Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Library H3lp is back! (maybe)

I scheduled a LibraryH3lp practice Monday, and actually had 3 participants who had not used it before (yea!). It went fairly well--we actually spent most of the time practicing adding buddies and chatting across the librarian interfaces rather than fielding practice questions. However, it was very useful for giving the staff practice to how chatting works.

Unfortunately, we've just had a few major projects come up, and I think virtual reference is going to be placed on a burner that's even further back than the one it was already on. Part of the problem is that it's just hard to coordinate schedules enough (especially among public service people, who are the ones who will be on the front lines chatting!) to get in practice. And it's pretty clear that we all need more chatting practice. The other part is that I'm just not sure how many people are really interested in offering the service, at least to the point of helping to make it happen. Our best bet may be taking a staged approach--offering a couple hours a week of the service until it catches on.

An additional update is that the coordinator of the state virtual reference program has created LibraryH3lp accounts for us so that it will be easier for us to integrate with the program when and if we are ready. This is great both for that reason and because it gives me an automatic back-up person who I can call for help.

I'm trying to keep this more on my personal front burner than I have before (another reason why it's so far back!), and I will try to continue to update!

Student workers

I've personally experienced 4 student workers at this point in my academic library career. There are several more who have worked when I work, but if they are stationed downstairs, I don't get to know them as well.

It's kind of rough for the students, because they are stuck in a fairly quiet--as in less frequented--part of the library (serials), often without any particular assignment except to be present at the desk. I think this led to some students being unreliable in showing up to work on a regular basis, which created trouble for them both in terms of how much they were paid and in being re-hired.

We have more work assignments for our evening students this semester, but not enough to fill a four hour shift. Over the past week, I had a student filling out book order cards, which is tedious, but still doesn't last very long (I think she spent 3-4 hours total to go through a whole review journals worth of orders). I think if we had a more standardized, comprehensive training program for students, we could assign more work to them (which would be great considering how short staffed we are!). As it is, we train them as we have assignments for them, but it seems that finding work for the students almost creates more work.

Ideas for student worker projects? Did any of you spend work-study or just plain student employment time at a library desk?

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Leaving the Ego" vs. "Pride in Your Work"

Egos definitely play a bigger role in the world of work than I would have guessed in my innocent (that's actually pretty much true) high school days. Even in college, the few one crazy job experiences I had, I chalked up to the fact that summer jobs are supposed to be crazy.

Really, though, I think the American workplace has set itself up for failure in this regard. You're supposed to "check your ego at the door," and be a team player, but there's also an ideal of self-made business-men and -women clawing their ways to the top. On a less dramatic note, part of the quality of our work is supposed to come from taking pride in our work--it's not very far from pride to ego.

Generally, I feel like I am pretty good at working in groups and putting the good of the library above my own ego. Still, there are times when I catch myself on an ego trip--such as when a project I've been working on suddenly has a portion replaced with work from someone else.

I have experience jobs where egos seem to be a non-issue, and jobs where they are the elephant in the closet, and I'm trying to figure out how this happens. I'm sure that ego-less workplaces partially arise due to how an organization is managed, but I think there's also a concerted effort from the hoi polloi to be nice and make sure everyone else is nice, too!

Do any of you have insight into how this works?