Monthly Archives: May 2019

Evolution and Survival in Technical Services

Technical Services… so many changes for better service!  Like many Technical Services departments in public libraries we are doing more “stuff” with less staff and smaller budgets.  Technical Services staff perform collection development and weeding duties, acquisitions, receiving and processing of physical library materials, cataloging of physical items and metadata for digital images among many other tasks.  What TS staff did 20 years ago or even five or ten years ago is quite different and much more expansive today.  Outsourcing some tasks is essential in order for TS staff to continue providing excellent service to co-workers and library patrons.  When I started working in libraries 19 years ago, Technical Services was mostly just placing orders, as well as cataloging and processing physical items for circulation.  Technical Services still does all that it traditionally did almost two decades ago plus way more today.  In addition to more duties and types of work, many Technical Services staff head up ILS management and staff ILS training.  At my Library we led three migrations: from Classic Dynix to Millennium, from Millennium to Sierra (beta-testing…yuck), and from a Sierra consortium to a stand-alone Sierra system. My Library moved from using mostly paper format selection materials with our vendors to digital copies and full EDI ordering. 

Reflecting on these changes and seeing how much more responsibility Technical Services has taken on, literally doing MORE with LESS staff and resources, I asked myself the question, “How did I [we] survive?”  ANSWER: Delegation and adaptation with good people and outsourcing some services with vendors.  Most of the technological innovations we adopted like ILS, RFID, and Full MARC have worked out for the better, allowing us to do more with less and more efficiently.   Adapting to new workflows and technologies at first often seemed the wrong path, but with diligence they have proved well worth the cost, time and effort.  Most recently, I had to really think about what tasks I did as Manager/ MLIS Librarian could be delegated out to my copy cataloger and processer.  With adaptation, delegation, staff training, and outsourcing, my Library continues to change for the better and improve quality service to staff and patrons.  Even though Technical Services is not considered public service, where/ what would the Library be without Technical Services?  We are not exactly the same as we were 19 years ago, but we kept the basics, changed and adapted for our patrons and I learned to delegate steps in the process to Technical Services staff and vendors so we could take on more things from other departments, like digitizing local history for a few years from Reference, which allowed Reference to shift focus into Adult Services and offer more adult programming.  The changes accepted and implemented by and for Technical Services in the last two decades were necessary, often uncomfortable and scary, but they prepared Technical Services staff for all the future changes in technologies, services, and responsibilities we will be faced with in the years to come.  More duties are always on the horizon to be delegated to my Technical Services department and I must continue to find ways for Technical Services to handle what comes next, but I am confident the future will be bright for Technical Services.

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