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Navigating above Cloud-Level

(Note, I am alone Christmas Eve, but Sandy joins me tomorrow–so excuse the holiday post!)

Though I hate the slog of air travel per se, I do love flight, and my favorite moment is when the plane lifts above cloud level, with the sky above us and the cloud stretched out underneath in an infinite soft white duvet. In that moment, everything is possible, and my heart is as light as the misty tufts  drifting below.

One of my current professional challenges is to help change what a university community knows about library services. I’m rewriting the library narrative for My Place of Work. It’s exhilarating and scary and a freakish amount of effort.

I feel the responsibility of doing this, not simply for MPOW, but for our profession. Every student, every faculty member, every staff person who experiences our library carries that narrative into the rest of their life. They become the people who sit on library boards, vote on library bonds, and decide what other university libraries should be.

I am alert to opportunities to revise our narrative. One opportunity became apparent went I heard about OCLC‘s Navigator. To boil this down into non-jargony terms for my non-librarian readers, basically, Navigator makes interlibrary loan a pushbutton experience. (Behind scenes, library elves have myriad tasks to complete, but from the user’s point of view, it’s designed to be as easy as clicking a link.)  I felt an “ahah” when I saw Navigator in action. I knew immediately we needed to do this (and the pricing is right, too).

There is more to Navigator than interlibrary loan–including a cloud-based library management system (LMS) that makes absolute sense for a library our size. That’s down the road, and we are currently using another LMS, but you can bet I have my eye on Navigator’s LMS. No disrespect to current products, but it’s the difference between Dialog blue-sheets and Google.

(For library wonks, I also see Navigator tying into two other things that are key: service to distance-ed/adult students through affiliate libraries that serve as pickup locations; and even more ambitiously, being able to use Navigator to retrieve items from centralized storage facilities. This latter point will allow us to relocate low-use items from our facilities while retaining excellent service to our users.)

However, moving back to the interlibrary loan function, to be able to move to Navigator, the library had to be a full member of OCLC, which it was not. This membership also enables other things we need to be able to do, such as streamline cataloging, purchase cataloging records when we buy books, and so forth. And in a bigger sense, it is important for our library to become part of something as significant as an international database of library records. It is saying that we are bigger than the walls that surround our books.

Well, the upshot is that today, after a lot of hard work from a rep who frankly had many other bigger libraries to deal with, we received the quote to upgrade to OCLC full membership. We would be crazy NOT to do this, and I had already surgically relocated the appropriate organ from one section of our budget to another to make this happen. I signed the paperwork and tried to fax it… the library’s fax machine hates me… all fax machines hate me… so I popped the form into an envelope and mailed it to the Big O.

I feel very complete at the moment. I realize someone running a big ol’ fancy-schmancy ARL may think, big whoop, her teensy library joined OCLC; where is our digital-repository-electronic-thesis-fully-automated-commons? The answer is that we are farther down Maslow’s Hierarchy, and for us, this is a big achievement.  Not only that, but we’re not just joining OCLC for the records. Our instrument panel tells us we’re headed into the clouds.

With that, I’m going to open a beer and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. My best to all of you, library wonks and otherwise!

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