Thrills & Spills in ILLs

You know that awkward moment? The one when you’re walking along the street, or browsing through the supermarket, maybe you sit down on a train, and you look to the right, and there’s that face; you sort of recognise it, can’t quite place them, you smile, there’s a little eye-recognition and then Oh god, dammit, why didn’t I just look away or pretend that I… “So, hey, hi, how are you, good to see you, how long has it been?”

Oh come on, we’ve all been there. Like 10 minutes ago, when I saw the WordPress bookmark, tried to log-in, forgot my password, reset it, and then discovered to my horror that I haven’t posted anything since 2012!

Very poor.

Anyway, I’ve been spurred back into action. I’m back on the horse, all dusted down and reinvigorated with professional blogging related impetus.

By why I hear you cry?!

Well, since my last post I’ve rotated again, and am now working in Inter-Library Loans and Acquisitions: and on Friday we had a lovely visit from some colleagues at another University library who came to see how we do ILLs, and it was so nice to share some time with colleagues who seemed genuinely interested in our work, and it made me want to write about it.

I think my motivation also stems from the fact that due to some ongoing pressures at work (we won’t mention the dreaded ‘R’ word), the fact that we had a great day and seemed to make a good impression spoke volumes about the character and professionalism of the fabulous people I work with- that even in the face of testing times, our spirit remains undiminished. Sigh.

ILLs is great. My ILLs manager is a legend in the field, known by name and for her inimitable style, and we have a lot of fun. Whilst she seems baffled by the fact, like my predecessor, I rather enjoy posting Jiffy bags, sticking labels and stamping things, I marvel at the substantial number of variables associated with the job and her ability to remember them all.

ILLs is at the same time idiosyncratic, processional and completely ad hoc. One minute I’m sending through a straightforward request to the British Library, the next I’m exchanging pleasantries with a librarian in Germany. You spend a lot of time communicating with people- students, lecturers, librarians- and a great deal of time chatting with each other, sharing progress on orders, and laughing in the face of ‘rules’.

One of the things I have noticed, and wasn’t necessarily expecting, is that ILLs is often the first port of call for people using the Library for the first time. This puts us in a unique position, as it’s our job to not only solve an inquiry, but to make a good impression and do the best we can to direct staff and students to the other services and resources we have to offer. I actually spend a lot of time helping people with using databases, Google Scholar, promoting our Librarians, Subject Guides, and other facilities like the British Library or the public library.

ILLs also pushes you, in the sense that if you like problem solving, you’ll want to keep searching, to check SunCat or WorldCat again, to challenge your stamina and professional resolve. I think my competitive side, that intrinsic feeling of determination not to be beaten, particularly by the system, is often tempered by a ‘need by’ date, or the fact it’s 5.45 and it’s still bugging me.

I couldn’t begin to cover all of the things we do, even though I technically only do it two days a week- but Friday’s visit reminded me that what we do is interesting, fun, and above all quietly satisfying; we help people find the information they need, often by hook or by crook (if ‘by crook’ means emailing an author in America directly and hoping beyond all hope that politeness and a good spell-check might just do the trick…).

Given the uncertainty zeitgeist that seems to perpetually plague both us and the sector in general, I would feel sad if my time in ILLs heralds the end of my Library experience. I hope the old adage about an ‘ILLs wind blowing no one any good’ doesn’t come to pass.

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4 thoughts on “Thrills & Spills in ILLs

  1. Matthew says:

    So you’re back!
    ILLs was always my favourite. I once got a series of requests that were only title and author. After a lot of work, they turned out to be translations of in-house publications for a Japanese engineering company that had subsequently gone bust. I don’t even think the papers had been translated into English, just the titles. Still the student was unimpressed with the detective work and not happy that he wouldn’t be able to get hold of them.
    Regards to all at ILLs and Aquisitions.

    • Indeed! I thought it was time I started pulling my blogging finger out.

      Some people are never happy are they?! I will pass on your regards tomorrow, SM was asking after you the other day. 🙂

  2. You’re so right about the treasure hunt aspect! I never worked in ILLs, but checking references and such as I put the into a research repository, and tracing DOIs and that sort of thing was a mission – but a very enjoyable one.

    I completely understand the envelope thing, too 😀

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