Friday, 28 January 2011

Library Day in the Life: day five

The usual start to the day; arrive at 8.15am, check my emails, and then check that everything is switched on and ready for when we open. The member of academic staff who wants a television series recorded every week has responded to my email in which I suggested that Box of Broadcasts would be ideal for this, and is happy to give it a go, which is great. I look through a publisher’s alert that I’ve received, and find a book which I think could be useful for the department I support; I email the library rep, the member of academic staff in the department who acts as the main liaison with the library, to ask if they’d like me to purchase it. 

One of my colleagues then appears with a query about how I’ve classified a new DVD that they’re processing to put out on the shelves; I investigate, and decide to change the shelf-mark. Next, I do some final preparation for the class that a colleague and I are teaching this afternoon; I want to be entirely sure of what I’m doing. I go through the database I’m going to be demonstrating, and in my head I practise what I’m going to say. Once I’ve finished my preparation, my library rep has replied to say that they would like to order the book that I suggested, so I send that through to my Acquisitions colleague.

After a quick coffee, I’m on the enquiry desk from 11am until 12pm. There’s quite a few students in the library, but they don’t appear to need my help – no one asks me anything for the whole hour! I spend it noting my desk shifts for next week in my calendar, responding to some emails, and classifying some DVDs. 

After lunch, it’s time for our teaching session. It’s a 40 minute class for first year students, demonstrating how to search for books and journals, and use a couple of the key databases to locate journal articles. I’m nervous, as this is my first teaching session in this job, and is, I suppose, my first proper class; during my graduate traineeship, I did a bit of teaching, doing things like short demonstrations of the library catalogue or a database, but this was always part of someone else’s broader session. This time, the class is mine and my colleague’s, jointly, so it’s the biggest bit of teaching I’ve done so far in my career. About eight students attend (about the number we were expecting). I don’t think I do very well – the nerves get to me – but my colleague is great, and we keep to time. I feel a bit rubbish about my performance afterwards - my colleague tells me I was fine, but I presume they’re just being nice! – but when I read the feedback from the evaluation forms the students completed, they seem to have found the class useful, informative and relevant, so perhaps I didn’t do too badly after all. I’m sure I’ll improve with practice. There are some more classes coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, and I expect I’ll be going it alone with one of them at least. I do enjoy teaching so I hope I get better at it. If anyone has any tips for controlling nerves when teaching, I’d love to hear them!

I’m on the enquiry desk again from 2pm until 3pm. I don’t get any enquiries, but I do give out some holds. While I’m on the desk, I look at some of the evaluation forms from all of this week’s teaching sessions; my colleague and I have been tasked with summarising the feedback from all of the classes, so we’ve split the forms up between us to summarise, and will create a final summary together later. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with most students saying that they found the sessions informative and useful.

Once I’m off the desk, I make a cup of coffee and then my colleague and I collate our student feedback summaries, which are pretty much identical. After sorting out a couple of AV admin-y tasks, I spend the rest of the afternoon looking at a list of books which a graduate has offered to donate to the library. We do appreciate it when people want to donate material to us – it’s a lovely gesture - but processing donations can be very time-consuming, so we ask for a list and only accept the ones which will be really useful. I look at whether we have any of these books already, and what the subject matter is, to determine their usefulness. There are a few on the list which I think will enhance our collection.

Just before I leave at 4.30pm, a couple of emails come through from our journals subscription agent, concerning access problems I was trying to solve earlier in the week; it looks like at least one of these problems has been sorted out, hooray! I have a quick look at my schedule for Monday, and then head home to start my weekend.

So that has been my week. It’s been fairly representative of the different aspects of my role, and the work that I do, with the exception of evening or Saturday morning enquiry desk shifts; most weeks I will do at least one of these, but we don’t have set days – we all do the same amount of evenings and Saturdays per term, rather than per week, so some weeks I will do more than one, and other weeks, like this one, I’m not rota’d on to do any.

I’ve really enjoyed reading other peoples contributions to Library Day in the Life round six this week; it’s so interesting to have a glimpse into what other people do in their many different jobs. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Library Day in the Life: day four

My day begins in the usual way; arrive at about 8.20am, check my emails, and check that the computers and printers are switched on. I respond to an email about my availability for teaching over the next few weeks, and then it’s time for a shift on the enquiry desk from 8.45 until 10. I receive a few enquiries; loaning out the laptop and digital voice recorder that we have for students with particular access requirements, booking students into the study and viewing rooms, and finding a book for the alternative formats team at the main campus. In between dealing with these, I plan for the update that I’m having with one of the people who I line-manage later, finish classifying all of the urgently-needed books for my subject that we’ve received so far, and look through a publishers’ alert for any potentially useful books to suggest to my department. 

After a coffee break, I have the aforementioned update with one of the people I line-manage. These meetings are supposed to be fairly informal catch-ups that are held monthly. Being so new to line management, I’ve not held one of these before, although I have had appraisal training. I think it goes well; I try to incorporate the good aspects of the line management I receive now and from past managers. My colleague is happy with the objectives that we set for them together.

When I get back to my desk, I start looking at my journals contribution to a forthcoming display that I started yesterday, until a colleague asks if I know anything about EThOS; they are trying to help a student access a theses over the phone, and it looks like the student needs to pay to download one, even though we thought it was open-access. I investigate, and discover how to download for free. My colleague has worked it out too by this point, but I’m glad I looked at it too as it’s good  to know how it works; with the British Library experiencing problems which are affecting the document supply service, we are recommending that students use EThOS to access theses.

I carry on with the journals task I was working on, before taking my lunch break. After lunch, I sit in on a class that one of my colleagues is teaching; a 40 minute session introducing first years to using the catalogue and e-library to find books and journal articles, the same session that another colleague and I will be teaching together tomorrow. I’ve been observing as much teaching as possible over the past few weeks, to ensure that I know what I’m doing when it’s my turn. The class goes well; the students engage and ask questions. Afterwards, I spend some time looking through the evaluation forms that they completed at the end. Their feedback is really positive (my favourite comment: “it was all brillo pads”!), and they seem to have found the class useful.

I then get together with my colleague with whom I am teaching tomorrow, to work out how we’re going to split the session up and talk over any concerns. The session plan is easily divided between us, and we decide on who is doing what fairly quickly. I’m looking forward to doing some teaching!

Next, I look at an email I’ve just received about AV stuff; Box of Broadcasts again, mainly. I’m really confused about the information in it, and ask my line manager, who is really helpful and clarifies things for me; I try to work independently, but I’m still getting to grips with all of the different bits of my job! Once that’s dealt with, I spend some time looking electronic journals access; one simple email prompts me to check something, which uncovers some potential access problems – this task takes me longer than I anticipated! I sort it out as best I can; I’ll need to look at it again closer to the time when I think the problem might arise. I make a cup of coffee and finally get round to reading Philip Pullman’s amazing speech defending libraries (you need to read it if you haven’t already). 

I then do a few AV admin-y tasks and read some meeting minutes that have just been circulated. Next, I type up the notes I made during my update with my line-managee (I think that should be a word – less of a mouthful than “person I line-manage”!) this morning, and send the document to them to check that they agree with what I’ve written.

I end my day by dealing with an email from a member of academic staff in the department I support, who wants a series of programmes recorded and put in the library. I reply, explaining that Box of Broadcasts would be perfect for this – the programmes will be available for students to watch in a much shorter time than they would be if I request it as an off-air recording, and students can watch them at their leisure, in their own time, without having to fight each other for the one DVD copy – and offer to ensure that the programmes are recorded, and to send a direct link to the staff member as soon as they’re available to view. Hopefully they’ll be willing to give it a try. Now it’s 5.10pm and time for me to head home.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Library Day in the Life: day three

My day begins much the same as yesterday; arrive at about 8.20am and check my emails, before heading upstairs to check that everything is switched on and working before we open. I then have a look at the session plan for the class that a colleague and I are teaching on Friday – my first teaching session in this job – and work out how we might divide it between us, before reading the inclusive teaching checklist which has recently been circulated, which sets out how we should ensure that students with access requirements are able to attend and participate in classes.

I then have another look at the agenda for the subject programme meeting this afternoon, and ensure that I am prepared to both demonstrate Box of Broadcasts, or to talk about it if for any reason I don’t get to do a demo. Next, I flick through the two most recent issues of Viewfinder, the journal of the British Universities Film and Video Council, which are always passed to me before going on the shelves, so that I can look to see if it contains anything useful relating to the AV aspects of my role. In one of the issues, there is an article about copyright which directs me to a website which might be useful in the near future when we look at creating an AV copyright guide, one of the things on my AV to-do list. 

I have a quick coffee break, then look at the list of journals tasks that I and my journals colleague identified in a meeting last week as needing to be done soon. I’ve already completed a couple of them, and I start on the others. They’re mainly concerning access for titles for which we have a new electronic subscription this year (calendar year, not academic year – most of our subscriptions start in January), and queries about missing issues and cancellations. Sorting out electronic access to journals can involve several different things; I won’t list them all, but today I supply our IP address range to one publisher, and check the licence agreement for another to ensure that we can allow students on all of our campuses to access the title. I also solve some of the renewal/cancellation mysteries, by checking our catalogue records, our orders, our renewals spreadsheet and invoices. 

I’m on the enquiry desk from 11am until 1pm. It’s unusually quiet for this time of day, and I only deal with a few enquiries; renewing books over the phone, lending headphones for the computers, and trying to help a student find a book that they want for personal interest (we don’t have it, but I suggest the public library!). In between these queries, I continue some of the journals work I started before I came on the desk, and then do some book classifying; a load of books needed urgently for a new module in my subject this semester have just arrived. 

After lunch, most of my afternoon is spent at the subject programme meeting I’ve been preparing for. Most of the meeting is spent on agenda items relating to module design and teaching etc., which are not directly relevant to me, but which provide good context for my subject liaison work. I’m glad that I prepared to speak about Box of Broadcasts without having it up on a screen, as due to various pieces of malfunctioning AV equipment, I’m not able to demo it. It’s actually really difficult to talk about it without being able to show it! I’m not sure I do a great job, but the members of staff who came to a demo in the library a couple of weeks ago enthuse about it to their colleagues, and, even though I struggle to explain some aspects without being able to demonstrate, everyone seems really interested; they ask lots of questions, and I’m asked to email them all with a link when it launches next week. I encourage them to have a look at it when it’s available, and urge them to email me with any questions. I think my first attendance at a programme meeting is successful!
By the time I get back to my desk, there’s not much of the day left. There are quite a few emails sitting in my inbox, so I catch up with those. One of them is asking me to devise a journals-related contribution to a forthcoming display; I do some preliminary work on this, before it’s 5pm, and time to go home.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Library Day in the Life: day two

I arrive at about 8.20am and begin by checking my emails and flagging any from which actions arise. I’ve been sent the agenda for the departmental programme meeting I’m attending tomorrow; I’ve been given a small “Library” slot on the agenda, which is great as I’m hoping to be able to demonstrate Box of Broadcasts (BoB), an online television streaming tool which will launch in our institution at the end of the month, and which should be really useful for the department I support. Just before we open at 8.45, I pop upstairs to the computer area to check that everything is up and running; one of my colleagues has already gone round and switched everything on, and I make sure that the paper trays in the printers are full. 

My colleague who works with me on journals passes me a renewal reminder that we’ve received from a publisher, for a title for which we’ve cancelled the subscription due to being granted access to it as part of a new bundle deal. I email our subscription agent (we purchase as many subscriptions as possible through our agent, rather than direct from the publishers) and ask them to contact the publisher on our behalf to explain that we will not be renewing.

We have our fortnightly team meeting this morning, so I read the minutes from the last meeting, which I wasn’t able to attend, as well as the agenda for this one. We talk about any issues that we’re dealing with at the moment, and report from our specific areas. I then email a colleague about editing the cataloguing slips for AV material, read the agenda that has just come through for the cross-campus journals group meeting next week (and make the all-important meeting drinks choice!), and then have another look at BoB; I’m already familiar with it, but I go through the crib sheet that my line manager used when demonstrating it to staff last week, to check that I can do a quick but effective demo if I get the chance tomorrow. I’m a bit nervous at the prospect of standing up and presenting to academic staff, so I want to be sure I know what I’m doing!

Working across several different areas, I have lots of different tasks to do, and I have to be organised in order to ensure that I don’t miss anything; I find lists can be very helpful. I’ve got quite a few flagged emails sitting in my inbox, and notes in my Outlook calendar, so I start sorting them out, making a list of AV tasks that need to be done fairly soon, and a list of things to take to the next cross-campus multimedia operations meeting in a few weeks’ time. 

At 10am, it’s time for the team meeting. We discuss some matters arising from the previous meeting, but it’s quite a short one, as there isn’t much from our respective areas that needs to be raised with the team. After a coffee break, I carry out a Return to Work discussion with one of the people who I line manage, who was off sick yesterday. Being so new to line management, I’ve never done one of these before, but I think I conduct the discussion successfully, checking that my colleague is well enough to be back at work, and ensuring that I fill out all of the necessary paperwork.

When I return to the office, the Radio Times is waiting for me. Every week I go through it and select up to ten programmes or films to be recorded via our off-air recording service. I look for things like documentaries relating to the subject areas we support at this campus, and films which might be difficult or expensive to get hold of commercially. I’ve made a list of VHS stock that we still have on the shelves, and I’m looking to replace these with DVDs where possible, so I always check to see if any of those are being shown; one of them is. I make it through most of the schedules before hunger gets the better of me, and I decide it’s time for lunch!

After lunch I finish selecting programmes and pass my list to my colleague who inputs the requests. I then receive a package of DVDs created from off-air VHS recordings from another campus; I’m expecting these, but one title is missing, and one of the titles I’ve been sent isn’t one that we asked for, so I email the relevant colleague at that campus to try to sort out the mystery!

It’s then time for my shift on the enquiry desk, from 2pm until 4pm. The library is fairly busy and I deal with a number of enquiries over the two hours; a student phones about the dissertations held in the library, a couple of users ask me about where our scanner is, and I answer questions about inter-library loans and forgotten library PINS. I try to fix a photocopier that is misbehaving, give out holds, open our viewing room for a group of students who want to watch a DVD, and issue a book to a member of library staff from another campus who deliberately has a massive fine on their record in the name of a service-related experiment (long story!). When I’m not answering queries, I reply to a question from a member of academic staff about off-air recording, deal with some book orders from another, follow up on the journal access problem I was contacted about yesterday, classify some DVDs and some books for the subject I support (most of our book stock is purchased shelf-ready, but we always check the shelf-mark to ensure that it fits our shelves, and to shorten it if there are six or more numbers after the decimal point), and look at re-classifying a book that was classified into an odd section. I add subject headings and added names for the DVDs and books, check the shelf-marks of the books, and give shelf-marks to the DVDs. I will then pass these on to some of my colleagues for cataloguing. I also receive an email explaining the DVD mystery from earlier – hooray! – and read more about a new book which has come through on a mailing list email, which I think I might suggest to my department as a potentially useful one to purchase.

At 4pm I’m back in the office, and enjoy a quick coffee and doughnut (a colleague has brought in lots of yummy treats today), before sending the aforementioned mystery DVD back to the other campus, as instructed. I spend the rest of the afternoon reading about the OCLC catalogue record downloads which we are trialling, in order to work out whether they could be useful for cataloguing AV material. After consideration, I decide that we probably don’t need to use them; our AV catalogue records are usually quite simple and short, and so I don’t think we’ll save any time. I’ll have a chat about it with my line manager tomorrow. I finish my day by checking my emails, looking at my schedule for tomorrow, and adding tasks to it.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Library Day in the Life: day one

All week I am going to be blogging about what I do, as part of the Library Day in a Life project. I’ve decided to do a week rather than a day, due to the different elements of my job; I don’t normally do a bit of everything in one day, so a week will be more representative of what my role involves. I had originally planned to do one post, at the end of the week, but having typed up today, I’ve realised that that would make for far too long a blog post, so I’m going to blog daily. So, Monday…

…my week starts in an untypical fashion; I am spending the morning at a library induction for new staff up at the main campus. These inductions only take place once a year, hence why I am attending now despite having been here for just over two months. I don’t really learn anything at the induction – with my job covering several different areas, I’m already familiar with all of the aspects of the service that are covered – but it’s really good to meet some more people from the other campuses. At a multi-site institution like ours, there are a huge number of staff across the library service, so getting to know people who don’t work at my campus is taking time!

I catch the bus back down to my campus, and have some lunch before starting my afternoon. It’s very cold in the library! Our heating has been broken since Friday, but we have been told it’s being fixed right now. I catch up with my emails; there’s quite a few to get through, having been away from my desk all morning. They’re mainly LIS-LINK messages, publishers’ alerts, and emails discussing annual leave and enquiry desk swaps. I flag any that require actions on my part, and reply where necessary. I have an email from one of the academic staff in the department I support, who is having problems accessing an electronic journal. I can access it when I try, so I reply, trying to ascertain whether the problem is that they are accessing it from off-campus and haven’t logged in. I also check the journals inbox; unusually, there are no new emails.

My interim probation report is due in a few weeks’ time; here we are reviewed after a couple of months in the role, before the final probation report after six months. I am meeting my line manager next week, to discuss and complete the report, and they have asked me to look at the report form and prepare my thoughts on my progress. I work my way through the form, jotting down some notes on how I perceive myself to be doing, thinking of specific examples to illustrate my points.  I also have a look at the probation pages on the HR section of the university website, to familiarise myself with the procedure.

I spend the rest of the afternoon reading through HR’s webpages on equality and dignity at work, appraisal, leave, and sickness procedures. I have just taken on my line management responsibilities (line-managing two members of staff), and need to familiarise myself with these policies and procedures. There’s a lot to take in, but I feel confident that I’m learning, and feel able to ask my line manager for advice when necessary; I go and ask about something I’m unsure about with sickness forms. Shortly before I leave work, the radiators begin to gurgle – hopefully this means we have heating again, finally! I check my emails again, make notes of any actions I need to take from them, and look at my schedule for tomorrow, before heading home.