Tag Archives: Good Times

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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Out of the Frying Pan & into the Fire

After 12 happy months in Public Services, I am about to embark on a journey into the unknown- Cataloguing. I have not been to Library School. I am wholly unqualified. You say Dewey, I say Uncle Scrooge:

What can possibly go wrong?

Yes, in the crazy world of my Library, I am about to be rotated for the second time- from the dark, murky corners of the illuminati to the, well, lighter (and temporarily more spacious) corner of ‘proper Librarianism’.

I’m going to get into a lot of trouble for this last comment.

It’s just that, Cataloguing strikes me as pretty much the closest I’ll ever get to being part of that classic, nostalgic, rose-tinted world of tweed, dust and good old-fashioned stamping. Yes I know, Libraries are about e-resources, and iPads and fancy tools, and information literacy. And yes I know that dealing with customers, equipment and systems is crucial to building a successful learning environment. But Cataloguing, well, it looks sort of librariany. There are reference books involved.

With just a few days to go, I’m filled with excitement and trepidation. Excitement in that I’ll be learning something new, and sitting somewhere different and changing the whole tempo of my daily work. The trepidation comes from a genuine fear that I’ll be useless at it. I really am starting from a low knowledge base. No, lower. Lower than that. Keep going. Yep, that low.

From what I can tell so far, grammar and punctuation are big themes in cataloguing which pleases me. I’m obsessed with both, love rules and think everyone should read Lynne Truss’ masterpiece. However, it also looks like it involves computer systems and someone called Marc. This pleases me less. I don’t like numbers or technical things. Boo science. And I don’t like meeting new people. On the up side, I’ve already re-written the title of this blog post three times; first, as I would normally, second as it should look on the catalogue, and third as above which breaks both mine and AARC rules. At least I think it does. Is it even called AARC? No wait, it’s AACR isn’t it? Haha! See, I was paying attention. What? I’ve missed out a number? Really?

Anyway, I also found out today that Mr Dewey (allegedly) had a thing for Max Mosely-style alleged shenanigans (allegedly). In conclusion, I plan to document my journey through Cataloguing in the hope that some good will come from the metadata damage I will undoubtedly do.

In the meantime, I’m in the process of wrapping up my time in Public Services which, contrary to the indications of colleagues (whose doomsday utterings left me concerned that I was headed into the jungle with Martin Sheen) has proven rather fun and uplifting; and I don’t think this is entirely down to the gallows humour either. The fact is, Public Services is both challenging and rewarding. You’re simultaneously managing your workload, motivation levels, personal discipline, professional manner and general ability to be social. I’ve felt under pressure to be ‘on’ most of the time. You get asked more questions than you have answers for, and the sense of treading water and frustration at being powerless to solve certain issues can be a little overwhelming at times. But then, the sense of achievement when something works, when customers are satisfied, becomes even more intensified- even the smallest, littlest success, like finding a missing book, or answering a colleague’s question, suddenly becomes magnified into a much more emphatic win. I’ve also learned a lot from my Public Services colleagues about problem-solving, thought processes, strategic planning and attention to detail; not to mention the skills of personal resolve in handling extremely difficult/challenging scenarios with dignity and care. I’m actually sad to be saying goodbye to a job I’ve enjoyed, and to the tasks I never quite got round to finishing.

But all things must end, and in that spirit I shall stop now.

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Forwards. Not Backwards. Maybe A Little Sideways…

And lo, the new academic year is upon us. Whoo.

Last week saw the newbies arrive, all bright-eyed and questioningly tailed, excited to attend their Library inductions. Our Subject Librarians have worked hard to exceed their needs, and to invigorate their minds with regards the Library and all the informatic possibilities available to them through using it. This week, it’s the staff on the counter taking the strain, as continuing students return and the clamour for that last textbook reaches fever pitch. And let’s not forget the ‘One Man & His Dog’ scenario of trying to herd all the little lost sheep through the Library gates (security barriers, total nightmare, stupid plastic clips…).

And yet, with all the hustle & bustle of September, with all the drama of technical fail, and with all the chaos that the new term brings, there is only one burning issue at the top of the daily agenda.

Forget swipe cards, borrowing rights, the food & drink ‘policy’ or even Dresscodegate.

The only topic of conversation in town is:

The Strictly Come Dancing 2011 Sweepstake!!!!!!

Yes folks, TV fever is sweeping the office like never before!

Despite a few hard-liners vehemently opposed to anything remotely fun or frivolous (you know who you is) there’s been an overwhelming groundswell of interest and fervent debate. (BTW research suggests that 92% of people are 75% more happy if they participate in 35% more random office sweepstakes 22% of the time).

With just days to go, there are only 6 spaces left available.

This is undoubtedly going to provide the water cooler moments of the Autumn/Winter- and it will all be covered here, lively and exclusively. Watch this space!

(PS: A big thank you to all my colleagues for their extremely generous awards & prizes- 23 Things was a great experience, I recommend it to anyone, and I suggest everyone continues with their blogs ’cause they were all marvellous!)

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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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Would You Like To Feel Our New Carpet?

I’ve not worked a Saturday since April 2010. Weird.

Since my defection from the opposition, I’ve gotten used to the whole, “Working nine-to-five, what a way to make a living” thing; and I must say I rather enjoy it: the routine, the commute (I know, seriously- even falling asleep on the train home and suddenly waking with panic, only to realise we’re still in Clapton…) and the feeling that I’ve made full use of a day. When I worked part-time, I had too much free time on my hands, which I blatantly wasted.

Yet, I’d forgotten how much I valued working on a Saturday: the relationships I built with my colleagues and friends, and the satisfaction of functioning independently.

Helping out at the Undergraduate Open Day today reminded me of those positive feelings.

Weekends are different, they feel different- I became quite territorial about full-timers trespassing on my patch; by the same token, when I covered during the week, I always felt like I had been parachuted in, or brought off the bench like a substitute.

Sometimes, working separately from the rest of the team can be unavoidably problematic, for obvious reasons; but spending time outside of my routine acted like a happy memory trigger this afternoon.

Good times.

So what of the Open Day itself?

A big well done to everyone involved for their efforts, especially TeamLibrary! Despite a few technical hitches, some logistical challenges and several questions outside of the crib-sheet remit*, everything went well and (hopefully) we made a good impression! Let’s face it, our Libraries are happening places- just ask the students who try sneaking their X-Boxes, takeaways, alcoholic beverages and tobacco into the Group Study Rooms! Oh, and football in the Sandpit anyone?

Our message was simple- come to City, because the Library is great. Library win!

(Just a note to any senior colleagues reading this- don’t worry, we did elaborate further than a one sentence soundbite)

It was cool to engage with the potential newbies & their parents, and to try to convey the exciting ways in which the Library services work to support and enhance the student learning experience. We do a lot of good stuff, and we should be proud to tell that to anyone who’ll listen.

Less cool was the harsh realisation that it’s now ten years since I went on my first campus tours- and I am amazed at just how confident and single-minded everyone appears to be these days. Are the financial implications of going to university having an impact? Or am I just getting older? Oh God, next I’ll be typing “In my day…”

Sigh.

All in all, I think we put in a solid display, and fully deserved the chocolatey treats so generously provided in order to meet our end-of-day, celebratory, sugar-fix needs.

Speaking of needs, I needed to include this somewhere. Trust me, it’s amazing:

*My top 3 curve-ball questions:

  • So, what’s the music scene like around here?
  • How close are we to the ‘cool’ places?
  • How does City compare with Warwick University, in particular in terms of its business courses and institutional history?

(I wont tell you the answers I provided, on the grounds that it may embarrass all parties concerned, i.e. me…)

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