Monday, 26 July 2010

Library Day in the Life Round 5

This is a post for the Library Day in the Life project Round 5 where librarians across the world record their daily activities. I am currently working as the Assistant Librarian for an Army library and this was my July 26th...
0800 - There's something about maneuvering past security personnel with guns that sets your mood for the day. In the early morning sun, the base was quiet, serene, and - surrounded by English hillsides - somwhat idyllic. If it weren't for the guns and the (presumably decommissioned) tanks on display, sometimes the base could seem like a holiday resort.
I started the day by greeting the Library Assistant on the issue desk and settling in at my desk in the imaginatively-named Librarian Room. I logged on to the PC and for the first hour took advantage of Internet access. The MoD restricts access to the Internet - for most of the day only the Army website, news websites, and Wikipedia are available but for a few brief windows each day, access is opened out. I hurriedly checked my e-mail, Twitter, and Google Reader feeds before getting down to some research.
The library’s main function is to provide information for Junior Soldiers: military information and history, up-to-date news on Armed Forces current affairs and the War in Afghanistan, and educational information that will help the soldiers in their traditional studies. On the way to work, I heard about the leak of classified Afghanistan war logs by Wikileaks so I spent some time during my first coffee reviewing the story for anything particularly relevant or interesting to our soldiers. After the Internet disappeared, I started to prepare materials and books for a summer-themed display to be put up by the end of the day.
1015 -My turn on the issue desk rota came up. This is the 'traditional librarian' part of my day: smiling, scanning, stamping. When there were no Junior Soldiers to help out or issue books to, I edited the entries to the poetry competition, checking for spelling, grammar, rhythm, etc. The theme was 'Challenge' and we received an interesting blend of entries: half concerned the 'challenges' of Army life (ironing, being away from home, etc.); the other half were more serious pieces about Afghanistan and Iraq. By the end of the day, the judging panel had reached a verdict and decided the winner was 'The One which Used the Word 'Tis'. The company director used the term, "Kipling-esque" (albeit not in an overly positive way).
1230 - My colleague relieved me in time for lunch. I headed over to the base's coffee shop and soon discovered that reading Infinite Jest - a mammoth undertaking in itself - is made even more mammoth-ine by trying to read it while eating a sandwich and drinking a cappuccino. 
1330 - After lunch, I used another brief Internet-availability window to do some planning for a wiki project I'm working on. A major task for library staff is the maintenance of 'regimental boxes' - boxes containing information and news on the various regiments of the British Army. A few weeks ago I suggested to my manager  that the information would be easier to manage in digital form and have since been working on putting it all into a wiki. During an impromptu chat with a colleague about the de-fleaing of cats and the quality of last night's Sherlock, I realised I was late for a presentation I'd agreed to attend.
1430 - Back at the library, I dismantled last month's display about the Victoria Cross and put up the new summer display. The - loose - theme was easy summer reading so I aimed to display quick, easy reads like Stephen King and Dan Brown as well as some travel guides and foreign-language phrase books. I don't think it turned out as well as my Victoria Cross display but I was happy with the fake sand (burlap sacks) and palm fronds (plastic) that I'd found in a corner of the Archives Room and put to work on making a beach-y atmosphere. 
1530 - My second shift on the issue desk. It was quiet so I spent some time cleaning the library and organising my shelves (the library staff each take responsibility for a few sections: I have Military Equipment, Military Warfare up to the Crimean War, Military Biography, Biography, Quick Reference, Graphic Novels, and Dewey Non-fiction 001-199).
1630 - I spent my last ten minutes clearing my desk, putting odds and ends for tomorrow in my in-tray, and carrying unused display materials to the Archives Room. At 1640 I said goodnight, got in my car, realised I'd forgotten my Thermos then kept driving anyway.
1800 - Back home I ran through my dissertation questionnaire while my dinner cooked, implementing some changes that fellow librarian friends had recommended. It's to be sent out later this week.
1900 - Wrote a blog post about a day in my life. The rest of the evening will be spent in the traditional Monday night way: a whisky (late shift tomorrow = lie-in) and shouting at the TV watching University Challenge.


Lex Rigby said...

Hi Simon,

I had no idea libraries exist within military bases! This post is really interesting... especially the bit about Internet access. I've no idea how I'd do my job without continual access to it.

Looking forward to hearing more about your week!

Simon XIX said...

The Internet was one of the biggest culture shocks: going from constant (and almost continuous!) use as a student to severely restricted use. You just have to adapt and be flexible.

Girl in the Moon said...

Hi Simon. Lex Rigby recommended your post to me as one of her favourites from #libday5. @ekcragg and ( and I are putting together a pitch about #libday5 for Radio 4 and The Guardian in an effort to break libraries out of the echo chamber and let a few more people know what we do.

I would love to use your blog/tweets as one of the case studies. Please let me know (@girlinthe or maedchenimmond at gmail) yay or nay. Thanks!

geomancer said...

I enjoyed reading your post, interesting point about the internet access, is that a security measure? I'm interested to know how many items are borrowed on an average day at your library? I imagined you wouldn't be that busy on the issues desk, but you sound like your reasonably busy

Simon XIX said...

Hi geomancer,
I think it's a combination of security and maintaining discipline: can't have soldiers on Facebook all day. We do get reasonably busy sometimes but it varies as with any library. Not sure about precise stats.