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January News

So I’m at the end of week 19 already. I’m more than a third of the way in to my traineeship now, which is crazy. This week the university started advertising for next year’s graduate trainees, which made me think about how different life is now from a year ago. I was so stressed out last year, after having finally chosen a career path, and then finding it actually really difficult to get a job that would get me into librarianship. I sent out tons of applications, and it was quite demoralising to get rejection letter after rejection letter (or worse, silence). And look at me now! I’m here in Manchester and I’m loving it. I won’t say I’m loving every minute, because I definitely did not love discovering that part of the ceiling had fallen in on Monday morning, and I won’t pretend I’ve loved every single second of this withdrawals odyssey, but on the whole I am absolutely ecstatic to be in this job. If you are reading this and considering applying for my job, DO IT. It’s been a great learning experience.

Anyway, what did I do this week? Take a wild guess. Yep, more withdrawals. This project is taking a long time but it’s the sort of job where it’s easy to measure progress, so it doesn’t feel like it’s interminable (well, only a little bit). I’ve almost finished checking the books in the small book room (small room, not small books), which means I’m just about up to 302 in the Dewey sequence. In terms of physical location that feels pretty good, but in reality I know I’ve got about 300 pages of the spreadsheet to go, so I’m not kidding myself that I’m going to be finished any time soon. We’re getting a placement student in February so I will be able to palm some of the workload off onto him/her. I’ve said before that I don’t mind doing this stuff, and it’s true, and that’s partly because I get to explore the shelves. I’m finding all sorts of weird stuff up there, including an English-Chinese dictionary of psychology (we don’t have the Chinese-English part) and the Handbook of Butter and Cheese Making, which is really out of place in a nursing and psychology library! We’re considering compiling a list of our favourites. I’d be interested to hear from any other library people who’ve discovered interesting titles on their shelves. Anyone?

I haven’t been doing withdrawals completely non-stop this week. It was back to term-time hours this week so I got to spend part of Monday on the enquiry desk, which is one of my favourite parts of the week. Helping people is an easy way to feel good about yourself, so 10.45-12.45 on a Monday is basically a two-hour feel-good fest for me. I did have some odd enquiries this week, which made it an interesting session. One girl kept topping up her print allowance without ever being able to actually use the money, which was a strange one.

The other thing I’ve mentioned which happened on Monday was my discovery of the leaky roof upstairs. As I’ve said before, the building is lovely but very old and absolutely falling apart. The poor thing needs some good care and attention, although sadly I think it’s going to be abandoned after the university vacates it next year. So on Monday morning I went up into the small book room to get some withdrawal work done, and realised I could hear a dripping noise. And there was debris on the floor, and wait, was that a large damp patch on the carpet? *eyes creep upward* Oh… Half a ceiling tile was missing. Annoyingly there’s not much that can be done about this, it seems, and so we just have to hope it doesn’t rain too much! The books are fine, thankfully.

Monday was pretty hectic all round – it was the first day of term, and loads of assignments were due in. There were absolute hordes of students coming through the library and just hanging around near printers and stuff. There wasn’t as much chaos as some hand-in days, although apparently the printers did go offline for a bit in the evening, which must have been nerve-wracking.

The rest of the week has been fairly normal; I’ve had some stints on the issue desk and lots of time for withdrawals, and that’s pretty much it. On Friday we went to a training session on Endnote Web, and while it was good for me to learn how it works so I can help students on the enquiry desk, I’m still not convinced I will ever use it for myself. Plus, it didn’t work as seamlessly as promised with the library catalogue, so I’m not sold on its usefulness.

Next week I’m going to shake things up a bit and record a couple of podcasts, which will break up the week a little. It’s been a while since I’ve had more than one thing on my to-do list!

Everyone’s talking about the potential for a snow-day in the next couple of weeks. I’d like to see a little bit of snow, but not so much that it gets inconvenient. Snow for weekends only, I think. We shall see what happens – I’m not sure a heavy snowfall would be good for the structural integrity of the poor old building!

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Mince Pies, Mulled Wine and No Work until 2013!

It’s Christmas! Or near enough, anyway. I’m writing this from my parents’ house in Croydon, where I’m spending my short break from work. Sadly the Mancunian weather has followed me south and it’s rainy and grim out there. Oh well – we’ve got Christmas music, twinkly lights and more food than you can shake a (tinsel-covered) stick at, so I’m staying inside!

The last couple of weeks at work have been appropriately festive – our staff room was crammed full of tinsel and paper snowflakes, we had roughly 1,000,000 mince pies, and we had a two-hour eating session accompanied by a Kirsty MacColl CD. You can’t get much more Christmassy. Some of our students gave us chocolates and mince pies as well, which was lovely. I basically didn’t need to bring lunch to work for two weeks, there was so much food about.

Sadly I didn’t get to go to our office Christmas do as I came down with a particularly nasty flu and had to spend about three days in bed, but I am told that I missed out on yet more excellent food, which is a shame. One day I’ll experience the joys of an office Christmas party!

The students disappeared a week ago, apart from the nursing students whose term times are different, and so the library was dead quiet last week. Even the last day was fairly relaxed, despite there being a hand-in at 4pm. There were only two students who had computer issues, and apart from them everyone seemed to be organised and problem-free. Hooray! Now if only all hand-in days could be like that…

I went to another training last week on presentation skills, and I will be writing about that during the holidays, but it needs a post of its own to do it justice. In the meantime, have a lovely Christmas, whatever you’re doing, and enjoy the festivities.

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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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