CLOUD FLOW Using Tailored Workflows and Cloud Computing to Get Better Materials Requests.                                  ...
Deadlines   Budgets   SalienceCommunication
THE ENGLISH M.A. AT GVSU
Budgets &                                         Deadlines    Deadlines                           ChairLibrarian         ...
HOW’D IT GO?
Deadlines   Budgets   SalienceCommunication
Portion of    Budgets &                                          Budget &    Deadlines              Chair          Deadlin...
Grad.Assistant
Grad.Assistant
Librarian                                     Individual                   Order info                                     ...
The Larger                  Why & How      Longer term     considerations                               ChairBudgets & dea...
On TimeOn Budget SalientLines Open
HOW DO YOU REPLICATE       THIS?
FUTURE NOW
PhotosSlide 1: Roadway, low horizon, mountains, clouded sky, "Near (Grand) Teton National Park,",1933 – 1942.” http://arcw...
Cloudflowcharleston
Cloudflowcharleston
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  • Hello. Thanks for coming today for what I hope will be a good conversation. My name is Pete Coco and I am a liaison librarian at Grand Valley State University in western Michigan. I’m going to talk today about faculty material request workflows and specifically about the improvements I made to the workflow I share with the English department at Grand Valley. But I’m also going to talk generally, and I hope you’ll join me in that part, about the universal challenges and, perhaps, solutions, that come with working with faculty on materials requests. Please save your questions for the end, I’m hoping we’ll have time for a conversation.\n\nI want to start by breaking this topic down to the most fundamental question: what is the value of setting aside funds and creating specific workflows for disciplinary faculty making materials requests? Why do we do it? I think we’d all agree that the faculty at our institutions have two kinds of expertise that we, as librarians, don’t necessarily have. For all our tools and expertise in the processes of collection development and scholarly communications, it is the disciplinary faculty who have the subject expertise. They also drive curriculum and have an up-close relationship with what’s being taught. In tandem, these two forms of expertise can be tremendously useful as we aim to build a collection that supports those classrooms and is most likely to see use. This is especially true at institutions that have to be choosy with their acquisition. If we can’t buy everything, what do we buy? Books that come with faculty are a good place to start.\n\n \n
  • That said, there are some challenges to working with faculty that can make it a bit like herding cats. I would say that it breaks down to four essential challenges:\n\n[click]\n\nFirst is deadlines. I’m sure I’m not the only librarian in this room whose held to certain internal deadlines with my spending, and adding the variable of faculty input—especially in the form of a devoted budget--can complicate meeting those.\n\nSecond, similarly, is budgets. There are benefits to giving a department a budget for their requests, but they’re not as practiced as we are at steering the ship into harbor, so to speak, and they often don’t understand the complexities built-in to vendor pricing and so on. There’s always the risk that a list of requests generated by faculty will miss the mark, either over or under, in a way that creates work for the librarian—work that, given his own deadlines, might leave him scrambling.\n\nThird is salience. Just because faculty have the expertise to generate the requests most salient to their classrooms doesn’t mean they always exercise it. Faculty have all sorts of reasons for making requests that the librarian might consider problematic, and negotiating that gap can be a challenge.\n\nFourth and finally, then, is communication. Even faculty who are engaged with the library have other responsibilities that command their attention. Communication is the lubricant in the machinery and isn’t only fundamental to meeting the other three challenges, but I think it is improved when we consider it an end unto itself.\n\nSo, as an example, consider the workflow that was in place with Grand Valley’s English masters program when I arrived at the university in 2009. \n
  • 10 faculty in a larger department, some with a strong attachment to the printed book and the collection in their area. \n\nA legacy request budget of about $10k/ year\n\nassuming $40/book, that’s 250 titles, or 25 per faculty member.\n
  • Grand Valley’s English department had a legacy request budget that I inherited and which needed to stay mostly intact.. So the workflow began in August, when I dropped by the program chair’s office to introduce myself and promised him the email I would send later that week. That email included the total for the request budget, some guidelines for the formatting and submission of the request list, and three incremental deadlines we needed to meet throughout the year.\n\nThe way the process was explained to me, the chair then forwarded these incremental deadlines to program faculty who, in turn, would send the requests that supported their own classrooms to the program’s graduate assistants, who would compile the list, adding any missing metadata that I’d need to find it and formatting for submission at the deadline. \n
  • That was the idea.\n
  • The problems I realized we had after our first deadline fall within the framework I discussed earlier. \n\nFor one, I didn’t receive the list at the deadline and only did receive it after several requests. The list was well short of the spending target and full of problematic requests. Some were simply books we aready owned. The metadata I would need to order the books efficiently was often lackiing . Several requests were very expensive or out of print, with no clear link to curriculum. My favorite example of this is a request for the proceedings from a czech conference on victorian literature from 1986. Not only was this going to be difficulty to track down, but it’s salience was at best unclear. \n\nI knew I needed to make some changes, but where to start? The first step was to closely examine the status quo.\n
  • The problems I realized we had after our first deadline fall within the framework I discussed earlier. \n\nFor one, I didn’t receive the list at the deadline and only did receive it after several requests. The list was well short of the spending target and full of problematic requests. Some were simply books we aready owned. The metadata I would need to order the books efficiently was often lackiing . Several requests were very expensive or out of print, with no clear link to curriculum. My favorite example of this is a request for the proceedings from a czech conference on victorian literature from 1986. Not only was this going to be difficulty to track down, but it’s salience was at best unclear. \n\nI knew I needed to make some changes, but where to start? The first step was to closely examine the status quo.\n
  • The problems I realized we had after our first deadline fall within the framework I discussed earlier. \n\nFor one, I didn’t receive the list at the deadline and only did receive it after several requests. The list was well short of the spending target and full of problematic requests. Some were simply books we aready owned. The metadata I would need to order the books efficiently was often lackiing . Several requests were very expensive or out of print, with no clear link to curriculum. My favorite example of this is a request for the proceedings from a czech conference on victorian literature from 1986. Not only was this going to be difficulty to track down, but it’s salience was at best unclear. \n\nI knew I needed to make some changes, but where to start? The first step was to closely examine the status quo.\n
  • The problems I realized we had after our first deadline fall within the framework I discussed earlier. \n\nFor one, I didn’t receive the list at the deadline and only did receive it after several requests. The list was well short of the spending target and full of problematic requests. Some were simply books we aready owned. The metadata I would need to order the books efficiently was often lackiing . Several requests were very expensive or out of print, with no clear link to curriculum. My favorite example of this is a request for the proceedings from a czech conference on victorian literature from 1986. Not only was this going to be difficulty to track down, but it’s salience was at best unclear. \n\nI knew I needed to make some changes, but where to start? The first step was to closely examine the status quo.\n
  • That re-examination began with an illuminating conversation with the graduate assistants. Two points came to light. For one, the chair was assigning a sub-budget to individual faculty, a fact that explained the spottiness of my list. That distributed responsibility worked great in some places and not at all in others. I also learned that more often than asking the GAs to add particular titles, many faculty were asking them to create a list of titles and return it for approval. The GAs, in turn, were searching as novices in the place where any novice would search for books: amazon.com\n
  • Really this was one of the central problems. Searching amazon is a very limited way of isolating titles that are academically viable, available, and salient texts. Their search algorithm is personalized and opaque and likely returning results on factors largely irrelevant to our purpose, like popularity with general consumers.\n\nFurthermore this is where the value of book requests was being undermined. Faculty expertise was being reduced to author searches in Amazon done by folks who, for all their interest and willingness to learn, had neither the faculty’s expertise nor the librarians. This was generating many of the problematic requests.\n\nStill, the GAs were smart, hard-working, and interested. It was clear that they could be a benefit to the process, but that they’d need training. So the first of two major changes we made to our workflow was train the GAs in Worldcat, a much better source for searching potential books to request by topic. I trained them in the use of subject headngs and holdings data as a way of determining salience to our collection. I also reviewed and reinforced procedure with them—like the importance of checking the catalog for any potential title—and gave them a sense of the larger processes and concepts in play. They were eager and engaged in the process, and all reported that the process benefitted their own academic work, making the training we did a sort of iL training. One of that original trio is now in library school.\n
  • Really this was one of the central problems. Searching amazon is a very limited way of isolating titles that are academically viable, available, and salient texts. Their search algorithm is personalized and opaque and likely returning results on factors largely irrelevant to our purpose, like popularity with general consumers.\n\nFurthermore this is where the value of book requests was being undermined. Faculty expertise was being reduced to author searches in Amazon done by folks who, for all their interest and willingness to learn, had neither the faculty’s expertise nor the librarians. This was generating many of the problematic requests.\n\nStill, the GAs were smart, hard-working, and interested. It was clear that they could be a benefit to the process, but that they’d need training. So the first of two major changes we made to our workflow was train the GAs in Worldcat, a much better source for searching potential books to request by topic. I trained them in the use of subject headngs and holdings data as a way of determining salience to our collection. I also reviewed and reinforced procedure with them—like the importance of checking the catalog for any potential title—and gave them a sense of the larger processes and concepts in play. They were eager and engaged in the process, and all reported that the process benefitted their own academic work, making the training we did a sort of iL training. One of that original trio is now in library school.\n
  • The second major change was to change how the GAs sent requests to me. The status quo made for surprises. The list was “blackboxed” until a point in time when the librarian, bound by his own deadline, might not get the chance to follow up on every request that he might like to. Likewise, there was no frictionless way for me to communicate ordering feedback to the GAs.\n\nThe solution was cloud computing. Cloud computing is a lot of things, but here it means Google docs: remotely stored documents accessible from any web browser that can be simultaneously edited in multiple locations and provide changes instantly. We went with Google docs because, unlike some other good options, it doesn’t require software installation and the GAs were already sharing an email address. \n\nMost importantly, it allowed realtime access to the list. I could check in periodically and see if they were on-track for the next deadline and, if not, plan my purchasing accordingly. It allowed me to spread out my ordering if I chose, and I could follow up on orders as issues arose, rather than all at once. \n
  • Finally, I went out of my way to have periodic “big picture” conversations with the program chair. In addition to communicating budgets and deadlines, I opened a line of communication about the process itself. Did the program indeed want a request budget? Was the size right? I explained why it was important to whip faculty requests on a philosophical level—I want to build a collection that supports their classrooms—but that ultimately I could either spend the money on their behalf myself, or it could be re-allocated to programs that were more interested in contributing to the process. Ultimately, it was an affirming and productive set of conversations in which we agreed on the importance of this process and the chair, as my “inside man” was re-invigorated and clear on his role.\n
  • So: how’d it go? Very well. The next round of requests were on time, on budget, and most were fully salient, reasonable purchases. I was communicating directly with the chair and GAs on a regular basis, and even being approached by department faculty indicating their happiness to try something new and expressing a commitment to spending the budget fully and wisely.\n\nNow of course: the big question. \n
  • I should say that my success with English has led to workflow changes with my other liaison departments, neither of which have graduate assistants. In each, it seemed the best option was to create a web form for faculty to make requests. Both forms require full metadata as well as a brief statement tying the request to curriculum or some other legit purpose. This form has worked much more effectively in one than the other, and there are a few reasons why that might be happening. For one, the department still making fewer requests is actually a disciplinary program made up of faculty with other departments—and library liaisons and budgets. Their requests are likely appearing elsewhere. But perhaps more important, I have a strong relationship with the professor in WRT who is managing the list on their end. Notably, she is neither tenured nor a program admin, but she’s doing a good job advocating for library requests from within the department.\n
  • But really, the point is less the specifics of how I’ve tailored these workflows to the facts on the ground and more the fact that I’ve taken the time and effort to figure out how they might best be tailored to suit those facts. At Grand Valley, it looks like this. Elsewhere it might look differently. But tailored workflows don’t mean more work, especially if you do them right. In fact, quite the opposite. And on that note, this is why I would advocate, whatever your situation, for the use of cloud computing in any new workflows you devise. \n
  • In a sense, faculty material requests have always been crowdsourced. It’s only recently that we have a technology so perfectly matched to that purpose.\n\nSo: that’s what I’ve got. Thanks again for coming today. It looks like we have a few minutes for questions.\n
  • \n
  • Cloudflowcharleston

    1. 1. CLOUD FLOW Using Tailored Workflows and Cloud Computing to Get Better Materials Requests. Pete Coco Liaison Librarian for the Liberal Arts, Grand Valley State University cocop@gvsu.edu  @pfcoco  www.pete-coco.com Presented the Charleston Conference, November 5 2011
    2. 2. Deadlines Budgets SalienceCommunication
    3. 3. THE ENGLISH M.A. AT GVSU
    4. 4. Budgets & Deadlines Deadlines ChairLibrarian ORIGINAL WORKFLOW Faculty Deadline batch of requests w/ Grad. Titles for Request metadata (.xls) Assistant
    5. 5. HOW’D IT GO?
    6. 6. Deadlines Budgets SalienceCommunication
    7. 7. Portion of Budgets & Budget & Deadlines Chair Deadlines [actual]Librarian Faculty ORIGINAL WORKFLOW Deadline batch Requests & of requests w/ Grad. Topics to Search metadata (.xls) Assistant
    8. 8. Grad.Assistant
    9. 9. Grad.Assistant
    10. 10. Librarian Individual Order info requests with metadata Training and communication Grad. Assistant
    11. 11. The Larger Why & How Longer term considerations ChairBudgets & deadlines Librarian
    12. 12. On TimeOn Budget SalientLines Open
    13. 13. HOW DO YOU REPLICATE THIS?
    14. 14. FUTURE NOW
    15. 15. PhotosSlide 1: Roadway, low horizon, mountains, clouded sky, "Near (Grand) Teton National Park,",1933 – 1942.” http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=519911Slide 2: “Cats that Webchick is herding.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceardach/4549865709/Slide 5: “[Portrait of Charlie Barnet and Re-Bop, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1946] (LOC).”http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/5189338179/Slide 10: “Bumper V-2 Launch.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasacommons/4857944855/Slide 12: “Tailors workshop at tram depot in Stockholm in 1948.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/stockholmtransportmuseum_commons/6081774887/Slide 13: “Convair : Model 118.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/

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