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!

Greetings from the Law Bod!

Hi! I’m Mandi, and this is my first ever blog post!

I’m the trainee in the Information Resources (IR) department at the Bodleian Law Library, based in the striking 60s brutalist St Cross Building on Manor Road (we share a building with the EFL.) The IR department deals primarily with information organization and retrieval, and collection management; this mainly means cataloguing, classification, processing and acquisitions. 4 of us share a large, comfortable office (lucky us!); I’m mostly responsible for labelling, and processing new accessions and legal deposit volumes. I also spend about 6-8 hours a week staffing one of the Reading Room enquiry desks.

Here's a lovely little picture of the library, taken by another member of staff.
Here’s a lovely little picture of the library, taken by another member of staff.

I’m relatively new to library work: I was previously a bookseller in a well-loved independent bookshop in Colchester. There are similarities between the two jobs, especially the customer service element of uniting readers with the right books; but stamping and labelling brand new pristine volumes felt almost like vandalism at first. Next year, I hope to take the MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL, and eventually I’d like to work with special collections or in an academic library. In my spare time I read, write poetry and experiment with cookery.

A typical week for me begins with checking the carrels for any books that haven’t been reserved to research desks. The Law Library is reading-only, so books are supposed to be loaned out to a research desk, or returned for re-shelving at the end of the day; I remove any non-reserved books, and leave a polite note for the researcher. Sometimes we have an IR meeting, where I try to take minutes and eat biscuits at the same time. Then I get on with my regular duties: stamping and tattling new books, then labelling them once they’ve been catalogued.

On Monday afternoons, I usually work in the Reserve Collection, which houses the books in highest demand; mostly textbooks for popular taught courses. Books here are loaned out to the reading room for the day, and working on the desk is a great way to meet law students and staff and get a feel for some of the material law students work with, as well as building up your biceps shelving massive heavy textbooks.

On Tuesdays, I finish tattling and alphabeticizing the new journals that came in on Monday, then add them to the New Journals Display in the reading room, and shelve the previous week’s. Law Bod books are currently shelved by legal jurisdiction, with some journals in each section, so the shelving takes at least an hour most weeks.

Wednesday is when Helen, my line manager, sends me her selections from the VBD; this is a list of all the legal deposit books that have become available that week. I print the spreadsheet as a Word document and make a note of any conflicts (books another Bodleian library has also requested.) The books arrive on Thursday or Friday, anywhere between 20 and 85 of them! I process them, and update the “blue flag” books with minimum level records. Somewhat sadly, reading through Marc tags to assess the quality of various catalogue records is the highlight of my week; it’s somewhat like reading in another language, I suppose.

So that’s a bit about me and what I do. The intrepid reader who made it this far must hold on to the prophecy of Blog Posts Yet To Come, more exciting and informative than the first; soon, fellow traveller, we shall frolic amongst them in fields of black and white.

Sarah Platt, Taylor Institution Library

Hello! I’m Sarah and I am one of the trainees at the Taylor Institution Library, alongside Yannis, who has already posted a wonderful introduction to the Taylor.

I suppose I’ll start with a little bit about myself… I  arrived in Oxford almost exactly four years ago to begin the MSt in Greek and Roman History, and then started the DPhil in 2011 – young, full of hope, and in blissful denial…. (“Well the thesis is only, like, eight times what I’ve just written for the Masters…. and I’ve got 3 to 4 years to finish it! No problem!!”) Anyway, 3 years later I have learned several things: 1) a year goes by very quickly, 2) overly optimistic attitudes to fragmentary and obscure ancient Greek inscriptions get you nowhere – they do not, after all, hold all the unknown secrets of Athenian civilisation, and 3) if you listen to ‘Last Christmas…’ just that little bit too loud on your headphones in the Sackler – you will get funny looks. I could also talk about how the experience has been rewarding and made me grow as a person, but I’m sure no-one wants to read all that so I’ll leave it there. All that really matters is that since story time at my local library at the age of 4,  it has been very difficult for anyone to extract me from a library. Not content with my weekdays studying in the Bodleian Libraries, I also decided to apply for weekend work at the Bodleian and SSL, where I found both interesting tasks and lovely people in abundance. Now here I am at the Taylor, embarking on my trainee year! When I’m not working or writing my thesis, I knit, draw, write other things, and meticulously organise my bookshelves. (I’m kidding about that last one… but only slightly.)

One of the Taylor's many staircases
One of the Taylor’s many staircases (Taylor Library website)

I was particularly happy when I found out I would be located at the Taylor. I had never set foot in the building until my interview, when I first discovered the library’s beautiful architecture, fascinating collections, and a tendency for books to be located in the oddest little nooks and crannies. The Taylor is the Bodleian library for Medieval and Modern Languages, as well as Film Studies and Women’s Studies. As Yannis has already said, the Taylor has an incredibly beautiful reading room, which I am very lucky to spend rather a lot of time in as I work at the Enquiry Desk in the Research Collection. The workload has been really varied and interesting so far… Alongside the day-to-day tasks of collecting the delivery, shelving, and dealing with reader queries, I have tagged and labelled new books, dealt with material for inter-library loans, and searched through volumes from Sir Robert Taylor’s own architecture collection for a particular drawing of an English stately home (it wasn’t there – but the Rare Books Room was a lovely place to spend half an hour). Learning to recognise the variety of classifications here at the Taylor is like learning to speak another language (appropriately), and the stairs, well … the Taylor reminds me a little of M.C. Escher’s ‘Relativity’, with stairs going in all imaginable directions. The day I make it up from my locker in the basement to the break room in the attic without nearly collapsing on my knees as I stumble through the door – I will know what it feels like to conquer Everest.

All in all, I have really enjoyed my first few weeks at the Taylor, and I am very excited for all the opportunities the next year will bring!

Beth Watkins, Taylor Bodleian Slavonic & Modern Greek Library (TABS)

My name is Beth, and I’m the new trainee at TABS. I finished my BA in Russian at Leeds University this year, and after a break I’m here in Oxford! I decided to work in libraries this year, because I spend a lot of my time in libraries, and I love the atmosphere of these buildings. I wanted to work at the Slavonic so that I could use what I had learnt at university on a daily basis, and being here means that I can continue harbouring my  interest in Eastern European languages, history and literature.

The Taylor Slavonic Library. Not as glamorous as some of the others at the moment, but still wonderful.
The Taylor Slavonic Library. Not as glamorous as some of the others at the moment, but still wonderful.

Wednesday in my second week was my first day at TABS, as until then it had been closed for refurbishment. This is an ongoing project, and won’t be finished until at least next year, so the builders are still here and the top two floors are currently closed! However, I’m already enjoying my time here, and find it fascinating to see our library’s collection!

In my first week, I worked in the Taylor on the enquiry desk. The Taylor is a brilliant library, and I’m glad to have had a chance to see what it is like to work there, and to be able to compare the goings on of two different libraries. Next semester, there may be the opportunity to return to the Taylor for a term, so that I could get more experience in a different library. That would be something I would love to do, although perhaps I’ll be too smitten with TABS to leave!

I’m only into my third week at TABS, but I’ve already learnt a lot about how the library works, and met so many of the regular patrons. Everyone so far has been incredibly welcoming, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of my year in Oxford holds for me.

Yannis Choupas – Taylor Institution Library

Hi all, I am Yannis and I am one of the two Graduate Trainees at the Taylor Institution Library. You’d think that my desire to become a librarian is linked to my love of reading. However, you are gravely mistaken! My initial inspiration came from Terry Pratchet’s Discworld novels, which (among other things) chronicle an orang-utan librarian at the Unseen University. This librarian-cum-ape was formerly a wizard who decided that he actually quite liked being a primate librarian – with his opposable toes he could deftly climb the shelves to get to the more hard-to-reach books. Plus, readers had to give him a banana if they wanted access to any of the books in his library. (Personally, this seems like a quite a good idea, and something worth considering for the future of library services. Prospective readers, please note that I prefer biscuits or chocolate to bananas.)

The Unseen University’s Librarian (by P. Kidby –

When not reading Pratchett, I read all sorts of history books. In fact, I did my BA in History and Archaeology at the University of Crete and came to England for a Master’s in Medieval History at the University of Birmingham. Before withdrawing from Oxford’s DPhil in History, I spent many a procrastinating moment watching librarians in the Sackler go about their business and secretly fantasising about what it must be like to be in their shoes (these fantasies quickly subsided when I realised what you see is what you get). I landed my first library job at the Oxford public libraries (an experience that I value deeply), before I was employed by the Bodleian Libraries. Indeed, I am not a stranger to the Bodleian: I have already spent a year as a part-time employee at the Taylor and the Education Libraries.

The Taylor on St. Giles

The Taylor is an imposing building next to the Ashmolean, containing an infinite number of staircases (who said that librarianship is for the weak?) and a labyrinthine basement (it would come as no surprise if I was told that people have been forever lost in its dark recesses…). The Taylor also contains one of the prettiest reading rooms in all of Oxford. It is the place to go to if you are studying Western European Languages, Film Studies, or Linguistics. I am based on the ground floor at the Teaching Collection, which is the part of the Taylorian that caters mainly for undergraduates, as opposed to the Research Collection (about which you’ll hear more from my Taylor soulmate, Sarah). At the Teaching Collection, readers can also find a huge DVD Collection of international films and also a comfortable viewing room with a large screen and dim lights (unfortunately no pop-corn allowed). I am very excited about spending another year in this warm and friendly environment. Given my Greek background, I was also thrilled to hear that I am to spend a term gaining experience at the Taylor’s sister library – the Slavonic and Modern Greek Library.

Look forward to seeing you at the Taylorian – don’t forget the biscuits!



Hannah Hickman, History Faculty Library

I’m Hannah, the new trainee at the History Faculty Library. The HFL is currently based at the Radcliffe Camera, which is a pretty incredible building to rock up to every morning — I’ve been told it doesn’t take long before you become blasé about Oxford’s architectural grandeur, but I’m definitely still in the honeymoon phase.

The ceiling of the Upper Camera — so pretty!

The RadCam’s a really interesting site, because the loanable HFL books are sandwiched in-between the reference-only Bodleian books, and with the Gladstone Link connecting the Camera to the Old Library, the books (and their accompanying readers) can wander pretty freely between the reading rooms. There’s at least four or five different classification systems in use, so reshelving has been quite an adventure. Apparently this is one of the busiest library sites — even out of term time, there’s a lot of coming and going. I expect that the first week of Michaelmas is going to be a wild ride!

I’m originally from Oxfordshire, so it’s lovely to be back in the area. I spent the last five years in Warwickshire, doing my BA in English at Warwick and then following it up with a part-time MA in Shakespeare and Renaissance history at the Shakespeare Institute. I started working in libraries during my MA, and was lucky enough to get experience working in a small reference-only postgrad library with an archive and a large lending library, as well as a few weeks in a special collections archives. I can’t believe it took me so long to realise how much I enjoy being on the other side of the counter!

So far, the last week and a half — nearly two weeks now — has been really fun. I’ve learned a lot, and so far I’m managing to remember everyone’s names…

Emma Lewsley, Nuffield College Library


My name’s Emma, and I’m the new trainee at Nuffield College Library. As we near the end of my second week here I think I’m just about learning my way around the library, and its ten floor tower. Nuffield College is a graduate college, so it feels at the minute as though the library users know a lot more about it than me! I’m relieved to have a few weeks to get to grips with everything before the new students arrive. It’s been an intense couple of weeks, with a lot of learning, but everyone is being lovely and helpful.

Nuffield tower blog photo 1
Nuffield College Library’s ten floor tower – hopefully I’ll soon get used to climbing all those stairs!

The library staff all take turns to complete the different library duties, from manning the circulation desk to shelving, and I completed my first stint on my own at the circulation desk this week (which I’m pleased to say I survived). As the trainee, I’ll be responsible for inter-library loans, and a lot of my time will be spent dealing with acquisitions, which involves the exciting job of using the label maker!

I graduated from the University of St Andrews this June with a degree in Medieval History. Whilst at university I was able to spend a month as an intern in the library, creating a database of university alumni. I really enjoyed being in that environment, and seeing how a library functions behind the scenes. My internship led me to apply for graduate trainee positions. I’m looking forward to learning more about librarianship , and am hoping that this year will help me decide what I want to do next.


Jamie Stokes, Sainsbury Library

So I’m halfway through week two here at the Sainsbury Library (based in the Saïd Business School) and so far so good. Currently I’m sat at the enquiry desk by myself for the first time, and with only one person using the library just now I think it’s safe to say it’s pretty quiet. So far (touch wood) there have been no enquiries, though I feel it’s only a matter of time…

Other duties of the Graduate Trainee at the Sainsbury Library (according to previous trainee Emily who left a very thorough handover including a list of places to eat and get drunk) include putting together welcome packs for new members of staff in the Business School, processing new books and journals, weeding old journals, sorting out overdue book records, mending books, reclassifying books, making shelfmark posters and sorting out a variety of emails. So far I’ve made three welcome packs and done a little book and journal processing, which was pretty fun. I think I’m looking forward to term starting but at the same time I’m pretty glad it’s a few weeks away yet.

New workplace — the Saïd Business School

I ended up exploring librarianship as a career somewhat unexpectedly after spending five years at Liverpool John Moores University doing an undergraduate and then postgraduate degree in Creative Writing. Plan A had always been to write for a living in whatever manner possible, which, after a brief stint as a freelance writer for a dodgy Hungarian internet start-up, led me to work which definitely did not involve writing, in a pub kitchen desperately trying to make ends meet and hating every second of it. Then I saw an advert for an internship at Gladstone’s Library, which was pretty much an excuse to escape from the kitchen and live in a humongous residential library for what turned out to be six of the best months of my life. This involved some awesome people, a really wide-ranging experience of typical (and non-typical) library work, free attendance at a load of fantastic lectures and events, an awful lot of gin, and two free two-course meals a day! After that experience applying for the post in Oxford seemed the obvious thing to do, so here I am.

Gladstone’s Library — one of the very best places on Earth

The only thing to do now is enjoy the rest of the year, get to know Oxford a bit, and prepare for the next step (whatever exactly that may be…)

Sarah Arkle, English Faculty Library

My name is Sarah and I’m the new trainee at the English Faculty Library. After  spending many days and nights in my university library whilst studying for a BA in English Literature, I decided I liked libraries so much I might fancy working in one. I did some work experience in public libraries whilst in my final year, graduated in 2013, then spent the last academic year working at a library in an FE college here in Oxford before taking up the post in the EFL. My experience has been quite varied and I’m looking forward to seeing how an HE library works behind the scenes.

One of the most exciting things so far is the fact that I have my own desk for the first time! Most of my duties so far have involved processing books and periodicals so I’ve spent a lot of time in the office. We’re very quiet at the moment so I haven’t had much chance to interact with readers but I hear it gets very busy during term time, which should liven things up a bit!

My very first desk. The blue folder on the left is my massive, super comprehensive trainee manual which has been invaluable over the last week.

I’ve only been at the EFL for a week but so far I am really enjoying myself. The team here have been incredibly welcoming and I anticipate that the next year will be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to getting to know the library a bit better and exploring some of our more interesting collections. I find that the biggest problem with processing new books is that I keep seeing things I want to read! One of my responsibilities will be to organise displays and I’ve got one or two ideas in mind that I look forward to developing. Until then, I’ve got a trolley full of reclassified books to re-label…



Michelle Cook, The Codrington Library, All Souls College

One of the keys to the closed bookshelves. Published with the kind permission of the Warden and Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford

Hello hello, I’m Michelle (or the “new Gabrielle”) and I’m the most recent graduate trainee at All Souls’ Codrington Library.

Despite the enormous, weathered (absolutely amazing!) key I’ve been given –>, I still find myself completely spellbound by this beautiful building and feeling more like a tourist than a staff member. In truth, I’ve found myself here to my complete surprise; being a librarian has always sounded like one of those wonderful fantasy jobs nobody ever gets. Happily proven wrong, I have, for now, two daily jobs to call my own – processing journals that we receive in the post, and documenting books that fellows have borrowed. It’s been a slow but steady start, and later this week I’ll have some time to work (play!) in the book stack, cross-checking shelf marks and shelving order with the assistant librarian following a re-organisation that was done before my time.

On the way here, I studied English Literature and History at Aberystwyth. I then decided I’d rather read medieval French and went onto an MA in Medieval Studies at the University of Bristol. Afterwards, I spent a few months volunteering in a number of museums and archives in Bristol and London and a summer “stockpiling sunlight” before the start of the traineeship. There is something special about being surrounded by bound volumes though, so the inevitable vitamin D withdrawal seems like a small concession. I’m really looking forward to doing as much cataloguing as I’m allowed and racking my brain for any and all excuses to go up to the gallery of the Great Library.