Tag Archives: Work

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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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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Control Freakery

Is it possible to forget everything you’ve learned in 11 days?

That was the question I pondered on Tuesday morning when I returned to work following some much-needed annual leave. Having just been introduced to some fundamentals of the cataloguing process, had I jeopardized my development by sunning myself in the south of France?

Well, not quite, though it took me until Wednesday afternoon for the mental gears to kick in.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to focus my attention upon learning something completely new which is as complex and complicated as this. I feel like I’ve enrolled on a foreign language course, and as with learning a new language, the grammar and syntax are simultaneously nuanced and specific; except I don’t have 6 months to build up slowly and at my leisure. I’m in a professional working environment, I have books (and, as of this week, theses) which are needed for students to use, and I’ve got to get to grips with the practicalities of my role (and effectively cataloguing itself) now; which is as exciting as it is challenging. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling under a little pressure; the fact that I’m part of a team of two (well, possibly three, we’re not sure at the moment- I’ll explain later) means that it’ll become very obvious very quickly if I’m the poorly performing cog in the wheel.

In other news, I’ve lost control of my desk. I’m a bit obsessive about working structures, patterns and tidiness and I need to establish how I work. I have to have things in certain spaces, arranged a certain way. The geography of my desk helps with the geography of my mind. When my desk looks messy, you can rest assured my mind is too. At the moment, my desk starts neat at 9 and has descended to anarchy by 5. My target for next week is to sort out how I’m working in order to work better. If my physical space is taken care of, hopefully my mental space is too.

Finally, Thursday witnessed an almighty numerical fail, when my manager attempted to explain to me our system for generating control numbers for items without ISBNs. It’s a very sensible, simple, straightforward system using basic, easy to understand numbers arranged in a particular order.

Unfortunately, when my eyes see numbers, and when my ears hear numbers, my brain does a number.

Thankfully, events descended into hilarity as we both saw the funny side; but for a moment it felt like any veneer, any mere semblance of intellect, capability and professionalism disintegrated instantaneously.

 

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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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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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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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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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Mardi Gross

I was emptying the return bins this morning, when suddenly I reached in to lift some books out and… ewwwwwww.

My hand was icky. The book was icky. It was all very, very icky.

God I hope that was toffee…

Suffice to say, a student (we know who you is) had decided to return their Social Sciences textbook (sorry AY, but it’s always social sciences) in a less than satisfactory state. It was covered in a sticky substance with an orangey-brown hue, resembling some sort of syrupy confection.

Although we couldn’t be sure it was toffee.

It could have been anything really.

Why anybody would think it acceptable to return a book in that condition is beyond me.

I’m not surprised that they used the self-service machine- they obviously couldn’t bring themselves to come to the issue desk. Actually, I must commend their use of the selfcheck machine; they even managed to scrape the barcode clean so that it would scan properly. Rather unfortunate for them though- by using the selfcheck machine correctly, it was extremely easy to identify them.

If only I could be a fly on their wall as they open the email informing them that they have been charged for their efforts. Or should that be my efforts for scrubbing the book clean?

The going rate for indeterminate goo is £5 by the way.

 

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Right Royal Randomness

“So, how was your day at work?”

“Well; we all dressed in black, wore white roses, and then went to the pub, in order to mourn a dead monarch famous (or infamous) for being a loser/murderer/misrepresented victim.”

Definitely the most bizarre occurrence since I started working here.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally on board with the idea of fun in the workplace, a relaxed and engaging atmosphere, and strong team relationships (and let’s face it, I’m not going to complain about spending an hour and fifteen minute lunch break sat in the sunny pub beer garden, having drinks bought for me). But there’s no way to contextualise today’s happenings to outsiders; in the same way that it’s impossible to prepare newbies for their first encounter with the office porter.

It’s all about context. And the beauty of today was, at no point did it bother me that other people might wonder what on Earth was going on. In fact, I quite enjoyed observing the reaction of the bloke sat nearby, who stared at our wake, and then stumbled towards the bar with a look of bemusement/confusion etched across his face.

I’d much rather work somewhere with character and personality, as opposed to a bland corporate office full of disenfranchised, miserable & superficial individuals.

Do I have strong feelings about the sovereignty and historical representation of the last Plantagenet? No. Did that matter? No. Did I think it was worth joining the collective randomness? Yes.

Today tapped into everyone’s inner eccentric self, that part of us which doesn’t care whether people think we’re different.

So, not only did I raise my glass of lemonade to the memory of Richard III, but also to the joy of non-conformity. Long may it continue.

(Having said all that, we were bullied into wearing black under threat of death, and I’m writing this during the dying days of fashion freedom, before a new dress code is foisted upon us. Oh well, as long as I get a free drink out of it, I’ll do anything. My needs are simple. And if you want cogent, considered thought, go and read Aristotle or whoever. I’m more Katona than Kant…)

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