We’re changing our borrowing policies to coincide with the start of spring semester next week, and it’s been a long, arduous (torturous), involved process that taught me a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of all of the library’s public services staff, myself included. A very good learning experience, even if it does drive me to eating Snickers bars and listening to Metallica as coping tactics. We’ve postponed, restarted, tested more, and rewritten everything ad nauseam, largely so that when users start interacting with the system we know to some degree of certainty that it’s going to work as intended. We fixed most of the problems in advance, if not all. It seemed like the right thing to do. Good service matters, and a well-tested system is good service.
Contrast that with the rollout of the new Proquest interface. We had a Reference meeting this morning and ran through the challenges we currently have with Proquest: RILM and MLA are not migrating until mid-semester. the holdings statements exported to openURL resolvers in the new databases are randomly wrong, the ones that have not migrated yet have lost their openURL links entirely, you cannot browse issues of a periodical, and on. It’s… not good. It is, in point of fact, very bad at some of the places where users routinely interact with core functions of the databases. Didn’t they test it? Why didn’t they postpone? Why are the customers the ones finding these flaws? What the hell is wrong with our vendors that this is acceptable to them at product launch?
And then I think about the administrative nightmare of rewriting our borrowing policies, trying to get and keep a half dozen staff of differing levels of commitment and knowledge onto the same operational agenda, and I have a lot of sympathy for whatever Vice President is in charge of Proquest’s platform migration. I want to hug this mythical soul and say “I understand. You tried. You really did. It’s not all your fault.”
The thing is, though, that if our policy rollout explodes into fiery pieces of shrapnel, it is mostly my fault. Not all. But mostly. Because as the administrator — the leader and manager — it’s my job to get everyone onto the same agenda, whether they want to go or not. And failure is part of the process of improvement, and sometimes, yeah, we’re gonna fail. Shit happens. With the part of my brain entirely separate from my Service Mentality, I have entirely accepted that sometimes you have to screw it up so you can nuke it and start over clean. Start over better. Maybe that’s going to happen to us next week. Maybe that’s what happening with Proquest right now. So I’m resigned: If we go up in flames, it’ll be mostly my fault, and it will be all my responsibility to ensure that we fix it.
It’s a hard damn job. I hope someone at Proquest is doing it, too. I’d advise that he or she stock up on Snickers, and I recommend “Don’t Tread On Me” or “Master of Puppets”.