My Wednesday:

8:10AM: I arrive at work. I actually remember to park in the lot on the other side of the library. There is a service in the chapel today and the parking lot that we normally park in is closing at 2PM. I feel confident that the fact that I remembered bodes well for the rest of the day.

8:20AM: I am sitting at my desk starting to go through email, RSS feeds etc. Earlier this morning, I had read and email that one of the night circulation staff wrote about problems with the college and library web pages.

I investigate the web page issues. There is definitely something wrong with the college’s home page. Most of the links are pointing back to the home page itself. It looks like the site control was corrupted or something like that. The library home page is working fine. The issue is that no one can get there from the college home page. I email people to give them the direct URL for the library web site. One of the reference librarians calls to discuss because she has a 9:30AM instruction session across campus. I give her the lowdown.

I also call the web person to either report the issue or get more information. I leave a message. The person working last night did report the problem to the Help Desk, but I figure I should check on that as well. I can IT and talk to one of the techs. He will follow up to see if anyone is aware. Shortly thereafter, the web person calls me back and we discuss for a bit. She has to call the CMS vendor for troubleshooting.

There was a log file issue. The problem can’t be fixed until the site publishes again (that takes a LONG time). The web site is restored sometime before lunch.

9:45AM: Our interlibrary loan librarian calls to report a problem with her computer. I can connect fine. It looks like this may be another monitor issue. While we are on the phone, the everything returns to normal. Because she is getting a new computer soon, I decide to swap out her current monitor for her new one. I tell her I will check on her computer throughout the day. If the situation continues, I may have to get her new machine ready this week rather than next.

10:00AM: The IT manager of desktop support calls me to discuss new computers for Archives staff. The Archives is part of the library organization, and I do support them. I tell the manager that if IT will image the new computers, I will add the additional software, do the configuration and then deploy the computers. He will have the new computers sent over the library after they are imaged.

10:10AM: I start working with a new Zebra label printer that I want to use for spine label printing in our cataloging department. I have tried to get this working before, but ran into problems with print drivers and file formats on my Windows Vista computer. I am now running Windows 7 and am optimistic that I might have more luck.

I get the printer installed fine. I then need to install software to edit print templates that our library system can use. This project is one of those 1- step-forward-2-step-back types. It takes me quite a while to just be able to successfully print to the printer from my computer. I spend time looking for print templates that people have already used. This is a headache!

I finally get a new print template which works uploaded into our library system. I successfully printed a spine label. I do a bit of a victory dance before thinking about the fact that it isn’t formatted correctly. I spend more time trying to get the margins and the spacing correct. Eventually, I get it the way I want. Then, I realize that the ribbon is not going to cut it. I do some research and see that most libraries are using wax or resin ribbons. I put this on my list of things to buy.

It is almost lunch time. I still have some issues. I would really like the labels to print out sideways, but figure that I have had enough of this for today. I can deal with that issue another day.

12:40-1:40PM: I decide that I need my full lunch hour today. I take a book with me in order to forget about label printing (which makes me crazy sometimes).

1:45PM: When I return to my office, I see emails stating the my new employee’s account has been created. I talk to one of the women at the help desk to request that his letter be sent via campus mail to me, so that I can put it with a letter from me with his library-specific application passwords. I then create accounts for him in our library system, our ILL system and others. I add his name to our web pages and create the document with all of his account information.

2:05PM: I have a voice mail from my boss about a file he can’t open. I have him forward me the link. I call him back to tell him that I think it is the file. It appears to the a temp version of the document rather than the document. When I do open the file, it is all gobblygook.

2:10PM: I call the person in IT who does our library system backups. I generally swap out tapes with her on Wednesdays. However, my weekly IT meetings are now on Thursdays. So, I call her to say that I think I will switch the day to swap out the tapes to Thursday. It was much easier to walk across campus several times a week in the summer. Now that it is cold, I like to try and minimize the number of times that I have to go over to IT.

2:15PM: Back to working on accounts, etc for my new employee. I need to decide what I want to do for a new computer. I think that I will have him configure his own computer when he starts on Monday. I make sure that I mark one of the new computers for him.

3:00PM: I remember that I still have to type up the notes from yesterday’s meeting. I make myself do it now. When I finish, I email the document to all of the library department heads asking if they want to make any changes, etc.

3:40PM: I go through emails that I have gotten throughout the day that I saved for review later. None require responses. Mostly, the emails were from various listservs that appeared to have helpful information. I print out some documentation for a meeting tomorrow afternoon and review it. I go through my RSS feeds again

I check on the web sites for our digital asset management system. It crashed on Monday, but has been working fine since. I cross my fingers and throw some salt over my shoulder.

4:15PM: I head out for the day. I make a mental note that the library parking lot will be closed again tomorrow.

On Letting Go – Or Not

Jessamyn West wrote a rather thought provoking post on librarian.net recently entitled on heroism. In essence, she withdrew from a project that she was managing because she was “trying too hard to be the hero.” In the post, she references the essay “Don’t Be a Hero” by Alex Payne. Payne writes that:

Heroes are damaging to a team because they become a crutch. As soon as you have someone who’s always willing to work at all hours, the motivation from the rest of the team to produce reliable, trouble-free software drops. The hero is a human patch. Sure, you might sit around talking about how reliability is a priority, but in the back of your mind you know that the hero will be there to fix what doesn’t work.

It sounds as if West wanted to avoid becoming a human patch and believed the best way to do this was to remove herself as lead on the project.

Ultimately, this post made me think about my own experiences as my library’s technology expert (which is indeed part of my job description). In this position, it is natural for me to often be the lead on those projects that rely heavily upon technological expertise – or even just the lead on specific parts of projects. This means that my job responsibilities often change with each new technological initiative – as I become the owner of some specific task or system. It naturally follows that people continue to look to me to answer questions and/or to fix things.

But where does one draw the line? I definitely struggle with this issue. There is a fine line between becoming the expert (as opposed to the human patch) and creating an atmosphere which does not encourage others to step up and take ownership. For most technologies, I do become the expert and then depending on the situation either become the owner or pass along the reins to another individual designated as the owner. The end result depends heavily on not only the personalities involved, but also upon their workloads.

Letting go of things is not easy. I can admit to being a bit of a control freak – and as such, I have created situations where I am the only person who can deal with certain situations. Maybe it wasn’t apparent who should be co-owner of an application; maybe the people involved were not technical enough to take responsibility; maybe I was too rigid in my expectations. I suspect that the reasons why these things happen aren’t always clear cut or easy to untangle. Either way, it wasn’t healthy for me or for the library as a whole. And, I really can’t pretend that the situation doesn’t still exist.

However, I have made letting go a priority over the past couple of years. Has it helped? Sometimes yes, but very often not. I have felt as if the decision to let something go has come back to haunt me because it has on occasion impacted service to our students, which for me is the worst end result of any decision. This is one of the reasons that I feel as if our systems department needs a bit of an overhaul. It isn’t as simple as taking on all the responsibility or letting it all go. There has to be a middle ground where we are the technology experts, but also help people develop enough confidence and skill to be able to fix their own problems. And I admit that I need to find better ways to help people achieve this level of technical confidence.

As things stand, I am very often a human patch in my day-to-day work life. I’m starting to actually think we should not consider this a bad thing. It is all about balance. And, I have learned that people often feel better just knowing that there is someone in the building that can help if need be. Sometimes, this gives people the confidence to try things themselves. So, my goal is to let go just enough to let people become their own heroes every once in a while, but not let go so much as to frustrate the library staff or our students.

Time Under Desks

Originally uploaded by ScruffyNerf

This was where I spent a good part of my day today when I was deploying a new computer for one of the library staff.

My Tuesday:

8:40AM: I arrived at work.

8:45-9:15AM: I sat down at my desk and went through all of the emails that were waiting for me. Most were listserv emails or items to which I did not need to respond. I also went through my feeds and marked items that I would want to read in more depth later. I had tuna fish on crackers for breakfast while going through my morning routine.

9:20AM: I realized that I had reclaimed a flat panel monitor from my boss when I deployed his new computer a couple of weeks ago. It was with old equipment that I had ready to be returned to IT. I dug out the monitor and used it to replace the non-responsive one that someone had reported yesterday. The replacement monitor worked great. I took down the out of order sign.

9:45AM: A library staff member reported that our library system client would not load on her computer. It was basically hanging. She had rebooted the computer a couple of times. I told her that I would check it out after my 10AM meeting. I then went to get ready for the meeting.

9:55AM: I head down to the director’s conference room for the meeting. Library department heads meet with the director every two weeks. It is my turn to take notes, so I try to get there early and get settled.

10:00-10:45AM: Library department heads’ meeting.

10:50AM: I return to my office. I start to type up the minutes of the meeting when I remember that I have to check in with the staff person who can’t open the client for our library system. I call her and confirm that the problem didn’t magically disappear while I was in my meeting. I connect to her machine remotely. Argh!! This is a bizarre problem that I have never seen before.  I can sense the day is going downhill. After trying many things, including uninstalling and reinstalling the software, it still won’t work. There are a variety of error messages in Event Viewer, but the error messages aren’t very helpful. Eventually, I run a malware scan. This takes almost 2 hours to complete. After the scan finishes, I attempt to launch the client again – with no success. At this point, I decide it is lunch time.

While the scan was running, I deployed the new computer for one of our reference librarians. This took a bit longer than I  expected because the prongs on her barcode reader were all bent. I got some needle nose pliers and a screwdriver to straighten them up. I was extremely happy that I got the barcode reader working again.

12:50-1:20PM: I eat lunch.

1:20-3:30PM: I spend almost the rest of the afternoon dealing with the staff computer which will not run our library system client. I clean the machine of spyware. I uninstall all sorts of software that people have added (games, tv viewers, indexing software, etc). I speak to the IT techs about the problem. They think that it might be best to reimage the machine. I start to copy data to network drives and realize that this machine is organizationally a mess. I figure that if I have to rebuild the computer, I probably want to do so on a new hard drive. One of the techs suggests that I try using system restore. I do so with no luck.

I have now spent an inordinate amount of time on this with no visible results. I decide to try logging in as another user (I had done this earlier). I am then able to launch the library system client. I force the computer to build a new profile for the person in question and then configure all of her profile specific settings. She can now use log into our library system, but I am not convinced that there will not be additional problems.

3:35PM: I return to my office. I sit down and read through emails that I have received during the day. I have an email exchange with someone in the IT systems group about library fileshares. IT is working on a project to consolidate and reorganize our file servers. I again start to work on typing up minutes from this morning’s meetings. I visit with the reference librarian who got her new computer today. She came into work at 2PM. She is missing some network connections, and I walk her through readding them.

4:05PM: I head out. I definitely feel like I didn’t get anything done today.

5:30PM: I read an email from the reference librarian who is working tonight. She asked about whether or not she could make changes to some library web pages. Because she will be working tonight, I give her a call and go over the process. I will keep checking to see if she has any other questions.

It is time for another round of Library Day in the Life. So, here is more about my day today –

I arrived at work at about 8:45AM.

I got right to work on building a new computer. Late on Friday afternoon, one of our reference librarians called to report that her computer kept shutting down. It had been doing this for a while, but was really getting bad. She said it had shut down several times on Friday. She was on the list for a new computer – and I actually had new computers in my office. I told her that I thought it would be best to simply get her a new computer on Monday. She had to work on Saturday, but would be out of the library until Tuesday at 2PM. This would give me plenty of time to get her computer ready for her without too much interruption.

So, I began to configure a new computer for her first thing this morning. It took about 45 minutes to image the computer and about another hour to install all of the library specific software that she uses (our ILS client, cataloging software, ILL software, etc). Once the software was installed, I began copying all of her files to the new computer. This process took a massively long time because the computer kept losing its network connectivity (this machine was seriously messed up). Lastly, I configured her profile specific settings. The computer is all set and ready to be deployed tomorrow morning.

Throughout the day, I had other projects, meetings, etc. that needed my attention at various points during the day.

I spent quite a bit of time documenting the process of setting up the new computer and configuring its settings. I have a new employee starting on February 1st, and I need to get training documents ready for this person.

At 1PM, I had an hour and a half meeting across campus with the vendor from whom we buy our servers. While I am primarily part of the library organization (in the academic division), I am also part of the IT department (in the finance division) – part of the IT’s systems department. This meeting was one for this IT group. The vendor was laying out their server roadmap and discussing their new line of servers. It was extremely informative. I generally consult with this group before buying hardware, but feel like I learned quite a bit about server architecture.

When I returned from the meeting, there were several voice mails waiting for me. The first one was from my boss. He was missing his archived folders in his email client. I had not transferred these files when I built his new computer for him last week. I had to get his old tower, hook it up and find the files. I copied the files to his new computer and then connected to his computer to add the archive data files to Outlook. One problem solved!

Next, one of the reference librarians had reported that a computer in the reference area was not functioning properly. I connected to the computer and poked around. Everything seemed to work fine. I rebooted the computer. We have software on the computer that resets the computer image upon reboot. I emailed the reference librarian to get additional information. He hadn’t specified what exactly was wrong with the computer. He got back to me quickly to report that the screen would go dark and then it would not wake up. This is a reoccurring issue. The flat panel monitors on these computers are over 8 years old, and they are starting to die. I requested a new one from IT. Normally, I would have walked over to the IT offices to pick up the new monitor, but the weather was nasty. It was pouring out and the wind was vicious. I will try and get the monitor tomorrow.

The last voice mail was from someone in the Admissions office who was trying to access pictures on the web site associated with our digital asset management system. The web site seemed to be working fine, but the images would not display (there was instead a red x). This is another reoccuring issue – although it hadn’t happened since mid-November. I was somewhat disheartened that this happened again. I may have to reopen the original call to the vendor. I used remote desktop connection to connect to the server. I copied the log files and then tried to restart the services that control the web publishing service. They, however, were frozen. I had to reboot the server. Once the server came back up, the images displayed correctly. I then did a write up on the problem to add to IT’s call tracking system. All of the licenses for it were in use, so I will remember to add it to the system tomorrow.

I left work at about 4:10PM.

How I Got Here

My journey to librarianship is one of serendipity – and being in the right place at the right time. I never specifically planned to become a librarian, nor did I have any specific career aspirations. I definitely tend to the type of person who makes choices based upon the opportunities that present themselves without always looking at the total sum of possibilities.

So, how did I end up as a systems librarian? My route to my current career began when I transferred to small college close to home. While in high school, I choose to go to the School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington DC. I had to very vague plans for study – one involved studying computer science and the other involved working for the government in international relations. I was petrified of the math involved in studying computer science, so choose the second path. I found out early on that I wasn’t at all in studying languages, economics, foreign policy, etc. The only classes that I actually enjoyed were history. I also discovered that attending a large university was not a good choice for someone with my introverted tendencies. So, I transferred to a local college close to my home – where I could ditch dorm living and get my car back.

As part of my financial aid package, I received a work-study award. I distinctly remember sitting with the student aid person going over available jobs. Because I lived close to campus, she suggested that I apply for a job in the library. The government documents assistant needed someone who could work full-time over winter break because she would be on maternity leave. I applied and found myself shortly thereafter processing government documents and developing my love of SUDOC numbers.

Throughout my remaining three years in college, I continued working in the library, in government documents, serials and the college archives. I did briefly consider going to library school right after college to study archives, but wasn’t ready to make a definite decision about the rest of my life.

After college, I worked briefly in customer service for a catalog clothing company. I did decide to go to graduate school, but applied to a Ph.D. program in history. Again, I learned that there was something else I definitely had no desire to do. I hated the entire graduate school experience – and pretty much simply walked away from the program after a professor gave me grief for going to Florida for my grandfather’s funeral.

Several weeks later, I received a phone call from the college archivist for whom I had worked while in college. The government documents assistant that I had worked for was ill and had not been able to return to work after the birth of her second child. The library needed a temporary employee to come in keep the department running in her absence. I was currently unemployed – and quite honestly was very unsure about what to do with the rest of my life.

So, I returned to the library in June of 1994 and continued my love affair with government documents. I became a permanent employee when we learned that the woman who was my first library supervisor was terminally ill – not really a happy way to get my first full-time permanent job. Fortunately, she had taught me well. And, I have her to thank for getting me into library work.

While working in government documents, there were many changes in the library. In 1995, we automated. I started a project to catalog our government documents collection in order to make sure that they would be accessible in our online catalog. This gave me the opportunity to work very closely with our cataloging librarian (who was the project manager for our automation project) and to learn about MARC and bibliographic record structure. The automation project itself was fascinating, and it taught me a great deal about our library system.

Shortly after automating, the college began construction on a new library building. As part of the new building, the library was exponentially increasing the number of computers that would be available to students. So, as part of the project, a new department was created – that of systems. Our cataloging librarian was to become the systems librarian and a new job for a library systems technician was created. The cataloging librarian asked if I would be interested in this job. I, of course, jumped at the chance. Thus, when the new library opened in July of 1998, I left my beloved government documents behind and began a new path within librarianship. I was now working with technology, something that I truly enjoyed.

After only a year in the new building, our systems librarian decided to return to the West Coast. Her job was vacant for over six months. The library administrators did interview several candidates, but none were right for the job. Meanwhile, because the job was vacant, I took on more and more of those responsibilities. In February 2000, I was offered the job of systems librarian. Because I did not have an MLS, the job title was changed to Head of Library Systems.

I would have to say that I had contemplated going to library school off and on since the mid-1990s. Several things stopped me (or got in the way). I had student loans from college and from my ill-fated, first attempt at graduate school. I was unwilling to go into additional debt. I got married – which meant melding my finances with someone else. Decisions about spending money were no longer mine alone. My husband and I decided that buying a house was our first priority. Life just got in the way.

However, while I never actually made a conscious decision to become a librarian, I had indeed found a career that I loved – one that I felt suited me and one that I like to think I was good at. By 2003, I began to seriously think about graduate school. I realized that while I might have been starting to feel old (working around 18-22 year olds can do that), I had a long time until retirement. I had found a career with which I was happy, but I started to understand that wouldn’t be the end of the story. Life, technology and libraries would continue to change, and I needed to be able to keep up. I had been in my job 5 years. I felt very comfortable with the job responsibilities, maybe too comfortable. This is why I applied to library school in 2005.

Despite some difficulties with my online program, it was a good choice. I’m not entirely sure that I learned a great deal that I hadn’t already known from my many years of library work. However, it did get me thinking about my job and librarianship – hopefully, in some new ways. It also gave me the credentials which are important in the world of librarianship.

I am now a systems librarian. I love working with library technology and being the liaison between the technology and the people who use it. There are so many challenges, but I find it rewarding to be able to help people and to resolve problems. It is also an added bonus that while I do not still work with our government documents collection, the paper stacks are right outside my office. This means that I get to indulge my first library love by browsing the stacks and checking out the documents from my favorite areas of SUDOC classification (I love T 22.44/2:, SI 1.44:, PREX 3.10/4: along with many others).

I find the topic of library blogs and blogging fascinating. As such, I always look forward to Walt Crawford’s commentaries about the topic. In this vein, I did buy a copy (pdf version) of his latest book, But Still They Blog. I admit that the statistical analysis made my head spin a bit (I get lost whenever quintiles come up), but the book was certainly worth a read for anyone who is interested in the seeming decline in blogging intensity within the library sphere.

After reading But Still They Blog, it is clear that people blog – and stop blogging – for a variety of reasons. People have wildly different ideas about the impact of tools like Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. on blogging – and on the worth of blogging. Ultimately, blogging isn’t dead, but it isn’t the same as it was several years ago. Crawford tells us all this through statistical analysis and through quotes from the blogs that he profiles. It is the story told through these glimpses at the various blogs which is my favorite part of the book (and is often my favorite part of many of his articles in Cites and Insights).