Latest News from Rysavy & Michalak Consultants

2019 Publications in Review

In 2019 we shared our scholarly efforts by publishing the following works:

  • Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles (4)
  • Our posIT column in the Journal of Library Administration (JLA) (4)
  • Our first book! It was an edited collection with Nova Science Publishers. (1)
  • Book Chapters (2)
  • Conference Proceedings (2)

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Michalak, R., Rysavy, M., & Dawes, T. A (2019). Amazon.com vs. EBSCO’s GOBI Library Solutions: Evaluating new and used book vendors while building a diverse collection. Technical Services Quarterly 36(1), 18-43. (peer-reviewed article).

Check out the article by visiting: https://doi.org/10.1080/07317131.2018.1532057

Michalak, R., Rysavy, M., & Thompson, G. C. (2019). Building community, fostering collaboration, and engaging bridge program students with a college’s historical archives. Journal of Western Archives. 10(2), article 4.

Check out the article by visiting: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/westernarchives/vol10/iss2/4/

Gregory Thompson
University of Utah

This article is particularly special for us because we wrote it with Rusty’s mentor and our friend, Greg Thompson (he is the University Archivist, Historian, Associate Dean of Special Collections, and Librarian at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library).

Learn more about Greg by visiting: https://faculty.utah.edu/u0031336-Gregory_Thompson/teaching/index.hml

Michalak, R., Rysavy, M., & Dawes, T. A. (2019). What degree is necessary to lead? ARL directors’ perceptions­­. College & Research Libraries. 80(6), 752-765.

Check out the article by visiting: https://crl.acrl.org/index.php/crl/issue/view/1526

This article is particular special for us because we wrote it with our friend Trevor A. Dawes, Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and May Morris University Librarian at the University of Delaware. Learn more about Trevor by visiting: https://sites.udel.edu/campusvoices/2016/09/01/dawes/

Journal Columns

As co-editors of the posIT column, we publish four columns each year with the the Journal of Library Administration (JLA). In 2019, we published the following columns:

Monica D. T. Rysavy & Russell Michalak (2019). Leveraging Library Technology: Non-Library Uses of Library Technology, Journal of Library Administration, 59:1, 59-73.  Published Online: 20 Mar 2019

Check out the column by visiting: DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2018.1549409

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019). Assessing library customer interactions and staff satisfaction. Journal of Library Administration. 59(3), 314-324. (editorial). Published Online: 18 Apr 2019

Check out the column by visiting: DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2019.1616973

Monica D. T. Rysavy & Russell Michalak (2019) Data Privacy and Academic Libraries: Non-PII, PII, and Librarians’ Reflections (Part 1), Journal of Library Administration, 59:5, 532-547. Published Online: 19 Jun 2019.

Check out the column by visiting: DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2019.1616973

Russell Michalak & Monica D. T. Rysavy (2019). Data Privacy and Academic Libraries: Non-PII, PII, and Librarians’ Reflections (Part 2), Journal of Library Administration, 59:7, 768-785. Published Online: 05 Sep 2019

Check out the column by visiting: DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2019.1649969

Interested in contributing to a future column? Let us know!

Books

Rysavy, M. & Michalak, R. (2019). Onboarding 2.0: Methods of Designing and Deploying Effective Onboarding Training for Academic Libraries. In Nova Science Publishers.

Interested in checking out the book? Please visit the Amazon link below Note: it is an affiliate link, meaning we get a tiny % if you purchase the book. We really appreciate your support!

Book Chapters

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019). Makerspaces in academic institutions: A comparison of physical aspects, programming, marketing, and demographic aspects. In Advances in Library Administration and Organization. Emerald.

Interested in checking out the book? Please visit the Amazon link below Note: it is an affiliate link, meaning we get a tiny % if you purchase the book. We really appreciate your support!

Rysavy, M. & Michalak, R. (2019). Change Management for Technologists. In LITA Guide.

Interested in checking out the book? Please visit the Amazon link below Note: it is an affiliate link, meaning we get a tiny % if you purchase the book. We really appreciate your support!

Conference Proceedings

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019). Learning what they want: Chinese students’ perceptions of electronic library services. ACRL2019.

Check out the presentation from our presentation by visiting: https://www.slideshare.net/MonicaRysavy1/learning-what-they-want-chinese-students-perceptions-of-electronic-library-services

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019). Library-supported scholarship: Increasing faculty scholarly reach with   author services. Charleston Library Conference Proceedings.

Check out the proceedings from our presentation by visiting: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/charleston/2018/scholarlycommunication/7/

2019 Presentations in Review

This past year was another successful presentation year for us.

We intentionally presented less this year than last year (11 presentations as compared to 12; check out last year’s post here: http://rysavymichalak.com/scholarly-activity-by-monica-rysavy-and-russell-michalak-in-2018/).

We made this decision for two main reasons:

  1. It gets expensive. As we’ve shared multiple times online, we are grateful to have our institution’s support, but we spend that money extremely quickly because conferences are simply expensive (and those costs seem to continue to rise).
  2. Our institution was in a period of transition. We had a new president joining the College (July) and while we typically miss extremely minimal days of work to attend conferences thanks to virtual conferences and weekend scheduling, we wanted to make sure that we were physically present on campus as much as possible.

One of the things we are very proud about is that despite presenting at less conferences, we presented more times at each conference we attended, so we were able to continue to promote our institution, Goldey-Beacom College, by sharing our work as much as possible while networking with others in our respective fields (and ultimately only presented 1 less presentation in 2019 as compared to 2018).

Also, we expanded the types of presentations we gave this year! In 2019 we gave our first workshop at the Charleston Library Conference and we were featured on a podcast together with Oregon State University’s eCampus Unit podcast, Research in Action.

So for 2019, here’s where and what we presented:

January

America Library Association (ALA)’s Mid-Winter Conference; Seattle

Rusty Michalak at ALA Mid-Winter 2019

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019, January 26). A Tale of ILS migration: From SirsiDynix Symphony, to Folio (just kidding), to KOHA. ALCTS Collection Development Issues for the Practitioner Interest Group Lightning Talks – ALA Midwinter. Seattle, Washington.

February

Goldey-Beacom College’s Annual Research Symposium, Wilmington

Briana Daly presenting at GBC’s 2019 Annual Research Symposium

Daly, B, Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019, February 15). How practically useful is non-identifiable data? A case study examining two datasets: Database Searches & eBook downloads. GBC Research Symposium. Wilmington, Delaware. 

April

Association of College & Research Libraries Bi-Annual Meeting, Cleveland

Rusty Michalak, Trevor Dawes, and Monica Rysavy at ACRL 2019

Rysavy, M, & Michalak, R. (2019, April 11). Chinese Students’ Perceptions of electronic library services.  ACRL Annual. Cleveland, Ohio.

May

Jenzabar Annual Meeting, San Diego

Rysavy, M., Michalak, R. & Daly, B. (2019 May 30). They Actually Using the LMS? An Analysis of Faculty’s Usage of eLearning Course Tools and Features. Jenzabar Annual Meeting. San Diego, California.

June

Oregon State University’s Research in Action Podcast

Rysavy, M. & Michalak, R. (2019, June 3).  RIA #161: Dr. Monica Rysavy and Russell Michalak, MLIS on Finding a Research Partner (https://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/research/podcast/e161/). Oregon State University ECampus Unit.

ALA Annual Conference, Washington, D.C.

Monica Rysavy and Rusty Michalak at ALA Annual 2019 with
Trevor Dawes and Loida Garcia-Febo (American Library Association President for 2018-2019)

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, R. (2019, June 25). The Benefits and Challenges of Learning Analytics Afforded User Identification: An Analysis of Search Terms and eBook Downloads. ALCTS. ALA Annual Conference.Washington, D.C.

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019, June 25). Analyzing eBook Usage Data: Shaping Collections and Guiding Library Services. ALCTS. ALA Annual Conference. Washington, D.C.

November

Charleston Library Conference, Charleston

Charleston Conference badges!

Michalak, R., Rysavy, M., & Daly, B. (2019, November). EBSCO EDS vs. Sci-Hub: Which do students’ prefer? Charleston Library Conference. Charleston, South Carolina. (Lightning Talk)

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019, November). Documenting students’ research journeys: Students’ experiences searching with ProQuest Academic vs. Yewno’s Discover Platform. Charleston Library Conference. Charleston, South Carolina. (Concurrent Presentation)

McDonald, J., Levine-Clark, M., Faust, P., Dawes, T. A., Rysavy, M. & Michalak, R. (2019, November). Displaying your impact, protecting your patrons: Ethical use of library analytics to understand user success. Charleston Library Conference. Charleston, South Carolina.  (Panel).

Michalak, R. & Rysavy, M. (2019, November). Pivot Tables are easier than you think! Simple yet powerful data visualizations for librarians with Excel. Charleston Library Conference. Charleston, South Carolina. (Workshop).

Agile Project Management and Libraries

Last week, I shared about why I believe you should read academic articles and essays to inform your thinking on projects and share them with those you work with in your library and about how Monica and I are starting a library inventory project with staff that is guided by Agile Project Management methodologies.

Today, I’m sharing more about that project, specifically how we plan to use Scrum and Kanban Agile Project management strategies with our student workers who will be conducting the inventory.

Project Management & Library Inventory using a Kanban Board

Since Monica and I started writing together, we have used a Kanban board to track progress of our writing, presenting, and work projects. Kanban boards are considered to be a tool that is a subset of Agile Project Management.

Kanban boards

visually depict work at various stages of a process using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each stage of the process. Cards are moved from left to right to show progress and to help coordinate teams performing the work. A Kanban board may be divided into horizontal “swimlanes” representing different kinds of work or different teams performing the work.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_board

Our Kanban board gives us visual cues about what hasn’t been started (backlog), what we are working on at the moment (works in progress), and what we have completed (done). We move sticky notes from one column to the next until the project is complete. At one point, we had to clean the board’s “Done” column (remove the post-it notes) because we had completed so many projects there was no more room for more Post-Its!

Kanban Board in Monica’s Office

Using this Kanban board has enabled us to communicate with each other much more effectively and efficiently.

A few basics about Scrum Project Management…

Scrum project management utilizes three basic roles: Product owner, Scrum Master, and Scrum Team.

Product Owner

The vision for the software to be built is communicated by the Product Owner. Product Owner not only focuses on the work to be completed but also focuses on business and market requirements. The PO interacts with the team as well as other stakeholders to build and manage the backlog. The role of a PO is to motivate the team to align them with the goal and vision of the project.

Scrum Master

Scrum Master is responsible for organizing meetings, dealing with challenges and bottlenecks. The Scrum Master interacts with Product Owner to ensure that the product backlog is ready for the next sprint. He or she is also responsible to ensure that the team follows the Scrum process.

Scrum Team

The Scrum Team can be comprised of 5 to 7 members. In a Scrum team, there are no distinct roles as a programmer, designer or tester rather everyone has a set of tasks that they complete together. The Scrum Team plans the amount of work they can complete in each iteration.

Scrum Project Management follows this workflow:

Product backlog

The product backlog comprises a list of all the desired features of the product. The Product Owner and Scrum Master prioritize the items on the basis of user stories and requirements. The development team refers to the product backlog to complete the task during each sprint.

Sprint planning

In the sprint planning meeting, the Product Owner provides a list of high priority items on the backlog. The team chooses the task they can complete during the sprint and transfer the tasks from product backlog to the sprint backlog.

Backlog refinement

The team and Product Owner meet at the end of each sprint to prepare the backlog for the next sprint. The team splits the user stories into a smaller chunk of tasks and removes any user stories that are irrelevant. The team also accesses the priority of stories to reprioritize tasks.

Daily Scrum

A 15-minute stand-up meeting known as Daily Scrum is conducted daily. The team member discusses the goals and issues related to the development. The Daily Scrum is held every day during the sprint to keep the team on track.

Sprint review meeting

A live demonstration is given at the end of each sprint to showcase the work the team has completed during the sprint in the sprint review meeting.

Sprint retrospective meeting

This meeting is held to reflect on the success of the Scrum process and is there any changes required to be made in the next sprint. The team discusses the highs and lows of the earlier sprint and all the improvements for the next sprint.

Setting up the Scrum Team for the Inventory Project

Our Scrum Team will consist of 10 student workers to perform the inventory, a library assistant is serving as Scrum Master and will manage the project, and Monica and I will oversee the project as Product Owners.

The daily progress of the Scrum team will be tracked using a Kanban board and we will communicate with one another on a daily basis using a Library Inventory channel in Slack.

Using Scrum for the book inventory project will keep the student workers engaged throughout the project because it

  1. Gives student workers a greater sense of autonomy: The student workers can self-select the stack of books they want to scan
  2. Fosters open communication through daily feedback between student workers and their supervisor in-person and via Slack, and;
  3. Encourages a constant pace throughout the project.

Furthermore, we believe that by guiding students’ work on this inventory project with a methodologies generally used in business, in this case Scrum (a subset of Agile Project Management), our student workers will gain valuable skills to add to their resumes.


Let’s talk about you and your library…

  • Have you used Agile Project Management for library projects before?
  • What upcoming projects could use Agile Project management methodologies?
  • What project management techniques do you find most helpful to complete a project?

Let us know in the comments!

3 Reasons Why You Should Share Scholarly Articles with Your Staff

Not a long ago, I joined a Zoom committee conference call with colleagues. I didn’t know anyone on the committee and our first task was to define how we would create change in an organization.  But first before we dived into the agenda, we had an icebreaker. For the icebreaker, we were to answer the following question:

How do you prepare for a new project, task, or goal you have to accomplish?

We responded “round-robin” style (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round-robin).  About 5 or 6 colleagues before me shared what they do, and, to my surprise, three of the five who responded, shared they prepared for new tasks, goals, or projects by reading articles from their libraries’ databases.  They read articles to share a common language with their colleagues.

When it was my turn I said,

“Me too!”  

It was probably not the most eloquent way for me to introduce myself.

But I was so amazed that my committee colleagues shared that they do what I have been doing: reading articles from colleagues who have published.  

Agile Project Management and Libraries

In this and the next post I share, I will describe for you a new project that Monica and I are working on with our library staff: Book Inventory, and how we are using scholarly literature and Agile Project Management principles to guide this project.

Why I read Scholarly Articles

While we didn’t get into why each person read journal articles, I know why I read journal articles and thought it might be helpful to share some of my reasoning with you. I read journal articles to:

  1. See how other library projects worked out – this is a similar experience for me as reading fiction
  2. Share what I learned with my staff; we can then discuss what they read in one-on-one meetings or staff meetings
  3. Learn how to replicate a process or methodology in a project or a survey

As we begin to plan for our first book inventory project since 2012, I read articles to prepare for the project. In 2012, I assigned one person (a library staff member who had always dreamed of becoming an accountant) to lead the entire inventory project by herself so she could share with interviewers at accounting firms what she learned from this project. It turns out library inventory project duties are very similar to accounting duties.

As I read articles about academic libraries and inventory processes, I noticed that the common themes rose to the top:

  • Library book inventories aren’t done on a regular basis due to cost, staffing, and size of collections
  • Replacement book cost can sometimes exceed the labor cost of inventory
  • Inventory was instrumental in identifying outdated and worn materials and revealed collection weaknesses

Three themes stood out for me and supported our need to conduct a current library inventory:

  1. The size of our collections is small (46,000 titles) so there is no reason to delay doing a book inventory project
  2. Customer feedback surfaced that a growing number of books could not be found so we had to replace the books
  3. After a review of the collection while many of our books are not worn or tattered, a systematic review of the collection could potentially reveal collection weaknesses

Informing Projects with Scholarly Articles

Since it has been six years since we last inventoried our books, I turned to our library’s databases to find content that would guide me and my team when planning our upcoming project. Typically, I search in our library’s databases instead of Google Scholar because 

  1. There is no pay wall
  2. Articles are not in pre-print; and,
  3. It helps me relate to our students’ research experiences. 

In addition, while I have found calling or emailing colleagues from other institutions in similar roles to be beneficial, the lessons shared in essays and journal articles decades ago can be the most impactful for me.

In particular, the essay I’ll discuss below caught my attention as I was searching because it shared business lessons I could potentially share with my staff.

Unlike most articles I have read about library inventory projects, James W. Marcum’s essay stood out to me because he shares lessons he learned when he owned a used car dealership in Texas.

As I read the article, I thought,

How can Marcum possibly compare used car dealerships to libraries?

– Rusty Michalak

But he did and it was very helpful!  

We both buy inventory for the library with the anticipation that if we have it on hand it will make our customers happy.  

At used car dealerships, most of their profit can be made from the service department so the parts manager purchases parts to have on hand with the anticipation that when a customers’ car break down their car can be repaired the day they bring the care to the service department. That makes customers happy. Libraries keep books with the intent that future generations of students, staff, or faculty will browse the stacks someday and find exactly what they are looking for or will discover a new book they never knew they were looking for serendipitously. 

Buying and storing car parts that might sit on a shelf for more than year before a customer needs it, puts extra strain on a used car dealership’s cash flow.  As Marcum looked to free up cash to invest in marketing, he decided to do an inventory of the car parts in stock. He discovered that many of the items had been sitting on the shelf for many years and not had been sold.  

The same is true for collection development librarians and stack managers in libraries.  Collection development librarians purchase books based on lists and recommendations, but not always with anticipation of who will use it now. According to Marcum, books have the highest chance of being checked out within the first two years of purchase, otherwise they sit on the shelf and collect dust. Books that are not checked out are hard to justify because it shows customers do not need those books now. Since librarians perform book inventory projects rarely, we don’t know what is on our shelves and that is making our customers frustrated when they can’t find the book.

In terms of our book inventory project, Marcum helped answer the main question I anticipate receiving from the student workers and the project manager, which is:

Why are we doing this?  

Marcum stated, like purchasing parts in a service department of a user car dealership, idle book inventory carries a high price. If libraries want to

Thrive in a challenging and fast-changing future

James W. Marcum

they must inventory their collection, so they know what they have. I can now tell my staff when they potentially lose steam and they look a bit deflated from the project: books will be checked out more often when 

  1. They (library staff) can help a customer find a book successfully
  2. A customer can find a book successfully in the stacks, and;
  3. Replacement costs of books costs more than doing than a inventory project in terms of labor.

Then, customers will be more likely to return to the library to ask our staff questions and to use a book in the collection again.

Reading articles about what others do is an important component of my planning process. Reading articles helps me learn from others, anticipate project costs, and assign the correct staff to a certain project.

Marcum has helped me explain this project to my staff (student workers) in a way that that will help them buy-in to the project. It is important to explain the importance of a project to the college not just the library.  By reading journal articles, you as a project manager or librarian on a team, will have a better sense of how the project will work and explain it more concisely to staff and your supervisor.

Let’s talk about you and your library…

  • Have you ever done agile project management for a project in your library?
  • What are your experiences with book inventory?
  • How do you prepare for new projects?  

Let us know in the comments!

Library Customers & Engagement with Library Content & Services

Library Customers & Engagement with Library Content & Services

Do you think your library customers are receiving your messaging the way you intend?

Clearly communicating your services and content to library customers is something Russell Michalak and I are passionate about.

Let us know what you think about your current messaging strategies in the comments.

Are they working?

What’s not working?

Let us know how we can help!

Reflections on My Delaware Beginnings Part 1

Also known as: Why You Should Advocate for Time-Saving Solutions

I arrived at Goldey-Beacom College in November 2010, after working for a short period of time at Widener University as a part-time reference librarian, after moving from Claremont, California to Delaware in February 2010. Not only was the move, culturally, as being a boot wearing, cowboy hat, Zane Grey and Louis L’Armour reading aficionado, Westerner, challenging, but so was the transition to new a discipline challenging as well. At the Claremont University Consortium– a small nationally ranked private college, I served as a Special Collections (Western Americana Manuscripts) librarian.  Upon my employment as the full-time librarian at Goldey-Beacom College–a small regional private college in the mid-Atlantic— I served as a full-time librarian with responsibility for all aspects of the library but without the authority and support of the academic affairs department, which most academic libraries report to, but with the supervision of the Dean of Students, who was put in charge of the library due to her non-traditional supervisory role of student affairs, campus store, food service and athletics.

My first task upon being hired at Goldey-Beacom College was to count by hand the number of print periodicals we owned.  Her reasoning was the other full-time librarian (the serials librarian) had miscounted the volume count two years earlier when the college sought re-accreditation by Middle States.  I asked if we had Serial Solutions—which provides e-resource access and management services to libraries. She said no. I then requested if we could get Serial Solutions so we could use the numbers reported by this tool as a benchmark. She agreed but indicated that she would need to review a proposal. In this proposal I explained the advantages of using a tool that was considered an industry standard and the space we could save by using the overlap analysis tool, which showed the percentage of our e-resources that we owned in-print and we held electronically.  I also met with my supervisor daily explaining the process of using industry standard tools.

As we waited to acquire Serial Solutions at the start of the new fiscal year, my staff and I counted by hand the print periodicals which took a full seven months (on top of other duties) until July.  In July, the library acquired Serial Solutions.  Immediately, we ran the overlap analysis report which showed us our electronic holdings, which took us about half a day.

Because of this report, we started to recycle the print periodicals that we held in duplicate with our electronic holdings.  Five years later, the space we saved by recycling over 90 % of the print periodicals was used to add more computers in the library and a handicap seating table with a computer.

Through this process, I learned that when reporting to a new supervisor (regardless of level) with limited experience working in the library field monthly reports, daily meetings, and patience pays off.  The library was able to acquire the new e-resource and access management tool that saved my staff a lot of time.

Announcing a New Opportunity: Do you want to publish a chapter in our upcoming edited collection?

Rusty and I are excited to share that we have a CfP (Call for Proposals) out for a new edited collection with the working title, “Academic Plagiarism: Librarians’ solo and collaborative efforts to curb academic plagiarism”.

A few details about the call:

We are working with Jessica Gribble, a senior acquisitions editor with Libraries Unlimited / ABC-CLIO, to solicit chapter proposals for this proposed edited collection. The general timeline we are proposing is a completed volume by January 2020 so you would have several months to work on your contribution.

Interested in authoring a chapter?

Please complete this form by the end of the day on Friday, February 22, 2019: https://lnkd.in/eK3Fkhg

Onboarding in Academic Libraries

Do you remember your last “first day at work” at your most recent or current job? Did it feel like a smooth process? Did you have tasks – both policy / required and meaningful (related to why you were hired in the first place)? Or maybe things were a bit scattered…

One of the first major projects I worked on as a graduate assistant at Penn State while in my Ph.D. program was to help the ITS Human Resources Unit establish an online onboarding program. That project really spoke to my love of all things project management, establishing systems & processes to help both new hires & managers effectively navigate the onboarding process – which truly can be a confusing maze for all involved if you don’t take the time to plan out what your new hire will be doing (and remember that your efforts ought to incorporate, or at least align, with your departmental and/or central HR office).

That’s why I’m so excited to share that we have an edited collection coming out about onboarding in academic libraries this spring with Nova Science Publishers. Learn more & pre-order by visiting the book website I set up to share details about the edited collection & our talented group of authors: Onboarding in Academic Libraries

Onboarding Book
Onboarding Book

New Uses for Tech: Increasing Student and Faculty Engagement with an Email Marketing Service

New Uses for Tech: ConvertKit for Engagement

Let’s Talk Audience Engagement

How do you know if your students, staff, and/or faculty are engaged with the services and/or products that you are promoting at your institution? Are you collecting metrics? How do you collect them? Oh, and if you are collecting metrics, what are you doing with those metrics? Do you look at them? How often? 

Whether you are a higher education administrator thinking about how to promote your department or unit’s next service or product launch, an academic librarian trying to figure out how to get more students to attend and actually engage with your information literacy session, or an academic with a small business or a “size hustle” that you are working to develop into a full-scale small business, metrics, data about what your target market wants – and how those individuals engage – or don’t engage –  with your content / products after you share it with them – is crucial to increasing and sustaining meaningful engagement with your audience.

Email Marketing

One way to promote your products or services is through email marketing. You know those pop-ups you experience online that ask you to share your email for a free X or Y thing (typically a PDF download) or requests to sign up for a newsletter? Yes, that kind of email marketing. I was pretty impressed with some email marketing campaigns I came across recently which resulted in me buying products and services – and I’m a picky shopper. So I decided I wanted to learn more about email marketing for a few reasons. Back to those in a minute. Right now I’m working on learning more about email marketing from people like Jenna Kutcher, with her List to Launch Lab, and Sarah Anderson with her Pro Email Copy blog, which runs a really interesting feature called “Email Teardowns” where she analyzes recent email campaigns and talks about the hits and misses (from her perspective) from those email campaigns. 

I’m not an expert in email marketing. But what I am an expert in, however, is training, specifically educational technology (ed-tech) related training, and on best practices of integrating technology into classroom and other academic environments – like libraries, for example. One of my favorite things to do, with my love of most things technology-related, is find new uses for existing tools or multi-uses for tools I’m thinking of picking up. 

The Current Issue: Lack of Sustained Engagement with EdTech Training

The department I lead at a small private college runs educational technology training for faculty at my institution (among other duties – it’s the office of Institutional Research & Training). As with many institutions, the vast majority of our faculty are adjunct faculty, and as a result, have a variety of personal and professional schedules that make attending face-to-face training difficult. Knowing this, my department has focused on developing online trainings – first we create training guides or FAQs, as faculty feedback has taught us that most faculty tend to prefer guides over videos, but after we create step-by-step guides we create videos because sometimes it’s really just simpler to watch someone do something as opposed to read about it with screenshots. 

Recently, I really wanted to mix things up with our training. We track engagement with our training guides by looking at the analytics afforded to us by the system we use to house our trainings – Springshare’s LibGuides. As you might have guessed, LibGuides is a traditional “library” tool – a content management system (CMS) – that I share with Rusty’s library. Two departments using one system saves the college money, and there are now two directors who are experts on the system, as opposed to one, which provides redundancy (this is super critical at small institutions like ours where most people wear many hats). I noticed, by looking at the analytics, that engagement – which I track by looking at page views / hits – was going down on most of the guides. I saw a spike when new adjuncts were hired, which made sense because they were learning all the tools and systems. I noticed a bit of a spike when we had new project launches (I can easily compare dates over time using the backend analytics in the LibApps system), but I wasn’t seeing sustained engagement, sustained visits to our training guides over time. I also didn’t know to what extent the hits were returning or new visitors as LibApps statistics aren’t that granular (or frankly it’s not clear if these visits are just from faculty because the guide is open to those with our institution’s email domain). 

Similarly, Rusty and I run our Information Literacy Assessment (ILA) program – an online IL pre-test/training/post-test program we developed a few years ago and published about here and here –  with several groups of students, but the target market / audience we are struggling the most with is our graduate students. The students are invited and encouraged to participate in the program when they join the college as graduate students, but because there is no real carrot (other than the joy of learning but yes, I know the issues with assuming that will work) and absolutely no “stick”, our participation rate hovered around 10-13%, which was rather disappointing. 

What I’m Trying: ConvertKit

ConvertKit is an email marketing service similar to MailChimp, MadMimi, and ClickFunnels. ConvertKit is an online service that enables you to build a list of subscribers with opt-ins, i.e. sign up forms or pop-ups that gather new subscribers email addresses so that you can email them content. 

How I’m Using ConvertKit

I’m trying out ConvertKit in a rather untraditional way: I’ve created email “lists” with defined groups at the college: faculty (all faculty, full-time faculty, and adjunct faculty) and specific groups of students (at the moment, the new graduate students who are being invited to the ILA program and an IT course I’m teaching this semester). 

Note: A very important point about email marketing is that people need to be able to opt-out or “unsubscribe” so every email I send has the required opt-out link. 

I’ve started out using ConvertKit with what they call Sequences. According to ConvertKit, “A sequence is a series of automated emails, timed directly to when a subscriber first signs up, or is first added to the sequence by another action.”

To date, I’ve designed two complete sequences and one is in progress. The first complete sequence is for new Adjunct Faculty and serves as part of my departments onboarding strategy. Once my department receives word that we have a new adjunct hire, the adjunct faculty member is added to the New Adjunct Hire Sequence. That individual, after being added to ConvertKit as a new subscriber and is added to this sequence, automatically receives the first email in the sequence. As shown in the image below, there are then a series of four additional emails that are sent over the next 28 days after the initial email. 

New Adjunct Email Sequence

Each of the emails is less than four paragraphs long. The purpose of each email is meant to introduce something specific in a quick way. The first email discusses the required onboarding edtech training so faculty can learn our LMS, the second is a check-in that describes how new adjuncts can get help from my office if they need it (and reminds them about expectations for using the LMS), the third email explains the process for reserving a teaching lab (and why this could be helpful to new adjuncts), the fourth describes our Office 365 services, and the 5th email in the sequence explains proctoring and tutoring services offered by the Academic Resource Center (a department Rusty also supervises). All of the emails include details about contacting my office and how to set up an appointment.  

I’m not sure how the open / click rates of this email communication sequence compares to my office’s previous communications with adjunct faculty because we used regular email without that information before.

The second sequence I’ve designed is the Graduate Students ILA sequence. This sequence was just launched this past week and is one I was very excited about! As I mentioned earlier, our graduate student ILA program had minimal participation, so trying a new way to reach out to these students to inspire participation was high on my agenda. First, I rewrote the initial invitation email and changed the language to be more conversational and instead of asking students to complete the ILA, I invited them to participate in a challenge – a challenge to prove their Information Literacy Mastery! The image below shows you the 5 emails that are presently part of this email sequence.

Graduate Students ILA Program Sequence

As with the first sequence, this sequence is kicked off by adding new subscribers, new graduate students to the college, to ConvertKit and then adding them to the sequence. I learned something new with this sequence – filtering. All new graduate students receive the first email, which explains the “Challenge” and invites students to participate. Students have an option in that email to either begin the program immediately by clicking a link to read the full directions, or to wait to receive the 2nd email (Challenge accepted? Let’s get started!) the next day for the full directions. IF students click the full directions in the day 1 email they will not receive the day 2 email. Then, all students receive one week later email (How’s the ILA challenge coming along?) which is a check-in email. In the third email, as well as the fourth and fifth emails, students have the opportunity to choose to stop receiving the reminder emails with a custom opt out link (the required unsubscribe link is at the bottom of every email) by clicking a link that indicates they are finished (and sends them to a Thank you/Congratulations page on our ILA program website) and subsequently opts them out of the remainder opt out emails. 

A current limitation of this particular email sequence is that the students have to opt out themselves if they finished the ILA (or they could say they finished the ILA when they actually didn’t, but that’s another issue), the system doesn’t automatically opt them out. However, since students complete the pre and post-tests in Qualtrics, there is a possibility that I’ll be able to connect the two systems via API so I’m going to work on that. 

This compares to previous invitations in a rather exciting way. We used our online survey platform, Qualtrics, to invite students before so we knew our open / click rates, around 12%. We’ve already surpassed that with both the first and second emails of this sequence.

The third email sequence is the one in progress, the Spring 2019 Faculty Campaign. This email sequence is sent to all faculty teaching during any of the Spring 2019 sessions. So far I only have one email in this sequence and it was sent out earlier this week. It reminds faculty about expectations for using the LMS, a tip for how to use a specific type of assignment, and how to get help from my office. 

Spring 2019 Faculty Sequence
Spring 2019 Faculty Sequence

We didn’t have data for open/click rates before since we used regular email, so having any kind of data is exciting for this sequence!

What’s next

This weekend I’m working on writing out the content for a rather (to me) complicated sequence for the Spring 2019 Faculty Campaign. In the next email, which will go out Tuesday, I’ll share a few more LMS tips, remind faculty how to get edtech help if they need it (see a pattern?), and then give faculty a multiple choice quiz that asks them to indicate which topic they’d like to learn more about next. Based on each faculty member’s choice, they will then be opted into a series of emails specifically about the topic they chose – an email course of sorts that’s designed to peak their interest in the topic selected and will ultimately lead them back to our EdTech training website for basic or advanced training depending on their needs. 

Have you used an email marketing service like this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feel free to share any questions!

Scholarly Activity by Monica Rysavy and Russell Michalak in 2018

Scholarly Activity by Monica Rysavy and Russell Michalak in 2018

2018 – What a Year!

It seems like every where you look online there are “Year in Review” or “Annual Review” posts being shared right now, so we thought we’d join in and share our version of a “Year in Review” post, academic-style! Something we often hear from other academics is that the publication process can seem to take…. so….. long. Rusty and I first start working together in 2015, and had our first publication and presentations in late 2016. We very intentionally plan out our current and future projects because we remember how long it took to get the ball rolling with writing and publishing when we first started working together and don’t want to be in a spot where we want to write but have no data. Completing an annual review like this is a great way to see that you are actually making progress on your scholarly goals and definitely demonstrated to us that we started hitting our momentum in 2018!

First, let’s take a look at our scholarly activity in 2018, by edited collections, articles, book chapters, and presentations.

Next, we thought it might be fun to compare each year of our scholarly activity to see our output: 2018 / 2017 / 2016. Note, as I mentioned earlier, we first began working together in 2015, but had our first outputs in 2016.

Have you completed any annual review of your scholarly activity?

We’d love to check it out! Share your links in the comments!

Welcome!

Rysavy & Michalak Consultant’s blog is authored by Monica D.T. Rysavy, Ph.D. and Russell Michalak, MLIS. We are academic directors with a combined 28 years of experiences working in higher education institutions. Learn more about us by visiting our About Us page.

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