During his Study Abroad trip to London over Spring Break, Senior Andrew Vetsch sat down with 2006 English alum Jaimee McRoberts about her ten years with the British Library, her experience transitioning to management and shaping her department's direction, and her choice to settle down in England.
Andrew Vetsch: Can you describe your work here at the British Library?
Jaimee McRoberts: I am an Arts & Humanities Reference Manager, so I’m responsible for overseeing the relevant subject reading room teams for reference services. So that’s humanities, news media, sound division, and I also oversee the science department because we do not have a manager at the moment. Our reference services are based on providing information services to customers, so answering basic queries as well as research inquiries, connecting users to materials they’d like to see. The main thing we have is desk duties that we do. But I oversee the department, making sure that our services fit the purpose, making sure that people have training opportunities, looking at projects we need to work on a wide range of different projects. So we have some stuff like accessibility, systems, and, just in general, making sure that people, if they have any kind of accessibility issue. So if they need to have texted speech on the computers, then that’s something we make sure we need to offer. If they need to have large print formats, then that’s something we need to offer. If they have issues with brightness on the screen, these are all things we all need to make we provide services for. That’s just an example.
We hold meetings. A lot of meetings. Meetings with people, talking about things, discussing things, writing up minutes. We try to work with lots of different departments. So our focus is on customer service. We’re just one part of this service at the library. There’s also the Battle for the Infrastructure, so we have the IT department. They run their services, but they don’t think about the end user. So we have to make sure that we’re the voice of the customers and that make sure that we’re feeding back the means of our customers. So they might say ‘Well, it might be easier if we do it this way’, and we have to say ‘Well, we need you to make it so that actual users will be able to use it, instead of being too technical or too difficult to get through’.
And I also do line management stuff. So I have to manage an approved time sheets, make adjustments, things like that.
AV: What do you like about your job?
JM: I like getting to work with other departments, and getting to have overseeing the work that we’re doing and the direction that we’re taking. For a long time, I was working as a reference librarian, so I just sort of did the job. And now I’m actually in a position where I can shape the job. I can help make sure that we’re going in the right direction, make sure that we’re getting updated skills. A lot of people have been at the library for 30 or more years. I’ve been here for 10 years. Although 10 years seems like a long time, in the grand scheme of the British Library, that’s actually a really short time for some people. So, I like to try to make sure that people are keeping skills and options up to date. I like being able to say ‘Well, this is what we are going to do now because everyone else is doing it’.
AV: What do you dislike about your job?
JM: I dislike how long it takes to get everything done. It takes forever to get anything accomplished here, because, as I was mentioning, some of the culture, it was done this way forever so why would we change it. We also, as our government library, so all the things that we want to do require money and we have none. So a lot of the time, it’s fighting a losing battle.
AV: How did you get to London, instead of a different city?
JM: Well, when I studied abroad with my Bachelor’s at Stevenson, I came to London for a semester abroad. I liked the university I went to in London, I liked the materials I was studying, so I decided to come back and do a Masters.
AV: That’s neat. Do you have any plans for the future?
JM: I don’t have any plans at the moment. I’ve been here for 10 years and I’d like to stay for several more.