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October 5, 2012 / bethan

My First Month – Francesca Redman, Acquisitions Services University of the West of England (Secondment)

What’s it really like to start work as a new professional? In this series of guest blog posts, we’ll hear from new professionals about their first month in a new job. What have they learned? How have they fitted in? What’s been the best (and the worst!) thing? If you’d like to contribute the story of your first month, get in touch!

Meeting BERTHA: Francesca Redman (@deadlylibrarian) shares her experiences of being seconded to Acquisitions Services at the University of the West of England.

I have to say that on the whole my first month has been enjoyable, but I sometimes feel as though haven’t achieved a great deal. I’m a very hands on kind of person, and can become quite bored when I have nothing to do, so the month long gentle induction that I’ve had thus far has been  frustrating to me at times-I’d much rather fling myself into doing things, and figure out what I need to know a bit later. Having said that, I do recognise this as a personality trait that has, at times left me in some sticky situations, so I’ve been trying my best to slow my brain down and take in the wealth of knowledge that is being offered to me by my colleagues and managers.

Having read the ‘my first month’ post by Carly Miller, I’ve come to realise that what I’ve been offered by the whole team here is a really supportive environment that many others aren’t lucky enough to benefit from-for example, on my first day, a huge amount of staff from across all the teams in the library came to have their tea break at the same time as me, and there were many biscuits to mark my arrival. Since then, everyone has taken a genuine interest in how I’m settling in, and I must have had a million coffees, lunches, and chats to catch up with the various people that I’ve met in my first few weeks.

What’s the biggest learning curve been?

The move from my substantive post as a library assistant at our Gloucester Campus to the acquisitions department at our main campus in Bristol itself is quite a large learning curve. I’ve gone from being part of a team of 4 to a team of around 90, and much of the first week was taken up with getting to know the people and the basics at the new campus. There is also a completely different student population here, as Gloucester Campus is exclusively for nursing students, and Frenchay is our main campus, offering services to a range of different subjects at different levels. I’m spread across two separate teams, spending half of my time working in customer services at the library helpdesk, and half of my time working in the acquisitions department working on our rolling stock review, and as I mentioned earlier, I am still learning about my roles and shadowing various members of the team at the moment.

Another big learning curve (of a sort) has been remembering that I’m in a position that has responsibility for others now – I supervised a lot of staff in my retail career, but since I moved in to libraries 5 years ago, I’ve been in fairly independent roles, with little responsibility for anyone but myself.  I’ve had to re-awaken those dormant supervisory skills, which is still a work in progress!

What have you had to do that you didn’t expect?

Library tours- on my second day I was told that part of my role will be to give tours of the library to new/returning students, which I hadn’t really expected, but hopefully I will rise to the challenge. I even offered to give a tour to this years’ new Information and Library Management students, though this is really just because I’m a bit nosy, and want to meet them all.

What technologies have you needed to use?

I’ve had to get to know our library management system better, and I’ve also had to dust off my previously underused excel skills, which has prompted me to book myself on to some in-house excel training, to make sure that my knowledge is up-to-date and I’m not making things too difficult for myself.

I’ve been introduced to BERTHA who is our 3M book sorter, and I’m a huge fan of her work, we have a glass wall in to the room that BERTHA lives in, and the geek in me loves to watch her sort books.

What new skills have you learned?

Luckily for me, so far I haven’t required any new skills, but I have had to get my brain to remember some things that it had buried a long time ago, like complex excel formulas, and charts. I think that the experience of meeting so many new people in a really short space of time has helped me with my networking skills.

Biggest challenge?

I was given a list of statistics publications to withdraw, and when I got to the shelves, what looked like a small date range of items to withdraw turned out to be a huge pile of weekly journals, which were time consuming to withdraw from stock, as they weren’t catalogued as journals, but as a single book, and our system wouldn’t let me find the record very easily-this challenged my self-motivation skills and left me covered in dust!

Most fun thing?

I can’t really pinpoint a single fun experience, so far, I’m enjoying the opportunity to do a range of different things throughout my day, and I really enjoy spending time on the enquiry desk helping students- at the same time, it’s good to know that the time spent answering enquiries is finite, and I can return to the quiet oasis of my desk to do something a bit different too.

Has what you learned in library school been useful?

I think that the modules that I took in library school helped me to consolidate my opinions, and I found the course interesting, but I think that my practical work experience has been more useful than anything. Had I not had a varied experience in different libraries and departments, I may well have struggled more than I have so far, as this role is fairly diverse, and nothing that I studied in library school that I can think of could have adequately prepared me for the reality of it.

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