Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ghosts of Christmas Yet To Come

Yesterday at 2.45pm various members of staff gathered to usher out the end of the year by ushering out students from the Library. We were surprisingly busy, and by the sound of things several people needed a little polite encouragement to leave- in the same way that some people need it pointing out to them that, yes, that is the Fire Alarm, and yes, could you please exit the building now please, thank you.

Obviously, Christmas doesn’t figure as significantly in the lives of some and I imagine that many students are frustrated by our shutting down for a week. This year, as in recent years, our Library is open during the holidays, staffed by Security and (touch wood) with all of our requisite e-resources functioning effectively: and this clearly meets a need. Particularly at my institution, the Library is a real focal point for student activity, so it’s probably comforting to know that there is a safe study space to head to when everything else in the area is either shut down or full of revellers.

I also take my hat off to those dedicated enough to maintain discipline and focus when the world around them is all tinsel and bright lights and merry. Speaking as a student with coursework to complete, I’m already bracing myself for that moment when I eschew sleeping in, put down the mince pies and categorically state in no uncertain terms that I’m not having another glass of prosecco as I need to focus on reflective writing and literature searching.

And I can see the attraction of heading into a Library in order to get the job done, after all it’s quiet, warm, spacious (most people aren’t there) and above all there’s less temptation to stray into seasonal territory. The library is also neutral: it’s not going to judge the excesses of the previous night, and it’s not going to take responsibility for what you get up to on the way home afterwards. It’s an other space, a world in between worlds designed to meet your needs at the time you have them.

I remember one year during my UG degree I went in to use some specialist video editing software and it reinforced my notion that a University Library feels out of context during the Christmas holidays. There was something eerie about being on campus, a smattering of other students here and there, no staff, with just some bemused security officers wondering why we had nothing better to do. Like being on board an HE Mary Celeste filled with lost souls drifting inexorably towards damnation (well, a deadline at least).

I’m honestly thankful that the only festive spirits I need to encounter at this time of year are either the Muppets showing miserly Michael Caine the error of his ways or the ones best mixed with lemonade. The only problems I envisage staying at home to study are battling with my own willpower and a dodgy broadband connection. At the same time, I do hope that the students visiting the library next week are happy and on track for a prosperous new year- and that they’re able to take a moment, even a brief one, to enjoy this festive season as intended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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This Time It Was Personal

One of the biggest challenges faced by anyone working in a front-line customer service role is dealing with difficult scenarios.

Scenarios. Not people.

I make this distinction because I’m uncomfortable with defining the ‘other person’ as difficult when, let’s face it, I can be just as difficult or pedantic as the next person. I’d much rather focus on the particular scenario first, and then consider the behaviours of the individuals concerned afterwards, in the proper context.

Challenging scenarios can be anything, from handling a telephone inquiry and not being able to understand the person on the other end of the line, to handling a direct complaint from an unhappy/upset customer. Over the years we attend courses on customer service, engage in training sessions etc. but even with training and experience, there are those moments which come along, out of the blue, and test your professional resolve.

I recently experienced such a scenario, during which my refusal to carry out a transaction resulted in a customer becoming agitated and confrontational, in a passive-aggressive way. Normally this wouldn’t have fazed me, but in this instance I was at a different location; and, unlike in my usual day-to-day work (where I am supported by senior staff) operating in isolation, one-on-one. This intensified the interaction between myself and the customer, the dynamic definitely having an effect on my behaviour, and unfortunately the customer decided to submit a complaint.

Immediately after the incident, I felt extremely upset and uneasy. In 10 years of working in academic libraries, I can’t remember anyone ever making a complaint about me personally (at least, not one I was informed of…) and in the aftermath I began questioning everything that had taken place, analysing, ruminating, regurgitating.

I realise now that there is a difference between self-reflection and beating yourself up.

Everyone is going to have a bad day, a less than successful exchange, an awkward outcome. It’s about treating these scenarios properly, considering what happened, and then trying to learn from the mistakes in order to move forwards. Of course, it’s helpful to have the support of your colleagues (which I felt I had) but ultimately it’s about you (or in this case me) and how you develop professionally.

It’s also about recognising & owning up to personal error. I’m not going to pretend I embodied the perfect customer service provider in this scenario, a point I was happy to discuss with senior members of staff. But I am now comfortable with the fact that I was actually carrying out my job requirements correctly, I tried to handle the situation properly for as long as possible and, whilst I’m still unsatisfied that a customer had a poor experience, I am more able to see this incident as a positive learning experience.

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Monkey Doodle Handy

What do you people want, blood?

Perhaps a slight overreaction, but, honestly, 23 Things Makers: what came over you?

I started reading Thing 13, then I scrolled a bit, read some more, scroll, read, scroll, read, scroll, read, scroll OMG! Will it never end! I mean, War and Peace anyone?!

This hysterical preamble is my way of building the case for the defense. My defense. For not doing all the tasks.

[Gasp]

I know. (Bows head in shame)

I’ve not been well. (Shakes head)

I tried, I really did! (Pleads with hands)

I just couldn’t handle the pressure. I beg of you, have mercy!

[Exit, pursued by angry Librarian]

I also became wrapped up in Prezis, and got slightly carried away with concocting silly questions, resulting in a substantial time-deficit; but that’s beside the point…

Anyway, here’s my Prezi.

Prezi is an excellent presentation tool. I’d never used it before [insert your own jokes about my Prezi here]; in fact, I didn’t know it existed until I came to City. It’s pitched as a user-friendly and more exciting alternative to PowerPoint, and in many ways this is a fair comparison. From what I’ve seen so far, Prezi feels like the dress-down Friday version of PowerPoint: more creative, accessible and fun to use, but no less credible in terms of its content provision. Additionally, the functionality and interactivity of Prezi make it ideally suited for collaborative work.

However, I wouldn’t write off PowerPoint just yet.

I’d be less keen as a presentationee (?), particularly in a classroom setting- where the emphasis is on absorbing complex topics- to be on the receiving end of a full-on Prezi, with it’s potentially disorientating effects and open-ended layout options. There’s something to be said for a simple, clear slideshow, backing up an engaging tutor. There are also a few technical drawbacks with Prezi, but from what I’ve been reading, these are being continually ironed out and the technology updated; so hopefully Prezi will become even more dynamic in the future.

As dedicated readers of this blog (and those of you kind/foolish enough to follow me on Twitter may be aware), I registered with Survey Monkey and went and did one. A big thank you to everyone who tackled the Questions That Need Asking, and for the positive feedback. Obviously, I’ve shown a complete disregard for the methodology of survey construction; but it’s my survey, and I’ll make it trashy if I want to.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Survey Monkey. After all the hoopla of Prezi, and the wowness of Web 2.0 in general, it was hysterically refreshing to be using a programme with Windows ’95 stylings. I suddenly became nostalgic for Microsoft Works, dial-up and Joanna Lumley; though not for my inkjet printer, which promised 3 pages per minute, but actually took 3 minutes per page.

Fist-gnawingly slow.

Survey Monkey might be a little clunky and lacking in finesse, but it does its job and sometimes that’s what’s important. The survey is open until Friday, and the official results will be revealed asap!

I’ve had some recent experience with Doodle, though in a slightly different context. This year, my university department decided to employ Doodle as the mechanism for selecting module options for the forthcoming academic year. From what I can gather, I don’t think this has proved a resounding success, possibly more as a result of poor planning and administration, rather than the merits of Doodle itself.

And I think this is a key point: It’s all very well having Web 2.0 tools at our disposal, but it’s the co-ordination and implementation which has as much to do with a project’s success or failure, as opposed to just the technology. Personally, I think a downloadable pdf or simple online form would have sufficed, but what do I know?

Doodle has a great name, an appealing concept, and is definitely worth further investigation from now on.

I have registered with Remember The Milk, and have invited a poor unsuspecting colleague to join me.

I don’t like the fact that I couldn’t just send my task to someone without forcing them to register- after all, I could have just emailed them anyway- what exactly is the USP here? Clearly I’m missing something. Maybe I should have used Doodle to schedule a chat about RTM? But how would I have remembered to use Doodle in the first place? I can’t even remember what I went upstairs for. If only there was a tool to help me organise my life, and overcome these increasing memory lapses?

What was the last Cool Thing? Oh, yeah, Google Docs.

Erm, right. Google Docs is a search engine designed to help you locate your nearest certified medical practitioner. It’s great. Amazing in fact. Everyone should use it.

Cool.

# Apologies for the lack of embedded content. I tried to embed my Prezi, but 2 hours of trying to grasp gigya codes (disappointingly, nothing to do with Quagmire) and such nonsense defeated me. It’s Sunday, I’ve already missed the Grand Prix (go Hamilton!) and don’t intend missing lunch.

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