30 September 2013

How to succeed in Library Management does How I Work

Following on from Andy Priestner, Georgina Cronin and Emma Coonan's excellent posts in response to Lifehacker's meme, Dymvue has managed to secure a specially and secretly recorded set of responses to the "How I work" questions from the author of "How to Succeed in Library Management".  

This is completely confidential, isn't it? [Sigh, rustling of paper, tapping of keyboard].  Look.  All I can reveal is that I am sometimes found on one of the upper stories of the library building.  Will that do?

[Clearly the interview was not off to a good start.]

Current gig:

[Yes, OK we'll leave that one.  Suffice it to say that the respondent is a Very Significant Librarian.]

I thought this "How iWork" thing you referred to was something to do with Apple. Isn't it?

Yes, next question : Current mobile device:
Whatever is the latest on the market of course.  And obtainable on expenses. 

Current computer:
One with six password controls, a Chimera firewall (that's a real Chimera of course) and sets to auto-correct "friend" to "fiend".  It is also programmed to remove all sentences including the word "disagreed" from the minutes of meetings.

One word that best describes how you work:

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
Ah! This is better.  iSawU!  It's an app I designed myself.  It uses a heat sensor, and once it detects someone approaching in an enraged state it creates a forcefield which renders my office door invisible.  Android and Apple have it.

What's your workspace like? 
It has a truly inspirational view from the windows.  All my staff, readers and suppliers appear no bigger than an ant.  I find this very soothing, it is so important to have a sense of proportion, isn't it?  Mmm. Oh the other useful thing is that I can see my own image reflected in the glass.

What's your best time-saving trick?
Don't waste if on people.  They never appreciate what you do for them.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?

She's an angel and I adore her. This is quite an old photo of her, but she still has the same old typewriter.  We all have to make sacrifices in these cost-conscious days.

She's very good at messing up appointments and inviting people to come for meetings on the wrong day.  As she is so nice, everyone forgives her, you know, she is just doing her best and it's very good of her to go on working here so many years after her retirement date and so on....  By the time the next meeting comes round the decisions have already been made.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
The one that records all the conversations in the Gents.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

What are you currently reading?
Well I recently dipped into Roberts - Leadership secrets of Atilla the Hun but actually I thought it was a bit tame.  

What do you listen to while you work?
The conversations in the Gents.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I have no idea. I don't ask myself questions like that.

What's your sleep routine like?
Oh I sleep like a top.  Once I have lined up the little dolls by my bed and tucked them in.

Fill in the blank: I'd love to see ______ answer these same questions. 
I'm not interested in other people's opinions.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
However many people's careers you throttle, your successor is always out there. That keeps me on my toes.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Yes, the bill for my time.  Here you are.

Previously on How to Succeed in Library management - strategic planning, Time management, Communication, Meetings

11 May 2013

How to succeed in library management : Strategic planning

Listen, I don't have much time. You mustn't show this to anyone, ok? You understand? This has to be kept between us. Promise?

OK. HSLM on Strategic planning.

It's very confidential. Ideally, for any library, There is No Plan.  Your employers, who would fall asleep if actually given a strategic plan to read; and your staff, to whom you are a remote, benign presence, will both assume that one exists and you are following it with effortless skill and expertise.

The reason for this confidentiality is so that no one gets in your way.  If there is a plan, and if it is made public, you will never hear the end of it. The Assistant Head of Rubber Stamps will stop you on your way to the hairdresser and drone on about “It says in para 4 section 6 iii that full consultation with stakeholders will take place at regular intervals”. I mean, you and I both know "stakeholders" means that nice focus group comprising Len, who is retiring in three months, Gladys (Bless Her) who's been in the canteen since Simon Schama was studying Paper 5, and Oli, the sly little boy in Ops. who is so ambitious he'll send back the email saying "Yay" with kisses on the bottom.  "Consultation" means you bung this group an email just before the Christmas break with some stuff about the outstanding success of your digital collection, how you've attracted thousands from a Russian oligarch with cultural pretentions, backed up with pages of statistics from Oli's fertile imagination which no one can decipher. (Frankly, if people can't understand it's how these things work, they deserve to be stuck with stamp pads.)

What's that?  Sssh, they'll hear us.  Oh, you have to write a plan?  Tsk.  Ok, there are two ways of doing this: the Enthusiastic and the Inert. 

1.  Give the task to a bunch of keen underlings. Say you want fresh views from a younger generation who are more in touch with the student population. They will feel very fluffy about having been asked, and will probably spend ages doing it all properly and getting the bullet points lined up. Even better, suggest different people write different sections, and better still, in different languages! (Latin is impressive). 

When it's published, no one will understand it but they won't want to criticise the kids. You accept it gratefully and tell your management team that the underlings did such a good job you don't require any input from them. Outrage will ensue. There is no way they are going to accept a report written by their junior staff!  So, with much regret, you have no choice but to ditch it.  Then you call in a couple of the underlings whom you know are the ringleaders.  You tell them they are over-qualified for their jobs and how sorry you are that you must let them go.

The consequences are: you are free to get on with your life, and your management team can return to their most important task, which is inter-departmental warfare.

2.  The second method is this.  You set up a sub-committee which contains at least two members who are never going to agree with each other and a third who will patiently question every sentence, line, comma and set of brackets. (It's so important to get things right, isn't it?). This group will quickly become becalmed in bureaucratic backwaters.  This leaves you reluctantly obliged to carry out measures such as revaluing library services and tightening up your staff's performance indicators or, as I prefer to call it, whetting the axe, without any need to justify your actions against an overall strategy.

When the plan is finally published, make sure the title is unambiguously vague; something along the lines of “Together for the future!” which suggests that until now everyone has been at each other's throats and incapable of understanding developments, while you are both Friendly! and Dynamic! And make sure the plan is worded so obtusely that you can claim anything from a minor leak in the basement to the Second Coming has been anticipated and the necessary measures are in place to deal with it.

But of course you can't leave it like this or Mr Rubber Stamps will have his inky fingers all over your door handle again.  Besides, you don't want to leave yourself accountable to anyone with real aspirations.

So, what next?  Hasn't it taken such a long time to prepare and publish the plan?  And things have moved on, so ...

You know, you really should feel very honoured that I am confiding in you. You won't tell a soul, will you?

More from How to Succeed in Library Management :

25 April 2013

Just keep using the tablets : medical student challenges publishers

Publishers at UKSG 2013 were entranced by medical student Joshua Harding’s description of how he uses an iPad to create a personalised study environment and intrigued that he predicts better ebooks will lead to better grades.

 “I see the iPad as being the game changer” said Joshua, a 2nd-year postgraduate student at Warwick University.  Although he admitted that not all students on his course were as far advanced as he in using the tablet computer, he finds acting as a mentor to them encourages uptake. “Students are ahead of the game” he claimed, and publishers and librarians lagging behind.

The self-proclaimed Paperless Student took the audience through his typical day on wards and in lectures, explaining he uses his iPad to take case notes, look up anaesthetics, check online references during lectures and set himself reminders to revisit recently studied topics.

He collects all his course materials together via the iPad, preferring chapters to whole textbooks.  For his written (not typed) notes he uses Noteability and for PDFs he uses Goodreader. He synchs files to other devices via Dropbox.

The publishers also got Joshua's wishlist, including making student scores for revision sections visible online, so each can see how theirs matched to others, and for messages to pop up and congratulate the student on completing a topic well, or reminding him/her to go back and revise newly learned topics. Meanwhile the thumbs down was for multiple platforms, DRM and the Epub format (“horrible”).   

While publishers flocked to the lunch table to digest the assured presentation, librarians 
wondered how the heck Joshua got all his textbooks on to an iPad?  The answer was he'd bought much of it himself via Inkling, and for the rest he had a generous friend who disbound and scanned in textbooks as PDFs for online annotation.  Hmmm.  No wonder Joshua had said he thought universities should pay for all student resources, and had been at a loss to understand why his library couldn’t provide “free ebooks in the same way as print”.

Post-match analysis suggests Joshua is clearly on the cutting edge, particularly in how he manipulates content using apps. Dymvue is still wondering how libraries fit into this picture.  We do, don't we? Don't we?

24 April 2013

Asking awkward questions ...

Attending UKSG is always an stimulating and somewhat exhausting experience and I enjoyed attending presentations on a range of topics.  However, as I can’t encapsulate them all here, I will use the new few posts to consider some of the issues that particularly struck me. Do feel free to comment.  

The conference website has links to the programme, slides and videos of the presentations.

What’s new for libraries

Sarah Thompson and Liz Waller from University of York library reported on a project to improve their services to students.  They began by asking 17 other university libraries about what they were doing. 

This yielded an extensive list of service improvements, some of which will be familiar to most librarians.  I noted longer opening hours, silent study areas and reduced-cost or free printing; more ebooks, a greater use of PDA for acquisitions management and the provision to first year undergraduates of e-readers with e-content already loaded.  Applying for Customer Service accreditation was another interesting idea, perhaps a good way of demonstrating the value of a library service.   It will be interesting to see how students receive their new services at York.

A presentation from a librarian at the Open University on their acquisition and promotion of ebooks largely mirrored our experience at Cambridge.  It's good to know we aren't alone in the joy and pain of this format!  While I sympathised with her frustration at the lack of a single source of information for prices and availability of ebooks, I suspect that with such a range of licences, access restrictions and prices it is unlikely that this will be available for some time, if ever.

University of Surrey librarians have been engaged in developing the use of mobile devices so they can advise students using them to find resources etc. They have done this by running sessions for staff to “play” with various devices and encouraged their use of iPads at work.  Here I wondered whether device specificity is going to become a problem.  Is Bring Your Own Device going to become the norm for staff as well as students, and if so how will they be co-ordinated?

Like most of us, I'm fascinated by the impact of the availability of e-content on library services.  Students understand that The Times online behind a paywall while Wikipedia is free to use; even that a book in whatever format must be paid for; but are puzzled that library purchased ebooks are restricted by licence terms, even though print loans have always been restricted by borrowing periods and availability.  The problem, it seems to me, is that suppliers have perpetuated the worst elements of library provision instead of developing the potential of the ebook.  Meanwhile, free (illegal) ebooks can be found online or simply scanned in. 

I'm going to look at this more in another post, but am now asking myself whether, or for how much longer, the traditional model of library print circulation, with loan limits, periods and possibly fines, will be acceptable to students. 

24 March 2013

Tom's plan for the Bridge Farm Library

with apologies to The Archers' scriptwriter Nawal Gadalla (original version here  at 04:50)


PAT   Sell the books! Are you out of your mind?

TONY    Is this a wind-up?

TOM   No, I'm serious. I'm not suggesting we shut the Library completely. My idea would mean we could expand our services because we'd have more time to do other things. It's been on my mind for a long time. Ever since I worked out how to use that thing Brenda gave me for Christmas.

PAT   Which was?

TOM  A Kindle.  It's great, you can read all the books you need on it.

TONY   Providing you buy them from Amazon. You're using the excuse of this toy to slip in another hare-brained idea.

TOM    I know it's huge but it hasn't come from nowhere... 

... I've thought it through. I spend all my waking hours painstakingly thinking about the future of this Library. I work until 9 every night and then I do overtime till the small hours. I'm a very busy person and therefore my views are much more important than anyone else's. 

PAT   You see, it really worries me that you can think about something “painstakingly” and the result is so bafflingly stupid.

TOM    It's ok.  It's a lot to take in, and you are both very slow because you only have to deal with books all day. You're bound to be defensive.

TONY   Don't talk to Senior Librarians like that.

PAT    It's you who needs to make your case. We're Librarians, for heaven's sake, how can we call ourselves that if there aren't any books?

TOM   We have, up to now, bred books ...

... But there's no real reason to carry on doing it.

TONY    No reason?

PAT   You just can't be bothered with them and that's the truth. You've never had a feeling for them.

TOM    Look, can you just stop sniping for one minute. You wanted to hear my reasons but you won't let me get to first base.

PAT   Well come on then, let's hear these reasons.

TOM   Right. Since I got the Kindle, dealing with books has become like this massive burden.

TONY   It comes with the territory.

TOM    But it needn't, that's my point. You've heroically taken on the morning shelving, and that's great, it's really helped free me up, but I want to be more productive.

TONY    But what's more productive than putting books on the shelves?

TOM   Others can supply the content online.

PAT   That seems absurd to me. You want us to sell our best asset and then buy in what we've just lost.

TONY   The world's gone mad.

TOM   But we'd only need to buy in what we actually use. It's called just in time delivery.

PAT   Where's the authenticity? We'll lose all our integrity if we start buying in content from God knows where.

TOM   It would still be academic.

PAT   But we wouldn't own it Tom, can't you see the distinction? Our content would lose all its credibility.

TONY   Well said. It would be a deceit. We'd be falsely promoting it as academic content selected by us, when it isn't.

TOM   But it's what they learn that matters. And that would still happen in the University. I don't think people care as much about where the content comes from as you think they do.

PAT   I do.

TOM   The real test will be in whether people like the content. There'd be no need to compromise on the level of service. We'd buy in the best because we could afford to. No buildings to service, no books to buy, catalogue and circulate, and no staff salaries …

TONY   No Library, in fact.

TOM   Oh, come on. And instead of checking books in I could be out there …

PAT    Oh don't tell me. Transcending silos and delivering multifaceted information sources to release synergies for all who hunger for knowledge! I hate it Tom. I absolutely hate it. And you don't seem to see what my problem is at all. Or do you?

TOM  It's the way the world is now, Mum. Everyone outsources in business.

TONY   Yes well I'm naieve enough to think of myself as a Librarian, not a businessman.

TOM   You have to plan a few steps ahead in business and sometimes that means thinking the unthinkable. It's called vision. All I'm asking is that you at least consider it.

28 February 2013

Ebooks and the future of Cambridge College libraries

Each year the ebooks@cambridge team meets Cambridge's constituent library groups, today it was the turn of the Colleges and we were kindly invited to Lucy Cavendish College by Catherine Reid.  Presentations from this meeting, and from the subsequent meeting for Faculty and Departmental librarians, are available here, and Andy Priestner's "Ebook utopia" is here.

Jayne Kelly performed a heroic feat, compressing a significant amount of information on service developments into a limited time frame, and covering new platforms, funding, acquisition models, usage statistics and, as ever, the trials and challenges of ebooks.

This was followed by Catherine's clear and helpful demo of searching for and locating ebooks using the library catalogue.

The final section was my own presentation on Cambridge College libraries. It focussed on two key factors which in my opinion are critical to their future : changes to academic publishing and to the University and its library services. You can find the slides here.

While academic ebook publishing is struggling to comes to terms with the digital revolution it is tempting for librarians to leave its complexity to others to a couple of specialists to deal with.  I fear this is unwise.

Within the Cambridge system we can't see ebooks as an issue which can be handed over to a few interested people or particular library to deal with.  We should all be up to speed in this area.  Colleges in particular have invested considerable sums of money in the ebooks@cambridge service and should by now (in my opinion) be integrating ebooks into their collection policies, their acquisitions workflows and their readers' services.

It is important for Faculty and Departmental libraries to work more closely with the Colleges to share information and enable better purchasing decisions. However, an ebook doesn't "belong" to the ordering library.  Its origin matters in terms of autonomy of choice, administration and funding but, once purchased, the ebook becomes part of a shared resource.  Our ebooks collection can be exploited by any library to benefit its readers and promote its value to the institution.

Working collaboratively means that each group of libraries can develop their expertise and resources to benefit the common good, ie readers.  We each bring something to the table and the consequence of this collaboration has been a highly successful service.  I strongly believe that the forum where a future strategy can best be developed has to be ebooks@cambridge.

A word about those (particularly College) libraries that prefer to remain print oriented.  This may be an institutional requirement.  But I would advise this should be as a consequence of strategic planning, and librarians should take care to gather evidence and evaluate their possible options. To take that policy through lack of awareness is, frankly, no longer acceptable, and leaves that library highly vulnerable to future change.  Time is running out.

11 February 2013

Valentine for a librarian

The passionate librarian

I’ve an action plan for outcomes
Will you meet my user need?
My reading list’s updated
And my budget guaranteed.

Accession me, receive me,
I’m your item here in hand;
My physical description
Only you will understand.

Your chosen subject headings
Barely meet my vital traits,
So use those hidden fields beloved,
Keep them for your gaze.

Oh, add me to your holdings records
A mark to me assign, as I
Develop your collection.
Be my Valentine.

From Black Champagne Amazon paperback or Kindle.