Hello! I’m Lara, one of two trainees at the Law Library this year, alongside Wanne, who beat me to the punch with his introductory post!
Immediately before joining the trainee programme, I had just finished my undergraduate degree in Ancient and Modern History at Lincoln College – so I haven’t travelled far! Despite this, I had never once set foot in the Law Library, and was pleasantly surprised with how it looked inside, as from the outside it looks rather square and imposing. As most young people who love books, I’d always entertained the idea of working in a library, but was unwilling to fully commit to taking another degree, without knowing whether library work was the right fit for me. While working in some other historic sights of Oxford, such as the Ashmolean Museum and Christ Church college, I saw the trainee programme and I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
The two Law Library trainees are split between Information Resources (me) and Academic Services (Wanne). This means I am much more involved with initial processing of books, and have spent much of my first month labelling, stamping and figuring out how to work the printer (the labels always print slightly slanted so this is a much harder task than it first may appear). Aside from this, a rather unexpected, but particularly enjoyable undertaking has been the sorting of official documents sent from the Irish Government. This is because the Law Library is also home to Official Papers, which houses British and Irish parliamentary papers and publications of other international organisations such as the United Nations. I am acquiring niche knowledge on various Bills and Acts (such as in 2021 the Irish Government banned the import of non-native honeybees – Bill No. 133 of 2021), which I hope will one day be put to use in a dramatic final round of a pub quiz.
Over the past week, the library has begun to grow much more alive, having been quite quiet when we first started. It’s been great to chat to all the new and returning students, although it really is challenging my knowledge of where everything is – I promise I do usually know, what I have yet to work out is how to give easy-to-follow directions. In the coming months, I’m looking forward to exploring all the different facets of academic librarianship and mastering the ground plan of the library!
Hello! I am Anna, and I am the Graduate Trainee at the Sainsbury Library.
The Sainsbury Library is the University’s Business and Management Library and is based on the first and second floor of Saïd Business School, Park End Street. Saïd Business School is the large building next to the train station, with a green ziggurat acting like a look-out tower. We are small, compared to some libraries, with a general purpose lower reading room, a cosy annexe, and a bright, airy upper reading room for silent study. My main duties so far have been to process new journals and books, repairing a book, helping out at the desk and with circulation, assisting with the Executive Education team and their reading lists (which is a whole other blog post!), and assisting with a variety of exciting projects. For instance, I put together a ‘Welcome to the World of AI’ book display (please visit or check out online). I am looking forward to other projects like an ongoing assessment of the sources used by students and making some new Libguides (guides for library users). I have also been learning about the subject of Business Information, in particular, the Business Information Ecosystem and the 60 business-related databases. Unsurprisingly, I still have a lot to learn and lots of database training to do!
The Library has another location at Egrove Park, in Kennington, where Saïd Business schoolhosts Executive Education courses. I am based at Park End Street but am looking forward to making a visit to Egrove. I have heard it is beautiful location as it is situated in 37 acres of wooded parkland with wildflower meadows. A colleague even spotted some deer waltzing around! However, apparently, the brutalist architecture is not for everyone but I reserve my judgment until I visit.
Whilst I am doing my traineeship in the Business Library, my background is nothing to do with the subject. I did my undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Mathematics at the University of Aberdeen and then an MLitt in Philosophy at SASP (St Andrews and Stirling Graduate programme in Philosophy). Aberdeen’s university library was a wonderful place to study, and the library is famous for looking like a massive ice cube and being inside of it certainly gives a similar impression, with all the outside facing walls being windows of glass. This allows you to see the city, from any point of the library and enjoy the coastline whilst freaking out about exams (hopefully it is calming and not stormy)! I continued working within various universities as a non-medical helper, primarily as Specialist Note-taker (if you need some fast typing let me know). This role meant I got to sit-in on lectures, take notes, and assist students who were studying a whole variety of subjects including Computing, History of Art, Childhood studies and even PGCE teacher training. It was lovely working with students to help achieve their goals and I knew I wanted to continue to assist others in any role I did in the future.
I have always enjoyed libraries since childhood and in Sixth Form had one week of work experience at my local public library. I also worked at Bookends, a student-run bookshop on Aberdeen’s campus where I got a little snippet of shelving, auditing and processing books into our system (much simpler than Alma!). I am interested in librarianship because I believe in the key principle of libraries as preservers of past knowledge for future generations whilst providing access to information and resources to people now. For one of my dissertations, I did a lot of research about the philosophy of democracy. A key pillar of democracy (ideally) is to have a citizenship with a right to access a wide range of ideas and information. This broadens our horizons, helping us to make informed choices and judgements, whilst also holding fellow citizens in roles of responsibility accountable. Every right we have has a corresponding duty/obligation that we have to each other to make sure everyone’s rights are fulfilled. Libraries act as a physical manifestation to fulfil important rights plus they act as great spaces to study and get lost in a book! I think it would be great to work in a field that has this grand role for society, but that achieves these abstract ends in very practical, everyday means by helping readers and preserving our collections. The combination of person-focused support and technical systems means that there is lots of variety in the field, on top of the variety brought by all the different subjects and I think this makes it quite an exciting career choice. I do not yet know if I want to focus on the readers services or the cataloguing/ technical side because, as perhaps shown my joint degree, I am bad at choosing between two things I enjoy!
I hope to be an asset to the team at the Sainsbury Library, not just because they are fun and fantastic, but because they have been without a full-time graduate trainee for several years and they are very happy to finally be fully staffed! I am extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to work within such an esteemed institution as the Bodleian Libraries. Also, participating in their great training sessions on different aspects of librarianships, has so far, and I’m sure will continue, to be great!
Hello! I’m Sorrel and I’m this year’s trainee at St John’s College.
The Library and Study Centre in St John’s is roughly comprised of two main parts: a modern section, completed in 2018, and an older section. The latter comprises the Laudian Library and the Old Library, dating from 1635 and 1598 respectively. Fortunately for me, the beginning of my trainee year coincided with the reopening of the two older libraries, following a long process of renovation. I am lucky to have reason to work frequently in both spaces, shelving in the Laudian and helping with Special Collections consultation appointments in the Old Library.
Like many of the other trainees, my workload is very varied, and no two days are really the same. The past weeks have seen me processing books, checking reading lists, moving manuscripts, photographing early printed books, and preparing posters for new displays. Dealing with Special Collections has definitely been one of the most exciting parts of the job so far. The Library is home to around 400 medieval and modern manuscripts, 20,000 books printed before 1850, and the personal papers of the likes of Robert Graves and Spike Milligan. Some of the materials I have handled in my first weeks include a painstakingly hand-coloured ‘Ortelius Atlas’, dating from 1603, and a 18th century physician’s scrapbook, with ‘A piece of The tapeworm’ pasted and carefully labelled inside.
Before the traineeship, I was working in France as an au pair, studying French and volunteering at the American Library in Paris in my spare time. Before that, I completed my BA in History at the University of Cambridge, specialising in cultural and social history. Alongside my degree, I worked in a small Art museum, and it was this experience which really got me passionate about helping people to access information and ideas.
In the coming months, I’m looking forward to getting to know the library and the cross-library systems well enough to answer almost any reader enquiry with confidence! I’m also hoping to assist with work to ensure that our collections are accessible to an ever-increasing range of people.
Hello all! I’m Wanne, one of the two trainees in the Bodleian Law Library this year, working in its Academic Services department. We share our lovely Brutalist building with the English Faculty Library, and I’m getting rather attached to the soft greys and whites of the peaceful Law Library reading room!
The BLL holds a varied mass of legal material, from law reports and legal journals over monographs on Roman, International and European Union law to books on Criminology and Legal Philosophy/Jurisprudence. We’re also home to the Bodleian’s Official Papers collection, comprising Bills and Parliamentary debate records, Royal Commission reports, UN material, and much more.
All this is quite a new world for me (and much more varied than I had imagined – Law really does engage with all aspects of life, as they say). During the earlier half of this year, I was working in the collection logistics department of Cambridge University Library (book moving, fetching, and all that), and, before that, finishing a PhD in English Literature at Cambridge (delving into the socialist poets and novelists of the Victorian and Edwardian period, and relations between literary form and the structures of political thinking). It’s great to explore a new field of information and how it’s curated – I’m learning about law reports with their different levels of authority, the differences between Bills, Acts and Statutory Instruments, the intricate citation styles of EU treaties, and all kinds of (to me, at least) formerly somewhat mysterious publications. Even more than that, though, it’s a delight to get to know all the various tasks that come with librarianship – by actually doing them, through enquiry desk shifts, shelving, editing online reading lists, getting to grips with Alma (together with everyone in the Bodleian – which is quite encouraging), loose-leaf filing (surprisingly relaxing), book moving, giving introductory tours, scanning material, checking catalogue records, etc.
My personal highlight, so far, is working with the library’s people, both my new colleagues, who have already been more than generous with their time and help, and the readers – something I very much craved after 4 years of solitary research. The satisfaction that comes with actually being able to help a reader is wonderful, and I’ve enjoyed learning about the links between librarianship and teaching, too. I don’t doubt this year will bring much more surprises: I’m looking forward to delving a bit deeper into cataloguing, looking into the way the other Bodleian libraries (and the CSF) do their library thing, and maybe even getting creative with my trainee project!
Some colleagues at the Cam UL may have jokingly referred to my Oxford move as a minor act of treason, but I’m very glad I committed it (and grateful to the spirit of Bodley for having me)!
Hello! I’m Connie, the trainee for The Oxford Union Society. I graduated with a BA in Classical Studies from Reading University in July 2023. Throughout my final years of university I worked in my local public library, first as a volunteer, then as a Saturday assistant.
I love working for the Union, although it is not what you might call a normal library, though there are some aspects which are standard: our library, like the Bodleian, has many smaller libraries within it – the Old Library, the Poetry Room, the Goodman, the Gladstone Room and the President’s Office. We classify our books by the Dewey Decimal system or versions thereof. This is, however, where normality ends. The Library Committee, a group of all-powerful students, decide which books we will buy and which we will remove. We have fiction books for those who want to read for pleasure and famous Pre-Raphaelite murals in the Old Library which illustrate the story of King Arthur, from adolescence to death, in ten hard-to-see paintings. These faded because the artists, which included Dante Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, did not prepare the wall first. Honestly! Didn’t they know what they were doing? The answer is no, definitely not – they were in their 20s (except Rossetti) and were paid in “tonic” (really gin). Meaning a group of young men were up ladders, possibly drunk, on the very narrow and rather high gallery (yet it is out of bounds today for health and safety reasons). On my first day the kitchen was being refurbished and, on taking up the floor, a ‘mysterious void’ was found with only a chair at the bottom. What the pit is, no one yet knows, although my co-worker insists that it is an oubliette. Unfortunately, we do not know if the chair had straps.
The Union has been described by Harold MacMillan as “the last bastion of free speech” and the variety of people who speak in debates is testimony to this. In fact, in my third week at the Union, the Prime Minster of Pakistan came to visit so we had security and police officers crawling around the building. The Union has also invited celebrities including Jack Gleeson, Michael Gambon and Stephen Fry as well as controversial figures such as Jordan Peterson, Ricky Gervais, and Katie Hopkins. In fact, in the no-platforming debate of 2019, the Society voted by vast majority not to support no-platforming.
Hello! I’m Erin – this year’s trainee at the Bodleian Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library (we’re going with Art Library for short, the acronym BAAAWL doesn’t quite roll off the tongue!).
The Art Library brings together collections on a range of subjects, including Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology, Art and Architecture, and Egyptology, among others. I also work across both the Taylor Institution and the Nizami Ganjavi Library and have immensely enjoyed working out the quirks of each of the three libraries. The past month has largely involved getting to grips with ALMA, processing new acquisitions, as well as helping readers out with enquiries, and beginning to grow more familiar with the shelf-marks of our collections!
I’m delighted to be returning to Oxford, having completed my undergraduate degree in English at Mansfield College in 2020. Upon graduating, I spent the pandemic teaching A Level English Literature and literacy intervention lessons in a secondary school, whilst also working in the school library. I particularly enjoyed matching student readers with the perfect book to get them started with reading, and enjoyed the thrill of connecting reluctant readers with books as much as I’ve enjoyed helping academic researchers track down academic articles about Ancient Greece this past month.
I’ve recently completed an MPhil in English Studies at the University of Cambridge, specialising in contemporary novels, examining attention and reading practices in works responding, either explicitly or more obliquely, to the climate crisis. Having made the most of my year in Cambridge with numerous visits to the extraordinary Kettle’s Yard – a house and exhibition space belonging to Jim Ede, one of the first Tate Modern curators – I knew I wanted to combine my love of art and literature into a job. As a result, working in the Art Library has allowed me to combine these interests and means I come across works by a range of artists as I process new books for our New Books Display. I’m also immensely excited to put on some displays in the Art Library in the coming months, delving through the breadth of our collections whilst addressing contemporary concerns including the climate emergency and conversations around current museum practices, questions of ethics and display, and cultural restitution.
What excites me most about the traineeship is the possibility of getting involved in many distinct aspects of libraries, including spending time working with special collections and learning the ins and outs of cataloguing. I intend on fully making the most of the generosity and goodwill of the excellent Bodleian Libraries staff to learn as much as I can!
Hello All! I am Elena Trowsdale, the current trainee at All Souls College Library. As far as oxford libraries go, All Souls is rather puzzling since it functions both as a college library whilst also admitting many external readers from the wider university- and beyond! Our collections are mainly focussed on History, but also involve an entire room devoted to Law texts, and contain extensive Military and Naval History collections as well as lots of Early-printed materials. Contrary to popular belief, All Souls is not as mysterious and unenterable as one may think. The college itself is open to visitors 2-4pm every weekday, and the library is open to readers who are University members through a simple registration system. For me, this means I am able to perform a wide range of tasks, serving both external readers and internal fellows with book fetching, answering queries and many other requests. I am thoroughly enjoying my traineeship at All Souls, and hope to continue working in libraries when the year is completed- whether as a library assistant, cataloguer or a bibliographic researcher.
Prior to the traineeship, I was completing my MSc in Digital Scholarship at Corpus Christi college, in which I was researching early modern women’s devotional writing and how to create optimal digital editions of these works which are most often found in manuscript form. Alongside this research, I worked part time at Christ Church Library as after-hours Library Assistant and completed a summer internship in the Rare Books department of the Weston Library. All of these experiences grew my love of the world of librarianship, and increased my interests both in manuscripts and rare books, but also in the digital futures of libraries and their collections. I am glad to say that I believe I will be able to develop these interests even further during my traineeship here at All Souls.
The first month of my traineeship has been extremely busy. Alongside learning my basic routine tasks such as journal processing, we prepared for and took part in a number of events such as Oxford Preservation Trust’s ‘Open Doors’, a conservation workshop and the All Souls Fellowship Examination preparations. I also moved a part of our law collection to a new location and have been taking part in web development and preparing the library for term time, when readers are allowed to enter the library again. It has been an exciting time, with many new Visiting Fellows being inducted to the library and lots of visits from schools.
In the coming months, I am looking forward to completing some projects such as exhibitions and blog posts for All Souls, as well as learning more in our training about ALMA, cataloguing and looking after readers. I hope that once I become more accustomed in my role, I will be able to assist in more complex projects and help continue the current librarians’ excellent work in exposing our library and collections to new readers.
Hello! My name is Clara, and I am the current trainee at the Taylor Institution Library, or the ‘Taylorian,’ Oxford University’s library of modern languages and literature other than English. As a trainee in Section 3 of the Bodleian, I am also working at the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library and the Nizami Ganjavi Library, the latter of which specialises in Asian and Middle Eastern studies. Despite this, the Taylor is where my traineeship is mostly based. Here, we have around 750,000 books both on and off site that range from languages such as French, Slavonic and Greek, to subjects such as Gender studies, Celtic studies and linguistics. I do have a little knowledge of French, having studied the language during my first undergraduate year of English Literature and History at the University of Glasgow. However, my background lies mostly in Gender History, which I studied as a Masters at Glasgow University as well. After graduating, I went on to try my hand in the heritage and tourism industry at Stirling Castle before being offered this exciting opportunity to work in librarianship at the Bodleian.
Like every library at Oxford University, the Taylor is unique in its own way; comprised of two buildings, one built in the 1840s and the other during the 1930s, it offers different, yet equally welcoming, environments for staff and readers. The 1930s side of the building mainly houses our Teaching and DVD Collections, the former of which is tailored (no pun intended!) for undergraduate study and reading lists. This is also where the Issue Desk is situated. The older half of the library is where the Enquiry Desk can be found, as well as our Research Collection and the library’s most popular place to study – the Main Reading Room. With chandeliers, a fireplace and a spiral staircase leading to the gallery, I too would find it a great place to read and find inspiration for an essay! The basement is where the Slavonic section is kept, as well as the Celtic studies material and more.
This last month has flown by, but I have learnt so much and met so many lovely (and patient!) colleagues and fellow trainees. So far, my time has comprised of learning how to use Alma, getting to grips with the varying shelving systems of the Taylor, setting up book displays and learning how to help readers effectively – I’m really excited to see what else this year will bring! I am especially looking forward to the trainee trip to the Collections Storage Facility in Swindon, as well as contributing to this blog. For now, the hope is to develop my career in academic librarianship, perhaps as a subject librarian or in special collections, but I will just have to wait and see what this year brings, and what inspires me the most in this role!
Hello! I’m Xanthe, the Radcliffe Camera trainee this year. The Radcliffe Camera (or Rad Cam for short!) with its dome is one of the most iconic buildings in Oxford, and I’m delighted to report that it is even more stunning inside; I’m still feeling blown away to get to work in a space like this.
Despite the fact that the Rad Cam is home to the History Faculty Library, as well as various humanities books from the Bodleian collections, my background is in a completely different field. I did a degree in natural sciences, specialising in astrophysics, which was fascinating. I then taught physics in a secondary school for three years, and while there were aspects of teaching that I loved, I concluded that it wasn’t a sustainable career for me, so I started looking for other things. As a life-long lover of books and libraries, working in libraries had always been a vague dream of mine, but it wasn’t until this point that I started seriously looking into it and realised that it was genuinely something that could really suit me!
During the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the different collections around my library – there’s a major sense of achievement when you can look at the shelfmark on a book and know exactly where it goes – and gaining familiarity with my role, ready for a big upswing in busyness when the students arrive next week.
Looking ahead, I’m excited to learn as much as possible over the coming year about the different aspects of academic librarianship, and work out which direction I want to take as I move forward into a library career.
Hello, I’m Leah, this year’s trainee at the English Faculty Library (or EFL for short)! Though the EFL might not have the aesthetic that springs to mind when someone mentions Oxford (it is a vision of ‘60s brutalist architecture after all) our collections are no less strong than our comrades across the university libraries at large. We even have our own rare books room where readers can consult from our collections of pre-1850s volumes – although personally I would say our best kept secret is the Turville-Petre Room where our Old Norse-Icelandic collections are held.
Prior to the traineeship, I didn’t have a background in librarianship at all. I had studied English Literature for my bachelor’s degree at the University of East Anglia and knew I wanted to work with books in some capacity, but wasn’t sure where to direct my search. I then pivoted to Medieval Studies at the University of Birmingham for my master’s degree, with a focus on depictions of language and multilingualism in insular texts. The opportunity to work with manuscripts and other ephemera during my master’s, including at the Weston Library, put the idea in my head to look into working with special collections, and the rest is history.
During my first month, it has very much been a case of getting the fundamentals in place before the students arrive back in Oxford en masse. This means learning how to process books, staffing our enquiries desk, and getting to grips with Alma, our new-to-everyone library system. We do, however, have the option to get a bit creative too. One thing I really enjoy about the EFL is that we have the ability to put on displays for our readers: in the past trainees have covered everything from Mid-Winter Ghosts to Fantasy Fiction. I’m hoping my display on indigenous literature will be up within the next week or so, so do feel free to pop by and have look!
In the coming months, I’m most looking forward to our introduction to special collections and conservation (of course), as well as our visit to the Collections Storage Facility near Swindon. In the long-term, I am hoping to learn more about academic librarianship, as well as whether working with collections as a librarian is a viable career path for me. The training scheme so far has been excellent, and I can’t wait to see what this year will bring!