Monday, July 31, 2017

Upping Your Library Intelligence: Get Digital

Thinking statues
When I worked in my college library - eons ago - paper was the format that ruled.  Things have changed and obviously we live in a digital age.  Behind - or underneath - everything we do as librarians is something digital (e.g., a database).  Technology facilities everything.  Without it, most of our work would not get done.

Desktop computers entered the consumer world around the time I was heading to graduate school.  My first professional position wasn't in a library, but was as a corporate technology trainer.  Yes, my job was teaching others how to use this technology that was now on their desktops.  Back then, using technology meant learning a variety of different commands in whatever software was on the computer.  There was a sense of accomplishment in understand how to format a document in word processing software or programming a complex set of commands in the spreadsheet software.  All of those commands were worth knowing and using because you could see how the end result was better.

With that as a prologue, let me encourage you to learn the in's and out's of the technology that is at your fingertips.  Yes, you can open up your word processing software and just type, but there are a ton of commands in the menu - learn what they do! Ditto for the spreadsheet software you're using and any other software you are using on a regular basis.

If you are a student, I can tell you that getting to know the software you are using for your assignments will make those assignments look much better. Yes, better formatting (subheadings, margins, line spacing, pagination)!  You'll also find that there are menu options (e.g., thesaurus) that can help you create a better sounding assignment.  Then there is the magic of tables, merging, etc. that can streamline your work.

If you are an information professional, taking time to get a better handle on the software you're using can help you work smarter. We often don't have enough time in the day, so fighting with your software to get something done is not a good use of time.

By the way, often there is a more "command driven" way of using software.  Don't be afraid of that. Yes, that includes understanding those codes that are actually in the typed documents you're creating. Just trust me that a little knowledge of those commands will be helpful.

If you don't think you can learn these tools on your own, training is available.  Look for low-cost or free training options through your library, library consortium,, and other web-based training services.  You might find free tutorials on the Internet or YouTube. If there is someone in your midst, who is really good with technology, you might ask that person to give you a lesson.  No, you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on training! 

Besides the software on your computer, get to know the software you are using to search a library's databases or the Internet.  If you're working with special software to help you with digitization, metadata creation, or something else, learn the in's and out's of that software, too.  Consider how awesome it would be to know become more proficient at that software than the people around you! You would become one of the go-to people for help, and that would make you stand out in a positive way.

If you don't feel that you can learn this software on your own, check to see what training is available from your database providers and the other suppliers of the software in your library. It is likely that there is free training available.  You might also seek out someone who is more proficient and ask if that person can given you an one-on-one lesson in those commands the person finds most useful.

I haven't talked about your mobile device. Yes, those are indeed powerful devices and likely you don't know enough about them.  Take time to learn what they can really do.  Waiting for a meeting or standing at the bus stop?  Explore the apps that you have or search to find better apps for what you want to do.  (I always look for free apps and I can tell you that there are lots of awesome free apps available.)

Finally, I've made this post about you, but let me say that if you learn the technology that is around you, you'll be able to answer technology questions your community members have.  In addition, you'll be able to do one-on-one or group technology training, which many librarians do as part of their positions.

Previous posts in this series:

Interested in having Digitization 101 delivered to your inbox? Use the sign-up box on the right side of the blog or use the box in this post.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Upping Your Library Intelligence: Expanding and Tapping into the LIS Network

Thinking statues
I written about why upping your library intelligence is important, the need to increase your vocabulary, and the content you might consume.  Now let me turn to the need of LIS students and new professionals need to quickly expand their professional networks.  Expanding your network doesn't mean collecting names; it means developing relationships.  Yes, one does lead to the other.

You might begin by identifying people with whom you want to interact.  These could be people from whom you want to learn or people whom you see as future employers.  At this stage, you are collecting names, but then you need to actually do something  more before you make the connection.  That something could include looking the person up on social media, finding the person's web site, reading what the person has written, or attend a presentation the person is giving.  This activity is means to ensure that this is a good connection for you, because you can see why the person would be good to have in your network.  (Yes, this does mean that you might decide not to connect to someone, because you now feel the person would not be a good connection.) This background information should also allow you to have a good conversation with the person either by email, phone, or face-to-face.  By the way, when you connect with the person - whether it is LinkedIn, email or face-to-face - tell the person why you want to connect.  That will help the person understand that you are purposefully connecting, rather engaging in a mindless activity of network-building.

Note that your network has several functions which may not be obvious.  One of those things is that it should help you understand the profession, no matter if that help is passive or active. For example, you might read what your network is reading as a way of gaining a different perspective on the profession. Paying attention to what is attracting your network's attention may also help you spot emerging trends.  Knowing what the trends are can help you stay relevant.

Once "settled" in the profession, a person's network continues to grow naturally through conferences, committee work, employer connections, etc.  In addition, a network may change because some connections are no longer relevant. Yes, it is okay to drop people from your network.  I've done this if a person:
  • Has not been an active participant in the information industry.
  • Has moved outside of the information industry into an unrelated field.
  • Has proven to be at odds with my values as an information professional.
  • Is someone whom I really did not know.
How big should your network be?  There is no magic number.  Yes, bigger can be better, but it is not helpful if you have built a network of people with whom you have nothing in common.  A network that is focused around your areas of interest would be much better. However, know that it is not your network alone that is useful to you, but also the networks of those with whom you're connected.  If you have 100 people in your network and they each have 100 people, etc., you have a much more powerful network than if you (and they) only have 5 connections each.  I do recommend to students that they strive for over 100 connections in LinkedIn and then continue to increase the number of people they are connected with.  I think the "100" mark gives students a do-able goal.

I've mentioned LinkedIn a couple of time and, yes, I think you should have a LinkedIn profile, even if you are not job hunting.  LinkedIn remains a place where people go to learn about others.  If you are unfamiliar with LinkedIn, there are many books available on it, including these books on Amazon.  And do remember to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date.

I'd also like to make a plug for having good information about yourself in your other social media accounts. While you may not want to have all of your information in a place like Facebook, if someone finds you there, the person should be able to see some basic information (name, general location, industry).  Since most names are not unique, consider providing just enough so people know that they have found the correct person.

Interested in having Digitization 101 delivered to your inbox? Use the sign-up box on the right side of the blog or use the box in this post.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Podcast: Fighting the Information Famine

Beyond the Book logoChristopher Kenneally recently did an interview Brad Turner, the Benetech Vice President, who is overseeing the company’s Global Literacy Program.  Benetech's mission is to help people with print disabilities and other learning challenges have access to materials in an accessible format.  Turner notes that 3% and 5% of the general population need material in an accessible format, which translates into millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide.

I found this conversation to be quite interesting. First, it interested me because because I had not heard of Benetech before. Second, I know how important meeting the accessibility needs of our community is.  Acquiring material for your library does not automatically mean that everyone in your community can use it.  The person may not be able to use the material's native format.  Third, I know that this work has become easier because content can be placed in a digital format or is being created in a digital format.   In fact, Benetech was founded by someone interested in pattern recognition, which is the foundation of OCR.

If you're interested in accessibility or how a rocket scientist got involved in making print accessible, then I hope you will listen to or read the interview. This 15-minute interview is available as audio and text on the Beyond the Book website.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Upping Your Library Intelligence: Reading, Listening, and Watching

Thinking statues
In the second post in this series, I noted that words matter in our profession and that you should expand your vocabulary.  A good way of doing that is by expanding what you are reading, listening to, and watching.

We are a profession of creators. We are constantly creating content by writing articles, books, and blog posts. We also record webinars and podcasts, as well as post our presentations online.  And because we adopt new publishing platforms quickly, you can also find our content on social media.  Yes, we tweet, snap, Facebook, and more. So there is an abundance of content to use for expanding your knowledge of the profession.

In May (2017), I blogged Summer Reading/Listening Recommendations.  Rather than creating another list, let me tell you what to look for, as you begin to expand what you're taking in, and allow you then hunt for what suits you.

First, look for content (audio, video, print, etc.) that has a following.  Yes, go for the popular content for starters, because we will assume that its popularity means that it carries some authority.  (Once you have an understanding of what topic area interests you, you can search for less popular authorative content.) You can often tell the number of people who are using/"reading"/linking to online content. With print content, you should be able to locate the number of subscribers for a journal or the number of libraries that carry a particular book. Yes, you are using numbers to figure out popularity and assuming that popularity means quality.  I know that is flawed logic, but you need to start somewhere as you build your knowledge.  As you build your knowledge, you will be able to better discern the quality of the content you are using.

You might think of this  as what you're consuming now, but not what you might consume long term.  In the near-term its role to help you know more, so you can then locate content that better meets your needs.

Second, look for content that is providing thoughtful analysis, rather than being opinionated (pro or con) without providing adequate reasons.  That analysis will help you learn how members of the profession view a particular topic.

Third, be willing to read/listen/watch dissenting points of view.  Not everyone will agree on a topic and it is important to hear from those that disagree.  Sometimes you learn more from those dissenting voices, because they get you to think about the topic differently.

Fourth, over time you will develop an idea of who the more knowledge voices are (or might be) on a topic which interests you.  Be willing to seek out more of what those people have produced.  Also look to understand who they are referring to or quoting, and seek out the works of those people. This is important, if you are interested in a specific area. You should know who the leading voices are, as well as what the hot issues are. 

In terms of reading, I want to recommend that you locate (perhaps even subscribe to) a print publication that is focused on libraries and read several issues of it.  (If you subscribe to it, then read it regularly.)  And by "read" I mean read it from cover to cover. Why?  First, you may be tempted to skim, but skimming isn't going to teach you the details or the language.  Second, when you read cover to cover, you will be seeing the advertisements. Those ads have been placed their by our vendors and you need to be aware of who they are and what they are selling.  Third, I'm recommending that you read a print version because I think we read differently - more deeply - on paper and it may be easy to ignore the ads (and other details) in a digital version.

I know...reading a publication cover to cover can be boring.  However, every article is informing you of something important.  You may need to read that article - and others on the topic - in order to develop a deeper understanding, so you then know the topic's importance.

I don't want to look at ads. While there are other ways of developing an understanding of the LIS vendors and their services, advertisements are a quick and easy way of developing familiarity.  While you are unlikely to see ads for every library vendor that exists, you will see enough to build knowledge and vocabulary that will serve you well when you decide to dig deeper into a specific area.

When I was a corporate librarian, there were several publications that I did read cover to cover, including the SLA journal that existed then.  I found that reading these publications was especially important before I went to a conference, because I then had a better idea of what was currently happening in the field and that might influence what conference sessions I attended.  I found news items about our vendors to be important because I was the person making decisions about the services we used.

In more recent years, I consume more LIS content through social media, online news, and podcasts.  However, I know that those early years of reading professional journals gave me the grounding I needed so that what I am consuming today makes sense.

At the top of this post, I said that we are a profession of creators and that includes you.  If you your reading/watching/listening teaches you that your area of interest is not being talked about, you might create and publish content on the topic. You can do that by blogging, for example, or writing an article for one of our LIS trade journals.  You could also give a conference presentation or start a podcast (or be a guest on an existing podcast).  Not only would that be a great way of contributing to the profession, but you would also attract attention to yourself by doing it.

Interested in having Digitization 101 delivered to your inbox? Use the sign-up box on the right side of the blog or use the box in this post.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Upping Your Library Intelligence: Words Matter

Thinking statues
In this first post of this series, I noted that expanding your library intelligence is important for MSLIS students.  I'll note now that it is also important for the rest of us, because we are in a changing field. Yes, it is changing, whether you recognize the changes or not.

Every field, industry or area of focus has its own vocabulary.  While some words are the same as in other fields, their meanings in the library context may be specific.  We don't, however, give new people to the profession a long list of vocabulary words for them to memorize. Yes, we may give them words related to a specific topic/class, and then hope that through reading and professional engagement that they will learn the rest. However, that combination may not teach a new person enough vocabulary.

I have been in situations where an emerging professional assumes the definition of words/phrases without ever looking them up or trying to discern their correct usage from how others are using the words.  Sadly, when someone talks about a topic and uses the wrong vocabulary, it can be a turn-off to those who are listening.  If that occurs in a classroom or on an assignment, there is an opportunity to make a correction. When that occurs on a job interview, it will likely lead to an unhappy ending (no job offer).  So for no other reason than employment, working to understand a field's vocabulary is important.  However, it is also important in the day-to-day work environment because it assures that we're communicating well.

The Internet has provided a way for all of us to discern the correct meanings of words through web sites, dictionaries, trade and peer reviewed articles, and eTextbooks.  For those resources to be helpful to us, we each need to take a few steps:
  • Keep track of those words you don't understand.  Write them somewhere, so you can look them up later.  I used to write words I didn't understand in the margin of my notes, so they were easy to find.
  • Look of those words you don't understand.  You can start with a dictionary, but you may want to check usage by seeing how the word/phrase has been used in an LIS journal.  By the way, your assumption will be that the way the word was used you heard/read it originally was correct; however, you might discovery that it had actually been used incorrectly!  (And, yes, faculty do sometimes use vocabulary incorrectly.)
  • Use the word - correctly - so you learn it.  That use might be in a conversation, a paper, or elsewhere.  As our K-12 teachers reminded us, when you use a word correctly, you are deepening your learning.  
Besides using words correctly, there are three other things to do:
  • Understand what the acronyms are in the profession.  While it is important to use them, it is also important to use their definitions.  For example, not all librarians work with youth and thus recognize the acronym "YA".  Show you library intelligence  to other LIS professionals by both using the phrase "young adult" and the acronym "YA", when you're talking about this group.  You are demonstrating your ability to talk without jargon and your ability to use jargon.By the way, remember to limit your jargon with your library community.  They should not have to understand our jargon in order to talk with us.
  • Spell library vendor names correctly, which includes capitalization and spacing.  For example, it is "LexisNexis," not "Lexis Nexis" or "Lexis-Nexis."
  • Recognize if specific words (jargon) are associated with a specific library vendor. For example, while some seem to use the word "libguide" generically, it actually refers to the SpringShare content management system.  If you're not using SpringShare, consider what word or phrase you might use instead.
If you are an MSLIS student, you might wonder how many new words you need to learn. The answer is "a lot."  The good news is that you do not need to learn them all at the same time. You will be adding new words each week as part of your classes.  If you also add words outside of class - and I'll be talking in the next post about how you're going to find them - then you should be in good shape.

Interested in having Digitization 101 delivered to your inbox? Use the sign-up box on the right side of the blog or use the box in this post.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Upping Your Library Intelligence: An Area You Need To Focus On

Thinking statues
Late in the spring, I had a short conversation with Rachel Clarke about MSLIS students and in which areas we thought they (the generic "they") needed to grow.  A number of people are attracted to M.S. in Library and Information Science programs who do not have deep library experience.  For them, their lack of library experience may inhibit these students from learning and applying new concepts quickly. Rachel and I realized that these students would be helped by engaging in activities that would allow them to increase ("up") their library intelligence. While we promised to continue the conversation later, I've decided to develop a series of blog posts as a way for me to explore the topic and - hopefully - create content which will help current and future MSLIS students, and LIS professionals.

Let me reiterate an important point.  A number of people come into the LIS profession because they realize that the work is calling them; however, they may have only seen what library staff do and not actually done that work themselves.  This is unlike some other professions, where students may be required to have experience before entering an academic program.  For example, in the past, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has required that applicants have some food service experience before starting at the CIA.  While that does create a hurdle, it assures that students have work experience to draw upon while in class.  Without experience to draw upon, LIS students need to work to gain the library intelligence they will need to be successful in their academic programs.  That means doing work outside of the classroom, so they have growing foundation for what is occurring in the classroom.

So this is the first in a series of blog posts on upping your library intelligence, recognizing that each of us need to do this.  I hope this series gives you ideas and if you know of someone else who could benefit from the series - like a current LIS student - please tell the person!

Interested in having Digitization 101 delivered to your inbox? Use the sign-up box on the right side of the blog or use the box in this post.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Signage, Digital Signage, T is for Training

Rolls of hay in Pennsylvania
My last post here was June 20.  Since then I've been on the road for work and vacation, and then catching up from being "out of the office."  Blogging has not be on my mind.  However, I do have a series of blog posts in the works on increasing your library intelligence.  My goal is to begin to release them next week.

I am not the type of librarian, who must visit libraries while on vacation.  However, I do notice libraries and during the last T is for Training podcast, I started the conversation by mentioning the signage at one public library.  That opened an hour-long conversation on library signage, signage audits, and the digital face of a library. If you haven't thought about your signage (or web site) in a while, you might use this podcast episode to prompt a review.  The T is for Training web site contains show notes for the episode.