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…

More on Serials and Linked Data

Last year I wrote an article on serials, FRBR, and linked data in the Journal of Library Metadata. My main goal was to re-think how libraries can make connections between articles and the journals in which they’re published using linked data. I used the FRBR model to link the article and the journal together at the Item level, envisioning both the article and the journal being positioned as Works.

I never felt entirely happy with my model, but I couldn’t figure out a better way at the time. I recognized several months ago that my thinking, when I wrote the article, was limited because I was focused on trying to create some kind of symmetry in the model.

Recently, I came up with another way to think about connecting journals and their articles, still using the FRBR model, and I think this makes a lot more sense. In my original article, I looked at the journal from a FRBR perspective and saw each individual issue of a journal as the Item in the FRBR hierarchy. But it was awkward, and I don’t think it worked particularly well.

In re-imagining this, however, I realized that an individual issue of a journal is really an expression of that journal.

A visual diagram of the FRBR hierarchy for a journal and an article in that journal

Serials FRBR model to link articles and journals together

The journal itself (“The New Yorker,” “The Paris Review,” “The New England Journal of Medicine”) is a work; it is a conceptual thing that doesn’t have expression outside of the issues that are published as part of its run. Each issue that is published is another expression of that journal. Similarly, if you think of an article as a work, they are published as an expression in a particular issue of a journal.

I think this model works much more organically, and makes a lot more sense that what I was originally trying to force to make sense because I was fixated on symmetry.

The other question I asked in the article was how we can deal with journal changes using linked data in the FRBR model. Merges, splits, and title changes can still create problems for someone in a library trying to find a particular resource. But I think linked data itself can solve this problem, without us needing to change the FRBR model by creating something like “super works” or “journal families.” We have a good way of linking former and succeeding titles together, but it doesn’t work as well when our metadata is contained in independent catalogs. However, if our “records” exist on the web and are openly linked, we can link to a former or succeeding title even if it’s not held in our own unique collection.

I don’t know if an idea like this will be picked up by the people who are currently arguing about the models we should use in a linked data environment. I suspect it’s too simplistic for them, which is what makes it appealing to me, but catalogers seem to like to make things as complicated as possible. But I felt that the niggling annoyance about my previously published model disappeared when I started thinking about linking resources together this way.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think this model makes sense?

Jumping Right In

I can hardly believe it’s almost September. I know I’m not the only person saying this. Summer seems to have flown by, as usual. And this summer has been more exciting than most, at least for me.

I’ve made it through my first week in my new job as Web Services Librarian at Sonoma State University. I am so, so excited to be here. My new colleagues have been beyond warm and welcoming, and I feel like we are going to make an excellent team. I’m already compiling my list of projects to tackle, and I love that I will be allowed and able to experiment with new things and do the work I love most: using the web to make library services better for the community.

Of course, after the first week at any new job, I’m feeling filled up with information and newness and my brain is kind of swirling. It’s all good stuff, but man, I feel like I could sleep for three days. Unfortunately, I do not have the opportunity to do that, because I’m leaving for Greece tomorrow evening for a week-long Semantic Web Summer School. It is going to be fantastic, but at this point, I really wish it was happening, oh, I don’t know, next year.

And once I get back from Greece, we’ve got four weeks until our wedding.

So yeah, I’m jumping into this new year (well, new school year, for those of you who still think in terms of the academic calendar) with both feet, straight into the deep end. But the water is lovely.

Onward and Upward

It seems way too recent that I was writing a similar blog post, but life is ever changing, right? Yes, I’m moving on yet again. I’ve accepted a new position as the Web Services Librarian at Sonoma State University.

I’ve been so lucky to be a part of the California Digital Library, for however brief a period. I learned a lot, and had the chance to work with some truly brilliant, not to mention fun, warm, and generous people. It was not an easy decision to leave, but it was the right one for me, and (I hope) for Sean and me, and for our future.

I’m looking forward to being back on a campus, and working directly with students and faculty again. My new position will encompass a very wide range of projects and responsibilities, and I will have the opportunity to collaborate with yet another great team on innovative, user-focused services and projects. This is also a tenure-track position, which is really exciting for me. And which means that hopefully it’ll be a long time before I have to write another of these posts.

We won’t be moving right away, so we have at least another six months or so to enjoy Oakland (whee!) before making our move up to wine country (apparently, I really like living in wine country).

Thanks to all of my amazing colleagues at CDL for teaching me so much. And thanks to my soon-to-be new colleagues at Sonoma State for welcoming me into your fold. I can’t wait to start working with you!

ALA Annual Chicago 2013

Once again, I find myself packing my schedule with overlapping events as I prepare for ALA Annual. I’m excited to go to Chicago: The few times I’ve been there before I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m flying in Thursday afternoon and leaving Tuesday morning, so I have a nice chunk of (already over scheduled) time there.

What am I doing at ALA?

Friday I’ll be attending the Print Archive Network meeting at the Newberry Library, then the OCLC Americas Regional Council Member meeting. I’m having coffee with my former Director, and hopefully catching Steven Levitt’s Opening Keynote at 4.

Saturday I’m going to see Jaron Lanier’s talk in the morning, then the OCLC presentation on the Power of Shared Library Data at the Network Level. There’s a Next Generation Technical Services IG meeting at 1, then probably the MARC Formats Transition IG meeting, where I’ll (hopefully) learn a little more about BIBFRAME Instances. Then, in the evening there is a Linked Data talk on Managing Authorities. Saturday night I believe I’m going on some EBSCO hosted boat cruise. Fun times!

Sunday is the OCLC Update Breakfast, then I’ll have to decide between the Metadata IG and the Library Linked Data IG. There’s a WEST meeting in the afternoon, which unfortunately conflicts with the Top Tech Trends panel (which I’m actually on the committee for this year). I’m not sure how I’m going to handle that conflict yet. The LITA Presidents Program with Cory Doctorow sounds awesome, and then I’ll probably go to the LITA Happy Hour.

Monday morning there is an OCLC session on Metadata Management, then a presentation on what their Research Group is up to. And I’m hoping to see Alice Walker’s talk! Then I have the afternoon to myself, to explore Chicago. I’m hoping to meet up with my cousin and her husband at some point.

I’m also hoping there will be an LSW meet up somewhere. I’m looking forward to pizza at Lou Malnati’s, and a shopping excursion at Fox & Obel. And I’m really hoping the weather isn’t too humid or stormy.

What do you think I should make time for in Chicago? Are you going to be there? Want to grab some coffee and a cookie?