Thursday, March 10, 2016

Vote for me for ALA Council!

Image (creative commons) courtesy of

Well hi there, everyone! Long time no blog! 

Actually, that's not true. I write regularly for Awful Library Books, Library Lost and Found, and The Gale Blog, and just finished co-authoring a weeding manual for PLA with the illustrious Mary Kelly. There's definitely writing happening!

In light of the upcoming ALA elections, I thought I'd just shamelessly use this, my own self-named platform to toot my own horn.

Seriously, though. I was involved with an ALA committee under LLAMA called the Competencies Committee for two years (2013-2015), and it was a great introduction to the inner workings of ALA. We worked on a list that differentiated between management competencies and leadership competencies. It was a fantastic learning opportunity and something for which I am proud to have contributed. 

When I was nominated to run for ALA Council I jumped at the chance. I've watched their proceedings at ALA annual conferences for several years, and am definitely interested in participating. I believe wholeheartedly that our profession is only as strong as those who contribute. As a proud librarian with passion for my chosen field, I genuinely want to participate in bigger-picture discussions and have a voice and a vote in the governance of our professional association. I plan to keep learning, listening, and contributing to this industry throughout my entire career (and, if I'm being honest, probably even beyond my working years). It's time to offer up my 27 years of experience as a Page, a Circulation Clerk, a Reference Librarian, and a department head to the greater good.

My "Statement of Professional Concerns" (available here) states that this is an exciting time to be a librarian. I am excited at all the opportunities to create and collaborate, and to provide those same opportunities to library users. I want for all libraries, everywhere, to be able to provide resources and experiences to their users that uplift and improve their communities. Remaining relevant to our users is crucial, so adequate funding, grass roots advocacy, and professional development opportunities are some of the things I'm looking for from our professional association. 

The last thing I want to say is that I prefer practical solutions. There is huge value in debating and theorizing to form our own philosophies of library service, but in the end we have to do something in order to affect change. What I just said in the paragraph above is a philosophy. What American libraries need are practical solutions to their funding crises. They need to know what to say and what to do to remain relevant to their communities. Professional librarians at all points in their careers need mentors. They need outlets to continue to learn, analyze, and renew their philosophies. Those are the practical solutions that I am stepping up to help our professional association offer to its members.

So vote for me! Elections begin next week.

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!