What would make the work you do easier?

libraries are only beginning

What about the work your department does -any way to make it easier? Would you be willing to invest in: technology or training or people? Who could make it happen for you; or can anything be outsourced or automated? Below, a few friends from library land respond to various questions -real and virtual friends.

You know the deal. “stuff” that wastes time…that’s kind of tough to put my mind around at the moment. 3 things, one sentence. Riiiiight. This is a whole can of worms. :-)

I think the largest overall problem for me is transparency of tools. Formatting Word documents for signage/documentation is a nightmare in most situations. Hand-feeding information into a local knowledge database that no one uses. Overlap of two separate event/calendar systems that must be managed manually since two unfriendly systems are used.

These are difficult problems to change because of institutional implementation. An institution becomes invested into a software system that may not be the best tool for the job, it results in staff doing all of the tweaking to make that tool create a product to fit in the desired box. Why can’t we have tools that simply make the product fit in the box? There should never be a moment of “how do I trick Word into doing xxxx and then save to PDF because it cannot natively print the document as laid out?”

Another example, our subject librarians have our reference students check book lists from publishers against our catalog and our union catalog to determine what to add to the collection. Why isn’t the publisher (who charges outrageous prices anyway) analyzing our collection and telling us from the beginning what we don’t have? Send us brochures and offers customized to our collection. It really wouldn’t be that difficult.

Damned inefficiency. That’s when I get frustrated and waste an hour or two on Facebook instead. :-)”

I do so much different work... its hard to say what would make it easier.Short list:
better mechanisms for finding books (catalog sucks)
less silos of information to explain to people
better communication methods within and between departments so that I wouldn’t have to wander around or call 5 people to get an answer about something
I don’ t think those are the answers you are looking for, but that’s what I could think of. There are things that I might like, that might help me work better in certain cases- better software, better equipment, etc. But the main difficulties I feel I face during the day have to to with people and the general sad state of library search and discovery tools.
Do I feel there are parts of my job that could be outsourced to someone? Not really, but that’s because I feel that I am indispensable and nobody does work as well as me :)

For me, work would be easier if I was paired with some inspiring, collaborative individuals who sought out new and exciting changes. The ability to work with such a team would be an excellent mentoring opportunity for a young professional like myself and a motivational push to do excellent at whatever I pursue. In this case, technology wouldn’t solve much and neither would training – I think it may just be happenstance that puts all these all-star individuals in one group. As for outsourcing, I believe that some of the doldrums that arise from basic computer maintenance could be delegated to some willing and able computer science student workers – whether this is truly outsourcing is your call to make.

1. Administrative staff who understand support roles and needs like making labels, filing mail, creating basic data entry spreadsheets, confirming meetings, etc. Do you really want to this to be what a librarian gets paid to do?
2. People to provide faculty development regarding teaching info lit, especially web-based instruction. Marketing person.
3. Appropriate furniture & equipment: need chairs & tables in many places for many uses.
4. Leadership. Mine, someone else’s – but someone please lead. ;-)
There are tons of technology things I would like, too…. but mostly some creative folks with great attitudes that can ‘make it so’. ;-)

I found myself having the official role of minute taker at meetings of the Collection Development Team. My role really had to do with the faculty having a person to record their thoughts—an activity which added value to their ideas by committing them to writing, giving their ideas coherence and distributing them to others. This task asserted their superiority to library assistants (people with ideas vs. people who just record the ideas of others). In general, tasks where staff service librarians ought to be discouraged. Tasks which get the work done at the direction of a librarian are, of course, good management.

I have seen system administrators bypass system upgrades that would be helpful to the staff. Some libraries only do whole number system upgrades by policy even if the content of some of the other upgrades would be helpful to staff. If there are more rapid upgrades, then the staff has to roll with the punches more and learn on the fly. On the issues of other technologies (chat, intranet, etc.), these technologies ought to be offered to staff/librarians as a means to connect to patrons, but should be an option of the staff/librarian. Technology should be available to serve patrons which is congruent with the communication style of the patrons and the staff/librarians.

Public services done by private companies takes public money and puts it in the pockets of private companies. If the private firm is able to do the work and make a profit, then the public library ought to hire people and save the taxpayer the cost of the private firm’s profit. It is also a good that a town or county hire its own citizens: have the community serve the community.

3 things:
1. Having a mentor makes my work easier, definitely!
2. If any technology helps me in doing my work faster and more efficient, I will buy it!
3. Some sort of training to minimize learning time.
Parts of my work that can be outsourced are work that are kind of mechanical and repetitive, like inserting grades and downloading assignments.
Overall, anything to optimally use my TIME, I will definitely consider it.

I think the relationship between publishers and libraries is far too complex to be described in simple and dismissive terms. You might ask why we have to subscribe to Elsevier journals–the answer is that the tenure mill and the promotion track demand publication in established, peer-reviewed, high impact journals. We have to buy the journals our faculty have to publish in, like it or not. It would be great if we, the librarians, could get the academic establishment on board with our open access initiatives and it’s good to see that there is some progress in that direction. Oh, there goes that pushing for change in an incremental system again….

If you knew how much time my colleagues in the state university system spend on negotiations with Elsevier, holding their feet to the fire for the good of the entire SUS, you would thank them, and not think of them as partners in crime.

What about you? Have you made any lists for stuff you want to change, lately?

TTW Contributor: Lee LeBlanc

5 thoughts on “What would make the work you do easier?”

  1. For me, making the work atmosphere more lighthearted and encouraging staff to enjoy things makes the work easier. I know this is a different direction from where you’re going with this idea, but I think we need to keep in mind the human factor – the need to build relationships with our customers and between our team members, the stress relief of laughter, and the incredible capacity for creativity that evolves in a work environment that encourages play.

  2. These would make my job easier:

    1. I 2nd, 3rd, and 4th the motion for “a work environment that encourages play”. I encourage it in my department, but the University is another matter.

    2. The ability to pay people what they are worth, rather than having to fit them into unionized pay scales. I think this would help weed out the slackers and help us find and keep exceptional employees.

    3. More staff so that we can experiment with the creative ideas we all have.

  3. Personally, I’ve recently found that email sucks away nearly half of my day. I’ve taken Stever Robbins’ (and that Zero Inbox guy’s) advice to heart and am now dealing with everything quickly as soon as I “process my email”. No more inbox to-do lists. No more lengthy responses. If it takes more than 5 sentences, it deserves a phone call.

  4. Point very well taken -I started doing this awhile back too. I’m amazed when I see some in-boxes being used a project management-like tool. Then, I don’t hear from someone and remember what there in-box looks like. No doubt would make for a interesting study: does processing of in-box email correlate to successful project completion? Or something like that.

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