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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!

Staff circulation

January 10th, 2008

I’m over a third of the way through my graduate trainee placement, since the start of this month, and this not only means I’m through a significant portion of my pre-library school training (one step closer to a job as a real librarian!) but also that I’ve reached the first departmental switch of my post. In the graduate trainee posts at Essex (which, for some reason, are known locally as student assistant posts) three staff are usually recruited, and they rotate around the different departments of the library, spending two thirds of the year in the Cataloguing department, and one third of the year in the Interlibrary loan department.

I’ve been up in Cataloguing until now, but I’m moving down to Interlibrary loans today – meaning I’ve got the ‘sandwich’ year, which I’m pretty happy with. This is not only a change in terms of my duties, but a change in location. Cataloguers are based ‘upstairs’ in the staff-only office, on the first floor. Interlibrary loaners (Loners? Surely that can’t be right?!) are based on the ground floor, in a little office hidden in the short loan section, behind the main circulation desk.

The teams on the first and ground floors overlap in duties to some extent, but often operate independently. All the subject librarians are upstairs in Cataloguing, along with the accessions and labelling departments, and the deputy and head librarians. The team downstairs centres on the desk, and includes user services librarians and a large team of library assistants, some of whom are term-time only. The upshot of all this is that I’ll be in a completely different section of the library from last term. I still keep all my shelving, enquiry desk and late night duties, but I’ll be more likely to be asked to work on the desk if it’s busy.

I’m definitely looking forward to doing Interlibrary loans. It’s a service I used a huge amount during my PhD – and, as I do my corrections, I may need to use again. This means I know a lot about it from the point of view of the user, but very little of how it works in the library, with the exception of issuing procedure. We’ve already had our library talk from the head of Interlibrary loans, so I’ve got more of an idea of how things work, but it’s a new section of the system to learn, and new procedures to follow. Another good way of deciding exactly what I’d like to do in my future career!