What Exactly Does a Librarian Do?

LibraryWhen people learn that I’m a librarian, they often ask, “What exactly does a librarian do?”  I usually begin my explanation with a disclaimer such as, “Well, I’m not a typical librarian in that I don’t work behind a Reference Desk and help people find information” which is what they already knew librarians do from personal observation.  Of course, they want to know what we do when we’re sitting in our offices. Some people do think we read books all day.  I go on to explain that I’m an Electronic Services Librarian—which hardly helps clarify my explanation—who handles most of the IT functions of the library. I tell them I administer the library’s website, staff intranet, online library catalog, third-party library services, and access to all of our research databases.  If they still seem interested, I’ll explain the functions of some other types of (non-reference) librarians such as acquisition, cataloging, scholarly communications, and special librarians.  Even though I work next door to these types of librarians, I still can’t tell you everything they do on a daily basis.

National Library Week 2016

Since this is National Library Week 2016, I thought I’d take this opportunity to describe what I do during a typical week as an Electronic Services Librarian in an academic library, Hunt Library at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

This is technically the start of National Library Week and although it’s the weekend, I did some writing for Library Technology Launchpad, my personal library website.  I also monitored Twitter for interesting posts for both my library’s and my own professional social media sites.  Finally, I caught up reading a few library-related Slack channels.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Two research database issues were pressing.  Some elements of the interface were missing for Gale Artemis: Literary Sources.  I suspected the problem was due to our proxy server and worked with the vendor and our university’s IT department (I don’t have direct access to our proxy server, unfortunately) to update our configuration which restored the missing features.  Another database, Scopus, is changing its access from HTTP to HTTPS and again I had to work with the vendor and my IT contact to configure our proxy.  This is a test setup and still unresolved.

SharePoint Tip of the Day

Recently we launched SharePoint as our library staff intranet.  A few weeks ago I drafted ten “SharePoint Tip of the Day” emails. Today I sent out an email introducing these emails followed by the “Tip #01 – SharePoint Site Access” email.  I’ll email one tip each day for the next ten business days.

I’m the main SharePoint administrator for my library.  I received a request from a staff member to create a team site for the editors of a new journal which will be hosted on the university’s institutional repository (managed by library staff).  As part of our service, we provide SharePoint sites to university journal, conference, and event faculty and staff to store files and collaborate with library staff.

A recent update to Springshare’s LibAnswers service slightly affected the display of the website titles and descriptions in our Recommended Websites service.  A quick inspection of the code from the website allowed me to override their new CSS code so that my custom code—and, hence, our custom display—was restored.  A simple fix.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Much of my morning was spent replying to emails and updating pages in SharePoint.  I made toast.  I checked my Slack channels: code4lib, LibApps, and LibUX and installed an app to one of them.  I also did some final edits to our “The Library as Publishing House” chapter to get it ready for uploading to our institutional repository.

One of my ongoing responsibilities is to monitor the queue from the Library Issues form and assign tickets to the appropriate staff members.

I’m technically the Administrator for our university’s institutional repository, ERAU Scholarly Commons, but I do not handle the daily management.  However, our IR is hosting the site for a large conference this week and the staff person who normally oversees the conference sites will be out of the office. So I attended the conference planning meeting and got a refresher course on updating conference agendas.  Then I attended the regular meeting of the university’s Scholarly Commons Oversight Team.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I made toast.  The morning was spent in Photoshop.  Our graphics person was out of the office so I made some small changes to a temporary sign and printed them.  Also, some library staff had new photos taken so I cropped and resized several of them (photos, not people) and added them to the Hunt Library website.

I attended our weekly Electronic and Technical Services department meeting. Topics included library news, using GOBI for ordering, a visiting librarian (food), April birthdays department lunch (food), and student assistant appreciation week (food).

I finally got two works into our institutional repository and then imported them into my SelectedWorks site.  Even though I’m an Administrator, I couldn’t affiliate myself with my university so I worked with the vendor (bepress) to get it resolved.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The morning was spent catching up on email and some library professional reading including browsing ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2016 while eating my toast.

SharePoint Script Editor Web Part

I used much of the rest of the day working in SharePoint.  A colleague needed a custom list added to her team site which was a simple addition.  In the afternoon I finally had a block of time to work on embedding a Springshare LibWizard form in a SharePoint page.  After a little research and getting the university’s SharePoint Administrator to enable Media and Content Web Parts, I was quickly able to embed the form using a Script Editor Web Part.  I made screenshots and wrote a procedure as I went.

Friday, April 15, 2016

I went downstairs to get Starbucks (directly below my office!) and made toast.  Then I got caught up sorting through the queue of issues submitted through our Library Issues form using LibAnswers.  One was a cataloging issue but most were database problems.  I forwarded them on to the appropriate staff and submitted one to ProQuest Support.

During my lunchtime I attended the quarterly NEFLIN Academic Libraries Interest Group online meeting.  The topic was information literacy.

LibAnswers Library Issues Queue Item

One of our reference librarians alerted me that our local installation of Conklin & de Decker’s “Aircraft Cost Evaluator” was about to expire.  I logged in to the vendor website and downloaded the latest version, then contacted the vendor for the registration key. Got the key and updated the software.  Small crisis averted!

In the afternoon I wrote and sent my “Weekly Database Update” email which alerts library staff to additions, changes, and cancellations to our research databases and any updates to our instance of Summon and Serials Solutions.

Finally, I updated the Hunt Library homepage to add a News & Events slide for our upcoming Cram with Cookies event.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The final day of National Library Week 2016 and my day off.  I put the finishing touches on this post and will post it to my Twitter account (@jamesday24) with the #NLW16 hashtag to help people understand what a librarian does.  I am a librarian 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and wouldn’t want to do anything else.