Tuesday, August 20, 2019

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

I wanted to believe that I had the head space to keep working on this blog when I published the last post. I thought if I published less frequently or something that I'd be able to sneak it in. But things haven't slowed down at all since early July, and there are a lot of things competing for my time and attention. My priorities have changed.

I need to express my thanks, regardless. I have gotten so much from the time I've spent on this blog. The relationships I developed would have been enough to be worth all the work, but it's no exaggeration to say that this blog changed my career and life. I will forever be grateful for your attention and support as I've worked through topic after topic. Also, all the guest authors who willingly gave me their time and thoughts have blown me away with their generosity. It was an amazing experience and an honor to run this blog.

All of this is to say that I'm not going to be updating LtaYL anymore, not for the foreseeable future anyway. I'm going to leave it up because the breadth of coverage is important. Also, there are posts that still get hits on the regs. But that's all from me.

So... so long, and thanks for all the fish (and trash). I may be back, but probably not for a long while.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Changes, Big and Small

This hiatus went on longer than I anticipated, but a lot of stuff came up for me personally and professionally that kept pulling my focus from this shouty little blog of mine. I even thought for a while about shutting down Letters to a Young Librarian. Then a few people said something about how they originally followed me on Twitter because they appreciated my voice on such a range of topics on my blog, and how they appreciated that I gave a platform to so many different kinds of library people. I also thought about how much joy I've gotten from this work (even if it's become more work than joy at times). And so, instead, I have decided to slightly rework how LtaYL functions.

First, I know I've been sitting on a few things that people have sent to me that were supposed to be on this blog a while ago. I'm going to reach out to everyone who submitted something to me that has not yet been published. I want to see if they're still interested in publishing those pieces over here.

Second, I'm going to significantly reduce how much gets published. Right now I'm thinking a piece every other week, with something from me in the mix every other month or so. This is a compromise between completely abandoning this soapbox of mine that has been a labor of love for so long and keeping going at my former pace.

Third, moving forward, I want this to be more of a platform for other voices than my own.

The tone will be the same; the subject matter will also be the same. Just a change of focus of who and how often.

So, what do you all think? I really want to know.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Another Hiatus

Y'all, I have too many forks and not enough spoons so this blog is gonna be on hiatus for the rest of May and maybe into June. Thanks for your understanding.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Interview Post: Violet Fox


Violet Fox

Current job?
As of June 2018, I work for OCLC as one of the editors of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

How long have you been in the field?
I started working as a library student worker in 1995 and worked as a paraprofessional for seven years, but I was outside of libraries for a while (buy me a drink and ask me about my job as an internet content moderator). I got my MLIS in 2013 from the University of Washington iSchool.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
The Dewey editorial team has been working at the Library of Congress since 1932, so in keeping with that tradition I work at LC, but in not the fancy Jefferson buildingthe boring building next door. I keep my cubicle pretty sparse. The two computers reflect the two organizations I work within: one belongs to OCLC, the other to LC.

How do you organize your days?
I use handwritten lists on scratch paper for daily tasks, color-coded Google calendar entries for longer term tasks, and text documents for ideas for future projects.
The Pomodoro Technique is a lifesaver.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
There’s a lot of research, especially researching topics that potentially need revision in the DDC schedules: recent subjects I’ve investigated include sewage systems, coloring books, eunuchs, and BASE jumping. The editorial team is only four people, so we work closely together to review each other’s work and bounce ideas off each other. I’m still learning the ins and outs of the editorial rules that govern the development of the DDC, so I refer to those frequently.

What is a typical day like for you?
Things I might do in a typical day: answer a question from a Dewey user, review another editor’s work, research one of my own projects, investigate the history of a particular Dewey number, reach out to one of our international partners for suggestions on how to address a particular problem. Sort through email. Lots of phone/video meetings, since my boss and most of my coworkers work in Ohio. I often have lunch or a coffee break with someone from LC; it’s difficult to get to know anyone outside my tiny department, so I try to be intentional about reaching out and making connections.
What are you reading right now?
I recently finished
Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science by Carol Kaesuk Yoon. I’ve been reading a lot about classification in a variety of fields; Yoon’s book is a popular science discussion of the history of scientific taxonomy and how it differs from folk taxonomy.
I just started The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth. Work is sending me to Stockholm & Oslo next month for a conference and it’ll be my first time overseas, so I’m reading up to alleviate some anxiety about that.
I’ve outsourced all my memory of books I’ve read to my GoodReads account, which leads to moments of panic as I totally blank when anyone asks what I’ve been reading.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
I’ve heard Dr. Nicole Cooke (@LibraryNicole) speak a few times and have walked away energized and inspired by her focus on figuring out what you want your legacy to be. Reflecting on that periodically helps me focus my energy on the things that matter to me (e.g., making the case for the value of metadata, being encouraging to new library folks, bringing transparency to my work).  

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Defending Dewey (the classification, not the man)

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
I love learning new color words. Recent favorites are corbeau (a very dark shade of green, almost black) and eau de Nil (a pale green).

What is your least favorite word?
Every single word that comes out of the mouth of the man currently living in the White House.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Throughout the years I’ve taken a few personality tests that suggest likely careers based on my temperament. Usually number two is librarian, and for whatever reason, number one is always X-ray technician. So I should probably give that a go if this library thing doesn’t work out.

What profession would you never want to attempt?

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Just the regular power of not having to struggle with depression. That’d be neat.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Whatever I’ve been able to contribute towards building communities of generous and compassionate people in the overlapping circles of librarianship that I inhabit.
If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Honestly, I don’t evenwhere would I start? I’ve had entire jobs that were mistakes.
Most of my mistakes are the result of procrastinating, which is absolutely my worst trait. Not wasting time putting off small tasks is the life lesson I never seem to learn.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Often organizing zine librarian stuff or, occasionally, critlib stuff. Occasionally writing Wikipedia articles. Thinking about the next issue of my zine about roadside attractions. Sending snail mail. I moved halfway across the country for this job, so a good amount of my time is spent traveling to visit my spouse, or counting the days until our next visit.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
A few of the amazing folks from my grad school cohort: Alyssa Jocson-Porter (@itsuhLEEsuh), Elizabeth Brookbank (@elizabethbrookb), and Eli Gandour-Rood (@eliganrood).

Violet tweets at @violetbfox.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Teach Yourself Twine: How to Create a Catalog Search and LC Call Number Review Game, by Jillian Sandy

My problem was this: after depending on a shelving tutorial borrowed from another institution for training purposes, suddenly the URL changed or the site no longer hosted this excellent (and free) resource. I thought I’d never have the time or the coding skills to make my tutorial. I was so wrong. I ended up creating a fun, low-stakes game that helped student employees a way to practice catalog searches and using the Library of Congress system, and I want to share with you!

The game additionally allows student employees to further explore catalog searching and to nudge them toward using the catalog to search for books--I created this game at the University of Dayton, where the default search option is UDiscover (OneSearch at many institutions), a tool we do not recommend for looking up books.

If you’d like to do something similar, here’s how: you will need to choose a free, relatively easy-to-use platform. I recommend Twine, open-source software created to build interactive stories. Though you can use this in-browser, I would recommend downloading the program for Windows, Mac, or Linux. You’ll have a lot more storage space for your game this way--important if you’d like to include adorable pictures of cats, gifs, or video to add some visual appeal.

Twine very easily lets you create a beginning and end to your game. You can also link pages to each other--for example, the pages student employees will see when they answer a question correctly or incorrectly, as well as links to the next question on their adventure.

Now for that pesky coding part of the process. You will need to do some coding to change font and image sizes, and perhaps to add images or create links (for example, when giving attribution for images). The good news: you can Google all of these things! I have very little experience with coding and managed to create this game--you can too!

One additional consideration with Twine is the use of images; first, you will need to find images that are out of the public domain, licensed by Creative Commons, or otherwise unencumbered by copyright restrictions. I found many images requiring attribution only at Vecteezy and Pixabay. I also like Unsplash for this kind of thing.

Unlike a blog or another site where you can upload images, images in Twine will need to be encoded. Again, you’re in luck--there are many sites where you can encode images for free! ou will need to turn your image into a rather lengthy line of code. I used a site called Base 64, which allows you to drag and drop images to transform into code. Below is an example of an image and the beginning of its code.

Another option in lieu of images are gifs. On sites like Giphy, the embed code is provided! All you need to do is copy and paste the embed code and the whole ordeal of encoding images can be avoided. 

When you have completed your game, you can export the file as an HTML file. This will lead to another consideration: hosting. Luckily, there are several places where you can host your Twine creation with no cost. I use Philome.la, which does require a Twitter account to sign up. If you do have an account, you will simply upload the HTML file you have created. No need to worry about the URL changing or the content suddenly disappearing! Be aware that you cannot change your game once you’ve uploaded it; if you need to make changes, you will need to edit the HTML in Twine and then re-upload as a new game (with a new URL). 

The game I created is pretty low key, requiring student employees only to complete the game and print or screenshot their “Purr-tificate of Completion.” However, the Twine Cookbook does outline the process of adding or subtracting points based on student responses (and provides some other helpful codes). Using a points system does provide an assessment tool for the game, though may feel more like a test to students than the interactive practice game I set out to make. 

In addition to training for student employees, I see the potential of this activity to be used as pre-work for library instruction sessions. Covering some search strategies ahead of time could give librarians more time to dive into information literacy concepts during class. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, play the game here: 
http://philome.la/JSandcat/searching-ud-catalog-a-roesch-library-adventure. You may need to search the UD Catalog to avoid any negative consequences from the game’s disgruntled cats: http://flyers.udayton.edu/search/X. (I've had some problems with Twine going down temporarily every now and then...but since it's free I have made do.I also have it hosted on Text Adventures here: https://textadventures.co.uk/games/view/aSyZJWezq0qdEwErOY11BQ/searching-the-ud-catalog-a-roesch-library-adventure) 

Jillian Sandy is a Visiting Research & Instruction Librarian at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She can be reached at jssandy at smcm dot edu. Find many pictures of her cat on Instagram as jsheilas.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

One on One Meetings with Library Faculty and Staff

The most valuable thing we all have is time. As a mid-level administrator, my time is definitely at a premium with all the meetings I have that take me out of the library. And yet, I make sure to take time to meet one-on-one with every single person who works for me regularly. For those of you who may not know this, I'm the director of library services at a small/medium community college, and I have 17 direct reports according to the organizational chart. Yes, you read that right - 17. Sure, that's a lot of meetings, but it's important to me.

It's so important to me that I meet with everyone at least monthly, but more often if they'd prefer. So far, it's turned out that I meet with 3 of the people who work in the library on a weekly basis, 1 person bi-weekly, and everyone else monthly. Now, to be clear, these are the formal, sit down in a room with the door closed so we won't be interrupted kind of meetings. I have plenty of impromptu meetings and try to be as available as possible. But I sit down with everyone at least once a month.

Why do I do this? Let me say right away that it is not so I can be a control freak. I do not micromanage (well, mostly I don't - I do get a little huffy about self-care and trying to encourage work/life balance). It's because I want to know what's going on so I can be as helpful and supportive as possible. It's also because I want to make sure I have face time with everyone. Sure, I have opportunities to talk with full time library faculty and staff on a regular basis, but I really don't have that with part time people - with the exception of the adjunct librarian with whom I do my weekly reference desk shift. So these meetings are a way for me to give my time and attention, but they are also selfish because I wouldn't get a chance to talk with lots of my direct reports otherwise.

And what happens in these meetings? Well, that depends on who is in the meeting and what's going on in the library and at the college. These meetings are usually very informal, with shared responsibility for agenda items. I aim to have my agenda items to people ahead of time, but I fail way more often than I accomplish this. I definitely give time to think if it's a thinking thing. Some topics that come up on a regular basis:
  • Work goals and projects;
  • Career goals;
  • Stress levels and workload.

The way I see it, it's my job to make things go smoothly for everyone who works in the library since they are the ones taking care of our patrons directly. I can't do that if I don't know what's going on, and everyone has a different perspective in the library.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

National Library Workers Day

I've said it before and I'll say it again: my job, as an administrator, is to make things good for my direct reports. One of the simplest ways I can do that is to occasionally let them know how much I appreciate the work they do. I get everyone a little something for the winter gift-giving season, speak up about their successes in broader meetings, bring macarons regularly, and so on. One thing I've done every year since becoming an administrator is to acknowledge National Library Workers Day. I've also started trying to remind others:

The thing is, you don't have to spend a lot of money to do this. Last year I bought everyone a zipper pull that says "READ" and this year, I bought everyone cute magnetic bookmarks I found on Etsy.

I also made cards for everyone! (For the record, I wrote individual messages to accompany the Target gift cards everyone got for the winter gifty. It's not always a one size fits all approach.)

The important thing is to mix it up. I have a lot of variety in dietary restrictions and preferences among the staff. It's easy to get gluten free macarons, but I also have someone who works for me who is vegan. I probably do overdo it with the cute things (I gotta be me), but even that balances out with highly practical Target gift card. Even the Target gift card was a thing that took conversation and consideration to pick. It's the one store in the area to which everyone has access, and I asked a few people for feedback before the first time I did it.

The gifts I give are never expensive, and I make sure to balance them out with real and specific praise for people's strengths and triumphs, but National Library Workers Day is an important holiday in my part of the world and I suggest other library administrators celebrate it in some way if they can.