Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, masters degrees and chartership

I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on traineeships and masters degrees.  I don’t know whether this means I’m just nosy and more interested in reading about people’s lives than I am about what they think about Google Calendar? It’s great to hear that there are so many different paths into the profession; traineeships straight after graduation, traineeships later on, library assistant jobs, MAs or MScs, full time masters, part time masters, distance learning, certification, chartership with and without a masters, traineeships at the same time as the masters, the permutations are endless!

Here are some of the most interesting Thing 10 posts I’ve chanced upon:

Emma has been doing a traineeship alongside a distance learning Masters programme.

As Jen is already working in an information role, she is going to do a traineeship as well as working towards certification with CILIP.

Katrina came into librarianship after a career change from publishing and is now working towards chartership.

Ruth has taken the traditional (although increasingly uncommon) route of a traineeship after graduation and then a full time MA.

Judy took a distance learning postgraduate diploma whilst working as a library assistant.

As Lorna works in legal librarianship, she has an HNC in legal studies as well as an MSc in Librarianship.

Sarah is an archivist so the qualifications are a little different, but with a similar route in.

It was interesting to read about Sheila Webber’s first library assistant job in the 70s, and the circulation system that went ‘kerplunk’.

However, there is also a worrying ‘darker’ undercurrent to Thing 10 posts – graduate trainee posts are being cut, MA fees are going up, MA funding is very scarce, library assistant posts are fairly low paid so doing a distance learning course plus working full time is a big decision to take.  Does this mean that loads of talented trainees and library assistants who would make great librarians will be priced out of doing the postgraduate qualification?  Is the postgraduate qualification even useful in terms of what you actually learn, or is it outdated and overpriced?  Does there need to be an overhaul of the system, so that there is more on the job learning in the style of certification and chartership rather than having to do the MA or MSc?  So many questions without real answers being discussed and debated at the moment. Siobhan, Jen, and Rosie talk a bit about the confusion surrounding postgraduate study in their Thing 10 posts.

But on to my own experience:

Graduate Traineeships

I am sad to say I’m coming to the end of my graduate traineeship at the Bodleian Law Library in Oxford.  We had our ‘Year in Review’ session yesterday with all the other trainees, and it seems as though the year has just flown by.  The traineeship has been a really positive experience for me – I’m lucky to have landed in a library with a supportive supervisor, lovely colleagues and lots of different things for me to do.   I’m based in the information resources department, which means I generally help out with cataloguing, serials and acquisitions, as well as spending time on the enquiry desk and joining in with any other projects they’ve got going on.  We’re very much occupied at the moment with a huge reclassification project, so it’s all hands on deck with reclassifying, labelling and reshelving, but that’s because it’s the long vacation – the time for getting things done when not so many students are around.  Earlier in the year I was working on anything from cataloguing and boxing a collection of government papers from commonwealth countries, writing a LibGuide on Swedish Law, taking part in a legal research course, making a massive spreadsheet of reading lists and going through the library web pages as part of a web page redesign project.  So I’ve come from knowing virtually nothing about how libraries function to knowing several notebooks-worth of things!

I would say that trainees do have to be prepared for the fact that some of the work will be repetitive and boring – after all, as a trainee you haven’t really developed any skills yet, and you are at the bottom of the library heap.  Everyone knows more about how the library works than you do, especially at the beginning.  My advice would be to be enthusiastic and friendly, and willing to take on lots of new tasks even if you find some of the day-to-day work a little dull.  Take advantage of any extra training offered, go to outside events organised by CILIP, or to an unconference – I found that it was the mixture of my day-to-day role plus all the extra stuff going on that made my trainee year a really useful and enjoyable experience.

Oxford trainees on a visit to the Bodleian book storage facility – the only time we got to wear lovely orange jackets.

I would recommend the Bod traineeships because of the training programme that goes along with them – on Wednesday afternoons we got to attend talks on subjects as varied as e-resources, special collections, conservation and subject consultants.  We visited a medical library, Oxford Brookes Library, the British Library, the University Archives, a tiny little library especially for conservators, and probably some other libraries that I’ve forgotten, to see how different they all are, and what different librararians’ roles involve.  We had training in presentation skills and customer service (although the customer care workshop was a little bit cringeworthy – we had to do role play, horror of horrors).  We got the chance to present on aspects of social media, and on the projects we’d been working on – see my write-up here for more info on that.  Oh, and we were encouraged to arrange tours of each other’s libraries around Oxford.  I’ve seen more libraries and eaten more biscuits this year than ever before in my life!

Photo from a trip to the Radcliffe Science Library

I feel very lucky to have been able to benefit from the Bodleian scheme, and I don’t think I would have had such a fun and interesting introduction to librarianship if I hadn’t done a traineeship.  That said, I had come from knowing nothing at all about librarianship, so if you were in a different position – say you had already worked as a library assistant for a few years – I can see why the traineeship wouldn’t be so useful.  They’re also usually less well paid than some library assistant posts, and you may have to be willing and able to move to a place where there are traineeships for just a year (bloggers in Scotland and Wales seem to be saying that there aren’t so many to be found there).  In the end, as for most things, it all depends on your circumstances – as the links above prove, there are lots of ways into the profession without doing a traineeship.

2011/12 Oxford Trainees. Taken from the trainee blog


Masters Degrees

I just got my ‘Welcome to the University of Sheffield’ pack through the post this morning – how exciting!  It seems like ages ago that I applied, and I’ve not really had time to think about it as there has been so much going on in Oxford, but in reality it’s only a couple of months till I start studying in Sheffield.  It won’t be a big move for me, as I grew up near, and went to sixth form in Sheffield, but it will be a bit of a shock to start studying again after a two year gap.  Hopefully I haven’t forgotten how to do it – I’ve taken a language qualification this year, to keep my studying hat on.

I should say that I realise that I am in an extremely fortunate position in that I got funding from the AHRC to study for the MA full time.  It wasn’t my plan at all to go to Sheffield – I applied on the off-chance and was really expecting to stay in Oxford and study the Aberystwyth course by distance learning.  This would have had its advantages – I would have been able to stay in the Oxford Libraries system, and gain more work experience by working full time – but with the funding I will be able to save a lot of money, and get the qualification done a bit quicker.  Plus the Sheffield course looks really interesting.  There are pros and cons either way, really – and despite my own ‘traditional’ route in, I would argue for some more options for entering the profession, as I’m sure the amount of funding available is only going to go down, and the fees are only going to go up.

I’m sure I’ll blog more about the course when I start.  For people thinking about Sheffield, another former Bodleian trainee, Ruth, has written about her first two terms at Sheffield here and here.


Let’s just get the MA over with first, and then try and get a job before thinking about Chartership.  One step at a time is the way to go!  I’ve heard on the grapevine that it’s a lot to do with reflective practice, so I’ll probably try and get better at that in the meantime.  I’m sure it’s something that I will want to do later on, although I can imagine that it might fall by the wayside if you end up in a job that doesn’t require it.  We’ll see…

I’ll leave you with an interesting thread from the LISNPN forums where graduate trainees in my year say what they’re going to do next in terms of working/studying.



Things 8 and 9: In which my mother gets an ipad before me and I experiment with Evernote.

Yes, it’s true.  Mother LibraryEms has purchased herself a shiny new ipad with a lovely purple cover, complete with astronomy app so that Father LibraryEms can take it outside and identify stars with it.  Cue jealousy from both me and my sister – how can this have happened, that the parentals have become more technologically advanced than us?  I know in the grand scheme of life not having an ipad is really not a big problem, so I am mostly being tongue-in-cheek whilst complaining about it – but it’s so SHINY.  Aaaaah.  Perhaps if I enter enough competitions I may win one.

I’m talking about ipads for Thing 8 and 9 because I think that you could only really get into these Things if you owned a tablet or a smartphone big and fast enough to access them on.  I technically have a smartphone, but it is absolutely tiny, the on/off/silent button has fallen off so I have to press it with a pair of tweezers/earring hook, the internet only works about 50% of the time, and on those rare times I can access Facebook it refuses to display anyone’s name and just mysteriously calls everyone ‘Facebook User’.  Although this provides many happy hours of ‘guess whose status it is’ whilst sitting on the bus, it does mean that I wouldn’t attempt to introduce it to Google calendar or Evernote.

Still, I have obediently loaded up both the Things onto my aging laptop, and am hoping that the poor thing will cope with the extra pressure.

Google Calendar

I already have a Google account, and regularly use it for Gmail and Google Reader, so I found that I already had a Calendar – I just haven’t ever entered anything into it.  I have now entered in events for the next few weeks – social ones, such as a friend’s wedding and a theatre trip, rather than work related ones.  We use Outlook calendar at work, and I prefer the interface to Google, plus we have our Outlook open all the time so that the notifications pop up regularly and remind us of meetings etc.  I use the Outlook calendar for everything, and find it very useful.  You can also access it online via webmail, so there wouldn’t be any use having Google Calendar as well.  My supervisor can just add things to all our calendars, so we don’t forget team meetings and other important events.

However, as my traineeship is coming to an end, I shall soon be leaving the happy world of Outlook calendar and will have to find a replacement as I probably won’t be working next year as I do my MA full time.  Hopefully Google Calendar will then prove to be useful, as I shall have to schedule in all my classes.  I shall have to experiment a bit with the notification times – how long before an event is best to have an email/pop up reminding you that something is going to happen?

I don’t think I would ever need to ‘share’ my personal calendar with others, but I can see the advantage to sharing if you worked in an organisation where everyone was using Google as a professional calendar.  It would be useful if you were a supervisor and wanted your team to know when you were going to be available to talk to them etc.

I have to admit, that I also am going to buy a pretty new diary for next year with my 20% discount from the Bodleian Shop, so unless I win that ipad I shall probably stick with pen and paper for the time being.



So, I’ve downloaded Evernote and set up a Webclipper in Google Chrome, which seems to work quite well.  To test it out, I’ve ‘clipped’ an article from the Guardian webpage about how the bestseller ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is boosting readership in public libraries.

Screenprint of my first Evernote Web Clipping

I seem to have been inundated recently with ingenious tools to store webpages – from Delicious to! and Pocket, I now feel like there are too many choices, and am tempted to go back to my original tactic of copying and pasting links into a handy Word document or emailing myself a list of links.  I think I need to decide on one way of storing webpages and stick to it.  Evernote Web Clipper seems useful because it saves the webpage as a clipping, so that it will still be there even if the page itself is taken down or changed.  It also allows you to add tags and comments to the clipping, so you can annotate it with your own thoughts and sort it out to make it easily searchable later.  I can see that this will come in much more useful when I’m studying next year, so it’s good to practice now so I get the hang of it.

The syncing feature would sadly only be useful if I had a number of different devices to access it with, which I don’t, and I can see that if I had an ipad I would be able to use it to take notes in lectures and all kinds of other things.  All roads seem to be leading to me getting an ipad, don’t they?

In conclusion, I will probably put these two Things on hold until I start the MA, and then will crack them out again and try and use them to organise my chaotic research methods (when I was studying for my English MA I had hundreds of emails to myself saved as such illuminating things as ‘dissertation notes 45’ ).

And even if I can’t afford an ipad, I’m sure my phone is due for an upgrade at some point this year – I will definitely try and go for one with a bigger screen, a working on/off button and a more reliable internet connection!


From Russian maps to ipads: the 2012 Oxford trainee project showcase

A couple of weeks ago the Oxford trainees gathered for a day of presentations, a free lunch and an excellent variety of  biscuits.  The aim was to share what we had been working on over the year, as well as developing our presentation skills.  A fellow trainee has written the official blog post for our trainee blog, but I’m hoping that I will remember useful things about the day if I write about it myself too.  So without further ado, here are my summaries of all fifteen presentations!

*On a side note, we also managed to rescue a goldfish over lunch, so all in all a successful day*

Showcase Invitation

1. The History Faculty Library on the move

First up was the HFL trainee talking about the upcoming move of the entire history faculty library to the Radcliffe Camera (which is the famous building pictured above).  It’s a big event for many reasons, including the mixing of lending and non-lending collections in the central Bodleian.  The trainee project was to make a video introduction to the new history library using Captivate, which is going to be embedded in the website to introduce readers to the new building.  It’s going to be a big change for readers so lots of communication will definitely be necessary so that they don’t wander round lost and confused!

2. Tracking down mysterious Russian maps

Next to a college library project – and one that made me slightly jealous that I don’t work in a college library full of hidden treasures (don’t get me wrong, I love the Law Library, but there’s a noticeable lack of undiscovered chests full of enlightenment maps).  All Souls Library, however, did have a hidden chest full of enlightenment maps, and this trainee project was basically to locate them, which was easier said than done.  It was a library-based mystery, beginning with an obscure reference found in an eighteenth century college minutes book. The All Souls trainee and her colleagues hunted through lists and books for other mentions of the maps, were led up blind alleys of mis-recording, and finally stumbled upon them in a giant wooden press.  The moral of the tale is that we can’t rely on the computerised library catalogue for everything, and there are still uncatalogued treasures hidden away waiting to be found.

3. Reclassifying linguistics

Another college, and the first of the day’s reclassification based talks (there’s a lot of reclassifying going on in Oxford at the moment).  The St Hilda’s trainee was responsible for reclassifying their undergraduate collection of linguistics books, which had been hard to browse because their classification system wasn’t specific enough.  She took us through the process, which included researching other libraries’ ways of classifying linguistics, working out which scheme would fit their collection the best, and using online research to find the best shelfmark for the books.  In the end they looked much more organised, so hopefully the St Hilda’s readers will find the new system useful when they get back after the summer break!  This presentation was the only one that used Prezi (the rest of us stuck to PowerPoint), and I was very impressed.  I’ve found Prezi sometimes makes me feel a bit sick, but there wasn’t too much whizzing about and it worked really well.  Maybe something for me to try next time.

4. Cataloguing the architects’ plans of Nuffield College

There was a definite map and plan based theme in some of the talks, which made an interesting change from books.  Although the Nuffield College trainee project looked like very hard work (digging through the many thousands of architects’ plans for the college, which were kept in the basement, cataloguing them and storing them safely), it seemed a worthwhile thing to do, as they had already had an enquiry from a firm of architects about the plans.  The trainee was inputting metadata about the plans into a database, so that they would be easily searchable.   Some had a lot of information to put in the database, and some were just pencil sketch plans, with no title, date, name or place, so the trainee had to really work with what she had.  She dug up some interesting facts about the original college designs – apparently the architect initially wanted to give it a Middle Eastern air but college founder Lord Nuffield was having none of it!

5. The history of the EFL

I was sad to hear during this talk that the St Cross building, which houses both the English Faculty Library and the Law Library was voted the ugliest building in Oxford.  Here it is, in all its 1960s grade 2 listed glory…

St Cross Building. Photo by stevecadman and shared on flickr under a creative commons license.

Not too bad, right?

Anyway, the EFL trainee project was to make a pamphlet and an exhibition about the history of the library – she had to dig around in the archives, which are held in other parts of the university, to find material.  The EFL has been rehomed a few times since it was founded, including at one point in a cramped little attic with a beetle infestation, has had a series of prestigious alumni who have kindly donated books for the rare books room and had a committee at one point who were most concerned about where in the new building they should put the wine cupboard.  It’s amazing what anecdotes you can discover in archives, and it sounds like the pamphlet went down well with the students and with open day visitors.  At the end, we got to watch Hot Girls in the EFL, which was part of a musical put on by Oxford students (slightly sexist but quite amusing, and you get to see the library).

Developing the Jesubite collection.

If anyone didn’t know, a ‘Jesubite’ is a member or alumnus of Jesus College, Oxford.  I like to hear about what goes on in college libraries, because they’re quite unique, and totally different from the subject based university libraries.  The Jesus trainee was developing the Jesubite collection, material about, by, or donated by alumni of the college.  There were some interesting characters in the Jesus alumni, from T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) to the son of the founder of cremation in Britain (who was apparently a druid).  The trainee has been reclassifying the collection and writing a collection development policy – they don’t want everything to do with old members because of space constraints, but they hope to develop it in future.  She also did a survey of other college libraries and found that their old members’ collections were usually lending collections, so their collection is now available to be borrowed.

Making a LibGuide on apps for the social sciences.

We all got to pass round the shiny new Social Science Library ipad in this talk, and it increased my ipad envy.  The aim of the SSL ipad was so that library staff could become accustomed to new technology and would be able to help readers with it.  It’s a good idea, as I sometimes feel that I am falling behind in the knowledge of this kind of mobile technology, simply because I can’t really afford it – I’m still pretty laptop based, although if my phone’s in a good mood, it might occasionally allow me to check Facebook.  The SSL trainee had researched all kinds of apps that might be useful for social sciences students (referencing, databases, personal scanners etc.) and had created an online guide with some of the best one she’d discovered.  She had found the sheer number of apps available quite daunting, and it was difficult to tell which were actually any good, but having the ipad was definitely an advantage as she could play around and try them out.  The LibGuide will be live very soon.

Extreme reclassification : Moysing the Law Library

This was MY presentation!  I’d like to blog about this properly, so I won’t dwell on it now, but briefly it was about the long-running project in the Law Library to reclassify all the 90,000 monographs to the Moys classification scheme in order to make it easier for readers to browse by subject.  At the moment we’re elbow deep in monographs, spreadsheets and label remover in the library, so I’ll leave you with a photo of the Scottish law section all ready to be Moysed and put back on the shelf…

Scottish Law ready to be Moysed

Extracting and preserving the contents of Mini-DV cassettes

This presentation was a nice change from library based projects, as it was given by the FutureArch trainee , who works with the Bodleian digital archives.  She talked about the difficulty of preserving video – so much is stored on out-of-date equipment, it’s very fragile, copying it onto other systems might make it lose quality.  Mini-DV cassettes are little cassettes which were used mainly for home videoing, so lots of interesting archival material are stored on them, but you can’t really buy any new technology to play them, as they have been replaced so quickly by hard drives.  It was really interesting to learn about the challenges of preserving non-paper materials, as it’s not something you get to hear about very often, but it’s surely going to get more and more important as time goes on.

Reclassifying and dragging back

We’re back to reclassifying again here, this time a section of the Lower Reading Room at the main Bodleian which the trainee was trying to integrate with the rest of the collection and free up some shelf space.  It showed what a feat of organisation reclassification and book moving actually is.  His spreadsheet looked incredibly complicated and he explained how unforseen problems often cropped up – from not being able to find the record on the system and not being able to find the book at all, to the physical task of lugging the books around.

Library communications

The other trainee from the SSL had taken a different approach to the project – she had gone round visiting other libraries and seeing how they communicated with their readers.  Her presentation was a shortened version of a report that she had put together, which hopefully will come in useful when the libraries are looking at communication in the future.  She showed that each library had to focus on many different methods of communication, from signage in the library space to social media presence.  It was interesting to see the positive aspects of some of the Oxford libraries, as well as where they had room for improvement!

Fiedler online

The Taylor Slavonic trainee talked about turning ‘dusty stuff’ – in this case, letters written by Professor Fiedler, first professor of German at Oxford University – into an online resource.  He had been single handedly digitising the letters and building a very impressive database and website to show them off with.  Although there was sadly a lot of computer language talk that bypassed me a bit (really need to start learning it at some point), the concept made sense – putting a website and a database together so that people could search for the letters of Hermann Fiedler by name, location and subject matter, and see a digitised copy along with the record.  You can see the website (still under construction) here.

Law and order in the library

The last college library talk of the day was another overview of different libraries, this time focussing on library rules and regulations.  The St Hugh’s trainee had found some amusing rules from the 15th century, some of which were similar to our own (don’t deface the books), and some of which were probably not (don’t let women into the library).  Then she went on to talk about how library rules worked at Oxford and how students responded to them.  She has helpfully put an extended version of her slide show on her blog so you can read all about it for yourselves.

Producing online resources for for ArcGIS mapmaking software

More maps!  And some mapmaking software I had never heard of – hence the need to make resources for it.  The Radcliffe Science Library has just had this software installed on some of its computers, and it is really useful for anyone doing any kind of spatial analysis or mapmaking.  However, as the current resources for it are quite technical and jargon heavy, the RSL trainee produced some easy-to-read resources for the novice user.  This was a good example of librarians not just being about books – the RSL trainee’s experience of using the ArcGIS software during her science degree gave her the right expertise to write some really helpful guides for library users who didn’t know a lot about the software.  The RSL is one of the best libraries in Oxford for new technology, so it is always interesting to see what they are working on in this field.

Building a database to record the history of the Oxford Union

Last, but certainly not least, the Oxford Union library trainee talked about her crash course in database building, and the attempt to create a searchable database of information about the history of the Union itself.  The Oxford Union was founded in 1823 and as well as having a library and bar, is also famous for organising debates and speakers to entertain its members.  It’s also run by a committee, and union committee members are known for later becoming successful politicians/ other important folks.  So the Union library gets a lot of enquiries about past members, past debates, minutes of committee meetings, but up until now has had no way of searching for them.  We saw lots of complicated plans for the database which reminded me of another thing I should put on my ‘lists of things to learn how to do’ – build an Access database – and it looks like it will be a really valuable resource once it’s finished.  We were warned though, a database isn’t useful without a huge amount of data entry, so there’s a lot of work still left to go!

If anyone has got to the end of this post, well done!  It’s a bit of a lengthy post, but I thought it was worth including all the presentations as they were all quite different.  We all had a good (if nerve wracking) day, and many thanks to all supervisors and other library staff who came to see us.