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

Speakers: Dawn McKinnon & Amy Buckland, McGill University

someecards.com - 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!

"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

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

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?

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 (catalogchoice.org). 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!]

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.

virtual services in libraries

This started as a comment response to David Lee King’s admonition, but by the time I got to paragraph three, I decided it would be better to post it here instead.

My library (small private academic university) offers both IM and email reference services. There is a note on the IM page of the website which states, “Users at the Main Service Desk have priority over IM users. IM users are taken in a first-come, first served order. If you would prefer not to wait, you may always email a librarian.” Essentially, this is the only way we can manage IM reference service with one person handling it at the same time they are answering questions at the desk and responding to email queries. So far, our users have been understanding, and IM reference makes up approximately 10% of our reference interactions.

I don’t see this as discriminating against our virtual users. Anyone in customer service will tell you that the person standing in front of you takes priority. The culture of IM is such that a delay in responding is acceptable, if not expected. Chat doesn’t mean that you drop everything else — we’re all used to multi-tasking while having an online conversation. Chat provides a faster back and forth than email, which is why many prefer it for reference interactions, but that doesn’t mean they expect instantaneous service.

The libraries with explicitly stated response times that DLK points out are large institutions serving large populations. My library can get away with fast response times because we might get one or two IM questions an hour, at most. Larger populations result in more questions, and depending on how in-depth those questions are, it may take several hours or longer to respond with all of the information the user is seeking. I often conclude a basic IM reference transaction by providing the student with the contact information for their subject librarian and the personal appointment request form. Some research needs can’t be met exclusively in an online environment.

I get what DLK is trying to say, and I agree that we should treat our online users with the same courtesy we do our in-person users. However, the limitations in online reference tools, staffing, and resources all combine to make it difficult to create a virtual library utopia. We should strive for it, yes, but making librarians feel even more guilty because they can’t do it (for whatever reason) is not going to improve the situation.

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.

quechup? no, thanks.

New social networking site gives everyone the how-to for bad PR.

Last week, I got an invitation to join Quechup, a new social networking site, from someone I’m pretty sure doesn’t want to network with me. Unfortunately, this person uses Gmail, which adds all new email addresses to the contacts list, whether you want it to or not. Since this person had emailed me in the past, my email address was still in their contacts list.

The problem with Quechup is that during the account creation process for new users, they are asked to give permission for Quechup to view their email address books in order to see if any of their contacts are already on Quechup. What most people seem to miss is the fine print that indicates Quechup will be spamming everyone in the new user’s contact list who is not already on Quechup.

I have two theories about why they chose to market their site this way. The first is benign, and assumes that someone at Quechup thought that users would read the text that indicates Quechup would be sending non-members email invitations.

quechup

The second theory is that someone at Quechup expected that few would read the text closely, and that it would be a simple and effective way of collecting a large number of active email addresses.

I suspect that the truth may be somewhere in between those two theories. Social networking sites do not exist out of the goodness of some programmer’s heart. They exist to gather information about you and your friends, and to use that information to make money off of you. Quechup is no different in that than sites like MySpace and Facebook. However, unlike other sites, Quechup is quickly getting a bad reputation for mass emailing, and that will be a tricky spot to pull themselves out of.

Be careful out there. Even if you don’t read the Privacy Policy or Conditions of Use before signing up on a new site, do at least read the text presented on the signup page. And please, stop sending me Quechup invitations.