Thursday, April 26, 2012


Last June I had the good fortune to attend SAVOR, an epic bacchanalia of craft beer and food in the National Building Museum. This year I have the even better fortune of attending again. is writing profiles for every brewery and every beer each brewery is bringing to SAVOR. I'm a part of that. Follow along here.

Update, 4/26/12 at 5pm: We already have our first bruhaha in the comments, over whether Allagash White is rare and exotic enough for SAVOR, and if that's even the point of SAVOR.

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Year, New Library Quarterly Report: Spring

At the end of last year, I held a staff meeting in which I told other librarians and library staff to treat the library like a lab. So far, this is what we're up to.

I began my tenure here in Technical Services, which included interlibrary loan (ILL). There was one problem: I had no prior experience in ILL outside of using RLIN and OCLC Passport in the early 00s (yes, I'm that old), and there was nobody to teach me how to do it. We use OCLC's FirstSearch and I was able to somewhat train myself, but there were features of that platform that I did not use, nor did I have the time to play around with, because I was also cataloging, working with the budget, instituting an information literacy and library instruction program, etc.... You fellow overworked librarians get the idea.
The solution: off-load this responsibility to another staff member, telling them to take the time to fully explore OCLC's features, and then train others on it. This has worked. We're now using FirstSearch in a more effective manner. This includes taking advantage of tracking loans and generating labels in ways we weren't. It isn't sexy, but it's something.

We have been lucky to see modest budget increases, but in some ways this is a fool's errand because we have little time to properly evaluate resources when developing the collection with such a small staff. Bad librarian that I am, I gave back a lot of money last year because of this (after leaving $4.76 in the till in 2010). It will not happen again, mostly because I've given each library staff member some money and an area in which to improve our collection. We are two weeks out from reporting on this, but I intend to spend a lot of money in May. Then I intend to promote the heck out of what we purchase via the (too quiet) library blog; taking advantage of "Months," such as April's National Poetry Month; and summer/beach reading; among other options. I am very open to suggestions here, so if you have any ideas on how to market a collection or collections at an academic library, please let me know, either in the comments or via twitter.

We have done a fair amount of cross-training, so that of the six (6) staff members we have, four can do copy cataloging. Two of them, including myself, can do original cataloging. This forces staff on the desk to think like catalogers. Perhaps more important, we have no one person dedicated to cataloging, so everyone is out on the reference desk, working with patrons, observing how they use library resources.

We tried to "embed" librarians and library staff in specific courses in Moodle, our course management software (CMS). We "piloted" a program in which we had library staff in 63 courses. We created 63 "Ask a Librarian" discussion forums. Over the course of a semester, two (2, t w o) students took advantage of this. That's a disaster. We're scaling back, using widgets to give the library an online space in our CMS and customizable databases, but we've scaled back from "push" to "presence," which we will monitor.

We have a few other big things lined up as well, but I'll wait until I have more news, good or bad, to discuss in this space.