…And we’re back

…And we’re back

Happy fall, everyone! School has been back now for about a week, and at least this weekend, the weather has turned decidedly fall-wards. That is to say, lightly breezy, low humidity, and cool enough at night to leave the windows open. The other plus side of this weather is that the library loses the stuffiness that comes with high summer, and its pleasant all the way through, not just in the stacks.

Lots of exciting goings-on to report as I enter year 2. First, today I’ll be running an orientation to the Library for both new and returning students, which hasn’t really happened before. I’m looking forward to running folks through the basics: how to read a call number, how to use the card catalog, and how to use our new Interlibrary Loan program.

Some of you may have seen the Instagram posts over the summer, but its true that we secured a server for the library with the goal of running a digital catalog! Koha is running and we just need to finalize the end user set up (also, we need a desk for our check out station in the foyer.)

Exciting as it is to have the digital catalog started, I feel the need to sound caution: we have limited MARC records and we must enter in the holdings one by one. Lest we have forgotten, that’s 45000 entries.

I am incredibly grateful to NHAIS for sending over the 6000+ MARC records that we had in the NH Union catalog. Its a wonderful starting point! I’m also blessed to have 3 student workers helping me out this year! For those keeping score, I started with 1 last fall, then 2 last spring. Having the increased support is marvelous.

Finally, Interlibrary Loan has arrived! As of, well, now, students and faculty have access to Interlibrary Loan through the NHU PAC, connecting us with the libraries of New Hampshire. For other institutions in the state, we absolutely lend as well, we just don’t have all of our holdings in NHU Pac, so make sure to email me if you are looking for something that is esoteric enough that we may have it. We also have non-esoteric holdings, but the odd, the old, and the humanities are kind of our wheelhouse.

Welcome back everyone!

Saturday Librarian: To Boldly Go…

Saturday Librarian: To Boldly Go…

When I first showed up in my librarian capacity, one of our stated goals was to make sure that we got a digital catalog. Its not a new technology — digital catalogs began to show up in the 1980s and they were commonplace by the late 90s. Even now in 2016 the smaller libraries of the word find a way to digitize their catalogs, and the hope was that we would do the same.

At first, I considered an inventory to be our goal. After all, we needed to know what to load into the OPAC, right? Fast forward a year, and the inventory is decidedly off the pace I had expected, primarily because I was trying to make sure that we had the basics of a catalog record, just in case we couldn’t get full MARC records to start. A year is a good amount of time upon which to base a decision. You can base your decisions on the good and the bad and the middle of the road. And so we’re embarking of the catalog now and continuing the inventory in the new system.

Why? Quite simply, we have to be able to track circulation and Interlibrary loan material, and we have to have that system in place before the students return. Then too, the inventory is a lot easier when you’re only confirming the barcode is right and the book is on the shelf — MARC records can be pulled into our new system directly from NHAIS.

So what did we do today? We got the server, got it plugged in and got the operating system and basic installation of our new cataloging software installed. The main stumbling block had more to do with the suddenly disappearing internet, and Saturdays are hard to troubleshoot tech issues because of the number of players that are not working. The course of technology never did run smooth.

Lest anyone take the preceding paragraph the wrong way, this is not meant to imply that the installation is difficult or untenable, or that we run the risk of losing our catalog in a way that doesn’t exist with the card catalog. There are redundancies that will be in place on premises and off, and we will also reach the point where we have our catalog included in the NH State Library’s Union catalog, to help facilitate our ILL relationships. Its very difficult to be a good ILL partner with a card catalog.

In fact, sadly, I’m still on Excel spreadsheets. The installation could not be completed in a day, and so Excel is still our catalog– for the moment. Still, in the space of a day, we’ve come closer to our online catalog then we have before. The students will start to come back in about a month, Freshmen first for orientation followed by the returning Sophomores and Upper Classmen. My hope is that they will have a new catalog there to greet them and the choice of serendipity in the stacks or precision recall of materials, whatever the situation may call for.

Where have you been? Semester Retrospective, Part I

A semester is a natural break in the year, a time at which students flee home to be able to read at their leisure rather than under time constraints. Professors enjoy several weeks without quizzes and papers, weeks to do their own research and reading. And librarians? This librarian, at least, will seize the several weeks without students underfoot to make headway in the cataloging project.

Yes, the cataloging continues. I imagine my readers grow weary of it, but unfortunately it is the single largest challenges facing the library. Have we made progress? Certainly. A few highlights for you:

  • To date, we have checked 1,126 records. As we go, we have been updating status (here, missing, damaged), call number, bar code and noting condition
  • To check these records, one must first try to locate the subject of the record. This proved a challenge to the A section of our catalog, which was scattered to two primary locations, with small pieces here and there. This has been rectified.
  • 176 books have been verified and shelved through natural circulation. There are certainly another 50 waiting for my return.
  • A borrowing policy has been implemented! Very simple, very analog, but it is exists and at least some of the students follow it.
  • Phase 1 of the music room has been completed, and the room can now hold several musicians at once, surely a boon to bands across campus as the rainy days of fall and winter sweep in.
  • The experience of attempting a shelf read using Excel as the cataloging weapon of choice has highlighted our need for a better tool, and there are several lessons learned from our slow but steady progress.

The best thing, for me, has been getting into a library again. I was outside the industry in another role that morphed into information professional, but a library is still different. I enjoy seeing plain covers give way to intricate title pages and fly paper. I love finding interesting volumes here and there, simply waiting to be discovered. I enjoy thinking of ways to reinvent the Scholar’s lounge into a true Lounge, not just a sitting room surrounded by a random section of the library collection.

Don’t just take my word for it…


Winter semester considerations and thoughts coming up on Thursday!

Tales of a Saturday Librarian

Tales of a Saturday Librarian

A quick glance at Twitter for #saturdaylibrarian will generally reveal a number of librarians, in various degrees of caffeination, musing on the various reference questions they receive throughout the day, the amusing books they weed from the collection, or a general meditation on why there is never enough coffee. In many respects I am a lucky Saturday Librarian. Work study tends to happen on Saturdays, as well as music practice, so there is no shortage of bustle but few questions to be answered. The only downside was that by the time I got down to the caf for coffee, there were no mugs or cups to be had. It made me regret not installing an espresso machine in my office.

Things continue apace at the library. We are slowly combing through the extant catalog and comparing it to the books on the shelves. The issue is the amount of time it takes to manually compare title, author, call number, and barcode as well as note poor condition. Combine that with the fact that books are not always shelved in order, and you have the makings for a long library journey. My assistant slugs through, pausing every so often to wonder aloud why books are not in order, or why a single volume appears in the catalog as 4 distinct records. All valid questions, though there’s not an answer to any of them.

As you can see from the picture, there are no shortage of books moving in and out of the library, we simply lack the technology to track the movement. The first step will be implementing a rudimentary check out system. That way, we can at least consult the check out records to confirm if a book is circulating as opposed to missing when we reach that part of the shelf read. The last of the blank catalog cards will be pressed into service to function as check out records (see? Already recycling materials. Long live the card catalog!).

I’m of two minds on the manual circulation process. It is comforting to know that in some places, the access to materials is primary, to the point that tech systems limitations don’t stand in the way. We simply find a way to track what we can and make the system work. On the other hand, its a lot of manual labor. In two hours, I worked my way through 45 records, including shelving the books. Its an abysmal check in rate when you consider how quickly such things can be done when using even the most basic electronic system. While there is romance in the old library with its card catalog and lovely bookshelf check in, while it makes some secure in the borders of their green world, there is an advantage to be had in using some technology. Surely our time can be better spent then laboriously checking items in. Anyone else out there struggle through analog processes in a digital world? I’m open to any tips to move the process along.

In the mean time, I return to my records for cross check. Happy Sunday!

The Troubles with Catalogs

The Troubles with Catalogs

I imagine I am currently going through a process that most of library land embarked on a decade or two ago. I am currently staring down a spreadsheet that contains the rudimentary begins of our digital catalog. The work was begun years ago; it predates my own student tenure at the college. For all that, it has gained a layer of the digital equivalent of dust, having been untouched for some time. One of our first challenges is to dust of this spreadsheet and use it for a full catalog read.

I confess, I am gaining a new respect for those institutions that are able to enforce a regimen of rotating shelf reads through their collection. I know that the data I have does not encompass a number of new donations and acquisitions, so the challenge is real. How did library land manage the original transition to digital? I have been looking as I have time, but so many institutions have been digital since the 90s that there is not a lot of information to be had. What little I have found is all in terms of obsolete technology.

Thus far, I am scrubbing the data in preparation for the shelf read: noting apparent duplicates, adding publishers, dates, and full titles to those records which contain ISBN numbers, and trying to note how many records have been barcoded. There was a project several years ago to start the OPAC process; it got as far as adding some books to this spreadsheet with barcodes, to eventually be loaded into an OPAC. I do hope that methodology will still work; my attempt at building and converting to an Access database did not go as well as I had hoped (though to be fair, it has been about 5 years since I built anything in Access).

Food for thought: are there better ways to do this project? Is this simply an example of the manual labor of love involved in building this library back up? Have others had success with Access as a “bridge OPAC” to coin a phrase? As for me, you’ll be able to find me buried in my excel spreadsheet, dreaming of the day we finish our digital conversion 🙂