Sunday, 12 April 2015

My work year 2014-15

Image (c) Chris Piascik reproduced under
CC-BY-ND-2.0. Source
I'm often asked by friends and family what I do in work. Why does Welsh Government need librarians? This posting will hopefully give you an impression of my work.

There have been several excellent "day in the life" blogs of UK librarians which provide snap shots of career routes and often a sample list of activities and challenges experienced in a working day1. My account here is different, looking at a overview of a year's activity, it draws on my annual statistics.

Legal librarian.

My core role is to provide support to civil service lawyers and policy staff with their legal information needs. This includes providing:
  • access to amended UK legislation.
  • copies of supporting materials, such as official circulars, guidance, explantory notes, but also to legal commentary and analysis.
  • comparative legislation. What does legislation for "x" aim look like in other jurisdictions? How effective has it been? What have the issues been?
  • online databases that support these information needs. This includes involvement in selection, procurement, promotion within the organisation, training and ongoing support for users, as well as user account management, statistical analysis of usage, and feedback to the database providers.
  • a legal information service. Using my database search skills and knowledge to identify information that answers complex legal information enquiries. E.g. What case law is there on this aspect of law ; how was "y" aspect of legislation discussed during Bill debates. More recently I've also been supporting government lawyers in identifying candidates for amendments (consequential amendments) as a result of changes introduced under Welsh legislative powers.

In 2014-15 I provided:
  • 38 complex legal information searches, each taking a minimim of 15 hours, but often taking more that 30 hours. This isn't an increase on past years, but this work has become more complex, required more urgently, and can contribute to very high profile work, including preparations for Supreme Court cases and other judicial reviews.
  • 150 "long" enquiries. These are enquiries that take over 30 minutes to resolve, but aren't quite as involved as a complex searches. Some of these enquiries also relate to copyright matters, where librarians play a key role in providing information and in ensuring that our organisation meets the requirements of copyright legislation.
  • over 1000 short enquiries - anything less than 30 minutes to resolve. This number has increased over the years as we have lost support colleagues within the library team.
  • access to over 47 hours of database training and support to more that 210 colleagues.

Other roles?

  • team management - support to 3 team colleagues, assisting with their work, including supporting business information needs within government, providing and organising training.
  • management and supervision of the library computerised management system and our Publications Catalogue. This is a relatively new addition to my portfolio, again as a result of having a smaller library team within the organisation.
  • contributing to the capture, cataloguing and archiving our external publications so that they can be found within the Publications Catalogue, and deposited with copyright libraries. I catalogued more than 400 titles in this work year. In previous years this would have been cataloguing of purchased titles for addition to our library collections. In this year much of this cataloguing would have been for the Publications Catalogue.
  • Contributing to a current awareness service. Helping policy colleagues to keep up to date with key developments and news in their areas of operation.
  • advocating for high standards of information management, information ethics and professional librarianship within the organisation.
  • maintaining my own professional knowledge and skills.
What's missing? 

So, the balance in the pie-chart above is reasonably good. Two-thirds of time spent on enquiry work, and one-third on other roles indicated above. But you've probably spotted two potentially large omissions?
  • Meetings. Fortunately my schedule isn't dominated by meetings - in fact they are a very small part of my working week. That's not to say we don't communicate! We do, but this tends to be in short, highly effective, focused discussions.
  • Email. I find it difficult to quantify how much time I spend in reading, storing, responding to and writing emails. Off the top of my head perhaps 30 minutes per day?
I could break the green segment of the pie-chart down with some further estimates. Handling email approximately 20% of the "other work" or 7% of the total year's time. And cataloguing, 11% of "other work" or 4% of the total year.

Other aspirations?

Workloads are very high, but there's room for improvement, especially in the following areas:
  • our marketing and profile within the organisation. We aren't short of work, but awareness of Library Services remains poor.
  • how we demonstrate our value to the organisation. Not just a drain on resources, or an "overhead", we save time, equip officals with the information that they need, and help innovation. But how can we capture, chart and disseminate this information to prove our worth?
  • using technology to improve workflows, making us more effective but also helping us to innovate.

1 . 23 Librarians - Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland

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