Flyer: The Doctor is You

Property of Darien Library
Property of Darien Library

Let me be honest: I designed this flyer with a sense of competition.

My colleague caught me ASAP after returning from ALA Midwinter in Chicago and asked me to produce this flyer by the end of the day. She gave me another library’s flyer for inspiration. I saw the layout of that one and thought, I can do better. Nothing like a little competition to get the blood moving…

The doctor image was created in Inkscape on my work Windows computer. According to that monitor, the doctor’s race is much more ambiguous. I’m annoyed that it came out the way it appears here on other computers. However, I think I did an alright job of trying not to present a specific gender or age to the illustration. My spouse pointed out that the image does portray someone of a certain weight. The model for the crossed arms was a buff guy, so there’s that.

The original version had a red background instead of blue. Unfortunately our printer turned the doctor’s skin tone orange and thus there was no contrast. So I changed out the color. I’m pretty happy with the way this came out though the amount of text makes me cringe. I’m used to designing digital signs which are skimpy with the text.

Poster: Recharge Your Book Group

Property of Darien Library
Property of Darien Library

Becky Spratford is a guest speaker coming to our library in a couple weeks. From my understanding, this program is her bread-and-butter. I was hoping to capitalize on any design element she already had going on, but found nothing. So I drew up a few concepts (lightning, batteries, power outlet) and let the book group coordinators decide. They choose the lightning! I then did the campiest Photoshop job to the images to merge them together.

Don’t let this poster deceive you: the initial book + lightning strike was done in about 45 minutes. It was trying to add Becky’s photo to it that took houuuurs. Eventually I gave up because the photo made the poster too busy.

Presentation: A/B Testing in Library Emails

Email is not dead — in fact, your library’s emails are delivered to your patrons’ inboxes more than 90% of the time while Facebook continues to diminish how many of your followers even see your content. The trick then is to get your patrons to open your emails and then interact with the content in a way to drive value for your library. At Darien Library, we are using A/B testing to discover how to design email newsletters that get opened and acted upon. Our most recent test of changing a subject line generated 10% additional opens. Then by adding a digital service to an email, we increased usage of the service by 151%. In this short session, Amanda will go over some of the metrics you can test for in your email campaigns. She will be focusing on MailChimp, but other email campaigns also offer insights on how your users interact with your library’s emails.

~User Experience Interest Group at Midwinter 2015

I was fortunate enough to present these slides to the LITA UX IG on Sunday, February 1st in Chicago. The main takeaways are that:

  • It’s difficult to know why people click on things from A/B testing alone
  • Multiple tests are needed to try and narrow down results
  • A/B testing is fun

My favorite question from the audience was how does email analytics work — how can you know someone opened your email? I got to explain about the invisible pixel that is downloaded when an email is open. However, Apple and now Gmail skews the data since they auto-load images while Outlook does not.

Darien Library Does Frozen

The fantastic ladies of the Children’s Library dressed up as Frozen characters for the December 30th Sing Along. They dressed up, took the photos, and sent me the link. I then selected these 5 photos out of 456 shots and created these images from them. Elsa took the longest to create. I believe the total time was probably around 5 hours.

These photos are the property of Darien Library. Frozen belongs to Disney.

The Road to Being Debt Free

Today I pulled the switch and paid off the remainder of my student loan debt. My education costs were paid for through federal student loans, scholarships, grants, and a graduate assistantship. I was ineligible for public loan forgiveness because my debt would have been paid off within ten years of standard payments. While the confirmation message shows that I owe $0, the feeling has not sunk in yet.

What I’m most thankful for is that I paid off every penny by myself based upon my own efforts. Of course, I could not have done so if I had not been gainfully employed full-time for the last 41 months. When I started college in 2004, I wanted to be a Disney animator. My dad had forbidden me from applying for Randolph-Macon Women’s College (since integrated) in Virginia so I had to go to school across town. I was miserable there. As high school was wrapping up, my classmates said that they had just known they were at the right school when they stepped onto campus. I never felt that during the four miserable years in my undergraduate program. I was there because I had no money to defy my dad and go to school elsewhere. So local I stayed.

I supported my dad, my three cats, and myself through college by working part-time in various retail and restaurant jobs. Pay was extremely low as you may imagine. I needed my student loans to make ends meet. I went to school full-time. My average day was me arriving for class at 8 a.m. Then I’d be at work at 4 p.m. till 9:30 p.m. I’d sleep in my car between classes and pull all-nighters to get projects done. I was exhausted all the time and deeply unhappy.

Graduation rolled around four years later in 2008 — just as the economy sank. I was fortunate to have my crappy retail job to continue to go to. I freelanced on a video documentary and graphic design job. Put in endless applications. I then went to a job fair on campus and ended up on the local news. My coworkers saw me talk about having put in 79 applications as a college graduate and having no leads. I then looked into grad school.

My first choice was Eastern Carolina University to become a nurse-midwife. However to get there, I needed to pick up four biology classes for enrollment. I sat for hours at the local community college to talk to them. They told me that I couldn’t take the classes without enrolling as a freshman and starting college all over again. Very angry and disappointed, I decided to take up what those “what should I do with my career?” tests said — library school. I took the GRE a week later (did as best as can be expected for such a short turnaround) and visited UNC and UNCG. At UNC, I did not talk to the library school but the journalism department (!). Dad and I almost didn’t bother going to UNCG, but we swung by last minute anyways. I’m so glad I did — I found my school.

Work punished me. Everyone knew I had been on the news talking about finding a non-retail job. So at the height of Christmas shopping and despite being on the customer service desk — they cut my hours to zero. For two long weeks I had no pay. This was the only income for my household. When I came to check the schedule, I found out that I had been hired to do claims (AKA returns, hazardous waste management, and recalls) full-time. The guy who worked back there said he wanted me to come work with him. Thus Chris saved my household. I worked in claims until June 2009. I moved to Greensboro for library school on August 1, 2009.

I had transferred from my retail store to one near my new apartment. It was extremely hateful. Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and homesick, I went to the school’s counselors. The guy convinced me that retail was killing me so I quit in September. I had worked for the company for 37 months. Things went okay for awhile, but my darling Dollbaby was sick from complications of diabetes and needed to visit the vet quite frequently. So in January I started to bite the bullet and try to go back to that hellhole. Then another call from above happened and I was awarded a graduate assistantship as webmaster. My education was now paid for and I had a small income that allowed me to take care of my baby.

Librarianship was something I choose out of desperation. My dream since the age of 8 to work as a Disney animator was too far away and impossible to achieve (you needed to have money to have a long unpaid internship to even get your foot in the door). So I improvised. This blog has been tracking me since the time I graduated college in 2008. I spent the first 26 years of my life in poverty. I was so heavy with sorrow for taking on student loan debt. Now that it’s gone and I’ve repaid the government/society, I am finally free. I can focus on saving for retirement.

Thus the end of this story. I obtained my driver’s license and the freedom to drive when I was twenty years old. Since my work and school consumed all my time, I was rarely able to make the trips to visit my grandparents who lived exactly 56 miles away from my house. In January 2011, in my final semester of library school, I got the call that the end was coming for Grandpa. I managed three trips between then till he died. The second to last trip, Grandma had left the room and I knelt down beside grandpa’s wheelchair. I was crying, holding onto his hand. And I asked him to please come to my graduation in May. Please. I am his only descendent to finish college let alone graduate school. I asked him if he was proud of me. I wanted to make him proud. He had worked so hard his whole life and had been sick with Parkinsons for 9 years. I wanted him to come see that his hard work had led to at least one of his descendents finally having the chance to get out of poverty. He died on Tuesday, February 15th at 9 p.m.

So grandpa, I paid off the last of my debt today in your honor. Your birthday was on Friday. I want to show you how far we still have to go.

2015 Emerging Leader

It is I! If you had seen me marginally tweeting about some big news the past couple of weeks, well, there it is out in the open now. My thanks to John Blyberg of Darien Library and David Gwynn of UNC Greensboro’s Digital Projects for writing reference letters on my behalf. As of yet, I do not know what project I will be working on. Just trying to follow through on all the paperwork and ALA Connect Groups + Facebook for EL makes life a little more interesting.

Notes from Discovering Your Polish, Ukrainian, and Eastern European Ancestors Genealogy Program

Download the eleven pages of notes

This was a great program presented by Jonathan Shea and Matthew Bielawa. My husband’s family immigrated from Poland so the topic is close to my heart. Before the event, all I knew is that the geopolitical borders changed all the time in Eastern European over the last few centuries. Shea and Bielawa instructs that you start your Eastern European genealogy research by starting in the United States. You will need your ancestor’s original name and their home village name. As a bonus on how to track down all the records, they gave some tips for how to hang out with your newfound relatives. Hint: get used to drinking vodka.

The Civil War Soldier

If I ask my relatives, they have no idea about our ancestors who fought in wars before World War II. Fortunately, I’m a genealogist. As part of my research recently, I discovered that my third-great grandfather, Aaron Columbus Goodman, had been shot on Main Street at Orange Court House County, Virginia on August 2, 1862. According to his Civil War Confederate Pension Application, he had been shot in the leg and sustained some serious head injury. Forty years later when he sent off the application, his witness said the leg wound was still festering.

My ancestor was a 24 year old blacksmith. He enlisted on March 13, 1862 in Catawba County, North Carolina. After being shot, he was then rounded up and taken as a prisoner of war to Maryland. It took nearly a year for him to recover from his head injury. His pension witness was another young man that he met while being held captive. The two men were only released at the end of the war. My grandfather wrote that he did not pledge allegiance to the Union, but instead was freely granted leave to become an ordinary citizen again.

Another of my Civil War relatives was not so lucky. After being captured, he ended up dying as a prisoner of war in Maryland.