A sad state of (library) affairs

Recently, I decided to test drive our new means of requesting material through the DFO library since ours closed last year. I wanted to see just how feasible it was, and see if the claims that this would increase efficiencies was anywhere near true. Not surprisingly, it’s a bit of a horror show.

Here’s a summary of my experience so far:

Timeline: It typically takes 4 weeks between the time when you request material to the time it appears in your mailbox. What appears in your mailbox is a giant grey zippered pouch for shipping the books back and forth, with clear instructions that only the book received can be sent back in the particular bag it arrived in.

Borrowing time: it’s supposed to be three weeks, but in every case so far, the start date of the borrowing time is anywhere from 3 to 7 days prior to the time I actually receive the material, meaning in reality that the time I have with the material is closer to two weeks.

Renewing items: random, at best. In one case, the item I ordered was through interlibrary loan, which meant I couldn’t renew the item and it had to be sent back to the university from which it was borrowed. I was lucky in that the librarian found me an on-line copy- not a DFO digitized copy, but one that was digitized by another agency and posted on-line (more on digitization in a moment). In another case, a renewal request was totally ignored. In another, there’s been no request to have the material sent back. I should also note that I have many items, from my understanding still in the collection, that are in my office from being on loan prior to the closure of our library.

Bags, bags, bags: Get more than 3 or 4 items in your office at once, and it’s a nightmare. Imagine doing a literature review- I can recall during my graduate degree (and even more recent than that) having anywhere from 20-30 books on loan at a time to review past literature on a given topic. Now imagine doing that using this system- 30 books, and 30 grey bags, strewn about the office, which you can’t mix up… the resulting nightmare is not a challenge to imagine. Never mind the 4 weeks that you’re having to wait for every item you order. Just getting the material you need in place could take a year.

Now, this wasn’t supposed to be a big issue, because the department was digitizing their entire collection, right? Wrong. According to recently posted order papers, digitized holdings represent less than one percent of the DFO collection, and the “initiative” to get things digitized relies on what overworked librarians remain tending the catalogue to do it in their spare time. Some initiative.

If this is “modernization” and somehow meant to improve things, it’s certainly not improving my ability to do my job. How this process is saving any money, vs. maintaining a single librarian on staff at each site to manage the previous collection (plus the added time it takes me to get the material and even do anything with it) is beyond me.

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  1. Pingback: My exciting new job: Chief Advisor on Science Libraries for the Government of Canada! – Confessions of a Science Librarian

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