Sunday, July 22, 2007

Now we're getting somewhere

Sorry about the gap between postings folks, it's been a busy few weeks.

I've had some cool moments in the job over the last couple of weeks that make me feel like we're really starting to make an impact. I had two, count them, two people contact me that I had not yet met - academics in research centres where I had visited the centre but not spoken to that particular academic. On both occassions these academics were contacting me for exactly the kind of thing they should contact me for - questions about our resources. But it's a very cool thing that they did contact me, because someone, somewhere, told them that they should. And then they did. They didn't find me all on their own - we're not listed on the Library website (don't even start me on that issue) and doing a staff search wouldn't find me unless they already know my name. So they either talked to a colleague or read the Library Updates that are sent arouond - either option is great.

Then, I had a really interesting meeting with an academic. I'll try and keep this as anonymous as possible, but what you need to know about this person is that he has a PhD (from my employer), has a computer science background, and does research in an area which one would generally need pretty high information literacy skills to survive in.

What's interesting about this guy is that, until I met with him in the course of my usual duties (even having to push through the "oh, I've got nothing to say, don't bother with me" barrier), he had no idea how to use a library catalogue. He's been surviving all this time with Google. Good on Google, I say - I mean, how wonderfully user friendly is that that this guy can essentially hide this lack of knowledge by using their services. It's amazing.

He gets heaps of information, and uses it, but there was one fundamental thing he didn't get - that library catalogues don't index journals. He had spent countless hours entering article titles and authors into our catalogue, and getting no results, and being consistently pissed off with the library because of it. See, because he has a computer science background, he doesn't understand WHY we don't index journals. The way his mind has worked, it's possible and desirable, so why shouldn't it be that way?

In the end I had to tell him that while I agreed with him wholeheartedly, my job was to show him how to work with the often stunted tools that we do have. I hope I helped.

But this flows nicely into a discussion I'll be attending at work on Tuesday on the future of OPACs, or traditional library catalogues. Those attending the discussion have been assigned reading (which I've done cos I'm a dork) and I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the brightest minds in the uni library tackle this issue. And I'm hoping to use my computer scientist as an example - we can't assume that "the kids of today" will accept the limitations of our catalouges - they have access to things that are so much better, they can do almost everything without having to learn "our" way of doing things. So when they do encounter our online tools, they'll assume they work the same way as everyone elses. If they don't find what they want, they'll assume we don't have it. They will probably not ask for help, because they'll assume that the people who keep styling themselves as "information professionals" have actually kept with the times somewhat.

In other news, last week I did a day of training for my replacement at my old job, which was a very surreal experience but I was so happy to be able to help her out a bit - they picked a good one to replace me though. She's absolutely full of drive and passion. This week I'm going to the next event in the lecture series that I started 3 years ago - I arranged this lecture at the beginning of 2007, but my replacement has had to take over from me and I'm really excited for her - she's getting bookings and has a bunch of support. Wanna come? Have a look here.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Following up, again, on that vision comment

I've just done a read over my blog, because one of my bosses asked to have a look at it and I figured I should check there was nothing incriminating in it before sending it to her. And I re-read the comments I was making about not having a grand vision to be working towards.

The good news is that situation is improving. I told my team leader about this, and he gave me a copy of the document that sat near the beginning of the whole restructure that started a few years ago. I had one of my "help students find stuff on the shelves" shifts on Thursday, and given that it's the last week of exams there was no one around, so I read the document.

At last - grand visions! It was fun. The document was a summary of all the staff consultations they held some time ago, where they presented three future models of the Library to staff and asked them for input. I liked the models - I think they were being overly optimistic about the rate of change that could be implemented, but I think one should be overly optimistic when creating vision.

What it gave me was a sense of what the potential of the Library is. The next thing I want to explore is how far along those models the senior managers feel we are.

Also, just so that I can add a second tag for Latvians, last weekend was Jani, the Latvian Midsummer celebrations. Oh golly - these people are so cool. It's as if there's some rule that if you get three or more Latvians together in a room they just break into song. Sometimes I felt I was in a musical, except that the songs didn't advance the plot at all - they were mostly about beer. I'm told that even the little kids were singing about beer.

After the official celebrations we ended up at the Hero of Waterloo pub in the Rocks, where there was, until our arrival, a lonely celtic band playing. Once we (a group of 12 Latvians and 3 pretend Latvians) arrived, there was almost constant folk dancing all night long. I LOVE dancing with these people - I did some preparation in the morning by watching YouTube video tutorials on how to polka.

I've agreed to go on a three day skiing trip with the Latvians. I'm not sure how my liver is going to hold up, I might have to exercise some self control.

Back to work. Our weekly meeting targets have been revised from 20 to 12, much more reasonable. It's still pretty full on - next week I have 7 meetings booked and it looks like a busy week to me, so it'll be interesting to see if I can increase those figures any without falling over. Perhaps if I can avoid getting sick, AGAIN, I'll have a better chance.

Oh, and in other good news - I'm finally able to do something a bit more in depth - I'm working with one of the research centres to develop a new collection in their area, which makes me feel like I'm developing a deeper relationship and offering them something new, and something of consequence. That should be cool!