Lockdown Daze

As one of the library assistants, I was to be working from home in the future during the phase the library is closed for structural works. Thankfully, my project for this period was up and running well in advance, as it meant that I was able to switch to working from home immediately after it was advised by the government to do so if we possibly could.

As an individual I was a little apprehensive about working alone at home, with no interaction with my colleagues, and responsible for motivating myself. To my surprise, I took to it like a duck to water. Then, after half a week, the schools were closed, so I have shared my working space with my children who are schooling at home since then. Admittedly, on days when it is just me at home, or when it was half term, it is quieter, but it is surprisingly possible to work at the same time as encouraging (nagging) my 11 year old with interactions and work for school. I envisaged myself working from my desk in the spare room, which I am sure I will in the long term, but since March I have been based at the dining table, with the dog assisting me, and often with the back door open to bring in the sounds of the birds exploring the garden.

The project I have been assigned is one that I have grown very fond of in the last couple of months. I had done bits of it amidst my other work while still in Gordon Square, but full immersion has been just what I needed to get to grips with the variety within the project. The task at hand is retrospective cataloguing for the Congregational Library. The Congregational Memorial Hall Trustees have charged us with the not inconsiderable undertaking of digitising their card catalogue. We are working from scans of the card catalogue, and at this stage trying to find matches already catalogued by other institutions – using the alarmingly named Z39.50 - a tool used for copy cataloguing by searching and retrieving information from remote computer databases. At the outset it sounded to me like it would either be a simple yes or no – record retrieved or nothing available. This is true, but every search is unique. Some items can be found easily by searching author/ title/ mix of both. Others require a bit more digging, by finding the right key word to search. Some “hits” come up immediately, whereby it is obvious it is what you are looking for. On other occasions you need to sift through a long list of search results – sometimes finding your item, other times still not. Attention to detail – especially date, publisher, and edition – is important to ensure you import the correct information.

Having not done much in the way of cataloguing since library school, I have discovered a passion for it that I had no idea lay buried inside me. I have dug out my cataloguing tomes and invested in a helpful textbook. This project will keep several of us going for the next couple of years, so I am confident that I will learn a lot more from doing it and from reading round the subject.

I am looking forward to the time when I can meet with my colleagues again, but I am thoroughly enjoying, and finding fulfilment in the work I am able to do from home.

katie Cargill Thompson (June 2020)