What Exactly Does a Librarian Do?

LibraryWhen people learn that I’m a librarian, they often ask, “What exactly does a librarian do?”  I usually begin my explanation with a disclaimer such as, “Well, I’m not a typical librarian in that I don’t work behind a Reference Desk and help people find information” which is what they already knew librarians do from personal observation.  Of course, they want to know what we do when we’re sitting in our offices. Some people do think we read books all day.  I go on to explain that I’m an Electronic Services Librarian—which hardly helps clarify my explanation—who handles most of the IT functions of the library. I tell them I administer the library’s website, staff intranet, online library catalog, third-party library services, and access to all of our research databases.  If they still seem interested, I’ll explain the functions of some other types of (non-reference) librarians such as acquisition, cataloging, scholarly communications, and special librarians.  Even though I work next door to these types of librarians, I still can’t tell you everything they do on a daily basis.

National Library Week 2016

Since this is National Library Week 2016, I thought I’d take this opportunity to describe what I do during a typical week as an Electronic Services Librarian in an academic library, Hunt Library at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

This is technically the start of National Library Week and although it’s the weekend, I did some writing for Library Technology Launchpad, my personal library website.  I also monitored Twitter for interesting posts for both my library’s and my own professional social media sites.  Finally, I caught up reading a few library-related Slack channels.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Two research database issues were pressing.  Some elements of the interface were missing for Gale Artemis: Literary Sources.  I suspected the problem was due to our proxy server and worked with the vendor and our university’s IT department (I don’t have direct access to our proxy server, unfortunately) to update our configuration which restored the missing features.  Another database, Scopus, is changing its access from HTTP to HTTPS and again I had to work with the vendor and my IT contact to configure our proxy.  This is a test setup and still unresolved.

SharePoint Tip of the Day

Recently we launched SharePoint as our library staff intranet.  A few weeks ago I drafted ten “SharePoint Tip of the Day” emails. Today I sent out an email introducing these emails followed by the “Tip #01 – SharePoint Site Access” email.  I’ll email one tip each day for the next ten business days.

I’m the main SharePoint administrator for my library.  I received a request from a staff member to create a team site for the editors of a new journal which will be hosted on the university’s institutional repository (managed by library staff).  As part of our service, we provide SharePoint sites to university journal, conference, and event faculty and staff to store files and collaborate with library staff.

A recent update to Springshare’s LibAnswers service slightly affected the display of the website titles and descriptions in our Recommended Websites service.  A quick inspection of the code from the website allowed me to override their new CSS code so that my custom code—and, hence, our custom display—was restored.  A simple fix.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Much of my morning was spent replying to emails and updating pages in SharePoint.  I made toast.  I checked my Slack channels: code4lib, LibApps, and LibUX and installed an app to one of them.  I also did some final edits to our “The Library as Publishing House” chapter to get it ready for uploading to our institutional repository.

One of my ongoing responsibilities is to monitor the queue from the Library Issues form and assign tickets to the appropriate staff members.

I’m technically the Administrator for our university’s institutional repository, ERAU Scholarly Commons, but I do not handle the daily management.  However, our IR is hosting the site for a large conference this week and the staff person who normally oversees the conference sites will be out of the office. So I attended the conference planning meeting and got a refresher course on updating conference agendas.  Then I attended the regular meeting of the university’s Scholarly Commons Oversight Team.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I made toast.  The morning was spent in Photoshop.  Our graphics person was out of the office so I made some small changes to a temporary sign and printed them.  Also, some library staff had new photos taken so I cropped and resized several of them (photos, not people) and added them to the Hunt Library website.

I attended our weekly Electronic and Technical Services department meeting. Topics included library news, using GOBI for ordering, a visiting librarian (food), April birthdays department lunch (food), and student assistant appreciation week (food).

I finally got two works into our institutional repository and then imported them into my SelectedWorks site.  Even though I’m an Administrator, I couldn’t affiliate myself with my university so I worked with the vendor (bepress) to get it resolved.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The morning was spent catching up on email and some library professional reading including browsing ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2016 while eating my toast.

SharePoint Script Editor Web Part

I used much of the rest of the day working in SharePoint.  A colleague needed a custom list added to her team site which was a simple addition.  In the afternoon I finally had a block of time to work on embedding a Springshare LibWizard form in a SharePoint page.  After a little research and getting the university’s SharePoint Administrator to enable Media and Content Web Parts, I was quickly able to embed the form using a Script Editor Web Part.  I made screenshots and wrote a procedure as I went.

Friday, April 15, 2016

I went downstairs to get Starbucks (directly below my office!) and made toast.  Then I got caught up sorting through the queue of issues submitted through our Library Issues form using LibAnswers.  One was a cataloging issue but most were database problems.  I forwarded them on to the appropriate staff and submitted one to ProQuest Support.

During my lunchtime I attended the quarterly NEFLIN Academic Libraries Interest Group online meeting.  The topic was information literacy.

LibAnswers Library Issues Queue Item

One of our reference librarians alerted me that our local installation of Conklin & de Decker’s “Aircraft Cost Evaluator” was about to expire.  I logged in to the vendor website and downloaded the latest version, then contacted the vendor for the registration key. Got the key and updated the software.  Small crisis averted!

In the afternoon I wrote and sent my “Weekly Database Update” email which alerts library staff to additions, changes, and cancellations to our research databases and any updates to our instance of Summon and Serials Solutions.

Finally, I updated the Hunt Library homepage to add a News & Events slide for our upcoming Cram with Cookies event.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The final day of National Library Week 2016 and my day off.  I put the finishing touches on this post and will post it to my Twitter account (@jamesday24) with the #NLW16 hashtag to help people understand what a librarian does.  I am a librarian 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Work Projects Completed 2015-2016

Staff at Embry-Riddle just completed annual performance reviews.  For the year from March 2015 through March 2016 I had three major projects, all completed before their respective deadlines.

Hunt Library Website Redesign and Launch

Last year I completed the planning, analysis, and requirements for the new Hunt Library website.  This year I began the development of the site organization and building of the site pages and content.  I worked with the university’s Web Team to develop features of the content management system for library hours and news.  Once the design was completed, I worked with the library’s Assessment Team to assess the usability of the website which resulted in some small but important improvements.  The Hunt Library website launched on time with little disruption to our online services.

Hunt Library Website (Pre-Launch)

See the current Hunt Library website at http://huntlibrary.erau.edu.

Project Abandon ColdFusion

Sometime in early 2015, we were told by the university’s IT department that the ColdFusion server was old and was going to be decommissioned. So I started “Project Abandon ColdFusion” to systematically analyze and replace all ColdFusion forms and applications.  I looked to utilize our existing third-party services.

All of the ColdFusion forms and applications were successfully replaced before the ColdFusion server was decommissioned in September 2015. ColdFusion forms were recreated using Springshare’s LibWizard (ex. Research Request form).  The Frequently Asked Questions application was replaced with an FAQ using LibAnswers.  The Library Reported Issues application was replaced by a dedicated queue in LibAnswers (see form) which was successfully implemented and improves on the previous method.  I developed a Recommended Websites replacement with LibAnswers by using a dedicated and highly-customized Frequently Asked Questions group.  The internal professional journal routing application was replaced (temporarily) with a shared spreadsheet in SharePoint (now a form).  The Library hours feed on the Hunt Library website was replaced by a Google Sheet developed by the Web Team. The News page was replaced using the website CMS blog function at http://huntlibrary.erau.edu/news.

Hunt Library Staff SharePoint Site

Previously, the library was using a combination of a third-party wiki and a shared network drive to function as a staff intranet.  Last year the university made SharePoint available to departments and the library administrators made the decision to utilize it for our new staff site.  I attended some training sessions and was made an Administrator for the Hunt Library SharePoint site.  The library’s SharePoint Site was completed with fully-functional sites for library departments, teams and committees, and staff information, help, policies, and procedures.  All content from the previous Hunt Library Staff Wiki was either archived or migrated to SharePoint.  Designated staff from each department and team are now adding apps and content to their own sites.

In addition, I conducted training sessions for library departments, teams, and individuals on using SharePoint.  I created a basic SharePoint Help page and will continue adding to it.  Soon, I will begin a series of about ten “SharePoint Tip of the Day” emails to give staff useful SharePoint help in bite-sized pieces.

Hunt Library Staff SharePoint Site

Conclusion

It was a lot of work but it was enjoyable to have three large, high-impact projects to work on.  It is rewarding to complete projects on-time and be able to have tangible results to show for the effort.  It was a very successful year.

Code For Every Librarian

FLA Conference 2016 - Code For Every Librarian Presentation

On June 12, 2015 I gave a short presentation titled Code Every Librarian Should Know at the NEFLIN Library Technology Conference 2015.  For the Florida Library Association Conference 2016 I decided to submit a proposal for a longer version of that talk and possibly another on library intranet best practices.  Then last Fall I was contacted by Cheryl Wolfe, Web Services Administrator, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library about collaborating with her on a presentation.  I told her about my two ideas and she liked the one teaching code.  She renamed the presentation to a friendlier-sounding Code For Every Librarian and our proposal was accepted!

During our Code For Every Librarian session (on March 2, 2016 from 2:15 pm to 3:15 pm) Cheryl and I taught some very basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code using examples from library catalogs and websites, blogs, Summon, and Springshare services.  The session was well-attended with several people standing in the room and doorway of the admittedly-small meeting room.

Below are links to our presentation materials.

Code For Every Librarian PowerPoint – http://goo.gl/UDKgtn
Code For Every Librarian Helpful Resources – http://goo.gl/XjpsQV

If you want to learn some basic HTML, CSS, or JavaScript, I recommend these two websites with self-paced training:

Codecademy – HTML and CSS – www.codecademy.com/en/tracks/htmlcss

W3Schools – HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – www.w3schools.com

FLA Conference 2016 - Code For Every Librarian Presentation

Library Technology Launchpad Relaunched

Library Technology Launchpad Version 2

​Today I relaunched my Library Technology Launchpad website. I moved it from WordPress.com to my own host and gave the site a redesign. The previous version ran from 2011 to 2013 with social media updates continuing through 2014.

View the website at libtechlaunchpad.com.

At Library Technology Launchpad I’ll cover technology relevant to librarians and libraries. Covered topics will include:

  • Links to library technology news
  • eBook purchasing and subscription trends
  • Mobile library websites and eReader apps
  • Online information resources
  • Social media and libraries
  • Library user experience (UX)
  • Cloud computing for libraries
  • Institutional repositories ans scholarly communication
  • Research data management
  • Search engine tips and tricks
  • Useful general technology information

Library Technology Launchpad is also on social media.

The Library as Publishing House Chapter Published

Last year I submitted a proposal for a chapter to a book on the 21st-century academic library. My subject was institutional repositories and how libraries were now functioning as publishing houses by providing a platform for digital journal publishing.

“The academic library takes on the new role as institutional publishing house using institutional repository services to manage journal publishing and conference planning. Librarians must know the journal publishing workflow including online article submission, peer-review, editing, publishing, dissemination, and marketing. To manage conference planning functions, librarians need to understand event functions such as presentation submission, program scheduling, registration and third-party payment systems, proceedings publishing, and marketing.

Librarians at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University launched an institutional repository not only to showcase intellectual output, but to digitally publish new and existing journals and centrally manage professional conferences for university faculty and students.”

I asked Anne Marie Casey and Chip Wolfe to colCreating Research Infrastructures in the 21st-Century Academic Library: Conceiving, Funding, and Building New Facilities and Stafflaborate and our chapter was submitted last Fall.

This month the book Creating Research Infrastructures in the 21st-Century Academic Library: Conceiving, Funding, and Building New Facilities and Staff was published and I received my copy this week.

From the description on the back cover:

“Creating Research Infrastructures in the 21st-Century Academic Library: Conceiving, Funding, and Building New Facilities and Staff focuses on research infrastructures, bringing together such topics as research and development in libraries, dataset management, e-science, grants and grant writing, digital scholarship, data management, library as publisher, web archiving, and the research lifecycle. Individual chapters deal with the formation of Research & Development teams; emerging scholarly forms and new collaborative approaches to knowledge creation, dissemination, and preservation; managing small databases requiring the same level of support as large databases: metadata; digital preservation and curation; and technical support. Support for such services is provided in a chapter that considers how assessment and data now drive decisions and new services in higher education and more specifically in academic libraries and how statistical data can help to tell stories, make decisions, and move in new directions. Conceptualization of the research process is also examined through the presentation of a research lifecycle in the university environment with the library as an integral partner and leader. The library as publisher, an increasingly important topic, with new institutional repositories tied to journal creation, curation, and management is examined with a discussion of the workflow and expertise necessary for the library to be successful and responsive to the research needs of its institution and become a leader in providing publishing services to its faculty.

This volume, and the series in general, is a valuable and exciting addition to the discussions and planning surrounding the future directions, services, and careers of the 21st-century academic librarian.”

The book is available from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Customizing LibAnswers to Create a Recommended Websites Service

When we learned that the university’s ColdFusion server was getting old and the IT department wanted to decommission it, I began “Project Abandon ColdFusion” to migrate all of our home-grown ColdFusion applications to other services. The last of these services was our “Recommended Websites” service.

I searched many options. The service needed to be free, easy to use and maintain, and preferably something the library was already using. This led me to LibAnswers and its FAQ groups. With a bit of customization, it could be made to function as a Recommended Websites service. So with some advice and help from Kelly Robinson, the site structure and layout was built. Research librarians on the Recommended Websites Committee entered in website names and descriptions and assigned topics and keywords.

The new Recommended Websites service launched on August 20, 2015 at http://hunt-answers.erau.edu/rw.

The new service received some recognition from Springshare, the creator of LibAnswers, on their Twitter page.

Springshare Twitter post on Recommended Websites