British Library Day Ten: Odd Jobs and BIPC


The meeting I was supposed to attend in the morning had been cancelled or rescheduled, and so I did a bit of ordering for Lynn in the morning in between sessions working on my presentation. Lynn is slowly trying to track down some books which have gone missing. During some office spring cleaning, a box was found with many ‘missing item’ forms which had never been followed up. This box was from before the move into the St Pancras building, and some of the forms date back to 1985.

Lynn will check the catalogue is correct, order the books where possible and get items deleted out of the system if they really are missing. To that end, I took some of the sheets and found the items in the catalogue where possible, ordering them up to arrive for Lynn at the reading room in 2 days. There were three or four items I couldn’t order: two because they wasn’t in the system (or at least not the version wanted), and the others essentially because there wasn’t enough detail on the form to determine which of several editions or years was required.

After lunch, I spent some time down in the BIPC with Sally-Ann and Zed, and after the shift change Gale and Tony. The Business and Intellectual Property Centre is set apart in a lot of ways from the rest of the library, and its clientele is a lot different to the rest, with more business and entrepreneurial ‘customers’ than academics and students.

The people coming to the BIPC are setting up small businesses, or researching patents, or doing market research etc. Most of the resources are databases, many of which are unavailable elsewhere as the BIPC holds the biggest collection of business databases in the UK. This is the only reading room which allows downloading, but it is as agreed upon with the database vendors, so there are different rules for each one. This can be confusing for the clients and they sometimes get upset.

The basic collection elements are as follows: small business help; database journals (with the print version falling behind as it is from legal deposit and slowly databases are stopping print runs); directories, market research; intellectual property law; trade journals; and historical patent forms dating back as far as the 1500s.

I had a bit of tour, including the meeting rooms, where the centre hosts one-on-one sessions with clients – mostly to help them figure out the resources, but sometimes with more expert advice. They also have a meeting room where they conduct business workshops, and that space is also used by outside parties to host workshops as well.

The centre was pretty quiet while I was there, apart from some procedural and download queries (they have to log each download as well to make sure people aren’t breaking the copyright limits set) we were just chatting. Sally-Ann who showed me around is one of the newer members to the BL, so has a lot of ideas about changing things to improve accessibility. She is also dyslexic, and I mentioned that Paul would have liked to have seen the talk she did. She laughed and said he had come, and they were working together with another woman on an accessibility project. One aspect of this is redesigning the subject guides so they follow procedural steps rather than alphabetical order eg. Small business help before market research

Anyway, one of the unique things which happened  during my time with the second shift was when a gentleman ran in all out of breath asking for a download from Frost. This is because the library is only allocated 25 of these reports a month, and it is first come first serve. The reports can be worth ten thousand dollars, so I can see why the man was stressed! Luckily, they had it. I felt bad though because he approached me all out of breath, and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise until he had finished his breathless queries to tell him that I couldn’t help and he’d have to talk to one of the others.

The other thing which sticks out to me about my time in the BIPC was when I was talking to Sally-Ann, and I mentioned my degree, clarifying it as I usually do after the fact as ‘or a library degree’ to which she replied ‘yes, I know, I’ve done one’ and I felt like an absolute idiot. Here’s the thing though, after several years of a blank look and ‘so you do stuff with computers?’ after I say what I am doing, I have learnt to just automatically clarify my degree with an explanation. So, there was a reason for my gaffe, but it didn’t make me feel any less embarrassed, so that’s one mistake I’ll never repeat again.


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