Toddler Tweets

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen some photos of this guy from time to time.

We had just enough nice weather for a trip to the park today

 

He’s pretty cute right? Well, if you followed my library on Twitter a few weeks ago, you may have seen this photo of him too:

Yes, that’s my own Judah tweeting to the nearly 3000 followers of the library account.

Fabulous. You can only imagine my moment of panic.

We were lucky though. It’s pretty obvious that the tweet is from a child. The text didn’t autocorrect to anything terrible. While I fielded responses for the remainder of the evening, most of them were of the “I know how you feel” variety. It quickly because our most popular tweet ever with a whopping 162 retweets and 174 favorites. We added a large number followers over the next week as people continued to find and share it.

So, this stumble turned out to be a win. I’ve since figured out how he was able to tweet from an old phone that did not have the Twitter app installed. It had once been my phone that I used to tweet for the library. Even though the password had since been changed, the camera app was still authorized to send tweets to the @AldenLibrary account. That setting has now been updated.

I know we got lucky. Lots of people are not so lucky when they have social media blunders. It was a good reminder to be careful of security, especially if you connect to your library’s accounts on your own devices. And double especially if you’ve got a curious toddler who enjoys taking forehead selfies.

 

Slamming the Boards

I’m on the RUSA RSS Marketing Committee and we recently hosted a webinar by Bill Pardue about the Slam the Boards concept. Librarians who slam the boards use social question and answer cites to do what we do best: answer questions, or refer people to places where they can get answers. Check out BIll’s Slideshare below a good intro and some suggested places where this occurs. The big push is on the 10th of each month, but some people seem to post at other times.

If you are attending ALA this year, there will be a discussion about Slam the Boards on Saturday, June 29 3-4pm in the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Clark 22A-C.

I decided to use Yahoo! Answers for my first foray into slamming the boards because it seemed the easiest to navigate and find questions in need of answers. I started with the topics I know well: citation and libraries. I answered three questions about citations and one about whether someone can access library eBooks via the Kindle app on their tablet.

So far only one of the answers has received any “thumbs up” designations and none of them seem to have gone through the voting process, so I’m not sure whether I’ll win any best answer designations yet, but here’s hoping.

I signed my emails with my full name and just “Librarian.” I’m pretty easily Google-able, so someone could verify that I’m a librarian if they doubted my credibility. I can really see how you could get into doing this. I saved a couple of searches for citation questions, questions about popular databases and the name of my university and may come back to this if I get any alerts.

There is a Slam the Boards Facebook group where you can find other people talking about the questions they’ve answered. I consider actions like these to be PR for the concept of libraries and librarians, if not for my particular library. It’s humbling to see how many questions there are related to topics are those traditionally asked of librarians. And librarians tend to be pretty knowledgable and resourceful folks about lots of topics, so I’m sure there is something there for you to answer, even if it’s outside of the usual library domain.

Advice for Working with Librarians

Bother meSpring semester, I’m taking a course in quantitative research methods for my organizational communication program. I received the book a few days ago and was paging through it when I found a section in the “Searching for Previous Research and APA Style” chapter on working with librarians.

I admit to being puzzled at first, having never thought of working with a librarian as the type of activity that requires instruction. But I suppose that’s my bias from being one. And if there is anything that the #librarianstress incident has taught us (once again) is that our jobs are poorly understood by the general public and likely our students. I am glad that the text’s authors (which include the director of my program) thought to include a recommendation that students speak with librarians in their research process, especially in a methods textbook.

But some of the actual advice I found distressing, especially since it is supposed to have come from librarians themselves. In my text, the authors say that one of them wrote a previous book and asked “research librarians across the country…for tips and strategies for students working with librarians” as there isn’t very much out there on this topic already (p. 71). There is an in-text citation for the other book, but I don’t see it in the reference list. I think, however, that it’s this book on public speaking. There are 18 tips. Number 3 begins with “when we are in our offices we aren’t on reference desk duty. Whether an office door is closed or open, please knock first and wait to be invited in.” (p. 71) The tip continues with on to talk about how student’s aren’t bothering us when they ask questions at the reference desk. Another tip admonishes students to wait their turn at the reference desk.

Number 15 is about topics and questions: “Students should be as specific as possible in what they ask for, if they know their topic. Students who are struggling with identifying a narrow topic should seek help from their professors or librarians. We can’t help you find sources if your topic isn’t very clear” (p. 72). Students do sometimes need to talk to their instructors, I think doing general research is a good way to narrow one’s topic. Emphasizing the importance of having a specific question isn’t going to help those who are still trying to figure out there they are going.

And then number 17: “Students should understand that information can come in a variety of formats. If a student asks for a ‘book about’ something without providing any other details about the information needed, that student could come away empty handed. Instead students should get in the habit of asking about ‘information about’ something first” (p. 72). Wouldn’t a good librarian, upon realizing that there isn’t a good book about the topic the student asked about, probe a bit further and see if they really need a book?

Not all of the tips are bad. There are suggestions to meet with a librarian early in the research process and to expect us to follow up the initial questions with our own queries to help students get to what they really need. But these few (and a couple more) rubbed me the wrong way. We don’t come off as very friendly and the tone is more negative than I would prefer. Some of this is in the wording, I realize, but assuming that they accurately represent what the author’s received from the librarians, I’m disappointed in the tenor of the information provided by my fellow librarians. They seem…defensive? I’m not sure of the word I’m looking for here. Overall, they seem more annoyed with those who don’t ask questions in the “right” way rather than meant to providet genuinely useful advice.  I can’t access the book that these are supposed to have come from, so I can’t tell what the methodology was for collecting the tips from actual librarians. I’m hoping that something is just lost in translation here.

I think is someone had asked me a question like this, I’d say:

  • Don’t feel like you have to come to the library with a specific question. It’s good to have a general topic in mind, but looking through resources on the general topic and talking about what interests you will help you focus your topic and decide what you want to research and write about. 
  • Even if you think your question isn’t really about library materials or something a librarian would know, ask us anyway. Chances are good that we can either answer your question anyway, or direct you to someone or some resource that will.
  • Feel free to return later with more questions, or just to discuss your research project. We love hearing what you’ve done with the information we’ve helped you find. Letting us know what resources were useful (or not) also helps us build a better collection for your fellow students.

So, librarians, what do you think? Am I reading too much into the tone of these tips after all of the defensive “our job is TOO stressful” comments on Twitter the last couple days? What sort of advice would you give for students working with librarians for the first time?

Photo credit. Used by Creative Commons license.

Final AcWriMo Update

AcWriMo is over already. November is such a quick month. My school was on quarters until this year and so I had just gotten used to being done with the fall term before Thanksgiving when they switched things again. I like semesters a lot better overall, but man, was it nice to be done with all of that work before the holidays kicked off. It was always a sprint to the finish, but loads of turkey and mashed potatoes are so much more fun when you don’t have all that work hanging over your head.

All of this is to say that I did really well with my AcWriMo goals until the holiday week. I did 3 pomodoros of work for the first 15 days and then changed my goal to 350 words/day. I ended up writing quite a bit more than that per day, but then slacked off completely once the holiday came around. I’m still working on finishing up my big class project (a 20+ page paper on gender and social networking sites) but I’m still so glad that I put in all of the work at the beginning of November. The biggest part of the paper is a literature review and I ended up looking at nearly a hundred sources. Using the pomodoro method I was able to power through all of those by mid-month and start writing with plenty of time to spare. This is a pretty big achievement for me, as I’m working on becoming a former procrastinator. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ll get there eventually. I was even able to turn in the last small paper for my class few days early, and I’m half way done with the final exam (12 pages that we had to write between 5am Sunday and midnight Tuesday). Then I’ve got a few days to finish up and edit the paper.

Overall, I will have turned in 38-40 pages of writing in the space of 8 days. This is more writing than I’ve done in a long time, or maybe ever since my library school program was fairly practical and didn’t have a lot of longer work. I’m not done yet, but I’m so glad that I was able to get ahead in November thanks to AcWriMo.

When I get a chance, I’ve got another post planned about some of the tools I’ve been using this month and will continue using going forward.

Awesome App: Slideshark

I saw a post about Slideshark on Profhacker recently and decided to try it out. It’s an app for sharing presentations from your iPod, iPhone or iPad. I so wish I had seen this before I presented at ALAO about the Maggie Boyd project, because I had to save all of those slides as images and recreate the document in order to make sure that I could use all of my custom fonts and not worry about formatting issues when I opened the Power Point on the presentater computer.

The app, which can link to Dropbox and Box, lets you download your slides and processes them in a way that lets you keep the formatting. Then, once you have hooked up your device to the projector, you can play the slides with notes in a presenter view. It’s pretty simple, really, but amazing to be able to just open the file and be able to project it right away. I tried this in the class last week and it worked great. I’ll probably go this route for my next presentation session rather than have to worry about bringing up the slides on the presenter computer.

New Sub Goals for AcWriMo

AcWriMo is still going well. We’re 10 full days in and I have kept up with the three pomodoros a day each day. I’m almost to the end of my initial list of articles that I intended to read for my literature review, but I think there are probably 10-15 that I added as I read, so I will need to go back and read those.

My school is officially closed tomorrow for Veterans Day, but I’m working at the library 5-9. Combined with my 12-5 shift next Sunday, I will have a full day of time I can take off during the week. I’m going to take off the entire day next Friday, and I hope to have a very rough draft of my paper done by the end of the day. That means that I need to work through the rest of my reading and start outlining before then, which I think is doable. At that point, we’ll be a little over half way through November and a rough draft of my paper will be done more than three weeks before it is actually due. As a procrastinator, I’m pretty excited about this prospect.

In addition to getting on top of this paper, I’ve really enjoyed the #AcWriMo Twitter stream for seeing blog posts from other academics about how they work and write. This blog post from Charlotte Mathieson has some great suggestions for useful apps both in the post itself and in the comments. I found info here about Scapple, a new mind mapping software from the makers of Scrivener that I think looks useful in its basic-ness. No frills, just a white board like experience on your computer.

This older, but still great, post from the Thesis Whisperer also has some great suggestions, and I found out about the Self-Control app in the comments, which I think I’m going to try out for the first time today. It blocks your email and any websites you blacklist for a set period of time, and there is no getting around it, ever. No restarting the computer or anything. The past couple days I had a little more trouble focusing during my pomodoros, so I think this will be handy.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got for now. The baby is down for his first nap of the day, so I’m going to try to get one pomodoro in while he’s still asleep.

Italian Tomatoes

I saw this Tweet come through the #AcWriMo Twitter stream last night, and it made me think a little further about the Pomodoro technique and why I think it works for me:

I agree that it’s important to not wait until you have a specific amount of time available to begin writing. But I think that the standard 25 minute time frame of the pomodoro technique works for so many people because it’s not actually that long. And the real value is that you commit to only doing one thing during that time frame. Not reading or answering email, checking Facebook, or looking at the latest Tweets. In my experience, it’s not the time frame that makes if effective, but the single-task focus. So, if you’ve got the kind of day where 25 minute periods are too hard to come by, focusing on a single topic for 15 minutes, for example, should still be effective in helping you get stuff done.

Ironically, I’m pretty sure I saw this while I was not pomodoro-ing and anxiously checking Twitter/election results last night. Also, the title of the post comes from what Jake has been calling the pomodoros, because it’s more amusing to imagine Italian tomatoes as a unit of work than a foreign word without much meaning.

Finally, to update on my own progress, I’ve been keeping with my 3 pomodoros a day goal, despite having acquired a pretty nasty cold. I think having the public goal has been helpful here too, because it would be pretty reasonable actually to say “I’m too sick to read” or something and give up for a few days. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I’m also glad to be still pushing through all of the work I need to do this month.

 

4 Days, 10 Pomodoros (AcWriMo Update)

Through the first weekend of November, I have met the “3 pomodoro” goal each day, and actually exceeded it the first two days. So far, I’ve spent 10 pomodoros (250 minutes/4 hours 10 mins) of dedicated time working on my gender and social media paper. This is a great number for me, given that I found out Friday that the paper is not actually due until December 8 (the syllabus originally said November 26) and that I’ve been busy this weekend with life stuff like changing my wiper blades, doing laundry, making food for the week and tending to a baby who is either getting a cold or starting to teeth.

My dual monitor set up, showing my laptop and the big monitor with Scrivener and Zotero. Artsy border courtesy of my not yet figuring out how to turn them off in Instagram.

Even better, after reading nearly 40 articles, I’ve started to get an idea of where the paper may go. My Scrivener document is starting to fill up with little snippets of ideas that could form the basis of a paper. It’s a long way to go, but I’m getting stuff done. Tonight, had I not had the 3 pomodoro commitment, I probably would have decided not to do any work and settled in to watch Netflix or football. But I had one more to finish and am glad that I did.

In addition to AcWriMo, I’m also grateful to my second computer monitor for helping me get into a reading groove. I have a big spreadsheet listing all of the articles and the most important findings from each up on the big monitor and have been reading the articles (using Skim, a new Mac PDF reading app I recently discovered) on my laptop. This setup works great for me, and I’m starting to wonder how I got anything done with only a single laptop monitor. At the moment I’ve even got the iPad sitting here on my desktop, though it’s just pinging Facebook alerts rather than being useful. But I could use it to play Netflix or have multiple documents open if I wanted. I think I would be opening myself up to some serious spousal mocking then, so I’m holding off for the moment.

 

Parenthood and Procrastination

I’m a procrastinator. Or at least, I have been and am trying to kick the habit. I have actually been a pretty good one, especially as a tool for avoiding homework I didn’t want to do until the last minute. I have always been able to crank out a good enough paper or project in the last few days (or hours, as the case may be) and get good enough to grades to get into college, grad school and then into a real job.

But now, I’ve got that real job and also found myself starting an MA program about a week before I discovered that the I’d be having a baby near the end of the school year. So now, that baby is six months old and I have a long paper to write, a short “thought” paper to figure out and a final exam to study for. In the next six weeks. Procrastination isn’t really an option any more. And that’s a good thing.

I’m participating in AcWriMo this month, which is forcing me to do at least an hour and a half of work on the big paper each day (in three pomodoros, or 25 minute sustained work periods). This has been hugely valuable for me already, as I am feeling less anxious about the paper already, even though, being a a librarian, I’ve rounded up around 75 articles on the topic (gender and social media) and now have to read them and put them into some sort of intelligent argument.

I know this isn’t groundbreaking stuff here. Procrastination isn’t a great idea. But it’s taken the lack of free time that comes with having a baby to really push me to get over this habit. During the first year of my program, I was pregnant and working full time, but still able to come home and eat dinner, watch something on Netflix and get around to homework when I felt like it, without worry about messing with the sacred bedtime routine or wondering how many times I would be up in the middle of the night. I have about two good, post-bedtime hours each day, though, and this is still a pretty decent amount of time to do some work. But it’s definitely not enough time to write a whole paper in a few days.

This probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The best grades I got in college were during the semester my sophomore year that I was working two jobs and had limited time outside of class and work – though even those days seem ridiculously free now.

So Far, So Good

My model of (nearly) 6 month old, who supports my academic activities by going to sleep without too much trouble.

It’s the first day of #AcWriMo, and I met my goal of three pomodoros of work on a research paper. In fact, I fit in four pomodoros today because I was able to do one during my lunch break and focus on just the paper after Judah went to bed*. I’ve collected about 75 articles on the paper topic – gender and social media – and need to keep making my way through them. As a librarian, I love the collecting phase. It’s so fun to mine literature reviews for more sources and fill up my Zotero collection. But if I keep adding sources, I’ll never get done in time.

The paper is for a class on gender and communication and our assignment is basically a term paper that needs to begin with a good literature review. I believe that the final document is supposed to come in at 20+ pages with most of that the literature review portion. This will be the most extensive literature review I’ve done so far, and it should be good practice for the research method class I’m taking next semester in which we actually have to propose and conduct a study, I believe.

I’m enjoying following the Twitter chat for #AcWriMo. Even though I don’t know the other writers, and they have different goals than me, it’s fun to see people meet their own goals, and I really enjoy reading their posts about their own work. I think it’s fascinating to see the many different ways that people approach academic research and writing.

*I feel like I should take a moment to thank whoever is in charge of this sort of thing that I have a model of baby who will go to sleep basically on his own at six months without more than a few half-hearted protests.