Librarian Advocacy

Image from page 321 of "St. Nicholas [serial]" (1873) This week I attended an event called “Librarianship in the age of Trump”. I am super glad that I went, but I walked away a little discouraged and a lot frustrated.

I think it is important to reflect on professional values (one of the reasons why I blog) and also keep up what is happening in the world.

The meeting was very well attended for the time and location with 15 people, and I was pleasantly surprised by the people attending from different areas of the profession.

In two hours what I think was really achieved was feeling out the edges of the questions, and learning from each other what a group looking at direct action for librarians(*) might look like.

Two streams of ideas sparked my interest:

  • Really working on library as place: specifically safe space for hard discussions
  • Using our “brand” to support media literacy, fact-checking, and information work.

I also loved some of the example ideas around using art, social media, and video to spread messages. Not something you usually hear from library folk.

What I found difficult:

  • The idea that only MLIS carrying librarians have a role in this sort of movement. Because while I feel that with a MLIS comes an obligation for reflective practice and community engagement there are many out there who don’t hold an MLIS who are equally engaged and passionate. They should not be barred from participation.
  • That people weren’t really sure what is currently being done in the larger librar* community around these issues.

Anyway, I plan to continue participating, because I do feel like I have something to add to discussions like this, and want to be able to make a positive impact on my community with my skills.

Core Values of my provincial library association

  • Access and Inclusion
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Diversity
  • Literacy and Lifelong Learning
  • Accountability

More here: https://bclaconnect.ca/about/bcla-values-statement/

Raganathan’s 5 Laws of Library Science

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his / her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

And the variants: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_laws_of_library_science#Variants

Relevant Resources:

There are more that I wasn’t able to track down.

( many thanks to Kevin, Tami and Phil for organizing the meeting, and Myron for answering some think-y tweets of mine)

Reflecting on library education

A while back someone asked about how I felt about library school since it has been a few years (four and a half) since I graduated from Western’s FIMS MLIS program.

I had to take a bit to think about it since now it has been long enough that my other library education also has become quite embedded in my mind as well.

So I split my thoughts into three parts: the benefits over time of the library technician diploma, the benefits over time of the MLIS, and in general why library education is valuable.

1. Library Technician Diploma

I loved my time at Langara and cannot speak highly enough of their Library Technician program. What you get there is a great grounding in the practical skills required for library work, as well as a solid foundation in library theory. Like: what are libraries, the different types, the types of work done, and also why library work is valuable and how it contributes to the various communities served. As well, the very practical cataloguing skills and theory I gained (and have forgotten most of) has helped me countlessly over the years.

2. Masters of Library and Information Science

For me going completing my MLIS was sort of inevitable, and I knew exactly what school I wanted to attend long before I applied. I fell in love with Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies during my undergrad when visiting the school while a friend attended. The friendly, enthusiastic students and future-facing curriculum were what I wanted in a school.

As well, I was employed full-time at a library and had my library technician background. Therefore, the option of taking an intensive 12-month program was the best option for me. I also knew that (public) libraries were the right career path for me and that at its heart an MLIS program is a vocational school, and libraries are my passion.

So, the courses and their value. I’m not going to go back and look up every course since a reflection 4 years out should really be about what can easily be recalled.

Plan, practice, assess and evaluate. That’s what a lot of the courses boiled down to, they looked at different aspects of library work and function in different levels of detail but that is what is left once the details fade away. Living this practice of planning, acting, and assessing for the duration of the program has really helped in the long term. As well, we received the foundations for doing strategic and big picture sort of work – looking at why we do the things we do, and if it can be done better, and how to plan to go about making changes.

Stand-out courses for me were program planning and evaluation ones like the courses on web design and usability testing, outcomes assessment, and library management. I still have strong memories of the management course, it was tough but really valuable. And I hope to always remember by Reader’s Advisory class with fondness.

The more foundational courses on cataloguing and reference work were not as useful to me due to previous experience, but additional practice and reflection is always useful.

The other key part of library school, for me, was truly living and breathing library theory and practice for a year. I participated in committees and groups, spent lunches and evenings talking shop with classmates, worked in the (fantastic) Graduate Resource Centre, and in my final two semesters steered a committee that planned and ran a student conference. I always say that you get out what you put into school, and I put it all in, and have benefited from it.

Despite leaving exhausted (and burned out), it was an incredible and valuable experience.

3. Library Education generally 

And I haven’t stopped learning since then. Conferences, courses, webinars, pop-labs, blogs, social media, committees, conversations with co-workers and friends, they all have allowed me to keep building my skills, have challenged me to think differently, and to grow.

I have met and worked with many incredible library workers who don’t have any formal library training, and that does not make me respect them or their work any less. I do feel that my library education has served me well and has made it easier for me to make an impact in my work. It has also made the decisions I’ve made easier, and allowed to draw on a background of research and theory to make them.

As I have continued to develop in my work I appreciate my education more and more which is neat. Thank you Western & Langara!

Patience

After working in training for nearly eight years – I tend to hear a lot of “you are so patient” or “how are you so patient?” A bit strange to me, because patience with technology feels natural to me at this point, but I understand that it isn’t the same for everyone.

I’ve been thinking a bit lately (as I often do) about why dealing with technology seems easier for some and not for others. And I am starting to think that working with technology helps, even if it hurts a bit at first. I think the below points are key concepts in building the mental models of adaptability and patience around technology.

It is okay to fail.

There is nothing quite like completing what you think are all of the steps correctly, and having the software or hardware not work. Luckily (most of the time) you haven’t broken anything, and can easily try again.

There is a lot of iteration in working with technology. Try once, adjust, try again. This is like the scientific method you learned in school, control (as many as possible) variables, change one, experiment, re-test.

You fail a lot when working with new tech, and sometimes even with something you are familiar with. Troubleshooting, and improving, is what you spend most of your time doing.

The reward for trying again is perhaps success. There is no reward for stopping at failure.

You don’t always have control over change.

Anyone who has worked with community members accessing their webmail after Yahoo! or Hotmail has made a style change, people feel lost and confused when change to the familiar occurs. And, with many technology changes, we, the users, don’t get to control when or how a change occurs.

If you know that change will happen, you can let yourself learn more naturally – watch trends – “what do website menus usually look like?” “what are common compose menus?” “how might that machine tell me that it is broken?”

Also – change is unavoidable, so rolling with it is less stressful than the alternative.

Coping with frustration quickly helps with productivity.

Whether it is taking a few deep breaths before dealing with a broken widget, or stepping away from a software snafu for a time, you need to take breaks from frustrations. Not indefinitely, abandoning the project, but for a set period of time.

The more frustrated, or angry you are, the less likely you will be able to spot the error that has occurred, and the less likely you are able to be think the problem through.

Learn what ways best work for you when you are frustrated, will help you move forward with technology tasks.

Practice helps beyond the initial task.

The more familiar and practised you get with dealing with webmail – that can also help with desktop mail clients. And the more you troubleshoot excel, the more you will feel comfortable troubleshooting Word problems – as you start to identify what sources are most effective. And the same patience you use when learning your phone / computer is the same that you can apply when approaching a different machine.

 

These tips might also help with issues outside of the technology realm. What works for you?

Some Resources:

An Open Thank You Letter to a Computer Teacher

Dear Mr. Zimmer;

macplusYou won’t remember me, but about 22 years ago you taught me about computers and programming. This was in a small, windowless room in a small elementary school in Surrey.

During my time as your student we used HyperCard to tell stories and create puzzles, and Logo to create designs and animations. I remember being challenged, sometimes frustrated, and ultimately so happy when I was able to make something work.

logo_turtle

I remember your kindness, enthusiasm, and dedication. Thinking back, I am amazed and appreciative of the effort it must have taken to get 20 plus 8 – 12 year olds using computers. Knowing that most of us would never seek computers as a living, you still persevered, and encouraged us to go further.

And when I speak to other people my age, I realise that having an early computer education as I did is pretty rare, which makes me appreciate what you did even more.

Now, two decades later, not as a teacher, but as a librarian, I am helping in my own small way to show young people the wonder of programming.

Through library programs, kits, and other activities, I am (and many others) working to help young people challenge the way they think, to solve problems, and maybe, just maybe, discover a love of technology and programming.

When I think about when my love of computers and problem-solving, I am able to think back to those days in your class, and I am grateful.

Thank you,

Sarah

PS: Recently, I’ve also been able to set up some activities using Python with the logo Turtle.

Experiments in modern note-taking

One of my first tasks upon taking my taking my current position was to keep less paper. Over the last 2 and a bit years, I have managed to rein in my papers to a drawer and a bit. But I do create a lot of temporary paper. Notes, to-do lists, documents for meetings, etc. They get recycled but I still would like to cut down on the waste.

Every so often I attempt different paper-less methods of work. The one technology I try and avoid is laptops.  Laptops are great for certain tasks, but they’re bulky, and you need space to use them. So my experiments mostly revolve around tablets and phones.

At conferences (like #CILDC) I have been using a bluetooth keyboard along with a tablet. This time, due to speed issues, I primarily used the keyboard with my phone. Which was a hilarious feeling -phone tucked away, just tying on a tiny keyboard. Writing into nothing. It works well but there are a couple of drawbacks:

  • Spelling – either auto-correct doesn’t work at all and no spelling checks occur, or
  • Jumping around – something with how the keyboard works with apps sometimes causes the input to jump around, which is incredibly frustrating.

But, that is what I have been most successful with so far.

For keeping the words in one place I tend to use:

  1. Google Docs (personal docs, and those that don’t need sharing)
  2. WordPress (blogs)
  3. Citrix (work related documents)

There are other options; an app that I have just started testing with moderate success is Google Handwriting Input.

handwrite

This app allows you with stylus or finger to write text and converts it very well into text. It was very successful in converting my scrawl, including discerning capitals from lower case.

What I did have an issue with was device speed. My tablet, which has the screen size suited to writing with a stylus, is not fast enough to convert the writing. This lag make it very difficult to take notes. It is quick to work with on my phone, but the screen size isn’t big enough for a fast scrawl.

It is promising, taking notes just like you would on paper, but without having to transcribe them later.

If anyone has any suggestions for paperless working – I’d love to hear it.

#CILDC Day 2

Opening Keynote: Creating a New Nostalgia

2015-04-28 09.20.28

Talk given by David S. Ferriero, AOTUS, and John Palfrey, author, on the future. “Do we still need libraries?” Yes! Even though there are more ways to get information and knowledge we need them more than ever. John is not a librarian, but has worked in libraries. The argument in BiblioTECH, the book, is aimed at regular citizens. There is a sense for some people that the purpose that libraries once served is no longer necessary, but that is not true. Dealing with format proliferation but no additional resources. With more investment, we can increase relevance. Don’t rely on the nostalgia factor going forward, but create new experiences, especially for young people. Combine the physical and the digital. Take the time to ask patrons what they need, ask hard questions. Relate back to yesterday’s talk ‘human-centered design’. The digital divide s now also about a digital literacy gap. Very key. There is a need for social space, quiet space – where information is consumed and content is created. Speak to your funder’s needs, like job creation. Co-creation space, social, study, create all together. Kids creating knowledge. Recommend going the way of an education centres not community centres. Plug for DPLA. How do you sell ‘delight’ to funders? Plug for Knight Foundation. People remember being delighted, helping create nostalgia. Libraries as open, neutral space, and can serve as a keystone of democracy. School libraries and public libraries don’t have a history of collaboration. Need to wok together to offer digital literacy training to teachers. There is a need for copyright and contract law reform. There is a need for professional development to build the skills needed. The people with the skills exist, but might be 1 in 100 in the profession. But have all libraries working together, in order to make a huge impact.

Introduction to Customer Development

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M. J. D’Elia, University of Guelph spoke about customer development frameworks.  There is a lot of jargon in this topic. Examples “customer” and “development”. A four step framework, from idea to execution. The process for testing assumptions, and validating your learning with facts. Speak with customers throughout the entire process. Start by speaking with people. It is about applying entrepreneurial thinking.

Book Rec: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Identify when you are solving a customer need, don’t build things that patrons don’t want. This will help us acquire new customers, as well as help with scaling the resources needed to expand/contract. Use this when you are building something new. “Fall in love with solving a problem, not with a solution.” Challenge assumptions, and when you want and need feedback from the community.

His example is Guelph’s Virtual Learning Commons (working name). There is a need, and need to get real feedback to ensure success.

Framework:

  • Customer Discovery- Find a product that solves that solves a problem for an identified group of users (problem-solution fit). Talking to people, finding out what the current work-arounds are: testing assumptions, do interviews, build prototypes. Key term: Minimum Viable Product – High or Low Fidelity. This product is aimed at early adopters. This is a difference from current practice. Be hungry for feedback and willing to accept change.
  • Customer Validation: identify the ‘market’.  Is there a big enough need for this? Have a target market, a project plan, and a business plan. How will you grow a user base?
  • Company Creation: Find the audience and use, and start expanding the service. This is the ‘sales’ stage. Also where you devote more resources to this successful product.
  • Company Building: This is the step where you have the successful business – create processes and expansion, and when the product is mature.

There is also the ‘Pivot’ – this is when the customer base doesn’t like the product. What you do when the solution doesn’t work. You have to be able to recognize that sometimes assumptions are wrong and we need to change strategy.

BiblioCommons working Lunch

Full disclosure I love, love, love BiblioCommons and will be talking briefly at this lunch. Their product is awesome, and they constantly improve. Plus their staff are friendly, patient and amazing.

What’s new from Erica Reynolds (who is wonderful):

  • working on the user interface this year
  • shared code and shared investments
  • BiblioCMS is a WordPress based website structure [Chicago/Calgary] a card-based system.
  • VPL uses the events module! Includes real facets
  • One-book-one-community platform (serialized reading adventure) see Chicago. Uses BiblioDigital
  • Summer Sites and Online Badging. Mozilla Open Badge Compliant, and is mobile-responsive. Can feature badges on profile. Looking to expand Summer sites to use year-round programs, such as read local (Johnson County). Looking for beta-sites.
  • New in the Core: Profiles (which are fun and amazing), List Liking, Feature in Catalogue (easy and also fun), featuring staff content, better display of series and awards, new list types, FRBR, permalinks for community activity – like sharing reviews or videos. Improvements to reporting bad stuff.
  • Plug for the Partner Portal (very useful)
  • Coming soon: responsive design (2-column), and list improvements (faceting, sorting, more items, featured image), While you wait. Changes to feature in catalogue. Real read-a-like lists.
  • Lists can help drive up popularity of older titles. (Deliah’s lists, JoCo)

St. Joseph County Public Library spoke about launching BiblioCommons.

Social Media & Community Engagement

All about the tips.

See more: #CILSM #CILDC

  • Use Meetup to reach out about programs. Very useful.
  • Pay for ads
  • Know who the central nodes are in the community and foster connections with them.
  • Post comments on more popular pages
  • Cross-posting Instagram to Facebook leads to more hits

Building Community Partnerships

2015-04-28 14.50.06Melissa from Chesapeake Public Library, head of Reference. Works with workforce development. Job help at your library, resume assistance and creation, job searching, and job applications. Also, computer classes, notary services, and proctoring services. Use video conference equipment, and use to help with partners. Some classes aren’t great for staff to offer, but use partners instead. Have mock-interviews for teens, worked with a youth centre to offer these. Leverage Starbucks who need to do community service. Partner with Community College to offer a certificate program at the library. Be where the people are. Library supplies the space for the partners, the partners do classes. Knoow your capabilities, create a “Memorandum of Understanding” it is important. Share your experiences and say “Thank You”. And you will get more opportunities from this.

Nancy, from Baldwinsville, Outreach librarian. She reaches out to the community to engage. Slightly smaller than our library. All librarians have to do outreach abilities. Near everything. Have a history of outreach. Mix PR with outreach.  They count going to care homes as outreach, and have rotating collections. Find groups to donate titles to. And these organizations can then create new opportunities for the library. Help out Friends Group with Social Media. Takes time to build an audience. Have an audiobook club for dementia patients. Get booklists  from local movers and shakers.

Makerspace: Community, Partners & Impact

2015-04-28 16.01.21Sue Considine, Executive Director, Fayetteville Free Library.  Building on the themes of making, and assessment. She also brought handouts! Fablab, makerspace, and digital creation lab. It is about building community not the technology. Started with maker open houses. Have tools to capture conversations, and a volunteer applications (great idea!). These volunteers have replaced their program budget, and ensuring relevant topics. Share skills: 1-on-1 appointments, monthly clubs, weekly clubs, and more. This a community-centred approach to making. Learning from one another. Put out a call for volunteers, and then got supplies and teachers that way. They collect stats and stories. Sewing club also makes things for local charities. Hold an interest meeting first. Great approaches to reporting. Before and after Geek Girl camp asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” There was an impact. Have a certification programs for all tools. Collect video stories of big successes. Found that they were helping local businesses, and helping kids learn skills. Have no departments, just have 4 topical meetings per month for all staff. Programs, collections, outreach, etc. Director then looks at proposals that are created and then approved. They only charge for materials for 3D printers. They are about accessibility, free and open access. Libraries are about discovery and initial inspiration.

See more: www.fflib.org

2015-04-28 16.22.45

 

#CILDC Day 1

Happy 30th anniversary Computers in Libraries!  You are (slightly)  older than I am!

From the intro two nice quotes

  • “Technology to help communities”
  • ” Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. ”  –  Stephen Hawking

Opening Keynote: Continues Innovation and Transformation

Keynote cil2015Steve Denning was the speaker,  who has experience with knowledge management and is a writer on leadership and Storytelling.  Also writes for Forbes.

To delight your user base,  have managers who enable their staff. But,  there is a need to be managers of the Creative Economy.  Our current technologies are hugely disruptive and are impacting various industries hugely. “the computer age is about the change in mindset brought by computerization.”

New management styles are emerging,  now we have managers as coaches,  with self-organzing teams,  where they are enabling their teams and encouraging  continuous improvement.  Now we are focused on users,  with a horizontal ideology which is a all about adding value to the user experience,  and make sure everyone in the organization can see how they add value to the user.

Principles of New Management of the Creative Economy

  1. Delight customers,  move to outcomes (not outputes)
  2. Role,  managers as enablers
  3. Coordination of work is now iterative,  sprints,  short cycles. Be Agile.
  4. From value to values, be about continuous improvement and transparency.
  5. Interactive communication,  have horizontal conversations.

This system fits together and is self-reinforcing. Need to move to this system completely to be successful. This change is being driven by economic and expectations of the users. This paradigm shift is not going to be easy for many organizations.

Writing for the Modern Web

David Lee King on improving your website writing. 2015-04-27 10.58.49

People: write for your users,  look at community and Web analytics to know who your audience and write for them.  Also realize that you have 8 seconds to hook them.

Product: Writing is your product,  and you are also writing about your product.  So it is important.

Process: Titles should be 5-6 words,  and have them filled with keywords. Use the inverted triangle of writing.  Most important details at the top (think sports articles). Use lists,  keep things short. Including sentences.  Heading are also useful.  Think scanning. Only think about 1 or 2 ideas per page. Edit away the “blah blah blah” such as welcome paragraphs and transitions. Get to the point. Sentence fragments are great! Don’t put essential items in a sidebar,  because responsive design will drop that content to the bottom of the screen.

Tool: www.hemmingwayapp.com

Don’t use non-browser pages.  Such as PDFs,  Word docs,  Excel docs. If it is one the website,  use HTML.

Write conversationally. Read it out loud to yourself as a test. Use “i”  and “we” and use second person. Think like social media.  And use active voice. And use (relevant)  pictures. It is important to use keywords,  and hash tags when relevant. Check for errors! Share and re-use your content.

Where to start?  Do a content audit. Look into consolidating pages,  look for duplication,  and get rid of it. For databases tell people what they are going to get- what is in it for them. Use analytics to show what pages aren’t  working.

Web Redesign for better UX

2015-04-27 12.02.23

With Elaine Meyer of MCLS. Need: way finding,  help,  and marketing/communications. Treat your website like a beach,  same care and thought and revision. [find and insert link to slides].

She interviewed 5 libraries about website redesign. For user research,  look at content (what is important),  and look at other libraries,  interview patrons,  and test before launch. Use search terms to help know what your users are looking for or what they think you are offering.

Building Ebook Platofrms: By and For Libraries

Tool/Tip: www.imls.gov

IMLS has been purchasing ebooks,  most are using Overdrive. Concerned about Overdrive purchase. “AWE Stations” for young children.  Funds are also used to train staff.

Douglas County Libraries

4 years since launch,  and have seen an impact.  3 things drove them to create their own platform,  content,  pricing,  and lack of platform competition. Also wanted integration. First steps were to go after small,  mid-list,  and self-published material. 45 publishers and 45,000 titles through their platform.  Using open source software. This then was scaled to the state-wide project,  funded by the IMLS grant. Partnered with Odilo and VuFind,  hosted in the cloud,  and own their own Adobe Content Server. Launched in 2014. Called E-Voke.

3 Things to keep in mind; you  need people,  technology,  and processes (project planning).

It is very expensive,  don’t go alone!  Consortia are the way to go. Would need at least one person who can negotiate with publishers. And the time commitment on-going is significant. They get to keep all their patron data.  Tip,  outsource the development needs- otherwise,  you you become a software developer.

Resource: Aspen Report

Suggestions: who owns content (Library or consortia)?  Partnerships are very important.  You need to balance ownership and access.  Patrons have expecting of content,  which is important. Establish success metrics. Go beyond circulation, customer feedback,  industry impact. For MARC records,  they developed a program to create the records.

Califa enki platform

20150427_141550

Based off of Douglas County,  have people working on it 6-10 who have other jobs as well. Launched in beta in 2013. Shared collection,  hold ratio of 4:1, epub format of choice. Have teired pricing. Still working on getting the bonus content,  such as book covers.  Content includes self-published materials.

Resource: ebooks are forever 

Goals: national ordering platform,  and ILL

Douglas County has workshops “Library as Publisher”  to create good ebooks.

E-voke platform can handle ebooks, audio,  video,  music.

The Ebook Effect: Three Community Experiences

2015-04-27 15.29.33

Liz Philippi, School Librarian.  School Library Media Specialist. Capstone books,  MyON  approached them about a free pilot for ebooks for kids. Ask the kids to read 5 books. Focused on the Lexie levels,  tracked number of books read,  and minutes spent reading.  Easy to work with,  a based. Launched with the Summer Program,  imported student data (login info),  and sent home flyers,  and had contact info.  Shared also with Public Library systems.  Successful uptake,  and worked with the nor reps,  and advertised one-to-one as well. Some kids read 500 hours over the summer.  Really loved the data, which helped make the argument to keep n the program. 

Monica Babaian,  Elementary Librarian,  pilot school.  Low reading level school. They wanted to motivate kids to read.  She wrote a post on her experience.  Offered orientation during Library visits,  trained teachers as well.  Guided kids through interest inventory and reading level assessment. Included recommended reads,  creating own lists,  reading journals,  and review and rate books,  also there are book quizzes. Teachers can also add in lessons. 

Robert Cagna from West Virginia University. His slides are at slideshare.net/cagna He discussed how a classic book has thrived as an ebook,  as well as possible impacts of the format.

New Catalogues: From Scratch &  Social

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Amy &  Amy,  Hennepin County Library, Senior It specialist and Systems Services spoke about the catalogue that they created.  Used to developing their own content,  their discovery layer is responsive and accessible.  Launched in October 2014. Focus of presentation is on search. Their search includes ISBN, Call Number, and barcode.  It is an iterative process. They do not use the label “catalog”.  They prompt to keep search limits.  Work with relevancy and indexing. Includes popularity books- number of copies and holds on a title.  People expect forms a work to be together.  Cross-references are good. Colour-coded formats with no covers. Most people do not go past results page.  So,  they added a hover-pop-up. Constantly working to improve labelling and removing jargon. Call numbers only show up in-house. You can se on results page what you have checked out and on-hold. Have a customer support plan I place effort launch. 

See: https://hclib.org 

 Abby,  launching their OPAC product . They have the metadata and get to use it. This product is for tiny libraries (churches,  law firms,  etc.).  $10 a year.  Needed a way to track circulation,  hard for patrons to search. They are building an OPAC layer.  Will be available summer 2015. Will not have a patron database. Will be mobile friendly and FRBR-ized. And will have stable URLs. IIt will be simple and familiar,  and use the existing bonuses that Librarything already has. The users will stay within their catalogue.

Delightful Data

This shouldn’t be surprising, but I love data. I love being able to look at data and see what it tells me about libraries, collections and more.

The last three months (well six) I have been surrounded by wonderful projects where I get to turn data into information that is useful for my library. Like using provincial and national data to answer questions about library ebooks and website usage.

Even today I was able to massage some results into lovely charts. There is nothing quite like taking a pile of cells in Excel and turning them into information that can be used to tell a story.

A story like the West Vancouver Memorial Library’s 2015 Onsite & Website Visitor Survey. We were able to get a snapshot of library user needs and usage.

But, I understand that dealing with data is not everyone’s cup of tea.

An actual teacup

Tips for Dealing with Surveys and Data

  1. Plan ahead for content: what do you want to learn? All questions should lead to this goal.
  2. Plan ahead for time needed: for the hours to write, revise, offer, analyse, report
  3. Test your survey: get someone not you to take the survey and
  4. Set goals for responses: but you will likely be surprised (in either direction)
  5. Analyse thoughtfully: Most times you will need an average or a simple “% of [population] said they found the [service] valuable”
  6. Charts are useful: they can distill a lot of information into a simple visual representation.
  7. Don’t forget that it is only a snapshot, a moment in time.

Some Helpful Resources:

 

Timelines go awry

this is a picture of a garden, projects like gardens need monitoring and maintenance at all stages of growthSomething that has been a frustrating learning experience for me is that projects almost always go long.

Now, I have been fairly lucky in that I am able to get more than a few projects done early, and almost all done on time. But some projects go long.

Way long.

Sometimes it is about completing priorities, others about partners with competing priorities. Delays are almost always unforeseen.

 

My boss is a project management expert, and super amazing. She has a couple of tricks to help ensure adherence to timelines.

1) Know when the project needs to be complete by and then break it down into microtasks with due dates working backwards. This means you know exactly when to start. The tick is to also set times for when you need to check in with others, like co-workers or vendors.

2) Before you start, think about what could impact the successful completion of the project. This could be not getting buy-in from stakeholders, or supplies not arriving on time. If you think about what could impact the project, you can also think about what you are able to do to minimize those risks.

But even then, disruptions can occur. If there is a hard deadline, then make sure you give yourself some cushion. Someone (or yourself) may become ill, or another project might come up that needs to be completed first.

My trick so far has been to pin up my yearly workplan beside my computer and check off objectives as they are completed. I also am learning that if I take on additional projects I need to communicate how they will impact my current projects.

If you can take a project management course, and also never forget to look ahead when planning.

Six Years of Instruction

About six years ago through a mix of luck and being willing to say ‘yes’ when opportunity appeared I taught my first computer class at my library. It was Internet Basics  – aimed at people with some basic mousing and keyboard skills, but no knowledge of the internet.

Since then I have offered classes on ‘Advanced Internet Use’, Microsoft Word, Excel, library databases, ebooks (ebooks and more ebooks), social media, privacy, and more.

Technology classes offered by public libraries are weird beasts. Very rarely are our classes about ‘library use’ or ‘library website use’ (although I have done those as well), but more about helping people develop the skills to participate in the digital world. This can involve buying and selling, job hunting, creating resumes, creating a digital presence, and searching effectively.

I like to call the skillset of ‘participating in the online realm’ Digital Literacy. This is a contentious term, some like to think digital literacy is just research based skills, others, coding skills. In my organization we also have used ‘Digital Life Skills’ as an umbrella term.

But, whatever we call it, the goal is to help our community members access content, and participate in the world. And the amount of time, and expertise that many public libraries are able offer suits the needs of our community members.

When I started teaching at my library I had zero instruction experience and very little public speaking experience. I had worked at a circulation desk at a different system for two years previous and had held a couple of customer service jobs beforehand.

So going into a session all I had was a brief orientation on the space and a set of outlines and handouts.

sometimes you feel like you might be straying from the path.

Then it was me, and twelve eager learners.

With very little it is possible to do a lot! You will make mistakes, there will be questions that you don’t know how to answer, but with patience and a loud voice you will be able to do it!

Instruction became of of my favourite activities, and something that I discovered that I am skilled at. Which I, as a shy teen, never would have guessed about myself. Instruction has allowed me to connect with my community, help fellow staff members, and develop a love of public speaking.

So, think about what opportunities that you might take advantage of, even if you don’t necessarily have any experience in them. You never know what you might discover.