woodshedding in libraryland II

image of a woodshed from the library of Congress collection

Been thinking about this blog and how a lot of the work I’ve been doing lately doesn’t always lend itself to longform reflection. When I looked up “woodshedding,” a term I use for talking about going back to library-school type activities (i.e. more learning, less doing) and found this post from 2008. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “What I’m up to.” work report, so here we go.

    • Drop-in Time has become entirely self-funded which is to say I hustle for cash to support it. This mostly works. I got a few mini-grants from a former employer and some random cash infusion from a longtime internet pal. It’s not quite sustainable, but so far it endures.
    • I took a year off from traveling for work (New England only, no getting on an airplane) after realizing I was traveling more and enjoying it less. Mostly an adjustment for me, nothing to do with the lovely people who invited me to their things. And when I started picking it back up again, I realized I really could get back into it pretty easily. I was tweeting with Tara Robertson about that feeling you have, when you slow down on a thing, that you may not be able to start doing that thing again. Saying no more often meant that my yeses were all genuine and not motivated by FOMO.
    • Been writing a column for Computers in Libraries on and off (mostly on) since 2008 and just wrote a feature article about patron privacy this month.
    • I’ve been moving into some “increasing responsibility” areas. I’m now on the board of both the Vermont Humanities Council and the 251 Club of Vermont. I manage the web situation for the Vermont Library Association which is something I could be throwing myself into more. We’re moving to an online payment system which is stretching my talents, it’s good to stretch.
    • Likewise VLA needs an ALA Councilor and it might be time for me to step up and do my time there again. I haven’t been a member of ALA since the last time I was on Council. I’ll be giving it another shot.
    • I hit the 75th issue of my newsletter which is now three years old. 1400 people subscribe, and out of that maybe half read it.
    • Just got my old archives here on the sidebar, something I’d been meaning to do since I got this theme up and running. Enjoy!

And some things stay the same. My little privacy talk (and how to give it) has become a useful staple. I wrote one on SCAMS but it hasn’t caught on the same way. I live in my small town in the school year, and in Massachusetts, in a slightly larger town for the summer. I go to the library a lot. I read a lot. I think a lot about what I’ve seen over the past 25 years of librarianship and what that might mean for the next 25 years. Thanks for coming along with me.

How to make a brag deck for your library conference

slide showing a kid on a library sleepover with text describing the library's program

The conference Brag Deck is one of my favorite community engagement secret weapons. It’s a slide deck with pictures of things libraries want to show off. It runs on repeat somewhere during the conference, preferably someplace high-profile like over lunch or during a meeting. People can watch it, see what other libraries are doing, get ideas. I make a little web page that goes along with it so it’s available online all year. If you can make slides, operate email, and download images, you can do this. Here’s an example from last year (sorry no ALT text version available yet)

People make slides in a number of different ways, so I won’t get too into the technical weeds but here are a few tips.

– Don’t start too early. Ask people on your library mailing list (or other communication method) for a few images and text a few weeks out. “What’s something you’re proud of? Show it off here!”
– Remind people a few times in a non-nagging way. The last email can say “There’s still time!” a few days before the conference. You’ll be surprised how many last minute entries you’ll get. I got two on the day before the conference. The goal is to have a lot of participation.
– Email everyone who sends in images saying thank you and congratulating them on their achievement. We spend so much time recognizing others that we don’t always recognize ourselves. Your positive response helps.
– I do 1-2 slides per library, so that both big and small libraries get a chance to shine. If there are a few good images of one event I try to do a multi-image slide. Don’t get too fancy.
– Include the library’s name and location and a small bit of text about what is on each slide, so people can follow up with a library if they want to know more.

That’s it. Finish it up, bring it to the conference, set it somewhere on repeat. Especially by the end of a conference, people can be tired and want to just chill somewhere. Having something professionally applicable but also passive and relaxing is a great addition to any library conference.

Two new talks

I have mentioned elsewhere that doing less public speaking was an intentional decision. I took some time off and now I’m slowly taking some time back ON. I did a great webinar for the folks at WiLS on how to teach online privacy in the library, my usual talk. Then I made two new talks, one at the request of a local senior residence and one for a local Lifelong Learning Institute. Different and all new topics and both of them I’m really happy with. If you might be interested in me giving one of these talks at your event, do let me know.

First, a talk on my quest to visit all of Vermont’s 183 libraries. You may have read about the guys who are doing this in Boston. I am jealous of their website but also maybe not in total agreement that rating libraries is good for morale. I did a talk with some library history, some library trivia, and a few good jokes about Vermont. You can see my slides and notes here or read the entire talk here.

Second, the talk about scams is more of an outline that I talk over (so no built-in narrative it sort of flows where the conversation takes it. People are concerned about the ways people rip people off and this is especially the case in the online world where a lot of people, particularly older people, can feel out of their depth and not at all sure if they’re doing the right thing. I wanted to give sensible, practical advice that wasn’t just stuff like “Never click on an email attachment!” because, quite frankly, that is dumb advice.

slide showing trivia facts about vermont's libraries readable at the URL given

Next week I get on an airplane to give a keynote talk at the MD/DE Library Conference. I’m pretty excited. If you see me there, please say hello.

Ask A Librarian: Practical advice for my parent’s computer?

an image showing me interacting with my mom over Skypeliveporn

From a friend’s email: My parent has become increasingly befuddled by things in older age, especially computers. I think the main problem is that everything offers way too much functionality, and they find it overwhelming and confusing. They are definitely confused by things updating and changing layouts and such. But they are also confused by long-standing things like tabs and new windows – when I went to help sort their laptop recently I found 78 Safari windows active, all opened to the same Yahoo Mail account. They had no idea. Are there any tools that you know of (hopefully for Mac) that maybe “simplify” things somehow? Or maybe an entirely different OS?

I feel like the Mac is usually the best option for older people if they want to use a computer and not a tablet. Tablets do solve some of these issues, but cause other ones. At the same time, I agree, I see my landlady’s computer like this all the time. And part of it is… maybe it’s okay to have it be weird?

One of the things I’ve been trying to get my landlady to do is turn the computer off every night. And then I set up her browser to not open all the old tabs (one of the culprits) and just open to her email. So when she opens it that day, there’s only so messed up it can get before she turns it off again and then… new start. And I think part of it all is that some people are just more… derailed by things. And so some of it is just “Well things change a lot, you do not have to like it (I sure don’t) but lets’ figure out how to get you to your email….” that sort of thing. Sometimes you have to let yourself be comfortable with someone else’s discomfort and just step them through how to get where they want to be.

Some people have found it easier to just get their email delivered via Mac’s Mail program. I think it creates more problems than it solves, honestly but it’s an option. But yeah, I have some people who
have been coming to drop-in time for over a decade and no matter what new tech they get they always sort of…. fail to learn how it works and then bitch or whine that it’s hard. Which, hey, those feelings are real and I can sympathize with them. But also realize that for whatever reason, absent any mental health issues, this is the way they are choosing to interact with it. There are some great “Missing manual” books for the Mac that can help explain things. But this is only good for people who are okay deputizing themselves to learn this stuff. The line I use a lot lately is: there are some people who demand lists when we try to give them flow charts. And you can’t learn to effectively operate a computer with a list, not anymore.

It might be helpful to hook them up with a local person who could swing by once a month and make sure stuff was basically working. I don’t know if you do this job but I feel like this is a great niche type job. One hour tune-ups. Don’t cost a lot but just swoop in, do software updates, make sure nothing is out of control, Flash is working nothing sketchy is going on, swoop out. If there’s a local senior center and/or library and they use a laptop, that can be a good place to send them. Otherwise, setting up Skype or Facetime to do desktop sharing and you can swoop in yourself to help with some of this. It’s always hardest with parent/kids. I always thought a good idea would be for people to ‘trade parents” with each other and like, I would have your parent with stuff and you could help my mom (RIP) with her stuff.

Vermont libraries and their money and towns

interior of a small public library in Hancock Vermont
This is a post about rural libraries and money on the occasion of Town Meeting week. Town Meeting happened last week. Most Vermont libraries receive their money through the town and Town Meeting is a time to discuss library funding. I am a sub at the library in my town, enough to go to staff meetings but not enough to work there all the time. I also do drop-in time both at my local library and at one “over the mountain” in the next town. Here are a few anecdotes about how local libraries manage their money situations.