Friday, January 28, 2011

Library day in the life, 1/28/11

8 AM -- Arrive at work to open the library for a staff member who had to take a sick day.

All day -- There's really no point in breaking it down by time. Today it's me and one workstudy until 11:30, then it's just me until around 2:30 or 3, when the staff member who is coming in late (not to be confused with the one out all day) should get here. Then it's just us until 5, when the library closes. There are sometimes days like this, when one is the director of a small library at a small university that has gone through a couple years of budget cuts and reorganization. Every day is kind of like this. One of the reasons I love meetings and presentations and one-on-one research appointments so much is because I know I won't be interrupted to check a book out or fix someone's electronic reserves password or whatever. I tell our patrons that they are most important, and they shouldn't feel apologetic about interrupting library staff, and that is completely true. But it affects my productivity to always know that I can't just sit down, put on my headphones, and *do* something. Even if nothing does come up, it's still on my mind. Small libraries are all kinds of awesome, especially mine. But there are trade-offs.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Library day in the life, 1/27/11

7:55 AM -- Arrive at work. Attempt to sign on for virtual reference shift. Discover that the desktop is still barfing on java. Pull out laptop that was at hand for just this eventuality. Sign in to virtual reference shift on time.

8 - 9 AM -- Virtual reference.

9 - 10:30 AM -- Breakfast, update official library blog, email, FriendFeed, administrivia.

10:30 - 11:45 AM -- Religious Studies class presentation.

11:45 AM - 2 PM -- Yeah, so. Some days lunch never happens. Not because the work is so quantitatively or qualitatively different, but just because things are weird. Bad vibes, dude. Sometimes, especially when one is working longer/unplanned hours on other days of the week, one decides to call it a day, grab the thick file of library research articles one needs to read through before getting much further into a pilot project, and head out for lunch and home. It is an amazing, unusual benefit of my job--not in the official HR sense of the word, just, a good thing--that I can do this. I have the flexibility, I have the trusted team. I do my best to offer them the same flexibility with their schedules.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day in the life, 1/26/11

8:25 AM -- Arrive at work. Start blog post. Administrivia.

9 - 11:30 AM -- Resource Analysis & Planning Group. This is a faculty committee responsible for the equitable distribution of university resources among academic programs and individual faculty members. We're an advisory group, so our responsibility only goes so far, but still. (We advise both the faculty executive committee and the provost.) It is a humbling and rewarding thing to do.

11:30 AM - 12 PM -- Administrivia.

12 - 12:45 PM -- President's State of the University address.

12:45 - 2 PM -- Lunch in office and administrivia.

2 - 2:30 PM -- Library staff meeting.

2:30 - 3:35 PM -- Draft document coming out of this morning's RAP Group meeting.

3:35 - 4:20 PM -- Break.

4:20 - 4:30 PM -- Finish the draft RAP document and email to fellow committee members.

4:30 - 4:50 PM -- Prep for Religious Studies BA senior capstone class presentation tomorrow morning.

4:50 - 5:25 PM -- FriendFeed and blogs.

5:25 - 6 PM -- Wade through email backlog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Library Day in the Life, 1/25/11

So I'm coming to the Library Day in the Life thing a day late, apparently.

8:12 AM -- Depart for bus stop.

8:26 AM -- Get on bus. (At least, that's what the schedule says, I didn't check.)

9:06 AM -- Arrive at work. (Something very delayed happened with the bus somewhere. Since I read on the bus, I don't always keep track of landmark passings and traffic.)

9:10 AM -- Discover that the Java Runtime Environment on my desktop has shuffled off this mortal coil, making it impossible to log in to my first virtual reference shift of the day. I have three shifts today; I'm filling some schedule gaps left by the abrupt departure of one of the larger institutions in our collaborative.

9:26 AM -- Having re-installed the necessary software and rebooted my computer, I can finally start virtually referencing. I also start with FriendFeed and blogs and email.

11:03 AM -- Sign off from second virtual reference shift.

11-something AM -- Start this post!

11:34 AM -- Lunch. The banana chips I had for breakfast didn't have much sticking power.

11:46 AM -- Lunch over. Start prepping for this evening's class presentation at the main library of the big state university that neighbors my small private university. Once again bemoan the fact that Marketing controls our pretty website, so that I can't really add pages to the prettier library section.

12:13 PM -- Read through Jen Hoyer's "Information is Social: Literacy in Context" slides on a recommendation I saw on the ILI-L email list. Wonder if the reason I do the things she says academic librarians don't do, but should do, is because I started out in public and special libraries. Feel happy that my faculty colleagues value service learning and so value the "communication approach" to information literacy. Wonder if I will ever get over my dislike of "information literacy" as an organizing concept.

12:50 -- Search for library assessment presentations on SlideShare. Browse. Add to my blog bookmarks. Continue browsing.

1:35 PM -- Help a staff member with an unpleasant health insurance policy complication and related issues.

2:00 PM -- Third virtual reference shift.

3:00 PM -- Virtual reference shift ends. Move on to email conversation with tech services coordinator and ILS vendor about how to make the system report on what I want it to for assessing library collections and usage. We may need to pay for some scripts; we definitely will need to change our acquisitions workflow.

3:26 PM -- Print out list of fall graduates who have not yet been cleared by the library. Give to circ desk staff to see if anybody owes us money. Feel guilty about delegating.

3:35 PM -- Talk with student worker who spent last semester in Bali and put together a book of Balinese children's art. She is going to do a presentation in February in the library reading room.

3:40 PM -- Headache from flashes as the university president is photographed in the library for a magazine is getting really bad. Thinking of heading out for an early dinner break.

3:45 PM -- Yep.

4:30 PM -- Back. Administrivia.

5:45 PM -- Off to do the presentation, which will end at 7:30.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Is the library a customer service institution?

Some initial thoughts on Paul Ford's "The Web is a Customer Service Medium" (h/t Anil Dash)...

A medium has a niche. A sitcom works better on TV than in a newspaper, but a 10,000 word investigative piece about a civic issue works better in a newspaper. When it arrived the web seemed to fill all of those niches at once. The web was surprisingly good at emulating a TV, a newspaper, a book, or a radio. But the web is not just some kind of magic all-absorbing meta-medium. It's its own thing. And like other media it has a question that it answers better than any other. That question is: Why wasn't I consulted?...WWIC is the thing people talk about when they talk about nicer-sounding things like “the wisdom of crowds” or “cognitive surplus”...The web is not, despite the desires of so many, a publishing medium. The web is a customer service medium. “Intense moderation” in a customer service medium is what “editing” was for publishing...The days of the web as all-purpose media emulator are numbered. Apps on mobile are gaining traction; the web browser, despite great and ongoing effort, will not become the universal platform for everything ever. Apps provide niche experiences.

Okay, so. In comics, someone struck with a sudden idea gets a lightbulb drawn over their head. It usually works the opposite for me. Strike me with a big enough idea, and I get a wrapped present. I know it's there, I know it's something I'm going to really like, and the wrapping paper is so shiny. But what is it? I won't know until I unwrap it. Which can take...time. But here's what I've got right now from the metaphorical shaking of the package and listening for thumps or tinkles:

Historically, as an oversimplification, libraries as institutions developed for the purpose of preservation and access. People made Stuff. Eventually libraries ended up with some of that Stuff in order to serve their patron(s) or customer(s).

At some point, libraries in the United States moved from being an after-market customer service to being a market in and of itself.

This process seems to have speeded up in the second half of the 20th century, at the same time as broadcast media gained prominence. Coincidence?

Libraries, on the whole, have never successfully engaged the question of broadcast media. When recordings are made available by someone else, we may collect them. But if no recording of a particular broadcast is made, well, tough luck.

Broadcasters therefore have had no reason to look to libraries as a market.

In the online era, all media is increasingly broadcast media. A book downloaded to a mobile device or an online journal subscription has more in common with on-demand TV than their print ancestors.

If libraries continue to fail to engage the question of broadcast media, we will be left with very little to collect, and publishers will cease to look at us as a market.

In contemporary American society, only consumers (or capital owners) have power to influence production.

If libraries are not seen as consumers, we will be...what? Returning to our historical roots? Losing our ability to pursue our goals? Stuck in an identity crisis? Left with no choice but to become capital owners?