Category Archives: MPOW

New Title, Same Job

Over the last few months, MPOW has been working its way through a reorganization. As lots of you know, we’re building a brand new academic library on my campus, and with the new library and new services comes an examination of how we do things and how we could do things better.

So MPOW went all-in, and decided that if we were going to change things, let’s change things. So we totally reworked our structure, going from basically 5 departments down to 3, moving from department heads as the middle-management layer to team leaders, and generally moving lots of the management structure into a more vertical organization. Amidst and among all of this movement was the general consensus that IT didn’t make sense as a department unto itself any longer. Instead, the decision was made that IT be moved into what is effectively a “central services” department (Administration), as a unit that provides support to the entirety of the remainder of the library.

With this move, my existing title (Head of Library Information Technology) makes no sense, as there is no IT department as such any longer. While a lot of my actual day-to-day job stays basically the same, I needed a new title. After looking around and trying to come up with something that was indicative of what I do as well as gave me leeway to chart a new course, there were precious few that seemed to click. So after a lot of deliberation, it looks like I’m going to be the Chief Technology Strategist for the UTC Library moving forward.

I have my reservations about how the new structure is going to work, and I am interested to see what happens. I trust my colleagues, and the management of MPOW is the best I’ve ever worked with, so I’m hoping that my worries are for naught, and that the new structure gives us what we need to open and run the new UTC Library.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013This past Saturday, I and Bo Baker represented the UTC Library by taking part in the 2013 Chattanooga Maker Day. Held on the 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, this event was the first in what I hope to be many examples of the awesome tech potential and talent found in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013The theme of the day was a “3D Throwdown”, with Makers bringing their 3D printers and printed objects, setting up demos of 3D design, local businesses that were related to 3D technology doing demos and answering questions…it was like a mini-Maker Faire just for 3D printing. And the turnout of people was incredible. From 11am until 4pm when we closed up, it was a non-stop parade of people, kids and parents and grandparents, all who came out to ask questions and see how this tech works.

I will say, from my perspective, the most amazing moments at the event were the kids who were just wide-eyed at the objects these printers could create. The printers themselves whirring and beeping and generally sounding like droids from Star Wars made the kids aware of a part of their future they didn’t know existed, and it was incredible to see their mind light up with the possibilities.

As far as MPOW, we had dozens of UTC students come through, all of them with the same two exclamations on their lips. First was “You guys are from _the Library_?” and second “The Library is gonna have _this_ for us to use? NO WAY!”. It was a great way to show off the direction that the library is taking, moving into the creative spaces that are so ripe and ready to bloom. We’re still 9 months from opening the new building, but I’m so excited about what that space is going to enable us to do with and for our patrons.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013But Maker Day was about more than just our patrons. It was about showing people the potential of Chattanooga in this new manufacturing space. It was about showing them the building blocks for the future of the community. Chattanooga has The Gig, it has incredibly talented people, and it has a chance to be one of the great technology hubs of the United States. We just have to put all the pieces together the right way, and the groups that put on Maker Day (the Public Library, Co.Lab, and many others) are printing those pieces of our future.

Thinking about Organizations

I haven’t written much recently about MPOW, but we had a really interesting retreat before the holidays about organizational structure that I thought might pique some interest. We’re a growing library at UTC, but we’re growing in ways that seemingly aren’t typical for libraries in the US. Whenever I read about changes in structures for libraries, it tends to be in the direction of fewer professional librarians, more staff, more temporary/part time work…the same deprofessionalization that drives labor practices in the corporate world. I’ve even seen reports of public libraries going the Wal-Mart route, and hiring “part time” people just under the full-time limit in order to not have to pay them benefits…which may keep libraries open, but at a much larger cost to the stability of the workforce, I would think.

So when we started examining our own structure, and the changes that have been happening organically for years now, it was somewhat of a shock to see that our library is doing the exactly opposite of this. We are small, but even at our size the traditional ratio of staff-to-librarians is very different than at every other University that I am familiar with. When I was hired almost 9 years ago, there was a very small majority of staff-to-librarians..something like 18 staff to 14 or so librarians. The numbers at most of the institutions we looked at were much closer to 2-1 or 3-1 staff-to-librarians. The interesting part to me is that over the last almost-decade that number has shifted significantly, but towards the professional positions, the faculty positions. With our newest set of faculty hires, we are going to be something like 18 librarians to 13-14 staff…and in most cases that I can think of, the increase in librarian lines has come through the attrition and combination of staff lines.

We are in a position in librarianship where the “traditional” staff positions are being more and more disintermediated by technologies. When we moved our library ILS to OCLC Worldshare, we knew that it was going to have an impact on our departments. By eliminating the traditional copy cataloging functions, smoothing out acquisitions workflows, and other efficiency gains, we’ve been able to reposition a huge amount of hours towards more professional work. It’s allowed us to begin to expand in ways that we couldn’t without those efficiencies, and every time we’ve asked the question “What do we need to be a better library?” the answer to the question has been “Someone to head up this new thing…a librarian that can handle X”. So in almost every case we’ve had, we’ve chosen to go the route of creating more professional positions, and not less.

CAVEAT: This is not to draw massive distinctions between LIBRARIANS and NON-LIBRARIANS in some insane hierarchical or judgmental way. It’s simply that my library operates under the auspices of the UT system, and for us, hiring staff means a lower payscale, less flexible responsibilities (changing the job responsibilities of a staff member vs a faculty member is more difficult) and we are tied to those things and really can’t change them. These are the rules of the game we play in order to make the best organization we can to serve our patrons.

So with this move to a new library, we have a different set of challenges. We’re reaching a size now where communication and management is becoming more difficult, and we’re struggling to maintain a flat structure when the pressures of hiring seem to be driving us towards more levels of management. We don’t necessarily want that, and prefer a structure that keeps as many of us “on the front lines” as possible, without the reporting/management hierarchies that can bog down operations. But it’s a struggle to see how that can be done given how and where our growth is occurring.

So, libraryland: How do you handle growth of an organization that actively wants to prevent increasing the complexity of structure? Is anyone else seeing the growth of professional positions at the cost of staff or paraprofessional?

Come work with me!

We have two tenure-track librarian positions now open at the UTC Library, and YOU (yes, you!) should apply. We’ve taken a new direction with our Serials and Electronic Resources positions, and are looking for two excited, knowledgeable, and dynamic librarians to help move us into the digital future.

UTC Library is a phenomenal place to work, but it’s not for the meek. We move fast, change fast, and get stuff done. We’ve got crazy smart and active people like Colleen Harris, Virginia Cairns, Caitlin Shanley, Lane Wilkinson, Bo Baker, our awesome Dean Theresa Liedtka, and more. I’ve never been in a library so many incredibly smart and energetic people. Do you want to join us? Apply!

Electronic Resources and Serials Librarian
The Electronic Resources and Serials Librarian ensures optimal and accurate access to subscription resources in all formats, including databases, electronic journals and books, print journals and other continuations.

Digital Integration Librarian
The Digital Integration Librarian implements public facing digital tools and services, such as link resolvers, that connect electronic and other library resources for patrons.

View a chart comparing requirements and qualifications for each position
View the library’s organization chart

A review of applications will begin on July 5, 2011 and will continue until the positions are filled. Interested applicants should submit 1) a letter of interest, 2) a current CV, and 3) the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses of three references including the professional relationship of each reference to facultyvitae@utc.edu.

Harper Collins and some numbers

Day 364 - kindle!So after the Harper Collins Incident of the last couple of weeks, I thought it would be interesting to see, based on my library, what the numbers looked like for books that have circulated more than 26 times. Here are all the caveats, in hopes of derailing some of the questions that I’m sure this data will raise:

  • This is, roughly, 10 years worth of circulation data. The last major ILS migration happened 10 years or so ago, and the data from the decades prior to that is non-trivial to access or non-existent.
  • UTC has about 10K FTE students
  • Our circulation is, based on peer-institutions, ridiculously low. We are working on fixing part of the problem.

Now, the numbers: removing AV materials (DVD/VHS, audiobooks, CDs), reserve items, and things that don’t circ (journals, etc), we have 409,213 things in our catalog that qualify, mostly, as “books” and that are available circulation. That includes Reference, which only circulate to Faculty, but seemed worth including. Of those 409,213 items, the total number of them that have circulated more than 26 times in 10 years is:

126

Yep, that’s right. 126 books, or just about .03079% of our collection. Looking at the titles, that’s even including multiple copies of the same work (we have three copies of A rhetoric and composition handbook that are all on the list of >26, for example).

If you add the total number of times these books circulated, and divide each by 26 to determine how many additional books the library would have had to purchase IF they had all been eBooks under the Harper Collins rules, my library would have had to purchase an additional 148 books in order to meet the demand. That’s under 15 titles a year, on average. I don’t have average costs of Harper Collins ebooks handy, but if they followed the Amazon pricing model for eBooks, they would be between $9.99 and $14.99 each. Let’s split the difference and call the average price $12.99…that means my library would have to find an extra $194.85 a year to keep up.

I understand that eBook have the potential to circulate more often than print…the decrease in access time alone should push them to be more popular choices, if what we’ve seen happen to our print journals is any indication. I also know that one small academic library is the equivalent of anecdata in the grand scheme of libraries. But if we don’t look at numbers, and only look at rhetoric, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

I still disagree with Harper Collins new eBook rules, but for a lot of reasons that don’t necessarily come down to “it’s horrible for my library”. It is, I think, a bad idea to change the rules of the game midstream, at least without a lot of input from all the concerned parties (and no, I don’t actually think that a lot of libraries were consulted about this change). But it’s also a bad idea, as I’ve said a few times now, to just assume that the digital needs to act like the physical. We need to find new ways of dealing with these things, and I hope that situations like #hcod are just growing pains.

Are we live?

Today is the scheduled Go Live date for the first implementation of the OCLC Web Scale Management services, and we are so close that we can almost touch it. We spent the day doing massive testing of the various pieces of WMS: Circulation, Acquisitions, Cataloging, and our WMS-driven Worldcat Local, with the OCLC team working with us to tackle anything that popped up. As you might expect, being the first to implement this radically new a system brings things to light that neither we nor OCLC entirely knew about or understood…the infrastructure for this is only now really being tested with live data from a working library. I know that a lot of eyes are on this to see how it works (or doesn’t work), so here’s a quick rundown of where we are today.

Circulation could, as far as the system is concerned, go live now…it’s a functional system at this point, with all of our policies in place and working for all of our patron types. However, we now have a backlog of circ data to catch up on (the delta between the last massive data load and now), and we’re proceeding with it, and with further data-verification testing at the same time.

Acquisitions/Cataloging is so, so close. We successfully received and cataloged books today from scratch for the very first time, and walked them all the way through the process of preparing them to circulate. As a part of this process we discovered that we are going to have to re-evaluate our workflows even more…even we, who have been preparing for this for 6 weeks now, didn’t really grok the degree to which this alters our traditional workflow. So over the next few days, we’re going to be taking a closer look at those, and see how we take advantage of the massively streamlined workflows that are possible with WMS. Acquisitions is still very much a module in progress…it’s much ahead of schedule as far as the initial install schedule goes, and I’m impressed with how far it’s gotten in almost a ridiculously short timeframe.

The last piece of the puzzle is Worldcat Local, which is about 95% of the way there for our needs. The one major display issue cropped up last week as we started to see our serials holdings in Local, and that display issue is already scheduled as an out-of-cycle fix. We’ve seen the fixed display, and it works really well.

I can’t really explain how hard many people have worked to get us to this point. Andrea Schurr, our Web Technologies and ILS Librarian has worked multiple 80 hour weeks to get all our data out of our current system and into WMS. The entire staff at Lupton Library have laid other needs aside to help out with every little piece of this project, completing things in weeks that were timelined for months of work yet. And the team at OCLC has just kicked ass responding to questions, pushing for updates, and generally being amazing in helping us understand how this beautiful beast is constructed so that we can get the most out of it.

So with all that said, it comes down to: did we make our implementation date? Are we “live” with WMS? At this point, for my purposes, we are. We have about 98% of our data in the system, and the few straggling records are ones that require some serious cleanup…which we’re doing, and those will be done in the next couple of weeks. We are are working towards catching up our circulation activity of the last 2-3 weeks, which will take a few days. As well, we are going to take a few more days to examine our acquisitions and cataloging practices in order to make sure that we’re using the system and our staff as efficiently as possible, and then begin the process of catching those data bits up…if you aren’t processing as you go, it’s amazing how quickly things fall out of sync. And our patrons are already using Worldcat Local, driven by WMS data, for discovery and resource location.

Are we as live as I’d hoped? Honestly, no, we’re not. But as my Dean keeps reminding me: it’s not about us, it’s about the patrons. We have to get just a bit more testing, more data verification, and more workflow examination on our end in order to make sure that what we’re delivering to our patrons is the best possible experience we can for resource discovery at UTC.

Here’s my takeaway from this whole process up to this point: we now have the first working system of this kind in any library in the world. We moved from our previous ILS to this completely new model and set of data structures in just 6 weeks, or roughly 1/6th the time of the average ILS migration. We are working very hard, still, to make this as good an experience as we can for our students, faculty, and staff. Who can complain if we take a couple of extra days to triple check a few things? :-)

Web Scale launch delay

In our original timeline, we were supposed to have a soft-launch of our OCLC Web Scale Management system tomorrow, August 20, where we went live with Check in/Check out functionality. We are very, very, very close…but it’s unlikely that we will actually launch tomorrow. Here’s the short list of issues we are still working through:

  • Currently, the locations in our Worldcat Local instance aren’t accurate. This should, literally, be fixed tonight. But we’ll need some time to spot check to make sure they came through accurately.
  • Ditto with the Local Holdings on our Serials…they are starting to show up today, but we will need a bit of time to check some of them.
  • The loan rules for circulation went live today as well, but moving into circulating, even dual with our old catalog, without the chance to really run them through their paces makes my Access department want to strangle me.
  • There is one issue on the backend having to do with reporting that we have to have a solution for in order to satisfy our state auditors. Said solution is, we think, there…but not demonstrated. The state will hunt us down if we don’t demonstrate before going live.

Our data (bib, holding, patron, circulation) has been successfully pulled and imported into WMS. We’re missing a small handful of records that we’re still hunting down OCLC Numbers for…but we’re talking about 2000 or so records out of 600K+. We have pushed more data into the system than anyone else, and it is still responding very well…the performance is impressive, given that it’s operating over the web.

All in all…we are very, very close. So close that it pains me deeply to think about NOT going live on schedule. But schedules are flexible, and if we slip by a week, I’m not going to cry failure. So we implement a complete ILS transfer in 7 weeks instead of 6 weeks…no bigs.

TL;DR: We’re a little behind. But we’re almost there. We are still completely on target for a full live launch on Aug 30th, and we will almost certainly have the public catalog up and running well before that (technically it’s running now, but with some UI issues). I still expect us to start the limited-live before that as well for circulation…but it won’t be tomorrow.

Almost there…

If all goes according to plan, we should have an internal testing WebScale Management site very early next week…Monday or Tuesday. There’s still a boatload to be done in the next 2 weeks, but it’s almost all tiny, tiny weird sets of data (microform bib records that have the print OCLC number attached to them instead of the Microform one). We’re still working on getting good data from our campus student information system, Banner, but I feel like that will get sorted soon.

If stuff works like we hope, we’re are still on track for a go-live on August 20th. It won’t be 100% there…we’ll still be fiddling with pieces of data for a few weeks, I’m guessing. But we’ll be 98.92% or so there, and that’s good enough for me. We will gain more functionality on August 30th, as the Web Scale software gets updated, and that’s when we’re expecting the full go-live to happen.

Plowing ahead

I can’t believe that it’s been 2 weeks since we announced that we were going to be transitioning to the OCLC Web Scale Management ILS, and that I haven’t blogged in the meantime. Although to be clear, the second is a direct result of the first.

We have been working like mad to make this admittedly insane timeline work. I’m pretty sure that my ILS Manager/Queen of All Data Andrea worked 100 hours that first week, moving data around and massaging it into what OCLC wanted from us for Web Scale. As the first live site, we volunteered to take upon ourselves a huge amount of the data manipulation, so Andrea has been moving MARC out of Virtua, into Access to manipulate, and then finally through an XSD to provide OCLC with the final mapped XML for all the fiddly-bits of data. We’re also dumping huge amounts of MARC directly, but for non-bib records (holdings, items, patrons, etc) we’re doing a ton of conversion.

This isn’t to say this is the way that everyone will do it…but with our somewhat aggressive schedule, we were determined to give them whatever made it easiest to make WMS happen.

I’d like to publicly thank everyone at MPOW who have really put themselves out on a big limb to help with this implementation. We’ve got three major working groups doing different parts of this massive job, and all of them are digging in and getting stuff done. I’m so, so proud of the team that I work with at UTC…serious, I couldn’t have hand-picked a better group of librarians. They freaking rock.

We’re still on track for an August 20th launch, and we’ll be rolling WorldCat Local to our patrons before the full go-live….so we’ve got just short of 3 weeks to finish this thing off. Between now and then we’ve got to finish the little troublesome data sets, get an updated patron file ready, start a marketing blitz on campus for our patrons, get a redesigned index page up for the website that highlights WorldCat Local, and kick the hell out of some really, really shiny new tires.

OCLC Web Scale Management

I am very pleased to finally be able to announce that the Library at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is scheduled to be the first live implementation of a product that has been talked about for years: a web-based, collaborative, modern library system that does away with silos of data. We are implementing the OCLC Web Scale Management library system even as I type, and will be going live with the system for circulation on August 20, 2010, and with circulation, cataloging, and acquisitions on August 30, 2010. A wiki page documenting the process, working groups, and more is available, and will continue to be updated as the process continues.

I could talk for a long time about how excited I am about the possibilities of this system…and probably will for the next few months at least. I’ve been pursuing Andrew Pace about this product for what feels like years now, and after seeing it and understanding what may come as a result of this…well, I can’t wait.

This is a major shift in the library world, and it’s one where I think the repercussions will take years to really be felt. The simple time-saving that will be immediately felt for libraries in their processes are enormous…the workflow necessary to get something from order to shelf is so straightforward and fast that I feel strongly that we’ll save several person-years of staff time in short order. In addition, there is a shared-plugin architecture for the staff-side that combines with the open API calls that give incredible access for mashups of data that directly interact with the system. One example that I’ve seen is a plugin that combines the New York Times bestseller API with the acquisitions module in Web Scale to allow for single-click ordering from a list of bestsellers that is a live call from the NYT.

Going the other direction, the architecture allows you to pull your own data out and impose it on other pages. An example of this would be a Firefox plugin that shows you realtime budget information while you shop on Amazon.com…complete with recalculation as you add things to your Cart.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t a ton of questions still. We’re the earliest of adopters on the first product of its kind…to say that I am a bit nervous would be an understatement. But the potential and promise of Web Scale is something that make it worth it.

We are literally implementing Web Scale Management in 30 days. To my knowledge, I’ve never heard of another ILS migration even approaching this level of speed…so if I’m a little out-of-touch for the next month, you won’t be terribly surprised.