Links of interest: September 10, 2014

I would normally wait until Friday to do this, but a particularly timely link came across my RSS reader last night…

Ada Initiative campaign:

When I read my RSS feeds last night, I discovered that a number of librarians have coordinated a campaign to donate to the Ada Initiative, which supports women in open technology and culture. You can read more about the matching donations campaign. That post includes links to other posts why this is so important for librarians and people working in (and using, and caring about) libraries that are worth reading too.

Continue reading Links of interest: September 10, 2014

Links of interest

Awesomely gorgeous: 

  • I got to see my very first real aurora last month (living in the rural north has benefits!) It was not nearly as flashy as the following link, but it was still stunningly amazing. It does mean I’ve been clicking on aurora pictures even more than usual, though, and I particularly liked this post from Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy with a time lapse movie made from aurora still shots in Norway by Nicholas Buer. Click(and as Phil says, full-screen) if you need 2.5 minutes of beauty in your day.
  • Also, the 21 best astronomy images of 2012.
  • (And the one a friend sent me on Wednesday, a gorgeous image of Saturn. And the Milky Way and a lighthouse. Look, I like pictures of stars and planets and stuff, okay?)

Books: 

  • If you are looking for something to read, the MeFi wiki index of questions about books is extremely comprehensive.
  • The power of the books you read at 12.
  • I’m not sure if this goes in books or culture, but how do you deal with fantasy agricultures (specifically, how do you grow wine in a country with seasons as messed up as Westeros?)
  • Why we need comfort reading.
  • Curious George’s great escape. (I half knew some of this, but it’s an amazing story.)

Copyright, so complicated:

Community and culture: 

  • AskAManager had a recent conversation about class – what things you need to know to work in a white-collar environment that may not be obvious if you’re not familiar with that kind of setting. It’s a sort of imperfect discussion, because the topic is So Big, but as someone who works with people from a variety of backgrounds, I think it’s a good start.
  • Ann Patchett on independent bookstores. Specifically, starting one.
  • I keep chewing over Anil Dash’s “The Web We Lost” in the way that makes me think there will be more writing from me about it eventually.
  • Vienna Teng’s draft of the hymn of axciom – fascinating both for the content, and for the fact that technology makes this kind of sharing possible.
  • TEDx and Bad Science: there’s a fascinating article from the TED folks about how to vet for bad science in TEDx talks – interesting both for the specifics, and for the general “how do we talk about evaluating stuff”. Bad Astronomy talks about it a bit more, too.
  • 250 year old codes. Society of the Golden Poodle. Secret societies. What more do you want out of a story?
  • Also in the history department: a Ponzi scheme for flappers.
  • The Lying Disease: truth, lies, and the Internet.
  • How Pompeii perished (and the misassumptions about the nature of geology that pervade our ideas about it.)
  • The history and implications of the Zapruder film.

Technology:

Seasonal:

Links of interest : March 16th, 2012

Welcome to the first edition of “links of interest” since, um, July? Yeah. Turns out that when I swap all my work blog reading from home to work, I then totally break my workflow for writing the blog posts at home. I think I now have a solution to that, involving dumping everything into Instapaper and sorting it out from there.

I am not even going to try collecting all the awesome links from the past seven months, but here’s a range of ones currently intriguing me.

Continue reading Links of interest : March 16th, 2012

Day in the life of an IT librarian

[One of my goals for 2012 is to update here on average weekly. We’ll see how that goes, but I think I’ve finally sorted out some of my practical issues to make it easier.]

First: I am all confirmed (payment and all) for the Library Technology Conference in St. Paul, MN March 14th-15th. (I am combining a week’s trip to see people in Minnesota with this conference – which is an awesome fit for my new job – plus a chance to see various Minnesota friends, and the chance to be at something I helped found the following weekend.)

Registration’s closed (they hit their cap: part of why I liked it when I went in 2009 was that I do much better in a conference of 500 people than one of thousands.) But if you’re going to be there, I’d love to meet both people I know and people I don’t know yet.

On to the meat of the post: I thought it might amuse people to have a day in the life. Or rather, two.

Continue reading Day in the life of an IT librarian

Links of interest: July 1st, 2011

Welcome to a very long links roundup, as it’s been a few weeks. (I expect they’ll be fairly regularly through most of July, and then sporadic, as I get myself moved and settled in Maine.) Since I’ve got a ton of links, let’s do these in some simple categories.

Continue reading Links of interest: July 1st, 2011

Creating a screencast

A conversation earlier this week made me decide that it was time to pick up a project I’d been meaning to play with for a while – creating a screencast. And since I’m doing that, why not talk about the process.

Below, you’ll find my step-by-step how I went through this, and what I learned.

Continue reading Creating a screencast

The power of the ‘Net

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why it’s so important to figure out how to manage our digital lives more thoughtfully – and it’s been highlighted by two different job applications that came up recently (one for a school that’s very thoughtful about screen time, and another where I was talking in my cover letter about how I tie my love of the library and my love of technology together.)

Now, before we go any further, it’s probably obvious that I’m a passionate reader of books. I can count on the finger of both hands the number of times I’ve gone to sleep without reading for at least a few minutes. I read widely and deeply and broadly, in a rainbow of genres.

And I think, the same way, that there are lots of things that are part of our traditional images of libraries and learning that still matter – doing sustained reading, larger research projects, presentations, all those things. But I don’t think that’s enough.

When I’m talking about technology in either an educational or technology setting, I see books as one tool, but not the only one, and maybe not the major one. The larger question is something different: it’s not about simply how to use the tool, but about what the tool can and can’t do for us.

Which brings us to the Internet:

I’ve been online since 1994, when I first got to college. In that time, I’ve made friends, gotten frustrated, planned projects, taught classes (including teaching music theory in a pure-text environment, which was an interesting trick!), learned leadership skills, taught myself about any number of things. And that’s before we get into any of my actual professional or formal educational work – all those things are just the things I did on my own, self-directed, because they were interesting.

Every major news story in the past 15 years, I learned about online before I heard about it from TV or radio news. (There’s one exception: I learned about the 35W bridge collapse while sitting in the computer lab at grad school working on an assignment, as someone walked in having just heard it on the radio before the online stories were up – but I would have seen an online story through my usual haunts inside of five minutes.)

The Internet has kept me in touch with friends – that’s the thing everyone knows it’s good for, especially in our current Facebook era. But it’s more than that: it’s making new connections.

In a job hunt where I’m being very geographically flexible, I’ve found time and time again that if I say “Hey, looking at a job in [wherever]” someone I’m linked to through my personal online accounts will know useful things about the area, or is glad to put me in touch with someone who’s just as glad to share. Or they’ll know someone who graduated from there. Or something else that lets me dig more deeply into what’d be like to live and work in that place. (And it’s been true even for places where I would have sworn it’d be unlikely.)

As someone who did a major cross-country move in 1999, when these tools weren’t nearly so wide spread, I’m delighted by that every time.

And it’s in making other connections – running into someone in a discussion in a forum about our shared religion, and discovering we’ve got academic and professional interests in common. Learning about someone through their hobby, and finding out they write great and passionate and amazing blog posts about another topic that I happen to be helping someone with. And much more.

But it’s also in my professional life.

One of the stories I tell about the power of the Internet goes like this. In the fall of 2009, a student – someone I knew was a brillant, engaged, amazing student – came to me looking for some reference help.

She was taking AP European History, and she wanted to argue, for one of her papers, that you couldn’t consider an era truly ‘modern’ until it had consideration for the role of women and minorities in the culture. (Not that they’d solved the problems – but that they were part of general public conversation and political discourse.) She needed some sources to support her argument.

I looked at that, went “Hey, great topic.” and she and I sat down to do some digging on it. We tried a lot of different approaches, but we kept not finding the right thing. She had to go to class after about 20 minutes so I promised I’d keep working, and I did about another 25 minutes (and brainstormed with my assistant, and tried a few other things) before deciding I needed a different approach.

I posted a request to my personal journal, basically saying “I know various of you have a particular interest in women’s history and diversity studies – any ideas?” and with a few notes about what was accessible in a useful timeframe.

I posted it at 10:55. By 11:15, I had a response with the perfect essay to solve the source problem. (In an older but classic collection that the library owned, even!) Within another hour, I’d had a couple more suggestions, and another reference to the same title’s usefulness.

Now, I could have spent hours poking at that – and likely have found the book, but only after skimming through other titles that might be relevant first (and not having time to spend on other good and useful things that were good for other students, the library, etc.).

With the shared knowledge of my friends, it was a much faster process, and I could get back to a busy and highly engaged student at lunch, and say “Hey, here’s this great book, and here’s some other suggestions, and now that I’ve got those classic articles, here’s a couple more ideas of things to try in JSTOR and other databases.” She thought it was pretty awesome, too.

This is – again – one of those things we’re not really teaching, as technology education professionals.

It’s not just about the tools, and how to use them.

It’s about how we choose to use them, and what we can do in small pieces, now and going forward, that build those connections and create those interactions, so that ‘news’ is not a thing we listen to at 6pm, but a thing that’s flowing around us throughout the day, or that research is not just something we ask a librarian (though there are lots of times that’s a good thing to do) but where we’ve got connections to friends with a wide range of expertise and knowledge in many places.

That’s not easy. For one thing, learning how to sort out all those different sources of information, and figure out which ones are useful or reliable or meaningful gets pretty complicated. But at the same time, can we afford not to have these skills?

And perhaps most importantly, it’s about how we dance with the technology in our lives, in this time of ‘always on’ access. What happens when we turn off the phone, or take a break from the screen? What happens when we want time for focused work, or extended play? How do we recognise our own personal temptations, and find ways to manage them? There are lots of good conversations about these things out there already – but we can use more.

The more I think about this, the more I think that it’s probably the essential question schools need to answer in the next decade or so – and particularly, how to help students for whom various parts of this (creating healthy, balanced connections with others, having access to technology tools but not living under their control,  being comfortable with complexity and issues that don’t have easy answers, and much more) doesn’t come naturally.

My personal set up

Here’s the thing: when you go looking at comments about different tools, you’ll probably find what I did: lots of people talking about the tools, but not as many talking about the meat and bones of how they set things up. (There are a few, but not, in my opinion, enough!)

So, I wanted to do a detailed overview of exactly how my system’s set up. (It got long, but I think having it all in one place is easier than splitting it up.)

Continue reading My personal set up

Links of interest: April 15th, 2011

Living online:

Comments to one of the posts I linked to last week (Denise’s post about why LiveJournal has been such a major free speech tool in Russia) brought up a link to another great post, this one from a 2008 speech from Ethan Zuckerman (formerly of Tripod) about how technology use can shift – the Cute Cat Theory of Activism. It’s well worth a read.

The future of libraries:
Several interesting posts this week about the future of libraries.

Other ways to teach:

Michael Stephens posts comments about what’s working and not working for two different MLIS students in online programs, and solicits ideas from others – some interesting stuff!

Gwyneth posts a great series of library orientation exercises using QR codes that were particularly accessible to ESOL students.

And Cat Valente (author and prolific blogger) shares a really great story from her own education, and about how a week of class time had a lifetime impact on her sense of story and narrative.

Copyright resources update:
I’ve added two new links to the copyright video resources page – one from YouTube about copyright (as you might guess, pretty heavily on the side of content creators, not remixers), and one from Rocketboom about how to dispute a takedown challenge (and what kinds of uses might be fair uses.) More on the copyright videos page. I have some more additions planned, but due to other commitments, it may be about two weeks before I get a chance to both watch the new videos and write them up.

There may or may not be links post next week: I have a day-long interview in a totally different city on Thursday, so it’ll depend on things like travel delays and the amount of focus I have after that.

Task management: tools

Step two in the task management series: figure out which tools are going to work for you. (Part 1: a summary of theories and approaches is a good place to start.)

Starting points:

There are so many things to consider when picking a tool. If you’re like most people, it may take a couple of rounds of trying different ones out, before you find the one that really clicks. Here’s some things you might think about.

Some people really want a satisfying user experience (whether that’s the scratch of a good pen on good paper, or a beautifully designed user interface for the program.) Some people want the bare bones: a plain piece of paper or the blank possibility of a text file. Likewise, some people have a strong preference for specific features or tools, and other people have no need for those same things. So, in this post, we’re going to look at some general questions you might want to think about, and then a couple of different tools, so you can see a range of differences.

There are a ton of free options out there, so if you have trouble figuring out what you like, you can play around with different tools and see which features matter to you, even if you settle on a paid option eventually.

Continue reading Task management: tools

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 Information Technology Librarian at the University of Maine at Farmington, the small liberal arts college model campus in the University of Maine system.

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