Me and E.B.

Me and E.B.

Summary: Trends, Ideas, Looking Ahead #erl14


ER&L 2014 did not disappoint.  The three great keynote speakers offered a good frame for describing the breadth of topic the conference typically offers. Opening keynote, Barbara Fister, reminded us that where the issue of the 90s was ownership to access, today the issue is toll access to open access.  Fister approached her topic by challenging the passive language that predominates library missions and our somewhat hypocritical promotion of “lifelong learning” when it comes to providing access.twittererl14_chris
Fister encouraged us to find more activist methods that connect us and our patrons to the open access and scholarly publishing issues, including devoting portions of budget and staff time to OA projects. (Check.)  Expanding our neighborhood. (Check.) And beyond that, finding and offering solutions to problems. “Do more than negotiate favorable terms; provide alternatives to market driven economy that is eroding our mission.”  Sarah Dutton shared her research and consulting practice in resilience, addressing the negative biological effects of constant disruptive change and the potential solutions that personal practices of resilience can offer.  Soundbites include: “Embrace vulnerability, failure, resilience through connection.  Pay attention to “being” in addition to “doing” in our work” (Durant, Red Sage consulting).  Will maybe begin exploring possibilities for bringing her in for future organizational development related programming in my library.
Finally, Brent Hecht shared some brilliant applications of data mined from open information sources, primarily Wikipedia. With this data he showed how English language bias could be found in Wikipedia and how that led to better shared knowledge applications using alternative data visualization models.  You might check out some of other wiki-applications in the Resources at the end, as well as a great summary of this closing keynote by eclectic librarian, Anna Creech.
The concepts the keynote speakers offered echoed across multiple presentations I attended revealing several trends in each of these areas  and leading to some key ideas for actions, areas to begin looking ahead and keep in mind, and useful resources to refer back to.


Pulling these ideas into areas specific to e-resources, one constant refrain was how to maintain agility and resilience when e-resources continues as an increasing portion of budget and a small portion of organizational staffing resources.  While there is justified need for increased staffing or addressing staffing to e-resources, it remains perhaps most problematic that a majority library workflows remain predominantly centered on print — not just technical services workflows, but also content development and access services.  (ALL SESSIONS, but #erl14humanterms specifically addressing collection development, #nexuserm specifically to Access Services)
    How organizations understand and begin to address this revealed an interesting interplay, debate maybe, between e-resources=”someone(s)” vs. e-resources=”everyone”.  There were many different approaches to workflow and reorganization based on how you conceive of e-resources management in these two ways.  Those who divide by format, aka the e-resources=someone(s), see it as a way to address the problem they see that the continuously changing nature of e-resources requires staff to devote more focused time in e, not divided time in both p and e (MIT).  Alternatively, the everyone does e-resources model argues that it can’t possibly be focused or siloed in this way and requires on-going communication, coordination, check-in, training, and evaluation.  The questions I was left with was, “which one best supports your organizational or staffing strengths?” (ALL SESSIONS, #erl14humanterms specifically “e should be our core”, #nexuserm).
    Both TERMS and NASIG Core Competencies for E-resources [in] Librari[es]  popped up in various context, including addressing organizational analyses of e-resources workflow interdependencies. (#nexuserm, TERMS workshop). Both were also mentioned as a way to advocate for staffing and to frame team development and training (#erl14humanterms).  This lead me to the idea of using TERMS as a workflow checklist, or a documentation tool in my department. But perhaps more broadly, and following the “e-resources everyone” model, why not  make a survey where people can identify whether they feel certain activities/workflows (TERMS) and competencies/skills (NASIG CC for E) fall within their responsibility.
    Workflow analysis and restructuring was prevalent, and approaches had some commonalities such as positions and workflows re-aligning with libraries strategic plans, including many creating digitization programs to manage OA resources and born digital assets.  Key points repeated about these workflow analyses efforts emphasize:
  1. it will take time (years!)
  2. it will be painful
  3. it will require concerted attention to information management.
    Information management also stood out as a critically important goal and ongoing activity in its own right, with repeated emphasis on visualization/process maps, and with common sets of success measures, including:
  1. reduce reliance upon email and human memory,
  2. automate hand-offs and notifications,
  3. promote ease of access to existing documentation,
  4. improve visibility of (and to those responsible within) the entire life cycle. (Duke, MIT, TERMS).
    Related both to information management and shared/open knowledge, using wiki as a conceptual model, specifically for workflow and procedures documentation was mentioned frequently, as were various perspectives on the readiness (or lack of) on the part of new ILS systems to address our key  information management needs.  I still agree with the vendor who said at ALA Midwinter, and I repeated in a session at ER&L: “You can’t tell [vendors] soon enough that you are considering ILS migration”.  However, given all this,  I began to admit to, came a little bit closer to acceptance with (kind of) the point that these new ILS systems are not quite ready for what we really need. But, WTH are we supposed to do in the meantime that is NOT EMAIL!
    Other bits here and there related to nagging e-resources needs to address include: needs in usability, navigation, mobile access, DRM & Licensing, E-books (#nexuserm).  Perpetual access problems to solve, including the problems with providing proof of payment, whether license language should be specific or vague,  and the fact that even new ILS systems still rely on outdated DLF standards, not covering all fields that are needed.


In addition to a few ideas in workflow and information management, I jotted down some other, perhaps less thought-out, ideas to consider working on here at home.
  • Working with external vendors and user services office (in our case the Centers?) to establish training and promotion of e-resources.
  • Establishing paid fellowships/apprenticeships to deal with staffing issues and practical learning opportunities for graduate students. (#erl14humanterms)
  • Standards vs API and open source: should move toward outcomes based partnerships and work. (Playing Nicely)
  • How can we apply “dogfooding” in the library organization: internal customer service as you would external customer service. (Playing Nicely)
  • Access Services is demand driven, E-resources Management is workflow based, challenge or opportunity? (#nexuserm)
  • E-resources troubleshooting as Access Services function, could benefit from merged service desk, merged tracking tools. (#nexuserm)
  • Information Mgmt: consolidate storage places for title list spreadsheets with the licenses (Duke)
    Looking ahead to some specific e-resources trends on a more immediate horizon, I noted some takeaways from the presentation on Streaming Video is an E-resource — both commercial and digitization of local assets.  I also paid attention to a bit I overheard from publishers that the short-term loan model for demand driven acquisition is problematic, unsustainable (#niso #dda). Also, on the more hazy horizon, the concept of how we support OA resources management in our organization came up, and is strategic priority in my library.  But, we still don’t exactly have clear answers.  Jill Emery & Graham Stone, who lead the TERMS project for e-resources management, are building on that approach for a new project, Open Access Workflows in Academic LIbraries (OAWAL) to gather collective techniques and workflow approaches for open access resources management. Other OA projects mentioned for which to keep on the look out include Bluejar (like Knowledge Unlatched, crowd-sourced funding for making books open access) and Pivots (not monographs, but shorter e-bits of content — of interest for online learning).

RESOURCES to Read, Explore

– (Lightening Talk)
– OpenStreetMap, Omnipedia, Atlasisfy (Closing Keynote)
– Catalog 2.0 by Sally Chambers (2013) recommended reading for thinking of transitioning ILS. (Playing Nicely)

#erl14 preflections

Each year the ER&L conference, or Austin, or just time to myself after the busy semester start, or all three bring me to a precipice of reflection, questioning, and, sometimes, a crisis of conscience with my profession. In my first year, this was a great feeling. As a new ERL, I was eager to connect with like minds, and feel both grounded and unbounded in my ideas. Year two was more tumultuous. Upon reflection, I realize I had been much more confused, was going through much more learning and change, and experiencing dead ends and false starts to so many ideas. Frustrated. This year, my third ER&L conference and my first presenting, I’m trying to have a purposefully different experience.

On the plane I was reading a magazine article about Millennials and the changing nature of work and expectations of work. The piece described a series of stories where professionals left their corporate or tech work for completely different professions or activites. Anticipating how ER&L would get me questioning in a similar way, I wondered what it would look like if I wasn’t using my strengths and talents to be an ERL, or a librarian at all for that matter. Just after putting the article down, I got into a conversation with a leadership executive coach in the seat next to me. We talked strengths and he encouraged me to reflect on, make a list even, of the things I want to get out of this conference. Even if it was just one thing. The first one thing that came to mind was simply to remain steady and mindful, let frustration come and go, to learn, observe, and listen, simply. I also plan to take Bonnie’s encouraging advice to ‘expand my neighborhood’. I’ll let you know how it goes, but as I begin day two, so far so good.

Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarians #alamw14

How I missed adding Dr. Sarah Sutton’s presentation of Electronic Resources Core Competencies to my scheduler, I’ll never know.  But, thanks to Twitter, I got there in time to catch the key points, just after Sutton’s overview of the competencies themselves.

Sutton gave high praise to many of the unique ways (mostly academic) libraries are already putting the competencies into practice. Most are using them to analyze, restructure, and define workflows and staffing, either at the department or unit level, and even across the entire library. The latter speaks to a significant takeaway of the competencies, that in most cases “one person can’t possibly do all of this”.  The competencies document emphasizes how they are not a set of competencies for an e-resources librarian, but a focus on the collaborative nature of managing these resources throughout the organization.  Other applications Sutton shared include informing MLS course programming and continuing education opportunities for both professionals and paraprofessionals, and creating job descriptions and hiring advertisements.  The audience provided additional applications, such as assessing and targeting specific areas of strengths and weaknesses.

Sutton plans to continue her research by investigating how the competencies shape student learning outcomes in MLS programs.  For myself, I see connections to my research interest in organizational communication, as well as pursuing the question of how you develop training in these competencies, especially in such amorphous concepts as “tolerance for ambiguity and complexity”.  How do you practice that, and how do you measure it?!

There was an important final question from the floor that spoke to how these competencies relate to Emery & Stone’s Techniques for E-resources Management (TERMS).  Sutton aptly addressed the similarities between the two, while noting the two have differing approaches — TERMS being more practical in nature and the Core Competencies being more conceptual, addressing the knowledge skills, and abilities of the people doing the work of e-resources management.  I shared my agreement with others in the audience that the two are complementary,  pointing out that I posed a very similar question for the TERMS project  —  imagining how techniques mapped to the e-resources life cycle could extend to mapping improved workflows and organizational communication.

The nature of e-resources evokes themes of constant change and adaptability.  As such, the process for updating these competencies, according to Sutton, will be ongoing, and the opportunities for training and other applications of the competencies will continue to evolve.  It will be interesting to see how the programming takes shape for the upcoming ER&L, and especially NASIG’s Annual Conference in Fort Worth, as its call for proposals were modeled on these Core Competencies.

motown philly yall #alamw14

Just realized while traveling that this might be my very first ALA Midwinter.  I attended a midwinter pre-conference ages ago, but I don’t think I have ever attended a full midwinter conference.  I always conceived of it so much smaller than annual — it’s just a bunch of meetings — but I find my schedule already jam-packed with interesting sessions and worrying how to fit in everyone else I want to see.  Part of this is that I arranged to bring husband along, making this a trip for work and pleasure, because otherwise who in their summer-loving mind would go Philadelphia in the middle of winter?!Image

We spent a long 6 hours of travel yesterday, flying in and out of Chicago, where husband threatened to deplane and have me pick him up on the way back.  But we settled for a birds-eye view of his favorite city as we continued the last leg.  It was a long final descent into Philly, much cloudier, and with much more snow.  Although the anticipation nearly drove me bonkers, it was pretty cool to see ever closer snapshots of the snow-covered quarries, rivers, and neighborhoods between each cloudy whiteout.


Unfortunately, except for the blessed view of the basilica right out our window, our room is a bit “meh”, mostly because there was either a mix up, or else simply no single king rooms available, despite my two and a half month advance registration.  So husband I are making due with doubles.  We may try to spice it up by taking advantage of separate beds tonight.  We’ll probably sleep soundly, regardless, after taking the mid-day today to walk around Philly within a brisk 3 hours.

Image   christs church

IMG_4129[1]  IMG_4144[1]   IMG_4146[1]

We took an early lunch at Reading Terminal Market where we chose Old City Coffee and a large slice of brick oven pizza. Then we walked ourselves down to Old City District where we saw a few Benjamin Franklins and his bridge, Christ Church and its cemetery, and the very quaint (even in January) Elfreth’s Alleyway.  The sunshine and all this walking made the bitter cold bearable until husband lost his hat somewhere in the ALA registration area.  So we made a final stop back at the Reading Terminal market for another coffee and some Pennsylvania Dutch treats before high tailing it back to the hotel.  I chose Pineapple Upside-down Pie (brilliant!) and you can see for yourself in the obligatory foodie shot how delicious it was!   Such pleasure has prepared me well for the work that will come early tomorrow.


better recognize #communication


I have come to observe that when one pulls back the man hole cover and digs deep into the inner workings of communication — whether personal or professional, individual or organizational, and especially when truthfully seeking solutions and actions for change —  one (at least this one) ultimately uncovers a deep reverence for its complexity, an understanding of its fragility, and a humble patience for its path.  That path, I must remind myself, is simply progress, and only very rarely, with quiet celebration, and in itty-bitty portions, ever perfection.

details, details, details #strengths

Yesterday I attended a presentation by strengths specialist and leadership consultant, Sondra Cave, where she addressed applying strengths in times of change.  Obviously, with any organizational change, there are new assignments, roles, and relationships to figure out, and understanding the strengths of your people can be very valuable.  Knowing and working in your areas of strengths has been proven to result in greater engagement in the work, fewer mistakes, and (while not necessarily applicable to my environment) greater profits (1).

finger-in-dikeAfter the structure of a big organizational change is rolled out, and questions of who and where have settled down, the focus shifts to the work to be done.  The decisions in this phase seem to begin kind of haphazardly, in a thumb in the dyke (2) kind of way.  This is especially true for the folks “running the trains” as they say. But, when those decisions begin with conversations, and those conversations have a bit more thought behind them, people start asking about the skills (or even better, the strengths) needed to get this work done.

I’d like to take a closer look at a skill that often comes up in my line of work: “attention to detail“.  Anyone?

Well, if you plug that phrase into the top job finder sites, this skill is desired among 25,000+ advertised jobs, anywhere from accountant to electromechanical assembly technician.   You might glean a little more context from the job title as to what details you might be attending.  But even with the context of the job title, it seems we might need to be more specific — more attentive to the details of the “attention to detail” skill. Ba-dump-bump.

In my experience, librarians mostly mean attention to text (or numbers) details.  They will sometimes call this having “eagle eyes”.  What they mean is that they want you to be able to catch what  the average Joe would miss, and thereby avoiding  unintentional email miscommunication, a mislabeled book getting lost in the stacks, miscalculating expenses, buying a book we already own, or overlooking and agreeing to an egregious term in a license.

Confession: I am pretty bad at the traditional kind of detail my fellow librarians value.  I often send emails (and publish posts) with typos and grammatical errors.  Numbers alone actually jumble me up. I am not quick to calculate formulas or see how figures come out the way they do — at least not without struggle, trial, and error.  But I’m not willing to admit that I lack attention to detail.  And this, in a nutshell is stubbornness the strengths concept Don Clifton started by asking:

What would happen if we actually studied what is right with people?

What I do have is a great attention to strategic detail.  I can tell how something is going to work or not work in ways you might have not thought of.  I am great at analyzing the numbers for which the details have already been attended, and can come up with various scenarios for taking action.  I can also analyze the text-meaning of a license to know what wording and phrases might cause problems, or find strategies around problematic clauses.  I am also very attentive to the details of people and their individual strengths.  I’m not always empathetic.  I don’t always openly relate well  to people, or woo them.  But I attentively listen, watch, and learn, and then find ways to help people succeed.

These are my top five strengths, although in order they are: Learner, Activator, Strategic, Analytical, Individualization.  Just 5 of the 34 unique, strengths-based ways (3)* people may attend to details.  I believe from experience that strengths offers a great approach to getting specific in the details of the work to be done and to getting a positive end result.  Sondra Cave emphasized that there are many ways to get there, but the point is that we get there. By focusing our strengths toward the end in mind in this way, we get there faster and with greater…well, strength.

Sondra also emphasized the responsibility we have to use our strengths from a position of health, and not as label, or an excuse to do or not do certain things.  One way this happens is by using your strengths to manage weaknesses.  For example, I certainly use my analytical strength in my number-details weakness, and I often use my individualization and learner to manage my introvertedness — although, this is not necessarily a weakness (4)!

Point is, once you find out how you are using your strengths in the details of your current work you will be able to see how you might use those same strengths in thousands of other work and details, and how to use them to help you in less strong areas.  This is how new teams are quickly formed, how new responsibilities are taken up, and how change becomes opportunity.


(1) Buckingham & Coffman (1999). First Break All the Rules. New York : Simon & Schuster.

(2) Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from,_or_The_Silver_Skates

(3) Gallup, Inc. (2010) StrengthsQuest. “All 34 Themes Full Description”. Retrieved May 23, 2013 from     *While there are 34 Strengths themes, the various combinations of top 5 results and how they work together differntly, mean there are even more unique ways to approach tasks and relate to others.

(4) Cain (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House.


lifelong learning, the MLS and beyond

Eastern Orthodox Librarian

lifelong learning, the MLS and beyond


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