Works well under pressure

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Last week, I submitted a job application at the very last of all last minutes, having misread the deadline. One of the criteria on the person specification was ‘works well under pressure’, or words to that effect. This made me laugh in a slightly hysterical manner when rattling off a covering letter at 11.30pm on the closing date.

But in actual fact, working well under pressure is something I’ve been managing admirably for some weeks. Whilst I work well when presented with short timescales and unexpected challenges, this is something I generally try to avoid. I’m not a ‘last minuter’ when I have any say in the matter – but life, and work, is not something I have much control over, and over the past month a few unexpected things have been thrown into the mix.

The library has a dedicated communications and marketing officer, who like me, is based within the academic liaison team, and part of my role is supporting my colleague in this area. Unfortunately, the communications and marketing officer has now been off work for around 4 weeks due to illness.  Obviously, you really can’t choose when you need to take sick leave, but it’s been pretty unfortunate timing, to say the least. I’ve only been in the library for two of the last four weeks myself, having arranged to go on holiday and see my family. But when I have been at work, I’ve needed to deal with a week of catalogue and system crashes, as well as a myriad of opening hours changes, moving from Easter vacation opening hours to Easter weekend opening hours, to term opening hours, to bank holiday weekend opening hours. I’ve chaired a communications and marketing group meeting for the first time. And then finally add into the mix the fact that two of our library sites went into 24 hour opening on Easter Monday…

So it’s been a bit of a crazy-whirlwind few weeks. But now it’s sort of over (is it ever over?!) I thought it might be interesting to take a look at my own personal performance during April in the area of communications and marketing, and how that has affected the library’s service performance (the first of the CILIP Chartership assessment criteria, for those interested!):

Personal performance: Firstly, I probably need to give myself some credit for stepping up to the mark in a pressurised environment. I wasn’t expecting a week of system crashes, I wasn’t expecting my colleague to be off work for such a prolonged period of time, and I wasn’t expecting to have much involvement in this year’s Library 24/7 campaign.

But I’ve managed to roll with it as the circumstances around me have changed. When the system crashed, I put out news stories, posted social media updates and organised posters and notices around the library to make sure that as many people as possible knew why they couldn’t search the catalogue or renew their items.

When it became apparent that my colleague wasn’t going to be able to attend the library’s communications and marketing group meeting, I sought the input of the other group members, who agreed that the meeting should go ahead. I put myself forward to chair the meeting, even though it’s something I’ve never done before, because I was aware that with the communications and marketing officer absent, I was the person who knew the most about what was going on and the person best placed to act as chair. This was a challenge for me, as I had to sort out the confusion surrounding whether the meeting was to take place, as well as prepare for the meeting, in a matter of hours. The meeting itself though went well; we kept to the agenda and to time, the group came up with a list of actions assigned to different members, and I was thanked for chairing the meeting by the group (which was nice!).

And the Easter vacation and Library 24/7 marketing? Well, it hasn’t been perfect, and with so much going on and only one of me I made some mistakes – I forgot to distribute the Easter weekend opening hours posters around to the other library sites until a couple of days before the Easter weekend, for example. Similarly, although I managed to get permissions to make changes to the complicated PHP database behind the library’s opening hours web pages, with nobody to show me how to work it, our opening hours pages were completely wrong at the start of Good Friday and customers were waiting at the Main Library doors an hour or so before we opened. But despite these blips, I got the information out there and the remaining copy and design work was completed to a high standard to form a coherent campaign. The publicity materials were organised and scheduled so that the campaign could be rolled out in my absence online, around the five library sites and the rest of the university at the beginning of the 24/7 period, and I was able to delegate tasks out to colleagues as appropriate.

Service performance: It goes without saying that no matter what is happening behind the scenes, you want your customers to have a positive experience of your service. It really doesn’t matter that taking on responsibility for communications and marketing tasks isn’t necessarily my job, or that I prefer things to be slightly less rushed. My job, as a Library Assistant, is to assist with the overall performance of the library as a service; getting the message out about the disruption to the library catalogue and about Library 24/7, which has massive cost implications, was a service priority. And although it might not have been quite as smooth as last year, I would say that these messages were communicated effectively.

Works well under pressure? I think so.


Written by missrachelsmith

May 2, 2011 at 17:47

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