Two Upcoming Learning Opportunities

I have was given the good fortune to present three times this fall. The third one’s information isn’t online yet, so you’ll just have to settle for two for now.

Creating Low-Cost Interactive Displays for Your Library
Monday, October 5, 2015 at Farmingdale Public Library from 10 a.m. to 12 noon
More information

If you were to look at my eBay history, you’d see that I’ve been buying some cheap digital photo frames as demonstration pieces. I’m still looking into other hardware pieces to bring along for this hands-on workshop.

Getting Started with Usability Testing Webinar
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 12 noon PST
Register Online

Infopeople have a very thorough onboarding process and high expectations of their instructors, so this workshop should be great! It will be focused to library staff in general as this LSTA grant funded project looks for practical and easy educational opportunities for their students.

Voiceover Mode on iPad

I was assisting someone today who was nearly blind and was using Voiceover mode on her iPad. How extremely difficult and unintuitive it was made me clumsy. It takes 3x as many keystrokes to type in anything. We were trying to use one of our 3rd party vendor sites and ah…

I’m not an accessibility expert. But I felt such burning shame at how difficult this equipment was to use. In order to type, the patron needed to be able to see the keyboard. The letters were too small. What is the point of a search box if the text within it is itty bitty?

This was not the first time I’ve had a patron come in with an iPad for accessibility help. Each time they leave so disappointed because they simply can’t size up the text large enough. I’m not sure how Android or Windows tablet handle in this area. But surely, someone can do better.

The Opening Act

After four years, my work is going to result in the main project I was brought on board for. I’m excited about it. I’m terrified. When I first arrived, I did a big Trello board that tracked requests, issues, ideas, and tasks as they moved from To Do to Done. The corkboard of design concepts from other sites has been taken down. Too much time has passed for them to be relevant any longer. So I replaced them with analytics data to study. I then connected them with embroidery thread.

Outside of my office, I have been meeting with staff to get their input. They’re surprised and happy that I’m asking them. I find this strange since my MO from the beginning was asking them to tell me their ideas. I’ll then put them in my Trello board to track. Now I’m typing up my handwritten notes and putting them into Asana. I was thrilled today when I realized I could assign subtasks to people. I like using project management software, but let’s see if it catches on.

I’ve also begun to poke at the latest edition of the CMS. Since it hasn’t been released yet there isn’t too much officially on it yet. Bugs are still creeping in. Theming looks like it could potentially be a pain to learn a new system. However at this point, I’m more concerned about the information architecture that needs to be put in place.

Regarding content strategy, I’m strict about branding guidelines and presentation. I want libraries to look their best. If you’re going to post, you need to stick to the standards. Don’t write one vague sentence for a program and toss that up. I suppose this comes from my corporate retail background where you had to adhere to strict standards. I don’t think retail is any better than us. Libraries can look just as professional in our copy. Sure, the content types can have lots of lovely help text (and I wonder if I can set the system to refuse to publish any post with a link that is shown in the text as click here). However, will people understand why it’s important to look our best? We’re not just a library. We want our community to be proud of what their tax dollars and donations support. Metaphorically hiding dirt under rugs isn’t going to cut it.

Now how to express all this in a way that makes people care will be my challenge.

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.