Organizing correspondence

I’ve been living in my email for much of the last two weeks in an effort to follow up on a bunch of emails that I haven’t had time to give my full attention. I organize my e-resource-related emails into four folders in Thunderbird.

-I filter messages from our internal listserv into its own folder
-the guts of troubleshooting go in an “E-troubleshooting” folder
-general maintenance issues are kept in an “E-maintenance” folder
-registration correspondence is stored in an “EBSCO project” folder

That last one is the biggest folder, with 793 messages. (I’m only using 11.47% of 50 MB inbox quota. Whew!) It’s the oldest folder, as well as the folder that hasn’t had any action in quite a long time.

I’ve mentioned before that I thread the messages to better keep them organized. I tend to start off by changing the subject line of the initial message to the title of the resource. (If we ever use a web form like Dana Medical Library, I’d like the subject line to be generated by the text in a “name of resource you can’t access” field.) In order to keep a string from splitting too much I create new, related messages by replying to the old ones and removing the body, recipients, and adjust the subject line; that way, they still stay in the thread. And I try to sort the messages as quickly as I receive them, so that if the reply’s subject line changes (like when a company adds a ticket number) it will at least appear near the other messages. Thunderbird isn’t perfect. Neither am I, which is why I have nearly a year’s worth of “problem fixed!” messages to sort out of my inbox. That’s my go-ahead to delete any duplicate emails so that I can retain a nearly complete account of the correspondence in the fewest number of messages possible.

I’m pleased with my system, except that there are so many different problems with different titles that I can’t always recognize a problem by its title. I might have to search all three of my “E-…” folders to find the thread.

My goals for this year (a la self appraisal) focus on providing quality service for troubleshooting, and that starts with behind-the-scenes organization of notes and keeping an archive. In that respect, I’ve started to think that maybe I should put all of my correspondence in one “E-…” folder. Would it be helpful or a bother to have the registration correspondence about Journal X mixed with notes about correcting a broken link alongside a patron complaint that the TOC links to the wrong article? I imagine an ERM would combine the whole history, but I think the categories I have provide a helpful distinction and less clutter. Hence, I’m reluctant to combine the folders.

Though maybe I could color-code the categories of messages with labels before I combine folders…

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2 Responses to “Organizing correspondence”

  1. Patricia Thompson Says:

    Hi Toni. The whole email issue is one of my big stumbling blocks. I live in my email too. You wrote: “I imagine an ERM would combine the whole history.” I’ve been reading your other posts and like other librarians I’ve talked to, you are yearning for an ERM. I have one, and there are shortcomings. One major thing is that it does not integrate with email. All the information I get in my email has to be somehow entered into the ERM. And there are note fields, but you can’t copy and paste a “history” of the issue in there like you have with saved emails. And the workload of actually filling it out and keeping it up to date is much bigger than just saving my emails. I can input a contact person for a publisher or resource in there, but… which one? I might have dealt with one person for purchasing the resource, another for setting it up, and then the tech support contact for problems is completely different. Of course, my email is not shared, so other staff members cannot jump in and take part of the process. I am thinking that a key factor is some kind of shared email account, but the experiments I’ve done with our current email applications have just led me to give up because it was so confusing. It’s more than just setting up a shared account. If you find a way to incorporate email into an ERM, then please let me know!
    Pat

  2. Toni Says:

    That’s a good point, Pat: it adds to the workload. We summarize some of our email correspondence in EBSCO’s Registration Tracker in the notes fields. A couple disadvantages: we’re only able to track what’s in the Registration Tracker; when there are multiple records for the same title, a note that applies to all of them takes extra time to update.

    Often, I think the details of an email correspondence aren’t very important, so I summarize and simplify. When the details are important, I tend to blog about it.

    Maybe ERMs should provide an archive of “when-in-doubt-write-it-out” histories to describe more involved, crazy, or apt-to-happen-again events. Like a blog, each entry (issue) can be tagged with publisher, journal, platform, etc. Like sponsored links on search engines, a preview of that entry would appear when I look at a record that has those tags.


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