Essentially, my job is to ensure that the students, researchers and academic staff of these subject areas have access to the library resources which they need. In practice this makes my role enjoyably varied – it involves lecturing large groups of students on how best to use the Library, one-to-one appointments to assist individuals with their specific work, maintaining subject-specific support pages on the Library website, providing referencing tuition, supporting researchers, advising on open access publishing, allocating the acquisition budget for the subject areas I support, and – most importantly – extensive liaison with staff and students, both to see what they want from the Library and to ensure that they are aware of everything that the Library can do for them.
In practice, cliché as it might be, this means that there’s no such thing as a typical day! Usually, though, I come to work expecting to teach for two or three hours (whether one-to-one or to large groups), attend one or two liaison meetings, and then spend the remainder of the time working on any ongoing tasks from the list above. In reality, my plan for the day rarely survives first contact with email or voicemail – there’s usually something happening to react to! If I find that I have six emails from students on one course, all asking for help with the same topic, then that’s a good sign that I should speak to their tutor and arrange to provide additional support to their whole class ASAP, rather than spending my free time ordering a couple more textbooks!
The variety is definitely what I like most about the job. The diversity of the Academic Librarian role enables me to use all of my past professional experience to help students – and there’s usually a real feel of doing something useful. At the end of the day, I can always go home thinking of something tangible I’ve done to assist someone with their studies.
On the basis of common questions I receive, there are two tips that I would pass on to any students reading this:
- Your library subject pages can often be very helpful, providing a range of subject-specific advice and guidance. Rather than working in isolation, this is your chance to benefit from the accumulated wisdom of past students, academics and librarians!
- If I’m ever not round, you can still contact the Library – and have your questions answered 24/7.
Finally… when not in the Library, I’m a keen hillwalker and mountaineer, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society earlier this year. Some of the photos from my outings to places like Lapland, Hong Kong and the Sierra Nevada are viewable online.