“But we weren’t doing nothing Miss!”

This is the second of two blog posts on dealing with difficult Library users. I posted the first, about dealing with angry people, last week and was overwhelmed by the response it received; thank you so much to everyone who retweeted it or said kind things. This post is about dealing with disruptive people.

I actually find it harder to deal with disruptive people in the Library than with angry people. I think this is because angry people just appear and have to be dealt with, whereas you are often alerted to the existence of disruptive people by other Library users. There’s an expectation that you’re going to do something about it. There’s also the feeling that you’re wading into a group of people who aren’t aware that they’re doing anything wrong; they may resent you, they may get angry you, they may (worst of all) laugh at you! And then there’s the fact that I’m five foot four and despite being closer to 30 then I’d like, still routinely get ID’d in Waitrose buying little bottles of rubbish wine for cooking with. So I get a bit intimated by confronting large groups of tall people as I’m worried they’re going to ignore everything I say.

But I have learned a few coping mechanisms in the past two years and that’s what I’m going to share with you in this post. First of all though, let me share some recent experience I have had of students making my life difficult:

  1. A student walking up to another student in the quiet area in the middle of exam season and punching him in the face*
  2. Many groups of students coming to the Library after an exam, all relieved and happy and LOUD
  3. A group of girls swearing very loudly in a busy area
  4. Boys sneaking 5 massive pizzas upstairs at lunchtime
  5. A mature student settling themselves into the Library to work for the whole day, spreading their stuff over two (or three) workspaces, hogging three plugs for their laptop, their phone and their mp3 player and loudly and aggressively shushing anyone who so much as breathes.**
  6. And a constant problem; students who cannot understand that whispering is not silence.

So generally, I’m referring to situations where one person, or one group of people are starting to make it difficult for other people to use the Library and someone has to set them straight. Enter Library Staff! These sorts of situations are always different, depending on the mood of the people involved and the atmosphere in the building and as such it’s difficult to give a clear step by step process for dealing with them. Nevertheless, here are some assorted tricks that I find helpful, I hope some of them might be useful to you too:

  • Be prepared – You probably already know when your busiest times are. Ours are obvious; lunchtimes and any breaks between lectures. There’s also times of year when there’s always going to be more people in the Library and more people under stress, which is pretty much anytime there’s a deadline and during exam periods. Knowing in advance when you’re likely to be dealing with these situations can help you prepare mentally for them; we have a list of coursework deadline dates on the wall of the supervisor’s office, for example, so that we know when the build up to them is likely to start.
  • Why are they making your life difficult? – Try and understand their motivations. I’ve found it a lot easier to deal with troublesome students ever since a very wise person (whose name and role I have forgotten; sorry!) said in a training session that students act out in places where they feel safe and at home. They play up because they’re in a familiar environment, they don’t necessarily mean to offend and they just need reminding of their boundaries. If you can do that nicely then everyone will walk away happy.
  • Take the lift! – this sounds completely daft, but bear with me; if you have to go upstairs to confront a group of rowdy 20 year olds, the last thing you want is to be red-faced and out of breath from climbing the stairs! I normally avoid the lift***, but if I know I’m going up to confront people, I always take it. This won’t apply if you’re actually fit, obviously, but for those of us who aren’t it’s a shortcut worth taking!
  • Don’t say sorry! – this one is surprisingly difficult; saying “I’m sorry but…” seems to be a terribly addictive phrase. But you’re not sorry; they’re breaking the rules! So replace every “sorry” in your head with “excuse me,” it performs the same function but doesn’t make them think that you regret telling them off.
  • Be friendly but firm – there’s no need to storm in with all guns blazing, that will just put their backs up. A simple “come on everyone, this is a quiet study area and you are neither being quiet or studying!” will often do the trick
  • Explain the rule – they’re usually more understanding when you explain that the reason they can’t eat six cartons of Chinese in the study areas is because the smell might disturb other people, especially if they’re starving. Similarly, even though they might be able to absorb the finer details of the Human Rights Act while N-Dubz**** blasts through their crappy headphones, the incessant tinny beat might just be bothering the person next to them. If you can’t explain to them why they can’t do it, they’ll just carry on.
  • Don’t get drawn into a conversation – there’s a certain type of student that loves to try to banter with you in front of their mates and the temptation to look cool can be strong. Some librarians can handle this sort of thing and come out of it well; if you’re one of them then I applaud you, but I am not! So I prefer to extricate myself as soon as possible by reiterating my point then leaving. Theres no point in drawing the encounter out; you’ve probably got better things to do. (And I hate to break it to you, but they’ll never really think you’re cool…)
  • And don’t get drawn into a fight – whether physical or not, a lot of fights break out in a building full of undergraduates; over group work, seminar rooms, hidden books… I’ve listened to plenty of “he said, she said” in the past few years and both parties always pressure you to take their side. Resist, even if one of them is clearly in the wrong. Explain that it is not your place to decide who is right and that you can’t take one persons word over someone else’s; you are there to find the best solution for everyone.
  • Always go back… – I have a route that I usually follow through the building, but if there’s a problem in a certain area I always make sure that I go back to it, by a different door if possible. So I might do a sweep of the silent floor and tell everyone to shut up, then go upstairs, come back down a different staircase and go back through the silent floor in the opposite direction. That way you can spot everyone who ignored you and have another word, which is often more effective than the first time.
  • …Or hang around – a similar trick; once you’ve spoken to the people causing problems, hang around for a bit; tidy the chairs up, throw away some rubbish, check that broken PC. Once they see you’re not going away they’ll often roll their eyes and either move or knuckle down. I have even gone to the lengths of going and leaning against the wall, surveying the room through narrowed eyes like some sort of exam invigilator; heavy-handed, but effective when necessary, even if it does make you feel like you’re betraying your inner youth.
  • Encourage them to move, rather than leave – Effective zoning can be very helpful in this type of situation; it’s much easier to ask someone to move to a more appropriate area than it is to ask them to leave the Library altogether.
  • If someone starts answering back, get them away from their friends – This is very effective if you can tell that there is one person at the heart of the group causing the problem. “Excuse me, can I just have a quick word with you over here?” The mouthiest of teenagers will often become the meekest of mice once you get them away from their mates.
  • Take someone with you! – if you’re having problems, there is no shame in asking a colleague to go with you! It’s much easier to deal with a large group of students when there’s two of you; you can back each other up and present a united front of Librarianness. If at all possible, try to pick a colleague with teenage children, as they’ll usually sort everyone right out.
  • And finally, be in your forties– in my experience, the Librarians who are best at dealing with this sort of thing are older and wiser than me. You obviously can’t age yourself at will in order to be better at it, but the experience will come with time and one day you’ll find that nothing phases you. Try and take comfort in that, if you can; you can’t be good at everything from the beginning!

Thus ends my two parter on dealing with difficult people; I’ll be happy if it even helps one librarian cope with a sticky situation. If you’ve got any good tips that I’ve missed, or experiences to share then please post them in the comments of either post for everyone to learn from. In the meantime, colleagues, strap on your helmet and shield and get back out there, hopefully with some new weapons in your arsenal!

*this ended up being very amusing, as a rushed and poorly worded call to Security ended up with about 3 police cars piling on to campus as the Security Guard was under the impression that everyone in the Library was kicking off.

**in a previous job, we came across someone who had bought a kettle in with them and couldn’t understand why she was not allowed to use it!

***not least because ours has a dreadful tendency to get stuck, and it’s difficult to supervise the Library from inside┬á a stuck lift. Also as our Library is only three floors so there’s really very little need for it; so I usually have very little sympathy for anyone who gets stuck in it!

****See, I’m down with the yoof! I didn’t have to google the correct spelling, honest…

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Angry person is angry!

When I first started this job, one of the things I was most anxious about was dealing with difficult people, as I’m actually quite a shy and unassertive person*. However, over the past two and a bit years I have learned some useful coping strategies and practical steps that I’m going to share with you, as I imagine that being shy and unassertive are relatively common traits amongst young librarians! I’ve split this into two posts; today’s is about dealing with angry people and next week I’ll post about dealing with disruptive people; it’s a small distinction but an important one, the main difference being that the angry people will come and find you, while you have to go and find the disruptive people!

In my two and a bit years in this job, I’ve dealt with my fair share of angry users. The top 3 would probably have to be:

  1. The guy who shouted at me for 10 minutes about how rubbish our computers were and how it was my fault that he’d been here for an hour and got nothing done.**
  2. The chap who had been given the wrong information over the phone and therefore exploded at the Helpdesk and whinged at me about how we’d wasted half an hour of his time that he’d never get back.***
  3. The lady who, in my second week in the job, said that the Library didn’t care about the safety of women on campus and she hoped I got raped.****

The following tips are ones that I have learned by dealing with those people, and others like them. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t enjoy any of these experiences, not all of them went well and I could definitely have dealt with some of them better. But you live and you learn, and here is what I have learned about dealing with angry people:

  • Know your enemy – Nearly every angry person I have ever dealt with has been a mature student. The small amount who haven’t have been undergraduates with a lot going on in their lives. The thing to understand with these people is that the Library and all of its rules is the last thing they care about, the tiniest part of their life and one they expect to run smoothly. They have jobs, family and homes to look after. So some of them, the ones who have a tendency to get angry anyway, are absolutely infuriated when something so unimportant to them becomes an issue. They’re especially annoyed, as you can see from the above examples, when it takes up their time. So watch out when you see a mature student in the queue looking determined; he’s about to be a problem.
  • Get them away from the desk – Anger thrives with an audience, don’t let them have one. Take them somewhere private. Also, get them to sit down; it’s difficult to rant and rave from a chair. (edit: make sure someone knows where you are though! Don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation.*****)
  • Don’t put up with being shouted at – I doubt any of us are paid enough for this; don’t put up with it. Say something like: “Could you please lower your voice, I feel like I’m being shouted at and that won’t help us resolve the situation.” If they continue shouting, walk away. “I’m going to walk away until you’re able to discuss this with me calmly.” Don’t feel bad about calling Security if it really goes wrong, that’s what they’re there for.
  • Let them rant / cry it out – as long as they’re not shouting, just let them get their initial rant out, or let them get over their tears. They’re not going to listen to you at this point anyway so save your breath and just calmly make notes about what they’re saying.
  • Meaningless platitudes – that’s not to say that you can’t use meaningless platitudes while you investigate further; I’m a big fan of these as it makes them think that you care without you actually admitting fault. My most used ones are “that must have been very frustrating / difficult / upsetting for you” and “I can see why you would feel that way.”
  • If the Library has made a mistake; apologise – even if it wasn’t your mistake, just apologise, it’s what they want to hear and you are the Library personified to them. “I’m very sorry that this has happened and I will do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” It won’t always help; some people will just say “well how’s an apology supposed to help me now?” but it’s worth doing anyway. At least you can always say afterwards that you did apologise.
  • Be prepared to cut a deal… – this obviously depends on the rules of your workplace, but I am always prepared to make a deal with an angry person if it will get them out of the Library quicker. Yes, they may have broken the rules and no, you may not want to make them think that they can get what they want by ranting, but really; the risk to your blood pressure and mental equilibrium is not worth it! If it will get the whole thing over with, use whatever powers are within your means to do so. I’ve waived a proportion of people’s fines if they pay the rest immediately, or offered to hold books for them for a day while they resolve the problem, that sort of thing.
  • ...but make sure they know if they were in the wrong – this is important, don’t let them go away thinking that they can do this again. Before you offer them a deal, explain exactly how they ended up in this situation. Make sure they understand. I have sat with students and made them log into their accounts and renew their books to prove they know how to do it before I have waived a single penny from their record. Also make sure they know this is a one-off. “On this occasion I am prepared to offer X, but I’m going to make a note on your record of the conversation we’ve had today and you won’t be let off next time”
  • Refer them up the ladder – if you are not able or prepared to cut a deal, then refer them to your manager or whoever is the next step up from you in the workplace; don’t feel bad about doing this, that’s why there’s a ladder! Managers, Heads of Circulation etc reading this: sorry to lay it all on you, but that’s why you get the big bucks and it’s not like you really needed this advice anyway, is it?
  • Some people are just [censored!] – there will always be people who will not respond to any of this, people who will go out of their way to be difficult and will not give an inch. These are the people who refuse sincere apologies and who ask “but what about my wasted time, what are you going to do about that?” Nothing you can say will please these people, so retreat into icy politeness until they leave.
  • Try not to get angry or defensive – This is difficult, especially if what they’re saying is really ridiculous. Try pausing before you say anything, or taking a deep breath first; this has often stopped me from snapping at them.
  • Don’t take it personally – As I said earlier, to these people you are the embodiment of the Library, but that’s all; they don’t know who you are, they don’t know what you’re like and they are not angry at you personally, they are angry at the Library, at the system they perceive to be punishing them. The angry people who I have dealt with have normally been at the end of their tether and this is the last in a long line of things that have happened to them that day, which is why they have exploded. Bear that in mind and try not to take it on board or let it stress you out. It’s really not worth it. If you find that you can’t let it go and that these situations really affect you; speak to your line manager or to Occupational Health about it.
  • Vent; vent long and loud – this is a key step in not taking it on board; get your own stress and anger at the situation out as soon as possible by venting to your colleagues. Go to the staffroom and find whoever’s having a cup of tea and bend their ear. Then tell someone else. Then rant on twitter about it. Each time you vent your stress level will get lower. (It may get higher in the people who you vent to, but that’s their problem!)
  • And finally, look on the bright side; none of the people who have ever been screamingly angry at me have ever called me Miss!

I hope that one or a few of these tips may help someone out at a difficult point in their day. What I really hope is that none of us ever have to deal with anyone like this ever, but that’s not very likely in our line of work! So chin up, and hide some emergency chocolate in your bottom drawer, you’re going to need it one day.

*Shut up, I am! Or I was anyway, my Mum says that living in London has made me a lot bolshier!

**He was right about the computers but not about it being my fault. I infuriated him even further by agreeing with him and trying to get him to fill out a complaint form so we could use his experiences to talk to IT which is not what he cared about, he cared about his wasted time. He never did send in a complaint form, git.

***See how time is becoming a common theme?

****This was ridiculous, the woman was clearly at the very end of her tether and was standing outside getting some fresh air. Some boys were out there too and one spat on the ground; she interpreted this as threatening and went into a screaming meltdown. Fun!

*****Thanks to @CareersInfo on Twitter for reminding me of this important point!

#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!

#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 ­čśí *

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┬áconsider.

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!