Category Archives: Operations

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Smith in the Time of COVID (Or, How I Learned to Keep Worrying but Love the Locked Door)

After months of lockdown during which most print-based workflows were interrupted, many of the Duke University Libraries Technical Services staff recently returned to glorious Smith Warehouse as part of Phase II of the Return to Work plan:

Never have we been so happy to see Brick Prison

We are pleased to report that almost immediately our working lives went back to normal, with no inconveniences, disruptions, slowdowns, or meltdowns!

Or, wait, let me check my notes…


That is not what happened. In fact, like all DUL staff we have had to change almost everything about how we do our work in order to continue to get resources to our patrons while maximizing safety for our staff.

Only about 50% of our staff were approved to return to Smith. Included were only those whose work involves the processing of incoming physical material for Duke Libraries’ collections and by necessity must be done on-site. This included members of:

Shelf Prep

Cheerful even in the time of COVID!

Continuing Resource Acquisitions

Hard at work *and* mask-fashionable

Monograph Acquisitions

He’s smiling under there, honest

In advance of the staff’s return, Tech Services department heads reviewed the workstation layout in Bays 9 & 10, reconfiguring it like callous deities so that we could have at least one vacant cubicle on all sides of any single occupied workstation. In some cases, this meant that we had to uproot our staff from their comfy, familiar desks and send them somewhere new:

Bronwyn’s old workstation -WHERE’S BRONWYN???
Oh, there she is! She’s in Julie B.’s old cube, like some transplanted invasive species. Nice chair, tho!

In addition to creating physical buffers between workers, we have somewhat staggered our schedules to minimize the number of people on site on any given day:

Fouzia demystifying her weekly schedule like a boss Team-Lead

Once we had everyone spaced out appropriately (no double meaning intended), we established quarantining procedures in keeping with the DUL Protocols for Collections Handling.

Incoming freight is quarantined for 48 hours before being transferred to our box-opening area for unpacking:

Gobi boxes de-disease-ing over in the corner, while Tabitha does a champion’s job on the front lines of freight intake!

Meeting rooms have been re-appropriated as quarantining and staging areas:

No more people meetings! Only box meetings!
Bindery staging relocated to make space for quarantining. Oh, room 158 – you are tiny but useful

But what of the Catalogers, ask ye? (Ye were about to ask, weren’t ye?) Well, the Monographic and Serials Cataloging staff is currently working entirely remotely. We have set up a contactless system for each Cataloger to pick up boxes of books to take home for description on a regular basis. The boxes are quarantined for 48 hours before being released to staff and upon return:

Stay back! Yucky Catalogers have touched!

The above-described space and process changes have been disruptive to the level of efficiency we have come to expect from ourselves, it must be said. And returning staff experienced heightened anxiety, having to acclimate to new routines in the midst of an already stressful RTW process. But taking the time to implement these changes systematically has allowed us quickly to resume the important work of getting books, periodicals, CDs, and DVDs out to the shelves and into the hands of our patrons. We’re pleased to report that freight shipments to Smith have resumed and that, having settled into our new routines, we’re up and running at speed now.

Sadly, though, our weekly Tech Services bathroom parties are now on indefinite hiatus:

Limits on bathroom occupancy

E-Resources—the True, Inside Story!

Many people think of Duke University Libraries as the stately, public facing buildings they use for resource access, study space, and meetings. But they don’t know what really goes on behind the scenes at the library. In an exclusive tell-all, these Electronic Resource Management (ERM) professionals from the Continuing Resource Acquisitions department divulge the inside secrets of what is truly required to facilitate e-resource access.

The E-Resources Management Team

Licenses and Renewals – Abby Wickes

As the ERM team lead, along with assisting with troubleshooting and access management I also contribute to the e-resource lifecycle by processing renewals and supporting license review. License negotiation is an important part of e-resource management, as we want to ensure optimal access conditions for our patrons while protecting the university from undue liability. Each license is reviewed thoroughly by Virginia Martin (head of Continuing Resource Acquisitions), and myself, with additional support from EG colleagues when needed. Because of this attention, license review can be a lengthy process as we carefully assess and request changes in the best interests of our patrons and the university. Accessibility and Patron Privacy are among the high priority items Duke negotiates for with licensors.

Another area of negotiation is in renewal costs. To keep our e-resources affordable, we pay close attention to increasing renewal costs and push back when inflationary costs creep above certain thresholds. While I provide support for particularly gnarly e-resource AskTech tickets (Duke University Library’s Technical Services’ troubleshooting ticket service) and access issues, my colleagues on the team do the lion’s share of access management work for eJournals, online databases, and eBooks, as they describe below.

eJournals – Will Hanley

In a nutshell, I make sure patrons have online access to our subscribed and open access eJournals. For instance, I troubleshoot eJournal access issues that come to Tech Services via AskTech. I either restore our access, contact the party that can restore our access, or inform patrons/librarians why we should not have access. I also maintain URL and coverage date accuracy for eJournals in the Ex Libris 360 knowledgebase (aka the KB, formerly called Serials Solutions), and contact publishers and vendors when necessary.

There are a lot of ways to access journal content via the library website, including searching for articles from Summon,  and browsing eJournal titles via the catalog and our Online Journal Page.


  • Duke University Library’s discovery service, Summon, facilitates discovery and access for millions of article-level search results. From , select the Articles tab.


  • From , select the Books & Media tab.
  • Select the option “Title” from the drop-down menu and search for the requested journal.
  • If necessary, limit the search results to online resources by clicking the Available Online facet.
  • Click the View Online button beneath the requested eJournal.
  • On the Online Journal results page, click the link for the desired online platform (depending on coverage date).

Online Journal Page:

  • From , select the option “Title Begins With” from the drop-down menu next to the search box and search for the requested journal.  Note: for common-word titles (i.e. Nature), I would suggest selecting the “Exact Title” search.

  • On the results page, click the link for the desired online platform (depending on coverage date).

Starting from these sources is especially important when accessing resources from off campus, as the catalog and library website both automatically include necessary proxy prefixes to URLs to facilitate authentication.


Online Databases – Pat Canovai

My primary duties revolve around access, description, troubleshooting, and maintenance of databases (aka online integrating resources). To define what is a database, we typically rely on the RDA definition of an integrating resource:
A resource that is added to or changed by means of updates that do not remain discrete but are integrated into the whole.

  • ACCESS – This includes activating databases in the Ex Libris 360 knowledgebase, communicating with Ex Libris when a new database needs to be added in the KB, requesting additions and updates to EZProxy, testing remote access, and sending Database Updates to LIB-collections. This work facilitates discovery and access from a few different parts of the Duke University Library website:
    • Summon: Duke University Library’s discovery service also brings search results from many databases
    • The Database A-Z List (currently maintained by Hannah Rozear) allows you to browse databases by title

  • DESCRIPTION – This includes loading catalog records into Aleph (Duke’s Integrated Library System or ILS) from OCLC as is, or enhancing in OCLC before loading. Occasionally it is necessary to create a new record in OCLC. Once the record is in Aleph, certain fields are manually modified, the most important of which is the URL that will link users to the proper landing page.
    • This facilitates discovery and access from the Catalog

  • TROUBLESHOOTING – Most troubleshooting is generated via AskTech tickets, but in our daily work we also make unexpected discoveries that prompt investigation. This frequently requires testing of access with and without VPN, confirming EZproxy status, verification of access methods, and communicating with providers and users.
  • MAINTENANCE – Databases are sometimes cancelled or ceased, or they migrate from one provider to another. When URLs change, database names change, knowledgebase targets are retired, or platforms are decommissioned, we need to keep the access up to date.

eBooks – Alaina Jones

As an Electronic Resources Management Associate, I’m in charge of granting, maintaining, and troubleshooting access to eBook collections. I grant and update access in the knowledgebase, troubleshoot access issue for eBooks via AskTech, and regularly communicate with vendor representatives and Ex Libris representatives to have issues resolved.

There are a couple of different ways to find eBooks starting from the library’s main page.

You can type keywords of what you’re looking for directly into the catalog search bar (with or without limiting your search from “All” to “Books & Media” first).

You can also click on the eBooks tab, which will take you to another page with a separate search bar for just eBooks. I think the best thing about this page though is the “Looking for more?” section. This section lists other ways to find eBooks that you may not be aware of.

I’ve used OverDrive a few times to check out novels (and graphic novels) to read during my downtime. It is a great way to download and borrow digital content while you’re self-isolating. There are a lot of eBooks and audiobooks to choose from!

Another way to access eBooks that I often use for troubleshooting access issues is the eJournal Portal. Yes, you read that right.

Here’s how you navigate to this page: Main Library Catalog Page à Click on Online Journal Titles tab,  Hit Search (don’t type anything in the search bar), on the top of the next screen you’ll see an option for Books Only. Select that and type your keywords into the search bar. Voilà!

Though it may take a little longer to navigate to this page, I use the eJournal Portal because the update time is much shorter than the catalog; it usually updates within 24 hours (when the catalog might take a few days). When troubleshooting AskTech tickets, it’s also handy for me to see which access point the eBook is being pulled from so that I know where to look in the knowledgebase. The eJournal Portal provides the necessary information that I need to investigate quickly.

I think the biggest challenge when troubleshooting remote access has been communicating the importance of VPN access. Connecting to VPN (using the Library Resources Only Group) has solved a lot of access issues for our patrons and colleagues. Logging into Library Resources Only not only gives you access to the content that Duke University Libraries subscribes to but it sort of “tricks” your computer into thinking that you’re on-campus so you can bypass having to log-in to access a lot of resources.

E-resource access management for eBooks, online databases, and eJournals can be a wild ride. Now that you know the inside story, think twice before you try to access a resource directly from a publisher site, especially without signing onto VPN. Search directly from the library site whenever possible, and be sure to check your VPN group when accessing resources remotely. The e-resource research time you save just might be your own.

Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse Into DUL Electronic Resource Licensing: Part III

My first two blog posts of this three-part series focused on license organization, digitization, file-naming schemas, and controlled vocabularies. In this final blog post, I will discuss the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the transition from one library services platform to another with regards to electronic resources.

FOLIO Implementation

I am part of the FOLIO Electronic Resource Management (ERM) Implementation team whose purpose is to guide the transition of electronic resources into FOLIO for DUL and the Professional School libraries. Our team is responsible for customizing the ERM apps within FOLIO, such as Licenses and Organizations, that Duke will be implementing in summer 2020. We are currently working on creating the underlying metadata schemas and controlled vocabularies that essentially build the “frame” for implementing the FOLIO ERM. One of the most helpful tools I’ve found for this part of my internship is the Data Dictionary from the Digital Library Federation’s Electronic Resource Management Initiative (ERMI) Report. This document is a great reference for metadata librarians and other technical services professionals whose work requires the use of controlled vocabularies and metadata schemas.

To help put this in perspective for those who don’t work in technical services, we are essentially choosing the customizable fields and terms that are going to display within the FOLIO interface (also known as FOLIO’s frontend). Because FOLIO is highly customizable and not strictly an out-of-the-box product, we are able to select many of the specific data fields and terms that uniquely apply to our needs. Let’s look at the current state of one of FOLIO’s ERM apps, Licenses. When a DUL ERM user logs into FOLIO to add a new license into the platform, we use the FOLIO Licenses app. Here’s an example of this app’s current interface in FOLIO (see below).

The Licenses app interface

A portion of the Terms information fields

The ERM team is currently working on defining the fields we want displayed in this interface, the terms we will use to populate these fields, and any additional information we think will be pertinent in the uploading of our electronic licenses into FOLIO.

Wrap Up

While some of you may have seen me in Smith Warehouse in our pre-quarantine days running between our licensing documentation filing cabinets and the printer like a mad woman, there is much more to my internship than scanning and filing. I am fortunate to work with a truly great group of library and information science professionals at DUL who have kindly allowed me to dip my toes into the world of technical services and electronic resources management. Having come from a museum collections background before beginning library school, I am thankful I can directly apply my knowledge in information management and retrieval to DUL’s FOLIO transition.

A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse into DUL Electronic Resource Licensing: Part II

My last blog post focused on the basics of licensing organization and digitization in preparation for DUL’s transition to the FOLIO library services platform. This week’s post, the second in a three-part series, will focus on creating standardized file names using controlled vocabulary.

File-Naming Schema & Controlled Vocabulary

Another aspect of my digital licensing document organization is the creation of consistent terms used to name our electronic files. By creating a consistent way of naming our electronic licenses, it’s much easier to navigate our repository of electronic files (SharePoint) and locate documents. Most of our documents can be grouped into several categories: licenses, communications, and purchase orders. Within these categories, I’ve created a picklist of terms that can be applied for each document. This list is essentially a controlled vocabulary or “data dictionary” (see below).

Folder Names Document Types Definition
License(s) License Agreement between licensor and licensee
Terms of Use AKA conditions of use
Authorization or Agreement Used in consortial agreements
Addendum A legal change to a previous license
  Amendment A legal change to a previous license
  Schedule AKA appendix
Purchase Order(s) Purchase Order AKA product order, order, etc.
Service Change Order Akin to addendum for purchase orders
Communication(s) Communication Includes e-mails, faxes, letters
Title List(s) Title List List of packaged titles

In addition to this controlled vocabulary, I’ve also created a consistent file-naming structure. This structure allows us to quickly sort files chronologically and easily find specific documents (see below).

Licensor _ Document Type _ Signed date (YYYMMDD) __ Product Name.pdf

We begin our file names with the licensor’s name, which allows us to easily identify to whom this document pertains. Second, the document type field (e.g. license, addendum, etc.) allows us to sort lists of documents by their type. Third, the inclusion of the document’s sign date in ISO date format allows for more accurate sorting of documents by date. And fourth, the product name field shows us which product is described in the document (e.g. specific journal name, database, etc.). To put this in context, let’s say I’ve been asked to find the most recent addendum that DUL signed with Bloomsbury Publishing with regards to their Drama Online database. Here’s how I would find that file:

  1. Navigate to the “Bloomsbury Publishing” folder in SharePoint
  2. Click on the “Licenses” subfolder
  3. Sort the files within the “Licenses” subfolder alphabetically
  4. Locate for the most recent addendum file (see below)

List of licensing documents for Bloomsbury Publishing in SharePoint

As you may have noticed, a consistent file-naming structure is immensely helpful when you’re trying to locate a single file located within a folder containing many years’ worth of licenses, addenda, and amendments.

Check out my final blog post of this three-part series next week that will discuss my role in DUL’s transition to the FOLIO library services platform.

A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse into DUL Electronic Resource Licensing: Part I

As the 2020 Continuing Resource Acquisitions Intern, the goal of my work is to make the Duke University Libraries (DUL) electronic resources licensing transition from SharePoint to FOLIO as painless as possible. Duke University Libraries, as well as the Professional School libraries, is in the process of adopting FOLIO as its new library services platform. As one of the first institutions of higher education in the U.S. to implement FOLIO, Duke is in a unique position to create a customized product that meets our needs in addition to providing an example for other libraries. By reviewing and digitizing our current and historical licenses, I can contribute not only to the transition of these documents into FOLIO but also to the metadata and structure of the FOLIO platform itself.

This blog post is the first in a three-part series that highlights my internship in the Continuing Resource Acquisitions department. Get ready to learn about licensing organization and digitization!

Licensing Digitization & Organization

The bulk of my work is the organization and digitization of DUL’s licensing documents. All licenses associated with DUL’s electronic resources are currently filed in two places: physical documents in filing cabinets in Smith Warehouse and electronic documents in SharePoint.

Previous interns have also worked on the organization of these documents, so the goal of my work is to now create consistency between both sets of documents – physical and digital. For instance, if a digital version of a database license were to accidentally get deleted, we would have the physical copy as a back-up. While most of our physical licensing documents are filed and organized well, our electronic documents in SharePoint need some love. Some things I must keep in mind while digitizing licensing documents for the eventual transfer of them into FOLIO is to make sure the digitized files are stable and searchable. Therefore, I have opted to use PDFs as the file type for our licensing documents. One of the main reasons for making this decision is the ability for Adobe Acrobat to perform optical character recognition (OCR) on the documents, making them keyword searchable. The ability to quickly search a licensing document for specific licensing language is critical for the ERM team. Searchability comes in handy when negotiating specific terms of licenses with publishers and vendors, such as authorized users, interlibrary loan (ILL), and perpetual access.

Something I didn’t expect to become so well versed in while organizing our licensing documents is the convoluted nature of academic publishing histories. For example, DUL may subscribe to an online database that was licensed with “Licensor A” years ago. However, “Licensor A,” a small publishing company, was acquired by “Licensor E,” a larger publishing company, which means the product now has a new licensor. You’re probably wondering, “Why is this important?” Well, we file all our electronic product licenses by licensor. Therefore, we may end up having several licenses related to the same product scattered throughout folders because the product’s owner has changed over time. A good way to conceptualize this is to think about large publishing companies, such as Elsevier or ProQuest. DUL has many licenses for products that were once owned by smaller publishing companies at the time of purchase. However, these smaller companies no longer exist after being acquired by companies like Elsevier. Therefore, we may end up having two licenses for the same product – one license with the original licensor and another with the current licensor.

Because of this, I end up going down publishing history rabbit holes in order to determine who the legal owner of a product was at the time of signing the license agreement versus who the legal owner is today. Being relatively new to the field of academic publishing, I’ve found Library Technology Guides to be a godsend in navigating the labyrinthine-like history of academic publishers.

Adapted from Flickr

Interested in how these publishing mergers and acquisitions have shaped the world of academic publishing? Check out Larivière and colleague’s 2015 paper, The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era.

Check out my  blog post next week on license file-naming schemas and controlled vocabulary to see how these efforts will help DUL’s transition from SharePoint to the FOLIO Electronic Resource Management (ERM) apps.

Working for the Library During a Pandemic

image source

We have been thrust into strange and unsettling times. Due to events not of our choosing, we in the library are all working from home now. For some, working from home is something they’re used to as a part of their work routine. For others, like me, it’s a completely new experience. Here are some thoughts I’ve had during this first week:

  • Embrace new technology. A fortune I once got read “keep your mind open to new possibilities.” I am finding that is good advice for the current situation. Embrace opportunities to learn new technologies that will help you do your job. I am learning to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams and am having a great time with them, and I like seeing and interacting with my co-workers.
  • Take time to take care of yourself. During the day, take time to do things that are good for your soul and your body. Get out and walk or jog in the sunshine. Vitamin D is good for the immune system, and walking is great exercise. And while you’re at it, maybe give a wave or say a kind word (from a safe distance) to the neighbor you may have never spoken to, since they are home as well.
  • Don’t give in to fear. Try to stay positive, and let go of those things that you have no control of. I have found that I have had to limit my time on social media, because otherwise all the horrible news can lead to feelings of panic, which can keep me up at night. I am also trying to just be grateful. I am grateful to be working for the Duke Libraries, I am grateful to have the wonderful people I work with, and I am grateful, especially, for my family.

Hang in there folks, this too shall pass. We are all doing great work and learning new and wonderful things, both about each other and ourselves.

Cataloging the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection

Our last blog post talked about the vast variety of materials from around the world that pass through Technical Services every day. Duke’s collections run the gamut from the most esoteric and scholarly to the most popular and mainstream. In recent decades, materials formerly considered to belong firmly in the realm of pop culture have crossed over to academia, however, and have become objects of study as well as entertainment. Comic books are perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, and the Duke University Libraries are currently cataloging the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection, one of the largest sequential art collections held by any library in North America, if not the world.

The Murray comics were a gift from local collectors Edwin and Terry Murray to Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library and consists of approximately 55,000 comic books from the 1930s to the early 2000s. While the collection has been described in an archival finding aid since its acquisition in 2003, over the past few years we’ve embarked on a project to catalog it at the title and item level. Now users around the world can see exactly what we have as well as find and interact with the collection in ways that weren’t possible before. Catalogers in Rubenstein Technical Services and DUL Technical Services have been working together to describe and provide access to this remarkable collection more thoroughly, perhaps, than any other comic book collection in the world. They are supplementing title and issue information with character names, creators, and genre headings, allowing users to search and find comics in variety of ways.

The Murray collection features some of the most famous comics ever published, like Flash Comics #92 (cover-dated February 1948), in which Black Canary, introduced a few months earlier as a minor supporting character, moves to a starring role in her own monthly feature. Seventy-two years later, she’s still one of the most prominent superheroes of all time, starring in 2020’s Birds of Prey movie and having inspired and influenced generations of readers, creators, and the hundreds of superheroines who followed her. For the Duke Libraries staff who are longtime comics fans, holding such incredibly famous, iconic, and valuable artifacts in our hands can be breathtaking, and we’re thrilled to be able to make them available for viewing and use in the Rubenstein Library reading room.


Items from this collection pass through the two Technical Services operations constantly, and at any given time we’re working on everything from funny-animal comics to spy thrillers to Westerns. The bulk of the collection consists of superhero comics, though, and includes practically everything published during the Golden and Silver Ages of comics and beyond by Marvel and DC as well as other publishers like Image, Milestone, and Dark Horse.

Right now one of the many titles we’re working on is the Legion of Super-Heroes, who first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958) and have been one of DC’s flagship franchises ever since. Set 1000 years in the future and mixing super-heroics, science fiction, and soap opera, the team’s adventures have been published almost continuously for over 60 years. Originally supporting characters for Superboy, they became so popular that they eventually pushed him out of his own book, which changed its title from Superboy to Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes to just plain Legion of Super-Heroes. Like all the best comics, the Legion is weird and wonderful, brilliant and bonkers, and absolutely addictive.

Although the title is set 1000 years in the future, it reflects the social norms and mores of the time of its creation as well as hopeful visions of what society might look like in the future. It’s particularly interesting to look at the evolving role of women in the Legion from its beginnings to today. Early issues may have been set in the year 2958, but they were written in 1958, and female characters were portrayed as less powerful, less confident, and often less capable than their male teammates. While many of the male Legionnaires had physical powers such as super-strength, growing to colossal heights, and projecting lightning, the female Legionnaires had less showy (and less aggressive) powers like shrinking, intangibility, and thought-casting. (Even the weirder powers were gendered: Matter-Eater Lad could eat his way through anything, including metal, stone, and energy, while Dream Girl’s super-dreaming usually took the form of her becoming overcome by stress and passing out.)

Apart from Supergirl (an occasional Superboy stand-in), the only female character with purely physical powers was Night Girl, whose super-strength rivaled Superboy’s…but only in the dark, when no one could see her do it. As a result, in 1963 the team rejected her application for membership, declaring her powers too undependable.

Despite being the strongest woman in the 30th and then 31st centuries, it took Night Girl 44 years to take her rightful place among the galaxy’s greatest heroes, finally becoming an official member of the Legion in 2007.

Comic books reflect changes in society perhaps more immediately than any other literary medium, and as the role of women in the 20th century changed, so did the role of their 30th-century counterparts. New female Legionnaires were introduced who were more powerful, more capable, and more nuanced. Old characters such as mind-reading Saturn Girl and the ethereal Phantom Girl were redefined as among the toughest members of the team, and Dream Girl became one of the greatest leaders the Legion has ever seen after being elected to that role by a reader poll. Shrinking Violet, originally the shiest member of the team (hence the name), became one of its fiercest and most fearless fighters, while Princess Projectra, for many decades a spoiled illusion-caster with a towering bouffant, found new ways to use her powers in the 1980s as Sensor Girl, becoming one of the most powerful and fearsome heroes the team has ever seen.

As we catalog the Murray comics, we’re making special efforts to highlight titles featuring female characters. In addition to well-known characters like Wonder Woman and Storm, we want to make sure users can also find works about other female characters like Power Girl, Misty Knight, and Rogue. Sometimes it can be a challenge to make sure users can track characters through various titles over the decades, especially when they keep changing their names like Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle/Batgirl and Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird/Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel. Fortunately for them, and the readers who love them, the catalogers in DUL and Rubenstein Technical Services are experts in keeping track of people, places, things, and titles that keep changing their names again and again.

Cataloging of the Edwin & Terry Murray Comic Book Collection is an ongoing process. Clicking this link will display all the comics in the collection that have been cataloged so far, and more are added every week. Check the catalog regularly to see what new treasures have been made available!