Links of Interest : February 18th, 2011

Tech literacy notes:

danah boyd has a new piece about how teens use Twitter, and the related privacy negotiation involved. (And the fact that teens seem to be doing just fine with it, mostly.)

New technology needs:

I’ve seen extensive discussion in several places recently (The PubLib list, in particular, but elsewhere) about library patrons using apps to scan their library (or grocery, or whatever) card and carry the device, not the card. Brian at Swiss Army Librarian has a great post on the issues of using scanned barcodes on mobile devices, and looks not only at the policy piece, but at the technology one (many scanners won’t correctly read the screen version, but there’s a cheap fix).

Brian also had a great piece on keyloggers, and why it’s so critical for librarians to be aware of what their technology devices look like and do, so they can spot things that shouldn’t be there. This lead him to a third post, talking about what technology skills librarians should have, and why (or at least a start on a meaningful list.)

Better teaching:

Iris, at Pegasus Librarian, has had several great posts this week, on multi-disciplinary seminars, uncovering research practices in student writing, and “Breaking up with best practices, hooking up with learning goals“, which is a great title and an even better post.

I always love Iris’s attention to process and detail, but I particularly love the post on research writing, and the rubric and materials she links to immediately made my brain start wandering across what things could be implemented in other settings – both other educational settings, but also in conversations about online literacy, digitial citizenship, and so on.

Doug Johnson has been running pieces this week from a chapter of the “technology survival” book he’s working on for teachers. In it, he lays out three samples of how different schools and settings might use technology, all of which have some obvious benefits, but also some flaws or at least challenges. You can read some of the background behind his approach (with links to the three examples).

And from a different perspective, a post on one of the personal finance blogs I read, Get Rich Slowly, had a guest post about an 11 year old’s first budget (and ongoing cost decisions) that I found really interesting from the perspective of “stuff we don’t always teach/talk about well”. I found the need to jump back and start with more basics (about what the point of a budget is, why it’s useful, etc.) to be a really interesting analogy to where I sometimes find myself in information literacy work – just because someone knows how to use a piece of technology for one task doesn’t mean that they know all about using it thoughtfully.

Future of the field:

Doug Johnson has an interesting post on how to answer the question of “Should I go into the school library field?” I also like the two School Library Journal articles he links to at the end of his post.

Day in a geek’s life

A phone conversation got me thinking about making this. Here’s my day on Wednesday:

Wake up. (To a playlist of amusing music via my alarm clock program, Aurora)

Read email, the various online fora I check daily, my daily round of web comics (because hey, starting the day with either interesting narrative or humor is never bad.) I plan for this to take me between 30 and 60 minutes most days, as it gives my brain time to wake up properly.  Time variable, because it depends on what replies I write immediately.

Check my to do list in Things and figure out which things really need to get done today (and roughly what order). I do plan to talk more about how I use Things in the near future, once I finish the file management posts. I even have screenshots ready for it!

Spend some time answering emails about an upcoming community event, make a couple of quick changes to the event website. (This takes me about an hour, because it’s a bunch of emails and fiddly tasks.)

Respond to a couple of emails with possible referrals to potentially interesting jobs. Pause to read professional list mails that have come in in the last couple of hours. (about half an hour)

Write a draft  for a cover letter for a job I’m interested in, and set it aside to let it gel a bit in my head. (about forty-five minutes)

Have an early lunch (while reading in front of the computer: joys of living alone.) While it’s cooking, do a bunch of housecleaning in between stirring. While eating, check Twitter, which I’m trying to get better about doing and my Google RSS feeds, including bookmarking several links for this week’s links post.

Come back to working on that letter, and get something I’m happy with, and send it off. (Takes me about an hour, including some more detailed reading about the school.)

Get a call from the programming chair for the event: he’s finalizing the schedule, and has some questions for me about details, since I’m the overall chair of the event and the hotel coordinator. (We’re using a really cool website,, which makes the schedule available online, on mobile devices, and in various other formats.)

Work on three more letters for other jobs I’m interested in, and send them out. (This takes me a substantial portion of the afternoon, but the letters are more straightforward than the earlier one.)

Settle in to read a book for a bit, while petting the cat. (She never minds this part.)

Have dinner. Watch the lighting of my computer screen slowly change – I’ve been playing with an add-on called f.lux which shifts from blue light (daytime light, inducing wakefulness) to warmer light (more like typical indoor lighting) on the theory that it’s less disruptive to sleep cycles. I’ve been using it for a few days, and it’s definitely easier for me to fall asleep more quickly (after some reading in bed time.)

I have mine adjusted to shift over the course of an hour, and currently shift from daytime to halogen, but I’m considering going all the way to halogen. (My actual lighting in my bedroom, where my laptop and I mostly hang out in the evenings is usually a single lamp with frosted glass and a CFL bulb.)

Write the previous blog post here, on naming conventions and things to think about.

Have a bath. I believe in baths, because it is hard to read books  in the shower. In this case, I take time to finish a nice light reading book so it can go back to the library in the morning.

Pull a number of library books together on their appointed shelf, so I can easily drop them in my library bag and take them tomorrow while I’m doing other errands.

Get a phone call from a friend and a friend of hers, asking for help setting up a Dreamwidth account with icons and some other details. I get to do something I dearly love, which is explain technology to someone who is not entirely sure about it, and do so in a way that makes sense to her.

Yay! I get called a goddess for it, which never hurts. (There is a reason my personal business card now includes the line “speaker to technology” on it. As well as “librarian, process geek, infovore”.)

Figure out what I want to have with me tomorrow as I both want to get out of the house for a bit for a change of pace and do various errands. Locations likely include

  • Coffee shop (where I will find wi-fi, outlets, and a nice range of drink options)
  • Laundromat (wi-fi, tables, and sensibly placed outlets) I’m taking advantage of a thaw to do a big batch of comforter/pillows/other such things that are a pain to haul into the car in Minnesota winter temperatures (and icy pavement), hence the laundromat stop.
  • Library (wi fi, but really, just there to grab holds and drop off returns because there isn’t much nearby parking, and I always feel sort of guilty taking a space for long.) [1]
  • YWCA (no wi fi, but I’m going to be in the pool, so don’t need it).

Three years ago, this amount of wi fi – not so much. How quickly life changes. (And that means that I can do meaningful, useful, productive stuff at any of those first three places, rather than at home, if I feel like it. Which, tomorrow, I do.)

Wrap things up, grab a last drink of water, do various other useful ‘time for bed’ type things, and prepare to curl up with book and cat for a bit before going to sleep, at about 9:30pm.

Things I did not do on Wednesday that I wish I had: It was really nice out, and I wanted to go for a walk, but extra housecleaning won. I was also hoping for some time to work on a personal project or two, but I can bring them with me tomorrow. Also, I have an iPod touch, but did not actually use it today. (It got a good workout on Tuesday going grocery shopping with me, though.)

[footnote 1] Also, if I am in my public library branch for more than about 5 minutes, and not obviously wearing an outdoor coat, I tend to get asked if I’m a librarian.

To which the answer is “Yes, but not here…” and depending on what they need, either helping them (if it’s something simple like using the catalog or a self-check-out) or pointing them at the information desk. I don’t mind doing it, but it always feels a little weird, even if I am clearly giving off “Librarian with something of a clue” vibes.

File management: naming

Time for the next installment on “How I manage files”, this one on naming. As with the other parts of this series of posts, there’s stuff that works for me that may not work for you, and vice versa (feel free to share in comments!)

Continue reading File management: naming

Links of interest : February 11th, 2011

Welcome to this week’s installment of interesting links! Coming soon, another post on file management – naming conventions (I’m about halfway through a draft.)

Credit where it’s due: Do you use Creative Commons materials? Do you get frustrated figuring out what you need to cite and how? The OpenAttribute project is designed to help: it’s a browser add-on that looks for information on the page to formulate the citation.

What should people know about dinosaurs? Ok, I admit, I never entirely outgrew the “dinosaurs are neat!” phase of my childhood, but I’m actually equally fascinated by the question of “What *should* people know about a particular subject, and how do we figure that out?” So, imagine my delight in getting a pointer to a post that combines the two. Tom Holz (a paleontologist who focuses on the tyrannosaurus rex) has written a guest post about that very topic, with both general and specific things he thinks people ought to know about the field and why they matter.

A follow-up from last week – namely the bit about BitchMedia’s 100 Best Feminist YA list removing some titles. This week, I bring you Scott Westerfeld on the topic (author of many things, including the Uglies/Pretties/Specials series, and more recently Leviathan

On the issue of diversity, there was a fascinating article from a professor, Margaret Price, about the ways that academic hiring processes are particularly challenging for people with particular learning styles, or disabilities. The article also makes some interesting points about how a gruellingly lengthy interview day (of 8+ hours with very limited breaks) is not actually showing you someone at their best – or as they’d be during a regular teaching day. As more and more schools recognise the importance of diversity and pluralism in all directions, I hope that some of these ideas will become more common.

I know that I’ve deeply appreciated interviews that pay attention to these things, including sharing names of the people on a committee in writing before or during the interview (so that I can match the name and the person and their role as we go rather than try to sort out names and their correct spelling afterwards), and that give reasonable breaks to collect my thoughts and remind myself of what I want to focus on for the next conversation.

As a librarian, how I talk about things with faculty is often different than what and how I want to talk about things with technology staff, for example – and both are definitely different than how I interact with kids.) Obviously, I’m good at changing modes on the fly (that’s part of the job, really), but I do better at it with a moment to get a drink of water, gather my thoughts, look at my notes, and take a deep breath (all things that I’d plan into a typical workday on the job.)

Looking for a good guide to Facebook settings? Mashable has just come out with a really nice, new summary of settings to be aware of. I like to keep an up to date (last month or three) in my bookmarks because they do tend to change things, don’t they?

What technology changes: Henry Jenkins has a great post about how open book exams must change in a wired educational setting – all excellent points. Personally, I’m convinced that it’s possible to design exams (and other projects) such that online resources are helpful – but only if you already know the subject pretty well. This does mean moving away from simple identification questions (which are trivial if you have online access to resources), and moving into questions that require you to understand those terms, but which focus mostly on doing something else with them.

Joyce Valenza is also thinking about this general topic, but from a different direction, in her post about creating a new Research Tools resource online (as she’s moving her materials to LibGuide)

Links post: February 4th, 2011

Short list today: this week has been full of job stuff – last week was sending out lots of applications, this one has been visiting Boston mostly for a hiring conference today and tomorrow which has so far gone well (I liked all three of the interviews I’ve done so far, and I think they’d all be interesting jobs with great kids, but they’re rather different settings, which is also cool.)

Tech literacy:
LG, a maker of various electronic gadgetry, have combined forces with Jane Lynch (of Glee and various other TV fame) to do a series of short videos about various aspects of texting behavior. They’re funny and informative. Their website has links to the videos, but also other resources for parents looking to talk to their kids about texting and electronics-mediated behavior.

Mashable has a nice guide to creating a Facebook engagement policy that’s aimed at businesses, but just as applicable to libraries and other organizations.

A discussion on one of my library boards pointed out a great resource for people taking over archives as a project – particularly apropos for me, because one of my interviews had just asked about my experience with it (I have some, in fact, but more tools are always great.)

Other amusements and news:
Most of you have probably already seen links about the hawk trapped in the Library of Congress’s main reading room, but they managed to catch it on the 26th. (It’s getting checked out by raptor rehab folks, and will be released in a more natural location.)

John Scalzi has a post about an interesting issue – the inclusion or removal of titles from a “100 best titles” list – in this case, a list from BitchMedia of 100 best YA titles for feminist readers. (I do sort of wish he’d left comments open, because his comment space is a very different place from that thread, and I’d have liked to see both approaches to discussion.)

And Jessamyn West, of MetaFilter, had an essay on the NYT about the recent news that only 15% of Wikipedia contributors are female. (MetaFilter, where she is a moderator, takes several steps to make the site a space that is more inclusive of women.) The comments, however, are pre-101 level on this issue: for further reading on related topics, I recommend the Geek Feminism blog.

Me, I think it’s a complex issue, but I’m fascinated by the question of how the choices we make in online settings create places people do or don’t feel comfortable contributing. I don’t think every space has to have the same goals (and in fact, don’t want them to – that’d be boring), but I think more sites being more deliberate about their choices and particularly what those choices mean is never a bad thing.

File management: self-awareness and philosophy

Welcome to part 1 of the “How I manage my files” reports. (You can read the prequel, in my previous post: My Computer Geography)

A few starting principles:

I work on the following theories. I list them so you know where my preferences are, and can adjust to whatever your preferences are (as yours are almost certainly different.)

  • Huge piles (well, lists) of files are not my friend.
  • I like seeing what I’ve done when it’s done.
  • I like to focus on the current thing, not see all the other stuff I should think about.

Continue reading File management: self-awareness and philosophy

My computer geography

Before I get into the series of “How I manage my files” that people seem to be interested in, I thought it might be a good idea to talk a bit about some very general structure of how I use my computer. Geography is really sort of the right word, except that this geography, I get to move things around, at least within broad limits.

Continue reading My computer geography

Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Welcome to the return of the links posts! I’ve got an interesting collection again, so here we go:

Continue reading Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Information literacy skills we’re not teaching

I got to thinking recently that there are a whole lot of information literacy skills we’re really not teaching at the moment – many of which are actually quite useful (or potentially so.)

[edited to add: I did get a question about ‘we’ in the above, so it’s probably worth noting here that when I write on this blog, I’m writing from the general perspective of a librarian with strong experience in the secondary school setting, and a general background in formal educational settings (high school, college). I certainly know individuals who are teaching some or all of the things I talk about below, but I know of very few where all of these things are clearly a part of the structured learning expectations, or taught/discussed in any sort of clear way (maybe beyond a few minutes of “Remember to back up your files” kinds of things.

Also, because I’ve had about three people go “I wish someone would talk about that” I’m going to make it a priority to write up some of how I do these things (and why I do them that way) in the near future.]

Tagging and other folksonomy issues:
Tagging is a lovely thing – being able to put labels on things, so you can find them again later. However, it’s also painfully easy for a tagging system to get unwieldy, especially after a year or two. What would happen if we talked about the process of creating a system (figuring out which tags are likely to be useful to you later), and also about maintaining a system (reviewing it every so often to make sure it’s still working well.) Plus, things like how they work on different systems: tagging someone on Facebook, for example, has different implications than tagging a particular book on LibraryThing.

File management:
I don’t know about you, but how I manage my files continues to change and grow. I’m still prone to organizing things in folders, and to creating quick links (via aliases, my dock, and other options) to the files I use most frequently. But at the same time, I also know that there’s some powerful search tools built into my computer these days (that weren’t there in the dawn of time, when I started using an Apple IIc, way back when.)

Searching is great, but like all searches, it involves some knowing what you’re looking for (for example, when the file was last edited, the name, a reasonably unique search term.) If I search on my computer for files containing the word ‘librarian’ or ‘book’ or ‘writing’ for example, I get hundreds, sometimes thousands of files, so I have to pick different terms. There’s also the question of maintaining different versions of files, and keeping them straight. And when we start sharing files – either by emailing an attachment, uploading to a central server (or something like GoogleDocs), it gets even more important to pick meaningful file names.

There are all sorts of techniques for these – but I know a lot of people don’t really know about them. We should change that, somehow.

Making thoughtful choices about time:
One of the real challenges of the online age is .. well, there’s so much to do. It’s so easy to get distracted by some interesting link, and lose track of time. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can build the pattern of self-awareness into more of our online interactions, but I think talking about it is a good start. Where do we spend time online? Why?

Doing something because it’s fun is often fine, but sometimes we stay in online spaces that are no longer fun, because we’ve got the habit. What happens when we change that? All these questions – and many more – are conversations I very much want to see in broader conversation, not just with current students, but with everyone. (And it’s in my list of topics to blog more about here…)

Productivity tools:
One thing I kept pointing out in discussions about the 1:1 laptop initiative at the previous job was something that seems like a small change, but can be huge. What happens when every student in the class has reliable access to class resources? When a teacher could, say, create a calendar with deadlines and reminders, and have every student sync to it, so they’d know about deadlines or other details?

We’ve taught students about analog calendars for years – but what happens when students can tap into the wide range of productivity and task management tools out there, and use them to manage their assignments? Not only will they be better off now (and hopefully, a bit less stressed), but they’ll be learning great skills for the future. (Even though the tools will certainly change, the basic process of getting used to entering it somewhere, managing lists of tasks, etc. will probably still be there.)

(There will be a return of the links posts on Friday: over the holidays, I was getting many fewer links I really wanted to share, but I’ve got a nice collection again.)

Links of interest: December 17th, 2010

Good afternoon! Links today – and links sometime in the next two weeks, but precisely when will depend on what I find, since I suspect many of my regular sources may slow down a little over the next two weeks.

Today’s links include a lot of discussion about social bookmarking tools, changing how we look at doing things, and a hippo.(Actually, a hippo, a loris, a hydra, and an infinite string of elephants and camels. But who’s counting?)

Continue reading Links of interest: December 17th, 2010

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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