Just the start of things

Sayers Books 2

I’ve been working at the Simpson Library for almost two years now and I have tried several times to blog about the work I’ve been doing, but for several reasons I haven’t been able to bring myself to share what I am doing. I won’t say that this post is going to be a trend, but I’d like to talk through what I’ve been doing a bit more and try to let go of some of the fears that have held me back from writing.

When I hit my one year anniversary mark at the University it was summer and I took the opportunity of the summer time lull to revamp the procedures of my job. The biggest goal was to digitize as many aspects of the job as I could to not only reduce the amount of paper waste, but to also streamline the process and perhaps have a better way to collect data of what is going on.

Many of the digitization tasks were fairly straight forward. I wanted to put the handbooks and student aide training material online. I had been inspired by the work done by DTLT where they used a combination of GitHub and DokuWiki as the hub of the documentation for Domain of One’s Own. I liked this framework because content re-use is very easy in the wiki. If I have a set of procedures on a page and those procedures are used in multiple project instructions I’d only have to write the procedures once and easily embed them in other parts of the site. Additionally, if I had to update the procedures because they changed I would only need to change the original source of the procedures and that would get pushed to everyplace I had embedded those procedures. I also imagined if my wiki experiments were a success that this could extend to other departments within the library. If we shared a collective wiki we could all be on the same page for the various procedures. I ended up not using GitHub as the backbone because between all the things I wanted to accomplish over the summer I thought learning how the heck to use GitHub would take up more time than I wanted, plus I figured at this point I’d be the only one needing to update the content so the power of forking my content wasn’t necessary.

I had a volunteer (a student aide that had just graduated) take the Collection Maintenance Handbook and format it to work within the wiki markup. It was also a good opportunity for the two of us to update the manual to reflect current practices (wow, did I really change that many things in my first year?). The volunteer also helped put the training guide together and to help me think through what items I wanted to include on an introductory questionnaire. Traditionally student aides receive a training guide pamphlet that they go through with the supervisor each time they  work a shift until they are fully trained. Going from paper to electronic format made me rethink how I even wanted to approach student aide training which has led to lots of different experiments (a blog post for another day).  Additionally, if I was going to use parts of the Collection Maintenance Handbook in the training guide I had to make sure the handbook was broken up in ways that I could use those pieces in the training guide and that they were written in a way that would explain enough to student aides how the task is accomplished. It mostly came together, but it was a bit messy.

This summer I’ll be spending time looking at how well the digitization process of handbooks and training manuals went to figure out how I can tweak it further to make more sense to my students. I’ve also been doing plenty of reading on managing student aides in an academic setting and plan on taking some of the ideas and implementing them in training.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of what I’ve been doing and it didn’t even cover the biggest and most challenging digitization of the shelf checking that my student supervisor does. I’ll leave that for another post.

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