Libday Sixburgh: Library Day in the Life, Round 6

Thank goodness for libday, which gives me an excuse to fire up the crucible again.

Not that I need one.  However, I remain in that state where doing and being are more important than writing about it.  Despite this, though, it is important to get over oneself and bear witness from time to time, because people still don’t understand the diversity of what we do on the daily.

I’ll give you the perfect example.  I’m riding the bus home the other night.  There’s been a snowstorm, so the bus is packed, and folks are testy.  In an attempt to alleviate the tension, a young man strikes up a fake newscast, improvising what a reporter might have to say about the packed and weary commuters slogging homeward.

Naturally I find this delightful, and ask the young man if he’d like a color commentator.  He acquiesces, and we ham it up all the way to our respective bus stops, to mingled consternation and delight from our fellow riders.  Improv Everywhere, here we come!

Eventually, though, we get to the part of the conversation where he asks me what I do for a living.  And when I say I work at the library in Oakland, what’s his immediate reponse?


Now, mind you, that’s after I’ve just been one of the loudest people on public transport that night, if not ever.  Talk about librarian stereotypes, not to mention blowing the chance to get a lady’s phone number.  What’s a girl to do?

Keep blogging, apparently.  Welcome to libday 6 in the ‘burgh.

9:51 a.m.  Have just spent 20 minutes trying to impose order on chaos.  This means copying the desk schedule into my Outlook calendar, and filling out my daily goals and priorities diary.  Oh, quit that laughing.  I thrive on chaos and multitasking, but there’s a backbone of organization propping it up.  The diary was a New Year freebie from the folks at Get Organized Wizard, and I like it a lot. It consists of one sheet for every day with the following sections:

  • Top 3 daily priorities
  • Other tasks
  • Notes / thoughts / observations [great place for an inspirational quote]
  • To buy
  • To e-mail/call
  • Appointments/reminders

I may not get to everything, but at least I now have a template/touchstone.  We’ll see how that goes…

10:17 a.m.

Just finished reading New York Times Book Review, and marking my orders.   My philosophy of collection development is that by the time a book cracks NYTBR, we’d better have it on order; thus, reading it becomes a game I play against myself to see how well I do at both the book trade game, and the collection development game.  Got everything except the new Mahmoud Darwish translation, so I ordered that, and then lost myself in the backpage essay– much to think about, there!

So, yes, I am sitting up here reading for a large chunk of my day.  Just not in the way you’d think, or for the same purposes.

10:42 a.m.

Trying to work out a schedule conflict for tomorrow.  Despite sincere efforts to change, I am still trying to do too much in a day, and be Super Awesome Perfect Librarian.  Deep breaths, reminding self that all I have to do, ever, is my best.  Hoping whatever drives this need for perfection will sort itself out by the time I retire.

10:56 a.m.

Schedule conflict = resolved.  Everybody here is so nice/flexible.  Whew.

Also, covert blog maintenance.  When you’re the leader of a great team, all you really have to do is stand back, give people room to be awesome, and quietly poke at things from time to time.  So I futzed around under the hood, read Julie’s wonderful essay du jour, checked the blog e-mail account, and sent a note to the team about an upcoming project we’re doing, to make sure we’re all on the same page about it.

11:21 a.m.

Morning break, which I never feel like I need, but am always grateful I took, come 6 p.m. (ending the day frazzled = not optimal).  Picked up books at the circ desk, strolled around the building, chatted with people.

11:36 a.m.

Knee-deep in database stats.  The state report isn’t due until later this spring, but I like to stay on top of numbers, given how slippery they can be.  We’re having a database committee meeting Friday, too, and it’s nice to make renewal decisions with some numbers in hand.  Luckily, many of our vendors offer pre-scheduled e-mail reports, something I’m taking advantage of this year in my never-ending quest to be more organized.

For those of you who read that and said, wait, what, numbers?  Yes.  Librarians count things.  Some things we choose to count on our own, and some things the state makes us count.  We do this so that we have something tangible to point to when we ask for money.  Not that it ever works!  But intangibles such as the joy of learning or the common good don’t even get you in the door, whereas being able to say “Over 1500 children received free online homework help this year through the library” carries a little more weight.

12:04 p.m.

Started my shift in the phone room.  Phone shifts are always a grab bag; sometimes the phone rings, and sometimes it doesn’t.  When it does, it’s often a lulu of a difficult question that will keep me doing follow-up for a day or two.  After all, in this day and age, if you’re calling the reference department, you’re either lacking internet access, or you’ve already Googled all over creation and not found what you wanted.

And I’m at peace with that.  Sure, I do a lot of phone number lookups and simple searches for folks without web acccess, but that’s an important service, too.  And when the really difficult stuff comes along?  It’s like hitting the mother lode.

We shall see.  When we’re staffing the phones, we’re also required to be logged into the chat reference module, to pick up any internet traffic that surfs by.  Right now, though, it’s quiet, so I’m going through my mail.  One of our vendors now offers educational streaming video, so I shoot a short heads-up note with the info and link to a few of Friday’s meeting attendees, who might have a special interest in the product.

12:43 p.m.

So far this hour:  one call, no chats.  Printed out a web article for a patron without internet access, and put it aside at the reference desk.

Luckily for me I always carry around a pile of odds-and-ends:  projects I mean to work on, crazy ideas I have, things to read, etc.  I’m attending an ebooks webinar tomorrow afternoon, and there’s a lot of advanced reading for that, so it’s nice to have a few moments to do that.

1:31 p.m.

Lunch = tasty leftovers plus errands.  Normally at this point I would also wax rhapsodic over whatever book I’m reading at the moment.  However, during Winter Read-A-Thon, only my pledge pals get to peek at my book picks.  If you have no idea what on earth I’m talking about, click here to get the scoop.

1:49 p.m.

Re-ordered a book in my subject area that’s been missing for ages.  Among other things, I buy library science books, so it really irks me when one of them walks off.  For starters, they’re none too cheap.  For seconds, who on earth would take a libsci book except one of us?  And that’s Not Very Nice.  Just saying. 

[As I read back over it, that doesn't seem like a kind thing to say.  Then again, I just spent $65 of my collection budget on a re-order because someone was unkind or careless.  Grrrr.]

2:17 p.m.

Busily brainstorming.  I’ve got a conference call at 3, and I’m really excited about it, because it’s attached to a great ALA project.  Alas, I have Public Librarian’s Disease, which means that projects that don’t originiate here in my library–or relate directly to public service in my own institution–frequently take a back seat to whatever has to be done Right Now.

This is the uneasy kernel of truth that lies at the heart of the public / academic library split.  Academic librarians are part of a system where writing, publishing, presentations, and serving on committees are directly tied to their professional rewards.  Public librarians?  Not so much, unless you’re on the management track.  So you make a lot of tough choices, and, frequently, do a lot of unpaid extra work that may or may not get you closer to your goals.  Which means you have to be really vigilant about knowing yourself, and amending your goals, as necessary.

 All that being said, I’ve got some ideas.  Some of the other group members have already sent documents to the task force listserv, and they have some great ideas, too.  Should be a good call.

2:30 p.m.

Just skimmed the weekly media roundup.  There’s a story about local non-profits’ use of social media, and it mentions the CLP social media team.  This means it would probably be a good time to update the Facebook page.

2:45 p.m.

Realized that, post conference call, I need to leap straight into a virtual reference shift.  Definitely time for some tea and another quick walk around the building.

3:20 p.m.

This is turning into the best conference call ever.  Really.  All fired up with ideas.   And, of course, making more work for myself!  The price of vocation, but it’s a fun price.  Off to investigate corporate structuring in Google and Apple.

3:59 p.m.

Logged in to the virtual reference console early, because I am just that much of a nerd.  Staffing chat reference is one of the highlights of my day.  It feels good to know you can help somebody halfway across the country from your own comfortable chair, using only your wits and your digits.  Technomagery at its finest.

Should be busy, too.  Not only are we at peak time, but I’m staffing all the queues at once, including the 24/7 worldwide queue.  And people wonder why I stumble out of here all giddified….


I was right.  I am in the middle of a long question, and the new question chime keeps sounding.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  This would be nerve-wracking if it didn’t reassure me of job security.

4:46 p.m.

Just FYI, no break in the questions.  And they are all long, complicated questions.  Take that, Google!

5:01 p.m.

I try to spend the last hour of my day sneaking clean-up tasks into whatever I’m doing.  Under the current circumstances that means going through my e-mail inbox from back to front and trying to make decisions and take actions that will lead to deletion.

5:37 p.m.

Temporary lull in questions means I can peek at my newsreader.  Glad I did.  Librarian humor.  Gotta love it.  Thanks for making my day, Walt!

5:45 p.m.

Dependable as clockwork, there’s a problem with remote access to one of the databases, per a caller into Ready Reference.  I’m in the middle of a VR question, so I gracefully try to juggle the needs of the colleague in front of me and the person on the screen.  Alas, it is not something we can work out in 15 minutes – or without the help of the IT department, for that matter – so I ask my peer to get the patron’s name and contact info so we can playtest and follow up tomorrow.

5:52 p.m.

I’d better stop now if I want to bring my workday to a graceful close.  Thanks for reading along with libday 6.  Hopefully you found it amusing or revealing, or both.  And did you notice how there wasn’t a single shush in there?  Or, in fact, much actual face-to-face contact at all?

Only eight years out and the field for which I have been “classically trained” has turned right on its ear.  Can’t wait to see what happens next…


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