Blogging What I Do, Day 4

8:30 AM – Into the office, and deleting as much email as possible. A lot came in overnight and a lot of it is spam or listservs I’m not really active in. I get overwhelmed if there are too many open-ended unread messages waiting for me. The truth is, I probably won’t get to them.

9:00 AM – Weird, long copyright question about moving a user’s citation & attachments between schools and jurisdictions. I understand monolithic library company’s desire to be cautious, but as this is the user’s private collection of research materials, I think we’re okay. If said user had the technical capacity to move it on their own, no one would be involved or the wiser. If said user had chosen to print out these materials and carry a box of files between institutions, there wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, it’s all digital, and it’s a lot of data, and we need technical reinforcement from an organization that is only interested in playing it safe.

10:30 AM – Going back and forth on a document, mostly just polishing at this point. Sometimes we have to start writing something before we’re sure who the audience will be. But of course, you must write assuming some audience, so the final stages of editing usually mean making sure we haven’t made any assumptions that are inaccurate: has the recipient been privy to previous communications in the same vein? Are they in a position to make the decisions we’re asking them to consider?

1:45 PM – I have been troubleshooting a couple of different issues for hours in between other emails. Part of the problem was that I read the initial email too breezily (a terrible idea for technical stuff! The tiny details are always where the problem lies!), but we’ve moved well past that and I’m still stuck.

2:00 PM – Brainstorming meeting. We need a name for a new project. A lot of not-good ideas were thrown out, but we’ve got a pretty good short list. I got to write on a chalk board for the first time in a many, many year.


(Attempted) renderings of a ‘busy bee,’ a canoe, and a backpack.

4:00 PM – Still troubleshooting. I am now 90% sure the problem is just Capslock on a tablet. Headdesk.

4:40 PM – My choir’s performing tonight at Harbourfront, so it’s time to head out for soundcheck. Happy Friday, Internet!

Blogging What I Do, Day 3

8:30 AM – Into the office.  I have an OLA Hackfest planning call at 9:30 and haven’t done much thinking about what needs doing, so I’m trying to take some notes while deleting the dozens of spam messages that seem to get through the filters between midnight and 6 AM. I also took a minute a couple of minutes to donate to the Women in Toronto Politics (#WiTOpoli) Position Primer for the 2015 municipal election. It’s a great idea, and you too can support it right here!

9:10 AM – Drop everything to watch John Fink’s presentation feed from #c4lmw. Still trying to wrap my head around Docker. This helped a lot!

9:30 AM – Good, quick call. How can we make this a welcoming space for people of different abilities and from different organizations? Figured out some timelines, assigned a few to-dos before our next call.

10:00 AM – Troubleshooting PDFs that look funny, citation managers that crash, proxies that won’t re-direct.  Hours disappear with this kind of stuff.

11:30 AM – I got really good, thorough feedback on a document I drafted earlier this week; feedback on tone, on ordering of different messages, and on making sure to reference earlier communications so people would understand the progression of our thinking.

1:00 PM – Burrito hunting expedition.

2:00 PM  – Editing, wordsmithing, formatting.

3:00 PM – Pulling citation manager usage stats for a university. They want, as many do, to be able to see a list of users by discipline or user type. As users self-identify with this info on sign-up, there is the fairly natural assumption on the part of administrators that you will then be able to actually USE this data. The very sophisticated and expensive software being used for this purpose doesn’t have the ability to do that. (I should add my place of work did not choose this software!)

4:15 PM – Fading fast. Adding items to my to-do list for tomorrow, a somewhat useful form of procrastination.

4:30 PM – Just got a note to say our LibAnswers 2.0 beta site is ready. Oooooh! But nope, I am out of here. Fridays are for beta testing, everyone knows that.

Blogging What I Do, Day 2

Yesterday was too meeting-heavy to be worth reporting on, but I thought I’d step back in to this today. Exercising the writing muscle and all that.

8:20 AM – Into the office. A back-up I started last night and had no faith in seems to have worked! This feels like a miracle. Other emails about mysterious blank screen and proxy issues will have to wait til I’ve had a coffee.

9:30 AM – It’s time to start drafting an email. A big, serious email that needs to be sent to a lot of people. They don’t tell you in library school how much time will be taken up with considering tone and audience, that writing an email can be a long process involving many people, that it’s a learned skill.

10:30 AM – I got into a fight on Twitter. I cannot resist the siren song of terrible opinions on the internet, so my best bet is to avoid anywhere that such opinions might appear. This one was civil, and I’m still so disappointed in myself for engaging. His Twitter bio says he works for Sun News! What did you think was going to happen, woman?

11:00 AM – Back to the email. It’s taking shape and I’m going to send it off for a first round of consultation soon.

12:00 PM – Roles can be a bit loose at my place of work, and this is usually a-ok: we’re a help-y bunch, and people very willingly adjust their priorities if something needs to get done. Today, an actual, semi-formal discussion on who’s in charge of what was much needed. I think we’re in a good spot.

12:30 PM – Falafel at my desk. Email. Software updates.

1:30 PM – Skype call to discuss being more involved with the Public Knowledge Project’s PKP School. First an internal briefing (“Okay, what questions do we have?”), then a chat with the folks at PKP to sort our what our next steps should be as we work on a module.

3:00 PM – Ref Desk! It’s pretty quiet, so between questions about the printers and course reserves I’m sending some last minute OLA Super Conference planning emails (gotta keep those abstracts peppy!), and a bit of 10 Days of Twitter reading.

5:00 PM – Back at my own desk. Remember that back up I was so excited about this morning? It’s a lemon. I should have checked the file size before getting excited, but I’m so used to getting error messages that having a file delivered felt like a win. Welp, not if it’s empty. Email for help.

5:15 PM – I have a choir practice at 7:30 and a book review that will not get written if I go home and get at all comfortable, so I’m off to find a table that will hold both purchased sustenance and my mangy notebook. Good evening!

Blogging What I Do, Day 1

I am trying to be more productive, and also find ways to better articulate what I do all day beyond “oh…a mess of stuff.” I always enjoy the rounds of “Day on the Life” blogging that happen around library work and digital humanities  a few times a year, but also never know about them til the day of and don’t feel ready to participate. So: on this random day, I’m going to give it a go, and hope that the semi-public nature of this entry  keeps me accountable (I say semi-public because, well, I don’t blog much and I imagine the readership, if it exists, is quite narrowly focussed).

8:00 AM – I am lucky enough to have a husband who gets up early, which encourages me to get up early, which means I can get to work at a nice hour most mornings. I have a pretty empty calendar today, so I work through my inbox  until I come to a non-spam warning that my mailbox is almost full. I read everything, but I’m not good at deleting the non-essentials. A 2013 local folder is born, and about 5000 conversations moved. There are an unfortunate number of emails about sick days and Doodle polls making the transfer.

8:30 AM – I’m a guest editor for DH+Lib this week, which means trolling the internet for interesting blog posts, presentations, and opportunities, and then sending them to the editors. I am also trying to spend less time wandering aimelessly around Twitter (obviously a great source for DH news and works in progress), so I looked through a few news feeds and sent off a slide deck on digital curation I thought would be of interest.

9:00 AM – Starbucks is open. See ya!

10:00 AM – I’m working on a few big projects right now, one of which is a large-scale cloud storage. We have a lot of different schools pouring money and people-power in to this project, but much of the actual day-to-day business is so far happening right in our office. Making sure everyone knows what’s going on here, and what’s ahead, is something myself and a couple of others are trying to do. This often means writing short, perky announcements, translating the back-end systems work into language that makes sense for any library staff. Why should they care about the kinds of servers we’ve bought? What, exactly, are we testing right now?  Today I’m editing a few presentations and loading them on to the wiki so they can be shared a bit more widely.

11:00 AM – Troubleshooting a proxy issue, scheduling a meeting, posting some webinar details, and then I spend some time on conference planning. I’m one of the planners for the technology division (OLITA) of the Ontario Library Association, which hosts a very large (some might even say Super) conference every February. We’ve got a fantastic group of session lined up, and are now just making suggestions for tweaks to titles and abstracts, so they’ll sound as interesting as they’ll actually be.

11:30 AM – Lunch. And this is me being restrained.

12:00 PM – I noticed some weird behaviour on one of our search platforms this morning, so wrote up an email documenting that for someone smarter than me to take a look at. Next up: I’m working on a wiki for a major software transition we’re planning for in the next year. It’s going to take a lot of co-ordination across schools, but they’ll also have the opportunity to learn from each other throughout the process, so the space needs to be flexible and easy to understand how to edit by anyone involved.

12:30 PM – We’re hosting a bunch of webinars in the next week, which means we need to do a bunch of testing for presenters now- do their microphones work as expected? Do they understand how to share their desktop, and who will be in charge of the audience questions? Today we’re having quite a few issues with testing – laptops possessed, plug-ins not installed, and some inexplicable echoes – and it’s taking longer than expected.

1:00 PM – Testing done, and it all worked in the end! Mikes were mic’ed and speakers spoke. I have a book review due for Spacing in a couple of weeks, so I’m going to grab a freezie and sit outside and read for 20 minutes. I’m reviewing On Looking.

1:45 PM – I hope I’m going to co-teach a version of 10 Days of Twitter for graduate students in the fall. Spent a bit of time considering the ways that the Graduate Professional Skills program here will necessitate changes to the format–and if there are any other pieces we’d like to do differently.

Trello, where I keep all my to-do lists, is down, so I float, lost for a little while, and then write an email I’ve been avoiding re: a busted laptop.

3:15 PM – Tech support, tech support, tech support. Lots of troubleshooting on my own machine, a few pleas to those who may know better, and some promises to worries users that it will all be all right in the end.

4:20 PM – That’s it for me, office-wise.

On the one hand, this seems like a silly exercise…stopping every hour to write down a few words about something that won’t make it in to my activity report anyway. Perhaps this seems like a way to procrastinate, rather than be productive. But I liked it! Every time my mind wandered to Facebook or the news (the dreadful, dreadful news), the reminder that I needed to be reporting my work kicked in, and I got back to the to-do list pretty quick. I’m no productivity fetishist, but thinking about how one spend’s one time really does have a huge effect on how it actually gets spent. I think I’ll do this again.

Your Friendly FedEx Librarian

I went to pick up a friend’s egg share today. Turns out you can’t pick up your eggs before 3:30, so I went to FedEx to print out some wedding stuff (allow me to pollute this last untouched, wedding-free space in my internet universe and say that Jonathan & I am getting married in ten day).

As I was waiting for help with paper quality questions, the man next to me was being denied services because of a copyright issue, and of course I listened closely.

FedEx Employee: Sorry, man. We can’t print that, because of copyright.
Customer:  I bought it though.
FedEx Employee: Yeah, you bought a PDF. So you can look at a PDF online. Doesn’t mean you can print it. There’s copyright.
Customer: No, there’s no copyright, I paid for it.

So, obviously both of these positions are wrong. It is a certainty that the material the customer purchased online has some form of copyright associated with it. But since the employee had never actually laid eyes on the document, he had no idea whether copyright on this particular item allowed for printing for personal use.

The customer explained that he merely wanted to print and bind this thing he’d purchased so he could better study for an exam. The employee again explained that he couldn’t just print a book off the internet. These were both legitimate positions, but the messiness of “well…it depends” was not going to be part of their conversation.*

Internet, I really couldn’t help joining the conversation at this point. I’m no copyright expert, but I suspected there would be language on the first few pages of the document specifying what could and could not be done with it. I suggested to the customer that he take his USB key to the library and ask for help at the reference desk. “They’ll let me know what I can do with it?” The customer asked.

“They will.”

If I hadn’t had to pick up my eggs, I would have walked back with him and helped him personally, because actually getting access to a public computer at Robarts is pretty complicated. But the people at the desk, they’d be there and ready for him.


* I fully understand that FedEx needs to cover their butt, and that “we won’t print something off the internet after you’ve explicitly called it a book ” is probably a necessary position for them to take.

OLA Super Conference CFP – OLITA stream!

I’m the co-planner for the Library Info Tech stream of the OLA Super Conference. This means I get to read all of the proposals that come in and work to craft a program that’s useful, broadly applicable, and genuinely fun.

This year’s theme is “Think It. Do It!” I am mostly really in to this theme. Despite appearances to the contrary, I’m kind of a productivity app-n-tool junkie. I like big ideas and tiny, broken-down tasks, but often struggle with turning the former into the latter. Attempts to articulate even very basic ways to do this are appreciated.

But the “it just takes hard work!” thread of the theme gives me pause. It’s an attitude that dismisses many of the reasons that certain groups move ‘from thinking to doing’ more easily than others. I am thinking about #LibTechGender as one important piece of this conversation, and about Mozilla’s Ascend Project as another. So: a critical look at ‘just do it’ will also be a welcome part of the conference.

All that is to say: you should really, really submit a proposal! Feel free to email myeself (jacqueline at scholarsportal dot info) and/or my co-planner (Stephanie dot Orfano at uoit dot ca) to bounce around ideas in the next few weeks! Continue reading

Electronic Resources & Libraries 2014

What a great conference Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) is. Presentation topics seem so timely to my own work—two years ago the talk was all discovery layers, this year it was heavy on eBook licensing and usage—and the specificity of the content is also highly appealing: useful tips about EZProxy here, large-scale models for analyzing troubleshooting workflows there, and a rabble-rousing talk by Barbara Fister to remind you how you got yourself into this mess in the first place.

And it’s always in Austin, where it’s sunny and friendly and busy (though being a city famed for live music still means 80% of it is terrible alt-rock covers).

I presented with my colleague and friend Meg Ecclestone on the usability of borrowable eBooks. She wrote a good piece about our rationale and progress here, so I won’t repeat but, in summary: their DRM causes a lot of confusion:

I’ve published my notes below, but would really encourage you to watch Barbara Fister’s talk in full.

Continue reading