Library roots, routes, and routines

Considering that this is the last official week of CPD23 and I am sill about eight things behind, I’m going to go ahead and skip around a little. It’s somewhat out of character for me to deviate from sequential order, but right now it feels more important for me to regain some momentum with this project. And what better way to get another thing under my belt than to tackle something I’ve basically already written? That’s right. Thing 20 is about library careers, with special focus on the Library Day in the Life and Library Roots/Routes projects.

Don't you wish you could see a day in the life of this library route?

I participated in my first round of Library Day in the Life right here on this blog in July 2011. I had fun documenting my week, even if it wasn’t 100% library-related. I’d like to think that my posts are an example of the diversity of opportunities available in our profession. I know many librarians are unemployed or under-employed these days, so I hope at least some of you can relate to my experiences with making the most of a part-time library experience. I look forward to contributing to future rounds of Library Day in the Life, hopefully with a little more library activity next time!

I also wrote about my Library Roots/Routes for Thing 10. It took me forever to find the words for that post, and I’m not really going to try to elaborate on it now. Instead, I’ll try to reflect on a theme I noticed when reading other posts before and after publishing my story. The one thing most of us seem to have in common is that we never expected to be a librarian when we grew up. It was simply not something we thought about as a child or young adult, no matter how much we might have loved books. I wonder if this is is because we encounter so few librarians in our day-to-day lives. I remember a couple of librarians from the children’s department at my hometown public library, and I can almost visualize my elementary school librarian. But for all I knew as a kid, these were the only librarians around, which would not make librarianship seem like a career with realistic job prospects. I realize there’s still room for debate on that last part, but I think we’d all agree that there are more than three librarian jobs in the world. Not only that, there are many other types of library jobs outside the children’s department and the school media center. I guess we just tend to learn about the other professional possibilities by chance encounters. I definitely had never thought about special libraries or corporate libraries before stumbling into my job, and now I think that’s the likely direction of my career.

The Library Day in the Life and Library Roots/Routes projects are truly inspirational, as they demonstrate the power of online collaboration as well as the strengths of our diverse professional ranks. Whether or not we originally intended to become librarians, it seems that most of us truly feel as if we’ve found our calling.

Image credit: Crossett Library Bennington College


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?