This is going to be long and not my usual style of conference notetaking. Because this was an unconference, there really wasn’t much in the way of prepared presentations, except for the lightening talks in the morning. What follows below the jump is what I captured from the conversations, often simply questions posed that were left open for anyone to answer, or at least consider.
Some of the good aspects of the unconference style was the free-form nature of the discussions. We generally stayed on topic, but even when we didn’t, it was about a relevant or important thing that lead to the tangents, so there were still plenty of things to take away. However, this format also requires someone present who is prepared to seed the conversation if it lulls or dies and no one steps in to start a new topic.
Also, if a session is designed to be a conversation around a topic, it will fall flat if it becomes all about one person or the quirks of their own institution. I had to work pretty hard on that one during the session I led, particularly when it seemed that the problem I was hoping to discuss wasn’t an issue for several of the folks present because of how they handle the workflow.
Some of the best conversations I had were during the gathering/breakfast time as well as lunch, lending even more to the unconference ethos of learning from each other as peers.
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.
Crowdsourcing without a purpose is like unleashing a horde of zombies.
There are three things you need to do to engage staff with crowdsourcing: give them a goal, let them choose their own weapons (technology and methods used to accomplish the goal; group organizational structure), and celebrate both their successes and failures.
The easiest way to get staff engaged is to involve them in the process, and listen/respond to the input they provide.
Keep in mind that this only works if your organization is not so wedded to hierarchy that they can’t set that aside to get the work done. A way to handle that kind of work environment is to have a moderator to keep those staff involved, or remove from the group the managers that cause the problem.
Speaker: Lisa Hardy
About four years ago, they put together a team of eight to plan for leadership development, board engagement & strategic planning, and staff engagement. One of the keys to the group’s success was that it had closure — it was not an ongoing committee, but rather a task force with a specific goal and timeframe.
One of the outcomes was a “Future Action Think Tank,” which was not mandatory for all staff, unlike other events of that nature. The staff had to submit an application/essay explaining why they wanted to attend, and almost all attended. If they didn’t submit an expression of interest, they were turned away.
They started the day with a futurist faire, where staff talked about the things they were doing in a poster session style setting. The biggest part of the day was the field trip. They had several different location options around the city, and each of the places visited talked about their particular challenges and what they were doing to meet them (university digital library, zoo, science center, immigrant serving agencies, youth serving agencies, volunteer agencies, etc.).
There were other events that happened after it, and the second one actually came directly from administration. They had staff come and pitch their ideas to the administrators, and one was given funding to go ahead. Kind of like an entrepreneur TV show in Canada.
20% of staff are always open to change, and are willing to follow/lead anywhere; 20% of staff will stand in the way of change; and 60% will go either way. Where will you focus your energies?
Audience member suggested using Belbin for assessing potential roles when forming a group, and this may help avoid some of the issues of organizational hierarchy impeding staff involvement.
Two and a half days is just not enough time spent with my tribe. I could have gone all week. I’m not ready to go back to the real world.
This was my third Electronic Resources & Libraries conference, and I’ve been lucky to get to know a few more ER librarians every year. This year was particularly notable, as I was able to spend quite a bit of time talking with peers that I highly respect and look to as inspirations for my own work (Jamene Brooks-Kieffer and Marie Kennedy, just to name two). I did my best to keep it cool and not go fangirl all over them.
Most of the sessions I attended were solid, informative, and often inspiring in their own right. I’m still working through the project list generated last year, and now I have more to add or enhance what’s already there.
I plan to look into:
JTac software for acquisitions workflow
CORAL for ER workflow, but maybe not for ERMS, if that’s possible
MISO software for ingesting SUSHI (since my ERMS is only just starting to look at developing SUSHI ingestion)
Documenting ER workflows and procedures — I have been intimidated by this, since I’ll be starting from scratch and don’t know where to begin. I realized this week that I could use TERMS as a jumping off point.
Include a feedback form for each trial we do, rather than just relying on free-form email messages
Seeing about modifying the workflow for eDDA titles so that liaisons can move them to firm orders before the records are loaded in the catalog
Also, investigating options for pDDA for slip orders
Joining a relevant NISO working group, if anything comes up (Marie suggested we do this, and I’ve been interested for a while)
Being a leader in my library without being higher up in management or at least not beyond where I’m comfortable
There were a few sessions that left me wanting. For one, I keep trying to glean some insight into better ways of managing ER workflows, but our staff is so small and the people who tend to present on the topic come from libraries so large that it’s hard to see where the connections or benefits may be. I am still thinking about how to set up something that would trigger notifications of next steps, even if most of them would end up coming to me. My paper checklist form is okay, but it only works if I remember to do it and to check up on it.
Another session I attended was supposed to be all about a tech services department reorganization with an eye towards eresource trends. However, it seems that the presenter expected more results by now than what he was able to talk about, so most of the session beyond the introduction was about what should be happening rather than what has been happening. I think that it’s difficult to know six months in advance if your new project will be at a place worth sharing, but maybe conferences need to shift more of those kinds of topics to short sessions like the lightening talks, rather than risk the session being a dud because there aren’t enough relevant outcomes to share.
ER&L 2013 will be in Austin again next year, and shortly following the SXSWi conference. They hope to have some connections between the two, so if you’ve been on the fence about attending, that may be the year to take the plunge.
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.
His position is new for his library (July 2011), and when Barbara Fister saw the job posting, she lamented that user-centered collection development would relegate librarians to signing licenses and paying invoices, but Sowell doesn’t agree.
Values and assumptions: As an academic library, we derive our reason for existing from our students and faculty. Our collections are a means to an end, rather than an end to themselves. They can do this in part because they don’t have ARL-like expectations of themselves. A number of studies has shown that users do a better job of selecting materials than we do, and they’ve been moving to more of a just in time model than a just in case.
They have had to deal with less money and many needs, so they’ve gotten creative. The university recently realigned departments and positions, and part of that included the creation of the Collections & Resource Sharing Department (CRSD). It’s nicknamed the “get it” department. Their mission is to connect the community to the content.
PDA, POV, PPV, approval plans, shelf-ready, and shared preservation are just a few of the things that have changed how we collect and do budget planning.
CRSD includes collection development, electronic resources, collections management, resource sharing & delivery, and circulation (refocusing on customer service and self-servicing, as well as some IT services). However, this is a new department, and Sowell speaks more about what these things will be doing than about what they are doing or how the change has been effective or not.
One of the things they’ve done is to rewrite position descriptions to refocus on the department goals. They’ve also been focusing on group facilitation and change management through brainstorming, parking lot, and multi-voting systems. Staff have a lot of anxiety over feeling like an expert in something and moving to where they are a novice and having to learn something new. They had to say goodbye to the old routines, mix them with new, and then eventually make the full shift.
They are using process mapping to keep up with the workflow changes. They’re also using service design tools like journey mapping (visualization of the user’s experience with a service), five whys, personas, experience analogy, and storyboards (visualization of how you would like things to occur).
For the reference staff, they are working on strategic planning about the roles and relationships of the librarians with faculty and collections.
Change takes time. When he proposed this topic, he expected to be further along than he is. Good communication, system thinking, and staff involvement are very important. There is a delicate balance between uncertainty/abstract with a desire for concrete.
Some unresolved issues include ereaders, purchasing rather than borrowing via ILL and the impact on their partner libraries, role of the catalog as an inventory in the world of PDA/PPV. The re-envisioning of the collection budget as a just in time resource. Stakeholder involvement and assessment wrap up the next steps portion of his talk.
In moving print to the collection maintenance area, how are you handling bundled purchases (print + online)? How are you handling the impression of importance or lack thereof for staff who still work with traditional print collection management? Delicately.
Question about budgeting. Not planning to tie PDA/PPV to specific subjects. They plan to do an annual review of what was purchased and what might have been had they followed their old model.
How are they doing assessment criteria? Not yet, but will take suggestions. Need to tie activities to student academic success and teaching/researching on campus. Planning for a budget cut if they don’t get an increase to cover inflation. Planning to do some assessment of resource use.
What will you do if people can’t do their new jobs? Hopefully they will after the retraining. Will find a seat for them if they can’t do what we hope they can do.
What are you doing to organize the training so they don’t get mired in the transitional period? Met with staff to reassure them that the details will be worked out in the process. They prepared the ground a bit, and the staff are ready for change.
Question about the digital divide and how that will be addressed. Content is available on university equipment, so not really an issue/barrier.
What outreach/training to academic departments? Not much yet. Will honor print requests. Subject librarians will still have a consultative role, but not necessarily item by item selection.
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.
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.
The Library Journal periodicals price survey was developed in partnership with EBSCO when the ALA pulled the old column to publish in American Libraries. There is a similar price survey being done by the AALL for law publications.
There is a difference between a price survey and a price index. A price survey is a broad look, and a price index attempts to control the categories/titles included.
[The next bit was all about the methodology behind making the LJ survey. Not why I am interested, so not really taking notes on it.]
Because of the challenge of getting pricing for ejournals, the survey is based mainly on print prices. That being said, the trends in pricing for print is similar to that of electronic.
Knowing the trends for pricing in your specific set of journals can help you predict what you need to budget for. While there are averages across the industry, they may not be accurate depending on the mix in your collection. [I am thinking that this means that the surveys and indexes are useful for broad picture looks at the industry, but maybe not for local budget planning?]
It is important to understand what goes into a pricing tool and how it resembles or departs from local conditions in order to pick the right one to use.
Budgets for libraries and higher education are not in “recovery.” While inflation calmed down last year, they are on the rise this year, with an estimate of 7-8%. The impact may be larger than at the peak of the serials pricing crisis in the 1990s. Libraries will have less buying power, and users will have less resources, and publishers will have fewer customers.
Why is the inflation rate for serials so much higher than the consumer price index inflation rate? There has been an expansion of higher education, which adds to the amount of stuff being published. The rates of return for publishers are pretty much normal for their industry. There isn’t any one reason why.
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.