The Unclassifiable Library Remix

Friday, July 13, 2007

SRP 2007 - Eighth Book Review

Murder at the Feast of Rejoicing
Lynda S. Robinson
229 pages

I enjoyed the change of scenery in this installment of the Lord Meren series, as the Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh takes some time "off" at his "quiet" country plantation. Of course, if it were quiet, there wouldn't be much of a story, and this time Meren's family is involved. Not only do we get a change of scenery, but also a glimpse into Meren's past. It was refreshing to finally get some back story for this reserved character.

Books: 8
Pages: 1754

Friday, July 06, 2007

SRP 2007 - Seventh Book Review

Beatrice Letters
Lemony Snicket
72 pages

Before re-reading Lemony Snicket, including some of the Series of Unfortunate Events that I haven't read yet, I decided to read the Beatrice Letters because I was very interested in he love interest of Mr. Snicket, whom the series is addressed to. However, I was disappointed to find that this book raises more questions than it answers. I would discuss them but don't want to ruin the remainder of the series for anyone since the book is full of series spoilers. Frankly, there wasn't much too this book and I was hoping for more than what I found. Hopefully, reading The End will make it all clear. Wasn't at all sure what the picture inside the book is all about, or the letters cut out in the pages. I really felt like the whole thing was geared towards getting you to get the other books, which I don't mind reading, but was unsatisfying in its own right.

Books: 7
Pages: 1525

Friday, June 29, 2007

SRP 2007 - Sixth Book Review

Murder at the God's Gate
Lynda S. Robinson
280 pages

The dead bodies just kept coming with this book with a plot based around political intrigue. The Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh (Lord Meren's soubriquet in the novels) was hard at work with all of the political backstabbing in this book. However, it has me well-prepared for the upcoming presidential elections. =) I found this story a bit more predictable than the last, and still with many historical inaccuracies, but I still really enjoyed the story. I already have ordered the rest of the series through ILL, since the books are so good they only take me about a day to read.

Books: 6
Pages: 1453

SRP 2007 - Fifth Book Review

Murder in the Place of Anubis
Lynda S. Robinson
224 pages

This series immediately sucked me right in. It combines a lot of the elements I like in fiction - a historical setting in the court of King Tut (though the historical details are not all accurate), murders to resolve, interesting (though not deep) characters, and a lot of intrigue. As I anticipated, it was very similar to the Amelia Peabody series, only with the events actually occurring in antiquity instead of just an archaeological view. The mystery was very suspenseful, keeping me guessing until the end, though regular mystery readers may find it more predicatible. I kept thinking I had it figured out, then another plot twist would prove me wrong. Can't wait to read the next one.

Books: 6
Pages: 1173

Friday, June 22, 2007

SRP 2007 - Fourth Book Review

Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook
Scott Adams
192 pages

I wanted to hone my management skills over the summer, and since I was so empowered by The Dilbert Principle during library school that I thought I would revisit the genius that is Scott Adams. Chapters like "Forced Interaction with Unpleasant People," "Artificial Compliance," and "Identifying Suck-ups" made me laugh while helping me to understand the mystery that is management. An incredibly fun read.

Books: 5
Pages: 949

Friday, June 15, 2007

SRP 2007 - Third Book Review

All Together Dead
Charlaine Harris
323 pages

I was eagerly awaiting this next installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I love vampire stories and other stories of the supernatural, and the humor, action, and great characters of this series is just my type of good fiction. This story, in which the telepathic Sookie accompanies some of her vampire cronies to a vamp conference, was just as riveting as the previous books in the series.

However, just like Pirates of the Caribbean 2, I felt let down by the end - as if this installment just couldn't stand on it's own and has a big to be continued implied. I mean, I understand it's a series, and loose ends are necessary in order to keep the ball rolling. However, I felt this story just stopped, leaving me completely hanging. I'd like a little bit of resolution here please. Alas, the next book in the series will not be out until May 2008, so I'll be hanging until then to see where the drama will lead to next.

Books: 4
Pages: 757

SRP 2007 - First Book Non-Review

Empowering Your Library: A Guide to Improving Service, Productivity, & Participation
Connie Christopher
71 pages

I attempted to read this book, I really did. I was hoping it would give me some practical ideas for improving customer service and motivating my staff. I was sorely disappointed to find it dry as toast - sort of like a really long reserve article for a library management class based solely on theory. After flipping through a couple of sections and reading bits and pieces, I gave up, feeling less than empowered.

Books: 3
Pages: 434

Friday, June 08, 2007

SRP 2007 - Second Book Review

The Truth About Catalogers and The Truth About Reference Librarians

By Will Manley with illustrations by Richard Lee

129 and 152 pages respectively

I was trolling our library's collection of books about ourselves to see if I could find any that might be of professional interest to read. These books were exactly what I was looking for - a bit of light, comic reading perfect for advancing me down the road to tenure. OK, maybe that last bit was a stretch. These books are really only good for a laugh, and I read them in brief bits, since they are a mix of book and comic. It was nice to just read a few pages and not have to really invest in a plot, like while I had a moment waiting for a meeting to start. I have a toddler, and the smaller sections like "Theories on the Origin of Catalogers" and "Passages: Ten Stages in the Life of a Reference Librarian" enabled me to enjoy the books even if I got interrupted twenty times while reading it. I had quite a few laugh out loud moments while reading, so be careful not to drink milk while reading these books or the results could be problematic. =) If you are a librarian, or know one they'll make for good take to the beach reading.

Books: 3
Pages: 434

Friday, June 01, 2007

SRP 2007 - First Book Review

Moccasin Thunder
Edited by Lori Marie Carlson
153 pages

I found this book on the shelves of our American Indian Studies department, while looking for books I could review for American Indian Quarterly, something the librarians have assisted in doing at this historically Native American institution. I picked this book because it was a series of short stories, which I felt would be a nice introduction for my summer reading, and also because it would be easier to read during the hubbub surrounding the end of the semester.

Ten well known Native American authors offer stories not of the history of native peoples, but stories of young adult Native Americans with modern topics such as alcoholism, poverty, divorce, and the continued importance of family. These stories were a much welcome alternative to the usual portrayal of stereotypical images forever marooned in yesteryear. A grocery store checkout, a freezing rowboad ride, a drunken gym dance, and a public-access TV fiasco serve to remind us that the story of Native Americans is not one of the past, but is on-going. Written in styles from serious to humorous to sarcastic, the stories are fresh and engaging.

The stories include:
  1. How to Get to the Planet Venus
  2. Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock
  3. A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mat
  4. The Last Snow of the Virgin MAry
  5. Crow
  6. Ice
  7. Wild Geese
  8. The Magic Pony
  9. Summer Wind
  10. Drum Kiss
My favorite was Drum Kiss by Susan Power, and the story of Fawn who checks Grandma's closet every night to see if she can find the magical world of Narnia in an attempt to escape the poverty surrounding her. It was incredibly touching and I would definitely recommend it.

Books: 1
Pages: 153

Friday, May 25, 2007

Summer Reading Program 2007

Remember what it was like when you were a little kid and your library had summer reading contests? I participated in many over the years, including the Virginia Beach Public Library's program every year in junior high and high school. I especially loved the prizes - which were more books! For every book you wrote a review of you got a free book, as well as for reading a book in each subject category, and for completing certain numbers of books. I have fond memories of trying to out-read my brother.

Well, thankfully those years are not completely over. An online group of librarians have been hosting an online summer reading program for the past several years. I haven't participated before, but am going to this year. All you have to do is set yourself a reading goal, and write little reviews of what you are reading. You don't have to have your own blog to participate, as your reviews can be posted to the Summer Reading Program directly.

I'm really excited, and hope I can get lots of summer reading in with this motivation. I am setting a goal of ten books, and will post my reviews here.

If you are interested in joining us or would like to see the reviews already completed to get some summer reading ideas, you can find more information at:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Learning Css and Other Things I Did This Week

Since I spent so much time last week doing managerial paperwork, I spent a lot of this week catching up on some of my own work.

I spent a great deal of time finalizing changes to our new ILLiad 7.2 web pages. Our old ILLiad web pages were pretty much straight out of the box, so I enjoyed getting these new pages customized. One challenge, was that the new pages are controlled by cascading style sheets (css) which I was much less familiar with than straight html. Luckily, there was a librarian here who helped me out with a lot of the css and saved me hours and hours of work. And other than adding a few blocks of text to the FAQ, those bad boys are now done.

I was able to make progress in implementing Odyssey - which is now sending and receiving. Still having some problems with patron email and Odyssey/Ariel communications, but we've made major progress.

Our inventory scanning was finally completed!! YAY!! I still have beaucoup inventory reports to process though, so I know what I'll be doing when I'm working this weekend. And even in the midst of finishing inventory, we were able to begin carting books up for our shifting project to begin next week when our new shelving will (hopefully) arrive.

And people think we're less busy in the summer. ;)

Friday, May 11, 2007

So Busy...

...staff evaluations...

...staff work plans for the upcoming year...

...major changes to job descriptions...department overhaul...

...adding new document delivery services... much writing... glad it's Friday...

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Semester's Over?

I just can't believe that it's already the end of the semester! Graduation is Saturday and while several legacy student assistants have graduated over the past couple of years, the first student that I hired after beginning work at the Library is graduating this year. It makes me realize just how long I've been here. The time has just flown by, which you don't realize in the day to day flurry of activities that can at times seem unending.

So surrounded by the stacks and carts of returned books, the flurry of clearing patron records, and the end of the semester rush of meetings and social events, I am pausing just a moment to reflect on the larger picture - to appreciate what has been accomplished in that time. We've upgraded three major software systems, had numerous changes to policies and procedures, overhauled job descriptions, added a position, hired another individual, developed a student worker training program, conducted the first inventory in twelve years, and added circulating library equipment to the long list of tasks we already had to keep an Access Services department running smoothly. My staff have been patient, flexible, and worth their weight in gold through all of these changes. (If only I could pay them that way.)

So much was accomplished and at times it seemed grueling and the hours long. But with my first student graduating I am taken by surprise that not only is the semester over, but that now looking back those long hours seem shorter and seeing the results makes them more meaningful and less backbreaking. So while I am at graduation Saturday, I will take the time to appreciate the past several years and refresh myself for the hours ahead.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Things I'm Tired of Saying This Week

NO! I will NOT waive your fines!

I'm sorry, but you're going to have to pay your fines.

Yes, you DO have to pay your fines.

I'm sorry for your trouble with (insert excuse here), but that does not relieve you from the responsibility of paying for your fines.

Yes you may speak to my supervisor. But I am positive that she won't waive your fines either.

If you lost them, you have to pay to replace them. That's just how it works.

NO! I will NOT waive your fines!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Committees, Meetings, and Service - Oh My!

This was a short week for me as I spent most of it at the beach on a retreat. While I dug my toes into the sand this afternoon I gave some thought to work (briefly - I was at the beach after all) and the meeting I had Monday of the Faculty Copyright Education and Policy Committee. With the multitude of projects, committees, and other things I am involved in, why I would take on additional responsibilities voluntarily?

The first is obvious - I am a non-teaching tenure-track faculty member, with all the responsibilities for service and publication that teaching faculty have. So, be offering service on a University committee, I am meeting fulfilling the service component of my position. However, deciding to serve on the committee came from much more than a desire to pad my promotion and tenure portfolio. I have served on other University committees for just that reason, but have not felt the same desire to serve nor the same level of interest in the work of the committee.

However, the second reason is the far more important reason. I also volunteered to serve on the committee because, as chair of the library's Copyright Committee and working in a department that deals with many copyright transactions, I feel that my knowledge makes me a valuable asset to the University committee. I felt it was important to share this with the University committee, not just so that the newly formed committee would not repeat work already done by the Library, but to advocate for the Library on a University level. Also, it is an area that I truly have an interest in, which will make my service on the committee both more meaningful and more productive.

I am grateful that my particular institution treats librarians the same as every other faculty member, but I know that this is not the case at every institution. Opportunities like this are a chance to demonstrate that librarians are as deserving of promotion and tenure as teaching faculty. So yes, it's one more thing on my long list of things to do, but it's an important opportunity and opportunities don't always pass by a second time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Living at the Reference Desk

Though technically an Access Services Librarian, I am also one of the library's reference librarians. While all of the librarians take part in the rotating evening and weekend coverage, four of us are responsible for the main portion of daytime coverage at the Reference Desk. Some weeks I work as few as 8 hours at Reference, but this week I worked 20 hours at Reference. This is a very difficult balance for me, as being the head of Access Services doesn't cease while I am at the Reference Desk, which ends up becoming a satellite branch of the Circulation Desk when I am over there. Add to that the hustle and bustle this week from preparations for the annual Friends of the Library benefit, a Staff Council meeting, and it's surprising that I was able to squeeze in any "real" work.

However, I did manage some squeezing and got quite a bit accomplished this week. I managed to completely catch up on processing our automated inventory reports - over 200 of them! We are making excellent progress in our first automated inventory, but keeping up with the pace of the scanners is not an easy feat. The students doing the scanning have been hard at work, and we should finish the entire collection by the end of the semester.

Additionally, I managed to spend a modicum of time on my ILL projects - consulting with another librarian here about the editing of cascading style sheets in order to change the header/logo at the top of the web pages and beginning to edit the content of the pages per the customizations my staff and I agreed upon. I also performed the first test of my Odyssey set-up - sadly unsuccessful. I am now waiting on hearing from IT about a port issue before contacting technical support for assistance - god I love being hosted.

Not bad for a week spent living at the Reference Desk.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Fine Free!

Today is Good Friday and indeed a four day weekend is good - as I took yesterday off in addition to today's holiday. The week, therefore, has been very short, but not uneventful.

The biggest happening of the week was the consortial meeting I attended on Tuesday. My library is in a three school constortium, which met this week to discuss loan rules, fines/fees, and circulation notices. It was very exciting, especially as one of the biggest topics was going fine free. This has long be a hope of mine since coming to my current institution, as I have felt that these daily penalties are no longer adequately serving their original purpose of getting the items back and deterring patron misuse of materials. Instead, we are discussing converting to a system of billing for overdue items, and when the items are returned the billing fee will remain as the penalty. Fines would remain only on short term items, such as reserve materials.

Of course making this happen is a lot easier said than done. We are going to be meeting next month about some of the logistics - mainly the editing of our system loan rules. This is not something you do on a whim! Editing loan rules truly gives you an understanding of the complexity of an ILS and how all of the different parts of it interact. Even something that seems as simple as adding a patron type or changing the number of days between overdue notices, becomes a lot more complicated when loan rules come into play. A healthy understanding of the system and handy access to your ILS manual are definite prerequisites before playing in this arena. However, once you are finished, it always seems worth it.

I'm very excited about this project, and will post about it more as we progress.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Things I worked on this week....

...processed more automated inventory reports than I care to remember.

...spent 8 hrs at the Reference Desk

...attended training for two different Banner modules (Student and HR) as our campus makes the transition to the new system

...consulted with my staff in customizing the ILLiad 7.2 webpages in preparation for our upgrade in early May.

...end of the month administrivia....timesheets, monthly report, and statistics - oh my!

...trying to catch up with everything else I'm behind on.

...but the bonus - I got my reimbursement check for the money I spent for the ILLiad Conference...YAY!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Travel Has Its Paybacks

While I love to travel and attend conferences and network, there is always the return to my regular job that I must face. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy what I do, but after a week of being gone it's often hard to come back. Not only are you back in your routine, which is always nice to get a break from, but you have to face the mounds of work that multiplied like bunny rabbits in your absence. Wading through the papers left for you, the email, and the phone messages seems to take an eternity. Then there is just getting caught up in general on all the work you would have been doing had you been in the office. And don't even mention unpacking.

I do make efforts to minimize this effect - halting listserv email, changing my voice mail greeting to redirect persons needing immediate assistance, and doing as much as I can while traveling to keep up - such as checking email and checking in periodically with the home front to put out fires that have cropped up so that they aren't awaiting me upon my return.

Still, the advantages of professional travel and involvement far outweigh these inconveniences. Growing always involves a few pains.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Free Trip to the Beach

I am here in what was beautiful, sunny Virginia Beach, where I attended the 3rd Annual ILLiad International Meeting. Not only did OCLC/Atlas pick a beautiful place to have the conference, but Virginia Beach is also my hometown, so I was greatly looking forward to attending. It didn't hurt that because this is a professional conference, work is paying for travel, hotel, and food.

I got into the Norfolk airport on Tuesday and had a nice dinner and checked into the Oceanfront Hilton, where the conference is being held. I arrived early, as I attended one of the pre-conference workshops.

The Wednesday workshop I attended was on maximizing ILLiad. ILLiad is a very robust software system, and I wanted to make sure we were using it to its fullest potential. This was an interesting session, as we touched very briefly on a multitude of topics. Since most of the conference attendees weren't around yet, I hit the beach for some surfing. The water was a bit tingly, but that just adds to the rush.

Thursday, things really got into full swing. We ate the most delicious food, and the sessions I attended were thought-provoking, but more abstract than I usually go for. I tend to prefer hands-on workshops that I can immediately apply to my job - theory only goes so far. But one thing I like about the ILLiad conference is that all the handouts for all the sessions are given to all of the conference attendees. So since I was going to be able to read about all of the sessions, I enjoyed getting a theoretical approach for a change while I was there. I'm going to read about all the hands-on stuff on the trip home and next week, so I'll get the best of both worlds.

Thursday night was my favorite part of the conference ... I always say that you learn more over dinner with your colleagues than in any official session. I went out with about 7 other librarians, some I had just met and some I knew, to my favorite seafood restaurant in town - Harpoon Larry's. It was fabulous.

The conference finished up with more eating and a few more sessions on Friday, before we all went our respective ways. The weather was empathetic...having turned from sunny and warm to cold and rainy overnight. The trip home was rather dismal, because the weather was so nasty, and also because it's always so nice to have a change of pace and always a little bit of a let down to return to the "real world."

If you work with ILLiad and haven't been to one of the conferences, I highly recommend it! I think it is one of the best professional events I have ever attended...and not just because they fed us so well.

Sessions I attended:
"The Long Tail" and the Growing Social Nature of Information
The $64,000 Questions Answered: Why do patrons place requests for items the library already owns?
The Tao of ILLiad
ILLiad is Everywhere
Campus Document Delivery: Centralization and Collaboration

Friday, March 09, 2007

Special Projects

Our students and faculty are on Spring Break this week. I am trying to get work done on my special projects, since only during break times am I able to go 10 minutes without an interruption.

Usually, though I attempt to plan my time and schedule things that need to be done so they aren't forgotten, I never seem to be able to do it all simply because Access Services - and public services in general - make that virtually impossible to accomplish.

I always get a kick out of those non-public-services types who believe all library staff can plan their day's activities and stick to a schedule. Don't I wish? Unfortunately, patrons are not as predictable as materials.

In addition to the usual tasks you would find in Access Services, administrivia, and the scholarly work I need to complete as a tenure track faculty member, I have to squeeze in between interruptions my work on special projects. Right now my big circulation project is a complete automated inventory of the collection - the first automated inventory and the first inventory in a decade for my institution. I'm busy in interlibrary loan too implementing document delivery, Odyssey, and getting ready for the ILLiad 7.2 upgrade. Not to mention I have two publications in process that I need to complete by the end of the month.

So I finally get some uninterrupted time to work on my projects...and wouldn't you know it? I get sick and miss three days. Murphy's law at work.

One day I'll get the hang of how to balance all of these different hats. Maybe cloning myself would be easier!

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Odyssey of Odyssey

The Odyssey of Odyssey - Google Video

I found this video while doing some research for a current project. I found it an amusing diversion from the software documentation I was reading, and thought I would share.

Odyssey is the document delivery portion of Atlas's ILLiad software for interlibrary loan proccessing. I am in the process of implementing this software for my library - which is much more complicated than it would first appear. Not only does the software have to be set up and customizations configured, but I am also looking at work flow from the ground up, as this is an area where my ILL staff and circulation staff are going to overlap. I realized that, since we did not previously have document delivery, there was a lot of duplication in the tasks being done, and am trying to smooth out the process. Setting the software up was very easy - I just asked Atlas to turn it on for me, and they completed the set-up, leaving me to handle only the customizations. While this project is taking many hours of work, in the end it will pay off with additional services to patrons and a simpler work flow in the department. Add direct request and automated delivery, and we reduce the request load as well.

Why implement Odyssey when we have Ariel? Well, for one Odyssey will fully integrate with ILLiad, which we already use for interlibrary loan processing, and it is open source programming. Secondly, because Ariel is just not the software it once was. Problematic functionality and poor technical support are leading the anti-Ariel revolution, as the caustic comments on the Arie-l discussion list serve to underscore. And since the stand alone version of Odyssey (which works without having to purchase ILLiad) is absolutely free - it's all the more reason to make the switch - and many libraries are either switching completely or running both systems. The more libraries that join in this venture, the less Ariel with it's non-open source programming will be needed, as many libraries are hanging on to it only so they can supply other libraries who have only Ariel. Vive la revolution!!

Unclassifiable Librarian 2.0

Welcome to the new beginning of the Unclassifiable Librarian blog.

I started this blog back in August 2004 and for the past two and a half years have included random ramblings on a number of topics whenever it was convenient.

Since that time I have learned two very important things. First - the need to keep my personal and work life separate - which can be easier said than done for Millennials and Xers who tend to chunk those aspects of life together. As such, this site is now dedicated solely to professional discussion. Second - a blog is a lot of work, and a focused topic makes it much easier to maintain, and the simpler the better. I wanted a focus that would take very little of my time to develop and that would benefit other librarians. I am also going to make an effort to be more regular in my postings - starting with Fridays, and hopefully expanding on that base once I see that I can do at least a weekly post.

So what is my new focus? I am an Access Services Librarian - I don't have to try to be unclassifiable, it's part of my job description. I am going to post weekly summaries on the projects I am working on, interesting things that have happened during the week, and all those little activities that unexpectedly fall in the realm of access services.

While catalogers and tech folks and other groups of library personnel have a large web presence, you don't often hear much about access services. Of course, this could be because we are so busy working at the front lines. This is my attempt to change that, and generate discussion on topics pertinent to access services.

For those of you that are interested in the 1.0 postings, you may be wondering what has become of my archive. They have been migrated to my LiveJournal personal blog, which has friends only access. If you don't know where it is, send me a personal email and I will be happy to send you the link.

Goodbye 2004-2006 and hello Unclassifiable Librarian 2.0