Thursday, 28 July 2011

Library Day in the Life #7

I'm a part-time library assistant working in a museum library.  I’m taking part in the Library Day in the Life project this time because although I used to enjoy reading the posts in the previous rounds this is the first time I've had a blog of my own.

The library I work in has been part of the museum since it was built in the early part of the 20th century.  The initial collection moved in the 1920's into a purpose built library, but as it rapidly outgrew that space material moved out to form a number of smaller, unstaffed departmental libraries. The original room, where we are based, is now known as the Main Library (or ML).

Because I am only part-time my week doesn't start till Wednesday, I try to get in fairly early, I aim for 8.30 but it is often later before I manage to arrive.  However, today for some reason I make it in for 8.20, which does leave me with the unsettling feeling that I’ve forgotten to do part of my normal morning routine.

When I arrive in the morning I tend to make my way up to the library through the art galleries, it gives me a chance to be nosy at what exhibitions they have.  At the moment a number of cases are being cleared as a temporary exhibition is moving on so I am looking forward to seeing what will be replacing it in the coming weeks.

It’s always very silent when I first come in, but at 10.00am when we open to the public there will be an explosion of noise in the main hall.  We are at the top of the building up above the public spaces and the sound really echoes.  Mondays are the only days we are closed to the public, and I’ve often wondered what it would be like working here then, as I imagine the silence would be quite eerie.
When I first get in I work through my emails, I get a variety including order status reports from our book suppliers, feedback on queries that came in the previous week, and details of any visitors we have coming in.  Although our main purpose is to provide information resources for the museum’s staff, we also accommodate researchers requiring material that is not easily available in other libraries.  These are usually by appointment only and we tend to require that visitors know in advance what they are looking for.

After clearing the backlog of emails I head out shelving and tidying, both in the main library and in one of the departmental ones.  The advantage of having our libraries spread throughout the building is you do get the opportunity to get out and about a bit; in fact there are some days when I am barely at my desk at all.  I’m less enamoured of shelving in the main library stacks, as I have a real love/hate relationship with them.  On the one hand I appreciate that they are originals from when the building was designed, and that they are unusual because they are pull-out stacks rather than static shelving or roller racking.  However, their disadvantages are that they were obviously designed for small books, the shelves themselves are not very wide, and all the stacks are too close together, and they are really heavy, particularly when full.

This morning I also made time to sign up for Library Camp UK 2011 in Birmingham, I’m really looking forward to it, and particularly all the cake that seems to have been promised.  I checked Twitter and my RSS feeds to see what people are talking about in the library world today, and I finally got round to posting Things 6 and 7 of my cpd23 things, I’d written them earlier, but hadn’t yet published them on my blog.

After lunch I’m checking back in journals and auction catalogues that have been down in the various departments.  Much of the stock we have either stays in the ML or heads down to its permanent home in the departmental libraries.  However, we have a small portion of the collection that goes on circulation before finally returning to be housed in the ML.  We keep a check list for things going out and coming back in, and one of my jobs involves recording the safe return of these items, or chasing up any outstanding ones.

We are unusually busy today, as well as a member of staff working all day in the library we have had visitors in both the morning and afternoon.  We are normally much quieter, and particularly so during the summer months when staff tend to be away.  Many of our outside visitors tend to be postgraduate students from the nearby universities, particularly the conservation, archaeology and museum studies courses, but as it's the summer holidays we have not seen so much of them recently.  We also have our volunteer with us today; he is currently working through shelves of pamphlet material, checking their details on the card catalogues and then inputting them onto our cataloguing system.  We started using a computerised catalogue back in 1999 but the job of putting all the old stock on to it is so vast we are still working through it.

Towards the end of the day it gets a bit quieter and I’m able to work for a bit on the library e-newsletter.  We decided last year to start producing an electronic newsletter to circulate to all staff.  I act as the editor (although the Head Librarian always has the last word!) and content tends to include details of resources we have purchased, interesting new acquisitions and library announcements.

By then it is time to head home, and I realise I’ve been so busy today I haven’t even had time to make myself a cup of tea!

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