Working from home, 09.00: the big change from my two large office screens to a laptop has gone well, aided by an excellent chair and nice view from the lounge window.  

Simon de Montfalcon, institutional repository manager reading a book in Czech.
Simon de Montfalcon, institutional repository manager

Fire up the laptop and switch TV from news to Classic fM for background inspiration, hook into the network usually without problem and start to catch any chats in Teams that may concern me and skim through Outlook for anything urgent. Launch Pure and while waiting look at ePrints (the discovery aspect of our repository) get an idea of how the latest records from Pure are looking and if any errors are apparent. Scan the Pure interface to see what’s going on and what could prove problematical later in the day owing to time and process strictures. Note down any facts and figures that may prove useful later and gather up any new COVID-related deposits for priority processing. Then think about work approach for the day – it often changes – noting any queries awaiting me. If on enquiry rota then interrogate the enquiry management system and decide what is urgent, quick fix, or can be thought over for resolution later in the day. 

Daily check-in at 10.00 with group video meeting twice a week. Varied discussion on multiple topics, usually intriguing even if not always pertinent to my work owing to diversity of a largish group, but with some useful snippets here and there. Observe how the check-in also seems to serve a social function for us now (un)socially distanced staff, especially the video sessions. Afterwards confer with my team if any matters arise or on any queries they may have, then on to the day’s work proper. 

The repository team is multi-tasking with much experience between us; old hands that witnessed our repository grow from idea into full-blown service and REF-facilitator. Despite the REF focus we never lose sight of the fundamentals of a repository and always impart that to academics who seem to be positive about what that brings. For a team, much of the work can be repetitive, yet with the right mind-set and approach there is also much of interest with a sense of achievement and satisfying end-result. For a one-time cataloguer and abstractor, repository work has always been enjoyable for the detail and intricacy, cause and effect. After many years on it errors are (usually) the first thing that jump off the screen, which means much of the day can be spent on “repair” work or problem resolution whilst other team-members focus on throughput, REF-compliance, queries or reporting. 

The high turnover of queries can absorb much time especially if complex. Many are straightforward and similar but just explained differently. Daily, there is usually a queue awaiting with attached accepted manuscripts (AMs) or other info requested from authors. Great to get those uploaded to their records for REF/OA-compliance and check if the record needs other updates such as such as publication status – always work to upgrade records in as few visits as possible – saves work in the future. Check the AMs are OK, deal with embargoes and licenses, we take great pride in ensuring a record is as up to date and accurate as possible. Maybe next there’ll be a query from an academic asking why their publications aren’t showing on their staff profile, or an external user trying to obtain a paper that can’t be downloaded from the repository, sometimes a mix-up with staff IDs on a record, or extension request on a thesis embargo; perhaps a query about an article title change; sometimes advise on and deal with the research output of a new academic or assign dataset and DOI requests to our Research Data team, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. 

Always send your repository team the actual and correct accepted manuscript and the full and correct date of acceptance (dd/mm/yyyy). It really makes our day! 

Then on to those deposits in the repository that need further action. Various reasons for this, including lack of the accepted manuscript if required or deposit not linked via ID to author(s). Missing AMs are routinely accounted for via compliance reporting to research administrators but chasing them up individually from authors/depositors by repository staff is highly productive and worth the effort – builds bridges with academics too. Linking to staff IDs is either straightforward or troublesome, depending on staff status or name complexities. Hate to be beaten by the problem ones though and they can often be resolved after some fiddling and adjustment.

Lunch: Normally quite late and often consisting of smoothie, ramen and popcorn although not combined. Put feet up for a while and maybe continue trying to (painfully) translate that Czech biography on a WWI Austro-Hungarian aviator and/or a catnap. 

Back to the laptop, check for and deal with new/ongoing queries and continue as before lunch but now keeping an eye on and alleviate any build up that may impact the repository 17.25 closedown procedure cut-off. It creeps up fast and is easy to misjudge and get caught out; then suffer the panic of maybe trying to figure out and validate the day’s submitted changes, modifications and additions to records, almost inevitably against a backdrop of interruptions or sudden poor connection, before they fail to traverse the connector from Pure to ePrints. 

For variety and time allowing, depending on priorities the backlog of (say) returned theses can be investigated and hopefully progressed. Signatures left in full texts of deposits need to be removed which isn’t difficult but there’s an inordinate amount of time involved owing to the time taken for large pdfs to download; one of the few problems when working from home.

Closedown procedures: A precarious time of the day, every working day, as it always has to be dealt with and is a job in its own right with several peripherals. Hope that the validations are straightforward for the remaining time that’s been gauged; often more needs doing to a record than just the change that the user has submitted, sometimes a complete re-edit. Log any with queries or needing extensive work for examination in detail next day and hopefully more revalidations won’t pop through in the minutes before 17.00. Then on to journal titles, publisher names, external authors and organisations. The first two are usually few and don’t require much work, maybe a minor correction to a title or a missing ISSN. Author names and external organisationss, a result of imports, are a different matter. The names are quick to validate even if numerous, but if the spacing is out between initials or a compound surname is causing a problem on many of them it can be a lengthy job. The cataloguer in me always wants to get these things right. External organisations? Well, they’re another job in their own right and discussion still goes on about how best to deal with them. They could almost have a separate blog post and by now I’m in my own time, 17.25… 

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Open Access Week 2020: a day in the life of our Institutional Repository manager

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