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.