New year

This is just a short update I thought I ought to write as I haven’t written anything here for so long. This is mainly because not very much has happened, work-wise – not for me, anyway. We (the bibliographic services team) have processed and catalogued two quite large donations of books – one from another campus and one from the archaeology department.

The books from the archaeology department made up quite a fascinating collection. They had been left  to the department by an academic whose interests were quite broad, but could be seen to follow related themes. One of my colleagues said the subjects of the books were like a tree with lots of branches. The books made for more interesting cataloguing than expected, which was welcome, although some of them were rather disturbing – there were quite a few books about death, illness, the occult and mummification!

Now we’re back into term-time, and the busiest term of the year in terms of student-facing work, as all the new students have arrived and returning students have returned for another year. We’ve implemented a new resource discovery system (Primo) this year, so that’s presented a fresh set of challenges in terms of user education (and learning a new system ourselves), but happily most people have found it much easier to use than our old system.

So, we’re back to roving as well, which is quite fun at this time of year. It’s nice to feel useful, especially as things are quiet in terms of cataloguing work at the moment. I’m mainly working on the authority files which, although it’s quite important, isn’t the most exciting job in the world!


I’m still here…

…just surrounded by piles of new books, so you can’t see me. Yes, it’s that time of year again – it has been for a while, really . All the orders have now been placed, but we’ve still got loads of invoices to pay, and plenty of new books and the odd non-book item to process and catalogue. It’s been busy, to say the least, and will continue to be so for a good while yet – even after we’ve finished with all the new acquisitions we have to deal with a couple of large collections of books arriving from other parts of the university and quite a few run-of-the-mill donations. So much for it being ‘the quiet time of year’!

Other things:

  • The social media group have completed our evaluation report and we’re continuing with the Twitter account, although we’ve yet to receive an official response from library management.
  • I’ve been doing quite a bit of editing/updating of the library’s webpages – mainly adding items to the news box!

The smell of old books

Oxford Sept. 2011 068

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

I learned about cataloguing antiquarian books last week and (sort of) catalogued one this week. The bibliography side of  librarianship is something I’d like to learn more about, but haven’t done a great deal of. I learned a little bit about it during my time as a graduate trainee in Oxford. I remember sitting in a little room somewhere in the Bodleian (I think) listening to a presentation about book conservation; and one of our last few training sessions was about antiquarian books – we looked at some lovely books held in the library of Christ Church College. In the library where I worked as a trainee there was a room of antiquarian French books, where I met the oldest book I’ve handled to-date, a little book from the 1500s whose name now escapes me. The room was very cold and humidified and smelled, as it should do. However, since those days I’ve had very little to do with antiquarian books, and I’m not sure how likely  it is that I’ll work more with them in the future, but I’d like to think it might happen one day, so I was glad to have the chance to learn about cataloguing them.

I suspected that cataloguing antiquarian books was going to be somewhat different from cataloguing ‘normal’ (post 1820/1840 depending on who you ask) books, but I didn’t realise quite how involved it can be.  I was particularly unprepared for the effort required in (for example) counting leaves and pages, and you really do need to know your stuff in terms of how books were made before the era of mechanisation, and some knowledge of the history of printing probably comes in handy, too. I learned about lots of technical terms I wasn’t previously aware of, and was slightly bewildered by the use of symbols – the 300 field vaguely resembled a mathematical equation!

The cataloguing of antiquarian books is a fascinating area of  librarianship, and one I hope to learn more about. Apparently Philip Gaskell’s A New Introduction to Bibliography is worth reading, and we just happen to have a copy of it in the library…

A little note

This is just a little note to tell myself that I learned about REF2014 and how to catalogue theses the other week.

Not a great deal has been happening, library-wise, recently. I’m cataloguing a smattering of new items as they come in, but most things are coming complete with their bibliographic record. There have been a few donated books to catalogue, some of which were in German, which was an exciting challenge, but the cataloguing of the large collection of archaeology books has been put on hold until further notice. So, at the moment, I’m mainly helping with opening boxes of new books and invoicing, and working on the institutional repository as usual in the afternoons.

English: People working in Card Division in th...

People working in Card Division in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

House of art & knowledge

This afternoon a small group of librarians had a little outing to the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in the fair city of Canterbury. The Beaney, as it’s known for short, is named after Dr James Beaney, a philanthropist and former resident of Canterbury, who left the city a bequest with which to build “an institute for working men.” This became the Beaney Institute and served as Canterbury’s museum of local history and its public library from 1899 until 2009, when it was closed for a major re-development funded by £13,000, 000 of Heritage Lottery Fund money.

The re-developed Beaney continues to house Canterbury’s public library and museum, but also now includes the city’s tourist information office and extended art galleries and also includes space for special exhibitions. Today, we had a guided tour of the building, most of which I’d never been into before. I’d been to the public library and a couple of the gallery spaces, but hadn’t been upstairs to the museum rooms at all.

We started off by going into the library, and looking briefly at the self service machines there. These are RFID -compliant machines, and are used to both issue and return books. If a book is OK to be re-shelved it goes onto a trolley, and if not it goes into a book box/bin to be collected by library staff and dealt with. I did wonder how often things get put on the trolley when they should have gone into the book box, and vice versa!

Next we went upstairs in the library to look at the local studies sections and, interestingly, the registration rooms. As well as performing the usual array of library duties, library staff at the Beaney are now also dealing with registrations of births and deaths, which I must say seems like an odd combination of work, but I’m sure the council(s) know what they’re doing (?)…Anyway, there are little rooms set aside for the registering of births and deaths, and people who formerly worked as registrars are now also employed as library staff. Sadly, the library is not licensed for weddings! Maybe one day…

The local studies sections were quite busy with people – in fact the whole library was bustling – and the rather messy shelves were evidence of the fact that the library is heavily used, a fact backed up by statistics read to us by our guide. I’m afraid I can’t remember the figures at the moment, but they were pretty high, both in terms of visitor numbers and the how many books people borrowed. The local history section contains some fairly old books (1700s) locked away in cabinets, and many books about the local area that I think my mum would like to get her hands on. After the local studies section, we went down into the children’s area, which was free of children at that point, but apparently gets very busy at Baby Rhyme Time – so much so that they have had to increase the number of sessions offered in order to be able to fit everyone in!

Finally in terms of the library area, we looked at the ‘talking books’ and large print books, which are heavily borrowed by sight impaired and blind people; as well as being taken out to housebound folk by library volunteers. I was reminded again what a valuable service public libraries provide.

After looking around the library, we went to have a nose around the staff areas, which are in the basement. I must admit I felt rather sorry for the staff, but at least they have a few home comforts  – a small kitchen and a place to eat lunch (although I wouldn’t blame them if they’d rather go outside). Then, we went upstairs and had a look at the two gallery rooms at the front of the building. These house a variety of paintings and drawings. I particularly like the large cow painting by Thomas Sidney Cooper, the sheep drawing by Henry Moore (in the Garden Room) and a drawing by a local artist I really wish I could remember the name of (in the Front Room). I’ll have to go in and look at it again.

We then went upstairs to look at the other gallery and museum rooms. They are all full of fascinating, and sometimes bizarre, things, e.g. a mummified cat in the Ancient Egypt display. I particularly liked the Drawing Room, which houses displays of paper- and book-based art. There were some intriguing items in there that I’m planning to go back and look at when I have more time. However, I think the highlight of the gallery/museum space was the charming, interesting and amusing temporary exhibition Through the Magic Mirror: The World of Anthony Browne – and we got to see it for free, which was a bonus.

And that was the end of our visit! The Beaney is most definitely a fine example of a house of art and knowledge, and well worth a visit if you happen to be in Canterbury. And of course, it contains lots and lots (and lots) of lovely, amazing and interesting books that you can borrow – free! Sometimes I am slightly overwhelmed by the brilliance of public libraries.

Too many books?

Book pile I like books, but sometimes I think you probably can have too many of them in one place. Like in our office at the moment, for example. We have books from the theology library stacked on the top of the cupboards waiting to be catalogued. We have books in boxes, just arrived from the suppliers. We have  fresh books on the shelves, waiting to be invoiced and added to stock. We have old, manky books that need to be thrown out, waiting for liaison librarians to assess them. We also have exciting non-book items, such as CDs, packs of learning materials and puppets, waiting to be catalogued and processed, as well as an inordinate number of children’s books containing crocodiles and wolves, for some reason. (There is also a book that includes a wolf finger puppet, which is quite cool.) When we’ve finished with all these books, more will arrive to take their places.

I’m feeling a bit better about it this week, but last week I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of cataloguing there is (and will be) to do. This year, it’s not the ordered books that have been a problem in terms of their number – we’ve been able to keep on top of them so far. It’s more the number of donated books, which really haven’t come at a good time as this is the time of year when most of the ordered books come in! However, we got the most recent batch all processed while the library management system was offline for an upgrade last week, so that was good, as this takes longer than the cataloguing in some cases. So, now I’m ploughing through them and trying not to think too much about how many more there are to arrive!

It’s good to be busy.

Library Day in the Life – Day 4

Today I:

  • Opened up the library.
  • Helped a colleague with some scanning – extracting and inserting pages. I had no idea what I was doing, having never used the scanning software before, but we managed to make it do what we needed it to do. My colleague is one of several colleagues involved in scanning journal articles and chapters from books so they can be put on Blackboard, our virtual learning environment.
  • Processsed some SCONUL Access card applications.
  • Helped several students look for books, which were not always on the shelf as most of our books are in storage at the moment due to the fact that we are in a temporary library, waiting to move into a shiny new building.
  • Added yet more IDs to the overdues spreadsheet.
  • Dealt with a fines payment by posted cheque – sent receipt to the student.
  • Had lunch.
  • Went on issue desk.  Returned and issued some books and showed several people where the photocopier is and how to use it.
  • Added even more student IDs to the overdues spreadsheet. It is beginning to get on my nerves now, as I am probably getting on yours due to the boring and repetitive nature of these blog posts.
  • Colleague asked me to print off a copy of the rota so she doesn’t have to go and keep looking at in on the wall.
  • Had break. Met line manager in the staff room (by accident) and discussed the activity at the new building (moving lots of books and making sure they’re in the right order). Also discussed the training of new Senior Library Assistants, which is going to very difficult to accomplish before September, due to aforementioned activity which means that the potential trainers and trainees are hardly ever (if ever) available at the same time.
  • Did the till reconciliation.
  • Another colleague locked themselves out of Aleph! Fortunately, there was another login they could use.
  • Took some TOIL (time of in lieu) and went home early.