It is 7:40 am, I am on the bus into town for work and I am wondering what the day will bring. Today may prove a fortunate choice for a ‘day in the life of’ piece: not only am I in the early stages of configuring the University's new discovery tool, but it is also time to prepare for the annual development review. Both involve looking forward as well as back, making resolutions or at least a ‘to do’ list:

Implement discovery tool

Over the past few months, we have been looking at different discovery tools, trying to work out which would bring the greatest benefit to our users. Having chosen one (Summon, if you are interested), we are now trying to tune it to work with our varied collection of electronic and print resources. Quite a responsibility, this: discovery tools are excellent at matching user queries with online content, but can only do this where some librarian or other has sat down and ticked the right checkboxes. Hit the wrong one and you could offer a promise of access that can't be delivered; miss one out and you could hold up someone's research by not including stuff they can read in the search results.

Install proxy service

Beyond that, the discovery tool has to be fitted into the wider library infrastructure. I need to work out how to get a proxy service installed so that off-campus users can access our resources. I am pretty sure we know which piece of software we are going to use to do this, but do need to check with my boss about the implications (by which I mean the server, the service and the price tag).

Investigate digital preservation possibilities

While Ezproxy or similar helps with the ‘just-in-time’ cases of people wanting to log in to resources, we have long been using LOCKSS as a ‘just-in-case’ cache of electronic articles that we may one day need. Ever since the unfortunate burning down of the library in Alexandria (more than once, according to Wikipedia), librarians have worried that they are not doing enough to preserve and hand on recorded knowledge. Moving to an electronic-only information landscape just increased these concerns. What happens if a subscription gets cancelled? … if a publisher gets taken over or goes bust? Or, if they just lose interest in holding unprofitable files on their servers?

“ … we have long been using LOCKSS as a ‘just-in-case’ cache of electronic articles …”

Since the end of last year, we have been making the content held in our LOCKSS archive visible to people using our OpenURL resolver and Journals A–Z list. Installing a proxy service that worked with LOCKSS would be another step forward for this service. Requests would be passed onto publishers to check that we have the latest copy, and so clocking our COUNTER scores, but the version sent to the user would most often be the local LOCKSS version. If we can get this working we could not only back up our reassuring promises of access, but there might be ‘marginal gains’ in delivery time and energy use. Marginal gains, as the UK Olympic Cycling Team will tell you, can really be made to count.

Respond to user queries

I am scheduled for two user support sessions today on our online helpdesk ‘JustAsk’. I expect to be responding to e-mails, answering phone calls and perhaps meeting students directly to book individual tutorial sessions. I do learn a lot from hearing about the obstacles that students encounter. I can already visualize the faces of students who will personally benefit from the new discovery tool when it is launched. The JustAsk sessions could get busy as the library is already warming up for the new academic year, but if not I will have a chance to catch up with my current awareness.

Read The Digitalpreservation Daily

I get an e-mail each day on publication of The Digitalpreservation Daily from It is a kind of step up from an RSS feed as the news stories featured are selected from the tweets of people interested in digital preservation (in this case) and arranged to look like a newsletter. In fact, I am not just a subscriber (no money changes hands), but also its curator. It is my Twitter List that acts as input for the newsletter. Individual tweets can get lost in the flurry, so a daily summary is a good chance to catch up with what people are noticing. I also use the Global Diversity & Inclusion news to support my role as the University's UNISON Equalities Co-ordinator.

“Ever since the unfortunate burning down of the library in Alexandria …”

Review goals for next year

I have a draft of my objectives for next year and reflections on what worked and what did not last year. The goals are not SMART yet. For that I need to talk through with my boss what timescales he has in mind. We are due for a one-to-one meeting today so that may be an opportunity to get an overview of how things will fit together over the next 12 months.


That is how I would like to spend the day, but there will inevitably be interruptions. Can I update the pages on the library website? Why has this WAYFless URL broken and can it be fixed? Do these licence permissions for digitizing a VHS hold water? Can someone with ‘good relations’ with a University department log in to our electronic resources? (No!)


I will need a break from all this at lunchtime. So, if it is still sunny I will take the chance to walk along the nearby river. There is a bank of wildflowers I have just discovered and I am intrigued by the range of insects attracted there. Outside of work I am helping on a citizen science project for the Co-op and local Wildlife Trust as a Habitat Hero, logging the range of bumblebees encountered on an hour-long walk across the same farm field each month. I can hone my insect identification skills and get some fresh air at the same time.

Habitat Hero strikes again!