Meta

walking paper colophon action

→ Semi-new logo

→ Semi-new color scheme
#fe007a
#808080

→ New typography via cufón
Cufón displays typefaces not included with browsers but doesn’t require Flash. It is a bit easier to use than sIFR. I was originally going to just specify “Futura” as the first value for my H2 selector as a treat for those that have the font installed on their machines but then decided to use cufón so everyone could see it. It is a nice but not perfect solution. To see it in action click through to walking paper if you’re in your reader and look at post headlines. I’m into ALL CAPS now.

→ New plugins

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my presentation at webwise 09

Yesterday I was part of a preconference session at WebWise 09, put on by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It was really fun! The session’s moderator, Nina Simon, gave my co-presenters and I the challenge of coming up with a social media plan for an ongoing library event. I gave the audience some strategies for using weblogs, twitter and collecting (and helping people make) user generated content.
webwise (page 9 of 10).jpg
My presentation was titled “Formatting for the New Web” [6.5 MB PDF]. It is quite pink in parts and features me dressed up as Abe Lincoln on one slide.

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I Ditched Google Reader & Gmail to Increase My Productivity

When I used multiple computers throughout the day it made sense to use web apps to read RSS feeds and email. I’ve been working exclusively on my MacBook Pro for some time now and I never considered I was still using tools more appropriate for a bygone situaion. No longer!

It all started when I decided to do some Spring cleaning and organization of my RSS subscriptions. My feeds were organized by topic and, like many of you I’m sure, a few times every day I’d skim though all of the new content and then “Shift-A” to mark them all as read. I became unsatisfied doing this over and over. google-reader-1000 Not only could I devote a seemingly endless amount of time processing all of the new info arriving but I was paying less attention to feeds that happened to appear at the bottom of the new items. Would I miss something? Gasp! This routine became less interesting overall. It became more of a chore or compulsion than anything else.

Organizing my feeds by priority and then topic seemed like a nice solution my RSS doldrums. I’d be assured to keep up with important feeds by reading stuff in the “First” folder, and if I wanted to devote more time I could go on to the “Next” folder or even the one labeled “Last.”

Google Reader Fails

I tried to use Google Reader to do this, but reorganizing my large collection of feeds was painfully slow. I also discovered that the program doesn’t support folders within folders so my organizational scheme wasn’t a possibility. I use the Better Gmail 2 extension to make a small hierarchy of folders for my mail and there might be something like it for Reader but I didn’t bother looking.

I just exported my subscriptions, downloaded NetNewsWire and haven’t looked back. Its nice features include an ecto compatible “Blog This” tool that I’ve been using for work, not to mention standard desktop app features like offline reading. (I’m aware of Google Gears and Reader, yes, but it seemed to take forever and be buggy). There’s also a nice NNW iPhone application that lets me read some or all of my feeds and automatically syncs over the air to the desktop.

In the midst of this move I realized that while I’m good at keeping my email inbox empty I hadn’t really been doing so in the spirit of look ma, no mailInbox Zero. Having multiple instances of Firefox running, each with a Gmail tab somewhere amongst the many was an incredible distraction since I’d see email right as they arrived. Note: I’m not blaming the Interwebs for distracting me. It wasn’t Gmail’s fault that I felt compelled to immediately process incoming mail, it just gave me the option. I was reading email as they arrived to always be on top of things but sacrificing more time, effort and attention than it was worth.

Going Local

So not only am I using a desktop RSS reader for the first time, I’m also using a desktop mail program for the first time in ages. Mail.app is collecting my Gmail but set to only look for mail when I tell it to. Same with mail on my phone. I’ve also set NetNewsWire to update only manually. In the end I’m getting the same amount of information, but I’m getting it on my terms and when it is convenient for me. my spacesOS X has a feature called Spaces which provides multiple desktops. I’ve been using it increasingly to partition the different parts of my life on the web. A Firefox window with a bunch of tabs in a few Spaces is easier to handle than one instance with 40 tabs. (Browser tabs are another dragon to slay evidently.) I’ve sequestered Mail and NetNewsWire to their own Spaces and am left with a few distraction free zones for projects and hobbies.

What’s most interesting about all of this is the fact that my information habits were just that. Habits. My way of doing things had evolved over time and I hadn’t given that development much thought, mostly because I’ve never had trouble accomplishing what I need to accomplish. (Mostly!) But in the past few weeks I noticed that things were taking a little longer to accomplish. Working from home allows for many, many potential hours of screen time and left unchecked, distractions can turn those potential hours into actual hours. I like my work and my computer but spending more time on either isn’t a priority. If it isn’t a priority for you either, consider taking some time to make sure your tools are working for you and you’re not working for your them.

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early spring presentations and fun learning

plane

In addition to the UIE roadshow yesterday I have a bunch of fun speaking and learning opportunities coming up. I’m looking forward to it all!

2/25 : WebWise 2009
→ Social Media Iron Chef

2/17 : Drupal4Lib Camp
→ attending!

3/17 : Illinois State Library On The Front Lines: Agents of Change
→ Keynote, Creating the Usable Library

3/20 : IA Summit 2009
→ The Usable Library Website (poster session with Amanda Etches-Johnson)

3/22-27 : Gates Foundation Global Libraries Peer Learning Meeting
various sessions

3/28-4/2 : Computers in Libraries 2009
various sessions

More details and PDFs as it all unfolds.

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my new job is great and i want to tell you about it

In late October I wrote a semi-cryptic Facebook status update telling people that I gave notice at my job. Then a few weeks later a few people emailed me when they saw my job at the NPPL listed on the PNLA Jobs website. Sorry that I haven’t been able to say anything until now, but Ts were getting crossed and all of that.

I’m super excited to let interested parties know that I’m now the Digital Initiatives Librarian for the District of Columbia Public Library. Not quite sure what a Digital Initiatives Librarian does? Well, it is vague on purpose but I can tell you that I’m going to be doing website visioning, usability testing, web presence development and planning all sorts of fun projects. Much of this stuff is going to fall under a subdivision of the DCPL Information Technology Services department that we’re calling DCPL Labs (still in beta so expect to find some lorem ipsum). You can visit the DCPL Labs Projects page for some details of what we’ll be starting with, but I’m most excited about:

  • Our iPhone application. This is probably the simplest way I’ve seen to search for and place holds on library items. It is built and is in the process of being submitted to Apple for inclusion in the iTunes application store. The current version is about .8 and we have an exciting roadmap for future functionality.
  • Content Creation Stations. We’re giving DCPL Neighborhood Libraries some great hardware and training to help people produce digital content and put it online. We’re going to aggregate this content somewhere on the DCPL site.
  • We’ve got a nice looking and usable design for a new library website that is in the process of being built.
  • DCPL staff education. I’m going to be helping write modules for a learning program, hosting a Library 2.0 interest group for DCPL employees, and writing a tech awareness blog called The Dish. Writing a different style blog, something much more general and link-bloggy than walking paper should be fun and challenging.

Another aspect of the job that is fun and challenging is that I’m not moving to DC. I’ll be telecommuting from Portland and visiting DC as needed. In our estimation this might be for a few days monthly or every other month. I’ll be working from home (which probably means I’ll get back to posting more pics of Mao on the green couch to flickr) and my local haunt, Red Square Cafe. This flexibility also means that I’ll still be doing some traveling for neat presentation and workshop opportunities.

The DCPL is implementing a big transition, including some major construction projects. It is encouraging that the library is considering their digital presence in this transition, and I’m honored to help with the task.

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i broke up with gradient (making new themes in keynote)

sad gradientI have a confession. The gradient theme in Apple’s sideshow software Keynote and I had a passionate love affair. But like many bright lights, it burnt fast. I can’t really tell if the breakup was all about me or the theme’s fault. Whatever the case, I’m through with it. I think it has something to do with the time that it let me down in the big, bright rooms with somewhat anemic projectors at Internet Librarian last year.

keynote divider

It isn’t entirely obvious how to design a new theme in Keynote so I’ll report what I learned from a post on MacTips. There’s a small divider directly underneath the “View” button in Keynote’s menu. Pull this down to reveal master slides.

You can design the slides to spark a new flame, then choose “File, Save Theme” to move the relationship along. You even get to give it a pet name. I’m sure I’ll fuss over it for a few days, but I’m aiming for a new theme with white letters on a grey background with light blue highlights. It might remind you of the design on walkingpaper.org, should you ever click through from your feed reader. Once I get it squared away I’ll upload it here in case it is good and you ever want a minimalist Keynote theme. *sigh*

information without people is worthless

Here’s where my new love and I have planned for the Spring:

26 Feb
National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services Annual, Philladelphia
The New Information Economy: The Changing Value of Content

3 Apr
Multonomah County Library Staff Day Keynote, Portland (!)
The Read/Write Web Opportunity

4 Apr
Margaret Chisholm Lecture, University of Washington iSchool, Seattle
Work on This, Please: Facing Current Challenges in Librarianship

6-11 Apr
Computers in Libraries, Crystal City
Various sessions and workshops

22 Apr
Suffolk County Handheld Libraries Conference Keynote, Bellport
Library in your Pocket

7 May
Massachusetts Library Association Annual, Falmouth
Having a Phone: IM Reference

8 May
Medical Library Association Annual, Chicago
Web 2.0 Panel

22 May
Catalan Library Association, Barcelona
The Read/Write Web Opportunity

27 May
ProBiblio, Amsterdam
Transatlantic Tech Librarianship

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walkingpaper.org refreshed!

If you’re reading this via RSS you might not care but I’ve refreshed the look of walkingpaper.org. Not a full redesign (I couldn’t bear to change the look!), but just some updates. Upgrading to WordPress 2.3.1 and K2 RC3 pretty much forced me to redo the CSS to make the site look how it did, but otherwise it was painless.

I’m forever telling people that library websites need to be friendlier, more fun and more human, so I decided I should model this behavior. The about section has some additional info and a picture of me. Font sizes are a bit larger, links are now a nice blue instead of red and I have a friendly greeting on the front page that includes a small photo. The archive page is gone, but the sidebar is more useful and includes a tag cloud. Navigation is better because of a maybe good, maybe annoying AJAX slider at the top of the page.

Hope you like it and let me know if you find any gremlins!

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walking paper feed

Yesterday Newsy Blake mentioned that a whole slew of my posts from previous days showed up in his aggregator all at once. I’ve often suspected something to be up with some of the feeds coming from this site (maybe due to a hacked together redirect from when this site was run on textpattern) and I *know* that bloglines doesn’t handle it well.

If you want reliable updates from this site I ask you to make sure you are subscribed to http://weareinflux.com/wp-rss2.php.

This is *supposed* to be the same as http://weareinflux.com/feed, right? However, when I subscribe to /feed in gReader I get 10 new items, excluding the last three most recent posts. When I use /wp-rss2.php I get 15 new items, all up to date. Both feeds work equally as well when looked at through Safari’s feed reader. Any thoughts from the lazyweb on this are welcome! Should I get locked in to FeedBurner?

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introducing “walking paper scraps”

I was playing around with google reader’s “share” feature yesterday and learned that blog posts in gReader can be shared with one click. Shared items are sent to a (slightly ugly) page that gReader creates, and they provide some javascript for creating a sidebar of your side items. The sidebar is fairly customizable and looks something like this:

Initially I was all excited to use this way easy tool to create a little sidebar linkblog and give you all the URL for the RSS feed. Upon further inspection, I didn’t really like the way it looked in my sidebar (picky, picky, I know) and didn’t care for how the feed displayed in an aggregator. In fact, I found the way that these feeds appear in an aggregators to be a bit dishonest. It displays the shared posts exactly as they appear in the original blogs without even stating the title of the blog from which they came:

These negatives, along with the fact that I couldn’t add in any small bits of commentary should I desire, lead me to drop the idea of using this google reader feature. However, I’m still a bit fixated on doing some link-bloggy type posting. Once I get something in my head! Usually I have a bunch of tabs open that are at least tangentially related to topics covered on walking paper but I never share them. I might not have much to say about the links but you might enjoy them regardless. Or more!

I installed a Press It bookmark in firefox to facilitate posting and to get closer to that holy grail of one click publishing. If anyone has any “make blogging even easier” tools like ecto that they’d encourage me to try, I’m all ears. So look for some posts titled “walking paper scraps.

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creating a flat library and the culture of maybe

The North Plains Public Library is in a fairly uncommon stage of growth. I don’t have any figures but I bet there aren’t too many public libraries that are just a few years old and have a one year old building. We’re the most recently added member of the Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) – a system with which I happen to be pretty impressed. Our circulation is likely going to double in FY 2007, and we’re already out of space. With increased use will come increased funding, of course a very welcome thing. Some of this funding will go towards staffing the library more. Because the library is in this not-quite-grown-up-yet position I’m taking some time to lay the groundwork so it can grow in a sensible manner.

So many library org charts resemble those famous structures at Giza because they’ve always been that way. Being such a young organization, the NPPL doesn’t have to move around the weight of a long institutional history and can do things right from the start. If anyone ever says, “because it’s always been this way” when examining the organization structure of the NPPL, I hope they’re referring to something flat.

Right now the library structure is neither flat nor hierarchical. Among staff, things tend towards being amorphous which is interesting and valuable in its own right, but has its issues and doesn’t exactly prime the library for structured growth. In order for the relationship between employees to take some sort of shape, employees must have some sort of identity. I don’t think it is possible to form any type of organizational structure – bottom-up, top-down, whatever – without organizational identities.

In light of this, the library’s four part-time circ clerks are getting specific job titles. These titles will be internal only in the sense that officially to the City of North Plains they’ll still be simply Circulation Clerks, but that doesn’t make the titles less important. So, what are they going to be titled? It seemed artificial to name the clerks Department Heads at this point. The word ‘expert’ has all sorts of icky implications. So what I settled on – for the first draft of this collaborative process – is the word ‘lead.’ We’re going to have a Lead Circulation Clerk, a Lead Cataloger, a Lead YS/YA Clerk, and so forth.

This mimics the departmentalization of a larger library without erecting artificial (or real) barriers to all staff working together. At the same time, staff, including our unpaid staff of volunteers, will have a point person to go to about particular issues as they arise. This point person will also serve as the main conduit of information about their particular area(s), not only to me, but to the rest of the staff as well. The title “Lead Facilities Clerk” doesn’t imply that others can’t help out with duties related to the facility, but it does provide an organizational identity.

Not wanting to shoehorn people into positions in which they weren’t comfortable or interested, I wrote drafts of job descriptions and distributed them at our last staff meeting. Everyone has already tended to specialize and/or enjoy certain areas of the library – related to their own talents and interests – so I used this as a basis. Now we’re going to work together to add and subtract things from the descriptions. Maybe they’ll even suggest another title besides “lead.”

Something interesting came up during this distribution of potential job duties. I neglected to give each of the clerks all of the job descriptions. I only gave them the individual descriptions I thought most appropriate. It was a total palm-against-forehead moment when the circ clerks all agreed they’d like to see each other’s proposed roles. This was a minor mistake and not in the spirit of this open source job description writing exercise. Everyone now has each of the descriptions so they can A) comment on the duties of all positions, B) see what others are doing and perhaps C) try to claim some of it for their own if they really like the sound of it.

A nice organizational structure is fine and dandy but it is also meaningless without the right attitude to back it up. Libraries with severe hierarchies either are the result of or set the stage for a strong Culture of No. It is probably a “chicken or egg” question but either way, a library can’t have a free flowing exchange of ideas in a collaborative environment if the Culture of No dominates.

Instead of a Culture of No, I’m aiming to create a Culture of Maybe. You might not be surprised that employees really appreciate being able to discuss library issues without fear of judgment or other negative reactions. Here are some ideas for creating a Culture of Maybe.

Encourage collaboration. Collaboration needs to be at the core of how things are accomplished. It isn’t just a method of working on discreet projects, but rather an complete way of communicating and acting. Challenges to this include staff involvement with many aspects of library service, some of which might be outside their traditional area of interest or expertise. (At the NPPL it is very apparent that we>me. The group does a fantastic job of brainstorming and refining ideas.)

Listen to everyone. This doesn’t mean that everyone is always right, but it does mean that their ideas deserve consideration. Staff need to know that presenting ideas that don’t get put into practice is not an indication of poor performance and that they won’t be penalized in any way for doing so.

Let natural talents develop. People are happy when they can do what interests them. People do their best work when their happy.

Make people responsible. This is not about being able to blame someone if things go haywire. It is about letting people know what they’re responsible for and that their actions have a direct impact on the operation of the library. If employees see the direct impact they have, they’ll be more likely to take pride in what they’re doing. An essential part of this is providing the freedom and resources to allow people to actually do their job.

Set deadlines and stick to them. All of this free flowing conversation and discussion is great, but it must result in something. Decisions should rarely be final, however. An initial deadline and a secondary evaluation point can be set, the latter providing another opportunity for reflection, reevaluation and refinement.

No matter the size of your library, incorporating some of the above ideas, either into the entire library or just your department or team, will benefit the staff and ultimately lead towards better service for your customers.

photo credits: two pyramids at giza, collaboration

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