Category Archives: wikis

My Week in the Life

This week has been enlightening and fun – both looking at what others do and especially at what I do. I was struck by the amount of non-professional work I’ve been doing – is that what I got my degree for? I know it’s partly because I work in a large system where processes like materials selection and cataloging are handled centrally, removing those traditionally professional tasks from the duties of branch reference staff. So, given that centralization is likely to continue, what should now be defined as “professional” work? In a world where reference services in public libraries seems to be decreasing due to almost universal Internet access, reference services are also declining as a percent of my day. Oh, I stand at the desk and I work in Telephone Reference, but the questions I handle are rarely “reference” questions any more.

So, what now constitutes professional work? Branch management? Supervision? Programming? E-resources license negotiation? A little bit of readers advisory and reference? A lot of hand-holding in re: efficient use of the OPAC and databases? Tech support for downloadable materials? I don’t actually know, any more, what courses are required of new LIS students – it might be interesting to investigate that and see if I’ve even got the knowledge that is required of new graduates. (My degree was earned when OCLC was an experiment, and Dialog didn’t exsist.)

I will be taking some time in the next couple of weeks to analyze the tasks I am doing now, based on this week’s posts, and to make a list of more “professional” projects I could work on to add value to my library system – something to be remembered for after I leave.


Saturday: A Day in the Life

Halfway through this day, I realized I’m tired of recording. Five days would have been perfect – seven days was too long. However, I will finish the week so as to avoid the guilt trip.

There is no public transportation from home to work on Saturdays. That means I get to sleep in a bit, because Husband will drive me. We have only one car, so rather than pay for parking, he is willing to chauffer in exchange for the use of the car during the day.

8:00 Arrive at work. Scan e-mail. Edit TELIS TipSheet used by Telephone Reference staff to include grand opening info about the new Folsom Public Library branch opening in 2 weeks. Check phone group’s edits to the voice library messages.

9:00 General office news-sharing relating to an internal announcement via “Friday Finale” and yet another front-page article about “The Troubles” of SPL. I log in to answer the “contact us” email questions – only 6 or 7 this morning, not counting the spam.

9:30 Work some more on the Chesterton quote. I don’t think I’m going to find it – I think the patron has mis-remembered it.

9:50 Open 38 public and 3 staff PCs, 2 copiers and 2 print management stations on the 3rd floor. I am here with another reference librarian for 2 hours. There’s an altercation in the stairwell that can be heard throughout the building: Security has rousted a bather from the men’s restroom on the 2nd floor. He is objecting loudly and using bad words. Security escorts him out of the building. It’s slow on 3, so I take my Chesterton callback to the 2nd floor and look through about 6 quotation dictionaries of various flavors, including religious quotations. No dice. I’m tracked down by Telephone Reference, who transfers a call from a branch librarian who has a question about Gale’s new interface for the Virtual Reference Library. We troubleshoot on the phone for 15 minutes.

Back on the 3rd floor, it’s more or less a nice, quiet Saturday.

12:00 lunch. I read a few chapters of The Next Thing on my List.

1:00 Phones. I take another callback question: definition of dyfalu from any authoritative source. The caller suggests the New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. I don’t see that title in our OPAC; the caller is stunned. I offer to take her name and number and get back to her, and discover she is not in Sacramento, but in Berkeley.

2:00 Second floor – In between walk-in patrons, work on the dyfalu question. Find definitions in some of the literature reference books, one of which is The Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (not the New Princeton edition, but it’s the same book) but can’t call the Berkeley patron back from Ref desk, because long distance calling has been disabled. I am off-desk next hour, so pack up the books and the question to take to the Telephone Ref desk on the 5th floor, where I know I can make the call. (I wonder why she didn’t just try Berkeley Public?)

3:00 Call Chesterton patron to admit failure; mail him the related quotes I found. Call dyfalu patron – she is thrilled. Print system meeting calendar so I can select days for EBSCO training on the new interface and also a couple of days for a tour of the nearby county law library. Begin clearing desk of chaos, so as to start clean on Tuesday.

4:00 I am off-desk, but am on-call for Telephone Reference, so I can’t leave the 5th floor. If the queue gets longer than 3 callers, I’ll have to hop on the phones for a while. I use this time to check the “contact us” e-mail one final time and answer a few more questions that have come in today. I “manage” the papers on my desk, throwing out half of them, and filing the rest. I produce Phone Script v.3 and ship to the group for final comments. Will send to ATT on Tuesday for the professional once-over, and then we can schedule the recording session.

4:55 Closing announcement. Shut down PC, collect purse and briefcase, and walk downstairs, closing OPACS and copiers on 2nd floor on the way. Another week done.

Friday: A Day in the Life

Well, we’re almost at the end of my work-week. Fridays my shift is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and we’re always a little short. Central Library is staffed 7 days a week, so half the staff works Sunday-Thursday, the other half works Tuesday-Saturday. Four of the seven days are chronically half-staffed as a result, Friday being one.

So – since I have an extra half hour this morning because of the shift change, I rise at 6, scan the headlines, pack my cup of decaf, and drive a couple of miles to Pocket Curves. They will be closed by the time I get home this evening, so I slide in a morning workout on Fridays (evening workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays). Return home, have a bowl of cereal and a banana, shower, and catch the 8:05 bus.

8:45 – Arrive at work. Retrieve booktruck from my basement desk in Collection Management and elevate to the 5th floor. Briefly scan e-mail and answer another OverDrive tech help question. Check in and shelve the new Telephone Reference issue of the Kelley Blue Book.

9:00 Attend meeting of group working on a system of incentives and acknowledgment for staff – the group decides to call itself the “True Value Task Force”, and brainstorms ideas for ensuring staff feels valued and validated.

10:00 Library opens – I’m off-desk for two hours, woohoo! I answer a dozen of the “contact us” emails sent to the library. Someone else does it the rest of the week; it’s my job on Fridays and Saturdays. Topics range from address corrections, PIN problems, reserves, donations, volunteerism, claims-returned, and yes, a couple of thank-yous. (There is another e-mail address our borrowers use for reference questions: “askus”; other reference staff are responsible for handling that account.)

10:30-12:00 Eat snack, because lunch will be an hour later than usual today. Give new Webmaster a flyer for the October Internet Librarian conference in Monterey. I explain that, since he himself admits he needs to learn more about libraries, this is the perfect conference for him. Troubleshoot access problem with an EBSCO e-journal’s record in our OPAC; decide it’s because the database identifier in the 856 field is wrong – need to go to my desk in the basement to retrieve the database codes to verify. This will have to wait until Tuesday, since Collection Management is closed on Saturdays, and I am off on Mondays.

Enter reminder in Franklin to schedule a tour of the Sacramento County Public Law Library for Central Librarians. We’ve previously e-mailed back and forth and decided that August would be good – now I’ve got to set the date and firm it up. This library is only a couple of blocks away from Central, and there is a good bit of cross-referral going on – thought it might be fruitful to visit the library and meet its staff.

Take a phone call from a hopeful Vendor. He has an interactive history/science/map product, and also an ESL electronic product. We chat for 10 minutes, and arrange for him to meet with me for a 30-minute demo next Thursday, my eResources day, at my downstairs desk.

I spy the Youth Services Librarian in the supply room and waylay her to tell her about the “kissing bug” – an old babysitting trick I learned from one of the moms when I was an active babysitter, 30+ years ago. I thought it would be appropriate for her toddler time during this “Catch the Reading Bug” summer. She persuades me to be part of a children’s renaissance fair she is planning for October – would I be interested in playing recorder duets with another of our reference librarians as “mood music?” Okay – it wasn’t too hard to twist my arm – I agreed.

Call our Telephone Vendor to schedule some system tweaking – this is a follow-up to an e-mail a while back, and to which he has not replied. He is “out of the office” for a few days – I leave a message.

12:00 Answer phones. Take a callback for identifying a quote by G.K.Chesterton about Christianity and an upside-down viewpoint.

1:00 Lunch – buy a Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich from Subway, across the street, and some lemonade and vegetable chips. Notice it’s smoky again from the wildfires that have been burning for the last 3 weeks.

2:00 Second Floor Reference desk: Attempt to answer the G.K.Chesterton “upside down” Christianity quotation question I took at 12 and couldn’t answer.

Have long discussion with elderly and hard-of-hearing gentleman with a very strong Chinese accent about which tax form he needs. I can’t determine whether he needs the 1040A for the tax incentive rebate or the 9000R form for the renter’s rebate. He has a tax form number, but it doesn’t match anything the IRS has listed on its web site. I give him everything we have and write him a note explaining I can’t give him tax advice because I am not a tax professional. He reads it and laughs. I include the local IRS phone number, in case he wants to call them for clarification.

A lean, rumpled and sunburned gentleman approaches the desk and asks for the “military books”. I direct him, he retrieves a couple, and sits at a table near the reference desk, proceeding to have an animated conversation with an invisible companion for the next 40 minutes. It’s kept just below the threshold at which I would ask Security to have a chat with him.

A Vague and Confused gentleman asks for the bus schedule for a neighboring county. I don’t have hard copy, so I offer to look it up online. I spend about 20 minutes with him, although he claims the bus is leaving in a few minutes and he doesn’t have time to wait for an available Internet terminal to look it up himself. He mumbles, and he changes his question several times. Finally I offer to print the timetable for one of the routes that will get him to his destination. After perusing it, he informs me that I have messed-up, and points triumphantly to the print-out: I should have used the “printable view” link, got that? Did you get that? He lopes off with the schedule in hand. My hackles are up now, but I smile and assure him I “got it”.

I print the wi-fi FAQ for a gracious woman who was unable to connect today – though she has successfully connected in the past. We speculate as to whether Mercury is retrograde (it is not.)

Still trying to find the Chesterton quote.

3:00 Third floor reference desk. Find my colleague helping the Bus Schedule Man. He also spends about 20 minutes answering the same question I did. the Man leave happier than when he left me on the 2nd floor.

The Print Manager for most of the public PCs is not communicating with the computers. We put in a trouble ticket and manually release print jobs for free, as needed.

I get a Real Reference Question from a young Student, who wants articles supporting a continuing War on Terrorism for a debate.

I check the “contact us” e-mail account in between patrons and send off another half-dozen replies. Still haven’t been able to answer the Chesterton quote question.

4:00 Telephones for 45 min, then I take a 15 min. break. I decide to work on the Chesterton quote tomorrow morning before we open.

5:00 Third floor again. Someone has attended to the print manager, but now it will only take paper money! I coast, this hour, and spend some time helping walk-ins use our computer reservation system. At 5:50 we begin shutting down the unoccupied terminals and picking up newspapers and magazines in preparation for closing. All systems shut down automatically at 5:55, and another work day is done.

Thursday: A Day in the Life

Morning routine same as yesterday.

8:00 arrive at work to find IT finishing up the installation of 4 new PCs for Telephone Reference and Circ Help. I go to say hi. I decide to sit at my desk for a few minutes and complete the tangrams. (Supervisor was my “secret santa” last Christmas, and gave me a puzzle-a-day calendar with magnetic tangrams – which I LOVE!) This week has been atypical so far, and I haven’t done any of the puzzles since last Saturday.

While I am working on the tangrams, IT finishes up and leaves, I walk over to the new computers and import the IE favorites I exported yesterday, reset the home page to the TELIS TipSheet instead of StaffNet, and set the VIP call tracking plug-in to open automaticallly when Outlook starts.

I call the patron with the ILL question back to inform her we’ll be happy to get the ILL going as soon as she comes in and gets a library card.

I locate the Zen Nano and give it to the Technology Assistant. He will request installation of the OverDrive Media Console on his PC, so that’s one thing I can cross off my list.

9:00 Sit in on the Web Team meeting. I’ve been invited because I asked the Marketing Director for his vision of what our online presence should be, and he thought the topic of today’s meeting might answer the question. It did not – so I may end up talking to him again. The Web Team is re-building our old web site so as to create an integrated webcatalog site that is sticky for visitors – in other words, they are encouraged to linger because they can find what they want and exploring the site is easy.

11:00 Verified everything is still working OK on the new PCs, head downstairs to Collection Management. Thursday is my “downstairs” day – I have the entire day to work on e-Resources stuff. This used to be a full-time job, but in the last round of budget cuts, the position was moved to Central Library, transformed into a Reference Librarian position 5 years ago. Since e-Resources still needed to be managed, they left one day a week for that part of the job. So – having spent the morning “upstairs”, now I have a half-day to do my “downstairs” work.

I check my e-mail and voicemail, report to the Collection Manager what I learned from the Web Team meeting, and she gives me some suggestions for following up to develop a team that will take a look at our array of e-resources in light of the Web Team’s not-quite-expressed vision of our web presence. She is pleased to hear that the Marketing Director wants to be in that team.

I field a question from Husband about the network WEP encryption code of our home wireless network because his PC crashed and the Nerds On Call are there for the repairs and want to know … I field a phone call from Daughter, whom I haven’t seen since two evenings ago, because of her summer work schedule and the concert she attended last night 40 miles away with friends. She wants to tell me about her first behind-the-wheel driving class.

I receive a call from a vendor’s rep who wants us to re-write our database page so as to feature a part of his product that he says is not clearly enough explained in the title and description his company provided and the section of our database page in which we placed it. (25 points for the person who guesses which database.) He also wants to schedule a series of webinars for library staff, so they’ll know and be able to advertise the scope of the material in the product. I said I would consider the webinars.

12:00 lunch

1:00 -4:55 Lots of catching-up with filing, reading, following-up with e-resources cataloging questions and customer support questions that had been e-mailed to me. I also completed the draft of the Voice Library messages and sent it off to the phone group. And I added more instances to the folder of questions, problems, suggestions, and potential projects I’m keeping as ammunition to justify why the e-Resources Librarian position should be restored to full-time, instead of 8 hours/week.

5:05 Hop on my bus. Another work day done.

Wednesday: a Day in the Life

This Day in the Life activity is generating some buzz at work – many are interested in others’ work days, but are unwilling to blog their own.  I think it’s just that they are not as comfortable with blogging.  Some feel they are already overworked, so taking notes on their work days would be the last straw for them.

But, here’s my Wednesday:

6:00 arise, scan the morning paper, eat, pack lunch,

7:00 shower, dress, feed the fish, kiss Husband and run for the bus.

8:00 arrive at work, stick lunch in fridge; contemplate the chaos on my desk from two half-days of ref-desk-only. ( haven’t actually sat there since Saturday morning.)  Scan e-mail, handle two e-mailed OverDrive tech help questions; alert Circ Supervisor that new PCs will be installed tomorrow morning, including one at the Circ Help telephone desk.  Rummage in the paper stack to find three callback questions left over from last night that I need to finish.

9:00 Take Asbestos callback to the 3rd floor and search card index to the Sacramento Bee for relevant articles published between 1977 and 1983 (found 18). Remove cards, lay out in copier across the room and photocopy.  Return cards … oh no! – circ staff arriving at work has found the disassembled drawer, replaced the rod, and replaced the drawer in the catalog.  Now I have to find the drawer, find where to re-insert the cards I’ve removed and make sure they’re in order. Done.

Call Asbestos patron in DC and get preferences for delivering the citations – she opted for mail, because the Library of Congress has the Bee on film, and she thought she could find the articles there – but she also wanted the local California researcher list, just in case.

9:40 Call State Library’s California History Section (they open at 9:30) and request a copy of their researcher list to include with Bee asbestos citations; type cover letter, address envelope and put citations and researcher list (received instantly as e-mail attachment) in the mail to patron in DC.

10:00 Rats! the library is opening, I haven’t had a break, and the elevators are no longer coming to the 5th floor staff workstations (for security, while the library is open.)  I need to be in the Kids’ Place in the basement, like now, so I run down the stairs, and arraive at 10:02 to a ringing telephone.  It’s a transfer from Telephone Reference; it’s the Ageless Beauty patron – and her answer is in the paper chaos on my desk on the 5th floor.  I get her e-mail address and fax number and promise to send the info right after lunch.

11:00 Change workstations – go to 3rd floor.  Help a gentleman find all the articles published in the Bee since last November about the missing water meters, and print the list of citations so he can take his time looking up the articles on microfilm (his choice – I did offer to print the articles for him.)

12:00 lunchtime – run to 5th floor, retrieve lunch from fridge, run to 1st floor meeting room for Weightwatchers meeting (I am 1.4 lbs thinner than last week – go me!)  Meeting runs just a teeny bit long, so have just enough time to run my yogurt back to the fridge on the 5th floor before my next duty station on the 3rd floor.

1:00  Third floor. I realize I haven’t received any suggestions from anyone in the group about re-wording the voice library messages (we’re re-doing the automated call tree); attempt to do it between patrons, because we’re meeting to discuss them at 2:00.  Manage to get 2 messages edited, out of about 5.

2:00 Voice Library meeting – we worked out the most important messages; I get to type them up and send the draft to the group tomorrow.

3:00 I am “off desk” this hour – I am again contemplating the paper chaos on my desk, when I receive a phone call – it’s the Essence Ageless Beauty patron.  OMG!!! I haven’t had a chance to send the information to her!  I discover the url at the bottom of the printout doesn’t work – it’s a dynamic page – so I re-do the search, write down the steps, and e-mail that info to her, apologizing profusely.  She requested I fax the pages I found, so I do that, too.

I e-mail IT with the login info for the PCs they will be swapping tomorrow morning before I get to work.  I e-mail my supervisor asking for the whereabouts of the Zen Nano MP3 player so I can give it to the Technology Assistant to practice with. I e-mail the person closing Telephone Reference this evening, asking her to please clear the workstation desks of the pencil holders, information binders, and calendars, so they won’t be in IT’s way tomorrow morning.

I receive a very nice thanks via e-mail from the Essence patron, saying it was exactly what she wanted.

I finalize the standing order title list for Telephone Reference that was due yesterday (but I worked 4-8, remember? so wasn’t able to turn it in) and run it down to Collection Management – Serials Librarian was ok with it being one day late. Serials represent about 90% of my annual budget, so my spending is effectively done for this fiscal year – even though the year’s hardly begun.

Shovel remaining paperwork into a semblance of a neat pile, stow Franklin and books I’ve checked out in my briefcase, collect briefcase and purse and run with them to Telephone Reference for the last hour. Don’t have time to retrieve my yogurt from the fridge – oh, well, that’s one less item I’ll have to pack for tomorrow’s lunch.

4:00 Answer phones.  Between calls, export IE favorites on 4 pcs to a different drive, so we can import them again tomorrow on the new PCs, and remove items from the desk where the sick PC lives. Call back the patron with the Windows Media Player problem and get her e-mail address – e-mail instructions from IT (with screen shots) that I hope will solve her security upgrade problem.  Print directive from Marketing for tomorrow’s Web Team meeting.  I am a guest at this one, but thought I might as well be prepared …

4:57 log off from phones and fly down 5 floors and two blocks down the road to catch my 5:05 express bus.  I arrive just as it’s crossing the intersection – made it!  Work day done!

Tuesday – A Day in the Life

Well, since I put in 4 hours yesterday on my day off, I took 4 hours off today, and worked 4-8 p.m.

I couldn’t help myself, though – checked my work e-mail from home first thing in the morning and handled a couple of urgent items. I also sent photos of last Saturday’s Bug program from my cell phone’s memory card to our children’s librarian, in case she wanted to blog it today – since I wouldn’t be getting to work until 4, and she’d be going home soon after that.

Went for a walk with my walking buddy, returned documents to the safe deposit box at the bank, did some grocery shopping, made a loaf of whole-wheat egg bread, got ready for work.

Stopped back at the ATT store to have one of the (young) guys there transfer information from my old SIM chip to a new 3G SIM chip and associate the new chip with my account. Now can I add-edit-delete contacts on my Blackjack, which I couldn’t do before because the Blackjack couldn’t edit data on the old chip. (It was an OLD chip!)

At work by 3:30 – put snack in fridge; check reference desk schedule: phones 4-5, 3rd floor 5-8.

Read and respond to e-mail; note that we’ll be getting new PCs in Telephone Reference early Thursday morning, so I need to backup 3 pcs and copy the contacts to a different drive before closing Wednesday night. I also need to send IT the logins for those PCs so they can set up the Outlook accounts again. Note to self: need to talk to the Circ Superviser, because I think one of her PCs will also be updated, and her staff will have to do the same.

Decide I really don’t have time to call our phone system vendor this afternoon; write note in Franklin planner to call him first thing in the morning. (We want him to create an additional “group” and fold Circ Help into the reference system.)

4 p.m.: Answer phones for an hour , all the usual questions plus troubleshooting a Windows Media Player security upgrade that won’t work because the library’s site certificate is expired. Promised patron I’d get the workaround from IT by tomorrow (wrote it in my Franklin) and helped her confirm she had correctly checked out her audiobook so she wouldn’t lose it while waiting for the WMP fix.

5 p.m.: Third floor – a couple of months ago we moved all of our public access Internets (30 of them) to this floor so as to be able to staff the reference desk with a technology assistant who would help patrons make bookings, log on, manage files, and print. Fiction, periodicals, and government documents are also shelved on this floor, so a librarian is also scheduled at the reference desk to handle questions related to those collections.

Worked on a “callback” about an “ageless beauty” contest mentioned in a recent Essence Magazine, taken by a colleague. (When we can’t answer in 5 minutes on the phone, we take the patron’s number, work on the question and and call back with the answer) He couldn’t finish it before the end of his workday, so he passed it on to me. I found the answer and left a message for the patron to call me back with her address so I can drop it in the mail for her.

Helped a brand new resident understand our computer booking system and got her started on an apartment search.

Explained to our Tech Assistant the procedure for requesting annual leave – we bid in advance for a 6-month period, currently October through March – and also explained all the different kinds of leave he has: personal time, holiday credit, floating …

Discussed transferring responsibility for handling OverDrive tech questions from me to him, since he is, after all, the Tech Assistant – discovered he needs to learn how to download audiobooks and transfer them to a portable device. Made note in Franklin to find our Zen Nano and request the OverDrive Media Console be installed on his PC so he can practice. It helps when explaining the procedure to those who write in for help.

Showed an ebullient group of young people how to find fiction (hint: 320 p. is not the call number.)

7:45 p.m.: Begin shutting down unused OPACs and PCs, pushing in chairs, and picking up magazines. When the public Internets shut down at 7:55, turn off all 38 monitors, the 2 copiers, and the 3 staff PCs.

8 p.m.: Wait for the announcement, “The library is closed”, and head for the exit. Husband is waiting and we drive home (no public transit to my residence after 6:30 p.m.) Enjoy brownies daughter made this afternoon, clean up the kitchen, blog my day.

A Day in the Life of a Librarian

Me, Annot8ing

Me, Annot8ing

There’s a viral thing going on this week in the library blogosphere: in response to an invitation issued by the Librarian by Day, over a dozen library staff will be detailing their workdays on their blogs.  All kinds of libraries are represented, and links to the collected blogs are available on the Library Day in the Life wiki. 

When I was a library school student mumble years ago, I learned to type sets of catalog cards on a manual typewriter (remember those neat black and red ribbons? Remember those inky fingers when you changed one?) My library technology class consisted of replacing the light bulb in a Bell & Howell 16mm film projector, and OCLC was being closely watched to see if the concept would fly.  What was needed to make a library run smoothly on a daily basis was not really part of the curriculum – that was reserved for on-the-job learning later.

How much libraries have changed in the intervening years! Not a catalog card in sight,  movies are DVDs projected from laptops, and OCLC is no longer the only online game in town.  However, it still takes a LOT of person-power to deliver materials and services to the public – most of which is not visible to that public.  So, tomorrow through next Sunday, I’ll be blogging my workdays here, and reading about the real-life work of other librarians at Library Day in the Life.

Thank  you, Civil Librarian, for passing along the invitation!