Technical services in libraries which encompasses back-room work like acquisitions, document delivery and cataloging are often deemed as the less ‘sexy’ part of librarianship.
Yet, satisfying and even delighting library patrons depends critically on having an efficient and effective technical services departments which explains why many libraries are embarking on projects to streamline and improve their services. While the biggest gains probably come from radical redesign, some gains can be gotten from minor changes. In this post I will share some ideas to do that.
Librarians have being introducing tools like Libx toolbars, opensearch plugins, bookmarklets greasemonkey scripts (ezproxy script, amazon script) etc but the focus always seems to be for library users.
But it occurs to me that such tools are even more effective for technical services work.
Libx for instance automatically converts any isbn on a page to a clickable link, and clicking on it will do a xisbn search (it searches not just the given isbn, but also related isbns) of the item in your catalogue. While this is no doubt useful to users, one suspects that a typical library staff assigned to say acquisitions would use this dozens if not hundreds of times in the course of his/her work for checking orders that come in. Though each use saves them probably 5 seconds (not to mention reduces errors), the time savings can add up when they process thousands of books a year.
Obvious idea, add opensearch plugins for sites you use often for cataloguing, purchasing etc. This could be anything from your own library catalogue to other libraries like British Library, Book vendors, jobbers (Amazon, Blackwell books, Bookfinder, BookData Online etc)that do not support z39.50
You can also add sites that handle journal abbreviations such as JAbbr etc.
This is particularly effective if you need to do the same search a dozen times across different sites.
Say for instance, you need to process a request for document delivery. You need to
1. Check if the article exists in your collection and if not
2. Check your vendors to see if they have it to place an order.
Let’s assume you don’t have a openurl resolver and you need to manually check the source title against your OPAC.
Set up, the opensearch plugins for your library opac and other vendors/libraries you use in Internet explorer 7 or 8 or Firefox. (Tip : Add to searchbar Firefox addon makes adding new search providers a snap in Firefox)
Copy and paste, the source title (issn would be better, but most users don’t give you that), into the searchbox and then select your library search. After checking it doesn’t exist, you then click on the pull down button again and select the vendor you are checking (e.g. CISTI). The search results will appear.
If they don’t have it, continue with the other vendors down the list.
Notice how you don’t have to cut and paste the same search manually several times, just select another search provider and the search is run! Internet Explorer 7 is pretty handy in the way it handles opensearch because the search is automatically run with the terms in the searchbar whenever you change search providers.
You might notice that I’m actually using Firefox in the video. Firefox users who want to achieve the same effect should install “search on engine change” addon.
There are various other firefox addons that allow you to do even more interesting stuff, in particular you can do a search such that it searches the same term across several search providers opening a new tab for each.
Try Firefox search sidebar (search several search providers at one time) , searchwith (adding searches to your context menu) to search multi-servives at one time. This is a very cheap method to achieve a poor man’s federated search.
The Libx toolbar has a host of useful functions. But probably the most useful one of all would be the autolinking of isbns. Any page with an isbn is recognized and converted into a clickable link. Clicking on it will do a search of your library catalogue. It even searches related isbns (different publishers, different editions) if your opac supports that or lists related isbns in a sidebar that you can search with another click if your opac doesn’t.
Say you get a book order for a certain title. You typically search your catalogue first to see if the book already exists, then they search vendor sites to look for pricing, availability etc.
1. Use opensearch to search your catalogue (by title probably, isbn usually isn’t given but even if it is you probably want to check for hardback, paperback editions) then search the vendor the site. Then you can double check that the book doesn’t exist in your collection by clicking on the isbn given on the vendor site.
2. Use opensearch to search a commonly used vendor first , then click on the given isbn which brings you to the opac search of that isbn and related isbn.
#2 looks better to me. In particularly since it shows related isbn searches (american vs british publishers, paperback/hardback even different editions etc).
Using Googledocs for book orders
Did you know you can use Googledocs to create simple forms? The data will be automatically added to a spreadsheet. The Unquietlibrary uses this to create a simple form created this way for processing book orders.
How about using googledocs has a form for reporting problems with electronic resources that are down?
Using wikis to inform of cataloging subject heading changes
“Rather than having a meeting to discuss the changes or additions, as we have in the past, one of the cataloguers suggested we add this information to the wiki. As each cataloguer has a chance to read the bulletin, they can add to the list of new, changed or old subject headings.”
Incidentally, my love affair with all things library 2.0 began while I was embarking on a project to streamline technical services, so I have a soft spot for such ideas. Are there other interesting creative ways technical services staff are using web 2.0 in your library? I’m interested in hearing about it.
* Why not use Libx alone? While Libx allows you to add library catalogues, support of other searches are limited compared to opensearch plugins.