See how easy it is to keep track of things

In my line of work, there are just too many things to keep track.  Among them are meetings, project datelines, notes, troubleshooting issues, expiration dates of e-resources, renewal dates, license agreements, metadata issues, access questions, ebook/e-journal requests,   … the list keeps going on.

How do I keep track of all these?  One of the first methods that I used was noting down in a little notebook followed by pasting 3M post-its on my table, computer screens, coffee mugs … and anything else that I can use to stick those post-its.  I would not say that writing down and post-its are not productive/efficient.  They do. But as the list keeps growing at an alarming rate, I realized that I needed something more dynamic and robust to keep track the various projects, tasks routines as well as other miscellaneous stuff.

I tried to use different notebooks for various projects, daily routines and the like but it would be too troublesome and I could build a big library keeping all those notebooks. (I’d rather keep one journal to note down the daily happenings in my life).  I needed something that could allow me to see everything on one page at a single glance.   That’s when I discovered the following 3 cloud services while trawling the internet for answers.

  • Evernote

    How this tool has helped me:

    • Keep all my critical notes by different category.  I can easily organize all my notes under different headers.   For example, I could slot several notes on electronic resources such as important IP ranges, Proxy information, useful tips and so forth under Electronic Resources.
    • Organize all my ideas, thoughts and suggestions in a single place.  These items could be stuff to write about any potential conference(s), training topics, improving workflows/procedures or even paper for submission to journal(s).
    • Import any significant Outlook emails into Evernote for future references.  So instead of searching/browsing those emails in Outlook, I can extract them into Evernote and save them under different headings.
    • Keep interesting presentation slides and make side notes on them.
    • Clip interesting articles on the Internet and convert them into Evernote notes.  I can then read these articles at a later time.
    • More info can be found here.
  • Trello

    (I got to know this while on a study visit to Duke University. I met the Head of the Acquisitions team who showed me how easy it was to track their purchases using Trello).  How this tool has helped me:

    • Organize different tasks for separate projects under one roof.  I can create multiple ‘boards’ to store various functions.  I can then monitor the progress of each of these tasks.
    • Control tasks that I have delegated to other team members.  I can track and check if there is a backlog.
    • Attaching file from DropBox or other places to the task(s) that I have created.  In this way, I do not have to toggle the different apps while looking for some information.
    • Create checklists and due dates for various tasks.
    • Import Outlook emails and embed them into a task.
    • Check this site for a tour of Trello.
  • DropBox

    • Save my documents (pdf, ppt, doc, Xls and much more) in the cloud.  I can retrieve them later wherever I am (need Internet connection).
    • Save the space on my laptop/desktop
    • Access on different mobile devices.
    • Info on Dropbox.

What about you? What tool(s) work for you and what doesn’t?


Get a ticket, wait in line and we’ll resolve your E-Resources Issue

Just completed my first draft of my paper entitled: An Exploratory study on the use of LibAnswers to Resolve, Track and Monitor Electronic Resources Issues: The KAUST Library experience.  Researched on the most common questions related to E-Resources as well as making recommendations for service improvement in this area.


What I found:

  • 32% of the submitted questions are related to electronic resources issue
    • Access issues (17%)
    • Link issues (4%)
    • New e-resource title recommendations (3%)
  • Peak Months:  August – Oct as well as Jan – March
  • Most questions were asked on Sundays and Wednesdays
  • Daily Peak timings:  10am – 12pm and 2pm – 4pm.

Drill Down on Access Issues:

  • Denied access to e-resource
  • Setting up / Registration issues
  • Downloading e-journal articles / ebook chapters
  • Excessive Downloading
  • Broken Links

Turnaround time to resolve the e-resource questions:  Approx 12 hours

For further discussion(s)/suggestions:

  • To have a consistent / controlled vocabulary in tagging the questions
  • User Empowerment to resolve straightforward issues themselves.  We are creating a libguide to address this.
  • Social media integration
  • Implementing Libanswers’ Ref Analytics feature
  • Regular sharing sessions with library staff
  • Knowledge audit of library staff understanding of electronic resources

The article can be found here.

IGeLU Conference 2016 – Trondheim, Norway

I just got back from Norway. I attended an informative (and my maiden one for IGeLU – International Group for Ex Libris Users) conference organized by Ex Libris.  It took place at the Clarion Hotel and Congress in Trondheim.


By the way, it was my first trip to Norway.  Word of caution: If you are catching a connecting internal flight from an international flight, give yourself at least 2.5 to 3 hours or so.  When I arrived at Oslo, there was a very long line at the Immigration.  I pleaded with the immigration officers and they allowed me to go to another line (which was way much shorter).  However, I noted that I had less than 40 mins to –  1). get my luggage at the baggage belt 2). get onto to the departure hall 3).  check-in my luggage 4). go through security check and make a mad dash (do a Usain Bolt dash) to the gate.  Thank God, somehow i made it “thru the rain”.

Back to the main story:  IGeLU provides a platform for Ex Libris and also Proquest users to network.  There are many interesting sessions and meetings during this event.  Participants had the opportunity to bring up issues, get product updates and related matters.  I was a newbie to this conference and meetings.  But I learnt quite a lot when I was there.  Lot of focus on Alma, Rosetta and Primo (being Ex Libris products).

Some of the conference highlights (for me) were:

  • meeting up with the Summon Product Working Group (Summon PWG which I am a member) esp Daniel Forsman, Library Director, Chalmers University of Technology
  • plenary session given by Matt J Borg, Senior Librarian & Solution Expert, Ex Libris and Deputy Chair, UXLibs Committee – “A matter of perspective. User Experience in Libraries and You”.
  • Presentation of the Azriel Morag Award for Innovation
  • Summon Product Update by Brent Cook who is the Director of Product Management, Discovery and Delivery, Ex Libris Summon PWG
  • 360 Product Updates
  • break-out session – “Standing on the shoulders of giants” – Establishing Innovation at Lancaster University Library given by Masud Khokar, Head of Digital Innovation, Lancaster University

One of the things that stood out was the topic of usability, which is close to my heart.  Matt used various examples such as the switch of left-hand driving to right-hand driving in Sweden (1967) – with regards to user experience.  He elaborated on the impacts of such initiative when user perspectives are not taken into full account.  Just as it is with usability studies in libraries, it’s always important to note:

  • behavioral patterns of our users when using the library; and this is not limited to just websites
  • techniques deployed when eliciting information on users’ behavior

among others.  Usability testing can be a simple information gathering process involving some library users and asking them simple and straight-forward questions to complex testings involving “follow the user” behavior method from the moment they step inside the library.  It boils down to how much resources that the library has and how the library can maximize those resources.

Another session that I found particularly noteworthy was Lancaster University Library’s approach and practices to innovation.  According to Masud, the library has taken 4 ways of developing internal innovation. They are:

  • Forced innovation
  • Exploratory innovation
  • Randomized innovation
  • Empowered innovation

(source: Conference notes)

Participants were showed the various stuff that the library did such as:

  • Jolt the Library
  • Smart Cushions
  • Adjustable Desks
  • Noise Canceling Headphones
  • Visual Maps in Primo
  • Charger cables

among others. (Source: Conference Notes).

Apart from that, I attended several meetings on Summon and 360 products.  I had the chance to meet up with the Support Team Lead and the Director of Support for EMEA region.  During that meetings, I aired our library’s issues concerning Summon and 360 products.

During the downtime, I had the chance to visit some of Trondheim’s places of interest namely: Nidaros, Old Town Bridge, Historic Wharves, Bakklandet.  Noted that most of the people in Trondheim cycled a lot, jog and walk around town.  Taxi rides are expensive. I took a 3 min ride and it costs around 20 SGD.

One of the things that impressed me was an incident at Trondheim airport.  An elderly lady apparently placed her passport in her check-in luggage by mistake.  The desk airport staff managed to resolve the issue in less than an hour; contacting the baggage airport staff to  isolate the bag and allowed the passenger to retrieve her passport.  Talk about efficiency 🙂

Here are some photos of my  trip:



Tools of trade

Below is the list of tools (not exhaustive) which I find useful in my area of work.  (Not the ones in the illustration 🙂 )


My favs are Evernote, Trello and MS Sharepoint

Why Evernote? Helps me in keeping track of outstanding e-resources issues – I can attach information  to the notes in Evernote.  These also serves as a knowledge-base for me whenever I’m resolving similar e-resources issues.   Another feature that I find useful is collecting information from various sources such as internet, email snippets, etc.  On top of that, Evernote is also a tool that helps me collect and manage my information when I am planning for family activity such as vacations.  I’d plonked useful information into a notebook in Evernote for future references.

Trello is another tool: Simplifying project management.  I’m still learning this and it’s fun.  I ‘jot’ down all the tasks needed to be done for a particular project, tracking their progress, marking their completion dates and so forth.

MS Sharepoint:  I can create team worksites, document libraries, wiki and blog sites and even forum discussions.  I can share documents selectively, providing admin rights for certain staff and so forth.  There are loads of other features in Sharepoint.

What tools work for you? Appreciate your comments.

What does it take to work as E.R.S. over here …

My office desk - May 2010This doesn’t look like my desk but I’m hoping to get 4 screens if possible 🙂

ERS? It’s Electronic Resources Specialist. In some places, it’s also known as Electronic Resources Librarian etc.  My work deals mostly with electronic resources: electronic books, electronic journals, images and so forth.  I manage the life cycle from start to end; ensuring that trial, acquisition, access, troubleshooting and maintenance and renewal stages are completed.  I have a team of 4 (including myself).  It’s a thankless job at times; no thank you-s until someone cannot get access / download an article or chapter.

I’m not going to ramble on the competencies listed by several organizations such as NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group), UKSG (United Kingdom Serials Group) and the like.  Those are the intrinsic criterion needed.  I’ll list them down later in this blog post.  What I’m touching on are more on the ‘soft’ side of it.  For me, there are a few. They are:

  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience

Quick check in Oxford Dictionary:

  • Patience:  “the ability to accept delay, trouble or suffering without becoming angry or upset”
  • Perseverance: “continue doing something in spite of difficulty or lack of success”
  • Resilience:  “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”

In our work life, we have, in one way or another, face with testing situations.  In my case, it revolves around people or technology.  The technology part: that’s not that too difficult. Find the relevant manual, read it and you can get the answers.  Otherwise , you can contact the vendor techies and they are willing to check it out on your behalf.  Googling for answers would also be an alternative.

However, when dealing with humans, that can be tricky.  For example, not many would admit that they are wrong even when presented with facts.  The worst part is the “blame game”.  I believe that we can learn a lot when we readily admit our mistakes. Learn from it and move on.  Humans are never perfect.


Coming back to the 3 traits, let me touch on the first one: Patience:  Leading requires patience. Mistakes happen; sometimes accidental; sometimes due to lack of knowledge.  Addressing those mistakes are important.  That’s where learning comes in: for both parties.  It provides a chance to address our shortcomings.  An opportunity for someone to learn new skills; an opportunity for someone to understand personality differences and how to navigate around it.  Win win scenario; hopefully.

The way we address these issues are also important.  Whether its one on one sessions or during team meetings, it will affect whether our message will get across.  Sometimes one to one meetings would work better than others.  In the context that I am in, I believe that having one to one ‘chats’ usually works.  Nobody likes to be mocked in public.

I do tolerate mistakes but if the same mistakes keep happening more than 2 times; that will set off alarm bells in my head 🙂  Either its a case of being incompetent or just insubordination.  Dealing with such cases require more tactfulness.

Perseverance. When the going gets tough, keep on moving, keep on striving.  For example, I encounter issues such as electronic resources sudden access disruption.  Now, the business work week in Saudi Arabia starts on Sunday till Thursday.  Imagine on a late Thursday afternoon, electronic publisher X (located in the States with business week starting from Mon – Fri) decided to pull the access plug for a particular product title ABC.  Reason: Detected excessive downloading activity.

I’ll be scrambling to get publisher X attention to inform them that we are on top of things and identifying the potential root cause.  Next, I have to make sure that our access is re-activated.  If I’m lucky, access is restored by Friday evening. Otherwise I would have to work during Friday (which is a weekend) by the way, to get it up.  If I miss it, then access would be affected till Monday afternoon when the publisher office starts work. (due to geographic time differences). Note that our work week starts on Sunday over here.

To complicate things, we may have researchers who are in need of access and who aren’t able to do so.  They may not know and do not want to know the reason why access is denied. What they want to know, when can they get access to the desired information.  In these instances, people management skills come in handy 😉

Resilience. Before taking my present job, I was previously a Reference/Subject Librarian and a Library webmaster.  Though electronic resources was not something new for me, I was faced with a steep learning curve.  I had to learn most of my stuff fast.  Sometimes you learn on the job.  On other occasion, you will rely on your intuitive and experience to get the task completed.  I had my ‘wins’ and my ‘losses’.  I faced setbacks.  Those setbacks provided a platform for me to learn and a reminder that my learning journey is never ending.

I had no mentor over here.  They expect me to hit the ground running.  Hence the expat terms 🙂  However, the support I got back then (and now) is enormous.  I’m grateful for that.  My superiors were ever willing to allow me to go for overseas conferences and trainings to complement my knowledge.

The adventure continues ….

Oh by the way, here’s the core competencies for Electronic Resources Librarian from NASIG.


ER&L Conference 2016: In the Nutshell

I am grateful to my director and manager for giving me the opportunity to attend ER&L (Electronic Resources and Libraries)  2016 in Austin, Texas from April 3 – 6 2016.  The conference was held at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center, University of Texas at Austin.


This conference has been going on since 2006. And it has a strong following ever since.  More information about ER&L can be found here.  Quick stats:

Conference Tracks:

“Common job titles of the 3,500+ in person and virtual attendees over the past 5 years are” ( :



I enjoyed the 2016 conference tremendously.  Having attended the 10th year anniversary in 2015, I was looking forward to the 2016 event.  One of my concern though was the weather.  It was freezing cold in 2015, but it turned out that the weather (2016) was much, way much, better. Thank God.

I wanted to gain as much knowledge as I possible could.  On top of that, I looked forward to network with my other counterparts in the same field: Electronic Resources Management among others.  Took the opportunity to attend 2 workshops:

  • Understanding and using altmetrics for impact assessment: an interactive overview by Robin Champieux (Oregon Health & Science Uni) and Stacy Konkiel (Altmetric).
  • EZProxy: Assessment and Administration Techniques and Tips by Shannon Fox-Teichmann (Austin College Abell Library Center) and Glenn Bunton (Uni of South Carolina Libraries)

Below are some of the interesting sessions that I attended during the conference:

  • Keynote Session
  • Case Studies from the Cloud: Technical Perspectives on Hosting Discovery Systems
  • Size does(n’t) matter: Growing your career in a wildly different organization
  • Separate, but equal: The role of choice in the future of discovery evaluations
  • Assessing Major organizational change: The effects on the use of Library resources and services
  • Maximizing management:  Getting more out of your e-resource management strategy
  • Integrating discovery and database A-Z lists with libguides
  • How I implemented a data-driven approach to electronic resource management on a shoestring budget with very limited staff
  • Access Denied!

There were lots of other valuable sessions too.  However, I wasn’t able to attend them as they were held concurrently with the ones that I attended.  Sacrifices had to be made.  Fortunately,  the conference organizers recorded all the sessions and uploaded them online (You need to pay to watch them online).  This allowed me to view them at a later time.

** A little background:  prior to this conference, I was involved in some major projects in my library.  They were, among others:

  • Implementing our new Discovery Services Layer – Summon (now in the final phases of the project)
  • Completed the EJournal Management System: We moved from Innovative CASE to Proquest 360 Core
  • Migrated LibGuides v1 to Libuides v2
  • Deployed LibAnswers as our new online reference platform.  We now have our FAQ website as well as a back-end ticketing system that stores, tracks and manage all questions received via email or widget.

At the end of the conference,  some of the following questions lingered in my mind:

  • How can Summon best integrate with LibGuides AZ database listings.  Presently I set the database titles in the best bets options in Summon so that the relevant databases are retrieved in the search results.  It would be better if these results can be culled directly from libguides.
  • Think through the possible starting points of entry/access to the library resources; for example: Would our users start searching using:
    • Google
    • Google Scholar
    • Direct access to these electronic databases
    • Our E-Resources Portal aka Proquest 360 Core public interface
    • Library website
    • LibGuides
    • FAQ site
    • and the list goes on
  • Can library be proactive so that wherever the user starts with, they will always end up with the information that they need (and they want to get there within a few clicks, 3 clicks max 🙂 )
  • How can we make it easy for our users to search on any device: PC, Tablet, Mobile devices, etc

On another note, I met some wonderful people over there.  Enjoyed the open discussions with them.  I would definitely recommend those who are into electronic resources management to attend this conference at least once.  I’m pretty sure that they won’t be disappointed.




ER&L 2016 Take away: Keynote session

Time Management

Keynote session:  Finding Time: From Industrial Mythology to Chronemic Literacy
Presenter: Prof Dawna Ballard.
Keyword: Chronemics:  “study of the role of time in communication”

Prof Ballard touched on the myths and realities of time management:

  • Myth 1: Better time management skills + tools will make you more productive
    Reality:  Time management not related to productivity. Pick the tool that fits your personality.
  • Myth 2:  If you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work 🙂 (BS)
    Reality:  Be wary of any language that tries to mask work as something else.
  • Myth 3:  Focusing on work-life balance will lead to greater well-being.
    Reality:  Focusing on balance can create unending frustration.
  • Consider Alignment:  Be mindful of our alignment

(notes from slides)

There have been lots of discussion on work-life balance.  Personally, I felt that it’s difficult to maintain the exact same balance.  Most likely, when you focus too much on one area, the other tends to get neglected.  We need constant check and balance in our life.  (My wife tends to check on me often 🙂 esp if I’m spending too much time in the office).  Esp during peak season, the workload can get pretty heavy and that’s when you tent to get sucked into work.  All of us will have to figure out how best we can manage our time between work and life.

Kevin Cruse, in his book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, mentioned about focusing on the minutes in a day.  (Wanna make a guess how minutes there are in a day?).  He suggested to do away with post-it pads and concentrate on putting important tasks on a calendar (such as Outlook calendar).  I’m guilty, at one stage, of using too many post-it pads. There were yellow ones, green ones etc all over my computer screen.  And when that’s not enough, I started pasting them on my desk as well 🙂  I have to admit that weekly calendar blocking does help me focus on my important tasks for the week as well as to reduce any unwanted disturbances.

Here are some tools that I use to manage my activities:

  • MS Outlook Calendar
  • Evernote
  • Trello
  • Slack
  • Post-It pads (yeap, old habits die hard 🙂 )
  • MS Sharepoint

All the best in managing your time and achieving work-life balance 🙂

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln