This is the Thursday tl;dr ("Too Long, Didn't Read") Edition. I often chide my colleagues for sending me any email that's longer than a paragraph, but here I am writing a novella-length rundown of my day on the job. If you're feeling like your attention is somewhat deficient at this point in the workweek, by all means skip down to the end.
8:11am- The hooplah surrounding the launch of Apple's iPad finally trickles down to our discussion of e-readers, which I have been investigating and trying to pilot in ILL for almost a year now. Whereas buying a Kindle or Nook locked us into a proprietary form of hardware, the iPad has the advantage of supporting the existing iPhone/iPod Touch apps, including the Kindle and BN e-reader apps, as well as providing access to the ebooks in iTunes store. While this doesn't make the iPad 100% platform-neutral, it's the closest we've come to a reader that lets us have our cake and eat it too.
8:22am- One of my freshman advisees emails about dropping by for me to sign his Study Card for the Spring semester, as it's that time of the year again. We set up a block of time for tomorrow.
8:47am- Hey, wasn't the train already supposed to at North Station by now? At least the wi-fi isn't flaking out this morning so I can get some work done- I thank one of the IT staff for answering a question about network access for one of our satellite ILL operations at the Science Library.
9:49am- It's been a while since I've posted to one of the ILL listservs, but this issue is one I've been thinking about since last November, when the ILLIAD-L listserv shut down and moved to a message board over at OCLC. Ending the mailing list was fairly unpopular at the time, but as my fellow ILL librarians were reluctant to split the community by starting another listserv and going online with the new message board. Three months later, though, and it's clear that the whole community never quite made the jump. I have nothing against message boards per se, but I simply don't have time to monitor one on a daily basis, and it seems that many of my colleagues are in the same boat. Listservs are some of the oldest information age technology at our disposal, but they still work for certain forms of communication, and serve as emergency hotlines for the ILL community in manner that even a dynamic message board can't replicate. So I add my two cents to the post mortem, hoping that if enough of us voice our discontent then perhaps someone will offer to host a new listserv.
9:49am- An email to one of the Harvard libraries interested in joining our electronic document delivery service. There's enough interest at this point that we have dubbed it "Phase Two", which means we'll likely spending this Spring on training and troubleshooting as we did the previous year. Nevertheless it's exciting to bring new libraries into the fold, as it's the surest indicator that we have launched a popular and useful service for our patrons. Speaking of which, today is one of the days that I am gathering detailed information about processing times for every step of the request fulfillment process, so that I can put together our first cost model based on hard data.
10:24am- A rare opportunity for me to lay down the law. While the heart and soul of my job is finding ways to say "yes," there are times when I'm obliged to tell someone no and this is one of them. 'Nuff said!
11:00am- You knew there'd be a meeting in there somewhere, didn't you? But this one is different, as it's one of my own meetings with my own team- the ILL Borrowing and Lending Coordinators and our newly-hired Student Trainer/Coordinator for the department. We've been working on some ambitious changes in our workflows for request processing since the beginning of the Fall semester, but now that the Spring term has started we are kicking things up a notch. It's a good meeting, as everyone here understands my vision and is excited about it, because although we'll be doing things differently my staff see that if we're successful we'll be doing things much more efficiently as well. I love that feeling when things click and you realize that not only have you convinced your team, but motivated them as well!
12:41pm- Another advisee emails me- can she come by later this afternoon? Sure thing, I say. Come on down!
(But first let me grab some lunch.)
1:01pm- As I munch a flatbread sandwich from the Dunkin Donuts across the street, I check in with our IT people about our scheduled upgrade to the latest version of ILLiad. Although we were originally concerned that the change would affect our billing scripts that push invoice transactions to our Accounts Receivable department, we have received confirmation that this should not be an issue. Whew!
1:30pm- My advisee finds her way down to the office and we catch up. Even though being a freshman adviser is a significant time commitment at the start of each semester, I've enjoyed getting to know the incoming class and helping them find their way through their first year at school.
2:15pm- Our central OIS people send me a troubleshooting email from a patron who can't log in to our ILL/Doc Del system, the cause of which is a past expiry date. I update the account and send the patron on their way.
2:24pm- The same expiry date issue has just cropped up again, less than ten minutes later- funny how these things tend to cluster, even when they're completely unrelated.
2:25pm- I briefly correspond with the Circ staff at one of College Library's component libraries, as they need help with some of their document delivery scanning workflow since they're neck-deep in course reserves processing right now. I offer to take the backlog on their hands, for which they are grateful, and they tell me they'll be sending over the items for scanning later in the afternoon. One of the great things about being the hub for resource sharing in our school is that we have the manpower to help in situations exactly like this.
2:57pm- A message on Facebook from Justin Hoenke's (of Justin The Librarian and 8bitlibrary.com) band Belsapadore. Would I like to become a fan? Hells, yes!
3:31pm- More correspondence with the other College libraries, this time about upgrading their scanning capabilities to support Odyssey sending rather than ARIEL, as Odyssey libraries now represent well over 3/4's of all electronic deliveries.
3:41pm- Another one of my freshman advisees wants to meet tomorrow, so I need to shift a meeting in order to fit everyone in. Friday is starting to look quite booked at this point.
3:47pm- More correspondence with OCLC and our school (not library) IT, as we are moving to Microsoft Exchange for our email and we need to make sure that there are no issues with automatically generated notifications from our ILLiad hosted server. Hopefully this round of information exchange should do the trick- fingers crossed!
3:55pm- A returning student wants to come back to work at ILL. Are we still hiring? We sure are...
4:00pm- Time for some good old fashioned hands-on troubleshooting, as our Circ scanner is on the blink upstairs. I spend some quality time with the machine, as I know most of its tricks and quirks, but try as I might I can't get it to stop spitting out a certain error message. I email the vendor, who is very responsive, and set up a WebEx session to fix it first thing in the morning.
4:36pm- An email from a friend who has been doing research at our library on Phineas Gage (the remarkable individual who survived having a six-foot tamping rod pass through his skull and brain during a freak accident in the 19th century) for the past several years, pointing us to an exciting new find just announced on NPR- although it was believed that no pictures of Gage had survived, it appears that someone recently identified a photo of Gage on Flickr! I love when people share the fruits of their scholarly labors with us, and in this particular case it's been fun to watch my friend's project develop over the years.
4:38pm- Some more follow-up from our morning meeting with the student coordinator, who is having Instant Messenger installed on workstations where we will have student assistants working on ILL request processing, giving them instant access to the Borrowing and Lending coordinators whenever they run into trouble. It's a great idea, and I'm glad to have someone helping behind the scenes to get all of this in motion.
4:39pm- Correspondence with a colleague about doing a poster session about our document delivery service for an upcoming digital scholarship fair. Can I have something ready by the end of next week? Despire the fact that I'm already chock full of deadlines this is a great opportunity to do some marketing and outreach for the new service, so I of course agree.
4:44pm- More strategic planning with my staff about finding better ways to incorporate student assistants into our processing workflows so that our staff have more time for troubleshooting the truly problematic requests. A fellow resource sharing librarian observed that in the world of ILL the easy requests are getting easier and the hard ones harder, and I know that my Borrowing staff can definitely corroborate this. So the goal is to free up as much of their time to deal with these truly difficult requests, and I think we have a great plan for doing just that.
5:19pm- One more email to schedule another of my advisees and it's time to go. I crunch my way across a frozen Harvard Yard and hop on the subway, so I can catch my train and get home just in time to do it all over again in another twelve hours or so.
It's been a busy Thursday, but a good kind of busy- a nice mix of troubleshooting, problem-solving, and strategic planning with my staff both in formal meetings and casual conversation. Heck, I even helped a patron or two along the way. I'm happy that even though mine is a managerial position, the job still gives me an opportunity for front-line public service. It's something I would definitely miss if I didn't have it.