Library day in the life 2018

This post is an account of what I did at work each day from Monday 17 September 2018 through to Friday 21 September 2018. The idea is to give an impression of the range of tasks I engage in. I’ve done it four times previously, starting in 2011. I explain more about ‘Library day in the life’ in my Library day in the life 2016 post.

Monday 17 Sep
I woke up feeling tired from my run yesterday, so I decided against an early start; I stayed in bed till 7am. Unluckily for me there was a faulty train on the Northern line causing long delays. I opted to take a bus for 35 mins and then travelled two stops on the Piccadilly line, getting into work at 9.20. Not a good Monday morning start!

This is my week to look after the @CrickEDI twitter account. Today is the first day for our new cohort of Crick PhD students, so I tweeted a welcome to them, mentioning the Crick staff networks.

After checking my emails and registering for an interesting-looking webinar next week (Bringing Insight to Data: Info Pros’ Role in Text- and Data-Mining)  I made a start on clearing up some outstanding tasks.

I sorted out some outstanding expenses claims (tedious but necessary) and busied myself with some administrative preparations for open access week in October. I also sent an email that I’d been putting off. It might frustrate some of the recipients but it needed to be sent.

I work in a research institute so there are always scientific talks and seminars happening, but they are mostly pitched at expert level.  One monthly series of talks is aimed at non-scientists on the staff – the “Introduction to…” series. Today it was “Introduction to malaria” and we were treated to 30 mins of parasitology from one of the Crick postdocs.

One of my regular chores is to check through and edit the weekly publications list, to ensure they are all categorised correctly (primary research, reviews etc) and that they are all genuinely our publications. After that I  select a few of them to be highlighted internally by our Comms team. It’s a good way to get an overview of what’s being published by Crick scientists.

A monthly chore is to prepare the LIS monthly report. Some of this is generated from various Excel spreadsheets of statistics, but it’s not all as slick as I would like. Making it more automated would really help. I’m a bit late with this month’s report but finished the draft this afternoon, ready for my colleagues to comment on.

It seems to have been a day for chores and clearing up tasks. It’s always a good feeling to get things done.

My final task was to welcome three colleagues from our partner universities.  I meet with representatives from the libraries from time to time to catch up with their news and update them with ours. I was interested to hear about their bibliometrics support services and plans to expand research data management. They were interested to hear about our plans to introduce a CRIS (though we call it a RIMS) and repository. We also talked a bit about funding for OA, Plan S, ORCiD and DORA, and the frustrations of ebooks. These meetings are a good chance for me to talk with fellow librarians.

Tuesday 18 Sep
A year ago the EDIS Symposium was held  – addressing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in science and health (see tweet summary of the event).  Since then the organisations which organised the symposium (Wellcome, Francis Crick Institute, GSK) have been working hard to create a new organisation called EDIS.

Today EDIS held a round table discussion of interested parties. The aim is to move EDIS forward as a campaigning and support organisation, and the event was held to gather commitments to join (and fund) the organisation. I went along to the meeting this morning, held at the Wellcome Trust, to hear about the plans for EDIS.  It was good to hear strong support for EDIS from the other attendees. There were some quite probing questions from the attendees about the plans but there were good answers for all of them. We also had some discussion about what questions EDIS should try to answer and what activities it should undertake.  EDIS has a website and has just launched a Twitter account if you want to find out more.

I then went into work for the rest of the day – luckily it’s just a short walk. I had a very quick lunch before attending the PRISM network meeting. PRISM is our staff network for black and ethnic minority staff. It is a really active group and they have done some great work in their two years of existence. I was there to brief them about a proposed Wikipedia editathon, to focus on black and ethnic minority scientists.  There was some enthusiasm for the event and some ideas have flowed already. We’re planning to crowdsource a list of names of scientists who need Wikipedia articles, or improved articles.

Later on I had a one-to-one with one of my direct reports, talking about her work on journal subscriptions and some ILL problems.

I did a bit of chasing up some information we need for a project, sent some information about the next Open Research London event to one of the speakers, and answered a question asking if we had any photos of past members of staff. I also helped someone convert a large Outlook distribution list into two columns in Excel – names and email addresses.

I fixed a date to show Paywall the movie and booked our auditorium for the purpose on one lunchtime during OA week. I’m assured that showing a film from a laptop is really easy these days, but I’ve not tried it before so will need some handholding from our AV people.

I’ve been meaning to do some work on ebooks for a while, but I’m a bit anxious that it’s going to prove impossible to get the books we need at an affordable price. The discussion yesterday with my university colleagues made me realise I need to get on with it. If it does prove impossible, then I’ll need to make alternative plans.  I spent a bit of time working on getting a candidate list of titles together, from a preliminary list a colleague prepared for me. I’ll need to do some more work on it to expand it a bit to cover all relevant subjects.

I finished my day by composing a few tweets for the @CrickEDI account, about PRISM and the EDIS meeting.

Wednesday 19 Sep
I got in early this morning to do some preparation for my talk to the new PhD students later on. It’s always hard to know how much to say in these talks. I try to sketch out what we offer, in as broad a way as possible, and make some sort of impression on them so that they will remember that the Library & Information Services team exists. The talk went will enough and I was proud of my segue from ‘how to choose which tools you use’, into ‘sharing and open science’. I did a show of hands to see who uses which citation management tool – Mendeley wins hands down. And I asked if any of them are OA/open science advocates. I was pleased to see two and a half hands go up.

A tweet asked me about a comment I’d made on a 2013 blogpost. It turned out to be something about the MRC Common Cold Unit (CCU). I had commented on the blogpost about the link between the CCU and NIMR, noting that virologist Christopher Andrewes was the original instigator of the Unit. That person was the grandfather of my tweet-correspondent, and she thanked me for adding my comment about her grandfather. That gave me a nice warm feeling.

I put the finishing touches to a co-authored blogpost, after discussion with my  colleague and co-author. It’s just a short piece about making deposits into Europe PubMed Central, and the need to develop skills in order to double check the deposits after they’ve been marked up into XML.

Then I spent 45 mins with another of my colleagues doing some guerrilla interviews. These entail standing by the coffee queue in our cafe to ask people a few questions about accessing journal articles.  We’ll also ask some of them to participate in some more in-depth work, but the guerrilla interviews give a first impression of people’s experience. This is part of our UX programme – using UX techniques to improve our services.

Next it was time for a one-to-one with another of my direct reports. We talked about some work on information literacy she’s doing; preparations for OA week; publicising the Open Research London event; setting up Research Buzz Club again (this is like a journal club but for research policy news).

After lunch I sat down with someone from Finance to look at our budget for 2019/20, and review the current and past years’ spending. There’s no nasty surprises, yet.

I put the finishing touches to my August monthly report and sent it out then went along to the Crick Lecture. This was a talk at the interface between cancer biology, developmental biology and drug development, and was pitched at a good level for a non-specialist.

I joined in the after-lecture drinks for a while, and had an interesting conversation about research data sharing (both internally and externally). Sometimes those kind of conversations can be very important.

Thursday 20 September

I did a bit of preparation first thing to collate information about lab protocols. More of that later.

While I was having a cup of coffee someone asked me whether our OA and publishing budget would stretch to paying for a cover image.. We’ve had that request before and decided it wouldn’t.

I and a colleague had a meeting with two people from Jisc Collections. They came to explain the new arrangements for affiliate members. As we’re not a higher education institution we will in future have to pay a fee for each Jisc deal we take part in, to help cover the negotiation costs. The fees are not unreasonable.

After that I went upstairs to do my weekly stint sitting by the hub on the fifth floor. There are four lab floors in the building and each one has a central ‘hub’ where lab managers and administrators sit. Each member of my team spends one morning a week sitting adjacent to the hub. The reason for this is to keep in closer contact with the labs, and increase our visibility to the scientists. As we have no physical library space I think it’s important for us to take steps like this to be visible. While on the hub I took a phone call on my laptop, talking to a colleague from Rescolinc about one of their journal deals for 2019 (which also involves Jisc).

After lunch I spent 45 mins talking about lab protocols and methods to our Asst Information Services Specialist. This position was created for an early career librarian and advertised as such, with a promise to provide on-the-job training. I decided we should go beyond that to give a broader perspective too, as a ‘learning development programme’ -a roughly weekly session on some aspect of LIS in a research institute. So far we’ve covered journals and discovery, and just about to move onto books. Today I endeavoured to explain how protocols are published and list some sources for finding them, but I also talked about OA and reproducibility.

Back at my desk I found an email asking if we could pay for a cover image (a different one, from a different person). The answer was ‘no’ again.

Then I saw a tricky email from someone complaining about our lousy access to journals, giving examples of articles she’d been unable to access. I could see this would need delicate handling. We agreed to get copies of the articles she needed, and I will go and talk to her later.

Then it was time to go to the IT&S Gathering. This is a monthly meeting of all staff in our broader department – Information Technology and Services. We celebrate news and achievements, staff arrivals and departures, and hear short talks from within IT&S and other people in the Institute.

Usually I’d stay and chat to people after the Gathering, but today there was another talk I wanted to attend, organised by the CrAIC (Crick artificial intelligence club). This was given by Elena Lestini, about her career switch from chemistry research to AI in a start-up. The start-up is managed by Chiin-Rui Tan (who was also present).  Elena had realised that as a woman aged 40, and a mother, she was not going to progress in academia. She retrained and with the help of a Daphne Jackson fellowship moved into artificial intelligence. I spent some time afterwards talking to other attendees, and to Elena and Chiin.

Friday 21 September
Courtesy of the Knowledge Quarter I had a ticket for an early morning (well, 8.30 am) view of the “I object” exhibition at the British Museum. This featured objects of dissent, drawn from the BM collection and curated by Ian Hislop of Private Eye. See some photos on my Instagram.

Back at work I crafted a series of tweets about the ORL event on 3 October, and sent emails to the ORL mailing list and several other listservs, as well as some internal lists. It always surprises me how much time this kind of thing can take.

I sent some emails trying to track down contacts for the families of two past NIMR scientists. The old NIMR site at Mill Hill is being redeveloped by Barratt Homes. There will be a few new roads that need naming and several blocks of flats will also need names. Barratts want to name these after scientists associated with NIMR, but they need to check with the families of those people, and I’ve ended up helping to put them in touch with some of them.

I was pleased to receive emails from two of our new PhD students asking to join the OA advocates group. I sent them invites and some blurb.

I replied to an email asking whether we would like an album of photos of the old NIMR, and followed up a request to contact a scientist who used to work at NIMR. It seems to have been a day for history and links to NIMR.

Summing up

I don’t how any of people will have made it through to the end of this post. I chose this week as it looked like I had an interesting variety of things happening – maybe too much variety! There seems to have been quite a bit of EDI and a good deal of Open Research in there, but also a solid bit of journal access, some promotional work, and some management. The number of historical queries was more than usual, I’m not sure why. I didn’t put in much time on some key projects – that will be a priority over the next 12 months. Maybe I’ll try another Library life in the day in September 2019, and see how that compares.


About Frank Norman

I am a retired librarian. I spent 40 years working in biomedical research libraries.
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