Epic First Month Post

For all my excitable library blog reading over the summer, I haven’t done much of my own now that I actually have something to write about. 

I do have an excuse though, and that is that I have been quite tired. Well, not quite tired, more like one more early morning away from being in a coma. Being a Graduate Trainee is so utterly worth it though, and I am loving my new job an embarrassingly large amount.

Looking back over this past month, I still feel utterly exhausted (shagged is the word I would use between you and me) but I am quite chuffed that I have managed to get up early and function during the day. Dare I say it – I have a routine! Of course, this does involve getting home and staying awake long enough only to stuff some form of carbohydrate into my face but still, I do it every day!

Speaking of things I do every day, one of the best things about this new job is the structure. There is a daily timetable, which is usually a variation on two hours on the issue desk, two on the help desk and the rest is spent working on projects and tasks.

I start most days at 8.45 (or 8.30 when it’s my turn) and then spend about 45 minutes straightening the shelves. I told my parents this and I could tell they thought I was an unpaid serf doing the library’s menial tasks. Yes, straightening can make you go blind but it is actually quite a relaxing and gentle start to the day. I’d rather straighten then have to operate on someone’s brain or drive a train before 9am. Besides, it really is an important job, as we are on the look-out for misplaced items, some of which would otherwise be lost forever.

Straightening is something I am very slow at. After doing it for a month I had hoped to be as speedy as everyone else but I am still perched on my little stool mouthing the alphabet to myself, whilst everyone else is on the other side of the room. So yes, I am a library dunce but I would rather it was done right even if I only manage a few shelves every day. Hopefully my managers agree, as I am still on probation for another few weeks.

The rest of the day is split between customer service and office work. This makes the straightening even more special as it gives us a chance to actually be in the library, rather than shuffling through it as quickly as possible to get to the staff room.

At Didsbury there are two GTs; me and Phil (hi Phil). We each have a certain subject we are working on and then in six months it’s presto change-o. Phil’s area of expertise is journals but if you want to know all about that exciting world you’ll have to ask him yourself or await my blog post in six months’ time.

My project is book ordering, which is kind of tangled up with the work of the academic librarians and digitization. Students at MMU have online reading lists in collaboration between their departments and the library. This seems quite cushy to me and it involves a lot of work for the library. We have to manually assemble each list using an online programme and create links to all sorts of resources. 

This can start quite pleasantly but then quickly devolve into a crushing exercise in frustration. If you don’t want to read my rambling grumble about book orders then skip ahead now.

Didsbury Library is for students of Education and Social Work and so naturally, the books that I order are on these subjects. And I order a lot of books. The funny (i.e. utterly soul destroying) thing about the authors of these books, is that they are giving their texts incredibly similar titles. In some cases, they reach into the corners of their cobwebby academic brains to produce such titular gems as Social Work or Primary Education.

Do you not want your book to sell?

Are you totally devoid of any sense of creativity?

Ok, so I might be a little bit bitter about this but I really am enjoying this project. Besides, at least I know that the books I am finding are essential texts that students need for their courses, and that this is a crucial aspect of the library. No books, no library (well, so I used to believe).

It is certainly worth pointing out that one of the most popular Education books is called, quite racily, Getting the Buggers to Behave. I’m sure it is a gripping read but I can’t help but think its success lies in the memorable title.

I quite like recognizing the same authors and academics now, as I can see a progression from when I first began as a GT. I was so worried about working in a library with a specialism so far removed from my own. I wanted to frolic amongst the books on Chaucer and Bede, not dyslexia and abuse. But now I am feeling quite pleased (smug actually) that I am at least passingly familiar with certain books, as I can hopefully filter this down into my contact with students. It has also brought it home how much work PGCE and Social Care students have to put in.

Such hard work puts the book stamping I have to do to shame. Well, almost; sometimes the date stamps aren’t correct and I have to write it out by hand. Using a pen. A pen!

When I am not foaming at the mouth and covered in post-its, I actually have to be pleasant and smiling. Over the past month, I think I have encountered enough student issues and queries to fill a whole blog. Some come up daily, especially as this is the start of the new term and so all the new students are blundering around the library reserving books willy nilly and trying to print without printer credit.

I love any contact with the students; we spend two hours on the issue counter most days and two on the help desk. The issues counter deals with minor things, such as reserved items, fines and renewals. All the juicy stuff gets passed to the helpdesk which, if I may say so, is the place to be. Here we help students with their research, demonstrate library services such as journal access and show new students how the library website works.

I seem to be spending more and more time showing students how to use the self-service machines. It’s a tricky one, because I find them so natural to use but for others they are horrible lumps of robot junk. Tough luck though, as students have to use them in most instances. (The self-service element of library front line services is something I want to write about later.)

So after one month how do I feel?

I’m no longer afraid of students, which is quite useful. I’m starting to find my feet and feel confident in the information I am dishing out – and I am only running for help during every other query. I want to work on my customer service skills, as I feel fine speaking in person but become a gibbering Pokemon when I speak on the phone. But you know what? I feel really, really good.

This was a good decision and long may it continue*

*actually only 11 more months.

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