Thursday, 2 February 2012

Library day in the life: round 8, day 3 (Wednesday 1st February)

Based in a different building today, where cataloguing is tucked away out of sight (and out of mind?) As I can't get to work much before 9.30 due to shepherding child to school, and as we had a two-hour general briefing session scheduled in yet another building at 10, my appearance at my desk was very brief. The ULS briefings are much less threatening then they sound: the format is a two hour session of presentations, and it's a good chance for everyone to get together and hear about ongoing projects and be generally updated and informed (and there are Welsh cakes, too!) They take place five or six times a year. This morning's sessions covered aspects of work with international students and staff, an IT project for managing statistics for e-resources (vital information for planning and budgeting), an update on the state of play with our store, and a lovely presentation from our archivist colleague on special collections exhibitions, including the current postgraduate exhibition. I particularly enjoyed her demonstration of how she uses the library catalogue to identify suitable items - using the author index, sorting by date for older material, looking for illustration information. I have not lived in vain after all! Somebody sees the point!

The briefings are held in various locations around the university, but luckily this time there was not too far to go, so a brisk short walk back to cataloguing for the rest of the afternoon, as a scheduled meeting with the academic school about our online repository had been postponed.

Until recently we were pretty much on top of current cataloguing, but a backlog is beginning to build up (seven shelves at the moment) - cataloguing staff who have left have not been replaced, and those remaining have many other calls on their time.We are a central department serving a number of site libraries using several classification schemes and other local procedures. Everybody is in favour of standardising, speeding things up, and simplifying, until it comes to their own part (with honourable exceptions!) The various procedures are less complicated than they used to be, but there is still a way to go before it is straightforward across the sites. I pushed some urgent items through the system, but otherwise I am trying to concentrate on the many boxes and piles of items which have been sent to me directly. I can see myself disappearing entirely behind all this stuff if I don't. The bookless library, and the paperless office, are a long way off!

I also spent some time on a few book orders and book-related queries, including chasing several "ghosts": instances where a book has been mentioned in an article or interview and flagged up by an academic as being of interest, but no trace can be found of the book ever having been published. This seems to happen quite often, and can be time-consuming: it is not always easy to prove that something doesn't exist! I eventually abandoned one such altogether: it is in no library anywhere in the world and there is no mention of it on the alleged publisher's website or in any of the usual bookselling sources.

I had a tidier desk by the end of the day, which has to be a step in the right direction!

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