#LibDay8 – Reflections

I really enjoyed participating in this round of Library Day in the Life. I’ve tried to take part previously just using Twitter, but have usually found that around midday I simply ran out of time to tweet! Blogging about it instead has allowed me to share much more detail about my daily activities and has also made me think a lot about what I actually do.

What I really noticed is how much time I spend dealing with Things That Are Happening RIGHT NOW. That takes up about 50-60% of my working week. The remaining 40% is spent trying to pre-emptively resolve issues so that they don’t become Things That Are Happening RIGHT NOW. And do you know what? I’m fine with that. I really enjoy my job and I really enjoy supervising. I’ve found over the two years that I’ve been in this position that I’m actually at my best when I’m dealing with Things That Are Happening RIGHT NOW. I don’t have time to worry about them, I just have to manage. My brief experiences of being a subject librarian have taught me that I don’t deal well with teaching; I absolutely detest standing up in front of people and would spend the two weeks prior to a teaching session feeling sick with nerves. But if the fire alarm goes off, I don’t have time to get nervy, I just have to deal with it!

Dealing with the Things That Are Happening RIGHT NOW is also very useful when it comes to sorting out back office procedures, which is the other main aspect of my job. Knowing the problems that are likely to come up on the front line means that you know how they can be prevented and makes you better able to create and manage a procedure designed to prevent them. And while I may have cursed the way that the introduction of Aleph has made us rewrite all of our previous procedures, it has given us the opportunity to re-think them and hopefully make them work a bit better.

To save this from being an exercise in navel gazing, allow me to share a piece of advice that might make your library a happier place. This occured to me at some point in the middle of my supervising session on Thursday. Your library probably has an equivalent of my role, it probably belongs to the person running around looking harried right about now. Lets call them Harried Person. My advice is this; if you come up with a brilliant idea for a simple change that will really make things easier for your Harried Person and save them some time, do not share it with this person while they are dealing with all the Things That Are Happening RIGHT NOW. They will not appreciate it and they will not have the time to explain that “yes, I’ve thought of that and here are 5 reasons why it won’t work.” They may also take it as criticism, even if that’s not what you intended. If you think that your idea is really worth sharing then do everyone a favour and email it to them later, when they’re not looking quite so harried. That way they’ll actually be able to give it due consideration and can compose a reply that doesn’t involve any expletives, threats or tears.

Trust me on this one, it’ll make everyone happier!

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#LibDay8 – Friday

I knew today wasn’t going to go well as soon as I saw the timetable. Due to late nights, meetings and other shenanigans I was down to supervise from 10:30-12, 1-2:30 and then on the Helpdesk from 2:30-4. I also had to help with the banking, as the usual person was on the late night. So essentially, I had an hour sat at my own desk. My feelings about this are best expressed by the following emoticon 😡 *

Friday’s are annoyingly one of my busiest days as I have two jobs to do that often take up large amounts of time. Since I’ve already described what supervising shifts are like and you’re probably not interested in hearing any more about the banking, I’ll tell you a bit more about these two tasks instead.

PodThe first is the Integrated Student Support timetable. All four of our LRCs have “Pods” (see picture) or small private rooms that can be booked by other departments to run student support activities from. These range from careers sessions to health centre drop ins, maths assistance to entrepreneurship advice, English language development to help with managing spending. The Met police regularly drop in to give safety advice and I’ve just confirmed a regular booking for the local Citizens Advice Bureau. With 10 bookable spaces across the campuses and 15-20 regular providers, coordinating the timetable occasionally has me tearing my hair out. I’m forced to leave doing the weekly timetable until the Friday before because I am usually receiving emails about booking, cancelling or rescheduling sessions right up to Friday afternoon, so it’s never final until these stop trickling in**. I’m the only person who works on this, so I have developed my own system of dealing with it; I have a master timetable of all recurring bookings then I categorise all emails I receive into an ISS folder so that I can work through them in one go on Friday morning and publish the timetable in the afternoon. The biggest mistake I can make is double booking a session, but most of the time nobody knows I’ve made a mistake except me and I can quietly fix it! Much as doing the timetable annoys me, I’m happy to admit that the ISS sessions that run in the LRCs are very good for us and very popular with the students. Nevertheless, I’m still hoping to pass the job on to someone else next year…

My other regular Friday desk is dealing with second line customer service support. We have a central service desk that handles all IT and library enquiries that are received by phone and email. Anything that can’t be dealt with immediately by the Assistants who work there (either because they don’t know the answer or don’t have the authority to resolve the issue) is entered into our call management software and assigned to second line support. We have a timetable for this, with everyone doing half day a week and Friday morning is mine. So I have to log onto the system in the morning and resolve any queries that come in during my session. Sometimes it’s very quiet, sometimes it’s not and sometimes the person who was supposed to do it the day before didn’t get chance to do it, so there’s a backlog to get through. None of us particularly enjoy doing this as most of the calls could have been resolved instantly of the student had just come to the Helpdesk, but sometimes there are very funny emails, so at least we stay entertained***

So my day essentially consisted of supervising, doing the Helpdesk, finalising the ISS timetable and banking. I also managed to get some more invoicing work done and delegated some related tasks to people working at the weekend**** Needless to say, I didn’t have a lunch break. And even then I would have managed to leave for the weekend satisfied and with a sense of accomplishment if I hadn’t received an email at 3pm that made me go all hulk librarian. Thankfully I was able to vent most of my rage on twitter and I got rid of the rest via the medium of a good run in the cold when I got home.

So that was Friday, and that was Library Day in the Life round 8! I hope somebody out there found it interesting, I’ve certainly enjoyed doing it. I’m planning one final post reflecting on what the week has taught me and then the blog will probably go quiet again until the next time I have a rant that I cannot contain!

*actually they’d be better expressed by an audio file of me screaming, but that would be too much effort.

**I have tried to train people to email me earlier, but since I haven’t managed to train half of them to even email me when they’re not coming to their booking, it’s a bit of a pointless fight.

***the most recent one was a student complaining that he couldn’t return his very overdue books as they were very heavy, so could we possibly send a van around to collect them?

***delegating is the best part of line managing. Doing appraisals is the worst.

#LibDay8 – Thursday

An excellent start to the day when I managed to trip over nothing on my way onto campus and fall to my knees in front of a bunch of students; ouch!

After I dusted myself off*, I went shelf tidying for half an hour with everyone else. Then back to my desk to crack on with, you guessed it, invoicing! Yesterday I divvied up a large task between a bunch of Library Assistants, but I also assigned part of it to myself. I firmly believe that where possible, managers should always attempt to familiarise themselves with the work done by those they manage; not only so that you can manage the task properly and cover the work yourself in case of absence, but also because it’s an excellent way of showing your team that you are a member of the team as well. The majority of this task will be done by Assistants but by doing part of it myself I was able to refine the instructions in the manual and also spot a common mistake and email everyone to warn them how to avoid it. I also spotted that certain members of the team are not particularly good at checking their arithmetic**, so I made a note to emphasise the importance of double checking everything in the training I’ll be delivering to them next week. I also came up with a potential solution to a problem that the systems team had raised, so I emailed them to find out if it was workable.

That took me up to midday so I stopped for lunch (during which I taught a colleague how to use the microwave!)
Self service
Supervising again from 1 – 5:30pm and this shift was much busier than yesterday’s. Today’s highlights were:

    • Helped a student who showed up at the Helpdesk with injuries to his side that he couldn’t remember receiving. The whole situation was decidedly dodgy, but he was given first aid and we persuaded him to go to A&E in a taxi that the University paid for.
    • Struck a deal with a student who had too many fines to borrow any books but couldn’t afford to pay them off; I offered to loan him books if he made a partial payment and agreed to pay off a certain sum every week, to which he agreed
    • Helped a student who was very upset because she’d lost the 4 books that were on loan to her; I said I’d email her the replacement cost of the books tomorrow then we could come to an arrangement where she paid them off over a period of time, which she was very happy about.
    • Fixed the returns unit (again) and dealt with the engineer who showed up to replace a part on it.
    • Fixed the ID card printer (again) thankfully without cleaning it this time
    • Assisted roving library staff with persuading a student who had trailed her laptop cable 20 yards across the floor to move to a more suitable area
    • Helped students in the Assistive Technology Room with assorted problems using Word

Reception

  • Mopped up coffee that a student had spilled at Reception just when there were no cleaners around***
  • Helped two students explain to their Faculties that we couldn’t do what they needed doing as only faculty admins have editing rights to the student administration system. This involved phone calls and print outs with key areas circled to help get the point across.
  • Helped a distance learner get a SCONUL card
  • Emailed the systems team about a suspected bug on Aleph, where a student had been able to borrow more items then they should be allowed at a self issue machine. The student was not pleased that I was going to look into it!
  • Answered many questions from new Student Assistants
  • Moar impromptu Aleph training
  • Numerous IT issues; unjammed a printer, logged a PC that I couldn’t fix, recredited someone’s print account, deleted a mehussive job from the print queue and replaced a faulty photocopying card

Obviously I got very little done other than that, but I did get a reply from the systems team saying my solution would work, so I wrote up a very quick proposal and emailed it to the relevant Customer Services staff to get feedback. Fingers crossed we can implement it next week.

So au revoir Thursday, you went by so quickly!

*and after I had answered an Aleph question before I even had chance to take my coat off!
**this is hilarious coming from me, by the way; I have no mathematical ability to speak of, but at least that has taught me to check every single sum that I do!
***my job; it are glamorous!

#LibDay8 – Wednesday

Busy day was busy! I didn’t even get to look at Twitter once, that’s the mark of a busy day for a twitter addict like me.

One of the Library Assistants that I line manage returned to work today after a years maternity leave, hurrah! D is a lovely lady and an important part of the team, so it’s great to have her back even if she has reduced her hours (entirely understandable with a one year old who isn’t exactly happy about mum disappearing for hours at a time!) So when I got in at 9am I spent some time catching up with her while we shelf tidied; which is something that all Library staff do for half an hour every morning unless they’re on a desk; it keeps the shelves in order and looking tidy and also helps us find lost and hidden items.

After that, we shut ourselves in a meeting room so that I could deliver some intensive Aleph training*; when D was last here we still had our old LMS so Aleph is completely new to her. I used existing training materials as a guide but quite frankly, she’s probably going to remember very little of it and she’ll get more knowledge out of actually being on the desk! I went through the fundamentals with her then pointed her to the training site and emphasised that I was always happy to be interrupted if there was something she didn’t understand.

By that point it was 12 and therefore lunchtime, after that I passed D on to other staff for more training, while I caught up on my emails. About 15 more Bank Holiday volunteers, all of whom got a standard “thank you for volunteering, I’ll be in touch with your hours in the near future” reply. A couple of emails from another of my Library Assistants about an Aleph procedurate which may not be working for us, which I had to flag to look at later this week. Details of the Sharepoint 2010 training that I have to go on in a fortnight. And also the news from the System team that I’ve been waiting for regarding my invoicing project; an important development has finally happened and I have a fair bit of work before the next step takes place.

I was supervising from 1 – 5:30pm so I made my way to the Sortation room to find a hive of activity, but thankfully my luck was in and it was actually a really quiet afternoon with very little to bother me. The highlights were:

  • Fixing the returns unit. Twice.**
  • Unjamming and cleaning the ID card printer in an attempt to get it limping along for the final two weeks that we need it, which worked***
  • Helping a student who had been mugged and had no ID
  • Reporting a problem with the ladies loos to the FM Desk
  • More impromptu Aleph training, including the unwelcome discovery that someone had actually issued a reference only book to a student at the Helpdesk. After hopping with rage for 5 minutes, I sent a (possibly quite sarcastic) email to all staff asking them to please not override any messages unless they were completely sure that they understood what they meant…
  • Speculating with a Student Assistant about changing the text on their uniform T Shirts from Library Staff to Library Fairy. What? It’s work related!

Such a quiet afternoon had to be taken advantage of, so I steamed ahead with my invoicing work which was incredibly finicky and really rather boring so I won’t give you too many details. Suffice to say that copying and pasting the details of all items that are about to be invoiced from a 260 page long Word document into an Excel document so that it can be sorted by classmark and therefore shelfchecked is a tragic waste of anyone’s time and I really hope that the Systems team can come up with a better option for me! This and other related tasks took up the majority of the afternoon, but thankfully by 5:15 I had achieved all the sorting, uploading, emailing and delegating that I needed to do, so I sat in a daze until the evening supervisor came to release me.

And thus Wednesday was defeated.

*and have a good gossip, natch.

**the bloody thing was being really stroppy, but thankfully I have a magic knack of fixing it. It literally involves pushing the door down, up, then halfway down then resetting the machine. This makes it work. I do not understand why.

***this annoyed me; I have spent the last two years trying to avoid learning how to clean the ID card printer as it scares me because it’s expensive and temperamental and I would much prefer that other people did it. Sadly I answered the phone at the wrong person and the person on the other end insisted on walking me through it, wah!

#LibDay8 – Tuesday

My alarm goes off at 6:30am on Tuesdays, and for that I curse them! But despite that, they normally turn out to be good days for getting things done as I’m not scheduled to supervise and I don’t have many desks. I start at 8am so that I can do the banking. We take quite a lot of money in the LRCs; fines of course, but also printing credit, photocopying credit* and we sell stationary, binding materials and ID cards. We also handle money for Faculties who fine students for late equipment returns; they don’t have tills themselves so they have to send them to us to pay the fines! That adds up to quite a lot of money, so we have to bank it twice a week. I’m in charge of the money at this site, mores the pity, so I do one banking shift a week and delegate the other. Thankfully I’ve got it down to a fine art now, so I can get it done in about 90 minutes but it can take up to two and a half hours if somethings gone wrong…

After that (and a tea break) it was time to settle down at my desk for the first time this week! Here is a view of my desk from this morning:

My desk Lots of papers amd post it notes to get through! I quickly dealt with a replacement copy of a book that we’d invoiced, sent off a payment discrepancy form for the banking and emailed some instructions to a colleague. I then finished off the training schedule for my LRC Assistant who’s returning from maternity leave tomorrow (yes, I was going to do this last night but it’s difficult to motivate oneself after 7pm!) which involved doing some timetable juggling so that the right people are available at the right time. Then I spent some time on my invoicing project, speaking to staff in the Systems team about the minutae of how the system works and trying to arrange training for Library Assistants next week.

Helpdesk from 12 – 1pm, where it seems like all I did was swipe a million cards for the UK Border Agency checks which students can now do in the LRCs. Lunch after that, then back to my desk to crack on with invoicing, this time updating the procedures manual. Oh how I wish it was as simple as Find: Talis, Replace with: Aleph but sadly I had to make far more changes and discovered more problems that I need to consider.

To do listOnce I’d had enough of that, I decided it was time to update my To Do list, which I normally do once a fortnight or so as so many of the things I need to do are usually quite lengthy or depend on other people. Writing it out reminded me that I needed to get our Bank Holiday staffing sorted soon; we open two of our four LRCs on the spring Bank Holidays for which I coordinate the staffing. I quickly drafted an intranet announcement asking for volunteers then sent this to HR and the Customer Services manager for checking. Then it was Intertilling time; this is the process by which we make sure there’s enough change in the right places (till, change machine) and that all the machines have been emptied, we do it daily and we each have one slot a week. Today wasn’t mine but I’m training up a new member of staff, so I went with her to check that she knew what she was doing.

Back to my desk and the Announcement has been approved and published; suddenly I am inundated with emails which makes me feel terribly popular, but sadly they’re all just people asking for Bank Holiday hours. They get double pay or double time, so I’m everyones best friend in the Spring! Replying to these takes me up to 4pm at which point I call it a day and head home to do my jog.

So that was Tuesday, a much more productive day than Monday!

*Yes, we are completely antiquated and still have separate printing and photocopying systems, a fact often bemoaned by students. Fingers crossed we join the 21st century next year though!

#LibDay8 – Monday

I thought I knew exactly what Monday was going to involve; wander in at 2pm, do some intertilling, lead the team briefing, catch up on some emails then do the late night until 9pm. Easy, and a nice introduction to my week. But life in Customer Services is never easy, mores the pity. Instead, the member of staff who was supposed to be supervising all day rang in sick, so I found myself flung straight out to supervise upon arrival.

Let me tell you a little bit about how supervising works at my library. The role of Supervisor is basically that of Duty Manager and is usually filled between 8 and 5:30 by a Customer Services senior*. Each day is split into two shifts and we each do 2 or 3 shifts a week, so it takes up a lot of our time.

This is our Seat Of Power:

Sortation RoomWe call it the Sortation Room. I know, don’t even, I wasn’t here when they started calling it that and I don’t know why Sorting Room wouldn’t do, but there you have it; the Sortation Room. So called because it contains our Sorting Machine, that big grey monstrosity at the back. This room is behind the Helpdesk and next door to the Staff Office, so it’s perfectly placed to run the whole building. Because that’s what we’re doing when we’re supervising, essentially, we are responsible for managing the building. So we’re not only dealing with difficult enquiries and students referred to us by the Helpdesk, we’re also making sure the building is a safe and appropriate environment for students to work in, which means a lot of patrolling and a lot of dealing with Facilities Management.

It was a busy afternoon, allow me to bullet point some of the issues I dealt with between 2pm and 5pm**:

  • spent 15 minutes explaining to a student exactly how he’d run up a £54 fine, but then waived half of it when the book was later found on the shelf at another site
  • counted up the change machine float because someone put a £5 note in but got no coins in return.
  • talked to someone about filming an interview in the LRC and what would be an appropriate location***
  • fixed the Returns Unit when it started playing up
  • Radio’d Security to get them to unlock one of the plant rooms so some engineers could work on the boiler
  • Fetched some books for a partially sighted student
  • Answered a query about software availability on the Macs at a different campus
  • Fixed a printer which was defaulting to the wrong tray
  • Explained to a member of staff that he wouldn’t be able to use staff printing facilities at 2am as all the staff offices were locked at that point and our overnight facilities are provided for students
  • United two people with their lost property
  • Explained to someone that the reason her photocopying had jammed was because she had used the feeder tray, despite the dozen notices explaining that the feeder tray isn’t working and one of them being TAPED OVER the feeder tray, which she had moved. !headdesk!
  • Printed off a dozen ID cards
  • Restocked the Helpdesk and Reception with forms and stationary****
  • Gave impromptu Aleph training to Helpdesk staff, even though they should know these things by now

And that’s actually a pretty nice day; there were no arguments, no tears, nothing caught fire, nobody collapsed or got stuck in the lift and there were no fights. Those are the things you dread when you Supervise and if you get a shift without them you’re grateful, even if you are on your feet 3 hours which I pretty much was today.

My day is not yet over, I’m here till 9pm but I’m not supervising anymore and I’m currently taking it easy at Reception. I’ll do the Helpdesk from 6:30 to 9:00 and I’ll be sure to add an addendum to this if anything interesting happens, but I’m mainly planning on writing up my training plan for the Library Assistant who’s returning from maternity leave on Wednesday and emailing the systems team about the invoicing procedure.

So, that was Monday!

*Due to lack of CS seniors this morning, subject staff had to cover until I got there, which some of them were Displeased with.

**I took notes! I’m taking this seriously, you see :p

***”No, that spot probably won’t work, because not only is it right in front of our self service machines, it’s also right in front of the door to the stairs…”

****why am I the only person who does this? Gah!

Library Day in the Life Project – #libday8

This week I will be taking part in the Library Day in the Life Project here on the blog (and also a little bit over on Twitter, where I am @funktious) Those taking part in the project use their blogs, twitter accounts and even YouTube and Flickr to share a typical week of their working life. It’s a really fun way to show people what your job actually entails, as well as providing a way for those interested in a career in Librarianship to find out about different sectors.

So to get started, let me tell you a little bit about myself and my role. I’m a twenty something (oh alright, very nearly thirty) woman living in south west London and working in a University library. I’m qualified, having graduated from library school in 2007. I’m an Information Advisor (which is basically a Senior Library Assistant) in the Customer Services department, so I’m there to keep the service running smoothly, make sure the students are happy and work on projects to improve the service in the long term. I also line manage five library assistants.

I’ll be writing one post a day describing what I’ve been up to, and most likely having a rant at the same time. I’m also determined to take some photos to liven up the blog a little bit! It should be an interesting week; it’s the first week of the semester so we’ll be inundated with students, I’ve also got a massive invoicing project on the go and one of my library assistants is returning from maternity leave.

I said earlier that the Library Day in the Life project is a great way to find out more about other library sectors, so in that spirit I have listed below some blogs belonging to other people taking part who work in completely different sectors, I’ll be interested to read about their weeks. I’ll add any more that I discover on the hashtag (#libday8 on twitter) and I’ll try to add links to twitter feeds later when I’m not on the iPad.

Organising Chaos (Law Librarian)
Big Friendly Librarian (School Library Manager)
Theatregrad (Media Librarian)
Joeyanne Libraryanne (Researcher)
Life in the Library Lane (NHS Library Manager)