The Existential Struggle of E-Resource Workflows

It’s Spring Break here, the bound periodicals outside my office are being prepped for a permanent move to storage (entirely new for us), and I’m thinking about the big picture. Returning to something that I’ve been wrestling with and unable to really conquer. Writing this out is helping me parse through some of the issues.

Is anyone else out there struggling with making concrete e-resource workflows? Not just for e-journals but for the e-books as well.  I’m betting at least some of you are finding your jobs bleeding over into the e-book realm. And how do you carve out the time when you’re constantly putting out fires: external things out of your control that interrupt, like say Springer moving to HTTPS with no warning, or the IT campus firewall suddenly blocked your hosted library server.

I guess what I’m asking is, does anybody know of resources I can turn to for creating concrete workflows instead of flying by the seat of my pants every time something comes up. I find it impossible to train others on what I’m doing with my hodgepodge organic way of doing things. Just how do you cut through the chaos? Or are we looking at philosophical changes in the nature of our work?

For example our Cataloging folks have begun to complain that the MARC record loads for each vendor are completely different – the steps to load, what you load (since we have consortial deals that are often not 100% of a vendor’s offerings), how it goes through MarcEdit, and that sort of thing. We acquired an e-book package recently that forced us to open an OCLC Worldshare account, and it turned into quite a can of worms.

Similarly when I’m dealing with journal packages, each vendor has different things going on, and then there is the perpetual struggle of trying to reconcile entitlement lists, what’s on the license, what’s in the link resolver and what the platform actually tells you in real time. When does each list update. Trying to normalize data between different systems and from different vendors. Title changes, journal transfers, the feeling of never being done, like trying to weed the dandelions out of your lawn or Persephone at her loom, weaving and unweaving but never finishing.

I’m wondering too if we’re in a new era where concrete workflows don’t work at all and it *is* all about flying by the seat of one’s pants. But you have to know background info on the deals or have access to that info. Cataloging staff and other hourly folks feel that this level of work is beyond their pay grade (I’m putting it too strongly but that’s essentially the feeling) and moreover, it’s impossible to train new people on. Meanwhile I’m grubbing through journal title lists and unable to delegate much of what I do. I use a combination of Excel, Python and MS Access and it’s unrealistic to expect others to pick up Python or Access … so do I write programs for others to use, and how do I set aside the time for that when I’m constantly putting out fires?

Consider this a plea for help. If anyone wants to share their insight, best practices, helpful articles/books or actual workflows I would love to hear about it. I mean top level stuff like – how do you actually make a workflow out of chaos? Is it preferable to always load a new set of data (for example MARC records or loading link resolver data into the catalog)? Or, what is the threshold for making manual updates? What percentage of inaccuracy in the data is acceptable? And there’s a sea change right there – with the amount of data it can never be 100% correct, in the catalog, the link resolver, or our other systems. We need to be comfortable with this. How do you train people on muddly stuff?

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