#CPD23 Thing 20: Getting Here

October 5, 2011

The one commonality in the librarian stories I’ve read is that the authors did not plan to be librarians. Most seem to have stumbled into the field, and I’m certainly no exception. People who know me well have one of two reactions (or, paradoxically, both simultaneously) when they hear what I’m learning:

1: That makes so much sense. Why didn’t you think of this sooner?

2: Are you kidding? You never even set foot in a library for 20 years!

Yes, the later is true. I’m a librarian-in-training without a subscription to a library. But that means I understand why the public doesn’t flock to the public libraries in droves — I’m one of them and now I’m trying to find a way, through study and work, to make the library attractive to me and to others like me.

I’ve contributed my Library Route to the project (originally written for #CPD23 Thing 10) and I participated in this year’s Library Day in the Life. I have high hopes that by the time LibDay8 rolls around I’ll have even more to contribute, but that’s a story for Thing 22.

 

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#cpd23 Thing 19: Cut but not bleeding

September 26, 2011

One last Thing and I’m temporarily caught up. How far behind can I get when there are only three Things to go? Yeah, right, I shouldn’t ask the question if I don’t want to know the answer.

So, what have I learned from the past 18 (chai, life: it’s a good number) Things? Confidence and Community.

I always thought, as the go-to person at work for anything computer/internet related, that I had to know everything and know it well. Have a question about Microsoft Office? I can answer it. Want to know how to use LinkedIn? I’m your woman. Need a presentation built? I can do your infographics. Need a new business card and don’t have the budget to pay an artist? Send your ideas to me.

But in CPD23 the new tools came so fast and furious that I only had time to try them, evaluate their usefulness to me, bookmark them, make a few notes, and move on. Some I adopted, like screencasting. Some I rejected, like Pushnote. Some I had already used, but started to use more, like Google Calendar. Some I had already used but started to use less, like Google Docs. But most are now a set of bullet points and a link on Diigo, waiting for the day I might need them. I know my way around them but am not expert — and that will have to be enough for now.

The biggest thing that held me up when it came to staying on track with the Things was the week we did Mendeley. I had my issues with them, but I’m not one who likes to make waves, so I held off and held off until I realized that if I put off writing until the situation was resolved through private channels, I’d never finish the CPD23 program. So I posted. And because it was part of the CPD23 program, instead of me running after them to get answers, Mendeley came to me. The situation had not been resolved in over a month, but 24 after posting my Thing all was settled. That’s the power of community.

To get from the community you have to give. While I’m not yet at the stage where I’ll be presenting at conferences, I am trying now to give back, which is why I livetweeted today’s IFISH meeting for those who could not join us.

So:

  • Stop being such a perfectionist
  • give to others
  • let others give to me

Not back takeaways, are they?

#IFISH links

September 26, 2011

URLS mentioned at the IFISH meeting worth checking out:
Backup URL
PDF protect
Paper Feed list of science & engineering journals with RSS feeds
Quick Screen Share
Deepdyve article rental, read-only service.

Info presentation by Inbar Yasur will be uploaded to slideshare

#cpd23 Thing 18: Can you see me now?

September 21, 2011

I use Team Viewer to remotely share screens at work. We use it partially for real-time collaboration and partially because there are people in our company who must have been born in Missouri — they have to see things for themselves.

Then there are the customers who ask, for time 768,298, how to create a PDF or how to get a number from one sheet in Excel to another. I have written directions I send out, but some of my customers have trouble following the directions. Tools like Jing or Quick Screen Share could help. My main problem would be that I would have to keep a clean install of the programs I’d be demonstrating, because if I used my customized-to-death applications they would find it confusing. (But my Word doesn’t look like that!) It’s a fine line to navigate, explaining things people with no computer confidence but not talking down to them and still getting them to be able to run the screencast and follow the instructions.

I use Audible all the time, but not for podcasting. As I said in the Thing on presenting, I hate my voice. OK, no. I don’t. I just hate having to listen to the sound of my own voice, so I don’t plan to podcast unless someone pays me very, very well. (Anyone interested?) When I use Audible for is digitizing my audio collection. Tracks get split in the silliest ways and have to be reassembled. I love me my Audible, but I don’t want to be in it myself.

So,what does the jury say?

Screen sharing gets a big thumbs up.

Screen casting is a maybe, but I’d start with temporary casts before I record casts for repeated us.

Audible gets two thumbs up, but neither is pointed to podcasting.

 

#cpd23 Thing 17: Present Tense

September 19, 2011

I’m lucky at my job: I don’t need to make presentations. I often have to create the graphics, write half the text, and edit the other half, but I don’t have to get up and make the presentation. Of course, that also means I have no say in the format of the presentation.

Which means, of course, that all we ever do is Powerpoint.

In school, the only presentation I’ve had to make so far I managed to do as a 13 minute video, which meant I didn’t have to stand in front of the class or open my mouth. I like control, so that worked perfectly fine for me — no last minute surprises. (Yes, I did have the videos on my laptop, the school’s Moodle account, YouTube and Vimeo, and on two thumb drives just in case. Forget belt and suspenders, I’m a belt, suspenders, staples, duct tape, and sewing thread kind of woman.)

I’m always happy to find new ways of doing presentation that do not require the sound of my voice, and what I’ve seen of Prezi interests me; I plan to play around with Ned Potter’s recommendations over the holidays so I’m ready and waiting if a presentation need should arise next semester.

I’ve used slideshare in the past, mainly to look at other people’s presentations as our work presentations are all covered by NDAs and not open to public viewing. But if I need to do a presentation for school, it will be one of the equivalents of YouTube/Vimeo from the above example.

#cpd23 Thing 16: Us and our big mouths

September 18, 2011

Israel doesn’t have a strong history of advocacy for libraries.

In the first place, modern Israel’s history is too short for a long history of anything. And second, given our two library traditions: library as study hall (as in Bergmann’s National Library) and library as social educator (communist/labor party “workers’ libraries”) there hasn’t been a visible need for advocacy during most of Israel’s history.

Lately that has been changing. Whereas once library budgets were not only sacred in terms of funding, they were sacred in terms of use — no local authority would dare dream of diverting library funds for use in other agencies. Now that’s become such an issue that library budgets have been separated from local council budgets in many places, and yet the plunder continues: I’ve heard of libraries being told to buy computers which were then “donated” by the library to other local agencies and of libraries funding and planning activities which were to take place in the spaces of other agencies, with the host agency getting all the credit.

But it’s hard to get the Israeli public — so passionate about so much else — worked up about their libraries. It’s just the place they get free books, you know? When your rent is half your monthly salary, experts are predicting the world will end on Thursday, etc. how important is your local free book warehouse?

The Center for Libraries is trying to change the perception of libraries, but IMO too little, too late. This year they seem to be all about Facebook. Really? Isn’t that a little 2009? Frankly, the most passionate teens and 20 somethings I know are leaving Facebook in droves out of boredom. It’s a problem I’ve noticed a lot in Israel, and in my LIS program, too — they teach the program/site and not the skill. GoogleSites instead of HTML, Facebook instead of finding and engaging the readers.

I think the first step, particularly for small town libraries, is for the librarian to be more visible, not just inside the library, but outside. I spend a lot of time talking to people in the town whose library I volunteer in, and they, intelligent, well-read, Facebook-friendly people all, have no clue about half of the libraries services. If I were in the library during public hours more often I would tell people to come meet me at the library, as long as they didn’t mind chatting while I worked. The main advocacy problem that I’ve seen locally is getting people in the library’s doors.

To take an example which illustrates the problem Israeli libraries face: I’m an LIS student. A voracious reader. I work in information and volunteer in a library. And yet I have not borrowed a book from a library in about 10 years. If I want to read something I either buy it for myself or borrow it from a friend. I advocate for the library in which I volunteer, but wouldn’t bother myself, except for in principle, to do anything to save the library in my own town.. Why? As far as I know, it has nothing for me. It’s never done anything to draw me inside its doors. The only programs I ever see advertised are for pre-readers, of which I have none in my family. The library books I’ve seen at other people’s houses are not the genres which interest me. Why would I swerve from the path between the grocer and my house to check out the opening hours?

There’s no outreach, no variety of programs, no variety in collections, no requests for feedback from the community, no availability of information resources (I think I heard a rumor they might be getting a computer for patrons), and the librarian is a 21 year old girl with a high school diploma and previous experience in babysitting. My home library is infinitely more suited to me needs. Until the local library has something for me, expresses some interest in having me in its community, why should I take the time to advocate?

There, I think, is the difference between what Israeli libraries once were and what they’ve become (and consequently the source of their problems). The library used to be a community and now it is not.

#cpd23 Thing 15: Conferences

September 14, 2011

A meetin’ of the minds to elevate hardcore, take it to a level where few have been
You brag but your brain’s like mush, hush learn somethin’ my friend
Seminar dope, smoke you cope, nope, ha I got ’em in the scope
Scramble, run and hit ’em like Op, chope, goin’ for the throat

Sir Mix-A-Lot, Seminar

This Thing makes me feel a great deal of envy. The Americans have so many conferences. The British, it seems, have even more.

Israelis? Not so much. There’s Teldan, which is ridiculously expensive if work isn’t paying your way. There are conferences from Mercaz HaSefer that are only open to member libraries. There are, once in a while, open day conferences sponsored by the different LIS programs, and there are a few meetings a year of I-FISH. None are open to student presentations, though.

I do go to the two conferences a year sponsored by my program and I’ve joined I-FISH.

I won’t always be a student. Some day I may even be able to present, and I know that public speaking is not my strong point. So I’m working on my self-presentation skills, both grammatical and physical, and reading up on presentation tools: Prezi, Power Point, video making. I may never be accepted to present at a conference, but if I am, I plan to be ready.

#CPD23 & Mendeley: Success Story

September 12, 2011

I recently wrote about CPD23 Things 14, and feel it’s only fair I post an update.

Immediately after my post was Tweeted I started getting messages from Mendeley people, and within a day my town, a Jewish settlement in Samaria, was added to the site’s database, as part of Israel. Now I can recommend the service without feeling that I’m spreading unreciprocated love.

Kudos to the CPD23 organizers. As prompt as Mendeley was to respond, I’m sure the high visibility of the CPD23 program helped speed things along.

 

 

#cpd23 Thing 14: Mendeley & politics

September 7, 2011

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a long time. It should be a slam dunk for me, since I use all three citation resources in this Thing, but there’s more involved here than academics, and I have some instinctive horror of mixing academia and politics, so I kept worrying at this post. Best to just type it up, put it out there, get on with my life, and nip that incipient ulcer in the bud.

The site that’s keeping me from sleep is the citation resource site I would like to use most, Mendeley. And the reason is purely politics.

Let’s start at the beginning of my quest for citation management. At first I stored references in Diigo, but once I decided I wanted to see what other people were citing, I knew it wasn’t enough, so I moved over to CiteULike.  And that was fine for the social bookmarking aspects, but I had to add a heavy reliance on Dropbox and Son of Citation Machine to share articles and organize citations for papers.

Then I found Zotero, which at least solved the problem of organizing citations. I like their Word addon, didn’t like that it was browser dependent (which is less of an issue since they published their standalone application). At school we only have Internet Explorer, so I kept looking, and stumbled across Mendeley.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but I did find the site more useful than the alternatives, so I put the references for my end-of-term paper on literacy in a Mendeley library. Then I got an e-mail from Mendeley, inviting me to become a Mendeley Advisor — a sort of goodwill ambassador for the site. I’m not sure why they sent someone who’d just signed up such an invitation (because there are few Israelis who use it?), but I did like what I’d seen of it so far and they offered me a T-shirt (which I still haven’t received) so I joined the Advisor  group.

And that’s where the trouble started. I started to fill out my profile and was happy to see that books and articles I’d worked on over the past 20 years were all there. Then I went to put in the school were I study — no such city is listed in Israel. I shot off an email to Mendeley support and they quickly added the school’s city. Now what about the town where I live?

Ah, that’s more complicated, they said. You see, I live in a Jewish town on the West Bank, and adding any towns on the West Bank is politically sensitive. At first I was inclined to accept that, but then I did some digging, and found that there were several West Bank Arab towns listed — but no Jewish/Israeli towns. I wrote support again, pointing out that fair’s fair — if they’re worried about being politically sensitive, they should either list several Israeli West Bank towns as they do several Arab ones, or no Arab West Bank towns as they do no Israeli ones.

A nice tech support person named Charlotte, who’d been helping me all along, said she’d have to take it up with her manager. Two weeks later I reminded her I was waiting and she said the manager said it had to be kicked up to the board of directors. Two weeks later I sent another e-mail, asking what had happened, and two weeks after that another — neither of which was answered.

I’m inclined to write this off to the known British academic bias in favor of Arab claims to the area and against the Israeli, but they could have been honest enough to say so from the start. I’m in the process of writing a small blurb for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, in the hopes that some of their 40,000 members will also write Mendeley for explanations. They might ignore one user, but there’s power in numbers. I don’t want to change the site’s policy — I’d just like them to admit to it in writing.

In the meanwhile, I’ve cancelled the program I had scheduled at school to extoll the virtues of Mendeley; a silent bias does not strike me as a worthwhile academic stand to support.

 

 

 

#cpd23 Thing 13: In quest of love

August 23, 2011

First let’s get Wikis out of the way, because least said and all that. We were supposed to learn wikis in school, never did. I was hoping we’d learn their use in my Internet Information class, mainly because there is no W in Hebrew (we use a V instead) and the instructor’s name is Viki. Yes, I’m easily amused. I’ve used wikis extensively, particularly in my fandom-oriented life, but also for projects such as Library Routes and Library Day in the Life. I can see the usefulness of wikis, particularly for collaboration when there is little chance of real-life interaction, but I’ve not had much chance to practice what I’m preaching.

And now on the tools of my everyday trade.

My love for Google Docs and for Dropbox — knows bounds.

I started using Google Docs for work. We had a project manager who had come to us from very corporate, very organized firms, and it was clear he longed for that security in place of our free-form, free-wheeling, free-application-using amorphousness. (He’s since gone back to corporate life, leaving the world of start-ups behind.) He tried to organize us while bearing in mind that we had no budget for a real enterprise system and that we were a staff of 5, with a few more freelance consultants; we could make do. For a month we tried Salesforce, but he’d misread the TOS and at the end of the trial, we lost access to everything we’d had on there.

In any case, Salesforce was rubbish when it came to storing documents, and understandably so. It was meant for customer relations management, not project management. So we turned to that citadel of freebie-ism, the G Machine, and uploaded our documents to Google Docs. Free, access for everyone on the team, available everywhere — what’s not to love?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Part, I have to admit from the start, was not Google’s fault. Our project manager tried to route our mail through Google’s APIs and messed things up so badly that there are still accounts — the accounts tied to Google Docs — that we can’t access, as it seems that there never were passwords associated with these accounts. Sharing ownership of files and folders became impossible, and the application balked every time we asked to share a file with a non-GMail address.

Part was Google’s fault. One of the things we liked, in theory, was the possibility of working collaboratively. We’d long been using TeamViewer for collaboration, alternating who had control of the cursor and keyboard, but Google Docs seemed to promise that we could all work on the same document at the same time without fighting for control. Yeah, right. It worked, as long as you didn’t mind lags long enough to go and make a coffee and sandwich.

Another problem is supposedly a feature — documents you open in GMail are saved in your Google Docs file list. For us, that way lay madness, with our file lists quickly becoming cluttered with junk we’d pruned from our email but had to spend time deleting from Google Docs as well.

The main thing I do love about Google Docs is that, since it’s so ubiquitous, there’s a tutorial out there which will teach you how to do just about anything with the service. (When I find the tut which will teach me how to get Google Docs to clean my house, I’ll be sure to share.) It’s been immensely helpful when I’ve been limited to using Google services to complete school assignments because of my program’s increasing Googlization.

 

There are vows that must be made
There are terms that can’t expire
There are words that must be said
And there are qualifiers
I’ll love you but I’ll count the ways
The things that I admire

–Tracy Chapman, “Conditional”

I had already been using Dropbox constantly. I work on two computers and my smartphone, and I don’t always have internet access. (My library school was notoriously bad about WiFi in the classrooms last year; they say it’ll be better this year. I’ll believe it when I see it.) I appreciate the convenience of having my work in the Cloud, but I appreciate more having it available to me on my local computer.

I know Dropbox has had its issues. There are questions about how secure it is. There are questions about whether Dropbox employees can decrypt files in your Dropbox and read them. And then there was the morning this summer when all you needed to access someone’s Dropbox contents was their email address, no password required. There’s the Dropbox TOS that allows them to publicly display your files to an extent “reasonably necessary to the Service.”

I recommended Dropbox to my colleagues, and they enthusiastically adopted it — too enthusiastically. I keep reminding them not to post confidential material using the service and they keep forgetting, so I have to keep harping at them. They forget that when you store files on Dropbox and then remove them, they’ll be removed permanently. (Yes, I know there’s 30 days grace. But that only helps if someone decides, within 30 days, to retrieve the files.) I do try to backup the work Dropbox folder to local storage every once in a while because if I know my workgroup, someday they’ll frantically search for some file they erased.

Would I change some things about Dropbox? Certainly. Is it my only on-line storage location? No. Is it my primary storage option? Until something better comes along, yes. I love Dropbox — conditionally.