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National Libraries Day

So, what do librarians actually do all day?

by Louise Morrison

To mark National Libraries Day, I wanted to celebrate the varied, interesting, fun and sometimes unusual things that Scottish librarians and information professionals get up to in their jobs every day! So I asked a few fellow professionals to write about their jobs. The results were as diverse as I had expected, with tasks ranging from directing films to researching chocolate consumption; from promoting exchange between Germany and Scotland to exhibiting 19th century medical instruments!

A big thank you to Eva, Clare, Leigh and Claire for contributing!

Dr Eva Baillie – Librarian, Goethe Institut, Glasgow

EvaphotoAs a librarian at the Goethe-Institut, I provide access to German language and culture. The library of the institute aims to be a space for meeting and learning and we are often the first contact for people interested in Germany. We provide information on travel, study and work in Germany, have a self-learning centre with language learning resources on all levels, and hold a wide selection of DVDs (mostly subtitled). Our aim is also to facilitate exchange between Germany and Scotland on subjects related to literature, translation and literacy development.

My job involves the more “traditional” tasks of a librarian such as book acquisition, processing, cataloguing, and information research in German and English, but also requires a creative approach in organising and financing projects and events that help to facilitate an image of contemporary Germany in Scotland. I work with various partners in cultural and academic institutions, we have school visits and organise workshops in the library. Our library is open to the public, but we also offer electronic resources to borrow for those who live outside Glasgow. Like other libraries in Europe, we face the challenges of changes in how people access and use information, and together with Goethe-libraries in other countries, we are working on new concepts and visions for our library.

Louise Morrison – Research Executive, Scottish Enterprise

IMG_1199I work as part of the Scottish Enterprise research service, a free business information service. We answer specialised research enquiries from Scottish firms and source information to help them grow, expand into new markets, target new customers, and develop new products and services. We also work on a range of in-depth projects, researching major companies and industries.

What I like most about my job is that I’m constantly learning new things. Like which country consumes the most chocolate per head (Switzerland) or what “spud” means in the oil industry (to start drilling a new well).

I spend most of my time working on in-depth research projects: retrieving and analysing information, and writing reports on a variety of different industries. I have to be quite creative to find the information I need: I partly rely on subscription databases but also draw on specialised industry sources, news articles, open access publications and even social media. I am constantly thinking of the best way to present the information I find. As reports can be read by a range of busy colleagues and industry professionals it’s essential they are informative, to-the-point and easy to read. It’s also important to keep up with developments in the industries I’m researching and, in the last few months, I’ve attended presentations on changing regulation in the Financial Services industry and issues facing North Sea oil operators.

We are always looking for ways to improve our research service: we regularly seek feedback from users, try to think of new services we could offer and aim to find better ways of working. This week, I’ve been exploring the possibility of providing specialised research services to different types of Scottish companies and assessing the feasibility of doing this. I really like getting involved at this strategic level and having the chance to be creative and come up with new ideas.

Clare Harrison – Modern Resources Officer, Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow (@rcpsglibrary)

library 2I work in the library at the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow. The library supports the information needs of all College members who range from undergraduate medical students right through to retired Fellows.

Generally my job is quite varied and every week is different but there are certain tasks that I would expect to do most days and these include inter-library loans and document supply; information literacy enquiries which mostly involve offering advice on how to search databases and find relevant resources; and IT enquiries. At the moment I am working on two large IT projects, one which involves helping a member to put together a powerpoint presentation and another which involves offering advice on publishing ebooks, the latter of which has also been quite a learning curve for me! I also run a weekly conversations group which consists largely of retired Fellows and Members of the College. Each week one of the group leads the conversation sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for a topic of their choice – This week’s topic was on Stained Glass Windows (not everything we do here is related to medicine!).

As well as our modern resources, I also get to work with our historical collections and a big part of my job is to make sure our collections are accessible – this week that has involved creating a new exhibition featuring an array of medical instruments some more gruesome than others (there’s a particularly lovely 19th century enema set on display if anyone’s interested?!).

Leigh Bunton – Library Assistant, Acquisitions, Glasgow University Library

LeighBunton-Profile_PhotoMy principal responsibilities are to ensure that books required for students and researchers are available as soon as possible. Demand varies throughout the year in tandem with the university calendar, and essay lists issued at the start of the semester typically generate an influx of urgent requests. Library assistants are also responsible for processing Sotheby’s and Christies auction catalogues and the large volume of donations the library receives on a weekly basis from a range of internal and external sources, some of which can be very rare and interesting. Every aspect of my work in acquisitions features an online element, whether ordering and receiving books on the Sierra library management system, using OCLC FirstSearch to verify book data, or conducting price comparisons using databases such as Coutts, Dawsons and Amazon. It can be particularly challenging to identify sources for foreign language items, particularly Eastern European and Russian, but it’s now often possible to find some kind of online representation for a title in any language.

Significant changes have taken place in library acquisitions due to the introduction of a complete online ordering process and the sharp increase in ebook orders, all of which are now dealt with by supervisors. This has given me the chance to be involved in other departments, and I’ve now gained experience providing support for the Institutional Repository and the Document Delivery Service. Both departments are now using bespoke and evolving technology, so it’s been a very useful to learn new systems and the legal issues involved with electronic resources. I also take leave where possible to attend different CILIPS workshops, conferences and library visits, or spend time doing work for the MmITS committee. I also hope to begin volunteering soon with Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries, a fantastic project that offers localised information services to anyone in Glasgow affected by cancer.

Claire Bell – Multimedia Librarian, Aberdeen City Libraries

ClairephotoThe role of Multimedia Librarian is wonderfully varied and covers a wide spectrum from operational and developmental to public and staff training. The variety allows each aspect to inform the other, thus improving quality and relevance. One day I might lurk at my desk purchasing DVDs and CDs for libraries across the city or looking at potential online resources for the library, such as online magazines. The next day I will be out and about working with staff on stock rotations or service promotion, doing market sounding for the latest project or delivering a PC taster session on image editing. I also get to have fun creating films for library promotion or public training. It is a great job and requires the ability to learn on the hop and keep up to date with the latest technical developments.


About mmitscotland

CILIP Scotland special interest group. Find out how developments in Multimedia, Information and Technology are impacting on the library sector.


4 thoughts on “So, what do librarians actually do all day?

  1. Eva – I would like your job. How fantastic to work for the Goethe Institute – I have a degree in German (and law as well and went down the law route before changing direction to librarianship and information provision). I’ll have to keep an eye out for openings at the GI in London!

    Fantastic blog from all of you!

    Posted by Helen H | February 8, 2013, 9:00 am
  2. An interesting write up, I was planning to base my assignment on reader service of the library,reading this piece has changed my mind to write on somethimg else.
    Thanmk you

    Posted by SHABAN | February 8, 2013, 5:39 pm
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