Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Library Day in the Life Day 2

I hope today's post will be slightly shorter now that I have filled in some of the background explanation to what I do... Lots of people seemed to enjoy reading the first post; comments mainly centred around the fact that I swim before work (after 3 years it is so much part of my routine that I don't even think about it - yes it is a little painful but no more than getting in the shower is when you are sleepy) and the heavy lifting involved. This is in part as a result of the historic building in which I work - there is no lift in the Radcliffe Camera so all of the books have to be carried up and downstairs by hand. But even in the Upper Reading Room where the books are brought in by a lift, we still have to unpack the books from the boxes and transfer them to a trolley and wheel them to the desk to be scanned in (and then put them away). It doesn't really bother me because carrying books around has been an element of every library job that I have had, although it is worse in Oxford's historical buildings. We all recieve manual handling training in how to lift books safely and it is just a question of getting on with it.

Like yesterday, I am spending the morning in the Upper Camera. The morning begins again with the turnout (although I have forgotten my swipe card and have to pop out when my fiance kindly brings it in for me), and I carry a large pile of books downstairs. After that it is on to Trying To Get Things Done.

Today I am focusing on a task for the history librarian. She has identified a list of titles which are in high demand in the History Faculty Library which are not on the open shelves in the Upper Camera, so we will need to order these up. There has been some discussion as to whether or not to ingest them into the normal classification sequence, but we have decided to make a temporary sequence. Unfortunately there is already a temporary sequence, so in order to avoid confusing readers, I need to arrange for that to disappear too (luckily the books in it were only here "temporarily" (and they've been here about 5 years). I end up having a discussion as to whether we should investigate using printed sticky labels rather than using paper and paste. This needs to be referred to the supervisors' meeting and then to the Reader Services Senior Staff Meeting, so I submit this as an agenda item. I consult with my Upper Camera colleagues as to the progress they are making on other work before deciding how to allocate the tasks.

Delivery arrives at 10.30; we put it away and I head off to coffee break. On the way back, my manager has asked me to call in to finish going through the risk assessment for the Upper Reading Room (we did the Upper Camera last week, but it was such an involved process that we couldn't face doing 2 on the trot). I have a couple of other things to talk to her about so I don't get back to the UCam until 12:15, just in time to give a hand with the next delivery, catch up on emails that have arrived since I left for coffee, and then go off to lunch.

After buying some hyacinths in M and S to cheer up a rather gloomy day and a coffee in Pret a Manger, I head off to the Upper Reading Room for the afternoon. I have various things to check as a result of the risk assessment conversation earlier and email my manager with various updates (checking that cables are tidy, checking the number of lights out, checking when a first aid certificate will expire and acquiring some more heavy duty gloves for the team member who finds them helpful for unpacking boxes). One of my team asks me about a problem with a missing book that we had yesterday and I update the catalogue. I then field readers for a bit while two members of staff put some books back on the shelves; we had a leak before Christmas, followed by clouds of dust as a result of building work which meant that the books which had been moved for the leak got quite dirty. They have now been cleaned by conservation and have to go back on the shelves. As readers return books that they have finished with, I either put them back on the shelf for another day or scan them out and box them up to be taken away. It is busy and I don't get much done apart from dealing with readers.

Delivery arrives at 3.30pm and it's all hands on deck to unpack the boxes, check that the right books have been sent, scan the books in and put them away. I get excited as someone has ordered up a Virago Modern Classic, Sunlight on a broken column, which I have never come across and it looks like a particularly interesting one! I may have to order that up to read sometime as copies on Amazon are pricey. We have about 150 books in this delivery. Tea breaks also need to happen. I was resigned to not taking one but need to nip out for some sugar so take ten minutes while my other colleague takes his full half hour before the other two go. We're still putting away the first delivery when the second delivery arrives at 4.30. It is another big one - we've all forgotten how busy term-time is but it feels like things are busier than ever. At the same time the photocopiers are having big wobblies - they connect to an external payment server, but in the afternoon when everyone is photocopying in all of the libraries around Oxford the system is at full capacity and today it is struggling to cope so there are readers to pacify; we put that away, and then there are just 10 minutes left to wrap things up before I leave. I haven't quite finished things at 5pm but I've asked for a lift home as I'm tired and it's raining and don't want to keep my fiance waiting.


  1. I was amazed that you have training on lifting books. No wonder you can make so many cakes,you keep fit with all the lifting and the swimming.
    The library sounds like it has nearly every book available to readers. I wasn't expecting you to mention any fiction, I had presumed all the books were non fiction.

  2. What hectic days you have, Verity. This is very interesting and it's great to have this insight into what goes on in the Bodley.

  3. It sounds like a lovely place to work. Is it peaceful? Do not fancy a job swap do you? I could do with some peace and at list books would not cause me stress!

    I did my 1k in the pool today in 23 minutes, it is amazing how fast you can go when you have had a bad day a work.


Do leave a comment - I love to hear from people who read my blog.