Monthly Archives: September 2012

Week Four done and dusted

I can’t believe the first month is over already. It’s payday! I’ve never said that before.

Yesterday was a bit stressful. Digitisations have taken over my work life to the point that all I can think about is spreadsheets and scanning things. I also got a phone call telling me that I hadn’t been receiving new books properly because I had missed out a fairly important step in the process. Not a great thing to hear. It’s all sorted now and it didn’t cause too many problems, but it’s just annoying to trip up like that. I also don’t have much counter time on Thursdays so was stuck in the back office all day, not really interacting with anyone, transferring data from a spreadsheet, to a form, to another spreadsheet, and then to another form.

Today I saw the light at the end of the tunnel – I’ve been working through a list of digitisations for a particular lecturer and at close of play today I only have one left to upload, which I would have completed if it hadn’t gone a bit wrong at 4.25pm. Hooray! Next week I get to embark on the thrilling task of going through all our digitisations and putting their details on a brand-new spreadsheet, so that we’re completely up-to-date. I tell you what, I’m going to be glad when this is all sorted and I only have the odd few to do every now and then.

I’m in Leeds for the weekend and apparently the weather’s going to be quite nice tomorrow – just what I needed after the last couple of days! I hope you’re all having good weekends too.


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Postcards from a soggy island

Hypothesis: people eat more when it rains. No, seriously. The queue in Tesco yesterday when I came out of work filled up half the shop. I impulse-bought a box of Magnum lollies, probably to make it feel a bit less wintry and miserable. The rain has been crazy these past couple of days – it hasn’t stopped raining for almost 48 hours now. That’s a bit ridiculous. There are dead umbrellas littering the pavements outside work – it’s as if nobody was quite prepared for this much bad weather. It’s not been good news at work either – because the library is in such an old building, it is prone to leaks, and we’ve had to get some buckets out recently to catch the worst of it. Thankfully the books are unscathed!
Since the students came back the library has completely changed in atmosphere. The enquiry desk has been practically mobbed every day, and the issue desk is often too much for one or even two of us to handle. We’re hoping it’ll all calm down when the students learn to use the self-service machines, and when they learn that the books are all upstairs and no, I can’t tell you whether the dementia books are next to the nursing books because that’s not really how the system works. My favourite is probably the ones who ask whether we sell the books or just loan them out – if we sold them we wouldn’t have any on the shelves!

I’ve been fairly busy in the last week – new books are coming in at a rate of knots and it’s my responsibility to get them onto the system. This went a bit wrong today when it transpired that I’m a bit faster at doing this than perhaps Library Support Services would like – after I check the books in, I have to send off the invoices to LSS for them to confirm them and let them be seen as available on the catalogue. However, people have been trying to take books out today that haven’t been processed by LSS yet – oops. At least that was a learning exercise – don’t put books on the shelves until they’re on the catalogue!

I’ve also been keeping track of digitisations and putting them on reading lists for units. This is quite a mammoth task, it turns out; one lecturer has supplied a list of about 30 digitisations that she wants for one unit, and each of them takes at least an hour to process (providing we don’t have to get an inter-library loan of the document in question). I’ve also got to make sure all the details are up to date on the spreadsheet where we record what’s going on to show the Copyright Licensing Agency. Suffice it to say I’ve done a lot of going back and forth checking emails and request forms, hoping everything matches up. Bit of a nightmare!

Last Wednesday I did my first late shift, which was quite nice. It was definitely good to have a lie in in the morning! I managed to put some laundry on and go to the Post Office, and it was really useful to have some free daytime hours to get stuff done. This week I’m planning to go to the gym during my morning off, as long as the weather’s not too terrible. The actual late shift itself was quite uneventful – we had about two people in after 5pm, both of whom left around 7.30, leaving us with not much to do apart from crosswords and sudoku for another hour and a half. It made quite a change from the daytime shift!

There’s not much else to report – it’s been business as usual mostly. I am absolutely starving though as the biscuit supply seems to have dried up at work, so I’m off to sort out some dinner.

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And… Breathe.

It’s the end of week two and I’m feeling quite drained. I’m curled up in bed watching Masterchef and feeling a bit sorry for myself because I think I’ve got a cold coming on. I’m hoping a quiet weekend full of relaxing will help sort me out!

This week hasn’t quite lived up to the promise of last week. Most of the senior librarians (i.e. the ones who teach me stuff) have been away or in meetings, so I’ve been sort of hovering around at a loose end. Later in the year I’ll be able to keep busy with stuff like digitisation and book ordering, but I don’t know nearly enough yet to be able to just do it without guidance. I was alright at the start of the week, as I still had some stuff to sort out, but once I’d finished it… that was it. Nothing else to do.

It’s been quite a frustrating week as I have been feeling like the work experience kid, getting under everyone’s feet and constantly needing to be given little tasks to do. I don’t really like having to keep asking if there’s anything I can do, either, as it feels like I’m making a nuisance of myself and distracting people from what they’re supposed to be doing.

Anyway. I don’t want to be too whiny about the whole thing – it’s the start of term and it’s difficult for the librarians to balance all the stuff they’ve got to do to get ready for next week with looking after me. It’s just really tough feeling like I’m not being helpful in any way (even though everyone’s apologised for not being able to find anything for me to help with).

On the bright side, I went to a social at the Deaf Institute (“cafe bar and music hall”) with some of the other librarians on Wednesday night and had a great time chatting with the other GTs about how they’re getting on, as well as getting to know some of the more senior staff from the various sites. It was nice to actually go out in Manchester too – I haven’t had the chance to explore much and having other people show me interesting places makes a bit of a change from getting hopelessly lost on my own! Hopefully there’ll be more opportunities like this in the future.

For now I’m going to stay curled up and conserve my energy, in order to be fighting fit for meeting all the students on Monday. Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes… ­čÖé

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Day Five

Day Five heralded my first TGIF moment of my career; I was so tired by the end of the week I could barely stop yawning!

I had an easy start to the day on the counter, with hardly any customers to deal with. Afterwards, I went up to Room 203 and learned what has been happening at the library with stock editing. In 2014 Elizabeth Gaskell Campus will close and the faculty will move to a new site currently being built. The library will merge with the central library at All Saints, but there’s not a huge amount of space at All Saints as it’s already merged with another site and will be merging with two more around the same time as Gaskell. This means that we are having to cut down our stock hugely to be ready for the move. Some of the librarians are investigating each book on the shelves, working out how often it’s been lent out and when it was last borrowed, to decide whether it’s worth keeping or not. There are already quite a few empty shelves and there’ll be a lot more by the end of the year. The┬á books that are candidates for withdrawal go to Room 203 to be sorted out, and either they are deemed worthy of keeping or they are condemned to boxes which go off to a book-selling company. Books to be sold have their front pages removed and processed to make sure they’re taken off the catalogue, and this turns out to be what the morgue and graveyard used to be for. It’s a bit less macabre than what I’d originally thought! When you’re working in a building that looks like this, though, you can’t help but wonder…

Found on Google

The middle of the day was spent watching podcasts to learn how to make them myself. I’m starting work on my own podcast soon, so need to work out the sort of things I should say in it, and the visual style I should be aiming for, in order to make my podcast easy to follow and really accessible. I also spent some time getting familiar with the database I’ll be making a podcast about, and discovered some quite gruesome dissection pictures on it. I think the challenge is going to be keeping the disgust out of my voice when I narrate the video!

I then did some digitisation work, filling in request forms and spreadsheets and copying articles. I managed somehow to pull the lid of the photocopier off while copying a giant journal and was horrified at the thought of how much that would cost, but thankfully with Arlene the Principal Library Assistant’s help I managed to fix it before anyone else noticed! It’s quite frustrating not being able to stick with a digitisation request from start to finish but, unfortunately, until I get my email account up and running I can only do parts of it on my own.

The last hour of the day was supposed to be for me to learn about RFID tagging, but it only took Catherine five minutes to explain the whole thing for me. RFID tags are little stickers you put in the back of books and they are programmed with the book’s barcode and other information so that if you hold up a scanning device to a bookshelf you will instantly be able to see everything that’s on the shelf (and work out what’s missing), a bit like they do in supermarkets. This will come in really useful when the stock moves across to All Saints. The actual tagging process takes about 30 seconds – scan the book’s barcode, place a tag on the special programming mat, stick the tag in the book. Done! I did about 50 books while sitting at the issue counter chatting to the others – quite a relaxing end to my first week as a GT.

All in all I had a great first week; I really feel I’ve learned loads already and I know there’s a lot more to come, along with a lot more students to help. Some of the students are back already and the library is steadily getting busier (and noisier) but the real inundation will be next week. Bring it on!

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Days Three and Four

On Wednesday it was back to Gaskell library, my “home” library, for more training. First up was the opening routine, which is basically switching everything on and changing the date on the stamps and the wind-on calendar (which is sort of like this without the clock but the numbers are on a fabric scroll and you have to move them by hand). Next I put the float in the till and had to fill in all the paperwork ready to take to the finance office, which was made extra exciting by the discovery that one of the receipts was missing and nothing added up properly.

After that palaver I learned about invoices, which get sent to borrowers who’ve lost books. Apparently some people have received invoices for hundreds of pounds before! I wouldn’t like to be the person who has to explain that to the customer…

I then got the chance to get a bit more familiar with the layout of the library as it was time for straightening and shelving, which is exactly what it sounds like – making sure the books are on the shelves in the right order and that they’re standing up properly and not broken. Shelving was made a bit more complicated by the fact that the labels on the ends of the shelves telling you which books are on them are all wrong, thanks to the stock edit that’s been taking place. Cue a lot of wandering around peering at spines of books to find the elusive 616.475 or whatever it happened to be.

After this I had another go at journal acquisitions, and impressed with my neat sticker-work. It’s the small things that make the difference.

After lunch I sat at the issue counter for a while, but didn’t get the chance to actually issue any books as the library is very quiet at the moment. When term begins I am assured we will be a bit busier! We did put a lot of leaflets in a lot of wallets though, ready to hand out to new students at the start of term.

The last task of the day was to explore the various databases that are available online for students to use, and to get familiar with them in order to be able to explain them to customers. Eventually I will be creating a podcast which explains how to use one of them, which is slightly terrifying, so I need to get used to using it myself.

Thursday involved more of the same – I started with the opening routines, and got ink all over my fingers when I changed the date stamps, which is a great way to start the day. I’m terrified I’ll smear ink across my face one day and not notice for ages.

I then went up to the book stock to do the pickings list, which is a big list of all the books that have been reserved by people online. We have to find all the books on the shelf and bring them down, either to put on our reservations shelf ready for collection, or to send off to the other libraries for students to pick up there. The list on Thursday was 9 pages long but apparently during term time it can get to over 20!

Next up was a library student induction – minus the students. Mark showed me the presentation they have put together to introduce new students to the library, and it was good to have a look at what they get told about the library and what sort of questions might arise from the presentation. I was also quite impressed with the presentation because it is made with Prezi, which allows you to swoosh around from slide to slide. Apparently it’s quite difficult to set up, though, if the amount of complaining the other librarians do about it is anything to go by.

Afterwards I did some shelving, which I had to stop halfway through because I can’t actually reach the top shelf properly, and then sorted the cash receipts again. Thankfully everything was shipshape this time round.

Just before lunch I was shown a bit about digitisation, which is going to be one of my main jobs during the year, and was given my first job to do, which was copying an article ready to convert it to pdf.

After lunch the big boss came to show me everything that lives behind the enquiry desk – about ten folders’ worth of information, all of which I need to become familiar with. I’m going to start with the folder which is called “Library Staff Must-Knows” as that seems like a good thing to get under my belt first. During our chat a woman asked for help finding books, so I went up with her to the shelves to hunt for them. It was interesting because she’d reserved them even though they were available on the shelves, clearly expecting reservations to be a bit like an online shopping basket, where you can save books you want for later, rather than a system for ordering in books that are at other sites or currently on loan. This is something that a lot of students apparently don’t get, so I’m expecting to be wandering the shelves quite a bit during the year.

The last part of the day was spent at the counter, which was again quite quiet, and gave us the opportunity to have a chat about pretty much anything and everything.

All in all, a good two days, in which I learned a lot and got some more hands-on experience of librarianship. I’m feeling a bit more settled in already.

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Day Two

Day Two was exciting for two reasons: I was going to get to meet all the other GTs at MMU, and I didn’t have to be there until 10am. Result!

The libraries had planned a central graduate induction day, where we would find out more about our roles and the sorts of things we could expect to do and see during our year at MMU. We kicked off with the standard “I’m Emily and I’m from London” type stuff, as well as the “I wanted to be a librarian because…” and “I think I got the job because…” type stuff too. It was really interesting to hear how the other six trainees have ended up here; we’ve all come from different backgrounds and all have something different to bring to the role. (I’ll probably end up doing a post about my own motivations to become a librarian at some point, so watch this space.)

Next, the head of Library Services talked to us about the history of MMU, the libraries’ role in its history and the services they provide today, and the types of opportunities we will have this year, including presenting seminars, creating podcasts and (hopefully) visiting the BBC library in MediaCity (I hear there are Daleks!). It all sounded very exciting and the more I hear about the things I will have the chance to do, the more I am reassured that I’m in the right place and doing the right thing.

Then Mark, one of my new colleagues, gave a talk about the types of things we can expect when working on the issue desk. He emphasised the importance of providing excellent customer service, especially now that students are paying so much from their education and will expect our service to reflect that. As well as an overview of the tasks at the issue counter, Mark highlighted the skills that we will improve on when we’re there, including interpersonal skills and the ability to work under pressure, both of which are great on a CV.

Then a former GT, Darren, told us about his experience of the GT year, including the training, skills, courses and visits that have been available to him, as well as mentioning the “n-word” – networking. Although I agree with him that it’s a bit clunky when it’s a verb, I also agree that networking is a big part of starting out in a profession such as librarianship and so am looking forward to getting to know more of the other library staff at MMU and further afield at the various meet-ups throughout the year.

After Darren’s talk we broke for lunch, which was a huge selection of sandwiches and cake, along with a fruit selection which was sadly not on par with the fruit platters they used to provide at Newcastle University – I missed the watermelon and grapes! We then split up, and half of us were ferried over to Didsbury Library in the Vice Chancellor’s Mercedes (very fancy) to be trained on using the library management software.

I was relieved to find that the software is generally quite intuitive and straightforward, and haven’t yet had any major problems with it. I even managed to find myself on the system, which I was quite pleased about since my staff card hasn’t turned up from HR yet with all my details on it. We were also shown the self service machines, which are also really easy (especially seeing as I used to use them regularly at Newcastle), although they are a bone of contention with some librarians who are predicting that the students won’t use them correctly, which would cause all sorts of hassle.

After filling in a quiz to make sure I’d learned something during the day, it was home time at 4pm – a nice short day, but one which made me feel eager to get stuck in with library work. It was also really good to meet the different GTs and start getting to know them – hopefully we can build up a little GT network and have a great year together. If anyone would like to read about the GT year at MMU from a different perspective, one of my counterparts at Didsbury, Becky, has a blog here.

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First Day

I’ve now finished my first week as a Graduate Trainee at MMU and I’ve loved it so far. I intended to write a blog post each evening after work to document what I’ve been getting up to but things didn’t quite work out, so I’m writing them now instead. There’ll be a separate post for each day as otherwise this will get unreadably long! So here’s Day One…

It was my first day today and I think it went quite well. I arrived to find that I’m the only GT starting at my site, instead of one of a pair as I’d previously thought – the library is hiring a Senior Library Assistant instead so the other GT has moved to a different campus. Being the only new person was a bit nerve-racking at first but I was quickly made to feel welcome. I was given a timetable for the week which was jam-packed with different activities in order to let me see as much as possible of what goes on in the library. The first thing was a tour of the campus, which revealed how much of a maze the building is, but luckily the actual library area is quite straightforward and I’ve been able to get to grips with it quite easily. I was promised a ghost story about the third floor of the building, but have yet to actually hear it. I’ll let you know when I do…! I also was given a map of the library, which instantly intrigued me as I spotted “morgue” and “graveyard” on the top floor. Perhaps it tied in with the ghost story! (The actual explanation is a little more mundane and will be revealed in the post for Day Five.)

Next up was an introduction to print journals, which was also my first introduction to TALIS, the library management software. I was shown how to log in to the system and how to add new journals to the catalogue – my first taste of librarian work! I had a go at stamping the journals and adding stickers to them, which all passed without a hitch, reassuringly. All through the first few days I’ve had a terrible fear of doing something horrendously wrong, but it’s been unfounded so far (touch wood).

After lunch I had a chat with the deputy manager and learned about such things as annual leave, sickness and TOIL – fairly straightforward stuff, but it was good to have everything explained to me.

I was then introduced to the library catalogue and saw the different search options that can be used, as well as the reservation and renewals systems. Again, it was all quite simple and also quite familiar (most library catalogues being vaguely along the same lines), but it was a good opportunity to get familiar with the library resources and see what is available for customers.

The final task of the day was to print some helpsheets on coloured paper, which was my first experience of using the multi-function printers. They take a bit of getting used to! You can swipe your student/staff card and use them to print, copy and scan to email (which is quite impressive). I don’t have my ID card yet so had to borrow another librarian’s to do the job, and had to keep swiping it because the MFPs log you out if you’re too slow. I think it will take me a little while to become friends with the printers, but I’m gradually becoming accustomed to their quirks.
Hometime came a lot quicker than I was expecting, and I finished my first day with a good feeling about the rest of the week and indeed the rest of the year. The rest of the staff are really lovely to me and will put up with a lot of questions! I’m really looking forward to settling in and becoming more of a part of the team.

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