The Deep Breath Before the Plunge

I got my first library job 20 years ago this coming April. Twelve of those 20 years in libraries were spent working as a contractor. On my birthday, my dad said to me, “You’re 42 years old and you’ve never held down a steady job, but you’ve done pretty well for yourself.”

My current contract ends this coming September, so I have nine months to plan for what happens next. Usually you can’t anticipate upheaval in your life, but 2015 is already shaping up to be a major one in my life. This year has been pretty great, so let’s hope the next beats the last.

On a Need to Know Basis

LighthouseOne of the assumptions that librarians make is that the value of our services is self-evident. We see the value every day, but we take it for granted that others (ones who have a say over library budgets, for example) see things our way.

How do we justify our existence to our stakeholders? Do we present numbers from usage reports? Do we present anecdotal evidence? What can we use to incontrovertibly prove our worth to those who hold our fates in their hands?

As mentioned in Measuring Points, my office has trying to determine what usage data that we’ve collected best shows the success of our electronic resources platform. The conclusion we came to is that, while we have a lot of good data, we need to make some tweaks to improve their quality.

Certainly, it should be easy enough to enhance the data we get from the systems we built ourselves. We can also use code to improve the type of data that we collect using Google Analytics.

We don’t have a say in the types of data we get from our resource providers. We can (and have been) requesting additional reports beyond the canned ones in the client services modules. Some of these reports exist, some have become enhancement requests. Honestly, not all of the reports we’ve asked for would be useful to other clients, so it’s probably easier for our reps to just run them when we ask for them.

There are other types of analysis that we can do to enhance the data we already have. We’re going to do cost analysis reports from a couple of different angles to figure out where we’re getting bang for our buck and where we can get more bang.

We also need to do more analysis of qualitative data, but we have to figure out how to get it. There’s a central system where spaces in the field report on their work and activities, and just about all of the items related to our platform that have been submitted are about training sessions. I’m glad to see the training, but as we enter the fifth year of this project, I really want to see more about how users are using the resources.

That is going to be our biggest challenge moving forward, because, while the hard numbers can be impressive, they don’t measure the impact the resources have had on our users. And that is really what is going to show the value of our services.


Robert Leo Waller

Gramma, Great-Gramma, Mom, Me and Grandpa

Gramma, Great-Gramma, Mom, Me and Grandpa

My grandfather died on this day 20 years ago. I can sort of remember his voice. Every now and then I have a dream about him. His voice never sounds quite right, so I always know I’m dreaming when I see him.

Grandpa was a sailor in World War II. He and Gramma had three kids. He had a drinking problem during the 1950s, but quit after Gramma threatened to leave him. He was a gravedigger at one point. He loved country music, particularly George Strait. Somehow he was distantly related to Buffalo Bill Cody. (It’s one of those family myths whose veracity I’ve never bothered to confirm.)

He had a short fuse and yelled a lot, but had a large heart. He was friendly and profane. Whenever he farted, he would blame the spiders under his chair.

He would clear the dinner table after he finished eating, even though he finished first and we weren’t done yet.

We watched Match Game together in the afternoons after school. We watched a lot of baseball and a lot of hockey together, too; he was a fan of the Boston Braves even after they ended up in Atlanta. I watched the 1986 World Series with him and I still remember him turning the TV off after the Red Sox choked in Game Six, muttering, “Well, they figured out how to blow it again.”

Grandpa, Gramma, me, and Nana

Grandpa, Gramma, me, and Nana

He loved to go out to eat. We used to drive up to my grandparents’ house in New Hampshire together and he would point out every good restaurant we drove by. My parents called it “the Bob Tour.”

He died in a Rexall after having breakfast, contrary to what his obituary states. The newspaper spelled my hometown of Worcester wrong, so what do they know?

At Grandpa’s wake, we had pictures of him blown up and mounted on posters that we had on display around the funeral parlor. Gramma came up to me and pointed out a picture of him from when he was in his early 20s, and she pointed out how much I looked like him. She said, “It’s amazing, isn’t it? And now you know what you will look like when you’re dead, too!”

Some things feel like they happened only yesterday. But it’s been so long since I’ve seen Grandpa that I can feel every one of the 20 years that have passed. I miss him a lot still. I might wish that I could have had one more chance to see him before he died, but that one last chance would not have been enough. It would just replace the actual last time I saw him and that’s it. I’m lucky I had all the time with him that I did, and I’m grateful.


New Representative to the PTPL Advisory Board

Window at Hotel Moskva, BelgradeI have been elected to serve as a District of Columbia Regional Representative (2015-2017) to the Advisory Board of the Potomac Technical Processing Librarians. I’ve been a member of PTPL for a long time, but I haven’t really had a chance to get involved with them up until now.

PTPL is affiliated with the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), which I’m not a member of even though I’m an ALA member so by the time you read this post I have probably joined ALCTS, too.

I’ve dedicated a lot of time to SLA over the years (most recently as a panelist in a session at SLA2014) and I feel like I’m cheating on it a little bit! But I’m looking forward to working with members of the organization’s leadership; they are a new cohort of colleagues.

I’m also excited to have a chance to learn more about the technical services community in my local area. I spend so much time on the whole global village in the age of communication thing that I don’t feel like I know this region that well.

If you’re a technical services librarian in the Maryland, Virginia, or D.C. area, consider becoming a member! (You can never start your work too early…)