Scholarly Communication

So if you have the (mis)fortune of being a faculty librarian, you probably have some sort of scholarly communication requirements. I do. Peer-reviewed articles are the preferred mode of scholarly communication for my institution and position – but presentations and posters do count (if to a significantly lesser extent). I am working on articles, but presentations put one’s face out in front of people. And they’re a great way to put your name and specialties on editors’ radars.

So, I have had quite a bit of presenting this spring semester. So, on this lovely day at the end of the semester, I thought I would highlight my three presentations.

  • The Library Graduate Assistantship: A Crucial Supplement to an LIS Education
    • While undertaking their graduate studies, many library and information science (LIS) students seek pre-professional graduate assistantships. These assistantships can serve as excellent opportunities to complement student’s education and influence their future careers by providing them with relevant on-the-job education and skills. Graduate assistantships are a crucial to LIS education in helping new LIS professionals develop skills and experiences needed to attain gainful, professional employment.
    • Presented at ALISE 2017 in Atlanta, GA.
  • Setting a Course: Using Google Forms for Navigating Metadata for Digital Projects
    • Working with faculty and staff to create digital projects requires a complex group of skills and activities. Potential collaborators often jump to the end vision without fully grasping the need for proper description & metadata. Using Google Forms & Sheets is perceived as neutral and less frightening than working in a repository platform or using other proprietary productivity software.
    • Presented at ACRL 2017 in Baltimore, MD.
  • The Digital Potential: Making Digital Objects More Than a TIFF Image and a MODS Record
    • Many institutions digitize their physical collections. Unfortunately, once these items are digitized, they reside in a repository and act merely as digital representations of their physical counterparts. I discuss how libraries can make greater use of their homegrown electronic resources through collaborations between scholars, students, and the general community.
    • Presented at ER&L 2017 in Austin, TX.

The Trouble with Technical Services, Part II

I was contemplating a new blog post. It would be about analytics trackers for websites. The library is wrangling 3 analytics tools for various websites, all of which have their positives and negatives. I thought I would present briefs about each of the 3.

As I was thinking about this (at the moment) hypothetical blog post when I remembered an essay by one of my colleagues in Computer Science. His project is to write an essay per day. (He is rather prolific: he often writes more than one per day.) He writes about writing, about teaching, about information pertinent to incoming students, about information pertinent to faculty, and about computer science. Some of those computer science articles are for the strict layman – like why one should study computer science at a small liberal arts college. And then there are the much more heavily technical ones.

After writing a series of technical essays, he found that some of his more vocal readers called for him to return to less technical writing. He then wrote an essay about it.

And I find myself in a similar place. I like getting readership on my blog posts and, thanks to’s analytics, I can track that readership. I have found that certain topics get a lot of readership: the job-search and all it entails, as well as identity politics in the library world. Other topics can be hit or miss. But the more technical or nitty-gritty ones (my rare book stuff included) gets far fewer views than anything else.

So, would a blog post outlining Google Analytics, AWStats, and ClustrMaps get a lot of readers?

Probably not.

Which brings me to the question: do I write it? or do I hold off for something more popular with my readers?

I’m a tech services librarian, a systems librarian to be exact. I find a lot of these technical things interesting and relevant. The trouble with tech services is: it’s hard to write about it in an “exciting” way, in a way a general readership would like.

So, the next question is: who am I really writing for?

Make Work, Not Love

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate students at private universities are employees, just last month.  Now, graduate students – teaching assistants, research assistants, graduate assistants, etc. – have the ability to collectively bargain with their institutions.  The NLRB recognized higher education institutions as a place of labor.  Sara Matthiesen, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, notes that this idea of universities as workplaces is rare in most discourses.  Higher education is often seen as a “labor of love,” and not just plain old labor.

I’m in academia, as a librarian-professor; and I must say that I hear the “labor of love” statement all the time.  Librarians are notorious for saying “You don’t become a librarian for the money.”

Every time I hear this, though, I want to say, But I did.

If I didn’t care about money, if I didn’t care about job security, if I didn’t care about (relative) career stability, if I didn’t care about healthcare and dental, if I didn’t care about a career that would support having a car and a nice apartment and a horse – then why the hell would I be working in a library?  Why the hell would I be working anywhere? If I didn’t care about those things, well, life might be a lot simpler – and I would take way more naps than I do currently.

The most recent time a fellow librarian said “You don’t become a librarian for the money,” I said:

“I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t paying me.”

And though I did not say it, I fully endorse saying “I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t paying me enough.

I love academia.  I love researching.  I love having access to all sorts of information, that my institution is paying for (not me).  I like the free gym membership.  I love knowing my colleagues are working on highly intellectual endeavors.  I love working with students (particularly undergraduates) as they stretch their fledgling intellectual wings and try to find themselves and scholarly resources.

But just because I love (or like) many aspects of my job doesn’t mean it’s not a job.  Just because I like my job doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be compensated fairly.  It’s nearly ridiculous to think that liking or disliking your job should affect your pay.  Do you pay someone more because they hate their job?  No.  If that was so, we should just find a cohort of really nasty and poor academics – then academia will pay better. (See, ridiculous.)  Whether or not we like our job should not be the criteria for how much we get paid.

(I’ve found put that even if the IT people like their jobs, a bigger pot of money can pretty easily lure them away.)

So, when someone tells you “You don’t become a librarian (a professor, an academic, etc) for the money,” perhaps think about telling them that since you are working, since you have a job – you are a librarian (or whatever) because it pays you.  Don’t let people devalue your career because it might be fun.

For today, I say make work, not love.

Robots and Your Download Statistics

When I worked in acquisitions, download statistics were quite useful.  They let us know that our massive digital collections were being used.  They are one of the most useful tools acquisitions can provide bibliographers to help bibliographers choose what subscriptions to keep, and which to drop.  They also gave us a glimpse into how people were using the digital collections, and how they were accessing them.  For example, in a pilot program, we wanted to see if evidence-based acquisitions (EBA) or demand-driven acquisitions (DDA) were sustainable and useful to our library.  The download statistics were useful, because that was how we knew what we purchased (or would purchase) on those plans.  We could also see how users were discovering our offerings; some of the vendors are able to give data on how users were referred to a source (via Google Scholar, via our homegrown federated search, via the catalog, etc.)  Download stats are cool.

The University College Dublin Library (Leabharlann UCD) hosted guest blogger Joseph Greene (Research Repository UCD), who asked, “How accurate are our download statistics?”  I know how valuable the download statistics were in acquisitions, so I wanted to know if they were actually accurate.

Greene focuses on UCD Library’s institutional repository – rather than a vendor platform like, let’s say, JSTOR – but he provides interesting insight into where your stats might actually be coming from.


Many organizations use bots to crawl the web.  Think, for instance, Google.  Google uses bots to trawl the internet, which allows them to index information and make it searchable.  The Internet Archive does similar, or link checkers.  So do scammers, phishers, etc.  From what Greene says, it can be hard to distinguish actual human users from robots.

Greene and his colleagues found that 85% of their downloads were from robots.  (Wow.)  UCD Library was able to distinguish most of robots from human users.  Greene and his colleagues will be presenting at Open Repositories 2016 in Dublin, Ireland to present on further findings.

Although I’m unfortunately stuck in the United States until my institutional funding kicks in, it would be cool to go 1) to Ireland and 2) to find out how DSpace and EPrints filter out robots in their statistics.  (I wonder how WordPress or JSTOR or ProjectMUSE or any other platform does too.)

Gender in Library IT

In mid-May, I graduated from my library science program.  With my graduation, I had to leave my graduate assistantship in library acquisitions.  I am one of the fortunate graduates who have a job all lined up; I’ll start in July of the 2016-2017 fiscal year (just a few days away).  I am going to be a systems librarian.  Systems librarianship definitely falls under technical services (my seeming forte at this point in my life), but it also falls under library IT.

Knowing that I’ll be working in library IT (and with campus IT), I was interested when I saw that LITA (Library Information Technology Association) Blog had posted about gender in library IT.  “Let’s look at gender in library IT” sums up what you probably already know, but it also points out some interesting things that I wouldn’t have guessed.

So, let’s look at some highlights from the post:

  • ALA is 87% white, 81% female (as of 2015 data), but heads of IT positions are predominantly held by males.
  • In library IT, men outnumber women 2.5: 1.
  • Women author 65% of articles in non-technology library journals, but only 35% of articles in library IT journals.
  • A lot of IT positions in libraries aren’t labeled as librarian positions.
  • Library IT folks get paid more than their non-IT counterparts.
  • But women and men working in library IT get paid, for the most part, equally. (YES!)

For more, go check out the blog itself.

My Acquisitions Graduate Assistantship

wordcloud (2)When I left my Acquisitions Graduate Assistantship at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (because I graduated), my supervisor wanted me to write up a one-page summary of the work I did in the Acquisitions department.

This summary would help her recall what I had done, in case anyone ever called her up to ask about my credentials.  And this summary might help to remind me of all the aspects of library acquisitions that I have experience in.  This reminder could come in handy if I ever want to switch jobs in the future; if I want an acquisitions position, I have a nice list of everything I’ve already done.  (No need to struggle to remember in order to fill out applications, or answer interview questions.)

My supervisor recommended creating one of these summaries for each job I have, so I can always return back to them and say “Hey, I’ve done that and that.”

So, I wrote up that acquisitions summary and you can find it here – Acquisitions Graduate Assistant.

eBooks and Money

I recently discovered the blog Good e-Reader run by Michael Kozlowksi, which aggregates news related to ebooks.  As I was perusing the site, I came across posts dealing with ebooks and money.  Being in acquisitions, I’m all about money and electronic resources – so this information stood out.

chopped up money
“Money” by Tax Credits. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr.

Here are all of the different rates publishers charge libraries” lists what the major publishers charge libraries for access to ebooks.  My institution has the money and the clout to buy academic ebooks outright, for the most part, but most libraries have to lease titles.  And popular titles become even harder to acquire, and usually only through a license (i.e. the library cannot buy the ebook).  And these licenses are pretty expensive – like Hachette’s three times the price of print.

So, while I know that publishers seem to be stealing money from libraries with their outrageous pricing, I found it interesting that publishers are reporting plummeting ebook revenues.

How is that happening?  I cannot say for sure, but I have a few ideas:

  • For people reading creative literature and for people who need to read deeply, print is preferred.  (We see that in my library.)  Perhaps more of the marketplace is reading creative literature or needs to engage in deep reading.
  • People are reading less in general, so all sales would go down.  Or a certain demographic is reading less, which affects ebook sales.  (For example, younger readers who would use ebooks are reading less, while older people continue to read but prefer print formats.)
  • eBook pricing is too high.  Though ebooks take the same amount of resources to produce and market as print books, many readers feel that they get less value with the ebook – thus, perhaps they are returning to print because they perceive that they get more value for the same money.

I don’t know for sure.  These are just conjectures.

But one thing is for sure: it’s always interesting in the land of electronic resources.

The Trouble with Technical Services

Rebecca at her desk
“Rebecca, having threatened to take a cellphone picture, at her desk” by Nada Sweid [2016].
Several months ago, I created this website in order to create an electronic resume and portfolio to aid me in professional development and career advancement.  Sure, the portfolio and the home page was fun enough to create – but the much more fun and engaging part of this site has been continuing to post on the blog.  The blog on this site is truly for me to post about whatever I want, so long as it relates to librarianship.  Librarianship encompasses so many things, that it’s rare that I have writer’s block.  But I’ve found that it’s very hard to write about my area.

LGBTQ services, outreach and marketing activities, privacy seminars, technology gaps, access for underserved populations, emotional labor, approachability (or lack thereof), radicalism – those are a lot of fun to write about.  You’ll probably see posts on these topics here at this site.

But acquisitions workflows? theory? policies?  Cataloging beyond slamming (rightfully) the LCSH?  That’s not nearly as glamorous, though it can be equally fascinating (I think).  And it’s much more difficult to write about.

So, the trouble with technical services is: it’s hard to communicate about what we do.

There are so many reasons for this.  One, tech services is very…technical.  I know so many acronyms and synonyms and technical terms and jargon and product names.  And my reference and instruction colleagues just don’t speak that language; they speak the language of the patron (as they should).  I find that I’m so integrated with acquisitions speak that I have trouble finding more layman’s terms for my work.  I’ll always say SFX rather than the Online Journals & Databases function, OPAC instead of catalog, CARLI instead of I-Share or the library consortium.  I’m speaking a whole different language sometimes.

Then, so often the software tech services people work with proprietary software.  I cannot legally go on my blog website and post screen captures of a lot of my work – because ProQuest owns Ex Libris Voyager and strongly discourages displaying their product without their permission.

And while most of the information I work with is public knowledge, and people are welcome to FOIA it, I feel like airing out institutional finances just isn’t appropriate. Unless I’m whistle-blowing, which I haven’t had a reason to yet.

Then, some of the stuff tech services people have to deal with…we don’t know how to explain these things to ourselves, let alone other people.  I love working with electronic resources…but they’re crazy.  They’re lovely when they work, and a nightmare (sometimes) when they don’t.  And I’ve never met someone who can coherently explain electronic resources.  The things are just so twisty: every single one seems different; the DRMs are important but then you have to coherently explain DRMs; what is SUPO or MUPO?; copyright makes all sorts of stuff crazy; pricing is out of this world.  Electronic resources just aren’t coherent enough to talk about.

Don’t get me wrong, tech services are awesome and I am so glad to work in this field.  But communication with the “outside world” is the trouble with tech services.


5 Things That Make an Acquisitions Librarian Happy

There are many a stressful thing in the career of an Acquisition Librarian.  Just think of all the budgets and contracts and watching publishers/vendors declare get swallowed by each other and keeping on top of the fiscal year.  But there are some things that just make Acquisition Librarians (and Graduate Assistants) happy.  Here are 5 of them:

having a party
“Having a party in Acquisitions” by Nada Sweid, 2015.
  1. Good metadata. I just handled the ordering of a bunch of Japanese graphic novels (or manga) and the metadata was fabulous.  So often with foreign titles, the metadata includes little beyond the barest bones.  Acquisition staff can only hope that the vendor understands what we’re asking for.  But the metadata for these manga books were just delightful; I know that the vendor will be able to read it and get us the books we ordered.
  2. Bibliographers who can get us this metadata. Getting us the appropriate OCLC numbers almost guarantees that we’ll be able to get the item (barring that the item isn’t out of print, is a unique item, etc.). When we get OCLC numbers that bring in metadata like the scenario above, we are so excited.
  3. Sleeping in late. I don’t know who doesn’t like this, but I feel like (if I’m any example) that Acquisition Librarians really, really like to sleep in.
  4. Excel workbooks. This is a very strange thing to make a person happy, but Excel workbooks can be awesome.  Even though, no matter how proficient I get at Excel I still think I need to learn more to be an “Expert,” I love messing around with the fields – sorting, filtering, rearranging.  Oh, the joy of pivot tables!
  5. Successfully accessing electronic resources. There is so much that can go wrong between purchasing an electronic resource and accessing it: did the publisher turn it on, is it actually what you ordered, what about those hosting fees, is it mysteriously stuck behind a paywall, has someone been data-mining and caused access to be revoked?  When an Acquisitions Librarian goes gets to their desired content, they can breathe a sigh of happy relief.

That DVD went out HOW MANY times?

“DVDs – édition vidéo” by Stef48. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In your work, you don’t always get to do exciting things.  There are plenty activities that you probably want to avoid, depending on your personality type, the software you’re using, and your institutions politics.

Alas, there are some projects that are not dreadful.  Some might even be called exciting.  And I am starting to ramp up one of my exciting projects.  I will be presenting at the BOBCATSSS 2016 conference in Lyon on video streaming in academic libraries.  First, I’m really excited to go to France.  Then, it’s my first time presenting at a conference (and, of course, this means my supervisor is putting on the pressure for me to represent the unit well).  And third, the more I delve into the analytics of video streaming and DVD circulation, the cooler everything gets.

After having gone to a soiree at ALA hosted by video streaming company and then exploring their website (my institution had just entered a licensing agreement with them), I was chomping at the bit to get my hands around usage statistics.  Basically, I was wondering: were the library users going to be as excited about this platform as I was?  (You’ll have to wait until I’m done with the project to find out.)

Just this week, though, a new development occurred: one of the awesome people in our content access team sent down (they’re two floors above my office) circulation statistics on our DVD collection.  Grad school always throws something in your way (like an extensive project on metadata or judging grant applications), so I didn’t get to look at the statistics immediately.  But when I did: my. word.

The library has been circulating DVDs, according to these statistics, since 2002.  Some DVDs have seen monumental circulation – to the point I wonder how that DVD has survived so many plays.  The top performer was the Chilean film Machuca, with over 160 circulation discharges. (Who knew that would be such a popular film?)  Others haven’t seen any circulation.  Also, we have tons of DVDS, just thousands and thousands of them; it’s amazing one library could hold them all.