A Week in the Life of a Web Services Librarian: Day One

For many years, Bobbi Newman hosted a blog round-up, Library Day in the Life, in which librarians around the world shared information about their day-to-day work lives in order to give people a better sense of the wide variety of jobs that take place in libraries. I always loved reading about how other librarians spent their days, and I also loved having a record of what I did all day, and a chance to reflect on how I spend my time at work.

Library Day in the Life is no longer an active project, but I miss doing it. So I decided to spend some time this week writing about my own Library Days. I haven’t written much here since I started my new job, and I miss that, too. I think maybe doing this little project for myself will jump start me to write more, and will also give any of you who are interested a sense of what it is that I do as the Web Services Librarian at Sonoma State University.

You might be wondering what, exactly, a Web Services Librarian is. In short, I manage the Library’s web presence and the online user experience. If you’re thinking that that sounds kind of broad and vague, you are correct. What constitutes the web presence? Here at Sonoma State, the Library uses a lot of online tools to create content: We have our website, of course, but we also use LibGuides (a content management system for creating research guides), and there’s the online catalog as well as a consortial discovery layer, and we have several different social media accounts. We also use DSpace as an institutional repository and CONTENTdm as a digital asset management system, and have experimented with Omeka to create digital exhibits. And the campus uses Moodle as the course management system. There are a lot of web presences, and at times, it’s not exactly who clear who manages what. The Library team is very collaborative, and there aren’t really clearly defined departments or areas in which we each work. I think that’s a great thing, but it also means that Who Does What can feel very fluid and shifting, and for someone new to the Library, it can take a while to figure out.

In addition to my work on the web presence, I’m also the liaison to the Computer Science, Engineering, and Math departments, and I’m currently heading up the Library’s marketing programs in conjunction with our awesome Outreach Librarian.

In my almost-a-year here so far I’ve focused primarily on the website. We just soft-launched an update with a new, streamlined information architecture and I’m starting to delve into content strategy. So what does all that mean on a day-to-day basis? This week, I’ll talk about how I spend my days each day and hopefully give you (and maybe even myself) a better idea about what a Web Services Librarian actually does.

So what did I do today?

8:15: I arrived at work after a nice (warm) walk: I live only about a mile from campus, which is nice. Email usually takes up a good chunk of time on Monday morning. This morning I had to send an email to one of our Computer Science faculty letting him know about a subscription he wanted that we weren’t able to purchase. And not because we couldn’t afford it, for once, but because, seriously, the vendor doesn’t want to sell it to us unless our whole consortium buys it. What’s up with that? I also got some good feedback from another faculty member about a change to the website that confused her. I love getting feedback from people on campus. It’s invaluable in helping me understand how people use the website and what they need from me. I wish I got way more email like this.

9:15: We’re currently doing some much needed refreshes of parts of the collection, and I was assigned the Juvenile and Young Adult collection. Yipppeeeee! This is sort of the highlight of my career as a librarian so far. I spent about an hour and a half this morning selecting books for the collection. I have to say: I never thought it would be hard to spend $3,000 on books but I’m kind of surprised by just how many books that really is. I am also SO EXCITED about some of the awesome things we’re adding to the collection.

10:45: Morning snack and email check. I spent a few minutes back and forth with our marketing student assistant on an image she’s creating for one of our webpages. We’re working right now to create a unified visual aesthetic for the library website and the library marketing. Which is fun, but I won’t lie: I’m not a designer and no one here on staff is. We’re doing our best but I really wish I had more design chops.

11:30: Worked on some updates to our Special Collections pages. This is where my content strategy focus is for the next few weeks while we try to make this great, unique content more easily findable and usable for students. Our Special Collections people have some really good ideas about how to tie Special Collections more closely to the campus’s curricula and to undergraduate research projects. Right now there’s a lot of excellent content but it’s kind of in a jumble on the website. My goal for the site is to teach students how they can use primary source material in their research.

12:15: Uploaded the new Library Instruction Summary to the institutional repository and added a link on the website. We’ve transitioned to using git to manage our website updates across our dev, staging, and production servers, and there is still a learning curve. It does mean that minor updates take a little bit longer, but I really like the fact that we have a history of changes made and a more defined process. We didn’t have a dev or staging server before I got here, and I feel like that alone is a big improvement on our previous workflow and infrastructure.

12:45: Lunch and reading from Hack Design, an awesome email “course” on design for the web. This week I’m reading about mobile and responsive design, something we need to start thinking about yesterday.

1:45: Wrote a blog post for our Library News blog about our upcoming roll out of single sign-on for library accounts. We’re still trying to figure out exactly how this will be implemented, and are still seeing some weird bugs with our ILS vendor. This roll out is happening next Monday, so I have my fingers crossed that all of our concerns will be addressed this week. The person in the library who’s directly handling this is actually out of the office this week, which is a little nerve-wracking, but I’m sure everything will be fine. Right? Right?

2:00: Meeting with our Instruction and Outreach Librarian to brainstorm about marketing strategy (and take a walk to get some iced tea). We came up with a few good ideas for faculty outreach and events around data sharing and data management. Whoo hoo for getting out of the library and talking about fun stuff.

3:00: Looked at some search form embed code in Moodle to figure out why it wasn’t fitting into a content box. Oh, the modern web and it’s varied screen and browser sizes…

3:30: Reviewed the Computer Science and Engineering department websites to begin to get a better grasp of the curriculum. This will be my first semester as liaison to the departments and I feel like I still have so much to learn.

3:45: Impromptu conversation with a colleague about putting together the annual report, hiring for the temporary librarian pool, writing a content strategy vision statement for the website, and what the problem is with the word “understand” when you’re talking about outcomes. I love my colleagues.

4:30: Packing up and heading home. It’s HOT here today so it’ll be a sweaty walk. I didn’t know Sonoma county was going to be so much warmer than Oakland. Alas.

Today was actually a little more productive than most Mondays, although I didn’t tackle two of the big ugly projects on my to-do list. I guess that’s what Tuesday is for…

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