Fun with Databases

Academic libraries, Library Subscription Databases, Mobile Computing, Projects

Sometimes I have terrific ideas. I see them unfold in technicolor in my mind. They are gorgeous, they are cutting-edge, and everyone loves them.

Sometimes, I implement these ideas. That’s where things get a little wonky.

My latest brilliant idea was to advertise this program I’m coordinating. I was going to combine low-tech (a poster) with high-tech (QR codes that link to resources from the library), and advertise the program, and the book that goes with it, and link patrons to really fantabulous resources…

*pauses to catch breath*

At first, the technicolor version was playing out. I had all my resources, I made QR codes using this QR code generator, and I tested the links. Granted, the websites I was linking to were not mobile optimized, but they were authoritative, darnit, and students are ingenuous creatures. If they want to look at that object on a desktop device, they’ll figure out a way to do it.

Then I attempted to create a permalink to an image we have access to through ARTstor. *insert whistling noise as technicolor version of project plumments towards the ground*

My first stumbling point was discovering that the mobile version of ARTstor does not offer the ability to grab permalinks. At best, I could add our proxy to the ARTstor mobile URL and use that to create a QR code that linked our students to the mobile ARTstor homepage. But there is a time and a place for teaching students how to start at a database homepage and arrive at the object they want, and a display is neither.

What about the full site? The full site has “image URLs.” If a student can get to the actual object, even if it’s not mobile optimized, that’s better than routing them to the homepage, right?

That would have been a decent Plan B, but ARTstor’s full site opens each item record in a new pop-up window. And iPhones (the phone I was testing all this on) have pop-ups blocked by default. The fact that one, or two, or maybe thousands of our students have iPhones is not lost on me.

But just because I like trying things, I disabled my phone’s pop-up blocker and tried an image URL with a proxy tacked onto the front. The link asked me to log in (huzzah!), loaded the pop-up window (huzzah!), and then presented me with a request to install Flash on my device so I could load the page.

Tomorrow’s work outfit: pencil skirt and a straitjacket.

Brought to you by the letters M and W

Conferences, Networking
The facades in downtown Seattle are absolutely wonderful

The facades in downtown Seattle are absolutely wonderful

This time last week, I was coming home from the 2013 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting and thinking that goodness, it had been a busy week. One of the very last sessions I attended was the Midwinter End-of-Meeting Camp, and that session offered me the brain-unpacking I needed so very much. I was glad to find that I was not the only librarian attending an ALA conference for the first time, and that many of us were on the same page.

Ultimately, attending a conference is about learning. Learning about other libraries, and other flavors of librarianship, meeting other librarians and hearing what they do and why they came–and how it’s the same and different from why you came.

Just like becoming a college student for the first time (or all over again), there are things you can do to help you learn. For every suggestion I got before arriving, there were a few obvious things I was surprised to discover. I’m going to a few more conferences this year, and these are the things I’ll be keeping in mind:

1. Talk to everyone. Waiting in line, eating breakfast, before a session begins, after a session ends. This includes walking up to the presenters and chatting with them after sessions. It feels a little scary the first few times, but I found that everyone I talked to wanted to talk.

2. Don’t worry about what sessions you attend. Someone told me this before I left, and they were absolutely right. There will be one or two sessions that can’t be missed, but at a national-level conference, there will be at least two interesting, valuable, or fun sessions happening during any given time frame.

3. Do not eat in the convention center. Get out, breathe fresh air, take a little walk, and find someplace to eat that serves good food. Yes, that crepe stand on the corner counts.

4. Expect to gather tidbits of information, not glossy packages that can be unwrapped and plugged in to your particular job or projects. This is my takeaway from the whole makerspace craze: deconstruct everything, take out what you like, and use it to build what you need. Or want.

5. Do the exhibits, even if you have absolutely no purchasing power. I always thought exhibits were just for people who actually bought things, but shopping critically, comparing the various e-book services or types of library furniture, is a great way to see what the state of the art is.

6. Don’t paint your nails bright red. You will spend the entire conference touching them up in a desperate attempt to keep them from looking like a teenager’s nails.