Posts Tagged ‘ communication ’

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 and come 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, what 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 include 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, as this 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)

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.

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.

ER&L Conference Summary #erl13

I recently attended the 2013 Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) conference in Austin, TX. As before, the conference reinforced and solidified ideas among my fellow electronic resources librarians (ERLs), re-energized my research agenda, and reminded me that I am not alone in making wider connections out from my work as an ERL.

In fact, the “we don’t usually have a theme” theme of the conference was bridging communities and cross pollinating ideas — which led me to ask myself, Self: How do I communicate and bridge ideas across the world of ERL and the larger library mission in practice? But another subtler theme that I picked up on throughout the conference turns out to be a very reality-based response to my own question.

The keynote opening and closing speakers, as well as many presenters throughout the conference, challenged all of us to move beyond research results or the identification of problems in our communities (content) and become involved in myriad ways with solving problems and building bridges (service). Even more than my little parenthetical emphasis on service over content — this was a call to individual action.

“What are you going to do with what you now know about Google Generation users?” asked Michael Eisenbert (session notes) — Opening keynote: Listening to Users: What the “Google Generation” Says About Using Library & Information Collections, Services, and Systems in the Digital Age

You are the Digital Library Federation” chided Rachel Frick — Closing keynote: The Courage of our Connections: Thoughts on Professional Identities, Organizational Affiliations and Common Communities)

“Are you disgruntled? Support these start-ups, your fellow Disgrunterati who are making things happen!” coined Jason Price — Lightening Talks

I attended sessions mostly focused on my passion areas, the places where I am most action-oriented — workflow and communication. I felt particularly energized by presentations from early adopters of webscale systems like Intota (session notes) and Alma (session notes). Unlike years past when new ERM systems were adopted and met with fairly wide-scale disappointment, these adopters spoke specifically to how these new ILS systems are helping them manage the complex nature of our work across the library (e and p, content and service) And they seemed so happy! They clearly demonstrated how the ability of these systems to centralize and structure key data and to bridge that data across all library service workflows enabled them to more quickly take action to address internal and external users needs.

I was also very pleased with the Project Management in Libraries (session notes) post conference workshop led by the most excellent Jennifer Vinopal (NYU). To energize my research agenda there was a welcomed talk on the importance of both Internal and External Customer Service (session notes) , especially as it relates to various organizational restructuring. Timely! These sessions helped me see where I can act by both confirming current thinking and offering new ideas to help me move forward.

Some others included Jill Emery’s and Graham Stone’s TERMS (session notes) project. I would love to become involved in extending areas of TERMS that relate to communication and information mangement, as well as key troubleshooting best practices. Another was Extreme E-resources Endeavors…(seesion notes), which included a mix of things we have already acted on (PDA, E-reserves) and things we are hoping to (renewal calendars, POOF!). Feeding one of my passions (and past professions), Instructing Future ERLs (session notes) was another inspiring call to act, although maybe further down the road with this one.

Now, strangely, and despite all Dan Tonkery’s advice to the keep emotion out of it (Improving Communication & Relationships Between Librarians & Publishers session notes), my initial overall response to the conference (after a great closing keynote) was not resolve and energy, but reservedness, fear, frustration, and believe it or not – tears! I reasoned that it was frustration with wanting to act, but not being able to due to lack of resources or, possibly, as Frick suggests, the “courage of my connections”. But I also think changes going on back at my organization may have played some subconscious role in that perhaps too — the sense of uncertainty about where these idea and action bridges will be built.

You should also probably know that I was reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking during the trip. I claim to be an ambivert, but I was operating strongly with my “I” throughout the conference. I didn’t do a lot of networking, even though I had many opportunities, and it has taken me much longer to recover my energy post-conference (also classic introvert behavior). Thankfully, some of my first tasks back were sharing project management approaches, discussing ideas for development programs, and spending most of today cleaning up my notes and summarizing my experience.

And look what I found on facebook!

And look what I found on facebook!

Reflecting now upon these bold calls to action and individual responsibility, I’m reminded that I begin acting within my circle of concern. My strengths in learning, strategy, analysis, and taking action with others are what help me be effective in my circle. These same strengths also enable me to see and act beyond this area by sharing ideas and bridging communities. I have always thought of myself as a bridge-builder of both ideas and communities. This conference is always great reminder of how I do that as an ERL prepares me in all sorts of ways to be a greater and broader leader in librarianship as a whole.

Project Management in Libraries #erl13

First of all, I only realized when sitting down to this post-conference workshop that it was being led by Jennifer Vinopal of the wonderful article on project and portfolio management that I’d shared within my organization this past year.  So I was very energized, which was good since I was otherwise totally exhausted coming off the end of the conference as a whole.

Vinopal did not disappoint.  She is an excellent teacher and clearly knows her subject and how to present it to librarians. The context, outline, timing/pace, and the activities (a mix of alone work, pair and share, and open discussion) were very helpful for building a greater understanding of project management in libraries.

The session outline basically followed a “talk, do, discuss approach” around the following:

  1. project manag(er/ment) – what is it?
  2. project charter – documentation of the scope agreement (i.e. collaborative), which includes scope,goals,deliverables,
  3. project plan
  4. project execution
  5. [if time…portfolio management]

An important distinction about project management in libraries is to remember that library services are not the same as projects that never end. That is both an ill-defined project and an ill-defined understanding of service

Vinopal’s overview of the reasons projects fail (there were 8) is a good way to reveal why project management is valuable, and offers an approach for gaining organizational buy in.  She observed that, as librarians, we all likely got where we are because were good doers, who are able to plan quickly. Project management, however, requires slowing down and building consensus, which are two different skills. There is an emphasis on facilitating both the work  and workers involved in the project. This requires knowing your workers and what they need in all areas of project management, including (lightbulb moment for me) — communication.  Her advice: Don’t force tools that don’t work. Use communication and project tracking tools that will enable you workers to work.

One of the great skills Vinopal had in her presentation was helping to translate the project manag-ese into terms that would be meaningful for libraries.  We started by going around the room introducing ourselves and our planned project examples, which allowed us to identify commonalities and possible partners for our upcoming activities.  Some of the project examples included:

  • understanding the transition from project to process
  • e-books and various related implementation projects
  • a cancellation project
  • a communication audit (evaluation)
  • transitioning an ERMS
  • a digitization project

Then, we got started on creating the project charter, aka project one-pager, project home page.  Project charters need:

  • a name =this may not be as simple as it seems, esp when dealing with multiple products
  • description (goal)
  • success criteria (assessment)
  • the requirements (deliverables, optionals, and out of scope)
  • who is on the project team (including roles and contact info)*
  • milestones/schedule (high-level proposed dates)

*note especially the role difference b/w sponsor (finance, support, giving you authority) and stakeholder (advocate, ally)

After describing the requirements of the charter, Vinopal challenged us to think about where this information would come from.  Seems like a no-brainer, but this is often when people get stuck and activate their doer over their planner. Some information resources for the charter may include:

  • the sponsor and stakeholder (without promising at this stage)
  • past projects
  • surveys or environmental scans
  • any and all correspondence and documentation (email, grant documents)

As we worked through and discussed our activities,  I jotted down the some additional highlights (below).

Writing the charter. Consider the audience in the language of the charter. Your charter may include a communication plan, depending on the audience or project. Other considerations are a risk management plan which will vary as well depending on the audience

“Running Meeting Notes” are an easy way to keep notes and action by build from the bottom up.  Create a home page linking to this additional documentation.

Communication plan can be an avoidance-of-risk plan and can be as simple as identifying how you communicate within the roles section of your charter.

All that matters is that you do and use what works for your organization.  Microsoft Project is often overkill both for you as the planner and the audience who must follow it.
Creating tasks and setting timelines always take longer than estimate. “Make your best estimate and adjust up”. You have to talk with others in this step to determine how long certain things take. Planning Poker can be a fun (facilitation technique) way of invovling your team in estimating time.

Workflow design and redesign may be necessary within project planning.
Handoffs and triggers need to be part of the workflows. At the very least, add as a meeting agenda items to address handoffs and what’s in the pipeline.

Responsibility without authority is ugly.  View project manager as facilitator vs. task master. Organizational buy-in needed especially to the language and approach.  It is helpful if someone can “be-knight you” as the project manager.

Project and Service portfolio management (PPM). Can be portfolios within organization as a whole or within just a small subset. Can be as basic as a list (inventory) of the project and services ongoing or on tap in the organization. PPM originated in business and IT; libraries may be doing it but they aren’t writing about it. Requires a good amount of buy in from the top and a governance structure for it beneath. Recommend having Project Portfolio Manager for the whole organization.

PPM can also track just who is doing things, rather than how long it is estimated to take.  This may be less scary for individuals but while still giving the manager the ability to see realities.

Vinopal emailed us her complete presentation with her notes and encouraged us to contribute our projects and ideas about project management to the Crowdsources PM Toolkit.

Improving communication and relationships b/w librarians & publishers #erl13

Elizabeth Winter (ER&L and Georgia Institute of Technology) hosted a Q&A with Dan Tonkery (Content Strategies) that focused on the relations between publishers and libraries with the goal of finding some common understandings that may improve communication.

Tonkery, in his 43rd year as a librarian, started with a survey of the room and finding more than half of the participants were under 43 years old. Early days stories help set the stage for a discussion of the roles of publisher and libraries and how these have both dramatically evolved and yet also remained largely the same. The questions (submitted in advance) were addressed by Tonkery from the perspective of both roles and were followed by Tonkery’s tips for both groups.

Why must I ask for an invoice at each renewal?
Most publisher use fullfilment centers, there is no system to track and generate this information cyclically. Even the major publisher do not have this technology in their systems. This was a complex undertaking in the print world, and in transition to e, those who had mastered the print worflow did not invest in e.

Why don’t publishers understand the importance of the entitlement list? Publishers don’t know what an entitlement list is. This is a library term. But again this has to do with publishers reliance on fullfillment center and hosting systems. The data or system with that would produce that data is not readily available on the publishers’ end. Publishers may know what you have access to (perhaps just as well as you do), but it is not in any report-generated form.

Why don’t publishers comply more readily with standards?
Because standards are library community generated, the zeal does reside in the publishing community (unless you are Bob Boissey). Most publishers do not produce the information that is sought to be standardized (it is outsourced to others). The reason COUNTER may be more widely adopted is likely tied to interest in pricing algorithms. But in truth, publishers are using their own data and spreadsheets for analysis.

How do publishers determine who to contact in the library? Why do libraries make it so hard? Why do publishers make it hard?
A good sales person will keep their own personal record of best contacts, and likely do not share this with their organization as a whole. It’s a hit or miss, trial and error process by publishers that boils down to revenue — thus, you have as many people as possible for working to gain the lion’s share of your budget. As long as the money is coming in, publishers are willing to deal with the ambiguity and confusion.

I’ve been contemplating (but no time to ask in this session) whether an organizational structure that distributes e-resource management across staff like an ad agency does — by account — would align better for communicating and managing inforamtion from publishers? If that was even true, would it remain feasible for internal library communication?

How does pricing determined and why are publishers more transparent in their pricing. They start with surplus projection based on last year, followed by goal setting for higher revenues in the coming year, then they use usage data to back into a scenario that determines what it will take in price increases to accomplish this.

How can we motivate publisher to keep track of perpetual access?
Again, this is a concept that libraries came up with, not publishers, who likely prefer to outsource this process. Very few publishers actually know the entitlement or rights data. Usually they know only a standard current holdings set or backfile, it is not common to have their systems manage a variety of holdings rights.

KEY TAKEAWAY discussed at this point — Library are record keepers, publishers are sales machines. What do you think?

What is preventing publishers from adopting key clauses needed by libraries?
Mixed messages from some libraries that sign and those that don’t based on certain clauses. Keep in mind this is not the responsibiltiy of the sales person to negotiate. (SEE TIPS) Recommend the notion that the queaky wheel always gets the grease. Or, just make your changes, sign it and send it in — more than half the time it will go through without notice.

How is decision making conducted in libraries?
Most libraries would like to know this as well. Becasue it is a collective decision, it is not straightforward or quick. The director is rarely invovled, nor is the digital or e-resources person, even though this is one of your key contact for the execution of the sale.

TIPS by Tonkery
Publishers should monitor listservs and librarians should do more proactive claiming directly to publishers.

Everything is negotiable.
Price. Terms. Everything.

Take emotion out of the process. It’s a business.

Take back your purchasing power.

Don’t be afraid to modify or add to contracts and reamin mindful of your purchasing power in negotiation as well.
Who owns your usage data? Publishers think they do.

Learn to go beyond the level of your sales rep for what you need.

Don’t be afraid to use group pressure.
Library consortia, lists, petitions, social media, but remain professional.

Yet, don’t assume consortia are getting the best deal for your library
Especially in negotiation. If you are not gettign something out of your consortia, try direct with same deal.

Libraries need a key-contact list on their websites.
Include office hours.

Additional Q&A from the floor

Observation by Jill Emery (Portland State) that Elsevier boycott was unsuccessful given revenue up 40% and submission rate up 12% But, says Tonkery, image effect was successful at getting Elsevier to pay attention. Don’t recommend this approach necessarily.

Can we improve communication by simplifying our roles — libraries as record keepers, publishers as sales? This remains to be seen.

Internal and External Client Service #erl13

What a refreshingly lively presentation by McGill University’s Dawn McKinnon and Amy Buckland!

Responding to the need at McGill to bring the customer service component back into the technical services environment, McKinnon and Buckland shared stories of their transitioning roles from public to technical services and offered suggested communication strategies based on the question: “Would you treat a patron this way?

Some of the common communication pitfalls between these two groups include using too much tech speak or the communication black hole (non-response to communication). McKinnon and Buckland promote the “you can’t communicate too much” philosophy shared by their Dean, and suggest answering an email promptly, even if you don’t have the answer right away. They also offered four basic solutions to internal communication issues:

1) require “job talk” during the hiring process, and recreate this for current folks in get-to-know-you brown-bag meetings. Try expanding this to other departments, even those outside the library.
2) workshops about various technical service processes that impact your internal customers, or even more regular topic or update open sessions. Important to include staff in these meetings, so information isn’t privileged only to faculty.
3) intentionally create diverse representation from public and tech services on committees.
4) communicate! — open door policy, office hours, email, blogs (subject related ones forthcoming), weekly mgmt meetings, open office hours, bimonthly recorded talks with the Dean.

Excellent suggestions and stories from the audience indicated the relevance of this topic to any organization undergoing restructuring of their technical services. Virginia Tech, for example, shared the importance of having a safe environment for communication, especially in order to understand new roles before effectively being able to communicating with others about what they do. Having an internal collaborative group meeting before opening it up to larger (public) group meeting is one approach to that. Another audience member suggested implementing a “service level agreement” to understand and communicate what staff do as well as give the option to say no.

I was particularly energized by this session, as it speaks to my own research interest in reapplying the reference interview (or other service methodology) to meeting internal customer information needs. In my own organizational circle of concern we’ve discussed keeping at least one position connected to reference and public service duties, with the idea of cross pollinating ideas to both areas. Likewise, I’ve contemplated the benefits of a reorganized structure that brings public and technical services closer together.

So, is it as simple as “would you kiss your mother with that mouth”? Or is there a methodology that translates to a practical customer service philosophy? Or both?

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