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Report on ALCTS Creative Ideas in Technical Services Discussion Group - Midwinter Meeting 2018 

Mar 23, 2018 11:07 AM

Report on ALCTS Creative Ideas in Technical Services Discussion Group - Midwinter Meeting 2018



Whitney Buccicone, University of Washington (Chair)

       Ryan Mendenhall, Fordham University  (Vice Chair)


At this year’s Midwinter meeting, the Creative Ideas in Technical Services Discussion Group hosted 37 attendees to discuss five exciting and timely topics. Below are listed the topic, the discussion facilitator, brief summary of the topic, and three (or more) key points taken away from the discussion.


Mentorship as collaboration for technical services librarians

Laura Evans and Stephanie Hess, SUNY Binghamton


The subject of this discussion was to examine the mentoring in libraries and how it constitutes an important factor in developing library staff roles and fostering future leaders in the field. The topic was expanded to explore the more traditional versions of formal and informal mentoring programs are now being augmented with newer types of mentoring, such as peer and virtual approaches, gaining in popularity. It also focused on whether the mentor/mentee relationship can be successful in breaking down silos and how to identify possible collaborative interests.


From the discussion, three main takeaways were discovered. The first was that one mentor is not enough and that the ability to having mentors in several areas of library services is ideal. The second was that the benefits of mentoring expanded beyond advice: a mentor can be an advocate for the mentee both within the institution and the broader profession. Third and finally, mentoring is about building relationships: setting expectations and goals is important, as well as regular communication and follow-through  


Transforming library metadata into linked data: a new future for technical services

Lihong Zhu, Washington State University


Focusing on the rise of linked data, this table discussed the exploration and development around the intersection of linked data and technical services. Their takeaways focused on staff, training, and ideas looking towards the future. First, scalable local projects may include special collections and ETD-oriented initiatives; using existing linked-data conversion tools will be necessary to hit the ground running. Related is the involvement of staff: how will linked data be implemented as well as  how will staff be trained and when. Second, it is important to work with vendors to ensure that your project’s goals dovetail nicely with the development of your ILS or of vendor-managed applications (ExLibris’s Alma, OCLC efforts); vendors can also help with scalability and performance issues involved in querying published triple-stores. Third, unresolved questions include the future of identity management initiatives, overcoming local linked data silos, and which of the many competing ontologies (, rda-rdf, BIBFRAME, et. al.) will prevail for library metadata, defining the practice for entering URIs in $0, $1, etc.


Revitalizing the group dynamic: conversations across departments and institutions

Susanne Markgren, Manhattan College

Maureen Clements, Mercy College (in absentia)


This roundtable discussion addressed the benefits and challenges of building and sustaining relationships with tech services colleagues in other institutions as well as with colleagues in other departments. It focused on the importance of supporting and learning from one another - no matter the size of the department and how to build sustainable relationships across many departments. The first takeaway from the discussion was that groups are most successful and vital when focused on a specific product or software from a user community. Next, they found that leadership (or administration) will not always start the group, but there are tools like Zoom and Slack to enable librarians to form their own groups. Finally, personal bandwidth is an issue: different-sized libraries have people with multiple responsibilities who may be involved in many groups, so it is important to work within the context of that group and be aware of its scope.


Reimagining technical services for the 21st century

Marlee Givens and Sofia Slutskaya, Georgia Tech


This discussion focused on the ever-current topic of the library of the 21st century and explored how libraries must be service-focused and adaptable to the changing expectations of users. The discussion facilitators focused on an example from the Georgia Tech library which has transformed its technical services department into a new department, now called Infrastructure, in order to absorb many other “behind the scenes” functions such as patron management, archival collections processing, adding documents to the digital repository, etc. From this, the group had three major takeaways. First, the decision to reimagine technical services (e.g. redesign workflows, conduct cross-training, make small or large changes but mostly large) is largely externally driven. For example, the library may be spending most of its budget on electronic resources whereas most of the technical services staff are devoted to print resources. Or, the library has migrated to a new LMS such as Alma. Or, the library administration has dedicated full or partial FTE from another department to technical services. Second, one primary outcome in any of the changes mentioned above is the need for training. In many cases the people being trained are new to technical services and are bringing a mix of prior skills (and a mix of motivations to learn technical services skills). It can be hard to deal with a range of skill sets, or to train staff who don't report to you. Third and finally, if we in technical services are patient with new people, and dedicated to ongoing training, we can use training as an opportunity to improve processes. For example, having to write documentation to support training on a process is an opportunity to more closely examine how that process gets done and look for efficiencies. Also, new people can introduce new methods of problem solving; people coming from more of a public services role can bring that perspective and look at technical services through that lens; and people who work part time in another area can be a bridge to that other department.


Supporting technical services staff at all levels

Sarah Hovde, Folger Shakespeare Library


The topic for this discussion was the idea of supporting technical services staff (whether professional or paraprofessional technical services staff members) so they are engaged with their work, regardless of experience level or professional credentials.  The focus was how to accomplish this equally and in a way to benefit all staff equitably. The takeaways were as follows. First, high-level paraprofessional staff are often paid relatively well, are usually well-educated, and turnover tends to be low; these staff are often pursuing life goals (e.g. higher education) outside the domain of their library work. Second, paraprofessional and support staff may face institutional hurdles, such as scheduling and overtime rules, to professional engagement such as conference participation, but in-house engagement and webinars may be attainable. Third, the group found that it is not always advisable to push paraprofessional staff to engage more deeply in the profession, as many of them have responsibilities (family, education, additional work) that make such engagement difficult.


Conclusion and additional information

Creative Ideas in Technical Services hosts a session like this at both Midwinter and Annual meetings. A call for discussion topics for Annual will be going out in April. We will be looking for a Vice Chair and will put a call out for that position in March. If you have any questions, please let contact either the Chair or Vice Chair.


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