After a little over two years, my time at the BC Libraries Cooperative (the co-op) working on the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) project will be coming to an end. As I prepare to leave, I thought I would reflect on my work while at the co-op.
As always, I’ll start with my work and then expand outwards to the organization, and outside of it.
Even before I started working on NNELS, I was interested in the project. Print disabled readers are well supported (for the most part) while in school for their school work, but I always wondered how print disabled readers would get their outside-of-school-reading books and what happens after they leave the school system. NNELS fills in that gap by working with public libraries, and I thought it was a great initiative (and of course, I still do).
A lot of my work has been figuring out a lot of the technology needed to make books accessible in-house (instead of outsourcing it). While others before me did a lot of work figuring out what technology (hardware and software) to use, I spent a significant portion of time in the first couple of months documenting the process and the details.
Along with the process of making books accessible, I was building and refining the processes around tracking book requests, how we get book information into the system (i.e. cataloguing), asking publishers for publisher copies (especially when there was no ebook copy available), and how best to communicate with all the people and organizations that are involved in producing books (since we have members in the network that help).
At least I had some knowledge of and experience with accessible book production from my previous job. The parts that I was thrown into with very little to no prior knowledge or experience were things like purchasing agreements (and negotiating them), and budgeting. Neither were difficult for me, though like much of what I do, I felt like I was making it up as I go along. Good thing for these parts, there was always someone to look over my handiwork.
Some things were so low on the priority list, I almost never go around to them. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have a couple of really good practicum students (one a year) to help with metadata projects and the like. I did what I could, and with an external contractor doing all the programming, the parser and mapper were improved significantly. The MARC records we use are much more inline with best practices as well. I also never fully got the DIY (do-it-yourself) book scanner revived at the Vancouver office, even with justdoglet’s help. But, well, that’s how priorities work.
There were a number of other initiatives that I headed. There are too many to name all the ones that I was involved in, but the ones that I am most proud of are:
- digitization of the InterLINK audiobook master reels – we outsourced the digitization work, since it’s so specialized, but I’m so glad we got it done. (Special mention to Mike Conroy for the recommendation on where to outsource.)
- release of book awards shortlist titles and reading program books on announcement day – especially Giller (where they included a line about NNELS in their media release!), and One Book Nova Scotia (1BNS) who gives us enough notice that we get it done in live narration.
- partnership with UBC Crane Library.
We have a wonderful relationship with Crane, and we cannot be more grateful to them, especially to Heidi (one of the staff members who worked there for a few years, before recently moving on to another position within the larger department), who really pushed the agreement through on the UBC side. We do what we can to help them with various (usually metadata related) things, and their volunteers read books for NNELS users when they are not completely booked with student requests. It was especially great to do a brief presentation at their annual volunteer lunch gathering, where volunteers asked some great questions and expressed how much they liked being able to contribute.
Finally, even though web development was not originally part of my job descriptions, our web developer works on many projects, so doesn’t always have time to do all the things we wish he had time for with NNELS. After pushing for just a small amount of time, I learnt just enough about the CMS to make the website responsive. I am really happy I put my web development skills to good use. I still regularly do small edits to the theme as needed, and now we’re working on a minor redesign.
I won’t be able to see the redesign to the end, but I’m glad I was able to get it started.
I am always amazed at the amount of work done considering the small number of people that work for the co-op. While we work remotely, we do get all staff once a year where we get to see each other face-to-face. You appreciate seeing people so much more when it only happen once a year. Glad the co-op has the event every year.
Outside of the Co-op
While the co-op had limited resources in covering conferences, I did get some work time and funds to achieve my dream of presenting at Access in 2014. A big thanks to the program committee for accepting me, especially after I was accepted but couldn’t make it in 2013.
Working at the co-op also gave me the opportunity to guest lecture at Langara college. It’s always great to see students interested in technology and accessibility, so I was really happy to do it, and I got to meet some great students.
Thanks to the flexible work schedule, outside of work, I also got to help with the Code4LibBC planning group to continue organizing workshops and the annual unconference. I also got to do some webinar presentations, and a small contract with the Justice Institute of BC for their students with disabilities resources website.
Other Volunteer Work
The longer I work in the field, the more I value mentorship and the more I realized how valuable it is. So, I have continued to be a mentor for BCLA, and the UBC Arts Co-op program.
I have also continued to be a mentor at various Ladies and Girls Learning Code workshops. The impact on the learners never cease to amaze me.
I’m still not entirely sure how they found me, but The Pastry Box invited me to write one or two thoughts for them, and thankfully I got two in before the closed at the end of 2015. I am honoured to be numbered among the writers of the project, many of whom are much admired in their field.
At the End
It almost breaks my heart to be leaving such an awesome group of people, but I got an offer I just couldn’t refuse. I really hope that they find a talented, motivated person to replace me. The project is an important one, and I would love to see it continue to grow after I leave.
Thanks to everyone at the co-op, especially those who hired me, my team, and the gang that congregates at the office. I have learnt and done so much in a short amount of time. It has been an amazing two years that I will never forget.