Friday, March 21, 2014

Time Management Secrets

Have you ever gone into a room of your house looking for something, only to be distracted by something else, only to realize a half hour later that you are four projects deep and never got what you originally came in that room for? Yeah, me too.

This happened to me at work yesterday. I'm actually fairly good at time management, so it doesn't happen to me very often. I've had people ask me what my "secret" is, or how I manage to be so efficient. I never knew the answer! I just show up, do the work, and move on with my life. There's no secret. When I found myself four projects deep with nothing finished yesterday, I suddenly understood the secret.

Here's what happened. I got an email from a co-worker asking to work a different shift one day next week. I had the schedule in front of me, and I opened to the wrong page. On that page, I realized that I hadn't yet found a sub for a day during spring break week. I opened up the sub list to send an email to see who could work. Opening my email, I saw a response to a whole different email that I had been waiting for. Oooh! I need to see that first! But I couldn't respond back without opening a spreadsheet for some data, which I did. Looking for that spreadsheet, I saw a different spreadsheet in the file where I keep statistics on use of one of our online services (Zinio), and was suddenly inspired to see how we're doing this month compared to last month.

In the space of 15-20 minutes, I had an unfinished schedule change, an unfilled sub shift, an un-responded email, and an incomplete statistics spreadsheet. Wow. I felt very frustrated. Most of those things were on my to-do list, and normally I go down my list and cross things off without getting distracted by other things. If I see something along the way, I just add it to the to-do list. For some reason, I was distracted yesterday and had multiple open but unfinished projects in front of me. None of them would take more than a few minutes each to finish, individually. All together, none of them got finished before I had to be on-desk.

I guess part of my secret is finishing one thing before starting another. I feel like everything gets done faster, more completely, and with more focus and energy if it gets its allotted time. I am also an introvert by nature, which is another part of my "secret." I don't get easily distracted by outside conversations or activity, and I can focus easily on individual tasks that require attention to detail. Even when I get interrupted, which I don't mind, I can usually re-focus fairly quickly. I'm not sure what to tell extroverts, who get their energy from interaction and activity. It seems like extroverts would be constantly fighting distraction.

One more thing: I think of each part of a project as an individual to-do item. Rather than "set up webinar for staff," I write "register for webinar," "book computer lab for webinar," "email staff about webinar" and "put audio speakers in computer lab for webinar." Those are four things I can cross off, and each one takes about a minute. I know where I am in the webinar project and what still needs to be done. You don't want to spend more time creating the to-do list than doing the work, though, so don't get sucked in by the list-making. Just jot things down as you think of them and move on.

I find crossing things off of my list to be cathartic. There is real relief for me in knowing I did something and that at the end of the day I know right where I stand with each project. You still have to commit to doing the work and minimizing your distractions, but hey - it works for me.

I'm not sure what the heck happened yesterday! Just an off day, I guess.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Collection Metrics: Dewey Call Numbers

Now that we've talked about using publication dates, let's talk about metrics that use call numbers. What do we still have in the collection after that big weed? It's too big a chart to include here, but I can tell you that the top three subject area holdings in my 500s are:
1. 599 Mammals - 161 items
2. 551 "Geology, hydrology, meteorology" - 153 items
3. 523 "Specific celestial bodies and phenomena" - 139 items.

Now we need to find out where the holes in the collection are. Still sorted by call number, we look at the subject areas that have very few holdings and decide if they are popular enough to warrant buying more items in those areas. There isn't necessarily a lot of quantitative data to help you make this decision. I feel like I'm aware enough of my community's needs (curriculum, local clubs, common reference questions, collection policy) to make an educated guess about what subject areas we need more materials in and which ones we don't. We also have collection management guidelines and a selection policy to follow.

The bottom three subject area holdings in the 500s are:
1. 562 Fossil invertebrates - 1 item
2. 565 Other fossil invertebrates - 1 item
3. 596 Vertebrata - 1 item

We have plenty of items on vertebrate fossils, but apparently very little on invertebrate fossils. Ok, we'll try to buy a few.

Working up from the bottom of the holdings list, some subjects we are lacking in that might be worth purchasing more:
Sound and related vibrations - currently have 0 items
Heat - 2 items
Magnetism - 2 items
Invertebrates (not fossils, but live ones) - 3 items
Light - 3 items
Physical anthropology - 4 items
Evolution and genetics - 5 items
Earth (astronomical geography) - 5 items
Topology - 6 items
Biology - 7 items (we have 17 in life sciences, though. We're not an academic library, so that is an important distinction. We should have more in the broader category.)

The next step for the lucky Intern is to buy some new materials to flush out these areas. It could be tricky to find some titles in these subject areas that are public library appropriate and not too academic. We also have to remember that we have access to inter-library loan and a wealth of databases that include science encyclopedias and journals.

That's how I use call number metrics to see what we have and what we need!

Collection Metrics: Using Publcation Date

I maintain the adult non-fiction 500s in my library. I normally let an Intern have their way with my collection, so it gets a concentrated weed at least annually. I also believe that collection management should be on-going, so I am constantly picking at the 500s. In that regard, there's rarely something truly awful in the 500s. There are some lingering items that haven't circulated well, or that are on schedule to be weeded the following year, but I deal with items in bad condition and unnecessary duplicates on an ongoing basis. 

Here's how it works for the annual Intern weeding project:

1. What hasn't circulated in three years? Weed 'em. I am fortunate to have a budget, space, and patron demand that can keep up with a three-year cycle. Of course, the Intern and I still look closely at what is showing up in this report. We don't just weed everything that hasn't circulated in three years. Some things are left alone for another year or two, depending on what they are and their purpose.

2. What is older than ten years? Depending on the subject area and its dependency on currency, weed 'em. For example, many math books, plant books, and animal books are ok up to (and even beyond) ten years. There are also some classics (for example, Stephen Hawking's older books) that are going to be kept for a while yet too.

3. What is older than five years? See #2. These are more timely categories. Pluto kicked out of the planet club? Weed 'em. 

Now it's time for some metrics! We've removed the dead weight based on the above criteria, and a new shelf list is run for the 500s. Using Excel, it is sorted by publication date (or "date created" if you're using the ILS I'm using, since that's all we have to work with. Seriously.) 

Currently, here are the stats on my 500s. Keep in mind that "date created" is not the same as "publication date." 1994 is when the library was first automated, so there are no records older than 1994. The actual publication date of those 38 items (see chart below) 
could be much older. I have to look at each of those 38 item records individually to find out their publication dates. We could spend tens of thousands of dollars for an ILS reporting module that would give us more data...but we haven't. Our ILS manager might be able to dig deeper, but at my level of permissions, I can't. It's ok; 38 items is still manageable. This is why collection management should be ongoing; so 38 doesn't turn into 538. Also, most of the records created in each year are for items published in that year.

The chart below shows the median age, the average age, and what percent of the collection fall within various ages. 38% are five years old or newer, 76% are nine years old or newer (this includes the 38% that are five years old or newer, but it is easy enough to see that 38% are between 6-9 years old) , and 24% are ten years old or older.

It is possible that the budget for 500s was larger in certain years, or that a higher number of materials were published in certain years, or that more materials with lasting value were published in certain years. I'll do a separate post about metrics for specific Dewey call numbers. Remember that we're looking at the 500s as a whole, lumping time-sensitive subjects in with less-so subjects. We can do these same calculations for just math books, just physics books, etc. and see how the pub dates break down.

I have not updated this chart for 2014 yet because we put new non-fiction into a collection called "Adult New Non-Fiction." The group metrics gathered on all new books in the 500s fall under "Adult New Non-Fiction" - along with all other new books in other Dewey ranges. It will be about June before 2014 books in the 500s start collecting metrics in the actual category of "Adult Non-Fiction 500s." The item metrics are still valid for those items - how many times each of them has circulated, when their records were created, etc. but the group metrics for those items don't begin to gather until they are taken out of "Adult New Non-Fiction" and into "Adult Non-Fiction 500s." Unfortunately, you can't pull metrics on just new 500s out of "Adult New Non-Fiction."

Stay tuned for another post on the next step in using collection metrics: using call numbers. #Ooooohhhh!