphlets in the SSL from an in-house classification scheme to Library of Congress. The pamphlets came over from the International Development Centre at Queen Elizabeth House in 2005 and cover a huge range of topics including constitutional and conference publications, political and economic reports. Some of these pamphlets are actually the only copies held in Oxford and often date back to the 1940’s and 50’s, so altogether they make a really interesting, almost archival collection.

Why was the reclassification needed? We are still using the shelf marks from QEH, whereas the rest of the SSL uses Library of Congress, which is familiar to our readers and they can already navigate it. Also, the boxes were messy, with unequal amounts in them, and were underused. We hope that reclassifying the section will improve their use and accessibility.

After a brief explanation of Library of Congress classification the presentation then shows the steps we go through in order to assign each pamphlet with a new shelfmark. This involves looking at the item’s MARC record to find the subject heading which can then be used to find a relevant shelfmark on Classificationweb. The final part of the shelfmark is then constructed using information taken from the MARC record such as the author’s name and the publication date. Once a new shelfmark has been found we then update the holdings so that the new shelfmark appears on the catalogue. By processing the reclassified pamphlets in the same way and keeping them all in one section we hope that they will be easy for staff and readers to find.

The project has been going really well, and we are making steady progress. We won’t finish the whole section, but we will be passing it on to another member of staff. It has been an enjoyable project, especially getting to read the pamphlets! It’s also been a fantastic opportunity to learn assigning original classification, which is a really useful skill that not everyone has the chance to learn, especially as a graduate trainee.

Trainee project showcase – Playground of politics: writing a brief history of the Oxford Union

Here is another of the presentations from Wednesday’s showcase.

It begins with a little history of the Union to give some of the context for presentation. Then you will find some slides about my project, writing a brief history of the Oxford Union to sell in the Library. Finally, for the library admirers among you, I spoke about, and included some pictures of the Old Library and its murals.

If you are reading this, will be working in Oxford in September, and fancy a spot of library tourism, do come along to the Explore visit, organised by Bodleian Libraries Staff Development, to see the murals and hear about the particular issues the library faces, on 20 September.

p.s. small landmark: wordpress informs me that this is the 100th post on the trainee blog – it says it is dandy!