I have a very limited knowledge of academic libraries, this being my first time back stage so to speak so I may be making vast generalisations here. If you have more experience I would really like to know your opinions as I have found it to be quite an isolating place and worry that the people who work here may also have that experience. People have been very friendly and welcoming and I realise that I am creating more work and they have their jobs to do but it is so quiet.
As a teacher librarian I spend all day in a busy, often noisy environment where I have to communicate constantly with children and colleagues. Our library often has 2 classes of 30, other teachers and parents, and so it is rarely silent and often buzzing. I don’t want it to be a silent place. It is a place of learning and I expect our children to collaborate and communicate. They need to be mindful of others needs but it is not an academic library so the environment here is going to be different.
The expectation here is that everyone works quietly/silently unless they have booked a studyroom where they can work as a group and build understanding through discussions. That is what I expected. It is certainly very busy but what I think has surprised me is that I think you could work here all week and come into very little contact with the patrons. Yes the assistant librarians have to take turns on the information desk but many others in the work force are physically very removed from the users. Does that matter? Are they still capable of fulfilling the needs of users? Do they remain motived and passionate about their job? I don’t know. Maybe it is no different to a shop. The shop manager very rarely appears on the shopfloor. When they do it is usually to check things are running well… is this how it works in the library?
Much of the day in the Information, the Aquistions and the Media Sections are spent in front of a computer in a very quiet office. (Many without windows.) Everyone, I suppose quiet rightly, is focused on the work they have to do and is getting on with it but the silence of the library spills into the offices. In the Information Section this is because it is partially open to the library but the other areas I visited where just as quiet. I thought there might have been a bit of chat between coworkers but there appears not to be. I do realise that I am working in a place where English is not a first language for many people and may be missing out on some of these conversations, I might have even changed the dynamics of the office, but it is so damn quiet!
Is this always the case? Can anyone shed any light? Is it a lonely job? And where does the motivation come from? I’m not sure I could do it. Then again not everyone would like 60 children collaborating and talking, making a mess of the shelves and enjoying themselves.
So I spent the afternoon with Francis from Media and Systems services. (MSS) He was at pains to tell me he had only been in this role for 3 months and that actually the name of the service is historical and outdated. This area has recently been streamlined and now has limited functions. In other libraries this is now known as Electronic Services and Francis felt that this would happen soon when reorganisation happens.
One of the services offered is the maintence of the Edvideo. This is the legal recording of curent affairs, documentaries and educational programs shown on TV within HK. Once recorded these are then streamed online to enable researchers to access them. The work for this is shared between all the HKall memebers. 2 universities record a particluar program, the second in case of mishaps. The service also has some cataloguing to do in connection to this.
Another role is the up keep of the online resources… subcriptions, licences, e-books, e journals and databases. There is some cross over here between aquistitions and MSS due to the nature of journal subscriptions. Some are bought as an online package whilst others are purchased individually. Aquisitions deal with individual titles whilst Media deals with the packages. It sounds incredibly complex and the communication that needs to take place appeares to be time consuming. This is another area Francis felt needed to be streamlined. I was interested to learn that publishers now sell their journal packages direct to the universities. This did not use to happen 10/15 years ago. They were always sold through an aggregator such as EBSCO host or Jstor. Now institutions can get very good deals but obviously all of these need to be brokered which is time consuming.
There are also many issues with online materials and most have strictly binding contracts written by lawyers. These contracts are often difficult to interpet, making decisions as to whether a journal/ article can be loaned through an inter library loan or copied in a particluar format, hard to make.
HKIEd is about to begin some Patron Driven Acquisitions. This works by securing in bulk e-books from the vendor. The library only pays for the books that are utilised. If the book is not used it is not paid for. Howevere in order to do this a limit on spending has to be in place as if demand is too high then budget issues can occur.
There is an e first policy in place. If possible the e-books are bought in perpetutity. Some are subscription based in particular those text that date very quickly, such as those concerning computing and modern technology.
HKIEd had joined several consortiuums in order to ensure their students have a access to as many e-books as possible. They have joined with university libraries in HK, Taiwan and mainland China to give themselves more spending power and shared access. This has ensured access has increased by 20-30 000 items.
The Media department also deals with its own IR. ( Institutional Records.) As the call for open access has arisen, and questions concerning the use of public money to fund research that then gets printed in a profit making journal, IR has become common place in many institutions. Before a piece of research is published, when it is still in its print form, the institution from which the research developed is able to approach the publisher and request that they may ensure their students have access to the paper. Every piece of research needs to be checked with the publisher before the print version can be made available due to copyright issues that may arise. Publishers generally agree to this.
Collaboration between information sevice and media service is high. The information Service decide on the content ie workshops, library virtual tours, subject guidelines, but the Media service put it together. On top of all this they are also responsible for hardware such as computers and headphones.
What occured to me this afternoon is that the library is a much more complex place than I had anticipated. There needs to be very clear systems in place and communication needs to be efficient and effective if the user is going to get the best out of the service. Collaboration within the library and between different institutions needs to be high if the users are to be able to access wide range of appropriate resources effectively and efficiently. It made me question why we don’t do this as schools. Surely by creating consortiuums we would get more bang for our buck and increase our services to our students.
Today started the same as yesterday… subject guides! I am hoping to get them finished today.
This afternoon I attended an Information Workshop on plagiarism and citations. Issues are that students do not have to attend. Therefore many sign up but few actually attend. Attendance at these are voluntary unless lecturers make it part of their course.
The style of teaching was obviously very different to my primary school experiences but the PowerPoint and materials were very thorough and well put together.
An interesting experience.