Archive for the ‘ILL’ Category

I recently attended a wonderful talk by Mary Ellen Bates on Speaking to be Heard.  I apologize for not having a direct link to the slides she used but I could not find them on her website yet, though there is a lot of very interesting information to look through if you have the time to take a look.

At the beginning of this semester I decided to start taking a look at professional development opportunities and to begin bringing my online presence and resume in line with some of what I was seeing in librarian position postings.  Part of this endeavor has been looking at a lot of job hunting articles and attending workshops at conferences aimed at moving up when I finish my degree next year.  I’ve been to several elevator pitch workshops and the concept of having a good sales pitch is useful, but it comes off as a sales pitch.

Rather than having a 3 minute pitch, you should be working on a compelling hook that encourages your listener to ask you more.  While you’ll have several scenarios planned for different environments the one I created for this workshop was “I help you get materials that University Library does not have.”  It sounds much flashier than “I work in inter-library loan,” huh?  And you’re less likely to slip into ILL.  It’s still a sales pitch but it is a sales pitch that makes what you are saying more interesting and palatable to the person you’re speaking to.  The other part of the pitch is to try to create a statement that makes you seem useful to the user.  The other person is more interested in what you can do for them than the details of how you get there.

Another portion of the presentation was on the ways to solicit feedback from users.  The biggest suggestion was to put feedback options where the user was most likely to feel frustrated.  The example given in the presentation was to put forms on the card catalog since that is something many users would have difficulty navigating.  Now you would put the forms by the computer or perhaps have a widget on the homepage for users to click on.  By asking for feedback at a point of frustration the user is likely to remember in great detail what the problem is and how it occurred.   If you are able to successfully fix or eliminate the problem now means that when the user returns they are fans of the library, not just because they can get what they want but because you responded to their frustration.

Last but not least, I heard the entirety of the Brand 1985 quote: “Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine – too cheap to meter.  It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient.”  Strange how it sounds less like a liberate information rallying cry and more like information has its own plans and strategies.


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I read a short post by Miss Information this morning, basically it’s a short snippy comment to everyone who must have a copy of the Hunger Games – RIGHT NOW!!!!! because the movie is out.  This happens whenever any movie comes out and while I’m certainly guilty of wanting to read the book when I hear about a movie I’ve long since learned how to use a holds list. [BTW, if you haven’t seen the Hunger Games yet, it is excellent and I highly recommend it.  Also, when you get a chance take a look at Hunger is Not a Game initiative with Hunger Games fans and the Harry Potter Alliance]

Since I work in ILL though, I tend to get grumpy when the fortieth or fiftieth or umpteenth request comes through for a book that 1) I know we probably will not get because they will be in use and 2) even if we do get it – it will be either a) recalled the instant we’ve finished processing it or b) come no renewals and we will have to send several renewal denied requests to the patron in an effort to get the book back.  I understand the value of reading for pleasure, and I’m not above using the ILL system to get books for that purpose from time to time through work.

However, for popular fiction I truly believe that the public library is a better choice than an academic library (see Dos and Don’ts of Interlibrary Loan for more on that).  As it is we send the request out to a string of 10 lenders or so (most of whom have already noticed this book is a very popular item and have stopped lending it outside the library for a time) and cancel the request.  Cancelled requests leave everyone unhappy.  Does anyone know of a partnership between a university and a nearby public library to encourage patrons to use the public library for pleasure reading sources?  Should academic libraries carry a greater number of high demand books or just buy them on demand for patrons? I would love to hear more about how your library handles ILLs or referrals for popular fiction titles.

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One of my favorite projects at work is one I proposed to my supervisor last summer.  We’ve been working on a series of tutorials to help our patrons with the basics of interlibrary loan. Part of the reason I’m so proud of this tutorial is I believe it’s important that our patrons have access to the basics from their own computers since many of our incoming undergraduates may take a while to set foot in the library.  Or learn that they can use the library for more than just course reserves and trying to game the system for free textbooks.

Our first tutorial (seen here) is very basic and teaches our patrons how to request a book. We are in the polishing stages of how to place a renewal request (they cannot use the same system they use for their other library books, while that would be the ideal we’re working with what we have) and starting on one to help patrons request an article effectively.  As you can see the first tutorial is basic in design as well as content.  We decided to use power-point slides since we did not know how many of our users would be able to or want to listen to the audio while using the tutorial.  The slides with screenshots were the best of both worlds, allowing us to show the patron what they needed but still progress through the steps in the proper order while a live screencast may be more dramatic there is a great chance that something could be missed if the presenter moves too fast.  Another added benefit was that I was free to write out my notes for the speaking part and tried to read slowly rather than picking up speed and potentially losing my patron.

After completing the first tutorial and knowing the format we liked, we decided for the next in our series to try a few variations to see if another software would better suit our needs.  I had heard about Screencast-o-matic on a listserv and the primary appeal for using that format was the subtitles.  Screencast-o-matic also allows for a longer recording time (15 minutes for the free version rather than the 5 minutes for Jing) and some wonderful tutorials that Jing did not have.  PSA: When putting in the captions, put a space between each line in the txt file – it took me a while to find this tutorial and find the one note that they put in an overlay, hopefully this will save you some time.  Overall Screencast-o-matic is very easy to use, does not require a download and yields very good results.  One of its major drawbacks, however is it runs on a Java plug-in which may not be available on all computers, rather than Jing which seems to run on every system I’ve found.  If this is not the case, please let me know in the comments and I’ll alert my supervisor when it’s time to record our new tutorial.

The other piece of software we tried was Prezi.  I was very excited about Prezi after seeing it used to present a talk at an San Diego SLA seminar in the fall.  My coworker had difficulty loading the pre-made PowerPoint slides but had an easy time replicating them in the program.  It was very intuitive and easy to use.  The presentation itself was very useful except we could not find a way to make an audio recording to accompany our slides.  I imagine this is because Prezi is a presentation solution, meant to accompany a live speaker.  The other drawback to Prezi was the motion jumping from slide to slide gave one of our supervisor a touch of motion sickness.  Even though I list Prezi as an option, for our purposes we were realistically using Prezi to replace Powerpoint and then using Jing to record Prezi, so it may not be in the same category.

Overall our department has decided to stay with Jing because we are familiar with it, how it works and presents and believe this will lend a uniformity to all materials made available on the library website.  Jing also does not run on Java making it easily accessible without worrying about plugins.  Although Jing does have a shorter time limit than Screencast-o-matic this does not affect our tutorials since the purpose is to keep them short.  We will probably move towards using Prezi for future in person trainings of students and other events instead of Powerpoint.

I hope this will save some of my readers some time when you have to decide which tool to use; hopefully this will save you some of the work I went through!

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Part of the great thing of working in ILL is you get to see all of the books that come through for patrons.  However, something that patrons should be aware of is when not to use an interlibrary loan request.  Yes, most university libraries can borrow from most libraries in their network but not all material is equally ILL-able.  Some simple steps taken by you as a patron may actually help you get the book faster than by using the ILL system.  I may have missed some topics and I’m sure I’ll return to this in later posts but here are some tips to bear in mind when submitting an interlibrary loan request.

1.  You can request whatever you want, that does not mean we can get it.

I know when you went through your new student orientation to become a freshly minted grad/faculty/adjunct they told you – and you can request whatever you want from interlibrary loan.  Yes, you can request everything but you cannot have everything, or some things may have restrictions.  When you’re in WorldCat take a look at who owns an item.  For example, look up the title “Attitudinal change towards women’s values as experienced by Peace Corps volunteer women” a thesis by Bruce Hoffman.  As you will see there is one library who owns this work.  Chances are, they will not lend their only copy of this thesis.  In this case it would be better to either suggest a purchase to the library or contact your department to see if it can be uncovered another way.

2. Do not request popular literature.

So you’ve heard about Game of Thrones on HBO and now you just have to read the book, right?  Well, you’re not alone lots of people want this book and not just at your university. If your university owns a copy of this place a hold, don’t place an ILL.  Here’s why.  Any library that participates in interlibrary loan reserves the right to recall any book that has been borrowed if their patron asks for it.  That means if you are a patron of Anytown Library and Anytown has just sent out their only copy of Game of Thrones to University X they will place a recall notice and the book will be returned to Anytown for you.  But what if you are the student at University X, now your request has been canceled!  It’s always better to be the primary patron if possible in this scenario.  Libraries will bend over backwards for their patrons sooner than they will for other libraries patrons.  If you are a university student, go to the nearest public library and put yourself on the hold list – don’t worry it’s not as long as it seems, usually they don’t let the person who is using it renew it if others are waiting.

3. Pay attention to due dates.

The ILL department does not set the due dates for any of the items we send out to you.  You’re our patron and our priority, we would give you as much time as you want if we could.  But we can’t.  Whenever you keep a book for too long you run the risk of ruining our relationship with the lending library, which means when you do return the book they might never lend it to us again.  Or they may block our account and not let us borrow anything from them until the book is brought back.  This can be a huge problem if the library doing this to us is the Smithsonian or Library of Congress.  Please don’t put us in this situation, keep an eye on the due date, request your renewal about a week in advance, if the school says no renewals be gracious and bring the book back in a timely manner.  You can always request another copy.

4. If you don’t get your request right away, call or email us – don’t resubmit!

I understand your frustration, you placed a request two weeks ago, you’ve been waiting for your book and it still HAS NOT COME IN!!!  Run to the computer and re-request it? NO!  There are many reasons your request may seem to not be moving.  First, here’s the broad strokes of how an ILL request works.  Your request goes into the system and bounces out to schools who have lent things to us before.  Each school gets three business days (read as: no Saturdays and Sundays) to try to fill the request.  Then, if they cannot fill it, the request will go to the next school in the list.  When a certain number of libraries have been tried, it bounces back the ILL department where we can either continue with another set of libraries or we contact you for questions.  So what happens if you send in a new request while the first request is in the middle of going through this process?  The system pulls out BOTH requests, puts them into the idle queue until a staff member has time to look at it and cancel the duplicate.   So you’ve pulled your first request away from the school that might be filling it for you.  Call or email the ILL department if it’s been longer than two weeks, it’s very unlikely that they’ve forgotten about your request, it may already be shipped and on its way in the mail but you won’t know unless you ask.

5. Only fill the notes field with information that will help us fill your request.

Please use the notes field, that’s how we know that you only want the 2nd edition, the 3rd volume, a copy of chapter 12 or would prefer only the illustrated edition.  There are some notes that are nice but not necessary (ie. Thanks!).   And there are some notes that make you seem obnoxious (ASAP, hurry, as soon as possible).  We fill every request on a first come first served basis and do our best to fulfill every request, you are not our only patron and this is not the way to make yourself a favorite.  Other things not to put in the notes field – your phone number, email or address.  The notes in an ILL request form very often go out to any library who will be trying to fill your request, you may have just given your phone number to a stranger across the country, protect your personal information and we usually email you updates on your request, we won’t call if you put your phone number in the notes field.  (Side note – this is not what the call number field means either; call numbers are for the book)  Additionally, if your library (like ours) has a no textbook policy it’s not the best idea to try to game the system by putting in a note like “Home Library’s copy is on course reserves” or “I need this for class.”  It is not fair to our students to request textbooks for some patrons and not others; there are not enough textbooks to go around so policy is that no textbooks may be requested.  When you request a textbook, even if it slips through the system and we do not find it until it has arrived at the university, we will still send it back.  Sending it back takes staff time on both ends of the request, it costs shipping and generally causes a lot of angry grumbling.  Play by the rules, they’re in place for a reason.

That’s it for this week – let me know if these are helpful and I’ll continue to add more as the blog continues.

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