a day in the life

Meredith Farkas and others have been flagging up and participating in the Library Day in the Life project, in which bloggers describe what we Information Professionals actually do. Part of the purpose behind this is to show students interested in the profession what it's all about; having delivered the paper mentioned above about the image of librarians and the problems with attracting new people into the sector, I think this seems like a good thing to be involved in. However, my week this week was much more dull than usual, so I'll probably only end up putting people off... Anyway here is Friday:


In late, go through a stack of emails. I check both my own inbox and that of the Online Course Readings Service, which I coordinate. The deadline for academics submitting requests for digitisation, for the upcoming Semester, is today. (We actually give them a non-publicised grace period during which we'll treat their late requests as on-time, but let's just keep that between us Information Professionals, yeah?) This means the Service's inbox is bulging with new requests, and it will continue to do so for a while yet - last Semester, we ended up with more late requests than pre-deadline ones, so this is by no means the high-water-mark of demand. My own inbox yields all the usual sort of stuff and I reply to as many of the simpler ones as I can, flagging up the more complicated stuff for later. One person from another HEI emails to say he would like to contribute to the Best Practice Wiki which this blog ostensibly exists to publicise, which is brilliant - I've had a decent number of responses like that so far, and if you're reading this, work in digitisation and would like to get involved in any way, please do contact me.

This takes me through to coffee break time (having not drunk coffee at all until I was about 23, I have now fallen in love with ritual of morning coffee...) and then I spend a while talking to academics, by phone and email, about their digitisation requests. For the rest of the morning I work on some statistics. I am assisting June Hedges and Jane Secker with analysing the data from the huge digitisation survey mentioned in this post. I want to do some serious crunching of the numbers, so I've got hold of some literature on different techniques you can apply to different data - it's a long time since I did maths of this kind, and it very quickly makes my head hurt...

I meet very briefly with our Faculty Team Librarian for Medicine, as we're streamlining things in the library by amalgamating parts of short-loans with Online Course Readings. This means that when academics request articles for the short-loans collection (what we call High Demand), rather than getting a photocopy on the shelves as before, they’ll now be routed to us in OCR and we’ll provide them with an electronic copy online, instead. (Saves paper, saves space, encourages everyone to move in an e-direction etc etc.) The reason for meeting with the Medicine Librarian is that, due to Leeds’ multi-site library, there is a separate short-loans collection for Health Sciences, which means separate web pages for academics to go to when they request stuff, and although there were good reasons for that at the time, it doesn't really fit with the new system. It just confuses everyone. After some discussion between me, her, and the short-loans team leader, the decision has been reached to scrap the Health Sciences web pages entirely in this area, meaning all academics will go to the same main page, and all requests for articles will come to me instead. Progress! Previously we’d been wondering whether to leave things as they were, or change the Health pages to say exactly the same as the main pages etc – but it feels good to know we’re just deleting something entirely, simplifying, streamlining, and moving forward.

At lunchtime I write up my day so far in this blog post, up to and including this bit here. Reading it back, I can't help feeling it is lacking in sufficient drama and intrigue to attract new people to the profession, and I am gripped by the need to ensure I do interesting things in the afternoon, so I can report them here. Why do I not have any cross-site groups to attend, or teaching, or presentations in this of all weeks?! Panic rises as a I realise it’s already Friday, the project’s officially designated day-in-the-life blogging week ends in a few hours, so it’s today’s activities blogged or nothing at all. Brushing aside nagging doubts that to make your day more interesting in order to blog on it is a:  undermining of the whole point of the Library Day in the Life project, b: the tail wagging the dog on an epic scale and c: bonkers, I wonder whether I should prepare now for a Student Provisions Group meeting which doesn't happen for two and a bit weeks but really should be pretty interesting and diverse, or write the paper I'm to give at CILIP's Graduate Day now, even though it isn't until September, in order to sound like today is full of interesting stuff. I'm starting to feel like I'm in the film Adaptation or some other postmodern thing where the boundaries of reality and the documentation of that reality become blurred...


Having pulled myself together from earlier, I deal with the very real issues I need to sort before I go home. On Monday I (mercifully) have an assistant starting (not as in, can you make me a cup of coffee, thanks - but as in, taking some of my tasks off me...) to help cope with the peak-period workload. I have 2 months of full-time assistance, but due to various complicated reasons I won't bore you with, this is divided into 2 weeks of the person starting Monday, and then 6 weeks of someone else. In order to make the best use of the assistant's brief time, we really need for her to hit the ground running, which means setting everything up in advance as much as possible. We've sorted her computer log-in and password (I hope), and I've updated all the procedures I've written on the kinds of things she'll be doing. This is important because, due to an accident of timing, I'm actually off for 3 days of next week to work on my MSc dissertation! My boss is off as well, so the assistant will be working on her own, albeit alongside others from the e-Resources Team who work on different things, for much of her first week. I'm considering swapping one of my leave days so I'm around for longer, but even so I want there to be as much written documentation as possible for her to refer to in my absence. (Although I will be at the computer the whole time I'm at home, so she can easily email queries and so on.)

The day ends with me realising that the new inter-library loan system we will use for ordering digitised material from the British Library goes live on Monday, and I haven't yet learned to use it, and that I never did reply to the flagged-important emails...

- thewikiman

[In other news the written-paper version of the talk I gave at the New Professionals Conference at the start of this month is now available in PDF format from the Papers & Presentations section of the website, in advance of whatever CILIP publication they plan to put it in. The paper is entitled Why are we still defined by our Building? and is essentially about how there are many of us who have escaped the confines of the library building, without necessarily being able to escape the negative connotations that often go with it. There's stuff about classic librarian stereotypes, how the way in which we are perceived interferes with our ability to deliver a service to our customers, and what we can do to change things. It went down pretty well at the time, being given good write-ups here and here, and damned with faint praise a bit here! The downloadable version also contains an Appendix with all the statistical data from the survey of Leeds Library staff on perceptions of librarians etc.]