A Day in the Life of…

a Library Assistant!

I thought it might be interesting for other people to see a typical day in my life as a library assistant at a university library. I work in the Acquisitions department dealing with our print and e-books. This includes everything from processing orders to books reaching the shelves and/or your computer screen, tablet or phone screen.

I started my day, like most people, checking my emails.

I subscribe to a lot of the JISC mailing lists, such as ARLIS, Archives NRA and more arts based ones like Digital Textile Design. They can be really great for finding out about new developments in the field, hearing about conferences and job opportunities and gems like this:

If you haven’t discovered the wonders of JISC lists yet explore here.

Next I checked some emails from our e-book suppliers and ensured the correct books were on our system and that the links were working properly and linking to the right e-books. If they are working, which they were today, this is a quick pain free process! Sometimes they are bit more difficult to sort out, but in those cases if we’ve explored all avenues, clicked on all the links and still nothing, we contact our provider and see what’s going on.

I also assist our University Press and Marketing Manager with our University Press book sales. These are books published by the university and can often be by lecturers and academics at our institution concerning their innovative research. It is also primarily Open Access and our more recent publications are in our university repository too. Whoop Open Access! Information for all!
So, back to work, I checked that email account for orders and had a few books to post out. We sell them from Amazon and our own online store so there’s a couple of different processes and all our sales need to be recorded accurately, which is another part of my job role. I made a mega spreadsheet when I started to record all books sales with a tonne of formulas and tables to see our stock levels, what we’ve sold, what we have left etc. and I love stuff like that.

After packaging up the books and taking them down to our post office it was time for a coffee! Despite the weather I’m refusing to acknowledge it isn’t summer yet.


80p from Tesco, cold, sugary, caffeine goodness.

My next job was processing some of our incoming art books. We get shelf ready books so, unlike previous roles I had, there’s no writing the classification numbers on stickers trying to be really neat when it’s the longest number in the world, no sticking in date stamp paper, no alarm/RFID tags, barcodes…. it’s all done!

Our art books need a little bit more work done on our catalogue than some of our other incoming books so they take a bit longer. Also I’m still very new in my role so I took my time making sure they were all accurate. If you’ve ever worked with art books before you know the information can be a little all over the place. In a standard book you often have the title page and on the back of this is the ISBN, publisher,date and copyright information. In art books this is more frequently found in the back pages, but sometimes the front, and occasionally nowhere! As with some of the fancy gallery published books. I do enjoy this though – having to hunt down information. I always have a spy on COPAC or WorldCat or even just have a look on another library’s catalogue to see if they’ve already had and catalogued the book.

Just some of the art books I processed! One out of the batch had a very weird MARC record I’d imported so I passed this onto our cataloguing member of staff to have a proper look at it.

After the art books I had a look at my reading list jobs. Some books we order are required by academic staff for their reading lists and we add them to our fantastic online reading list website. Each module taught has a code and therefore a webpage that we can add books to, e-books, websites, journals and articles. It’s pretty cool. I don’t remember having anything this accessible when I was an undergrad! I had a small pile of books I’d kept to one side from a delivery and I was checking each one was displaying accurately on our system and included all the correct information, such as title, author, ISBN and E-ISBN if it has one, edition, shelf marks and that our bib links are working, which pulls information from our catalogue.

Then I spotted on twitter it was #InternationalSculptureDay ! So I did some much needed retweeting and tweeted a picture of one of my favourite sculptures, which is one by Bill Woodrow.bill.jpg

(Woodrow, B. (1983). Tattoo. [Sculpture]. , retrieved from http://www.billwoodrow.com/dev/sculpture_by_letter.php?page=2&i=6&sel_letter=t.)

It’s lunch time! But not quite yet as I was covering a Help Desk slot for my colleague who was away. I really enjoy having the Help Desk as part of my role as it gets me out of the office and talking to students and staff and helping them with any problems. I prefer this pattern of working back of house and front of house split in sections. Previous positions I’ve had it has been all front desk, which can feel really draining at times, especially when you’re being pulled between cataloguing, selling art supplies, fixing printers and loaning books out all at the same time. This job definitely has the perfect balance.

Queries I got (that I can remember as I stupidly did not take notes at this point) was a student asking about our Academic Support services, which are actually based in each student’s respective schools. I had a query about how many books you can take out at once. I had some IT queries too mainly about sound working on our university computers. These were problems I couldn’t solve, but someone from our amazing IT team could come out and deal with. We have an IT team we work really closely with who also do slots on our Help Desk, which is great for the students and for staff as I’ve picked up really useful information from working alongside them.


Finally lunch time! We have a great flex policy where I work so your start and finish times, and lunches, can be quite flexible as long as you ensure you do the correct amount of hours you need to per day/per week. I find this really helpful with commuting to work.

On my lunch break I decided to pop to a record store. It had been Record Store Day 2017 on the weekend and I was looking for something for a friend of mine. I came up empty, no The Distillers: Coral Fang. There were only 500 printed for the whole of the UK so I wasn’t holding out much hope!20170424_143236.jpgHad a quick browse through the bargain bins, but I left empty handed. I did actually eat some lunch. I made a salad, no photos, but it was a mango and kiwi salad (again ignoring it is definitely not summer yet!).

Back at my desk, orders done, e-books checked,art books processed I decided to get on with taking our weeded books off the catalogue and packing them up.
This can be a little repetitive, but I put my headphones in and some old 6 music shows and got going.

And yep that was pretty much my day. Not THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER, but an accurate representation of one of my days recently. So yeah if you’re thinking of wanting to get into libraries, your day might be like this if you get a library assistant job. Or it could be completely different. Different places work differently and you can be doing a range of different things.

A great blog to see what librarians are up to is this one provided by the NLPN(New Library Professionals Network) the interviews are really great for finding out what people do and how they got to where they are:

Also apologies to anyone if something I’ve mentioned isn’t clear. Just ask! I’ve found writing this blog post that I’m not sure I know the right names for everything. I call our online catalogue a system sometimes, or just catalogue… is this confusing for people who don’t work in libraries? Do they know what we’re talking about?
Hmmmm.. going to think about my language more and maybe ask more people what the correct names for things are. I will work on that for my next blog post.

Thanks for reading!


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