Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Library Day in the Life - Tuesday

Reviewing an article
I'm peer reviewing an article. It's the first time I've reviewed an article like this, and it's a very interesting experience. I've written plenty myself, and all the work I've done on Scholarly Communications over the last few years with VIF and LSE RO mean I have well developed opinions about the publication process. However, I'm worried about sounding like a school-teacher in my comments - I'm peer reviewing it, not marking it after all. It's a good article though, and I feel like I'm involved in something creative and positive by helping them make the article even better.

Repositories Development Meeting
Once a month we meet to discuss development priorities for our two repositories, LSE Research Online and LSE Theses Online. This month we did a round of prioritising development targets. I always push quite hard with developments - we have a great team working on LSE RO, but we all have so many other aspects to our jobs that unless we keep pressing for ongoing development, it's all too easy for things to slip and for progress to be slow. The mantra for choosing priorities is 'will it benefit the users'. It's a good test of how important each proposed change should actually be.

It's a good meeting, with a range of short and medium term goals that will all make a big difference to users of the repository. Our first target is a working author browse function within the next month. Watch this space!

I'm a liaison librarian amongst other things, and I liaise primarily with Mathematics, Statistics and the Methodology Institute. This morning I get on the phone to talk over progress with our LSE Research Online work. I find liaison works best when you pick the right form of communication. Be it the newsletter, an email, a phone call or a visit in person, using the right method for the message can make a big difference as to how successful I am.

Today the phone worked best!

12pm - Data enquiry
I have a PhD student come in who is trying to access IMF trade stats on ESDS International. A bit of troubleshooting and we find there's an IT problem. It drags on through the afternoon but we've found the root of the problem. As often happens, the student has a few other questions to ask while their here. I'm always terrified and a bit excited when people ask questions out of the blue like that. Today's random topic: international aid. I give them a whirlwind tour of stats sources like OECD iLibrary, and we strike gold with Data.gov.uk. In combination with some print stats that my colleague Paul goes and fetches, we find UK aid to Burma from 1970-2009. Perfect solution - it genuinely never ceases to impress me just how much information we can lay our hands on so quickly in this library.

Time for lunch. I normally go out for a 45 minute workout on Tuesdays, but I'm too busy this week. I get grumpy without exercise, so I hate missing out. Have to rush as usual as more appointments scheduled at 1pm.

1pm Desk, lunch and Ebooks 
I manage to buy lunch but not eat it before my 1pm appointment comes. I'm also on call for the desk at 1, so there's a bit of plate spinning to be done, but the IS team always help out in situations like these.

Another PhD student, and he want to talk about ebooks - my new specialist subject. He's got a new Sony ebook reader and wants to know how to get our ebooks onto it. I'll spare you the DRM rant, but this is EXACTLY the reason why I really try hard not to buy DRM-infested titles unless I have to. We have a good talk about finding ebooks, what the Library is trying to do with them, and what ebooks might mean for academia. I wish I'd been able to give him a way to get those books onto his ereader, but we'll have to wait a couple more years for that.

Still on call I eat my lunch. Usually it's a race to finish before I get called out. In the end only one interesting query, on death rates in London since 1970. I like the morbid ones, no idea what she needed it for but we found it.

Take a phone call from publisher about ebooks. I like the look of their platform but they only sell ebooks in subject sets. I ask them for a title list that includes the print ISBN so that we compare to the list to items we've already bought in print.

Start the Eduserv licence negotiation survey. Briefly consider life without consortial purchasing / negotiation. Give positive answers to all the answers when I realise how much benefit we gain from it.

I'm covering the teaching materials budget while a colleague is on maternity leave. This means trying to work out, with colleagues in acquisitions teams, how to get access for students to all sorts of unusual materials. By far the most difficult to get hold of - at least for teaching purposes - are business and legal cases.
Within 15 minutes I completely lose patience with the stunningly inflexible options presented to me by one supplier. Decide to do something else.

Lose patience with the something else. Send what is likely to be a vexatious email to colleagues suggesting we change some processes. I do this about once a week about something or other, and the rest of the Library have learnt to tolerate this, or at least hide their irritation.

Going Beyond Google
Tomorrow afternoon I'm leading a workshop on internet searching skills. We've talked about updating the slides for a while, and three of us huddle round and throw ideas at it. Tomorrow will therefore be a guinea pig class to test the new slides. The task deserves much more thought but I've become very good at just winging things lately.

Again, pretty par for the course. I've been putting off some important stuff that will have to be done tomorrow though. I have a fair degree of autonomy and control over my working life here, but I know not to push my luck! The thing that always motivates is that at the end of every process, every decision and every purchase there is a library user who will be affected. This concern alone is usually enough to make sure I get things done!

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