What my work-life looks like

No, really, I’m going to work on blogging more regularly. (And if you have suggestions for things you’d like to see me talk about, leave a comment!)

I just hit that dip *after* you’re hectically busy where all you really want to do is do simple things (in my case: read a lot, knit a fair bit while watching non-demanding entertainment, read some more, mess around on the computer. Repeat. For, apparently, about a month.) But my creative brain came back with a vengeance in the last 10 days or so.

But I want to start talking some more about various long-term projects and interests, and before I do that, it makes sense to talk about the shape of my day and my week.

A typical day:

6am: I get up, putter around and do morning things (read my email, check in the various online spaces I hang out in, etc.) Somewhere in there, I get dressed, make lunch, and get ready to go. If I’m walking to work (which I’m trying to do at least twice a week, assuming the weather’s reasonable), I leave just before 7:20, otherwise, I get in the car at 7:25.

7:30am: Use my key to let myself into the library, say hi to the nice people behind the main desk, and wander up to my office via the staff room fridge on the 2nd floor. I check email, my calendar, and my to-do list (currently, I’m exploring Nirvana, about which I have more to say eventually.)

11:30ish: Have lunch (a half-hour break)

4pm: Wander back home. Do stuff. Go to bed around 9ish and read before falling asleep. (This is the cat-approved portion of the evening and she will nag me if I try to stay up too late.)

Variations: Every other week, I’m now on evening night shift, which means I come in at noon-thirty (or earlier, if I’ve got a meeting, and take a longer break in the afternoon). I work in my normal space until 5:45, then spend from 6-9pm at the Access Services desk, helping with reference questions, generally helping out if it’s busy, and otherwise working on my own projects. I like the change of pace.

(I’ve done two shifts so far, so I now know mostly how to do the major things – check books in and out, get ILL items for people, find items on reserve, etc, but I’m still learning a lot.)

I’ve found that starting early means it’s easier to do certain kinds of tech support work (before people come in and want to start using all those computers), though there’s a certain amount of flexibility possible if I wanted to shift my hours a little bit. Mostly, though, I like being done at 4.

And what do I do? 

Some weeks, I have very few things on my calendar. Others, I do. (I have two sets of meetings that run every other week, in the same week, so I seem to be tending to have a week with a lot of meetings, and then a week without many, which is actually sort of useful.)

I’m currently not on the general reference schedule (I will be next semester), but I’ve been volunteering to take people’s reference shifts when they need a sub (due to vacation, a meeting elsewhere they have to be at, etc.)

In general, my days involve some combination of the following:

Making computers work: What it sounds like: if they break, I try to fix them. When I get stuck, I call our contact in ITS. Usually, something needs me to poke at it a couple of times a week. I use a  Google form as a tracking system so that (over time) I can see if there are any patterns.

I’ll do another round of reimaging and updating over our winter break, which is preventative “make this not break” work. This week, I’ve set up 2 new computers for colleagues, and have one more to go. (That part? Awesome.)

Helping with technology questions: I get between 1-2 tech questions most days from library users (and often another one or two from staff) most days. There will likely be more as we get closer to the end of semester. Common ones have involved Word and footnotes, saving an image file in a different format, or a computer not behaving as expected.

I also do a bit of instruction: I’m currently contemplating “more on how to use Excel” for our next staff training meeting.

Writing blog posts: I currently write a post on library resources (or a related topic) every Wednesday, and a book review every Friday for the library blog. (And may chime in on other topics: I am in rotation with two of my co-workers who focus on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday topics.)

Reading blogs: A formal part of my job is “keep up with nifty technology stuff, explain why we should care about it here, and make it happen.” Which means reading bunches of stuff. (And, when relevant, sharing it via the library blog.)

Updating our Appalachian Trail community hike: Our One Book-One Campus type project (we call it On Our Minds) book this year is Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Along with displays and presentations and other such things, we’re doing a community hike: anyone in our community (students, staff, faculty, alums) can post how much they walk/run. (Participation counts towards entries to win a handcarved walking stick.)

I keep track of the total, and update on our Facebook page every day or two. We’re currently over 40% done, and in Virginia. If we communally get to Maine – which seems likely, because we have some *serious* walkers in our community – we’ll turn around and head south again.

Helping with whatever other questions come my way: We welcome people to poke their heads into our office if they have questions (rather than walk down to the 1st floor), so we sometimes get “Can you help me find this book/find books in general/etc.” questions.

Community user accounts: One of the things that’s fascinating (and largely pretty awesome) about this school is that the campus is committed to being a resource for the community, not just the students/staff/faculty. This is also a pretty pragmatic reality in a rural community where high-speed internet access is still largely available only near town centers (otherwise, it’s dial-up or satellite). That means community patrons can come here to use the Internet, and can also get a courtesy library card.

At the moment, you must have an individual login to use any of our computers. We have a series of guest passes for people who just need a computer that day (which includes things like tourists who are only in town briefly), but we will also create accounts for people who want an ongoing account. When I say “we”, I mean “I” – it’s a pretty simple process, but it’s a couple of steps. I’m doing 3-5 a week, on average.

Maintaining the library website (both for the main library, and for our education library, in a different building across the street.) Currently, this is in Dreamweaver, but we’re hoping for an eventual move to WordPress. There was a flurry of updates in August, and now it’s mostly little things.

Related to this, I’ve got a couple of LibGuides (one on RefWorks, one on OneSource/Summon, in progress in various ways.)

Longer term projectscurrently, I’ve got several…

– working on setting up a staff wiki with a bunch of our documentation and information. Currently, I’m working on restructuring the theme (so navigation options work the way we’d like) and dropping more info in there. (We’re using Wikispaces, which makes their Plus version free to schools and universities.)

– reviewing everything in our shared library staff server space. The end plan is to move whatever we can to the wiki (for ease of access), and have much better organization for everything else. There are a lot of files, so I’m going 5-10 folders at a time, proposing solutions in an email to all of the library staff, and then getting comments.

– I’ve got a meeting later this week for a new technology instruction initiative, so I’ve spent time collecting information for that, and thinking a lot about it, and what questions we should talk about at the meeting. I expect that *after* the meeting, I will be spending lots of time working on that, since we would like to have something to launch by spring semester.

– general research on various other things, including adding mobile access to various things we offer, and whether we want to do it now (given the lack of mobile devices accessing our library site, and the hopes for a back end shift, we’re waiting for the moment, but I like knowing what my options are.)

– working on getting more familiar with the Adobe CS 5.5 apps, so I can offer better support/training on them.

Bits and pieces: We have an education-in-retirement program, and various library staff usually offer something. I’m going to do a class on smart phones (starting from the basics, like “why might you care” in February. Last week, I went to their signup event and answered questions (and asked what people were particularly interested in learning). I’m waiting until February to prep the actual class, though, because we all know how much is going to change between now and then.


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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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