How many tasks before it’s ‘multi’?

Applications/documents showing in my desktop toolbar right now:

  • Word: My faculty information form, which is my annual personnel report, which is due soonish to the Director
  • Word: The Collection Maintenance Committee’s draft annual plan for me to review before our meeting at noon
  • Word: The start of my professional development requests to the Director for the coming year — Internet Librarian and Charleston are high on the wish list.
  • Word: The Cataloging Policy for the College Libraries, into which I need to add an appendix for e-book cataloging.
  • Excel: The government documents serials spreadsheet (up to five tabs) that the intern and I have been working with, on which I need to analyze her textual notes and organize the titles into “add record to the catalog”, “add URL to existing record”, and “do nothing” lists.
  • Excel: The Libraries’ allocation formula for monographs, which I’ve now got down to an art form. I’m waiting on data from Institutional Effectiveness re: students enrolled (FTE and Credit Hours) in various interdisciplinary majors, and on circulation data for last academic year.
  • Aleph: Cataloging. Trying to fill in the blanks on the cataloging policy doc. Also need to do a global update to add a 911 field to the 60ish records the intern added last month. Will need to swap over to Circulation to run reports for allocations.
  • Thunderbird: I’m composing an email to the head of computing and the Director re: our proxy server and how it relates to the license agreements I’ve signed for our online resources, and how that all affects faculty emeriti.
  • Firefox: My iTunes controls are in the footer bar of Firefox (currently listening to Stellastarr*), TwitBin is running on the left, and I’ve got this blog open as well as the library’s wiki, the library’s homepage, my ILLIAD account (2 requested articles need to be downloaded), and the Chronicle of Higher Ed front page, as I’ve not yet looked it over today.
  • MeetingMaker: By which I live and die. Meeting in an hour and seven minutes, and meeting at 2:45, and at 3:30.

Where this all leads me is to say that I don’t think that I could do my job without multitasking and employing some form of continuous partial attention. Certainly, there will come a moment where some of these projects are ignored in favor of focused attention on one task, but while the reports are running in cataloging, I’m working on the Faculty Information Form, and then when the reports are done, I’ll add the info to the formula, and check my email to see if the rest of the data has arrived from Peter across campus, and if not, go back to the FIF, or the cataloging policy, or review a few of the intern’s notes, or to do the global updates in ALEPH…

I know that there are other arguments against this kind of work behavior, and other operational models I could try out, but this one is what I do, and so far so good.


  1. “Care to share number 6 with me?” said with a sigh and a wry smile.

    I am multi-tabbing at the moment as well and looked down to see one pertaining to program review, one for HLC report, my Acq module, allocations spreadsheet, library newsletter/handout for PCC, UW classroom, and draft of a faculty welcome back letter. Ouch.

    So, what am I doing out here reading? 😉


  2. I can’t do this anymore – I’ve tried, and I just end up missing half of it. I am slowly learning to focus on one thing at a time because my brain can’t handle anything else. But it sucks. I miss being able to track 10 different streams of project/info/work at a time.


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