#cpd23 Thing 10 – Routes into Librarianship

I think in many ways my route into librarianship has been fairly ‘textbook’; graduate traineeship, full-time library Masters, but actually the textbook route isn’t the most usual one.

There have already been some excellent posts about this, I particularly enjoyed reading Siobhan B’s and Jen Gallagher’s.

Graduate Traineeships

As an undergraduate, I had a bit of a panic about what to do when I grew up. My friends seemed to have vague ideas of what areas they wanted to go into; NGOs/charities, publishing, postgraduate study… but what about me? No idea!

But it was staring me in the face. I already worked at a library. I had worked for two years previous in a different library. And I loved it. I just didn’t know librarianship was a thing. After some internet research and a friendly chat with my subject librarian, I was ready to go! After many applications, and a few interviews, I was successful in getting a graduate trainee position (the one I really wanted too!), at the Bodleian Social Science Library at Oxford University.

The year was amazing. The SSL was a really lovely place to work, and Oxford was a lovely, if expensive, place to live. The trainee scheme also involved weekly training sessions, and there were about 18 or so of us; a ready-made network of colleagues and friends. I really feel my trainee year set me up fantastically for library school, but if I had decided against PG study, it was a great set of experiences and skills for working in a library or elsewhere.

Working on my Graduate Trainee project

I recommend graduate traineeships as a way into the profession, but I am well aware they are very competitive. It’s important to remember that, yes while they are a great path to becoming a librarian, they are not the only path. I’d say roughly half, or maybe not even that, of people on my course were trainees before starting the Masters.

Which leads me on to…

Masters degrees

I’ve blogged before about my Masters degree at Sheffield, and you can find my reviews of the course here and here.

I went straight into full-time study for my Librarianship degree, but a lot of my fellow trainees decided to do it part-time (or not do it at all). I think it all just depends on your own situation. I was successful in my application for AHRC funding, for which I am incredibly grateful, as it has allowed me to do the course in one year, and to move to Sheffield to do so.

Though, again, funding is very competitive, and I’m fairly sure the number of awards is reduced year on year. This, combined with ever increasing fees, I am sure will result in fewer people embarking on a library degree, or more choosing to combine part time study with employment.


This is definitely something I intend to do in my future. However, right now, my thoughts are turned to finding a job first, preferably a professional post. Once that’s sorted I can think about the rest!

Graduate Trainee Project: Reclassifying pamphlets

I finished my last day at the SSL yesterday. I’ve had an amazing time there, and I am very sad to go. The original idea for this blog post was a reflection of the past year as a graduate trainee, but I soon realised that was too huge. I have done so much over the last 12 months, including visits, training sessions, and projects, not to mention all the new skills and information I have learnt, so I decided to split it into smaller chunks.

When I helped out with the interview days for the next set of trainees, a lot asked me about our projects, so I thought that would be an excellent place to start.

A few of us have written short posts about our projects at http://oxfordtrainees.wordpress.com (apologies for the ugly long links, my laptop is refusing to insert links), and there are some of our presentation slides at http://www.slideshare.net/oxfordtrainees. Because of that, I won’t go into too much detail about the actual work involved, as Lauren and I covered that in our blog post already.

The project was to reclassify pamphlets from an in-house classification scheme designed at their previous home, the International Development Centre, to Library of Congress classification, which is used for the main run of books in the SSL.


A selection of the more photogenic pamphlets


The pamphlets live in their own section in the library, which is between the periodicals and working papers. To be honest with you, they weren’t much used, and in fact Lauren and I didn’t know where the section even was until we started the project. Hopefully reclassification will make the section easier to navigate, and it will be used a bit more.

The planning involved in the project was actually pretty straight forward. We discussed with the Cataloguer what would be involved, and ran our decisions past the Social Sciences Librarian. After that it was mostly a case of getting on with the work, and tackling any problems as we got to them.


Working out a shelf mark range for a box could often be headache-inducing


My expectations of the reclassifying were quite wrong. I had thought it would be a lot of technical work, with MARC records and cataloguing terms I wouldn’t understand, but actually I really enjoyed it and found we often raced through this part. Choosing Library of Congress shelf marks was a great opportunity to do decision based tasks, which aren’t often given to lower level library staff. It also meant I tried something I probably wouldn’t have gone for off my own back, because of my preconceptions of classification work, that it very technical and not something I would be interested in.

When I left last week, Lauren and I had completed a bay of pamphlets. We worked out that we had reclassified, processed and re-shelved approximately 1110 pamphlets, a very satisfying number.


The pamphlets section - we completed the first bay by the end of the year

The readers’ research

The inaugural 2011 Sssh: Social Science Showcase for graduate research took place in the Bodleian Social Science on Tuesday 28th June. Opened by Professor Roger Goodman, Head of the Social Sciences Division, 19 research students from 8 Departments displayed posters about their current research.

I have been involved in the organisation and running of this event for the last four months or so along with the other members of the Sssh team. I must admit this event has been the source of some stress, as the initial planning came along at a time where Lauren and I were struggling to keep up with our workload. Luckily this became less and less of a problem as time went on, and I really enjoyed being part of the project.

The first meetings were a bit of a struggle. It was decided that the posters advertising the registration website would be accompanied by two sets of postcards; one was to give more information, the other was a reply card you could fill out with an email address and have more information sent to you. A few of us thought this idea wasn’t necessary, and I feel we were right in our dislike of the reply cards as we only had one response! The colour scheme was also pretty off in my opinion, with the poster and cards in a shade of lilac which didn’t seem eye-catching, but I am told the advertising was a success so I was clearly wrong.

In these meetings we were all assigned tasks, and Lauren and I were asked to create a guide to creating an effective research poster, of which we are both pretty proud (sadly it’s no longer on the web).

Initial sign ups were slow, but reasonably steady, though when the participants were asked for a 150 abstract closer to the event date we had quite a lot of cancellations. This was a big problem, as were feeling quite low on numbers to begin with, and the display boards had already been ordered (at quite a cost to hire). We were even getting cancellations the day before the event!  This was even more frustrating because a brochure of the titles and abstracts had been compiled for the participants and attendees. In the end the event was a reasonable size, with around 19 participants on the day, which was actually better than a large group since it was manageable but also not too small. Seeing the posters really made everything worth it.

One of the key aims of this event was to bring together research from across the Social Sciences Division, and this was a great success; posters on topics such as young people’s museum learning experiences were displayed alongside “A conceptual analysis of social resilience of single older women living in rural Australia”. Other poster titles included ‘The Social Life of Schizophrenia’, ‘Early Iron Age Aegean Warfare’, ‘Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities: Tradition and Modernity’ and ‘Dynamics of Bodily Changes and Self in Older Women’. This setup gave researchers a unique opportunity to discuss their work with members of other departments and to gain an awareness of the diversity of current research within the division. Therefore, although named Sssh: Social Science Showcase, a play on the library setting, this lively discussion meant that the day was anything but quiet!

Opening the showcase, Professor Roger Goodman, Head of the Social Sciences Division, gave a short speech to welcome participants and to highlight the crucial relationship between the library and the research it supports, which was put into practice at this event. He also stressed the importance of the skill required in creating an effective research poster, and urged everyone to take the opportunity to ask as many difficult questions as possible.

For us this was a great chance to learn more about the research being undertaken by our readers; as many of them are regulars in the library it was really interesting to see the end result of all their hard work. Similarly it was also great to see so many of the participants taking the opportunity to learn more about the research of their contemporaries and engaging in interdisciplinary debate.

I was mistaken for a student a couple of times, and some of the presenters’ faces did fall when they found out I was just library staff, but I hope I conveyed my enthusiasm for the topics and the social sciences, and that they all found the event worthwhile and enjoyable. The day was well received, and was an excellent end to four months of preparation. The library is hoping to repeat the event in 2012.

(Thanks to Lauren, as I pinched parts of this post from the article we wrote for the Bodleian newsletter!)