Tag Archives: books

Week Fourteen Already?!

I’m (un)officially past my thirteen-week probation period, so they can’t chuck me out now! I say “unofficially” because I haven’t yet had the thirteen-week review, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t done anything so terribly awful that I’d be asked to leave.

Here’s what I’ve been up to recently:

My big project in the last couple of weeks has been sorting out withdrawn books. These are books that aren’t in the library any more, usually because they’re too old and out of date, but which still show up in the system. I’ve had a couple of enormous print-outs of spreadsheets (the current one has about 2500 items on it) to look at, and I’ve had to check the shelves to make sure that none of the books are still in the library when they shouldn’t be, and then removing them properly from the system. It’s not particularly difficult, but it is time-consuming! I’ve got through all the One Week Loan books and I’m almost done with the 2500 Reference books that don’t exist, and then it’ll be time for Lending copies. That one will take the longest, as that is the type of book that we have most of, but hopefully I’ll be able to get one of my colleagues to help out on that.

I also finished writing my instruction manual for digitisation. I spent a while doing these as I wanted them to be as clear and helpful as possible, and I got one of the Senior Library Assistants to test it out so I could make changes. I was really pleased to see it in use and I only had to add a couple of things before it was finished. I got some great feedback about it as well – it is something to put on my CV, apparently! I’m hoping this will be the start of a long and happy career showing people how to do things. On that subject, I’ve also started creating a new podcast which will show students how to use their NHS Athens accounts and the NHS resources available to them. This podcast is radically different from the last one I did, and neither of them is particularly bog-standard, but it’s the sort of challenge I enjoy and it certainly seems to be becoming one of my strong points.

I also worked with another spreadsheet last week – all the books that we digitised are supposed to be stamped with a stamp so we know not to get rid of them (which would be against CLA rules). However, most of the books have more than one copy, so we compiled a spreadsheet of all the copies of books that have had chapters digitised, and then hunted them down to stamp them and cross them off the list. Lots of the books are out on loan, so we had to go onto the system to put messages on for them to be stamped when they’re returned. It’s been quite successful so far, and we’ve managed to cross off almost all the books on the list, although we’ll still be doing this in the spring as some of the books are on long loan.

Last week was also fairly dramatic in a few ways – on Thursday the system went down first thing in the morning so none of the computers could issue or discharge books, and the self-service machines were also out of action. We almost had to resort to paper for the day, but luckily everything came back online about 5 minutes after we opened the doors to students.

On Friday it was deadline day for a large number of our students, so we were very busy all afternoon and the printers kept running out of paper and ink. The staplers couldn’t handle the pressure and gave up the ghost too, which was an added stress factor. Most of the students managed to sort themselves out in good time, but a couple of them left things until the last minute and we had to literally chase them out of the darkened building at closing time. That definitely didn’t help any of our blood pressures!

We’ve also had a number of “ghostly” goings-on this week. You may remember I’ve mentioned the ghosts before; apparently this building is haunted, although I’ve only just found out the story behind all this. The college was requisitioned by the government during the war and turned into a hospital, and the story goes that the ghosts of children can be heard running through the corridors and giggling. The other morning one of the security guards rushed into the library and said he’d heard a child scream, but there wasn’t anyone else in the building yet. This prompted a whole day of ghost stories and the attribution of recent weird happenings to “the ghosts”. The books upstairs keep getting pushed to the backs of the shelves when we’re not looking, and the display table for new books gets mysteriously rearranged every so often. Some of the library staff are convinced it’s the ghost children, as it’s the sort of mischievous thing kids would do, although there are a couple of flaws to this – a lot of the shelves are too high for children to reach, for a start. There’s also the minor ghosts-don’t-exist thing. It’s probably just bored students, although it’s a bit of a strange hobby.

To round off this post, here are a couple of things that made me laugh this week: first, a funny thing someone said to me the other day at a party. I’d just told her what I do and she said “oh, that sounds so PEACEFUL. How LOVELY.” (yes, in that exact voice) I thought, if only you knew the truth…! Yes, the library might not be full of students with enquiries all the time, but we’re always busy behind the scenes! Secondly, I noticed that someone found my blog by Googling “MMU Graduate Trainee Salary”.  I hope they weren’t expecting to find me blogging about my champagne-drinking lifestyle. It’s strictly fizzy water on a GT salary!



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[throws book across counter in anger]

This is sort of a follow-on post from the previous one, as it concerns the afternoon of the same training day.

We started off by looking at Library policies and procedures using case studies. This was mainly interesting in a sort of gossipy way, as the case studies actually happened and the quotes were real. We split into small groups and were given six case studies to look at and decide what we would do in each scenario. They started off quite tame – a customer wants to take her child upstairs even though that’s not allowed – and built up to the one where a customer threw a book at a librarian because they’d only be able to take it out for a week. I mean, I knew dissertation time gets stressful, but throwing books?!

The upshot of the session is that there’s a policy for everything. We discussed ways of diffusing situations – if there’s a noisy person in a group room, speak to their group as a whole, rather than singling them out; suggest alternatives including e-books and journal searches when there are no copies left of a certain book; quote policies to students to back up what you’re saying. Perhaps these aren’t the most ground-breaking ideas, but they’re definitely good things to keep in mind.

One situation in particular caused some hot debate – a student caused a significant amount of damage to a number of books, and then got upset that even though they had paid for the damage, they could not then take the books home and keep them. Some staff were in favour of the student keeping the books – after all they can’t go back into circulation – and some staff were against it – they’ve paid for the damage, not the book, and if you let people “buy” the books it sends the message that they can do what they want to the book stock. The rules and regulations of the Library state that damaged items remain the property of the Library both before and after payment, and I think I would come down in favour of this – if we let people ruin the books and then buy them, we’d soon have no books left. It was interesting to see something that divides library staff so much being debated, and made me think about how difficult it must be to draw up policies and regulations, knowing that some of them will be quite controversial.

After this session we had two talks about alternative library careers. The first was from Bethan Ruddock, who is @bethanar on Twitter, and who was a GT at MMU herself. She was kind enough to share her slideshow on her blog, and it’s here if you’d like to see it yourself. She’s collected together paragraphs from various librarians and information professionals about what their jobs are all about, and it was really interesting to see the variety in job titles and responsibilities. Obviously certain aspects of library/information jobs are similar (they all involve working with information, duh), but the location, clients and day-to-day tasks can be wildly different. I think I’m still fairly set on getting into academic librarianship, but at least I now know that my future job title might be Knowledge Manager or Learning Resources Instructor, instead of Librarian. Bethan also raised some good points about job hunting, such as the importance of making sure you look good on Google – do your drunk Facebook photos come up first, or your LinkedIn profile, blog or Twitter account?

The other talk was from Nicola Siminson, who is the NoWAL Operations Officer. She spoke to us about her career path so far, which has been quite varied – she’s worked in lots of different types of organizations, and it was interesting to hear about the skills she gained from the different posts. Both Nicola’s and Bethan’s talks emphasised the importance of being willing to take certain risks with your career, and going for jobs that might not be the logical next step. Networking also seems to be a huge thing for librarians, and librarianship definitely seems to be a “who you know” profession. This would be great for us as trainees if anyone ever came to the networking drinks that are set up for us! At least we have each other…


Well, I’ve finally written up this training day, just in time for the next one. In mid-December we will be learning presentation skills and I can’t wait – I really like this sort of thing, so I’m feeling optimistic about it. Especially if I get to learn how to make a Prezi!

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