Tag Archives: work

The Library Bike is Here!

After over a year of planning and unexpected setbacks, a few months ago we finally got our book bike, Unbound: sin fronteras! It turned into two builds, actually:
 

Zane, Conor, Andrew and Sarah on our rainy inaugural ride.
Zane, Conor, Andrew and Sarah on our rainy inaugural ride.

No. 1 is a front-end unit on an attached bike created by Haley Trikes in Philadelphia. They’ve done a handful of library bikes now and got it down to a (library) science. No. 2 is a custom trailer to attach to a personal bike made by Austin builder Saila Bicycles. Both have ample room to hold books and materials, plus a laptop, wifi puck and all the swag you can stand.

Each has its idiosyncrasies but nothing unmanageable. The trike is slow going but steady (winning ALL the races!) and the trailer is so smooth you almost forget it’s there… until you turn too tightly into a parked car. I haven’t crashed either yet. After making it down the hill of Guadalupe on the trike during rush hour without dying, I’m confident I can handle anything.

Administratively we’re still figuring things out—where to store it, how to streamline all the bits and most importantly, how to staff it. We have willing riders but staff shortages at the branches keep people on the desk instead of in the Austin wilds. This is understandable but still. Sad face. I’m fortunate to have more flexibility with my schedule.

So what do we do with it? Community outreach, of course! We’ve shown up at Movies in the Park, Books and Beer and random farmers markets. We tailor a mini-collection to the theme and vibe of the event and check out books and DVDs, sign up new members and demo the Virtual Library. Many who get their library cards from the bike are newcomers to the city. What an awesome introduction to the Austin Public Library.
 

Unbound:si fronteras is hanging out at Palm Park for Movies in the Park #aplunbound #aploutreach #austinparks #moviesinthepark

A photo posted by Austin Public Library (@austinpubliclibrary) on


 
I led the proposal team to get the project greenlighted then took a more passive role on the task force. I’m super impressed with and proud of the research and tireless diligence done by Conor Walker, Betsy Evans and Andrew Murphy, the chair and deputy co-chairs of the team, to make both builds happen.

Unbound: sin fronteras
is a fun, fresh take on community engagement that will be enjoyed by Austinites—and us!—for years to come.

Tech Toy Time

Anticipating the post-holiday crush of customers with new devices they don’t know what to do with, I proposed a designated drop-in time for hands-on help downloading ebooks from the library. Tech Toy Time was born! Throughout Sundays in January at the Austin Public Library, dozens of people brought in their iPads, tablets, phones, Kindles and Nooks to get set up with OverDrive. They even put me on the teevee! The initial program was a great success, and we’ve rolled it into our regular repertoire of computer/tech offerings.

However ubiquitous such devices are becoming, digital literacy is still at a premium. If you don’t have a grandkid or a niece to walk you through it—or if the genius bar cats terrify you, or Amazon phone support gives you the vapors—what do you do? You never turn on your $200 paperweight. It’s a huge gap the library can fill, at least when it involves accessing our materials (ebooks, e-audiobooks, digital magazines and more). If only there were time and staff to push it to the branches….

public librarianship is go

Believe it or not, I’ve been working at Austin Public Library for nearly four months. For all our epic plans, day-to-day it’s a position of minutia, unraveling policy, battling torpid interfaces and remembering a million acronyms, passcodes and who’s who.

But it’s also a delightful realm of Real Live Collection Development, spending real money making a real difference updating my areas (Computers and Religion) to reflect community needs and cultivate curiosity. On top of that, weeding is a joy. Too long my preconceptions have been clouded by milquetoast librarians for whom deselection gives the vapors.

I could weed all day, especially when such treasures await:

 

Who knows how many times the collection had been shifted till at last stars aligned and mind and no mind met Arizona highways?

It seems crazy to say I’m still discovering what my job is. I have things I do—always! ever!—but figuring out where I fit has taken more finesse. I’m thankful to have the freedom to self-direct and -select the projects and priorities of interest to me.

I am on the Databases Team and the Internet Advisory Committee in tireless pursuit of intuitive user experience. I also developed a library class syllabus and am helping strong-arm our information guides. But the wheels of assimilation turn slowly, and weirdly. I’ve taken training for cybersecurity, active shooters and blood-borne pathogens but not the official module for how to use our catalog. I just hope I can take the class before I teach it, which I know I’ll be doing eventually.

Reference has become a completely different animal. Unlike the online, for-profit education world with 30 minute phone calls of intensive remedial information literacy, tech support, assignment interpretation and life coach cheerleadering, the public library phone call averages 30 seconds. And yet so many wonderful, off-the-wall questions, requests and misinformation about how things work.

I still encounter a handful of rude, frantic, mentally ill patrons, with the added tension of much of it in person, but it’s still leaps and bounds less nerve-wracking, and that goes for the rest of the job, too. I haven’t torn the velcroed head off Stress Kitty once.

 

And it’s fun. In June I volunteered at Yomicon (“reading con”), the annual manga cosplay event for teens. There were costume and art contests, geeky crafts, games, drawing workshops and more. I staffed the photo print station, arranging shots into fake photobooth strips, like so:

Horsehead was a hit and my efforts were well appreciated. In fact, I won an award:

 

Here’s what my nominator had to say:

Not even out of probation yet, and accolades already! Not bad. 😀

Farewell, Walden University… Hello, Austin Public!

I have a new job! Next month I extend my career as a Librarian II at Austin Public Library—yes, that Austin, the People’s Republic Of. Stationed at Faulk Central, the main library building downtown, I will do reference, instruction, collection development, adult programming, web- and word-wrangling and more.

While much of my experience overlaps or translates, I have not worked in public libraries before. I am ridiculously, ecstatically excited. For all I thrive online, the thought of wandering stacks and teaching face to face makes me downright giddy. I’m eager to engage with a different kind of patron, collection, mission, everything—all of this on top of the adventure of moving, immersing myself in a fun, new city.

With this opportunity, I leave behind Walden University—but not without accolades. At the start of March I was awarded the Frondie, an employee of the month recognition in the library.

What the heck is a Frondie? Why, it’s a creepy Green Man statue/plaque/thingy:

My nominator colleagues said about me:

“I would like to nominate Meg for all the work she does and has done to make the website and guides be fantastic and seamless. Yes, there are working groups for these things but it seems that Meg has often done beyond what is expected.”

“Our successful, on-time launch of the library website re-design may have been neither without Meg’s involvement. She asked insightful, hard questions about the project, but also dedicated extra time to researching and drafting possible solutions to any issue she raised. Meg communicated with her colleagues throughout the project, both sharing progress from the team and collecting feedback from others. She has also stepped up to create resources and support for her colleagues, such as workshops on SnagIt image editing and the content and style guide.”

“Meg has a history of supporting her colleagues and helping us all do quality work (offering SnagIt image workshops, all the crazy work on the content and style guide, etc.) She has also had openness to being flexible to bring success to the library (think all the twists and turns of the website redesign). Once again, we are grateful to Meg for her adaptability and strong support of the team: just recently she has agreed to let us all experiment with her role as a liaison. In order to help meet the ever changing workloads from College of Health Sciences and RWR College of Education and Leadership, Meg is now flexing back and forth between the two schools and collaborating to take care of business. This pilot project is very important to all of us as we explore more ways to keep up with new programs and projects.”

“She doesn’t hesitate to call shenanigans and is great at providing detailed feedback with examples. She’s blazing a trail and taking us with her. Bravo, Meg!”

HOW MORTIFYING! I knew the Austin Public offer was coming—I was trapped in criminal background check limbo for nearly a month and half. Then I find out that people like me and think I do rad work! Can’t say I don’t feel a little guilty, but it’s equally awesome to be recognized and appreciated.

On my last day of work, my Walden colleagues presented me with this wondrous gift:

May my new colleagues in time understand me so well. 😀

user testing and style guides, oh my!

meg in action

Here I be in my staged-tidy cube in Walden University Library. Contrary to my pastiness in this photo, I did see the light of day this summer, I swear! But it’s been a breakneck speed, productive past several months, with two major accomplishments:

1. Website user testing

I’m on a team that has been developing a reorganization for the library website. The design will stay largely the same, but the current site has significant usability problems, mostly due to poor labeling and non-intuitive categorization—legacy decisions that leave us with loads of library jargon and way too many assumptions about user know-how.

Inspired by user experience discussions at MinneWebCon and Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy, I advocated for user testing and won—to my delight and terror. Without a user testing precedent in the library or elsewhere in the university as far as I could determine, I was on my own. Though some decisions were less than ideal, like using other staff as participants instead of actual students (it’s an online university, hey… can’t exactly post fliers by the washrooms), the pilot test proved most useful.

I designed and conducted the tests with input from two colleagues, also on the website team. We opted to get feedback on the existing site to confirm our suspicions about things that are confusing and to uncover new problems we hadn’t considered. The data collected was largely confirming but with plenty of the unexpected to keep it interesting.

Data was used to justify design decisions, to incorporate additional ones and to make a few emergency changes to the current site immediately—critical facepalms not fit to print. User testing overall was thrilling and embarrassing and yes, time-consuming, but at the same time so important, and despite the initial timesink, it wasn’t terribly complicated. With a process in place, future testing sessions can hopefully happen with greater frequency, and with our other user groups, like students and faculty.

2. A comprehensive style guide for all library content

The new website requires loads of revised and new content, the majority of which will be pushed through LibGuides, of which we already have a ton. A metric ton. An expletive ton, and honestly, sadly, they’re all over the place when it comes to consistency.

Consistency is quality—inescapably. But with incomplete guidelines and several librarians producing content, the guides as a whole lack cohesion.

Now was my chance to reign in our over 2,500 guides, exploiting my English degree and proofreading background to the fullest. After investigating the university style guide and APA style (the university-wide standard), plus considering deeply the merits of common use and sense (e-hyphen-mail? really?), I created a content style guide governing every aspect of content creation, including:

  • Grammar, spelling and usage
  • Screenshot creation and specs for annotations (call-out boxes, arrows, highlighting, etc.)
  • Link names and image descriptions (“alt tags”) that are mindful of screen readers to ensure all content is ADA compliant, or as close as we can get given tech constraints

The style guide applies across all platforms: the main site, LigGuides, LibAnswers, the blog, Facebook, YouTube, and all things to come. With the help of an instructional designer colleague, instructional best practices are included throughout.

The style guide is a thing of beauty—and was a wonderful exercise in choosing the fights worth having. I tend to lean toward the minimal. Serial comma?—hate it. But I let it go and let it inside. Two spaces instead of one between sentences? I knew enforcing a rule either way would cause a war, and didn’t even bother.

But killing the capital “I” on internet? Now that’s worth fighting for.

Minneapolis moved! and into the work fold

I forget I can write asides with this blog… updates without the hassle of premeditated depth. In short: I’ve moved back to Minneapolis, MN, and am currently doing contract work with Augsburg College to create subject guides using the all-hailed LibGuides. The software isn’t bad, but it definitely has its foibles and limitations, resulting in fist shakes and many “Guh!” exclamations. More on this, perhaps, later&#8212given all the hype, I am definitely pleased to start playing around with them, not to mention grateful to have so quickly found library-related employment in this bled-dry job market, even if only short term.