Library Day in the Life: Round 7, Day 4

Friday was kind of a blur, but I wanted to round out the week with a final “day in the life” post.

Our offices are only open from 9-3 on summer Fridays, and I spent most of the shortened day finishing up the conference website and registration portal, so that we’ll be ready to open early-bird registration on Monday. We’re good to go from my perspective, but I have been sensing some mixed messages from other departments. I guess we’ll see what happens on Monday!

One of my coworkers also surprised me with an early birthday cake, so that was hands-down the highlight of my work day.

Chocolate cake! :)

I was only in the library long enough to chat with my colleague about next steps for the travel arrangements to the Polaris Users Group Conference and grab a book that needed to be mailed. Before I left, I took a couple of pictures, as promised in earlier posts.

My satellite office in the library doubles as a public computer on occasion.

We moved this shelving range to make room for an enclosed office. The table was salvaged from Borders.

We're still recovering from renovation.

And we're still not sure how to configure the conference room tables!

This concludes my marginally library-related day in the life series. I hope the peek into this less traditional job and library will be useful for some aspiring librarians and information professionals.


Library Day in the Life: Round 7, Day 3

I spent way too much time yesterday staring at a computer screen. At work, I was fixed in concentration on the conference website. At home, I got my library fix by catching up with cpd23 stuff, blog reading, and participating in #libchat. By around midnight, my eyes were practically begging me to go to sleep.

I woke up with a lingering headache, so I decided to try something new for my work routine.

8:30-10:30 am

Because I had a small stack of grant proposals to read before the end of the week, I shut my office door and refused to turn on the computer until after I had finished scoring them. The first two hours of my workday were completely computer-free. I did feel a little twitchy now and then without my morning e-mail fix, but I am proud to say that I resisted temptation. Just when I thought multi-tasking had fried my brain, I was able to summon up some focus! Such a relief.

10:30-11:00 am

Turned on the computer. Reunited with my e-mail. Took a peek at Twitter and skimmed some #cpd23 and #libday7 posts.

11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Not finished yet, but coming along nicely...

Continued to tweak the conference website.

Chatted with our webmaster about creating thumbnails from our speaker headshots. While I technically have the skills for this, she has more appropriate software on her computer. I’d also really like to add a footer with our sponsor logos, so I need to bring our fundraising and marketing team into the conversation soon.

Replied to some e-mails requesting further clarification of website text. It can be tricky to get all departments on the same page so that we can provide all relevant information, written and organized as clearly as possible. I want our customers to find what they need, and save us from fielding too many phone calls and e-mails seeking clarification.

Fixed a little bit of the wonky HTML generated by the system’s WYSIWYG editor, so that I wouldn’t have awkward text spacing and strange-looking tables.

12:30-1:00 pm

Lunch at my desk today, with a little social networking thrown in.

1:00-2:00 pm

Remembered a couple preparatory tasks that need to be done prior to our regional trainings which start in three weeks. I nudged a couple of colleagues about the activities requiring their assistance.

Inquired as to the health of our postage meter. I couldn’t ship any library requests yesterday because it wasn’t working, but am hoping to get the items in today’s mail. Was informed the technician would be here between 1:47 and 2:00. Such precision!

Spent a little time compiling the morning section of this blog post.

2:00-5:00 pm

I forgot to take a picture of today's actual mail, but this one is from one of our busiest mailing days ever, in April 2010.

Library time!

Checked in a couple of journals that had been sitting on my desk, and routed them to the appropriate staff.

Checked in a mail tub full of books that had been returned.

Responded to some e-mails from patrons who had forgotten their barcode/password.

Found out the postage meter was back in service, so I checked out the stack of books that I had changed to “held” back on Tuesday. Got them all packaged up and ready for the mailman.

Went back downstairs to chat with our library director about plans to attend the Polaris Users Group Conference in the fall. She has been to the past several conferences, but this year we’re trying to squeeze both of us into the budget. I hadn’t really had a chance to look over the information about the conference yet, so I was trying to get up to speed while investigating flights, shuttles, dining options, etc. She called to make the hotel reservation and was getting ready to secure our early-bird conference registrations when I had to dash out of the office for the day. We’ll reconvene to decide on a flight next week.

I can’t believe how quickly this day flew by!


Library Day in the Life: Round 7, Day 2

Today, I did absolutely nothing in the library.

Instead, I spent almost the entire day trying to get our conference website up and running. I nominated myself for this task awhile back, as we wanted to take advantage of the event website capabilities of our current vendor. I have now created and maintained five consecutive (and increasingly complex) conference registration forms within this system, and I always look to exploit the technology a little more every year. My perpetual goal is to create a better experience for our customers, while hopefully increasing the efficiency of our conference team. I’m excited about building on the vendor’s event website platform to give our event a more consistent web presence. Not only will it help us meet our goals, it allows me to keep exercising the nifty HTML skills I taught myself in high school and honed in library school.

The only time I really looked away from the website task was to assist our customers with accessing the webinar we hosted this afternoon. I get lots of phone calls from folks who haven’t received their login instructions, and I usually discover that either they haven’t actually registered for the webinar, or they provided us an incorrect e-mail address. It usually only takes a moment to manually add them to the list and fix their e-mail address, so then I’ll forward their instructions and send them on their way. I was more nervous about technology issues today, since we’ve changed webinar vendors, but I actually only talked to one person with a technical glitch.  Luckily, it was one that I could easily troubleshoot, given that it had happened to me when I tried to join the webinar.

I hope to get back in the library tomorrow, but in the meantime, I got to shore up my technology and customer service skills!

Bonus: I took some photos of my new office before heading home today! I’ll try to grab some of the library yet this week.

My new (to me) desk!

Doesn't every librarian need bookshelves and toys?

This is the window I bought myself for my previous office.

The best part = my new view!


Library Day in the Life: Round 7, Day 1

I’ve been a longtime follower of the Library Day in the Life project, but this is my first time officially participating. Now that I have this fledgling blog, I figured it’s time to give it a shot.

My job title is Program Manager – Library & Grants, with a lingering subtitle of Training & Conference Registrar. So, you’ll quickly notice that I do not spend my entire work day or work week in a library. However, the non-library parts of my job are heavily focused on customer service and technology, which I like to think are highly transferable skills.

Briefly, the three hats I wear include:

  1. Managing a grant program that provides professional development funds to youth workers in Indiana. We operate on a monthly cycle, so this keeps me busier in certain weeks more than others.
  2. Coordinating registration for our regional trainings, monthly webinars, and annual conference. I maintain two separate databases, provide troubleshooting for customers, and facilitate reporting for the events.
  3. Facilitating the operations of our library, in collaboration with our director of library services. I am currently focused primarily on circulation and patron services, with some systems work, reference, and collection development activities thrown in as time allows.

Here’s how today went down…

8:15-9:00 am

Essential office supplies.

For better or worse, I tend to ease into the mornings, especially after a four-day weekend. I started this day by filling up the M&M dispenser and Jelly Belly jar in my office. Once the sugar was in place, I fired up the computer and did a preliminary sort through all the e-mails that came in while I was out on Friday and Monday.

9:00-10:30 am

We are hosting a webinar on social media and fundraising tomorrow, and my must-do task for today was to send out the instructions so participants know how to access it! But first, I had to deal with all the registrations that came in since last week.

We use an association management software to keep track of our (non-library) customers and their activities, so we use their registration portal to reduce the need for duplicate data entry. While this is useful in many ways, it also means that I spend a fair amount of time in the “clearinghouse,” attempting to match people with their correct organization. We have made great strides toward keeping our customer data clean and consistent, and in order to keep it that way, I often rely on online sleuthing to make sure we don’t end up with duplicate records.

Once all the records were cleared, I pulled the final list of attendees and sent them the instructions for accessing the webinar tomorrow. Gotta love mail merge.

10:30- noon

I spent the rest of the morning mostly replying to e-mails and sorting through stuff that had been piled on my desk while I was out. Highlights include:

  • Thanking people who wrote to say they’ll be returning their long overdue books! Maybe my detective work is paying off, after all.
  • Coordinating who will send 40 copies of the “50 Hot Jobs” poster to someone who saw a colleague at an event last week. No idea why that e-mail landed in my box, but my helpfulness apparently knows no bounds.
  • Printing score sheets one of my volunteer grant reviewers had e-mailed me. I have been trying to avoid using business-reply envelopes because the US Mail can’t reliably keep up with our tight turnaround.
  • Trying to track down an award application written in 2007. A customer was using it as a writing sample in her portfolio and her copy was destroyed in a flood. We should still have this stuff in off-site storage, so it’s a matter of finding the right box. This task is far from routine, but I’m pursuing it because I would appreciate the effort if I were in her shoes.

12:00-1:00 pm

Lunchtime. Took a peek at Twitter/Facebook to see what’s going on in the world. Ate some leftovers in our office kitchen while completing the crossword puzzle and cryptoquip in the Indianapolis Star.

1:00-3:00 pm

I loaded up a cart with returned books that appeared in my office and headed downstairs to our library. I checked in said books and took a look at our request manager to see if I could fulfill any holds. There were actually several new requests, so I gathered the items together and flipped their statuses to “held.” This allows patrons to get a notification e-mail overnight, which tells them that their items will be shipping soon! I don’t necessarily like delaying the shipments by a day to accommodate this message, but I do like not having to craft individualized e-mails for each request filled.

Our physical library space is still in a bit of transition after some renovation, so I’m still getting used to the workflow in the new configuration. One of today’s tasks was getting the new computer in the patron workstation (a.k.a. my second office) to print to the nearest printer. I also replaced my staff directory and other assorted visual aides around the workspace.

3:00-3:45 pm

I listened to a webinar on knowledge management in nonprofit organizations. I have become fascinated with the concept ever since last summer when I attended the 2010 SLA Conference. I was simultaneously taking a class on organizing and representing knowledge and information, and kept coming around to how these concepts could really help me at work! Unfortunately, I have had too many competing responsibilities and too few hours in the day to implement anything thus far. For now, I just keep reading and learning when I can!

3:45-5:30 pm

I switched back to my registrar hat for the rest of the day. We have a training series coming up in August, so I needed to process a few offline registration forms as well as update the confirmation e-mails I need to manually send to those registrants. I confirmed a detail with a colleague, then adjusted the dates and location information in my mail-merge template. Have I mentioned yet how much I love mail merge?

I also chatted with a couple of people who missed the deadline for tomorrow’s webinar. I got them in the system and ready to go with the instructions.

Somehow, everything always comes back to customer service…

How was your day?


Getting better at face-to-face networking

Face-to-face networking does not come as easily to me as the online component, though I am consciously trying to circumvent my natural tendencies toward introversion and independence. Librarians are some of the most interesting, intelligent and helpful people I’ve ever met, so why wouldn’t I want to meet more of them?

To cover at least some of the concepts addressed by Thing 7, here’s a peek into my current efforts:

Memberships

I am currently a member of two professional organizations, both of which I joined as a student member. My primary involvement with both the American Library Association (ALA) and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) has been capitalizing on student discounts for attendance at their national conferences.

Conferences

I attended the 2009 ALA conference in Chicago, thanks in part to the hospitality of family in the suburbs. As this was my first experience at a national library conference, I mostly stuck to attending sessions and browsing the exhibit hall. Networking was not something I focused on at all, probably because I attended the conference with a coworker and crashed at my aunt and uncle’s house rather than in a conference hotel.

In 2010, I attended the SLA conference in New Orleans, thanks to funds from my school’s library student organization. This time, I was on my own at the conference, so I did attempt to meet some new people. I joined in the solo librarians’ division’s no-host dinner, where I met a diverse group of people from all over the country. It was nice to see their friendly faces around the hallways and in sessions throughout the rest of the conference. I followed a little bit of the action on Twitter, but because I did not have a smartphone and chose not to carry my laptop around, none of that engagement turned into face-to-face meetings.

I did not plan to attend any national conferences this year, but was fortunate to win a four-night hotel stay in Philadelphia for SLA’s 2011 conference. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cash in on one last student registration rate, so I gratefully accepted the prize. This time, I was more determined to step up my networking game, so I started focusing on the pre-conference Twitter conversations. At least three in-person networking opportunities came about thanks to Twitter. I attended the Hack Library School meetup (photo evidence here), where I was “adopted” by some nice Pratt students and alums, who I subsequently joined for a vendor’s dessert reception and a division reception. I also had dinner with some nonprofit librarians one evening, and a nice Vietnamese lunch in Chinatown with yet another librarian I had met via Twitter. I can’t point to any specific results of this networking so far, aside from a broader understanding of the diversity of this profession. However, my increased focus on on the social aspects of conference attendance certainly made this year more fun!

I have also attended a couple of statewide conferences hosted by the Indiana Library Federation. However, I’ve experienced these events mostly from the perspective of an exhibitor. The organization I work for has relevant resources for librarians who work with young people, so it’s a good way for us to generate awareness. I have had a few opportunities to slip off into sessions, but generally find my time better spent manning the booth.

Additional Service

Thus far, I have not been involved on a deeper level with any professional organization. At first, the hesitation was largely a matter of time. Full-time work and part-time graduate school is enough to keep a person quite occupied. Now, I think I’m waiting for inspiration to strike, or to find a niche where involvement makes sense. My current library and job responsibilities aren’t a natural fit for most organizations, and I struggle to pinpoint which opportunities would bring the most personal fulfillment. I have recently joined the Indiana State Library’s professional development committee, which is perhaps the one place where my competing job duties in professional development and librarianship make perfect sense. Although we’re just getting started, I am enjoying this opportunity to learn more about the professional landscape in Indiana and hopefully provide a useful service to my fellow librarians. I am also investigating opportunities to be more involved with the Indiana chapter of the Special Libraries Association, though nothing concrete has come of that conversation thus far.

Networking will probably never come naturally to me, but I can say it gets easier and more fun with practice. My experiences over the last few years have inspired me to put more effort into my in-person networking, so now it’s a matter of finding the best opportunities (and making the best of every opportunity).

 

 


Adventures of an overdue book detective

I’ve been wondering what to write about beyond the cpd23 things, and today I found inspiration in a project I’ve been working on in my day job.

A little background…

As I’ve said before, the library where I work doesn’t fit any traditional mold. Our collection is specialized in its focus on youth development and nonprofit management topics. Our services are specialized in that we can only circulate our books, DVDs, and curriculum to youth workers within the state of Indiana (you can request through ILL from out-of-state). Patrons include teachers, counselors, youth ministers, program managers, foster parents, etc. We do most of our business via e-mail and our integrated library system (ILS), sending requested items via US Mail along with postage-paid return envelopes. We were doing this way before Netflix, in case you were wondering. To promote our library, we regularly display relevant items at regional trainings hosted by our parent organization. We allow on-site checkouts at the events where our books are displayed, and one nice lady even gave me a hug when I told her she could take a book with her!

Normally, I love how unique our library is. We can fill a specialized information need that most other libraries in Indiana cannot.

Unfortunately, our unusual practices sometimes present unusual problems, which brings me to…

Retro Library Poster

Today’s challenge…

Over the past several months, I have been trying to get a handle on the whereabouts of several LONG overdue books. We find ourselves in this predicament for a few reasons:

  1. We do not charge fines. The US Mail is too fickle, so when would would they start to take effect?
  2. Before we moved to a more modern ILS four years ago, there were no automatic overdue notices, and limited staff time to chase after people.
  3. Our current ILS will send three automated overdue notices, but any additional followup requires pulling a report and manually calling or e-mailing each patron.

By and large, I have cleaned up the problems that resulted from #2. Since we had spare copies or newer editions for most of the items that were so many years overdue, I just decided to declare them lost and move on.

The main issue I struggle with now is completing #3 without the leverage offered by #1. It seems that because there are no consequences for keeping our materials well past the due date, some patrons are tempted to hang onto them indefinitely. They lend them to clients, coworkers, and children, with seemingly little regard for how to get them back to the library in a timely manner. Aside from karma, what reason do people have to return our books? In my e-mail reminders, I like to invoke a little guilt, suggesting that the patron’s fellow youth workers are waiting to see the items. That actually tends to work – for the folks who read their e-mails, anyway.

However, youth work seems to be an unusually transient profession. I can’t tell you how many e-mails bounce and phone calls reach dead-ends. I don’t think our books and DVDs always travel with patrons to their next job, as materials are often shared within an organization. This is where I curse our librarianly duty to protect our patrons’ privacy. How am I supposed to retrieve our missing property without calling ABC Agency to see if Mr. Former Employee left any of our books sitting around? A few times I’ve been able to inquire about the overdue items without revealing names, but most of the time, the conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Hello, is Mr. Former Employee available?”

ABC Agency: “No, Mr. Former Employee no longer works here. May I help you?”

Me: “Uh…”

What am I supposed to say at that point? Hang up and call back so I can ask about our books without mentioning names? It’s totally awkward and frustrating. I hate the idea that we have to replace books that are probably collecting dust someplace. What’s an overdue book detective to do when the trail runs cold?

Because this is the only library I’ve worked in so far, I have no way to know if my frustrations with long overdue items are unique to our circumstances or if this is pretty typical patron behavior.

Do any of you face similar challenges?

Any creative suggestions to entice people to return their materials without sending a search party?

Or should I just stop complaining?

Image credit: Enokson


Toying around with online networking

Online networking has become so ingrained in my daily life that it feels a little odd to analyze how I participate for Thing 6. But here goes…

LinkedIn

This goes against LinkedIn's professional nature, but I couldn't help myself.

Apparently, I opened my LinkedIn account on my birthday, almost exactly three years ago. I suppose those of us with summer birthdays have to find some way to celebrate once we have year-round jobs, right?

I can’t say I have spent much quality time on LinkedIn since. I glance at the network update e-mails and periodically log in to confirm an invitation to connect, but that’s about it.

I have added several Group memberships, but have yet to determine how to get the most out of this feature. The daily e-mails frustrated me because of how similar they always looked, so I would delete them on sight more often than I would follow the discussions. I recently switched to the weekly digest, and am generally happier. However, I wish all of these e-mails would not land in my Inbox on the same day! My favorite group, and I think the only one in which I’ve contributed to the discussion thus far, is LIS Career Options. Over the last six months or so, there has been a great discussion about networking for introverts. I’d highly recommend this group, even if you’re not actively job hunting.

Sadly, my profile is pretty bare bones at the moment. I’ve included enough to confirm my online identity, but nothing substantial to maintain the interest of future employers or collaborators. I do plan to rectify this situation soon, but for now I’m content knowing I haven’t committed a major LinkedIn error.

Facebook

Continuing with the childhood toy theme...

Believe it or not, I didn’t join Facebook until later in the fall of 2008. I think I resisted for so long because I was never impressed with MySpace. I soon realized that my preconceived notions weren’t really fair. Somehow, Facebook found a way to hook more of my family and friends, which subsequently made it more useful to me. By putting everyone’s updates into the news feed, I never had to bother with visiting someone’s scary HTML profile concoction.

Despite Facebook’s well-documented faults, I must say it remains my favorite social network, for no other reason than it is where my friends and family share information. I have met nearly all of my Facebook friends in person, compared to maybe only a handful of the people I interact with on Twitter. Facebook is personal. Facebook is comfortable. And unlike my other social networking activities, Facebook doesn’t feel like work.

My Facebook experience isn’t completely devoid of professional matters, however. I have liked several pages related to libraries and nonprofits, and I’m even friends with quite a few colleagues and former colleagues. I occasionally use lists to target certain posts and restrict others, and I do save the bulk of my library-related posts for Twitter. Otherwise, my life isn’t really exciting enough to require complex filters.

Google+

Not exactly a toy, but the funniest Google+ image I could find!

I’m giving Google+ its own section in this post because it seems to be all the rage right now. I accepted an invitation and created my profile roughly two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve added a few people to my circles, created a circle or two, posted three updates, and commented on a handful of items in my stream. Intellectually, I can see why people are impressed with Google+. It’s clean, fairly intuitive, and well-integrated with other Google products. However, I don’t think it can be a justifiable Facebook killer until there’s an emotional pull. None of my family is there yet, and only a handful of real-life friends have joined. Apparently, I don’t hang with many early adopters, which makes it extra difficult to be one!

I plan to keep an eye on Google+, but can’t see myself being too active over there right now. I know lots of cool librarians are hanging out there, so you guys will have to convince me why I should split my attention toward yet another social network.

If anyone reading this still needs a Google+ invitation, let me know!

Miscellaneous

I’m not sure I have time to thoughtfully participate in many other online networks. I used to have a profile on a local network for youth-serving professionals, but that went belly-up due to lack of participation when Ning started charging. I also joined SmallerIndiana awhile back, but although I think it’s a neat idea, I rarely feel compelled to see what’s going on there.

I first heard about LISNPN in Bethan Ruddock’s presentation at SLA 2011 in Philadelphia. Thing 6 has prompted me to actually investigate and join. So far, I have added my profile picture (for consistency, the same one as Twitter/G+, though I hope to have a better one soon!) and approved two friend requests (hi, Erin and Erin!). I hope to poke around a bit more soon! Can any current members help me understand what this network offers that you can’t get elsewhere?

I’m passing on the LAT network for now, as I don’t do a lot of teaching in my current role. And although I’m pleased to have learned what CILIP stands for, it probably isn’t the best network for an American librarian.

All in all, I would conclude that I’m a competent online networker. Nobody can be everywhere all the time!

Photo credits: LinkedIn 99zeros; Facebook Ben Ramsey; Google+ The Daring Librarian