Monday, July 27, 2009

Library Day in the Life: Monday

Apologies for the late post, but I only just learned that this was the 2nd Annual Day in the Life of a Library week! So let's see if I can't reconstruct my day...

9am- Arrive at work. First order of business- time approvals and/or adjustments for my support staff and student assistants. Fortunately no one forgot to report their hours last week, so this is much less time-consuming than it otherwise can be. I supervise five full-time support staff members as well as upwards of a dozen students and/or temps at any given time, so if there are any major problems it can take a couple hours out of my Monday morning to fix. Not the most rousing way to start your work-week, but this is one of the joys of management!

9:45am- Run up to Circulation to give a staff member her new ILS login, which includes enhanced privileges. I am the new ILS liaison for our department, and am pretty much learning how to wear this hat as I go. With a lot of recent staff departures as well as a newfound commitment to cross-training across divisional lines, I should get plenty of practice in exercising the duties of this new role.

10:15am- Whoops! There was a time adjustment to be made for an international student whose paperwork finally cleared through HR and Payroll. We love to hire international student assistants in the libraries, but the paperwork can be quite daunting, and often takes a few weeks to get everything sorted out.

10:30am- I sent out an email reminding my staff that we will have a new ARIEL IP address as of 8pm this evening, as our local library ITS department is transitioning its network support to that of the college. This means I also have to send out notice on all of the relevant listservs (ILL-L, ILLIAD-L, ARIE-L, as well as our own Harvard ILL mailing list) and update our Constant Data in Worldcat Resource Sharing.

11:00am- Another round of emails to our Circ staff and ILL student assistants regarding opportunities for our student trainers to begin training Circ student assistants on how to use the new overhead scanner behind the Circulation Desk to support our new campus electronic document delivery service, which despite starting with a "soft" launch in April of this year is already proving to be extremely popular with Harvard faculty, students, and staff.

At this point I am reminded to finish writing up some scanning training materials for which I had compiled a bunch of screencaps on our ILL scanner during an unusually slow afternoon. Somehow I am able to work on this continuously until I am able to finish, around 2pm or so. I guess it'll be another lunch of dry-roasted peanut and Diet Coke at the desk! At least I have my TweetDeck to read on the widescreen monitor while I eat...

2pm- Time to answer my email. Like a good little Lifehacker I've tried to triage my email only at set times during my work day- the first pass usually happening around noon and the second around 4pm or so (my work on the scanner training docs has made me a little late today, but fortunately there's nothing truly urgent or time-sensitive in the inbox this afternoon). The goal is not to get distracted from existing action items, which I've recently retooled my Gmail inbox to display in order of importance. So far the new organizational scheme seems to be working well, keeping me focused while also ensuring that various action items don't linger any longer than they have to.

3pm- A little bit of sleuthing to locate a set of rare journals that were mistakenly returned to our library- the owning library was trying to ascertain whether we had already sent these books back to them or not. In ILL circles these kinds of "courtesy returns" are a daily occurrence, as patrons return items from other libraries to ours by accident all the time when dumping them off by the armful. Interlibrary Loan offices tend to become the final stop for these such mystery books, and like good resource sharing neighbors we try to make sure that these items find their way back home. I've always wondered if some patrons return others' items to us in the belief that all libraries are fundamentally interconnected at some level- perhaps this isn't such a bad idea for us to foster, especially in these tough economic times when even Harvard can't go it alone.

3:15pm- An interesting discussion breaks out between myself and two staff members about copyright and its application to various ILL and document delivery services that our library offers. While the conversation begins as a simple point of clarification about a specific rule we'd been following, it quickly mushrooms into a pointed debate about balancing our legal obligations against providing superior (dare I say 'extreme'?) customer service. In the end we all have to concede that Interlibrary Loan is at its core applied risk management, and that the ambiguity of current intellectual property law in the United States is proving to be more restrictive than anything else. But what a great conversation! I have the best employees in my office, equally committed to each individual patron as they are the bigger picture.

4pm- So much for the law- now it's time for money matters. Although ILL has made great strides in simplifying most financial transactions between libraries for various resource sharing activities, the fact remains that in an office processing upwards of 20,000 Borrowing requests over the past fiscal year we're going to run into all manners of invoicing and other billing arrangements, from IFM to IFLA vouchers, from credit card payments to international bank draft authorizations. I make sure that we are current with all of our major partners while saying good night to staff and students as they leave one-by one for the day.

5:30pm- A little bit of troubleshooting in my now-empty office, as one of our electronic document delivery patrons ended up in the wrong part of our shared ILL management system. The net result of our new document delivery initiative is that the various participating Harvard libraries now work more closely together than ever before. As the chief training and support contact for this service, I now find myself with campus-wide troubleshooting duties in addition to my local responsibilities. Fortunately since our successive launch the demands of this enhanced role have dropped off significantly, but as we gear up for a much larger public launch of the service in the Fall I fully expect it to take up a large portion of my workweek. I'm glad that I have good staff to rely on when I'm out on troubleshooting calls!

6pm- One last glance at the email inbox and TweetDeck and I'm done for the day at last. Although I have an hour-long train ride back home, I try not to bring any work with me unless I'm under a serious deadline. And so tonight I'm able to settle into a good book and unwind a bit before we begin this crazy dance anew on Tuesday.

And that's my Monday!


Bobbi Newman said...

I'm curious how did you get your gmail to display in order of importance? and how did you decide what's important? by sender?

Kat, the Library Ninja! said...

Wow! You make me feel like I have to make stuff up for my day in the life of a librarian ... but interesting concept.

Bobbi Newman said...

I was asking about what you said - "I've recently retooled my Gmail inbox to display in order of importance."

I guess I'm wondering what you did?

Tom said...

Hi Bobbi,

Here's the post from Lifehacker describing how to mod your Gmail using the multiple inboxes feature in Labs :