Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Day 21: Apologies... and my work setup!

So, first an apology of sorts. I neglected to blog yesterday, and I'm self-conscious of this. In my defence, yesterday consisted of:

7:00am - Alarm goes off.
7:15am - Second alarm goes off.
7:30am - I wake up in a panicked state as I realise I've slept through both alarms. I have a quick shower and get dressed.
7:50am - Leave the house and head to work.
8:30am - Arrive at work.
8:30am to 4pm - Work
4:30pm - Catch bus to Sydney Airport
8:00pm'ish - Arrive at Sydney Airport. Get some kind of dinner. Socialise. Sleep.

And then today:
4:30am - Wake up. Shower.
5:15am - Catch bus back to Sydney.

A post shared by Andrew F (@lib_idol) on

9:00am - Start work all over again...

Today I've committed my blog to Paul's modest #blogjune proposal - that we all describe our "set up" with the following four questions:

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?
  2. What hardware do you use?
  3. And what software?
  4. What would be your dream setup?
So, here's my extended answers, followed by some further thoughts:

1. Who am I and what do I do? I'm Andrew. I'm a librarian who provides reference services, responding to enquiries and requests related to the picture and manuscript collections at a major collecting cultural agency based in Canberra, Australia.

2. Hardware: Computer-wise, I use a PC. I honestly don't know any more about it, other than that it's a PC that uses Windows, and has a monitor, a mouse, a keyboard and a barcode scanner. 

I also have an desk with adjustable height, and adjustable swivel chair - ergonomics are important! We also have numerous kinds of trolleys for handling numerous formats of material, which are also important for protecting our collections.

3. Software: For accessing the Library's collection information, we have numerous software packages and platforms: (a) The web-based OPAC, (b) the non web-based library management system, (c) the digital collections management platform for images and electronic documents, (d) the archive management platform, (e) the rights management database which documents all access permissions for collections, and (f) the discovery service that links our collections with others around Australia.

In addition, we have one software package that manages orders, another for managing reference queries, and another for managing electronic records (i.e. TRIM).

And finally, we have the good old MS Office suite, where we rely particularly heavily on Outlook for delegating and tracking many simultaneous jobs. For everything else, there's Word and Excel.

We also have our brains, which we need to use in order to prioritise our various tasks, and facilitate workflows depending on the variables at play in each particular job. There are many variables.

I'm not sure if our brains count as hardware or software - probably both. My point is that they're a vital part of the equation. If they weren't, we'd be out of a job.

4. The dream setup? Some kind of integrated library management system that incorporated all of the above software into one system. Perhaps cloud-based, so that we could have flexibility in accessing systems and delivering services. 

Of course, such a package would have to be developed in-house in such a way that it could accommodate all the various intricacies of our job, and would be insanely expensive and take years of development, and then there's the information security issues. Given that collections - and the demands of clients - are always changing and certainly not future-proof, it perhaps makes more sense to work with various different concurrent systems, and customise our procedures and workflows accordingly.

My thoughts... I think it's definitely important to thinking about the hardware and software we use, and perhaps how changes might improve the way that we work. I'm still relatively new in my current role, and realise that there is a whole lot of history behind all the decisions that were made, technology-wise, that I'm not yet aware of. However, as somebody who works primarily in engaging with clients, I definitely feel that delivering a seamless and consistent service should be of the utmost important. When a client receives an email, it doesn't matter to them which office it came from, or which software it was created in - it's communication that came from the library. So, we need to understand were the disconnects and inconsistencies lie between our various systems, so that we can bridge those gaps and delivery a quality, reliable and timely service. The more we can minimise those gaps using the technology, the more we reduce the risk of providing less than our best service.