December 2017 Monthly Report

My new boss has asked that I write out a more descriptive version of what I did in the previous month. Aside from all the usual work (social media, digital signs), I had twenty separate projects in progress. What I liked best about this report is that it prompts me to follow up on the items. A few highlights are below.

I strike a pose on a frozen pond. These don’t exist back home!

Museum Passes

We had a 20.4% increase in museum pass reservations in December vs. November. We sent out a special email highlighting museums in December which may have caused that increase.

Increase in Hoopla

In December 2016, we didn’t send out an email highlighting our digital services. So that was my base number. In December 2017, we did. The difference between 2016’s non-campaign to 2017’s campaign: 45% increase in new users and 25.9% increase in borrows.

I then evaluated this to two previous emails and came up with two lessons: have a holiday email focusing on digital items and use “present” or “gift” in the subject line.

Last Email Unsubscribed From

I was curious as to which email list was driving unsubscribes. We switched to MailChimp in December 2013, so I evaluated data from that point to December 2017. It took awhile, but I was able to sort out the emails into different lists. When I asked MC if I could easily sort by the group the email was sent to, this was not an option. So by hand it went!

New Year’s Eve Playlist

I loved the idea of finding a song to dramatically finish the year with. My colleagues kindly supplied me with several songs. The project took longer to put together than I anticipated, but our weekly events email readers + Twitter had a good time with it.

Seasonal Bookmarks

This year, we set aside money to get 30 bookmarks printed and cut by a professional print shop. We’ve split this into three terms throughout the year. The first round was exhausting to push through with an August 1st due-in-house deadline. With the second round, it went more quickly. However, it wasn’t clear if the digital proofs were accurate or not. Thankfully, the printer sent a paper proof which I was able to sign off on last Friday. Today the two boxes arrived. My colleague was wonderfully helpful in helping me sort the bookmarks and then distribute them throughout the building. Today was the day that we wanted the bookmarks to be in-house. Good timing!

Logo for Midterms Event

My very talented colleague approached me about her redesign of our annual midterms programming. Usually, we stay open an extra hour for 3 days (and again for finals). This year, we’re going to have an after hours event on a Sunday. I was so inspired by the title, The Long Night Against Procrastination, that I wanted to make a custom logo.

Courtesy of Darien Library

I looked up Ikea lanterns to find my favorite version. Then I stabbed at Illustrator until I got the shape right. My colleague approved. The original text was just plain text at an angle. It didn’t fit my vision. So I spent about two days working at it to come up with the above design. It’s not perfect — I’m not confident with Illustrator yet — but it’s 85% of the way towards my vision.

Courtesy of Darien Library

I also rather like the email design that goes along with the logo.

Prepopulate JotForm Fields via URL

We use JotForm for our library’s website. It’s fairly easy to customize, their customer service forums are fast, and they provide lots of integrations.

One feature I had been musing on was how to pre-fill a field on a form. For instance, in an email I’m promoting the patron to borrow a book for their book club. Usually they’d click the link and then have to add the book title in the form. However, with a little URL magic, you can do this bit of work for the user.

How to prepopulate fields

* Go to http://prepopulate.jotform.io/, login, and select your form (you have to scroll).
* On the form, enter the info you want prepopulated.
* Click on Generate URL at the top.
* On the next screen, you’ll see a custom Full URL.

If you’re just linking directly to the form

* Just copy the URL generated by step 4.
* Make sure to not send people this link as displayed above. Instead, link the text like so.

If your form is embedded on the website

* Copy only the text starting with the ? the very end.
* You’re copying something like: ?book=Twilight
* Pull up the website page which has the embedded form on it.
* Paste the text you copied to the end of the URL. It’ll look something like this:
https://www.example.com/submit-request?book=Twilight
* Make sure to not send people this link as displayed above. Instead, link the text like so.

I Aten’t Dead

~ Granny Weatherwax

I’ve been working on so many projects at work that it’s hard to remember that I need to keep this site updated on them. I’ve also been trying to stay on task with NaNoWriMo, so I’ve been preoccupied.

My latest page design for the Fellowship goes live on Friday. I’m rather pleased with it. I had quickly wireframed it and took it to the department head for approval. The finished version is almost identical to the sketch.

It also presented another challenge: film a new video with the current fellow and combine that clip with interviews from the two previous fellows. Their clips come from a video with a heavy music overlay on top of their speaking. I contacted the videographer/editor of that film. He sent me a similar piece of music. I ended up importing that video plus my filmed clip into Final Cut Pro. I sliced each section into pieces. Then I disabled clips I didn’t want to use until I came up with my winning combination.

The audio part was difficult. I ended up moving the new audio about 20 seconds under the previous clip and had them intertwined with a fade-in. When my new clip appears, the music shifts. If you’re listening closely, you’ll notice that the music from the first two shots has dropped out completely. However, for our purposes, it goes smoothly enough to get the job accomplished.

As well, for what feels like the first time in forever, I’m coming up with new ideas. One cherished suggestion was taken seriously by my boss and she brought it forth as a co-sponsored program. She then took it one step further and contacted the local public access channel to see if they’d want to film it. They do!

Move

Moved House
I’ve been silent on here while undergoing a move that has dragged out almost two months. When I returned from the eclipse, I had to hurry to pack my house up. Then I started moving the delicate artwork and plants by the carloads. I must have made 13 or so trips. We spent almost a week cleaning out our old apartment.

Our household is expanding by one with a parent moving in. Since we’re moving in at different times, it means that we really haven’t been able to settle in. The walls are still blank and furniture sits oddly while waiting for the other household to join our own. Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that I don’t mind mowing, I enjoy pruning, and harvesting tomatoes from our garden is sweet indeed. This is a journey of discovery which I hadn’t anticipated. I think there’s a homeowner lurking under my skin.

New Department at Work
While this was going on, I have been assigned to a new department at work, Adult Programming and Community Engagement. My day-to-day work has not changed yet. I still sit in the UX office. I suspect that what I want to do more of is not publicity, but analysis. This week for instance, I’ll meet with two of my hew department colleagues to evaluate their data and strategies to increase their outreach. I’m looking for patterns over time, opportunities to do A/B testing, and just ways to do more.

Moving Forward
My new Director-at-Large position is taking off too. It’s a little overwhelming with so many new things to be happening at once. But I’m already thinking ahead. Is there a new class to teach? A new book to write? Where can I take this energy and move forward?

Wanted: Focus
One thing I have dropped: I’m no longer a member of LibUX. Michael is continuing to grow it under his own vision and direction.

I’m still looking for my place. I miss podcasting. I miss learning. I struggle with focus. The dark times of the world distracts me. What’s going on in librarianship? Where has everyone gone? The online conversations have dried up in the places I usually look: blogs, Twitter, listservs, and even Slack. I’m on some Facebook groups, but that isn’t the passionate place I discovered when I was in library school. Where are you, world?

Total Solar Eclipse

I’m nine-years-old and in the third grade. This was the year that we learned about the three states of matter: gas, liquid, solid. It is also the year of the partial solar eclipse. We head outside on Tuesday, May 10, 1994. In our hands, we have simple pinhole projectors to view the eclipse. On the sidewalk, we can just make out the eclipse through our trembling third grade excitement.

742 miles away and twenty-three years later, my colleague has picked up my excitement over the total eclipse. He’s even deeper than I am, eagerly watching videos and talking to me about the four stages of an eclipse. He grew up on just the other side of the mountains from me and I find it funny that we both landed in the same location all these years later. He sends me a video and I dawdle watching it. When I do, I cough up the $1.99 for the app they recommend. The app will ensure that I find totality and it’ll talk me through the eclipse itself. I had began planning for Monday, August 21, 2017 back in January, but now I was preparing for the big day. As it approached, my colleague flew to the western end of Tennessee. I picked up my two best friends and drove to the eastern side of Tennessee.

I’m nervous, so I cough up $50 for three tickets to Castleton Farms in Loudon, TN. Upon arrival, I pay another $10 for parking. I wanted to ensure that we had a good place to settle while we wait.

The roads were empty until half an hour before we arrived. We take turns smothering all our exposed skin in sunscreen and bug spray. Then we lug ourselves across the rolling green lawn to the bag inspection center. They’re looking for alcohol. Just as we’re signing the liability waivers regarding looking directly at the sun, my app drily countdowns to the first contact. The lady looks concern for a second until I tell her what it is. After getting our non removable-without-destroying wristbands, we eagerly tear open the eclipse glasses I had purchased. We turn and seek out the sun. Though it has been just a moment, the moon has moved fast. It’s impressive.

We wander around the dips and hollows of this wedding farm. Food trucks make up a square off to the side. As sweat runs down my back, my friends pick up lunch. We nudge into an already occupied table to wait for the order. The couple moves on leaving us with the table for the rest of our wait. Throughout the next hour or so, people periodically put on their glasses and look up. We lean back from our umbrella to watch. The moon is eating away the sun.

The Phenomenon We Witnessed
* The light dimmed and flattened. Holding your arm out, it was like viewing the world through an Instagram filter. Maybe a sepia-tinged one.
* The temperature dropped noticeably. It was about 86 degrees when we had arrived. Halfway to totality, I stopped sweating.
* About 10 minutes till totality, the insects awoke and began to talk. Cicicadias? Katydids? No idea.
* A few minutes before totality, I pulled one of the white lawn chairs out from the table to expose it to the sunshine. Yes, shadow snakes/bands were visible. As my colleague later said, they were almost more like a mirage. They appeared again immediately following totality.
* 360 sunset — very subtle, but there was a band of color wherever we could see the horizon.
* Venus and a couple stars shone brightly in the darkened sky.
* Viewing the eclipse thrown by plant shadows and within my own finger lattice. At that point, they were just little crescents.

The Dream
As totality approached, my phone beeped before reciting the current phenomenon. I eagerly dragged my friends’ attention out from under the umbrella and directed them to get ready. The darkness fell like a curtain. Swift. Sudden. Dark. Not the dark of night, but of a blue-gray dusk. I watched eagerly for the wedding ring/diamond or any other cool corona effects. It was too fast and my human eyes too weak to see. Then when the app said it was safe, I tore my glasses off and looked upwards.

Later when we drove away, my mind looped the words “black hole sun” while I tried to process the vision of the blackened sun. From my camera’s perspective, it was a bright light with a tiny black dot in the center. To my human eyes, it was the reverse: a black sun with white glowing tendrils radiating out. Playing it back in my mind, it was all so dream-like. I gaped upwards then looked around for the other highlights such as the 360 degree sunset. I held my phone in-hand, recording throughout the event. But when I think on it, I just “see” my eyes jerking up, seeing this impossible black sun, the blue-gray sky, and again, feel the goosebumps that shudder through my body. It was like every apocalyptic anime I’ve ever watched. It didn’t seem real then. And even 20 minutes later, it had already melted in my mind to a dream-like status.

The light returned as swiftly as it had left. My camera captures it from a few seconds before to a few seconds after the light returns. I’ve universally found in eclipse videos the same sound — that of cheering. People whooping, clapping, and sometimes screeching their astonishment. It’s a unique shared experience which I highly recommend. My words here do it so little justice. As I said, it’s so surreal that your mind has trouble processing what you witnessed.

We left shortly afterwards. A band was going to play on the grounds, but we had a long drive back to our lodgings. A bit later, my phone reported that the fourth contact was coming to an end. I was heading to a red light. The eclipse was completely over.

So Many Prints

I’m going on vacation next week, so I’ve been slamming through hurdles as fast as I can. So far this month I’ve designed 11 bookmarks (10 which had multiple designs per side), 3 posters, 2 banners, 2 postcards, digital signs, email designs, editing web pages, scheduling social media, and editing images left and right. Then I swung out my rubber cement and glued down two posters.

The coolest thing by far was getting to take photos of the children’s librarians. Then our local fire chief took the camera from me and told me to go hop in the photo. I’m often left out of cool photos as the photographer of things, so this was an unexpected joy.

While this graphic design stuff was happening, I was also working hard on following up on all those emails. I had some cool ideas recently, but of course, this means I have to write it up. We had our annual stats review this week too. I spent 90 minutes compiling a picture of how our social media, emails, website, and Digital Media Lab has done. The week is just half over. I’ll have to continue to hustle as fast as I can over the next two days!

Design Development Work

No images of today’s work since I tossed out most of it when I was finished with the design process. My tasks for the day were to create a print ad and a double-sided bookmark. For the ad, I created 11 layouts. The first two were digital versions of the sketches that were handed to me. From there, I worked out different arrangements of text, font sizes, colors, adding a border, adding images, until I came upon the final design which was accepted. As you scroll through the previous designs, you can see how I slowly tipped my chessboard towards it. Each idea sliding downwards until I arrived at the final image.

I printed out the proofs, marked my two favorite, scribbled a note of guidance, and left them on the requester’s desk. Later, when I returned to pick up the pieces, he had also chosen my favorite one. While checking and re-checking the layout back in InDesign, I got frustrated with the tools. I nabbed the metal ruler from my colleague’s desk and held it up to my iMac’s surface. Then I slowed nudged the text box into place.

For the bookmark, I had looked at the theme idea last week in some confusion. I poked around on the web and found a bunch of photos for a moodboard of sorts and uploaded it the shared drive. On Friday, my colleague wrote back that I was close, but not quite right. I took her words, spent 2 minutes googling and found a lovely stock illustration. She loved it.

Today I started the work of creating a bookmark from that image. I’ll admit, these bookmarks aren’t quite the thing of dreams. I’m a little crunched for time, so it’s more important to get them done than perfect. For this project thought, I made a dozen or so layouts with different words and color choices. Sent it over. After lunch I had my response back. I then laid out 4 or so designs for the back and sent it back. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get the sign-off so I can mark it as done.

We’re pushing a deadline of Friday here for these ten bookmarks. I’ve gotten works-in-progress drafts for six of them now. Once staff sign off on them, I can move them to the finish pile. The goal is to have all of them back from the print shop by September 1st for National Library Card Sign Up Month.