Chris Zammarelli

The Sounds of Library Science

Category: Journal (page 1 of 2)

Back In Another Shape

I’ve become fond of LinkedIn, mainly because of its newsfeed. A lot of news outlets and companies share updates from their sites, and LinkedIn has made an efforts to get “influencers” to post to their profiles. It’s not perfect (I follow Quartz, but never seem to see articles they post in my feed), but I find it an interesting, if eclectic information source.

Of course, a lot of business news outlets like Fast Company and The Muse often post articles about how to maximize your LinkedIn profile. It’s sort of like how Oscars voters like to give the Best Picture award to movies about Hollywood. Anyway, a lot of the tips are geared towards people who are looking to get hired or are trying to market themselves to their industry. Although I’m not looking for a job or trying to be an “influencer,” I like reading those suggestions to improve both the way I present myself and the way I share information on the site.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I am about to switch employers for the fourth time since I started my current job. I took the opportunity to change my LinkedIn profile to reflect both my steady job of seven years and nine months and my rotating cast of employers. I kept my job details in the main job description, then left the description fields blank for the contract staff companies. This way I don’t have to copy and paste my job description every time I switch companies. I am also able acknowledge my employers but connect my place of work to my profile, which makes it easier for my colleagues to find me.

To wit: I used the same format for my previous long-term contract position and within an hour, a former colleague of mine at NOAA reached out to connect. It makes a difference.

Come Down and Play Around

One of the best things about the old biblioblogosphere… a term I will continue to use even though, or especially because, it probably annoys people. See also: webinar.

Ahem.

One of the best things about the old biblioblogosphere was when one librarian wrote a post, then another librarian picked up on that post and expanded it, and then another librarian took the idea into another direction. It wasn’t that we all felt we needed to have our own take on a topic (although sometimes it could feel that way). We were just inspired by each other and that inspiration lead to an interesting kind of collaboration.

The rise of social media platforms changed the way we interacted with each other. In theory, social media made conversations more linear and compact, but in practice it took away from the way we expanded on and cultivated our thoughts through our blogs.

It made sense for us to set up shops in social media. In “Back to the Blog,” Dan Cohen writes, “Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that ‘others are here’—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site.”

Meredith Farkas writes about what we gave up to join those centralized platforms in her post “We are atomized. We are monetized. We are ephemera. Do we deserve more online?

What was most frustrating about blogs was the distributed nature of the conversation, but moving to a centralized space destroyed the close sense of community, at least for me. In the move from blogs to the centralized ecosystem, what we gained in the ease of connection and the quantity of connections we lost in quality of those connections.

Kathryn Greenhill echoes the sentiment in “Ten years after Peak Biblioblogging.”

I think this move away from our self-hosted blogging platforms, as much as us all moving on to other responsibilities and interests, eroded that daily “I will post in my blog or comment on three others this morning because if I do then this great conversation and growth of knowledge and ideas will keep going.”

To be fair, we were able to create a vibrant community on particular social media services. Kathryn alludes to Meebo, which along with FriendFeed was part of the epicenter of that community. (If you’re not familiar with either, I describe them both briefly in “A Post About Slack That Isn’t Really About Slack.”) But that meant we ceded control of our conversations and our ideas to entities that would shut down our spaces as soon as it was no longer viable to keep them going. Moving to other social media platforms doesn’t really solve the problem. As Meredith puts it, “We’re also giving ourselves — or at least our digital representations and content — to companies that don’t protect us in any meaningful way (from others or themselves).”

Fiona Bradley expands on this in “What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts?

I posted about some of the reasons why I restarted this blog a couple of months back (with a note about some life changes). A sense of ownership and control over my identity is among them. I had the opportunity to work on policy and advocacy around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) before leaving the UK, which made me keenly aware of the ways in which many companies did not give us choices about what they collect and how, until they were forced to.

Taking all that into consideration, I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that a lot of us almost simultaneously started to think about this topic and started to blog about it. To wit: Chad Boeninger notes that he began working on his post “Is this thing on?” before Meredith published her post.

Also, I spent four days trying to come up with a summary of what I am writing about here and Chad just nails it when he writes:

Possibly related to my recent interest in writing again is social media has got me down lately. There’s lots of sharing but not much caring.  I’ve always liked the sharing aspect of blogging.

So I am giddy that folks like Fiona, Tara Murray, and Morgan Wilson restarted their blogs this year after long hiatuses. “These days, a librarian type blog which is active and has posted within the last year or so is kind of special,” Morgan says in “Return of the Blog Roll.”

But I think the time is right for more library blogs to come back or start up. In “Library blogs reach mid-career,” Tara writes, “It seems many of us are about the same age and are struggling with the same kinds of issues.” A long Twitter thread or a detailed Facebook post just doesn’t seem to be the right place for us to work out those issues and “Like” buttons aren’t enough to fully express our solidarity.

Let’s Push Things Forward

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how I set up editorial calendars to manage my projects at work. I hummed along for a couple of weeks, as efficient as a bird building a nest. Then I went on a work trip, which disrupted my nascent routine. Then I got home from my work trip and…

So now I have a bunch of old tasks in a calendar I’m not looking at and a bunch of new ones scattered around my notebook, which is what I was trying to put a stop to when I started the whole exercise.

Deep breath, step back, start again.

In the meantime, I’ve finally given up my work BlackBerry for a work iPhone. I had plans to download all of the Google apps as I restarted my calendar project. Unfortunately, Google Calendar is not approved for use on department-issued iPhones.

Great.

So I’m in the process of moving the whole project over to Apple’s apps. It’s a work in progress right now, but it has given me an opportunity to rethink the process. There were two things that irked me a bit about using Google Tasks and Google Calendar. One, Tasks gave you the option to set due dates for tasks, but didn’t offer any sort of notifications. So a deadline could pass without warning. Even though it is on me to be checking my calendar, it would have been nice to get a heads up as the due date approached.

Two, if you set up multiple lists in Tasks and then checked them on Google Calendar, the tasks for each list only display on calendar when the list is active. So I can see items on my to do list on my calendar, but I can’t see items on my outstanding issues list unless I switched to that task list. It was a bit awkward.

So I will revisit this in a few weeks to see how I am doing. We have a work conference coming up at the end of the month and I want to make sure that I’m still keeping up my practice that week.

Strongest Signal That I’ve Seen

I’ve added a privacy policy page to my site. I am not going to pretend that I fully understand the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), mostly because I haven’t bothered to read it. Not to say I am completely oblivious: I’ve mostly read the emails I’ve received from every website I’ve ever submitted my email address to, which has been hilarious, especially when I got emails from websites I had forgotten about.

Technically speaking, the GDPR shouldn’t affect this site, but I made sure to include a privacy policy on our Eurovision blog, especially because we use Google Analytics and AdSense on our site. WordPress had provided a template, but to be frank, I found it a little bit too bloated  for my liking.

Inspired by the above tweet from Fiona Bradley, I wrote up a brief description of how our site uses cookies and what Google and Automattic (WordPress’ developer) does with them. I know I have a tendency to be verbose so I tried to keep it as simple as possible, then linked out to the Silicon Valley jargon repositories for more information.

That done, I could sit back and pop some popcorn to enjoy while reading about non-European websites caught off guard when the regulation went into effect on May 25.

You Wonder Where You Are

Why, hello there!

It’s taken me a while to get back into the swing of things since last I posted. I traveled to a workshop for work and then got home just in time for Eurovision to properly kick off.

My wife and I write a lot for our blog during the days leading up to Eurovision. I originally planned to keep writing for this website as well, but realized very quickly how unrealistic that idea was. I do not think about anything else but the Song Contest when I am not at work or child-rearing. And even child-rearing has become more about Eurovision now that our son is old enough to have strong opinions about it.

I had planned to write about my experiences at the workshop, but I am still trying to strike a balance between what I think is awesome or interesting or challenging about my job and what will be of interest to people who aren’t me. The workshop was a lot of fun, but so much of it is tied to minutiae related to my place of work that I struggle to make it broadly applicable.

This is part of the reason why I often find myself struggling to maintain a library science-related blog. I get stuck on trying to make my work experiences feel universal and then shut down when I can’t do it. So my task is to figure out how to get out neutral and move forward. It’s all apart of my broader need to get out of my own head, I guess.

Until then…

Blaze Ahead and Go Home Happy

In my last blog post, I wrote about experimenting with editorial calendars to manage my task lists. I’m not sure if what I’ve set up resembles a traditional editorial calendar, but it has been useful so far.

I’ve always kept to do lists, either on paper or using apps. My problem has been that I never differentiated between tasks, projects, and goals. I would jot down very specific tasks, like “follow-up with my supervisor about our draft guidelines document,” then mixed in broad items, like “redesign website.” My lists were a mess. Here’s what I’ve done so far to tackle the problem.

My office uses G Suite, so I started in Google Calendars with creating calendars for my four main, broad areas of work: applied technology, data management, information resources, and general office tasks. These calendars work with  my default appointments calendar and the Google Tasks calendar to give me a comprehensive, color-coded picture of what I have on my plate.

I like Google Tasks because I can mark emails in my Gmail inbox as tasks, then get them out of my inbox. (I do something similar with Outlook, because I have two work emails.) But there are a couple of drawbacks. There isn’t a Tasks app and the Tasks calendar doesn’t appear in the Google Calendars app. It is very much a desktop application. The workaround on a mobile device is going to https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas in a browser. Also, unlike in Outlook’s task bar, there is not an option in Google Tasks to set alarms for tasks. I can set a due date, but I have to pay closer attention to my calendar to make sure I don’t miss the deadline.

Anyway, within Google Tasks, I created six task lists: four for my areas of work, then one called To Do List and one called OUTSTANDING ISSUES.

To Do List does what it says on the tin. I try to keep the list concise by recording one-time action items that I need to address, no matter what area of work they fall under.

OUTSTANDING ISSUES shows tasks that are in someone else’s court. It dawned on me when putting this together that I have a habit of marking things off my to do list without determining whether or not I would need to follow up. I had technically completed the task, but I still had more work to do. It’s a bad feeling when I realize I asked someone a question three weeks prior and never got a reply. Now I can keep track of what I need to follow up on.

The task lists for each area of work don’t serve as to do lists, but instead show my duties within those areas. For example, my Applied Technology list shows the main projects that I work on, such as advising on ILS and membership systems, administering tech surveys, and managing our LISTSERVs and Facebook group. I use the notes box in each task to list sub-duties if applicable, such as making sure the folks at LibraryThing and TinyCat still like us.

The notes field is turning into a bit of a bonus for me because I am using it to mark down recurring tasks. I am generally good about keeping tabs on things like running reports on the first of the month, but I have never written them down before. After getting them out of my head and into the notes, I can then add them as recurring appointments within respective area of work calendars. The coloring coding helps me keep track of what’s on tap each day.

That’s fine for now but what comes after? Well, I am sure I will be making adjustments as I go along as I come up with new ideas or better ways of noting things. Also, I need to stay disciplined because I know my history of starting and abandoning productivity systems.

The key thing is I am having a lot of fun working on this (and doing something similar with my home projects). If it’s fun, it won’t feel like a chore, right?

Now Get Busy

My wife and I write a blog about the Eurovision Song Contest called Eurovision Lemurs. We do a lot of writing this time of year as the participating countries select their entries.  We will stay busy until well after the last piece of confetti drops in the middle of May.

After the Song Contest ends, we usually end up going silent until the new season begins. This year, we set a goal to have one new post every two weeks from June through December. We have a few topics we have always wanted to write about, so summer and fall would be perfect times to tackle them if we just were a little more organized. And also didn’t suffer from post-Eurovison depression.

So we’ve set up an editorial calendar using Google Calendar. I’m going to use it for this blog as well, since I really want to make a proper go at it this time.

Even though the writing projects have nothing to do with my job, I also plan to take the editorial calendar mentality to the office. I have a Post-it easel pad in my cube on which I wrote down all of the major projects I have on my plate. It acts as a sort of to-do list, but it occurred to me recently that it is missing actionable deadlines.

I’ve read a bit about time blocking, and I do see the value in scheduling segments of the day to work on projects without distraction. But I never really got into the habit of doing it. Finding another angle to approach it may help. So let’s see if an editorial calendar works. More to come…

Be Who You Are

It’s been 10 years since I received my MLS from Maryland. Much of what I learned in library school has been supplanted by the progress of time, the faster progress of technology, and my ever-evolving duties at work. Like, does anyone still use AACR2?

It’s also been seven years since I took my current job. I was hired as a Cataloging and Metadata Specialist, but my title now is Program Evaluation, Applied Technology & Information Resource Contractor. It’s a bit of a mouthful and I am hoping we can make it more succinct on my next work order. But it does reflect how my job has evolved since 2010.

I probably have been a bit too over-eager to pick up new duties. My supervisors worry about burnout and, given my bouts of anxiety, I can understand where they are coming from. I can get overwhelmed and only manage the most humdrum tasks while I recover. Although proofreading spreadsheets is surprisingly relaxing.

But I am also happy to take on new projects because they keep me on my toes and keep me from being too complacent. (Not that it’s easy to be complacent these days.) They also give me new perspective on what I already do and inspire new ways to think about the tasks I already have.

It is easy for me to get bogged down in minutiae and worn down by day-to-day frustrations. I never want to lose sight of the fact that I am lucky to have the job that I have. Is it the same job I took in 2010? Nope, but I don’t mind one bit.

The Future Fades Away Too Fast

Did I just spend the better part of a week building a blogroll?

Yes. Yes I did.

I was feeling nostalgic for the days when librarian blogs were the newest in new, especially after reading Meredith Farkas’ terrific post, “Wayfinding and balance at mid-career.” It’s the type of thoughtful writing that blogs are made for. I risk sounding like an old fogey here, but a Twitter thread wouldn’t have done the subject justice.

My nostalgia was fueled further by reading “Small b blogging” by Tom Critchlow:

I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging. What you want is something with YOUR personality. Writing and ideas that are addressable (i.e. you can find and link to them easily in the future) and archived (i.e. you have a list of things you’ve written all in one place rather than spread across publications and URLs) and memorable (i.e. has your own design, logo or style). Writing that can live and breathe in small networks. Scale be damned.

Librarian blogs never were what he calls “big B blogging,” the type of blogs whose posts would populate Digg’s front page. Even if we sometimes made a splash on a site like Metafilter, we were always writing for a niche audience. You know, librarian blog people.

I lament that an era has passed where something like the Carnival of the Infosciences could thrive. More often than not, the blogs featured in the Carnival archives are either gone or long dormant. Hell, I contributed to the detritus myself.

So I hope that Critchlow is right and small b blogging is the wave of the future. Then the conditions would be right for the biblioblogosphere to grow again. Maybe I’m an old, sentimental fool, but I’ve got to keep writing just in case.

Fernweh

Just over 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a two-week study tour of Germany’s federal and state libraries. The tour was sponsored by the Initiative Fortbildung für wissenschaftliche Spezialbibliotheken und verwandte Einrichtungen e. V. and the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation. I was the webmaster for SLA’s Government Information Division at the time and was recommended for the tour by DGI’s then-chair Peggy Garvin.

I was still in graduate school at the time, but it was a pivotal moment in my professional career. Among the participants on the tour were Eileen Deegan from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Information Resources and Fran Perros from State’s Ralph Bunche Library. I stayed in touch with them after the tour (which was easy to do since I served as DGI’s chair-elect when Eileen was chair). Three years after the tour, they recommended me for a contract position at the Office of Information Resources. The office is now called the Office of American Spaces, but I have been there ever since.

While on the tour, I met with an Information Resource Officer named Sheila Weir. It was the first time I knew that there was such a thing as a foreign service librarian. (Or Regional Public Engagement Specialist, as they are now called. We like to change the names of things at State.) While I never did run off to join the foreign service like I thought I was going to, I am at least happy enough to live vicariously through the FSOs I work with now. Sheila eventually became my supervisor in the Office of American Spaces, because it’s a small world and Washington, DC is a small town.

Anyway, before the tour started, Dr. Curtis Rogers started up a blog to share information ahead of the trip. He was nice enough to make me an editor. I wrote recaps of the tour for my old website, but I eventually moved those recaps to the group blog. I had embedded photos from my old Flickr account into my posts. When I took the Flickr account down, I inadvertently broke all the photos on the site. So I spent some time this weekend uploading the photos to the blog. What can I say, I will look for any excuse to look through old photo albums. And old blog posts.

By the way, one of my favorite photos I took on the trip is the one to the left. It is a surfer in the Isar River. There was a bridge we walked over when we were heading to the Bavarian Parliament, and it just so happened that this spot acted like a little wave pool in the river. There were a group of surfers hanging out there and, fitting into certain German stereotypes, a couple of them had no problem changing out of their wetsuits in front of everyone.

I’ve wanted to go back to Germany ever since, particularly to Berlin. Outside of layovers in Frankfurt and Munich, I haven’t had the chance yet. At some point I need to, though, because the t-shirt I bought at the Ramones Museum isn’t getting any newer.

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