data-crunching librarian

Officially, my title is Electronic Resources Librarian, but lately I’ve been spending more of my time and energy on gathering and crunching data about our eresources than on anything else. It’s starting to bleed over into the print world, as well. Since we don’t have someone dedicated to managing our print journals, I’ve taken on the responsibility of directing discussions about their future, as well as gathering and providing e-only options to the selectors.

I like this work, but I’ve also been feeling a bit like my role is evolving and changing in ways I’m not entirely cognizant of, and that worries me. I came into this job without clear direction and made it my own, and even though I have a department head now, I still often feel like I’m the driver. This has both positives and negatives, and lately I’ve been wishing I could have more outside direction, in part so I don’t feel so much like I’m doing things that may not have much value to the people for whom I am doing them.

However, on Monday, something clicked. A simple comment about using SAS to analyze the print book collection use over time set all sorts of things firing away in my head. About all I know with SAS is that it’s some sort of data analysis tool, but I realized that I had come up with several of my professional goals for the next year in that moment.

For one, I want to explore whether or not I can learn and use SAS (or SPSS) effectively to analyze our collections (not just print books, as in the example above). For another, I want to explore whether or not I can learn R to more effectively visualize the data I gather.

Maybe some day down the road my title won’t be Electronic Resources Librarian anymore. Maybe some day it will be Data-Crunching Librarian.

Sounds good to me.

librarian day in the life #5

Electronic Resources Librarian, Academic Library

iced teaArrived, turned on my computer, and while it booted up, I went and got an iced tea from the café.

Processed new email and scanned a document that I don’t need to retain in paper.

Attended weekly department meeting. We were extra chatty today and went 15-20 min longer than normal.

Worked my way through the action item email messages due today, including updating a resource description on the website and responding to a few inquiries.

Discussed with a co-worker ways we could use GoodReads for the library staff book discussion.

Discussed QR codes and their usefulness/popularity with a co-worker. Used the opportunity to yet again show off how my Android phone is as spiffy (if not spiffier) than his iPhone. I reserve this for Apple fanboys only.

Remembered again that this is DILO librarian day and began this entry.

calendarCaught up on journaling accomplishments from the past three weeks. I’ll thank myself next year when I have to write my annual review. I normally try to do this at the end of each day (I use Memiary), but I’ve been lazy about it, and then overwhelmed by the backlog.

Continued working through today’s action items while chatting with a colleague via IM about the online resource renewal decision workflow/tool that I stole from her. Well, stole the concept, anyway. Learned about something else I can steal, too.

Planned out my project schedule for the week. Then left for lunch with a friend in the dining hall..

view from the deskBack from lunch and on the Main Service Desk for two hours. Tried to track down a phone number of someone in rural Virginia. Answered an IM question from a law student about borrowing a netbook. Notified building manager that a copier is out of paper. Directed a software question to the Help Desk. Directed a product trainer to the conference room. Directed users to the bound journals. Referred a business student to the business librarian. Checked out a netbook to a user. Looked up a book for an IM user. Read some RSS feeds. Smiled at people passing by the desk.

Back to my cube and sorting through the email that has come in since before lunch. Only one new action item out of the pile. Whee!

Played around with some wiki software options for a departmental intranet. Still haven’t found the right combination of features and function.

Was about to start in on a project when I noticed that there wasn’t a Technorati tag description for librarydayinthelife, so I pulled something together and submitted it. Rewarded myself with peanut butter crackers and a Coke Zero.

Finally got into my current project, which involves pulling together information about our database subscriptions so that we can easily review upcoming renewals well in advance of the deadlines. Tweaked the Access tables, queries, and reports, and then set to adding more data. Worked on this until it was time to go home.

library day in the life – round 4

Hello. I’m the electronic resources librarian at the University of Richmond, a small private liberal arts university nestled on the edge of suburbia in a medium-sized mid-Atlantic city. Today I am participating in the Library Day in the Life Project for its fourth round. Enjoy!

8:30am Arrive, turn on computer, and go get a cup of coffee from the coffee shop attached to the library. By the time I return, the login screen is displayed, and thus begins the 5 minute long process of logging in and then opening Outlook, Firefox, and TweetDeck. Pidgin starts on its own, thankfully. Update location on FourSquare. (Gotta keep my mayorship!)

8:40am Check schedule on Outlook, note the day’s meeting times, and then check the tasks for the day. At this point, I see that it’s time for a DILO, so I start this entry.

8:50am Weed through the new emails that arrived over the weekend. Note that there is more spam than normal. In the middle of this, my boss cancels one of two meetings today. (w00t!)

9:15am Email processed and sorted into folders and labels. Time to dig into the day’s tasks and action items. Chatty coworkers in the cube farm prompt me to load Songbird and don headphones.

9:25am Send a reminder to the LIB 101 students registered for my seminar on Friday. Work out switching reference desk shifts because my Wednesday LIB 101 seminar conflicts with my regular Wednesday shift. Also send out a note requesting trades for next week’s shifts, since I’ll be away at ER&L.

9:40am Cleared all action items and to-do items, so now it’s time to dig into my current project — gathering 2009 use statistics.

10:30am Electronic resources workflow planning meeting for the next year with an eye towards the next five years.

11:00am Back to gathering use stats. I’ve been working on this for over two weeks, and I’m a little over half-way through. I’d be further along if I could dedicate all my time to it, but unfortunately, meetings, desk schedules, and other action items get in the way.

12:15pm Hunger overrides my obsessive hunt for stats. I brought my lunch with me today, but often I end up grabbing something on the go while I run errands.

1:10pm Process the email that has come in over the past two hours. Only two action items added (yay!) and both are responses to request for information from this morning (yay!), so I’m happy to see them.

1:15pm Back to the side-yet-related project that I started on shortly before lunch. We have a bunch of journals in the “Multiple Vendors :: Single Journals” category in our ERMS, and I’m moving them over to their specific publisher listings if I can, checking to see if we have use stats for them, and requesting admin info when we don’t. There are only about 55 titles, so I’m hoping to get most of this done before my reference desk shift at 3.

3:00pm I’m only half-way through the side-yet-related project, but I have to set it down and go to my reference desk shift now. Answering many technology questions from a retired woman who is attempting to take a class that requires her to use Blackboard and view PowerPoints and things that are highly confusing to her. Checking out netbooks to students and showing them how to scan documents to PDF using the copiers rather than making a bunch of copies. Also, catching up on RSS feeds between the questions.

5:00pm Desk shift over. I have just enough time to wrap up my projects for the day and prep for tomorrow, grab a quick bite to eat, and then I’m off to the other side of campus where I have choir rehearsal until 7pm.

Thank you for reading!

day in the life of an electronic resources librarian

9:00 Arrive at my cubicle, turn on the computer, and go get an iced coffee from the cafe and a spoon for my yogurt.

9:15 Log into the network. Open email, browser, and Twhirl. Do a quick read of the 20+ new email messages that arrived over the weekend (don’t you people take a break‽), replying to the ones that can be done quickly and sorting the rest into appropriate to-do lists.

9:55 Look over task list for today, see the note about DILO librarian, and start this post.

10:00 Tweaked the new “article finder” page per the suggestion of the head of research & instruction. Dug around EBSCOnet and Ulrich’s to determine which variation on a similar journal title is the right one and why our subscription may have lapsed last year.

10:20 Realized that my calendar didn’t alert me to my 10am bi-weekly meeting with the department head. Chatted with him for a few minutes about the status of projects and came away with a few more to-do items.

10:30 Began clearing out the to-read list, which currently dominates the inbox to-do lists. Aghast to discover that it contains messages from as far back as March. Got through the March & April backlog, but then deleted most of the rest. Resolved to either read or delete the links to interesting articles my colleagues send me, rather than shuffling them off to be read later.

11:10 Massaged some non-COUNTER use reports to appear to be COUNTER-like in order to upload and archive them in our ERMS. Sorted through a backlog of emails from publishers regarding use data and reports.

11:55 Left for lunch and running errands. Need to be back in time for my 1pm reference desk shift.

1:00 Covered the reference/circulation desk, mainly answering directional questions and checking out books. Used the downtime to catch up on RSS feeds (I’ve been doing well with maintaining Google Reader Zero). Also answered some questions from colleagues regarding online availability for journal titles we are considering moving to online only or canceling. Also found a possible solution to the EZproxy host error problem.

3:00 Processed new email. Checked Twitter.

3:10 Pulled a report of current subscriptions from SerialsSolutions, massaged it in Excel, and used it to generate a Hosts and Domains configuration file for our EZProxy setup, an idea that I shamelessly stole from someone else.

3:55 Cleared up some confusion regarding an invoice for a resource that has a new publisher and will be changing its name in September, but it invoiced with the current and soon to be former name on the line item.

4:00 Wrote up a report for the library director regarding the SerialsSoutions eBook Enhancement offer.

4:30 Hunted down some chocolate.

4:35 Processed new email. Checked Twitter. (Sensing a theme here?)

4:50 More use statistics. I’m pulling together numbers for a report due next month, but it’s slow going.

5:35 Waiting on one last COUNTER report to be emailed to me, and that portion of the report will be finished. w00t! Spent the rest of the day pulling acquisitions data out of the catalog and checking for licenses.

6:05 Saved work on the project. Published this. Time to go home.

DILO: electronic resources librarian

9:00am Arrive at work. Despite getting to bed early, I still overslept. Great way to start a Monday, I tell you.

9:00-9:20am I was out of the office for most of last week, so I spent some time catching up with my assistant. This also gave my computer plenty of time to boot up.

9:20-9:30am Logged into the network, and then went to get some iced tea from the library coffee shop. It takes several minutes for all of the start-up programs to load, so that’s a perfect time to acquire my first dose of work-time caffeine.

9:30-9:35am Start this post.

9:35-10:20am Sifting through the 100+ new messages in my mailbox from the time while I was gone. I followed-up on the ones that looked urgent while I was out, but the rest were left for today. In the end, three messages went into the to-do category and a few more into the use statistics category. The rest were read and deleted.

10:20-10:45am Filled out an order form for a new database. PDF form is printable only, so this required the use of a typewriter (my handwriting is marginally legible). I also discovered in the middle of the process that I did not have all of the necessary information, which required further investigation and calculations.

10:45-11:05am Sent email reminders to the students LIB 101 class that I will be teaching on Friday. Created a class roster for all four sections I’m teaching this spring.

11:05-11:15am Mental break. Read Twitter and left a birthday greeting for a friend in Facebook.

11:15-11:20am Added use stats login info for a new resource to our ERM and the shared spreadsheet of admin logins that we have been using since before the ERM (still implementing ERM, so it’s best to put it in both places).

11:20-11:25am Processed incoming email.

11:25am-12:40pm Was going to run some errands over my lunch hour, but instead was snagged by some colleagues who were going out to my favorite Mexican restaurant.

12:40-1:00pm Sorting through the email that came in while I was gone. Answered a call from a publisher sales person.

1:00-3:00pm Main Service Desk shift, covering the reference side of it. During the slow times, I accessed my work station PC via remote desktop and worked on the scanned license naming standardization project I started last week. In the process, I’m also breaking apart multiple contracts that were accidentally scanned together. As usual, the busy times involved a sudden influx of in-person, email, and IM questions, most often at the same time.

3:00-3:15pm Got a refill of ice tea from the coffee shop, processed email, and read through the Twitter feed.

3:15-4:00pm Organized recently scanned license agreements and created labels for the folders. Filed the licenses in the file drawer next to my cubicle.

4:00-4:20pm Checked in with co-workers and revised my to-do list.

4:20-5:15pm Responded to email and followed-up on action items related to the recent NASIG executive board meeting.

And that, my friends, is my rather unusual day in the life of an electronic resources librarian. Most of the time, I bounce between actual ER work, meetings, and email.

Read more DILOs like this one.

day in the life of an electronic resources librarian

I am participating in the DILOLibrarian project today. This account is by no means comprehensive or reflective of every aspect of my workday, since each one is different depending on the volume of things demanding my immediate attention. However, it may be of interest to my non-ER librarian friends, as well as newly minted librarians and those who are considering this profession.

  • 8:45-9:00am Arrived at work, a bit late because my carpool driver and I miscommunicated about today’s plans. Turned on computer, got a cup of coffee, got a breakfast bar, and started this post.
  • 9:00-9:30am Read and responded to new mail that has accumulated since Thursday afternoon. Sorted messages that require more than a brief response into Information and To-Do piles.
  • 9:30-9:35am Generated a list of print + online and online-only science titles from our Ebsco subscriptions and gave it to the electronic resources associate, per his request. The serials associate and ILL associate both need this info, particularly since we converted as much as possible to e-only this year.
  • 9:35-10:15am Sorted through the various to-do lists (both email and Outlook Tasks reminders, as well as a few scraps of notes on paper) and worked on them from oldest to newest. One item was to call back a publisher, but their phone system has been screwed up since last Thursday, which I discovered when I tried again. Also, they gave me the New Jersey office number, not the (correct) New York office number. *headdesk*
  • 10:15-10:25am To-do email sorted and cleared from the pile. Reviewed email tagged “waiting for a response” and followed up on those. These are mainly notes from publishers with information regarding electronic resource subscriptions that had been requested by subject liaisons. I hang on to the messages until a decision has been made.
  • 10:25-11:00am Took a break from email to work on two of last week’s TechLearning tasks, which I completed just before Andy sent out the email announcing this week’s tasks. Filed those items away in my Outlook Tasks with due dates set for Friday.
  • 11:00-11:25am Processed new email that had arrived over the past hour. Took a short break away from the desk. Sent suggested training dates/times to a vendor for a new product we have purchased.
  • 11:25-11:30am Checked NASIG executive board email and responded to messages.
  • 11:30-11:40am Reviewed and assessed email in the “information” category. Cleared out some items that are no longer needed.
  • 11:40am-12:10pm Read through some of the issues on the stack of routed professional journals. I haven’t had any desk time lately, just on-call, so I’ve slipped behind on those.
  • 12:10-1:30pm Lunch. Ran errands that took longer than expected.
  • 1:30-1:50pm Processed new email (see a theme here?), answered an IM question from a colleague, and checked on my pals on Twitter & FriendFeed.
  • 1:50-3:00pm Finished up professional reading backlog.
  • 3:00-4:50pm Worked on checking a spreadsheet of electronic resource holdings against what is listed in Serials Solutions. Added/deleted titles, collections, and holdings as needed. Also, paused frequently to respond to email messages as they came in.
  • 4:50-5:15pm Browsed through the last couple of hours of tweets. Processed additional email.
  • 5:15-5:20 Checked NASIG executive board email again.
  • 5:20pm Decided I had done enough for today, so I typed this and… publish.

movin’ across the country… again

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

As I indicated a while ago, I have a new job. Starting December 10th, I’ll be the Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Richmond. They already have me in the staff directory, so it must be true. My time at Central Washington University has allowed me to grow and explore both professionally and personally, and it has given me the knowledge and experience I needed in order to make the decision about where I would like for my career to go.

One major thing has been the realization that I do not have any interest in participating in the tenure process, at least as it stands at Central. I am a practitioner first, and a scholar only in the most liberal sense of the word. I do have a desire to share my knowledge with anyone who is interested – I have had a blog for five years, and it’s not always just a bunch of naval-gazing posts about nothing – but the method of dissemination and the content of that knowledge is not what this university expects from its teacher/scholars, and I suspect that may be true elsewhere, as well.

I want to be a librarian. I want to come into my job every day knowing that the work I do will directly benefit my users. I do not want to spend time outside of my 40 hours worrying about whether or not I will have enough publications in journals no one actually reads (seriously – when was the last time you read a peer-reviewed library publication for anything other than a literature search for your own article or book chapter?) just so I can keep my job.

I can be “just” a librarian at the University of Richmond, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also excited about moving back to Virginia. When I left to go to grad school, I thought I’d be back soon. When that didn’t pan out, I gave up that dream. Now I’m going back, albeit not to Harrisonburg, but Richmond is close enough. Plus, I am closer to my family and friends, and it won’t cost me a $400 plane ticket to see them whenever I want to.

The moving process has begun, but I’m starting to freak out a little because I haven’t nailed down an apartment yet, nor have the movers responded to my queries. I do, however, have real moving boxes this time, and once I get some packing tape, I’ll be good to go with the daunting task of sorting through my stuff to determine what comes with me and what stays in Washington.

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

random thoughts on this & that

Sorry, not a very descriptive title, is it?

I’m feeling slightly less ambivalent about getting involved with ALA than I did a year ago. Mainly, that is because if the awesome LITA people I meet at Annual in June. Despite that, it still took me until yesterday to remember that I needed to renew my lapsed membership. Whoops.

I ended up deciding to join LITA, and since my professional focus currently resides with the Serials Section of ALCTS, I ended up dropping ACRL. Even so, my membership cost more than $200. For one year. Yeouch. The sad thing is that I’m not sure I’ll have much energy left to get my $200 worth out of it. We’ll see.

This leads me to a question I have been pondering for a bit. I’ve been thinking about my career and where I’d like to eventually end up, and I’m thinking more and more that I want to be in a smaller university or college library where the emphasis is on being librarians and less on being tenure-track faculty. The pros are that I would be able to stop worrying so much about publications and be able to focus on my strengths like being a (freakin’ awesome*) serials & electronic resources librarian and serving in various professional organizations as well as campus committees. The cons are that I probably won’t have as much support for attending conferences and likely the salary scale would be lower.

So, the question I’m pondering is whether ALA is worth being a member of if one cannot participate on committees because one cannot afford to attend all of the conferences?

* Sorry. I don’t know where that came from. Must be the result of reading two years of Questionable Content strips over the past few days.

nasig part four

This one is a bit long. Sorry about that.

This one is a bit long. Sorry about that.

Continue reading “nasig part four”

luddite with a heart of gold

Chuck Munson has a soapbox pronouncement that is sure to burn through the ranks of librarian bloggers as quickly as Michael Gorman’s anti-blog people essay. However, unlike Gorman, Munson doesn’t come across as an elitist ass. He makes some good points and some points that others are likely to quibble with. I hope he is … Continue reading “luddite with a heart of gold”

Chuck Munson has a soapbox pronouncement that is sure to burn through the ranks of librarian bloggers as quickly as Michael Gorman’s anti-blog people essay. However, unlike Gorman, Munson doesn’t come across as an elitist ass. He makes some good points and some points that others are likely to quibble with. I hope he is heard, and in return hears his critics. My own quibble is with the following statement:

“These tech savvy librarians are also the ones responsible for the disappearance of books and other printed materials from our libraries. They want to turn libraries into everything but LIBRARIES. They want fancy new buildings to showcase technology. They slash periodical budgets so more tech can be brought into libraries.”

As the Serials and Electronic Resources Librarian, my responsibilities are to provide our users (students, faculty, and staff) with the best information using the most appropriate format within the limits of my budget. In my book, there are two types of periodical publications: those that need to be browsed in print and those that are used for research where only one or two articles are needed. For the latter, electronic subscriptions and full-text aggregator databases make sense. For the former, print subscriptions makes sense. I also take into account other factors such as the inclusion of illustrations and format when choosing electronic subscriptions over print. The reality is that most undergraduate students prefer to download and print articles on demand, rather than pulling the bound volumes off of the shelves and making photocopies (not to mention a total aversion to anything in microformats). A quick literature search will reveal a number of articles on user preference regarding print versus electronic.

If the periodicals budget is getting slashed, that is only because the university isn’t funding the library to the level it should. In fact, the biggest problem I face is the annual subscription price increases, regardless of format. I’d like to implement some cool tech toys that will make it easier for our users to locate information, but my budget can barely cover what we already have.

I think that Mr. Munson’s rant is motivated by his personal experiences and does not necessarily speak to the library profession at large. While we tech librarians love to congregate around the virtual water cooler and geek out about the newest tech toys, our musings about library implementation of those toys does not imply that we want to turn libraries into some sort of Matrix-like cyberworld. Anything that draws in users and provides them with tools to find accurate information is a good thing in my book.