As a follow-up to the consultants’ report in May, our long-awaited “Planning Retreat” was held on Friday. Modeled after “The World Cafe,” there were ten tables assigned for each of the ten categories we identified after the report was presented. We had time to attend three 40-minute discussions. The afternoon ended with a summary by each table’s facilitator (who had no direct connection to the table’s topic) about what their three groups had discussed.
Discussions were loosely based around four questions: in the year 2010, how is the topic important for the Libraries and how would the area ideally function; how can we use the recommendations to achieve this vision; what recommendations do we have that the consultants did not mention; and what are the top five priorities from these ideas. I prepared for the meeting by addressing these questions in relation to the e-resource management table, which I attended first.
The folks at the table mentioned that an ERM would be vital to the functions of e-resource management, and ideally we would have a standard, Libraries-wide web form for problem reporting. I contributed the idea of creating an e-resource librarian position to take some or all of the responsibility for the following: selection, license negotiation, access, maintenance, assessment, statistics, renewal, and leading a team of support staff.
A colleague at the table asked what else I’d see the e-resource librarian being responsible for, such as non-serial e-resources. I’ve been keeping track of the responsibilities listed in the e-resource librarian job descriptions that have been on the listservs, and I responded that there seems to be a mix of what other librarians are responsible for; it would require a lot of discussion in the library administration. It’s different at every academic library, but I would see our e-resources librarian reporting to the head of Collection Management Services, working closely and on par with the collection development, acquisitions, and cataloging librarians.
Our group felt that most of the consultants’ recommendations could be used to achieve the vision for the future, but most of us were unfamiliar with the recommendation to “choose a platform for e-monographs.” One person thought that was a misleading recommendation, because publishers (not libraries) are in control of what platforms they use for their resources.
Though the recommendation to merge our periodicals staff (1 FTE) with serials was not part of the e-resources discussion, I felt it should be brought up because the addition of that staff member to the department would mean an extra mind that can contribute to the print workflow, thereby alleviating some of the responsibilities for another person to be able to work with the e-resources.
I enjoyed hearing other people’s reactions to the recommendations, their ideas, and the different perspectives. Part of me wanted to stay at the e-resources discussion for all three sessions simply because there hasn’t been a conversation in our department about the consultants’ report, and I think it would be quite productive to hear more of my colleagues’ opinions. But I was interested in other topics from the report, so I attended the cataloging discussion and the discussion about the CDI. I was primarily interested in peoples’ points of view about one recommendation that was discussed in both groups: enhancing the OPAC display with other metadata. The discussions were very interesting, and from the summary at the end of the afternoon it sounds like a lot of tables were in favor of improving the OPAC in this way.
However, one of the facilitators mentioned that a group was concerned that it would take too much time and effort to do. Hearing the summary of that conversation, it’s clear that those participants aren’t aware of how relatively simple it can be (it’s not about moving from Voyager, but to use Voyager information in a new way). Also, several facilitators mentioned that their groups were confused by the idea of a Discovery and Delivery Council, or dismissed it entirely as seeming to be repeating the role of the Dean’s Council. This, too, sounds like many participants weren’t fully aware of the idea of the Discovery and Delivery Council, but at least one facilitator worked with a more informed group (too bad those participants weren’t in the other groups, but that’s just chance). I’ll suggest to the Dean’s Office that these be two topics for upcoming library forums: how other libraries are improving their OPACs (vuFind, Winona?) and what would be the role of the Discovery and Delivery Council.
I really liked one point raised by two facilitators: consider what the patrons want and expect. The design of the liaison program should make sense to students, not be overly influenced by what the library considers as natural distinctions. Also, the idea of subject-specific reference librarians might drive away possible interactions about general information or questions about other subjects. It makes a lot of sense to look at this from the students’ perspective, especially given the University’s emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. It’s good to be reminded of this as we consider making even the smallest changes.