Next Big Project: Step One

I have signed off on another big project — this one is not related to work. I am not sure when I can freely discuss it, but I want to capture the process here. I sent off a proposal to do research on a particular topic. It was approved so this is what I have done so far:

Started searching for locations who use this particular product.
My information comes from knowledge I already had (two places), using Google to search across a domain, looking for certain keywords which would appear on these pages, and checking various journals for articles about the product. I have also started looking for specific use cases.

Check to see if the product is used.
This is done in either two ways: trying to force reveal a particular aspect of the product or looking at the source code.

Cross-reference that this location has not been discussed before.
I am trying to avoid bringing nothing new to the table, so I have been cross-checking against other resources. When in doubt, I include that question in my introductory email.

Gathering data in one location.
Polly-alida and I use Google Docs to plan and manage our online courses, so it was natural for me to use Google’s services to compile data. I have created a spreadsheet where I keep track of various factors like why I am contacting this location, who the contact person is and their email, and then the date I contacted them. I will do a follow-up shortly for locations I have not heard back from.

Next steps.
I need to think about various permission forms as well as the wording in all communications I have with the locations.

On Public Desk Time

So far this week I’ve spent five hours in the computer labs. On the surface, I am disinclined to enjoy the time in there since I tend to think that it’s not a productive usage of my time when there are so many other demands awaiting me back at my personal work computers. However, in the last couple of weeks, I have come to realize that my time in there gives me fuel to speak with authority with solid examples of how patrons use the space and services. I also make personal contacts with patrons. They email or call me directly. Sometimes this works out well because the patron knows who to go to for help. Other times this can a burden when they refuse to work with anyone else. The attention is equally flattering or makes me want to hide under my desk. So while I lose the ability to work on certain projects because I am cut off from my workspace by a limited computer, the experience of being on the public service desk has been very informative.

A side note to this is my tendency to try and keep things in top shape in the computer labs. It is outside of my strict jurisdiction since I do not have any written supervisory assignment to the area, but I spend time on:

  • training staff
  • assisting tricky problems that arise on others watch
  • noticing issues that arise
  • attempting to solve problems
  • writing tutorials and training materials
  • make sure that work assignments are followed through
  • trying to facilitate communication across all staff who work varying schedules
  • doing research/observing the computer labs

For things which are not done face to face, I write copious amounts of documentation and write emails to try to keep everyone on the same page. As a former retail employee, I experienced workplaces where communication was only done through word of mouth. If the person you were relieving did not tell you what today’s new rules were and you broke them, you were in trouble. I feel a little nervous every time I send out an email. I’m unsure if I should be harassing a higher up about every little detail. There must be a balance I’m sure but I have not found it yet.

Major Catch Up

As mentioned in my previous post, my dominant hand was injured at work and the doctor said to let my hand rest. The injury was both a blessing and a curse. With the injury causing me immense pain to use my small motor skills, I was forced to work on different types of tasks at work. This meant analyzing statistics, working on collection development, doing UX work, etc. The curse was I had paid to go Design 4 Drupal 4 conference in Cambridge. My boss had urged me to avoid typing, but there was no way I could remember all the information from the sessions! So I sucked it up and tried to type. This backfired as my intended plan for that afternoon had been to attend an intensive hands-on workshop but the pain in my hand was causing my hands to eyes to cross. I elected to leave instead.

Onto the differing highlights of my lost days:

Wednesday, July 11th

  • Collection development — weeding.
  • Went to a lunch meeting to hear about what my colleagues did at ALA.
  • One-on-one meeting with a patron.

Thursday, July 12th

  • Officially handed over the last of the modified Android tablets to the Children’s Library.
  • Started working on the new service we are debuting soon. I’m the admin which I thought meant just administering accounts & setting up the design, but it looks like I’ll be helping shape the service overall.
  • Studied the stats for Contactology.
  • My first UX check-in chat with reference to find out how they’re doing and how UX can help them.

Friday, July 13th

  • Finished weeding the tech books.
  • Participated in an apps building class geared at our teens. The teens’ eyes glazed over talking about Javascript, so the class wound up not being as useful as I was hoping as the teacher changed tactics drastically.

Monday, July 16th

  • The digital sign “orders” are beginning to appear again so I had some signs to make.
  • Ordered some more tech books.
  • Went to the doctor for my hand — I was practically floating on air after he told me that I’d be fine.
  • Experimented with our fancy camcorder in the Digital Media Lab. HD video is not very flattering…

Tuesday, July 17th

  • Had a UX check-in chat with the Children’s Library to find out how they’re doing and how UX can help them.
  • Covered the reference desk for an house — very awkward and different from the computer labs.
  • Had a UX check-in chat with the Teen Librarian to find out how they’re doing and how UX can help them.
  • Worked the computer labs.
  • Started on a quick fix for the CL for one of their requests.

Wednesday, July 18th

  • Video editing and helping out in the DML.
  • Taught Inkscape to two of my colleagues.
  • Worked some more on the CL’s new child friendly backgrounds for their computers. Now, trying to implement these changes is not sticking…
  • Meet with reference about our new service.

Thursday, July 19th

  • Had a UX check-in chat with Reader’s Advisory (with the staff, but not the head) to find out how they’re doing and how UX can help them.
  • Finished setting up the main parts of the new service.
  • Finished the CL’s backgrounds.

Friday, July 20th

  • I tried again to work on the CL computers and failed. Argh!
  • Spent an hour in the DML helping a patron.
  • Had a UX check-in chat with the Head of Adult Programming to find out how she’s doing and how UX can help her.
  • Worked in the computer lab and worked on some things in the DML.
  • Had a 90 minute meeting with my boss. It was meant to discuss the website, but I ended up discussing my UX discoveries of the past week, where we’re headed, etc. It was a great meeting. I was surprised that I tended to lead our discussions, but I guess you’d actually say I was reporting to him…?

In my downtime at home, I managed to complete the Google Power Searching class (not super useful to me since apparently I’m already a hardcore power searcher) and worked my students in the WordPress eCourse. It’s time to go check up on them again, so off I go!

Little Pieces

Friday
Someone new is taking over the weekly eblast, so I tried to revamp up the template. Three hours later… I trash it. The way the template changes were showing in Dreamweaver vs. Contactology were very different. I may dump the current template and try something completely new this week. I then went out to film two songs from this musical session in the courtyard. Then the usual computer lab time, helping out in the DML, and then wrapped up the day by working on the website.

Monday
I am now opening the computer labs on Monday mornings. I ended up working an extra half hour while trying to help a patron. Some new panels were especially asked for, so I made three new signs. Since it is the middle of the month, I also had to fill out paperwork. So between Monday and Tuesday, I spent an hour wrapping everything up. Then I began poking at a website problem with the new captions not working in IE7 before calling it a day.

Tuesday
Today was about the big monthly meeting and watching the computer labs. This meeting is very important since I learn about several things which no one is likely to mention to me otherwise. The department I am the most impressed with is the Children’s Library since apparently they participate in magic over there!

While on desk, I crafted queries for Polaris to do some research on a few items like the next round of weeding for the Tech Book collection. My other Polaris query was for reference, so I emailed that off. I was then greeted with the next big thing I am the administer of. This will be a bit exhausting to setup, but I’ll reveal it soon!

Supervising and Digitization

Today’s lesson is that supervising others is hardwork. In the past I usually train others, but today I had to do some hands on supervision of two coworkers. For one this meant teaching them about digitization then monitoring their work. For the other, it was less technical but still a little tiring. Both coworkers also showed me stuff like the new Final Cut Pro X and the automatic workflow for digitizing DVDs. My work with them led me to communicating with the reference head about setting up our official digitization workflow. I have to say that all those internships at UNCG’s Digital Projects is incredibly valuable at this time. A few things I’m working on establishing is naming schemes, technical specs, preservation vs. access, etc. A patron has also been in a three week long email conversation with me about digitization so I am recommending resources for his work as well.

In between the above sessions, I worked on the children’s website. On the way to work this morning, I had an epiphany about how to put a background box around the filter widgets (AKA set a width/height on it). It’s funny how looking at something for too long overwhelms you but a break can help you see clearly! I posted on Twitter looking for some feedback. I feel like I’m this close to getting it finished up, but am still missing something.

Property of Darien Library

Finally I had a short impromptu meeting with the reference head to discuss LibGuides and then wrote up a battle plan proposal for how to support an initiative we are trying to push at work. If we go with my plan, I’ll post about it here!