Friday Design Fun: Chosen Collaborations

Happy Friday, dear readers! I apologize for the relative blog silence over the last few weeks. I hope you’ve had a good spring, thus far, and today I want to talk a bit about collaboration and design, how important it is and how wonderful it can be (if done well) or horrible (if done poorly). So let’s talk about collaboration.

I don’t know about you, but I hated group work when I was in school. No matter how good my teachers’ intentions, there was so little individual accountability in the groups that I often (okay, more like 95% of the time) ended up doing most of the work. Others knew I would do the work because I cared about my grade and took advantage of it and even when tasks were assigned, people often didn’t follow through. It left a bad taste in my mouth that has, unfortunately, been reinforced by more than a few committees I’ve been on since becoming a librarian. So you wouldn’t be surprised that sometimes I have issues with so much emphasis being placed on collaboration and group work, without equal discussion about accountability and equity within the group.

All that aside, I love collaboration when I have agency over who I’m collaborating with and for what tasks. I especially find it useful in graphic design work to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to critically go over designs to improve them before they are ready for final printing or launching online. While I’m not a fan of design by committee, I’m a fan of collaboration in design work. The same principles for making design collaborations work are the same for making any collaboration work, in my experience:

  1. Clear communication is key, as is individual accountability. Work out responsibilities and deadlines in the first meeting and check in often.
  2. Brainstorm together, then individually work on designs to bring back and compare and critique. Best thinking work still gets done individually and everyone needs time to have ideas percolate and come together.
  3. Be open and kind with critiques and work together on the edits. Also, give credit to the editors in any process. Too often only the designer gets credit and the editor gets ignored. Editing is hard, important work, too.
  4. Always praise and thank your collaborators publicly when your work together is complete. Everyone likes to be appreciated and it will help the next time you need collaborators.

At my work, I love collaborating with our fabulous web designer, Brooke, who is also a great graphic designer. We’re both deadline oriented (and hit our deadlines) and we’ve worked out good communication so we can get a lot done in a reasonable amount of time. Collaborating also gives us a chance to learn from each other and I think strengthen our own individual design work.

So, even if you’ve been burned in the past by group and committee work, give collaboration in your design work a chance. If you can pick your collaborators and maintain clear communication, you never know what amazing things you can accomplish together (and make your library’s visual communications more beautiful and useful in the process!).

And, if you haven’t changed up your desktop wallpaper yet, check out the lovely ones over at Smashing Magazine.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of relaxation and rejuvenation. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tech Fun for Everyone

One of the things I like most about the continuing advancement of technology, especially collaborative, online technologies, is that it is getting easier to use these technologies. It used to be if you wanted to create a professional looking website you needed to know a lot of HTML and preferably CSS, etc. Or you needed to have money to hire a professional web designer.

Now, if you want to have a website or a blog, you have many drag-and-drop and WYSIWYG options to choose from to build your own online presence. Now, this is not to say we no longer need skilled web designers, information architects and graphic artists–of course we do! But to have a functional, simple, website is now within the reach of way more of the Internet surfing public. And to me, that is a good thing.

This is basically just a very long-winded way of saying, “Yay! Look at some more cool online stuff I have been playing with and want to share with you.”

First up is LucidChart: an online, collaborative flowchart application. You can make beautiful flowcharts all via drag-and-drop! I think this is so cool. No more wasting time in Word or other programs that can’t make a decent flowchart. You can use LucidChart instead. I might just have to make a flowchart to use in class because of this application.

Of course, that still doesn’t solve the problem of getting people to read flowcharts as evidenced by xkcd comic, “Flow Charts”:


Flow Charts comic from xkcd

Flow Charts comic from xkcd

It just can’t be a Friday without sharing an awesome post by Lifehacker; this one is about Self-education. Yes, more self-improvement for the new year. And yes, it includes watching YouTube videos! Now there is no excuse for not learning something when you are staring at your computer screen day after day, for hours on end.

And, finally, here is Michael Stephens’ Ten Trends & Technologies for 2009. A very interesting read about technology and the library. I’m really interested in learning and applying more of the mobile technology applications to the library. I mean, if people are going to insist on being tied to a cellphone or BlackBerry all day, they might as well get optimized library websites and catalogs on there too. (Full disclosure: the one technology I personally am not thrilled with is the cellphone, except for texting, I really like text messages. I just don’t like people calling me all the time; that’s what texts and Twitter are for! I mean, who really needs to know that you are standing in line at the supermarket? Not me.)

But, back to the post, the most exciting bit, to me, is the emphasis on making the library a collaborative space, a learning commons space, The Commons for the campus or community. I think that is how it should be and how it needs to be for libraries to remain vital and vibrant.

Happy Friday, enjoy the weekend!

Collaboration and the University

Okay, so I’m very sorry for the lack of updates. My only excuses are that it is nearing the end of the quarter, enough said, and I took the weekend off to top off my energy tanks because exhaustion was taking over in a big way. So enough with that and on to the topic of the day–collaboration and the university. Yes, everything is about collaboration.

Now I really don’t care if this article says that the blog is dead and we should all move to twitter. People declared the death of the book years ago and I’m still borrowing and buying books. It is just now that there are multiple ways to deliver and receive information. Is twitter fun and a neat way to keep up with people, sure? But blogs are still a great way to deliver information and even if people don’t get famous off their blogs anymore, which seems to be one of the laments of that articles, blogs still offer a way to get your voice out there on the web and contribute to the building of community.

So what does this have to do with collaboration and the university? Well, this article says that Web 2.0’s big advantage to the college and university world is the ability to collaborate. You don’t say? 🙂 And what have we been discussing on this blog, why, collaboration. It is all about connecting people to people, information to people and people to the information. Collaboration is always what Web 2.0 is about and it is nice to see someone write an eloquent article on the subject. I think one of the things that will save online learning is the fact that it is becoming easier and easier to collaborate online, even asynchronously. One of my big concerns with online learning is the potential loss of interaction and synergy among students that happens during great group discussions and projects in face-to-face classes. But with Web 2.0 growing, improving and expanding the opportunities for collaboration each day, we do not have to sacrifice interaction when teaching online. And that, to me, is a saving grace because I don’t want us to become a bunch of pod-people who never interact and lose all social graces of conversation. Remember, it really is all about interaction, community and collaboration. Without interaction, we are all just screaming into the abyss of cyberspace by ourselves which, let’s face it, does not sound like a very appealing way to spend your life.

And, last but certainly not least, a post with a video clip from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. The stop-motion film looks awesome and Gaiman’s take on other people expanding and adapting his creative works is so refreshing. Talk about being talented and gracious. This article and clip renewed my confidence in Mark Twain’s quote: “Stay away from people who belittle your ambitions, small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Have a great Tuesday.

Connecting Generations

So maybe I am just fixated on communication at the moment, or it might because I am prepping for my class on information and society, but all I can think about at the moment is how we can use technology to help others and create communities. Like my post on humanity, this is a call to use technology to come together and build understanding.

Now, I’m not sure if I agree with all of this, but you really should check out this video (thanks to Tame the Web blog for pointing it out):

So, how are we going to bring together these generations? What does it mean for the library and library profession? How do we connect?

I think reaching out into online communities, getting student liaisons for the library to talk with other students and always looking for ways to innovate in the library are great starting points. But we cannot forget that our greatest assets are not our technological ones, but our human traits and qualities. I still firmly believe that being friendly and helpful will connect us to others and keep the library at the center of the community.

So, what do you think?


Alright, first off, a little bit on the elections before we get into the nitty-gritty library stuff. I promise I won’t get too into politics (but Rock on Obama!); I just wanted to share this great xkcd cartoon with you today. Seriously, go check out Election.

Now that you are back, let’s just admit it–everything we do is to further collaboration and connection. Humans are social creatures, no matter what people claim about being introverted. Yes, we differ on the level of social networking and interaction we want, but we are at our base social creatures. We want to connect and collaborate and this is where Web 2.0 tools come in so handy.

I found this blog post through Tame the Web and I too am hearting this post. Really, go check it out. Technology is just the means to connect and to reach out to others. We are using technology to recreate and re-invent public meeting spaces that are rapidly disappearing.

And last, but not least, here is an article from Educause about a phenomenon that fanfic writers have known about for years–collaborative work. These stories live online and many people contribute to them, respond, and comment on these stories. Storytelling is no longer limited to a few authors, but expanded to anyone who has an idea. Anyone can create something and post it on the web. And, no, I am not against everyone having a voice and I don’t think it is a crisis of quality of writing, reading, or any of that other stuff. Remixing, creativity, and passion live in this new world and if educators could harness the work that students do in this environment and transfer it to lessons and assignments in school, I think the results would be amazing.

Yes, I am unrepentant in my optimism about Web 2.0 applications, teaching and creative work. I believe that we can collaborate and connect online and in person because that is what we do. And as librarians, educators and blog readers we can all take part in these creative endeavors. Happy November 5th and rock on!

An Assortment of Goodies…

…to help with finding library conferences, public speaking, and more.

Yes, another random day of posting from the Waki Librarian. And why not? I am a little tired at the moment and apologize in advance if none of this makes sense. I am wading through another round of homework from my students and am amazed how many do not pay attention to directions? Anyone have a great tip for getting students to actual follow directions on assignments?

Anyway, first resource for today is the recently updated Library Related Conferences compiled by Marian Dworaczek. Rock on Marian! This is a great source–international in scope and just makes me want to go to so many conferences.

Speaking of conferences, check out this great article on public speaking from Lifehacker. I don’t know about you, but it is so disappointing to go to a presentation and have a person present so poorly that all you can think about is why there isn’t wifi in the room so at least you could be on Facebook. Really, everyone can always improve their public speaking (I know I can), and it is worth it to explain your point coherently and engagingly. Remember, public speaking might be nerve-wracking, but it can be the best way to make an impact in your library and in the great community. You represent not only yourself but your organization, so go out and make a splash so no one is wondering how to hijack the wifi while you are presenting but instead are riveted thinking “wow, that is so cool!”

So you are getting ready for presenting and would like to change it up a little. I dare you to include one of the 24 words that CED wants to get rid of to make room for other words in the dictionary in your presentation. Perhaps you can embrangle your competition or, as my mother says, baffle them. Plus, I think it is always fun to learn obscure words. Have some fun.

Alright, so you’ve got the list of conferences you are going to, you’ve got your tips on public speaking and even a few cool, obscure words to use, but you still need to figure out where to meet Bill before you both head down to the conference together. No worries, there is Meet Inbetween Us to the rescue showing you the half-way point to meet before carpooling over to the conference together.

Finally, you’ve heard of Google docs right? But do you know how to use Google docs? I have to admit to not being fully conversant in all things Google docs. Luckily for us there is the Google Docs Guide. Now we can all figure out how best to use Google docs.

I think that is enough to keep us all busy this Wednesday. But I have to share a quotation before leaving you in the blogosphere that came up on the quote widget on iGoogle the other day and is just great for our web2.0, perpetually beta, hyperlinked world where we are always learning:

“Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill

Reality Bites & How You can Change it

First off today, I have to give props out to Tom H. who has been awesome in commenting on this blog. Thank you! I am so glad someone is reading and enjoying the posts.

Now to the main topic today: reality bites. That sounds a little pessimistic, doesn’t it? Well, some parts of reality really do bite–like povery, global warming, students cheating, librarians thinking that they can be outsourced and the fact that I haven’t been able to find veggie gyoza at Trader Joe’s for the last 3 weeks.

But parts of reality rock–like Jim Butcher having two new books coming out, people helping out because it is the right thing to do, librarians helping to Rock the Vote, and autumn weather that is warm during the day but perfect for a quilt at night.

So what specifically made me write this type of post today? Two things, actually.

First this YouTube video on cheating that has been going around the Internet. I found out through Tame the Web blog and you can see it here. Did she even think about the consequences of posting this video on YouTube? I mean, it is scary that students are posting videos about how to cheat and the comments to these videos are even scarier. I really dislike the “but everyone else is doing it” defense. No, they are not and cheating is just plain wrong. I am going to show this to my Information Literacy class so we can discuss the implications of the video. But I’m not completely disheartened by this because I still believe that most students are honest and hard-working when they are doing their school work.

Anyone read the latest Backtalk column in Library Journal (October 1, 2008 edition)? Another person who is pessimistic about the future of librarianship–believing that we have caused ourselves to become obsolete through our increased reliance on technology. While I agree that the human touch is very important in what we do as librarians, I don’t believe that technology can be considered the downfall of the profession or libraries in general. Though, I may be a little biased in this as I am an Online Literacy librarian. I think technology, if anything, has made our role as librarians even more important for the efficient finding, analyzing and evaluating of information. I don’t feel obsolete and I am proud of my work as a librarian. What do you think?

I think that our perceptions truly become our reality. If we think we are obsolete, we will fulfill that thought. But if we truly believe that librarians are important, than our thoughts and subsequent actions will make it so. Yes, it is annoying to answer the tenth question in an hour about the location of the bathroom. But we also help people with so many important questions and concerns. We also design websites that are accessible, have events that gather together communities and help students find information that is personally relevant to them. And through these actions, we change reality into something better.

And to end on a somewhat positive note, the Wednesday post of this blog will be in support of Blog Action Day 2008 where bloggers around the world are going to be posting only about poverty for one day in order to raise awareness and hopefully get people to help end world-wide poverty. We can all do something to better ourselves, our communities, our libraries and our world, if we only work together.

Reimagining the Library Visually

Okay, so I’m not good with coming up with post titles, but this is a seriously important post and a seriously fun post. Because, as Niels Bohr supposedly said, “there are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.” I think we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and go out on a limb as we reimagine what the library can become. So I have just two resources today to share that I think are just so fabulously cool and really useful too.

The Conversation Prism is without a doubt one of the coolest graphics I’ve seen. I love the fact that it is on Flickr, is freely available for use under the Creative Commons Attribute License and that people have already commented on it in Flickr. So what is The Conversation Prism? It is a color wheel that breaks up different online social networking and collaboration tools into groups. It is a handy way to see all the ways that we could be communicating, sharing and collaborating with each other online. So how many of these web 2.0 tools are we using in the library? What could we add that would benefit our users? How can we harness the living social network online to keep the library relevant and in the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to searching and using information? What studies have been done on using these different technologies? And, by the way, the graphic prints out fabulously well. You can see it on my office wall if you drop by. Let’s get the library into the center of this conversation–right where we belong!

Since this is about reimagining the library visually, I couldn’t help but put in a plug for Cooliris, Inc. formerly known as PicLens. I love this add-on to my web browser. It works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, but alas not for Google Chrome, yet. This add-on allows you to display images as a moving image wall, select an image and blow it up to full screen. It only works on certain sites (like Flickr, deviantART, Amazon, etc.), but when it is enabled-wow! Its interface is reminiscent of the iPhone. It is absolutely beautiful.

So other than it being beautiful, why do I mention Cooliris? Think of the library catalog applications! If your catalog had book covers that displayed along with the books’ records and the website was enabled for Cooliris, your patrons could have a moving wall of book covers that they could quickly scan visually. This would make going through search results very easy, especially if you are more of a visual person and remember book covers better than author names. Not only would it look beautiful, it would be a great browsing technique too, as we are all visual creatures and can form a search image very readily. I used this feature when searching Amazon and it was fantastic. What other ways could we use Cooliris? Is it feasible to use it in the catalog? Well, anything is feasible if we put our minds to it.

So I leave you with the following question: how would you use some of these tools to make your work easier or make the library more central to this new digital world? Don’t be too serious, playing and daydreaming contribute to the great epiphanies and ideas of the world just as much as more serious endeavors. So let’s all figure out together. I’m sure that together, through lots of collaboration, we can harness this cool technology and go from reimagining the library into actually changing the library for the better.