Friday, May 20, 2022

Marshall Breeding's 2022 Library Systems Report

 Since 2002, Marshall Breeding has released an annual Library Systems Report, a "state of the nation" report on the library technologies market. Thanks to his efforts, the history of this industry over the last 20 years is well documented. The recently released 2022 Library Systems Report documents the impact the pandemic continues to have on the library systems marketplace. In short, it's a sudden acceleration of trends that have been growing for years, especially the trend of consolidation. 

While much of the Library Systems Report is geared toward libraries of other types, this year's report does contain significant information for law libraries, particularly academic law libraries. Most notable is an examination of the May, 2021 acquisition of ProQuest by Clarivate. As Breeding puts it, this acquisition, "brings one of the largest library-facing companies into the broader industry of scholarly communications and research." 

Implications for scholarly communication aside, with two of the largest library services platform vendors, Ex Libris and Innovative, now also under the Clarivate umbrella, libraries seeking to migrate could end up with fewer choices. For the time being, Innovative and Ex Libris operate independently from one another but as Breeding's report shows, the executive structures of all the companies involved have already been streamlined.  

The 2022 Library Systems report also contains a few brief updates on companies that market to law firm and other special libraries. There is an update on Lucidea and its acquisition of smaller companies and a quick blurb about developments at CyberTools. 

Always remarkable for its thoroughness, the Library Systems Report is especially important this year. As consolidations move beyond competing, similar-sized companies with similar products to much larger corporations acquiring companies with product portfolios encompassing every area of knowledge and resource management, there are bound to be ramifications for all types of libraries.  

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Pandemic Disruptions to Library Technologies

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disrupting library operations and services for close to two years. In a previous entry, I wrote about disruptions to Technical Services workflows at my library. This time, I’m looking back on how the pandemic has disrupted our technological infrastructure and the changes we made to compensate.  

First and foremost were the changes to our communications technology. Long reliant on email for most written communications, we had to find ways to replace the kinds of verbal conversations made impossible by the move to working from home. Enter Zoom and Teams. Almost overnight, we had to become proficient at video conferencing and screen sharing. We eventually settled on Zoom over Teams for large group meetings, finding that Teams was just not as stable a platform for those activities. Audio and video would break up and screen sharing would bog everything down. We did find a use for Teams as a place to store documents and as a chat client. Now that we’re back in the office for the most part, we’re still relying on Zoom and Teams. Meetings of more than two or three people still feel safer over Zoom. Plus there is the added flexibility of being able to connect from almost anywhere and the convenience of not having to travel to meetings. Teams is still used as a file repository interface and a chat client. I have found myself continuing to use Teams for quick chats, even though popping into someone’s office down the hall is once again an option. 

The disruption to communications also affected how we respond to our library users. Prior to the pandemic, email questions from faculty, staff and public patrons were managed via a series of email listservs and a subscription to Gimlet, a service statistics tracking platform. There were a number of problems with that approach: email lists were siloed and it was not easy to share information among them; we wanted a more robust tracking and tagging system; users were not always successful in sending questions to the correct email list. When the pandemic closed the library and pushed all reference questions to email, these issues became unbearable. After some research and consultation with other libraries, we migrated to LibAnswers, a Springshare product that allowed us to streamline online reference questions, share them as needed, and track statistics all in one place. In this case, the disruption caused by the pandemic accelerated us down a path we had only just begun considering. Ultimately, we ended up with a system better for users and staff.

Another example of pandemic disruption pushing us to improve services was our room reservation system. Even before the pandemic, we had been searching for a replacement for our study room reservation system which, at the time, was a very low-tech clipboard with a sign-up sheet placed at the circulation desk. We had already investigated a few room management systems available from the University but found they were not good fits for our small number of study rooms available only to law students. For us, the solution was another Springshare product, LibCal. When the library began to re-open on a limited basis, LibCal allowed us to reserve not only study rooms but also the restricted number of study tables and carrels available in the library. That was a need we had not had prior to the pandemic. Another benefit of the new room reservation system is that it is completely online, reducing the number of users at the circulation desk, protecting our frontline staff from exposure.

We also were able to reduce staff exposure by implementing our library’s first self-check machine.  Unlike other changes caused by pandemic disruptions, a self-check machine had not really been on our radar previously. We’re a fairly small library with relatively low circulation, even at times of unrestricted access. With the pandemic reducing our hours and the number of users allowed in the building at once (and our desire to protect frontline staff as much as possible) the time was right for a self-check machine. After much research, the MeeScan kiosk system was what we finally settled on, for a variety of reasons, including affordability, features, and integration with existing systems. The integration with existing systems involved a lot of collaboration among us, the vendor, the university library, and university IT offices. But ultimately we were able to implement a way for library users to have a contact-free experience while picking up library materials during limited hours. As pandemic restrictions eased, use of the self-check kiosk remained flat. However, we recently decided to take advantage of the self-check kiosk and move course reserve materials next to it, allowing for self-service by students. Usage is now going up. 

Another service improvement for students spurred by the pandemic was the move to electronic document delivery. Students are able to request a limited amount of material be scanned and emailed to them. This has the additional benefit of limiting visits to the library, reducing the risk of exposure for both staff and students. Due to demand created by this service, we had to replace our previous scanners with a more robust system. Again, after much research, we settled on a ScannX system. We ultimately decided to purchase two scanners, one for staff and one for self-service located near the bookstacks. As more students return to the building and as pandemic restrictions ease, the number of scanning requests is trending downwards. Whether scanning requests will be a service we continue to provide once we are fully post-pandemic remains to be seen. 

However, the other technologies we’ve adopted due to pandemic disruptions to services are here to stay. In many cases, the pandemic response pushed us farther and faster down roads we were already on. This has led to better services for our users and improved workflows for staff. The pandemic has been difficult in every way and trying to implement service and technology changes in the midst of it was not easy. As we hopefully move out of the pandemic over the next several months, one of the silver linings will be the improvements we have made. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Classification Web Interface Updated

The Library of Congress recently updated the interface for its Classification Web product. For those of us in libraries that use LC Classification and subject headings, Classification Web has long been a valuable tool for quickly researching and assigning call numbers and subjects. It's more frequently updated and infinitely more convenient for users than the printed schedules of yesterday. In addition to call numbers and subject headings, Classification Web contains several other controlled vocabularies as well as the name authority file. As someone who used to look these things up in the printed volumes, I greatly appreciated the office real estate I was able to reclaim when this all went online. While Classification Web has always contained a vast amount of useful and timely information, it has not always been easy to navigate. There have been incremental changes in the interface over the years but this latest upgrade, to Classification Web 4, promises to be be the most substantial improvement yet. How does it fare? 

For one thing, Classification Web 4 has a much cleaner, more modern look and feel than previous versions. The official announcement claims that it, "incorporates modern web navigation techniques and a responsive design that runs on a wide range of hardware from desktop computers to tablets and smart phones." I found this to be true. It immediately looked more streamlined from previous versions. Even on a desktop computer, the display is reminiscent of a mobile app. The now familiar "hamburger button" in the upper left offers quick access to all the searchable collections as well as user and account settings. 

Once logged in, the browse and search options offer different enough experiences to meet a wide-range of user preferences. I tend to rely more on browsing than searching and the predictive text makes browsing even easier. It's a welcome addition to the functionality of Classification Web. I also found the drop-down menus make the system much easier to navigate as well.

Search results, to my eye, seem to be better spaced and easier to read. One feature of the interface that, thankfully, did not change is how clicking on search results opens new tabs. This makes comparing results and returning to the original search a breeze and has long been one of my favorite aspects of Classification Web.

Overall, I found the changes in Classification Web 4 to be much needed and very welcome improvements over previous versions of the interface. I'm glad to see this tool that I've relied on for year is continuing to be developed and adapted for new platforms. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Details About the Shut Down of LawArXiv

LawArXiv was launched in 2017 to provide legal scholars with an open-access, non-profit platform for preserving their work. By the end of the first year, over 700 articles had been submitted to the archive and there were plans for additional features to make the repository more robust and useful to the legal scholarly community. However, those plans never made it to fruition. Earlier this year, it was announced that LawArXiv would no longer accept new submissions. 

At the recent Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA) annual meeting, more details were shared about why the LawArXiv project was shutting down. At the heart of the matter were irreconcilable issues with the Center for Open Science (COS), which hosts the LawArXiv platform as well as open-access platforms for a number of other areas of study. Due to insufficient demand from their other partners, COS was unable to support the development of new platform features, including school-level branding and batch uploading, requested by the LawArXiv Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was given the option of financing the development of these features but that option was cost-prohibitive. Further stressing the agreement was the fact that COS had also instituted a new annual hosting fee in January, 2021. The Steering Committee was left questioning whether it was worth paying the annual hosting fee knowing that features crucial to the growth of LawArXiv were not slated for development.  

These issues proved to be deal breakers for the project. After extensive research and discussion of various options, the LawArXiv Steering Committee ultimately decided to end the partnership with COS. The agreement among the member institutions was formally dissolved on June 30, 2021. While LawArVix is no longer accepting new submissions, the 1,382 articles previously uploaded to the site are still available for the time being on COS’s general preprints platform.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Getting to Know Keiko Okuhara


1. Introduce yourself (name & position). 

Mahalo Lauren for keeping "getting to know librarians" going and giving me the opportunity to introduce myself to my dear colleagues. I am Keiko Okuhara and a mediocre librarian (ha ha!).  I am the Bibliographic Services/Systems Librarian (July 2003-May 2020) and the Metadata Services Librarian (June 2020-Present) at the William S. Richardson School of Law Library of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

2. Does your job title actually describe what you do? Why/why not?

Yes, it does. I have been working in Hawaii for 18 years by now, and there were many personnel turn arounds during my tenure in my department, including the change of library leadership with new visions.  As the library evolved, I have become more engaged in metadata management work, and the library ventured into the archive collection development. This undertaking made me think of being a certified digital archives specialist (DAS). The training of the specialist expanded and reevaluated my perspectives of the metadata creation. There are various metadata of which cataloging is the highly well-established metadata creation process. While I don't have many archival projects to directly utilize my learning on archives, my role in archives has unfolded to work on oral histories. This work will be an exciting collaboration with my coworker who has experienced in curating archival materials. Also, I am working on the integration of systems, Alma and Omeka; and Omeka and Oral History Open Source system. I could easily slide into this kind of work, since I have some knowledge on the systems and metadata. I look forward to seeing how all these initiatives improve the discoverability of faculty scholarship and leverage our library systems and services.

3. What are you reading now?

I hope you won't expel me from the librarians’ community.... I have to admit and confess that I am not an avid reader, but of course, our most popular leading journal, ”Technical Services Law Librarian.”  I thank the past and current Editor-of -Chiefs, article/column contributors, and layout editors for sharing their great talents that I don't possess! In addition, I like to look through cook books (I have strong affinity to food), the Prescription for Nutritional Healing, and any books or articles on self-improvement, integrity, and the art of happiness in general to maintain body and mind in a good shape.

4. If you could work in any library (either a type of library or a specific one), what would it be? Why?

I would love to work in an art museum/library. What a great idea to be surrounded by imaginative and thought-providing art objects to stimulate our soul, but I also learned that those positions are hard to get and the work at the art museum is not that satisfactory to a certain extent. Also, I would love to be a children's librarian at a public library, which seems to be a popular vote in our community. It is kind of sad reality for me that I wasn't brought up in the USA during my childhood, which inhibits me from sharing my own enjoyment of English children’s literature with young and enthusiastic children.

5. [Imagine the world before the pandemic] You suddenly have a free day at work, what project would you work on?

If I am lucky enough to have a free day at work, I would organize my office. Due to the pandemic I was happily pushed out from the cubicle work condition to an enclosed office. I have accumulated a lot of junk in the course of 18 years of my time at UHM. However I am mainly teleworking and able to work in my office. I need to organize/de-clutter my office to find what I need easily.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Lessons from a Year of Working from Home

One year ago this month, I posted about the experience of transitioning my Technical Services staff to working from home in response to the pandemic .One year later, we’re still here. Passing this milestone has caused me to reflect on how our situation has changed over the year and take stock of the lessons learned from managing a Technical Services staff remotely. 

Technology is Key

As I mentioned in my post last year, the sudden shift to working from home shone a light on the Digital Divide among my own employees. On one side of the divide, there was an employee with a personal desktop, laptop, and tablet at home as well as two internet service providers. On the other side, there was an employee whose tech consisted of a cell phone with a very limited data plan and no internet service at home. 

Thankfully, we had the resources and support to get everyone equipped to work from home. But just as technology in the office requires regular maintenance and troubleshooting, so does technology at home. Over the past year, we've dealt with OS upgrades that wouldn’t install outside the campus network, software licenses that had to be updated to work off-campus, wifi hotspots with dying batteries, and more significant hardware failures requiring planned trips to campus for socially-distanced meetings with IT support. 

We also had a variety of communications technologies and platforms to work with, some a lot more successful than others. My Technical Services department took readily to Zoom for group and, later on, individual meetings. We had fun with virtual backgrounds and appearance altering filters. However, we learned that those features have pretty high system requirements that not all of us could meet. To this day, I still do not know the joy of going into a meeting accidentally looking like a cat. For the most part, though, I have found Zoom to be consistently reliable and intuitive to use. 

Less successful for my department was a foray into Microsoft Teams. While we have found it to be an adequate platform for storing files (if not as good for finding them later), it has been abysmal for purposes of working collaboratively on documents. For that, we have mostly settled on doing work in Google Drive and then copying to Teams as needed. Further, I tried having one-on-one meetings with my staff via Teams calls. But after several instances of frozen screens and dropped calls, I gave up. We now meet exclusively in Zoom. We handle other communications over phone calls or texts and the old standby, email.

While I have become a big fan of Google Drive since working from home, it is not without its own issues. Most of us already had personal Google accounts. Even though switching between Google accounts is easier than it used to be, it’s not always easy to remember to do so before creating a document to share. Further complicating matters is that my institution’s sign-in to Google requires a form of our email address that is being phased out. You have to remember to use the old form when inviting others to your document or else they are treated as permanent guests, unable to fully collaborate.


One big lesson learned is that even the best communications platform is useless if your home internet service goes out. The early days of the pandemic, with more people working and learning from home, seemed to put a strain on the two big internet service providers in town. Outages were frequent. During those times, I was relegated to working from my cell phone, using mobile data. Only once did I nearly reach my data cap and risk additional fees, however. I already mentioned an employee affected by the dying battery of a wifi hotspot. There was another employee who discovered that his home wifi disconnected every time someone turned on the microwave.

Communication is Even More Key

When the directive to work from home was issued, I asked each of my staff to send me a daily summary of their work activities. They have been diligent about that. As a result, I have a very well documented year of their activities. The daily reports may run the risk of getting repetitive but they are a good way to make sure everything stays on track and that I stay in the loop. As an added benefit, they helped inform annual employee reviews. 

The daily reports are not the only communications I have with my staff. Every day, I have email conversations with all of them about specific (or general) topics or we collaborate on documents together. As mentioned above, we also have regular one-on-one and group meetings in Zoom. Last year, our administration asked that each department meet as a team once a week. After several months of working from home, we felt comfortable cutting that back to twice a month. One-on-one meetings are also scheduled for twice each month. Frequently, I will ask others to join in a one-on-one meeting to discuss a certain topic. That helps keep everyone on the same page and cuts down on the number of meetings and emails. 

It’s not just internal communications that offered lessons during this year of working from home. We learned to adapt to different levels of communication with other departments around the University and with vendors. We weren’t the only ones adapting to working from home and other impacts of the pandemic. The level of customer support we got from certain places plummeted while others rose to the challenge. Some places reached out to us more frequently to see how they could adapt to our changing work environment or help us adapt to theirs. Other places were less accommodating, such as a few vendors who were suspicious when we tried to temporarily change our shipping address. We learned to be crystal clear in our communications and to try to be proactive in anticipating issues caused by what we thought were relatively small requests. It wasn’t business as usual for any place. We learned to be patient with others because we knew we’d need patience from others.   

Everyone Reacts Differently to a Pandemic

One thing I learned soon after the transition to working from home was that each member of my staff reacted to the pandemic differently. For one, the isolation of working at home was hard to adjust to and a sense of claustrophobia began to set in. They were eager to get back to the office and I was asked almost on a daily basis if I had gotten any information about when that would be. For another staff member, working from home was a welcome relief. It meant less time away from home and less chance of exposure to COVID-19. The others fell somewhere between those extremes. One thing we all shared was an acknowledgement that we work someplace that allowed us to keep our jobs while minimizing our risk of getting sick. The pandemic was stressful for each of us in different ways but some of that pressure was mitigated by the extra time we all had by not having to commute and be at the office most of the day. 

The lesson here is one of compassion. As a manager, I relaxed my expectations. And I let my staff know that. I let them know they could work odd hours if they needed. I was especially forgiving if something slipped through the cracks. We shared our concerns in a more familiar way, dispensing with professional formalities at times. I made accommodations whenever possible that allowed my staff to deal with personal issues. The result? We’ve gotten as much done this year working from home as we would have gotten done had we been in the building. I might even argue that, in some ways, we’ve accomplished more because on top of our regular duties, we’ve all had the added work of dealing with the pandemic and everything else 2020 brought. 

Looking Back

I was recently asked by my director to list my department’s accomplishments this past year. Not to brag but we have accomplished some significant things. There have been publications and presentations; starting the process of dismantling racism and de-centering whiteness in our collections; shifting our collections more toward electronic resources and cancelling print subscriptions; providing new services to our users. All the while, my staff has also been keeping up with the important, regular duties of ordering, cataloging, and paying the bills. And we’ve done it all while working from home.

Of course, working from home was a big transition. Obviously, there were issues to address and challenges to overcome. It has not always been easy, from professional and personal perspectives. But we managed to make it work and work well. 

Looking Forward

A year later, we’re still working from home. We’re still dealing with the pandemic. Our approach has changed as we’ve learned more about COVID-19. For one thing, we’re not as strict about isolating shipments and deliveries as we were in the early days of the pandemic. Also, as the University relaxed guidelines about being on campus, some of my Technical Services staff began to make routine visits to the library. I, however, have not set foot on campus since one quick visit last July. 

The University is counting on vaccinations in hopes of having a more vibrant campus in the fall. However, with the vaccination rate slowing and infections of COVID variants seeming to strike younger people harder, I will wait and see what this fall looks like. No matter when and how it happens, I know that going back to campus is going to be as big a transition as leaving it was. 

The pandemic was upon us so suddenly, it drove home the idea that you can’t plan for everything. No matter what the future ends up looking like, we need to stay flexible, adaptive, and compassionate. That is the big lesson from this past year.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Getting to Know Larissa Sullivant

1. Introduce yourself. 

My name is Larissa Sullivant. I am the Head of Collection Services and Adjunct Lecture in Law at the Ruth Lilly Law Library, Indiana University Robert McKinney School of Law.  I started my professional career as a Slavic cataloger at the University of Michigan Graduate Library, and for the last 20 years I have been a law librarian. 

2. Does your job title actually describe what you do? Why/why not?  

I think that my job title, Head of Collection Services, reflects my duties accurately, with responsibilities that include bibliographic and statistical analysis of the Library’s collection; collection promotion, bibliographic selection, and “weeding”; electronic resources management, acquisitions, cataloging, and serials control; supervision of the Technical Services staff. I also handle negotiation of contracts and vendor relations and assist our Library director in budgeting. I have regular hours at the Reference Desk, which during the pandemic means handling virtual reference. The last may not seem semantically connected to the job title, but it is an important part of being successful in my position: I need to know what our stakeholders read and research.

3. What are you reading right now?   

As a native Russian speaker, I am understandably drawn to that nation’s rich, literary traditions. I am currently re-reading Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat and Other Short Stories. Each of the stories is a parable of human tragedies and failings: vanity, pettiness, hypocrisy, self-absorption, cruelty towards others, etc. My favorites are The Nose and The Overcoat. The Nose has a decisive element of the absurd: a human-sized, disembodied nose of a privy counselor comes to life, parading around town and acting as a public official. The story is bitingly satirical, a critique of social hierarchies, which is a recurrent theme in Gogol’s work. The Overcoat concerns an impoverished clerk’s efforts to get a new and decent overcoat, so that his co-workers would stop berating him. In heartbreaking detail, it describes the clerk’s efforts in acquiring an overcoat, his various humiliations, and what happens after he finally gets his new coat. 

4. If you could work in any library (either a type of library or a specific one), what would it be? Why?

I am happy where I am: directing the Technical Services unit at the Ruth Lilly Law Library.  I enjoy every aspect of my duties and responsibilities.  My colleagues, both faculty and staff, are well-respected within the Library and the Law School communities and are wonderful and knowledgeable people. I truly enjoy working with all of them!

5. You suddenly have a free day at work, what project would you work on? 

I think slow days in most work environments are rare. If I suddenly had a free day, I would focus first on organization – getting the paper and information monster under control – since, as all librarians know, organization is the key to everything else.  After that, I would chip away at one of my current projects: a comprehensive inventory of our microform collection, reconciling the online catalog bibliographic data with the physical microfiche and microfilm holdings.