28 August 2008

Failure is an option

This post was originaly started in April right after Computers in Libraries (yes I'm slow, but I'm improving!) I was supposed to present to my colleagues at MPOW in 5 minutes what I learned at CIL (yeah 5 minutes for 3 days plus preconfrences) so this is what I would have talked about.

One of the themes that I picked up on at Computers in Libraries, althought maybe in not so many words, was that failure is an option.

It seems like from the time we enter elementary school, through college and into the work force, we're led to believe that failure is not an option. Or that's it a bad option. That if we fail we let down everyone who cares for us, our work place, and in some cases the world will end all because something failed. Whether it be a project, a relationship, or not hitting the winning home run. Failure is bad.

But, it isn't true. Failure is always an option. Failure doesn't mean that you didn't succeed. It's what you take away from it that matters the most. What did you learn? How did you learn? One of the most famous stories I've heard is about Thomas Edison and the lightbulb. It's said that when he was trying to invent the lightbulb he was asked about the "failures" (rumored to have been over a 1,000.) His response was "Failures? What failures? I now know 999 things that don't do what I wanted them to do. Out of these "failures" came many other inventions. Where others may have stopped, he kept going till he found what did work and along the way found uses for the other "failures."

With Library 2.0/Web 2.0 technology, there is always the chance that we're going to fail. Every idea that we have can't succede each time no matter how much we'd like that to happen. We're bound to fail. What's important though is what you take away from it. Why did it fail? What didn't work right? What could we have done differently? I think this is one of the most important things that we can ever learn from a project. We don't set out to fail, but when it happens that we make the best of it and apply what we learned to our next projects.

One of the biggest examples of "failure" I saw growing up, was Charlie Brown from Peanuts. He could neve quite kick the ball from Lucy, never won a game, and never could quite fly a kite. But, Charlie Brown had it wrong. Winning was never everything and failure is always an option. Its what you learn from it that matters.

Power of art

Okay I'm cleaning up saved drafts in profile and this is one from a while back (May actually).

I follow a number of different blogs, not all library or techie related. Some are art, which is what my undergrad degree was in, and I came across this touching and powerful post. It's the text from a speech Andy Marlette gave at the Columbia College Chicago department of journalism, in honor of his uncle Doug Marlette, artist of Kudzu and a Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist.

I suppose there are a number of different things to take from it. The impact that a life can have on the world and the impact of their passing can be far reaching, beyond anything we might have thought.

But I suppose this struck me more:
In recent years when we spoke of the biz, he lamented the overall state of cartooning and the current condition of free speech and told me straight up that were he getting started in this day and age, he might not have gone into cartooning.
and this from further on down:
In our discussions about cartooning, Doug often spoke of his disappointment in a trend towards “safe” or just flat out boring cartoons. He was also cautious of new media obsessions with animation and flashy web formats interfering with the fundamentals of good, strong cartooning.
I think of it more than just in our focus as work, but our outlook on life. How often do we bite our tongues because we want to be "safe?" How often do words go unspoken, drawings never started, poems unwritten, and so on because we fear what others will think of us?

I think that the internet has at least given voice to those that still don't fit into society's "traditional" standard. You see it in webcomics, artists with tremendous talent, but their views aren't necessarily "family friendly." Same with writers and bloggers that speak out against atrocities they see in their homelands. Librarians are also becoming less hesitant to speak out and share their views. I'm trying to take that into account and not be afraid of speaking my mind. I hope y'all continue to follow and talk to me through FriendFeed, Twitter, and this blog, even though I am a bit strange and continue to share my thoughts.

Summer of learning!

Wow, where did the summer go? I started this post back in July and now its August. The summer flew by and our summer 2.0 learning extravaganza at MPOW has ended as well.

So I had planned to do a post after each week's session and obviously that didn't happen. So rather than do a back trace, I'm going to devote a paragraph or so to each weeks topic in this blog post. To recap our program consisted of three different introductory sessions, four different topics spread out over four weeks, and a capstone. Our colleagues could choose to attend any of the sessions that interested them and in our books they still participated in the program, even if it was just an introductory session. Here the first two postings on our launching of the Library/Web 2.0 program. Here's the breakdown on the introductory sessions.

My colleague, Liya, and I continually challenged ourselves as we were developing this program. We had begun discussing this program in March and by the time approval was granted we literally had about two weeks to get it up and going by the beginning of July. There were a number of things that we didn't think of and had to adapt to along the way so, it was a very challenging, but rewarding experience.

Before the sessions began we created a Wiki to host our information. This way our colleagues had access to the information that we presented, whether they were able to attend or not. We also invited our colleagues to be part of the wiki. We wanted them to have a chance to create content and add their own information into the wiki. This is the wiki that we created. One of the things that we made sure everyone knew was that Liya and I were available to answer any questions about any of the sessions. We wanted people to feel comfortable utilizing the software.

The first session was a discussion and exploration of Wikis using WetPaint. I should start off by saying we had to put this together by e-mail, IM, and Google Documents and didn't really have a chance to practice our presentation together. Liya taught the majority of the session, while I contributed small bits and pieces here and there. We had a good turnout of people from Public Services and a couple from Technical Services. We introduced what wikis were, how people have been using them, and show cased some examples. Then we showed our colleagues how to create a wiki using Wetpaint. Overall the session went fairly well and we learned a couple of key points. One: we learned to pace ourselves a bit better when speaking so we weren't both trying to share the same information at the same time. Two: Liya learned not to read from the slides just as a way to make the conversation a bit more lively. We did have a couple of people that created their own wikis, here's the best example. The people that attended seemed to enjoy themselves and ask questions. We were a little bit disappointed that no one stayed after the presentation to work on or start their wiki, but this proved to be an issue throughout the summer.

The second session was discussion and exploration of Flickr and tools to edit photos with. I taught this session and decided to show not just Flickr, which I think of as relatively easy to use, but some tools to edit photos with. After all one of the benefits of Flickr is that it has editing software built in. This session seemed to go fairly well. I decided to forgo creating a formal handout as the process of Flickr is relatively simple. You create an account, have photos, and start uploading. Based upon some comments received more people would have liked to see the process of creating the Flickr account. However, the attendees did like seeing the different online tools that could be used to edit your photos. I demonstrated on some of my colleagues headshots and showed some of the different effects that could be accomplished for free and improve the photograph. Here's the list of some of the websites that were highlighted. My goal with this presentation was to show the basics of Flickr and some of the online photo editing tools out there. I think I accomplished this and if we have a chance I'd love to showcase more of Flickr. Mostly I just wanted to get people started and I think folks did have the chance to do this.

The third session was blogs, guest taught by another colleague Geoff Timms. I wasn't able to attend this session, but based upon comments this was one of the most well liked presentations. Geoff showcased how to create a Blogger blog from beginning to end. People enjoyed seeing the entire process and I think this worked well with this topic. It probably also would have worked well with wikis, but we learned from that presentation and so did Geoff. Overall this session was probably the highlight of the 2.0 program.

The fourth and final session was on Last.fm/Pandora/and other online streaming media. I taught this session and wanted to give folks a chance to see how traditional media, such as movies, tv, radio, were moving online and could be accessed for free. I was able to highlight a number of different sites that were legal, such as Pandora and Hulu, and some that were of more questionable variety. My primary goal was to showcase just how many different sources were out there and how companies were having to reevaluate how they conducting business, such as how TV networks are putting shows online to watch for free. This last session was very small, three folks (the three presenters during the program actually), but it was a lot of fun and a good way to end the program, just wish that more people could have attended.

The hardest part of this program was this final bit, the Capstone. I think my colleague and I put so much focus and energy into sharing the technologies and tools with our colleagues that we just didn't have much left to give to the Capstone. For me I felt almost burned out. Part of it was due to some disappointment with the support we didn't get (and I felt like we would/should) and that there was just a lot of things going on. It was still a nice celebration, I just feel like it could have been more. We created certificates for everyone that attended any of the sessions from introductory session to the the final week. The dean signed the certificates and placed copies of them in each person's file. We had cake, fruit, and drinks to celebrate what was accomplished. We had people come to the capstone that didn't make it any of the sessions, but they got to see some of the things that we did. We did take pictures and those will be posted in the next week (I hope).

What's next? We're hoping to do something once a month, skipping September (just to let people get settled into the semester) and continue our learning. We're conducting a survey to find out what our colleagues learned and will be putting together a report for our management team to review. Based upon the responses there are a number of people interested in continuing learning and they have offered some valuable feedback.

I'll do a post on what we learned later this month after we compile some data from our final survey, but this was great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

26 August 2008

How did I get here?

I'm a bit late to the party and although I wasn't tagged I thought I'd jump in. The meme, started by Superstarachivist, is how did you get to being a librarian?

So how did I get here? I guess it was fate or destiny or the fact that I just liked to read led me to become a librarian. My first real experience with libraries and librarians was in High School, when one of the librarians started recommending books to me. She even brought books in for me that she thought I'd like! So that kinda of stuck in my mind when I started looking for work study when I went to college. And lo and behold the library contacted me!

I worked in Circulation and learned the in's and out's of access services pretty well. I was able to help with shifting, shelving, and just about anything that came across the Circulation desk. I remember my first year there pretty well, mostly because I was made to clean toner bottles. Not sure why, but that was something they made all freshman did (mostly for torture I think). But I stuck with it and I switched to working weekends and getting hours outside of work study money. I struck up a friendship with the student that was my boss and learned even more about libraries (he eventually went to library school.) When he graduated I got to train the person that was my boss on the weekend and we ended up becoming pretty good friends (I was in his wedding last year.) We supervised the student assistants on weekends, wrote their evaluations, and made sure basic tasks and duties got done, and that the building was opened and closed on time. And when he graduated I took on that job for the last semester.

I was art education in undergraduate and had a bad teaching experience so decided to go to grad school. And of course it was in Art History. But it never sat right. Even when I was at the college's main library I would want to show their staff and student's the right way to do treat your patrons (never did, but wanted to). A professor even asked why didn't I go into it. So I left after a year, without the degree and went to work at the library at Johns Hopkins University.

Here is where I had a boss tell me all jobs in the library were boring, but I worked with a great group of people and met really cool librarians. I worked the evening/weekend shift and in stacks/building maintenance. During these hours I really had a chance to work with students and help them find materials. I got to find out what librarians really did and how tech services worked. I knew that I wanted to stay in libraries, but the questions was where? I had great ideas on how to improve services, but sadly I wasn't really listened to at Hopkins for various reasons. I decided enough being a peon, I wanted my MLIS so I could implement change! And my friend from undergrad (the one whose wedding I was in) had just finished his MLIS and I thought well if he can do it, so can I.

So I left Hopkins, moved back to SC and attended University of South Carolina via Distane Education. I met some great people, had some interesting professors (that's another post in it's entirety!) and finished my MLIS in one year. During that time span I worked at a two libraries PT and gained experience working on the reference desk at one of them. I decided to stay in public services and began looking for work and landed my current job a couple weeks before I graduated. These first two years have been interesting and I've learned more about myself and what I'd really like to do as a librarian.

Here are a few other people who have shared their stories.

20 August 2008

Building my own library

One of the things that I've thought off and on about for the last couple of years is starting my own library. I mean think about it: it would be fun to recruit your ideal staff, to decide how to run things, what the library would contain, and just the general shape and structure. I mean who wouldn't want to do that right? It was only today that I actually thought about what the library would look like (all because a friend asked, they know who they are.)

So first thing to do is not worry about things like money, land space, etc. Now some would say would get hung up on the user population, but I'm just going to say mine is the "ideal population" of the library I'm building. In other words I'm just going to pretend my library fits what the population needs. I'm just going to give a rough sketch cause if I think about it too much, I'll never post this.

So I would create my library in an area like Asheville, NC. I've always loved the area and seems to have an interesting and diverse population. It would be a public library open to everyone.

First thing I'd do is I'd want a partnership with local museums. The library wouldn't share staff or building space, but would all be in the same block and and would be able to collaborate on stuff together, i.e. when art museum has a display on Van Gogh, the library could prepare a book display on what's going on. Maybe the buildings would even connect by cool underground tunnels to get from one area to the next and exits would take you to various gardens. The library would be built with wireless, plenty of outlet to plug into scattered throughout. Furniture would be comfortable, sturdy, with some pieces being easy to move (like the teen's area.) Some of this furniture would also have outlets within them so that you could plug in your laptop.

Different sections in the library would include: Childrens, teens, adult, local history room, museum/gallery room (information related to museum on the local block), and technology room. Children's and teen's I'd leave to someone else to design, but they'd have the support they need to make them fun and exciting places. Same with local history room. The adult area, would just be a place where the adults could sit back for a bit and enjoy the newspaper or a good book. It would be on the opposite side of the library from Childrens/teens (no they wouldn't be able to wander off and leave their kids alone). The museum/gallery room would be information for special exhibits, books that related to what was going on, ephemeral material, etc. There would be computers scattered throughout for people to access the internet and the catalog.

The technology room would be where I spent a good bit of time. This would be the area where media items (DVD, CD's, etc) are, where there would be a viewing area for people to watch listen to these items, and equipment would be. But it would be so much more! It would be a play ground of sorts where people could try out different cameras, record their own movie, record podcasts, etc. Equipment would be there and people to staff it all hours the library is open so that they can get help if they need it. It would be a great place to just learn something new. Classes would be offered on a wide range of topics, including some led by the patrons! Why not let the teens show the parents how to create their own Facebook/Myspace page.

Staffing would be knowledgeable, enthusiastic staffing, that would want to be there. I'd poach Twitter/Friendfeed/Blog friends from other libraries. I'd hire someone else to run the library and I'd spend my time playing in the technology room. Even though someone else would run the library I'd set a few ground rules.
1st communication is important. That will be stressed to everyone that is hired. You can't communicate you can't work at my library.
2nd all employees have a say in policy. Sure there will have to be some things that have to be kept quiet at first (personal matters mainly), but I want the library to be as open as possible. No hiding new policies. If we're going to change the food policy, employees get to have some sort of say in it or at least know about it before it's launched.
3rd no burying one's head in the sand. If somethings not working don't hide that its not working or try to ignore it. Own up to it, explore options, and if it requires a change in personal it happens. Loyalty is great, but being loyal to someone just because they've been there 15 years isn't a good thing. If they can't cut it at the job anymore they either need to be reassigned or find a new place to work (harsh I know, but true.).
4th continuing education is important. Library will support as much as possible. Enough said.
5th Staff are treated like the professionals they are. I don't care if they don't have a degree, they help keep the library running and are important to it being open. Don't treat someone poorly just because they don't have the MLIS.

I've skipped over focusing on what the collection would be like and other things mostly because if I tried to cover everything this would be a 50 page long blog post and no one would read that. So did I miss anything really important? What would your library be like if you could create it?

Unofficial Librarian Bio.

Colleen Harris, aka WarMaiden, has suggest a meme of unofficial librarian biographies where librarians rewrite their bio to express their inner selves, rather than the stuffy boring versions your POW makes you use. It began out of a FreindFeed conversation that Iris began.

So here's mine....
Andrew, aka ashuping aka Andy, has been around books so long he can tell you with LC heading the material falls into and best guess as to why. He discovered libraries in High School, hiding out during the lunch period and continued on in undergrad. Even though he was forced to clean toner bottles his first year of employment he continued working in the library, eventually obtaining official "Librarian" status. He now makes his living bringing access services into the 20th century. He spends his free time exploring the world of lego's, plotting with cats to take over the world, and he has an army of polar bears at his command to destroy his enemies at a moment's notice. He routinely contracts out the polar bears to help his friends in need.

Check out the bio's for WarMaiden, Kendra, and InfoSciPhi.

17 August 2008

Everybody Manga!

A new sensation is sweeping the nation! Well maybe not the nation, but part of it. Just like last week it's a new way to reimagine yourself. You can create a Manga headshot of yourself. Here's mine:

Not quite sure the hair color is right, but, close enough I think.

So wanna create your own?
Go to Faceyourmanga.com

13 August 2008

Access Services Hero!

Did this a few days ago, but just now getting around to post it. My own version of a hero for the library!
It's the Access Services hero! Return your books on time or you'll hear from him! But he'll do even more than that. He'll rescue you from fines, lost books, reserves and more! Just give him a call.

Yeah okay that was cheesy, deal.

Created using Heromachine, go create your own!

Breaking up with a service

*note this post is off topic from libraries, but has implications for those that provide us w/services*

I'm breaking up with Comics.com. It's official as of today. Subscription ran out and I ain't renewing it. Comics y'all have some great comics on your site, Dilbert, Peanuts, Rose is Rose, and man am I going to miss getting those in my inbox every morning. It was a great way to start the day!

But let's look at the service you provided:

You servers seemed to crash once a month. No one could log into accounts, e-mail's didn't get sent out, and so on. What happened when I complained that the e-mails didn't get sent and I missed a day (or more!) worth of comics? You told me I could still go to your site and view them. Wasn't I paying you so I didn't have to do that?

Comics didn't update. When I e-mailed you about this you blamed the artist and said they didn't get it to you on time. Really? The people that depend upon you for their living couldn't do a simple task? Weird cause I saw the same strip updated elsewhere.

Poor communication skills. When there were problems did you let us know? Nope. Why would you? I guess you just don't understand how to communicate. Bad things happen, I get it. But it would be nice if you'd tell us about it. Let's talk about some examples:
Debit card number changed recently and for the life of me couldn't remember where I had used it. Figured it wasn't as big of a deal cause they'd let me know. Another service I know, they sent me an e-mail saying that the auto renewed failed and to check the site. Nothing fancy, but simple. You, nada. You made me wait until my service ran out and I had to e-mail you to find out. Even when I logged into your site it kept bouncing me out, never once saying that my subscription ran out.

Comics you just don't provide the service that I'm paying you for. So with that I'm done with paying you Comics, you just ain't worth it for me any more. Farewell.