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.

Nefarious library behaviour

Yesterday, a rather blatant attempt to steal some library books was made.  We did not catch the perpetrator in the act of leaving with their attempted contraband, but we found the evidence of their failed attempt.  Two brand new books, never borrowed, were discovered in  the short loan collection, hurriedly abandoned.  Their spine labels had been scratched off along with some other identifying stickers, and the first page (with barcode attached) had been removed, probably with a razor blade.  Other identifying marks remained, including 7-day loan stickers on the front cover, and our stamps on strategic pages within.  We have long suspected when we find books with their barcodes missing that people think that the barcode is what sets the security gates off if you attempt to leave with a book you haven’t actually borrowed.  It isn’t.  In this case, they had obviously checked to make sure there was nothing in/behind the spine label either, but they had failed to find the actual trigger for the security system, which is rather more cunningly hidden.  The person in question will have set the alarm off on the way out and probably made some sort of excuse to the security guard (“oh yes, I forgot I had some books in my bag – I’ll just go and issue them to myself”), then dumped the books in frustration.

We can fix the damage fairly easily.  Spine labels can be replaced, new barcodes can be put in, and nasty sticky residue from other bits that have been peeled off can be removed.  But it is still extremely frustrating that some people seem to think that vandalising and/or stealing our stock is acceptable.  Even if we ignore the library’s point of view, it denies other students the opportunity to read the book, and potentially takes away money from the library budget which could have been used for new stock.  Incidents like this certainly put my laptop rage into proper library perspective.

This is not the first incident of its kind, of course.  We often find books with missing barcodes, for example, and surmise that this is the reason.  However, it is the most obvious attempt made recently.  Some years ago, we had a rash of people stealing journal articles by ripping the pages out, or sometimes removing them carefully with a razor blade.  One notable incident occurred when a student removed some pages from a journal and proceeded to stick one of them into her essay, complete with “Do not remove from the library” stamp.  Quite why she couldn’t have typed the section up and at least pretended it was her work, I do not know.  She got into trouble for both vandalism and plagiarism.  When thieves and vandals can be positively identified, the university takes a hard line on them.  And quite right too.  Attacking the books is surely the worst of library crimes, far above negligence, rudeness or loudness.


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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.

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