End of the Year (for work, anyway)

I’m really not trying to brag when I say that today is my last day of work for 2013. I happen to work in a place that, while it has definite downsides, also offers significant perks, with an almost obscene amount of annual leave being one of them. This time of year is quiet for us; we’re an educational facility, and so we effectively shut down for much of the summer period, and so most of us take at least a couple weeks of leave.

It’s been a long year, for me, both at work and in other ways. I am so ready to be on vacation; I’ve been ready for weeks. I was supposed to have a week off in early November, but I ended up spending it in bed with the flu, which did absolutely nothing to help my recover emotional equilibrium. I’m pretty sure everyone at work is ready for me to go on leave, too: let’s just say I haven’t been the most patient of people, recently.

This morning, I’ve been tidying things up and ticking them off in preparation for not being here. It’s an easier process than when I go on leave during the rest of the year, since most of my coworkers will also not be around, but there’s still things to bed down. My coworker and I have a big project to commence when we’re back in January, but we’re relatively prepared.

Things have changed a lot since this time last year.

In 2013, there was an organisational restructure that changed us from a library team of three, including our library manager, to a library team of two that now sits under the banner of research and learning. It was a positive step, despite the loss of a position, but it’s involved a lot of change, and a lot of adjustment. Six months later, I think we’re all settling in to it, though things are also changing again: we’re losing the research assistant who was also part of our new department.

We’re also finally in a position to begin the great weed of 2013-2014. Our collection is old: in the past, there has been a huge emphasis on keeping everything, with a bigger collection being considered a better one. Now, we’re looking more at a smaller, highly relevant collection. We’re going to get rid of a lot of shelving and create a business lounge type area.

Honestly, the weeding process is a little depressing, in some ways. There have been two major moves in the past ten years, and before both of them, a weed was supposedly performed. Exactly why, then, I found a 1986 book on artificial intelligence on the open access shelf… It was, at least, a source of amusement:

The programs in this book will run on a standard IBM PC using Basica. All the programs are designed to work with a monochrome screen and no additional hardware or software, with the exception of Listing 9.1 which requires a graphic card and, preferably, a colour display.

I’m not sure why that was ever part of our collection, and I’m really not sure why it still was in 2013. Still, it’s very satisfying going through the collection book by book, making decisions as to what should stay and what should go. The end result is going to be fantastic.

We also replaced our library management system, this year, moving from a terribly awful outdated system (I won’t name and shame) to Koha, an open-source, fully web-based system that I like a lot. We can send automated overdue notices, now, guys. We can add urls to our catalogue entries. We can… it’s ridiculous, honestly, how the simplest things can be so new and exciting to us.

It was a huge job, though. A lot of the cataloguing in the old system was awful and inconsistent. Even the way the system stored data was pretty awful, and though we had some excellent help with the migration process, I have spent hours and hours and hours fixing things up. I’m kind of obsessive about it: I want everything to be perfect. Luckily, I was introduced to MarcEdit, which lets me use regular expressions to make mass changes. I can’t even begin to describe how much time that has saved me, or how nerdily excited I am about it.

(I still don’t really understand how to write regular expressions, mind, but I am very good at copying other people’s.)

I’ve also gleefully thrown myself into writing sql reports in Koha. I can basically report on anything; it’s amazing. Yes, I’m a nerd. But seriously: every time we want to find something out about the collection, I can just write a query to do it for me. I’m in love.

So… yes, that has taken an awful lot of my time.

I spoke at a Moodle conference in September, and yes, I’m still heavily involved in all things Moodle here at work. Sometimes… too involved. I worry that my expertise means that no one else ever tries to take any ownership; I have no idea what will happen when I do, eventually, leave this job.

I’ve started preparing for that eventuality by introducing a documentation wiki here at work. I don’t know that anyone else will ever use it, but at least I feel like I have a place to store all of these things… I’ve done my bit, etc.

We finally launched the new organisational website this year, a long, long time after we had originall intended to. It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing, but it’s a vast improvement on the old one. Of course, here is another area that worries me for the future: the website and library management system both run on linux servers, administered by me.

Well. We’ll just cross that bridge when we get there, won’t we? Or… the organisation will. It’s certainly been a good experience for me: I’ve learned a lot about server administration, and about linux-y things that I hadn’t had to touch before (apache config files, for example, and postfix mail servers, and backup scripts, and logs, and…). It’s one of my strengths, I think: I’m willing to jump in and get my hands dirty, making things work. I google for answers, when I don’t know them. I learn.

I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve done a lot this year. I’m pretty proud of it. I feel really lucky to have has had as many opportunities as I have had; I don’t think there are that many places out there that would simply let me run with things, the way I’ve gotten to.

And now I am really, really, really ready for a rest.