ER&L 2013: Internal and External Clients — Why Do We Treat One Better Than the Other?

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Speakers: Dawn McKinnon & Amy Buckland, McGill University - Since it's difficult to infer tone in an email, you should assume all mine are sarcastic or bitchy.

We have pretty good outward-facing communication and support, but internally, we’re not so polite or explanatory.

Always reply to an email if a reply is needed, even if it is to say you can’t do it right now (or ever). Use the same pleasantries you would with an external client.

One solution is to make everyone give a job talk, which helps everyone understand a little about what each other is doing. Another solution is to provide topical workshops and general updates to help everyone understand workflow and impact on other departments.

Committees that combine staff from different departments/areas can help make sure that all the bases are covered.

Communicate! You cannot communicate too much, especially if it is important. Email lists, blogs, weekly meetings with management, regular open office hours, bimonthly recorded talk with the Dean, etc.

Pitfalls to watch out for: spreading negative misinformation, public shaming, and shoveling crap (i.e. typical librarian passive-aggressiveness, or passing the buck).

Libraries are about community. Service levels should be the same for students, donors, colleagues… anyone who is part of the community!

#libday8 day 3 — never-ending powerpoint!

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"PowerPoint effects" from Noise To Signal by Rob Cottingham

I had just enough time to log on and clear out the email inbox before the first team of vendor reps arrived to demonstrate their discovery service, and then it was off to the auditorium where I would spend most of the rest of the day.

These presentations are the latest iteration of our years long internal debate over whether or not the current crop of “web-scale discovery services” can fulfill an unmet need for our students (and faculty). We’ve considered several in the past, but could not get sufficient buy-in from the research & instruction librarians to request the funds to pay for them. After a cooling period, and many discussions with key individuals, we sent out an RFI to some targeted companies, and now we’re providing the opportunity for them to give live demonstrations/pitches.

It’s an unusually warm day here in Richmond, and the library’s HVAC — like most large buildings with sections of various ages and walls that didn’t exist when the building was originally designed — isn’t keeping up with the change. So, after a much-needed lunch break, I came back to the warm auditorium for rounds two and three.

I wish I could share my thoughts about the day’s presentations, but I can’t. Ultimately, there were many examples of things done well and things done not so well, both in the products and in the presentations. We know where the bar has been set, so now it’s a matter of matching our expectations to what can be delivered. There is one more presentation to go, and these have been quite valuable for clarifying what is important to us in a discovery service.

After one last pass through the email inbox, bumping most action items to tomorrow, library day in the life round eight day three has ended.

tweaking my workflow

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Over the past year, I’ve become a Lifehacker fanatic. I read the site regularly, and sometimes I even use it as a reward for finishing some unpleasant task. While I don’t do every lifehack suggested or install every app suggested, I have been making incremental changes in the way I approach things. Here are a few:

  • Earlier this year, I used HabitForge to get into a routine of going to bed by 11pm and getting up at 6am, which I’ve mostly continued to do. I’ve not done so well at the other routine of eating breakfast at home, but that is partially due to not being dilligent about having breakfast items on hand (i.e. I’ve been out of milk for almost a week now and I still haven’t remembered to pick up some when I had the chance).
  • Numerous ideas of how to process/manage email and tasks have led to my current system that is a hybrid of flags and search filters in Outlook, and the daily planning that defines my dayjob workflow.
  • I have a growing collection of DIY gift ideas for next Christmas, should my family decide to go the “make it yourself” gift route again. I’ll be better prepared this time.

I’m certain there are more things I could point out, but all I can remember right now are the relatively new ones. Everything else has either fallen away or has become so integrated that I don’t remember why or when I started doing it.

One more thing: I’m regularly inspired to clean my physical desktop when I see yet another need and cleverly organized featured workspace.

ER&L 2010: We’ve Got Issues! Discovering the right tool for the job

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Speaker: Erin Thomas

The speaker is from a digital repository, so the workflow and needs may be different than your situation. Their collections are very old and spread out among several libraries, but are still highly relevant to current research. They have around 15 people who are involved in the process of maintaining the digital collection, and email got to be too inefficient to handle all of the problems.

The member libraries created the repository because they have content than needed to be shared. They started with the physical collections, and broke up the work of scanning among the holding libraries, attempting to eliminate duplications. Even so, they had some duplication, so they run de-duplication algorithms that check the citations. The Internet Archive is actually responsible for doing the scanning, once the library has determined if the quality of the original document is appropriate.

The low-cost model they are using does not produce preservation-level scans; they’re focusing on access. The user interface for a digital collection can be more difficult to browse than the physical collection, so libraries have to do more and different kinds of training and support.

This is great, but it caused more workflow problems than they expected. So, they looked at issue tracking problems. Their development staff already have access to Gemini, so they went with that.

The issues they receive can be assigned types and specific components for each problem. Some types already existed, and they were able to add more. The components were entirely customized. Tasks are tracked from beginning to end, and they can add notes, have multiple user responses, and look back at the history of related issues.

But, they needed a more flexible system that allowed them to drill-down to sub-issues, email v. no email, and a better user interface. There were many other options out there, so they did a needs assessment and an environmental scan. They developed a survey to ask the users (library staff) what they wanted, and hosted demos of options. And, in the end, Gemini was the best system available for what they needed.

IL2009: Technology: The Engine Driving Pop Culture-Savvy Libraries or Source of Overload?

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Speaker: Elizabeth Burns

Technology and pop culture drive each other. Librarians sometimes assume that people using technology like smart phones in libraries are wasting time, both theirs and ours, but we really don’t know how they are using tech. Librarians need to learn how to use the tech that their user community employs, so don’t hinder your staff by limiting what tech they can use while in the workplace.

Libraries also have the responsibility to inform users of the services and technology available to them. Get the tools, learn how to use them, and then get to work building things with them.

Your library’s tech trendspotting group needs more than just the techie people. Get the folks who aren’t as excited about the shiny to participate and ask questions. Don’t let the fear of Betamax stop you – explore new devices and delivery methods now rather than waiting to find out if they have longevity. You never know what’s going to stick.

Speaker: Sarah Houghton-Jan

"Information overload is the Devil"

Some people think that it didn’t exist before mobile phones and home computers, but the potential has always existed. Think about the piles of books you’ve acquired but haven’t read yet. Information overload is all of the piles of things you want to learn but haven’t yet.

"We have become far more proficient in generating information than we are in managing it…"

Librarians are more equipped to handle information overload than most others. Manage your personal information consumption with the same kind of tools and skills you use in your professional life.

Some of the barriers to dealing with information overload are: lack of time or (a perceived lack of time), lack of interest or motivation, not being encouraged/threatened by management, not knowing where to start, and frustration with past attempts. Become like the automatic towel dispensers that have the towels already dispensed and ready to be torn off as needed.

Inventory your inputs and devices. Think before you send/subscribe. Schedule yourself, including unscheduled work and tasks. Use downtime (bring tech that helps you do it). Stay neat. Keep a master waiting list of things that other people "owe" you, and then periodically follow-up on them. Weed, weed, and weed again. Teach others communication etiquette (and stick to it). Schedule unplugged times, and unplug at will.

RSS/Twitter overload: Limit your feeds and following, and regularly evaluate them. Use lists to organize feeds and Twitter friends. Use RSS when applicable, and use it to send you reminders.

Interruptive technology (phone, IM, texts, Twitter, etc): Use them only when they are appropriate for you. Check it when you want to, and don’t interrupt yourself. Use your status message. Lobby for IM or Twitter at your workplace (as an alternative to phone or email, for the status message function & immediacy). Keep your phone number private. Let it ring if you are busy. Remember that work is at work and home is at home, and don’t mix the two.

Email: Stop "doing email" — start scheduling email scanning time, use it when appropriate, and deal with it by subject. Keep your inbox nearly empty and filter your messages. Limit listservs. Follow good email etiquette. Delete and archive, and keep work and personal email separate.

Physical items: Just because you can touch it, doesn’t mean you should keep it. Cancel, cancel, cancel ( Weed what you have.

Multimedia: Choose entertainment thoughtfully. Limit television viewing and schedule your entertainment time. Use your commute to your benefit.

Social networking: Schedule time on your networks. Pick a primary network and point other sites towards it. Limit your in-network IM.

Time & stress management: Use your calendar. Take breaks. Eliminate stressful interruptions. Look for software help. Balance your life and work to your own liking, not your boss’s or your spouse’s.

[Read Lifehacker!]