“Have you read this book?”

This month marks five years since I started working at my library. Before that I worked for a couple of years at a large city library system, and spent some time years before then completing a work placement in a public library as well. Considering it all, I’ve now spent over 7 years in libraries.

And in all of these years (a small portion of my total years in public libraries hopefully), there is one question that I dread. “Have you read — ?” The blanks always refer to a bestseller, literary fiction, and/or bookclub choice.

The problem is – my current favourite author writes a series set during the Napoleonic war featuring an intelligent aerial corps made of of dragons.

No one has ever asked me what I think about those books.

To be fair, I have had one person ask me about what I thought about an author who writes gentle romances.

So, I rarely read bestsellers (only if they are non-literary fantasy), and I’ve never read a title that was in a bookclub kit at either of the library systems I’ve worked at.

As a result, I’ve had to come up with various responses to the dreaded question.

“Not yet, but I know that it is quite popular.”

“I haven’t had a chance to, but I know a lot of people who have enjoyed it.”

“No, but it is very well reviewed.”

I can then pull up some reviews as fast as possible , and give the patron some information about the title.

People love to discuss the books they love, and there is something very pleasing about finding a stranger who loves the same books that you do. While I may not read the same books that many library patrons who want to engage about books they are interested in, I do know how to utilize tools that can help them decide what they want to read next.

But I do hope for the day someone wants to ask me about Jim Butcher, Naomi Novik, or Seannan McGuire.

Care & Feeding of a DAL, Part 1: Living Space

the living quarters of the DAL

One of the best parts of becoming (from the grand height of 6 months in) is that I have my very own workstation.

The picture above (which I took on a Saturday when no one else was around)  is my very awesome space.

Key points that have lead to success:

  • Proximity to key co-workers
  • Mobile workstation
  • Ability to stay organized
  • Storage for projects

To the left (the window) is the office of the Web Coordinator, which is great because we spend a lot of time talking through the window. To the right (out of the picture) is the desk where the Public Service Assistants of the Community Computing Centre spend their off desk time. Another awesome thing, as we have a lot of programming overlap. Also not pictured, my supervisor’s office is right behind my desk, and down the hall from her is the Systems Librarian and the Communications Coordinator.

So I am surrounded by great co-workers (which isn’t hard since all my co-workers are great), but am very close to all the people I need to work with on a regular basis.

On my desk I have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse connected to a laptop. The laptop is key, it is fully integrated to our library’s network and is fully functional when I am connected to our network, and when I am mobile I am also able to connected remotely to all of the services that I need.

I have two bulletin boards where my love of lists is able to be put on display. I also use the board to keep track of projects, strategic initiatives and what programs are coming up. All my print paperwork and documents are in the set of drawers you can see.

Just to the left of the drawers are my boxes of hardware. Currently this includes a bunch of Kindles that are being re-purposed, cables for putting our petting zoos on display, and other sundry bits of hardware for projects in progress. Look to hear more about them later.

Overall this is a great place to be set up to get my work done!

Staff Training and Home Servers

There is a computer sitting next to my television, it doesn’t work, I’ve been working on it a couple of days at a time for the last few months. I came into possession of the almost complete set-up before I came back from school, it only needed a hard drive and an operating system. Unfortunately, the CD Drive isn’t recognized by my BIOS, and every time I try to boot from USB it stalls as soon as I select the operating system.  Right now it seems to be an issue with either a graphics driver, or maybe something else. I will tackle it again soon. It will work – and act as a home server that will help me learn new skills, as well as help me develop a deeper understanding of networks and the internet.

My non-start of a home server – and the knowledge that eventually I will get it is a bit like staff training.

Almost since I started my current position I have been working on a staff technology training project. We started with a solid foundation, created training plans, schedules, looking at all of the topics that were important to our staff, our library, and hopefully the community. We’ve had about five months of different training sessions at this point, dealing with all sorts of different topics, with more planned all the way to December.

A lot of it has been fun. Introducing staff to our new catalogue interface was great, and I had several ebook converts walked out of our ebook training sessions. The “Ah-ha” moments that have occurred have been amazing, and have been due to careful consideration of the key messages, and ensuring that there is active learning.

Consistency is key, and so is keeping people going! There are laughs when I tell learners that there is homework. But the activities that follow up training sessions are there to help make connections and gain skills. While I don’t force people to complete it, those that do all come back with great ideas, and a new eagerness to learn more.

There are still points of frustration. For me it looks like the issues are mostly due to motivation. Some people don’t see the point of learning about certain types of technology and, despite my attempts, you cannot force people to learn. But, you can continue to offer opportunities.

But if there is anything I have learned over the past few months is that when embarking on a staff training plan there are two important things to do:

  1. Keep up the momentum when you get it- let people take home practice gadgets, and encourage learners to come to you with follow-up questions, and comments.
  2. Have refreshers – offer multiple sessions, repeat them, etc.

Hopefully I will have more to share on this topic throughout 2013 – but if anyone is reading this and have specific questions, please let me know!

Favourite Apps: Pocket

pocket icon

There are lots of apps that I find fun or useful. Pocket is an app that is both.

Also available as a web app, you can save webpages, images, and videos for offline reading/viewing. Mark items as read and they disappear from view – but if there is an internet connection, you can retrieve archived items. Pocketed items can be tagged into categories for easy retrieval as well.

I find this app incredibly useful when reading long articles, or when I might want to do some bus reading. Articles can be viewed as they would be online, or as a PDF-like “readable”view.

An account is required, but you can export your pocketed information, and with very few clicks clear your data and delete your account.

★★★★★

Link to Pocket’s Site: http://getpocket.com/ | Android App | iTunes App

 

Keeping Up to Date

Part of being a library professional (not limited to someone who holds an MLIS), especially one employed in a position that deals heavily with technology, is keeping up-to-date on developments in the field.

In fact, for my position, keeping up to date is part of my job:

“Keeps abreast of developments in emerging technologies, digital library interface capabilities and enhancements and trends in user behaviour and the consumer technology marketplace…”

Staying up to date in a library might once have been possible with journals and conferences, but now with new developments and announcements, news is something you need to stay on top of every day. This allows you to know about new gadgets before patrons bring them in, know about changes to databases before they happen so that you can prepare, and know what to order when new products hit the market.

Before starting my Lib Tech Diploma I depended on a well organized list of links in my browser that I would visit, one at a time, hoping that I would catch interesting updates. Discovering RSS feed readers was a game changer. The ability to have website updates delivered to one place, was wonderful. I recommended using a feed reader to everyone that I thought might be interested (and even those who might not be). I am a huge fan of RSS.

Fast forward to 2013 and Google’s announcement that they are powering down Google Reader. I get it. It isn’t a product that provides revenue for them, and perhaps it isn’t as well used as their other free products. But those who do use it are news junkies, and news junkies can be technology writers. When you sunset a product loved by writers, you hear about it. The best commentary on the event is this Economist article Utilities: Google’s Google problem.

While upset about the news, I immediately started looking for an alternative service. For the last two weeks I have been using Feedly almost exclusively. It has been very good, the interface is great, and even though it is currently just syncing with Google Reader, the company promises to be ready to standalone come June. The app is also available on Android (and iOS), but on my tablet there is a weird caching lag that makes paging through articles a bit difficult.

If Feedly doesn’t sound like the RSS feed reader for you, Gizmodo helpfully listed 8 Google Reader Alternatives. There should be at least one there that works – The Old Reader looks nice, but it is having some difficulties keeping up with the increased number of users.

But it is important to stay up to date, and RSS is still the best way to manage news, since updates wait for you- unlike Twitter.

Agree? Disagree?

 

#DataCamp Spring 2013

Part of my new reason for existing in the library world is to make connections between the digital and physical library. One of the ways to do that is to work with open data. Unfortunately, out of all my many and varied technological interests, open data always seemed beyond my skill set.

As part of a quest to learn more about Open Data I’ve been to two data gatherings since February. I would normally call them conferences, but neither event used the term conference deliberately. I really enjoyed that both events included hands-on projects, and the chance to network.

The first event was the BC Open Data Society’s Open Data Summit. The event was a mix of high-level presentations about programs that had been, and are being done with open data, and hands-on activities to answer problems posed by the group. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot about what is happening in the world of open data, what people are interested in taking on as projects (lots of civic data) and a bit about collaborative group projects (with strangers!). Despite that, after the event I felt even more out of my depth on the topic of open data than before.

This past week I went to my second event- #DataCamp, an organic half-day event that was focused on finding solutions to Open Data problems. This event was aimed at librarians and educators and had a different feel than the summit. There were questions solicited from the attendees, who then, by voting, chose eight topics to workshop. The person who originally posed the question was the person expected to facilitate the discussion. It was fun, I was able to discuss questions of library staff digital literacies and how to advocate for open data projects & hackathons for libraries. While I would have liked to have heard summaries from the other groups, I am hopeful that we’ll have everything online soon. The group was very twitter friendly.

I will be the first to admit that I still have a lot to learn – especially about how libraries best fit within the open data landscape, but I have learned a lot in a month, who knows what I’ll know next month.

If you have a chance, take a look at these open data sources and tools:

 

I will likely revisit this topic in the future!

A New Job, A New Blog

Before I even left for library school I started blogging (link). I spoke about my classes, my extracurricular activities, where I went, who I visited with. My blog was my connection to friends and family back home, and I think others in the industry found some of my posts interesting as well. But that blog ended when my library school experience ended. While I meant to start blogging afterwards, there was a bit of a lag between finishing library school and becoming employed as a librarian. I was very lucky to return to my old position during that period, but it was a busy time, returning to work, recovering from library school, reconnecting with everyone, etc. Lots of excuses.

But now, I am ready to start blogging again!

My goals are to blog about once a week, chronicling my experiences as a digital access librarian, a library technology enthusiast, and someone interested in public service.  Over the next few weeks I have posts lined up about apps, mobile devices, writing reports, and training. I hope to be able to offer some tidbits of information for library staff that come across similar projects and topics as my own.