Things 1 & 2: library blogs and blogging.

I’ve been blogging for a few years now, initially writng mostly reviews and mini-essays about subjects I’m interested in, and for the last six months or so about library stuff too, my experiences being a graduate trainee and so on. I mostly blog for myself, I like being able to organise my thoughts in writing, so my style of blogging seems perfect for a CPD23 blog, I’ve already made a start on the reflective practise sides of things.

I’m taking part in CPD23 because I’m passionate about forwarding my career and expanding my abilities. As a graduate trainee but unable to move on to a degree this year I feel like I need every advantage I can get entering a job market where I will be competing for jobs against people with more experience and possible more qualifications. I want to be as well-rounded as possible, and personal development is important to me even without wanting a get a really good job. I feel like I’ve been lucky with my graduate traineeship, it’s been brilliant, but I haven’t been resting on my laurels, just in case I don’t luck out again. Also, and probably more importantly, I love working in a library and want to be as good as it as I can. Simple, but I think a good reason.

Thing 1 was easy, my blog is already well-established, though I do want to write more and be more dedicated to it, Thing 2 is pretty easy to as I already regularly read quite a few library blogs, along with others, on my google reader. One of the blogs I really like actually covers mostly my other big area of interest, comics. The author of Bad Librarianship Now! is a librarian but mostly posts about comics, especially comics art and British comics. I’ve been reading comics since I was a child, starting with that stalwart of the British comics scene – 2000AD. It’s nice to know I’m not the only library person interested in comics, in fact I can thing of at least three others, maybe one day there’ll be enough in one place for a special interest group or something.

I off to read some more blogs now, and maybe even leave some comments. I tend to be a lurker when it comes to blogs so I think being more obviously engaged is what I should be taking from this Thing, not a bad thing online or offline.

PostScript

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs in the last few days, and a couple have caught my eye. I’m intrigued by SoldierMumLibby because I know very little about school librarianship, reading it over the next year or so should be a good way of learning more.  I really like The Victorian Librarian‘s blog because she seems to like a lot of the same things I do, anyone who gives out I Capture the Castle on World Book Night is obviously to be greatly admired. I’d like to find a good solo librarian blog because I can’t comprehend running a library on my own, knowing more about that would be really interesting, and prison librarianship too.

 

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Library job-hunting

I finish my current job in mid-September, and being the paranoid kind of person I am I have been job hunting for a couple of weeks. What with tuition fees being what they are I won’t be going on to an MA this year, and I know I’m not the only graduate trainee that is in the position of needing a job. Without a library degree there are lots of amazing jobs I can’t do yet, and I only have two years experience, one of that part-time volunteering.  Add the fact I have to have a full-time job, the 6 or 12 hour contracts I keep seeing advertised are no good for paying rent in London, and there’s a whole raft of jobs there’s no point applying for. However,there are some really useful job sites that I’ve discovered, this list is as much for me to make sure I don’t forget to check a useful site as for anyone else who’s just started looking for a library assistant job.

Total Jobs is the only mainstream job site I’ve found to be any good, I never use anything like Monster or Fish4Jobs, they give me far too many jobs that have nothing to do with libraries or the information profession. This can be the case with Total Jobs, but nowhere near so much, and you can save job titles, so now they send me an email when there is a new job with the description ‘library assistant’, rather than just any kind of assistant, meaning I don’t actually need to arbitrarily check the site.

Lis Job Net  I doubt anyone doesn’t know about this, it’s CILIP’s job site and it’s pretty good, though a lot of the jobs need a degree and it occasionally makes me want to go and work in far-flung countries. I follow @LISNPN on twitter, they tend to tweet when new jobs are added, very handy indeed.

Job.ac.uk is pretty handy, no need to keep searching because there is a information management and librarianship section on the front page. Good for academic jobs, and sometimes has some that aren’t on Lis Job Net.

National Museums Jobs is another sector-specific site, good for museums libraries jobs, obviously. I don’t really like the way it works, you can’t search by sector so I end up scrolling through, which takes quite a long time, especially as there aren’t many library jobs on there.

Lastly, LIS career,  from the site name sounds more aimed at people further on in their career’s than I am, but has a whole load of information. Not a job site, but finding a job to apply for is only the first part of the process.  I will be exploring this more thoroughly over the next few days.

Spoon-feeding?

One of the tasks at work is to answer reader enquiries, something I’ve written about before. It’s one of the things I really like dong, at it’s best it is interesting and challenging, and I know I am really helping people, I’ve even had a thank you card to prove it. However, recently I have noticed a trend in the types of enquiries I am getting and the people I am getting them from. Of the last four enquiries I have had three of them have been from undergraduates, and all of them could have been answered without reference to a specialist art library, in fact for one of the answers I referred the reader back to her university library becuase a very quick search showed me several books that would be useful to her. This was the same enquiry I found some very useful sites online, including an exhaustive Wikipedia article which was the first Google result.

I’ve seen quite a few blog posts talking about spoon-feeding, such as this one, and this one, both more about working in an academic library but I’m not surprised it affects people working in specialists libraries too, a lot of the people I serve are students, though mostly postgraduate rather than undergraduate. I spend a lot of time doing stuff for people, some of it is good, I show people how to do something, and afterwards they are able to do it for themselves – how spoon feeding should be. However, there are certainly times I am just carrying out tasks for people who point-blank refuse to let me show them how they can do it themselves, this tends to be on the computer or using the digital camera, and it’s very hard to know how to deal with. I can’t say no, that’s terrible customer service, especially as unlike an academic library the users may not use the library again for several months, or at all, but I would much rather be teaching people to help themselves than doing simple tasks for them.

With my reader enquiry I tried to forge a middle way, I found the information that was wanted, but I also explained how I found the information, and suggested they try using their university campus, as there were several useful looking books there, though I did not directly link to them. Hopefully, the user had the initiative to take my advice and visited their library, found the books, and so did some of their own research. If so, then I have given good customer service and also taught encouraged a student to be more independent. The problem with email enquiries is that I don’t know if I have, in a face-to-face interaction I would have a much better idea of what the user did afterwards.

I agree with Ned Potter, spoon-feeding can be useful, but I also despair of an undergradute who has not checked the internet or their university library catalogue before having to email a specialist library for help. I think dealing with people who don’t want me to teach them, they just want me to do the work for them, has made me more determined to help people by teaching them in the future, I’m trying to use an awkward situation to make my customer service better.

Library day in the life – refelections

I found doing the library day in the life project interesting, and I have definitely learnt from it. The first thing I have learn is that I would never be able to blog every day, just for one week I was spending most of my lunch breaks blogging, and still needing to finish it off when I got home in the evening, if I want to have some sort of life I just don’t have time for it. My current thing of about once a week, more if I have something else I really want to say, seems to be right for me.

The other thing I have learnt is how much my job is made up of little bitty things when I am not on the counter. Well, actually I have lots of big things, but if I tried to check in the whole backlog of periodicals in one go I would probably endf up in  a corner crying at the end of it. I’m quite happy to have quite a few things going on at once, and being able to pick up and drop different things, depending on what seems most important at the time, from what I can tell about library work this is a useful attitude to have.

Lastly, I have learnt that putting pictures of pretty people and double basses from psychobilly bands is much more interesting to me than library related pictures. Go on, one last one, the Horrorpops, possibly the most beautiful person and bass:

Library day in the life- Friday

Got into work as usual just before 9, on the way down to shelve I noticed the pool/fountain in the middle of the main Victoria and Albert building is frozen over again, depressing, I really hate the cold, currently I am sitting at my desk wrapped in a blanket. I got lots of shelving done, then also shelved a few information files before I went on the counter at 10. The first shift on the counter is normally very quiet, but there were quite a lot of people coming in early this morning, and we have a new volunteer who I helped to train for a bit as well. After being busy it was nice to go through to invigilation, which was quite a lot quieter, though there was still plenty to do.

At half 11 I finished on invigilation and went back to my desk, where I caught up on some of the shelf-checking I have been doing. I was able to sort out a couple of problems myself after checking with a catalogue, and am nearly finished one are, though I do now have another small pile of problem things to sort out. Half 12 is lunch, I spend it reading blogs, despairing over the future cold weather and looking for interesting books in Imperial College’s online library catalogue ahead of going there this evening.

At half 1 I am retrieval leading. Basically, this involves coordinating the online requests from readers, so that they get retrieved, and the books sent down by people doing retrieval so that they get to the right readers. It’s lots of little jobs all going on at the same time, and the previous hour had been really busy so I had a bit of backlog to catch up on, but it’s one of the jobs I really like doing.

At half 3 I had a break then a meeting with my line manager, which was essentially just a chat about what I’ve been up to for the last month and about my personal statement. The feedback I got was positive, apart from a few little things, I think it will be all finished after the weekend. I spent until it was time to go home doing lots of little things, mostly sorting out more shelf checking and making and printing off accuarate lists of what is in each box to make it easier for people retrieving from them. After work I went to Imperial College’s library to get books, I’m in a science book phase at the moment, trying to educate myself, so I got lots of interesting looking popular science books.

Have another nice picture, this time of my newest obsession, German band Bonsai Kitten:

 

Library day in the life – Thursday

Thursday’s are always good days becayse Thursday morning is when I and the other three Graduate Trainees have our training or work on our shared project. Often this can take the form of visits, today we went to see the Wellcome Library, part of the Wellcome Collection, incidently one of my favourite museums. We were met by one of the librarians and taken all around the library, not only the beautiful main reading room and the very fancy smaller ones, but the club room, several of the stacks the the offices. Everything was stunning, you could tell there had been a major renovation a few years ago, and the pieces of artwork everywhere really helped, especially the Pre-Raphaelite style hospital and orphanage scences that had previously hung in Middlesex Hospital, called Acts of Mercy. The stacks were also really interesting, full not just of books but also drawers of loose prints and etchings, and standing racks of paintings, with lots of interesting stuff in, including a poster of a drink full of lithium.

We got back to the library just before half past, I had time to check mu emails to see there wasn’t anything vastly urgent, then to head for the canteen for lunch, a rare treat. I ended up talking about libreary stuff with some of the other trainees and another member of stuff, including diploma vs full MA, distance-learning vs on site, and the general state of the profession. After lunch I was on the counter, quiet in invigilation again, the most exciting thang that happened was I had to show someone how to use the pencil sharpener. The main desk was a bit busier, I spent most of the time helping someone with taking photographs of a book and then printing them. This is a fairly common thing to have to do, it took me a couple of months to get comfortable with the software but now it seems easy, but most readers don’t have a couple of months to familiarise themselves.

I had a break at half three, then spent some time researching and writing a reply to a readers enquiry, from a rather panicked sounding postgrad student who couldn’t find the Royal Academy catalogues on the catalogue. Oddly only on saturday was I saying that some people find our catalogue very confusing. I sent her a email giving her the information she needed and tips on how to find it in the future then went to do the last retrieval run of the day.

Another picture of a psychobilly band, first English one, here are The Grit:

Library day in the life – Wednesday

I got to work only just before 9 today, so straight downstairs for half an hour shelving periodicals. Realise this is probably good exercise and I spend most of the time going up and down big ladders. Afterwards I check in a few more periodicals, passing some brand new ones over to a colleague to be catalogued, and make a couple of information files, having tracked down more of the folders to put them in. At half 10 I am retrieving, I finish at 11:25, then at 11:30 I am retrieving again, this time in our crypt store, which unfortunately is not quite as good as it sounds, although it is underground.

This takes me until nearly half past 12, lunchtime, which I spend making changes to my personal statement for my MA applications. At half 1 I am on the counter, I do invigilation first, it’s pretty quiet, which is nice, and then I go onto the main desk, which is also quiet apart from about 15 minutes where it’s madly busy and I’m hurriedly trying to do about four things at, it settled down a bit after that but I was still fairly glad to have a break at half 3.

Until half 4 I spent time dealing with the departmental loan requests and shelving. Several departments have their own small libraries and the graduate trainees take it in turn to retrieve from them. Normally this is all very straightforward but today I had several complicated things, including having to find something that it turned out shouldn’t have even been on the catalogue any more. At half 4 I did one last retrieval run, the last one of the day, and also swapped the shelving trolleys around so there was an empty one downstairs, as towards the end of the day we tend to get a lot of books handed in and start to run out of space to put them.

This was probably the perfect example of an average day, though actually a lot of my days are more exciting than this, which breaks up the slightly less interesting tasks well. No relevant picture, this time have a nice picture of The Creepshow: