Sunday, 30 January 2011

Library Day in the Life - Round 6

Last week I decided to participate in the Library Day in the Life project for the first time, but decided to write up my week and post it at the end, rather than blogging on a daily basis. 

I completed the MA Librarianship at the University of Sheffield last September, and as I had not yet secured a job I returned to the North East of England to live with my parents for what I hoped would be a short time! I was very lucky to get a temporary job in an academic library almost immediately – I registered with a recruitment agency and the job request came through on the very day on which I was having my initial interview.

I work in the Bibliographic Services department of a university library. My job title is officially Assistant Administrator, but the permanent member of staff for whom I am a temporary replacement has the title Senior Information Assistant and I think this more accurately reflects what I do. I am responsible for maintaining the institutional repository – the place where academics’ research outputs are listed and, where possible, made available to users. It is my job to add the metadata – information about each research output – to the Repository, obtain a copy of each output, and seek permission from publishers and/or other interested parties to establish whether we may upload the output (e.g. journal article, book chapter) to the Repository so that users may view it. I also need to keep the spreadsheet updated – this states what position we are in relation to each output, which is important as sometimes it can be months before a publisher gets back to us, so we need to know where we are up to! I also need to create the Repository’s statistical reports, which show how well we are doing, the most popular Schools, how many full texts have been uploaded as opposed to records only, and where the Repository’s viewers come from. No library qualifications or experience were actually required for my role – the temporary member of staff before me had neither – but I feel my experience has really helped me to not only perform my role effectively, but understand the whole concept and reasoning behind an institutional repository. I’m also pleased to be able to put some of the theory I learned on my MA into practice, particularly the Academic & Research Libraries module.


I normally arrive in work at about half past eight and begin by checking my emails. I rarely have a rush of emails as everyone who tends to email me – my managers, academics, other library and administration staff – works the same hours as me and I normally check my emails on a regular basis throughout the week. I do have a couple of replies to requests I made last week to order books. If an academic from the university has authored or edited a book, fully or in part, we will make a request to order the book for the Library normally depending on the relevance of the book and the cost. One book order has been approved and I forward it to another member of staff in my department who will order a copy. Another has been rejected because it isn’t particularly relevant to the Library’s collections. I file this away and update the spreadsheet.

I also check the main Repository inbox. Occasionally, an academic or member of the public will contact us using this address to ask a question about the Repository. This is rare though and the email address is most often used by administrative staff, called Guardians, who work in the different academic departments of the University and are responsible for collating and sending through their department’s outputs. These come in on a steady basis and, as they are usually the most recent outputs, they are my priority. There are a couple in the inbox and for each I add the metadata to the Repository, save and print a copy of the output (these are normally attached to the email), and find out if the publisher permits us to upload the output to our Repository. I have a handy list of publisher policies, but if a particular publisher is not on the list I need to find their contact details online, compose a letter to them and pass it to the member of staff in charge of copyright who will contact the publisher and let me know when we hear back from them.

There will be a Repository meeting this week so I was asked last week to ensure the statistical report was ready. A new Repository Manager has just started work, so at ten o’clock, as well as completing the statistical report, I need to show her how to do it. She won’t be responsible for doing this herself, as her responsibility is more strategic and managerial – the day-to-day administration of the Repository is done by me – but it will be useful for her to know so she knows what’s going on and can make changes if necessary.

Using statistics taken from the Repository itself and the spreadsheet we can see the number of records uploaded, both per month and the cumulative total, since the project was begun in early 2008, as well as the number of visits to the Repository and number of research outputs downloaded. We can also look at the percentage of records which belong to each School in the University, and which of those records have the research output attached. What I find most interesting are the charts and graphs showing who has viewed the Repository from different cities and countries around the world. Naturally, most viewers come from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the UK as a whole, but users have viewed the Repository from as far afield as Wuhan, China, and Sydney, Australia. After finishing the report I email it to my manager for checking.

After lunch, I spend the afternoon working through a spreadsheet of research outputs from one of the University’s departments. While new outputs, such as those sent via the Repository inbox, take priority there is a backlog of outputs which have been entered onto the Repository but have had nothing further done to them. For each record I will try to find a copy online (or, in the case of a book chapter, in the Library in which case I will find the book and photocopy the chapter) and check publisher permissions. If a copy cannot be found online I contact the Guardian to see if they have one or can obtain one from the relevant academic. In some cases, we may have the full text of an output but the publisher will only allow us to upload a pre-print or a post-print (a version of the document created before or after refereeing, but before the document is formally published). In this case I will contact the Guardian to see if one is available.


After checking my emails as usual, I head to the library shelves to pick up a couple of books and print journals from which I need to photocopy chapters and articles. One of the articles is from a Library & Information Gazette from 2008 and as I search through these past editions I am taken aback by the sheer number of jobs advertised before the recession – the ads filled eight pages a fortnight. These days I feel lucky if there are eight jobs in any one issue, and feel extremely relieved that I have managed to secure even a temporary post in a library.

After photocopying and scanning these articles, I follow the usual procedure of checking publisher permissions and I make sure to update the spreadsheet each time.

I spend the rest of the day working through yesterday’s spreadsheet with the backlog of research outputs.


I get in to work to find some letters on my desk, put there by my colleague who is responsible for copyright in the Library. These are letters from publishers to whom requests to upload research outputs have been sent. One gives permission for us to upload a particular article. I upload the PDF that was previously saved on the shared drive, then file the paper record away. Another letter gives us permission to upload the paper provided a large fee is paid. The university has decided that it isn’t worth paying the fee, so I can’t upload the paper. I mark the spreadsheet to note this and file the record away in the ‘Complete’ folder.

I spend the rest of the day going through a folder containing details of research outputs that were entered onto the Repository before being published. I check and update those outputs which have been published since, and also upload outputs for which an embargo had been placed by the publisher, provided it has now run out. Every so often I check the Repository inbox to see if any new outputs have been sent.

In the afternoon my manager asks me to make a couple of changes to the statistical report, which I do ready for the meeting tomorrow. She also asks me for some figures relating to the forthcoming REF (Research Excellence Framework) assessment, which I am able to obtain from the spreadsheet. All research outputs which will form part of the REF are marked on the spreadsheet and the Repository is an excellent way to showcase these.


In the morning I deal with some new research outputs which have come through via email. In the afternoon I attend the Repository meeting, at which I am responsible for taking the minutes. The new Repository manager has several suggestions for making the procedure of adding research outputs more straightforward. After the meeting I write up the minutes before heading home.

I make some corrections to the minutes before emailing my manager with the final version. I spend the rest of the morning working through the spreadsheet. In the afternoon I complete a couple of new outputs that have been sent to the Repository inbox, and spend the last couple of hours preparing for Monday. I’ve got a new job in London, so I’ll be leaving my job in a couple of weeks and will spend the next fortnight training my replacement.

That was my week. I’ve really enjoyed reading about other people’s experiences, and I hope to participate again in the future, when I’ll hopefully be blogging about my new job!