Thursday, 18 August 2011

Library Day in the Life, Round 7

The Library Day in the Life project is now in its seventh round. Twice a year (in January and July) librarians, library staff and library students from all over the world are invited to record what they do during their working day or week, using blogs, Twitter, audio or visual tools, or anything else they fancy. Round 7 took place between 25th and 31st July 2011.

I first heard about the project, via a Tweet from organiser Bobbi Newman, a couple of weeks before Round 7 kicked off. Since I was new to it I thought I would observe rather than participate this time. However, once Monday 25th July came round and the hashtag #libday7 began ticker-taping through my Twitter feed I couldn't resist jumping in and taking part myself.

Another reason I decided to take part is that Round 7 coincided with the final week of my existing job (before starting a new job in the same library on 1st August) so I thought it would be a nice idea to record this; then, when Round 8 takes place I can do the same for a week in my new job and see how the two compare.

I work as a library assistant in the Technical Services section of Newcastle University's Robinson Library. (My new job will be as a senior library assistant in the same section). Technical Services is the section of the library that deals with the acquisition, processing and organising of the library's collections and resources (both physical and digital).

There are three main parts to my job:
  • Checking and editing records of publications in the University's research management system, called MyImpact.
  • Working in an administrative capacity on the University's institutional repository. This involves checking the copyright conditions on files that academics have uploaded, to make sure we can make them available from our repository. Often this necessitates contacting publishers to request permission or ask for clarification of their policies. 
  • I'm also part of the periodicals and ejournals team, where we are responsible for making sure that the library's catalogue and e-journals list are up-to-date and accurately reflect our actual print holdings and electronic journal access.
Here are some examples of what I got up to during Round 7 of Library Day in the Life.

Monday to Friday mornings

Mornings are mainly devoted to MyImpact tasks. As well as checking and correcting the bibliographic details of publication records held in the database, this role involves a lot of email support to the users of the system (the University's academic staff) - we respond to emailed queries about the system, help users add records for new publications and flag any issues or bugs with the Development and IT teams. The summer months, when many users are on holiday, are often a bit quieter in this regard and so it was for most of this week. We usually get a deluge of queries at the end of the holidays and the start of the new academic year, particularly from new staff who need to add their publication lists to the system, so this is a bit of a "lull before the storm" scenario. I took advantage of this relative calm and celebrated with a biscuit.

Monday afternoon

I spent some time on a task I've been working on recently which involves removing from the library catalogue redundant ebook records (i.e. those that had not been borrowed by users during our trial subscription to various packages and will therefore not be added to our permanent collection). I was disappointed to note that nobody had borrowed The story of Judas Priest: defenders of the faith, and now never would. With thousands of records to check and delete this was quite a large job. As I had other things to work on, my line manager later decided to share the work among other staff, taking it off my hands. I celebrated with a biscuit.

 No love for the Priest? For shame, library patrons, for shame...
(Photo by opethpainter)

I also spent a couple of hours this afternoon shadowing two of my colleagues in the periodicals team, who were showing me and another colleague how to submit and record claims for missing/late journal issues with our journal suppliers. This is so in future we will be able to cover this task in case of staff holiday or absence. We managed to find some written instructions on how to do this, in a now-several-years-old staff manual, so although they were useful we will need to update them.

Tuesday morning 

On Tuesday morning my manager asked me to sit in on a meeting she was having about the University's repository. One of our assistant subject librarians is responsible for advocacy of the repository (encouraging academic staff to use it and deposit their publications, basically) and she is currently putting together a questionnaire to find out more about our academics' knowledge and take-up of open access options when publishing their research, and about their opinions of our repository. As part of my job involves adding material to the repository, or helping/advising academic staff who are doing so, my manager thought it would be useful for me to attend as well. We spent some time discussing what information we wanted to find out from our respondents and between the three of us we came up with an initial draft for the questionnaire. We also discussed when and how to disseminate it (we're going to use the Bristol Online Surveys platform). Overall, we made a good start on putting something together. I celebrated with a biscuit.

Tuesday and Thursday afternoon 

One of our tasks in the periodicals department is sending issues of print journals to the bindery to be bound together as single volumes (and then receiving them again when they are returned from the bindery). We are pretty lucky at Newcastle University in that we have an in-house bindery; as I understand it, many university libraries don't and have to send their binding away to be done off-site, which obviously takes more time, probably costs a lot more, and means any mistakes or omissions can't be corrected easily. 

Check in and shelving staff remove issues that need to be bound from the library's shelves. Our job is to check that the parts or issues for each volume are there, are in the right order and are banded together. For some journals there may be a separate index, or maps or other supplements, so we need to make sure that these are included as well. We update the location for each volume on the library's holdings system and online catalogue to show that the items are currently at the bindery, so that users or library staff looking for missing issues on the shelves know where they are. Then we load them on to a trolley and once that's full (which takes about 50 or 60 volumes) we send it down to the bindery. 

When I first started in this job about 18 months ago, there was a large backlog of volumes (about 12 shelves' worth) waiting to go to the bindery. We (both me and my colleagues in the periodicals department and bindery staff at the other end) have gradually chipped away at these over a period of months (a bit of a Sisyphean task since, as fast as we can clear the shelves, new volumes are being added all the time). On Thursday afternoon I finally managed to catch up so that the shelves were entirely empty - woo, and indeed, hoo. I celebrated with a biscuit. 

Wednesday afternoon

An academic had emailed me 10 files (of the full text of some of her journal articles) for inclusion in our repository, so I spent some time this afternoon checking these. Most publishers will not allow the final published version of their articles to be deposited, but will allow some form of the author's original manuscript, so we have to check uploaded and emailed files carefully to make sure we have the permitted version. We use the very helpful RoMEO database to help us check the specific details of journals' and publishers' copyright and archiving policies. Happily, in this case the academic had sent usable versions of her articles and, after attaching cover sheets to give the citation and publisher details for each article, I was able to upload 8 of the 10 files immediately (one article had been published in a journal that didn't allow deposit at all and another specified an embargo period of 12 months before we can include it in our repository). I emailed the academic to thank her for the files and to let her know what we had been able to deposit. 

Friday afternoon
A large chunk of Friday was spent preparing for my new job by tidying up my drawers (er, my desk drawers, that is) and moving paperwork and files to my new desk (which is only a couple of metres away from my old desk). I'm quite an organised person so thankfully there wasn't too much rubbish to sift through. Unexpected finds included one box of herbal tea bags with a best before date of January 2007 (do not want) and one chunky Kit Kat I'd forgotten about (definitely do want). 
 No thanks
(Photo by clifico)
Yes please! 
(Photo by Aline Rebelo)

Later on Friday, ensconced at my new desk, I spent some more time checking full text files that had been uploaded to the repository. Most of these were book chapters or conference papers rather than journal articles so they necessitated a bout of emailing publishers and copyright holders to check permissions. As I bewailed on Twitter at the time, Friday afternoon is perhaps not the best time to have been doing this.

So that was my week. As I left the library I celebrated by, er, pulling the handle off the door as I was leaving the building. Then I got home and celebrated the beginning of the weekend with a biscuit.

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