Library day in the life, Spring 2022 (part 1)

This post is an account of what I did at work for four days in Feb 2022. The idea is to give an impression of the range of tasks I engage in during my work as librarian at the Francis Crick Institute. I’ve included some reflections and mini-rants so it’s not just a list of actions.

I’ve done this a few times over the years – the last time was in 2018.  Previously I’ve covered 5 days in a single week but I have done it differently this time. I’ve stretched it out a bit and ended up covering 8 days in total over a period of 2 months. This post has 4 days and the next post gives an account of 4 days in Mar/Apr 2022.

Thurs 10 Feb 2022

Today I’m working from home.  I have a comfortable chair, a good-sized table, a laptop and an extra screen.  It’s not quite as good as the office layout in the Crick building but it’s OK.

I start the day by reviewing emails and answering them or forwarding as necessary. One was a confirmation from a publisher to say they’ve renewed our subscription.  I’m a bit perplexed why this has come in now – I thought it was already renewed in November! But these days nothing surprises me when it comes to journal subscriptions.

I also check in to Slack and review any messages. One message told me about a big new neuroscience project involving two Crick labs. And another mentioned the UKRI consultation about its EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) strategy. The Crick has had an enterprise licence for Slack for a few years and it came into its own when the lockdown struck. There’s a mixture of general channels and other channels linked to specific work areas.

Next I check that my VPN connection is active and then I check my calendar for the day. It’s going to be a busy one (which is why I’ve chosen to document it here).

I log into our finance system and approve an order.  This is an open access (OA) payment to an Elsevier transformative journal. I wish these article processing charges could be zero-rated for VAT, the same as books, journals and ejournals.

I emailed a publisher representative about one of our Read & Publish deals.  We had a slightly unusual (favourable) arrangement for the deal in 2021 and I’d assumed this would continue for 2022. Yesterday I realised that on renewal in January it has changed to a slightly less favourable setup.  I penned a (slightly begging) email to see if we can go back to the more favourable arrangement for 2022.

Success!  They came back quickly and said yes.

I received an email from my boss about a new collaborative agreement between a Crick research group and a University research group.  They will share data with each other but also want to share an Endnote library. My colleague is our expert in Endnote so I passed it to her to look into, but I raised some copyright considerations too.

Before lockdown we used to put on small, themed book displays and soon we will restart these. Each one has about 16 books, all on a single theme.  We’re creating two new displays – one on Lab lit (the genre of fiction set in real-world scientific labs) and one on pandemics (including flu, COVID and also vaccination). I choose the books, my colleague drafts a booklet with information about each book and then I edit that, adding a paragraph about the theme of the display. Today I worked on editing the Lab lit booklet.

Then I had my first Zoom call of the day – with my IT colleagues. The Library & Information Services team is part of the IT office (ITO).  There is a daily short meeting with all the ITO team leads to review any issues and give project updates. Much of what goes on in these meetings is not directly relevant for me, but it’s instructive anyway and being there means I don’t miss anything crucial. The meetings are often only 10 mins long, but can extend to 30 mins if required.

There was also some discussion about a project to create a digital data retention policy.  IT colleagues have been talking with their counterparts at another institute.  I make a note to contact the archivist at that institute to find out more.

Then I went straight into the LIS Team daily catchup on Zoom. We started these catchups when we were all working from home at the beginning of the lockdown.  Now we’re working in the office on some days, but we have different days in the office so it’s still useful to have a quick catch-up every day.

Today we talked about a journal Read & Publish deal for 2022 that we’re still waiting to hear about. I agreed to chase Jisc. I am nostalgic for the days when the year’s subscriptions were all sorted out well before January! These days it takes until the end of April to sort everything out.  We also talked about which books to include in the pandemics and vaccination book display.

Later I attended a Zoom call to hear a vendor tendering to provide a contract and licence management system. This is for a Crick-wide system, but managing (journal) licenses and contracts is a bit of a headache for us so I’m interested in this project. Today’s was the second vendor to present their system. It’s interesting how varied the systems can be.

I popped out of my flat to get lunch. Usually I stay in but I wanted to get some fresh air today.

Another Zoom call – the monthly ITO all-hands meeting.  This is a monthly short address from our boss to update us on developments in the department, with a Q&A session to follow. This month we learnt about upcoming changes to the ITO dept structure, some updates on Covid arrangements and an update on the results of the Crick’s 5-yearly review exercise.

In the afternoon I had a Zoom call with one of my team members, to talk about digital science tools.  Her post was originally designated as an early career position, so I have built in some learning & development activities. We aim to have 1 or 2 sessions per month to talk about some aspect of library & information services. It hasn’t been as regular as that, especially during lockdown but now we’re almost at the end of the planned series. For today’s session, on digital science tools, I focused on the Bianca Kramer/Jeroen Bosman work, plus something on electronic lab notebooks.

I wonder whether to share my notes from these sessions more widely, though some of what I say quickly goes out of date. Maybe it’s a project for after I’ve retired (this summer).

I’ve also been keeping an eye on discussions on the UKCORR email discussion list.  A post there yesterday interested me so I’ve been checking to see if there are any further responses.  There was another good thread today, about Transformative Journals and UKRI policy.

Coincidentally, I spotted new guidance on the Jisc website, which mentions TJs.   I’d been told some back that this would be coming but it’s good to have it officially. I thought I knew what it was going to say but looking closely at this guidance I can see it is quite confusing and not what I’d expected.

I had an email from a certain video journal publisher telling me that their ‘business model is changing’.  Usually this is code for ‘you’ll have to pay more’. I’ll need to have a careful look at this ahead of our next library committee meeting in April.

An internal news piece I’d written about our ‘Reading Corner’ appeared in the Crick weekly round-up. Reading Corner is a few bookshelves containing our general and historical collection of books. The collection has been in storage for a few years, and the only outings the books had was via the themed book displays I mentioned above.  Now some space has been found for us to show off more of the collection – we have new dedicated shelving to display about 400 books (half the collection). The LIS team are quite excited about this and we hope that the researchers will enjoy the new facility too.

I should perhaps explain that the Crick library service is almost entirely an electronic service with no physical space or physical collection on display before now.

Wed 16 Feb 2022

I’m working in the Crick building today, so I have an extra screen and also real-life colleagues to talk to.

As usual I start by catching up on emails and Slack messages. I’ve realised that our access to a journal archive is broken. This is an example of a problem that we were discussing with Jisc yesterday, so it’s quite timely. I email our Jisc contact to explain what’s happened.

One of our Group Leaders has an interest in novel funding schemes (and has actually got a few things running in quite a big way to trial new approaches to funding research).  I’ve been working to put him in touch with one of my external contacts who is working on different aspects of novel research funding methods.  I’ve made the link between them now, so I hope they have a useful discussion.

I join the daily ITO Zoom call.  There’s a mention of the forthcoming Technicians Week at the Crick, and talk about creating an ITO stall on one of the days, to highlight the work of ITO. We also heard about plans for easing the COVID restrictions at the Crick.

Next was the LIS catch-up – not on Zoom this time. All four of us are in the building today so we had a real face-to-face meeting.  I passed on some info from the ITO meeting just before. We also discussed plans for the Reading Corner popup next month (we will have a table down in the ground-floor atrium during lunchtime, to promote the book collection). We came up with some good ideas for the event.

We also briefly discussed ideas for a future ORCID popup.  This will be part of a longer campaign to promote ORCID and our Crick Research Outputs system.

In the afternoon I joined a Zoom call with someone from Open Life Science (OLS),  plus two Crick colleagues who work on open science projects. We learnt about the work of OLS, particularly the mentoring/training programs they run. These are over 16 weeks, about 2 hours per week. Each mentee must think of a project and they will discuss it with their mentor every 2 weeks.  In the intervening weeks there is a cohort (plenary) call when they hear experts talk on a particular topic. In these calls the participants can also share their experiences with others in the program. It’s an interesting approach to promoting open science knowledge.  We will need to think about who/how to promote OLS at the Crick, both to mentees, mentors, and potential expert speakers.

Just after lunch I host the ITO Gathering on Zoom. This is a monthly informal 60-min meeting for everyone in ITO. We start with a short quiz, then a talk from someone in the Crick but outside ITO, then team news, achievements, possibly a short talk or two on a technical topic, and finally an ‘open mic’ talk where an ITO member of staff talks for 10 mins on any subject they want to choose. It’s a regular spot to celebrate successes and get to know each other better. It’s been Zoom-only for the past 2 years but I hope we can do a real life meeting soon. I arrange the speakers and host the meeting. I’m always exhausted at the end of the meeting!

I had 1:1 meetings with each of my team members today.  We normally do this weekly to talk through issues and identify any problems I can help with.

Fri 18 Feb

I’d planned to write about today’s activities, but I was off sick today.  I felt rough yesterday and am still very tired today.  My lateral flow tests are negative so it’s not COVID.

Tue 22 Feb

I’m in the building again today.  Two of my team members are in too, with another of them attending the R2R conference – in person! It will be great to attend a real-world conference again.

I have quite a lot of catching up (emails etc) to do after my couple of days off sick. I missed a meeting with ResearchFish but my colleague handled it for me. It’s good to have colleagues who can step up when needed.

I followed-up with someone who had asked about copyright for an article he’d written that was now accepted – asking which box to tick.  We need to check up what he’s doing about the OA too.

I also responded to another researcher who had suggested  ‘If there’s no deal with the publisher then we can ignore OA, right?’  I had to disabuse him of that lovely notion.

After my usual morning routine of the ITO and LIS daily Zoom calls I attended another Zoom session for a company tendering for the contracts and licence manager system. It was interesting again.

Then I went to look at a pile of books that one lab wanted to discard. A handful were interesting and we’ll add them to our Reading Corner. The rest we will arrange for collection by Book Rescuers. Between various labs closing we have about 150 books to dispose of now.

I went downstairs to grab a coffee and bumped into our internal comms person. He agreed to send an update/refresh about Reading Corner. We’ve had a few questions from staff and realised our initial notice wasn’t clear enough, so I have revised it.

I gave some help to a colleague who is setting up our new OpenURL resolver.  The information about different journal packages is not always clear – what titles are included, and which version of the package we should choose. It’s more difficult when some packages are actually ‘pick’n’mix’, so the published list of titles in the deal doesn’t match those that we actually subscribe to. I’m looking forward to getting this set up.  it will also feed into Browzine and Libkey – two new tools we are adding.

This afternoon I had a catch-up with the new EDI manager at the Crick, to talk about LIS and EDI. It was useful. Although mostly the LIS just deals with science information, we do go beyond that into related areas that support science. EDI is a key area that I’ve always been keen to support.

I had a request from a contact on LinkedIn to look at an editorial she has written on preprints. I agree to give some feedback.

I received an invitation to join an advisory board – I replied that I would love to but I will retire in 5 months, so best that they find someone else.

An email from a publisher asks if I’d like to hear about some exciting new product they are developing. I’m not really enthusiastic, but say ‘Yes, tell me all about it’.

Thur 24 Feb In the Crick.

I’m feeling all kinds of emotions with the news this morning from Ukraine.

My team member who does most of our open access work is attending the webinar on the new UKRI open access policy. Later she updates us about what was said.

A question about MyAthens+ was passed to me – do we want to upgrade our Athens subscription (i.e. pay more) to include MyAthens+?  I suspect the answer is going to be ‘no’. The extra product seems to be a portal thing and we’re expecting Browzine/Libkey to do this job for us once we’re fully onboarded. My colleague is digging into this a bit more before we respond.

I received an email from someone I know slightly asking if I’d give an online talk about OA and open science to researchers, as one part of a regular series of webinars on research integrity and related topics. I agree to do it.

A few other emails on small matters – fixing one of our scientists to talk at next month’s ITO Gathering; emailing an ITO colleague with a list of developments we hope to see implemented around the way publications are displayed on the Crick website; emailing my edited version of the book display booklet on pandemics etc; agreeing payment terms for a big invoice; forwarding details to colleagues of a long-awaited Read & Publish deal; forwarding details of the disaster recovery plan for a software tool we’re subscribing to.

I also email a scientist who’s trying to sort out OA for his new article, but the journal is one that is rather difficult.

At the end of the day I attend the Crick lecture, which is given by Demis Hassabis from Deepmind.  He is mightily impressive, explaining the power of machine learning in a straightforward and clear way. I think it’s one of the most interesting science talks I’ve been to for a very long time.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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1 Response to Library day in the life, Spring 2022 (part 1)

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