ER&L 2014 — Building the Eresources Team: the MIT Libraries Experience

“DC Hero Minifigs (most of them)” by Julian Fong

Speaker: Kim Maxwell

Goal is to be more of a dialogue than a monologue.

In 2011, they were a traditional acquisitions and cataloging department. They had 18.1 FTE in technical services, with 8 acquisitions people working on both print and electronic, and 5 in cataloging. It felt very fragmented.

They were getting more eresources but no new staff. Less print, but staff weren’t interchangeable. The hybrid positions weren’t working well, and print was still seen as a priority by some of the staff. They could see the backlogs and made it seem like they had to deal with them first.

They hired consultants and decided to create two format-based teams: tangible formats and electronic resources. They defined the new positions and asked staff for their preferences, and then assigned staff to one team or the other. The team leads are focused on cataloging side and acquisition side, rather than by format.

To implement this they: oriented and trained staff; created workflow teams for ejournals, ebooks, and databases; talked with staff extensively; tried to be as transparent as possible; and hired another librarian.

They increased the FTE working on eresources, and they could use more, but this is good enough for now.

Some of the challenges include: staff buy-in and morale; communicating who does what to all the points of contact; workflows for orders with dual formats; budget structure (monographs/serials, with some simplification where possible, but still not tangible/electronic); and documentation organization (documenting isn’t a problem — find it is).

The benefits are: staff focusing on a single format; bringing acquisitions and cataloging together (better communication between functions); easier cross-training opportunities; workflows streamlined easier; and ease in planning and priorities.

NASIG 2013: Losing Staff — the Seven Stages of Loss and Recovery

CC BY-ND 2.0 2013-06-10
“Autumn dawn” by James Jordan

Speaker: Elena Romaniuk

This is about losing staff to retirement, and not about losing staff to death, which is similar but different.

They started as one librarian and six staff, and now two of them have retired and have not been replaced. This is true of most of technical services, where staff were not replaced or shifted to other departments.

The staff she lost were key to helping run the department, often filling in when she was out for extended leaves. They were also the only experienced support staff catalogers.

The stages:

  1. Shock and denial
  2. Pain and guilt
  3. Anger and bargaining
  4. Depression, reflection, loneliness
  5. Upward turn
  6. Reconstruction and working through
  7. Acceptance and hope

The pain went beyond friends leaving, because they also lost a lot of institutional memory and the workload was spread across the remaining staff. They couldn’t be angry at the staff who left, and they couldn’t bargain except to let administrators know that with less people, not all of the work could be continued and there may be some backlogs.

However, this allowed them to focus on the reflection stage and assess what may have changed about the work in recent years, and how that could be reflected in the new unit responsibilities. The serials universe is larger and more complex, with diverse issues that require higher-level understanding. There are fewer physical items to manage, and they don’t catalog as many titles anymore, with most of them being for special collections donations.

They are still expected to get the work done, despite having fewer staff, and if they got more staff, they would need more than one to handle it all. Given the options, she decided to take the remaining staff in the unit who have a lot of serials-related experience and train them up to handle the cataloging as well, as long as they were willing to do it.

In the end, they re-wrote the positions to be the same, with about half focused on cataloging and the rest with the other duties rotated through the unit on a monthly basis.

They have acceptance and hope, with differing levels of anxiety among the staff. The backlogs will grow, but as they get more comfortable with the cataloging they will catch up.

What worked in their favor: they had plenty of notice, giving them time to plan and prepare, and do some training before the catalogers left.

One of the recommended coping strategies was for the unit head to be as available as possible for problem solving. They needed clear priorities with documented procedures that are revised as needed. The staff also needed to be willing to consult with each other. The staff also needed to be okay with not finishing everything every day, and that backlogs will happen.

They underestimated the time needed for problem-solving, and need to provide more training about basic cataloging as well as serials cataloging specifically. There is always too much work with multiple simultaneous demands.

She is considering asking for another librarian, even if only on a term basis, to help catch up on the work. There is also the possibility of another reorganization or having someone from cataloging come over to help.

[lovely quote at the end that I will add when the slides are uploaded]

NASIG 2013: From Print to Online — Revamping Technical Services with Distributed and Centralized Workflow Models

“5D” by Mark Sebastian

Speaker: Kari Schmidt, American University

Began in 2008 after a new director and consultant group came in and recommended a reorganization. They had some trouble deciding which larger group electronic resource management should be a part of, and ended up on Information Delivery Services, which includes Acquisitions, Cataloging, and Access Services. The ERM unit used to include acquisitions, cataloging, and a service point. By moving the cataloging functions out (and closing the service point), the group could then focus on access and discovery systems (eresource management, licensing). During the same time, they also moved a huge chunk of bound journal volumes to storage to create student spaces.

Focused on moving away from redundancy across different systems, and moving towards cloud-based unified knowledgebases that populated all user interfaces.

Most serials are now electronic, and they are increasingly being tasked to acquire new forms of eresources. Needed to change some workflow models to incorporate ebook acquisitions and management, for example. They are now starting to work more with Acquisitions and Cataloging for those workflows. Large data sets will be the next challenge.

Focusing more on discovery access and assessment, which had been on the back burner. This requires shifting more of the workflow out of the unit.

Training and skill building in ERM techniques include: ERM “class” to orient to role in the library, trouble-shooting access issues, e-resource forums for other tech services staff taught by members of the ERM unit, vendor training sessions, cross-training within the unit, annual evaluation of responsibilities to determine what could be delegated to a specialist (make sure they are interested in it and it is appropriate for them to do), project prioritization, and relevant committee service.

Cataloging has been overwhelmed with legacy print projects, so incorporating ERM work has been challenging. Acquisitions staffing has been disproportionately weighted towards print, so moving more of the ebook process in is a solution and a challenge. Training circ/service point staff to handle basic questions about eresource access issues.

They are using CORAL resources module for tracking ebook workflows.

[Would really like to have a session like this focus on examples more than challenges and things they still need to do. I want to know job descriptions/responsibilities and examples of workflows for different resources.]

 

Speaker: Christine Korytnyk Dulaney, American University

Staff didn’t talk to each other about work, so they had to make some changes in communication and give them a broader view of the workflow (i.e. how each thing impacted another). They used some project management techniques to begin this process, and it helped them finish the project where they have a history of not doing so. The fundamental concepts of PM can be scaled down to any kind of project. [The presenter goes into this, but you probably have lots of books in your library that covers it.] One advantage of PM is that it focuses on the work and diffuses the emotion that can come from making changes.

Charleston 2012: EWWW!: Electronic Resources in the 21st Century (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Catalog and Love the MARC Records Service)

15/52 : Titanic by Eric Constantineau
“15/52 : Titanic” by Eric Constantineau

Speakers: Ladd Brown, Andi Ogier, and Annette Bailey, Virginia Tech

Libraries are not about the collections anymore, they’re about space. The library is a place to connect to the university community. We are aggressively de-selecting, buying digital backfiles in the humanities to clear out the print collections.

Guess what? We still have our legacy workflows. They were built for processing physical items. Then eresources came along, and there were two parallel processes. Ebooks have the potential of becoming a third process.

Along with the legacy workflows, they have a new Dean, who is forward thinking. The Dean says it’s time to rip off the bandaid. (Titanic = old workflow; iceberg = eresources; people in life boats = technical resources team) Strategic plans are living documents kept on top of the desk and not in the drawer.

With all of this in mind, acquisitions leaders began meeting daily in a group called Eresources Workflow Weekly Work, planning the changes they needed to make. They did process mapping with sharpies, post-its, and incorporated everyone in the library that had anything to do with eresources. After lots of meetings, position descriptions began to emerge.

Electronic Resource Supervisor is the title of the former book and serials acquisitions heads. The rest — wasn’t clear from the description.

They had a MARC record service for ejournals, but after this reorganization process, they realized they needed the same for ebooks, and could be handled by the same folks.

Two person teams were formed based on who did what in the former parallel processes, and they reconfigured their workspace to make this more functional. The team cubes are together, and they have open collaboration spaces for other groupings.

They shifted focus from maintaining MARC records in their ILS to maintaining accurate title lists and data in their ERMS. They’re letting the data from the ERMS populate the ILS with appropriate MARC records.

They use some Python scripts to help move data from system to system, and more staff are being trained to support it. They’re also using the Google Apps portal for collaborative projects.

They wanted to take risks, make mistakes, fail quickly, but also see successes come quickly. They needed someplace to start, and to avoid reinventing the wheel, so they borrowed heavily from the work done by colleagues at James Madison University. They also hired Carl Grant as a consultant to ask questions and facilitate cross-departmental work.

Big thing to keep in mind: Administration needs to be prepared to allow staff to spend time learning new processes and not keeping up with everything they used to do at the same time. And, as they let go of the work they used to do, please tell them it was important or they won’t adopt the new work.

LITA 2008: What is "Social Cataloging" and Why Should You Care?

“Having games in the library strikes me as being like having bocce in the frat house.”

Speaker: Tim Spalding, Founder of LibraryThing

“I have no practical advice for you, but I have inspiration and screen shots.” Such as, images from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and book pile photo submissions.

Social cataloging does not need to be defined. LibraryThing is a good example of social cataloging, but it’s not the only resource out there like that. (LibraryThing is now larger than the Library of Congress.) Good Reads focuses more on the social aspects, and Shelfari is being revived by Amazon. There are other sites like CiteULike and Last.fm that do social cataloging of things other than books.

Social cataloging explores the socialization. LibraryThing embraces the social and the digital because there is no physical aspect (except for what you have in your own collection).

Social cataloging ladder:

  • personal cataloging – your stuff
  • exhibitionism, voyeurism – about you and your stuff
  • self expression – book pile photos, reviews
  • implicit social cataloging – tag clouds on books that incorporate data from all owners, recommendations, connect with other owners of more obscure books
  • social networking – “friends” lists, users who share your books, groups
  • sharing – book covers of different editions, author photos
  • explicit social cataloging – work-level records (any title you would agree on at a cocktail party) for both books and authors, series data
  • collaborative cataloging – building the catalogs of famous dead people, developing an open-source alternative to Dewey

Regarding why Spalding felt it necessary to pull data from libraries and not just Amazon, he says, “Once you are over the age of 30 and you are not a Philistine, you have books that Amazon is not currently selling.”

Interesting factoid about how things are tagged on LibraryThing: LGBT and GLBT tags have two completely different lists of books.

Traditional cataloging is based on the physical form of cataloging with cards. It was too difficult to change subjects or to add weight to particular subjects because you couldn’t do that with physical cards. We need to get away from this now that we have all the flexibility of digital cataloging. Digital cataloging is social cataloging.

LibraryThing users are doing about 1,000 work combinations per day! Voluntarily! Experts on book topics are the ones pulling the data together, not experts on cataloging.

LibraryThing members figured out what books are on Dr. Horrible’s shelf based on a fuzzy still from the video. And then the guy who lives in the apartment where it was filmed corrected the editions listed.

There are many non-librarians who are passionate about books and classification. People care about libraries and library data.

On the other hand, we suck. Our catalogs are fundamentally not open to the web because our pages are often session-specific and not friendly to index spiders. Worldcat.org is getting fewer visitors, whereas Dogster.com is getting more.

Library 2.0 is in danger. Libraries are concentrating on what they can do, not what they can do best. We don’t need to have blogs or pages on Facebook. “Having games in the library strikes me as being like having bocce in the frat house.”

Do not pay anyone for Library 2.0 stuff. Do it yourself. OCLC is not yourself.

Or, pay Spalding for his 2.0 enhancements (LibraryThing for Libraries).

Social cataloging is about the catalog, about what you can do right now, about passion, and about giving (not taking).