How I do it

Normally, this blog focuses on issues related to information literacy and instruction at academic libraries, but since this week is Library Day in the Life week, I’m digressing for a few posts to discuss what I do as a cataloger and library supervisor. Today was a fairly normal day: cataloging, meetings, lunch with colleagues. So instead of boring you with details of what I did, I thought I would show you the tools I use to get things done:


  • Dell Optiplex 755 with Windows 7
  • dual monitors
  • barcode scanner
  • mouse and keyboard (nothing special)


  • Microsoft Outlook (for email and tasks)
  • Oracle Calendar (for scheduling)
  • SirsiDynix Symphony (for working on local records)
  • OCLC Connexion (for importing records)
  • Notepad++ (for notes, scribbles, quick document production)
  • Firefox
    • Meebo (for chat and virtual reference)
    • Hootsuite (for monitoring social network chatter)
    • USC Libraries OPAC (for cataloging)
    • some music or radio page (varies depending on my mood)


I don’t spend a lot of time organizing my email. What’s the point? Outlook’s search functionality is strong enough that I can always find what I’m looking for. I have four folders for all my email: Inbox, Sent, Processed, and Saved. Nothing stays in my Inbox for more that 24 hours. Everything is either dealt with and moved to the Saved folder, deleted, or put in the Processed folder if it has additional contingencies. I have a 1-touch policy when it comes to email: once I touch the file, I have to deal with it. Emails that come from listservs are automatically grouped into subfolders so I can quickly browse the threads and are auto-deleted after 1 month.


Most of my job requires responding to issues as they arise, but I do have some ongoing projects that need constant assessment and management. So I use Outlook for task management. All my tasks are grouped into two categories: Next Actions or Waiting. The idea is that I either do the task as soon as the context is right or I wait until a contingency is removed. I also have a list of Projects that I use to remind myself of all my areas of responsibility.


I wish I could also use Outlook for my Calendar, but the university uses Oracle. And since everyone else uses it, it makes sense for me to use it so that I can coordinate schedules with other staff.


Sirsi and OCLC are my two constant companions in this regard. I use Sirsi for local catalog work and OCLC for searching other catalogs, name authorities, and importing records. I also constantly refer to Cataloger’s Desktop and ClassWeb for reference.


The god of all notepad programs. I use it for everything from taking quick notes to writing memos and drafting project reports. I only throw my text into Microsoft Word if I need special formatting.


All the programs above are docked in my left-side monitor. Firefox occupies its own monitor on the right. I keep it open to the USC Libraries OPAC so that I can do quality control on my cataloging work, but I also keep open tabs for Meebo and Hootsuite to keep track of what the internets are buzzing about. I also like to have some music playing (since I don’t work near other people) so I usually have KCRW, KUSC, Twit, 5by5, or some other streaming radio service open. This keeps me sane. =)


And there you have it. Those are the tools that help me maintain a constant level of productivity. I don’t know that having dual monitors and a handful of programs all open at the same time is right for everyone, but it works for me. =)