Monday, September 21, 2009

"A Day in the Life of a Librarian"

Recently the below article appeared in our local Newspaper The Timaru Herald and also on the stuff website, it's interesting how much does get done in a day!

Nigel Brown started work as the boy at Timaru's library 25 years ago. He says he's still the boy and practically the only one on staff and he still lives and breathes books. Claire Allison talks with him.
The alarm is set for 6.30am but I finally decide to get out of bed about 6.45am. I usually turn the radio off hoping that I'll go back to sleep, but it never works. If I sleep in, I'll miss my bus at 8am.
I'm usually the first up, then the kids are up, probably about 7.30, so I help with the breakfast and try to razzle them along a little bit, get them ready for school. I've got two daughters; they're nine and six.
My wife drops them off at school, and I'm out the door just before 8am to catch the bus to work. We're a one-car family, and I love it the bus is great. There were about 15 on there this morning, and it's pretty much the same people. There's a guy who lives just around the corner, so we have a bit of a yak on the way down, or sometimes I put the iPod on and chill a little bit.
Sometimes I might get off about three stops back and walk to work. If it's a really great day, I might get off at the bottom of Wai-iti Rd and walk, and I still get to work in plenty of time.
8.30am is my start time, but I'm usually here about 8.15am. I turn my computer on, and one of the first things I do is check my emails there can be anything in there that might need to be dealt with, or has been passed on to be dealt with. At the moment I'm emailing with a person from Hachette publishers, to-ing and fro-ing because we've got Martin Crump coming in October as part of New Zealand Book Month, so we're discussing poster designs and arrangements. Or I'll have emails from Linda [Hughes, district librarian] to do with book recommendations to purchase. And I also subscribe to a number of library-oriented databases.
I usually have a walk around to try to make things nice and tidy so the place is looking good for when we open up. I'm the reader services librarian, so I'm in charge of the day-to-day running of the adult library making sure things are running smoothly, dealing with any problems that might occur.
I might have a staff member in to do some training. At the moment, I'm working through a training package that's been developed for libraries training the trainers.
In this library you're talking about 18 staff, full and part-time. Not everybody is here at the same time.
I do a desk roster weekly and I supervise student shelvers who come in after school.
My job involves promoting the adult library, running programmes. I also run a book club. It's a lot of fun with a bunch of wonderful ladies. We've got 11 members.
 This morning, I went for a walk up Stafford St. We're taking part in a kete which Waimakariri Libraries are doing. They're trying to get all libraries in Canterbury to do an expose on their main street. It's kind of like a blog or archive kind of thing. It says it's a community-built digital library of art, cultural, heritage resources and knowledge.
So I started at the top of Stafford Street and worked my way down. They want old photos and new photos and also the history of the street. So I had quite a bit of fun taking photos. It's not really what you expect libraries to be doing, but the biggest thing is that no two days are the same.
Quite often I'll do desk duties out the front basically, I fill in. That's the really great thing about the job, the people contact.
I've been here for 25 years. I came in as the boy and I'm still the boy sometimes chief light bulb changer, and sometimes chief bouncer. Twenty-five years ago, jobs were fairly easy to come by. I decided when I was at school I didn't want to do university study, so I applied for two jobs one in a bank and one was here. I got offered three jobs two in a bank and one here, and I chose here, and it's been great.
No. I'm not a new-book sniffer ... but there's something about the feel of a brand new book ... I think the 25 years have gone really quickly.
This is a fun place to work. We have a laugh. The crew's great. No two days are the same I think it's that variety. I wouldn't be happy in an office signing papers. People contact is really important.
The borrowers are fantastic library users are great. Some of them aren't just borrowers; some of them have become friends. You see them so often, you know a little bit about them and their family, that sort of thing.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that we read all day. That's huge. We often get comments, "it must be great reading all day". That's far from it. I order books, but there's so much more. A book just doesn't come in, magically get covered, and magically get catalogued, that sort of thing. It goes on the computer so we know we've ordered it, it's checked in so we know it's in the building, it gets covered, catalogued, and from there it's ready to go. But that can take a little bit of time.
About 1200 new books come into the place a month. That's a lot of books, so a lot of work. People don't quite realise how much does go on. Various people do various things. We've got people dealing with other libraries wanting our books, somebody making up housebound bags for those who can't get in to the library. Volunteer drivers from the Red Cross deliver those. And there's somebody who deals with the overdues, and people who catalogue, and desk duties and shelving. There's a lot that goes on that people don't realise. It's like anything, really; until you've done the job, you don't know what's involved.
Sometimes there will be books that come back damaged. The most classic one somebody brought a book back and it had been attacked by the dog. It was called How to Train Your Dog.
It happens. Most people fess up. The odd one gets dropped in the bath. It'll be soaking wet and that's the death knell for them.
It's New Zealand Book Month in October, so today I've been busy trying to get some programmes together for that. We've got a couple of guest speakers, and we'll be running a New Zealand reading challenge.
I buy the fiction, and quite often we'll see two to three book reps a week. We try to offer as broad a selection as possible, everything from literary novels to a Mills and Boon paperback. But we can't buy everything. It's good to know your readers and know your stock, because it helps you determine what to buy.
There's very little science fiction and fantasy books being written at the moment. Chick lit used to be really big, but that's developed into the vampire romance stuff bonk and bite that's the hot thing at the moment. One of the bigger ones is the thrillers. A lot of authors are trying to write like Dan Brown, because in the past, they've been big sellers. It's become a genre.
I go for a walk at lunchtime. Then I usually go to a bookshop. I love books, and like to just keep up with what's out there. If I go to somewhere like Whitcoulls or Paper Plus and think, oh yeah, OK, such and such has just written a book that's OK, I've ordered it. I think it's a matter of keeping up to date.
You're definitely reading things that you wouldn't choose to on a personal level. That comes in with running the book club. The whole thing behind that is to challenge people to read outside their normal scope.
When I do the reading challenges, I might say you have to read a biography or science fiction. It's to get people out of their comfort zone. The main challenge is to pick something up and give it a go. People are often quite surprised.
I've got probably four separate projects on the go at the moment. There's always unexpected interruptions that you get. It might be somebody from a book-covering firm coming in, or a furniture place, in to say hi. That sort of thing.
I do a lot of Web 3.0 in my job, which involves running our library blog, and am also working on updating and creating a new library website. For the future, we're looking at Facebook and Flickr.
We're open late nights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but I tootle out the door at 5pm and catch my big green bus back home. I'm home about 5.30pm, which is a good time. So I unwind a little bit, do the homework with the girls, and shoot some hoops I've got one in particular mad keen sportsperson who played netball and is playing basketball, so we have a father-daughter challenge and I get beaten fairly regularly.
We have tea, then get them off to bed. My wife's a Pippins leader and on the Gleniti School PTA, so quite often is doing those bits and pieces.
I'm a self-confessed Trade Me addict. That's my night-time hobby. Books. I do a bit of trading, and I use Trade Me to to see what books are selling for, for the books we have on our sales tables.
I generally tootle off to bed at about 11pmish, but I like to have a game of patience ... or usually more than one. I try to get three out in a row. And I've found a tenpin bowling game on the web. So sometimes it will be 11.30pm before I get to bed. Or sometimes I'll read.
I don't watch much television. I have some favourite programmes, but not a lot. It's on in the background or we'll have the radio on.

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