Fiona Tinto is a library assistant at the University of Stirling.
My path into library work has been fairly standard. I studied English Literature and Theatre Studies at University, and graduated unsure of what I wanted to do next. After three years of call-centre work I started thinking seriously about what I would like to do. Librarianship was something I had always considered, and as I enjoyed the enquiry-handling and information provision aspect of my work it seemed like the right path. I completed my MSc in Information and Library Studies at Strathclyde and in April I started working as Library Assistant in the Content Management Team at the University of Stirling. I work four days a week, alongside two full-time library assistants. We work a three-week rotation – one person each week covering Acquisitions, Serials and E-journals.The person on Acquisitions is in charge of ordering and receiving stock. This involves receiving orders from the subject librarians, searching the various vendor websites for the items, and placing the orders. Sometimes this is a straightforward process, but on other occasions ordering can involve liaising with librarians for clarification or advice; comparing multiple e-book licence options; making sense of inconsistent bibliographic information between different vendor platforms; and trawling the internet in search of out of print or foreign items. (NB: searching for an obscure foreign language DVD the name of which translates as The Blondes produces some interesting results on Amazon!) Once the orders are placed, confirmation emails and subsequent invoices need to be double-checked and processed. When print items/DVDs arrive these are checked and processed before being passed to cataloguing. The person on Acquisitions is also in charge of monitoring the team’s shared email inbox.
The person on Serials handles the journals, newspapers, and mail. Journals are checked-in, tagged, labelled and stamped before being shelved. During term-time you need to be careful not to squish a glaikit student or two between the rolling stacks while shelving. My ‘holiday’ method has been 1) Check there’s nobody in the aisle 2) Move the stacks. My term-time tactic is 1) Check there’s nobody in the aisle 2) Begin moving the stacks 3) Keep checking the whole time that nobody starts walking between the shelves, and be ready to perform an emergency stop if necessary! You’d think people would have the sense not to walk between shelves which are closing in on them, but apparently you can’t take this for granted – so I’ve made a request for some eye-catching signage to try to highlight this point to students. Journals also need to be ‘claimed’ if issues have not arrived and we monitor the claims on a weekly basis. For standing orders or titles with irregular publication patterns this can involve some detective work – examining the publication pattern, previous check-in history, and information on publisher platforms and our e-resource management system to decide if an item should be claimed yet or not.
Unlike the other two, E-journals week does not have an established workflow, but involves working on set tasks assigned by the Serials and E-Resources Librarian. For example, one previous task involved checking that the coverage dates displayed against our e-journal holdings were correct; and where we have access through multiple routes, simplifying the user-access to the e-journals by linking via consistent platforms. The person on E-journals also handles the electronic order requests from academics, identifying the different book and e-book options, and forwarding these to the appropriate subject librarian to authorise the order purchase (which will then be handled by the person on Acquisitions). These requests vary widely in terms of the level of detail and accuracy of information provided. Multiple fields left blank? ISBN and title don’t match? Lecturer quite blatantly hasn’t checked the catalogue and we already have 7 print copies and an e-book in stock? Sigh!
In between our regular tasks we have various projects. Currently we are stock-checking the zero-use material – some of which has yet to make it onto the online catalogue. Recently we received two donations (confusingly by two different people sharing exactly the same name). Donations need to be checked against our current stock before the subject librarians decide which items will be added to our collection. I am also in the process of compiling all my handwritten notes into some sort of legible format on Prezi. It’s a useful exercise for me, both for consolidating our workflow in my memory, and highlighting any areas which I am unsure about – and of course by putting the notes online they are available for everyone in the department to make use of. Recently I also assisted one of the subject librarians in a dissertation instruction class for final year Business students. The class covered key resources, search strategies, and RefWorks. This was my first experience taking part in a library instruction class and I was slightly nervous – particularly since, as an Arts graduate, several of the key resources for this subject area were completely new to me. However I soon got into my stride, helping a student dissect the key aspects in her chosen topic, select suitable search terms and apply appropriate Boolean operators.
In the future I would love to be a subject librarian, but I’m definitely keeping my options open. It’s great reading the other 23 Librarians posts and gaining an insight into other sectors! For now I’m really enjoying my job – not least our decorated book trolleys, Themed Third Thursdays (see image left – our office on Halloween themed Third Thursday of the month) and the beautiful scenery of Stirling University campus.
Almost topical! I didn’t quite get this one prepared for last Friday, but it’s near enough Halloween. Fiona is happy to answer questions / comments – leave a reply below or tweet her @Tintobear.