Recapping Three Months of Digital Services

So, I think one way I can contribute to the Library Day in the Life Project (specifically #libday8) is to give a quick recap of the past three months on the new job. This should give you an idea of what’s happening in my little part of the library world and what my mind will be wrapped around all week.

So, here are the five projects that brought challenges, excitement, fun, and exhaustion to my work life since November:

  • Mobile app: This is a project I started a few months before my new position began, but our target launch date was the end of December so I spent a lot of time on this towards the end of the year. We worked with Boopsie to develop the app and I think it turned out well, even if there are a few things we need to improve sooner rather than later. The app does a lot of things, but I’m sure the most commonly used feature will be the ability to log in to your personal account to place holds and renew items. The app’s so-called “killer feature” is the ability for people to check out materials from their own phone/tablet using their camera as a scanner or by punching in barcodes manually. My work on this project involved figuring out the content, the menu structure, working with our graphic designer, and going back-and-forth with my contacts at Boopsie to make sure the app worked the way we needed it to. Working with a vendor on a project can save you time in some ways, but it can also be very time consuming when there’s any customization happening.
  • New web catalog: My library recently began using SOPAC, an open source Drupal module, for our web catalog interface. Several of my colleagues began this project awhile ago, but I was asked to take the lead soon after my new position was created. The biggest challenge for me on this project was to get up-to-speed on all the development and decision-making that occurred before I got involved, and to figure out how and where I could make a positive impact. I tried focusing my efforts on prioritizing the remaining issues/fixes and identifying last-minute improvements to improve the design and usability of the catalog. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been and I’m sure there were times when I slowed things down, but I think we’re getting there! We have thousands of users who have switched over to the new account system and are using the new catalog regularly, but it’s hard to hear anything but the small number of complaints and negative comments we get from the public and staff. It’s all feedback, though, and feedback can only help us improve things moving forward. Sidenote: I have even more respect for the expertise of our catalogers now that I see all the ways their daily work with our catalog records impacts the user’s end-experience.
  • Pilot digital media lab: One of the highlights of my short career so far had been creating the Digital Media Lab at Skokie Public Library, so when I came over to Arlington Heights I was hoping to one day have the opportunity to create a similar space. Luckily, the executive management team at my library see eye-to-eye with me on this and we now have a pilot digital media lab open to the public. We have not publicized the space much since we’re not ready to staff it the way we want, but we’re planning a big publicity push at the end of February. Besides helping to figure out what equipment and software should go into the Studio, much of my time on this project is spent on staff training. We have a great group of computer assistants that are very tech-savvy, but every one of them still benefited from workshops on iMovie, GarageBand, and iWork led by a local trainer. Next week, we have 2-hour one-on-one sessions scheduled to help staff understand the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. We also use Lynda.com extensively. To help the rest of the staff understand what we’re trying to do with these new services, our Digital Services staff hosted an open house, where we provided demos, talked about what people might want to work on in the lab, and, of course, offered refreshments. It was a great way to get buy-in from across the library and get people talking to customers about the new services.
  • Evaluating the website: My new position places me in charge of the library’s website in terms of content, design, and usability, so in the past three months, I started ongoing conversations with colleagues about the state of our website and where we’re going with it in the next year or so. I had some familiarity with Drupal from a few years ago, but I needed to get a lot more comfortable with it in a hurry so I attended a “Drupal in a Day” workshop in December and also attended the Chicago Drupal Camp. I’m also figuring out workflows between myself and several colleagues who I will be working with frequently on web stuff. The new catalog took up most of my time thinking about the website, so I’m still in the process of figuring out what needs to be done with the website and how to plan my work out. I have to say that the recent ALA Techsource webinar, “10 Steps to a User-Friendly Website,” led by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches-Johnson gave me a lot of ideas!
  • Organizational Realignment: Besides the creation of my new position and department, Digital Services, there were significant changes made to other departments to help position the library as we offer new services and tweak how we offer current ones. This meant different things to different staff, but for me it meant helping to create the vision for the new Digital Services group and the new Customer Services group, which partly consists of my former department, Information Services (still with me?). Lots of meetings (the good, productive kind mostly!) to discuss the needs of our community, our services, staffing, communication, timelines, space use, and the future of the library.

So, those are some of the highlights from my first three months on the new job. It’s been a whirlwind, but one that I think my colleagues and I are coming out of intact! I’ll try to write more later this week with some details about what’s in store for us this year.

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