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My name is Lane Wilkinson and I am a librarian.

Specifically, I am a reference and instruction librarian at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and this is my “library day in the life” entry for the week of July 25, 2011. I’m writing this for the benefit of future librarians who would like a snapshot of the day-to-day activities in an academic library.

Monday
7:30 – The library opens in 15 minutes, so I’m patiently waiting at the reference desk for the first students. I should probably take this opportunity to describe my library. UTC is a mid-sized, urban university with a “Masters/LCarnegie Classification and an enrollment just shy of 11,000 students. (If you’re thinking of becoming an academic librarian, I highly recommend that you think carefully about the Carnegie Classifications while looking for jobs.) The library is primarily a teaching library, rather than a research library, by which I mean that library services are primarily in support of the undergraduate curriculum. As a reference and instruction librarian, I teach an average of 30 classes each semester and each week I spend 5-10 hours on the reference desk each week and handle one or two in-depth research appointments. Most of the reference work involves formatting papers, finding scholarly articles, and helping students refine their research topics/arguments. As the liaison to the Department of Philosophy and Religion and the College of Business, I work with faculty to build the collection and I work closely with honors students, upper-level undergraduates, and graduate students in these areas. And then there are the committees…good lord there are a lot of committees…

8:20 – 35 minutes into the reference desk, and I haven’t had a question yet. Given that it’s summer, this isn’t surprising.

8:39 – Here’s my agenda for the day:

  • Go over the suggested edits a peer-reviewer sent regarding my LOEX conference proceedings.
  • Order at least $500 of titles for the College of Business.
  • Write a mission statement and philosophy of instruction for the library instruction website we’re designing.
  • Work on a proposal for extending library instruction into the Department of Philosophy and Religion.
  • Start working on storyboards for new video tutorials.
  • Create 5-10 advertisements for the digital displays we’re installing around the library.
8:47 – First reference question of the day: “Can I borrow a pen?”
9:37 – Finished “fixing” the LOEX paper. Now, on to some CD.
10:10 – Scouring LibGuides at other universities for new and interesting business books. I find an recommended title, compare it to faculty research interests and courses offered, look for a review, add it my spreadsheet, and throw it into my account in Ambassador.

10:31 – Switching to digital displays for a little while. We are installing digital signage around the library and we need lots of content. So, I’m trying to churn out ads for our hours, collections, library services, technology, etc.. Here’s one that probably won’t get used:
10:58 – A word of advice, Photoshop and Illustrator are expensive. If you’re on a budget, GIMP and Inkscape are excellent, free, open-source alternatives.

11:35 – Just got a copy of a synthesis essay assignment from a first-year composition assignment. I’ll need to go over the assignment in preparation for tomorrow’s library instruction session. (One of the things I like best about the library instruction team here at UTC is the way we’ve embedded ourselves in the Freshman English program to the point that we work directly with faculty to develop the curriculum and assignments.)

12:45 – I’ve finished the digital display content, ordered my books, edited my paper, and now it’s time to turn to the storyboards for new video tutorials. The subcommittee I’m on has until the end of August to create a half-dozen or so videos. Our goal is to put out a series of short (30-60 seconds) videos targeted at specific library services (ILL, printing, etc.) and a few longer videos for classroom use.

1:05 – Back on the reference desk until 2:00.

1:11 – The reference desk is a great place to clear out all of those listserv messages in my inbox.

1:16 – Reference question: A student needs a chapter from a book we do not own. I explain how we can either have the book mailed through interlibrary loan, or have the chapter in question scanned and emailed directly to him. He selects the latter. As I’m walking him through the ILL request menu I ask him to fill out the “Not wanted after” field. He says he needs it for a class in two hours. Wow.

1:23 – Internet Reference Service Quarterly is seeking manuscripts. I’m tempted to send them something, but I would have to transfer my copyright over to Taylor & Francis. I’ll probably send them something, but if I have to trade away ownership, I don’t see the need in putting too much energy into it. They should just reword their call for articles to read, “send us a half-assed paper that you don’t care about ever seeing again.”

1:54 – Reference question: A patron needed help searching he Tennessee Code Annotated. It took a while to explain that the Tennessee “Code” was located under State “Statutes”.

2:30 – Trying to figure out how best to sell library instruction to the Department of Philosophy and Religion. I would suppose it’s pretty much the same at most university libraries: library instruction is used heavily by a half dozen or so departments, and infrequently (if ever) by most departments. Here at UTC, English, Education, Social Work, Business (Accounting, Marketing, Finance, Management), and the medical disciplines (Nursing, HHP, Physical Therapy) are heavy users of library instruction and support services. Interestingly, there as many instruction sessions for grad students as undergrads. But, I digress….

3:15 – Had a great chat with Khristy (my wife) about her lecture on Doestoevsky and Plato. Maybe I’ll write a Doestoevsky, Plato, and libraries post in the near future. I’ve been looking for something fun to write.

5:26 – So, I sort of forgot to update this for a while. Oh well. Let’s just say that I librarianated for a while then came home to hang out with the little guy.

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Here’s another Library Day in the Life round, y’all. This should be a fairly normal day in the life of an academic librarian…

10:20 – I’m coming in to work late, since I’ll be teaching until 8:00 tonight. Here’s the agenda for the day:

  1. Schedule a meeting for the Outreach committee.
  2. Assign articles for the Spring newsletter *
  3. Go over tonight’s BFIN 5000 presentation
  4. Edit the Business research guide, as needed
  5. Make handouts for tonight’s class
  6. Read through a stack of curriculum proposals for today’s university Curriculum Committee meeting
  7. Look over the eHRAF database trial
  8. Brainstorm marketing ideas for tomorrow’s Ethnographic Video Online meeting **
  9. Meet with some faculty members about a Black History Month display in the library
  10. Goal: order $1000 worth of business materials while on the ref desk
  11. 1:00-3:00 – Reference Desk
  12. 3:30-5:00 – Curriculum Committee meeting
  13. 6:30-8:00 – BFIN 5000 presentation
10:50 – Sorting through emails to figure out the best time for Outreach to meet this week. I’m chair of the committee, and with the snow days a few weeks ago, we need to play a bit of catch up to get the newsletter out on time.

11:33 – Outreach meeting is scheduled. With such a diverse group of librarians and staff from every department, it’s a miracle we can ever find a common time to meet.

11:41 – So, Hoover’s is getting a major upgrade. Actually, it was scheduled for last Friday, but they’re still having problems rolling it out. Problem is, I’m teaching a business class tonight and I can only work with the old Hoover’s interface and add “but, this will all be different any day now.” Went through the same thing last year with LexisNexis. I’m sure a flurry of quick and dirty emergency video tutorials are in my near future.

12:06 – Just finished giving a short tour of available library display cases for Black History Month. We’ll have some cool Yoruba art up by the end of the week.

1:00 – Just grabbed a stack of Harvard Business Reviews and BusinessWeek magazines to look for new business books. I find that collection development is a great thing to do while on the reference desk.

  • 1:03 – “How do I get a receipt from the card station?”
  • 1:11 – “How do I print?”
  • 1:13 – “How do I print?”
  • 1:17 – “Do you have Nixon and Kissinger by Robert Dallek (yes, E856 .D35 2007)”
  • 1:21 – Printer 2 is out of paper
  • 1:21 – IM question about interlibrary loans and dissertations (they usu. come as PDFs)
  • 1:25 – “Is the tall librarian in?”
  • 1:27 – “I think I broke the hole-punch.”
  • 1:46 – “Where is Ms. Anderson teaching?”
  • 1:48 – “Where are the science journals?” (Student actually needed current research on arsenic levels in East Tennessee groundwater. Helped out with that.)
  • 1:48 – “Stapler?”
  • 1:57 – “Tax forms?”
  • 1:57 – “Stapler?”
2:00 – I’ve ordered 17 accounting books so far. Protip: Search through LibGuides and you’ll find a ton of guides for new books on specific subjects, recommended titles, core collections, and more. LibGuides is a great way to compare our collection to the core collections at peer institutions.
  • 2:00 – “Do you have another three-hole punch? This one only has two holes.” (I did a demo…yes, it still punches three holes.)
  • 2:02 – Security guard asks, “how do i put money on my ID?”
  • 2:06 – “Do you have Hamlet on DVD? Which version is best?” (FWIW, I can’t stand Shakespeare. Cervantes, Marlowe, Jonson, Lope de Vega…I love the early 17th century…just not Shakespeare.)
2:19 – Talked to another librarian about LOEX. Two of us at UTC got accepted to present this year. Rock. Now we’re just sorting out travel requests and reimbursement schedules. 
  • 2:27 – Helping a new student print his schedule.
  • 2:30-2:50 – Three students having problems authenticating their laptops. 
  • 2:52 – Directing a student to a work-study interview
3:00 – Off the desk, still ordering books through Ambassador
**3:05 – Meeting moved to Wednesday, so I’ll think more about marketing tomorrow.

3:16 – Headed out for the Curriculum Committee meeting. Hopefully, this will only take an hour.

4:53 – Back from an epic committee meeting. Note to hopeful academic librarians: you will have to be on university-wide committees and library committees. (Luckily, the committees here at UTC are productive and can actually be enjoyable).

4:56 – Now, on to the business research methods class…

5:11 – Just checked the tally: $2,089 worth of accounting materials ordered. I demolished my goal. I checked the titles against our catalog (of course) but I haven’t checked against approval orders yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there aren’t any dupes.

5:35 – The presentation is good to go for BFIN 5000.

5:40 – The eHRAF databases are subject-indexed at the paragraph level?! This is going to be interesting.

*6:00 – Didn’t get the number of responses I hoped for. I’ll have to assign articles tomorrow.

6:10 – Off to set up the classroom for my business class.

8:41 – Finished my class at 7:30, had to manually shut down all the computers :-(, rushed home in time to give Liam a bath and read him a goodnight story.

And that’s a Monday in the life of an academic librarian.

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Time for another round of Library Day in the Life. Unfortunately, you’ve caught me in the summer semester, so there isn’t much going on, other than designing a zombie-themed video game, redeveloping video tutorials, rewriting the ENGL 1010/1020 classes from scratch, creating a plagiarism website for the university, rolling out LibGuides for Fall semester, weeding 15,000 titles, ordering for the departments of Accounting, Management, Marketing, Philosophy, and Religion, and…oh yeah…working at the first library to go live with the new OCLC WMS. Migrating our ILS…in six weeks…

1:25 a.m. – I suppose my day starts early: giving Liam a bottle at 1:00 in the morning. But, these late-night feedings are a good way for me to mentally prepare for work in the morning. To do: complete a presentation on the new library-wide marketing campaign, work on some advertising, finish the interactive LibGuides plagiarism page, order a desk copy of the textbook I’m teaching out of next semester, work the reference desk, e-mail Tom with some tutorials on the new LexisNexis interface, storyboard the Omnifile video, meet with Steve about the faculty publications display…

9:05 – Listening to Scriabin; halfway through my PowerPoint presentation. I know, I know…PowerPoint is the devil. But, I don’t use PowerPoint in the normal fashion. For example, I don’t use any templates, preferring to manually animate crazy text events. My last presentation consisted of only three slides, with an average of 35 animations per slide (entrance, exit, etc.). Truthfully, I would prefer writing presentations in Flash, but I still don’t have CS5 on my machine. 😦

10:10 – Finished with the PowerPoint, now to create some adverts in Gimp.

10:37 – Scouring the interwebs for examples of library logos.

11:04 – On the reference desk. Remote desktop. Still working on graphic design stuff. Why is designing a library logo so dang difficult? Apparently, most libraries use some variation on books (but we’re not just books anymore) or PCs with CRT monitors (welcome to 1997). I need inspiration for a 21st century logo.

11:24 – Why does the reference desk area smell like feet?

11:37 – Provided a guest log in to a visiting professor from Texas.

11:45 – I completely forgot about the August newsletter. Added to my To-Do list for tomorrow.

12:37 – Kh IMs me and says that there is a strange man at our house cutting the grass. I’ll take my lunchbreak and go home to check things out.

1:48 – The mystery man was nowhere to be found. This is especially odd since I just cut the grass yesterday. C’est la vie.

2:33 – going through Ambassador for books that I may want for the business collection.

4:35 – Working on the bathroom newsletter, the new library logo, and some advertising, all at once. Today has turned out to be a very visual day.

4:56 – I’m going to call it quits on this blog for the day. Nothing terribly exciting happened. Perhaps I’ll reblog tomorrow with some more interesting librarianship,

8:53 – The majority of #libday5 participants are tweeting their days in 140-character-or-less bursts of heavily abbreviated Twit-speak. I’ve gone through two separate Twitter accounts: I can never make it more than about three months before the banality drives me insane and I delete my account. Then again, less than 2% of the people I know Tweet. Specifically, I know three people that tweet and each one is a current coworker. I also have 146 Facebook friends, all of whom I know in person. That works out to 2.05%. Throw in the 150, or so, people I know that don’t have Facebook profiles, and we’re down around 1%. I think that (more so than cynicism) I avoid Twitter because I don’t know anyone there.

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I’ll keep going with the Library Day in the Life Round 4 meme.

8:56 – Replaced Valarie at the reference desk. My hands are full of highlighters, articles, and my planner. In a sort of analog tribute to my Google calendar, I color code my next few weeks: green for the reference desk, blue for meetings, orange for instruction, pink for administrative affairs, yellow for professional development…

9:07 – First student: “I can’t open this file on my computer.” (IE + Blackboard = save, then open from the desktop)
9:14 – First IM: “I need peer-reviewed statistics on teen pregnancy for the past three years” (I assume you need U.S. statistics. [I’ll side-step the ‘peer-reviewed statistical data’ for the moment.] Here is a link to the NCHS dataset on teen pregnancy, from 1972 to 2006. The CDC, NIH, NCHS data is only as current as 2006, but let me see if I can find some projections for 2007-2010.) *Patron has left the conversation*
9:24 – Second student: *mumble, mumble, mumble* (Her office is right over there, second from the end.)
9:26 – Third student: “I need help finding some statistics for my class assignment and a librarian said the reference desk had them.” (Okay, what sort of statistics did you need?) “I don’t know what the statistics are. I don’t remember the librarian.” (Okay, could you tell me a little about the assignment?) “I don’t know. Let me go to my car and get it…”
9:38-10:05 (off-and-on) – Second student redux: This student needs cultural, political, social, and demographic information on the elderly in Spain. Oh yeah, the data must be peer-reviewed, and must be from 2007 or later. I’m beginning to sense a pattern here…somewhere a sociology instructor needs to learn what “peer-reviewed” means.
10:27 – Just tried to make the header on my blog clickable. It used to be, now it isn’t…strange…

11:21 – I’ve spent the past 20 minutes reading an interesting blog post at Twitter Backlash, researching the history of RSS, and writing my class outline for Thursday.

12:30 to 1:30 – Lunch at University Pizza & Deli with Kh. Topics of conversation: methodological solipsism, is solipsism essentially an idealist position, what happens when a tree falls in the forest and the only people around are deaf (actually, this is a fascinating take on a hackneyed problem), whether Kh should enroll in the legal assistant program at UTC, bills, caving this Saturday, the use of portable barcode scanners for collection weeding, symbolic criticism of papal authority in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, and how Mormons swear.

2:15 to 2:45 – Brainstorming summer projects, possible courses to be taught in Fall, and how to spend $2,000. All for the weekly reference & instruction meeting. Listening to Andrew Bird at the same time.

3:00 to 4:00 – Weekly Reference & Instruction Meeting, where many strange and arcane secrets were discussed. I would discuss what we talked about, but that would violate the sacred trust and mystery of library committee meetings. At least until the minutes are sent out via e-mail.

4:05 to 5:16 – Epic research consultation. Due to a calendar mix-up, I was given a spur-of-the-moment research consultation with a doctoral student. Requirements: database tutorials, Endnote tutorial, citation tracking, controlled vocabularies, and so much more. I nailed it.

5:18 – Writing this, preparing to leave.

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Today I’ll try my best to participate in the Library Day in The Life project, Round 4. I’ve enjoyed following some of the other blogs today (the tweets are, to be honest, irritating) so here’s my two cents:

8:30 – Gave Kh a smooch and head out the door.
8:55 – On the reference desk. This is, quite possibly, my favorite place to be in the library.
9:05 – A little peeved that Ambassador Books has decided to stall out. I usually reserve my collection development time for the reference desk. I’m the liaison for the College of Business, and I have until February 5 to finish this round of orders.
9:17 – Checking course reserves for the MUH 111 CDs.
9:25 – Checked in on Twitter. Clicked the #Haiti trending topic. Banality updated 200 times a minute. Do I really want to read through so much irrelevant nonsense?
9:40 – Read this article that a coworker sent me.
9:46 – Searching Worldcat to answer a question via IM. It was a title that I was fairly confident we didn’t have, so I wanted to find the nearest library that does have the book. Where the heck is Pellissippi State Community College?
10:00 – I think this is my third “how do I print?” question of the day.
10:04 – Reading up on the diaphoric definition of data.
10:10 – Spent a few minutes giving an impromptu Academic OneFile tutorial to a student. I seem to give database walkthroughs about once an hour, on average.
10:25 – For some strange reason, certain documents on Blackboard are a pain to open up. I’ve helped two separate students open their psychology extra credit. Save first, then open. No direct opening for you, sir.
10:35 – Helped a patron determine who was in the Eighth Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. Screw Wikipedia, this resource is far, far better.
10:36 – Just realized that Dante left out the inventors of Trending Topics.
10:45 – Sent reminder e-mails to my students who have yet to send me links to their blogs. I’m teaching a for-credit course on Web 2.0, and their first homework is to set up blogs through Blogspot and e-mail me the links. I’ll roll the blogs into one OPML file, send it their way, and we’ll have something to subscribe to for this Thursday’s class on RSS feeds.
10:55 – I took more than 15 seconds to respond to an IM and the patron left the conversation. Here’s my hierarchy: in-person, telephone, IM, e-mail.
11:05 – In my office, pouring some coffee, looking at the Insight Media catalog.
11:20 – Calling about a research consultation.
11:50 – STILL reading e-mails. Wishing that I signed up for the digests on my listservs.
12:06 – STILL responding to e-mails. I prefer to walk over to people’s offices or use the phone.
12:41 – Going over collection weeding procedures. I have 36,710 books to shelf-read and weed.
1:04 – Reading a paper by Don Fallis. Research for an article on epistemic values in reference services.
1:19 – Ambassador Books is up again. Reading reviews and ordering titles for the next hour or so.
1:42 – Book ordering workflow: Excel spreadsheet in right monitor, Chrome in left monitor. Four tabs open: Ambassador (to order), Worldcat (to search our catalog), Review source (Choice, PW, HBR, other libraries, trade publications, etc.), Google Spreadsheet (items on order but not in our catalog). Lots of CTRL+Tab and ALT+Tab.
1:54 – Heading to my only meeting of the day: about the upcoming weeding project.
2:46 – Meeting adjourned. Back to ordering business books.
4:07 – Still ordering. I suppose that this isn’t the most exciting day to be doing the day in the life project. The majority of these little posts aren’t very interesting. Sort of like Twitter.
5:04 – Finished my book orders. Now my CD can relax until August.
5:12 – Going home in about 20 minutes. That was my day.

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