Reflections on My Trainee Year

I didn’t post the promised update after my final week at work (as my boyfriend and mother, both readers of this blog, keep reminding me), probably because I didn’t want to admit it was all over!

The final week

The last week was a bit of blur. It seemed to go by very quickly! After a few days of chasing up lost library books and getting the very last reading tests done, it was suddenly the last day. What with the school’s recent restructure (read: redundancies), we all knew it would be an emotional day, with lots of familiar faces – many of whom had worked there for years – saying goodbye. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry until I got home.

Before I even got into the library I ran into two people who I knew were leaving. We stood in the corridor and had a big hug, which set me off. Then I cried when I was given my leaving gift – a copy of ‘The Rights of the Reader’ with notes inside written by some of our regular library-using students! Then I cried at the end of the day when saying goodbye to some of my lovely colleagues. Okay, I cry a lot. I can’t help it.


I’d like to make it clear now that I wouldn’t cry at leaving just any job (I certainly didn’t at my last one). My highly emotional state was testament to what a lovely time I had working in this school, and a lot of that was to do with the experiences it gave me.

I learnt a lot of general library skills – all the usual things like shelving, processing, etc! It may not sound thrilling but I have a lot of confidence going into the MA and future roles knowing that I have an idea about the basics. On top of that, I got to grips of so many useful ideas and practices for school libraries. In particular, I got a lot more confident at helping people find new things to read, and recommending books to them (and not being too upset when they turned down a suggestion!).

I also got to see what it was like working within a larger organisation – in this case a secondary school – and how our work supports our users and helps the colleagues around us. I loved the school community and all the work they did for the students, so I’m really sold on the idea of working in school libraries in the future.

The students

Everyone knows that working with children isn’t easy. I certainly found that this year, and at times I had issues with my own confidence when it didn’t go to plan. But what a lot of people don’t realise is how rewarding it is when the work goes well. Knowing what you’ve done is helping a young person in some way, and seeing them respond to that, is amazing. I’ve loved working regularly with some of the lower-ability and SEND students, because seeing the progress they’ve made over the year is fantastic.

I may have given a few of them sweets on my last day to say goodbye… not that we condone eating them in the library, of course…

The colleagues

The great thing about being a graduate trainee is working with other trainees. In my case, this meant only having one other trainee in post at any one time, but in my year and a bit I worked with 3. It’s lovely to have someone to share your experiences with, to discuss future plans in the profession and even have the odd moan to when things aren’t going to plan!

I also got to work for a great librarian who really cares about his students and their progress – plus a team of great teachers and support staff. I’ll definitely miss a lot of the people I worked with, but I’m glad I got to spend time with them and learn from them.

The profession

I’ve learnt so much this year about what it means to be a librarian, how to progress and what else I might need to learn in future. Admittedly a lot of this I found out for myself – but part of being a trainee for me has meant finding this information out. There are loads of librarians and information professionals out there tweeting, blogging and otherwise sharing their ideas and experiences.

I’ve been on the Librarians with Lives podcast (definitely give it a listen if you haven’t already), set up this blog and hijacked my old Twitter account to become a library-focused entity!

I also used my contacts at the school to get to visit another school library, as well as meeting lots of other librarians at training events. I know traineeships in other library sectors are likely to have more opportunities for visits, but having these few experiences that are school-specific was so useful.

The future

Being a trainee has given me experience and, most importantly, enthusiasm to move forward to the next step, which for me is the MA in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield*. I’m looking forward to meeting other students and hearing what they’ve been up to, and hopefully getting some more work experience – probably in a different type of library. As much as I think school libraries are the ones for me, I will need something part time to fit around my studies for now!

(*I know the masters courses aren’t an option for every would-be or new librarian, and I hope the profession becomes more accessible in future.)

And after that? Who knows!

I’ll keep the blog running and use it to post updates on what it’s like to be a Librarianship student. I predict late nights, an amount of snacking and, of course, lots of books. There’s only a few weeks until the start of the course and in that time I have to relocate to t’north – so I’ll be back sometime in the autumn once I’ve settled in.

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