Time Management

For a drone, I have a very complicated project: Claims Returned. This project handles complaints from patrons when books are not discharged properly. It is sanity sucking and time consuming, and yet, at the end of the day, I am sane and have everything done.

My fellow drones wonder at this and ask me how I do it. One drone, in the middle of February, finally finished January's electronic registration forms. Another drone, so over whelmed by supply orders, often ends up with the wrong things too late. And yet another drone is constantly pulled in a hundred directions, distracted by the littlest things. All willingly admit that they wouldn't take my job in a million years.

So how do I stay sane and in control?

Time Management.

I have a priority list posted next to my computer. Each day has a different priority. What ever is priority gets done first.

I make a list of what needs to be done, priority at the top. I keep the list short. No more than five things.

I break each project down into specific tasks and then I complete those tasks, in order, one at a time.

I never multitask. Ever. Multitasking is a constant resetting of your brain as you deal with too many tasks. I focus on one thing at a time. And only one thing.

I take my breaks. Seriously. Your brain needs a rest. I take a walk. I crochet a bit. I listen to some music. I snack on some fruit. It doesn't matter what I do, but when I'm on break, I don't think about work in any way, shape, or form. This way, when I a start working again, I am refreshed.

I do not procrastinate. I get everything done as quickly and efficiently as possible. This does not mean I send an email while angry at a flame a patron sent to me. I move the task of answering that email to after a break so I've cooled down and thought about what I'm going to say.

I effectively use the student drones at my disposal. My unit has a lot of student drones. I ask the supervisors to assign one or two to me for long and involved tasks such as searching.

When I am not working on my list, I do not think about it. I don't spend all day on my project, or working on committee assignments, or anything else that might end up on my list. I spend a lot of my day on desk, helping patrons. When I am there, my brain is also there. If it isn't, I'm doing a piss poor job helping the masses of library users get what they need. It also means that I'm letting myself be distracted.

When the day gets tough, I think of the worst thing that has ever happened to me and weigh that on a scale in my head against the 'bad' day. The bad day becomes a freakin' cake walk. In fact, the vast majority of your days, when using this kind of comparison, though grim, makes them all pretty good.

The end result is everything is done and I am sane at the end of the day. In fact, some days, I even have enough time left over to annoy my co-drones. Awesome.


Research Help

On Study Hacks, I found a very useful, five step list to getting what you need when researching.

And Wikipedia isn't one of them!!!!!

From the site:

Beyond Wikipedia for Serious Paper Research

Where should your paper information come from? The library. Specifically, books and scholarly articles. These have survived the rigors of editing and peer review, and they follow conventions of sourcing and citation that ensure that the information contained within is substantiated. More importantly, this is what your professor wants. A Wikipedia reference will annoy him. Trust me.

Finding these sources can prove a tough chore. The title of this post comes from the fact that Harvard’s Widener Library – the second largest library in the world — holds over 15,731,298 volumes. This provides some sense of the immensity of the archive in which you are searching for your narrow subject. It can be daunting.

To help in this process, here are a collection of strategies, first reported in Straight-A, that real students have developed for finding the perfect source within the vastness of your college library:

5 Tips for Easily Finding What You Need in the Library

  1. Start general then move one layer deeper.
    Begin with a book that broadly covers the topic area you are interested in. You can find these on the course reserve shelf or listed in your recommended reading list for the class. Once you have the general book, flip to the references cited by the author. Here you will discover the otherwise hard to find, highly-focused journal articles that dissect your topic with a level of specificity that will prove research gold in your paper-writing process.
  2. Ask your professor.
    Learning the intricacies of the body of published knowledge surrounding a niche topic requires years of immersion. This is time your professor has already invested. Take advantage of this reality. Early in the paper writing process ask her for some recommendations. Use these as a starting point, following the references, as described in (1), to move even deeper into the topic area.
  3. Befriend the reference librarians.
    One of the most sadly underused resources on campus are the reference librarians. These library professionals have been trained in the dark art of teasing forth that perfect, hidden source from the convoluted vastness of the library system. More importantly, they are there to help you! Start your research process by checking in with the reference librarian. He can help you quickly turn up a variety of targeted sources you may have otherwise never stumbled upon. Pay attention to how he conducts these searches. The skills will ease your search pains in future projects.
  4. Browse by subject in the library search interfaces.
    When searching for a book in the library card catalog, or a journal article in an online database, notice the official list of subject keywords that accompanies each returned result. (In the card catalog, these are the official Library of Congress subject descriptions assigned to the book, in a journal database these are typically assigned by a proprietary scheme unique to the journal or organization that publishes the journal). When you find a source that seems useful, click on the subject keywords to have the database return all resources tagged the same. This is a quick way to turn up relevant sources that would have been hard to identify through a direct search.
  5. When in doubt, Google.
    For some esoteric subjects, it may prove near impossible to find relevant sources simply through searches of the card catalog or journal databases. In these cases, consider turning to the more advanced search algorithm of Google. First, attempt a search in
    Google Books. With an increasing number of titles indexed by this search engine, you have a good chance of finding what you are looking for. Once you have a title and author you can then retrieve the book in your college’s library. If that fails, do a standard Google web search. You can often find an obscure book or journal reference this way from some long forgotten syllabus, or auto-archived copy of an academic article that failed to escape Google’s pervasive grip. Once you have a title and author, again, you can turn to your regular library to find a hard copy.

Look, Ma! I'm trained in the Dark Arts!


Fan Club?

OMG! I haven't posted since last year!

I should get a move on, right?

There's nothing as simultaneous exciting and creepy as finding out you have a fan club.

I had a grad student introduce himself to me and tell me he makes a point of only checking out materials when I'm at the desk. When I thought about it, I realized it was true. I'd known him since he was an undergrad and he did the same thing.

And then I noticed other patrons doing it. Just today, there was a girl who saw me come in and stood next to the desk for 45 minutes, refusing help, until I came on desk.

Now, this is a sign of one of four things:
  1. I am awesome at my job. (Possible. I get love letter from patrons. Should I even be admitting that?)
  2. I am ok at my job and everyone else around me sucks. (Not possible. My coworkers do an excellent job.)
  3. People want an awesome experience every time they come to the desk and so consistently go to the person who gives them that. (Very possible. It is the basis of most customer service theory.)
  4. Students, especially internationals, want to feel like they are at home and fixate on people who give them good customer service as being part of home away from home. (This sounds weird until you have students crying over the phone that you'll be closed on Christmas.)
Ideally, we should all have fan clubs in customer service. It doesn't have to be the most amazing customer service in the world so long as it is consistent. Consistent service leads to consistent customers.

And I don't mean consistent 'shoppers.' I mean the customer themselves become consistent. They know to have their IDs ready. They know the rules of the library and do not transgress them. When we make a mistake, they give us the benefit of the doubt and let us correct it.

Everything starts to work like a well oiled machine.

This consistency can be taught. I know because I was part of the committee responsible for revamping the entire training format for our part time employees. Our biggest push was for consistency. Being consistently nice, helpful, accurate, and deferential when necessary is key to the new training.

The impact has already made itself known. In December and January, when we see the most Claims Returned filed, our average of 130 claims dropped to 45. Our error rate went from 10 in 10,000 books to 7 in 10,000. Fantastic! I can't wait to see the numbers at the end of the semester. They're only going to get better. It's all about consistency.

So how do you foster consistency? Easy.
  1. Make great customer service common place. Make getting the patron exactly what they need the first time ho-hum easy. Provide your trainees with the materials they need to do anything right the first time. Create scenarios based on real transactions and teach your trainees to respond correctly and consistently each time.
  2. Teach your trainees to make the patron feel not only at home, but that backs are being bent over backward for them. This fosters a sense of gratitude in the patron which is the first step to fostering consistency in the patron.
  3. Teach your trainees to be firm on the rules. The rules are the rules and while bending some of them can be to our benefit, we never, ever, want to give the patron the impression that rules will be bent for them. This destroys consistency in the patron while being firm about the rules fosters consistency and respect.
  4. Teach the employees to mimic the patrons. This is especially important with international students. If they hand you the book with both hands, hand it back with both hands.
  5. Finally, constantly reaffirm the consistency both for the trainee and the patron. Make quizzes for the trainee to take. Make sure you repeat to the patron over and over in a polite way what they are responsible for.
Trust me. It works like a charm.

As a bonus: get to know the patrons you work with constantly. Joke with them. Make them feel like they're part of the family.

Doing this, you'll have life long library users and future donors.