23 February 2014

How to succeed in Library management : a new vocabulary

I have become aware of the lack of les mots justes for certain situations when writing about libraries, so I offer the following.  I hope you will find them useful, feel free to add your own.

Acupuncture – Proving to an irate and pompous patron that yes, that fine is quite correct

Ballweb – An application which will be of little use 6 months from now
Dustbowl – Unfortunate consequence of handling a brittle book 
Emphalibbing – Making It Quite Clear that you do More Than Stamp Books

Furstacker – The junior member of staff sent down to the basement 
Gaberdine - A style of presentation at conferences usually adopted by those who didn't rehearse their talk

Gin Alley – the route staff take around the library when closing down
Hollinesia – Leaving your email vacation message switched on after you are back at work

Introsunk – That induction session didn't go too well

Kittiwake – the moment you realise you've made a small error in a catalogue record

Leerwinkle -Suspicion that this visitor to the Library is not all he seems
Mehtsar – A less than inspiring leader

Negligee – A management statement designed to smooth over a blunder but which only succeeds in attracting more attention
Overdididiligence – Spending ten minutes looking through pages of sub-divisions in Dewey, only to find that the whole number is adequate

Rupert – a generic term for all male rare books librarians
Solo – having to drop to all fours to reach a book from the bottom shelf

Smuggle – the secret pleasure of not endorsing a colleague on Linked in

Sticker – The member of staff who still doesn’t quite get all this web stuff 
Treacle – Descriptive language used by management to cover a new process which also renders it unrecognisable to those who are actually working on it

Tricksheet – A set of instructions containing a deliberate error
Vistartle - The sudden appearance in the Library of a wealthy donor/senior member of management staff/group of 50 schoolchildren, about which you knew nothing

Whivvering – The feeling you get in a meeting when a decision is reached that you don’t agree with but you don’t know why


Thanks to Andy Priestner who sent these invaluable additions (not sure what kind of meetings he goes to) : 

Diddlesquatting - tweeting during an enquiry desk late duty cos you're too burnt out and tired for anything else

Futilorum - a long pointless meeting at which no actions are recorded whatsoever

Goadflam - a person who deliberately provokes the chair of a meeting
Oopsraffle - forgetting to award promised prizes to users who filled in the annual library survey

Twiddling - animatedly advocating the research value of Twitter

Previously in How to succeed in library management:

How I work 
Strategic planning
Time management

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.