Archive for the ‘ Library ’ Category

In the library on 11th September 2001

Some time ago (i.e several years), I mentioned the experience of working in the library at the time of the 9/11 attacks.  The library serves the main campus of a new university (at the time it was still a “university college” of around 10,000 students, and this would have been just before the start of term.  I had been in post for a year, and it was the day of the annual library staff meeting (a tradition which we no longer maintain due to the perceived need to keep absolutely full service going all year round).  Three staff were left behind in the library foyer to attend to any students or academic who happened to wander in and the rest of us went off to the meeting which was as exciting as such meetings generally are.

Half way through the meeting, there was a change of shift, with a few people disappearing back to the library while those who had been on duty came back up.  Or should have come back up.  Only one of the three made it to the meeting venue, and she looked rather shaken.  When asked what was wrong, she simply said that there had been a plane crash in New York and I’m afraid we thought nothing more of it – plane crashes are unusual and tragic, of course, but not extraordinary enough to interrupt a staff meeting, surely?

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A short while ago, I had a dream with a surprisingly complex plot, a dream which surprised me, when I reflected upon it, with what it revealed about me.  I am now a few months into my new job, and this was the second work-related dream I can remember during this period.  The first thing that transpired in the dream in question was that there was to be a protest – in the current climate of cuts to higher education, rising tuition fees and changes to pensions, this is not exactly unusual on university campuses, but this one would involve both staff and students.

In my dream, I said I couldn’t join the protest because I’m not a union member, so would be continuing to work in the library (which the protest was right outside) for the benefit of those students not protesting.  However, things soon escalated and the protest grew volatile.  I had to ensure that some students on the roof didn’t cause damage to the building, and I had to quell some violence in the car park, where some cars were being attacked.  My dream self confronted rioting students and persuaded them not to vandalise the staff cars there, as they may well belong to their fellow protesters.  Things continued in this stressful and frightening vein for quite some time, until the protest was finally over.

For slightly unclear reasons, I felt terrible about what had happened, and when the other staff members were returning to the library, I went and hid.  However, when I came out of hiding, a group of them (including more senior members of staff) were waiting for me to say that it didn’t matter.  I was presented with some sort of membership card which proved I was now truly a part of the team there – they had even brailled it, so that I could show it to both of my housemates.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that my subconscious mind was/is clearly wrestling with the question of belonging, and whether I fit in at the new library – it appears that my mind is telling me that yes, I do belong there. However, it has struck me since that the dream has wider application than the obvious one, as I have a tendency to worry and wonder whether I belong in other environments. In some of my performing contexts, my awareness of my lack of training makes me doubt whether I fit with the others in the cast. In some social situations, I feel on the sidelines and wonder whether that’s OK or not. Recently, I’ve been in this position more frequently than usual, so it is no surprise that the issue of belonging has been bubbling away in my subconscious. Perhaps I need to take my lead from the dream’s conclusion and start telling myself that I am not an outsider. I belong.

What does a librarian do all day? – revisited

Some months ago, I wrote about what I actually get up to at work.  Since then, I have had a major change of job, though still within the world of higher education librarianship, so I thought it was about time I updated this to reflect my new role.  My job function is known by many different names in many different universities, but essentially I am a subject librarian, with my particular subject specialism being health.  This is a surprisingly broad area at my place of work, encompassing various branches of nursing, along with medical imaging, dental practice, occupational therapy, midwifery, speech and language therapy, cardiology, operating department practice, paramedic science and (soon) minimally invasive surgery as well as health administration and other areas of professional practice.

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New chapters

I start my new job tomorrow.

“I start my new job tomorrow.”

Six words, none of them complex.  The sentence as a whole probably isn’t all that earth-shattering, either, even if you put it in quotation marks.  But it is a momentous thing for me to write, and it brings distinctly mixed feelings.

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Work ethic

I’m feeling rather guilty today, as I am not at work.  For the first time since 2006, I have taken a sick day, only the third since I started at the old Library of Doom back in September 2000.  Generally, I think “I’m not ill enough to miss work” and carry on regardless, which probably makes me a mucus trooper, one of those people who ensures that everyone else gets sick, which probably isn’t all that admirable really.  I did make an effort to get in today, despite feeling terribly achy all over.  It was the moment when I stepped into the shower and thought “ooh, I feel dizzy” that convinced me otherwise.  I still feel bad about missing a day of work, as I have a very strong work ethic, but hopefully a day off will mean that I can be more productive tomorrow.  I have a horrible feeling that I was on the rota for our equivalent to the issue desk quite a bit today – I can hopefully repay anyone who had to step in for me when I return.

Category error

Yesterday, I catalogued a frog.  I often get to catalogue some peculiar items as part of my job, as our library stock includes a collection of ‘things’ used by student teachers.  Artefacts for use in history and religious education, stopwatches and trundle wheels for maths, board games for all sorts of subjects.  And a frog.  Specifically, a beanbag frog called Fred, which is used to teach phonics (in conjunction with other resources, mostly books and flashcards).  I’m not sure how this works, exactly, but according to the publishers, Fred Frog is only able to communicate in pure sounds.  Poor chap.

Cataloguing these oddities makes my job that little bit more interesting, and Fred Frog was no exception.  However, dealing with him (it?) did introduce a major category error in my mind, for I discovered that Fred Frog has an ISBN (9780199116546 if you’re interested).  This is most odd.  ISBN, for those not initiated, stands for International Standard Book Number.  Not thing number, toy number, amphibian number or random item number. Book number.  Fred Frog is rather lovely.  Fred Frog is probably very useful.  Fred Frog cheered me up no end, particularly when his picture appeared in my catalogue record (due to the ISBN being picked up).  But he is not a book.  Not even the most generous definition of ‘book’ could stretch to include a frog-shaped beanbag toy.  Some things are just wrong.  And amusing though it may be, a frog with an ISBN is definitely one of those things.

A decade

On the weekend before Footloose, I passed a rather significant milestone: 10 years of working at the Library of Doom and its successor, the Shiny New Learning Centre.  In that time, I have held four different positions, starting as a library assistant before moving up to senior library assistant in charge of inter-library loans (later taking on responsibility for electronic forms of document delivery as well).  For a few months, I was seconded into an assistant librarian role, looking after a team of people with responsibility for front-line services, and for the last year and a bit I have been in charge of cataloguing.

Even with four different roles, it seems rather strange that I’ve been there for ten years.  Rather a long time, and nearly a third of my life thus far.  I have colleagues who have been there far longer than I, and are probably there for life.  I don’t see myself working in the same place for life, but who knows?  Maybe a decade is long enough to be thoroughly immovable.

Over these years, I have accumulated many memories.  Of lovely co-workers and silly students, of political disputes and lovely students, of excitements and disappointments, of vibrations and fire alarms.  There was September 11th 2001, which I will never forget (and which I will, one day, blog about).  There was the strangeness of S Club Library.  There was the flood in the foyer which was the first time the place got called the Library of Doom, and the time a shelf tried to kill me.  There was the day we all dressed as characters from books, and there was the summer we spent moving books around in the shiny new building.  My fellow workers have become something of a fan club (even waiting outside the dressing room door and screaming when I emerged after Rodgers With an H). There have been many frustrations, but also many joys.  I have no idea what the next ten years will hold in career terms, but I don’t regret the last ten at the (former) Library of Doom.

What does a librarian actually do all day?

It is quite clear that librarianship is one of the most misunderstood professions out there.  People really have no idea what librarians spend their time doing, why they might want to do it or even what the point of librarians is.  Our image has been improved in recent decades thanks to characters such as the Discworld’s Librarian and Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Rupert Giles, but still the overriding image is of a severe-looking lady with her hair in a bun, grumpily stamping books and telling people to be quiet.  Not always accurate – if nothing else, I’m no lady!

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Bad vibrations

I’m picking up bad vibrations.
They’re giving me palpitations:
Bad, bad, bad, bad vibrations!

Yes, the sparkly new learning centre has turned against me, clearly determined to drive me away.  For the past few weeks, the floor in my office has been vibrating, sending shudders through my desk, my chair and my body, and sometimes causing the shelves behind me to rattle.  Some of my colleagues have also been experiencing the vibrations, though some of them are only aware of the phenomenon when it visibly affects an inanimate object, such as causing water bottles to shake or computer monitors to jiggle from side to side.  And those who are aware of the vibrations react differently.  Unfortunately, I seem to be particularly sensitive to them.

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In/out/in/out, shake us all about…

Last year, I wrote about the general inability this country has to cope with snow.  It appears that we have learned little, if anything from the experience and our recent attack of the frozen white stuff has caused even more confusion and problems than the last.  Partly this is down to a lack of snow-related infrastructure  and contingency – unlike places where heavy snow is a frequent event, our train tracks can’t cope with ice, our cars lack winter tyres and even main roads can quickly become impassable.

Just like everywhere else, the shiny new learning centre was affected by the turn in the weather.  On the first day of snow, a number of staff left early in order not to miss the last busses and trains to their various home towns, then many of them found themselves unable to get in on either the second or third day due to the public transport system running away and whimpering in a corner somewhere.  However, a large number of staff did manage to attend, and services were able to run as normal.  But the general air of panic which seemed to sweep the country (even in areas like mine which were not so seriously affected) meant that before long, services could not continue as usual after all.  The whole university was closed at 12 noon on the Friday (the third day of snow), to reopen after the weekend, much to the surprise of the throng of library staff who were merrily getting on with our various tasks.  Still, we didn’t complain too much, to be honest – I, for one, loved the snowy walk with the dogs which the free afternoon allowed me to take.

Then the confusion set in.

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