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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.

Interlibrary loans start up

January 15th, 2008

Well, I’m in my first week at interlibrary loans. I moved down on Thursday, so I’ve only had 3 days as an official member of the department, but I’m beginning to learn the pieces of the puzzle. At a contrast to cataloguing, where there’s one big process you have to slowly learn, interlibrary loans consists of lots of little bits and pieces that are relatively easy to pick up, but which are harder to reconcile. I’ve separately learnt how to order books from the British Library, how to return books to the British Library, and how to process incoming books from the British Library, and it’s only when I have a few seconds to take a step back and think (as I’m doing right now) that I’ve realised that’s actually the whole lifecycle of the book. At least, the whole lifecycle minus the bit where the student / staff member actually uses it! There’s a slightly shorter process for journal articles, as these tend to arrive electronically, but I haven’t followed through the whole thing yet!

There’s quite a big contrast between downstairs and upstairs so far. As ILL is near the circulation desk it’s far more caught up in the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the library, and I find I’m moving around a lot more, and trying to multi-task a lot of the time. This is quite rewarding as I feel more involved in the day-to-day life of the library, but it can be a problem when trying to pick up new tasks! Luckily my previous experience manning the counter on my own at Nottingham forced me to develop super duper prioritisation skills.

In terms of getting settled into a routine, this week’s a bit of a challenge. Mondays (yesterday) I work a late night during termtime, which means I’m on the counter 5 to 10pm, and only arrive in the library at 3. Tuesday (today) I’m at the enquiry desk from 1 to 5pm. Wednesday (tomorrow) I have my interview at Sheffield – more about this will follow, doubtless. Thursday I’m giving a library tour in the morning, and have one of our series of trainee talks in the afternoon. Finally, Friday I’m back down in ILL for a whole day, but the two other members of the ILL team are working late nights, so I’m on my own until 3pm! There’s plenty of support around for me, but I’ll be the only member of staff officially assigned to ILL, so the idea is for me to be able to do all the basics by then to keep the place running. We’ll see how the multi-tasking goes then!

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!