Switch It Up!: Changing IR Workflow

Way back in 2012, I had just graduated from library school in Queens and was toiling away at three (!!!) part-time jobs in the city. Out on Long Island that same year, my future employer Hofstra University School of Law adopted bepress Digital Commons as its institutional repository.

After moving forward with an IR, one of the things to figure out is: what is the workflow going to be? Who is going to do what, when? Some institutions allow faculty to upload their work; others have full-time institutional repository managers who obtain copyright permissions, upload faculty works, and perform other IR tasks. 

In 2012, the individual who preceded me as IR supervisor at Hofstra Law implemented a workflow that centered on union staff performing most of the work. She created a Faculty Publications master spreadsheet and obtained copyright permissions; this constituted the “set up” work. But after these managerial efforts, the staff then began the “nuts and bolts” work – they obtained PDFs, entered metadata, and performed quality control checks both before and after posting faculty publications.

The work the union staff performed was guided by a color-coded Faculty Publications master spreadsheet: one color meant “needs to be quality checked”, another color meant “ready for upload”, still another meant “copyright pending”. Back then, this workflow made sense because there were hundreds of faculty publications that needed to be worked on, and the “color coded spreadsheet” approach allowed everyone to be equally active in his/her IR work. With this workflow, everyone performed his or her task concurrently.

However, when I was hired at Hofstra Law in 2018 and took over managing the IR, I discovered that the color-coded spreadsheet approach had become confusing – there were so many cooks in the kitchen that staff weren’t sure at what point who needed to do what. It then became easy for staff to shrug off IR work since they weren’t really sure “whose turn it was.” Since so much faculty scholarship had already been uploaded in the preceding 6 years, and since we didn’t need to have everyone working on everything concurrently by that point, I created a new workflow that I call “Batches of Five.”

This new workflow is streamlined, linear, and direct: rather than everyone concurrently working on their assigned IR task, I identify (from the Faculty Pubs spreadsheet) what has not yet been posted and send an email out to the staff: “Please begin working on these 5 articles. Thank you!” The email I send includes the spreadsheet row number, the author name, and the article (or book chapter) title for each of the five items. After the first person in the workflow enters metadata, he replies all to my email saying “Done, QC up next”. Then, the first of two employees who does quality control works on the five and replies all to the email; then the employee who does the second quality control does her work.  After the quality controls, another employee posts the items so they are live on the site. After the five items are live on the site, another employee does a quality control check from the front end.

The switch from “working on everything” to working on the specific “Batch of Five” made sense based on the six years of IR work that had preceded it. The staff appreciated this change: they said they like the new workflow because it’s simpler, more direct, and everyone knows whose turn it is and what is expected of them. This workflow requires that I follow up with the staff (everyone forgets from time to time), but nevertheless this streamlined workflow has simplified things and ensured staff are working productively.

A few years ago, bepress rolled out a new feature of Digital Commons that allows the IR manager to harvest faculty publications from PubMed, Scopus, and other databases. I have not yet been able to explore this relatively new feature, but this could very well constitute the next phase of our evolving IR workflow.