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Arduinos, and LEDs, and Fiber Optics, Oh My!

October 4, 2015

I’ve spent the last week immersed in research surrounding building a makerspace, and I have learned a lot about e-textiles. They’re super amazing.

If I had the time and the funds, I’d be building an LED cross-fading bustle right now. Wild horses couldn’t stop me.

Check some of this stuff out:

Fiber Optic Dress by 

smart ballet

Ballet shoes that track a dancer’s movements by Lesia Trubat

Turn signal jacket by 

So many cool things! I think I need a new Pinterest board for this stuff…


July 15, 2015

My current display up at the Saddlebrook branch of OPL is “Extraordinary Lives, Extraordinary Journeys” and is in line with the Escape the Ordinary Summer Ready Program theme. In it I have uplifting travel and “year in the life” type books, but compiling my choices for the display and needing a new book of my own to read got me thinking.

There is a lot of classic science fiction that I have never read.

Sure, I have a working knowledge of Verne, Asimov, and Heinlein. I’ve read some of the Hitchhiker series, but not all of them. But I should. I really, really should. I should really just buckle-down and actually read Dune. Not because it will earn me some ephemeral geek-cred points, but because I think I would enjoy it. And even if I don’t, I know it will help me better understand modern science fiction.

I read 1984 during Banned Books Week last year. I’d never read it before – my school’s AP curriculum had us read weird stuff, like Brave New World instead of Animal Farm, and Julius Caesar and Macbeth instead of Romeo and Juliet.  But when I finally read 1984, I was struck by how many subtle references to it I had missed in modern pop culture – specifically, the “there are four lights” scene from ST:TNG. How many more references am I only half-getting, or not getting at all?

This, plus the desire for blog-fodder has me wanting to attempt to read 100 Classic Science Fiction novels, as compiled and ranked by James W. Harris using crowd-sourcing. He has an interesting essay on his methodology too.

I sorted Harris’s list by year, and the earliest work of classic science fiction is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. This is an excellent one to start with – I have a working knowledge of Gulliver, seen a number of film adaptations of the story, and even studied a section of it in college, but I have never actually read it.


Movin’ Up and Movin’ Out

July 8, 2015

First of all, I just want to say how happy I am to have been part of the Omaha Public Library system. It’s filled with awesome people who have really amazing, grand-scale ideas about librarianship and our role in the community. I’m excited to be part of this place. Like, jump up and dance all crazy-like excited.

I started at OPL in March as an Aide. “Aide” is OPL’s term for “page” or “shelver.” That’s right – I went from managing a village library’s online presence and other digital services to putting books away and doing other materials handling tasks.

And you know what? That’s okay.

Not only do I think there is merit in moving your way up through an organization from the proverbial “mail room” to the “board room” (but ohmygosh I don’t know if I ever want to be an actual board member), but there are things about a library that you get a better understanding of when you’re walking the proverbial front line. What workflows work best? What times of day are the busiest for various departments?

At some point, you need to walk away from the collection development Excel sheets of data (and you know I love my Excel sheets of data) and walk through the stacks. Take some time to shelf-read, as tiresome a task as that can be. Face out some titles and see if they’re still face-out a week later, of if they have been snatched up.

OPL promoted me to Adult Library Specialist in May, which means I get to do reference desk work as well as plan programming. So, of course, I have a monthly gaming program planned to start in September, as well as a Dr. Who craft planned for August.

Unfortunately, I won’t be around to see either of these programs to fruition – we’re moving this month to Alabama. I’m sure that had we stayed here in Nebraska, I could have climbed the library ladder into a professional position, but I’m getting the feeling that this move means another slide down the chute to start again at a lower level.

But hey – I don’t mind getting my foot in the door by shelving books. I know I’ll climb up again given time and the roll of the dice.

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?

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