Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A day in the life of a Distance Learning Librarian

Inspired by Meredith's post on a typical day in her life, I decided to share a "typical day" from last week as well, to highlight how every library is different, but that there are similar issues that all DLLs have to deal with. One note: I really wear three hats at work (this is what happens with 5 F/T librarians and 3 lib. assistants): Distance Learning, Access services, and purchasing. I also handle most front-line IT issues that the front desk staff can't sort out, and even catalog a cart or two of books on occasion when tech services is backed up. Here's my log from last tuesday, which was during our finals week but was still a pretty normal day, all told:


8:00 arrive at the office, turn on computer, eat granola bar, pull my next action cards and today's tickler cards out of my dock, dial into voice mail and grab inbound mail from my inbox in the breakroom while Outlook starts up.

8:05: My morning routine: I do this every morning to keep my desk/brain from exploding--I'm a bit of a foodie so I sort of liken this to a chef getting her mise en place together before the rush starts. It takes about 15 minutes, but it probably saves me an hour of chasing my tail later in the day.

1. Everything work related from my purse, mailbox in the breakroom, notes/books left on my desk by the night shift, voicemails, etc. goes into my inbox.

2. Everything in my physical and virtual inboxes then gets DONE RIGHT THEN (if it'll take less than 2-3 minutes) and trashed/filed as appropriate, or gets added to my card deck as a next action. The inspiring book/printout/email is then either trashed if no longer needed, or filed either on my next action shelf (if a book) or physical/outlook N-A folder. The upshot, I have empty inboxes--if only for 5 minutes. *sigh*

3. I grab some blank cards and do a quick "mindsweep", basically being quiet for a minute and checking if there are any pending tasks in my brain that I haven't captured. Any actions, key thoughts, ideas, or whatever gets jotted down (one item per card), and filed (if not a next action) or added to my next action stack for the day.

4. I check the reference schedule for the day on the shared calendar and set alarms in outlook for the shift(s) I'm on the desk. None today--Woo hoo! Then I look more closely at my own calendar and realize that's because I have a training class for our impending migration to Sirsi Unicorn--starting in 45 minutes!

5. I start my daily log, which is just a card where I jot down the actions I complete through the day--it gives me a good archive of what I accomplished in a day without having to keep a zillion index cards (I easily rip through one to two dozen in a "typical" day...). I send an email to my boss every other friday to let him know the status on all my pending projects, and this makes it easier to recreate the last two weeks of my work life.

6. Last but not least, I take a minute to lay out all my next action cards and sort them by priority-- basically "Do today (in the order i want to get to them)", "try to finish in the next week", and "do whenever". This trumps a to-do list for me because when a new action pops up, all I have to do is jot it onto a card, and shuffle it into the appropriate place on the stack.

8:20--see, I told you that only takes 15 minutes! (it actually took me about twice as long to type as it does to do) Done with my morning routine card that gets added to the log, and the card is filed back in the next action slot in my dock for tomorrow. First up is the list of inactive student accounts due to be purged from the system--I take a glance through to make sure there aren't any mis-entered community borrowers or other accounts that need to be kept, and respond back to our IT Librarian, the awesome Carolyn, that the list looks fine.

8:30--Yesterday after I left our most recent supply order came in, and I unpack the boxes and detail a student to help me move everything to the supply closet. There were a few calendars and other special orders from specific staff members, and those go in their inboxes. I note that we didn't get one of the toners we ordered, so I make a quick call to the vendor, who verifies that the last toner is on order and should be here next week. I make up a quick card to follow up if the toner hasn't arrived in 10 days, file it in the tickler section of my deck for next friday, and add another confirmed kill to the log.

8:45--I got an invoice for a nw UPS for one of the lab computers in the mail this morning, and quickly get my boss's sign-off to close the PO, make copies for the files, and send the invoice and associated paperwork to Accounts Payable. Add Accounts Payable to my christmas card list, which I have working on the side of my desk as I think of people.

8:55--Yipe! time for training! I quickly print out the login information, remind my classmates for this course, and go get us logged into webex to learn about the thrilling world of reserve room management. (did I mention that I'm in charge of reserves too?)

10:15--We were the only people taking today's class, so we covered ground fast and finished our two hour course in a little over one. That left me time to respond to a few panicked emails from distance students regarding database access, run out to the desk to help another student sort out the graph function in excel spreadsheet for her finals project, and then came back to my desk to put a few plays on reserve for the drama class.

11:00--I get another phone call from a distance student, this time with a reference question for her take-home final in business. I walk a tightrope of not giving her the answer straight out (which she's obviously fishing for), and refer her to the statistical abstract for one question and LexisNexis for another.

11:15--Next up is my twice-weekly tickler to do a post to Scattered Librarian. I had slapped a post-it on the card to remind me that I wanted to do a follow-up post on my new card-based organization system. I still liked that story idea, knocked out a quick draft in word, added a few links, and posted the finished article right before a well-earned...


Part two of A Typical Day coming soon...