September 15, 2010

Help Yourself

I usually write about my successes. I need to learn to write more about my challenges, but without complaining.

I am a terrible cataloger. I avoid it at all costs, and when I do finally manage to do some, I cringe to look at the Date Modified on my catalog, which is just an Excel spreadsheet. I have piles on my desk, and in the library, of items to catalog. All this from someone who was lucky enough to have an actual set of the LCSH 'red books' in her office on Day 1. (Not that they are current, but still, pretty cool for a no-budget choose-your-own-adventure library job, right?)

Note: Early on in my tenure here, I was told not to catalog. And after I came to, I asked why. Basically, this is not really that kind of library. If I get something in print (or electronically, for that matter), they would rather have me share it right away with the appropriate staff member rather than take the time to catalog it. They are ultra kind people, but that doesn't mean they understand the importance of cataloging. And yes, it's partly incumbent on me to communicate that. A few months after the 'don't catalog' conversation, when I had gathered ample confidence and the right talking points, I approached my supervisor about this. We had a nice conversation about being user-driven versus being library-driven and it was very useful. As an embedded librarian, I have one foot in the content world of my staff and one foot in the library. It's a balancing act. I explained that if I am expected to find something later, then I should catalog it sooner. My memory is good, but not that good.

This is never the kind of job where there is 'no time' for something, so it's not as if taking the time to catalog would be at the expense of some other urgent activity. My supervisor and I were able to clarify that it's not a priority for anyone but me, but I am more than welcome to spend my time doing it as long as I am also delivering the deliverables, which are more reflective of the embedded nature of the position.

Now I am at the point where I definitely feel I should be doing better on cataloging but it's entirely on me -- both the desire and the responsibility -- unlike all my other work which is either a deliverable or a team-oriented task. I know I can do it, but I just don't. Despite the fancy label maker I have in my desk drawer.

So, I've decided to help myself. I have added in all kinds of things to my work routine that no one is making me do. I'm a librarian; why can't I catalog? I make myself read an entire GAO report each month, in addition to all kinds of other non-required activities. I know how easy it will be to find something once it's cataloged. I love playing around in Excel. I can do this.

I cataloged one item yesterday and one today. Each day from now on, until I have cataloged at least one item, I will keep my label maker right in front of my keyboard, which is terribly inconvenient, to remind me that this is really not that hard unless I continue to overthink it. Wish me luck.

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