Monthly Archives: March 2013

Library student Day in the Life: Day Five

So, this is my final post for the Hack Library student Day in the Life project, as an MA LIS student at UCL.

Friday’s are my day off, and therefore my favourite day of the week! I have to confess that as much as I moan about being poor and having lots to do, I do really love the fact that I get a three day weekend. I genuinely don’t know how I’ll go back to full time work once I graduate!

Anyway, this morning I got woken up by the doorbell at 8.30am (not happy) but decided to stay in bed until 10am anyway – there have to be some perks to being a student after all! After that, I got up, showered and got dressed and then turned on my laptop. First thing I did was (you probably guessed this if you’ve read any of my other posts this week) check my emails and social media sites (Twitter and Facebook), before opening a word document and starting on my work for the day.

Today’s work began with my dissertation proposal – it’s due next week and has to have a title, aims, justification, methodology and a bibliography. As it turns out, it’s not as complicated as I originally thought. After Tuesday’s meeting with Lucy I feel a lot more certain about my focus, which I’ve decided is the changing role of the librarian, so I managed to write the title, aims and methodology without too much stress. I then had to search the library catalogue and some databases for appropriate sources (with a few breaks for social media, naturally).

work station My somewhat messy way of working – I like to spread out!

This took me up to a late lunch, where I took advantage of being at home by having a bacon sandwich (so, so tasty). After lunch I watched TV for half an hour (you may be realising that I’m a big fan of taking breaks) and then started on another piece of course work. This time it’s a personal reflection on our groupwork for the Management module. It’s not due for another couple of weeks but I’m trying to get it done so I can start on some bigger assignments which are due in April. I finished half of it (I’ll finish the rest on Sunday – I like to give myself either Saturday or Sunday off most weekends and not do any work), spoke to a friend on the phone for a while and have now written this blog. It’s a bit early today because I’m going out tonight for a friend’s birthday so I need to get ready and then leave. Brick Lane and delicious curry, here I come!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my HLSDITL posts this week – please continue to visit my blog for further updates on the life of a Library student at UCL, and to get more insights into the course.


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Library student Day in the Life: Day Four

So, here comes the fourth instalment of the Hack Library School project. In case you haven’t read any other posts/information about it, it’s all about getting a snapshot into life as a Library Student – I’m studying for my MA LIS at UCL. It’s now Thursday, so here’s what’s happened in my life today.

I was working again today – I work Wednesdays and Thursdays every week in my part-time job at an academic library. I was working 10-6 today, which is nicer because I get a longer lie-in in the morning, but is annoying because I have to work later than everyone else in the office! I’m very lucky though, as my job is really flexible, and I can basically work whenever I want to, as long as I do my fifteen hours a week and it doesn’t clash with the other assistants.

My day started off badly today – I attempted to get an earlier train than usual so that I could go to Waterstones before work (which is handily nearby) and buy a Mother’s Day present, but the train was full, as was the next one, and the one after that was twenty minutes late. Grr. I finally arrived at work fifteen minutes late and with no present. Not happy. I started the day as usual with emails, then moved on to the reading list that I’d started yesterday. I think I mentioned that it was largely not in English, so it wasn’t the easiest of tasks as it required a lot of cross-checking. I continued with the list until lunchtime, with a few breaks for Twitter and chat with my colleagues. As a side note, I was never really that interested in Twitter before – I’ve had an account for about a year but have only really started using it a lot in the last few months. I mainly just follow library-related people and I’m finding it a really good tool for maintaining current awareness as well as making some new contacts in the business, so I’d recommend getting into it if you’re not already (and follow me, of course!).

late! Time a-ticking as I get to work late

After lunch (leftover takeaway curry – yum!) I decided that doing any more of the reading list would drive me crazy and so I decided to file some Law looseleaf instead. As I think I’ve said before, my manager is brilliant and is totally happy to let me decide when to do things, as long as there’s no time constraint on them. To those of you who have experience in looseleaf, it may not seem as if it’s that much more interesting than checking a reading list, but I actually quite enjoy it. It’s not fascinating work, but there’s something satisfying about having a job well done at the end of it. Today it was a mammoth task, so it took up a good few of hours of my time. I then did a bit more of the reading list before I went home. One of the (often good) things about working part-time is that if I don’t complete a task then I just email it to my manager, and it often gets passed on to one of the other assistants at the start of next week. This week I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t have to see that one again! In case you’re wondering why I haven’t finished it yet, that’s because it’s fifteen pages of pure text, with no spaces – that’s a lot of books! Not my record though – I had one in January that was thirty-seven pages!

After work, I finally managed to get to Waterstones where I spent a happy half hour wandering around (I’m a typical librarian – surround me with books and I’m happy), before buying something for my mum and then running for the train. Once I got home I cooked dinner, had a catch up with a friend and then wrote and uploaded my part of the groupwork for my Management module (which was started in class – you can see Tuesday’s blog for more detail). And that’s it! I’m going to watch TV now and relax for a bit.

I’ve also realised that I completely forgot to take any photos after the first one, so I apologise for the somewhat text-heavy format today.

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March 7, 2013 · 9:31 pm

Library Student Day in the Life: Day Three

Welcome to todays chapter of a day in my life! This is my third day of blogging for the Hack Library Student Day in the Life project, sharing what my life is like as a library student.

Today is all about my working life. I work part-time in an academic library when I’m not studying, doing 15 hours a week. This is a bit more than I would ideally like as it means I don’t have much spare time, but I need the money to be able to fund full-time study. I started work at 9am this morning, and given that I didn’t get much sleep last night I wasn’t feeling very happy about it! My job is working within a subject team, to support the Subject Librarians in any jobs that need doing. Something I enjoy about the job is that it can have a variety of tasks, but on the other hand it is often very repetitive which can be a little boring at times.

This morning I started my day by catching up on emails (you tend to have a fairly full inbox when you only work two days a week) and then by completing the weeding task I had started last week. The relevant Subject Librarian had given us a list of periodicals that needed weeding and sending to Store, so I’ve been taking them off the shelves, measuring them (so Store know how much shelf space they’ll take up), documenting and boxing them up ready to go. It doesn’t sound very interesting, but I actually find it strangely satisfying.

Boxes My desk, surrounded by boxes after the morning’s work!

I spent a large proportion of my day doing that for various subjects. It’s quite physical at times, as it requires lifting heavy volumes and then pushing a huge trolley full of them back to my office (which naturally was the opposite end of the building). On the plus side, I now know where to find the German Periodicals! I’ve only been in my job for three months, and the library is a bit of a rabbit warren – I still don’t know where lots of things are!

empty cabinet One of the rather empty cabinets after I’d had a go at it!

After the periodical weeding I had lunch (soup again), then started on a very long reading list. This basically just involved checking the list against our catalogue to see whether we already have them, or whether we need to buy them (budget allowing, obviously). It’s a fairly easy task (although sometimes that catalogue seems to fight you all the way), although todays list had quite a lot of books not in English which made it somewhat more challenging! At 3.30pm I went for tea with some colleagues, and then after that continued with the reading list until I left at 5pm, to catch my train by the skin of my teeth. Then I rushed home so that I could have a quick dinner before my friend came to pick me up – I went to the cinema again. I hate to miss the opportunity of an Orange Wednesday!

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March 6, 2013 · 9:21 pm

Library School Day in the life: day two

So, just a brief post tonight as I’ve been out and I have work in the morning so I want to go to bed! This is day two of my blog for Hack Library School project for the week.

Today I had Uni all day, which started at 10am (thank goodness all of the 9am starts from last term are over!). I had an hour-long lecture for my Management module, which was about HR and the policies you need to think about, such as when employing people. A lot of it was common sense, but I certainly think it’s important to underline these things for when we become professionals. After that we had a half hour break which I spent in the common room with friends, and then a seminar for the same module from 11.30-1pm. In this we had a discussion about the use of volunteers and what you need to think about when considering using them – it was a really interesting discussion and made me consider issues that I hadn’t necessarily thought about before.

We then separated into our groups and started work on our third exercise. To give you some background, as a group we’ve created an imaginary library, which we have been given a budget for. In previous exercises we’ve outlined a mission statement and goals for the organisation, divided up the budget and staffed the library. Today we had to write a job description, person specification and create an advert for the job.

The most frustrating thing that I always find about this is that we don’t have enough time to do it, and working within a group obviously means that a lot of discussion happens – not ideal when you’re pressed for time! I generally find myself in the role of time management – i.e. I hurry everyone up so that we don’t waste time. We did quite well today and ended the session by dividing up the remaining work to do in our own time, with a deadline that we all have to meet. The group work is assessed so it’s important to make sure we’re all working at it.This kind of scenario is, I think, quite important for the course as I aim to be in management one day and it’s nice to consider these issues now, but I do find it a challenge working in such a big group.

After this was lunchtime. Usually I just spend this with my friends, but today I went to talk to one of my lecturers about my dissertation ideas first. One thing I really like about UCL is how approachable the staff are, and how helpful. After the discussion I feel a lot more certain about what I’m going to do for my dissertation now, which is a relief. I can start on my proposal this weekend now; something I’ve been putting off until now!

Then, after a hurried lunch (I bring in something from home and use the microwave in the common room) I went off to my optional module for this term. I’ve chosen to do Manuscript Studies, as it’s not something I have any experience in so I thought I would see what I think.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. A lot of it is based on palaeography, and is, I have to say, a barrage of information at times considering I have little prior knowledge of this. A visiting lecturer takes the class and it’s very old-school; no PowerPoint, but just the odd word or example on the board and lots of talking! Suffice to say that this week, as always, my brain felt like mush after it! Today we did about Gothic script. We always do some transcription as we have a test on this at the end of the term, and todays examples weren’t horrific so I don’t feel too freaked out about the test. My main quibble with the class is that we only get a 5 minute break in a 3 hour class, so I often find myself flagging towards the end. I’m glad I chose it though, as it’s allowed me to try something completely different.

After class I went for dinner and to the cinema with some friends from the course, and then headed home. And that’s day two in my life!

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Library student Day in the Life: Day One

Ok, so the point of this project is to share a typical day as a library student so that anyone who’s interested will have an idea of what it entails as part of the Hack Library School project. I’ll be sharing all of this week as my days all tend to be different. In case you haven’t read anything in my blog before, I’ll just fill you in on the basic details. I’m a full time student at UCL, doing the MA LIS. I also have a part-time (15 hours a week) job in an academic library.

My day today has consisted of going in to Uni for 10am for a lecture in my Information Sources and Retrieval module. This week it was all about medical information sources, which is completely new to me. Still, it was reassuring to realise that actually a lot of the ways to search for sources are the same, so you don’t necessarily have to be an expert in the field itself. I finished at 12pm (we have a practical until 1pm but I couldn’t make that) and went to see if I could talk to one of my lecturers about my dissertation. Unfortunately that was a no-go, so I’ve emailed instead to try to set up an appointment. We have to submit our dissertation proposal in less than two weeks and I’m not really sure what I want to do so I’m starting to stress out about it. After the failed attempt at a meeting, I went and picked up some returned coursework so that I could see the feedback, and also picked up a past dissertation which I’d requested from the departmental office. I’d like to look at one just to get an idea of what I’m aiming for. I have, of course, already completed a dissertation for my BA, but that was nearly four years ago now so I’m a little rusty! Following along this train of thought, I then went to the library to request a book from the off-site storage which I think I’ll want for my dissertation.

Having finished all these errands, I got the train home, had a small lunch of soup at about 2pm (I’m trying out the intermittent fasting diet and today is one of my fasting days) and have then written a blog post on my work experience. I’ve been meaning to get around to it for ages but haven’t managed to squeeze it in until today – committing to writing this blog has given me the motivation that I needed! After this I’ve finished various things around the house which I didn’t do yesterday because I was hungover – washing, sorting out my post, filing my uni work in the correct folder by date…things like that. After that I did some more research for my dissertation, starting looking into an essay I have to write for Manuscript Studies, began reading the dissertation and then did some research into buying my brother a 30th birthday present. After all of that I relaxed for a bit watching TV and then I’ve written this blog. That’s my day!

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March 4, 2013 · 6:23 pm

MA LIS Work experience placement: the House of Commons Library

HoC pic

So, as part of the full time MA LIS students have the opportunity to do a two week work experience placement in January. UCL provides a list of previous placements or you can choose your own place. Given that I’m currently dithering between several different disciplines or field or librarianship I thought that this was quite a difficult decision. Nonetheless, as all my experience is in academic libraries I was determined to try something new. I should point out here that UCL encourage to try something outside of your particular understanding just to broaden your experience a little so it wasn’t entirely me being gung-ho! Anyway, the House of Commons Library was on the list and I decided that it might be an interesting place to check out – I like that fact that it’s kind of like a law library, but is also fairly specialist, so it gives you a good overview of a different service.

UK pic I thought this picture conveyed quite well how broad-ranging the effect of the House of Commons Library is.

Before I even got to the placement I was impressed with it – I was emailed a programme in advance and was asked if there was anything in particular that I would like to do. I found having a programme in advance really helpful as it gave me an idea of what to expect and showed me the variety of things I could experience. Some of my friends on the course didn’t get a programme and I know they wished that they had. When I started on the Monday I had to get a security pass (I’d had to apply for clearance months previously) and then I started in the cataloguing department. I was set up on my own computer, shown around, and given a local cataloguing policy document to start on some cataloguing. Now if you’ve read my previous post you’ll know that I wasn’t originally a big fan of cataloguing, but the House of Commons really helped with this. They use an internal thesaurus (so much better than LCSH) and use what Anne Welsh describes as an ‘agile’ cataloguing system. This meant that there was very little use of AACR2 or MARC, which made it quite simple to use. Phew! I met with Dora, the Head of Reference Services, who had organised my programme, the first day; was bought lunch and tea and generally felt reassured that I was going to enjoy the placement after all!

How can you not love being where people buy you tea?!

The rest of that week was spent in a large variety of places, including visits to the House of Lords Library, Reference Services, Enquiries and the Members’ Centre, and an introduction to binding processes. When I wasn’t visiting other sections I was in cataloguing, putting either books or electronic documents onto the system. It’s amazing how much more satisfying cataloguing is when you’re actually creating real records from scratch, and you know that it will stay on the system as a kind of legacy. That may sound strange, but it’s how I feel! Anyway, the point is that I wasn’t exactly stuck for things to do in my first week, and I settled in surprisingly quickly. Everyone was really friendly to me and I got the opportunity to have a quick chat with most of the departments within LRS (Library Resources Section).

Of course, another big plus of the week was that I got to go around the Members’ Library, which, as you may have guessed from the name, is for Members of Parliament only. Of course Library staff are allowed in there, but no other staff members! It was really nice, with lovely big rooms, towering shelves and lots of cosy looking chairs. I have to confess though that I thought the House of Lords Library was a tiny bit better – mainly because it had original bound copies of The Times from the 1800’s which I loved! The ladders up to the shelves were a bit scary though – the staff have to have training from a former fireman to be able to use them!

HoL pic

The House of Lords Library

Anyway, on my second week I was based in IADS (International Affairs and Defence Section) which is one of the many research sections. One of the reasons I found the Library so fascinating was because of this research culture. Coming from an academic library background, I’m accustomed to users finding everything on their own. Not so here. Research sections exist to provide debate packs, brief summaries, current awareness bulletins, and answers to in depth queries. Quite frankly, the amount of knowledge floating around in there is incredible, not to mention a little intimidating! While I was there I had the opportunity to do some indexing which meant trying to get used to a whole new indexing tool; it was fun but also quite challenging. I also did some weeding, attended some meetings and tried to ‘match up’ the various stages of legislation for collation on a database – that was incredibly complicated, but also quite satisfying when I succeeded!

During my second week I also visited the Parliamentary Archives, Preservation and Conservation, the off-site storage facility, the Indexing Section (who index every Hansard – it’s an incredible amount of work) and sat in on several meetings and talks. All in all, I would say that it was far from lacking! I loved the variety of experiences which I got on the placement, in addition to being able to both learn new skills and practice old ones. I also really loved that Dora met with me three times during my two weeks to ensure that the placement was going well and to get my feedback. I genuinely felt valued as a member of staff, and would highly recommend the placement to everyone.

thumbs up!

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