A Day in the Life of a Librarian

Hey, speaking of memes

Today starts round two of the Day in the Life of a Librarian blogging round robin.  If you’re reading this, you’re either a librarian/library student (in which case I encourage you to add your name to the blogging list and write a post of your own) or a family member/student/old friend (in which case you probably have no idea what I do all day…prepare to be enthralled.)

I think, like most librarians, I don’t do the same thing every day, all day.  So what follows will be a close approximation of what happens, without being an exact day.

Since there’s going to be some new eyes reading this, I guess I should start off with a basic introduction.  My name is Sarah and I’m a Reference and Access Services librarian at the University of Kentucky College of Law Library.  That means I works “up front”…I answer research questions and help patrons procure materials that they can’t get through the university library system.  I have a JD from the University of Cincinnati College of Law and a MLS from Indiana University School of Library Science.  Academic law librarians like myself are generally required to have both degrees, law firm and court librarians are not.

Okay, so I wake up, get out of bed, drag a comb across my head…Actually, before the comb part, I usually make my way to my home office, fire up my computer and check my personal e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, andFriendFeed.   I have friends and contacts all over the country (all over the world, actually) and a lot happens when I’m asleep.  Then, if there’s anything that needs to be responded to, I can think of witty responses while I’m making bed/showering/making breakfast/packing my lunch.

Then, much to my everlasting shame, I eat breakfast in front of my computer.  I have a perfectly good table, but I got into the habit in library school and can’t seem to break it.  So I eat my breakfast (shredded wheat.  always.) and enter my witty responses.  I also check my work e-mail to see if there’s anything that needs to be thought about on my commute to work.

I arrive at work somewhere between 9 and 9:30.   I arrive through our Tech Services department, wave hello to my co-workers “in the back” and try to avoid getting sucked into any conversations.  (It’s not that I don’t like my co-workers, it’s just that I don’t like to talk to anyone before 10am.)  I get to my office, fire up my computer, put away my lunch and start my work day.

The first part of my day is dedicated to the “Access Services” part of my job.  I login to our ILS and see if anyone from UK has requested a book from the Law Library to be delivered to another library on campus through UK’s Book Express service.   If there are, I pull them from the shelves, process them, and put them in courier bags to be picked up in the afternoon.  I then login to OCLC and see if anyone (and by this I mean “another library”) has requested materials from my library to be sent to them.  (A process called Interlibrary Loan or ILL.) There always are requests, so I see if they’re available (on the shelf and a type of material that we circulate), pull them, wrap them up and then either drop them in the mail or put in a state library courier bag for our weekly pickup.

Now comes the fun part of Access Services…submitting requests.  This has three main components: (1) Figuring out what exactly it is the patron wants (2) Making sure that it’s not available either in print or a print substitute (law journal source & cites require print or PDFs to check an author’s work against; other ILL requests are generally okay with electronic journal submissions) from a UK Libraries resource and then (3) Use OCLC to find a library that has it, preferably one that doesn’t charge for ILLs.  This process can take any where from a few minutes per request to hours per each.   I really enjoy the challenge of the hunt.

Now, throughout this process, I have my office door open.  Co-workers and students often wander in to either ask a research question, discuss a work issue or just chat.  (I sometimes think that offering a sympathetic ear to law students is more important than helping them do research.)  I also keep a widow open to Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook, check my e-mail a couple times and take phone calls.  I’m not intentionally a multi-tasker…I just have a short attention span sometimes and I like to break up my tasks with a communication break.

Around noon I eat lunch (again in front of my computer) and then head out to the Reference Desk.  Which basically means I sit at a desk and wait for someone to ask me a question.  While I’m waiting, I may be processing some ILL requests, working on a research request from a law student or faculty member, taking care of some committee work (library, law school, university or professional organization), catching up on my professional reading, communicating with other librarians on social networks, writing a blog post (here or on my library’s blog), planning a bibliographic instruction session or once again just chatting with co-workers and students.  No matter what library you are at, or what it looks like the person sitting at that reference desk is doing, you should never feel bad about asking them a question.  It’s what we’re there for!

As largest law library in the state, we get legal questions from all sorts of people – from federal judges’ chambers to uneducated people trying to file a small claims court claim and everything in between.  Students, faculty and members of the bench and bar usually just want suggestions on how to use resouces that they’re already aware of or to get some material that they know exists, but are unsure where it is.  With members of the public, they don’t know what they want or where to get it.  There’s a fine line between providing legal information and providing legal advice and I have to be aware of who I’m talking to and what they want so that I don’t cross it.  (Sometimes the best outcome is to help them realize that they should contact an attorney and show them the options for free and low cost legal assistance. ) A lot of times, people just want to have someone listen to their story and don’t want advice or information at all.   I won’t lie…I’ve had some interactions with members of the public that I scared me or plain creeped me out, but for the most part it’s not too bad.

My reference shift ends at 4, but if it’s busy, I’ll stick around and answer more questions.  Otherwise, I go back to my office and continue some of the same activities that I was doing on the reference desk.  I’m currently redesigning a website for a regional law library organization, so that’s something that’s taking up my time lately that I can’t do on the Reference Desk.  I head home around 6.

So that’s an average day in the life of this law librarian.   Or as average as it can get, not counting fire drills, burst water pipes, library construction projects, inventory or other rare occurrances.  Things I didn’t mention that fall in between “rare” and “average” were commitee meetings, faculty meetings and conference travel.  Those take me out of the library and can really throw a wrench into my daily schedule.

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3 Responses

  1. [...] meme seems a great way to start blogging from my new position at Yale. I got put onto this by The Technological Tortoise (thanks [...]

  2. Thank you for sharing your day! I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who still eats breakfast at the computer ;-)

  3. [...] bookmarks tagged tortoise A Day in the Life of a Librarian « The Technologi… saved by 1 others     softballgurl33 bookmarked on 02/10/09 | [...]

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