library day in the life 7.2

Or, A Day of Frustration

Today wasn’t as structured as yesterday, so my breakdown of how I spent my day isn’t going to be as accurate. Having meetings most of the afternoon yesterday basically left me the morning to do other stuff, so it was easier to keep track. However, unstructured days is more often than not the rule for me. Here’s how the day went:

The Good:

    • Again, I didn’t have that much emails today. This is really surprising. I’m glad, though, because I really have some deadlines to meet.
    • A recurring meeting that was on my calendar didn’t happen, so more time to do what I needed to do.
    • I always like to check out articles/links shared on FB. I learn so much from them about library-related things, as well as current events. Now, that I’m sort of active on Twitter for this Library in the Day project, I’m also learning a lot more of what’s going on out there in libraryland.
    • I took time out to check out the all-staff picnic. This is an annual event, and this is the 4th time since I’ve been here. I never went before, though, because I heard that a) the free food wasn’t anything interesting (which it wasn’t) and there really isn’t much to it (which is kind of true). But it did get me out of the office and gave me something to photograph, so I can finally put photos in my post.

This is what it looked like when I got to campus around 7:30am, and they were still setting up.

It looked quite different at lunchtime. Folks had their picnic blankets and were spread out on the grass and under the trees. There was a DJ and dancing, including dancing mascots, as shown in the picture below. They happened to be playing salsa around the time that I was there, and I was very tempted to dance. That’s the Powell Library Building in the background, home of our undergraduate library.

Here is a close up of our mascots, Joe and Josephine Bruin:

The Bad:

  • I like to come to meetings prepared. I had actually done a little prep work for my committee meeting, but I actually hadn’t done the important part, which was to review the agenda and necessary documents. (I guess those emails came on a busy day, and I missed them somehow. Though, I think it was more that I thought that they were the same documents I had seen before.) So, I spent quite a bit of the meeting reading up and sometimes missing what was discussed. I was still an active participant, though, just not as ready as I should have been.
  • Though, I learn from FB and Twitter feeds, they are still distractions. I tend to be more distracted when I’m doing something challenging and/or tired. Today, it was both.

The Ugly:

Yesterday, I talked about LC CAPSEA and doing my annual review of my country profiles. Today, I had to finish reviewing and modifying the profiles for the rest of the countries. It was such difficult and depressing work. As I mentioned before, I have assigned budgets to each country based on what tier they belong (in the top tier are those countries which are of most interest to our researchers). Last year, I stayed as close as possible to those budgets when I did my profiles. Well, this year, I have the same budget, but the costs have gone up. For some countries, costs went up by 40%! What does one do?

Let me explain about approval plans, since most people don’t know what is unless they’re collection development librarians. (We were actually talking about this recently, and we all said that we really didn’t learn about approval plans in library school and only learned about it once we started doing our jobs.) For approval plans, you set up a profile where you’re telling the vendor to send you all books from certain subject categories. You might limit this by content (e.g., research-level), publishers, etc. And you give them a spending limit. This is intended to save librarians’ time, by having certain books come automatically instead of ordering titles individually.

Many libraries have approval plans with YBP, as do we. The great thing about YBP is that they pre-catalog the books, and these books have call numbers (not localized, of course). So, when you do your profile, you can not only specify the subjects that you want, but you can also be as specific as you want in terms of call number ranges. That way, you can technically get only the books you want.

Well, with CAPSEA, that is not how it works. You can specify subjects, but these subjects are broad. And you can’t limit it by specific aspects of the topic or the authoritativeness of the materials or even by publishers. Thus, a subject like religion might have useful books on religion in the life of Southeast Asians, but it is just as likely to have not as important books on specific temples or the lives and teachings of individual monks. This makes it very difficult when you are trying to tighten your profiles and stay within budget.

For example, take Indonesia, which I have given an assigned budget of 100%. Well, some categories cost almost 40%. That means I can only I have 2 1/2 to 3 major categories. Which areas I am supposed to cut: history, politics, economics, sociology, literature, or religion? These are all important areas. And when you cut, it’s all or nothing. If I cut a topic, then it means I’m getting nothing for that topic. And, if I choose to only go with, say, 3 major categories, then I can’t have the smaller (meaning, cheaper) categories, such as reference works, gender studies, education, public health, etc.

Thus, I had to decide which areas I can afford not to get books in, at least for the upcoming year. I had to decide which subjects are more important than others. The answers are different for each country, since it depends on the current research interests of faculty and students, as well as what I think will be the continuing or future areas of interest.

And, unlike here, where it is possible to get old publications from publishers or used bookstores, it is a lot more difficult to do retrospective collection development for Southeast Asian materials since most publications are printed in very limited quantities. Either you get it right way, or you lose your chance. With only about a dozen collecting libraries in the country, many also facing budget woes, there is a good chance that the other librarians are making the same cuts and the lesser the likelihood that these titles would be available through interlibrary loan.

This is the reality. Increasing costs vs. budgets. Subject areas pitted against each other. And I had to make those decisions. That’s why today was a hard day.

But the day is done (not that tomorrow will be any easier, as I have serials review to do next). So, I will leave you with this fuzzy picture from my walk on the beach this evening. Good night!

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