Technical Services Co-Op: Electronic Resource Management and Scholarly Publishing

Melissa Seelye is an MLIS candidate at Western University and started an 8-month co-op placement with the Library Information Resources Management (LIRM) unit of Western Libraries in September.

As someone who had no library work experience prior to entering the MLIS program, I spent much of my first two terms trying to figure out which area of librarianship interested me most. Although I knew going into the program that I wanted to pursue work in academic libraries, I teetered between wanting to focus on scholarly publishing or research support and instruction. While taking the Academic Libraries course, I also became interested in assessment as it pertains both to services and collections.

Fortunately, my co-op placement with Library Information Resources Management (LIRM) brings together many of these different aspects of academic librarianship. Broadly speaking, LIRM is known as the technical services arm of Western Libraries. The unit consists of three departments: Metadata Access, Acquisitions, and Interlibrary Loans. And yet, the team of librarians, library assistants, metadata specialists, and technical assistants at LIRM does so much more than what might be thought of as merely behind the scenes support. With each week, I gain more appreciation for the degree to which these “technical services” are integral to the day-to-day functioning of the library system.

My role at LIRM reflects the breadth of work carried out by the unit, with my two main areas of focus being electronic resource management and supporting Western’s institutional repository, Scholarship@Western. On the electronic resource management side of things, I will be helping to devise a means of storing usage statistics for Western Libraries’ digital and print resources. This project will form the crux of Phase Two of the Usage Statistics Working Group, which I will have the opportunity to co-chair in the months ahead. By making usage statistics more readily available and navigable, the hope is that collections librarians will have more support in undertaking evidence-based acquisitions and collections management.

In preparation for that project, I have worked on smaller projects over the last month to gain familiarity with the processes for attaining usage statistics and utilizing them to inform resource acquisitions and cancellations. My first task was to familiarize myself with Project COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources), which is an international set of guidelines for usage statistics reports. From there, I helped download COUNTER-compliant usage reports from publishers’ websites as part of a larger review of electronic serials.

melissa-quoteI have also been encouraged to attend meetings of the Information Resources Standing Committee and the Centrally Funded Resource Review Subcommittee, which has afforded me a more comprehensive understanding of how usage statistics impact collection development and management. Particularly in the context of the depreciation of the Canadian dollar, academic libraries are feeling increasing pressure to justify their expenditures, and usage statistics can be extremely helpful for that purpose. My experience participating in committees has also opened my eyes to the fact that even in a large organization such as Western Libraries, there are still many opportunities for collaboration across different departments and units.

At the same time, I am working on several projects related to scholarly communication and Scholarship@Western more specifically. Through this work I have become more familiar with open access publishing and the various ways in which libraries can support researchers in meeting open access mandates, such as the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. I have assisted with the development of several collections in Scholarship@Western, including the 2016 Undergraduate Awards series and the 2016 Canadian Society for Civil Engineering Conference. In doing so, I have become more aware of the benefits of publishing in institutional repositories from an author’s perspective. For example, those who publish their work in Scholarship@Western receive monthly download reports that illustrate the global impact of their freely accessible research.

As a member of the Scholarly Communications Subcommittee, I have also been involved in planning events to promote open access at Western. My focus in this capacity has primarily been on increasing student awareness of and engagement with open access initiatives, including Scholarship@Western. In addition to liaising with the Society of Graduate Students, I had the opportunity to collaborate with members of student groups in the MLIS program including CAPAL (Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians), PLG (Progressive Librarians’ Guild), and LWB (Librarians Without Borders) on an Open Access Week launch event. Activities such as these have further enabled me to connect my work on the technical services side of librarianship to the broader university community.

I would encourage anyone considering academic librarianship to explore the technical services that underlie library systems. Even at this early stage, I feel that my co-op projects have provided me with significant insight into more front-facing services such as instruction and outreach more generally. For example, because of projects involving the assessment of electronic resources licensed from traditional (non-open access) publishers paired with my Scholarship@Western work, I feel far better able to advocate for open access initiatives and to target my message to specific audiences.

Another lesson that I have learned over the last several weeks is the importance of organizational culture. While this topic was covered at some length in the mandatory LIS 9005: Managing and Working in Information Organizations course at Western, it was only during the co-op interview process that I grasped just how much one organization can differ from another in terms of workplace culture. I consider myself very fortunate to have been placed in an organization that greatly values the contributions of co-op students and considers me part of the team. Moving forward, I will take this lesson with me into my future job search and seek out organizations that cultivate a similarly supportive work environment.

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For more professional insights from working academic librarians, stay tuned to CAPAL UWO’s upcoming Skype with a Librarian (November 25) and Lunch with a Librarian (December 2) events!

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