In 2020, libraries made a hard right turn into the unknown — which came with its challenges, fears and most of all changes. So so many changes. In the past year, I have seen our Technical Services department lose 4 staff members to retirement, 3 of which occurred in my department in cataloging. For several months we only had one full time copy cataloger! What followed was several months of constant reworking of workflows to accommodate the losses, and slowly hiring new staff to fill the losses.
Fast forward to today, I have spent the better part of the last 8 months training — Not only did I have to create a cataloging training from scratch, but I have been doing simultaneous cataloging training for 3 staff members to help fill our losses. And I am training to learn Acquisitions tasks too!
Through a lot of testing and trying, here are a few of the lessons I learned along the way:
- Let seasoned staff do their thing
Our department clerks know their jobs better than I do, so let them do their thing. Create a loose schedule of due dates and check-in at the beginning and end of the week. This empowered our TS clerks to be independent, plan their own work and schedule for the week, and allowed them to troubleshoot problems, since my attention was divided.
- Google Drive, your paperless and real time friend!
In this time of COVID, Google Drive allowed us to go almost entirely paperless — great for a time where we do not want to be sharing anything. It allowed staff to monitor each other’s work, see where staff was in a particular project, update documents as needed, and centralize information for the whole department.
Google Docs allowed our TS to create shared memos, track meeting minutes in one spot, and project plan. Google Sheets allowed our TS to create shared schedules, workbooks to track new staff training, and act as an “instant messenger” for new staff to ask questions in real time while also creating a log of Q&A’s they could go back and review. Google Forms allowed our Acquisitions department to keep track of periodical stats. Google Slides allowed our TS to create training presentations that could be shared across departments.
- Try everything. Leave no workflow unchanged!
Try everything. With fewer staff members and a 4+ month backlog of ordering, on top of a 3 week delay of material sent out from our vendor, our “normal” workflows kept changing, again and again and again! I am eternally grateful to our clerks who put up with the constant changes and took them in stride. Our primary goal was to get material out to our customers, as quickly as we could with reduced staff and reduced work hours. After several months of trying and feedback, we perfected a new workflow — that still has wiggle room to change! — which focused on the number of holds by a high to low system, so that we could move material to fill the most holds first.
- There can only be one…Zoom link (Free Zoom)
Create one Zoom meeting for each staff member. Make the meeting 8 hours long so that two people can stay on for hours if needed. Adjust the meeting date to the very last day of the year, so that each individual meeting will remain under your “Upcoming” meeting tabs. Set up a waiting room in case you need an extra minute. Very helpful for check-ins and training, and you will not have to make a new meeting everyday.
*Note, using this method, if staff tries to get into the Zoom link before the host has launched the meeting, they will get an error message telling them that meeting isn’t schedule for that day!
**Note, And if you are using free zoom, once you get kicked out, click on the link again to get back in!
- Be kind to yourself, you are only one person
Reduced staff, social distancing, constant cleaning, masks, virtual meetings, months and months of backlog = burnout, stress, and the constant feeling like nothing will ever be done. It is a horrible feeling to feel like everything needs to be done and it needs to be done now.
So stop. Ask for help if you need it. Make a checklist and commit to only completing one of those tasks today. Keep your email closed and check it on a schedule. Write down all your intangible tasks so that at the end the day when you say “I didn’t finish anything”, you can see all the work that you did that day. Take your breaks. Take your full lunch time. Ask for time off, as often as you can. There is truly nothing in my general job description and daily tasks that can’t wait until tomorrow!
Hope everyone is having a lovely May!
Christina Gaydos, Toledo Lucas County Public Library