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]

ER&L 2012: Knockdown/Dragout Webscale Discovery Service vs. Niche Databases — Data-Driven Evaluation Methods

tug-of-war
photo by TheGiantVermin

Speaker: Anne Prestamo

You will not hear the magic rational that will allow you to cancel all your A&I databases. The last three years of analysis at her institution has resulted in only two cancelations.

Background: she was a science librarian before becoming an administrator, and has a great appreciation for A&I searching.

Scenario: a subject-specific database with low use had been accessed on a per-search basis, but going forward it would be sole-sourced and subscription based. Given that, their cost per search was going to increase significantly. They wanted to know if Summon would provide a significant enough overlap to replace the database.

Arguments: it’s key to the discipline, specialized search functionality, unique indexing, etc… but there’s no data to support how these unique features are being used. Subject searches in the catalog were only 5% of what was being done, and most of them came from staff computers. So, are our users actually using the controlled vocabularies of these specialized databases. Finally, librarians think they just need to promote these more, but sadly, that ship’s already sailed.

Beyond usage data, you can also look at overlap with your discovery service, and also identify unique titles. For those, you’ll need to consider local holdings, ILL data, impact factors, language, format, and publication history.

Once they did all of that, they found that 92% of the titles were indexed in their discovery service. The depth of the backfile may be an issue, depending on the subject area. Also, you may need to look at the level of indexing (cover to cover vs. selective). In the end, they found that 8% of the titles not included, they owned most of them in print and they were rather old. 15% of the 8% had impact factors, which may or may not be relevant, but it is something to consider. And, most of the titles were non-English. They also found that there were no ILL requests for the non-owned unique titles, and less than half were scholarly and currently being published.

reason #237 why JSTOR rocks

For almost two decades, JSTOR has been digitizing and hosting core scholarly journals across many disciplines. Currently, their servers store more than 1,400 journals from the first issue to a rolling wall of anywhere from 3-5 years ago (for most titles). Some of these journals date back several centuries.

They have backups, both digital and virtual, and they’re preserving metadata in the most convertible/portable formats possible. I can’t even imagine how many servers it takes to store all of this data. Much less how much it costs to do so.

And yet, in the spirit of “information wants to be free,” they are making the pre-copyright content open and available to anyone who wants it. That’s stuff from before 1923 that was published in the United States, and 1870 for everything else. Sure, it’s not going to be very useful for some researchers who need more current scholarship, but JSTOR hasn’t been about new stuff so much as preserving and making accessible the old stuff.

So, yeah, that’s yet another reason why I think JSTOR rocks. They’re doing what they can with an economic model that is responsible, and making information available to those who can’t afford it or are not affiliated with institutions that can purchase it. Scholarship doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and  innovators and great minds aren’t always found solely in wealthy institutions. This is one step towards bridging the economic divide.

ER&L: You’ve Flipped – the implications of ejournals as your primary format

Speaker: Kate Seago

In 2005, her institution’s were primarily print-based, but now they are mostly electronic. As a graduate of the University of Kentucky’s MLIS program, this explains so much. I stopped paying attention when I realized this presentation was all about what changed in the weird world of the UK Serials Dept, which has little relevance to my library’s workflows/decisions. I wish she had made this more relatable for others, as this is a timely and important topic.

ER&L 2010: Beyond Log-ons and Downloads – meaningful measures of e-resource use

Speaker: Rachel A. Flemming-May

What is “use”? Is it an event? Something that can be measured (with numbers)? Why does it matter?

We spend a lot of money on these resources, and use is frequently treated as an objective for evaluating the value of the resource. But, we don’t really understand what use is.

A primitive concept is something that can’t be boiled down to anything smaller – we just know what it is. Use is frequently treated like a primitive concept – we know it when we see it. To measure use we focus on inputs and outputs, but what do those really say about the nature/value of the library?

This gets more complicated with electronic resources that can be accessed remotely. Patrons often don’t understand that they are using library resources when they use them. “I don’t use the library anymore, I get most of what I need from JSTOR.” D’oh.

Funds are based on assessments and outcomes – how do we show that? The money we spend on electronic resources is not going to get any smaller. ROI is focused more on funded research, but not electronic resources as a whole.

Use is not a primitive concept. When we talk about use, it can be an abstract concept that covers all use of library resources (physical and virtual). Our research often doesn’t specify what we are measuring as use.

Use as a process is the total experience of using the library, from asking reference questions to finding a quiet place to work to accessing resources from home. It is the application of library resources/materials to complete a complex/multi-stage process. We can do observational studies of the physical space, but it’s hard to do them for virtual resources.

Most of our research tends to focus on use as a transaction – things that can be recorded and quantified, but are removed from the user. When we look only at the transaction data, we don’t know anything about why the user viewed/downloaded/searched the resource. Because they are easy to quantify, we over-rely on vendor-supplied usage statistics. We think that COUNTER assures some consistency in measures, but there are still many grey areas (i.e. database time-outs equal more sessions).

We need to shift from focusing on isolated instances of downloads and ref desk questions, but focus on the aggregate of the process from the user perspective. Stats are only one component of this. This is where public services and technical services need to work together to gain a better understanding of the whole. This will require administrative support.

John Law’s study of undergraduate use of resources is a good example of how we need to approach this. Flemming-May thinks that the findings from that study have generated more progress than previous studies that were focused on more specific aspects of use.

How do we do all of this without invading on the privacy of the user? Make sure that your studies are thought-out and pass approval from your institution’s review board.

Transactional data needs to be combined with other information to make it valuable. We can see that a resource is being used or not used, but we need to look deeper to see why and what that means.

As a profession, are we prepared to do the kind of analysis we need to do? Some places are using anthropologists for this. A few LIS programs are requiring a research methods course, but it’s only one class and many don’t get it. This is a great continuing education opportunity for LIS programs.