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Archive for the ‘library stuff’ Category

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.

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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.

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I have been toying with the idea of assigning college students a personal librarian for a few months now. And then I read that Yale already does this. I think this is a terrific idea and I’m happy to find that it wasn’t impossible to implement at all. This is an idea well worth sharing.

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Convincing faculty of the benefits of publishing through open access sources, or contributing to an institutional repository, is one of the many new challenges facing academic librarians. Faculty outreach has always been a bit of a struggle, but now we’re trying to change a long-standing tradition of scholarly communication, and insert ourselves more visibly into a process where we tended, in the past, to be nothing more than silent collectors (at least, as far as faculty were concerned).

The librarians at UT Arlington have come up with a light-hearted, to-the-point way to convey their message, through video:

Sure, it’s slightly dorky, but I suspect also effective: short, funny, familiar, and straightforward. Definitely an idea to emulate.

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Today is my last day of graduate school. As of May 11, I will be an official, bona fide librarian! The perfect time to read an excellent bit of advice from the blog Info Career Trends: Ask Permission Later. Rachel gives some excellent advice for new librarians, encouraging us not to be fearful in our newness to the field, but to get out there and start implementing our ideas. Well worth reading, both for all my fellow newly minted librarians, and for those of you who’ve been in the field for awhile.

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I love it when my varied interests collide, as they just did when I found these great For the Gardener papers in the University of California’s institutional repository, eScholarship.

These papers were created by the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz, my alma mater. They produce a ton of great research around sustainability, agriculture, and eating, a topic that has been of near all-consuming interest to me lately. And this research is available for free through the UC’s institutional repository.

eScholarship is one of the most developed IRs I’ve seen yet, and I often look to it as a model when I’m thinking about IR development. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. Not only is it a great example of something that I believe is going to be a major part of the future of libraries, but you’re almost guaranteed to find something of interest to read, no matter what you’re interests are.

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The podcast for the Banned Books panel we held last fall if finally up on the GSLISCast website. Ellen Giroud, Robie Harris, Penelope Johnson and Anne L. Moore, authors and librarians, spoke about their experiences with book challenges, the history of book challenges, and what you can do if you’re faced with a challenge in your library. This was a great event, one I’m really proud we managed to pull off, and I’m so glad these great speakers were recorded by the always helpful GSLISCast crew.

If you’re interested in book banning in the United States, even if you’re not a librarian, the podcasts are free and open to all, so please check it out.

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