Blog Recommendation: Letters to a Young Librarian

As I’ve mentioned before, part of my job is keeping up to date. Which involves a lot of technology blogs, but I also like to keep up to date on blogs around working in libraries, project management, change management, and sometimes managing libraries (I have dreams).

This is a quick hit, but you should be reading Letters to a Young Librarian. It is an absolutely fantastic blog about working as a new librarian. There are lots of fantastic topics covered that are funny and full of good advice. The tone of the articles are welcoming and the guest posters are covering a lot of great topics right now.

Add this blog to your professional reading list.

App Recommendation: Aviate

I love my Android phone. It is my second smartphone and I love the app selection, the add-ons, widgets, and having options to make it look the way I want it to.

A couple of days ago I started hearing about an android launcher by Yahoo!

Which, I hesitated over because, Yahoo!. But the temptation was strong and I installed it.

It was a good choice. The 3(.5) screens and the way that you interact with them is intuitive, interesting, and almost fun.It completely replaces your android home screen.

The centre “Home Screen” keeps you base screen, a(n unobscured) picture you choose, and if you swipe up you get to text or call your favourite contacts.

To the right you get to set-up app bundles (you can re-arrange the order, as well as adding and removing apps) for easy access. Topics include entertainment, productivity, social, news, games, sports…. While you can’t name the topic folders, they are flexible enough to show you all of the apps you want whenever you need them. To the right of that you get all of your apps in A-Z order (yay!).

To the left, is the learning screen you get your widgets here, news, weather, and “today” this uses technology magic to you when you are at home, at work, on the move, in an area with restaurants etc. and then serves you information and apps appropriate to your task and location. And to the left are settings and help.

It is a lot of fun, and a very useful way of organizing your phone.

★★★★★

(Try it!)

 

Dealing with Stress

Despite being tagged as one of the least stressful jobs, working in a library is not without stress. Often, long hours in customer service, worries about budgets, project management, people management, programs, collections, co-workers…. and then there are the stressors of our non-working lives.

We all have days where we feel worn down, stretched too far, and wondering what we are doing.

What can we do to be less stressed?

There are lots of tips about stress management available online, but I recommend “creative activities”. Carving, painting, pottery, knitting, baking, gardening, wood working, car restoration, creative writing, scrap-booking…

Why?

  1. Repetitive tasks are relaxing (and can act as anti-depressants)
  2. Activities where you complete a project are really great when you work in an area where you don’t always get a chance to see your finished product, or where your finished product isn’t something you can touch.

Anyway, try something new, something that where you create and become less stressed!

Share and Share Alike

One of the things I love about libraries and library workers is the sharing culture. We collect and curate content in order to share it with our communities. We share books between libraries, share our resources with people living outside of our communities when we can, and we’re really good at sharing our expertise and opinions.

Sometimes we are not so good at sharing resources we create for the public.

Luckily, the Alberta Library and the BC Libraries Coop are here to help us share.

This is a forum for sharing handouts, class outlines, videos, powerpoints, and other resources created by library staff for training and programs.

The potential of this resource  is great! You should use it. If you don’t train you should share it with someone who does.

I’m a little biased. I’ve uploaded as many outlines and handouts as I have been able to update, and I really want to mine this resource for new programming ideas.

It isn’t hard to add content, and it is fun! The interface is clean, and searching is easy.

Add to the Toolshed! We need your expertise.

Not Knowing the Answer

I’m going to try and get back into the blogging habit, since I find it a helpful exercise, and reflection is an important part of my work that I tend to ignore. (More on that at another time.)

Sometimes not only is there no easy answer, there is no answer at all.

And that is scary.

I had the opportunity to take a one-day course on Leading Change. It has already had a significant impact on the way that I think about my project work, and my ongoing responsibilities.

There were a lot of neat tools one was: Project Management is the thing (hardware software, activity), change management is the people. And the people part is just as important as the project itself.Change is hard. Here is a perplexed looking schnauzer to make it seem a bit easier.

Also, resistance to change is normal. Have a plan that involves upfront communications (and feedback if possible), sponsorship of your project (think champions of your change), and have those champions model the change and reinforce the change.

The scary part of the day came near the end, when we were reviewing a list of questions and statements that might come up in response to a change.

Some were easy to address “There wasn’t a problem with how we did it before, why are we changing things?” and “There are more pressing problems for us to address right now”, I could explain why we were making the change or what processes were in place.

The second page of questions included:

“I am concerned about my ability to learn the new skills required for this change to be successful”

and

“This is going to require me to alter some of the belief I hold in how business should be conducted”

and

“This change will require me to learn a lot of new information or viewing existing information differently.”

And I found myself checking the “Truth” box next to those questions and the action plan box sat empty.

These are big questions. These are things that come up when you are changing people’s perceptions in how they do their jobs- why they do their jobs. It isn’t always verbalized, but if you ask yourself “What is really being said?” This might be what you are hearing.

And (as an added issue) in the library world, often a good part of our personal identity is tied up in our work. “I am a library technician” or “I am a librarian” and “that means that I do ___”. Find books for people, act as a gatekeeper, answer reference questions…. To some people it means  that they are an expert in information.

Acting as an agent of change (my unofficial job title) around digital initiatives means that I am almost constantly causing people to doubt their skills and their ability to appropriately meet the needs of the public. When I need people to learn new skills, they can feel like they are no longer experts in their jobs. They can (and do) feel like I am changing what it means to work in a library. And that is understandably scary for them.

I don’t know that there is a fix for this. There is no easy answer to these questions, that is for sure.

But, even if I don’t have any answers, I can commit to taking time with staff and supervisors who are afraid of what the impact of changes are having on their perception of their jobs, and their identity, and work with them to adapt, and find the places where things are still going to stay the same.

How do you deal with someone who is worried about the future of their job? Their profession?

I’d like to see your lists

 A version of this post is posted at the fantastic What are you reading? blog by the BCLA Reader’s Advisory Interest Group.

Many libraries in British Columbia now are using Bibliocommons – a fantastic catalogue overlay that allows staff and patrons to leave ratings, reviews and make lists of content.

If your library uses Bibliocommons and you are able to add custom widgets to your website (or have the ear of someone who can) using the following tools can add interactivity to your website, blog or something to offer partners.

First, go to: http:// [libraryname] .bibliocommons.com/info/integration/

You will then find a list of different widgets that are currently available to use.

My current favourite is the user list carousel. You can choose any list to feature.

How to create and embed a carousel:

1) Copy your javascript snippet into notepad from:
http:// [libraryname] .bibliocommons.com/info/integration/ *

2) Locate the Bibliocommons User List Carosuel iframe code and paste above your javascript snippet. **

3) Create or locate the list you want to feature.

Example: http://westvanlibrary.bibliocommons.com./list/show/142960292_sarahfelkar/229483668_great_fantasy_novels_with_female_protagonists

and locate the number that occurs before the list name. Paste that number into the code. ***

4) On the webpage that you would like to place the carousel go to editing mode and:

  • In Drupal: click on “Disable rich-text” below the WYSIWG editor and then paste in the code chunk.

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  • With WordPress.org sites, you need to install the iFrame plugin for the list to appear. But you do not need the Javascript snippet.
  • With WordPress.com (free) site, you are unfortunately out of luck (for the moment).

5) Save and publish!

Some ideas on what to use:

  • Staff Picks
  • List created for an event or holiday
  • To share with a partner organization
    • Like books on the topic of a current exhibit
    • Best gardening books for the local garden club

I’d love to see your carousels in action! Link to your examples in the comments.

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The Forest and the Trees

Lots of people talk about January being a depressing month. As someone who was born in January, I try not to take that route.

Four days ago marked my first year on the job. I have had a year chock full of learning. I’ve had to learn how to: write good proposals, be patient, co-ordinate projects, work on a adult services desk (and a youth services desk), work with iTunes profiles, run a staff training program, and be patient (yes, I mentioned that twice). All are skills that I’ll have to continue to hone over years to come. There have been fantastic weeks, and weeks where there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

Like many library staffers, I spend some time on social media (if by some, I mean a lot). Twitter, blog posts, mailing lists, and some occasional forays onto the #libraryproblems Tumblr. It is very easy to get caught up in the gripes and stresses around us.

I would never claim that the profession doesn’t have flaws. That there aren’t a lot of hinky things occurring in Federal libraries. That funding is always perilous, and the tug-of-war between moving forward and keeping hold of our traditional services isn’t real.

But – and this isn’t said enough – people who get to work in libraries are working in some of the best places in the world. Libraries of all types and locations are fantastic, even with the stresses they bring.

Every day we get to support our communities by providing them with resources, helping them make connections, and offering programming that informs, sparks creativity, and entertains. We get to brighten someone’s day with a conversation and a good book, we get to investigate tough questions, and help people learn new skills. And so much more.

I know how lucky I am to be working in a public library, that my job is fantastic, and that there isn’t anything better for me out there.

Do you?

10 Favourite Media of 2013

There are a lot of lists about best books floating around, but as a technology librarian (and near-millennial) – I’m not limiting my stories to one format. Here are my top ten stories of this year.flower!

1. Boardwalk Empire

My new obsession. I want to read all of the books about prohibition and the suffrage movement. HBO is known for high production values, incredible casts, and great writing, and Boardwalk Empire doesn’t disappoint. If you love history, anti-heroes, and excellent costuming, try this show!

2. Welcome to Night Vale

If you like podcasts, good story-telling, and quasi-horror stories, you likely already know about Welcome to Night Vale, the fictional community radio show with a surreal twist. There are more than 40 30 minute episodes, all available for free (but you can support them if you enjoy the podcast!)

3. SyFy’s Television Line-up

Warehouse 13, Haven, and Eureka

These shows are all great for fans of fantasy and science fiction. All too often over the past few years, science fiction and fantasy shows have been dark and depressing. But not these shows, fun even when serious, they are great fun. Borrow them from the library!

4. Hockey, A People’s History

I actually read this in over the holidays last year, but it is a fantastic book. Huge in size (a bit of a coffee table tome), there are so many little archival details and wonderful anecdotes that you will end up reading every page, and learning about hockey’s place in our culture.

5. Secret Lives of Sports Fans

Another sport book made my list! I have a fondness of sociology, psychology, and cultural studies, and this book uses these lenses and more to explore the sports fan. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of the sports fan, and all are engaging.

6.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

A co-worker put this book into my hands and told me to read it. While this tactic doesn’t always work for me, but this time, I took the chance. Once I started readying I couldn’t stop. This is a coming of age tale of a college freshman who escapes into her rewarding fannish life to avoid the real-life difficulties of growing apart from family.

7. Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Intelligent Dragons during the Napolenonic War. This is the 8th book in the series which has spanned continents and explored the topics of equality, loyalty, and culture.

8. Matt Nathanson’s single “This Modern Love”

While this song was released last summer, this summer the music video for this upbeat song kept me smiling.

9. Elysium

I didn’t go to the movie theatre often this year, but I did get to see Elysium on the big screen. I am always looking for good science fiction, and Elysium is excellent science fiction. A vivid dystopic about reaching for the stars (or the”good live”), the fine details of this movie caught my attention. The world-building for this movie is fantastic. Watch it.

10.  Sleepy Hollow

Best new show on television. That is if you like well-rounded female characters who are self-assured, . Also, supernatural beasties, dudes that have been asleep for 200 years, and terrible, terrible mythology. Watch it for the great representation and Nicole Beharie.

Learn to Love Ladies Learning to Code

If you are in Canada and are interested in a well designed introduction to code, try Ladies Learning Code.

I recently took a Saturday to learn about Javascript. I had some experience, but really didn’t understand why things occurred the way they did. The description of the class from Ladies Learning Code was perfect for my needs.

Each class is one day, includes hands-on practice, and uses great examples and explanations. They promise (and deliver) a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.

The atmosphere was welcoming, the presenter was fantastic, and lunch was included!

An Endorsement

Kains Woods 2011Sharing resources is a key part of our work, and one of our greatest resources (if not our greatest resource) is our expertise. Whether it is your thousandth day or your first day, there is always something you can share with someone else.

I am in the midst of my first mentorship program through BCLA. The BCLA Mentorship program runs twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The partnerships run for 8 weeks, and you get to meet up with an awesome person!

As I understand it (and a quick internet search mostly confirms), mentoring isn’t a one time process, or something that you participate in only as a mentee or a mentor. In different places in your life you will need mentoring, and in other places you will be the mentor. Sometimes you might hold both roles at once.

For example, I am acting as a peer mentor for my current BCLA Mentee, and I get mentoring from my supervisor and other more experienced librarians in my organization. I gain knowledge and share knowledge as a part of my daily working life. It is a ton of fun.

To be a library assistant, library technician, or librarian is to be part of a vibrant and welcoming community that is made better with every person that contributes. There is nothing more enjoyable than discussing the profession with someone else who loves it as well.

So, if you have a chance, participate in a mentorship program!