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.

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

Spoilers from 1984

When I started writing this post in the New Year, I wanted to talk about Janus the Roman god (duh). The dude has one face looking back and one face looking forward, as well as a month named after him, which is something we’ve all dreamed about at one point or another. It was going to be all about resolutions, new starts and learning from the past; about what I have learnt from my recent few months as a Graduate Trainee and how I want to move forward; about how I have evolved as a professional and as an adult. Basically fucking transcendent.

But then something happened, something nobody (even with two faces) could have foreseen.

It’s true guys.

I watched Beverly Hills Cop and it changed my life.

ImageIf you have never seen this film then there are several things you must do:

1. Stop reading and bookmark this page.
2. Watch the film.
3. Spend several days feeling a little bit dirty because you found a young Eddie Murphy so magnetically sexy. Hot damn.
4. Come back and find out how I can possibly relate an 80s icon to being a young library professional.

Now that we have all seen the film, let’s talk about confidence.

Axel Foley has so much confidence about so many different things. For starters, he has the confidence to have a truly stupid name, wear snug blue jeans, make wisecracks to his superiors and have a criminal for a best friend. His self confidence in his looks, his personality and his choices is something we could swoon over for hours – but maybe we should save that for later when we have a nice refreshing beverage in hand and it’s 2am.

What he also has – the far off point I am getting at – is workplace confidence.

Axel Foley is not the greatest cop in the world – just think about that terrible bloodbath at the end or when he takes Judge Reinhold to that strip club. Bad choices. But he doesn’t crack, he doesn’t doubt his instincts and his ability to do the job correctly – he solves that murder and he goes back to Detroit a hero. Hell yeah!

Confidence is a tricky, weasely thing. I don’t think I can even begin to talk about self-confidence, about believing in yourself and faking it until you make it. Hopefully Axel can show us how that’s done.

Having the confidence to go to work and get over our fears and crippling anxieties is one thing – but what about those small crises, the little moments of self doubt that get under your skin and lurk at the back if your mind for weeks?

You want me to do this massive project, do a presentation, solve a problem? That’s ok with me. But in those split second moments when someone is looking at me and asking a basic question, I falter. And the horror lies in the fact that I do know the answer or what to do but I just couldn’t.

In theory I know when the library is open, how much it costs to print and where the seminar room is so why do I doubt myself and lose confidence in my own knowledge in practice. I am hoping that it’s not just me, by the way, that possibly someone else out there is kicking themselves after losing their nerve in the middle of a conversation..?

Alas, alack, there are so many examples.  Whenever someone asks me at what time the library closes and I have to go “errrrrrrrrrrrrr,” whilst simultaneously scrabbling for the opening times website, only to find that I have forgotten what day it is as well. When I am halfway through stamping someone’s books and they asked me when they are due back. Instead of telling them, I sit there slack-jawed and goggle-eyed because I lose confidence in the fact that I could give them the answer by looking at the stamp in my hand. It is these such minute moments where you lose even the knowledge of what you are doing and completely fall to pieces, that I turn to my new guru Axel.

Badass Axel would not let one crack get him down or prevent him from doing his job. He would make a wise guy quip and move on like nothing had happened.

If I were forced to have a New Years professional resolution, then I would say I want to work on these minor meltdowns, in the hope that by looking at small improvements in confidence, I can become a more confident person overall.

And if I were forced to have a personal resolution it would be to watch Beverly Hills Cop II (and to stop cutting my own hair.)

Happy New Year!

Teenage Dreams

Most definitely my own views and not those of my employer, in case you thought MMU was ever a shiny-faced 16 year old.

At sixteen I thought it would be terribly romantic and grown-up to run away to Paris and have an affair (torrid of course) with some mustachioed Frenchman. Oh how we would read our poetry to each other and drink wine, whilst feeding each other Brie (the only French cheese I knew of at the time) until we were sickened by our own cliché.

As we probably all did at that age, I wanted to be a grown-up and responsible for my own life, making my own decisions without my parents constantly asking where I was going and why and commenting on my choice of spangly boob-tube.

But now, as an adult I know the truth about those decisions; the nightmare of buying plane tickets online and self check-in and taking liquids in 100ml bottles and the travel insurance and the language barrier and exchanging my money and who would pay for the hotels and would I have a job and if so would I pay taxes and do I really want to live in Paris with the high rents and expensive living costs, and just what is so great about moustaches anyway….

Ah responsibility, that cruel siren calling us seductively through the smelly fog of adolescence. Yet now I have reached the mysterious land of Adulthood I find the very thing that I longed for is a pain in the backside.

It is this responsibility which I think lies at the heart of so many user problems (see, I was going somewhere with this…) and, by looking at responsibility and who is in charge of what, perhaps we can improve or at least understand what is going wrong. Especially considering many of our users are experiencing this leap into adulthood for the first time (and how a university deals with this is a discussion for another day.)

Self-service machines are at the centre of the majority of my interactions with students. They were installed a year or two ago and I have been told how they have reduced the pressure massively on library staff, who can now focus on meatier tasks and ultimately work more productively for the good of the students. From my own experience, I can see how having to issue and discharge every single bloody item would completely eat up my time. But of course I can’t really explain this to the sad, puppy-eyed student who is basically just bashing the machine with a book in the hope that it will issue.

Despite my grumbling, I do enjoy showing people how to use them; it feels like I am helping them once so they can help themselves. It also gives us a chance to enforce the behavior we want to see; books in the correct bin, receipts checked and kept. However, this isn’t the Mary Poppins dream that it seems.

For starters, people just don’t like using them. Whether they truly do not understand or they would rather someone else do the job (and in a sense it is what we are paid for), a number of people will still come to the desk to get their books renewed or discharged. These machines also bear the brunt of complaints when people are faced with fines: they say the machine gave them a receipt with the wrong due date (to which I say HA) or it didn’t issue it correctly in some undefined way.

Considering that these books are the main real, physical part of the library that users are interacting with, placing issue and return into their hands is important. They have to be engaged, checking each book has made the Pavlovian bing bong sound and reading their receipt to find when each book is due. It is this responsibility, tied in with checking their online account to ensure their items are up to date and not accruing fines, that has coloured most user issues I have encountered.

Responsibility crops up like a verruca gnome in other interactions. Some users place the responsibility of returning their books in the hands of their friends or the postal service, often to their deep regret. Others don’t want to search for books themselves and reserve items we have in stock so that they will be ready to pick up from the counter. Now that we allow food and drink it seems our hungry students don’t want the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves.

In a recent GT training session we discussed customer service and what our responses would be to a variety of user interactions. One example that caused a difference in opinion (much gnashing of teeth and spillage of tea) was that a student complained about paying a fine when the library system went down and did not send out a notice informing them that their books needed renewing.

My response was that “of course they should bloody well pay, they took out the book and it was their responsibility to check when it was due back and renew accordingly. Any emails sent out from the library are a courtesy, not a right,” spoken whilst banging my fists and frothing at the mouth. Yet the older experienced librarians said they would waive the fine because it was the library’s fault and although these emails are meant to be a courtesy they are, in reality, the only way people remember to check their accounts. Such shades of responsibility seem to be down to our interpretation; it seems to be that the student is responsible until they are not.

Such an annoying conclusion, I know.

This is an ongoing idea that I am chewing on and I am keen to see how this plays out in other library user issues. The question is, once we have given the students and other users this responsibility, do we stick to it or do we shoulder some if we can and make their experiences more positive. If the same student continuously waves their card upside down under the laser scanner without managing to log in and drops their returned items into the wrong box (argh), needing attention every time they use the library – should we quickly issue their books for them to save staff time? Should we check the book-return boxes to make sure they have been taken off user accounts or let the fines build up if they have not?

I guess it depends on what sort of library and librarian you are. Having only been a GT for less than two months, I currently feel strongly that it is our responsibility to make sure that every user of our library, be they new or old, takes responsibility for their own account and experience. Self-service is becoming necessary as our student numbers increase but staff decrease, and perhaps it is more cost effective for employers to use their staff for only more complex user issues. Yet I can see how being this rigid can cause more problems and as I gain more customer-facing experience perhaps my view point will change.

So whilst I may be a slightly reluctant grown-up working in my first adult job, at least I can type this in a house that I pay rent for, using money I have earned and under the same roof as my lovely boyfriend. And I can still be responsible in my polar bear pyjamas, watching Horrible Histories with Arthur by my side.

Image

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.

Early days

I found out last week that I will be one of six new Graduate Trainees at MMU this September. Now, I’ve said this to quite a few people so far but not many have known what this even means or why I am so bloody excited. Someone even asked me whether it was a real job! Yes it is guys and I’m going to have the dusty cardigans and glasses-on-a-chain to prove it (just kidding, I have those already). 

 

September is seriously far away and although I want to start a blog to track all the new information and changes this next step will bring, I am kinda jumping the gun and posting a bit early. Really, I just want to remind myself of this weird limbo feeling; no longer propelled by the knifing fear that comes from applying for jobs post post-graduate degree but also not yet consumed by the thrill of a new job, I’m just hanging about and eating doughnuts. Of course, as soon as I move to Manchester I’ll be too busy to eat so I had better create some fat stores in the meantime.

 

Part of this limbo has involved some minor research into the virtual and social media world of other grad trainees and librarians. Ok, so maybe I am spending a lot of time reading random library blogs and tweets but it is just like pressing my nose to the window of a schmanzy party, albeit a quiet one with lots of spreadsheets. I think writing a few early posts might help me feel a tiny part of such a vast and thriving community and maybe learn a bit about the social norms. I wasn’t even sure what a library blog should be like but heck, it’s not like a) anyone is reading (hello?) b) this is an official project or c) I’m going to write anything offensive. All I do know is that, after reading copious amounts of other library blogs, I want to record both the serious things I’m learning, as well as lots of lighter stuff, rather than going for a journalistic approach.

 

Image

Nope, you’re not seeing things. That is Noah Wyle.

For example, I just googled ‘Librarian’ (totally for the first time) and this amazing film came up. 

It looks like a slightly worse version of Indiana Jones, redeemed only by its rejection of the popular librarian stereotype of a bespectacled loser with an obsession for silence. From what I can gather, it’s an American TV movie (don’t we just call them dramas?) and part of a series. Further investigation and possible viewing is definitely called for – I will report back later. For the time being, let me tantalize you with this excellent quotation:

“I think it only fair to warn you that I am a librarian.”

(probably followed by some serious arse-kicking)

 

At least I have something to keep me occupied until September rolls around.