Guest post by Blazej Kaucz, a PhD candidate at UCC in a broad field called Socio-Legal Studies.
The following post is about UCC Library. This should come as no surprise to those of you who have had the pleasure, or maybe not, of stumbling upon me on your life path. University College Cork is the place where I study (for a PhD), teach some of the undergraduate students in sociology and criminology, and where I work part-time in the aforementioned Library. The reason I am mentioning this is that I can share with you three somewhat different perspectives on the importance of the UCC Library to me from three slightly different viewpoints of professional life (my study, my teaching, and my work).
My professional life developed gradually, the studying came first, teaching followed later, and finally, the work at UCC Library. This sequence is essential as with these changes in my professional career transformed and influenced my understanding, perception, and appreciation of (and for) the project called The Library. The fact that I am discussing all of that right now, retrospectively, will obviously impact this description, but I will try to capture my thoughts on the subject from a specific period of my career at UCC.
Firstly, I started my studies in January (one of four possible times when Postgraduates at UCC are allowed to start along with October, April and July). The consequences of this are that, in general, most service providers at Universities tend to forget about people starting at any other give time apart from the September/October intake. Most of the initial introductions to services and transitory modules accommodate only the portion of people starting in the September / October timeframe. So, if one happens to be in the group of the rest, (the other three periods of intake) one will most likely be exposed to a lesser amount of introductions as to that of the September/October researchers. This unfortunately is often also the case with the Library service. This happened to me as a newcomer to UCC. Whereas, starting at other times other that September / October has its advantages, it does mean that one is on a quest to discover everything on their own. Having the above in mind, it is a daunting experience to enter a Library for the first time and trying to feel comfortable enough in navigating the shelves (more on that in a further post). The good thing is that if in doubt library staff are there to help, and I am talking from my own experience here (and not as a hidden form of flattery to my current colleagues) as I had few situations where library staff helped me out when I needed it the most - especially at the very beginning of my research. Nonetheless, being susceptible to buying my own books (knowing that in the course of my research some of them will be referred to more than once) I did not use of the library in the initial phase of my research as much as I could have due to purchasing the books.
Secondly, the period where I had the opportunity to tutor on the first year’s Introduction to Sociology module changed my perception of the Library and the services offered by Library staff. At one of the tutors’ meetings (at the beginning of semester one) one of my colleagues proposed that it might be a good idea to involve Library staff in introducing the UCC Library Website and research methods and techniques to our first year students. Such a request was accommodated in between the first and second assignment, and the staff from the Library spent fifteen minutes with each one of the fourteen tutorial groups providing a very quick introduction and explanation of the importance of the academic research process. The results spoke for themselves. The overall, marks from the second assignment increased in comparison to the first one, and the input offered by the Library staff definitely helped, if not partially influenced that situation. The surprise here was that there was no problem in organisation of these sessions, for students’ convenience, as part of the original tutorial schedule and venues. On top of that, the scope of my research and usage of Library services would change as well, due to the need to prepare myself for the mentioned tutorials.
Lastly, when I have begun working (in March of this year) in the UCC Library I was offered an opportunity, as part of my initial training, to visit and spend some time in each one of the sections which greatly improved my understanding of the services offered in here. But even at this point my work was not entirely associated with the usual work of the librarians. It was just recently during the summer months, when I had agreed to work as part of the Collection Development & Management section of the Boole, when I was fully exposed to the array of task as faced by the librarians on daily basis. It was, and still is, an exciting time (if moving books can ever be exciting, or perhaps moving books for prolonged period of time alters one’s perception of reality to such an extent that the world looks a bit more exiting afterwards) where I have learned to appreciate some of the necessities of the library work, namely, hated by most service users and providers, the book weeding.
On one occasion my two professional career path intersected. It was when I was asked to coordinate a donation of books from the Discipline of Criminology (a part of the Department of Sociology, UCC) to the Boole. The level of interdepartmental and interpersonal cooperation that this process requires allowed me to appreciate even further the work taking place in the background, which rarely is observed by the service users themselves.
UCC Library is this one building in the heart of UCC with a crucial importance (in terms of services it offers) to the running of the entire UCC community. Being firstly the service user, and then secondly, a member of the services provider’s team, influenced my perception of the Boole Library and the services offered by it.
Here, due to the tyranny of space, I was able only able to present glimpses of my experience of UCC’s Library.