Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Library Day in the Life - Round 8 - Part One - Going on a Bear Hunt.

This blog post is part of the Library Day in the Life project.

I'm a pesky part-timer. So my 'day in the life' started on Tuesday. Tuesday is the new Monday.

My journey to work starts from the school playground. It's either a mad-dash rush for the bus, only to be left standing there as it sails by, fully loaded...or a scoot to work on this. I am either the coolest mum in the playground, or the most embarrassing. I've yet to meet another scooting librarian. Come on, where are you? Show yourselves!

As I work for an organisation who's very goal is to protect the environment, getting to work in an environmentally sustainable way is practically obligatory. My office is rather unique. It has won an internationally recognised award which classifies it as one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the UK. You can catch a glimpse of it on Flickr.

Despite it's quite impressive impact and environmental credentials, the first question most people ask when they visit my office is 'What do you mean, no-one has their own desk?' It's a hotel-desk environment. Which means that no-one 'owns' a desk, and everyone packs the contents of their desk into a locker at the end of the day. Our 'clear desk' policy means that the first thing I do in the morning is go on a desk-hunt. It's like going on a bear hunt, but I'm less likely to end up under a duvet at the end of it.

It's an open plan office over four floors. When Google released it's Les Paul Google Doodle I went slowly nuts as 1200 people discovered the joy of strumming throughout the day. I have several rules for finding a desk.
  • Don't sit next to the photocopiers. It is warmer, but far too much noise.
  • Avoid the 'break out area'. Coffee chatter, cake chatter and general traffic are all distracting
  • Never sit next to colleagues who whistle, hum, randomly talk to themselves or raise their voice on the phone.
  • Steer clear of window desks. Windows randomly open. This may be a 'good thing' for automatic temperature control in the building. But I hate breeze.

This can lead to a limited choice of desk, especially if like me, you arrive later in the morning. I try and sit myself where I'm likely to be most helpful. For days I'm 'on duty' this means sitting near other team members, and close to our 'team storage' area. Other days, it means sitting where I can network and share information with colleagues in different teams.

My day today is a little different. I'm working as a mentor / buddy for someone who is here on work experience from a local disability organisation as part of a 'back to work' scheme. It's been over 10 years since he's worked. He's never worked in either an office or a library. The first thing I do when I get to the office is greet him and make sure we can find a desk close to each other to provide support.

We spend a bit of time reviewing what happened last week, and looking at what will happen today. He's doing some work to help us tidy up some catalogue records, reviewing the contents of what is left of our physical library and collecting data. Last week, was his first week. He chose to work with pen and paper. This week, I convinced him to use Word to create a table. I spend a short time assessing his level of skill in using Word and give him the level of support he needs. I attempt to create a balance. I don't want to overwhelm him, I do want to encourage him and give him some confidence. Once he's set up and happily tapping away at the keyboard, I give him some space and retreat to my own desk.

The library is an electronic library.Technically, there is no physical collection. My job, essentially is to get people the information they need in the right format, at the right time, at the right price. We subscribe to a range of electronic resources. We rely heavily on the British Library. We digitise our own publications, evidence and research. We provide information skills training via online conferencing facilities.

Like most people, my day starts with a scan of my Outlook which dictates what needs to be done. I'm not on duty today, so I only need to respond to my own email.  It can be digested like this.

  • Delete all items filtered in the 'current awareness folder' apart from Karen Blakeman's blog alert on Google. I read and forward to my colleagues. Please read this. Please look at Duck Duck Go. Please talk about it in our information skills sessions. Pretty please.
  • Speak to contract manager with regards to the supply of a set of books that is unavailable from our contracted bookseller. They are however willing to buy it from another bookseller on our behalf and sell it back to us for an additional sum. Watch contract manager put his head in his hands. Smile politely, tell him it's going to be OK. Promise to leave him alone for the rest of the day.
  • Start collating feedback from a course I presented last week. Whilst on the phone and preparing to present via conferencing facilities, a colleague in an office many, many miles away had failed to mute his phone and was heard to say 'Can you do this search course for me, so I don't have to learn this stuff'. In my feedback I read 'Cheekily sent a work placement student in my place. I'm sure she found it useful'. Cue Librarian Rage! Why bother signing up? I'm grateful for other feedback that is much more encouraging.
  • Contact an online information resource because a username and password for an electronic journal still isn't working.
  • Set up an account for a colleague who needs access to business information. Provide training and guidance via phone / online conferencing facilities on how to navigate the database and do a simple search for a company or a director. Send him a guide and make a note in my calendar to check up on him in a week and see if he needs more support.
  • Attempt to prepare my computer for the leap to Windows 7 and the bright new world of IE8. After spending the last 7 years working with IE6, I am very much looking forward to the web working again. A quick check tells me I can be smug. All my bookmarks are saved on Diigo. My records management is almost perfect and nothing is saved on my hard drive.
  • Talk to one of our researchers about changes in our policy to supply 'Early Preview' papers from the British Library.

It's a short day today. I finish at 1.30. But before I go, I need to talk to the placement student about his work that day, how he felt and whether he wants to come back. He does. Phew! There is still what feels like a huge list of things to do this week. It looks like this.

  1. Complete an evaluation of an electronic resource. Contract is coming up for renewal. I've collated customer feedback, and statistics. I need to pull it together into a persuasive argument to encourage budget holders to part with the cash for another year.
  2. Update the workbooks for our 'Information Skills' training sessions. Make sure that other team members are confident enough to present the material for the first time next week.
  3. Prepare for a forthcoming internal conference.
  4. Attend a review meeting to evaluate my own performance and discuss future career options

Aim of the week - Get rid of this list of things to do. Replace it with another. I'm mostly confident I will at least add to this list, if not replace it.

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