Thursday, February 21, 2019

Interview Post: Bryony Jane Ramsden


Bryony Jane Ramsden

Current job?
Subject Librarian for Human and Health Sciences at the University of Huddersfield. I mostly look after students in nursing and allied health professions, but as the other health librarian and myself are both part time, we provide support according to what day somebody needs help! My role has changed this academic year though, as I’ve been given a user experience role (brand new to our library).

How long have you been in the field?
What feels like a LONG time! I have that common tale where I got a shelving job at the local public library when I was an undergrad, and liked working in the environment and the nature of the interactions so much I ended up working towards qualification. So, if you count when I started my shelving job, I’d say around 19-20 years. That IS a long time, then!

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
We have an office for all the subject and academic librarians and all the subject assistants, around 20 of us altogether, with our own personal desks. My desk is like my house, a personalised, organised mess – I know EXACTLY where everything is, even if it doesn’t look like that! We used to live in separate subject-related offices, but they were gradually removed to be (rightly) dedicated to student use instead. I don’t always manage to work very well when it gets busy and noisy, but I love working with everyone here. We have a good team.

How do you organize your days?
Thinking about it, today is probably the first day I’ve had a chance to organise my day because I’ve been so busy this last term! They are generally split between meetings in the school for course committees and student panels, appointments with students or academics [Editor’s Note: I believe that translates to “faculty” for those of us in the US.], providing training for information skills (plus this last couple of months I’ve been running a number of internal UX methods training sessions), and staffing the help desk, although we do that from our office now instead of actually sitting at the desk. But as I wrote this I only had desk duty, and we were winding down for the holidays, I had a to do list of things to sort out before I went on leave.

To do lists are the best way for me to keep track and organised, as I can do all the calendar scheduling/planning I want for tasks but if the phone rings or I get an urgent email asking to advise on a tricky query, I could easily end up spending my scheduled time on that instead. We don’t provide a systematic review service for our academics, but academics and higher level students often ask for support on making sure their search strategy is working and is comprehensive/systematic enough. That can be challenging and time consuming, but is just fascinating!

What do you spend most of your time doing?
It depends on the time of year. In term one, mostly inductions and teaching, and then as it gets further in I have a lot of student appointments. In term two, I’ll have a few January-intake classes, but it’s a lot quieter than in September, so I spend more time on student appointments than classes. Once things are calmer in the new year, I willspend more time on revising my teaching content and looking at stock purchasing/editing before the next round of assignments are due in and the course committee meetings and student appointment requests increase again.

What is a typical day like for you?
It will start with me coming in and having breakfast because the bus service isn’t amazing, so it’s just easier for me to set off earlier and have a calm, relaxing start to the day. I’ll check my calendar for any meetings/teaching etc, go through all my emails, and check ‘TopDesk’ (an online enquiry management system we’ve adopted at the University) for anything that might have been designated to me to respond to. That can include students asking for help with referencing or requesting an appointment, or staff asking if we can buy a new journal or resource. If I’m on the rota for the desk first thing, I also go on to Twitter/Facebook and Questionpoint to see if anyone has sent us a question out of hours. Then I’ll write up a to do list of what I want to get done that day, which might be checking what has been added to the reading lists for any out of stock titles, or planning training sessions, or working on what will be in the next display.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, which was brilliant, and have moved on to re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, as it’s a long time since I last read it, and I want a reminder before the new book comes out…

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Ask for forgiveness instead of permission ;-) This isn’t always appropriate, but it works very well a lot of the time, and even then you don’t have to ask for forgiveness that much!  

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Crafting! This is an academic library, so most of my time is spent talking to people about research on wound care and that kind of thing, but we’ve been running regular sessions for anyone to attend where we make things, help people de-stress, and if they want to (they don’t have to) they can ask us library-related questions. All of which means I get to knit and paper craft as part of my job! Yay!

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?
I have lots, changing depending on the day, all of which are normal words, but because of the job have grim meanings. Today’s will be crust…

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I’d quite like to try working in a baking co-operative like the Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite. I imagine it can be stressful like any service is, but the idea of making delicious bread and other baked goods in a co-operative environment is appealing.
What profession would you never want to attempt?
Working in a call centre: a thankless task where they get blamed and shouted at for things that aren’t their fault.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Incredible physical strength, kind of like Hulk but with a bit less anger.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I think it’s that my relationship with the students in the school is as strong as it is. Health students are generally encouraged to speak to library staff by their tutors, but they know there are no stupid questions with me.
If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Oh good grief, there will be plenty I’ve made! But there is one big one I’d share if I knew I was allowed to! Let’s just say it was many, many years ago, and involved money… In the end it was all fine, and there was nothing we couldn’t fix, and that’s the key thing to remember in a subject librarian role: if you make a mistake, it can almost always be fixed and sorted out.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
I love walking. I live in a beautiful town where the wilds of the moors and the Pennine hills are just on my doorstep. I can make it to work using public transport in 30 mins door to door on a good day, but I can also walk out of my door in the other direction and be in the countryside on foot in 15 minutes. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I also love making things. Give me some yarn or fibre or some paper and ink/a pile of coloured pens and I’ll be really happy. Having said all that, I also love my PS4...

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Jessica Haigh

Bryony tweets at @librarygirlknit.

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