Spring Cleaning

Part of linen room containing supplies for the three hotels from Flickr

“Part of linen room containing supplies for the three hotels” – Internet Archive Book Images flickr.com

I am a huge fan of Preservation Week. Not just because our Preservation Librarian brings baked goods to events, but because digital preservation should be within the reach of everyone. Family historians, amateur photographers: you don’t have to be a historian or pro photographer to create content worth saving.

My training in digital preservation has taken place over most of my professional life, and I hesitate to call myself an expert. Too much of the landscape is in flux, from formats at one end to digital preservation systems at the other. I’m pleased to see academic libraries moving in a positive direction, but we haven’t arrived. Even the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI to those of us who need to refer to it more than once a week) doesn’t have all the answers.

That being said, digital preservation is also perfectly possible for those who do not wish to devote the rest of their lives to the field. Little things, like knowing what digital files we have, where they are, and backing these files up regularly is within the realm of the family historian and the amateur photographer. As I was sitting in a Preservation Week webinar, munching my brownie and thinking how wonderful it is to bring knowledge of the central tenets of digital preservation to the everyman, I had a certain nagging feeling of unease.

Too much sugar? No, just a mild case of hipocrisy. I may spend my days working to build preservable digital collections, but at home my own laptop had been looking more like a teenager’s closet than the tidy warehouse pictured above. My OS was out-of-date, I had no idea what was in my downloads folder, and the date of the last backup was appalling. Bad librarian!

Am I alone? Do some of you also choose playing with your dog or watching a movie over the noble and necessary but less fun task of figuring out why you have so files with names like A2KRE5XYZ.pdf?

If so, here is my quick and dirty guide to preservation. This is not the professional-grade preservation I do at work, but the time-left-to-rub-the-dog’s-tummy grade preservation I keep up at home.

0.5. If you are worried you might get carried away cleaning out files, or you plan to do lots of upgrades, back up your entire hard drive. I do a hard drive backup and a cloud backup.

1. Corral your flash drives. Make sure they have stuff you want on them. Make sure the stuff you think is also on your computer actually is on your computer. Erase and/or copy to your computer as needed.

2. Fill your Trash folder. My big culprits are Desktop and Downloads, but you know where your nasty folders are. If you don’t know why it’s important, don’t keep it.

3. If you are feeling really ambitious, take a look at your Photos. I know I am not the only one who has far too many pictures of latte art.

4. Clean out your Applications/Programs. I had to upgrade my OS (always backup before doing that), and then discovered several programs I used as a student which either required a license (long expired) or that were no longer maintained. Into the trash they went.

5. Empty your Trash folder.

6. Marvel at the wallpaper you haven’t seen in years

7. Rub the dog’s tummy.

See? Not so awful. If you want more, visit the Preservation Week website, or go to your local library and ask the librarians for more. They’re very good at preserving others’ content, even if their own Desktop folders are a little messy.

It’s a Good Week

Snickers bar and a National Library Week 2015 bookmark

Candy and a bookmark. It’s a good week.

Happy National Library Week, everyone! Our admin team knows how to make their people feel special, and hand delivered little treats to all the faculty and staff.

The American Library Association‘s campaign this year is “Made in the Library.” I love the output of makerspaces, but my favorite items made in the library are librarian music videos.

Please tell me you have seen librarian music videos. Librarians + Pop + video camera = something hilarious and unexpected, every time.

Here in Kansas, the Topeka/Shawnee County Public Library has a new hit, but my favorite remains University of Washington’s take on Lady Gaga.

New Home


Hello All! I hope this new year is treating you all right.

I’m back to moving the furniture around in here. If you’re following via a blog feed, you’ll see posts (or a lack thereof) as per usual.

If you’d like to come ’round the front door, you’ll find a new static homepage with text and a picture of yours truly. I’m going for traditional this time around. Will it work? Take a look and tell me what you think!

Projects Fail


Some projects fail.

In my experience, this can be a hard one to accept. Librarians are by and large passionate people, and they bring this passion in to work. They have great ideas for projects, and pour all their hopes into these projects, and the projects come to life.

But projects are not immortal, nor should they be.

This has happened at every library where I have worked, but most recently, with my portfolio. My portfolio started in a burst of enthusiasm and ended in a sad fizzle. Web projects are a fair bit of work, especially when one is not a web developer by training. Simple tasks take a lot longer, and the process of trial and error involves a lot of error. I will give myself a star for trying. But I should have admitted earlier that the portfolio had ballooned into something I was not committed to completing, and just put it down.

I would like to step aside to mention that had this been a work project, it would have unfolded a lot differently. For instance, I would have identified a target audience and criteria for success before starting the project. A deadline would have kept me moving, and coworkers would have been on hand to identify issues when I got stuck.

But sitting here by myself, I dreamed up the portfolio as a “why not” sort of project. Not a good plan for success. Add to that volunteer commitments that I am very excited about, the portfolio became like that unmarked takeout box in the back of the office fridge, lurking and decaying and giving the entire office an odd odor. Defining the point where a project hits failure is hard: sometimes a little more time is all that’s needed. But this portfolio had plenty of time to get off the ground, and it didn’t. That is not success.

Every project I have seen–successful and unsuccessful–needs to have an end. We have to decide whether that leftover-takeout project is worth keeping any longer. Unlike the takeout, which must be disposed of, never to be seen again, projects can be set aside to hibernate. Maybe the time wasn’t right. Maybe the audience wasn’t there–yet. I sort of hope this will happen with my portfolio. If not, I am glad I didn’t leave it there to fester.

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


Happy Wednesday! On this rather dreary day in Phoenix, I am poking away at my portfolio and wondering why it isn’t done. Half of the answer is that I have become unmotivated, distracted by other ongoing projects. The other half is that it has become significantly more involved than I originally anticipated.

Portico at the Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial–From here it looks like the portico curves on forever

I believe the hangup is in the pictures. At first, this was a personal issue. I had to find little pictures to use for my icons, and so I delved into the endless pit that is Flickr. My perfectionism flares up slightly when choosing images, but I was sure that once I just picked one, I could get on with things.

Not quite: first I had to ensure that all my images had a generic CC-BY 2.0 license. I.e., the license that allows derivative works. Because step two was transforming rectangular photos into little buttons. I am using PicMonkey for this, because it has the tools I need and is relatively user-friendly. I could be using GIMP, but if I don’t need all the power and precision of full-on photo editing software, no sense in firing up the full-on photo editing software.

Add some time spent cropping and labeling, and the buttons are ready. But wait! How to attribute their original creators? Not in the alt tag, because that is suppressed, and even if it wasn’t I want the attribution present regardless of where my visitor’s mouse is hovering. Some authors have questioned the validity of Creative Commons licenses in the scholarly publishing sphere, but in the Flickersphere it has been wonderful. Yes, some of the details of each license are a bit hazy, but photographers have the choice to go with traditional copyright or open it up. They can also choose how much sharing they want to happen. Rather than my choice as a user being “OK usage” or “certain doom,” creators and users are now part of a conversation about appropriate usage.

First and foremost, appropriate usage needs appropriate citation. I was initially convinced that captions containing attribution information would solve my problem. Unfortunately, default captions are gray and do not come with as much padding as I would like. *pause to imagine little cartoon warriors, one labeled content and the other labeled appearance, dueling one another* Which means I now need to dig into the CSS.

In the end I will be quite pleased with getting the job done right, but currently I am a tad irked at myself for thinking that this amalgam of content, layout, and copyright was going to be the easy-peasy work of an afternoon. Ah well. It’s another thing to add to my portfolio.

Connecting the Dots: Cataloging and Metadata, The Interview Edition


On today’s reading list, we have a(nother) terrific, inspiring post from Hack Library School. As a library assistant and then a reference librarian, I have seen first-hand how the quality of the catalog impacts the user’s experience of a library. In more ambitious moments, I have gone off on “If I was in charge of this catalog” rants. These usually subside with the sad realization that I have DC experience and one Organization of Information class behind me, but no cataloging coursework. But Williams didn’t begin cataloging with a cataloging course under his belt either…maybe there’s hope for me after all!


For the next installment in our technical services mini-series, I’m delighted to introduce long-time HLS commenters and all-around great guys,  Jason W. Dean and Elliot D. Williams. When I was first starting library school, I basically cold-called both Elliot and Jason to ask about their experiences and advice, and they’ve both been incredibly generous with their time and encouragement, so I couldn’t resist asking them few more questions on behalf of HLS readers. Jason is the Head of the Special Formats Cataloging Unit at the University of Arkansas Libraries in Fayetteville, and Elliot is the Metadata Librarian at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, FL.

Please note: I’ve edited their responses slightly for length.

First of all, tell us a little about your background.

ElliotWilliams1-240x300Elliot: I think the most important piece of context for this conversation is that when I was in grad school at the University of Texas iSchool, I…

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Permission to Read

Professional Development, Reading
Woman reading, circa 1900

From the National Media Museum – https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmediamuseum/

Have you ever found yourself falling into a bad habit?  Maybe with coffee: a latte here, and there, and then you add some flavor, and then it becomes a mocha, and then suddenly one afternoon you’re sitting there waiting for your Venti caramel chocolate freeze with extra whip and you realize that once upon a time, you liked to drink coffee.

I did that with reading.

Last week, I was reading a nice, meaty blog post about scholarly communication, and feeling twitchy and guilty. It was so long–practically 900 words! There had to be something else I was supposed to be doing! I was wasting time!

It was when my brain screamed those last words that I gave myself a shake. How had I gotten to the point where I thought reading–and reading a pro blog, mind you–was a waste of time? Come to think about it, it was not so long ago that I would sit down every morning after breakfast with the dog and read until I had to leave for work.  Sometimes blogs, sometimes a nonfiction book, sometimes–gasp!–a novel.

But somewhere along the line, I’d gotten pressed for time and started using my reading time to catch up on homework. I still went to news sites and browsed short articles, quickly nibbling on a few main points and an expert quote before flitting off to something else. At the time, I didn’t think much about the decrease in the depth of what I was reading, nor did my overworked brain miss that depth. Then news articles had become Twitter headlines: a concept, perhaps, with a hint of a viewpoint in it. I could see that things were happening, who was talking, but clicking through to what they were actually saying suddenly seemed too much work. I just hit “favorite” so I could come back later.

I don’t know when I planned to come back. I think I intended that time to be soon, but it turned into months. Then a coworker sent me a blog post on scholarly communication to read. There I was, reading for work and chafing at a few hundred words, and it hit me what a crazy place I’d let myself get into. How can it be a waste of time to take in new ideas, especially when those ideas have been carefully thought out and articulated? Without drawing upon all the insight around me, how can I expand my professional horizons beyond my own little cubicle? And besides, crazy girl, reading long pieces is a lovely way to slow down, to focus attention, to think below the surface of the world.

I have a new mission, one I hope will last. I have given myself permission to read beyond the first 140 characters. When reading blogs, articles, and reports online, I will allow myself to read the whole piece, if it’s useful, and if not, choose my stopping point based on content. I will read to build up my knowledge base, but also to learn about what is happening outside it. Sure, I can start with the news, but I will give myself permission to go beyond just one source’s report. Hey, I might even go crazy and start reading novels again!

But seriously–how do you keep from falling into bad reading habits?

I Still Have All My Toes


No thanks to a leaky boot and Philly sidewalk slush. Yep, I’m at Midwinter. Thus far it’s awesome, but thoughts come in bytes, not sentences and paragraphs so keep an eye on me in Twitter, feed to the right or @alringness

May your Friday shoes be warm!

Ground Cover in Pictures


A snapshot of what I do when I’m not thinking about libraries.


Last Saturday, I took part in the Ground Cover project installation. It was a wonderful, overwhelming two days. I knew the project was huge–300 blankets completed by some 600 crafters–but until I saw it all laid out and filling an empty lot, I didn’t realize just how huge it was. When the time came to break the project down, it was amazing to see how quickly a few dozen people were able to return the lot to its empty state. The entire project would seem so impermanent, except I handled a lot of the blankets. They were well-made, some with words and pillows and pads and pockets built in, and they will be warming people in need for a long time to come.

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Missing: One Month

Conferences, Job Hunting, Uncategorized
Conference badge with speaker ribbon.

I had a speaker ribbon.

I seem to have lost my November. Has anyone seen it?

Let’s try to catch up here: the Arizona Library Association annual conference came off quite well. The poster session was a blast, because I was there with the rest of the super-cool AzLA Web Committee, and because it’s way more fun to have conversations with people than it is to speak to them while they stare holes in you. My big scary presentation, the one where my co-presenter and I stood at the front of a room for 45 minutes and spoke about roaming reference while 80 eyeballs bored holes in us, went off very well. I chose to present after years as an attendee because the two of us had a terrific project I wanted to share, and also because speaking in public still scares me. The only way I can get over that fear is by presenting, presenting, and presenting again. I was so glad to have my co-presenter: she helped talk me through pre-presentation jitters, and started off the presentation on the right foot.

Overall, the conference was a great experience. I’m on the lookout for another presentation topic already: got to get over that public-speaking anxiety!

Right after the conference I had a job interview. I know, I said I was going to focus on the jobs I had instead of looking for more. But some really stellar positions opened up, and I fell for them. The interview was a really positive experience. For starters, I learned that I can survive a day-long academic interview. I also identified some things that I would like to work on in future interviews. Polishing my presentation skills is on the list, of course.

More jobs are being posted, finals are coming due…take a good look, because I think December is going to be gone pretty soon, too.