I’ve moved

[UPDATED! I’m still moving stuff around; the blog is now on http://www.lauraek.net proper, rather than in its own separate directory. Someday I’ll figure out what I’m doing, I swear.]

About a year ago, I moved this blog to a new site. I waited to post anything about it because I wanted to be able to set it up nice and pretty, and it took me a year to finally get around to doing so. But now we’re up and running and if you’ve been waiting for me to write something here, well, my apologies for sending out this forwarding address so late.

Head on over to lauraek.net to see the shiny new site!


Big projects beginning

Yes, I have been missing in action here since I started my new job. The last six months gave me a great opportunity to settle in slowly and take things on bit by bit. I spent a lot of time getting to know our system, and starting to clean up some of what I’ve begun to call The Grand Mess. We implemented some more streamlined, sensible library Locations (the bits in the catalog that tell users where particular items can be found in the library), and I’ve started to clean up the data in our bloated bib records, taking out useless local call numbers and dated, unnecessary local notes. I’ve been down to our ILS vendor’s office twice for training, the most recent of which was last week. The funny thing about our ILS (we use Innovative’s Millennium) is that the more I learn about it, the more I realize I still don’t know. Seriously, the documentation is like a rabbit hole: You can just keep falling deeper and deeper into it without really getting any sense that you are finding complete answers. I can’t help but wonder if ILSes really need to be as complex as they are (or at least as complex as Millennium is).

So now that I’ve been deeply immersed in our system, and in the various things that my colleagues do using our system, it’s time to turn to the Really Big Project: redesigning our catalog and starting to redesign our website. Am I being foolish for taking on both of these things at once? Possibly. Have I given myself a ridiculously short deadline? Probably. Am I nervous? Definitely. I will be putting my web design and application programming skills to the test, without the training wheels that being a Library Assistant (and having a partner who is a programmer) provided in my previous job. I will be trying to figure out some complicated and confusing things pretty much on my own. Yeah, I’m nervous.

Some of the things we are looking at are fairly basic: The design itself needs a serious update, and the information architecture of the library website is a bit structurally unsound. Most of what I’m doing as far as the website goes is basic re-organization and some CSS magic. But the website lives on a ColdFusion server, so I’ll be trying to learn the basics of that to add some dynamic action (including a blog). I’m looking at implementing an open source federated search tool, which could be a real treat in the programming skills arena. We want to add book covers, the ability to send a call number to your cell phone via SMS, and some more robust linking to WorldCat, Summit (our consortial borrowing system), and possibly Amazon for unfound items. We have a nice, long laundry list of things to add, and I’m pretty much on my own for all of it. It is a little daunting, but I’m sure it’ll turn out a-ok in the end.

I’m hoping to document this process here, though of course, I always promise myself I’ll write more and rarely find the time to do so. However, if all goes well, you’ll soon be treated to many stories of me pulling my hair out over PHP and SQL statements! What a joy! Come back to find out more, if you dare.

A New Year, a New Start

Whooooa. So much for posting more last year. I expected to have so much to say about my first job as a bona fide librarian, but as it turned out, I was so busy getting my bearings and learning how to do my job that I didn’t have much energy left to formulate sentences about that job. Well, as they say, there’s always next year. Or, this year, as the case may be. As far as resolutions go, mine are usually pretty nebulous, but I do hope to spend some of my free time in 2010 writing more, about my chosen profession, about living in Walla Walla, and about books.

I also hope to read more in 2010. More specifically, I hope to read more new fiction. As you can see, in 2009 I didn’t read much that was shiny and new. I re-read Harry Potter for the fifth or sixth time, and I even re-read the Twilight saga (at which point I realized just how sexist and messed up that story really is). Well, I’m making it a goal in 2010 to read at least one piece of brand, spanking new fiction every month. I’ve already started with Julie Myerson’s The Lost Child, which is so far quite good (though not fiction). And I just picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, for which I have high hopes.

So here’s to hearing more from me this year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll actually find interesting things to say.

I suspect today is going to be a little slower around here: It’s Friday, and summer in general is pretty slow and quiet around here. One of the benefits of a school that doesn’t offer Summer courses. I have a pretty short To Do list today and most of it involves research for some big upcoming projects. Big as in potential ILS migration big.

8.30 – Checked email and found myself getting involved in a long debate about the Emerging Leaders program on the LITA listserv. I’ve considered and reconsidered applying for the Emerging Leaders program for the last six months, and I think this year I’m going to hold off. Having just started a new job, it’s probably wiser to apply next year, if at all.

9 – In my first few days here I found out that we are not running unattended backups of our ILS because they have never worked correctly. Our ILS is backed up manually everyday, and then more completely once a week. But there is still an unattended backup schedule set, which throws errors in the system messages once a week. I finally found time this morning to poke around and remove the unattended backup schedule. Maybe when we get a new server we can set those up again.

11 – After the easy tasks of the morning, I had a hard time getting really started on anything, but I finally looked at the clock and realized I should REALLY start getting to work. Started cleaning up the finding aid records I loaded yesterday. Had to check with the archivist again about how these should be set up, whether there should be item records, why there are discrepancies with the collection numbers, etc. etc. But hey, I had a moment where I realized, yes, I’m an actual, real live librarian now. Exciting.

1 – Messed around a bit trying to figure out patron loading. Searched the archives of the IUG list for helpful hints and found next to nothing. Emailed someone off-list in the hopes of getting more first hand information about how to do this.

1.30 – Talked to our lovely admin about setting up a web form for students to submit requests for bound personal copies of their honors theses. I’m hoping that will be a fairly easy and straightforward project.

2 – Started reading the Open Library Environment report and got very, very excited.

3 – Called my car insurance company to switch my policy to Washington state, with the expectation that I would save a boatload of money, moving from a big city and a neighborhood with an inordinate number of car thefts to a small, sleepy town. Was surprised to discovered that I will be paying more. Got angry. Paid anyway.

4 – Accepted that today has proved largely fruitless, although I’m pretty happy to have all those finding aid records into the OAPC. Heading to the gym, then home to shower, and then I think I’m actually going to go out tonight and maybe try to Meet Some People. Though I will probably just sit somewhere with a beer and a book and wish I were with Mr. X. Sigh.

So that’s a week in my new job as a Systems/Metadata Librarian. I’ve had quite a few jobs [inserted: I mean, in my life overall] and they all managed to be pretty boring. But I have high hopes for this career path. So far I love it here. I’m doing interesting things, have a good amount of variety in my day, have the opportunity to start working on some really cool new projects, and I work with terrific people. I’ll take it.

It’s hard to believe how fast this week has passed. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the momentum continues. And that my fingers stop burning from the peppers last night. Man, that stuff is potent.

8.15 – I got into the library this morning and found this hilarious video in my inbox. Embedding doesn’t seem to be working, but I don’t have time to troubleshoot that today. WordPress and video embedding always seem to have a funny relationship.

8.45 – Finished the Serials Solutions record update, Phase I, by doing a global change on the records so the location reads eLink. This project took much longer than I anticipated. I am not looking forward to doing it all over again, but at least I had time to read more CiL articles about library automation software and whatnot.

11 – Talked to the College IT department about some problems we’re having with one of our resources being routed through the proxy server. They have to set up an SSL certificate or some jazz, and we’ll also be upgrading to the next version of the proxy server and will need to test it. I am so, so glad I get to work with a competent IT staff. I certainly couldn’t figure all this stuff out on my own. At least not yet.

11.30 – Created a review file of archival finding aid records in the OPAC so we can delete the few that are currently in the system and replace them with a complete set of updated records. This seems to be a pattern this week.

12 – Lunch, and contemplation of what to cook for dinner when my co-worker comes over Saturday night. Indian food, perhaps? But that requires a lot of ingredients. Hm…

12.45 – Emailed a fellow consortium member about their solution to a problem that involves our consortium lending software, our LDAP server, and what to do with “adopted patrons.”

1 – Walked through our Summit/ILL workflow with our access services manager and a student worker. We recently switched to new software that apparently isn’t as streamlined as our previous software. I’d like, at some point, to make our various systems talk together more better, but that might be out of my hands or beyond my capabilities. We shall see. Summer months are slow here, so there wasn’t a ton to observe in Summit processing. But I feel like I have a better understanding of the process. As far as process goes, it’s much easier for me to understand it if I can see it in action.

1.15 – During a recent weeding project, there was a handful of bib records that couldn’t be deleted from the system, so my boss asked me to check them out. For some odd reason, the order records had to be set to status On Hold in order to delete them. Weird. But I did manage to delete them, and in the process find yet another book that I had to check out so I can read it immediately. The dangers of working in the library.

2.40 – Killed time before a meeting to read the emails to the IUG Listserv.

3 – Met with the archivist to talk about loading new finding aid records into the OPAC. I’m always interested in talking to him because he has some great and forward-thinking ideas about bringing together all the bits and pieces of information in the library, like digitized objects and metadata, to give all these bits context and make things more findable.

3.30 – Time to put my XML skillz to use (or at least find out if I actually gained any in my XML class last spring): The finding aids have to be converted from EAD XML to MARCXML and then to regular MARC before they can uploaded into our system. What would be awesome? If our system could deal with XML files. Hm, open standards. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could use them?

5 – Finished loading most of the finding aids into the system, except for two for which the conversion process from EAD to MARC failed. Remind self to tell the archivist about them, and also to ask him which location these records should be given. The 856 fields came over correctly, but no call numbers, so we’ll have to talk about that, too.

Very tempted to skip yoga tonight. It’s going to be about 700 degrees in my house and I really just want to read the Sex and the City book that’s in my bag, and have a beer. Quite wishing I could do that at the Jeanie, back in Boston, but alas, living across the country makes that a bit difficult.

Another varied day in which I’ve learned yet more stuff about this monster machine that runs our library. I’m still adjusting to working on Fridays, so I keep forgetting that I have to work tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll get used to that eventually, right?

It’s hard to believe I’m already half way through the week. But at least I have a new coffee grinder, purchased at the very odd Shopko, and I got to have my coffee immediately upon waking. Life is much better that way.

8.15 – Arrived at work and checked the emails and RSS feeds, as per usual. Now that email from the Innovative Users Group listserv is filtered into a separate folder, I tend to forget to read it, so I had about 25 messages in there this morning. Nothing pertaining to any immediate problems we’re having, but I like to skim them to get a general sense of what people are encountering as they use the same ILS.

8.45 – Started loading more Serials Solutions records. Each batch of 1000 takes about 10 minutes, so this can be a very time consuming process. I found all the back issues of Computers in Libraries in the stacks to peruse while these are uploading. And all the issues were out of order, so I, of course, had to re-order them. We only have up to March 2009 in the stacks, so the more recent issues must be out on people’s desks. I scanned through the issue on selecting an ILS vendor while records uploaded.

10.45 – Nearly done loading new Serials Solutions records when my supervisor and the cataloger came in to talk about the suddenly-full-of-duplicates Heading Report. We talked about why there are duplicate records: Something I assumed was set up for a reason is, as it turns out, not. Contacted Serials Solutions to find out about changing our Customizations and having a new set of records created. Deleting all SS records again. Reminded by my supervisor that I should question everything and, as he puts it, probably consider “blowing everything out of the water” and starting over.

11.45 – Finished re-creating our Customization Form. But now I have to figure out how to change our customized load profile in the ILS, and that I think I’m not supposed to do on my own. Time to contact III.

1.00 – Headed to the Washington State Office of Licensing to get my WA drivers license. Apparently, they don’t really have the equivalent of a DMV here–you go to the licensing office to get your drivers license and the County Auditor’s office to register your car. Convenient. Back in the office at 2, which is way faster than it would have been were I in the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles.

2.00 – Contacted the guys in the registrar’s office about a project we’re working on to load patron records into the ILS, rather than keying every new student by hand, which is how it’s being done now. We really don’t want to be doing that anymore.

2.30 – Researching the possibility of having multiple searchable call number fields in bibliographic records in the ILS. This doesn’t seem to be a problem at all: The call number field is repeatable, and it looks like it will be indexed no matter how many times it occurs, so we can have as many call numbers as we want. I think.

3.00 – Final tweaking to the library PR document, incorporating more of the library’s mission statement.

3.30 – Loading the remaining 6,000 Serials Solutions records while we wait for our changes to be made on the vendor side, at which time I will delete them all over again and reload. Lesson learned? If I suspect something should be done differently, I should ask before I start doing it the way it has always been done, because chances are we really should start doing things differently. That’s a way better lesson than the reverse. I think I’m going to like it here.

4.45 – Right before I left I got a message from the archivist that my apparent solution to the multiple call number situation was incorrect. Looked into it and realized the call numbers he was talking about were in a different MARC tag field than the call numbers I was talking about. Will have to look more deeply into the situation tomorrow. Thank god for my Cataloging class, and the wonderful Candy Schwartz, for helping me to actually understand what the heck I’m looking at!

Headed to the gym, headed home, made spicy pepper tacos (and burned my face off after touching my face with peppery hands). Weeded and watered the lawn. Now I’m updating the other blog, and then I will probably start reading Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire before heading to bed, to prepare for another day as a newly minted librarian.

I intended to update again yesterday after work. But I have to admit that I’m not really used to working full time and I’d forgotten how tired a person can feel at the end of the day. I have to re-adjust to this 40 hours a week thing, because my list of after-work projects is getting a bit long and untended.

Yesterday kind of slipped away from me at work, too. But here’s a general blow-by-blow of the day:

8.00 am – I had to stop and get coffee on my way to work because my coffee grinder broke! So my morning was very disjointed: I usually have my first cup at 6.15, not 8.15. Got into the office around 8.15 and read emails and RSS feeds.

9.00 – Looked at the LibGuides demo we have set up to try to figure out how to embed an OPAC search engine. I eventually figured out that there already was one that just had to be configured for our own catalog. Easy peasy. I went up to talk to our reference librarian about it and he showed me something else he’d figured out using the new free Worldcat Local interface. So we’re still experimenting with options there.

9.30 – I spent way too long messing around with the new Worldcat Local stuff, trying to figure out how it all worked before calling the reference librarian and asking what he knew about it. Got some clarity on how Summit (our consortium catalog) and the Worldcat Local free interface are working out. Made a note to check out another of our consortium library’s which is using the paid Worldcat Local interface.

10.30ish – Talked to my supervisor about updating permissions in our ILS, and about how new projects are going to be managed in the department. There is still a lot to sort out regarding my job responsibilities, and we haven’t been able to really meet about it because the Director has been out of the office since I started two weeks ago. But I think we’ll be able to start working out some of those details next week.

11.30 – Made flight arrangements to head down to Emeryville for a three-day training with our ILS vendor. And to visit friends and family! Yay!

11.45 – I decided to just jump into this Serials Solutions project and began the process of deleting all of our old Serials Solutions records in preparation for uploading a new set. This takes FOREVER. Went across the street to get a salad at the one dining hall that’s open over the summer and was very pleasantly surprised by my salad options. Wayyy better than the Simmons salad bar.

12.30 – Continued to wait for records to delete while I read more III training manuals.

2.30 – All the records were finally deleted, so I could start loading new records. I basically just loaded new records in batches of 1000 until it was time to leave.

Not a very exciting day, but I feel much more confident about getting my hands dirty in the ILS after I started actually working with records. Today should be a little more interesting. Maybe.