Librarians, eh? What do we do? Sit at desks waiting to answer questions? Stamp dates in books?
Not any more… Welcome to a day in the life of Ellie Enquiries*…
It’s 8:50am and I’ve arrived at my desk. The walk in to walk was a blustery one, and my feet are soggy because of *that* puddle outside the library.
First up this morning is “elibrary”. I fire up the computer on my desk and open all the browser tabs I’m likely to need (there are quite a few!). I delete the inevitable spam, forward messages which need to be referred to other people, then (working from the oldest to most recent, in order of receipt) reply to as many of the enquiries as I can within the hour I have allotted. Elibrary is the main email address to which library enquiries are sent. It’s the one on the website, it’s the one we promote, and it’s the one which our online enquiry form sends to. As you can imagine, it can get pretty busy. Before the hour is up, I’ve checked whether a database is working off-campus, advised a student about referencing some weird and wonderful resources (where do they find these things?) and checked some information for a lecturer. I’ve also checked over the reports from our out-of-hours service, and recorded and dealt with any unresolved library-related enquiries.
A quick glug of tea, and I’m on the Support Services Desk – that’s the white, round one on the ground floor. Three or four student IT assistants are already here. There are students packed around the tables in front of me, some with laptops and headphones, some working in groups, some chatting on the “pebble” seats. There’s a constant hum of noise, a continual flow of people passing through the area on their way to the printers, the scanners, the other floors. From the cafe, the aroma of fresh coffee floats by on the air. Enquiries are passed backwards and forwards between the IT assistants and I as we filter each others specialisms from the array of approaching clients. The hour and a half passes in a blur of bright lights.
No time for a rest, because next up is Roaming – getting out from behind the desk and answering questions where they arise, be that amongst the bookshelves, at catalogue terminals or even in the cafe! I help students find books whose unfathomably long shelfmark numbers are causing confusion, fix a paper jam in the first floor photocopier, tidy away a pile of books dumped in completely the wrong section of the library, remind a few groups of students that the second floor is for silent study, and find some tissues for someone with a cold.
Lunchtime. Phew! I could read a book, but opt instead for ipad scrabble and a glass of cold coke (for the caffeine).
Sixty minutes later and I’m sitting at the information desk on the first floor. It’s quieter than downstairs, but with more stock shelved here there are inevitably far more questions about the locations of books. There are also more subject and research related enquiries. I help a student looking for information on gender issues in human resources, locate some radiography textbooks for another, and demonstrate Discovery to two students who’ve never used it. Between enquiries, I recheck elibrary to see whether any new emails have arrived. They have, of course. A whole raft of them. So I answer these.
Mid-afternoon, and I hurry along to one of our seminar rooms. I’m booked in for one of our staff training sessions, and it’s about to start. The room is full, so I creep in and sit down at the back. There are handouts, and I make notes on these as we go. I’ll file these in my weekly diary both for reference and to help with any CPD documentation I’m asked to provide. Aah, the host for this session has brought along biscuits! That’ll help get me through to 5 o’clock.
Leaving the training session, I’m stopped by a colleague. Do I know about a database that doesn’t seem to be working? I don’t. She asks if I can check it for her… Twenty minutes later, emails sent and process workflow for e-resource problems followed, I switch off my computer and pull on my coat.
The cold wind is still howling outside, and the rain has topped up that puddle yet again. The seagulls circle above me as I walk along the seafront. We’re often reminded that reflection is really important, and with all the surface water around me it’s not that hard to do. Every semester-time day is busy, but also different. Enquiries are never quite the same; what one person needs help with is always different from what another person needs. If I’ve helped someone understand Dewey, find out how to use a database, or even just renew their books, I’ve made a difference. And that’s worth going out in the rain for.
*Not her real name
Photo by .SilentMode