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November 18, 2011 / bethan

The extreme oddities of the information profession

Well, we’re nearly there! According to my highly scientific* measurements, the manuscript is 82.5% done – which is a bloomin’ good job, as I’m going to be sending it to the publisher in 10 days …

[* I make it all up]

If you’ve had any kind of contact with me over the last few weeks (or if, indeed, I’ve been notable for my lack of contact), you may notice that I’m obsessed with this book. I bring it into every conversation, to the extent that I’ve started to sound like a chicken (think about it…) I told my doctor about it. And my taxi driver. I’m analysing every conversation I have for ‘should that go in the book?’ potential. Someone sends me a link to a good article or blog post; I open Endnote. I have back-ups in every place I can think of. I’m basically incapable of concentrating properly on anything else.

I never expected it to take over my life like this. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I never realised to just what extent it would worm its way into every aspect of my consciousness. And it’s not going to end once the manuscript’s in! Along with the work I’ll need to do for the rest of the publishing process, I’m going to be adding content to the website.

I’ve already got a guest blog post lined up, which will be the first in a series of posts about ‘My First Month’, following new professionals in their first month in a new role, and looking at their expectations, challenges, and funnest bits 🙂 The first post is from Simon Barron, e-resources coordinator at Durham University Library, and will be posted later this year. I have a couple more lined up to follow, and if you’d like to contribute a post about your first month, do let me know!

These posts help to reflect the unexpected challenges and pleasures of information work. No guide to the information professions can hope to capture all the strange things we’re asked to do! I’d like to know: what’s the oddest/most unexpected thing you’ve ever been asked to do as an information professional?

Responses will go on a blog post here, and (hopefully) some will go in the introduction to the book. I asked this on twitter yesterday, and got some fantastic responses, including:

‘book a scalextrix track for a client event’
‘search for any articles on the change in sound as a replacement hip joint is banged home’ (‘ding ding ding donk’, apparently…)
‘Hold a horse while the potential donor of archives examined its leg’
‘Go from 1 part of a campus to another 2 miles away on a camel’
and, possibly my favourite so far, ‘wake a tramp with a stick’

So, what’s your favourite/least favourite/downright weirdest thing you’ve been asked to do as part of your job? Let me know in the comments, or you can tweet @bethanar or @lisnewprofs. Thanks!



Leave a Comment
  1. garygre / Nov 18 2011 16:18

    I had to film a glass of Gin & Tonic glowing in the dark.

    • bethan / Nov 18 2011 16:20

      Is that normal, untreated G&T? Glowing like it’s radioactive?? Might explain a few things about librarians… (such as their unacknowledged super-powers)

  2. Fiona M Forsythe (@FMForsythe) / Nov 18 2011 22:40

    Odds things…where to start? (Apart from the usual fire, flood, shelving collapse (oops not sure I should mention that one)), I’m not sure where to start:
    – being asked by a Library Assistant whether she should interupt a Muslim at prayer ‘cos he was facing south rather than east
    – being told by a member of staff that she had just found a condom in the (card) subject index. I asked her where exactly it had been placed, I wasTechnical Services librn and concerned about the accuracy of the SI…and on a similar note we never did work out who left a vibrator in a seminar room…..
    – Spending the day in the pouring rain in a school yard with a minature steam engine and 70 ft of track whilst every kid in the school had a ride on the engine…and I fielded phonecalls from press who said ‘we’ll come and take pictures, when it stops raining…will the rain stop after lunch?’ HOW do I know when it will stop raining?….. (But it was a brill day)
    – But the one which most made me think ‘what am I doing?’ was trying to source (an empty) 24lb shell casing! (and I failed on that one!!)

    • bethan / Nov 21 2011 10:26

      wow! you’ve definitely had a lively career… I quite like the sound of the train one – fire, flood, and collapse not quite so much! And I fully appreciate your concern over the accuracy of the subject index 🙂

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