9. Andrea – working in FE

This week, we pay our first visit to an FE College where Andrea Mackie is an Assistant Librarian. Here, she outlines a typical day.

I have to admit that I ‘fell into’ Librarianship as a career. I was a child who loved books and reading, and was never away from my local public library. I still remember the fear in the Librarian’s eyes when I asked her “when do you become an adult?” Of course I was really asking when I could borrow from the adult collection. She looked immensely relieved when I explained and told me I had to be 16. Very disappointing when you consider that I was 13 and had read every book in the children’s and teenage section of a very small library. I managed to convince my Mum to borrow from the adult collection for me though (Mum was a huge reader herself and was happy to help!) and although the Librarian knew exactly what was going on she never said a word.

Forward to three years later when we start getting careers talks at school and I was asked what job I’d like to do. I honestly had no idea. One of my teachers suggested that, as I liked reading so much, I should be a Librarian. The idea stuck and I embarked on the Highers I’d need to do the degree.

At the time RGU were still offering the 4 year BA (Hons) Librarianship & Information Studies, so that’s what I did.  I sometimes wish that I’d done a degree in English or History instead and then gone on to the Postgraduate in Librarianship but hindsight is a wonderful thing and, after 4 years of study, I graduated with my Honours degree.

I’d already got an evening job in a College library during my 4th year and that quickly led to a full-time post after graduation. A few years later I moved to a University Library and then, 3 years after that, got my current post as Assistant Librarian at an FE College.

My usual working day is 8:30am – 5pm and yesterday my day was as follows:

After checking my e-mails I look at our Twitter account. I quickly run through tweets from the accounts that we follow, in case there’s anything we want to RT, and then compose a Tweet about opening hours for the half-term weekend. The account has been active for around a year and we are slowly gaining followers through regular promotion and advertising.

I recently arranged a trip to Waterstones where myself and a colleague spent a pleasant morning selecting stock. We usually purchase from a regular supplier and use their online ordering facility, but it’s nice to get out and actually see the books sometimes. The Waterstones boxes have been delivered so I make sure the invoices go through our finance system and start on classifying the books so that our Information Assistants can begin the cataloguing and processing. Unlike the material we receive from our regular supplier, it isn’t shelf-ready so we need to go back to basics with date labels, security tape and covers etc.

During the morning one of the lecturers drops in to ask about ordering an e-book. I don’t think it’s available as an e-book, as it’s a few years old, but tell him I will check it out. I also help one of the Information Assistants in dealing with a customer who is querying some charges and have a chat with a very noisy group of students. They agree to keep the noise down so it all ends well.

Library staff lunch-hours begin and I spend the next 30 minutes on the Issue Desk. Queries include a group of students looking for books on Scottish independence, one student having problems with his printing account, and a question on how to find newspapers online.

After lunch I attempt to load a Library Guide that I’ve created using Articulate and PowerPoint onto our VLE. It’s very frustrating as it seems to work in Firefox, but not Internet Explorer or Chrome. I contact our ever helpful VLE team and ask for their assistance. After a short while I get a response telling me there was a small problem with the url. It’s something I’d never have spotted myself so it’s great that we have the back-up of an experienced team available to us. The guide is finally loaded up onto our VLE and available to anyone who wants to use it. We carry out Library inductions at the start of the year but, as this is not a compulsory activity, we do miss a lot of students. The VLE guide is designed to cover the basics in a very user-friendly format and hopefully reach some of those students whom we don’t see in person.

At 3:00pm I attend a meeting for our LMS merger project. In common with most FE Colleges in Scotland we have recently merged with another College and are having to create one streamlined Library service. We’re at the stage where we’re talking technical specifics with the LMS providers and working out a timescale for the project. It’s really interesting to see all the stages coming together to create a workable plan.

The final hour of the day is spent writing up the minutes of the meeting. I’ve taken a lot of notes but I prefer to do it while the issues we talked about are fresh in my mind. I also discuss some of these issues with my Line Manager and we decide how we will tackle the tasks that we were assigned before the next meeting.

At 4:45 our evening Information Assistant arrives. We have a quick handover period where we advise her of any issues that have come up during the day and find out if there’s anything she wants to ask us about. It’s also good just to have a wee informal chat (or gossip!)  amongst all of us, helping to ensure that our evening person feels part of the team.

So, that’s my day. As with most Libraries I suspect there is no typical day and I really enjoy the variety of things that I get to do. Working in a small team has its advantages as we get to do a bit of everything. This career that I ‘fell into’ has turned out not too badly after all!

Thanks to Andrea for her insights into the world of FE. I don’t think she will be the only person who ‘fell into’ libraries! Andrea is happy to answer questions and comments – in the first instance, please leave these in the reply box below.


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