#DULibIntroducing… James Bisset

In the next of our series introducing members of staff, #DULibIntroducing welcomes James Bisset from our Library Research Services team.


Please state your name, full job title, and a brief description of what that entails:

James Bisset, Senior Manager, Library Research Services, which is an ambitiously vague and broad job title for a University like Durham. Under that catch-all banner of ‘research support’ I have several roles. Firstly, I organise and deliver the Library’s training offering on the Researcher Development Programme, from core library digital literacy skills, critical reading (with colleagues from DCAD), guidance on managing online profiles, ORCID, and responsible use of publication & citation metrics. This training complements the subject-specific support offered by my Faculty Librarian Colleagues.

A significant part of my role is leading the open access team, which covers our publications and these repositories, and providing access to funding and guidance for open access publication. I have a small but perfectly formed team – and I don’t feel we mention enough that Durham is ranked 2nd in the UK and 4th in the world in the 2019 Leiden Rankings for the % of our publications which are available open access!

Beyond that, I provide professional guidance on the responsible use of metrics, sit on various projects and committees across the university on related topics, and occasionally get to scan the horizon to see what might be hurtling our way. Did someone mention Plan S?

How long have you worked in the Library?

I started here in June 2012. The two months before had seen the arrival of our first child, selling our house in Bristol and relocating with our aforementioned infant son up to the North East of England. The week I started, the Finch Report was published and I was asked what my thoughts about open access were. There may have been a little bit of bluffing involved in those first couple of weeks.

What’s the most interesting/enjoyable aspect of your job?

I want to say the variety, but that is both an obvious response and, in the current ‘working from home’ climate also includes sharing responsibility for home-schooling two increasingly feral children. The last few months I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst my mental arithmetic is (I feel) pretty good, I have no understanding of how children do long subtraction and addition nowadays.

Oh, about the job? That would have to be Small Island Coffee, which I miss intensely.


James DULibIntro


What are you reading at the moment, and would you recommend it?

I am an awful example of a Librarian, in that I read multiple things at the same time, very slowly (see my job description above as my excuse).

So, one of those I am currently (re-)reading is Frank Herbert’s Dune, which I read about 26 years ago. I recently bought the board game and thought I would revisit the universe it lived in. Actually, thinking back, I first read that after playing the computer game (so about 1992) and pinching it from my Dad’s bookshelf. It’s the same copy and has a well-worn feel to it. Yes, would definitely recommend if you like that sort of thing!

What was the last film you saw, and what would it rate out of 10?

Well, the last film we watched was actually The Addams Family (1991). Each week, we try to have a ‘family film night’, and alternate who picks. This week it was our youngest’s choice, bless him. I think he’d watched a cartoon and was adamant he wanted to watch the film (he likes Lurch). I’m not sure it will get a repeat viewing. It’s my pick next week!

The last film I got to watch at the cinema was ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’. And it was wonderful.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

When it’s raining, if you stand under a tree there may be fewer raindrops, but each one is much bigger.

I’m not even convinced that’s true, or how useful it actually is as a reflection on life. But for a casual throwaway line, I’ve never been able to forget it.

The best actual advice I ever received was from a stranger in a pub, who persuaded me a future in financial management was not for me. I withdrew my application to a trainee scheme the next day and spent a month travelling in Europe with two friends instead.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Well, I proposed to my wife at Sycamore Gap (on the way from the beach at Dover to Nottingham), so that is, was and will be a favourite place.

Level 2 of the Library is lava. How do you get to the returns booth from the main entrance?

Wow – its been so long now, it’s a challenge remembering what that space looks like! With it being the returns booth, I know there is bound to be several trolleys in there, and lots of random tape and wires. As this is clearly an alternative universe where I have ninja skills and can make anything out of the random detritus that I find, I’m sure I must be able to take the wheels off the trolleys and rig up some kind of pulley system to winch myself (probably whilst doing my finest Superman impression) across the ceiling to safety.

If we want to know more about your role in the Library, where can we find more information?

Check out my web pages, drop me an email, buy me a coffee.

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