A Small Reminder To Myself About The Good Things

August 2, 2007

For the past six months, I’ve been feeling as if school is one big roller coaster ride consisting mostly of low points. This feeling comes less from actual classes than it does from the overall distance education experience. I often find myself in danger of wallowing in the negativity – and that just isn’t right. So, I write this post to remind myself of the positive. This semester, despite my complaints about going to school in the summer, was a wonderful one. I took two great classes with two engaged and attentive professors – who teach great online classes. I learned valuable things. I will be a better librarian for what I learned. A big thank you to both of these professors!!

I was prompted to write this post by an email from the professor who taught ILS566-Library Personnel Management. Around 6:30PM, she sent me an email with a grade for my final exam – and for the class itself – less than 24 hours after I had submitted the final exam. I know she is going away – this is why the final was due yesterday rather than tomorrow. I’m sure she wants to have her grading done before she leaves. Such a turnaround time on grading isn’t the norm, but I appreciate it – I really, really appreciate it. Tonight I will only think of the positive.

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Summer Session 2007 – RIP

August 1, 2007

I just turned in my final for ILS655-Library Personnel Management. It could have been better, but I am finished until the fall. Of course, I am only taking one class next semester. Hopefully, my school life will be less stressful.

More importantly, I only have two, TWO, more classes to go before I will get my MLS. Nothing is more exciting to me than that right now.

Huge sighs of relief! In some ways, I can’t believe that I have come so far in such a relatively short amount of time. I mean I have taken 6 classes over the last 11 months – no wonder I’m so burnt.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can make it, I know I can.


Weekend O’Homework

July 21, 2007

The end of the summer semester at SCSU is fast approaching. In ILS566-Library Personnel Management, I have one discussion question to formally answer and then a final exam which must be completed between July 25th and August 1st. In ILS655-Digital Libraries, I have several discussions to participate in and the major class project which is due on July 30th. I believe we then must comment on other projects from the class. While I am in a decent position grade-wise with the work that I have already completed, I have a serious amount of work to do for this course project. Hence, the weekend of homework to which I alluded in the title of this post.

For my course project, I am creating a digital library of technical resources specifically designed to help library staff – this includes some videos, documents and website links which have been created at my place of work. The idea is to create a kind of knowledge-base for specific applications that people in the library use consistently. I’m fairly excited about the project. I was dragging my heals – mostly because I was busy being apathetic about school. I finally decided that I needed to work on a topic about which I was interested. My attitude about school underwent a dramatic shift once I started to refocus my efforts in those areas that I believe to be most critical. This is good, because I was starting to get nervous about my state of mind. I truly believe that my school experience will ultimately be what I make of it – and I was not even making a decent effort. Things seem much brighter now.


Personnel Management

July 18, 2007


Rialto Bridge  Originally uploaded by ScruffyNerf.

I am currently working on an assignment to design a performance appraisal system, explain the system and discuss the handling of poor performers for ILS566-Library Personnel Management. The assignmentis due tomorrow evening by 11:30PM, but I have a good portion of it done already. I should be able to finish it on time – maybe even with a couple of hours to spare.

As a whole, this class has been very interesting – and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is quickly rising up my mental list of best classes. All of the assignments have been extremely practical in nature – developing interview questions, writing an outline of an employee handbook and designing a performance-appraisal system. None of these have been intense research projects. The idea has been to learn and research a bit about general topics – interviewing, handbooks, and performance-appraisal systems – and then use that knowledge to make decisions on how best to deal with real-world situations. So, no extensive research really, but a great deal of thinking, of making decisions and justifying one’s decisions.

I have deeply surprised myself by becoming drawn to management – by getting the most out of the management classes that I have taken at SCSU. What this actually means, I do not know. Hopefully, I am learning to be a better manager.

Again, no real reason for a picture from my trip to Venice in June of 2005. I just like how images break up the text.


School in the Summer? Yuck!

June 29, 2007

I hate going to school in the summer – absolutely abhor it. There is just something that seems so wrong with the whole concept. I’m sure it harkens back to the fact that as children we got the summers off from school – and that it was such a wonderful time. Of course, I know that I only have myself to blame for my current pain. No one forced me take one class last summer or two classes this summer. It was really my own idea. Of course, last summer’s class was bad – possibly the worst in my entire program so far. This summer, my two classes are really good – and, in theory, I’m enjoying them. However, I also forgot that summer classes are a bit accelerated due to their shorter timeframe. This means that I currently have work to do all of the time! So, I don’t remember last summer fondly – and I doubt that I will remember this summer with anything less that frustrated irritation.

This week, I have had two assignments due. The first was a digitization assignment for ILS655-Digital Libraries which required us to create (or digitize) a text, sound and/or movie file. It wasn’t difficult, and I actually let myself play around with Photoshop and Windows Movie Maker. Oddly enough, it was a fun assignment, and the professor graded the work within 24 hours. The second assignment involved writing 6 mini-essays on different aspects of outsourcing in libraries. This definitely wasn’t as much fun as the digitization assignment, especially since I was pushing the deadline to actually finish it. I finally completed it last night about 10PM – only an hour before it was due. I have very mixed feelings about the quality of my work, but am happy to be done.

Within the next week or so, I have two more assignments to complete. By 11PM on July 5th, I have to write my reactions to two scenarios that involve ethical dilemmas in hiring (for ILS566-Library Personnel Management). I also have to write a review of a digital library or of a digital library technology (for ILS655-Digital Libraries). This one is due on July 9th. I would like to just be able to enjoy some time off for the the 4th of July, but I guess I will be busy doing homework.

Good news for the future: This should be the last time that I take summer classes. I will cling to this fact to help get me through this summer session!


A Typical Wednesday Evening?

June 27, 2007

Hopefully not! I have an assignment dealing with outsourcing in libraries due tomorrow at 11PM for ILS566-Library Personnel Management. I should be working hard on it, but think that my husband and I are going to venture out to see Pirates of the Caribbean III tonight. I’m very excited. Fortunately, I have all of the background material that I need – and just need to start writing. We are expected to write 5 mini-essays (which is vague enough to scare me) about different aspects of outsourcing in libraries – and to include our opinion about the appropriateness of outsourcing. I’m busy jotting down an outline, so I think I will be fine. I should probably stay home, but my husband is leaving work early, I have no idea when else we would be able to fit in 3 hours in a movie theater and it is Hazy, Hot and Humid – so the air conditioning in the theater will be wonderful.


The 12 Interview Questions Assignment

June 19, 2007

 Background:  

          For this assignment, I choose to base my interview questions on a job description for a systems librarian at the Community College of Baltimore County. I will be the Campus Head Librarian and the immediate supervisor of the Systems Librarian. The Cataloging Librarian, the Head of the Information Technology Department and the Head Reference Librarian will also sit in on the interview with the job applicant. 

Job Description:

            The following job description can be found by going to the Community College of Baltimore County’s Online Employement Site. Use the Search Postings link on the upper left-hand portion of the screen and then choose the Systems Librarian option from the Job Title drop down menu. Accessed on June 14, 2007.   

Questions: 

  1. What is the most serious technical emergency that you have had to deal with? Can you give me specific and detailed information about how the problem was resolved?

    Asked by Campus Head of Library.

    Rationale:
    Part of the responsibility for systems staff is to maintain maximum availability for all library systems. However, problems, disasters or malfunctions do happen. The successful candidate must know how to deal with these types of situations. How staff respond to emergencies is critically important to smooth library operations. The Systems Librarian is ultimately the person responsible for maintaining these systems and fixing them when a problem occurs. The question is aimed at discovering how the candidate deals with crises that occur, how the candidate prioritizes systems when there is a problem and how the candidate would manage such an emergency. This is one of the main reasons why the successful candidate must have strong leadership abilities.

  2. From your resume, I see you have worked with three different vendor-supplied integrated library systems, Ex-Libris’ Aleph, SirsiDynix’s Dynix and Innovative Interface’s Millennium. Based upon your personal experiences, can you give me a brief overview of each? Does any one stand out from the others in terms of strengths or weaknesses?

    Asked by Campus Head of Library

    Rationale:
    The integrated library system is the critical application for library business. The library cannot operate properly without the system. However, changes in the ILS marketplace happen frequently. ILS systems outlive their usefulness. Vendors discontinue support for older systems and switch to new applications. This often requires libraries to pay for new systems. The Systems Librarian needs to be aware of current trends and knowledgeable about the capabilities of different systems in order to be able to alert the director when it is time to upgrade, switch systems or start looking for new solutions. This candidate has worked with three different systems, so has a unique perspective on how different integrate library systems can be. This knowledge may be very valuable. Hopefully, by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each system, we will get a sense of how well the candidate understand the integrated library system and how it works.

  3. We currently use Innovative Interface’s Millennium ILS. Would you tell us more about your experience supporting this system? What do you like about Millennium, and conversely, won’t don’t you like about it?

    Asked by Cataloging Librarian

    Rationale:
    The ILS is the main application that most library staff on a daily basis. Problems happen and questions come up often. The Systems Librarian is the primary means of support for this extremely complicated system. Since the candidate has used the Millennium product before, it is essential to determine how comfortable he/she is with it.  Finding out what the candidate likes and dislike about the system should help to reveal how familiar he/she is with the different modules and applications that come with Millennium. The candidate must be extremely comfortable with III’s Millennium system in order to support the library’s day-to-day operations.

  4. How did you become a systems librarian? What aspect of your work do you enjoy most? Least?

    Asked by Campus Head of Library

    Rationale:
    This is a more open ended question aimed at getting the candidate to talk a bit more about him/herself. Many people become accidental systems managers because of their talent or tolerance to computers and technology. Finding out how the candidate got into library systems would reveal a bit more about their background in libraries. Asking about which aspects of the job that he/she likes should reveal how comfortable the candidate is with the systems position. Ideally, we hope to get a sense of how confident the candidate is in his/her role as a systems librarian.

  5. The Systems Librarian is expected to participate in the reference desk rotation. How much experience have you had at the reference desk? What do you learn from working at the reference desk that can help with your systems’ duties?

    Asked by Head Reference Librarian

    Rationale:
    All library faculty are expected to participate in the reference desk rotation. Sometimes, people don’t care for this aspect of the job. However, it is an important way for librarians to connect with each other and with the library patrons. Without this contact, the Systems Librarian may lose a sense of the patron and of what they need from the library. This practice is not intended solely as a means to cover the reference desk, but also as a way to keep people in contact with the public. This question is intended to get a sense of how the candidate feels about the reference duties.

  6. New technology can be a difficult sell to long-time library staff members and faculty. People often become overwhelmed at the pace of change. What strategies have you employed in the past to help implement major changes and help weary staff get on board?

    Asked by Head of IT

    Rationale:
    Library staff may have difficulty dealing with constant technological change. This is a real problem when it happens, especially in cases where staff are required to make changes quickly and without warning. This question is intended to get the candidate talking about ways to ease into change. More importantly, there is a need to find out how the candidate will deal with staff who may be resistant or even hostile. Technology and technological changes seem to be here to stay. We need to find ways to deal with this type of change and how it affects people. This responsibility falls to the Systems Librarian. We want to be confident that the new Systems Librarian feels comfortable working with library staff and providing technical support to people with varied skill levels.

  7. Recently, MARC records and library OPACs have come under fire for not being able to meet the needs to today’s library patrons. Do you think that RDA and FRBR are the answer? What role should folksonomy, ie. social classification and/or tagging, play in library catalogs?

    Asked by Cataloging Librarian

    Rationale:
    The ILS is based upon a database that contains bibliographic records in MARC format. All indexing rules for record retrieval are based upon MARC fields (author, title, subject, etc). Many problems that occur with searching have to do with problems in the MARC fields. Troubleshooting such problems requires a deep understanding of MARC fields and their meanings. This is important for the successful candidate to know and understand. If a user does a search for an author, but nothing is found, the Systems Librarians needs to understand the MARC record in order to fix the problem and to understand if it is a simple mistake or if there is a larger indexing problem with the system. We also hope to get a sense of how well rounded the candidate’s knowledge is of emerging technologies and standards such as RDA, FRBR, social classification, etc. We would expect the successful candidate to have knowledge of these types of systems.

  8. At CCBC, all major technology decisions and purchases must be made in conjunction with the college’s IT department. There can often be tension between the needs of the library and the mission of the IT department. How do you bridge the gap between such potential discordance?

    Asked by Head of IT

    Rationale:
    The library is one of the biggest users of technology on campus. Hence, the need for a systems staff. However, all technology purchases and decisions come from IT in order to ensure consistency in platforms, to eliminate redundancy and to help provide some level of standardized technical support. This can lead to tension between the needs of the library which generally tries to meet as many needs of patrons as possible and the IT department which often needs to protect its equipment from its users. A positive relationship between IT and the library systems department is essential to helping to facilitate positive outcomes for both constituents. The point of the question is to find out how the candidate would deal with the IT department.

  9. Lab management and pc maintenance can be difficult in a public setting. What methods would you employ in order to ensure maximum uptime for public computer equipment?

    Asked by Head of IT

    Rationale:
    Although lab management generally falls within the responsibility of the IT department, the library has one computer lab for its students. Library staff maintain the computers in the lab and offer technical support for both hardware and software questions to the students. Knowledge of lab management software and methods for maintaining computers would be incredibly helpful.

  10. The Systems Librarian is responsible for managing a department and a small staff of library technicians. What are the biggest personnel challenges you have had to deal with? How did you resolve them? Did the problems ever interfere with the operations of the department?

    Asked by Campus Head of Library

    Rationale:
    One of the biggest responsibilities of this job is the management of the systems department. The new hire will have several people reporting to them. Good management skills are essential in order for the smooth operation of the systems department. In the systems department, there is a current staff that maintains the office and does the hands-on work with computer deployment, technical support and maintenance. The Systems Librarian needs to make sure that this work continues in order to provide for maximum uptime for all library services and equipment by providing strong leadership. Personnel problems can cripple a department. This cannot happen in the systems department, despite the fact that many systems personnel are required to be on call during nights, weekends and holidays.

  11. If you had the opportunity to work on the design a new library building, what would it look like with respect to networking design, computer layout, and software deployment?

    Asked by Campus Head of Library

    Rationale:
    The Systems Librarian needs to be familiar with basic networking concepts like IP addresses, NAT (network address translation), DHCP (dynamic IP addressing), network topologies, etc. The point of this question is to get the candidate to discuss how he/she would lay out an internal network, design space for servers, etc., plan for computer deployment and think about software needs. These things are part of the responsibilities of the Systems Librarian.

  12. Although we do not have a large population of distance students, the library web site is a critical part of the service that we provide to our patrons. Can you discuss your thoughts on library web site design discussing major design flaws and commenting on any success stories that you have seen or heard about?

    Asked by Head Reference Librarian

    Rationale:
    The library web site, including all external systems – ILS, web-based e-reserves system, full-text journal locator, etc., is the primary way in which the library presents its services to its patrons. The Systems Librarian will be responsible for maintaining the current site and working on future redesign projects. Library web sites are often designed without adequate knowledge of web design, information architecture and usability studies. This question is intended to get the candidate discussing problems that he/she has encountered or sees. Technical knowledge of things like HTML, XML, content management systems, etc is important. However, knowledge of successful library web site redesign processes (and conversely, knowledge of unsuccessful ones) is more important.