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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

Move to accessions

June 18th, 2008

Recently I’m been faced with that age-old problem – not too little to blog about, but too little time to blog it. One of the major reasons for this problem is that I’ve moved departments again! I just returned to cataloguing last month, but at the last minute was shifted into the accessions department at the beginning of June. Briefly, from next year it has been decided that all the trainees here will move among three departments – cataloguing, interlibrary loans and accessions. In order to facilitate these changes it made sense to move me into accessions already, and so off I went!

Of course, this is a good opportunity for me. Getting to see three departments instead of two adds another feather to my cap (or line to my CV) and accessions is the only section of the library I didn’t think I was going to see. It’s interesting to see the books as they come into the library, to get a better hold on how the financial side of things works, and to perfect that age old librarian skill of stamping books with the library’s name. This is something that my book collector brother would probably consider particularly nasty vandalism; apparently library books are a complete disaster from a collector’s point of view, with all the stamps and stickers and labels and suchforth.

So far it’s been a good experience, and I’m beginning to settle in to the extent that I’m feeling useful: I can get a book ready for cataloguing and pay and send off invoices, which feels like a significant contribution to the department. The end of term’s approaching, so when we move to termtime hours and off our late-night circulation and enquiry desk rotas I’m going to be in acccessions for significant periods of time. But there are still library visits and the annual stocktake to provide plenty of variety, so it’s not going to be all accession posts from now on!

Ooh, final news, our posters from the public library are on their way! Lots more to do!

Back in Cat(aloguing)

May 7th, 2008

So, I’m over two thirds of the way through my traineeship, and back in the cataloguing department. This means waving goodbye to the cosy little office that is interlibrary loans, and back to the wide open spaces that are cataloguing. I’m picking up stuff again reasonably quickly – as I was assured, cataloguing is rather like riding a bicycle, except I can’t ride a bicycle, and I can, to some degree, catalogue, as I hope I’ve been proving this week!

So, having experienced my fill of the library’s departments (at least the ones we get to actively experience) I suppose I ought to jot down a few thoughts. The first is something that has come up a couple of times in this blog before, and that’s the idea of circulation. The great thing about switching between departments is that you get to see the links between those departments. I’ve never worked in acquisitions, but as soon as books are ordered and received, they come straight through to be catalogued. They get labelled – okay, so I miss this step! – then I get to shelve them, issue them on my circulation desk shifts in the evenings and weekends, and then they come back to me to shelve again. In addition, having worked in interlibrary loans, I now know what it’s like when other libraries want our books, and how we deal with researchers with wider needs than we can serve through our books and journals alone, which is pretty central to my interest in supporting research. I’ve got a much wider appreciation for the system of libraries than I had before I worked here, even though I was behind the desk in a library before.

In addition, I think I’ve picked up some pretty cool skills here. Not a lot of graduate trainees get to catalogue, and while I’m not sure that’s terribly heartbreaking (and although cataloguing’s not my dream job) it’s illuminating to understand cataloguing at a certain level, and I’m sure it’ll stand me in good stead in library school and future job interviews. Getting enquiry desk experience has given me oodles to think about in terms of how to interact with library users, and again is something really important to have on my CV. I keep on saying that this post has been a great preparation for library school. I’ve still got 4 months before I’ll find out how true that is!

Weekend shift

April 20th, 2008

I’m in for my first Sunday of the term. Actually, I’m in for my last Sunday of the term. Each term staff of my level are assigned approximately one Saturday and two Sundays to work. This term I’ve been assigned one Saturday, one Sunday, and one Saturday reserve. Generally, Sundays are better to work than Saturdays as overtime pay is better, and the hours are shorter and (for me) more convenient. However, if I manage to avoid being called in on reserve, I only have two weekend shifts this term. We’ll see whether this works out well or not so well.

There are obvious downsides to working weekends, but I’ve got mixed feelings about this. In my old job I was an ‘access assistant’ which entailed working the hours which the core library staff didn’t support: 16.45 to 21.15 twice a week on weekdays, and alternate Saturdays, although there was a member of the core staff on with me 16.45 to 19.00 on my weekday shifts. In my current post the core staff work weekends on shifts, meaning that the load is spread. I can see the upsides of both systems. If you can get the same staff working at weekends they have a far better idea of what’s going on, and can provide a more professional service. But on the other hand, when I chose to work unsociable shifts in my old job this was a conscious choice on my part – in fact I was pleased to be able to work at those times. This meant I was far more enthusiastic and happy about working at those times, and didn’t feel put upon, as I sometimes do now when my weekend shifts come up.

This all ties into the professionalism debate in librarianship. I’m about to embark on training to become a professional librarian, but in my time in libraries I’ve fulfilled various roles and provided a lot of help as a library assistant. The thing I like about weekend shifts in my current job is that there are genuine librarians on-site whenever the library’s open. However, I wouldn’t knock the level of service I managed to provide as the sole member of counter staff in my old post. Part of the reason I was able to help people out was because I was a PhD student at the university, and knew my way around research and the library system, it wasn’t my job to know as such. However, with staff of a high standard willing to work unsociable hours, is it always necessary to have a qualified librarian on-site? I’m afraid I’m going to cop out, and say that I really don’t know.