The library workout

So, you think being a librarian is a sedentary activity, huh?

Not so!!

Since I started this role, I’ve worked far harder physically than I’ve had to do in a job for quite some time!

The library building itself has 3 floors, and my office is on the 1st/mezzanine floor, so to get to my desk I go up 1 flight of stairs. To speak to my colleague, I come down 1 floor. Then to go to the bathroom, I have to go down 2 or 3 floors, or up 1, depending on where I choose to go. To see my manager on -1, I have to go down 1 flight of stairs from the ground floor, which makes it 2 floors down from my office. To go to another department, I have to go to -2. For other people, I have to go to -3. Other people are on floor 1, or 2. Other libraries are in another building on the same floor, or 1 floor down. And all of these people and places are in different but interlinked buildings, which don’t always link directly. So to get to the 1st floor in one building, you need to go up to the 2nd floor in another, and come back down via another section.

The fact that my colleague and I need to go to various locations every day to check on or deliver items, or to meet with colleagues means that we cover a lot of ground throughout the building complex. The distance varies, but on average it’s at least 1 mile each day. I’ve estimated with the stairs I’m going up between 25 and 30 flights of 12-step stairs on average each day, meaning I’m climbing 300 stairs daily. Combined, the walking and stairs climbing mean I get a pretty good workout every day. My colleague has said that since she started working in the library, her muscles have toned up since we’re so constantly active!

Added to this, I’ve been doing a LOT of heavy physical work, clearing out a 20 year backlog of materials for disposal that have ended up stockpiling in various parts of the building. I’ve filled and thrown out 30 bags of rubbish, a dozen cardboard boxes and 10 packing crates from the Library itself. I’ve also moved the contents of a basement room, moved stuff into another room, and filled (and emptied, and refilled for various convoluted reasons) 60+ packing crates with outdated or damaged stock. I’ve done 95% of this work on my own.

The basements with motion-sensitive lights are somewhat….atmospheric.

Half of one basement storage room
Starting to recreate a set of books for relocation….
…then starting to reshelve them in another part of the room
From the 1770s. Wrapped and never opened
In dire need of repair
 
Flooded 20 years ago, wrapped in newspaper, and put in a cardboard box & left in a corner.
Unsurprisingly, it’s warped, mouldy, and utterly destroyed

More mould

So fluffy!

Filthy work

Painful work

Heavy work

Just some of the boxes filled with old stock in the basement
Some of the library office clearout

Outdated stock in the library, packaged for disposal
It’s been a long, hard physical slog, leaving me battered and bruised in so many places, and utterly physically exhausted. However, as exercise regimes go, it’s been pretty successful!
I have nicely toned arms and legs, so when the bruises fade, I can actually dress like I mean business in the library…
Next, I just need to find the regular library task that will help to tone up my belly…any suggestions?

The female vote

Last week, UKIP unveiled their latest policies to try and gain votes in the upcoming General Election. These policies were aimed at attracting “the female vote”. The policies cover maternity leave, childcare…and the tax on sanitary products.

There’s nothing new about this technique of political parties publicising specific policies targeting women: in February the pink minibus of Labour was unveiled – staffed by women, these women were going to go out and talk to women, about women’s things. Here, Labour had identified “five areas that Labour has determined are key to women: childcare, social care, domestic violence, equal pay and political representation.”

But here’s the thing: surprisingly, women don’t actually spend their entire lives with their interests being defined by their genitals. And they really, really shouldn’t be treated as if they are. By pursuing this approach, these political parties are reducing the interests of 50% of the population to only those related to reproduction.

Yes, women have children. Yes, women deal with childcare. Yes, women are concerned with schooling. But, the bit that the political parties seem to forget is…men are involved in these things too. Men have children. Men deal with childcare. Men are concerned with schooling. Yet we never hear about political parties worrying about trying to get “the male vote”. That’s because it would appear that men must have larger concerns, that don’t bother the silly little brains of us reproduction machines, so every policy that’s not about children is aimed at them. Men think about taxes, and the environment, and the healthcare system, and the economy, and education, and pensions, and international relations, and other such important things. Women? Well, they think about babies and children, and leave the thinking about hard stuff to the menfolk.

And what about those women without children? Or who’ve had children, who have now grown up and become adults? Are they allowed to have non-child-based political concerns? Or are they some sort of human waste, not relevant to the politicians because they don’t fit into their baby-based policy mould?

So here’s a suggestion for you politicians, if you want my vote…how about you show me the policies that address my wider concerns and interests, rather than regard my brain as some sort of ridiculous, child-obsessed mush?

The perils of allowing apps unchecked access to your information

Late last month, I got a bit of an unpleasant surprise when I came home to find the front of my house covered in scaffolding. My first thought was that was that something was seriously and suddenly structurally wrong with my house, and the council had put it up as an emergency measure. Having checked the frontage, it was clear there were no big chunks falling off, so it wasn’t the council. Maybe it was my neighbours – we’d agreed a few months before to have some work done on our adjoining building fronts, so perhaps it was them, and they’d either forgotten to mention it to me, or they had had a unexpected chance to get scaffolding and do the work at short notice (they run a construction company). But I checked…it wasn’t them. Which left the option of the scaffolders being idiots, and confusing my house (on X Road) with the same house (on X Loan), or….someone putting scaffold on for an unknown reason! Luckily, after I went round to see the owners of the house on X Loan, it turned out that it was indeed their house which should have been scaffolded. They got in touch with the scaffolders, and got the scaffold removed to their house…but not until it’d been up on my house for 3 days.

Then, once the scaffold came off, I realised that the corner of one of the original coloured concrete tiles fronting my house had been broken. It’s cosmetic damage, but my neighbour had recently had her house valued, and similar damage to one of her tiles had been highlighted as a top issue, because it makes it look like the house isn’t properly maintained and hints that there could be other issues with the fabric of the house. So – I wanted this fixed.

I emailed the scaffolding company and I informed them about how upsetting and stressful it had been to not only have someone trespass on my property, block my car in, and worry me about the safety of my home, but I also now had damage to the building that would affect the value of the house. I asked them to put right the damage they had done. Days went by with no response, then finally they emailed me back and asked me to give them a time and date that was suitable for me to meet and let them assess the damage. However, when I went home at the end of that day (not having been able to reply as I had been in a training course all day), they had been to my house and completely replaced the tile…without my permission. I actually had the broken piece of the original tile which should have been fixed back on rather than a new one being put on, and the new tile is thinner, smaller and a different shade, but never mind, it’s done now, and out of my hands.

At no point did they properly apologise for the stress and upset, the tone of the email wasn’t particularly professional (they wanted to arrange to come and “inspect the claimed damage”, which implied they didn’t believe me), and they went ahead and did a repair on my property without my agreement or permission beforehand. Awful customer service, an epically annoying and frustrating issue for me to have to deal with when it was nothing to do with me, but for me, the issue was done and dusted.

So, this week, I was surprised, to say the least, when I got a connection invite for LinkedIn…from the office manager of the scaffolding company! I couldn’t believe that a representative from a company that I regarded as entirely unprofessional (they can’t even get an address right, and they damage property they don’t even have a right to be on, and walk away from it) would actually want to connect with me on a professional network! I burst out laughing at the cheek of it…then I tried to figure out why on earth this had happened – I couldn’t imagine they wanted anything more to do with me, just as I wanted nothing more to do with them!

They’d asked to connect with me via my personal email, which I had used to contact them about the scaffolding issues. I use a different, professional email address for LinkedIn, so what this email invite was actually offering was to let me, via my personal email, connect with this person by joining LinkedIn. The person at the scaffolding company hadn’t actually gone onto LinkedIn, looked around, found my profile, and decided to ask to connect with me.

What must have happened is that they’d allowed LinkedIn to do its “oh, let us import your email contacts and you can connect to loads more people” thing, and LinkedIn had then duly pulled in all their contacts, and sent out connection invites to any email addresses which didn’t already exist in their databases as registered with LinkedIn.This included my personal email, which was in their contacts because I’d complained, not because I was a customer, or a professional connection. I can’t imagine that the scaffolding company person would actually have actively decided to ask someone that had been on the receiving end of bad service from them, to become a professional contact on LinkedIn. Some people suggested I could give them a bad recommendation, or endorse them for bad skills, but that’s not what LinkedIn is set up for, and not something I’d be happy to do. The easiest option was to delete the connection request, and tell LinkedIn that I didn’t want any further contact via that email account.

So that was my LinkedIn entertainment! However, this prompt to look at the workings of LinkedIn does show why it’s important to understand what certain apps like LinkedIn are going to do with your email contacts, when they offer to make your life easier by importing them for you. You do have to be totally confident that those contacts are all contacts for GOOD reasons, rather than being in there because they’re because they’re unhappy with you, as that could lead to even further damage to your professional reputation! As for me, I always play it safe and assume that if people want to be on a network, they will be, and try to never let apps access my address book.

I aren’t dead

I’m just busy!

So, in mid January, I started my new role…and was promptly informed that my colleague would be leaving in 2.5 months.

YEEK!

So I very quickly had to get myself up to speed on a lot of things: how things worked in the library, who our main users were and how they preferred the services to be delivered to them, what I was responsible for, who I should be working with on various cross-department projects, where all our stock is located, how we fit within the organisational structure, where we can offer more or improved services, and core things like how our circulation system works, and what our policies on multiple day-to-day tasks like binding are. Plus I undertook a fairly massive physical and electronic clutter clear out (if I never have to spend another day in a basement with motion sensitive lighting again, I’ll be a happy girl) that could only be done while my colleague was here to staff the library when I was buried in old materials in a cellar. Altogether, my first few months have been pretty hectic and although not stressful in a “OMG I just can’t do this” sort of way, my brain was being rammed so full of information I was struggling to sleep because I had so many thoughts and ideas racing around my head, and then that continued into dreaming about work once I actually got to sleep! Thankfully though, that phase is now past!

It’s been a very demanding process, but it’s also been hugely rewarding – I’ve been able to go through things from top to bottom, assessing what might need changed, and then actually implement those changes, which I’ve never really been in a position to do in roles I’ve been in before. My departing colleague has been fantastic, giving me the information I’ve needed to enable me to make informed decisions on issues, rather than me having to faff about on my own, going backwards and forwards to gather information to enable me to make appropriate choices. It’s meant I’ve been able to be quite productive in my first few months in the post.

But now, it’s suddenly here: my colleague leaves tomorrow.

EVEN BIGGER YEEK!

I’ll have some excellent temporary assistance for a month, then the new member of staff will take up their role at the end of April. While it’s unfortunate that there’s going to be no direct handover period, the new member of staff has been able to come in and shadow my departing colleague for a period of time beforehand, so they’ll be able to start with a good grasp of the basics of the role.Which is going to be a HUGE help, because I’ve not really had enough time to learn both roles fully. My new colleague having a head start on the role is going to be very helpful!

In the meantime, I’ll be “learning through doing”…ultimately responsible for the duties of both roles being performed properly, and training my new colleague on the role. Again, however, this is a good opportunity – it’ll enable me to look at both roles, and see how I want them to work, now that I know how mine works from experience. I’ll be looking at desk rotas, enquiry spreadsheets, communal resources folder management, and all sorts of little bits and pieces that could easily continue the way they are, but I’d prefer they were done differently.

So, if anyone has any top tips on how two staff with one enquiry desk can best balance their time, let me know! And if you see me huddled in a corner somewhere over the next few months…take pity on me, and bring me Sour Cream and Chive Pringles, and some Irn Bru?

Another year, another new start

As 2014 changes into 2015, my employment will be changing too, as I’ll shortly be starting another role in a new workplace.

Unfortunately, in October last year my previous employer went into administration, and although it was quickly bought out of administration by another law firm, there weren’t any roles available for the library staff at the new firm. So it was time to launch into the job hunt again! I have the dubious honour of being the only person to have worked for the only two law firms in Scotland to go into administration, and at one point it was suggested to me that I could make a career out of approaching all the remaining firms and asking them to pay me not to work for them… 😉 I did think that once again, I would have to leave the legal sector to find employment, but some fortunate timings mean that I will be staying in the sector, although I will be moving away from working directly with solicitors. My new role is also a permanent one, and as stable as any job can be, which should hopefully mean that I can permanently retire my job hunting spreadsheet and recruitment site search terms!

So, what will I be doing for the rest of 2015? Getting to grips with my new role. Getting to know the people I’ll be working with, and for. Learning more about criminal law (I’ve been told this should be relatively simple in comparison to civil law, but we’ll see….). Finding out what role-specific groups I should be involved in, and what events I should be attending. Working out what sort of things I can do to improve the service (I’ve already muttered about investigating iPads/tablets ) and what new tools could be useful for the users. Being on best behaviour during my 6 month probation. Wondering if I’ll be allowed to have a fish tank on my desk….

The prospect is simultaneously both quite exciting, and quite scary – it’s more responsibility than I’ve ever had before, but I’m ready to go in and librarian my ass off! 😀

Onwards and upwards!

Reinventing the wheel

I noticed an advert on the TV during the summer, and while watching it, I found myself becoming increasingly more irritated by its content as it went on. Then, not long after that, I saw another advert along the same lines, for the same group. I was reminded of my reaction to viewing those adverts last weekend, when I attended Library Camp Glasgow. One of the sessions I took part in covered advocacy, and what can we do to better promote the profession. The existence of these adverts is evidence of, to me, why we need to continue to work hard to show the wider public that “librarian” does not (and never has) equal “timid person who stamps books and says shhhh a lot”.

So, this is one of the adverts that so annoyed me, for Barclays Digital Eagles:

Now, I’m not disputing the fact that the concept is great: Barclays are funding people specifically to assist those who don’t have the skills needed to make full use of the internet, and the many opportunities it offers. This is an excellent thing to be doing, and will certainly help those that most need support to get online. It’s fabulous, and a great thing for Barclays to fund!

But this is where I get frustrated with the initiative. Did nobody at Barclays realise that an infrastructure to support these activities, and experienced staff were already available…in public libraries? Is there such a low awareness of what public libraries offer that not one single person involved in this campaign at any point stopped to think “Hey, you know what? Rather than reinventing the wheel…why don’t we provide the funding to public libraries to allow them to have a dedicated information skills member of staff to be a Digital Eagle? We’d still get the excellent PR of our name being associated with something that’s being done for the good of others, but we wouldn’t have the problems of creating a whole new system, and having to make space in our branches for this initiative.”

Nope. This idea didn’t occur to anyone, apparently.

I can understand that there’s probably an element of a corporate desire to get people into the Barclays branches, in order to eventually persuade them to become Barclays customers, but surely the conversion rate of “came in to be shown how to use a computer” to “being suddenly inspired to switch bank accounts” must be so low that the cost of the areas being used for Digital Eagles activities must far outweigh the commercial benefit?

The coverage and reach of this service certainly isn’t anywhere near as good as the public library service – if I wanted to go to one of their “Tea and Teach” sessions, I’d need to go to…Aberdeen. That’s the only place in Scotland that provides this service. There was an event there on the 6th of November, held between 10am and 3pm, which as a working adult, means that the Digital Eagles service and support is totally unavailable to me. Yet if I wanted to pick up computer skills via a public library, I could go to Edinburgh City Libraries, and use their Adult Learner facilities, which include an online computer skills programme. Library staff would be on hand during evenings and the weekend to assist me to get access to these resources, so I could fit in access around my working life. Unfortunately, the public library staff available to help me don’t have the time or resources to give the more intensive support I’d need as a person with minimal or no computer skills. Surely this is where the Digital Eagles should be: where people are already going, looking for help? The public library is where the public are used to coming for assistance with a wide range of information needs, and although library staff are not there to teach information skills, they nonetheless do end up squeezing them into their days, as an unpaid, unofficial additional responsibility. It would have been far more effective, in both cost and PR terms, to have given the funding used for the Digital Eagles programme to local authorities, ring fenced to be used to fund equivalent roles, in public libraries.

So Barclays: your Digital Eagles are a good idea, but wouldn’t they be an even better idea if they were in libraries?