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.

Understanding Our Patrons Presentation

For an internal presentation, I developed a slidedeck based on the months of work my colleagues and I did to better understand our patrons. I won’t share the whole slidedeck, but some images are included in this post as illustration.

The first part dealt with departments categorizing their users into groups which share similar characteristics. They answered some questions about what users want, how they connect with us, and how we could do better by them. The second part was for me to crunch some data. The third involved surveying patrons guerilla-style. I’m still working on that last part.

We have some travelers!

Image is from a fascinating site. Click the image to see what I mean.

Do you know about this Google feature?

Four Layouts of Summer Reading

Our library uses the incredible art of Lisa Nowlain for our children’s summer reading program. It made it significantly easier to develop the web pages which support our four programs (pre-readers, kids, teens, and adults). This week I found out that even when we print out the trees at the size of children, they still look fresh.

Courtesy of Darien Library

Landing Page
To start my work, I sketched out a bunch of layouts for the children’s page. The head wasn’t there when I dropped by the Children’s Library, but her staff choose the design. The layout is almost identical to the Darien Olympics theme of last summer. I then selected my favorite for the landing page for all four programs. It took awhile as I had to create a large PSD file and duplicate the trees across it. The original wooden sign has tiny legs. I duplicated and extended them a little to complete my desired look. The buttons below are not what I wanted. However, the little wooden signs which fill up the brochure don’t work for the web. I have no idea why. So I used the plain ol’ generic default Bootstrap button for our website. I could have chosen another color, but the blue was the best default option.

Courtesy of Darien Library

Kids Page
Likewise, on the kids’ page, I cut off the legs on the sign to make it shorter. The PDFs are massive. I tried to squish them, but it became illegible. Maybe the watercolor background contributed to that? The location of the images is a little funny in order to make it usable on mobile. The tall tree and the kids collapsible below the information. Trying to get the blocks all to the same length was frustrating.

Courtesy of Darien Library

Teens
The background image for the teens page is from another artist (I’m unsure if he wants the attention). I struggled mightily with how to handle all the information on the teen page. The photos are all public domain. The struggle on this page are those movie covers. I ended up giving up on this yesterday. There are actually two more movies. The layout is a row with three columns. Each column has a row with three columns. When I blew the code out so I could look for the problem, it didn’t make sense. There should be enough room in it for up to 12 covers. But when I add in the extra ones, the images disappear and the date wraps to the second line. After 90 minutes, I finally gave up on it at the urging of my coworker. I’m displeased with that, but every tactic I tried failed. I don’t want to have rows with five or six images in it because then the covers are too dominating for the page.

Courtesy of Darien Library

Adults
I worked closely with colleague Virginia in developing the Adult Summer Reading page. She rejected my original header image and sent me three new ones to choose from. I selected the beach chairs. The challenge here was to keep her from the burden of creating a booklist for every single item on the Book Bingo Inspiration list. I managed to find some stuff on the website that would work. Then tasked her with developing 5 or 6 new ones just for this purpose. Her funniest chat was “What steampunk novel would you recommend?” for the new genre list.

The Book Readers Festival is another iteration of reusing Lisa’s artwork in new ways. I needed to make a flyer in a hurry so it could be posted around town. I opened up Canva looking for inspiration. I spotted it right away. Then I adjusted it for the design you see. It now exists as that image + flyer + poster which hangs over the front desk.

Marketing
I’m copying the URL of the pages into a Google URL builder, setting up the tags, and then copying that link into Bitly. I look forward to seeing what the numbers look like at the end of August.

Publicity Award Winners

My library had the great honor of receiving three awards for our publicity this past year: our website, poster, and thematic (three or more related pieces). I have, pictured here, the items which were done mostly in my hand. Krishna gave generous assistance in the development of the Escape the Laboratory poster.

Lonely Planet Bookmarks

Lonely Planet Sign

Lonely Planet Digital Sign

Lonely Planet Digital Sign

Lonely Planet Sign

Lonely Planet Shelfmarkers

Image Finding

Not centered

Today one fundraiser ended so I was free to change out the header images on our website and social media accounts. This turned out be a tough challenge for our website. My general topic was “flowers, spring.” I hunted around my favorite public domain image sites. Over the course of an hour, I checked nine images. The final one made it up though it’s not exactly what I wanted. Conditions for the frontpage image:

* Wide enough
* Not too dark
* No white background (text is white)
* Not too busy
* Image can’t be centered since the search box and text is there
* Bottom right center has to be dark for the text
* If focused on a single object, it can’t be centered

Since I decided to do a last ditch promotion of the Big Library Read, I tried to find a nice pie image. There were some good ones to choose from, but they didn’t fit the conditions above.

Collapsible FAQ

A little piece of work which I’m fairly happy with is this collapsible FAQ for our new WiFi page. It’s just some Bootstrap.

Closed:

Open:

It took a few variations to figure out the best layout for it. Originally I had screenshots from a Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, and Android phone. Then I downsized and dropped the iPad. It’s listed first here since it’s the most common iOS for our users.

New Email Layouts

email_layouts_2016

The only thing that mattered to me today is setting up two different email designs for the weekly events email. Above is a sneak peek. I just sent the newer design off to three reviewers to see what they think. The new one is mobile-first, reduced images, and more playful. I reviewed MailChimp’s inspiration site for ideas before trying something new.

The email design might get rejected for not including summaries of the events. That was a concern the last time I ran the weekly email and was testing designs. This week’s email has 20 different events in it. They get long fast. I’m trying to tighten them up while still being bold and readable. We’ll see how it goes over tomorrow when they see that design…

On a good note, my boss complimented me on yesterday’s Need to Know emails about the new publicity workflows. A+ to me.