Archive for September, 2008

September 30, 2008

on Workflows and workflows…

Projects I’m working on right now:

  1. Trying to make Workflows spit out spine labels for about 100 new law books. Unfortunately this involves many phone calls to our consortium leader in another part of the state, many miscalculated label reports, and much headache-y cursing on my part. Under my breath, of course! Project for one day? Oh no. No no no no. Going on two weeks now. Someone shoot me.
  2. Preparing for a meeting with my boss and coworker on Thursday in which we will discuss starting with LibGuides and trying again to make something of WebCT.
  3. Lots of changes to make to our Webfeat page. Good thing I’m making this list right now or I would have forgotten about this one completely!
  4. Serials. Always serials.

I suppose really four things is not bad. Of course that’s just the big things. It’s the little things that get in the way. I spend five hours a day on live chat reference, which means that from 8-10 and 2-5 I’m stuck at the circulation desk. (This is especially difficult from 8-9 and from 2-4 when I’m also the only person working. “What? You’re standing in front of me and want help finding reference materials for your paper? But that would mean leaving the computer. What if someone asks a chat reference question?! You’re on your own, dude.”) Then there’s walking to the other building to get change/make a deposit/get the day’s mail. Checking in the serials every day. Constant circulation work, computers being down, general information questions, and even a spattering of reference. I have three paper calendars and an Outlook calendar and I still can’t organize my day to get productive. Maybe by next week’s post I’ll have it all figured out. Until then, I’m gonna go have a cuppa tea.

September 16, 2008

To Shush or Not to Shush

Is the 21st century library really supposed to be quiet? In 2004 I had the opportunity to visit the Czech Republic on a two and a half week trip with the University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science. I was particularly struck by one public library we visited that had been acoustically designed to allow people to converse without disturbing other library patrons. I’m sorry to say I don’t remember where this library was – Prague or Plisn or one of several other metropolitan areas we visited.

Ever since that trip I’ve been invisioning my ideal library space as a place where students (I work in an academic setting, but I suppose public library patrons could be considered students of a sort too) choose to go, not just to use the computers or complete an assignment, but to learn and communicate and share. I would place one library staff desk right in the middle of the room to serve as circulation, reference, computer assistance and general information. Staff would all have computers with high-speed internet where they would be logged into services for chat, blogging, micro-blogging, etc., and they would have Bluetooth phones so they could answer questions on the go. Patrons, in turn, would have conversational seating areas, white boards with markers, and anything else they might need to facilitate group work. Books would not be separated into so many different areas (in my library we have separate sections for “popular books” and “multicultural books” as well as a reference section, a health reference section, and a ready reference section.

“Study rooms” would be used by individuals wishing to study in a quiet setting rather than by groups who we’ve pushed out of the common area for being too loud.

Alas, I’m just a low person on the ol’ totem pole. Maybe someday I’ll get to design a library from the ground up and make it into what I want. In the meantime I’ll keep sushing people…but only when my boss is around to complain if I don’t. 🙂

September 2, 2008

My Head is Exploding!

OK, so maybe not really. But I do have a lot of ideas floating around up in the ol’ noggin these days. I alluded a couple of posts ago to my “next big project.” Our college uses WebCT, but our library has never really gotten in on it. So I was thinking about ways we could utilize it, since it’s already there and the students are already using it. It’ll be a big project, since at this point I know absolutely nothing about WebCT. But I’d like to see us do an online tutorial of library skills with a scored quiz at the end. Right now we do classes, some for extra credit and some at the request of the professor. But we don’t get nearly as many requests as we’d like because professors don’t want to give up an entire class session to bring their students to the library. But if we could start out with a general library skills tutorial and convince professors to make it a small required part of their class’s grade, then we could work from that starting point to create specialized tutorials for different subjects. We’d still offer in-person instruction, of course, but for those professors who don’t want to give us the time, this would be an alternative solution that would still get those students using the library.

Of course, I haven’t even proposed this to my boss yet. I’ve still got those citations waiting to be put online, website changes to make (when all involved staff have a free moment to work on it), and any number of other little projects to get out of the way. So this may have to wait until a few things are settled and out of the way first. Still, I’m pretty excited about it.

Next post…what if the library was the place to go?

September 2, 2008

South Carolina library funding

I am an electronic resources librarian. Most of the electronic resources at my college are provided by the state of South Carolina, through a program called PASCAL (Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries). The state recently cut funding for PASCAL by 90% for the 08-09 fiscal year. As a result, we’ve already lost access to 3 databases, will lost access to 4 or 5 more in January, and will then most likely lose another 14 in July of 2009 (and that’s just the ones that affect my college – there are more!).

What this means for me: I spent two months this summer creating MLA and APA citation examples for each type of resource found in each of the 60 databases to which we subscribed, with the idea of posting them as html pages on our webpage next to the links to each database. We’re talking some 250-odd citations. Mostly down the drain. I also create tutorials and brochures explaining how to use these databases. As it happens, all the ones I’ve actually finished at this point are on databases we’re losing. Go figure. We just got JournalFinder set up with links to every journal, magazine, and newspaper that was available through all of those 60 databases. We’ll have to start that over again now too. And we just made decisions about what print subscriptions to cut, based on what we had in those databases. Crap.

What this means for my students: Many, if not most, of the resources with which they are familiar are going away. They will have thousands fewer full-text journals in which to do research. Some programs, such as Nursing, will be hit especially hard, with cuts to several subject-specific databases from PASCAL. Students will have to wait twice as long to get books from other libraries in the state through a wonderful program called PASCAL Delivers, which as been cut along with the electronic databases, which will make it more difficult for them to utilize the full gamut of resources available to them for research papers, or for their own personal enlightenment.

It’s my challenge now to figure out how to make this better for my students. Beyond writing to my state representatives and complaining, what can I do? I’ll be exploring some ideas over the next few blog posts.

Find out more at the PASCAL website!