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Brother, can you help a mofo?

So, this week, apparently I am the mofo...

A couple of weeks ago, I received feedback from my supervisor that my coworker(s) feel that I'm not prioritizing my time sufficiently, and leaving the lions share of the shelving to them. I'm trying to leave aside my emotional reaction to this feedback and take it in and move forward and improve my performance (and not look sidewise at all my coworkers).

Because I'm trained in sociology, and because I like facts and distrust anecdotal evidence, my strategy for the past couple weeks has been to write down every single thing I do, and the amount of time I spend on it. My self-evaluation portion of my annual review is due at the end of the month, and my hope is that I can sit down with my manager during that review and we can look at the amount of time I'm spending on carts, the amount of time I spend shelving overall, how much time I spend on other duties and what, specifically, I need to adjust (I have ADD so I know that my prioritization skills are not always fantastic, but I also know that I won't necessarily be able to come up with a workable strategy on my own without a very specific discussion). I got the idea from dieters and budgeters who keep track of every cookie they eat/every dime they spend, as a disciplinary tool. So keeping track has the added benefit of helping me keep on task generally. Eventually I'll be showing these to my boss, and I don't want her reaction to be, "THATS how you spend your time? For fucks sake, Hemenway."

The hiccup in all this data-gathering so far (besides the fact that I'm trying to record a baseline and make improvements at the same time), is that I have no control sample. I dont watch my coworkers or know how they spend their time, and in all honesty can't tell if we spend our shifts doing roughly the same amount of work or not (this is where my sociology brain is painfully aware of the subjective nature of the feedback I've gotten, and has to work very hard to not dismiss it). My report also won't be able to show the environment on any given day (did I spend an hour shelf reading because there were no carts? Or did I ignore 12 unshelved carts and go off to shelf read anyway? etc). But some facts are better than none. I've looked through all the official job descriptions and sheets I've been given since I've started, and while they say what tasks my job includes, there's no 'official' breakdown of which tasks should take what percentage of my time. (I know there's no hard-and-fast rule here; I'm looking for general guidelines.)

So I'm hoping y'all can perhaps help me assemble at least some semblance of a control sample. Folks who are or were shelvers/pages, or those who supervise shelvers: do you have any sense of how you'd expect a shelver to divide their time? (Preferably proportionally: 50% shelving, 25% requested holds, 10% staff email, whatever) If you're a shelver, do you have a sense of how long you spend on each task? (If any shelvers/pages want to keep track of themselves for 4 hrs on a typical shift, that would be amazing.)

I know there's wild variation in the sorts of libraries we all work in (I work in a large-ish public district [27 branches] in a mid-size American city, ftr), but if I can get enough data hopefully I can average it together somehow, and use it to compare against my own performance.

Thanks, anyone/everyone.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2013 01:15 am (UTC)
I do supervise pages a bit (though I'm not their direct boss). Our pages are supposed to: shelve books/media/etc, process (i.e. put stickers/mylar/contact paper on all items), and shelf read. Although, I've been recently told they 'never get to shelf reading' and the librarian staff should be doing it.

Anyway, what's supposed to happen is: shelving while there are carts to be shelved (so, the lion's share of work should be this), then processing, then shelf-reading. If I had to put a percentage on it, and given the amount of items/frequency of orders, I'd say: Shelving 80%, Processing 10%, Shelf-Reading 10%. (That said, with the new thing that pages won't be shelf reading, it'd probably go to 85% shelving and 15% processing.) Pages works a 4-hour shift, and in that time, I mostly see them shelving, and doing processing only when there's a bunch of stuff to process or we have more pages than we have carts to be shelved.

[And I should edit: I work in a single-branch district library in a suburban-almost rural town that does about 100K items circed/month.]

Hope this helps!

Edited at 2013-12-12 01:16 am (UTC)
Dec. 12th, 2013 01:53 am (UTC)
At both libraries I work at, the pages are to shelve until there's nothing left to shelve and/or there's no room on the shelves. Occasionally they have other duties (not shelf-reading, though, but IDK why. and at one library, they do some discharging). But mostly it's 98% shelving and 2% the other stuff.
Dec. 12th, 2013 06:55 am (UTC)
That one I can sort of understand - a fresh set of eyes shelf-reading can spot errors that the shelvers may not realize they're making. At our libraries, we make sure that the people who shelve an area are not the ones who shelf-read that area, so while, for example, I might be the one who shelves reference items, I shelf-read part of the non-fiction section rather than the reference area.
Dec. 12th, 2013 02:24 pm (UTC)
Part of me thinks they just don't trust the pages to shelf-read, which boggles the mind, but I'm not in the circ department, so ... One of the libraries (the smaller of the two, more rural) has their circ staff shelf-read. The more urban library I work at has the librarians shelf-read, but we don't have time, because we're short staffed (with part timers) and we all have other jobs ... :-/
Dec. 12th, 2013 03:21 pm (UTC)
Well, as far as that goes - we have had clerks & summer workers (we don't have pages here) who would say that they had been shelving, but when you go back you see that they were either just dumping their books on shelves that might or might not be in the right general area, or were just randomly shoved somewhere close.

And I certainly hear you about the lack of time for shelf-reading! As a reference librarian/PR person/computer expert I rarely had time to shelf-read. Now that I'm assistant director? I have even less time.
Dec. 12th, 2013 11:22 pm (UTC)
We do (did?) have some pages like, too. And mostly they don't let volunteers shelve for just that reason! What a mess. But most of the people we have now do a decent enough job. But I didn't think of that as a reason not to have them shelf read.
Dec. 12th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
In the branches of the library system where I work, Pages are expected to do the bulk of shelving and check-in (which is then divided between book drops and daily delivery). This takes up 80% of the page's work time. The rest is spent tidying the branch, pulling items from the items pending list, shelving holds, shelf-reading, and our individual projects.
Dec. 12th, 2013 03:14 am (UTC)
Do you know anyone at the other branches? Perhaps you could get a sample from them and do a 'compare & contrast'.
Dec. 12th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC)
I worked at a very very small academic library. When there were things to shelve, I shelved them as soon as I didn't have a more immediately necessary task at hand. Shelf reading is never a more immediately necessary task than shelving.

We had a very low amount of circulation, so there were only a few books at any given time, maximum ever was two carts. If I came in for the first shift and the evening shift person hadn't put away any remaining books, I'd know damn well that they weren't doing that part of their job at all since it got real quiet around 8pmish and we were open until 11.
Dec. 12th, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
I was a shelver at a small academic library in Boston. 80% of my time was spent shelving. The other 20% was shelfreading, save for the two week period when the higher ups decided we needed to shift the entire collection and instead of shelfreading we did so, weeding as we went. We were not allowed to check in books, check out books, or anything else, though we did tend to answer what reference questions we could, as the library didn't have a proper librarian and the folks at circulation refused to answer questions. Yes, it was a very odd library.
Dec. 12th, 2013 02:05 pm (UTC)
I worked as a page in a university library many years ago. We would shelve until the carts were empty and then the last 15-20 minutes of our shift was spent shelf-reading in our "area". We were each assigned a certain LC range to maintain. The whole area could not be done in fifteen minutes of course, but we'd work on it a little each day (and I think it helped our supervisor know who was doing their shelf reading and who wasn't).
Dec. 12th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
I'm not a shelver or a shelver supervisor, but wanted to say I commend you for tracking your work to get to the bottom of this! Hopefully your boss asks the others to track their work too, or comes up with guidelines for your time.
Dec. 12th, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
The shelver I work with most of the time spends about two and a half of her four hours shelving, half an hour marking items as used or doing discharges, then half an hour shelf-reading, though she'll usually do shelf-reading first before she's tired. (The other half hour is her breaks.) We're just a smallish academic library, so if she runs out of carts to shelve, we let her help on the info desk. She also covers us on the info desk during our lunches if we're really busy, so the actual time she spends shelving varies. But for the most part, I'd say 50-60% of her time is spent shelving.
Dec. 12th, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
When I was a page, my shifts were 95% shelving (shelf-reading only if there was nothing to shelve) and 5% random housekeeping.

Edited at 2013-12-12 10:02 pm (UTC)
Dec. 13th, 2013 04:37 am (UTC)
My library is about the same size and location as yours. I don't work in circ so I don't know how exactly they spend all their time, but I'm fairly certain most of it is shelving. The shelvers got hit the hardest in the two rounds of lay-offs we had during the recession so we have a shortage of them now. Consequently there seems that there's ALWAYS shelving to be done (I go by the circ workroom every day, there's on average at least 15-20 full carts there at all times.) The shelvers also pull holds and that's about it. I think they're supposed to shelf read but considering what a mess our stacks are I doubt that they ever do, which I know isn't their fault because of the constant cart backlog.

We have three pages in my department, but we're a specialized reference department so they don't have a ton of shelving to do. Mostly they retrieve items from the closed stacks and they have various projects they work on.

Edited at 2013-12-13 04:39 am (UTC)
Dec. 13th, 2013 12:51 pm (UTC)
Generally at the public library where I work, we count on page staff to primarily get the shelving done first, while the clerical and librarian staff handle most other tasks (holds, circ desk functions, drop box, processing etc). I've even promoted a list of priority in what gets shelved (new materials, a/v media, periodicals, childrens, fiction, non-fiction, reference) However there are times when staff is limited and we need the page staff to man the circ desk, or work on a project or if we have a page who has a particular strength in a certain area, we may pull them off shelving. In short, unless a page has been specifically told to work on something else we expect them to focus on shelving and when the shelving is done, shelf reading.
Dec. 16th, 2013 01:10 am (UTC)
I will admit, I am coming at this from an entirely different angle -- I work at an academic library, and I have never worked in shelf maintenance. I have, however, worked for 7+ years as a bookstore manager, and trying to figure out how to balance everyone's different job duties (which including shelving and shelf reading/cleaning) was one of them. One of the challenges was that some people were simply faster at doing shelving then others - yes, some were better at it as well (so they did it fast and right; others did it fast and badly..., others did it slow and right...) yeah.

We tried different tactics depending on what was going on -- sometimes we would assign sections of responsibility (for both cleaning and shelving), or if the cartload was high, assign a certain number of carts per person - acknowledging that certain areas just took longer to shelf (and I can see this still applying to a library, depending how it is arranged).

I guess my point is that when you talk to your supervisor what you need to be focused on is that you are doing the work in your responsbility 100% of the time, and leave it up to her/him to decide what the balance is supposed to be, and how the balance is to measured, based on how they want it to be determined across the department. And if they can't tell you how they measure it, then it points to a bigger problem that you can't solve, other then to ask if the complaint that was brought against you is valid or not.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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