Saturday, 11 February 2012

National Libraries Day in an academic library

Last Saturday (4th February) was National Libraries Day (NLD) 2012 in the UK. You can find out more on the website, but this was essentially a day for celebrating libraries. Public libraries in particular held events to celebrate.

During the week leading up to NLD, it struck me that we should really do something to mark it at work. Saturday is a tricky day for academic libraries as they tend to be much quieter, staffed with fewer staff and/or open shorter hours than during the week; in contrast to public libraries where, as I remember well from my days as a Saturday assistant, Saturday is one of the busiest days of the week. However, I felt that we should make some effort to recognise NLD in the days leading up to it.

Due to the last-minute nature of my suggestion and that fact that everyone was very busy that week, my colleagues gave me the go-ahead to basically just get on with it! I decided we should put some posters up around the library, featuring the NLD logo, an explanation that Saturday was NLD, and a “did you know” fact about the library. We had four different posters in total, each with a different “did you know”; about our longer opening hours this year, a reference building tool for Harvard which we have just launched (with an iPhone app coming soon), the existence of subject librarians, and our new 24/7 Chat service. My colleague who designs a lot of our publicity and is really good with Publisher created them for me, and I placed them around the library; by the front door, by the self-service machines, and on the door to the IT area.

I also thought it would be good to run a little competition. We have a suggestions box for users to submit comments and suggestions. It’s not very well used, so I decided that for this week we should offer the chance for users to win a box of chocolates if they submitted a comment and included their contact details. I asked my colleague to create some special comments slips, advertising the opportunity to win a box of chocolates and asking the users what they did and didn’t like about the library, which were placed next to the box along with a sign explaining that it was NLD and there was a competition. I set this up on Wednesday, and on Friday also brought in some sweets to place by the box, in early celebration of the day (and to try to entice them to submit a comment!).

On the day itself, my colleague who was on duty (we only have one member of staff in each Saturday) explained to anyone who hovered near the sign or poster by the door about the fact that it was National Libraries Day. It was also an undergraduate Open Day, so it was good that we had some posters and this small display up, for visitors coming into the library. As previously mentioned, Saturdays are quiet for us, and unfortunately we didn’t get that many visitors – Open Day attendees or students – over the weekend. When I came in on Monday all of the sweets were gone, but we only had three comments submitted in the box (only one of which included a name and contact details, so they won the chocolates by default!). I have to admit I am not sure why so few people entered the competition – there was chocolate on offer! Although weekends are quiet, the box was there throughout the Thursday and Friday, so plenty of students came in. I wonder if they just didn’t notice it; they came into the library for a purpose i.e. to get a book, to do some work, to print something off and didn’t pay attention to anything else? 

We therefore didn’t manage to generate a large amount of interest in National Libraries Day – with only three entries to our competition, and no member of staff being asked anything about the day. I think this is partly due to me organising things at the last minute; if I had thought about it sooner perhaps I might have come up with some more ideas, and I would have been able to ask colleagues for ideas too. It was also suggested that it might have had more impact if there had been something organised across the whole of Library Service, not just at one small campus, and I definitely agree with this. Not only could all of the libraries have put up posters or displays, but we could perhaps have made use of the library or university website. The suggestion that if there is a National Libraries Day next year, there is a wider promotion across all campus libraries, will be taken to Library Services management by an appropriate colleague. 

I’m glad that we did something to mark National Libraries Day, even though it didn’t have much impact. It was a good opportunity not only to engage with library promotion on a general and national scale, but to promote what we offer. It was also useful to gain some feedback about the library from students through the comments submitted, even though there were only three. If we had started planning earlier, and there had been promotion of the day in other campus libraries too, on a Library Services-wide scale, I think it might have been more successful. As I wondered earlier, if students don’t pay attention to displays or posters in the library, how else could we promote something – through the webpages, or is there another way? I think all of this is definitely something to bear in mind for any future events like NLD.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Library Day in the Life, Round 8: Friday

I start later than normal today, as I am staying past the usual Friday finish time of 4.30pm and have some flexitime to use up too. I arrive at about 9.30, armed with my homemade veggie rocky road to share with my colleagues in celebration of National Libraries Day tomorrow! I also put out some sweets for the students on our NLD display.

I check my emails and respond to one from a friend who is kindly coming to present at one of our staff development hours as an outside speaker, answering some of her questions about what is required and also provisionally arranging for her graduate trainee to come and visit us at the same time. I respond to few more emails and go through the UKSG e-news, looking for anything of interest to me as a campus library journals librarian.

After a quick coffee (and a sample of the rocky road which has gone down very well with colleagues -  I am proud!), I finish off the evaluation of previous teaching sessions which I started earlier in the week. Then it’s 12pm and time for an hour on the enquiry desk. I get a few enquiries, about fines and printing. In between these queries, I try to sort out my overflowing email inbox, having received several warning emails about it getting too full, sorting messages into folders and deleting anything I don’t need. I also try to work out whether I’ve migrated everything of my accounts that I need to, in preparation for a forthcoming change in e-resource authentication, and have the odd peek at the Guardian HE Live Chat which is taking place at the moment,  on the topic of the role of the academic librarian in today’s HE institution.

I take lunch from 1 until 2, and then catch up with my book classifying. We receive most of our books shelf-ready, but we have a few rules (such as if there are more than six numbers after the point, or fewer than 4 items at that classmark already) which mean that books are passed to subject librarians to check and re-classify if necessary. Occasionally we purchase books from elsewhere which require classification from scratch -  I love doing this as it’s like detective work, and so satisfying when you finally settle on a classmark! All of the books waiting on my shelf are shelf-ready ones to be checked. I decide that some can go through as they are, but that I need to shorten or change the classmark for others. Media and cultural studies covers such a wide range of topics that I can be asked to purchase books on pretty much anything, and it’s fascinating to look through them. The books I’m checking now cover topics from social media to gaming to pornography in China!

Next, I sort out the AV reports for last month. At the end of every month I receive a report generated from the LMS which shows the catalogue records for all of the new DVD titles added to our stock that month. I check this report carefully for any misspellings or errors. This is really important as something as simple as a typo in the title of a DVD can render it difficult or almost impossible for a user to find, and if I don’t catch it at this stage it will get lost. Every month the LMS also generates a report of all AV held in our library, which I export to Excel and tidy up into a useable list to be saved in the AV folder on our shared drive, for our records. From this spreadsheet I use filters to create a spreadsheet of DVDs currently known to be missing, and titles which have no BBFC classification; again, I save these to the shared drive every month, as being able to access this information quickly and easily is helpful.  

After another cup of coffee (and another piece of rocky road) I’m back on the enquiry desk from 4 until 5. I only have one enquiry, which is about printing. For the rest of the time I try to work out with a colleague what the story is behind a mysterious box of DVDs that has been found in the office, create a spreadsheet of “suspect” missing DVDs – DVDs which went missing without apparently ever being borrowed, so we want to keep an eye on their replacements – respond to some more email actions, and look through a couple of book alerts to see if there is anything we don’t have which, based on my knowledge of modules and teaching areas, my department might want. I also look at what I’ve got on next week and make sure I’ve prepared everything that I need to.

At 5pm I’m finished for this week. Apart from the day off on Monday, this has been a fairly typical week – a lot of different tasks to manage, and one evening shift. About once every six weeks I work the Saturday shift. I don’t teach every week; usually only during October/November and January/February  - but this is a typical week when we do have teaching.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Library Day in the Life, Round 8: Thursday

I’m on the evening desk shift today so it’s a late start for me. I arrive at about 9.50am, make a cup of coffee then sit down for my Chat service shift from 10am until 12pm. We are part of an international co-op to offer 24/7 Chat to our students; in the middle of the night their enquiries are picked up by librarians in the US, and during the day we pick up enquiries from students at US universities, as well as our own. I love doing Chat; you never know what you’re going to get asked and it’s a great feeling to be able to help students on the other side of the world! The chats start flying in and I’m fairly busy; I help students in California with finding statistics and a student in Maryland who can’t access a section of their library website. It’s definitely challenging; you need to quickly read the policy page for the student’s institution to work out how you can help them, and you can’t always access the same databases that they can. They are very grateful though – it’s the early hours of the morning where they are and they’re still able to get some help – and one tells me I am awesome which is lovely! I also help one of our students with referencing. Students are invited to fill in a feedback survey when their Chat ends, and today I receive my first feedback survey from this student, who found the service really useful; so it’s a very successful Chat session for me today!

When I’m Chatting I can’t leave my desk or get involved in anything else, so in between enquiries I do little jobs like catching up with emails, selecting programmes from the Radio Times to select on Box of Broadcasts, and looking through the session plan for a repeat of the teaching I did on Monday.

My Chat session overruns a little, as often happens, but I still have time for a lunch break before teaching at 1pm. I get positive feedback on the session again, and feel like I go through the databases a bit more slowly this time, which is good. 

After teaching I return to my desk to read the feedback forms and work through some more email actions, before an enquiry desk shift at 3pm. It’s fairly quiet – the only enquiry I get is about booking a study room  - so I finish selecting programmes on Box of Broadcasts and catch up on some more emails. At 4pm I’m off the desk and I take a short coffee and cake break before finishing off my programme selection and doing some more teaching feedback evaluation (see yesterday’s blog post).

At 5pm I’m back on the enquiry desk. I have quite a busy shift this time: I help students to find books and print their work and ask some noisy students to be a bit quieter, as well as getting up fairly frequently to let in students who don’t have their student cards – the doors lock after 5pm and they are supposed to swipe in with their card! In between all of this I do some more teaching feedback evaluation and send some emails. At 6.30pm it’s time for me to close the desk and go home. A security guard keeps the library open self-service only until 9pm.

Later on that evening, I make some veggie rocky road to take into work for my colleagues tomorrow in early celebration of National Libraries Day…hope it turns out well!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Library Day in the Life, Round 8: Wednesday

I’m on the first enquiry desk shift again so it’s another 8.10am start to get the library set up for opening. While I’m doing this a colleague calls in sick, so, being the person who took the call, my first job of the day when I sit down at the desk at 8.30 is to arrange cover for their issue desk shifts. I and two colleagues are able to cover so that’s sorted quite quickly. Today it’s not long before I get my first enquiry; a student needing help with finding materials on British theatre in the 1980s. I search through some of the electronic databases with them and emphasise the need to think of different ways to describe the search terms. I only have one other enquiry before my shift ends; helping a student with the new online study-room booking system. I spend the rest of the time catching up with emails and making a start on checking a long list of books passed to me by an academic, to find out which we have already and which we need to purchase.

At 10am I’m off the desk, and after a short coffee break I go back to the book list. It takes me most of the rest of the morning to work out what we need to buy and how much it is likely to cost; I share a book budget with a colleague and as I know they have recently put a large order through, I want to check with them that this one is going to be OK in terms of funds! Once I’ve done this I look at an email that’s just dropped into my inbox about a new website which I think might be useful for my students. I am signed up for some Jiscmail lists for media and cultural studies academics, as well as LIS ones, in order to maintain a current awareness of new books, events, websites, blogs etc. in my subject area. My colleague and I have been adding links to useful websites for our subjects to Delicious stacks, and I wonder if this new site might also be worth adding. It turns out it’s not really appropriate. It’s now 12pm and I take my lunchbreak.

At 1pm I am back on the enquiry desk for an hour. This shift is a bit busier; I deal with enquiries about renewing an Inter Library Loan, extending a loan for teaching, booking rooms and accessing online journals. I go back to my office at 2pm and spend an hour working through the evaluation forms from some teaching that we did last week, analysing and summarising the results and comments into a useable document. After a short coffee break at 3pm, I send the big book order from this morning through to my colleagues who do the ordering, and then put up the National Libraries posters and signs that my colleague designed yesterday around the library. I’ll explain more about what we’re doing and maybe add some pictures in Friday’s blog post! I also email round the team to explain what we are doing for NLD, as it has all been a bit last-minute!

From 4 until 5pm I am covering the issue desk. It’s quiet – Wednesday afternoon usually is as it’s sports afternoon – I pass holds to a couple of students and answer a couple of queries about loan limits and fines. I don’t usually work on the issue desk so it’s nice to have a bit of a change of scenery and perspective! In between enquiries I start going through the Radio Times to look for anything I think we should record and add to library stock via the off-air recording service, and also for programmes to select on Box of Broadcasts, a fantastic TV and radio streaming database to which we subscribe. I do this every week and I select loads of stuff on BoB. Now that we have BoB I don’t request much to go on disc; mainly films for which the playback quality might be important. I don’t get all the way through so this will be one of my first tasks to complete tomorrow morning.