Thursday, October 01, 2009

Maximum Absorption, Slight Discomfort, Success Imminent

No, not a tampon commercial. I'm just talking about the past few weeks in Access & Delivery at the North Carolina State University Libraries. Over the summer, we closed our Media & Microform Center (MMC) due to budget cuts, which required reallocating staff into different positions and absorbing the service into the daily routines of the rest of Circulation. Moving the collections, documenting (and in some cases, rewriting) policies and procedures, and training the old/new staff member for their new roles in ADS has been time consuming, but ultimately rewarding. The time spent preparing for and dealing with the changes has paid off, and the service has been absorbed with minimal (but notable - and fixable) hitches.

Access & Delivery is also the new locale for all of the NCSU Libraries' technology lending, which used to reside in our Learning Commons. We were lucky enough to also get the previous staff member who helped manage the service to move into ADS. Unlike the MMC move, this one happened just as the semester began, without months and months of preparation, as we had for the MMC. However, being the transactional creatures we are in ADS, if it has a barcode on it, we can circulate the sucker. more absorption of policies and procedures, with some rewriting and a good bit of training, and we took off running with this service, too. Another batch of interesting kinks and procedural tweaks to work out, but so far the move has been a success. With both tech lending and core textbooks (not to mention the usual to and fro of those checking out traditional materials), our desk has been hopping.

Ah, yes. Core textbooks. NCSU Libraries place a copy of every required textbook for university classes on reserve behind the circ desk. No, I am not kidding. Yes, the students love it. Yes, we drown in traffic. Yes, we love feeling needed and being swamped means we are doing our job and providing necessary services. And I say "we" because everyone in the department works the service desk - the department head, myself, all the librarians, even the folks in the ILL unit come over and lend a hand. We run a 24/5 (plus weekends) operation, and we have two - count them, two - service desks - an exit desk (single person) and a main desk, where we often have all five terminals staffed and still see incredible lines of patrons. This requires an extraordinary amount of manpower.

It has been incredible to see such a large institution be so nimble when it comes to change and flexibility. And not just the library as a whole, which I find fascinating in its many moving parts, but the good nature of the number of staff who were reallocated due to workflow changes often caused by an anemic budget. It has been an exercise in growth for all of us, and it demonstrated the compelling reason why we need good library managers: change may be inevitable, but the skillful manipulation of circumstances to enable the library to absorb, deal with, and profit from change is not. I'm proud to be part of a library team that can make that happen with an eye toward the long-term satisfaction of our patrons.

So, this explains part of why I haven't blogged much lately. Other things, such as the Great Flying Snot-and-Vomit Flu that decimated our department for a couple of weeks and is finally dying down is another reason, as is the "trying to get things organized, flowing, and simply *done*" thing. Expect more from me soon on absorbing services, staff reallocations, and general management hoodoo. Right now I'm trying to dig myself out of the hole I've gotten myself into, and paring my inbox back down to manageable proportions.

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