Freddie Hankin & Miriam Kunin, Old Bodleian Library

Hello! Our names are Freddie and Miriam and we are the new Graduate Trainees for the Old Bodleian Library aka the Old Bod, Old Schools, Schools Quadrangle. We spend much of our time in the Upper Reading Room, Lower Reading Room, and Duke Humfrey’s, but we also sometimes venture underground to the Gladstone Link to fetch books and scan requests.

From left to right: Freddie; William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke; Miriam


What were you doing last year?

MK: I’d just finished an Oxford undergrad, studying Medieval English Language and Literature, and I decided to spend more time living here in the wake of that. I worked a variety of jobs with the university’s Temporary Staffing Service and Disability Advisory Service, as well as working part time in technically-three Bodleian libraries, and in direct disability care. After the pandemic hit, I was doing some of that but from home, but largely had a lot of unstructured time, which I spent remotely attending Jewish studies courses and Medieval studies conferences, and also going on long walks and swimming in rivers.

FH: I did Geography at Durham University, and graduated last year. I did a few library odds and ends while I was at university; I volunteered for a bit at the County Record Office, and was music librarian for a few of the university orchestras. Since graduating last year I moved to Manchester for a bit to see what it was like, and volunteered in the Portico Library. Manchester is a really good place for libraries! Oxford seems a very good place for libraries too…


Why did you apply?

FH: I love organisation, I love books, I love helping people. I mostly love being in libraries; why not get paid to be in one?? I also really enjoy being in an academic environment without actually doing the academic part. This is partly schadenfreude, but it is also about enjoying eclecticism; I like variety, and being able to dip my toes in lots of different pies while helping out with research enquiries. 

MK: Very similar to Freddie, actually! I was looking for jobs that would let me do a mix of physically moving things around, problem-solving, being adjacent to academia, talking to people, and being concretely helpful. I also really like putting things in satisfying and correct Orders, whether that be shelving or sorting files in our scan repository. So, yes, I loved that this role gives us a variety of tasks using a variety of skills, plus opportunities to talk to people and be concretely useful to them.


What is your favourite shelfmark? (see Appendix)

FH: I like the Lower Reading Room ones, they are probably the easiest to comprehend. A shelfmark like C.Gr.H.15 or C.Lat.A.302 has a comforting air to it.

But I also love Nicholson because it is so chaotic. 2345.e.123 is a standard shelfmark; there is a decimal point after the 2 in the first number, but it is invisible just to make it hard. The shelfmarks run from 900 (read 0.900) via 100 (1.00) to 399 (3.99), apparently because Nicholson was a sadist. Shelfmarks are divided into subjects, but reading the index is like looking into the mind of a madman, though one who was admittedly rather organised. The number of zeroes after the imaginary decimal point also matters: 124 = Christian evidence, general; 1240 = Christian evidence, documentary; 12400 = Christian evidence, miracles. It’s a mess, but it’s historical, so it stays.

MK: Oh, the LRR shelfmarks make zero sense, but I also really like them. I find it endearing that they end with simple numbers which just indicate where in the sequence they are, like, C.Lat.15/25 being next to C.Lat.15/26. There aren’t that many steps between it and just, someone placing their books in vague subject order and then numbering them, and I respect that.

I’m also biased in favour of them because Freddie and I have spent the most time working with them, and because I love patristics. In a similar vein, any time I get to shelve or scan something related to Old or Middle English I am immensely happy about it, so there’s a special place in my heart forthe  A.4.23 run in the Upper Reading Room, where the Early English Text Society books live.

In terms of least favourite shelfmarks, returning to the Lower Reading Room, I do hate the C.Per situation with all my heart.


What’s your favourite view in the Old Bod?

FH: I like the view of New College Tower on the east side of the Upper Reading Room. Dreaming spires, blah blah blah. 

New College Tower beyond Hertford College


I also like the view of the Exeter College gardens from Duke Humfrey’s. The trees are lovely, and you can watch the poor gardener walking endlessly round with a leafblower.

View from the office in Duke Humfrey’s of Exeter Garden with leaves (gardener not featured)


MK: I really like the windows in the Tower Room of Upper, with the brightly-coloured stained-glass birds in the windows! There’s a painting in the staff area of one of them which depicts the windowsill area there, which I enjoy a lot, and the colourfulness of the birds really adds to the multicoloured wall and ceiling painting charm of the whole room. If we’re allowed Duke Humfrey’s ones, I like the big arch-shaped ones in Selden End when the light streams through them. I know it’s cliche, but also, look at them.

Duke Humfrey’s Windows, being absurdly beautiful


Duke Humfrey’s Windows, being absurdly beautiful from a different angle


That’s the end of our Q&A, and hopefully you now know some random facts about shelfmarks in the Bodleian. We are really looking forward to the rest of the year working in this beautiful building!



Shelfmarks in the Old Bodleian and the Gladstone link:

Lower Reading Room:

Shelfmarks beginning with B., C., T., Th., Pat. and Phil.

B, C.Gen, C.Lang, C.Num, C.Gr., C.Lat to C.Lat.V, C.Gr to C.Gr.Z, C.Hist, C.Hist.Gr. C.Hist.Rom, C.Epig., C.Index, C.Ref.A-D., C.Dict, C. Per; Th.Ref.A-B, Th.B, Th.Dict, Th.H, Th.J, Th.Liturg, Th.P to Th. W, Th.Y.A-Z, ​Th.Text; Pat.Gr. and Pat.Lat., T.Atlas, T.Bibl., T.Bible.D to T.Bible.H, T.Gen., T.Text., T.Text.Gr. and T.Text.Lat.; Phil.Ref., Phil.A-H, Phil.Text 

Plus some Library of Congress (otherwise it would be too easy)

Upper Reading Room:

A1-8 or K3 and 5-10

Lower Gladstone Link:

Library of Congress;  eg. AA123.A1 SMI 2011

Nicholson; 12345.e.21

General Lower Gladstone Link shelfmarks; M04.e.1234

Upper Gladstone Link:

History Faculty Library of Congress; DA, HQ etc

History Faculty Library S.Hist

Duke Humfrey’s:

Priceless manuscripts we’re not allowed to touch, marked with their original bay numbers

Periodicals etc e.g. R. Top. 436

C.Acad (unsure what this one is)




Simone Gaddes, St John’s College Library

Hello! I’m Simone, and I’m the trainee at St John’s College Library & Study Centre this year.

I’m currently finishing off my MA in English Literature which I’ve been studying with Newcastle University for the past year, having graduated with a BA in English Literature and French at Newcastle in July 2019. I work as an intern with Newcastle University’s Special Collections and completed temp work with the university library throughout my degrees. Before that I worked in retail, tutored French in a local school, and worked as an English Language Assistant in France during my year abroad.

I’ve been working in the College Library since the start of September, and I’m really enjoying it so far. Unlike some of the other trainees, I’ve been working on site since the start of my traineeship so I’ve had some extra time to ease into my role. As is the case in many work environments, due to COVID-19 regulations St John’s Library & Study Centre is functioning slightly different from usual. However, there has still been plenty for me to do and learn (albeit at a 2 metre distance!). What could have been an overwhelming experience has been rendered enjoyable by the lovely library team at St John’s. So far, I have been getting to grips with Aleph and classification, learning about the library’s history, and helping to make the Library & Study Centre as safe as possible for incoming and returning students.

My typical day begins with fetching and circulating any Click & Collect requests we may have received from staff and students, and then moving on to other tasks I have to do. These include collecting post, shelving, reviewing reading lists, managing the library’s social media pages, and classifying and processing new books. I have plenty to keep me busy! Throughout this year I will also create a digital exhibition with my colleagues and be involved with St John’s new Diversity & Equality Collection – both of which I’m very excited to be a part of!

Overall, I’m enjoying working at St John’s (and taking advantage of the free lunch!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what will be in store for the rest of the traineeship.

The Founder’s Chest and Cannonball in the Old Library
The Founder’s Chest is a strongbox that belonged to Sir Thomas White who founded St John’s College in 1555. Next to it rests a cannonball that was supposedly fired at the College during the Siege of Oxford in the Civil War. Both can be found in the Old Library, which is unfortunately closed to visitors due to refurbishments.



Chess Law, Christ Church Library

Hi! I’m Chess, the 2020/21 trainee at Christ Church College. I’ve just completed a Masters in eighteenth-century literature here in Oxford, previously based at Wolfson, and worked as a shelving assistant in the English Faculty Library throughout my degree. Before that, I worked in a medieval cathedral, assisting the Verger team and providing guided tours. Christ Church is therefore the ideal marriage of both environments and is an incredibly beautiful, historically resonant place to work.

Unlike most of the trainees, I have been lucky enough to work full-time on site since August. This has given me the time to familiarise myself with book processing procedure and using Aleph before the influx of student arrivals; to witness what happens in a library behind the scenes in preparation for a new academic year; and to develop a feeling for this particular college’s life with its unique mix of students, fellows and clergy. It has certainly been a distinct learning curve to be involved in the transition of Covid-regulating the library during an unprecedented period of closure, from assisting with remote learning (posting books to students, providing scans, etc.) to once again functioning as an open library. I anticipated librarianship to be fairly repetitive or sedentary by nature, but the job thus far has varied widely, including enquiry desk work, collecting post, handling Click and Collect requests, collating book offers, posting on social media, navigating between our main library and separate Law library, and fetching books from our various off-site locations. I also work some evenings as a clerk in the gorgeous Upper Library, home to our special collections and uniquely open as a study space for students this year in an effort to increase our seating capacity. It is both surreal and thrilling to work here at night surrounded by rows of leather-bound volumes and illuminated manuscripts – a hat case belonging to Horace Walpole rests within metres of my desk, a rather absurd recent discovery for me as a former Gothic literature student.

The Upper Library at Christ Church, complete with socially distanced individual desks and cleaning supplies


Especially on my mind this year is how to support students trying to navigate studying in incredibly difficult and isolating circumstances, many of whom are encountering academic libraries for the first time. For me, helping them to avail of resources irrespective of their personal circumstances is of foremost importance – delivering books and library goody bags to self-isolating students has become the priority task of my afternoons. The most rewarding part of this job so far has been meeting Freshers, especially those coming from abroad, and introducing them to the library as well as hearing about their experiences of Oxford. I wanted to work in a college (rather than faculty) library precisely to be involved in such a community, and to encounter a variety of people researching an eclectic range of subjects. I’m gradually getting to know our library regulars and hope to provide a welcoming and reliable presence for our students in an otherwise challenging year.

Jessika Brandon, Social Science Library

Hello, I’m Jessika, the graduate trainee this year for the Social Science Library. Upon graduating from University College Dublin in 2018, with a BA in Celtic Civilisation and Irish Folklore, I considered pursuing further study and a career in academia. However, as I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do I instead ended up applying for a position as a Library Assistant in the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dublin, which I was extremely fortunate to get. This experience made me consider working in libraries as a long-term option for me.

I’ve had a fascination with Oxford since I was young and always wanted to visit, and so when I saw the opportunity to further develop my skills and career prospects while also living here, I decided to go for it.

I started my role working remotely in Ireland for the first three weeks while I consulted the ever-changing situation until I was able to move to Oxford finally. Tomorrow (first Monday of term) will be my first day fully onsite, although I have been doing half days for the last couple of weeks, so I am slowly becoming more familiar with how everything works.

My main duties at the moment include processing the new stock to get them ready to go out on the shelves, as well as answering emails, reviewing reading lists, assisting readers on the Issue Desk and helping with all the new procedures in place at the library at the moment such as Click & Collect and Scan & Deliver. It’s definitely going to get a lot busier now that the term is starting and I am really looking forward to the year ahead, getting to know the city and surrounding areas, seeing all the historic sites/finding things off the beaten track, and finding out what aspects of library work interest me the most. It’s incredibly exciting and I am really grateful to be here.

Arabella Drake, History Faculty Library

Hello! I’m Arabella, the graduate trainee for the History Faculty Library, based within the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link. Previously, while studying BA English at the University of Exeter I volunteered within Penryn Campus library, an experience I enjoyed so much that I decided to work within both school and council libraries after graduating. The Bodleian Library Graduate Trainee Scheme, which offers regular training sessions alongside the chance to work within a prestigious university library, seemed like a wonderful opportunity to expand on this experience and discover what specific aspects of librarianship I find most interesting and wish to pursue further. Also, who wouldn’t want to work in a city as beautiful and historic as Oxford?!

Throughout my first month within the Radcliffe Camera I have been learning lots of new procedures, such as Scan and Deliver, Click and Collect and how to navigate and process items on the library management system. I’m also regularly timetabled on the reception and circulation desks, where I help to sign readers into the building and deal with enquiries. Fortunately, my lovely colleagues in the Camera are always nearby to help should I require it.

Now Michaelmas Term has commenced the library is beginning to get busier, however, I am continuing to learn new things. This week I have been assigned the task of selecting and processing the HFL books that are being sent off to binding to be repaired.

I’ve really been enjoying my Oxford experience so far and I’m very excited to see what the rest of the year has in store!

The Radcliffe Camera

Naomi Hart, Bodleian Law Library

Hello! I’m Naomi, one of two graduate trainees in the Bodleian Law Library, based in Information Resources. I’m a recent graduate, having finished my BA English degree at the University of Exeter this year, so working with legal resources has been a learning curve!

The Law Library is a reference only library located on Manor Road in the St. Cross Building, which also hosts the English Faculty Library. With 1960s architecture, a high ceiling (and a new roof), original wooden desks complete with beautiful marks of wear, leather seats and brass lamps, a gallery, narrow staircases tucked among the bookshelves, and a hushed quiet, it’s an atmospheric building to explore with a wealth of resources – although slightly disorientating to navigate at first.

Beginning this role amidst the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging at times. Having started the traineeship by working virtually from home, it’s both exciting and reassuring to now be working onsite for most of the week. When onsite, we begin the day by preparing the library for readers, who can book seats for particular time slots as part of the library’s phased reopening. Being based in IR means the tasks I do often differ slightly from Ella’s (the Academic Services trainee in the Law Library). My role involves processing books and serials, building reading lists, cataloguing, labelling and shelving, as well as more front-facing work such as being on the enquiry desk and scanning requests for the Scan and Deliver service. Usually, on Wednesdays, we have training sessions with the other trainees, though these are taking place virtually for the time being. During our tea breaks, Ella and I are utilising our Bodleian keep cups and becoming regulars at the Missing Bean cafe in the St. Cross Building. Over lunchtimes, we’ve been exploring some of the green spaces near the library too – and making the most of the sunshine when we can.

I’m looking forward to the library being able to increase its capacity for readers and the energy of the new term starting. There couldn’t be a better introduction to life behind the scenes in an academic library, especially at a time when it is adapting to provide the best service it can to readers under extraordinary circumstances.

Ella Burrows, Bodleian Law Library

Hi! I’m Ella, and I’m one of the Graduate Trainees at the Bodleian Law Library, along with Naomi. I’m based in Academic Services, which means my role is more reader-based – scanning resources, helping with online teaching – and less involved with the cataloguing side of things. Before this, I was working in hospitality, and I also have some library experience from volunteering in libraries at school and university. I’ve never lived in Oxford before, so I’m excited to get to know the city and all of its lovely libraries (though sadly seeing them all in person will have to wait for now).

It has been a bit of a different start to the traineeship this year (judging by the previous years’ trainee introductions). For one, I spent the first two weeks working from home, getting to know all my colleagues virtually and hoping it wouldn’t be long before I got to come in to the library. When we were finally allowed to come in (after filling out many safe onsite working forms) it was slightly eerie to find that the previous trainee’s stuff was still in the drawers, and a timetable still up on the wall for guiding the potential future trainees – aka me and Naomi – around the library when we had our interviews all the way back in March. I don’t think the previous trainee had expected to be working from home for the rest of her traineeship when she left the library that Friday all those months ago, and it must have been a very strange experience.

Since then, I’ve been getting to grips with the various aspects of the library which I’ll be involved with, and all of the extra precautions and regulations we have to follow in light of COVID-19. The first 45 minutes of the day is usually spent opening windows, sanitising desks, shelving books and going over any changes in our operations. Then it’s on to the classic trainee tasks – checking emails, fulfilling scanning requests, having virtual meetings and attending training. In our breaks, Naomi and I have been trying to make the most of the last few weeks of September sun by visiting the nearby parks; now it’s colder, we’re eagerly anticipating the reopening of the various cafes close to the Law Library (which I have been told will be happening soon!)

So far, it’s been an interesting start, and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the traineeship will bring.

Katie Allen, English Faculty Library

Hello everyone! I’m Katie, and for this (admittedly weird) year I’ll be working at the English Faculty Library. In my previous life, I taught English in Japan (as well as a few other places). I came back to the UK early in 2019 and worked in a temporary role at a school library to get a feel for whether a career in librarianship might be for me. I decided it was, applied for the traineeship, and here I am – by the skin of my teeth, as the Bodleian Libraries closed their doors due to COVID-19 measures back in March, only a few hours after my interview took place.

The EFL has now re-opened


Since I started at the English Faculty Library a month ago, the library has gone through several stages of its gradual re-opening plan. We’ve been scanning requested chapters to readers as part of the Bodleian Libraries’ Scan and Deliver service, and we’ve introduced a Click and Collect service too. And as of last week, readers can now book a slot to study in the library again. It’s great to have readers back in, and it’s lovely being part of a small and friendly team. I’m really enjoying the traineeship so far, despite the unusual circumstances. It’s going to be an interesting year, but at least at the EFL we’ve sorted out how to use the kettle in a safe and socially distanced way…


Welcome to the 2020/21 Trainees!

Our new 2020/21 trainees joined us at the start of September and we have 15 trainees this year. Most of our trainees (9 in total) are based in the Bodleian Libraries, with 6 trainees based in our colleges. We have 2 Digital Archives trainees with us this year. St Edmund Hall has recruited a trainee this year for the first time and it is great that they are part of the scheme. This year is going to be a bit different for the trainees due to the pandemic. We are running their training sessions via Teams for the foreseeable future and they joined me for a Welcome session during the first week of September. Many of them are working from home and they are gradually starting to work onsite to help deliver essential services, such as Click and Collect or Scan and Deliver. I would usually add a picture of them in this post, but as I haven’t been able to meet them in person I don’t have one (although they may be secretly relieved about that!).

Our trainees will be introducing themselves on the trainee blog over the next week or two, so do follow their progress throughout the year. We wish them a happy and successful year with us in Oxford!