Friday, September 11, 2015

Tech To-Go

For the last couple of months, I have been hard at work on a program to offer our students something completely new to our library - a host of technology for them to take home and play with.

Now, being and institute of technology, one would think that we would have already had this sort of thing available, but not so much. Up until now, it's been somewhat out of reach. But we recently increased student fees to allow for us to provide better services to our students. This is one of those cases that we're really delivering what we promised.

In May, we discussed the idea of having a technology lending program. And in June, we were ordering everything we needed to get it started. The next few weeks felt like Christmas, with box after box of really cool equipment arriving.

 So, by July, this is what my bottom file drawer looked like:

I liked to joke with my husband that I had $15k of equipment just hanging out at my desk. (Not really quite that much, but it was definitely a lot of money.)

I spent the next couple of months going through every item. On the tablets, I uploaded apps I thought would be useful, put together folders, figured out the tips and tricks. It was a long process of basically playing with all kinds of technology. I wore the watches around for a day (both a Samsung Gear and the Apple Watch), so I could talk about each. I worked with our IT services on some items that needed their touch (specifically the Apple products and Dell products), and others I was on my own to get up and running. 

The whole process was very clunky, I'll tell you. I was flying on my own a lot of the time. We had a few documents from a sister campus that I used to frame some of my own final documents, but generally, I spent a lot of time doing trial and error on different aspects of the program. I'd think through it like a student, then like a faculty member. I tried to anticipate questions and problems, and then tweak and adjust until I felt like I had something right. 

Once I thought I had everything figured out, I created a libguide (which you can view here), so that the students wouldn't have to go through the same growing pains I did with each item. They would have tips, tricks, full instructions and item limitations right at their fingertips. 

The program went live on September 1, the first day of our semester. It was a rocky first few days, but soon, everything was ironed out, and things started flying off the shelves.

Posting silly photos of myself to social media is my main approach to advertising.

My director has encouraged me to submit a proposal to discuss how we set up the program for the Oklahoma Library Association, so sometime soon I'm going to sit down and write it all out, and figure out every hurdle I had to jump over in the process. If it gets accepted, I suppose I'll have to tell a whole group of people how many times I screwed up along the way. 

Still, the program is in place, and so far, I think it's been a success. Whew. Way to NOT waste the students' library fees!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Everyone Wants to Play with Dry Erase Boards

A while back, I read a great post over on Letters to a Young Librarian about the effectiveness of doing white board polls in a small library. Immediately, I was intrigued. We have a small school as well, with a one-room library. Everyone passes through the same area here, and it was a prime location for doing just this very thing. So, just a few days after reading the post, I began my own white board polls. I've tried to do a variety of topics -- some serious, some fun, some a little of both.

Our PC vs. Mac poll got a fair amount of interest. We had recently had a request to add more Apple computers to our lab, because the two currently available are only available to our Visual Communications students to use. I was a bit surprised by the poll, as I thought more people would prefer Macs than actually did. (And yes, I'm aware that the symbol for the PC I put up is actually a symbol for Windows, but it was the closest I could get to the idea of a "PC" in pictorial representation.)

I'm also hoping to put together a "Quick Print" station where students can just walk up and quickly and easily print on a computer that is already logged in. Our other computers are notorious for taking up to 5 minutes to log in, and students are notorious for wanting to come print two minutes before an assignment is due in class. This poll was designed to help me understand what we would need to have available on that computer. 

 And, our most active poll so far has been a fun one - Star Wars vs. Star Trek. As you can see, the debate got heated.

This has definitely been a great addition to the library's everyday operations. I'm able to post on social media when we have a new poll up, and some students and faculty weigh in through that platform. I also find that students just love to have an excuse to play with dry erase markers. Plus, it's been a treat for me to dream up ideas for each poll!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Kindness Audit

Shortly after reading this presentation on a kindness audit over at Mr. Library Dude, we had a library meeting and our director brought up the fact that we still had some room in our budget to make some changes around the library. She asked if there were things we could improve and I immediately thought of a kindness audit.

My first thought in reading through the presentation was that I would prefer to do such an audit with someone who was completely new to our library, but used to libraries in general. I would want it to be unbiased by my own opinions on what we should change, and done with completely fresh eyes. And, lucky for us, we have just hired a new Technical Services librarian, who has worked in several libraries before.

So, today I led her to the presentation and asked her if she could do her own audit of our space. I know there are places where we are missing signage that might be helpful. There are arrangements of furniture that I might want to move around. There are some new pieces of furniture we could order to make things more comfortable.

Over the next week or two, we'll conduct the audit, and I'll be sure to post the results here. I'm interested to see what everyone thinks could be improved, and what changes we might make.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

All Polite-Like

I have to say that one of the most surprising things about working in the library I do is the politeness of the patrons. I remember my days as an undergrad. "Polite" was not ever a word I would use to describe college freshmen or sophomores. I could think of a lot of other words. Entitled. Loud. Obnoxious. Not all of them, to be sure, but there was a large percentage who were just not pleasant to be around, and I saw them repeatedly being rude to anyone over the age of 25.

However, most of the young students I have encountered at this school are polite to the point of almost being annoying. They wait patiently at the desk to ask if they can use one of my kajillion OSU pencils. (Use them? Take them with you! I sure don't need them.) They stand behind one another queuing up for simple questions, rather than interrupting a conversation I'm having with a faculty member. They sometimes wipe their feet on the mat before walking in. They say please, thank you and (much to my chagrin) use "ma'am" liberally.

Maybe it's the fact that most of them come from a rural background, and they were taught to treat people with respect. And maybe it's because I look terrifying and they don't want to anger the beast. Either way, I'll take it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Oh the (Digital) Humanities!

As a new librarian, one of the joys of my work is finding new ways to learn about my profession. I am an avid learner, and I love to listen to webinars, attend conferences, and otherwise become more entrenched in my profession with every interaction.

So, of course, it was only natural that I would join COIL - The Community of Oklahoma Instruction Librarians. I attended my first meeting a couple of weeks ago, and was instantly reminded why I had decided to become a librarian. Librarians are my people, yo!

The meeting started with lunch at Stillwater, Oklahoma legend, Eskimo Joe's, which will be celebrating its 40th year in business this year. (That's a long time for a burger joint in Oklahoma.) During lunch, I chatted with the people around me, and heard great stories about OKGo, running, nail polish, and the agonies of moving a collection from one building to another. I enjoyed learning a little about the people who do my job in other places.

After lunch, we headed to the OSU campus to the Edmon-Low library, which is nice and imposing, as a University library should be.

And this is where the fun part of the meeting began. We had gathered to learn about Digital Humanities. Two of our colleagues from Oklahoma State University had compiled a great list of some of the digital humanities projects available on the web. I'd love to share some of my favorites here:

Mapping Emotions in Victorian London - This cool site creates pins all over London, with every time a place and emotion is mentioned in Victorian literature. In this park, melancholy; on this street, happiness; at this police station, fear. Very interesting!

Linguistic Patterns in Bestselling Book Series - This page looks closely at the patterns in Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones. The different types of data extrapolated is fascinating.

Voyeur - Far from being an inappropriate site, this one is related to the one above, in that you can get your very own word cloud from the text of your own blog, book or other document. For instance, check out the word cloud for this blog. On the site, you can actually hover over each word, see how many times it was used, and dive more deeply into each piece of your own lexicon. 

OSU Digital Collections - And, of course, it wouldn't be a complete list without throwing in a shout-out for the OSU digital collections. Of interest on this page is the access to the centennial series, which is a complete history of OSU from 1890-1990, and the Hugo, OK project, which recorded oral histories of the city where many circuses spent their winters. 

After sharing some cool projects with us, our fearless leaders, Sarah Coates and David Oberhelman, shared a project they had undertaken with one of their own undergraduate classes.

As an alternative to the usual research paper, the team had pioneered a project with one of the English faculty. Students were assigned a project, in which they did their research and uploaded their project to a Wordpress site. Each project was based on a rare book in the OSU collection - a 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles, which is a detailed history of the UK in Shakespeare's time. It would have been the same edition of the book that Shakespeare himself had used for his plays. The project basically resulted in a digital companion to the book. You can view the final project here: OKStateShakespeare.

The project and the idea was so interesting. It's a risk, too, because if you're really interested in creating something to live on the internet permanently, you're putting the creation into the hands of students, and we all know that sometimes students get to that point in the semester where they are negotiating with themselves for their grades. (i.e. "If I just turn it in, that's at least 50 points, and I if I get 50 of 100 on this project, then I'll have an A for the class..") Still, the project would be a good jumping-off point, and the library could later beef it up and make corrections where needed. It would certainly take a lot of the work off the librarians themselves for creating such a project.

All in all, it was a fascinating meeting. I enjoyed thoroughly getting to hear about new resources and meet new people. I've spent an inordinate amount of time exploring the websites mentioned during the meeting. But it just makes me a better resource for our students, right??

Of course, the final highlight of my day was getting back to my car after not feeding my child or pumping for six hours, so I was practically BURSTING out of my clothes. Let me tell you, pumping while operating a car is not for the faint of heart. Also, I may have flashed more than one student in the process of getting connected. I guess this is what being a working mom is all about. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

One-Shot LibGuide

Updating the one-shot classes we teach for library instruction is a little nerve-wracking. This is only my second semester as the Reference & Instruction Librarian. For the last few years, the instruction classes have been given in the same way - lecture-style, using a worksheet as a way for students to follow along and pay attention. It's not too bad, but we have access to some amazing technology in our learning lab, so I want to incorporate it as much as possible.

So, as a way to get technology going, I am using a LibGuide to guide us through the entire interaction, so students can easily follow along. I've set it up here: Library 101 (ignore the fact that the tour is not actually a tour of our library).

My hope is that with this LibGuide searching as the students' "worksheet," they will be able to click around and follow along as we talk about library use.

In the past, the thought of giving students a computer has been avoided simply for the distraction it can cause. ("Wait, we weren't supposed to be browsing Pinterest and Facebook during class?") The good news, though, is that in the learning lab I'll be using, all the computers are connected to a central system. And I can choose to show any computer on the main screen at any time, without the user's permission. So, I can make it very clear at the beginning of class that if you are browsing a site you shouldn't be, you should be prepared for the entire class to know when I launch it on the main screen.

Additionally, the room setup allows me to watch what students are doing more easily. See my terrible MS Paint diagram below:
I've set up my laptop and Dell tablet with Chrome Remote Desktop, so that I as I teach the class, I can wander around and control the action in my hands without being tethered to the cable-connected teaching computer. The podium in the center of the class gives a nice 360˚ view of the room. The images project on three walls (the south wall in the drawing is the only one without a projector), so no matter which way I turn, I can see what the students are seeing, without being in the way. 

It's really a dream room as far as presentations and classes go. I'm hoping to one day set up some contests and races during the class and teach it in more of a "flipped" style.  But for now, I am sticking to very basic changes, so that we can see what works a little bit at a time. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Library Week

I know, I know. Every profession has a "week" or a "day." It's so overdone that it's almost not even worth doing anymore, right?


Library week is fun. It's a chance for us to do things we wouldn't normal get to do. (Dogs in the library! Let's do puzzles! Coloring pages for college students!) We get to branch out and try to make students' lives a little more fun. I like that about Library Week. Plus, I think the design this year is pretty rad. (Again, others say it's overdone. To them I say PSHAW, DO NOT RAIN ON MY PARADE.)

This week we've offered students a chance to win gift cards, had snacks and drinks available every day, hosted a poetry reading, brought in therapy dogs, and basically had lots of little activities. 

Maybe not everyone enjoys library week. Maybe the students think it's dumb. But their consumption of the cookies and cokes we put out seem to suggest otherwise. Also, I get to help work on a puzzle every so often, so that's fun. 

So, here's to Library Week and to all the great librarians out there doin what they do!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Haps

I'm back at work after a (too short, always too short) hiatus to be with my newborn babe. She's adorable, as you can see:
She's two months old and already stealing hearts

Now that I'm back, though, I am in full swing on the library train. I feel like several large projects are attacking me at once, so I'm trying to slog through things as best I can. But here, in no particular order (though I should find an order soon) is what I am working on, and may post on in the coming weeks:

Redesign of our 60-minute one-shot instruction sessions
Currently, our instruction consists of me talking at a bunch of students while they fill out a worksheet. We use the computer to project and show them everything, but it's not as interactive as I would like. I know the one-shot is a poor way to educate, but for now I have to work with the time we have. My ultimate goal will to be flipping the entire thing, and trying to get the students to do "pre-work" and use the instructional time to dive in to some more important pieces of the library. 

Faculty Liaison Work
I need to start creating some personal relationships with our faculty so we can better partner on library services. Easier said than done, but I'm working on a few angles.

3D Printing
We are considering buying a 3D printer, and so I am doing a little legwork to understand what our options are and how 3D printing is being offered in other libraries. This is a super-fun project, but I have to make sure not to let it take over my life, since I have bigger priorities.

Reference Tracking
I started a new method for reference tracking just before I went on maternity leave. The student workers have been doing an okay job at tracking while I've been out, but I need to motivate them to be more consistent. And, come to that, I need to remember to do it myself! Finally, I need to compile the results from January through March to see what our reference services look like.

I want to make a more robust selection of libguides on our website. It's a matter of figuring out what students need and making it, but that's easier said than done, too.

Website Development
Our website could use some updating (including my own picture and contact info!), so that's on the list as well. I had some training in how to use the CM software, but it was in December, and I have made a whole human life since then, and my brain has forgotten it all. Oops.

There's a lot to do, but it's a great challenge to figure out how to get it all done. I'm so glad I do what I do!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Loss

When I left my job at the Big Cancer Hospital (my previous life before librarianing), I felt pretty good that I was leaving the constant threat of death behind me. At BCH, I had gotten used to meeting patients and doing my best to remain detached, but friendly. All too many of the patients I got to know would do well for so long, only to have a sudden recurrence, get very sick and lose their battle with cancer.

So, moving to a library, I was glad that I would be leaving the grief part of my job behind. I had gotten pretty good at compartmentalizing it all, and keeping emotional distance from patients so that I could do my job. But here, there was no need for that, and it was a relief.

Then, last Thursday, a little less than two months into my new job, I got a phone call from a coworker. At our library, with only 4 full-time librarians, one of those women had died suddenly and unexpectedly from an accident. And not even something understandable like a car accident -- instead, a freak accident. A trip and fall, that somehow led to her death just outside of her own home. It was unbelievable, and unfathomable, that the woman who had left the library the day before, rolling her eyes about a student issue and telling me that she had to go, but welcomed me to handle it in whatever way I felt was appropriate, was gone. A laugh and a "what can you do?" look was the last thing I shared with her, before she waved and said she'd see me tomorrow.

But we didn't, and it was strange, walking into the library to see her seat empty, tasks already lined out for that day, post-it notes on her computer screen telling her about things she would need to take care of.

I knew her for only a short time, but this woman - Laurel - was delightful. She loved the students, and they loved her. She never judged their life choices or their personalities. She embraced everything about them, and gathered stories about them like gathering shells on the beach. Everything was unique, and she always needed another.

At BCH, I could always expect the loss. They had cancer, after all, and there was no reason to believe that every single person would beat the odds. I always assumed they wouldn't, and that my heart would be broken, so I wrapped up my heart and didn't allow it to get broken so often. I grieved for them, but in more of a distant way. So now I find myself falling into that same sort of grief, making sure it doesn't hurl me into tears and sadness unexpectedly, but rather just sits with me so that I know it's there, but I don't have to acknowledge it if I don't want to.

The funeral is tomorrow, and while I know it'll be sad, it'll also be nice to have some closure for everyone who knew and loved her so well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Great Videos for Library Instruction

As I'm working on my new library instruction course, I'm trying to find ready-made media that can help keep the class awake, and possibly, possibly, send them back to our website to find something they want to look at again.

After reading a recent blog on Stephen's Lighthouse, I found some great videos. Most of them are too long for such a short class (and let's face it, no one but us true nerds will appreciate the 16-minute Lord of the Rings epic based in a library), but I found two gems in the group that have been instantly added to my site.

First, New Spice (as opposed to Old Spice), is basically the best thing ever:

And the second, which uses Monty Python references copiously is also a winner (and informative for students, to boot):

Yay for library humor!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Instruction Introduction

So, as part of my new role, (a big part, really, since my title is Reference & INSTRUCTION librarian) it has become my job to teach the students at the school about the library.

Let's preface this with one simple fact: I have never formally taught anyone in my life.

That said, I am basically a teacher in disguise. If I learn something new, I can't help but to share it with others. Which usually means I'm teaching someone something every day. Whether it's teaching my mom how to use Pinterest (and what Pinterest even is), or showing someone at work how to map their computer to a new printer.

Still, those are not what I have to do - which is to stand up in front of a room of 40 18-20-year olds, who probably could not care less about the library, except for the moment they absolutely have to. These one-shot classes (meaning, you teach the students "everything" about the library in one, 60-minute session - HA) have been taught in the same way for the last couple of years. Using a worksheet, the librarian walks the students through several different aspects of the library - circulation, databases, ebooks, etc - and everyone listens (sort of) to the lecture. In my imagination, they also probably walk away with a somewhat positive impression of the presenter, but probably no strong feelings about the library.

However, we have access to all kinds of new-fangled technology these days. We have a computer lab, where I can put the students into pods on computers, and have them "race" in different library-related challenges. I can use an Epson digital whiteboard to point things out on the page, and to make the interaction with the library website more visible. And I can write hilarious notes on it, or draw smiley faces, which - let's face it - is probably closer to what I'll actually do with it.

So, since I'm 9 months pregnant right now, and basically biding my time until I go into labor, after which I will be away from work for around 8 weeks (though a couple of weeks of that I will be working from home). While I am ready to make some changes to the courses, I can't do it at the moment, because I won't be there to enact my own changes. My goal is to design a whole new course to begin teaching in the summer, which will include some assessment strategies to find out if we are actually teaching the students anything at the end of the day. 

I've spent a lot of my time since I started at my job reading about library instruction. Books, peer-reviewed articles, other blogs... pretty much anything I could get my hands on. And it's helping, I think. I feel less like I'm going on blind than I did when I started. But it's still going to be an experiment in courage the first few times I do everything. 

So, wish me luck, and a lot of good teacher karma.