It’s a short life being a trainee, only 6 months in to our jobs and already a lot of them are being advertised for the next group of trainees to take over in September. With this in mind we thought it might be a good idea for the current trainees to blog an average day for where we work. There is a great deal of diversity for the trainees as each work place comes with different roles and different sets of challenges, from large subject specialist libraries, to college libraries, to the university archive – no day is the same for each of us. Hopefully the posts over the next two weeks will give you an idea of the kind of work we do, as well as pointing out the similarities and differences in each work place.
08:30 – 9:00 Opening up
As the SSL is quite a big library I don’t have to open up every day but today is my day to be in at 8.30 to make sure we can open the doors at 8.45, and there is already a group of students waiting for us to open when I arrive. Reader and issue desk computers are switched on, discussion rooms unlocked, printer paper topped up, and holds that have not been collected by users before they expire are reshelved. At 9am we bring in the returns box which is kept outside the library doors over night and return all the books from there.
09:00 – 9:30 Email queries
There are usually a lot of email queries to answer first thing in the morning so it takes me half an hour to get everything in the inbox answered. With two trainees in the SSL both doing the same job we manage to keep on top of things quite well even at busy times, so the email account is checked frequently throughout the day as well. The emails we get range from people telling us why they haven’t been able to return books, to researchers asking about access to databases or how to locate a rare report. Some of what we get (such as requests about purchasing items or inter library loans) can be forwarded on to the most appropriate person in the library, but if it is something we can answer for them (with a bit of research ourselves) then we always try to. We also take care of booking out our discussion rooms which are heavily used during term time. This can take some time to do as we also update the website so people can check themselves when the rooms are available, today there is only one room booking so I can move on to the next task quickly once that is done.
As a heavily used lending library we do get a lot of books returned that are in various states of needing repair, a lot of times it is simply a badly bound book that has fallen apart just by being opened. This morning I spend half an hour assessing the books that may need repair as the pile is getting ever larger. I first make sure the book is showing as “in repair” on the catalogue so that readers know it is out of circulation. There are then a series of checks such as if the book is on a reading list, if it is heavily in demand, if it can be repaired or needs to be sent for rebinding, how much it would cost to replace. We seem to have quite a lot of books that cannot be repaired so I prioritise which ones are on reading lists as they will have to be sent to the bindery first. Later this week we will box up the books to be sent off and arrange for them to be collected.
10:00 – 10:45 Team meeting
Once a week in term time we have a reader services team meeting. This is a great chance for us to get together and discuss any issues we may need to know about. It is also a good opportunity for staff to be reminded about things which may come up on the desk. This is useful because there are a lot of new people on the team so it’s good to hear about things we may not have encountered before. This week we’re being reminded about the change from vacation rules about storing people’s books behind the desk for them, and about our core text collection.
10:45 – 11:05 Time for a tea break.
11:05 – 11:25 Email queries
I check the email account again and notice a few long queries from readers who had returned books over the weekend but were still on their account. I have a look for the books which I find and let them know I’ve removed it from their account. Sometimes we have to email them back to say we can’t find the book and a few days later they let us know they accidentally returned it to another library, which his very easy to do in Oxford given how many libraries there are.
11:25 – 12:00 Book Processing
Now it’s time to do some book processing. We get a lot of new books in from the Bodleian which we will keep at the SSL so these need shelfmarks putting on and need alarms putting in them, but we also get a lot of books we have purchased which are shelf ready. With both types I have to check the shelfmark is correct then input data on to our system so that the book appears correctly in the catalogue. As soon as that is done the books can be put out to be shelved or placed on the ‘New Books’ display if they’re interesting looking.
12:00 – 12:30 Issue Desk
My first stint of the day on the issue desk is just before lunch. Every staff member in the SSL takes turns on the issue desk so we’re normally only on for an hour at a time, half an hour at very busy times. Today is especially busy. With term just starting there are a lot of books returning so I’m on my feet constantly returning and issuing books. I deal with a few issues from readers about how to set up printing accounts and how to use the binding machine. At the SSL we have information sheets for pretty much anything so after a quick explanation most people are happy to go away with a leaflet and work on it themselves. Although sometimes things (ie computers) don’t work the way they’re supposed to so it can take a bit longer to help someone get access.
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch time
1:30 – 2:30 Issue Desk
I’m straight back on the issue desk after lunch and it’s still very busy in the library. I have a reader who has brought a friend along from an Italian university and they would like access to study in the library for the day. I issue them with a day pass which we can give for up to three days, any more I tell them, and you’ll have to go to Bodleian admissions to get a card. I spent probably 5 minutes unjamming a stapler that has decided to eat some staples and not give them back, the reader I’m doing this for seems very amused when I get out some tweezers to release the blockage – I have clearly done this before. The afternoon delivery arrives from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon so I spend half an hour scanning in the stack requests readers have ordered. Today there are 5 boxes of books so it takes a while as I also have to keep issuing/returning/helping with enquiries at the desk. I think the longest it has taken us to receive in one box of stack requests is an hour due to how busy the desk is.
2:30 – 3:30 Shelving
With 1000s of books being returned after the Christmas vacation the reshelving trolleys are overflowing so we try to reshelve as often as we can at the beginning of term. We have to make sure that all reference books are reshelved within 24 hours and other items within 48, so far this year I think we’ve succeeded!
3:30 – 3:50 Afternoon break
I grab a cup of tea for my afternoon break but end up spending it checking the email account and answering some queries about late returns. A few readers have left books at home over the vacation so they can’t yet return them. I make sure the books are renewed to give them a bit more time to return them and I also put a note on their account to say they’ve been in touch as we always try to help people who let us know if they’re having problems returning books
3:50 – 4:30 Missing book search
When a reader reports to us at the desk that they can’t find a book a form is filled out with the details and it is the trainees job to search for the books. This is one of my most favourite and least favourite parts of the job, usually depending on if I can find the book. It is very satisfying to be able to help someone who urgently needs an item that has been missing for a while. It’s also very frustrating when you can’t find it, we just have to hope it’s here somewhere and will turn up so we search every few days for missing books. I also spend this time looking for some books that people have told us they returned but are still on their account. We search for these books quite a few times in case they are definitely here but in the wrong place. Today I find one missing book but the reader who wanted it hasn’t left their details so I can’t tell them it’s been found, I put it back in the correct place and hope they find it later.
4:30 – 5:00 Wrapping up the day
There are lots of other things that the SSL trainees do but this is not the kind of job where you have the same duties every day so I take a look at a list of things I need to do to see if there is anything else for today. There are a few books from the Radcliffe Science Library which have been returned here by mistake so I contact the reader and ask them to come and pick the books up. I realise I haven’t dealt with any incoming post today so Sara must have done it all earlier, I quickly check to see if there is anything delivered this afternoon and there are a few bits of post for staff which I pop in their post trays. I note down that today I haven’t done anything from my list of low use books to be removed from circulation, or books to change the status from reference only to normal loan, there are also more books to be processed and we need to start processing the books going to the bindery, these are all on my list for tomorrow.