Twice a year, as part of the Library Day in the Life project, librarians and library staff spend a week Tweeting or blogging about their day. This enables them to connect with others within the profession, promote their workplaces (and themselves) and gives those who are interested in librarianship an opportunity to find out what it's all about. It also gives us a chance to challenge perceptions of librarianship - yep, we do more than stamp books. In fact, we don’t even do that anymore. Users are issued with printed receipts instead. How’s that for challenging your views of libraries (if not your belief system at large)? Of course, we now spend most of our time mourning the demise of the book stamp but, occasionally, when our tissues get soggy and our noses get sore, we remember there are actually other things we can do.
Having had a busy few days, I'm going to have to buck the trend for daily posts and write about my week instead. There - you see? Despite common preconceptions, librarians can and do rebel on occasion - sometimes we even
The week started well - we were all still in a celebratory mood having completed a major project towards the end of the previous week; we've been reclassifying the entire library stock (17,000 items) due to some site moves that are scheduled for later on this year. Leading on this project at my site meant overseeing the work throughout various stages - from jointly submitting a paper to the Director of the Service on the pros and cons of keeping the previous classification scheme, to carrying out a review of the collection and quality checking the work once complete. Our Information Assistants worked consistently hard on the project, maintaining momentum and displaying a high level of commitment throughout, without which it would have been impossible to meet the deadline. I spent the duration of the project mentally waving golden pom poms in their direction and resisting the urge to cartwheel down the aisles on completion of another section.
Another reason we were in a good mood was due to all the positive feedback we received via our 'Love Libraries' survey - something put together by the Promotions Group for National Libraries Day on 4th February. We added this feedback to our NLD12 display, which also featured information on the British Library, Copac, SCONUL and, of course, our own services. As has been a popular topic of discussion within library circles recently, marketing is increasingly becoming a part of the librarian’s role in a way that it may not have been in the past. Before, we held the key to information - people had to come to us if they wanted to know more about the impact of Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating to you and me) on personal relationships (yes, this really happened – as an information request, I mean, not to me). Now, information is more widely available meaning that unless we promote our services in such a way that appeals to our users and recognises their changing needs, then our knowledge, expertise and resources are wasted and our users are limited to relying on fewer, potentially less trustworthy, non peer-reviewed and information-poor resources.
We need to actually talk to people, not just send emails, display a few posters then settle down to a bit of cataloguing and hope for the best. Two conversations I had with academic members of staff recently highlight this – a lecturer studying for a postgraduate certificate in Academic Practice was pleased to hear last week that, following a conversation I had with her recently, the library has decided to extend loan limits for academic staff who are also studying. Had I not spoken to her, I wouldn’t have known she was struggling to keep her borrowing for both her research/teaching requirements and her studying needs within current loan limits – and she wouldn’t have known what we could do to help. In addition to this, on Wednesday a Public Health lecturer ushered me into his office for a quick chat about some materials I sent him on the new digitised newspaper collection at the British Library. Having found out previously that much of his research focuses on public health in the nineteenth century, I knew he’d find this a valuable resource – and he was pleased that I’d remembered him.
Communicating with our students is obviously equally important and we need to constantly think of new ways to promote our services to them and gather their feedback if we are to maintain/see an improvement in our NSS scores. The quiz we ran last week in support of National Libraries Day was one way of doing this, and our 'Love Libraries' survey (although primarily an opportunity for them to lavish us with compliments) saw some users suggesting changes we could make that would improve the student experience. Through collecting such information we're able to make changes before National Student Survey feedback is collected, and in doing so we not only improve our scores, but avoid relying solely on information that only comes our way every twelve months.
But back to my week - by lunchtime on Monday I had carried out various tasks such as making rota alterations to accommodate training, checking a reading list for one of the Subject Librarians and making a few changes to Information Assistant task rotation. The remainder of Monday was spent having a meeting with one of my team members, writing up some minutes from a meeting on the previous Friday and carrying out an impromptu one-to-one training session on Ovid Online.
Tuesday passed in a blur of more meetings, authorising annual leave requests, dealing with fine queries and beginning work on an article promoting open access - the first of three I’ll be writing for the Spring edition of the Library newsletter.
On Wednesday I caught up with a number of colleagues from the main library and the Learning Development Centre at the LDC Showcase event. Again, events such as these are an opportunity to learn about what's been going on in other departments, find out if we can offer any support to them or update them on what's happening at the library and remind people of the existence of our site. Don't get me wrong, we're not exactly off radar but being one of the smaller sites, located a good fifteen minute walk from the main campus, means we have to work that bit harder to remain in people's minds. Lucky for us I’m always willing to go along to various events and
Thursday saw me carrying out some staff training on the Library Management System, then sending out the service desk rota for the coming week before heading off to the main site for a meeting with our Systems Administrator about managing system records for Continuing Professional Development users. Since moving into my current role I've addressed a number of issues related to keeping up with the registration and departure of these users, but there are still a number of kinks that need ironing out. The meeting was helpful in establishing exactly what information we need and how we might go about obtaining it.
Friday is what I often refer to as my 'busy day' due to being mostly spent on banking procedures, the submission of financial information via our online system and - inevitably - re-writing the service desk rota to accommodate commitments that crop up at the last minute. Last Friday was particularly busy as I battled to cover vacant desk slots due to staff sickness, attended two meetings and liaised with the Marketing team about a design they've been working on for some canvas book bags we’ll soon be selling in the library.
A busy- but average - week, then, with perhaps a few more meetings than usual. Of course, many of the smaller- admittedly somewhat mundane - jobs (dealing with broken photocopiers, unresponsive catalogues, shelving, relabeling items, streaky printers etc) don't feature here, but attending to these is just as important as the more - am I pushing my luck here? - 'glamorous' aspects of the role. In addition to this, an ability to deal with the unexpected, whether that be staffing issues, an urgent request from a lecturer or an essential maintenance issue is crucial, and these skills are called upon more often than you'd expect, meaning that all those Tuesday evenings at Brownies, learning how to 'be prepared' didn't go to waste. (I tend not to tell anyone that I only got four badges – or that the one featuring a little yellow saucepan for ‘Cook’ was forever beyond me).
Looking back over my week I can see how varied my role is - the fact that I carry out a wide range of tasks on a daily basis, from shelving and relabeling items to banking library takings, training staff members, attending meetings and events, writing for the newsletter and liaising with other departments - is what keeps things interesting. Very little of the role involves frowning disapprovingly over my spectacles whilst 'shhhing' people, wearing tweed or sporting a Croydon facelift. And as you can see, very little of it (well, none actually) involves stamping books.
I do, however, have a cat. As do a number of my librarian colleagues. Does this mean that despite all I've said we're actually all crazy cat ladies (and men) at heart? I'm afraid so. That's one aspect of the Librarian stereotype many of us live up to - and long may it go unchallenged. Look, if Austin Powers can have one and Number 10 can have one, so can we – right?!