Happy Blogoversary?

I just realized that I published my first post on this blog a year ago today. I can hardly believe it, and I really have mixed emotions.

On the one hand, I have enjoyed the opportunity to lay the foundation for a professional web presence and delve into the topics covered by the first round of CPD23. On the other, I still struggle with the questions I talked about in that first post, and I wish that I could come up with a more exciting niche or purpose for this blog.

Clearly, I’ve lost some steam (and probably any readers I ever had) over the last six months, and that frustrates me. I do have a few drafts in various forms – some ideas jotted down and others still swirling in my head – I just haven’t been motivated to write them. But I’m not ready to give up, either.

I honestly don’t know what that means for the future of this blog. I hope this little bit of reflection will renew my commitment to regular posting, and if I’m lucky, the second year will be even better than the first.

I would definitely welcome any advice or encouragement you’ve got to spare…


Ebooks for libraries petition

I just finished signing the ebooks for libraries petition. I haven’t really weighed in on the ebooks discussion before, and don’t plan to write a lengthy post on it anytime soon. I try to stay informed about what’s going on with libraries and ebooks, but it’s not something I have to deal with in my current position. We’re interested in adding ebooks to our collection, but given our specialized focus and limited time, have yet to pursue it.

For now, I decided to sign the petition as a concerned patron rather than a concerned librarian.  I received my first e-reader, a Kindle Touch, for Christmas 2011. I’ve finished five books on it so far, and maybe I’m the publishers’ worst nightmare because I haven’t directly paid for any of them.  I say directly because my Amazon Prime membership paid for The Hunger Games trilogy which was available via the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and my taxes and Friends of the Library contribution (however modest these may be) support the public library from which I borrowed the other two. I’m currently using my Kindle to read a free copy of Jane Eyre, but that’s just because it’s easier to hold onto than the giant hardcover version I paid for. During this same time frame, I’ve also borrowed at least one physical book and two downloadable audiobooks from the library. I also received a print book as a gift, and purchased another for my three-year-old nephew. My point is that I do my fair share of both borrowing and buying, and don’t like that publishers have restricted my power to choose.

Here is what came to mind when prompted for comments on the petition:

Please don’t leave libraries out of the loop! I love books, but have luckily not been asked to pay for every single book I’ve ever read. I like being able to choose which to borrow and which to buy. Just because something is not available in my library doesn’t automatically mean I’ll rush to buy it. More than likely, I will never read that book and will forget about it completely. Think of all the educational and entertaining experiences I’ve missed. Have a little faith in readers, and the world will be a smarter, happier place.

I hope you’ll add your name and spread the word.


A long winter’s nap?

No, I haven’t really been hibernating for the last two months, but I also don’t have a better reason for my blogging silence. I suppose this is what I was afraid of when I first started this little blog last summer, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Sometimes life gets in the way.

I’ve mentioned my love-hate relationship with writing, and I’m pretty sure that’s at the root of this hiatus. Writing really is the best way for me to process what I’m thinking, but something about the public nature of blogging tends to amplify my perfectionist tendencies. I seem to have some compulsion to keep thinking about, researching, and editing even the briefest of posts. It’s a little crazy, but at least admitting it helps me understand why it’s so easy for me to put writing on the back burner. Time keeps flying faster, and there aren’t enough hours in the day for all that I want to do, see, and read – let alone reflecting and writing about those things. Oh, and I’d also like to allow myself some semblance of a social life. Recently, balancing all of my competing priorities has been pretty stressful, and I think I’ve fallen victim to analysis paralysis, despite my otherwise respectable time management and coping skills. Now, it’s time to put one foot in front of the other and get moving again.

I do have a few ideas for breathing life back into this space, and I’m hoping that writing them down here will help me stay accountable.

  • finish my remaining things for CPD23 – no time like the present, as the second round is about to launch!
  • comment on recent reading about personality types and introversion
  • update on professional development projects (Code Year, etc.)
  • reflect on upcoming trainings/conferences I’m attending

If I still have any readers out there, thanks for sticking with me. If not, oh well, I’m mostly doing this for myself anyway. :)


Library Day in the Life: Super Bowl Edition (Round 8, Day 5)

Let’s call this the day everyone came down with Super Bowl Fever.

Our office is located on the eastern edge of downtown Indianapolis, less than a mile from the heart of Super Bowl Village. The excitement is building outside my window as I write this. A military helicopter just touched down at Indianapolis Heliport, and there are at least four others hovering in the sky around downtown. There’s a police officer on the corner controlling the traffic light. Our parking lot has been leased out, and our otherwise free spaces will now cost you $40 (probably more tomorrow and Sunday). People are outside walking like you never see here in February. Last year at this time, I’d just come back to work after an ice storm closed the office for three days. This week, we’ve had highs in the 50s. It feels like spring, and we all just want to go outside and play. Can you blame us for being a little distracted?

The heliport is busy today!

I suppose the work day wasn’t a total waste, as I did cross a few things off my list.

  • Spent some time working with our VP of finance to research payments for our annual conference that was held in December – our registration system wasn’t matching up, and we had to figure out who still needs an invoice
  • Pulled together lists of conference attendees by counties, so that our board members can see who’s attending from their region
  • Chatted with my boss about a unique grant inquiry. Even after all these years, our customers still find ways to surprise me.
  • Responded to a question on the listserv for Indiana school counselors, related to study skills curriculum. I stay subscribed to this because we often have resources in our library that correspond to these types of questions. I think of it as “embedded marketing,” and would like to do more of this eventually.
  • We finally have a live link to the college/career bibliography I made earlier this week, so I sent that off to the person who had requested it, and updated the dashboard in our ILS. I realized I forgot to do the latter for the mentoring bibliography earlier this week, so I fixed it too.
  • Sent a list of people who’d checked the “Sign me up for the Weekly Update” box on their grant applications to my colleague who manages those subscriptions.
  • Packaged up the hold requests I’d pulled yesterday, put postage on them, and luckily fit them into the mailbox outside. Our downtown post office would be next to impossible to get to today, since it’s right across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Well, that last point has brought the conversation back around to the Super Bowl, which means it’s probably about time for me to give up the fight for the day.

Time to go fight the super traffic.


Library Day in the Life: Round 8, Day 4

Today was just a weird hodgepodge of a day in which I’m not completely sure where all the time went.

This morning, I tackled the various tasks involved with closing out the month’s grant cycle. I created the check requests, updated the numbers in my boss’s tracking spreadsheet, tallied the stats for the marketing tracking report, and sent the results to my volunteers. I also pulled the list of people who had attended their funded activity in January, so we could send our monthly follow up survey. Finishing all of these steps means it’s probably safe to file away this month’s paperwork and make room for the next round. That is, until the calls and e-mails start rolling in. In my message to the folks whose applications we decline, I welcome them to contact me for feedback and advice on how to improve their proposal. This morning, I had two people take me up on that offer. Sometimes it’s easy to give specific pointers, and other times people were so close to the cutoff that it’s hard to articulate just what they should do better. I always try my best to help, though, and have definitely seen people improve on their second attempt.

Later on in the morning, I worked on the “clearinghouse” for our training/webinar registration system. This is where people’s registrations go if the system doesn’t find a match in our database. From there, staff can determine whether the person may have simply changed organizations or whether a whole new entry should be created. This can be tedious work, that often involves some internet sleuthing to figure out if the Mary Smith who’s registered with XYZ Agency is the same Mary Smith who used to be at ABC Agency…or if XYZ Agency has a new address or a second location…or if ABC Agency used to be called 123, Inc…etc. The result is a fairly clean database with a clearer picture of the ways we’ve served people and organizations over the years. Unfortunately, it takes an average of 3-4 minutes to research each record that appears in the clearinghouse and make any necessary updates. In the hour I spent on this today, I sorted out 14. :(

After lunch, I spent some time down in the library. I checked in some books and gathered some requests that need to go out the door tomorrow. I got an e-mail from a patron saying she didn’t have a certain book that’s three months overdue, but she did have two other ones that she had previously claimed were mailed in early 2011. It’s lovely that she found them nearly a year later, after we’ve spent money to replace them!  I asked her if she could attempt to track down the other book at her former workplace because we sent it there roughly six weeks prior to receiving her address change request, and I’m not totally sure how I could call and ask about it without revealing her name. We’ll see about that. The item isn’t that expensive, but I’m fighting for the principle. I chatted with my coworker about this bit of frustration, as well as the progress our intern is making with inventory/weeding. I also helped her brainstorm about logistics for partaking in Super Bowl festivities tomorrow, since the parking lot at our building is being leased out starting at 6pm tomorrow. I spent the last hour or so browsing the web for materials we may want to purchase to support our upcoming spring trainings, considering they start a month from now. I usually put some stuff in an Amazon Wish List, and our director takes it from there.

In between all of this, I’m sure I answered plenty of e-mails, took a couple phone calls, and browsed my Twitter/RSS feeds. I don’t have anything really cool to show for the work I did today, but I got quite a few little things crossed off my list!


Library Day in the Life: Round 8, Day 3

Today was another busy and library-heavy day, seemingly tailor-made for Library Day in the Life.

First on the agenda today was tallying the score sheets for this month’s round of grant proposals. Basically, I gather up all of the score sheets that have been returned and input the scores into the Excel file I use for program tracking. Simple Excel formulas tally up the totals and let me know which proposals meet our cutoff score. I sent a link to this document to my boss, so we can review it during our scheduled afternoon meeting. It’s good to have one more set of eyes on it before sending notifications to the applicants.

Before exiting the spreadsheet, I also needed to pull a list of everyone who received a grant in 2011. Our fundraising department is developing county fact sheets (we’re a statewide organization), and will incorporate this data into the overall picture of how our services impact each county. I cleaned up the list a little bit, removing irrelevant information and scrubbing the names and organizations of people who’d opted out from list dissemination. This opt-out business is fairly new for us, as we only started giving people an option in July. We don’t sell information or anything, but weren’t exactly feeling right about indiscriminately sharing our customers’ information with our funders. Our intentions are good, as we basically only use it to show what types of organizations and professionals we assist, as well as how far our services reach within the state, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make people aware of this. Oh, and before you get too concerned, the library data is and always has been a separate animal. We’re OK with releasing aggregate data about which counties patrons are from, but we never attach personally identifying information. This often results in jokes about the top-secret library data, but we just smile and stand our ground.

Leaning tower of hold requests

After this, I moved on to responding to e-mails from library patrons. At about 10:15, a coworker came into my office to let me know there was a man in the lobby who wanted to use the library. Since our library director, whose office is actually IN the library, was out today, I said I’d take him down in a minute. I quickly wrapped up the e-mail I was writing, gathered some stuff I needed to work on downstairs, and headed out to the lobby. There was nobody there. Weird. I decided to just go downstairs to the library anyway, just in case the person had decided to wait down there. There was nobody waiting in the hallway. Weirder. I called back upstairs to my coworker to let her know that I hadn’t found the guy, and if he showed back up, to let him know to meet me in the library. A couple minutes later, she let me know he was headed down. These very odd circumstances gave me a good hunch about who this person might be, and it proved accurate. We hardly EVER have walk-ins, but this one guy comes in from time to browse. He’s not much for small talk and never wants help finding anything. He just looks around for a little bit and then comes over to check out a handful of pretty obscure and fairly old stuff. He always returns the materials on time in the postage-paid envelope we provide, so all in all is a good customer.

After that bit of excitement, I settled in to check some things off my to-do list. I created an account for a new coworker and set her up on the routing lists for some of our journals. That reminded me that I haven’t checked in an issue of a certain title for almost four months, which is weird, so I shot an e-mail to the library director to reminder her to investigate the status of this subscription. I wonder if maybe they’ve moved all online now, but dealing with the vendors is her job. I also sent an e-mail with the finalized college/career bibliography to our webmaster, so that she could use it to replace the older version. I checked out all of the items that I had flipped to “held” yesterday, and got them ready to carry upstairs for mailing. Before heading up, I also coordinated a Girl Scout cookie handoff for a coworker who’d come to pick up her order from our library director.

All packed up and ready to go!

After a quick lunch and perusal of the interwebs, I packaged up all of the books needing to go out in today’s mail. I’ve gotten pretty good at fitting things into the smallest/cheapest options for postage, and we’ve been saving quite a bit of money using the new regional flat rate boxes. While I was in the workroom, I chimed in on a conversation between some coworkers trying to print envelopes. Since the copier was acting up today, I recommended they use one of the other printers, which works better for envelopes  anyway, in my opinion. That resulted in an impromptu lesson on how to use said printer to do envelopes. I also had a quick hallway conversation regarding registration needs for upcoming trainings.

These detours had me arriving back at my desk just in time to log into the project management webinar that I’d signed up for awhile back. We have a lot of project management type activities going on in my organization, so I figured some extra tips and tricks could be useful. Personally, I thought January’s session was more helpful. Today’s list of case studies just seemed to me like a really sad display of professionals lacking common sense!

Immediately after the webinar, I grabbed my stack of grants and scoresheets and headed to my boss’s office for our meeting. I clarified a few comments I had made on proposals that we’re declining to fund. We chatted briefly about how we’re doing budget-wise, whether or not to lower our cutoff score by a point to help a few more people get training and be sure to spend our available funds. We decided to go ahead with a slightly lower score, as we should be able to cover it even if we go a little over budget in June. Since this meeting also doubles as my monthly touch-base, we also talked a little bit about how things are going in the library, and about a few new registration-related things. Nothing too serious, since we’d just gone through much deeper discussions about operations and program strategy last week.

After the meeting, I mail-merged out the e-mails to notify this month’s grant applicants to let them know whether or not they’d won. We used to do this all by snail mail when I first started, but making the switch to e-mail has saved a fair amount of time, paper and postage. There wasn’t much time left in the day at this point, so I mostly just cleaned up my Inbox before heading home.

Three days down, two more to go. Time for #libchat!


Library Day in the Life: Round 8, Day 2

Today was a busy day, but I left the office with a much greater sense of accomplishment than yesterday.

The day started much as they normally do, with a bowl of cereal at my desk. Bad habit? Maybe, but it works for me. I’m not naturally a morning person, so scanning my e-mail and to-do list over a quick breakfast helps to get my bearings. I have tried the productivity tip of coming in and working on a project first thing in the morning before turning on e-mail, and it certainly does have its merits. Unfortunately, in such a customer-service driven job, I need Outlook to accomplish a large portion of my to-do list each day. I don’t want to be a slave to my Inbox, but it’s tough to find a balance when so much data resides within the e-mail program.

Anyhow, this morning I did a pretty good job of jumping into a project, albeit one that was triggered by an e-mail from a coworker requesting information to assist someone starting a tutoring program. The customer wanted to know whether we had resources on training volunteers to work with youth. As it turns out, there really aren’t many books on that specific topic, at least not that we currently own. I recommended that he contact similar programs to see if they’d share their training materials, and pointed out a few examples I found in a quick Google search. I also discovered a cool resource from the Corporation for National and Community Service, specifically focused on supporting tutoring programs. Someday, I’d love to have a place to post these kinds of finds on our website or use them to spice up our book/DVD heavy bibliographies, but today I’m just hoping it will help this individual! I also did a quick check on Amazon to see if there were any books we should purchase on this topic, but didn’t find anything too promising. Made a mental note to add this to the list of future collection development possibilities.

I then headed downstairs to my satellite desk in the library, since I hadn’t been able to get down there since last Thursday, and our intern would be down there again this afternoon. There, I checked in a mail tub full of materials that had come in on Friday and Monday. A couple of them were flagged for cataloging issues, so I sent them over to my colleague who takes care of those details. A couple more fulfilled hold requests, so I let the status go to “held,” printed out the slips, and set them aside for tomorrow’s mail. The reason we delay the shipment is so that the system-generated hold notice will trigger overnight, saving us from writing separate e-mails to every patron and allowing them  a brief window to update any mailing information. It’s not a perfect system, but it works well most of the time.

I went through our request manager with fine-toothed comb to pull together all of the other materials that need to be shipped tomorrow. I had a pretty tall pile by the end of it, which I guess is what happens when I’m not in the library for a couple days! I also e-mailed a few people regarding old requests for which the books had only recently become available. I hate to just blindly send an item if the request is more than a couple months old, because people change jobs so often in the youth work field. I heard back from most everyone, so was able to cancel or fulfill the holds as appropriate. This stuff took pretty much the whole morning, as our weeding/shifting project is forcing me to re-learn the locations of our materials. Previously, I had a good general idea of which call numbers were in which aisles, and even the exact location of certain items. The current state of flux is cramping my style!

When our intern arrived at 1pm, I gathered up my stuff, and went back upstairs for lunch. My boring frozen meal and apple were supplemented today by a delivery of Girl Scout Cookies. I went for Samoas and Tagalongs this year. Mmm…

After lunch, I dealt with a few e-mails and messages related to my grant program. Then, I packed up the items I had set to “held” yesterday, so they could go out in today’s mail. I broke a nail doing this, which just adds to the reasons why I can never have a side hustle as a hand model. Every day I seem to get a new scrape or paper cut. Are other librarians so rough on their hands?

I also checked in several journals, printed the routing lists, and distributed them to staff inboxes. Today, the headlines grabbed my attention more than usual, so I spent a few minutes reading stories in Education Week about handwriting, early graduation from high school, and education reform in Indianapolis. I also read the Indianapolis Business Journal‘s cover story, “Brand Indy,” because I’m really curious about what the Super Bowl hoopla will do for our reputation.

Lastly, it was time for another overdue detective shift. I was thrilled to get a few people on the phone that I’ve been chasing for months. Turns out one of them had given us the wrong e-mail address. The other, who I’ve been pestering since July with no response, said, “I bet you’re going to kill me about these library books.” I assured her I did not intend to resort to violence, but would very much appreciate it if she could return the items so other people could access them. She promised to put them in the mail today, and that I would never have to call her again. Let’s hope that’s true.

Phew! A busy and fairly productive day. See you tomorrow!


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