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.

Here we come a-roving…

…among the pods so green. No, I am getting confused.* But we have now started roving in earnest. It has been a varied experience for most of us, so far. It being the beginning of the academic year, there are lots of people around who don’t know who to find things, or look on the catalogue, or how to borrow books, or return them, etc., so we have had a fair number of queries. However, there have been times when it hasn’t been particularly busy out on the floors, and then an hour out there without anything much to do apart from to try to look friendly can be rather dull.

I must say, though, that I’m enjoying the roving so far. It’s nice to have positive experiences of dealing with library users; times when you can see that you have actually helped someone learn something, or find something, or just feel better about using the library.

It is odd, but having a pod to stand by, a folder of helpsheets (kept in the cupboard in the pod) and a mobile phone helps me to feel more secure when I’m out on the floor. I don’t feel as if I’m just randomly wandering around; or just wandering around to keep an eye on people and dish out the occasional librarian stare, like I used to when we tried roving before. We have signs to tell people when we’ll be available and what to do if they need help when we’re not there, and a phone on the pod so people can also phone through to the office if they need assistance. We have nice green badges to wear. I like green. It all feels quite positive, which is obviously a good thing.

I’m hoping that library users are also seeing the roving librarians as  positive things. I do worry that sometimes I become a bit like a prowling tiger looking for people to help, and following likely suspects around the floor to make sure they’re OK. I will have to be careful not to become annoying, but on balance I think that trying too much to be helpful is probably better than not trying hard enough.

At the moment we only have enough members of staff to have them roving around the floors for part of the day, but it is better than it was before, and hopefully, once vacancies are filled,we can increase the number of hours in which we’re roving. I think the danger may be that we will never be out there enough to satisfy everyone, but there is only so much we can do with a limited number of people – not to mention all the work some people have to do in the office. At the moment, I think the office-based work will probably be what has to give, but it can only be put aside for a certain amount of time before the situation becomes untenable. So, we await the future with interest and a certain amount of trepidation.

*With this song.

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.

Three weeks

There is just under three weeks until the date I am supposed to be handing my portfolio in in order to attain my appraisal objective of handing it in to CILIP  by 5th June this year. I am continuing the sorting process, trying to categorise potential evidence and think about which pieces of evidence I am actually going to use for my portfolio.

On Thursday I went to the ‘Chatership and Beyond’ event at CILIP in London, organised by the Career Development Group for London and the South East. I’d been on it before, but lost the certificate, which I need for my portfolio, so I went on it again! It was quite helpful and clarified a few things I wasn’t sure about, like how to bind my portfolio (comb binding is preferred) and various other more ‘practical’ things. It was useful to be able to look at examples of successful chartership portfolios. I was surprised at how varied they were – some are very fat with lots of pieces of  evidence whereas some where quite thin and more concise in their organisation.

I’ve booked the week after next off work, in order to be able to devote all my normal working hours to getting my chartership portfolio finished. I just don’t think I will be able to hand it in on time if I don’t. Even so, I’m not convinced it will be in by 5th June, as I will ideally need to meet with my mentor and ask her to read through my portfolio it at some point. I don’t know if it will be possible to do this and make any changes she might recommend within the time available. It dawned on me on Thursday that I have never even met my mentor! Surely this is not good.

I really want to hand it in on time, not because of my appraisal objective, which is now irrelevant, but just because I want to do something right. If I pass that would be even better, obviously, but I am not very hopeful about that, given the lack of evaluation and reflection I have done so far in my career. It’s worth a try, though.