Fancy Gap VA.
RITS 2009 Team Portrait

L-R: Bobbie Collins, Jean-Paul Bessou, Mary Scanlon, Erik Mitchell, Tim Mitchell, Giz Womack, Roz Tedford, Lauren Pressley, Susan Smith, Kaeley McMahan, Barry Davis, Ellen Daugman, Molly Keener, Kevin Gilbertson

Last summer the RITS Team was formed by combining the Research and Information Services and the Information Technology teams. Our initial team retreat was held early-on to help organize the new unit but we met on-campus for just a morning. This fall, after a year of working together, we decided to take our retreat on the road to the Wake Forest Lodge at Fancy Gap, adopting a long-standing Tech Team tradition.

This has been an extraordinary year for the team – one that has seen this new team rise to meet every challenge that’s been thrown at it, including:

  • bad economic conditions that caused a hiring freeze that kept positions unfilled for the majority of the year,
  • a change to library faculty status for many of the team that came with a new set of additional expectations and responsibilities,
  • major consolidation of collections and services on the 4th floor,
  • a merged service project with IS that has transformed the ITC area to “The Bridge”
  • successful marketing of the library saw a 37% increase in traffic that translated to record demand for BI sessions, Personal Research sessions and other services, and
  • a mandate to move toward migrating IT services to the cloud.

It has become next to impossible to find many hours during the week where the 15 RITS team members are available to come together as a group, let alone have a meaningful all-day retreat. Realizing this, 6 months ago we booked the Fancy Gap house and put October 30th on all of our calendars to reserve the day to reflect on our accomplishments and challenges, as well as to look toward the future.

Some RITS members (Giz, Tim, Roz and Susan) formed an advance team and went up the hill to the lodge on Thursday evening to prepare for the larger group to arrive Friday morning. We had the fire burning and breakfast ready when the rest of the group arrived via carpool groups (we missed Sarah who had a family illness that prevented her from coming). We were pleased to include the new team members that luckily (for all of us!) had come aboard when the hiring freeze was lifted in July: Barry Davis ( Coordinator for Multimedia and Digital Production Services), Jean-Paul Bessou (Systems Librarian), and Molly Keener (Scholarly Communication Librarian).

After breakfast, the retreat began with an ice breaker activity (no, it wasn’t a team hike!). We divided into 4 smaller groups. Each person was given a “deck” of personal value cards and was asked to sort each of the values into one of five categories: “always value,” “often value,” “sometimes value,” “seldom value,” or “never value.” Within each group, participants discussed the reasons for their choices and compared similarities and differences. The goal of the exercise was to get people talking about their own value system and how these intersect with each other and with their professional values. An online example of a value sort will give you an idea of the types of values included. Following the group breakout, we reconvened as one large group and talked about which of these values are important to the RITS team as a whole. The values identified as important to the team are: “help others,” “knowledge,” “compassion,” “competence,” “wisdom,” “reflection,” “challenge,” “personal development,” “happiness,” “change/variety,” “community,” and “location.” We found that each of these values may mean different things to each of us, but are all qualities we find important in our professional lives at ZSR Library.

We had set an ambitious list of topics to cover during the day and addressed most of them (with a break for a great buffet lunch), but two main topics seemed to resonate the most with our diverse group, so we ended up giving these the time they deserved:

  • The VuFind project. There were important exchanges about the prognosis for continued progress in relation to its current state’s impact on services during the fall semester. The technology end of the team listened to specifics from the public service end of the team that clarified the types of roadblocks they are encountering in trying to meet the library’s mission of helping our faculty and students succeed. The potential of VuFind is not yet the reality of VuFind and this disconnect has daily implications when we are trying to give our community the best help. The public service end of the team listened to the technology end to understand the actions they are taking to bring VuFind to the point where it can be relied upon to deliver the desired up-to-date, accurate data. We talked about how to modify access to it and the classic catalog to improve things in the short term.
  • “What Can Give?” I think everyone recognizes that this has been an eventful year that has stretched all teams’ ability to deliver current and new services effectively. It’s no secret that there is a higher level of stress in all of us as we take on the increase in new challenges and opportunities. We spent most of the afternoon discussing which (if any) activities aren’t producing adequate results for the investment of time and resources. We’ve compiled a list that will be offered to the library administration to contribute to a wider discussion of fine tuning our services to optimize the impact of what we offer. We finished with a lengthy discussion of what barriers are preventing each of us from optimal productivity and brainstormed possible solutions. Again, we will compile a few proposals that we hope will be a basis for a wider discussion.

The day ended with the taking of the official 2009 RITS team portrait that we have decided to title “RITS in the Cloud” in honor of our goal to move to the cloud and because the day was so foggy nobody could see past the driveway most of the day! Thanks to Bobbie’s husband Jim for serving as the photographer.