A Flexible Skill Set

(or skillset?)

I was carefully going over a power of attorney form for a patron before notarizing the paperwork when my coworker appeared over my shoulder. “After this, go downstairs to fix a banner printer issue.” While applying my seal to multiple sheets, a thought crossed my mind — my duties at work are quite varied. After thanking the patron, I carried my notary supplies to my office. From there I went to the Technology Center to investigate the issue. Thus began a half hour process of assisting a patron with setting up a banner print. I got to turn it into a “teachable moment” by showing her the advanced image search options that Google offers like searching by size, color, and type (photo, clipart, animation).

Afterwards, I headed back to my office to edit the training video footage I had (reluctantly) starred in earlier in the day. Periodically I’d check the Library’s Twitter and Facebook accounts while I worked. Then webmail would ding and I’d respond to whatever message I had received. Oh, yes, I also attended a meeting to plan out a program for this fall. Towards the end of the night, I fielded some questions from the Help Desk staff person on how they can handle a patron issue for next time. Next it was making a gif for the Library’s Tumblr account. Finally, I reviewed some paperwork regarding copyright and hunting down the image credits for a patron.

Why am I writing this? It’s because you may notice my #UXlibrarian posts on here have become sparse. Or as someone once told me, it’s no longer unknown work so I don’t exert as much mental energy on it. Therefore, at the end of the day I don’t feel like I had an experience which is worthy of being shared. This post is just a tiny peek at one of my days that I wouldn’t normally post about.

A Week in the Life of a User Experience Librarian

A couple months ago, my coworker Mallory attempted to get staff to post to our internal staff blog about what a typical work day looks like. While noodling it out, I realized that I couldn’t point to a typical day, but instead could talk about a list of the different things I do throughout the week. Since I received two requests this week for my job description, which I don’t have, I will substitute this list for that as well.

My typical day is broken into 12 discrete segments. I rotate my time between:

  • tasks other staff have given me (e.g. bookmarks, posters, flyers, panels, websites, email templates, etc.)
  • tech support for patrons and staff via email, phone, IM, and Help Desk tickets
  • one of the first responders to any issues that occurs with the computers/patrons on the Lower Level
  • occasional walk arounds to check in for spur-of-the-moment questions/ideas from staff
  • updating & responding to at least 5 social media accounts
  • creating digital signage
  • keeping an eye on & updating the website
  • advising staff on how to provide a better experience during their program
  • plan or teach technology classes
  • handle 95% of all tech 1-on-1s
  • maintaining the DML
  • manning the Help or Reference desk
  • tech training for patrons and staff
  • editing all video productions (which are not done by Manny or Krishna)
  • emailing everyone back!
  • attending meetings with various library committees or departments
  • keeping an eye on stats for the DML, website, social media, email campaigns, video sharing sites, etc.
  • checking the building for opportunities to improve the UX (e.g. update old signage)
  • liaison to the Middlesex Genealogical Society so I attend their meetings and programs
  • manage the tech and genealogy collections
  • finally, whatever long-term project my boss has given me

I don’t do all of these in one day, but it’s likely that most of these happen at some point during the week!

A Week

My spouse is sick. It was the first time in our six years of acquaintance that he’s been seriously ill. He burned, shivered, and coughed as he got progressively worse. He finally agreed to go to the doctor yesterday where we learned he has pneumonia. My work graciously let me use my own sick time so I could attend to him. Much of that time was spent running for water, changing his washcloth, taking his temperature, and trying to coax him to eat. T worries that he’s been whining and asked too much of me. No, I feel like I failed in not recognizing his pneumonia sooner.

All this is to say that for the first time, I got a really good look at the terribleness of life without him fully present. The thought of T not being here was…far-off. Distant. We’re young still. God willing we won’t have to deal with any scary moments for another 50 years. His pneumonia isn’t serious enough for him to go to the hospital, so I am being a little dramatic. But it was terrifying to watch him jerk awake, stare at the ceiling, and then remain that way for minutes at a time. I’m not sure if he was conscious during those times. I’d like to express how good it is to share my life with him, but I’d just embarrass him. So let us leave it at: he’s vibrant and seeing him laid low made me fearful.

Therefore, I don’t know what’s gone on this week. I was at home for long periods, but I was idling, waiting for the next time T would awake. If you talked to me or expected anything from me, you didn’t get it. We had a big project at work this week changing from one computer/money manager to another, but I’m only vaguely aware of what happened.

Today T is sitting up and ate a solid meal. This probably means I can start getting my head back in the game. I’ll try, but I’ll be on my feet at the slightest sound of unease to check on him.

I learned a powerful lesson this week about life. It’s painful and now I have a slight glimpse of potential terribleness in the years ahead. I can’t say I’m happy with that knowledge.

Quotes from Judy Blume’s Talk

Look at those smiles!

Stephanie Anderson interviewing Judy Blume at Greenwich Library in Connecticut

My colleague, Stephanie Anderson, interviewed Judy Blume last night. Ms. Blume is on tour for her book, In the Unlikely Event. The text below was captured as fast as I could manage it during the Q&A session.

“Teachers and librarians are the ones to put the right book with the right characters in the right hands at the right time.”

“Reading should be something you do for pleasure. I’m so worried about tests turning kids off from resting.”

Thank God for George. We talk to each other in code.

“I can know all those secrets (of adults), and if I don’t know, I make them up.”

“Dystopian fiction isn’t my thing, but so what.” That’s why it’s so important that they have lots of options in their reading.

“Tony Bennett singing Because of You. happens in a very important book. It’s the sexiest part.”

Writing advice: start with the day that something different happens. You need a great editor. We all do.

I track them. I’m very proud of Blubber. I’m glad I wrote that.

I made a calendar to track things in Blubber.

For characters, I know where it’s going, but in the middle that’s where it gets really scary. I think of books like jigsaw pieces. I then have to put them together. The first draft is me figuring it out. Everyone figures out their own process.

My mind is cluttered and messy. There is no one way. Whatever works.

I only work on one project at a time. John Updike did fiction in one room, then essays over here, and reviews over there.

Now when I start something, I stay with it. In the beginning, I started a lot of things. I kept them. It’s good to see where you came from.

I hate beginning.

If someone talks on the phone in my hearing, I’ll listen.

Placing Historical Houses in the 21st Century

I’ve been interning for six months now at a library/archive in a museum. Since this was on the side, I haven’t felt right about publicizing it much until some of my contributions showed up online. However, this particular project was intriguing and got me digging through a 1915 directory.

My task is to match 1915 newspaper clippings about historic houses “in Bridgeport and the surrounding vicinity” to actual addresses. It’s surprising how many houses don’t even have a town mentioned. Instead you’d get vague descriptions like “down the street from Honeysuckle and up on Sunspot Hill.” My supervisor pulled the directory for me and showed me how to cross-reference streets to people’s names.

My Process
First, I’d skim the article to see if they laid it out: city or address. If not, I’d then jump to the end of the article where the author usually placed the name of the current owner. Then I’d leaf through the directory (always starting with Bridgeport then Stratford) to see if I could find that person’s name. If I’m lucky, there they are and the address vaguely relates in some way to the article.

Then there is the tricky one. This house belonged to Mr. Hatchback for 30 years, but he died last year. His estate sold the house to Mrs. Owens. I can find Mrs. Owens in the directory but does she live there? The directory is actually for 1914, so maybe not. Another one: the house was moved from place A to place B. Then another building was moved to the original location. Where is the house located now? Oh, right. It’s down by the river. Which river? No name.

Am I still stuck? Time to break out my smartphone. If I’m in luck, I’ll find it right away. Otherwise, I’m downloading PDFs of articles related to that area to scan for information. The State Librarian had a nice census done on buildings around that time period, so that’s somewhat helpful. Unfortunately, the addresses are not included so it’s just “Hudson House.” If I’m at this point, I then go to Google Maps and see if I can tell from the article photo if the contemporary building is the same one. Often times it is not, but a few times I’ve struck gold. Most of the houses are from around 1800, but some are rumored to be from closer to the 1600s.

Once I had an answer or my best guess, I’d write it on a piece of paper and lay it on top of the photocopy. If I felt unconfident, I’d mark that address with a question mark.

The Finished Summer Reading Website

Property of Darien Library

Property of Darien Library

From the screenshot above, you probably can’t tell much about changes from the finished product to the previous one I wrote about. Oh, you’d be mistaken. Let me show you a little bit about what happened behind the curtain:

The site took around 25 hours to complete. This is despite the fact that I was working on top of a framework that I established three years ago. The issues are numerous such as there not really being a CMS to work with. Any style change I make on the front page will show up on the logged-in homepage. The logged-in version has additional content. This content climbs on top of the content that was already there. So you have to figure out a way to assign classes to the logged in vs. logged out versions of the same tables (yes, tables).

Tim Spalding was very kind to take a look at it and suggested a workaround. Then while looking for the place to change some text on a pop-up, I discovered a Javascript entry area. Hallelujah — I would not have been able to do this without this access. My spouse helped me put together some code which injected new classes into the logged in vs. logged out pages based upon the URL. THEN Firefox continued to be terrible, so I had to put in special targeted CSS just for Firefox. The site would look fantastic on every other browser except Firefox. This has been my experience for years with this browser.

The backend of the site is not divided into one master stylesheet but into many stylesheets per page. Yes, page level. So if I set the background to be X, Y, and Z on the homepage, I had to visit every other page and set up that new background code. It made the process very long and drawn-out.

Property of Darien Library

Property of Darien Library

My favorite part
My coworker sent me the image from the front of their summer reading brochure. I took it apart in Photoshop and added shadows, removed the spotlights, and created a semi-repeating pattern to use as the background. When I added that to the site, I realized I wasn’t happy with it. So I then pulled apart the curtain into multiple layers (with the courtesy of a transparent background and an eraser). I then ran drop shadows over the new individual rows. I then ‘shopped them back together.

What I didn’t incorporate
My colleague’s original design included spotlights. I wanted to add spotlights which would sway gently or slowly warm up. Something cool with CSS3. However, by the time I got to the end of getting it structurally working, I was done. So done.

Summer Reading 2015 Website: WIP

Courtesy of Darien Library

Courtesy of Darien Library

The above is a work in progress. This is our third year of using Evanced’s Summer Reading software. What I’ve done so far is clone last year’s site and then made adjustments for this one. You can view last year’s theme below. I was in the process of starting to dismantle its interior when I remembered to take the screenshot. So forgive the out of alignment aspects.

Courtesy of Darien Library

The text here should say Gamer instead of Star — Courtesy of Darien Library

Regarding this year’s theater design, I wanted to have a curtain that could be lifted with a click of a button. Alas, it was not meant to be. I could probably have done it if I had full control over the site. Unfortunately, it’s table-based and all I can do is some CSS manipulation. Below is what I believe is this year’s default theme.


I’m having trouble with our design because it’s breaking in Firefox. I’ve tested it in multiple other browsers (including IE) and it looks on fleek. Firefox has been my nemesis for years in this regards. However, I am using Firefox’s 3D model of the divs to help me pinpoint the different parts of the page are on the site. I’ve completely swapped the original two columns so it can get confusing. Also there isn’t a master stylesheet but approximately 50 tiny ones.

Hopefully by this time tomorrow I’ll be able to share the completely redesigned site!

Setting Up a Staff Blog

I was given the task to set up an internal staff blog. I choose WordPress, of course. The constraints:

  • easy to use
  • easy to update
  • easy to navigate

Advanced Comment Form: to remove unnecessary fields like website address
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded: so commenters get notifications when someone replies
USP Pro: Creates front-end post submissions without an account. This was something I choose since people complain when they have to create and remember even more accounts. So I eliminated that. They’ll just have to put their email address in every time. We went with pro since we wanted to be able to upload various file formats. There may have been a free solution, but it wasn’t worth me spending even more time researching a new plugin and then configuring it to work with the setup.

Use categories to organize the site + tags.
Created a video to show people how to use the site.
Use custom menu for “Write Post” link option.

Twenty Fifteen theme
Very minor tweaks to correct the appearance of lists

My additional requirements that I put on myself:

  • easy to comment
  • get notifications on your posts
  • get notifications on new comments to posts you replied to
  • email all staff when a new post is submitted

I am in the process of fixing two bugs:

Our all-staff email address is limited to only forwarding emails from our own domain address to stop outside spam. My colleague and I are working on a solution to this. It’ll probably deal with emails being sent to me and an Outlook rule that will auto forward that email to all staff from my inbox.

The person who wrote a post gets two comment notification emails whenever someone replies to what they wrote. Still trying to track that down…!

An annoying WordPress bug is that it’s not sending me native notifications of new post submissions, thus why I had to look into an outside plugin.