Oh Aye*

When I started this new job I was chucked Dorothy-like into the realm of Open Access. That was almost three months ago and to this day I’m cramming OA research and policies into my gaping face hole in the desperate hope that some of it might stick.

In an effort to make sense of it all, my original plan (oh how I laugh at naïve Jen of the past) was to write a single, sweary blog post about OA**, sling it on twitter and then merrily get on with other things like eating pies and sitting down.

download

Unfortunately, tackling OA is like fighting motherfucking Medusa.

(Please imagine wavy lines and a flashback harp at this point thankyouverymuch)

You enter carrying the mighty sword of coffee and google. OA Medusa is looking nasty af but you have the power of Wikipedia on your side.

You raise your sword and BAM, you’ve read the Finch report and think you know it all.

Oh no you don’t, two more heads have sprung up, better tackle the difference between Green and Gold. (Now might be the time to snick out those knives you have up your sleeves.)

Bam. Bam.

No you clunging well don’t, now there’s the Soprano-esque world of APCs and there’s Symplectic and there’s hundreds of academics asking about Symplectic and then a green paper comes out and threatens to get rid of HEFCE and in bed at night you’re dreaming about the REF and before long you start to think REF would be a great name for that dog you want but will never get because you’re too busy thinking about the REF.

Jesus. (got a wee bit too into that)

As you can see from the number of acronyms, hyperlinks and jargon, OA is as impenetrable as the shipping forecast only more sweary and less wet.

I may have possibly mentioned only in passing just that one time, I was a teensy bit unsatisfied with my library course. Open Access was never mentioned, not even in the most erroneously titled module, Information Futures.

Considering the implications this whole area is having on libraries and HE in general (as well as related areas such as altmetrics and research data management) and the work this is generating, newly minted librarians need to be equipped to take on this challenge.

I started this job equipped with only a vague idea of green and gold OA and to be honest, couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Here I am less than three months in and yes, reading about OA doesn’t help me understand its real world implications or the pisstake irregularities – but working in this field and learning on the job puts it into context and as a result it is super fun. Even more fun than reordering your friend’s frankly insanely ordered bookshelves (i.e. the second most fun thing to do whilst sober).

We are currently a one-and-a-half person team (Nick is the full grown adult and I’m the half cos I work part time in this role, not cos I’m short ok) and so, in spite of the steep learning curve, I’m really lucky to be gaining this experience and I’m certainly enjoying the challenges and all the different things I get to do. Said with utter sincerity I can assure you.

There are many far more erudite and engaging blogs and articles out there about OA in general, the current climate of epic struggle and what the future may hold*** – and so, in the spirit of being quite crap about these things, I am going to post about different areas, like APCs, and try to put them in a real world, probably slightly rude, context. Sorry.

Oh and if anyone asks, yes I have definitely read the whole Finch report.

 

*Alternative title – fuck you Elsevier

** Look I’m doing it NICK

*** General overview of OA theory by Pete Suber (OA Macdaddy), open-eyed post about the current HEFCE situation by the University of Cambridge, Martin Paul Eve’s book about OA and the humanities is published green OA and you can find info on scumbag Elsevier here, here, here and here.

 

Illness and inductions yo

It’s October now and the mornings are cloaked in fog and scattered leaves, the air is plump with the scent of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and induction madness is in full swing. It would be a magical time of year if not for the virulent and drippy colds that have infected the entire city of Leeds and, specifically, me.

Pumpkin Patch by Grempz CC by 2.0

Pumpkin Patch by Grempz CC by 2.0

I have spent the long summer months creating a new induction programme for our students, imagining just what jolly good fun we will all have together in a twirlingly saccharine Maria von Trapp kind of way. I could also breathe through my nose, which I didn’t appreciate at the time as being really fucking great.

The new term – three weeks in and I’m knee deep in delivering up to six inductions a day to a varied mix of ages and abilities – all my summer dreams now a soggy lump of mush. Yes, like my face. Yes, I am ill and yes, I want to complain.

Drip by Adam Baker CC by 2.0

Drip by Adam Baker CC by 2.0

This morning when ich war mir die Zähne putzen*, a strange comparison came to me. Librarians conducting inductions are like Hagrid from Harry Potter.**

It might be the eldritch time of year, the prevalent pumpkins or the fact that I have started to play the HP Lego game, but bear with me and let’s see how far I can drag this one out. I was hoping to compare us all to Hermione but I am feeling far too pathetic to compare myself and the rest of us to such a badass bitch at the moment.

So lucky you, here are four ways in which induction librarians are like Hagrid – a.k.a. the blog post you never knew you needed until now. Broomsticks away!

  1. Non magicians in a magical world

I am currently working my last few weeks at the fab College of Building (which I love). It can take an extra cup of coffee to imagine this place as Hogwarts but for you I am willing to go the extra mile. Through this caffeinated glom the plumbers and the brickies have become young witches and wizards and the librarian (me) is Hagrid; a non-magician in a magical world.

During inductions I am often alone with a class full of students (well-behaved or not), who all treat me as a teacher, right down to calling me Miss. I love the buzz that comes from teaching and recognise that it is a vital part of what we do, but I have no training whatsoever (are you listening library MA courses?) and sometimes it feels like I am wrangling Cornish Pixies, expected to perform complex spells with only a broken umbrella.

But just like Hagrid be-tailing Dudley, we are capable of magic. It just takes a bit more work and an acceptance that we are not trained wizards or teachers, just badass gamekeepers flying by the seat of our pants. Also coffee, lots of coffee.

  1. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

Poor Hagrid, forced to live in a leaky hut without access to conditioner or wifi. When he gets that teaching job and brings out exciting new animals (Buckbeak!), some of the students react with excitement, whilst others bitch and moan. When he teaches them about those boring wormy things, they don’t like that either. This, in essence, is how I am finding inductions.

I think a lot of us will recognise that character trait of wanting to please everyone and do the best job possible, but with inductions I am quickly realising that it will never be perfect. This year we designed a new induction full of interactivity, bells and whistles – predictably some people love it and some really don’t. Learning not to take it personally is far harder than standing up in front of an unknown and begrumpled class – now I know there is no magical spell to make it perfect – all we can do, year on year, is refine and update and deliver.

  1. Mixed response from the faculty

Dumbledore and his posse all loved Hagrid and gave him support during his teaching career (although now I come to think of it, he did get accused a lot and slung into Azkahban…) whereas other faculty members were not so enthusiastic.

Doing inductions has brought me into contact with a lot of teaching staff, which has mostly been brilliant. I think when they see you standing in front of a class they see you more as a colleague and peer than a frumpy book wrangler, never a bad thing eh.

However, other staff members are perhaps more sceptical of the value of a library induction or assume we can tailor make a session for them without any notice. Grumble grumble grumble. Just gotta remember it’s (hopefully) nothing personal!

  1. Cake

Hagrid loves cake, librarians love cake – we all love cake. Nuff said.

Robbed this from http://goo.gl/Ra0U98

Robbed this from http://goo.gl/Ra0U98

In conclusion, inductions have been hard but highly enjoyable. I am so glad we tried something new and put a lot of effort into making something fun, interactive and different, even though we had a mixed reception. The most important thing I have learnt is that we can only do so much – it is just never going to be an ideal situation.

Coming into an unknown class for a brief period of time without any real teaching education is just a crapshoot. I am happy that our students will have hopefully got a positive impression of the library and feel at ease coming in and using our resources, even if they will still have to ask us if they can get a book out.

So even though I feel like big lumbering Hagrid, sticking out like a squib in Tranfiguration, it’s still worth it. Looking back through this blog from the highs of being a Graduate Trainee and the utter lows of the course, I am now a real librarian. Bring on the next adventure…

*why not a bit of german in the morning eh

** using a forced HP reference to shove in one of my favourite videos like an outdated saddo.

I visited a health library and didn’t die

I recently spent an enlightening two days learning all about health libraries and I am feeling uncharacteristically optimistic about the field, despite the fact that somewhere out there are libraries that co-exist with MORGUES. Oh library/zombie movie, you just write yourself.

Obviously, I’m a GT and have no actual experience as a health librarian so I wanted to do a bit of myth-busting for those of us who are secretly a little bit afraid of health libraries or completely in the dark about what goes in (insert general anaesthetic joke here.)

If you would like to find out more from real grown-ups, check out the Manchester NLPN’s interview with Jo Whitcombe, the CILIP Health Libraries Group and the NHS list of health libraries in the UK.

My experience comes from attending the LIHNN Clinical Librarian’s meeting, the LIHNN Trainers group meeting and job shadowing an Outreach Librarian at Salford Royal hospital (location of the aforementioned morgue.) I had a fantastic time at all three and would like to thank everyone involved for being so lovely and welcoming.  The camaraderie amongst librarians from what are competing hospitals and trusts actually warmed my frosty little heart. If you are super jealous that I got to and you didn’t, I think LIHNN is looking to invite more visitors to future meetings so get in touch!

But back to more important things – me (this blog is fast becoming the psychology of my childhood.)

My dad is/was a doctor and I have grown up with that vague medical background in which I was given doctors and nurses dressing-up clothes and toys, urged into science, watched squelchy medical procedure videos and had my dad dig various splinters/stones/Polly Pockets out of my feet with nothing more than a rusty penknife. All in all, this has not inclined me towards the medical profession in any way. Indeed, please refer to this beautiful Venn diagram of me and my previous hospital experiences (sponsored by clipart.)

venn

Before I went to Salford Royal, I really knew nothing about health libraries at all and I had generally made it my life mission to avoid hospitals and oozing contagious people.

But as it turns out, much of the same things happen behind our academic library doors.

(And really, there is just as big of a risk of catching something horrendous from a drippy student as there is from a hospital, which is probably a cleaner work environment anyway.)

There are numerous similarities – the main three I have outlined below alongside three differences.

I know you are incredibly excited to scroll down and find out what these amazing points are but wait! It must be said that although there are loads of similarities, the differences are different. Like technically a goat is really similar to a cat but the goatiness of the differences are what matter overall.

Ok, go ahead (similarities first then differences, cos I forgot to do headings):

Students

It didn’t even occur to me that there would be students – students are ours and belong in their natural habitat – so it was a bit of a surprise to hear them being discussed at the meetings. Then at my job shadow I learned just how many there are (well, I can’t remember exactly but bloody loads) and that a large part of the role is similar to that of an academic librarian; inductions, information literacy, teaching and all the niggly things like fines, renewals and missing books. As much as I grumble about them and am dreading being one again, students really do make the job worthwhile so it’s good to know the skills you have in HE can be transferred across.

 

Doctors 

The way I can make health libraries make sense in my head is to think of doctors (in their many roles) as academics rather than scary people who poke you or share half your DNA. In HE the service we provide for an academic and a student can be quite similar but there are more issues of power and responsibility in play. For example, I would feel more overwhelmed and nervous if a doctor/academic asked me for help than a student simply because they know more, are usually older than I am and are higher up the scale. Of course, most academics don’t spend their days elbow deep in someone’s guts (at least not at work) but I still think the comparison stands.

 

Location/environment

I spent most of the walk between the tram stop and the hospital trying to spot the sick people. It turns out that they aren’t just streaming out of all the buildings and collapsing in the car parks. In fact, I don’t think I even saw a single patient. More than anything, the hospital looks like a university. Just a hodgepodge of anonymous buildings named after old people, with the same sort of meeting rooms, cafes and signage. Might I even say it was a bit boring – which is a good thing of course – but I was expecting a bit more ER type drama.  When will I learn that TV dramas are not accurate depictions of real adult life?  I was also stupidly surprised that the library looked like a library (duh) with a quiet zone, study spaces, an IT room and even an impressive fiction section. There were even students IN THE LIBRARY, which just goes to show how I can’t help but stick even the most obvious and mundane things in this blog.

 

Literature searches

These seem to be a common theme amongst outreach and clinical librarians and feel almost wrong to me. I’m so used to helping students only up to a certain point, with the idea that I absolutely must not do their work for them no matter how tempting it is to get out my red pen. So when I learnt that doctors, nurses and even students can email or fill in a form requesting a list of articles and other materials on medical topics, I pretty much had a heart attack right then and there (luckily I was in a hospital…). This is one of the biggest differences for me and something that actually sounds quite interesting and satisfying – and having seen one in action, I definitely feel less nervous about being able to do one myself.

 

Subject matter

Literature searches are one thing, but the language involved is quite daunting. I have two literature based degrees and obviously never thought I would have to use medical knowledge beyond buying paracetamol and feeling my lumpy scalp to convince myself of a fatal  brain tumour (nope, that’s called a skull Jennifer). Doing these literature searches does involve deciphering medical terms and there seems to be a lot of jargon but when I started out here in an education and social care library I didn’t know anything about those subjects either, so I think it’s a case of learning as you go along. You can’t be a health librarian and totally avoid medical language but you aren’t expected to be an expert either. Phew.

 

Autonomy

In general it seems fair to say that health librarians work in smaller teams and so their responsibilities are more varied. There is no subject librarian equivalent (as I naively thought)and you are expected to dig into all sorts of things that in HE there would probably be a whole team dedicated to. For example, you might have to create your own slides for teaching, help build your website, process ILLS, run inductions, attend meetings and do stock counts. This freedom sounded really exciting but I think you would need to be quite a self-motivated worker (I would probably end up sitting in the office eating jaffa cakes all day and reading Wikipedia entries about lemurs).

After this brief but exciting glimpse into health libraries, I feel reassured that no body parts that belong on the inside are going to touch my outsides and that the roles out there are varied, interesting, inspiring and really very cool. Go health librarians woo!

Six months

This month marks my six month anniversary of being a GT. Someone else may take this opportunity to write a deep and reflective post about how they have changed as a professional and, dammit, as a person as well. Not me, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that kind of touchy-feely stuff. As I am learning, we don’t always get what we want, like a new Harry Potter book detailing just how Harry, Ron and Hermione turned into such creepy looking adults or a decent LIS course (amiright).

Instead of talking about my feelings, I have come up with a list of the things I now know about working in libraries – and the things I am still totally clueless about. If anyone has the answers to these, seriously get in touch. I can pay you in the librarian drug of your choice; coffee, cats, cake, crafts or crack.

So far, I have learnt:

How to do my job

Yeah, it would be a little worrying if I didn’t know what I was doing by now. Not that I don’t spend some days just staring at the book in my hand, wondering what the hell I meant to do with it – but for the most part, everything has clicked into place. I haven’t been fired yet so hopefully things are going well.

How to write emails

Sometimes it still feels like a minefield – I agonize for hours over exclamation marks and whether I should put ‘thanks’ or ‘cheers,’ only to hit send on an email that someone will take ten seconds to skim. It has become more natural though, and it helps to realize that most people probably feel this way sometimes.

Apart from that one student who emailed me with only the four cryptic words, “I have found them.” I don’t think she has ever worried about how to write an email…

Photocopiers

On the first day of my Graduate Traineeship they should have told me to kiss my loved ones goodbye, as from that point on I would have only one major relationship in my life – with the fudging photocopier. If half of the queries I deal with are about fines, then the other half are how to copy, how to scan, how to add credit, how not to die when scanning your own face.* Indeed, you’ve really never felt alive if you haven’t stuck your hand blindly into the boiling innards of a photocopier, risking your fingers to pull out the remnants of someone’s Ryanair booking confirmation.

Librarian stereotypes

As in, nobody really conforms to the stereotype but all non-librarians are weirdly obsessed with it and ask you about it whenever you mention where you work. I’m talking about the idea that librarians are quiet, nerdy, cardigan-smothered battle-axes who ssshh people over the tops of their glasses, before going home to their cats and/or knitting. I didn’t really expect to meet anyone like that when I started at MMU but I thought there might be some echoes of truth. Turns out, not one jot. I may wear cardigans and glasses and tell people to shut up but that’s because I am grumpy, stylish and blind, not because I am a librarian.*

Social scene

There is one! Hallelujah!

Special sellotape

We have special posh sellotape, only to be used to affix spine labels to books because it doesn’t turn yellow and costs a fortune. This is some seriously specialized shit.

Dewey Decimal System

It’s taken six months, but I am now prepared for everyone thinking I have memorised the entire DDS and will be able to direct them to books on their particular subject. In these cases I either point them towards the catalogue or point them towards a random shelf and leg it.

PhD

After six months of attempting to use up the entire UK supply of post-it notes, I have realised one epic thing. I am so, so glad I didn’t do a PhD. There are lots of little reasons why not, like the fact that I can see the results of my hard word on a daily basis rather than waiting for years, or that I am finally writing a book, or that I probably would have made a sucky academic anyway. Sadly (ha), the world will never get to read the amazing research of Dr Bayjoo on Medieval Welsh literature but hopefully they will get some use out of a library where Ms Bayjoo works. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about emotions but seriously guys, I am so pleased that I work in a library as a GT, not as a student. Huzzah!

I have six months to learn about:

What is up with staplers

So what I do know, is that staplers break constantly. How can we live in a world whereby I can carry the entire internet in my pocket and videochat with my sister on another continent – but can’t affix pages of paper together in a semi-permanent fashion. If I don’t become rich by being a librarian (likely), then I will just have to invent a stapler alternative and solve this blight upon our society.

Metadata

What the fuck is metadata?

Reservations

I feel like I have told everyone one of our thousands and thousands of library users that they cannot reserve books that are on the shelves upstairs. I do it every. single. day. If I am looking at a career spanning several decades of saying this same thing every day, I am going to need to get myself to a zen-like place or pour Baileys onto my cereal. It’s not so much the repetition, it’s the telling someone that the book they need is upstairs, giving them the shelf mark, and then watching them just walk away because they can’t be bothered to actually pick the book up. The stuff of my nightmares, I tell ya.

LIS courses

I have tentatively accepted my place to study for my MLIS in September. I am both pleased and not pleased, manically veering between both emotions on a daily basis. Watch this space to witness my complete mental collapse.

Suitcases

Why do all the students have them? What the hell is in them? Is everyone just going on holiday apart from me?

Why books are so dirty

Seriously, I don’t know what people are doing to these books but after an hour of straightening or being on the counter, I am filthy. I have gone through two bottles of sanitizer in six months and I’m beginning to fear that the book bacteria are becoming resistant.

Lack of scientists

Where are all the scientists? I thought, coming from a literature background, that I would be in a minority. Surely scientists, with their organized brains and love of data and charts and numbers, would make fantastic librarians – and yet everyone I meet has done some sort of humanity degree. It is great though, to work with people who share similar interests in old books and dead people.

Twitter

Subtitle: why can people be so mean (sob, sob). I bloody love Twitter, and think that is almost an essential tool for anyone, early or late in their career. Just think of the networking possibilities you could have whilst sat  in bed eating jam with a spoon. Nobody would even know, unless you tweet about it! Yet, some people use Twitter to be mean and it can be a harsh reminder of the fact that even though we are grownups, some of us are still children. And I say this as a person who has tweeted about their own bum.

Thanks for reading – here’s to another six months!

*Impossible

**This is definitely going on my CV