Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Hello? Is there anyone out there?

If I’m being honest, I was surprised that it wasn’t longer since my last post. Prolific I have clearly not been. I’d like to say it’s because I have been living a full, active and hugely time pressurised lifestyle, with social engagements and workplace drama constraining the opportunities for writing.

The truth is, I just wasn’t bothered.

I realised earlier this year that I had given up on creativity for creativity’s sake. Yes, I find ways of being creative in my job (no change in role btw. for those returning readers) and have ample opportunities to be so; but I had stopped expressing myself creatively through writing (both inside and outside of work) simply because I wanted to stop. And not for some awful, life impacting reasons; merely I had stopped enjoying writing. It happened during the 2nd year of my degree- a moment when I stopped loving doing the thing I thought I wanted to do for the rest of my life; and then over the years I just couldn’t bring myself to do it at all. Writing became a stick I beat myself with, like re-treading decisions and choices from the past- a reminder that I chose B instead of A, the left fork over the right.

God, I’m so over myself and this negative cycle of reflection and rumination. The truth is, I wasn’t bothered and it’s easier to not do something than choose to do it.

The other day I sat down and spent the morning writing a blog post for a work account and it felt good. Really good. It wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve ever written: in fact I noticed how hesitant my wording and phrasing was, how I struggled to decide on a tone and delivery style, and (don’t tell anyone) how comparatively ‘relaxed’ I’ve become about nth degree editing. In a creative sense, not a professional one, obviously.

And that’s spurred me into admitting I can’t remember my password, resetting it and logging in. And here I am. Writing. Feeling incredibly guilty because I should be studying. But feeling good because I’m writing. At least until my fishcakes are cooked and then I’ll stop.

A summary.

Work is fine, in fact it has been a rewarding and eventful year, the highlights of which included: giving a conference presentation for the first time, training a new member of staff in all things ILLs for the first time, and hosting The Price Is Right for the first time.

Lowlights? Well, aside from facing the same issues as many people in the sector (money, money, money, and money; oh and a general feeling that libraries and librarians aren’t taken as seriously as they should be) there haven’t been too many. I think I could have been more productive in some areas, less so in others, but it’s all a learning experience.

Oh, and I’ve started an MA. Which so far has…

[fishcakes]

Now I’ve thought about it, one lowlight has been ‘2016’, or ‘the year the world went mad’. So mad in fact that many of the great and good decided to step off and find a new playground, sadly adding to the general sense of dispiriting awfulness that the last ten and a half months have so far been filled with.

Of course, not everyone has been feeling this way about 2016. In fact it turns out that me, my friends, family and colleagues are largely in the minority when it comes to such matters. So well done Brexiteers, Trumpeters, Honey G-ers and the rest of you nutters, sorry, ‘real hard working people overlooked and ignored by the liberal metropolitan elite’.

Hello? Is there anyone out there? These days, unless they’re visiting from Mars, I think I’d rather not know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Blog Post Comes But Once A Year

So, the last time I posted to this blog was less than a year ago. That’s less than a year. Not a year, less than.

Okay, again I’ve been a little tardy. Work shy. Slipshod. There have been reasons.

Reason 1: I’m lazy.

Reason 2: Erm, well, there is a reason two. It’s that life sort of got in the way, except that, the bits of life that got in the way are sort of linked to my erstwhile career as a blogger, so in effect I’m really just making excuses. (I did finish the final year of my degree, and work has been *crazy* what with the ‘restr_____ing’). Mostly excuses.

Anyway, you rejoin me (or I rejoin you) with an imminent rotation: away from the joys and delights of Inter-Library Loans and Acquisitions, and into the lap-of-the-Gods that is Academic Services (Subject Librarians). It should be exciting/fun/new/scary, and already I have a diary brimming with activities to help keep me occupied in my first week.

Firstly I’m sitting-in on a talk with an Erasmus visitor, who will be learning about the way the Library markets itself from my talented colleague who co-ordinates all of that for us. Then later in the week I’m learning about editing the new version of LibGuides- which, given that I haven’t learned how to edit the old versions, should be a fresh learning opportunity. Or shot in the dark.

I am in the process of moving desks, and will now be facing a wall. A white wall. A plain one. There will be posters.

My equipment is being adjusted for me (ba-dum-tsch) and hopefully everything will actually be ready to go I.T.-wise ahead of schedule, as I’m sure everything will all work properly and there will be no problems. Ha ha ha ha ha ha etc.

In the meantime, I have been wrapping up stuff and doing all of those little tasks that you set to one side to be done later and never do, like replacing those crappy plastic wallets, or updating those notes, or shredding the evidence.

It’ll be sad to leave Technical Services (it’s been re-branded since last we spoke) and even sadder when one of my managers, who’s worked here for 40 years (that’s not a typo) retires in a couple of weeks time. But on Monday, following the closure of one of our other sites, a load of new shiny people will arrive, completely changing the dynamic of the workplace. A workplace that, in light of the institution-wide plans and reconfiguration, has seen so many people leave, and continue to leave, and actually hasn’t really felt the same for a while.

It’ll be good to have more people around, and less empty seats.

 

 

 

 

 

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Theses Just The Beginning

Let’s talk about Theses, or “Fuds” as my manager calls them. Think about it…

Until I started at my present job, I never really thought about the fact that PhD and Masters theses were submitted to academic libraries and catalogued in the same way that books were. Obviously, I’d seen hard-bound theses before (at least, I think I had…) but I’d never really paid that much attention to them. People write their dissertations, I thought, and then just sort of handed them in.

Imagine my surprise when I found out this wasn’t the case!

In my present guise as a cataloguer, it is my responsibility to catalogue and process our theses submissions, and I actually rather like doing so. There’s something satisfying about opening up these grand texts, casting my eye over the research and tremendous commitment on display, before adding them to our system for others to peruse. It goes to the heart of academia, to the exchange of information and ideas, themes which sadly are becoming increasingly dismissed in favour of targets, money and statistics. Universities and libraries should be about something more than just churning out graduates.

Of course, I can’t lie, some of the titles I encounter look extremely boring. But every now and then, a little gem passes in front of me, with a catchy title or intriguing premise, and I marvel at the work and dedication needed to produce such results. My particular favourite so far was a music PhD.: a volume of research, plus CDs and a dozen pamphlets filled with scores and lyrics, beautifully illustrative and full of artistic ideas, experiments and above all passion for a subject.

What I actually do to/with the theses is rather clinical- tattling, barcoding, data-inputting. Sometimes, especially with the music ones, I actually feel a little guilty about writing and sticking things on other people’s work, like I’m flagrantly scribbling over canvasses in the National Gallery or defacing a textbook (things which of course I NEVER do).

What’s interesting about theses though is what happens afterwards. In many ways my role is secondary to the work of our Online Repository team, who receive the electronic copy and add it to our institutional resource. Suddenly, the tangible, physical thesis transforms into this fast, fluid, open access resource, available to researchers, students, academics and the public worldwide.

As a media studies student, I’m fairly familiar with some of the debates surrounding the evolution of new media technologies, and it will be interesting to look back in a few years time and reflect on the ways in which open access information has changed our world.

But for now, all I need to concentrate on is sticking, scanning and stamping, in the good old-fashioned library way.

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Catalogue of Misery

Was today the worst Monday EVER?

Contextually speaking; clearly, plenty of people worldwide have experienced considerably worse in the last 24 hours, and I’m essentially being hyperbolically self-indulgent. So, allow me to clarify…

Was today the worst day at work in my library in the context of me and me alone: EVER?!

Well, actually no. I mean, for a start there was the time a student cross-examined me, accusing me of “preventing her learning” by not allowing her to subvert the £100+ on her record in order to take out textbooks. Oh, and the day some books were returned in a rather damp, yellow and odorous state- draw your own conclusions, we did, and those books were never issued again.

Looking at it rationally, today was just, well, normal. I did desk. I catalogued. My line-manager despaired inwardly as I asked the latest in a long line of inane, repetitive questions about the Dewey Decimal System which undoubtedly resulted in yet another poor, unsuspecting library angel losing his/her wings. Standard stuff.

Perhaps it was the post Olympiad blues kicking in, but I just wasn’t feeling it today. No concentration. Fidgety. Easily distracted. It also didn’t help that I stayed up into the wee small hours last night listening to the US Open final between Williams & Azarenka. Late to bed is sluggish to rise.

Unlike in other departments, I’m finding that the ‘bad’ days in Cataloguing are harder to shake off. When my mind starts to drift or go fuzzy, I find it extremely difficult to maintain focus on the screen- and everything is on the screen. Even the assorted other tasks which make up my workplace portfolio involve screen time. Eye and mental fatigue are constant foes. And like when Serena’s groundstrokes begin to break-down and she starts having to rely on that booming first-serve, so too does my limited repertoire of cataloguing skills falter, and I’m forced to fall back on my gimme shot; except in my case it’s a bit of an underarm shocker, dumped in at an extremely low percentage.

A laboured tennis metaphor, but you get the idea. It’s not pretty. I start grunting and eyeballing line-judges. Losing ugly.

Today was one of those days. I hope for better tomorrow. Though, I suspect my mood will be indelibly influenced by Andy Murray’s performance tonight. I’m listening at the moment, and he’s a break up in the 1st set. If it all goes pear-shaped, expect the next post’s headline to read something like WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE EVER, or similar.

An exaggeration? Wait until I upload a screenshot of the bib. record which crashes the LMS…

(Since typing the above, Djokovic broke back. Read into that what you will…)

 

 

 

 

 

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2012: The Year of Living Dangerously (well, as dangerous as it can get working in academic libraries…)

It’s not about what your workplace can do for you, but what you can do to make your workplace work.

Bludgeoning historical quotations aside, I spent some time over the festive break reflecting on the working year, both in terms of the positives & negatives, and found my thoughts coalescing around the same specific theme- problem solving strategies. I started thinking about the particular scenarios I found challenging, and the possible steps I could take to face up to them.

I then started to broaden this out into a general consideration of the complexities of the workplace dynamic in relation to problem solving. Based on my own experiences, and those of friends and colleagues, a number of questions/points began to circulate in my head:

  • How difficult is it adopting a proactive approach to dealing with issues which are ostensibly outside of one’s control?
  • Does apologising make “There’s nothing I can do” an acceptable?
  • Who’s responsibility is it to make something happen?
  • How much of a personal investment in the workplace should an individual make?
  • Is disagreement always negative?
  • Are problems really ‘problems’ or just situations which need addressing/rectifying?
  • If work is enjoyable, is enough hard work being done?
  • What’s the point of office politics & is it possible to disregard them?
  • What is the best strategy to employ to effect change, either as a customer or employee?
  • Can you learn to differentiate a dead-horse-flogging, from a genuine opportunity for change?

There’s always an inherent danger when self-reflecting that issues become exaggerated, perspective is lost, and too much time is spent focussing on negative perceptions. There’s the danger that others may not share your enthusiasm or perspective, or indeed they may question your own ability to do your job adequately. But there’s also the danger that ignoring/accepting patterns which are unsatisfying can lead to disillusionment & resentment.

Returning to my personal challenges, I’m not naive- I know there are always going to be things which are out of my control, situations which will remain unresolved. I also am not crazy enough to think that I have all (or often, any) of the right answers. I’m also not stupid enough to burden my day with unnecessary worries and stresses over, what are mostly, trivial matters.

But perhaps 2012 is the year to start living a little more dangerously.

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How To Hide Your Library

It’s a key point to consider, especially given that newbie after newbie seems to be under the impression that we’ve hidden it.

“Excuse me, sorry, but where is the Library?”

“I’m sorry, where are all the books?”

“Like, hello, where’s the frickin’ stuff?!”

Ok, no-one has actually phrased it like that.

I’ll admit that the orientation of our buildings could be improved ever so slightly; and, that there are a few potentially misleading signs here and there. But, honestly, I’ve never known a group of individuals, the movers and shakers of the future, so wholly incapable of navigating their way around.

The first stumbling block is our barriers. Yes, the stupid plastic clip on their I.D. cards doesn’t help- but come on people, it’s a barrier, not an open-mouthed alligator! Swipe and walk! Swipe. And walk.

Exit, amazingly, really does mean way of leaving.

But what trumps all of the orientation issues which pervade our daily customer service interactions, is the strange (and immensely comical) notion that we’ve somehow hidden everything. Even more comical is the manifestation of this confusion, which seems to be an inability to walk through double doors.

Seriously.

If I had a fiver for every person who battles to swipe in, only to be confounded by two unlocked, dual-directional, swinging brown doors, I’d be able to buy a second Strictly Come Dancing Sweepstake 2011 ticket. Even though they can see people passing in, out and through them- they stop, return to the safety of the desk and ask for help.

Even then, guiding them to proceed through the doors to the lifts and stairs isn’t a failsafe mechanism for connecting them with resources. They come back, having been unable to locate anything.

What have they been doing for all that time? Standing in the stairwell?

It makes you wonder what they think we’ve done with the Library. Have we disguised it as the Canteen?

And what do they think is lurking behind the un-openable (even though they’re being opened) doors? A monster? Purgatory? (Make your own jokes) Michael Winner?

It’s not like the building is a Tardis. It’s massive, with a billion floors. What happened to the great explorers? I doubt Sir Ranolph Fiennes would take one look at a door and think “Oooh, not for me” and turn around.

Anyway, it fills us with amusement, and that’s what matters.

In tribute to the dooraphobics, I’ve found this gem from my childhood. Don’t have nightmares!

 

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They Thing It’s All Over…

Alas, we’ve reached our final Things!

But this isn’t the end. Instead, let’s think of it as a beginning. A new chapter. Like Katie & Peter: The Next Chapter- only with more quality, depth and overall point.

Less ITV2, more BBC2. Or BBC4, which I always wish I watched more often.

Anyway, for my reflection/look back over this 23 Things Journey- which has been like an emotional rollercoaster, during which I’ve learned so much about myself… (yes folks, X Factor’s back!) I decided to sit down with a pad & pen, and note down the stuff which immediately came to mind. So, here, in no particular order, are my 23 Things about 23 Things:

  1. Such Fun! Yes, I wont try to style it out; I’ve had fun doing 23 Things. It added a new dimension to my working week, which over the quieter Summer proved important in maintaining daily motivation levels.
  2. Collaborating isn’t always bad: 23 Things has provided a refreshing opportunity to work and engage with colleagues across the sites.
  3. Back to Blog: I like blogging. I like writing. 23 Things met my needs.
  4. A Brave New World: 23 Things is a fantastic way of discovering the myriad of online packages and technologies available to us, in an atmosphere which encourages supportive, shared learning.
  5. Knowing Me, Knowing You- Aha! Perhaps my favourite Thing has been getting to know more about the people I work with. Not in a stalkery way, but in a way which has helped to build a sense of community amongst the team; and, on a personal level, has definitely improved my professional workplace confidence.
  6. Evernote: I knew about Evernote, but I’ve now seen it up close; and me likey. Thank you to Twinset & Purls (prolific blogger extraordinaire) for giving it a thorough test drive too. Not that I’m saying you’re the Jeremy Clarkson of the team… more like the Library Stig.
  7. LinkedIn: I believe my thoughts on LinkedIn are well known, but I found the debate around its usefullness (or not) a highlight. I enjoy hatin’…
  8. 23 Things is good for your health: Seriously. It’s cured (well, certainly alleviated the symptoms of) my extreme Socionephobia*.
  9. Twitter: This process has reinforced my love for Twitter, and transformed the workplace dynamic. #ilovetwitter
  10. The Lives of Others: Following on from [no.5], 23 Things has introduced many personal interests and topics into the day-to-day discourse: a love of knitting, Kindles, cult TV, technology, food, ovine economics, togas… etc. Turns out, we’re all a little eccentric in so many ways… #librariansarecooltoo
  11. Setting a Prezident: Bad pun: yes. New avenue for presentations: possibly. Strange travel-sick feeling whilst seated in a non-vehicular context: definitely.
  12. Picture Perfect: How hysterical was PhotoFunia?!
  13. Groove is in the Shark: Music isn’t really my Thing, but I liked using Grooveshark.
  14. Copyright: Let’s be honest, Copyright is very important and can be very dull. It was good to be able to explore this topic in a proactive manner.
  15. Google Reader: I’m still using it! And I’ve found it aided my enjoyment of catching up with everyone else’s blogs. I’ve crossed over to the dark side…
  16. Survey Monkey: I wont lie, this was my most anticipated new Thing. It was one of the reasons I signed up for the course. It’s not big, it’s not especially clever, but it was fantastically entertaining. Oh, and professionally viable in a modern Higher Educational context… (cough)…
  17. JamGate: Talk about water-cooler-moment! Never has a throwaway comment on toast toppings proven so explosive! Forget HackGate, LibyaGate and CherylGate- this was the talking point of the year. Amazing.
  18. Reflective Practice: I must admit, I’ve never been big on this concept. I hate reflecting on things as I have a tendency to procrastinate, ruminate and over think to the point of a nervous breakdown. However, I can see some of the benefits, and it’s something I will not shy away from in the future.
  19. Tagging: Tagging as a concept has largely passed me by. Not anymore. I intend to revisit this.
  20. Librarians Exposed: I was fairly naive to the nature of information professional careers outside of the traditional library context- the social networking, staying on top of online resources etc. Instructive to say the least.
  21. Time: Management, making use of, the possibilities of: a significant learning resource in itself.
  22. Tales of the unexpected: There were many hilarious and random moments over the last dozen weeks: a personal highlight was the Head of Information Literacy apologising for having voted for Robson & Jerome. The expression of anguish was remarkable…
  23. ? I’ve left his one blank, as who knows what’s in store..?

 

Goodbye 23 Things 2011. Good Times.

 

*Socionephobia: An intense fear and dislike of social networking.

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Questions That Need Asking: The Results

From the title, you might be forgiven for expecting this follow-up post to be hosted by my cheaper and slightly prettier co-host: but no! I’ve still got it baby, yeah. Or at least, enough of it. Whatever it is. (And I should point out that for personal reasons, this portion of the blog has been pre-recorded; transparency at all times…)

Anyway, enough of this embarrassing song & tap-dance of a preamble- let’s get on with the show!

The results.

Firstly, I need to state that this is in no way scientific, or conclusive, in terms of establishing the opinions and personal preferences of Library staff. Secondly, in terms of the number of participants in the survey, to call this a ‘snapshot’ of Library thinking would be overselling it. Thank you, though, to all 3 of you who responded.

So, here we go.

The tension mounts.

Nails are chewed.

Edges of seats are occupied.

What will the recriminations be? Let the debating commence!

Finally, I couldn’t end this results post without giving in to public demand. Remember- you voted for it. It’s your own fault:

(All I’m saying is- the hair and the keyboard player…)

And They All Lived Happily After Evernote…

Once upon a time, in a library far, far away, there worked a sad Information Assistant named Christopher.

Christopher was sad because on Saturday, having sat in the sunshine sipping coffee and eating cake till 5, he returned home to discover that he was horribly sunburnt! This made poor unsuspecting Christopher sad.

Furious at his own stupidity, and aghast at looking like a cross between ‘White Van Man’ and Peter Schmeichel, Christopher didn’t know what to do?!

“My nose hurts, and my face hurts, and my arms hurt!” cried Christopher.

“Who’s been a silly little Information Assistant?” retorted Christopher’s patronising & distinctly unhelpful parent, wallowing in her son’s solar demise.

“What am I going to do?” asked Christopher.

A caring and sympathetic response proved too much for the evil old woman*, so Christopher decided to turn to his trusty, reliable friend- the Internet.

Firstly, Christopher logged-on to SlideShare, and found some helpful (and scary) presentations on the dangers of sunburn and possible remedies; including a fascinating slideshow concerning Ultimate Frisbee:

Christopher also came across a presentation entitled: 101 Ways To Cook Lost Children by the Candy Cottage Witch. Knowing that his friends, Hansel and Gretel, have had a problem recently with their parents ‘accidentally abandoning them in the woods’, Christopher decided to share this presentation with them via Twitter.

Secondly, Christopher came across this neat page on Wikipedia: Sunburn. Reading about the dangers of sunburn frightened Christopher so much, that he decided to spend time registering with UK Library Blogs in order to take his mind off things. Christopher also came across WikiPiggy, a specialised Wiki detailing construction techniques for building houses to withstand Wolf attacks.

Thirdly, Christopher decided that it might be helpful to bookmark the websites containing information about sunburn. So, he wondered if Delicious could be a helpful option, and who else might be using it already. Christopher discovered that Birkbeck Library had a small list of bookmarks, but none on sunburn. Then he discovered that one of his former lecturers had a medium-sized bookmark collection online, but with nothing about sunburn. Finally, Christopher searched for the term Sunburn on the Delicious website, generating a large amount of results, and found some information about treatment which was just right.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, thought Christopher, if I could store all of this information in one handy notebook, which I could access anytime, anywhere.

“Well,” said Granny, “my grand-daughter uses Evernote.”

“What’s Evernote?” asked Christopher.

“Evernote’s amazing,” said Granny. “It allows her to store loads of stuff, like websites, text and images in one place. She can access this information from home and on the go, using her Smartphone.”

“Wow,” said Christopher, “do you think she’d mind showing me how it works?”

“Not at all,” replied Granny. “In fact, she’s on her way through the woods to visit me now- said something about bringing me a basket of food.”

Ding-dong.

“That must be her now,” said Granny. “Early too, which makes a change.”

Christopher was curious as to why Granny’s grand-daughter had so many whiskers, really sharp teeth, and seemed desperate to get him out of the house as quickly as possible. Still, one mustn’t judge, he thought.

That night, Christopher slept peacefully; safe in the knowledge that, thanks to the wonders of Web 2.0, he need never worry about sunburn ever again.

The End.

(*Approval to use the term “Evil old woman” was agreed prior to publication.)

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Library 2012

So, I was watching the coverage of time passing ahead of the Olympics next year, and started thinking:

What if we had our very own Library Olympics?

We could have events, medals & ceremonies. Wear lycra. Eww, okay, maybe not the lycra- after all, it probably wouldn’t meet the dress code. Or, would it..?

Anyway, the events would obviously have to be library related, so I’m thinking:

  • Speed shelving
  • 100m book trolley dash
  • Hurdling the Level 2 barriers (some of the students would ace this)
  • Marathon (race up the stairs from Level 2 to 6, Empire State Run style)
  • 4x400m Processing Relay
  • 50k walk (we’d have to get the RMT on board for this one, shouldn’t be too difficult…)
  • DDDecathlon

We’ve got a Pool, and a tannoy for announcements, as well as access to national anthems online (my personal favourite is Italy). Ooh ooh ooh, and we’ve got some podiums going spare on Level 5!

Plus, with this Olympics, we’d all be guaranteed tickets.

All we need now is an organising committee. I suppose we could hijack re-imagine the new 2012 monitoring group, or whatever they’re called.

Good.  

That’s decided then. Perhaps I’ll bring this up at the staff meeting tomorrow..?*

(*I’m not going to be bringing this up at the staff meeting tomorrow).

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