Category Archives: Work

Budgets and resources and sanity, oh my!

I’m learning the local budgets at MPOW these days (as the guy wearing the Electronic Resources hat) and it is impressively squirrely. Without digging myself into a hole (since the library, university, state system, and state – let alone the country – are already impressively in the hole) of overly-transparent-ness: “Wow.”

Do you buy your electronic database subscriptions title by title?  Do some come in a “package?”  Do you get some via a consortium?  Do you know what your list price is for each database? Do you know how much you pay for each database “item?”  Which databases are “comes with” databases, which of these actually come free with your main subscription(s) and which have small surcharges attached?

How about your budget process? Do you get one lump sum budget with cost-centers? Do you get 2 or 3 (or more!) budgets with some things being bought wholly from one budget while others are bought with different amounts from multiple budgets?  Are we ready for one of those budgetary pots of money to disappear with the new Chancellor?  Are we ready for a possible 5% “give-back” to the State? *weep*

I was going to say “Actually it’s not as bad as all that…” but actually… well… it is.  If not worse.

Fun task #1: Report (for University Library Committee meeting) [see previous post for adventures on this front]

  • #sessions & searches (monthly, semesterly, academic yearly)
  • price per search (monthly, semesterly, academic yearly)
  • top 10 (heavily used) and bottom 10 (lightly used) databases
  • Future: map databases to departments and # of students served

Fun task #2: Identify items purchased in past few years with Performance Funds that have renewals attached and move ongoing commitments from Performance Fund to Library Budget items

Fun task #3: Budget training

Alright, enough kvetching.  I’m off to go make it happen, and I’m just the guy to do it.

ERMS prequel

Used to be (at FPOW) I would spend 20-25 hours a month manually gathering database usage data and manually updating this huge spreadsheet with all kinds of fancy cross-links to summary sheets which took me a good three years to build and which I continually tweaked.

Well, a job change a few years ago basically killed that beautiful spreadsheet (different databases, forgot what I did where to make it work right, no time to even glance toward database stats, and other huge little stuff) and I’d been wanting an easy way to skip most of the manual stuff.  Enter SUSHI & COUNTER standards.

After being asked for a recommendation on an ERMS a year (or more) ago those 20-25 hours a month seemed like waay too much hassle.  I explored a bunch of options, never wrote up the process, and in the end we went with Serialssolutions 360 Resource Manager and 360 Counter products as an ERMS and Assessment combination.  (long story short, it meshed well with the rest of our stable of SerialsSolutions products – we don’t do 360 MARC Records since we use the 360 Core A-Z list for all periodicals access)

Time passed, other priorities reared their ugly heads.  More on the story in the next post…

I encourage people to get a handle on their eResources however you may, I had a spreadsheet which did everything except sliced bread.  Now I have a hosted ERMS which I … well I’m getting ahead of myself.

/end backgrounder

EMA: ExLibris Mid-Atlantic Users Group meeting

The 2008 ExLibris Mid-Atlantic Users Group meeting will be held October 2&3, 2008 at Shippensburg University.  The location was finalized about a week ago, the program proposals request announcement is forthcoming (really soon, I hope), the hotel with discount is something like $60.

Here are some relevant links: (soon to be updated with EMA2008 info?)

ExLibris Mid-Atlantic Google Group (discussions and more info)

gMap of Shippensburg University (EMA location is the Ceddia Union Building [the CUB], at the corner of Lancaster Dr & Cumberland Dr – parking is available off Baseball Access Rd)

OCLC Symposium: The Mashed Up Library #ala2008

Finally deciphered my notes from the *one* “continuing education” session I was able to attend in my otherwise jam-packed ALA Committee(s) (over)work schedule at #ala2008.

The OCLC Symposium: “The Mashed Up Library” (teaser and write up at It’s All Good)

Great introduction with a mental-state-setting creative exercise:
1. What is your Greatest Resource?
2. What is your Greatest Challenge?
3. What if… (dangerous ideas)
*We stopped cataloging?
*We participated fully with the FBI? (Sienfeld’s Library Cop)
*We mashed up Connexion with WoW = WorldCat of Warcraft

Innovation =
conversion of novelty to value
(novelty to whom? & value for whom?)
means to an end
is not what innovators offer -> it’s what clients/customers/patrons adopt
(from creation of choice -becoming-> value from use)

Mashup =
Interoperability between datasets, between institutions, between library services

Ask users “What is the most innovative thing you think we do for you?”
(put on thick skin for the usual answer: “Library” does not equal innovative in users’ views)

What is (and/or what should be) the most important product of the library?
What institutional innovations and adaptations best get the library to the goal of the most important product of the library?

Competition, like innovation, is a means to an end
it’s about perceived value from choice

How do [users/user communities] brand the library as a competitor?
Who are the library’s competitors?

Learn from the “lead users”
Who are our lead users?

With whom do we want to collaborate to create value? & Why?
With whom *should* we collaborate? & Why?

We should market our “best” internal disagreements
Make the users part of the discussion, market and make all points of view available for further discussion

Establish a “librar-atory” that attracts talent and inspire hypotheses
Publicize our R&D efforts

Success will come from taking the path of maximum advantage.

That’s the extent of my notes, I haven’t taken time to reflect on the main message, but I did find a streaming video of the session via David Lee King’s writeup (*sigh* have to use IE from this page to get the video) — which I’ll review when I can get out of my hamster wheel — to help me draw some conclusions.

Mostly it’s a set of questions we, library staff, faculty, and users, should answer or at least discuss. I think the discussion is the more important activity; answers would be nice, but “answers” implies a static state which I don’t expect to see in libraries for a long time 🙂

PS I wrote this up for a quick presentation at the staff meeting this morning & asked folks to do the creative exercise questions on paper — I’ll combine everyone’s responses (and share the aggregate after I ask the library faculty to do the same in our 1st faculty meeting of Fall Semester)


Hey all us Voyager Libraries out there, our friends at Villanova’s Falvey Library just GPL’d their code for their PILOT replacement, VuFind.  This looks great to me, though I don’t have access to the required tools and applications from the documentation on any university servers.

  • Apache HTTP Server 2.2 or later
  • PHP 5.1.0 or later
  • MySQL 4.1 or later
  • Java J2SE JDK 1.4 or later
  • YAZ 3.0 or later

Anyone in KLN-land have access to all that, some extra disk space, and a hankering to try a consolidated catalog search with facetted browse functionality?  Anyone with a different ILS want to help extend VuFind to your vendor?  The project is looking for help in this area.

Bouncer -> Librarian

Here’s a rough outline of what I’ll be saying…

Bouncer -> Librarian
How I learned to market my past lives to get a job in a library

  • Remember: where ever you go, there you are.
    • Bad Academics?
      • Spin it
    • Bad Job History?
      • Spin it
    • How?
      • Go “Meta”
  • Bad academics?
    • Worse than mine?
      • 1.7 HS 1986
      • 2.3 UG 1990
      • 3.0 MSLS 1994
        • 3.0 “because we don’t give “C’s” in Grad School”)
      • 3.9 MSM 2005
        • Many years later (after ~10 years of library experience)
    • Spin this as a positive
      • “I have a history of improvement”
        • This is how I got into Grad School.
  • Bad job history?
    • Is it worse than mine?
      • Graduated College
        • Unemployed
        • Truck Driver
        • Bouncer
      • Public Libraries
        • Page, LTA I, LTA III
        • Librarian I, Librarian,
        • Unemployed
      • Winery Renaissance Man
      • Special Libraries
        • Information Resource Manager
        • Unemployed
      • Academic Libraries
        • Information Services Librarian (Temporary)
        • Network Services Librarian
        • Systems and Electronic Resources / Web Librarian
  • How to parley into libraries?
    • Go “meta”
      • Truck Driver developed my map skills
      • Bouncer developed my people skills
      • Page, LTA I & III developed my library awareness
      • LIS School developed my librarian base knowledge
      • Librarian positions developed my mad reference skillz
      • Unemployed stints developed my desire to showcase my abilities
      • Network Services and Systems positions integrated my disparate skills
  • Questions welcome 🙂

Aaron W. Dobbs
Systems and Electronic Resources / Web Librarian
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

I will be an ALA Councilor at Large Candidate in 2008!
May I please have your vote?

Using Past Lives to Launch Your Library Career

*Shameless Plug*

NMRT’s Annual Program at the ALA conference is “Using Past Lives to Launch Your Library Career.”

  • Saturday, June 23, 2007
  • 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • At the J.W. Marriott
  • In the “Commerce” Room

Are you a new librarian?  Just starting out?  This is the program for you!

A panel of speakers (including yours truly) will explain how they launched their library careers with skills they learned in previous careers.  Topics covered will include highlighting these skills in the job search, resumes and interviews, and using prior skills on the job.

Panel members have had a variety of job experience, including working as a bouncer (<- this is one of mine), truck driver (<- this is one if mine, too), secretary, fundraiser, manager, and sports marketer.

Hope to see you there — if you can’t make it, I’ll be posting an outline of my stuff soon (like in the next few days; yes, *before* the conference)
I can’t believe I almost completely forgot I’m a panelist for NMRT’s program “Using Past Lives to Launch Your Library Career”
Holy Cow!

Mind the Gap

As I Twitter’d earlier, I just watched a YouTube video from TEDtalks by Hans Rosling which forwarded me on to the Gapminder Google Tool, a mashup of UN and other public data sources to make really easily understandable [and amazing] graphs of comparative world data.

Here’s the link to the [20 minute long] YouTube video

Here’s the link to the GapMinder Google Tool

Play with the data in GapMinder, I think this resource would be a fabulous source for data display in any number of subject areas (though I didn’t search for the citations of the datasets). I’m thinking about contacting professors in Poli-Sci, Business, International Studies, etc. to ask for their comments and how they think it might be useful for their students. If you think of other subject areas that might find this type of thing useful, let me know.

Tagging in the library catalog

So I was persuing the ACRL Conference Blog & saw several posts about PennTags. Intrigued (again), I Googled up more about PennTags and caught some of the discussions about how some people think PennTags ignored the existence of and other social bookmarking sites. Which made me think, “hm… could I add a way for my users to socially tag records directly from our catalog?” Turns out I can, with a few wrinkles still needing ironing out, and have thrown a beta “Tag with” link into our ExLibris / Endeavor Voyager Catalog (see example, the link is at the bottom of the record)

The cool part of PennTags, which my little hack doesn’t do, is the FRBRized tally of tags per catalog item. I would love to figure out how to show a tag cloud of potential future tags, too. I would love to add a pre-populated tag entry to better discover tagged items from our catalog, but I do not see a way to turn on the autocomplete function for the “tags” entry in