Thinking about Everyday Design

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you have had a lovely week and have a great weekend planned. Today I want to take a few minutes to discuss something near and dear to my heart–design. More specifically I want to talk about everyday design. Since I’m a librarian and not a professional designer, I can’t talk about professionally designing logos or fonts or things like that, but I can talk about using good design in creating things for the library that are beautiful and functional. So today I want to share with you a few design articles, resources, and thoughts.

It is no secret that I’m a fan of the I love Typography blog. It is a great blog of font news and interesting notes about typography. I love this short video on The Sign Painter. Doesn’t it just make you want to have beautifully hand-lettered signs made for your library? I can just see some gorgeous signs painted on our windows in the front of the library welcoming students back from the summer and into the library.

Speaking of beautiful design and just beauty in general, you should really check out the winners of the 2014 Photo Contest by National Geographic. They are absolutely beautiful.

If that inspires you to think more about your everyday photography or just design in general, you might be interested in Lifehacker’s article on three basic design principles everyone can use in everyday life. Some good tips to think about.

Also, when talking about design, we can’t help but talk about Photoshop. I love working with Photoshop because it is so powerful and allows me to create what I need when designing things for myself and for the library. But I also know that Photoshop is very expensive and not in the budget for everyone and every library. That’s why I’m happy to share this article on the best free Photoshop alternatives. I’m looking forward to working more with GIMP.

I think that great design is a wonderful thing to behold and that we can all contribute to making the world a little more beautiful, at least in our library worlds, through learning design concepts and working to create beautiful and usable things for our libraries.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back next week with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tips for Office Collegiality and Career

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have lovely plans for the weekend. I’m looking forward to doing some reading, hopefully refinishing a nightstand (in dreadful need of a few new coats of paint), and maybe even taking a nap. But that is neither here nor there, as first I need to share a couple of articles that I think should be shared widely to help those starting off in new jobs and any of us introverts who still struggle with the whole “networking” thing for “personal branding.”

I haven’t been an office greenhorn for a couple of years now, which is actually kind of nice. But I do remember the stress and desire to make a good impression and not put my foot in my mouth too many times a day when I first started at my current organization. It can be difficult to fit in and easy to make unconscious mistakes when at a new organization. I think this short article is a really good read for anyone in a new job and should be shared with those you know who are starting a new job: 4 Mistakes the Office Greenhorn Should Avoid. By following this article’s advice and tips, you should not only avoid some mistakes, but make it easier on yourself (and your colleagues) to be collegial. And working well together is always a good thing.

No matter whether you are the new person at the organization or the senior colleague, networking can be difficult. I hate even calling it networking or thinking about “personal branding” which to me brings to mind cattle branding since I grew up in a rural area. So I appreciated this article on how to tackle personal branding when you’re an introvert. I’m sure you or some of your colleagues will enjoy it, too. (Also, two thumbs up for Quiet, a must-read for everyone, introverted or not).

I hope you have a relaxing, productive, recharging weekend. I’ll be back next week. Allons-y!


Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope you are well and are enjoying the last bits of summer. One of the local high schools in my area is already back in session, which makes my morning commute rather interesting. But today, instead of focusing on that, let’s talk about writing.

Writing has, perhaps obviously, been on my mind a lot recently. Now that I’m done with my dissertation, I’m working on a number of articles with various supervisors and other colleagues. So no break from writing for me. Luckily, for the most part, I like writing and I really like getting my ideas and research across clearly to others. That’s probably why I like teaching, too. But what has really fascinated me, both in writing articles and writing in the dissertation process, is how differently everyone writes and what is considered “good” writing.

I’ve really enjoyed this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Becoming a Stylish Writer, because it discusses many of the issues I’ve encountered while writing, editing, and revising. I think we should all agree to write more clearly, just say no to convoluted work, and write so that it is a pleasure to read, not a task to endure. I’m in agreement that convoluted, dense writing does not make for a joyful reading experience, nor does it mean that the writer is more intelligent or smarter necessarily.

I know it is a very old piece of advice, but I still like it: Write like you talk or like you think. I just have a conversation with an imagined reader when I’m writing an article, or presentation, or class lecture, and try to be as engaging as possible. Let your passion show through your work. It makes for better reading.

While this article isn’t about writing, it is about communication: a better way to ask for career advice. Share widely and help out yourself and your friends/family members/patrons. This article has fantastic advice and, as someone who talks a lot with graduate students, I can attest that using this advice makes for a much more satisfying and productive informational interview experience.

Also, since hacked accounts have been in the news recently, I had to share Should I Change My Password? Use the site to check if your password has been compromised. Great service.

I hope you have a fantastic day, dear readers. Write something, create something, cook something, and have a relaxing time. I’ll be back soon with more thoughts about libraries, archives, technology, and life. Allons-y!

Letterpress Fun!

Happy Wednesday! I hope you are having a lovely day, dear readers. Someone has confused the weather here in the Bay Area and it is raining today. I feel like sleeping rather than working, but alas, that is not to be. Instead, I’m going to talk just briefly about some fun I had over the weekend and then let you get back to your day.

On Saturday I went to San Francisco Center for the Book in order to see Moveable Type, which I’ve already talked about on this blog. It’s pretty awesome to see a converted van that’s set up for demonstrating the art of using letterpresses. It was awesome to hear Kyle Durrie (who also owns and runs Power and Light Press in Portland, Oregon) talk about her craft and demonstrate the usage of two of her presses.

My favorite of the two presses was definitely the one in the photo below, which used to be used a lot by businesses to create inexpensive posters and ads.



We even got to try our hand at using the letterpresses. This is the result of what I made using the above letterpress. I think it came out rather well.

Example from the Letterpress

Example from the Letterpress

Finally, Kyle Durrie was selling some of her letterpress cards and posters, all of which were awesome. I couldn’t help but buy a couple of the design featured below. (I told her I was a librarian and she thought it was rather appropriate that I bought the cards.)

Checkout Slip Card

Checkout Slip Card

You should check out Moveable Type’s blog to see if the Type Truck is coming to your neck of the woods and you can always request a visit if there isn’t a stop near you. And, if it works out in her schedule, maybe Kyle will do a demo in your hometown.

I thought it was a great way to spend a day in the city and a great juxtaposition to all the technology stuff so many of us are working with and on during the workweek. Now I just have to figure out how to make one of those poster presses…

I hope the rest of your day is wonderful (and rain-free). I’ll be back on Friday with some archives, library, and tech news. Allons-y!

Content Programming

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope that your day is going well. I hope that this post goes up and is publicized via Twitter as scheduled considering I’ll be on a plane going to a friend’s wedding when this is supposed to be posted and who knows when I’ll be back online. Anyway, today I just want to riff on one of Seth Godin’s latest posts and what I think it has to do with archivists and librarians. So let’s get into the fun of content programming.

Seth Godin recently wrote this post, In Praise of Programming. It’s a nice, short, interesting read. I’ll wait here while you read it. See? Quite interesting, right? It reminded me immediately of the work that archivists and librarians do everyday. We constantly do programming, whether we are in a public library setting, academic setting, or community archives.

I think it’s important to remember that we are about programming and that programming is a social activity. It’s not that we are just data curators or content distributors, we are also about value-added programming. This may be in the form of recommending what to read next, explaining how to actually use that shiny new tech tool in a meaningful way in the classroom, or directing the researcher to that newly processed collection that hasn’t made it into the online database just yet. We create meaning and connections through programming. I think this is one of the most important things that we do each day.

It is also a reminder that we need to remember our audience in all that we do. We need to involve the users/patrons/researchers in our programming. This is a great time to flex your evidence-based practice muscles and gather some data from your users to improve programming at your archives and library.

It’s such an exciting time we live in, with tons of change and new opportunities. But instead of running around like kittens, cashing every new shiny thing in our path, we can thoughtful collect, curate, and program our services and resources to have maximum impact in our communities. It is an art and I think we are more than up to the task.

So that’s what I have to say about programming. Now let’s move on to something else that is super-interesting: Moveable Type! I’m excited about the Type Truck coming to my neck of the woods. A letterpress in a truck! How amazingly awesome is that? I’m very much looking forward to the demonstrations. So check out if the Type Truck is coming to your area and let me know what you think.

That’s all from me today, dear readers. I hope the rest of your day goes swimmingly and you have a relaxing evening. I’ll be back on Friday with more. Allons-y!

Librarians, students, and the Future

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely day. I can hardly believe we are to the middle of another week and I’m off on another research trip to the archives. So today, I just want to talk a bit about some of the stuff buzzing around the bibliosphere right now and leave you with some tasty recipes for your tea breaks.

So if you have been hanging around the blogosphere at all this week, you’ve probably already read Seth Godin’s, Future of the Library article. And hopefully you’ve also read the very well-written and balanced response by Agnostic, Maybe. I just have a few comments to make about Godin’s article that will hopefully not duplicate everything that’s already been written and why I think it is just as important for academic librarians to pay attention to what Godin wrote as it is for public librarians.

Yes, of course, Godin got some stuff about librarians and libraries wrong (in my opinion). Libraries are still needed, freely accessible resources are definitely needed, and the digital divide is still a real problem. But on the whole, Godin got it correct and some of his misconceptions about libraries can be chalked up to the failure of librarians and the library profession in general in marketing our services and resources.

Now some librarians do an excellent job in outreach and marketing efforts, but on the whole, we obviously don’t do enough. If we did, Godin (along with the majority of people) would realize that libraries subscribe to many online resources and databases that have the ability to blow Wikipedia out of the water and are able to make researching more efficient and effective. It’s not that we don’t have the resources, it’s that we don’t make people aware of them. I see this in my own library and in classes I teach where the instructor will tell me after that s/he had no idea we offered so much or could help in so many ways.

This ties into my last post about caring. We have to demonstrate that we care about our users and market our services, resources, and general awesomeness as librarians in ways that our users, be they a public library user or an undergrad in an academic library, find relevant. We are the awesome teachers, info curators, guides, and sages that Godin says we are and can be, but we need others to “get it.”

So instead of saying how Godin got it wrong, let’s use his post as a call to (more) action. He got some parts wrong, but so do most writers and people. His main message, that we need to use our talents to connect people with information to create value is right on the mark. I think that having people honestly write what they think about the future of the library and librarians is fantastic, especially by people outside of the profession. This makes us take a hard look at what we’re doing right and what we can improve on if we read such articles with an open mind and with an open heart looking towards improving ourselves and services instead of being defensive when obviously our message as librarians is not as clear, or as powerful, as some of us believe it to be. We need to become, in Godin’s words, a purple cow–something remarkable. I’m working everyday to make my work and interactions with people remarkable, are you?

Okay, that’s my two cents.

I just wanted to share one link from Lifehacker today on how clean up your digital life and manage information overload. Great article as always. Share it with your library users. They’ll thank you.

And finally, for some tasty fun, check out Joy the Baker’s post on love and sugar recipes. These are fabulous and, if all else fails in your marketing campaign for the awesomeness of librarians, bake ’em cookies. Everyone is a fan of cookies.

Have a great rest of your day, help someone out, read something lovely, and I’ll be back on Friday with some tech stuff to share with your friends (family, library users, students, etc.). Allons-y!

Work, Work, Work

Happy Wednesday! I hope everyone is having a lovely day. I can’t believe it is already May and it seems like we’ve gone straight from winter to summer here in the Bay Area. Today I just want to share a few links to help you at work or rather to help you do and feel better at work.

I decided today would be a good day to share these links because:

  1. I presented with three other awesome archivists on Saturday at the Society of California Archivists’ Conference on networking and employment, so it’s kind of on my mind. And, I’m sorry to report that the panel wasn’t taped for webcasting. I’ve got to get back into the habit of taping my talks for podcasting, but that’s neither here nor there.
  2. There have been a lot of useful and inspiring posts over the last week or so about work.

First, if you don’t already read Seth Godin’s blog or books, you should at least give his work a try. I find all of his work to be quick reads and very useful for giving me a swift kick in the pants to start doing valuable work. His post yesterday on Hard Work vs. Long Work is a great example. I love that his posts are usually short, pithy, and are like a little daily pep talk on getting out there and getting things done.

Lifehacker, of course, does not fail to deliver some good advice articles. I love this reminder to stay positive to boost your career. (Plus, it gives my officemate and me an excuse for our unrepentant optimism!) Lifehacker has a great summary on how to get respect at work (and you can read the full article over on the Art of Manliness and yes, it works for people who don’t want to be manly, too).

If you have any tips or advice for enjoying your work and being productive, please let me know in comments. I’m always interesting in hearing what works for other people.

And to end, check out this cool video of Festo’s AquaJelly robots:

Have a lovely rest of your day and I’ll be back on Friday (hopefully) with a report from the BayNet talk by Lee Rainie from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Allons-y!

Competition in the Library

Happy Wednesday! I hope you are well, dear reader. This week has been crazy busy on our campus as it is finals week and everything seems to be due by the end of this week. I don’t know why, but deadlines always seem to pile up on each other (and that’s not because I’m super-lazy and procrastinate–I don’t, really). So today I just want to riff just for a short while on competition both with others and with one’s self and how this may or may not be beneficial in the context of libraries and archives.

So why do I want to talk about competition? Mainly I want to write a bit about it because I was asked earlier in the week if I was competitive about anything. The short answer is no, I’m really not that competitive. Now before you think I’m a total slacker who has no drive or wander off because you have no idea what this has to do with library land, bear with me while I give a bit of context before turning to the library.

I’m not competitive with other people. I actually feel happy when others succeed and don’t think “winning” has to be a zero sum game. However, I’m extremely competitive with myself and always expect to work hard and accomplish a lot, not that it’s news to anyone who knows me. (You usually doesn’t take a tenure track position if you aren’t just a little bit into working hard and striving to always become better than you are currently. And you should also be passionate about teaching, but that’s an entirely different post). But as to competing with others, I’d much rather support and mentor others in the field than compete with them.

But where does competition fit in the grand scheme when talking about libraries? I’ll give two examples about competition in the library and archive fields: one that I think is true competition that we can’t really get around and one that is actually competition that isn’t helping us at all. First to what I think of as true competition in the information science fields: grants.

It’s not called a grant competition for nothing. If you write grant proposals, you will be competing against many other libraries, archives, and museums for funding. This is not always a fun prospect and neither is it competition on a level playing field. Grant writing is pretty much unavoidable, but necessary in our fields. So in this instance, I think it behooves us to write grant proposals often to become better at it and to have any chance of success. I’d also, from a totally selfish perspective, like to see more organizations give grants to smaller institutions that have a hard time competing with the very large, well-known institutions for the limited funding available, especially in this economy. But don’t give up and do keep applying because, as our grant officer said, the people who get the most funded grants and also the ones who have written the most unfunded grant proposals.

So grants=competition with other institutions. It’s unavoidable unless your institution can afford to do everything it wants with internal funding.

The other type of competition I want to touch on just briefly in a type of competition that doesn’t seem to work in my mind: competition by libraries against perceived usurpers of the libraries’ and librarians’ roles. Or at least, the way we are competing isn’t working. Libraries (and especially archives) can’t compete with coffee shops, Amazon, or bookstores. And really, why should we? It’s a bit like trying to take on Google. Why fight that battle? Instead, why not work harder and smarter in areas where we already excel and can differentiate ourselves?

I think libraries and archives are awesome. You probably do too if you are reading this blog. We are the converted. We need to stop telling ourselves how great we are and start more outside marketing. Some public libraries, especially, do a good job of this and a great job of integrating themselves into the community. Academic libraries, which are dear to me because I work in one, need to step up and start changing the stereotypes that we all lament about libraries and librarians. We need to be seen as the first place to go if you have a question, not the stop of last resort. We need to advertise our ability as information curators, data managers, and information literacy gurus. We need to stop trying to be something else and actually own what we are because we have a lot to offer.

Okay, stepping off the soapbox now and leaving you with a couple of fun things: first, check out Joy the Baker’s latest recipe: Irish potato candy because it looks yummy and tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day after all. Then, if you haven’t checked it out yet, go listen to a single by one of my former student’s band, Waking Wander. (And yes, I completely have to give a shout out when one of my students makes a trip into the library specifically to give me (a librarian!) information about his band. Plus, I think the single is rather good.)

Take care, read lots, enjoy the rest of your day, and I’ll be back on Friday with the usual round-up of tech tips and news. Allons-y!

Job and Weekend Stuff

It’s Friday and the end of another week, thank goodness. Before getting to the few things I want to talk about today, I just want to share this link from Gizmodo, Japanese earthquake: How to respond and stay informed and also, hopefully soon, how to help/donate to the relief efforts.

In more fun news for this kind of gloomy Friday in the Bay Area (where luckily we haven’t had any real damage due to tsunamis), today I just want to share a few resources to help you with landing a job and to help you have a good weekend.

First, to the job information. It seems like you can’t get away from people talking about jobs and the economy, but I promise not to ramble on for too long. I just have two resources to share: this great article from WebWorkerDaily, landing your dream job in a networked world, and Lifehacker’s top 10 ways to rock your resume. Having now been on both sides of the hiring table in libraryland, I can’t tell you how shocked I was with the sloppy looking resumes applicants submit. If you want a professional position, make every effort to come across as a professional. Also, networking: overused word, but crucial to finding opportunities.

Speaking of job hunting, resumes, and interviewing, if you are a graduate student at San Jose’s School of Library and Information Science, come to or log in for the Resume & Interview Workshop tomorrow. It should be a very helpful event and I’ll be one of the panelists speaking at the event. So do come by and say hi.

Now on to a few bits of fun for your weekend and I do hope, dear reader, that you have a fun weekend planned. First, I have to share Lifehacker’s post on extending the life of your books by handling them properly. I feel it’s my duty as a librarian and archivist to share the link and give you a preservation resource to share with your friends and patrons.

And if you are having guests over this weekend, or you just fancy making something nice for yourself, I suggest trying Joy the Baker’s cinnamon sugar pull apart bread and/or lemon cornmeal breakfast cake. Her recipes are fantastic and have never let me down when it comes to baking up something lovely.

Finally, I leave you with this bit of the 2010 Doctor Who Proms. Really, it makes for a nice work/study break.

Have a lovely rest of your day, a fantastic weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more random thoughts on archives, libraries, and technology. Allons-y!

Sandy Hirsh: Stepping into the Future

Happy Thursday! I hope you are all doing well. You may be wondering what happened to my normal Wednesday post. Well, I was planning on writing up Dr. Sandy Hirsh’s talk last night, but my new cat decided that it was definitely time to play instead of letting me get some work done. So, dear readers, you get an unexpected Thursday post this week about the talk Sandy gave last night at the joint SLA San Francisco Bay Region Chapter and BayNet meeting. It was an interesting look at the changes happening in the library and information professions and how we can cope with the changes.

For those of you who do not know Dr. Sandy Hirsh, she is the current Director of the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at San Jose State University. You can check out her curriculum vitae here. She’s a really awesome person and a wonderful representative for the program. Plus, she is a good speaker as evidenced by last night’s talk, “Stepping into the Future:Perspectives on a Changing Profession.”

The two main points I took away from Sandy’s talk were that change is inevitable and we need to figure out how to leverage our skills and knowledge to take advantage of this change. I really appreciated her positive view on change, instead of the unfortunately all too common “doom and gloom” perspective that change is happening too quickly that includes reminisces about the “good old days.”

As Sandy noted, we need to be flexible, adaptable, and creative in order to remain relevant and help the next generation of librarians and information professionals remain relevant. She quoted Stephen Abrams who wrote, “LIS skills are good currency in this world–but only for those with the flexibility and insight to exploit the opportunities.” I think we all have the responsibility to continue evolving and figuring out better ways of marketing the valuable services and knowledge we have as a profession. As Sandy noted in her discussion of her journey to becoming a librarian, teaching in academia, transitioning to the high tech industry, and then moving back into academia, the skills and knowledge that librarians possess can be transfered to many other “non-traditional” jobs outside of the “traditional” library. But, as she also noted, we need to be able to better market ourselves and be able to translate what we can offer into the language of industry and professions outside of the library.

Sandy finished her talk with a discussion of how the curriculum and support services at the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose have evolved to better support and prepare students for the technological changes in our fields. San Jose has recently revamped its career development resources available online. Also, SLIS has receptions at many of the major library conferences and in-person programs for students. [Speaking of which, if you are a SLIS student and live in the Bay Area, there will be a Resume and Interviewing workshop on March 12th. If you go, say hi if you see me. I’ll be there talking with people about job hunting, interviewing, resumes, etc.]

SLIS has also developed new courses, such as Web 3.0: emerging technology trends and information entrepreneurship, and revised other courses, to better reflect changing technologies and skills needed in the workplace. And, as we all know, it’s not just the students who need to keep up with technology. We all have the responsibility to keep up with the changes in our field and related fields.

The one new technology Sandy mentioned that I hadn’t heard of before was Diff-IE which “highlights the changes to a webpage since the last time you visited it” which seems pretty useful. Too bad it’s currently just an add-on for Internet Explorer.

Overall, it was a great program and the Q&A was interesting as there were quite a number of San Jose students in the audience. For those who live in the Bay Area, I highly suggest coming to the SLA SF-Bay Area Chapter events and BayNet events. The next BayNet event is a talk by the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

That’s it for today, dear readers. I will hopefully be back tomorrow with a library and technology related post. Allons-y!