The trainees recently visited the Cambridge University Medical Library, situated just outside the city centre in the School of Clinical Medicine, which also forms part of the wider Cambridge Biomedical Campus. The Medical Library’s resources (including study space, borrowable collection, and reference materials) are available not only to Cambridge University’s medical students, but also to use by NHS staff working next door at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Throughout our visit, we found impressive the ways academic and healthcare librarianship combine to balance the needs of both user groups at the Medical Library.
The visit began with a tour of the library, and the Library Manager described how the library space has developed over the years. The first reading room in the Medical Library is an all-purpose study space, with a range of seating designed to accommodate both individual study and students’ collaborative work. A ‘Quick Picks’ section of frequently borrowed material sits close to the self-issue machines, and is one of the library’s most popular resources. This reading room also houses the Medical Library’s wellbeing and general interest collection of books and DVDs. The Library Manager explained how some of the reading room computers operate on the University system, and the rest connect to the NHS user network.
From here, we passed the library’s dedicated silent study space (aptly named the ‘Shhhh’ area), and a classroom equipped for library-run training sessions. The adjoining reading room contains most of the library’s working collection of books, alongside more study space.
After the tour, we were introduced to the Head of Medical Library Services, and one of the Assistant Librarians. Chatting to the team, we were able to ask questions and learn more about the role of the Medical Library; whilst also observing the time-honoured library tradition of morning tea and biscuits! We found the exciting aspects unique to healthcare librarianship particularly interesting to hear more about, such as assisting medical researchers and doctors with their literature reviews. It was also inspiring to learn that routes into healthcare librarianship are many and various – for instance, a background in medicine is not a prerequisite to becoming a healthcare librarian.
We would like to thank the library team for their warm welcome and fascinating insight into the work of the Medical Library.
In April, we were treated to two library visits in one day: Cambridge Judge Business School in the morning and the West Hub in the afternoon. Located on the University of Cambridge’s West Cambridge Site, the West Hub is a 10-minute cycle or a short bus journey from the city centre. It was a really lovely route, with the cycle path running parallel to the fields and heading towards the nearby village, Coton.
Home to the University Sports Centre, Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Whittle Laboratory and various commercial research institutes, the West Cambridge Site’s main focus is on physical sciences and technology. One of the Site’s newest buildings, the West Hub, opened on 26 April 2022 and represents the first step in the creation of the West Cambridge Innovation District.
The West Hub is the University of Cambridge’s first publicly open co-working hub. With no restrictions on who can access the building, the space feels like a futuristic public library. On the ground floor, you can find a canteen, bar, newsagent, and even showers. Moving up the bright orange staircase, there is a rich variety of working areas (40 to be exact!) to suit different needs and moods. Interestingly, there are no zones for studying: the architect designed the building so that it naturally gets quieter as you move up the building. The Library Manager did note that students tend to be quiet in the North Room (where the books are located) though. Perhaps the visual cue of books is all it takes to inspire silence! It was an important and intentional decision to name the room with the books the North Room rather than the Library, so that the West Hub as a whole is understood to be a library.
What struck me, was how accessible the space was. Unlike many buildings in Cambridge, the West Hub has step-free access, two lifts, wide corridors, accessible and gender-neutral toilets, baby change stations, spacious seating areas, and a mixture of high and low-tables. The West Hub’s relationship with nature is also inspiring. There are beautiful big windows overlooking green space, trees in the atrium growing toward the upper floors, and indoor plants dotted everywhere. Incorporating nature into the building is a clear indication of their desire to prioritise wellbeing and sustainability. The calming atmosphere is complimented by the availability of contemplation rooms, which are comfy, technology-free spaces to contemplate or have a conversation. Other bookable spaces include large meeting rooms, meeting pods, and a pop-up media lab.
While in many ways the West Hub reimagines what a library is, it still maintains traditional services. The library desk is located on the first floor and as part of the Technology Libraries and Biological Sciences Libraries Team, it supports the Departments of Engineering, Computer Science, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, and Veterinary Medicine. The library staff offer standard study skills sessions (how to use the library, literature searches, referencing) alongside more personal sessions (designing a great poster, perfecting presentation skills, revision tips). In addition to the North Room, there is also a small ‘Inspire, Learn and Inform’ collection, which displays books from outside of the main subject areas. Although borrowing is restricted to University of Cambridge students and staff, non-members are welcome to reference the material inside the West Hub.
A massive thank you to Danielle, the Library Manager, for providing such an engaging tour and to the rest of the West Hub team for sharing their expertise with us.
The trainees recently had the pleasure of visiting Homerton College Library, situated slightly further away from the city centre on Hills Road. On first appearance it has been noted that the interior of the library resembles something like a cruise ship, with an open-plan structure that contributes to a light and spacious atmosphere ideal for studying.
Due to its origins as a Teacher Training College, and its ongoing affiliation with the Faculty of Education, Homerton’s library is perhaps most well-known for its impressive collection of children’s literature, comprising around 10,000 children’s books, 3,000 rare books and 6,000 children’s annuals. On the trainees’ visit we were shown a few highlights from the library’s Special Collections, including a nineteenth-century ‘Speaking Book’, early editions of Alice in Wonderland, and a picture book featuring flying plane-babies. The library also holds a Multimedia Collection, which includes borrowable CDs, DVDs, and printed music.
The library currently houses a display focusing on depictions of dragons in children’s literature, in part to accompany the recent Philippa Pearce lecture given by Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon series. The exhibition is interactive, with students invited to contribute a paper scale to a model dragon, although it should be noted that no live flames are involved in the display. Undoubtedly it is this culture of literary playfulness, along with especially friendly staff, which makes Homerton College Library such a welcoming and enriching study environment.
Recently, we had the pleasure of a visit to Queens’ College, where we got to visit both the War Memorial Library (the student library) and the Old Library. The Rare Books Curator met us at the Porter’s Lodge and after a walk over the Mathematical Bridge, we were shown some of the historic and notable parts of the College including the Old Court, the Old Hall, and Cloister Court. She told us some history of the College and Library, including important benefactors of the early Library such as Thomas Smith, whose portrait hung in the Old Hall.
The Reader Services Librarian then showed us around the War Memorial Library, which holds their teaching collections and student study space. The stacked walkways and twisty spiral staircases help maximise the amount of room available for books and students, and it felt like a cosy place to study. The main room was complimented by a huge glass window with beautiful stained glass details at the top, helping the space feel more open and provide a great amount of natural light. We also got to view a display on the ‘Golden Age of Science Fiction’, put together by the Queens’ trainee, and based on a sizeable collection of mid-twentieth century novels donated by an alumnus of the College.
We were then taken into the Old Library, a beautiful room built specially for its purpose as a library in the mid-fifteenth century! It has been in continuous use since then, and remains very close to its original state. The lower sections of the current bookshelves were part of the original medieval lectern shelves, and many books remain in their original bindings. As well as the home of many of their rare books and manuscripts, the Old Library is also an exhibition space, and we were given some time to explore the current exhibition, ‘Legacies of Enslavement at Queens’ College.’ This exhibition follows an investigation by the College into their students’ and fellows’ connections to empire and enslavement from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The exhibition featured documents and books from this period in the Library collections that revealed some of Queens’ connections to the slave trade as well as the abolition movement.
Finally, the Rare Books Curator gave us a ‘hands-on’ workshop introduction to early printed books. After a brief history of paper production and the printing process, we got to try our hand at folding a printed sheet into a gathering, making sure the folds were all in the right place so the text was the correct orientation and in the right order. We were then shown various types of early printed books, using examples from the Queens’ collections. In pairs, we were given a book to look at, and challenged to examine it and talk about any interesting features we could spot. It is surprising how much you can learn about a book and its history by understanding its materiality!
Our thanks to the library team at Queens’ College for a wonderful look into this historic library and a fun and educational introduction to rare books!
A few weeks ago, we had our first joint visit with the Oxford trainees to Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS). Located in the former Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the School has an impressive façade and despite various reconstructions, still maintains some original features. The interior of the building has changed significantly though, with an open plan design, floating staircases, balconies, giant columns, and lovely bright windows. The art deco feeling, with bright colours and patterns, represents a marked difference from traditional University of Cambridge buildings and speaks to the School’s desire to be innovative.
After introductions and a lot of staring in awe at the atrium, we were met by CJBS’ Deputy Librarian, Andrew, who led us straight to tea and biscuits (which is quickly becoming one of my favourite traditions of library life!).
It’s a fairly small library, but immediately feels like one which is welcoming and comfortable. There is a map on the wall for students to place a pin on their home country, googly eyes on staplers, beanbags within the stacks, “dinky doors” on shelves, and a work-in-progress communal jigsaw. It was really nice to see a playful side of librarianship, especially when business is a stereotypically serious subject. I’m sure that CJBS’ efforts to create an open space, with student wellbeing a key consideration, contributes significantly to combatting library anxiety and positioning the library staff as friendly and approachable.
I was really impressed with how committed CJBS are to understanding and then improving user experience. With a dedicated User Experience Librarian, they run numerous UX projects throughout the year. One of their previous projects asked students to empty their bags (this was optional!) to understand what kind of things students brought with them to the library. It led to the discovery that more users than they thought owned Microsoft devices and as a consequence, they purchased more compatible chargers. Another project observed the creative solutions students implemented to change the height of their laptop i.e., by placing their laptop on a pile of books. To combat this, CJBS now have lots of laptop stands available and a couple of height-adjustable desks.
Alongside UX projects, they also have a ‘graffiti wall’ so students can leave anonymous feedback and suggestions. This has proven to be quite successful, with the team acknowledging that, for many students, writing on a board is less daunting than approaching staff directly. The library team then write the actions they’ve taken underneath. The ‘graffiti wall’ initiative has brought to light many issues that wouldn’t have been discovered otherwise, including a squeaky door in the far corner of the library.
The collection is very reading list focused, which results in the stock being regularly weeded and replenished with new acquisitions. There is also a big emphasis on electronic resources, because many students aren’t located in Cambridge, or even in the UK. A clear example of this is CJBS’ new Global Executive MBA programme, which includes teaching from various locations: Cambridge, other countries, and online.
The library also has access to specialised business databases such as Bloomberg. Alongside traditional services such as live market analysis, Andrew showed us some of the more fun features such as the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which updates daily to show the world’s richest people. Bizarrely, there’s also a feature called ‘Posh’ which allows users to list items to sell – think Ebay for rich people – such as cars and apartments (everything we saw was in the millions…).
In addition to essential texts and reading list materials, students can also borrow wellbeing books from the ‘Boost’ section and access ‘Weird Ideas and Disruptive Thinking’ books covering a variety of subject areas. There’s also a small fiction and DVD section.
Cambridge Judge Business School’s user-centric approach was really refreshing and gave us all lots to think about for our own libraries. A big thank you to Andrew and everyone at CJBS for such an interesting visit.
After our tour of the Cambridge University Library’s remote storage facility and a lovely tearoom lunch, the trainees headed across town to the Cambridgeshire Archives, which hold ‘historic records and other resources relating to Cambridgeshire, the former counties of Huntingdonshire and the Isle of Ely and their communities’.
Housed in an unassuming former bowling alley by the train station, the Archive was light, airy, and very functional. One of the archivists, Sue Sampson, kindly gave us a tour. Because the Archives had only recently been moved into the building from a previous site in Cambridge, the storage area was very thoughtfully laid out with the current collection in mind, and we were struck by how well-suited the space was to its function. The Archives hold materials ranging from the 1205 Huntingdon Borough Charter to nineteenth century enclosure maps to contemporary records to births in the county (in total the materials comprise the weight of 171 elephants, we were informed!). There were spacious, well-equipped separate rooms for conservation and digitization: the Archives use digitization as a revenue stream and tries to prioritize digitizing material for which there is a demand, particularly from websites like Ancestry.com.
We then stopped in to chat with the cataloguing and processing team, who showed us a glimpse of some of the new items being received. The Archives take in a wide range of material relating the history of Cambridgeshire, preserving personal documents as well as institutional ones: at the moment we arrived, the journal of a man who had been evacuated to Cambridgeshire during the Second World War as a child was being catalogued.
After our tour behind the scenes of the Archive, we returned to the reading room, where the research team told us a bit about their jobs. The Cambridgeshire Archives employ three members of staff whose central role is undertaking commissioned work for the Historical Research Service; often the enquiries they address relate to family history and building/home history. When not working on commissions, the research staff has time to undertake their own projects in the Archives that they feel will aid future researchers. This seemed a very impressive service to offer, and a fantastic way to make use of the expertise and knowledge of archive staff.
Many thanks to the staff at the Cambridgeshire Archives for a wonderful visit; what a perfect day out in Ely we had!
In our first visit outside of Cambridge, last week the trainees travelled to Ely for a tour of Cambridge University Library’s remote storage facility (LSF). The LSF is a large (but surprisingly difficult to find) warehouse with over 100 kilometres of shelving, designed to house books from the UL’s collection which are deemed both low use and low value. As a Legal Deposit Library, the UL is entitled to a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland, many of which are unlikely to be regularly consulted by readers and so are sent directly to the LSF (particularly non-academic monographs such as children’s fiction and cookbooks).
The books are stacked three trays deep in each shelf
The LSF receives hundreds of books by van from the UL every day, which enter the facility via an airlock system to ensure the temperature inside the warehouse remains stable and cool enough for the books. There are currently 6 members of permanent staff at the LSF, one of whom is a librarian, and all of whom are warehouse operatives. On receiving the books they categorise them by size (shelving books according to size maximises space efficiency) and pack them into acid-free trays, which are then taken into the main part of the warehouse to be shelved. Here the trays are loaded onto cherrypickers so that staff can drive to the correct part of the warehouse, and reach even the highest shelves (the height of two adult giraffes!).
The staff were kind enough to take each of us for a terrifying spin on the cherrypickers
It was fascinating to see a library facility which functions so differently to our own college libraries, and to meet the team who work so hard to ensure that students both now and in the future have access to all the books they need, regardless of their obscurity.
At Pembroke, I work as part of a small team: just three full time Library staff, plus our Rare Books Cataloguer, and Archivist. Because of this, my days are hugely varied, and I end up getting to do a little bit of everything. Outside of the daily jobs, I have the freedom to choose what I work on and when, so most days I do not do everything I’ve mentioned, but I usually get to it all throughout a week.
9:00-9:30 – Morning routine & daily jobs
The morning routine is the most regular part of my day. The building is opened at 8:00 before Library staff arrive, but there are sometimes lights to turn on, doors to open, and we do a check to make sure the catalogue PC and the borrowing machine are running. After checking if we have any recalls to collect and separate for the hold shelf, I organise the returns. We divide up the shelving by floor, and use the walk around to tidy the reading rooms, take a headcount during term time, and open the windows when it’s not winter. There are often already a few people working away diligently by the time we arrive in the morning. We also take note of any furniture or building repairs that need reporting to maintenance.
Our noticeboard, borrowing machine, and the returns area looking tidy after a round of shelving!
I follow up the shelving with a few other maintenance tasks – emptying the water cooler drip bucket, checking there is enough printer paper, and taking out the office recycling. Either before or after this morning routine, we’ll usually have a team catch-up in the main office to check in on the day’s schedule and any meetings, events, or external visitors that will occupy part of our day.
From my desk in the Library office near the entrance, I am the first point of contact for student enquiries, so throughout the day I have to be ready to pause whatever I’m doing and aid any students or Members asking for help. Often these questions are about finding books, borrowing, or printing, but we also receive a variety of other enquiries about donations, use of library spaces for non-library activities, and much more. I also answer phone enquiries, help monitor the shared email inbox, and keep an eye on general activity to ensure people are following Library rules, such as not bringing in food or hot drinks. Sometimes the Librarian will ask me for help with other, miscellaneous tasks, like moving rare books off high shelves or delivering a donation to another library.
I like to continue my morning with processing new books (which involves putting labels, barcodes, tags, and covers on books; all the cutting and sticking is like an arts and crafts session and can be very therapeutic!), repairing any damaged books that we’ve picked up, or creating and updating signs. Before adding shelf labels, I classify the books according to our in-house system, which can sometimes require a team discussion for books that cover various or interdisciplinary topics. After processing, the books are ready for cataloguing, which I can now work on independently after an introductory course from Cambridge University Libraries (CUL) and one-to-one training and supervision from my own team.
While working I make sure to keep an eye on my emails for any newsletters, announcements, or notices from the CUL network. As a college library we are independently governed, but still share some systems and resources with the University libraries, such as our library database, so our cataloguing process follows a Cambridge-specific workflow to ensure consistency in the records. Remaining aware of joint ventures or new developments elsewhere in the University also helps us to provide the most up-to-date information for our students.
Shelves in the Library office where books wait for classifying, processing, cataloguing, and repairs. This is a light day’s workload that would be shared between me and the Assistant Librarian, though it can fill up quickly when we get big deliveries.
10:30-11:00 – Tea break
We pop out of the office (to a reachable place for emergencies/enquiries) twice a day for a cup of tea, as we don’t keep anything other than water at our desks – staff also have to follow the Library rules!
After tea, I’ll pick up any of my on-going library projects, such as checking reading lists. I am responsible for only a few lists out of all the taught subjects at Pembroke, but many of them can be quite long and we spread out checking reading lists through the year, so it’s a constantly on-going process. As I have a background in Medieval Norse Studies, my manager was excited to take advantage of my subject knowledge, so I’m also helping to reorganise the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic section of the Library, to ensure that it is as up-to-date and useful as it can be to ASNC students or any of our Members who are interested in the field. Larger reclassification projects and updates to big sections of the Library are often on-going but are not a routine part of our work; we make small steps towards them when we can during term, and then dedicate more time to them in the vacation period.
At noon one day a week I have a meeting with Communications reps from other departments – this keeps the Library and Archive connected and up-to-date with the wider goings-on of the College, so we can promote them and keep up Pembroke’s community spirit. I ensure the rest of our colleagues know what we’re up to and what we’re sharing on social media or in our various display cases around College. I’m also partly responsible for creating said social media posts, helping design and put together the displays, and creating posters – this is a great chance to flex my creative muscles, and I spend a couple of hours on these sorts of jobs every few weeks.
Because lunch is often a busy period in the Library, we stagger our breaks to ensure one of us is always in the office during term. My usual time is half 12, when one of the wonderful perks of College life is getting a free hot meal to enjoy in Hall. I also have the choice of using my free meal at the Pembroke Café during term time, which I frequently visit as it’s a great spot to cosy up with a book and a hot drink.
13:00/30-15:30– Special collections project
Between lunch and afternoon tea is a good time to get stuck into my independent project. One of my favourite things about working here has been the opportunity to research an early printed book from Pembroke’s special collections. I chose a 17th century book about the design of heraldic arms, with a wealth of hand-coloured illustrations that still look incredibly bright and vibrant today. It also contains many annotations. I’m learning to catalogue it while also researching its provenance, which involves using online bibliographic databases as well as close physical examination of the book itself. It has been a fantastic way to learn about rare book special collections, which I had no experience with before. Towards the end of the year, I will get to create a display about the book to showcase my research.
Hand-coloured illustrations from my early printed book, with a marginal note: ‘In Lincoln’s Inn Chappel Window East’
15:30-16:00 Tea break
If we have researchers looking at special collections material, we require an invigilator to always be present. We thus stagger our tea breaks in these situations so that the readers remain supervised. Invigilating in the Archive reading room means I’m away from my desk and my usual work, but gives me half an hour or so to help out with smaller, more unusual tasks, such as transcribing some 19th century palaeography from a letter in the Archive collections, or just to keep up my professional knowledge by reading through the latest CILIP publications for the newest developments in the field.
A small collection of reference books I keep on my desk. These are useful for my rare book project and my Archive biographies. I also keep the latest issue of Information Professional handy in my organiser.
16:00-17:00– Archive biographies project
To finish the day, I often like to work on my project for the Archive. At Pembroke, the Library and Archive are a joint department, and work in the same building. This means I get to learn a lot about the archival side of the information profession and even engage with some Archive work myself. My main contribution has been researching old Pembroke Members for whom we have collections of ephemeral material. This ‘Pembrochiana’ collection has already been catalogued on our online Archive database, but I have been expanding the records by adding biographical information for each person. This has been a fantastic chance to learn about the almost 700-year history of Pembroke, as well as such a variety of people: from early modern religious leaders, to 19th century science pioneers, to the achievements of those still living today and many more in between.
Working at a college library is a wonderfully unique experience, full of lots of Cambridge quirks but also providing a thorough introduction to academic libraries for a trainee. There is never a dull moment and plenty of surprise jobs and opportunities to attend to along the way.
On the 9th of January 2023, the Graduate Trainees visited Pembroke College Library to attend a talk on Law Libraries, as part of our professional development. Founded in 1347, Pembroke is one of the oldest Colleges in Cambridge, with architecture and library collections that reflect its development from a medieval house of study to a modern and dynamic academic institution.
The Waterhouse Library. Alfred Waterhouse designed many buildings in Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the Natural History Museum.
The Library has inhabited several locations within the College over the years. It originally existed in a corner of the medieval Old Court, before migrating to the original chapel building after Christopher Wren’s construction of another chapel in 1665. In 1875, the notable architect Alfred Waterhouse built a new Library as part of his refashioning of the College, and Pembroke’s collections now occupy the gloriously eclectic building, with its distinctive red brick façade, stained glass windows, and ornate Clock tower.
Stained glass windows inspired by Ted Hughes’ poetry refract light onto the writer’s desk.
The Waterhouse Library is home to 42,000 books, with strong specialisms in Art History and Law. This year’s Pembroke trainee showed us around the peaceful reading rooms, with views over Pembroke grounds, and took us to see Ted Hughes’ impressively ink-stained desk and chair, positioned underneath windows inspired by his poetic fascination with nature. More stained glass windows, designed by German artist Hans von Stockhausen in 2001, shade the vestibule stairwell, featuring woodcut illustrations of animals and botanical specimens taken from the work of Nehemiah Grew and William Turner, early botanists at the College, contributing to the chapel-like ambience of the Library.
We then attended a talk on the world of Law Libraries by the Assistant Librarian at Pembroke, who began her own career at one of the Inns of Courts in London. Law librarians can work with many different aspects of the law, and are employed in law firms, academic institutions with law libraries, some government libraries, and the Advocate’s Library in Edinburgh, all with different remits.
As England exists in a ‘common law’ jurisdiction, our legal system is based in the ‘doctrine of precedence’, through which sitting judges can respond to, uphold, or reject the previous judgements of older courts. Librarians, therefore, serve a vital purpose within the legal profession, ensuring barristers, solicitors, and clerks have the relevant information on these precedents required to win a case in court. Our speaker described the enjoyably fast-paced nature of this environment, as well as the warm and often collegiate atmosphere of the Inns of Court.
A quiet reading room in the Pembroke College Library.
Physical collections remain an integral part of legal information services, due to the mass of written material on historic cases. When referencing cases from many hundreds of years ago, librarians might even consult some of the early printed books still held in collections at the Inns of Court, adding a special collections element to the role. Databases, and database management, form a similarly vital part of the job. The Librarian showed us the highly specific referencing style within the different law books and online databases, which can aid finders in their search for individual cases. We examined the online judgement of the recent (and infamous) Rooney v Vardy case, to observe how these cases are disseminated as precedents after their conclusion.
It was fascinating to hear about the demands and rewards of this strand of librarianship, and revealed another possible path for our careers after the trainee year. It was also wonderful to observe the inner workings of Pembroke Library, with its peaceful demeanour and busy and vital Library service, hidden in the very heart of Cambridge.
When I first started at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the team rota felt pretty overwhelming to look at: with 6 full-time and 6 part-time Library Services Advisers, there is definitely a lot going on! I have removed the names of my colleagues from the screenshot below, but each row corresponds to a different Library Services Advisor. The bottom half of the rota lists our priority tasks, and we simply type our name next to the task we are doing in the appropriate time column. With a big team, this ensures that two people aren’t accidentally doing the same task at the same time.
The timetable does change daily though, meaning that no two days are the same. With it being the start of term, the timetable is currently quite full but at different times of the year, we have more blank slots (unallocated hours) so we can focus on individual or group projects.
Team rota for Tuesday 17 Janaury 2023
8:30 – 9:00: Building Walk After a very chilly cycle to work (the feels like temperate was -5!), I start my day with a building walk which – as the name suggests – is a walk around the library to make sure everything is in order. The usual things to look out for are health and safety hazards, faulty equipment, and broken lights. Apart from a few travelling chairs, the library was all in order. Time for a cup of tea!
09:00 – 10:00: Emails and Reading Lists Next, I’m on a blank slot which gives me a chance to go through the library email account. As term only started yesterday, it is still fairly quiet with only a handful of enquiries overnight. Today, they are pretty straight-forward: a book recommendation, query about loan length, and an alumni membership application. With some time left over, I start to order a few books from ARU’s reading lists. We have recently moved to a new reading list management system, Keylinks, which has made the whole process a lot smoother.
10:00 – 11:00: Phone & Chat Support I always find phone and chat support a strange hour because it’s so unpredictable – sometimes I don’t receive a single message/call, while other days can be significantly busier. Today is one of the quieter days, with only one 5-minute chat regarding literature reviews. With one eye on the phone/chat, I decide to continue ordering from the reading lists because it’s a good task to dip in and out of. In the end, I order 1 book to our Chelmsford campus and 17 books to our Cambridge campus.
11:00 – 12:00: Scanning I notice that there is a pending PDF scan request on Alma (our library database), so I do the usual checks before approving (are the number of pages compliant with copyright, is the item available electronically, have they requested from this book before). After completing the scan, I tackle accessibility. The chapter I am scanning from is an ocular anatomy book, and I must admit, I sometimes struggle with how best to add alt text to scientific figures. With one or more figures on each page, I take my time to ensure that the descriptive text is as useful as possible, should the patron use it.
12:00 – 13:00: Lunch With it being such a cold day, I decide to eat inside – on sunnier/warmer days, I love to get some fresh air with a stroll around nearby Mill Road Cemetery. After staring at a screen for a lot of the morning, it’s nice to take some time away and squeeze in some pages from my current read, So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell.
13:00 – 14:00: Help Desk Shifts at the desk have been really busy so far this week because there are lots of new students on campus as some courses have a January start date. To manage queues and help students more efficiently, there are 2 people on the desk between 11 and 4. The enquiries we receive are varied but the most common ones today were directional, password resets, WiFi issues, printing trouble, and how to use the self-service machines. I also had a few students who were struggling to find a book upstairs and as we can’t leave the desk, I radioed a colleague (who was on the ‘back up’ role) to help.
14:00 – 15:00: Back Up & Pick List After a busy hour on the desk, I make myself a cappuccino before tackling the pick list. There were 46 items on the pick list when I started and by the time I’d found the books on the shelves, processed them, and placed them on the requests shelf, the pick list already had 15 new items! There are currently 150 books on the requests shelf, waiting for collection. Luckily, the desk didn’t radio me for any support this hour, so I was able to focus on the pick list uninterrupted.
15:00 – 16:00: Pick List & Processing an External Membership I’m on a blank slot so I help the next person on the ‘back up’ role by finding the new items from the pick list. There is nothing to receive as there were no books or journals in the post today, so I process a new alumni membership application form. In need of a boost of energy, I then take a short chocolate break!
16:00 – 17:00: Roving & Shelving For the last hour of the day, I am tasked with roving. The main responsibility is to circulate all four floors to ensure that noise levels are appropriate and be visible in case any students need help. Roving is a nice opportunity to be away from a screen and walk around the library. It’s also a great time to get amongst the books and do some shelving. After a busy day, I cycle home for a relaxing evening.