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Analog Productivity

April 11, 2015
E-Portfolio Goal Thermometer

E-Portfolio Goal Thermometer

Sometimes I strike a strange balance between analog and digital when it comes to my work habits.

I love Google Drive and Evernote, but part of my learning process when I’m trying to squeeze as much as possible out of a book or article is to write it down in a single subject notebook. Then it gets transcribed into the digital space (such as Evernote) – so I’m reading it twice, writing it twice. It’s stuck in my head pretty well after that.

When it comes to tasks and goals, I’ve tried so many different to-do list apps and programs, but nothing beats a piece of scratch paper or a bit of my calendar spread for writing down what needs to get done – the satisfaction of the highlighter swipe across the task is much more fulfilling for me than clicking “Complete” or “Done” on a screen.

I did this with my E-Portfolio for my MLIS in the fall of 2013 (see image to the right). I set goals for myself, based on percentages and given dates, and wrote down the date that I got the email back from my professor saying that I had completed the corresponding competency to her satisfaction. On November 14, 2013, when I finally filled in J with a green highlighter and wrote the date, I was immensely pleased with myself.

I got in the habit last year of creating daily and/or weekly to-do lists. I would get the same satisfaction crossing off items and doing quick calculations to know how productive I had been  – 80%? 90%? 100%? Given, this wasn’t an accurate productivity score – it didn’t factor in helping patrons on the phone or at the desk, or doing other routine service desk duties. Still – it was a little bit of daily motivation that didn’t require me to manage something like HabitRPG (as cool as it is). Also, having a little notepad next to me at the desk works a lot better than my phone. From what I can tell, you get the most out of HabitRPG when you have friends who also use (play?) it, which means getting buy-in from your social circle. While this isn’t impossible, I’m not sure if my social group would support a thing like this. It’s not the same as saying “Hey guys! Want to try out a new RPG Saturday night?”

The balance I’ve struck works for me. It’s not fancy. It’s not techy. But it generates the right amount of “small win” achievement-based motivation I need to tackle large projects.

A Library of Things at Sacramento Public Library

February 3, 2015

Sacramento Public Library has a “Library of Things.” Items are selected and added based on patron input, which I think is key for a library like this. It’s not the first library to check out things other than books – we’ve all seen the articles about libraries circulating fishing rods, baking pans, and tools.

What I love about this innovation from Sacramento is the idea of libraries as places to learn skills and make things. R. David Lankes talks about libraries fostering the creation of knowledge, and not all knowledge can be created by using a traditional library resource (e.g. books, magazines, databases, A/V).

I hope that, as we progress into this particular niche of librarianship where we expand our view of “resources” to include more than just the “how” to do something, but also the means to do it, more and more libraries expand their makerspaces and other offerings to include things other than the shiniest newest gadget. Things like sewing machines and food dehydrators.

Of course, the key is listening to the patrons. The fact that Sacramento is asking their population what they want rather than just guessing is awesome – and something that, unfortunately, too many people forget when they look at cool programs like this. There has to be an interest or a need. If there is, then if you build it, they will come.

Rock on, Sacramento!

Check Out the Internet

January 29, 2015

I heard about Chicago Public Library’s plan to circulate wireless hot-spots out of 3 branches on the radio this morning during my commute.

I’m so excited for this program, especially since those branches will have 10 tablets available alongside their 100 hot-spots. The hot-spots go out for 3 weeks, and presumably the tablets do as well.  My first thought when I heard the story on NPR was, “Well, that’s awesome – assuming that the people in this lower-income neighborhoods without internet that you’re attempting to serve with this have devices to connect to the hot-spot.” So huzzah on circulating the devices too! Whee!

The best part about this plan for me is that it gives people the opportunity to use the technology in their own home, which is a crucial piece to the digital divide.  Using a computer in the library isn’t the same. You have a time limit, or the pressure of knowing that there are other people waiting for their opportunity to use the station. You have little privacy – and even in a “quiet zone”, other people sitting near you, or even HVAC systems can be distracting. At home, the technology has a chance to become part of your daily life, if only for three weeks.

I hope that CPL includes appropriate instructional materials with their hot-spots and tablets, so that people aren’t intimidated by the prospect of checking them out and are able to get connected quickly and easily.

Rock on, CPL. Rock on.

Interactive Fiction with Inform7

January 23, 2015

On March 18, 2014, a Facebook friend posted a status.

Interactive Fiction, Facebook Style

Interactive Fiction, Facebook Style

And we were off. We directed the narrative through comments and meta-discussion about where to go, what to do, and how to solve the “puzzle” in this world he’d created.

It lasted days. It was amazing.

I loved the social aspect of this, which would be hard to create in any other setting apart from a  tabletop gaming session.  I also loved the retro-mechanic to it. My friend was playing the role of the computer program, while we commenters were players, frantically typing in commands to move our intrepid adventurer along.

It got me thinking about Interactive Fiction. In its print form, Interactive Fiction is the chose-your-own-adventure story where you’re instructed to turn to page 8 if you take the door on the right, and page 15 if you continue going down the hall. In middle school, interactive fiction was creating dungeons in Hypercard, where you’d hide the secret piece to the puzzle in order to get out in some obscure place that no one would think to ever click on. When I was in high school, it was the MUD I’d log into in order to level up my character and hang out with friends across the globe (this was before World of Warcraft and shiny graphics).

Today, Interactive Fiction is still digital, but it’s easier than ever to write/code. I’ve been poking around at Inform7 for a while, and I really think there is a potential for a library program here. Teen Tech Week maybe? Writing interactive fiction is “making” a game, after all, right?

Read more…

Into Battle!

December 5, 2014

As a librarian, I do battle.

I would gladly charge into the field to defend intellectual freedom, the rights of all to use public library resources, the importance of teaching technology skills, and generally rally to the cause any number of the arguably obvious librarian-waged wars.

But my personal battles are with code, programs, and general “getting the computer to do the thing.”

Today, I am working with Evanced.

I really like Evanced’s product. I’m especially happy that we’re making the transition from their older products to SignUp and Spaces. But it means that  I have 2,600 lines of Excel data that need to have some sense made of them, since we can’t import the old events into the new product. Which makes sense – I’m not upset about this. In fact, I enjoy battles like this. Wrestling with things like Excel are incredibly fulfilling – when I win.

What I want to do shouldn’t be that difficult. I need to separate the events out by date range (our physical year runs from June to May), then total them, then pull the total attendance. Easy peasy, right?

Except Excel is starting to be a headache for this. I’m thinking Access. Which means refreshing my knowledge of queries.

HERE WE GO.

Raspberry Pis

November 24, 2014

I’ve been doing a lot of IT stuff lately. I’m not IT, but not having a dedicated IT person on staff and me being the Virtual Services Librarian means that I get a lot of IT stuff to do.  Which is fun.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been poking around at the idea of installing two additional end-cap OPAC terminals in our Adult Section. Our Admin has expressed a desire to do this, and I suggested using Raspberry Pis as a way to make the project more affordable. A RPi is about $100 after you get all the stuff, versus a $300-$600 computer. Easy choice, right?

But I wanted to make sure that both myself and our bimonthly IT guy would be able to handle it. Then I had to put something together to convince my Admin and our VS Committee that we could handle it.

Here ’tis: 

It would, of course, mean teaching myself Linux. But that’s okay. Heck, I might do it anyway, because RetroPie looks pretty sweet.

This whole reviewing books thing

October 2, 2014
Crown of Embers - Kindle Mistborn: The Final Empire - Audio The Dream Thieves - Print

I tried.  I really, really tried.

The first pre-release NetGalley I got was Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll. It started off okay, but I kept wondering how it was going to get around to resembling the publisher’s description. When it “took off”, the action felt very stilted and just…I don’t know. I couldn’t get into it. Reading it felt like a chore, and that’s when I was I got stolen away by delicious YA awesomeness.

Read more…

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