Today is the first day of this week on which I will be working as a member of a library’s staff rather than a self-employed information professional managing my own workload in my own time. I’ll also be spending around four hours volunteering in the afternoon, so it’s a really busy day, and one that helps to demonstrate how being a librarian, library worker or information professional is not necessarily a quiet, cloistered occupation dominated by routines at all.
During my four-hour morning shift, I’ll be working at a large central public library in a busy town centre. I’ll be helping the users find their way around the building and operate the self-service machines as well as answering their basic enquiries (the advanced ones are handed on to my more experienced colleagues at the enquiry desk). This is a job I really like - if you care about the public library service, what better way to make a difference to people’s perceptions than working right in the front line?
As well as assisting users my job involves a fair bit of stock processing. So, I could be shelving or tidying fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, audio-visual stock or periodicals. I could also be helping to process all the stock that’s moving around the county, leaving our library and travelling to others, or returing to us after a period being borrowed somewhere else. This is a big task because, in addition to circulating stock and reservations, users can return books to any branch in the county, regardless of where they are borrowed. It’s also a quiet, contemplative task that you do sitting down - a real contrast to the full-on business of customer service and the physicality of shelving.
Other tasks that might come my way include managing my own training and CPD needs, responding to any administrative questions that have arisen or catching up with my mentor within the library service (a different person to my ACLIP mentor). The minute my shift finishes I will dash off for my regular Wednesday afternoon activity - working as a collections volunteer at a local museum, and probably downing my lunch on the two-stop train journey between the two towns.
This volunteering is something I am really interested in, and it is a high point of the week. Working in a small team, overseen by the museum curator, I am helping to assess and catalogue various items in the museum collection. This is a fantastic introduction to all aspects of museum practice, as so many different things tend to arise in the course of a session - everything from the importance of temperature and insect control and good manual handling skills to tackling a tricky IT problem or thinking through the implications of how you catalogue or store something. After all, the decisions made now could affect the integrity and accessibility of an object for the next 100 years. No pressure, then. The work is particularly interesting because the museum, while being relatively small and locally-focused, has a collection of international importance, and it attracts researchers around the world, some of whom will occasionally visit for access at the same time that we are cataloguing.
So, that covers what is likely to be the busiest day of my library and information week. Tomorrow I’ll be working on web development projects during the morning and back to the library in the afternoon.