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Library Day in the Life 7 – Tuesday & Wednesday

July 28, 2011

In an unusual twist of fate I sat down on Tuesday morning to discover my email inbox was crammed full and far more daunting than it was on Monday morning. Hhmph. It seems students are very keen to get their final degree result but less keen to check they had returned everything to the library and therefore are not all that pleased. I delved in with a happy manner and sent them all they needed to know then I got down to some serious business.

The library I am based in went through a staff restructure before it moved campus’ and there is now just two full-time members of staff, one of them being me, so the workload is quite heavy. I do like this though and the day goes by quickly. It also means I get to try my hand at a little bit of everything. I get to do some cataloguing, a bit of weeding and withdrawing, acquisitions, user education etc. this is what really attracted me to the role. The sheer amount of experience in each division of library work. As I said in the previous post, I just have to make sure I can time manage well.

This week I’ve also been preparing for my dissertation interview on Friday. I emailed the questions to my tutor at lunchtime and she got back to me to say they were all fine and would be more than enough for the time slow. I’m quite nervous about the dissertation and was worried my interview would be over and done with in ten minutes so this was very welcome news.

In the afternoon I prepared the sheets for the stocktake on Wednesday. To be completely honest I am not too sure how they “run” stocktakes elsewhere but due to our old LMS system I have had to run a report for all the books we possess, sort it into Dewey decimal order and then print off the section we are checking. I then compile all the information into a spreadsheet and we’ll get the big picture at the end. (Any information or advice on stocktakes would be great though!) Then my boss and I did some Athens account work where we were extending some accounts and deleting others. Finally, I booked my place at Library Camp which sounds super exciting and something to look forward to in October. Et voila, Tuesday done!

Wednesday on the otherhand…hmm..I was struck down in the prime of my Library Day in the Life week and was off sick. One visit to the doctor later where I (politely) demanded some painkillers and then rested. I do wish on days like this that I can work from home, obviously as I am front facing it’s not quite the same but I’m not quite far up the ladder yet to have the kind of work you can do from home so I felt quite useless all day. That being said I started to draw out some ideas for a leaflet we’ll be giving out in induction sessions in September which made me feel like I was still doing something.


Library Day in the Life 7 – Monday

July 25, 2011

For Library Day in the Life Round 7 I didn’t think I would participate as I am snowed under with work and dissertation writing. This was until I saw all the tweets start to appear this morning and then like an impulsive teenager in Topshop I jumped on the bandwagon and Round 7 was well underway. Unlike the last time I participated I am now a full-time member of staff in a library (see previous posts) and I am now putting skills into practice I hadn’t really used in a work based environment since my trainee year, and new skills from the MA course.

My Monday starts with the monday meeting. This is where my line manager and I go through the previous week, whether there is anything still left to complete and tie up and what we have on this week such as visitors coming to the Study Zone or visits and conferences we’ll be going on and anything in the diary out of the ordinary. This week we are carrying on with the mammoth stocktake, I have annual leave on Friday to interview someone for my dissertation and we have to return our CLA scanning form. Since the college I work at has shifted to Google Calendar instead of Oracle I have found it is easy to keep track of everything we have on. On top of this I have started using Teux Deux to make sure all the minor things I have to do don’t fall into the big black hole in my head. Teux Deux is extremely useful not only because I can access it from anywhere but also because we have a ‘hot desking’ procedure here and desks must be cleared of belongings at the end of the day. This is quite refreshing as it means I come to work to find a clutter free desk every day but it also means I have to make sure I don’t rely on handwritten lists.

The rest of my day was filled with tonnes of emails from students asking why they hadn’t received their final grades yet and what library items they still had out on loan (and then dealing with cries of “but I returned it agessssss ago”). This is a pretty thankless task but it’s part of the job and it’s simply that time of year. I also managed to unpack a pile of journals we had delivered, catalogued some new books, liaise with a student over the e-books campaign they are designing for the library and completed some online training.

Mondays are pretty full on and I usually get into work at least half an hour early to make sure I can get things done. I don’t mind doing this and I would rather achieve more by the end of the day than have 30 minutes in bed. Yep, that’s how much I love my job. On reflection, Library Day in the Life 6 saw me attending lectures and working part-time and finishing essays. At the moment life is much more leisurely and I am more than grateful to not be working two evening shifts a week any more. It means focusing on my dissertation is close to being enjoyable and I can chip away at it in little chunks instead of cramming in intensive study. Before I knew it was 5pm and time to clear the desk.

Tackling Prezi

July 5, 2011

OH MY GOD. I wanted to shake my computer, throw it, smash it, anything to harm it basically. But then both me and Prezi entered into a loving relationship where I very nearly hugged my computer when I finished my presentation and my boss called me a “wizz”. Aces.

I first came across Prezi at the New Professionals Information Day 2010 where Lex Rigby started the day off with her presentation on The Ronseal Effect. Then Ned Potter gave an equally impressive presentation on Everything you need to know about technology to work in libraries. That was it, I felt instantly engaged and the audience sat up and took note of not only what they were saying but how they presented it. It was never a part of my BA, and only once during my MA, to give a presentation so I was left a bit like this on Monday morning when my new boss asked me to present to the college lecturers the e-resources and e-books we have available in less than three days.

So I turned to Prezi, decided I was going to face my fear and threw myself into making the presentation. And here it is, enjoy! It’s not the best, but it meets everything I need to cover. Unfortunately at the moment I am way too busy to be participating in CPD23, BUT if I was this would have been Thing 17. Hurrah! Hopefully the lecturers will find it a bit different to all the other presentations they’ll be faced with as part of the annual Skills Fest. In the meantime I am having a massive cup of tea while I enjoy the feeling of tackling my Prezi fear!


June 29, 2011

Flickr CC image by tsuacctnt

I am pleased to announce I am the new Digital Assets Assistant at Ravensbourne! It has been a long process from hearing the vacancy would come up, way back in April, to finally hearing today I was successful but it has completely been worth the wait. I started here as a casual member of staff in the library (sorry, Study Zone) in March and shortly after somebody left and their position was made open. This was the first job I’ve ever gone for which was an internal vacancy, which was a completely different experience than that of applying for a job in a normal way, but it was interesting.

I’m not too fond of the job title, or that of the library name, I always find “Study Zone” or “LRC” funny titles as everyone still refers to them as “the library” but what’s in a name right? I’ll be liasing with tutors to help put material on the VLE, I get to do my beloved cataloguing, library induction sessions for students at the start of term and run sessions on e-resources and how to get the best out of them. Basically, there is a lot to do! There is 1,500 students and only two members of staff in the library. Management want the focus of the library to be on the digital, hence the job title, and hopefully we’ll be able to introduce some new services that we currently don’t offer.

It feels great to know that the qualification and all my hard work has finally paid off. Along with moving house, applying for the job and doing my dissertation I’ve felt that everything has been so full on and overwhelming but hopefully this good news will mean a more settled working week and more time for things that keep me happy. I can now say goodbye to the three part time jobs and focus on the one!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

June 20, 2011

According to Dickens it should therefore be the age of wisdom and foolishness but it really isn’t. I’m at that point where I’m just fed up. Fed. Up. I’m sure everyone gets to this stage at one point or another but at the moment it’s my turn. The MA teaching finished months ago, summer seems to have come and gone already (come baaaaack) and serious job applications have been piling up. Although I’ve been working full time for awhile now, three part time jobs has meant I haven’t had much time to myself in the past two or three months and it’s really taking its toll on me.  Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go to a family wedding and see my loved ones but even that was a big hassle: unpaid leave as I’m on a casual contract, packing and unpacking, time I should technically be spending on my dissertation etc. but I supressed all these thoughts and just had a good time. It has really made me reflect on how little time I’ve had this year though.

There has been many, many, many posts which give a great insight to the library MA, how its been for them and being actively involved on twitter has really helped my MA experience. Seeing that a handful of other people are dedicating their Sundays to #libraryschoolsunday and hearing that other people have hit that “arrrrghhh” brick wall point makes me feel less like it’s just me going through it all. As much as choosing the right course and location is important it is just as, if not more so, important to make sure you’re in a position once you start where you can look after number one. The biggest thing I would stress is that if you decide to do the course full time you’ll have to make sure you become pretty organised, tired, dedicated and anti-social.

Hopefully things will perk up soon, I’ll get into the swing of my dissertation and job stuff should be sorted within the next week. Maybe then I’ll have a weight off my shoulders, book a holiday and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite having a bit of a downer at the moment I am glad I have done the course though. From my careers session way back in 2006 where my supervisor organsied some work experience in the university library all the way to the present day and five libraries later, I am glad the course has cemented my belief this is the profession for me. I’d just like a few days worth of sleep in the meantime!

I’ll finish on a high though, a friend sent me this video to make me smile. It definitely does.

Cataloguing – a view from a new professional

May 18, 2011

Recently I contributed the following article to the Catalogue and Index journal which appeared in Volume 162. I was really pleased to see a piece in the same volume by my first ever cataloguing manager who introduced me to the field, Helen Gardner and great to contribute alongside fellow LIS student, Jennifer Howard. If you’re a member of the Cilip group then its a great read. Cataloguing has been, for me, a highlight of my library experience so far as you will see below.

“Embarrassingly, I came away from my first experience in cataloguing thinking “I don’t understand and I never will”. Thankfully, I feel rather different today and, fortunately, I know I am not alone in this feeling. Back in 2007 when I first volunteered in the cataloguing department at my university library (Adsetts Centre,Sheffield Hallam University) my initial impressions were that cataloguing is a challenge and one I wouldn’t ever feel accomplished in. Yet with time, perseverance and guidance I actually enjoy the cataloguing processes and benefit from the experience of picking up a tricky book.

Prior to starting my work in the university library I didn’t give two seconds’ thought to where the information I needed actually came from. I, like many other library users (I assume), did not acknowledge that someone was responsible for all the useful information held on the lobby computer telling me what I needed to know. This may have been due to a lack of understanding on my part of what it must have been like to use a card catalogue knowing somebody had to produce each card separately, or the sheer availability of online information in the current age, which makes it easy for people to take for granted the fact that somebody somewhere has put it there.

This all changed when I started to work with a mentor in the library, who helpfully organised a rotation within most library departments to offer me an insight into how a library pieces together. The cataloguing department went out of their way to introduce me to the fundamentals of a catalogue, how they do what they do, and more importantly why. It was at this point I started to take a great deal of notice of the information communicated to me via a catalogue.

I can safely say I had never gained any pleasure from work which required following rules repeatedly, yet I found cataloguing was different: there wasn’t just one set of rules there was a variety, each made to apply differently to every individual item. In addition to this, the process required me to draw on this knowledge and make informed decisions. When I spoke to friends and family about my work in the department I felt the need to expand on what they thought of as ‘just cataloguing’ and explain the intricacies of the work and how important the role of the cataloguer is. Personally, it was a surprise that the work I have been involved in was motivating and enjoyable as I had never really experienced people talk of cataloguing in this way. Instead, colleagues eagerly spoke about digitisation projects and emerging new technologies, and sadly traditional cataloguing wasn’t portrayed to me as important as other areas of librarianship.

I have found through working in cataloguing departments and seeing cataloguers communicate via blogs, twitter and forums, that it is a profession to be passionate about. The next step is to show others how important the profession is. I have unquestionably had my eyes opened to the importance of communicating consistent practical information to a library user because without it they would be lost. I am sure the absence of information would cause library users to think about who is responsible for the information they need.

The cataloguing experience I have now gained, making part of the Corvey Collection available for online use for the first time and retrospective cataloguing at The London Library, has opened up a range of opportunities. Being involved in both traditional cataloguing and a digitisation project has given me the experience of a variety of roles and although quite different, both of these projects are vital to their respective libraries. I have also found that applying a fresh set of eyes to cataloguing has led to lively discussions in the workplace over standards and practices.

I have felt overshadowed at times by the sheer amount of fellow new professionals in the same position as me who want to gain experience in libraries. Fortunately, the encouragement I received at the Adsetts Centre to persevere with cataloguing meant my cataloguing experience has proved very useful and I now possess a very transferable skill. The enthusiasm I have been met with within the field has suggested to me that cataloguing isn’t promoted enough within the profession, especially to new professionals. I feel cataloguing needs to be portrayed as something to embrace, not something to be scared of. Within my MA I encouraged fellow students to start looking at OPAC records in MARC format to help them understand how the theory works in practice and gain confidence in an area which they initially found intimidating. Promoting cataloguing to fellow new professionals has sometimes fallen on deaf ears but a small number now see it is as a possible career path. Highlighting the current issues and advances in the field is crucial to those within the profession, and also those outside who believe cataloguing to be outdated and a possible area for out-sourcing.”

The Goodbye Library

April 28, 2011

Last night I toddled down to The Goodbye Library which was part of The London Word Festival. It instantly became one of those evenings where I was glad that I’d moved to London for all the different things you can go and experience. Hosted by Jack Underwood and Emmy the Great, a variety of sections found in a library were dissected and turned inside out. The rules stated there was “No awkward silences allowed. Just nice, long library ones”.

Everyone was asked to bring a book down to donate to The Goodbye Library and I took Timbuktu by Paul Auster, which I kind of just didn’t enjoy as much as other Auster books and hoped somebody else did. In return I received Pat Barker’s The Eye in the Door which will be on the waiting pile until I catch up on uni work. Miriam Elia read from her hamsters diary “April 4th. I am refusing to use the wheel. April 5th. I have decided to use the wheel.” and Joe Dunthorne was kind, and brave enough, to relive his gap year experience selling phone lines in Australia.

Definite high point of the evening was Emmy and Elizabeth Sankey reenacting my childhood obsession, Sweet Valley High. My sister and I would watch this religiously every Saturday morning before our ballet class (my achingly middle class upbringing is showing through now). We went through the books with ridiculous reading speed and cost our parents a small fortune. Obviously my sister, the goody two shoes who would one day become an accountant, would prefer to be Elizabeth and I, the sightly more non-conformist sister, was Jessica. (Later I realised Jessica was the way cooler sister and was happier about this set up) Not only did Emmy and Elizabeth act out two hilarious songs about Sweet Valley High but they also asked the audience to join them in a roll call for all the unfortunate, and there were many, people who died in the books.

In addition to everything they packed into the evening, The Ladies of the Press printed a live zine throughout the event! The evening finished rather aptly with the Library closing due to a funding cut. It would have been interesting to see how many librarians were in the audience, also I think it would have been lovely to include a bookmark in your donated book saying who it was from and why it was swopped. But yes, such a good evening!

The lovely Alex MacDonald can be seen there, he not only writes and edits Selected Poems but he also has posture to die for.

More photos can be found here.