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 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!

Working on #bigproject

I apologize for the lack of updates. I was at the Polaris Users Group conference the first week of October then on vacation for five days. At work I am doing misc. small projects like processing what feels like dozens of videos. Then at home I am working on my #bigproject.

My project is writing The Comparative Guide to WordPress in Libraries: A LITA Guide. It is due to the editor in early January 2013. Currently I am writing mini-essays out of twenty surveys that were sent back to me about each WordPress project that I chose. I was optimistic that I could write two essays a night, but I am coming home from work extra tired as of late. I think it is the lack of routine due to the flood. While I have finally moved back to the basement UX office, there is still much to catch up on.


The Blackmagic Media Express software we are using in the Digital Media Lab for our digitization hardware. After we updated the Mac to Mountain Lion, the software quit working. Tons of fiddling and emailing customer support back and forth got me nowhere. So today I finally had time to carry my (extremely heavy) Mac Pro down. I pulled out the Intensity Pro card from the DML Mac and placed it in my work Mac. A few more minutes of fiddling around and I got the software to work. I then transferred the card back and then replicated the settings on the DML Mac. Ta-da!

It turns out that the settings given to me via Blackmagic were incorrect. I also realized that it was very simple, elegant even to open up the Mac Pros and move around the interior parts. Therefore, I can finally say there is something about a Mac that I admire.

Of course, my admiration was severely hampered when I received a last minute patron calling needing help with her Mac. No one ever remembers their password…

No Lunch Monday

I settled in this morning to make 9 Star Wars digital signs plus 1 weekly one. This took up most of the morning. I’m pretty happy with the results. Before I could dig into that project though, I had to talk to departments about the upgrade to Polaris 4.1. This was stressful since no one was happy with the transition time.

Then I alternated between emails and finishing up the last major areas of the new Services page. It still has some things for me to work on, but it’s mostly done. I regret that it’s not fancier, but the overall site’s design is very simple, so I don’t want to over do one section over another.

I also did two one-on-one sessions where I taught WordPress and Photoshop.

Redesigned Services Page

First, the old page:
I'm a View!

The new version (still has some kinks):
I'm a page!

While I was hoping to have a lot more input on this page from staff, I ended up doing 90% of the work myself. That meant creating new pages for each of those links, making up descriptions, and worrying over the language. Some pages have barely any content on them (see WiFi), but the information did not fit in nicely elsewhere. Some of the stuff off the old page still needs to be moved to a new home (mostly in the About section). There is also an issue with that Javascript chat box causing the page to jerk when it first loads.

However, I feel like this is much clearer than the previous design. I am also striving for the three click rule:

  1. Services
  2. Topic
  3. Very specific (not used in most cases)

Maker Space vs. Digital Media Lab

Today I had the opportunity to visit the Maker Space at Westport Library. Their creation center opened 17 days after the Digital Media Lab with a lot of fanfare including a livestreaming opening session. In comparison, our DML officially opened at 12 noon after I had spent the morning running around taking care of last minute items. Then promptly at noon our first user showed up to record a video.

The Maker Space is a house shaped metal tube structure which includes tubes angled together for a pointed A top. The walls are made of metal and I guess are about five feet in height with a bit of empty space between them and the floor. Situated on the outside of the room is their MakerBot Replicator (the same model as the DML). The MakerBot is ran by a student volunteer for selective prints. On the exterior and interior walls are photos, inspirational sayings, and information about the Maker Space, the MakerBot, and the current project. Inside the semi-closed space are dozens of tools, bits of wood, models, and a laptop to assist the Maker-in-Residence.

The Space houses the project of the current Maker-in-Residence. He is building two 250 lbs airplane models which will be hung from the Library’s ceiling. He keeps a posted schedule that he comes in to work on the project. Patrons sign a waiver, get their hand stamped, and are then welcome to come in and join him on the project. It’s been very successful connecting families to working together. The Space is located in the main open area of the library with its back snug against the stacks. Our guide told us that sometimes the power tools draw some patrons’ concerns which is to be expected as libraries transform from SHUSH-zones to creation spaces.

There was also some discussion about how the project was funded and put together, but I would direct your comments to their library if you have questions. Overall, I see their Space as being very different from our DML. They empathize a master project as the main purpose of their Space at any time. The DML on the other hand is an individual projects room supporting up to four people working together at a time. We are providing the tools to pursue whatever digital project the patron wishes to create while the Maker Space is very singular-project focused. There are other smaller library-led projects that occasionally take place in the room (which I’m guessing is after they push the main project’s pieces to the side?). Another difference is that we are working towards a staff knowledgeable base so that anyone working the computer lab can give a patron a good head start on their project. From my understanding of the Maker Space, staff tend to be mostly hands off and let their Maker-in-Residence take the lead.

Overall, it was very interesting and my only regret was not having more time to look around the library.

Introduction to Personal Digital Archiving

I finally had time to get my notes together and transferred over from Word to Publisher for my Personal Digital Archiving class. The class went extraordinarily well. Throughout the day I would be stopped by another staff member to say that a patron had paid me compliments. I would feel somewhat abash about this praise, but after the lackluster students in my PowerPoint class, this feels good. I think the trick is taking students away from the computers so they are more likely to pay attention.

The Small Things

I’ve been hard at work taking care of small details that spring up. It seems that since moving to the admin conference room due to the flood, I am besieged with more tiny things than working towards the larger projects. However, what I have managed to do like bringing the Children’s Library’s website ALMOST to completion is encouraging. The next aspect of that is creating a lot of vector icons in Inkscape. I also managed to finish pulling together the Digital Media Lab’s tutorials and get it placed within the Lab. A few more tutorials remain to be written, but most of the staff are trained and the major topics are covered. Of course, a highlight for me is the new tech books I ordered came in.

This past week has also been swallowed whole by helping patrons. I spent a lot of time with one person who then got on their knees and thanked me. Extremely awkward. Also patron wise I am tidying things up with the adult technology classes and our next big project reveal.

Training in the Digital Media Lab

I am getting really behind on this blog! The repercussions of the flood is crippling my work productivity on my projects. I am spending a lot of time assisting staff members as they continue to settle into their long-term temporary desk setups. Yes, this is valuable work, but the website redesign work is put off out of necessity. I miss it!

The other big thing taking up my time is continuing to work on the Digital Media Lab (DML). I am training everyone who works in the computer labs on equipment and software in the DML. To get started on this task, I created a Google Form asking what topics they are not familiar with. Then I made a second spreadsheet so I could check off each task as each staff member is trained. For staff who have another daytime job, I am staying late to train them individually. Photoshop is well-received and people are fascinated with the 3D mouse and Wacom Bamboo tablet. The DML Mac has also had a few issues with Mountain Lion so I have been fighting tooth and nail to fix that. Finally, I have been writing basic tutorials for patrons who are using the DML equipment. A few of the tutorials will be written by other computer lab staff.