Category Archives: cataloging

Multiple job titles

For the past three years, I’ve had 2 job titles. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Many of my colleagues where I work and elsewhere have more than one title. Some of these titles represent aspects of one job. Others are two or more jobs that have been assigned to that person. I wanted to address the latter or having more than one job title and jobs.

There was this trend several years ago about doing more with less. Thankfully this phrase more or less disappeared. I think unfortunately it morphed into its favorite cousin of finding efficiencies. The problem of doing more with less is that really if you have less, you are most likely going to be able to do less. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. Workflows can be made more efficient thanks to technology or rethinking the process as a whole. This reflects another trend of doing less with less, which was also a trendy presentation topic some years back.

These trends are related but not what I want to address. The trend I see as having potentially serious work satisfaction effects is when an organization is downsized and jobs are then assigned to the remaining employees. This is what happened at my organization. The reason for being downsized relate to a bad state economy really. It’s nothing new. The other reason was until recently we gave back, i.e. closed positions, instead of reducing the collections budget. And of course people leave for other jobs and their positions simply aren’t renewed or continued.

What happened when these people left? Many of these services faded away and we just don’t do them anymore because there’s no one there who can. It is great when the work just doesn’t need to be done anymore. However, when there is still work to be done, yes the responsibility for that task(s) fades away but the work still remains collecting dust until a person can be hired to take care of it. Other services are deemed too important to be stored away out of sight, out of mind. There’s an attempt by supervisors to split up tasks of the job among those who are still here. What happens when a party refuses to take on that task or it involves skills that only a very few have? In general, the job falls to the person who can’t refuse to take it on and/or who has some of the skills. This means that person is now doing two or more jobs.

The problem with this last scenario is that now you have one or many people with two or more jobs. One might think that this is a convenient way to keep vital services going. However, it is a sure fire way to de-energize, demoralize, and overwork staff. This is especially true if these staff are asked to perform these jobs over a long period. The problem is essentially that it is unrealistic that one person perform jobs done by two people. And yes, some people might think of exceptions. When I refer to jobs here, I am referring to full time jobs that take time, skills, dedication, and engagement to complete the tasks of the job.

Ultimately, the person with more than one job has to weigh the importance of the tasks of both jobs. This triage allows to address the highest priority tasks. If there is down time, the person is looking into the medium or low priority tasks that have become more than likely high priority because they were neglected. What happens when this person is running from priority to priority over a long period of time is that they become tired. Hopefully there is a way for this person to re-energize themselves. And yes vacation is good. But here I’m referring to their employer who needs to recognize the toll of doing more than one job. The employer needs to be asking how they can support this person. If no one can be hired or the extra job’s tasks split among many, then it might be worth seeing to stoping these services. If not, there’s risk that this person will be run down, tired, or even ill.

You might say that there are services that can’t be stopped. For example, we always need someone at the circulation desk.  There are always options before closing a desk entirely. You can take away services. You can look into less hours. At what cost? If you have only 1 person doing the job of 5, more than likely there’s high turnover at this organization and low morale. I’m all for serving our community and users. And our community and users have to understand what it takes to provide these services.

It really is the question of cost as in the physical and psychological toll of the employee where the employer needs to take a stand. The employer needs to support these employees. They need to ensure that these situations of doing more than one job are truly short term. It is my experience that many employers don’t take on this type of accountability. There’s always employee assistance programs, human resources, vacations, and personal days…right. In many cases, the employer is seen as a third party. Is it all up to the employer? Obviously not! It’s crucial to ensure work and life are balanced. It is also important to ensure that your employer is doing their job of being held accountable. Perhaps, you have a union on hand to help you out. And then of course, there’s always another job.

After this post, you might want to ask why I do two jobs. Once, I told my employer that I would not take on all the responsibilities of the second job. I kept the tasks that align and help me with my other job. It’s not perfect but what job is. In retrospect, it is important to fully weigh the pros and cons when an employer asks you to take on a second job or even tasks from another job. Look at it from the perspective of having time, will it help your career, can you be compensated for taking on more work, and have an agreement with your employer that clearly states what each party has agreed to.

 

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The Problem with Records

In the past several weeks, I’ve been fortunate to have attended several one day conferences. In this post, I want to highlight a presentation by Diane Hillman called “Moving to the Open World: It’s not as scary as it sounds”. This presentation was on how linked open data can work for library data in terms of making our data accessible and discoverable by others. This was a fantastic presentation and one of Diane’s best. Out of all the information in the presentation, I want to highlight an important theme that not only Diane spoke about but that has come up before in reading about library data. This is that using xml to describe items is not very different from MARC records. To put it differently, with xml, we create records or documents that are hard to share, expose and provide relationships for the pieces in the xml record. On slide three of Diane’s presentation, she explains that xml assumes a closed world and the xml record is the equivalent to a metadata record or MARC record. What does she mean? For library data and when xml is implemented, the large majority are implemented according to what is called a schema and written in XSD or extensible schema definition. A XSD outlines the requirements that an XML needs to follow to conform to that XSD. Let’s take the analogy of languages and dictionaries. To write effectively and clearly in German, it’s good to know how to spell words and basic grammar. This is syntax and semantics, which is outlined in an xsd. To return to the world of libraries, to implement the metadata standard of MODS or Metadata Object Description Schema is to create an xml file that follows the requirements outlined in the MODS xsd. And we are familiar with this type of analogy. To create a record in my ILS, I have to follow the MARC and RDA standards. Just like a MARC record, one in XML has text in it. For example, a Dublin Core record has the elements in the angle brackets and textual information between the opening and closing angle brackets. We can move these XML records around through harvests or data migration. We can transform them into different XML files according to different metadata standards. We can display the information in the XML. This is no different from what we do with MARC records. And this is the closed system. We need to break out of this closed system. Of course, RDA attempts to do that with its focus on relationships. Another way is to use linked data. To varying degrees of success this can be implemented in XML. There is the MODS RDF ontology. Though there are a few linked open data projects mostly by large research universities like Stanford and Cornell, I am not aware of any institution using MODS RDF ontology. However, MODS RDF along with BIBFRAME express the need to make data open and shareable on the web. I would definitely recommend Diane’s presentation.

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Evolving Role of E-Resources Librarian

I didn’t find my session on workflow efficiency. However, I attended a great session on how the role of electronic resources librarian is changing. I wanted to share with you my notes from the session because the presenter did a great job of asking the question about how everyone’s role in the library is changing. The presenter was Monica Moore from the University of Notre Dame Libraries; her slides should be up soon on ALA Connect.

Notes:

Monica Moore presented a captivating topic which she introduced as how the role of electronic resources librarians has evolved. What made this topic interesting was that Monica delved into the meaning of “role”. She began by looking at how job titles have changed over the years. Is the title “electronic resources librarian” meaningful? Does it represent what these librarians do? Is it an outmoded title almost akin to the phrase “technical services”? Monica began asking these question because her role has changed. Increasingly, it is becoming apparent that librarians in technical services have to be better communicators and educators. Monica explained that her role has increasingly become one of an interpreter. As such, she must not only communicate but also educate her colleagues about the technology and systems underlying her work in electronic resources. This begs the question of how to communicate this effectively when certain issues that are brought to the attention of the electronic resources librarian might not be directly be about technology or systems but policies that affect the institution as a whole. Also, these technology and systems have an impact whose influences are felt throughout the staff and user community. Monica provided two examples of how complex this new role can be and how misunderstandings need to be fielded by an interpreter. The first example was a ticket logged that asked a record be fixed because of an inconsistent date range. The problem was not necessarily the date range in the record in the catalog but SFX and several systems that need to talk to each other to delivery information. The second example was a request to fix records to disallow a certain type of content. This was not so much a technical question but that of policy in terms of what goes into the collection or not. Monica explained that there is a lot of information that is lost in translation. Long detailed emails are insufficient in helping to really bridging the divide between those who rely on e-resources and the librarians who make it happen. It is also misleading to think that answers boil down to that of technical systems or technical services. Instead of the “who needs to address this”, we need to look at “what needs to be done”. This change in perspective will help bring this issues to the institution as a whole. Electronic resources do not fall solely under one person’s job anymore.

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Change

In several of my past posts, I’ve talked about change. In relation to the metadata services, I put out the survey because I feel that a change is needed where I work. More specifically, as users’ needs change, the way we help them, aka do business, also has to change. I’m not advocating for giving up cataloging or saying goodbye to MARC. Our users also need our expertise in describing materials that the library owns, borrows, leases and might potential lease, own or rent. This is one aspect to metadata services that is complex. It means advocating for change while also keeping the same services levels that we’ve kept with other workflows. This is not always easy or wanted because unfortunately it does mean extra work and inevitably training and skill building.

This week, I read a fantastic post by Sally Gore at “A Librarian by Any Other Name” called “Follow the leader”. She refers to an article, “Convincing Employees to Use New Technology” by Didier Bonnet at the Harvard Business Review. Briefly the article provides tips on how to go beyond technology implementation and how to successfully have technology adoption. According to the article, one of the primary reasons for not adopting a technology is that the effort was in the technology’s implementation and not its adoption. Further, new technology tend not to affect a change in how business is done creating a noted conflict from the start. To help adoption and change business practices in our digital working environment, Bonnet provides the following tips: do fewer things better, plan and budget for adoption, lead by example, engage true believers, engage HR and organizational people sooner and better, align rewards and recognition.

Sally Gore focuses her post on leading by example. She explains that many still say no to new technology. I would go further and say that many still say no to change that makes one feel vulnerable in the workplace. Her post has some great examples but finishes with the idea that in library land, our leaders need to be examples.

We need this same kind of leadership in libraries, in the Academy, and in other areas of science. Those of us who see and/or have experienced the value of implementing new technologies into our work need to be fairly tireless in banging the can for them. We need to continue to lead by example and hopefully, in time, we will all reap the rewards.

This is a great post and the original article is worth reading. I agree with Sally that our leaders need to be examples for not just new technologies but changes that help us meet the changing needs of users. However, it is not always the case that our leaders are ready to lead by example. It is important to incorporate the change and new technologies into your own workflow. In other words, everyone needs to lead by example.

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