Consultants in the library

The change from print to electronic resources impacted workflows in many areas of the UVM libraries. This spring, consultants were hired to offer recommendations for redefining positions and restructuring parts of our Collection Management Services (CMS) division. I was very pleased with their report, which was presented last week, and I hope the Dean’s Council will take the following recommendations into consideration.

pp. 19, 32 Merge Bailey/Howe and Dana technical services
What e-resources folks do is not collection-specific. We use the same analytical skills to resolve troubleshooting reports, and we perform maintenance tasks that use the same tools and steps. Our staff could easily be merged to produce an efficient department that can share and address the existing backlog and disperse the troubleshooting responsibility (p. 20).

There is unnecessary redundancy in workflow and resources. Dana Medical Library has an enviable e-resource management set-up: home-grown database with vendor/publisher information, troubleshooting report web forms, and a schedule for sharing troubleshooting duties. I would like the opportunity to share these resources with the Dana staff and collaborate on making them even more effective. We should also eliminate the redundancy of our listservs by sharing one email address (and web form) for troubleshooting reporting.

The consultants did not mention the creation of an e-resources librarian position, and I feel it is an important option to explore. Perhaps an existing technical services librarian position could be redefined to fit that role. Such a supervisor would delegate tasks, provide guidance, and assume the responsibility of license negotiation, among other things. The consultants identified “barriers to discovery” such as the inclusion of call numbers in e-resource records (p. 38) and creating a uniform 856 field for e-resource records; an e-resource librarian would be just the person to address and resolve that kind of issue.

pp. 5, 18 Increase staff hours spent working on e-resources
This should be adopted immediately, before the Bailey/Howe and Dana technical services are combined. I agree with the consultants that there shouldn’t be a backlog with the resources we are emphasizing (electronic). The print backlog should be permitted to grow while our attention is focused on e-resources.

p. 19 Implement a commercial ERM
The existing home-grown tools we use in lieu of an ERM are not sufficient, and we still rely on paper files and unstable, unsharable information storage practices (e.g. in email folders). Our attention would best be focused on adding information to a comprehensive ERM, and a commercial system (as opposed to one created in-house) would relieve us of the responsibility for its technical maintenance.

p. 33 Rename SMCV
I agree that the name Serials Management and Collection Verification doesn’t easily convey what SMCV does, but I disagree with the consultants’ suggestion to rename the group Serials Access and Management. Given that our colleagues provide similar access and management services in more simply-named departments, such as Media and Archives, I encourage the Dean’s Council to consider renaming the department something as basic, straightforward, and precise as Serials or Serials and Periodicals (given the recommendation to merge the two departments).

p. 35 Change “reference librarian” titles to “subject librarian”
Although this recommendation is outside of my department, I support it for reasons related to e-resource management. Before purchasing or subscribing to an e-resource (including switching from print to online access), I believe that the online resources should be reviewed by a group of e-resource management staff (to verify the appropriateness of access and authentication) and subject librarians (to evaluate the usefulness of the site and in comparison to the print, when necessary). Faculty members from the academic divisions should also be invited to evaluate online resources. This team or pool of colleagues, led by the e-resources librarian, should be consulted in order to identify the best resources for the library. We waste both our patrons’ time and our own time when we add a resource that turns out to be insufficient for our institution.

p. 36 Improve communication with the Dean’s Council
The new library blog is a nice improvement, but more can be done. The blog is an excellent repository for announcements and a smart way to publish the minutes of Dean’s Council meetings. While it has increased the frequency of communication from the Dean’s Office, a blog is indirect and participatory communication. I encourage more direct communication from the Dean’s Office and the Dean’s Council. Email is a faster way to reach colleagues, but we also want face-to-face communication. Frequent, library-wide meetings would be ideal, at least on a quarterly basis. We are rarely introduced to new staff, we don’t know what committees are working on, and we should have an opportunity to regularly meet as a group and hear what’s going on.

The consultants’ report provided us with an opportunity to learn about what’s going on in other areas of the library. The larger, library-wide recommendations are intriguing. If we’re going to enhance the OPAC, I have ideas to share: not for adding reviews and metadata, but for adding links to library resources (ILL, e-access problem reporting, search building tips, etc.) and redesigning the OPAC from layout to content (e.g. borrowing the best parts of A-to-Z records for e-resources catalog records).

I was pleased with the recommendations made to other departments. The consultants’ recommendations for reallocating or redefining existing vacancies make a lot of sense, but I would have liked to see them address an e-resource librarian position, pro or con. Staffing increases in ILL and periodicals are certainly needed. I like the idea of combining service desks where possible. I was particularly glad that my cataloging colleagues were commended for their skill and expertise. They deserve the recognition, and I am glad it was given in front of so many members of the library.

Now it’s the Dean’s Council’s turn. What will be implemented from this report? What new ideas have our colleagues come up with? What did the report miss that we want to put on the table? Bold ideas were presented, and I hope many of these changes are put into effect.

(Winona, the Digital Initiatives Librarian, gives her perspective of the consultants’ report at her blog, the DIL.)


One Response to “Consultants in the library”

  1. Library Realignment « the DIL Says:

    […] discussions on the R2 recommendations can be found here, and […]

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