Tag Archives: ILLs

12 Months Later

It’s August 2015 and I find myself exactly one year into my role as Senior Information Assistant: Inter-Library Loans.

On the whole, it’s been a good year. Busy. Challenging. But good.

The main thing I was worried about was breaking it. My predecessor, having been in post for about 12 years and who retired having worked at the Library for more than 40, was ILLs; so much so that, even after 12 months, I sometimes still feel as if I’m filling-in while she’s on leave.

Thankfully, despite several near-misses (and a couple of damn good tries) I haven’t broken it. Substantially. Cough.

The thing I’ve found most challenging has been the decision-making. No, that’s not true actually.

Decision-making is easy; it’s not making bad decisions which is hard.

In fact the most difficult thing I’ve discovered about stepping-up and taking on more responsibility is that you have to set your own agenda much more. Yes, the work ebbs and flows; but suddenly I’ve found myself self-directing and planning and managing my time in a completely new way.

Also, supervising. Whilst I don’t ‘technically’ manage anyone, I do have to operate in a ‘supervisory’ capacity in both departmental and service desk scenarios and, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea how that’s going/gone. I find myself obsessing about the tone of my voice; body language, things I say, things I don’t say, even more than I ever did- and given the fact that I self-reflect to an obsessive nth degree anyway, well, let’s just say I spend far too much time thinking about these things.

I think it was about 8 months before I finally felt a little more comfortable in the role- before I reached a point where I was accepting of the fact that:

  • Not everything is going to go right, and that’s okay
  • Some things will go wrong, and that’s okay
  • You don’t have to stay until 7pm every evening, and that’s okay too

But even today, scouring the country for music scores, I’m still finding certain elements of the job leave me feeling like I’m standing on the edge of disaster. When I say disaster, obviously this is all contextual. Nobody is going to die if I can’t find 100 Carols for Choirs by September 30th (which I hopefully have btw. #win).

The fact that I’m writing this blog post now is also perhaps an indicator of where I am at the moment; for much of the past year I’ve hardly felt motivated to write, despite hankering after an opportunity to be more expressively creative. I’ve just really switched off a lot this year, sort of put my head down, tried to work hard and be organised. I’ve become detached from the things which interest me, and even people who interest me- I stopped loading Twitter each day on my browser, whereas before I’d leave it on in the background all day, dipping in and out, keeping up with the world, commenting pithily.

To a certain extent I think I’ve got the balance wrong though. I’ve found myself mentally fatigued at the end of a day, even more so than when I was studying part-time alongside full-time work. I think without realising it, subconsciously I really have been working quite hard to stay on top of things, to the point where much of my drive, energy and capacity to do activities outside of (or around) work has been diminished somewhat.

So my target for this coming year is, not exactly to take my eye off of the ball- but more to remember that whilst it’s good to have my foot pressed down on the accelerator, it’s also good to shift gears every now and then. Hopefully it’ll make for a smoother ride.

There’s a great mangling of clichéd idioms to end on. I’m sure the blogosphere is delighted I’m back.

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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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