By Alison Ray, Information Services Analyst & Leslie Wolf, Resource Sharing Project Manager

Members of the California Digital Library are always looking for ways to get closer to the people and tools we connect through our digital services. Although we communicate through email and phone calls, nothing can replace true face-to-face contact. So with much excitement, Alison Ray and Leslie Wolf of CDL’s Resource Sharing team headed down to UC Santa Cruz for two days to get some hands on experience at the “brick and mortar” library.

We were welcomed with open arms by the UC Santa Cruz interlibrary loan staff:

From left to right: Katie Elstad, Josh Alper, Mandy Stevens (sitting), Tara Gooden, Sarah Troy, Jesus Espinoza

From left to right: Katie Elstad, Josh Alper, Mandy Stevens (sitting), Tara Gooden, Sarah Troy, Jesus Espinoza

UC Santa Cruz interlibrary services unit blends the borrowing and lending functions; every staff member is trained in both functions. This cross-training within the department fosters communication between staff members and also with their resource sharing partners.

In addition to the UC resource sharing consortia, UCSC is also part of a regional cooperative library system: Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Library System (MOBAC). Being part of a local regional group gives UCSC more options to efficiently fulfill requests for their patrons. UCSC is a net lender in the MOBAC consortium, especially for CSU Monterey Bay and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Working side-by-side with the UCSC library team showed us that interlibrary loan isn’t just about software — it’s also about the manual processes involved in managing a physical collection and delivering items to users.

Leslie Wolf helps pull materials from shelves.

Leslie Wolf helps pull materials from shelves.

The ILL unit runs with great efficiency, but the staff couldn’t do it without the support of trained student workers. They know just what to do every day by checking the whiteboard in the staff room (see photograph below). Tasks that are currently in process are labeled with a circle; completed tasks are marked with an X. The photograph below was taken early in the morning. By the afternoon, every task had an X by it. It’s not that easy — new student workers take approximately one year to become independent in these tasks.

Student workboard in the morning.

Student workboard in the morning.

UCSC is also supported by mentors from other campuses — power users who are expert in the ILL software (called VDX). The UCSC ILL team praised their mentors for teaching them techniques to save time and effort. Their mentors are always available for a question, a problem, and a solution. The team cited Jenny Lee (UCLA), Scott Hathaway (UCSB), and Debbie Cox (UCSD) as invaluable mentors to UCSC.

As eager as we were to learn about their process, the UCSC team was eager to learn more about CDL‘s plans to continuously improve its services. They report that the in-person interaction was very valuable and everyone gained from the visit. Working together, we were able to identify processes and local settings that could be changed to help the unit run more efficiently.  UCSC was happy in return to share “real-world” examples of the process that CDL supports. It was a great exchange of information.

Our visit made us realize once again that we are all part of a team whose goal is to get the right resources to students, faculty, and other partners when they need them the most.