So, I’ve been in my current job for four and a half months. I was hoping to write a post to coincide with the fourth month exactly but evidently that didn’t happen.
I feel well settled into this job now. I have gone from knowing very little about serials to having to be an expert and answer both colleagues’ and library users’ questions. I’ve dealt with nearly every aspect of my role so far – ordering, cancelling, invoicing, lots of spreadsheets, cataloguing, claiming, binding, liaising with suppliers … and that’s just the part of my role that is specific to serials. I’ve become well acquainted with regular library users when I’m on the circulation desk and how to register new readers (no longer such a daunting process but still complex and lengthy).
I spend a lot of my time chasing up vendors and publishers for not sending us issues of their journal. Some of them are easily remedied and the journal arrives soon after I claim it but others require constant chasing. A journal issue turned up last month which has been chased by three different members of staff over the course of three years! I could finally send that volume off for binding.
Before I started this job, a number of people cringed when I said I would be working with periodicals because they find them difficult to cope with. As I’ve already said, vendors constantly need to be chased because they haven’t sent a journal issue; titles change which means either an amendment to the bibliographic record or a new one created from scratch; publication patterns change from, for example, monthly to quarterly, which requires amendment to the subscription record and pattern set up so the catalogue creates the correct expected schedule.
I haven’t found any of these things annoying. Serials are constantly changing and I like ensuring everything is kept up-to-date with the correct details. My colleagues have been very important in training me up to this level. I have a manual which covers every aspect of my role as serials librarian, which has also been essential in helping me get to where I am. I’m actually in the processing of making changes to the manual because, even though it was updated last year, it is already out of date with changes to library practice, RDA introduction, and so on.
What is frightening is the number of journals that are becoming online-only. In response to my claims for missing journals, publishers and vendors sometimes reply and explain that I haven’t received it because it is no longer available in print. I think this is quite a slow process but it does make me wonder what the future holds for the serials librarian. At Oxford, electronic journals are dealt with centrally on behalf of all the Oxford University libraries. If print journals cease to exist then serials librarians, in Oxford at least, may cease to be necessary. As glum as that sounds, it certainly reflects the every changing nature of serials I spoke about earlier.