A Week in my Library Life – Day 1

9:35 a.m.

Since I am bereft of camera, let me set the scene for you:

The reference librarians in my department share an office.  There are five of us here full-time, several more on a part-time basis, and three others who keep offices elsewhere, near the special projects they’re working on.  We have enough desks for everybody, computers for most, and a printer but, alas, no ceiling.

I try to keep whimsical things on my wall and bulletin boards, to keep my spirits up.  Right now, I’ve got:

  • The National Poetry Month poster that came in the April 2010 American Libraries magazine.
  • A mini-poster that says “Every decision we make affects how people experience the library.  Let’s make sure we’re creating improvements.” 
  • The table tent from the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council’s trivia team competition.  The library’s team, “Pretty Fact Machine,” just missed serious glory by placing fourth.  More importantly, a lot of money was raised for a good cause, and the library was part of that.
  • Blog and Twitter posting schedules.
  • A color printout  of Elizabeth Sterzinger’s Twitter poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.
  • The graphic from this article, written by a colleague.
  • The library holiday schedule
  • A color printout of Mr. Steam Potato Punk Head.  Don’t be hatin’.  You know you want one. :)

We won’t describe my desk.  It’s vaguely mad scientist laboratory at the moment.

Off to do the most important thing of the week:  hit up the refdesk schedule, see when I’m supposed to be where, and plug that into my Outlook calendar.  If this goes poorly, so does the rest of the week.

9:57 a.m.

Have tried three times, unsuccessfully, to log into the database training webinar I signed up for.  Am starting to suspect that my heretical views on technology have had me blacklisted from online trainings.

10:08 a.m.

Have given up on the webinar, and am firmly ensconced in the book order room.  This is a small room at the back of the main reference room with multiple bookshelves, two computers, and a kittycat made out of pushpins on the walls.

There are also two trucks loaded with bound volumes of Vogue magazines from 1948-1957; these are a staple of a recurring assignment given by one of the high schools–nearly all the girls pick Vogue to report on the fashion trends of yesteryear.  Neat, eh?

A few things worth noting about my bookbuying gig:

  1. My job is to buy popular non-fiction across the class areas, as well as all the Zs.  Given that a colleague downstairs does the same thing for the New and Featured department, we needed a tool that would cut down on duplicate orders.  Behold, our LibraryThing account. So far, it’s been working like a charm, especially since we tag our orders with the name of the tool, and our fund/location codes. Makes cleaning up accidents easy-peasy.
  2. While a peer is on maternity leave, I’ve been temporarily ordering everything in her area.  It’s an area I’m not quite familiar with, so book order is taking a little longer while I look things up in the LoC catalog.  I’m starting to get the hang of it, though, and I’m learning a lot along the way, so, bonus.
  3. Book order is a great place to plug in headphones and rock out.  For the record, I’m kind of a dork, and somewhere in my head it’s always the 80s.  Today, it’s 1982, if you care to sing along with Alchemy.

This week’s tools:  NYTBR, ABPR, PW, Choice.

10:26 p.m.

A colleague pokes his head in the door to ask a question.  A spirited discussion of the various digital book / audio options we currently offer ensues.  After 5 minutes, we come to a consensus and I return to the tools.  The year in my head is now 1988.

10:49 a.m.

Read Lynne Jonell’s essay in the back of PW and misted up a little. It’s simply not fair. Every kid deserves the best this world has to offer. Rawr.

11.00 a.m.

Break time – quick errands, short walk, clear the head, etc.

11:18 a.m.

Time to futz with the blog.  Since I can’t be logged into WordPress as two separate entities, I’ll come back and describe this after the fact.

11:29 a.m.

There–that generally doesn’t take long, mostly because the entire blog team has its eyes on the project nearly constantly.  As our nominal ringleader, though, I do feel obligated to check in every day and:

  • Read the daily entry, see if any further edits are necessary.
  • Answer any comments on my own posts.
  • Peek at WordPress stats.  Once a month I tot these up and submit them to my boss along with the SiteMeter data.  WP stats are pretty robust, but SiteMeter tells us where our readers are coming from, so I can see if our impact is mostly local.  It is.  Whew.
  • Log into Feedburner to see if we have any new subscribers.  Occasionally I’ll remember to check Bloglines and GoogleNews, too, but many of our readers seem to prefer receving our posts in e-mail.  Interesting.

11:38 a.m.

A package arrives!  It’s a copy of The Librarian’s Book of Lists, in which–among lots of other lovely things–an Alchemy essay appears.  This is happymaking, but I do feel a bit selfish, because I’ve already received a contributor’s copy.

To help relieve me of my guilt, and receive this fun little book, leave a comment on this post by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27, 2010.   You’ll be doing me a double favor, as I realize, to my chagrin, that there’s another package I need to mail, too.  Winner drawn randomly from all comments received.

11:59 a.m.

Dedicated the last 20 minutes or so to cleaning out e-mails.  It’s alarming how the stuff piles up.  Am resolved to walk around and talk to people more, and unsubscribe from a bunch of things.

12:00 p.m.

Ate lunch, ran errands.  As ever, am amazed at what you can get done in an hour if you put your mind to it.

1:02 p.m.

Waiting for my 1 p.m. appointment with one of the bloggers, who is a teensy bit late.  We all tend to give each other a ten minute buffer, though, given what a madhouse it can be around here.  Especially during the lunchtimes.

1:14 p.m.

Appointment has come and gone!  Easiest WordPress training session ever, especially since the new blogger is very tech-savvy, and has worked with Blogger before.  The more I have to teach/train, the more I find this comforting.

1:27 p.m.

Because I now have a large chunk of time until I hit the refdesk, I am buckling down to work on 2nd quarter database statistics.  This involves opening up two spreadsheets, then logging in and out of various vendor portals to try to glean the data I need.  Data I can’t get from portals comes directly to the database statistics e-mail account.

This is important work, but it is long and tedious.  For one thing, the data doesn’t come in the easy-peasy format I would like it to, namely “sessions, searches, items.”  This is the data required for the Pennsylvania state report, and while there are many benefits to the COUNTER format, somebody still has to take all the pretty numbers it generates and make them fit into what my state requires.

Luckily, this gives me yet another excuse to rock out.  I’ll spare you my entire planned playlist, but it kicks off with an 80s band that’s still delivering the goods.

1:43 p.m.

It occurs to me that, at some point, all of these spreadsheets are going to have to be updated to reflect database adds and drops.  I immediately stop and schedule this on my Outlook calendar, or it will never get done

2:05 p.m.

When the music stops and the muttering starts, it’s time to move to a new task.  Dashed of a quick e-mail to one vendor to seek help on a technical issue.

2:14 p.m.

Log back into Eleventh Stack to answer a new comment.  Notice that tomorrow’s poster is, indeed, working on a draft, as we’d discussed on Friday.  Resolve to be a bit less of a Fussy McFussbudget and relax, given how the team has proved itself reliable and trustworthy again and again.  Wonder if this is just the Curse of the Editor, and, if so, if that’s anything like the Curse of the Bambino.

2:18 p.m.

And now, a trip around my newsreader:

Doublecheck to make sure we own or have ordered all the books that will be featured on Jon Stewart’s show this week.  Sigh with relief upon confirming.  Snicker at today’s xkcd comic.   Laugh self silly at Jessamyn West’s latest blog entry,  and listen to other Aunt Feminina videos while further scanning news. 

Learn about Firefox’s new “Tab Candy” feature and pronounce it “neat,” especially for people who consider themselves visual learners.  Leave a pointy comment at Will Unwound.   Get some reading suggestions from Walt Crawford.  Decide that, while online professional development is fun and free, it’s time to get up, walk around, and do some physical tasks.

3:37 p.m.

Armed with database promotional materials, I took a stroll through the entire building, leaving bookmarks and table tents in strategic places, scouting out places to hang posters.  Then I went back to my office and got tape to hang the posters.  At one point I stopped to get a snack and pleasantly surprised myself by getting yogurt instead of coffee and a cookie a large as my head.  Progress.

3:53 p.m.

Stuck head back in front of the computer screen to work on something super-secret I can’t discuss just yet.  Abruptly jump up out of chair when Outlook pings, indicating that it’s finally that time of day I’ve been longing for:  refdesk time.

4:01 p.m.

In the few minutes it took me to get out here and get situated, I have solved two computer problems and escorted some patrons to the oversized books room.  My return to my seat was punctuated by a long, loud juicy sound that could’ve been flatulence or a raspberry. 

So, just another day.

Truthfully, I love the reference desk best because of its wild, unpredictable qualities.  You never know what’s going to happen, or when.  So the rest of this entry may have a bit of a scatterdash, stream-of-consciousness vibe to it.  And tant mieux, sez I!

4:10 p.m.

Colleague brings me a gift:  homemade steampunk baby cockroach.  After I nearly choke to death laughing, I resolve to try harder to find a USB cord to fit my camera, as you simply have to see this thing.  I have the best co-workers ever.

4:11 p.m.

Patron walks up to the desk and asks me to get two books for him.  I cheerfully comply, and note their titles for myself, for later.  Learning is cool.

4:13 p.m.

Get headphones for a regular patron.  We have a group of folks who come in every day, known to us by sight — and sometimes by name — whose needs are so well known to us we have their routines down to a science.  It’s the library equivalent of walking into Cheers and hearing “Norm!”

4:19 p.m.

Helped a patron find textbooks.  Quick explanation of what textbooks we are, and are not, likely to have.  Luckily, found the motherlode, again, in the oversize room.  Textbooks sure are huge. 

4:29 p.m.

A blogger stops by wanting an opinion on his latest draft.  I skim it, and we debate its pros and cons (it’s better than he thinks it is — another part of being a good editor is building confidence). 

While we’re talking, a patron having trouble with her laptop comes up for assistance, and my conversation partner graciously drops what he’s doing to help her.  Meanwhile, I dole out another pair of headphones to another Norm.

4:32 p.m.

A very unhappy baby wails, creating a Doppler effect as her frazzled caretaker hurries her out of the room and down the stairs.

4:34 p.m.

I realize that I have not been keeping stats very well, and read back up through my blog draft so I can put down an appropriate number of ticks on the stat sheet.

4:42 p.m.

Lest I seem LAV-centric about all this, I should point out that a) I have a desk partner, and b) she is made of awesome.  She’s spent the last hour very patiently helping someone off-and-on with internet issues, and she’s racking up major karma points.

4:45 p.m.

For my part, I have just called a clerk for a chase.   Yes, someone wants to look at a reference book!  This happens here more than you would think.  I love it.

4:47 p.m.

Chase delivered.  Wow.  That’s good service.

4:51 p.m.

It occurs to me that maybe that reference book doesn’t have to be a reference book anymore.  Checked holdings, checked current value.  Pondered.  Will suggest to boss, upon return of book, that it be moved to the circulating stacks, as it’s neither expensive nor difficult to replace.

5:02 p.m.

Tried helping a patron who could not log into the computers with her library card.  Turns out she’d used up all her time in our department for the day, so I directed her to another department that’s on a different timer system. 

 I don’t feel good about it, though.  I really am one of those cream puffs who wants to give everybody what they ask for (librarians’ curse).  I have to keep reminding myself that I have a responsibility to keep a few terminals open for walk-ins, and that guest passes are for legitimate out-of-town guests.

5:26 p.m.

Fetched some fiction and a library map for a patron who had wandered to the second floor by mistake.  I hate to make people go back downstairs if they’re already up here, and I need the exercise.

5:31 p.m.

Answered one of the TopTens.  This time it was “How late is the library open?”

5:40 p.m.

Made a comment on a Facebook thread that was taking a serious turn for the igrnoant.  Tactfully left a short paragraph plus a WorldCat link to a book that might shed some light on the matter.  Got 4 “likes” in seconds.  Mission accomplished.

5:42 p.m.

Escorted a patron who needed to take a timed computer test down the hall to the Job and Career center.  Logged another patron on to the computer — he’d forgotten his card, but had photo ID.

5:45 p.m.

Wrapping it up so I can put this post to bed before my shift ends at six.  That was, er, long, but not nearly as painful or wild-west as I thought it might be.  Also, deciding what verb tenses to use = weird.  Then again, it’s only Monday.

Tune in tomorrow for the Day Two recap, and remember:  if you’d like a shot at winning my extra copy of  The Librarian’s Book of Lists, leave a comment on this entry by 6 p.m. on 7/27.


  1. Will Manley said,

    July 26, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I’m tired just reading this. Thank God for retirement.

  2. Erin said,

    July 26, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I want to read your essay in the book of lists! but if I win, you have to autograph it for me first :)

  3. Joan said,

    July 27, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I’ll second Erin’s comment but am resigned to the fact that there is no way I made the deadline since it is 9:30 PMon the west coast. Oh well. Some other time I’ll get lucky….

  4. jessamyn said,

    July 27, 2010 at 12:32 am

    Happy to have brought a smile to your face!

  5. Emily said,

    July 27, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Sounds like a wonderfully busy day. And now you’ve inspired me to go write up my own Day in the Life!

  6. Ashlee said,

    July 27, 2010 at 9:54 am

    My entry for free book…It’s almost 10 a.m. on July 27 so I think that still puts me in the running.

    Can you take a picture of the cockroach with your phone and upload it from there?

  7. Laura Condit said,

    July 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Loved the “Mr. Steam Potato Punk Head” and can’t wait to see the steampunk baby cockroach!

  8. Andrea said,

    July 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Thanks for the look inside your workday – it’s really enlightening, as a library school student trying to figure out what to do after graduating!

  9. Jennifer said,

    July 27, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Wow! That was one busy day!

  10. July 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    @Will, to each his/her own. I think taking care of your grandchildren would be more exhausting! It would be interesting to see what book S. picked for me, though. :)

  11. July 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    @Erin, LOL – deal.

  12. July 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I re-found your blog today after noticing that I’d bookmarked the post entitled “Title Fail (Insert Vampire Metaphor Here): Library Failure, Pt. 1″ several months ago. What a happy place to land, and loved your Day in the Life. I’ll have to remember to schedule one for myself once classes are back in session (life is much busier then!).

  13. July 27, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    @Joan, nono, you were perfectly fine, and not in that Dorothy Parker kind of way! You showed up here on the East Coast well before the deadline.

  14. July 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    @jessamyn, one way or another, you always do! :)

  15. July 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    @Emily, sweet! I will have to go look for it!

  16. July 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    @Ashlee, yep, you made the cut. Stay tuned.

    Incidentally, I am one of those horrid Luddites who has a cellphone without a camera function. Quelle horreur! Hee.

  17. July 27, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    @Laura, thanks!! It’s cuter than cute, and it’s already making friends with the last book-tape cockroach said colleague made for me. They’re both resting comfortably next to the knitted baby dragon. :)

  18. July 27, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    @Andrea, yay! I’m glad you found this helpful. I suspect it will get weirder as the week rolls on – today has been busier / odder. :)

  19. July 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    @Jennifer, yes it was! Today was even busier…thanks for reading!

  20. July 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    @Teresa, thank you so much! If you do decide to write one up, come back and leave a link so we can read it, too!

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