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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Library Day in the Life: Round 8, Day 1

Super Librarian? It was a little tricky to get a big monument, big Roman numerals, and my big head in the same picture, but you get the idea.

It’s time for another round of Library Day in the Life!

I enjoyed participating for the first time this summer, so I thought I’d give it another shot. Basically, the idea is that librarians from all over the world are using social media to provide a glimpse into what the profession is really like. The wide variety of jobs and workplaces is fascinating, so I’d encourage you to explore. Pick someone whose job or library sounds interesting, or use the #libday8 visualizer to see what librarians near you are doing this week.

As I’ve mentioned before, I really only spend about 40% of my full-time job working in a library. The rest of the time, I’m hopefully fine-tuning transferrable skills in databases, program management, and customer service.

I cannot physically be in the library on Mondays right now, since I have to share the only workspace with our intern. I don’t really mind, though, because she’s helping us do a serious weeding and shifting project! I’m looking forward to the big purge, and finally getting everything where it belongs after the summer’s renovation.

My morning was a little rocky, as they often are when returning from a three-day weekend. I was mostly dealing with e-mails from Friday and sorting out some last minute details so that we could open spring training registration today. I tracked down one article for a colleague using INSPIRE, but struck out on finding free full-text for the other one she wanted. I passed the request off to our library director who pulls the strings for any searches that may require purchasing an article. The same colleague who’d requested the articles has also asked for a couple of bibliographies to share in upcoming meetings and communication about our mentoring initiative. There were already existing bibliographies on the topics, but they were definitely in need of an update. I fixed one on mentoring last week, so today’s focus was college/career/life skills. It’s fun for me to see what items in our collection are applicable, and I really hope people find the lists useful. Our website stats say they are downloaded quite a bit, but I’m not sure how that translates into checkouts.

I spent most of the afternoon reading grant proposals. Every month, I have the pleasure of giving youth workers money for professional development. It’s interesting to see what types of conferences people plan to attend. Every once in awhile, a librarian applies, and I have to try not to be biased! But seriously, even my volunteer reviewers say that librarians write some of the best proposals. :)

The last thing I did before leaving the office was change the status on a few items to “held,” so I can mail them tomorrow. I had brought them up to my office on Thursday, considering I’d be out on Friday and not able to access the library today. I didn’t want to delay those requests any longer than necessary. I also noticed a large stack of returned mail, so I guess I know what I’m doing in the morning!

After work, I left the car at the office and took a walk downtown to check the Super Bowl festivities. I’m not particularly fond of football or big crowds, but it’s cool to see how the city has managed to pull this off. Playing tourist was a great way to unwind and shake off this moody Monday.

How was your day?


Can a little advocacy go a long way?

As has probably been obvious by my delay in finishing the CPD23 program, I have been struggling to find my voice on the topic of library advocacy (Thing 16). But I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately, as I’ve been gearing up for another round of operations planning and budgeting in my organization.

In this scenario, the library is one of approximately fifteen other programs fighting for its share of resources. In last year’s planning meeting, someone proposed that we completely zero out the library’s acquisitions budget for a year in order to help us reach our agency’s budget-cutting goals. While I appreciate that this was largely a hypothetical question, designed to get us thinking about the role the library plays within the organization and to our customers, I can’t say it wasn’t a little disheartening. Sure, we could zero out the budget, but then we wouldn’t necessarily have current resources to support the topics addressed by the agency’s other programs. Plus, skipping out on certain subscriptions for a year could mean a permanent gap in the collection. And probably most importantly, if there are no new materials, what’s to keep our patrons coming back? I’m on-board with the idea of a “stop doing” list, but stopping library acquisitions seems like a risky proposition. After all, as James LaRue wrote, “It’s easy to lose collection relevance. It’s very, very hard to get it back again.”

These arguments were enough to save our acquisitions budget, and now we’ve moved on to issues of library staffing. This is considerably trickier territory, considering one has to make the case for additional staff while not making current staff look lazy or incompetent. The fact is that our staff of 1.4 librarians does well enough with the day-to-day operations that our customers don’t seem to notice any issues, but we can see a huge backlog of cataloging, not to mention the weeding and evaluation projects that should happen more than once a decade. Management wonders if this is really a problem, or if we’re striving for some unattainable level of perfection. That depends. Do you want the materials you agreed we needed to purchase to end up on shelves where patrons can find them, or to sit on carts in the office waiting to be cataloged? Do you want us sending patrons computer books from the 1990s? You can’t always tell from the title, and I guarantee people don’t always look at the item description when they place their hold. Do you want us to modernize our services, or stick to being the keeper of the books and DVDs? If wanting to be relevant is perfectionism, then I gladly accept the label.

Perhaps I shouldn’t really complain, because I know that many other libraries have it much worse than we do, but I can’t help but feel there’s a certain point at which doing more with less is no longer feasible. Because I can only spend about 40% of my work time in the library, I’ve really tried to maximize it by streamlining our processes. While we’ve made some headway, even my non-librarian boss admits that my position is stretched nearly to the breaking point. Yet, I still find myself needing to explain what I do all day. My job isn’t flashy, and it involves a great deal of behind-the-scenes details that people are not necessarily supposed to notice, if I’m doing my job correctly. The challenge is to find some way to discuss the importance of these details without using library jargon or technical terminology. I’m working on it, but have yet to perfect my argument. If anyone’s managed to do this successfully, I’m open to pointers.

As you can see, I’ve got plenty on my hands with advocating for my own role in my own library. I don’t really have the personality of an activist, but I like to think that I do some small part in library advocacy as it feels natural to me. I use my public library, and make sure others know about the resources available. I’ve lost track of how many people’s jaws dropped when I told them they could download audiobooks and e-books for free. I even directed one friend who was looking for a free copy of Rosetta Stone to see if her library offered language-learning software.

This may not seem like much compared to some, but it’s what I feel comfortable doing at the moment. Does that make me any less passionate about libraries? I don’t think so.


Happy Code Year!

I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I am determined to develop some strategy around my professional development. I’m interested in directing my career toward the more technical types of library jobs, but am finding that even seemingly entry-level positions prefer a level of expertise that I’m not comfortable claiming in some areas. Chief among these is programming. While I taught myself HTML in high school, and have expanded on those skills with CSS in library school, that’s about the extent of my knowledge at this point. I also have some experience in fiddling around with whatever code necessary to set up digital libraries in Greenstone (some sort of hybrid of HTML and I’m not sure what else). I’m reasonably confident that I could pick up other programming languages given the opportunity, but can’t foresee that happening serendipitously in my current position.

Enter Code Year. I was really glad to notice the #codeyear hashtag in my Twitter stream, as it led me to this interesting and interactive resource for learning to code. Each week, a new interactive lesson is e-mailed to participants. There are also opportunities to work ahead a little, if you’re so inclined. I’ve completed the “Getting Started with Programming” lessons, only stumbling over a handful of instructions. But although I was able to follow directions well enough to pass, I’m honestly not sure I understood the point of what I was doing. It’ll be interesting to see if the pieces fall together as the lessons continue.

If you’re interested in learning more about programming, I would suggest giving it a chance. If nothing else, it might be a good bonding experience for us librarians participating. There’s a group forming at ALA Connect, and I am surely looking forward to the moral support!