ER&L 2012: ERM Workflow and Communications Panel

218/365 - communication problems?
photo by Josh Fassbind

Speakers: Annie Wu & Jeannie Castro

They used a HelpDesk Ticket for new subscriptions to manage the flow of information and tasks through several departments. Sadly, it’s not designed for ejournals management, and not enough information could be included in the ticket, or was inconsistently added. So, they needed to make some changes.

A self-initiated team decided a new workflow using a spreadsheet to keep the info and set up status alerts in SerialsSolutions. The alerts and spreadsheets facilitated the workflow through all departments.

A lengthy description of the process, spreadsheets, action logs, email alerts, and I’ve concluded that my paper checklist is still the best solution for my small library.

Challenges with their system included the use of color to indicate status (one staff is color blind, which is why the also use an action log), there is some overlap of work, and tracking unsolved problems is difficult. Despite that, they feel it is better than the old system. It’s a shared and transparent process, with decent tracking of subscriptions, and it’s easy to integrate additional changes in the process.

Speaker: Kate Montgomery

They initially had Meridian, and while it was great that they followed the ERMI standard, they didn’t need everything, so it was a sea of bits of data with lots of blank fields. Meridian is dead, so they had to look for alternatives. Considered Verde, but sensed that it was to be replaced by Alma. So, they had to decide whether to build their own tool, using an open source product, or purchasing something. They were limited by time, staffing, and money.

Ultimately, they decided to go with CORAL. They didn’t have to learn a lot of new skills (MySQL & PHP) to set it up and get it to work. Rather than looking at this as a whole lot of work, they took the opportunity to make a product that works for them. They reviewed and documented their workflows and set some standards.

CORAL can create workflows that trigger actions for each individual or group, depending on the item or situation. Hopes to use this to create buy-in from library departments and other small libraries around campus.

ER&L 2012: Electronic Resources Workflow Analysis & Process Improvement

workflow at the most basic level
illustration by wlef70

Speakers: Ros Raeford & Beverly Dowdy

Users were unhappy with eresource management, due in part to their ad hoc approach, and they relied on users to notify them when there were access issues. A heavy reliance on email and memory means things slip through the cracks. They were not a train wreck waiting to happen, they were train wreck that had already occurred.

Needed to develop a deeper understanding of their workflows and processes to identify areas for improvement. The reason that earlier attempts have failed was due to not having all the right people at the table. Each stage of the lifecycle needs to be there.

Oliver Pesch’s 2009 presentation on “ERMS and the E-Resources Lifecycle” provided the framework they used. They created a staff responsibility matrix to determine exactly what they did, and then did interviews to get at how they did it. The narrative was translated to a workflow diagram for each kind of resource (ebooks, ejournals, etc.).

Even though some of the subject librarians were good about checking for dups before requesting things, acquisitions still had to repeat the process because they don’t know if it was done. This is just one example of a duplication of effort that they discovered in their workflow review.

For the ebook package process, they found it was so unclear they couldn’t even diagram it. It’s very linear, and it could have a number of processes happening in parallel.

Lots of words on screen with great ideas of things to do for quality control and user interface improvements. Presenter does not highlight any. Will have to look at it later.

One thing they mentioned is identifying essential tasks that are done by only one staff. They then did cross-training to make sure that if the one is out for the day, someone else can do it.

Surprisingly, they were not using EDI for firm orders, nor had they implemented tools like PromptCat.

Applications that make things work for them:

JTacq — using this for the acquisition/collections workflow. I’ve never heard of it, but will investigate.

ImageNow — not an ERM — a document management tool. Enterprise content management, and being used by many university departments but not many libraries.

They used SharePoint at a meeting space for the teams.

peer-to-peer sharing — the legal kind

I’ve been watching with interest to see what comes out of the TERMS: Techniques for Electronic Resources Management, for obvious reasons. Jill Emery and Graham Stone envision this to be a concise listing of the six major stages of electronic resources management, as well as a place to share tips and workflows relating to each. As they publish each section, I’ve marveled at how concise and clear they are. If you do anything with electronic resources management, you need to be following this thing.

Evaluation of resources has been a subject near and dear to my heart for many years, and increasingly so as we’ve needed to justify why we continue to pay for one resource when we would like to purchase another equally desired resource. And in relation to that, visualization of data and telling data stories are also professional interests of mine.

renewal decision report
renewal decision report example

When the section on annual review was published last month, it included an appendix that is an example of usage and cost  data for a resource delivered as both flat numbers and a graph. While this is still a rather technical presentation, it included several elements I had not considered before: cost as a percentage of the budget line, cost per student, use per student, and a mean use for each year. I decided this method of delivering statistical information about our electronic resources might be more useful to our subject specialists than my straight-up number approach. So, I’ve now incorporated it into the annual review checklist that I send out to the subject specialists in advance of renewal deadlines.

I’m not going to lie — this isn’t a fast report to create from scratch. However, it has made a few folks take a hard look at some resources and the patterns of their use, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it work my time and effort. Repeat use will be much faster, since I’ll just need to add one year’s worth of data.

musing on the next generation of electronic resource management

It’s funny how expectations are raised each time they are met. I think about this a lot when I’m working with our ERMS. My first experience with an ERMS was overwhelming and confusing, mostly because I didn’t have the time to really implement it, and it was far more robust than what we needed at the time. The next ERMS I used was simpler, and built off of a system I already knew well. It wasn’t perfect or comprehensive, but it was enough to get going.

Now that I’ve got a few years under my belt with this ERMS, I find myself longing for the next generation tool. Sure, it does this one thing really well, and sometimes even continues to do it well when the coders “enhance” it. But to get more out of it requires a lot of work-arounds, and often those are broken with the “enhancements.” And I’m still porting data from our ILS and massaging it into something our ERMS can ingest properly, often times having to do this manually.

I saw a demo of Ex Libris’ next generation ILS, Alma, a few weeks ago. It’s not perfect, and I could already see how it will require some significant workflow changes. However, the workflow/resource management problems that ERMS have been trying to solve are no longer partitioned off into something other than the “normal” ILS workflows, but rather acknowledged as at least half or more of the workflows that happen within the ILS. That’s what the first gen ERMS tried to do, but as add-on modules with connectors and legacy deadweight. Alma, from what I understand, has been rebuilt from the ground up. That seems to be making a huge difference in performance and integration.

I’m pretty excited about this because it solves two (or more) problems with one product. First, we get a next gen back-end catalog that works with more than just MARC, allowing us to integrate our digital collections metadata in whatever language that may be. Second, we integrate the workflows of all of acquisitions, not just print resources.

I’m also excited about this because I know that the other ILS vendors and ERMS vendors are going to have to step up their game as well. That can’t be bad for libraries and users, right?

CIL 2011: Thinking Strategically & Critically

Speaker: Rebecca Jones

She’s a librarian who started in corporate libraries and went on to human resources and organizational development. Working in different types of places has given her a perspective on different kinds of thinking.

We have gotten ideas at this conference to take back, but there a people at home who haven’t heard them yet, so you need to plan how you will approach this to not fail.

Strategic planning is not about the document — it’s about engaging people in the planning process so that everyone can see where they are making a difference. What are the implications for everyone? Consultants should not be doing the environmental scan — everyone in the library should be doing that.

Any time we have to do something differently, even if we know it is for good, it is uncomfortable to adjust to it. Viewing situations and solutions strategically will result in different types of decisions. Talking it through with others will suss out new solutions. It is too risky to not think differently in this economy.

Strategic thinking is as much about emotions as it is about finding out what the right questions are. What is the real problem that we are talking about? It is not about being critical. It is about opening up all of the possibilities.

It is our responsibility to have critical optimism. No librarian or library needs to play devil’s advocate. Have some fun planning! If we can’t see a better world, how will our stakeholders and users?

Be flexible and adaptable. Question the status quo — we tend to perpetuate what we already know. Focus on the future and don’t let the past stop you from moving forward. If you are already in a hole, stop digging. Gather the right facts in order to understand what is really happening.

Standing in the future is a planning strategy that has planners talk about the dream they have for the future as if it is in the present. By having all staff involved, you can get a clearer picture of how to get there. Buy-with is more effective than buy-in.

Some people will never like the change. Don’t listen to the 20% who are still whining — pay attention to the 80% who have moved on.

Consider following up with Rotman’s Business Journal for more of this kind of stuff. Also, Seth Goddin, Futures magazine, the Futures conference, Roger Martin’s work on design thinking, and what your community is reading. We have to be listeners. Be self-aware — you need to know what your assumptions are.

Why aren’t we at non-library conferences? We need to be aware of what is happening out there.