Reflective Log: Monday 3rd December 2012

I’ve been here for over a month! Time has never passed as quickly as it does in this job. I’m having my one month appraisal in about forty minutes – I’ve never been in a job where I’ve had to have an appraisal before so I’m not sure if I should be scared or not, but I’ve been assured there will be biscuits.

Tasks to fill the gaps in my timetable have been a little thin on the ground lately, I think because everyone’s quite busy with the journal move (it’s a mammoth task) so things still aren’t quite back to normal yet. Sarah sent an e-mail round to all the subject librarians asking if anyone had any ‘crap jobs’ (her words, not mine!), and a few jobs came back to me. On Tuesday I made up a bunch of pamphlet boxes for the health studies collection and assisted Donna with another of her teaching sessions for a college group on how to search databases properly (despite having very clear instructions in front of them of what to do, some members of the class still managed just to type their entire research question into the search bar and were surprised when there were no results…). On Friday one of the subject librarians gave me a very long list of modules from a recently dissolved department and I was given the mission to find out which course each of these modules are a part of and put them on a spreadsheet for her to chase up later. Within an hour and a half I’d sent it back to her, and she was shocked – apparently that was supposed to last me until Christmas! Guess I’m just too efficient at getting repetitive tasks done!

Another task I’ve been given to be getting on with in the background is helping with a Special Collections project – unravelling lots and lots of letters related to Isaac Holden and his family – a Victorian Bradford mill owner. The project involves giving volunteers a bunch of about 20 letters each, to be read and summarised in as much detail as possible on a spreadsheet (there are literally hundreds of these letters!). I got my teeth into a couple of these and found that my ability to decipher Victorian handwriting is seriously lacking. I’m hoping this will get easier with time, as I certainly don’t want to be spending half an hour just trying to make out one place name again (for the record, I still don’t know what it says!). I love the way the letters are written though, such a beautiful way with words.

Other things I’ve done… I’ve started flying solo on the info desk on floor 1 – this means students come and ask me real questions, and I have to give them real answers. Most of the questions are “where is…?” or “how do I…?” but sometimes there are some quite complex subject questions thrown at you. I was very pleased with myself on Monday, as two men came to me for advice on searching for information on quite a specific subject, and accessing some journals they’d Googled. For a few minutes I panicked and forgot about the existence of databases (!) so went round in circles a bit, but after that slight stumble I found my feet and showed them how to use databases and search properly, and what all the different symbols mean etc. They went away very happy customers and said I’d been really helpful. Happyface!

The main event of the week really was attending an all-day workshop on delivering excellent customer service. This was a staff development course that any staff member at the university could attend, so I was quite surprised that there were only 7 of us there. It was all pretty standard stuff that I’ve done and heard before (I’ve had a lot of customer services jobs and did an NVQ in it!), but I guess it was good to have a bit of a refresher. We had discussions of different scenarios of difficult customers, which I didn’t find particularly helpful as they weren’t really problems that I’m going to run into in the library. What I did find particularly interesting, though, was when we were split into groups to discuss ways in which the university itself provides customer service and ways to improve this – I think we came up with some really good stuff. Also, there was free lunch. This pleased me.

Not too much left to report from last week from customer services. Still learning answers to students’ questions on the enquiry desk. Still getting to grips with problem-solving on the welcome desk. Actually, I have seen visible improvements in my ability to do this – I was able to deal with a couple of students with entry problems all by myself. I think it’s just a case of the more people I help with, the more scenarios I will experience and then the easier it will be to troubleshoot. Oh oh oh, the other thing I did last week was answer the main library reception telephone for the first time. I am absolutely terrified of answering phones and making phone calls, so this was pretty big for me as I’d been dreading this moment for weeks. There I was on the hot desk answering emails when the phone rang. I reluctantly picked it up, and it was just as terrifying as I had imagined – it was a lady asking quite complicated questions about college and SCONUL access. I put her on hold whilst I asked Maria, who was my supervisor that afternoon, and fed back the answer to the lady on the phone. She wasn’t happy with the answer though, and asked to speak to my supervisor. AAAARRGHHHHH!!! Worst case scenario to start my phone-answering experience with. Things can only get better, right?!

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