A year at work (and a day in the life)

Today is my one year anniversary working at Perkins. I am still amazingly happy here! I thought it might be a nice time to do a day in my work life.

It turned out to be a slightly atypical day, in that I had a cluster of complicated reference questions, and didn’t get a lot else done, where normally I’d spend a bunch of time in the afternoon working on some project or another. But I think it gives a good look at scope of work.

7:05: Meet a friend from work (who lives about 10 blocks from me) to carpool – tomorrow night is the big gala event that Perkins holds every year. They’ve asked us to reduce the number of cars that need to park on campus this week because we’re down a parking lot and a half due to tents.

7:30: Get to my office, unlock the door to the library, turn on the lights, boot up my computer. Work through email (no new questions) and do some other admin tasks while getting my brain to wake up enough to tackle the three reference questions left over from yesterday that are all complicated. Make some notes for a presentation I’m giving next week at our Archives Advisory Board meeting.

8:30: Start on the first question left from previous days, a call that came in just before I left work from a teacher in another state who is working with a young student who is deafblind but interested in learning to speak. This involves opening up a lot of tabs on my computer, rummaging through books, and putting information together.

10:00: Tell our catalog to export the file of titles in our collection that might be interesting for this question, take a deep breath, and take a deep breath and a break before starting on the next thing. (Our catalog takes a while to write these kinds of files.) Get a guest set up with a computer. (We’re basically the only space on campus that has guest-accessible computers.)

10:25: Send the email with the answer to the first question of the day, load up tabs for my next question, which is about some sheets in braille from the 1970s that a local resident brought in: she wanted to know what they covered and the original stories so she could store them together. A colleague did the braille to written English transcription for me yesterday of enough text to identify the stories (I can transcribe only very very slowly), so I just need to search for the stories now.

11:15: Which turns out to be more complicated than anticipated. She’d thought it was the New York Times, but that can’t be the case: the New York Times was on strike in the time period we’re pretty sure it was. (August 10 – November 5, 1978: one of the stories in the pages she has is about the Camp David accords, and was used elsewhere.)

11:35: After some more digging, become pretty sure they’re from the New York Times News Service (sent out over wire service), but figuring out which issue will need some hunting with microfilm and such. Send this off to the person who asked (who fortunately happens to be a librarian, so I don’t need to explain those options in detail.) Update my question form with how long this took, but what a fun puzzle! Close a bunch of browser tabs.

11:50 : Finish consulting with my assistant about various bits of the previous questions that might affect her, ask her to check our student ledgers from the 1840s and 1850s for information on people related to my next complicated question.

(This is where I pause and say normally I do not have three really complicated reference questions that take an hour + to solve in a day. My norm is maybe two or three a week, with a lot of other simpler questions. It’s actually been really quiet for a week or so, until these three all came in this week.)

Open up tabs to look at after lunch, be pleased that the Internet Archive search within is behaving again (it’s been a bit flaky for us off and on): my next question involves rummaging in our annual reports for information about students and music in the 1840s.

Eye the time, and open a bunch of tabs to work on this after lunch, because:

12 noon: Go for a half hour presentation on upcoming plans being announced at the Gala. They feed us cupcakes and show us videos (I’ll post about that on Friday, after the big project they’re announcing is launched.)

12:30: Come back to near the library for colleagues to pick up lunch from the student lunch service (offered two days a week, and for $5 you get tasty food, the students get practice cooking and running a cash register and being social, and everyone wins.) Grab my own lunch from my office, go eat with them.

1pm: Get back from lunch, answer an email or two, explain the newspaper question to the person who helped with it, because fascinating. Pause because a nice guy from Facilities has come to check on my temperature for me. (My office has been running hot: apparently, this is why I have the AC unit, not just for the summer: my office has no windows, glass on 2 sides, but only gets heat from the much larger space it’s in.) This also means we have some useful conversation about how it didn’t get my office very cold last summer, and he promises to make sure it’s on the list for being checked later this month.

(My brain stops processing well in temperatures above about 76F. I don’t need it to be much lower than that, but I’ve been averaging 76 for the past week or two, and we’re going to have some visiting researchers where having the fan on will complicate some things.)

Answer an email from someone who would like to donate some books.

1:15: Start working on research about what music was taught here in the 1840s and early 1850s and how, about which we do not have a lot of information.

3:15: Pause to find a book for a colleague (this part takes 3 minutes. It’s nice to have an easy question sometimes!)

3:22 : Finally send very long email with many links about music. Record this question in our tracking form. Hit “okay, I am out of brain now I have done much research” and take a short break. Come back and putter around doing small things, including putting a just approved vacation on my work calendar (I am going to stay home and get things done at home, and because of other work things this summer, better I do that sooner than later.)

4:15 : It is time for me to leave work normally (and I normally follow the campus culture of working my best when I’m here, and going home when it’s the end of the work day, because work-life balance is lovely), but since the person I carpooled with can’t leave for a bit, and I am in the middle of more work on that presentation, I keep going.

4:37 : My ride is actually ready to go, so shut down all the things and wander off home.

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1 comment to A year at work (and a day in the life)

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

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