Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Don't Like Tuesdays

10am- Off to a late start, I begin my Tuesday with a statistical inquiry, trying to determine our ratio of ARIEL to Odyssey deliveries. Since switching to an "Odyssey-first" policy for ILL article requests (i.e., always delivering via Odyssey if the requesting library has an Odyssey address) in the Fall 2008 I know that our ARIEL delivery volume has sunk dramatically, but simply ballparking the figure isn't going to work here. So I'm going to have to get at this data somehow, even though it's not a stat that we actively collect- although I have a couple of ideas as to how to coax these numbers out of the database it'll have to wait, because...

10:45am- ...we have ourselves the first troubleshooting call of the day, concerning Odyssey delivery no less! In trying to help my colleagues with their resending woes I discover that our own scanner is having its own trouble with the resend function, so I grab a screencap and contact our scanner vendor for help. Fortunately they're extremely responsive, so after I email them I return to what I was doing before. What was I doing again? Right, those statistics--

11:15am- Oops, I completely forgot that a couple of the vendors I'd tried to pay yesterday were closed when I called, so I now take care of that before the day gets away from me. I always enjoy calling the British Library, and today is no exception- I joke with a friendly rep from Manchester while making sure that our library is in good standing with their resident bean counters. Now where was I again?

Noon- All right, I admit it. Sometimes I'm not very good about leaving the non-essential email alone. In the interest of being a good neighbor I like to keep an eye on the various ILL and resource sharing listservs and offer whatever help and/or advice that I can when the opportunity arises. Today's an international copyright question about an unpublished work in Germany from the 1940's, and since I've more or less had copyright on the brain for the past several months I feel the old College Bowl urge to be the first kid to ring the buzzer. At any rate, the answer is exactly what the librarian was looking for, so it seems like time well spent.

12:30pm- Back to the stats. It seems that this question is proving a little thornier than I had even imagined, as in the process of building our campus document delivery service we coopted a database field that our preexisting reporting tools don't know how to separate out from regular ILL requests. The net result is that all of our canned reports now mix everything up. But is there a quick fix? I email the vendor in hopes of getting those reports tweaked, and while I wait for their response I try and tackle another project.

2pm- During the previous week my Borrowing coordinator and I were talking about the problem of communication within our rather large Department of Access Services. Instant Messenger has been nothing less than a godsend in addressing this difficulty, but unless you already knew someone's IM address and had them listed on your buddy list a lot of the convenience of the medium was lost. This is when I got an idea: what if we created a "live" version of our org chart, only with Meebo chat windows for each of the IM-enabled staffers? Since I was waiting on a couple of vendor responses to proceed with my other business I decided this would be a good time to work on this a bit, so using Blogspot I hacked together a proof of concept mockup consisting of an HTML table and several embedded Meebo widgets:


Though I was pretty pleased with the results, there are a couple of barriers to getting this adopted- first, it would have to be posted on the College Library's intranet and not our departmental iSite, which is the preferred platform for such online content. The second problem was that everyone on the "live" org chart would need to monitor a separate Meebo account in addition to their normal IM presence. Still, the benefits of having the potential of instant and ready access to the entire department all on one page might outweigh any downsides. I send the mockup link to my boss and share my work with my librarian Tweeps, who are very encouraging.

3pm- Still no response on either outstanding issue, so I bust out another one of my "20% projects" (the term coming from Google's allowing their employees to dedicate 20% of their workweek to their own personal projects, a fascinating and controversial policy that nevertheless has yielded many of Google's current suite of apps). I have always want to mash up our ILL data with Google or Yahoo Maps so that we can create maps of everywhere that we've loaned to -- or borrowed from -- in the previous fiscal year.

After finally locating a batch geolocating application (http://www.batchgeocode.com/), I start playing with our Lending data to see if I can get it into a geocoding-friendly format. The problem was that we had too much data. In FY09 we loaned over 11,000 books, and to render that much information without our own servers is proving to be more trouble than it's worth. That's when it occurs to me- why not use a pivot table to consolidate deliveries to the same location? I do just that and now we only have 900+ data points to plot, and voila! The batch loader is done within half an hour. Though some of the data fields need a little tweaking to prevent totally whacky map plottings (we had one in the Canadian tundra hundreds of miles from any human settlement!), it worked and it worked well, and I can't wait to spend more time with this.

4pm- Well, it's 4pm and I need an answer to my original stats question whether or not I hear back on tweaking the reports, so I roll up my sleeves and dig out the numbers the old fashioned way. For some reason the task doesn't seem as daunting as it had earlier- maybe getting away from the problem for a bit was just what I needed, or perhaps I'm just on a roll at this point. Whatever it is, I'm happy, the person who asked the stats question is happy, and it's almost time to close up the office...

5:15pm- Almost. I just need to answer some email while hashing out a student training plan with my Borrowing coordinator, who will be inherited 70+ hours of student processing help at a couple of our service desks in the Fall. Given that our Borrowing request volume literally doubled from FY08 to FY09, he'll need all the help we can get! After coming up with some good ideas we agree to continue the conversation tomorrow, when hopefully we aren't as exhausted as we both are at the moment.

All right, so this Tuesday turned out much better than I'd originally thought. I think one of the most challenging aspects of being a professional librarian is balancing Getting Things Done on a daily basis with both the extremely time-sensitive queries (such as the ARIEL vs. Odyssey question) and the more open ended special projects which, although not urgent, often prove to be just as important, if not more so. We're all so busy these days that it's so easy to default to crisis mode, when there's so much more we could be doing to take our field to the next level if we just make an effort to carve out the time for such innovation and creativity. I don't always succeed in this regard, but today the stars just aligned. I leave work much later than I had planned, but much more satisfied than I'd hoped as well.

See you on Wednesday!

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