The Purge, or I Love CSV Files So Much I Want to Marry Them (sorry Brian!)

With apologies to those of you who may serve in *twelve-month positions . . . IT’S SUMMER! WHOOPEE! *flings hat towards sky and does happy dance.*

(OK, to be honest, I do check work email at least once a day, and I’m actually awaiting a call from the facilities manager alerting me to when I’ll be able to shift the entire collection into new bookcases before the start of school, so I’m not totally checked out. Still.)

So, how did I work towards this oasis of delight, and what am I doing to prepare for the autumn that will inexorably arrive? Many of you, I’m sure, have a year-end routine, so at this point feel free to either compare yours to mine or dismiss this post entirely and grab your summer reading instead.

I didn’t do inventory this year – given that I’m moving the entire collection for the third time, I figured I had handled each and every book in our library quite enough and like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about that another day. I also handled the usual renewals and cleared my desk of personal effects – I’d hate for my Jane Austen bobble-head doll to go walking this summer. As for the rest, here are some helpful hints for users of Follett, Questia, NoodleTools and other common library resources. The real lowdown: CSV files. I love them. I loooove them. Each May like clockwork I walk into my work-bestie’s office and declare once again my love for CSV files, because they save me so much boring, repetitive data entry work.

The first step is purging, hence the title. I begin by purging all the seniors from Follett using its global update criteria feature. Then I increment the sixth through eleventh grades upwards using the same global update. I’m sure everyone has a variant of this, but mine has a peculiar twist: our lower school is on another campus on Siesta Key, and although we both use Follett as our LMS, we have it divided into a lower school catalog and a Middle/Upper school catalog. Instead of adding the entire incoming sixth grade one at a time by hand, the lower school librarian exported the fifth grade patrons as a .out file and emailed it to me, and with the magic of CSV files I was able to update their patron info and then simply import them into my side of Follett. Poof! Welcome, sixth grade! How did I do it? Keep reading.

One of the best things I have done for myself as the Questia administrator is divide our upper school users by class level instead of adding them all as one massive group. Although we only have about 350 ninth through twelfth graders, it’s much easier to deal with their accounts if they are divided into smaller packages. For example, I can easily delete all the graduating seniors, increment the other students upwards into their respective grade levels, and add the new ninth graders coming up from eighth grade. It’s very easy to extract data from Follett and turn it into a CSV file and use that to bulk-upload all the new users. Here’s the trick, because Follett will give you a .out file, which I defy you to open and use. Save the .out file to your desktop, manually change the file extension to .csv (it will ask you if you really mean to do this – you do. Forge bravely ahead!), and then you can open it in Excel and manipulate the data fields any way you want, adding or subtracting whatever columns you need to in order to conform to the template for uploading users.

Armed with CSV files at the ready, you can update or add NoodleTools folders easily too – the possibilities start to look endless. Stop yourself before you discover that it’s July and you’re still looking for ways to exploit CSV’s in every aspect of your library life.

*Twelve-month librarians, do you have a particular routine you attend to in the slower summer months? Here’s your chance: weigh in and share your approach, and ease your burden by sharing your tale of woe with your cohort – I promise virtual tea and actual sympathy.

2 thoughts on “The Purge, or I Love CSV Files So Much I Want to Marry Them (sorry Brian!)

  1. Dear Alyssa,
    This post is SO what I needed to read at this moment! I’ve just gone through my first two 6th grade lessons piloting NoodleTools and clearly the set-up process I was planning to use is going to make us want to poke our eyes out with dull #2 pencils. Clearly, it will be in my best interest to make friends with CSV files. Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

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