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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ever Wonder What Librarians Do All Day at Work?

Everyone's familiar with the stereotype of an older woman with severe clothes and gray hair in a bun who presides over a dusty stack of books. But have you ever wondered what it's really like to spend your day working in a library? If so check out this wiki A Day in the Life of a Library.

To participate in the Day in the Life of a Library project librarians of all types are chronicling their daily activities for a week on their blogs. At the wiki you will find links to blogs by librarians who work in archives, youth services, digital and electronic resource departments, and even a correction facility. Most of the bloggers hail from the United States but there are librarians from Australia, Canada, and the UK participating.

In the spirit of the project, I'll share what my glamorous day was like yesterday in technical services {the inner workings of the library that are seldom seen by the public}.

7:30 a.m. Arrive at the library and fire up my computer. Check email.

7:45-10:30 a.m. Work on withdrawing materials in outdated formats. This involves searching the titles in our local library catalog and deleting the record from there as well as deleting it from the international catalog known as OCLC or WorldCat.

This record struck me as funny. It's for an audiotape from 1975 about teachers' fear of using computers in their classrooms.

10:30-11:10 a.m. Work with the Web Goddess to review completed assignments by the students in our online course on web 2.0 tools. We read their posts to the weekly discussion board and the blog entries they have created for the class. Together we agree on the grades earned and enter them into the online grade book. We have 14 students in our current class.

11:10-11:20 a.m. Interact with the Cataloging Manager on problem withdrawals.

11:20-11:50 a.m. Walk around the university campus with the Web Goddess as part of a health program the human resources department is sponsoring. {If we walk 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, we are entered in a drawing for prizes. Whoo hoo. I love prizes.}

11:50-12:20 p.m. Lunch with the Web Goddess in her office. {Recover from all that walking.}

12:20-2:00 p.m. Finish work on the withdrawals. In all I removed 127 materials on audiocassette. I printed out reports listing the titles and then counted them by call number for an excel spreadsheet I created. Then I had to transport them on a library cart to a nearby trash bin and bid them adieu.

2:00-2:05 p.m. Load up my library cart with an extremely dusty set of slides that are next to be withdrawn. I'll put those off for another day. By the way, this isn't part of my normal job duties. My library is taking inventory of the library materials and this is how I am contributing to this library wide project.

{At this point in my day I'm missing my husband so I made a quick call to him just to hear his voice. Ahhhh.}

2:10-3:45 p.m. Finally time to get at my core duties - digital cataloging. The library has ordered new journal titles that are available online rather than in print form. My job is to find records that exactly match the information I've been given and then import the records into our catalog. I have two places to look for these records: in a catalog shared and maintained by college libraries in Illinois and in OCLC (WorldCat) the international library catalog. An important part of this task is entering the hyperlink information correctly so the URL link works properly. It's not necessarily hard but it requires close attention and verification.

To assist myself with projects like this, I have created a personal job wiki. I write all the procedures for the different cataloging tasks I perform there. When I have a question, I confer with the Cataloging Manager and note the proper way to handle the problem in my wiki. It's so nice having this information handy in a wiki form. I just keep my wiki open for quick reference while I'm working.

3:45-4:00 p.m. Check in on the web 2.0 tools class to see if any of the students need assistance. Write a post for the discussion board on our recent experimentation with podcasting. Clean off my desk and go home.

There you have it, a little peek at one day in my library world. Today I'll be working on cataloging electronic government documents and involved in committee meetings. Tomorrow I'll be sitting at the reference desk for a two hour shift. In my position each day is a bit different and I'm always learning new things.


kym said...

Yes, actually tonight, when I went to pick up two books from the library, I looked at the librarian and actually thought to myself, "I wonder what her job is like?"
lol, ironically I come online later in the evening...lo and behold here is an explanation.

Thanks Sarah...I now know.
you have quite a day.


SpeakUp Librarian said...

LOL. That's great. Thanks for sharing, kym.

Steve said...

Hi Sarah,

I'm really interested in your digital cataloging task. I'm being nosey because I work for Taylor and Francis (part of Informa group) and I used to work for Ingenta - at the moment I work on

If you've got time could you explain your task in a bit more detail? How do you get the list of journals to add? What identifiers are you given (title, issn, doi, etc)? How does your library store it's catalog? How do students access the catalog and the content?

Sorry to be nosey but I'm a bit of an electronic publishing geek and it would be interesting to see how people actually use the type of products I spend my days writing.


SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Steve,
Sure. I'd be happy to answer your questions. 1 & 2: How do I get the list of journals to add and what identifiers am I given? Answer: I receive an email from the Serials Department with the journal title and publisher. Recently the emails have included the URL as well which is a huge help. 3: How does our library store its catalog and how do students access it? Our catalog is available through our library website. Students can access it freely. If they are using the catalog on campus they have immediate access. If they are accessing it from off campus, they must verify their identity as a student by providing a username and password before receiving access. This same process is in place if they want to access our journal databases which are separate from our catalog but also available through our website.