Saturday, 29 January 2011

A Day in the Life

I work as a customer service supervisor for the Brotherton Library, Leeds University's Arts and Humanities Library, and also where Special Collections is housed. It's a large and beautiful Library, housed in the Grade II listed Parkinson building, and the round reading room has marble columns and locked cages. Five months working here, and I still pause every time I walk in; I seem unable to escape the 'wow' factor.

It's 11:45, and my manager's at the Health Sciences Library. For the first time, I start the day knowing that I'm responsible for the entire building. Immediately, I put my coat away and see a weekday colleague. She's been drafted in to assist us with exam periods, so my first task is to plan her workload for the day.

The first thing I do is have a quick chat with my colleague, who hasn't worked at my site for over a year. I give her a quick tour of the library, update her on Health and Safety, and introduce her to the team. It feels slightly strange, acting as her first port of call for any problems when I've only been in my job for five months, but she thanks me for doing a good job. After this, I open the safe and unlock the Enquiries area. In ten minutes, I manage to open everything up, send out overdue and recall notices, and clear the holdshelf. Needless to say, I'm quite pleased with myself.

From 1pm until 3pm, I'm solely responsible for the Enquiry Desk. This is, hands down, my favourite aspect of my job. We recently closed the issues and returns desk, so the majority of enquiries really give me something to get stuck in with, especially as the academic librarians, cataloguers and e-resources teams only work on weekdays. It's rather quiet, but I keep myself busy by checking registration forms, removing out-of-date reservations from shelves, and completing reservations paperwork.

Suddenly, everything happens at once, as it always does! There's an unattended child in the computer clusters, a student needs help with Web of Knowledge for her assignment which is due on Monday, five photocopiers have paper jams in them, a retired academic wants to know how she can access electronic resources from home now that she's no longer an active member of staff and a student with an essay due next week wants to know how she can speed up a book which is in processing because the e-Book isn't working and it's critical for her essay. There's also a complaint that the group of people in the Group Study room are so loud that they're audible from the floor above. Behaviour management is something the Library is keen to improve on, so I go downstairs and ask them politely to be a bit quieter. Like the majority of people I speak to, they're utterly apologetic and don't even realise they're inconviencing somebody.

My manager returns at 3pm, and I take a well-deserved lunch break, grabbing a coffee and popping over the road to Tesco to fetch some chocolate chip cookies, which are well-received by my colleagues.

I do a few odd jobs from 4pm until 5pm, ranging from emptying the self-service machines, checking photocopiers, photocopying forms, updating signage, labelling and re-barcoding books, searching for missing books and missing reservations, e-mailing customers regarding Library queries, and filing registration forms.

From 5pm until 6pm, I do some shelving and shelf-tidying. I find shelving (in limited doses) to be relaxing, and after the hustle and bustle of being on the desk, it's nice to clear my head for a while.

I take a short break as I have a meeting with my manager at 6pm. She asks me how I'm adjusting to my new role, and I'm concerned that I've still got so much to learn, but she compliments me and tells me to, "keep on doing more of the same." She's a trained librarian and has been in her role for many years, and it's gratifying to know that she trusts me with the building, as it's a huge responsibility. We discuss training and development, and I'm booked on some internal supervisory skills courses this Spring, which I'm really looking forward to.

My manager asks me how I'm finding time for everything, juggling two part-time jobs, campaigning for Voices for the Library and volunteering at an animal shelter. I'm not quite sure, other than the fact I'm doing so many things I'm passionate about, but I know that I wouldn't have it any other way.

6:45 rolls around. I make the tannoy announcement, lock the cupboards, empty the till, place the keys in the safe, and thank my colleagues for a hard day's work. Naturally, at 6:59, there's a phone call from a student who doesn't realise we close at 7pm. There's always one, so we have to be alert right up until the time the Library closes. The computers are off, and the forms are locked away, but I spend several minutes explaining procedures to her and tell her to pop into the Science and Engineering Library next week.

A few minutes later than anticipated, it's home time. My days always pass so quickly. I hop into my partner's car, pop a CD into the stereo, and look forward to a glass of wine, a good book, and a good night's sleep.

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