The end of eresourcejournal

At the end of the month, I will begin my new job at Norwich University as their Distance Learning Librarian. I am very excited about this position because I’ve wanted to work with distance learning students since the not-so-long-ago days of my own online graduate program. This is my dream job.

And so, eresourcejournal reaches its end. This blog has been more helpful to me than I expected. The process of writing about things that puzzle and frustrate me has been beneficial. First, it makes me think things through. My brain works faster than my fingers, and as I type my mind wanders to another (more appropriate) idea. Had I not taken the time to write about these topics, I may not have come to those more useful conclusions.

In addition, writing is a great memory tool. Writing online with blog software allowed me to easily retrace my steps and remind myself of past discoveries. In some cases, I was able to solve a new problem by looking back at similar situations.

Lastly, blogging connects: the advantage of writing publicly and online is that other people found me. I am grateful for the comments and emails I’ve received from everyone who visits the site or reads the RSS feed. Librarians have been a source of (wonderful) ideas, commiseration, and camaraderie. EBSCO folks have been very generous with their time, emailing me directly about the concerns and ideas I’ve covered in my posts.

Perhaps others will continue to discover these posts and find them useful. Clearly, they’ll be curious about troubleshooting electronic serials problems, as illustrated in this nifty word cloud of all the text at eresourcejournal (made at Wordle.net). I don’t know yet whether I will blog about my new job. As I re-read that sentence, I realize I likely will. I want to remain connected to my community of colleagues. I have been and will continue to follow blogs related to distance learning and distance learning librarianship. I’m sure I’ll have a few things to talk about, too.

Thank you for your visits and keeping me in your feed readers. Most of all, thank you for your comments.

(P.S. It’s a time of transition: Kelly retired one of her blogs this week. Great minds think alike!)

(P.P.S. It seems like a good idea to close the comments on all my old posts. So I’m gonna. I’ll keep this post open, so feel free to leave a message.)

Retreat

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.

(Winona also posted about the retreeeeat; Daisy writes about it here.)

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.)