oh noes, not “the legal team”!

I feel like this is a periodic post… but it’s time again.

Right now we’re going back and forth with a vendor whose license agreement includes strict language about non-disclosure and confidentiality, and that everything in the agreement is a trade secret. I’ve said this all before, here. The key piece, in my opinion, is this:

“These terms and terms like them in library contracts exist only, as far as I can tell, to prevent libraries from discussing their pricing agreements amongst ourselves. They are designed to protect the vendors from collective awareness and action, and better-informed decision-making by libraries.”

At the time, I was talking about the Copyright Clearance Center, and we declined to sign, and did not adopt their Get It Now service as a result. This time I’m talking about a more traditional publisher, and I’d hate to have to walk away from their ebooks packages, but as we have indicated to them directly, we adhere to the principles outlined by the SUNY Council of Library Directors and the manifesto of the Empire State Library Network: https://www.esln.org/i2ny/e-resources/

At the  moment, the conversation has ended with the sales guy saying to my CD librarian “Can you forward the comments to your legal team and see if they accept or when they would be available to speak so that I can set that up from my end.” And this is a new problem. We don’t have a legal team. I am our legal team. I read and review and sign all licenses. I am, decidedly, not a legal team. I am the decision-maker, and the responsible party, but I am not a legal team.

That does not frighten me. I can deal with their legal team. But not all of my peers would feel comfortable doing that. Some of my peers would see that statement and feel completely incapable of handling the next steps — it’s outside their skills, it’s outside their confidence, they just want the offending language removed and they’ve said what they have to say and they have no resources to turn to in the face of talking to a “legal team”…

And so I have to wonder. Is this lack of awareness on the part of a corporate salesdude? (“Of course they have a legal team; they’re complaining about a license agreement, legal must be reviewing it.”) Or is it quiet bullying? (“If I tell them I’m going to make them talk to legal, I bet they’ll back down.”)

Given how I feel about vendors these days, I’m 50/50 on that.

Directors and librarians: Don’t back down. Lawyers are just people with a specialized skill set, and you are under no obligation to sign anything just because they say it’s a good idea, particularly when they work for the other guy. Don’t be intimidated into signing anything that makes you feel like you should probably shower afterwards. We’re professionals, we’re capable, we’re well-educated, and we’re often in the right. Don’t be convinced otherwise, and ask for plain language if plain language is what you need.

And please please please don’t sign NDAs without a damn good reason.

Site visits

Jenica   April 15, 2016   No Comments on Site visits

My favorite part of visiting other campuses is wandering through their libraries to see what ideas inspire me. I’m at SUNY Cobleskill today, and here are my favorite bits from my brief visit to the library:


I think we too often just do things and expect our users to either comply or understand or both… But maybe we could actually explain ourselves. 

Slightly whimsical signs  

This is how the loud/quiet floors are distinguished. I love this. That’s all. I may steal the idea wholesale. 

Engaging students as people


Topical displays and popular reading collections aren’t the traditional “job” of academic libraries – but they inspire curiosity and engagement and isn’t that the job of libraries?

Productivity tactics

I’m in my office on a Saturday afternoon. Honestly, I don’t mind — I’m sort of sad that I’m not at home, where Gwyn apparently just put on her coat and hat and said goodbye to her father… just like mama did not half an hour before (aaaaawww.). But they’re having a good time with or without me — and I really have a lot to accomplish and I haven’t been able to get it done during the week. So I’d rather be here getting it done, than not getting it done — and be a happier partner and mother as a result of knowing I’ve handled my responsibilities. And working on a Saturday when no one is here (it’s a break weekend, so we’re closed) is one of the tactics I use to get shit done when shit needs doing.

Here are a few more.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 11.32.42 AMMusic. The benefit of working when we’re closed is that I can blast whatever I want out of the speakers I have attached to my macbook. Today’s playlist is pretty eclectic, and is making me very happy.

IMG_9447Multiple workspaces. I have an office designed for a Director, so I have the luxury of space. That means I have my traditional desk, but I also have a small conference table and a standing desk. And I use them interchangeably, depending on my mood or my task. Some days, some tasks, they just scream out for standing and thinking rather than sitting and writing. If I didn’t have these spaces, I know I’d be getting more creative — because I need the options if I’m going to be my most productive self. Before I had this office, I would go out and find an unused table in the public areas of the library when I needed to spread out and be isolated from my other concerns. I still sometimes go to a local coffee shop to write without interruptions. Sometimes I just go for a walk to think through a problem.

IMG_9446Folders. And sharpies and a label maker. In my digital working environment, I rely heavily on the OSX search functions — for mail and for documents. But in paper, which I still have a lot of, I can’t actually say out loud “find everything that says circulation in the document title” and have something happen. (I suspect my secretary would kill me if I tried. And she’d be un-convictable.) So every project has a folder, clearly labeled. It helps me put things in their place, to collect all useful documents and notes, and also lets me parcel out the work. Need to work on the grant? Grab the EIPF folders and put everything else away. I’m still a mess of disorganized paper, but it’s much better since I started doing this.

IMG_9443My whiteboard. I don’t know if I could do what I do without this capability — some days i just need to stand for 30 minutes with a rainbow of markers and figure out how things connect. There’s software to do similar things, but the ability to just put pens to surfaces and draw it out has incredible value for me.

IMG_9445Coffee. Don’t underestimate the value of creature comforts!

Manage Focus Avoid Limit

manage focus avoid limit

from: http://www.leadershipcloseup.com/2014/01/14/the-no-urgency-chaos-or-drama-zone/

It’s good advice, that graphic. Our time should be spent on boxes 1 and 2. Unfortunately, it’s HARD to keep box 3 off your plate if you’re a helping person, or a reliable colleague, or your desk has a metaphysical The Buck Stops Here sign on it.

But it’s worth remembering. Box 1 happens, and is a huge time0suck sometimes. I have acknowledged and accepted that some days, my whole job is box 1. I’ve learned to delegate as often as possible, and I delegate those box 1 tasks whenever I can reasonably do so — sometimes, though, the only person who can or should do it is me. And so box 1 takes as much time as box 1 takes.

But box 2 is also my job, and it’s crucial. Thoughtful strategy and sound planning keep box 1 from eating every moment of every day, I’ve learned. So I’ll be working this weekend so I can wallow in box 2, which desperately needs my attention… and because no one else will be working, my only enemies of productivity will be in box 4.

How do you keep boxes 1 and 3 from taking over your life?

AADitL: Wednesday 

Heck, let’s do it again. Why not. Today’s a day with a much different rhythm to it.

7:00 — Alarm goes off. Wake up, talk to my husband for a while, read my email, respond to a few quick messages that can be handled by iPhone. The kiddo wakes up as I get into the shower. Justin gets Gwyneth ready for daycare and de-ices the car while I get ready for work. Gather up my laptop and work bag — including diapers and wipes for daycare, this morning — and head to campus.

9:00 — Drop the Pook at daycare. She settles in to eat her breakfast and happily waves bye-bye to me as I leave.

9:10 — Leave campus and drive downtown. Order a bagel and coffee at the Bagelry, and sit down to review grant budget options worked up yesterday.

9:40 — Back to campus, to the library. Check in with my secretary and Assistant Director about any outstanding morning issues, triage email, update the grant budget spreadsheets and send to my partner at Oneonta.

10:00 — Call with grant partner at Oneonta.

10:45 — Finish (very productive!) call, reserve a hotel room for a newly planned trip to visit Oneonta, and fill out travel paperwork and fleet vehicle reservation forms.

11:00 — Office… stuff. Email. Software updates on my laptop. Return a few quick voicemails received. 10 minute Facebook break to update family group about my adjusted travel plans for April.

11:40 — Opened the SUNY Learning Commons site for the Office of Library and Information Services, and reviewed the documents there on our exploration of modern ILSs for our pending SUNY-wide migration… begin looking at documents and decide that needs more attention than I have right now.

11:50 — Go talk to a Center staff member about the ongoing China paperwork saga, and another about yesterday’s email issue. Come back to my office to meet with an intern who’s working on an exhibit for Frederick Crumb’s birthday (we named a library after him, I think the campus should know who he was!). Cross paths with the student working on another independent digitization project, talk to her about her progress. Buy my lunch, and take a few photos of the (packed!) library spaces to share with the new provost.

12:30 — Lunch break. Eat and save a tiny civilization from zombies (Rebuild 3) and listen to an audiobook (The Aeronaut’s Windlass).

1:00 — After a break to make coffee, get water, and print a few editing copies of documents, I talk through a few issues with my secretary and respond to a few more email messages.

1:30 — Get started on second drafts of two projects. Reviewed edits and feedback. Read Deanna Marcum’s latest Ithaka S+R Issue Brief, Library Leadership for the Digital Age, as inspiration. Found a few great, challenging quotes to frame my thinking. For example:

While a great many librarians understand that libraries for all practical purposes are digital, there are still a number of librarians who believe that digital activities are in addition to the core. We are no longer waiting for the digital revolution to happen. It is here. Print collections continue to have great scholarly value, but students are seeking digital information—when they want it, on any device, from anywhere.

Scribbled a bunch of thoughts. Crossed them out. Scribbled new ones. Started thinking about core services in a digital library age. Hit my stride. Reformatted a section of the libraries’ staffing plan, and began writing the last portion of it.

3:00 — Took a break to stretch and think. Ordered the table banners for the Center. Wrote and printed an update for the benefactors of the Center.

3:40 — Received the MOU for our SUNY grant for Applied Learning, and began thinking about that.

4:00 — Professional reading. ACRL/IPEDS revisions. Scheduling an iSchool LIS Guiding Council meeting. Poking about in the SUNY Center for Professional Development offerings. Ended up on the Schol-comm-L problem. This is the best summation I’ve seen. “Cry me a (White Male) River”.

4:40 — Time to go get the Pook. Husband says we’re having stromboli for dinner. And I’m calling it a day, for today. Shorter than usual, but really, really productive in lots of non-tangible ways. And that’s the way of it, some days — not much to show for my time, but lots of brain work done or moved forward or in some way jumpstarted.