Tech-Life Balance

Tech-life balance is not a new catchphrase, and it is at times used as an extension of work-life balance. However, it differs in that finding a balance between the tech in our lives and living our lives extends beyond work. This idea comes to mind lately because of two books I’m reading: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (book review links not sponsored ones). The former helps you consider the best times to do certain sorts of tasks while the latter discusses the importance of distraction-free work time.

I am definitely a lark with a tendency to–SQUIRREL! Needlesstosay, I’m working to optimize my work patterns and make more progress on projects in my off-time. So what this amounts to is restructuring my life to regulate the times spent on what Cal Newport (Deep Work) calls shallow work out of my peak work time, which for me is about four hours from 9-1. It is not easy.

When I am writing and feel as though I need to research a particular thing, I make a note and try to move on. Otherwise, I will inevitably fall down a research rabbit hole from which I will emerge with little more than lost productivity. It requires me to go analog at times; you cannot be distracted by websites you cannot visit on a notepad. It is causing me to rethink the ways I communicate and the importance of the things I find I am prioritizing. Tech has plenty of benefits. It enriches our lives, but with all things, moderation is key. I will continue reading and restructuring and will follow-up. In the meantime, how do you maintain tech-life balance?

-Cas

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Professional Development Pt. 2

First, some good news. Very soon I will begin writing about libraries and technology for Informed Librarian. This will be a fun if not a crazy adventure. I will not be giving up this blog, so that means MORE TINKERING. : )

Today’s topic is professional development, an expansion of Dee’s post from last year. Professional development is a mix of learning to improve the skills you have now and developing the skills to use later. With the former, the best way to find great tools is to leverage your network. What are they using to learn? What tricks do they know that you do not? What experiences did your colleagues lean on to be the skilled professionals they are today? Libraries and library positions vary so greatly, the answers will vary person to person.

For the future, it is best to use some learner-centric pedagogy. It may be strange to shift perspective and think of yourself as the student. However, if you want to motivate yourself to learn more, you need to think about what it is you are interested in. Not everyone dreamed up Makerspaces in libraries, but a few crafty librarians dared to. Now they are spreading as far as budgets will allow. Identify the sorts of things that fascinate you, and then plan your skill building around them.

It should be no surprise where my interests lie. Ever since library school I’ve taken advantage of every chance to bring my passion together with my profession. Do not be afraid to be creative. Here are some non-library specific places you might find to learn that new skill you can bring to work.

Law/Government

Marketing

Business

MIT Courses

Technology

Craft Classes

Languages (Or here, or practice with a podcast)

A few last notes. Varying your training helps you learn faster. Also, never forget TedTalks. There are thousands of them, and one is bound to spark your curiosity.

-Cas

Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking

It has been a while, I know. For that I am sorry. Dee is taking a short break, and I was at a loss on what to talk about next. There is no shortage of tech and tools, but I haven’t had the chance to tinker with many new ones. Interesting developments like the Ethereum fork in response to a Parity hack had plenty of coverage by individuals who are more knowledgeable than I. Also, debates abound about how deeply librarians really need to understand blockchain. I think it is uncontroversial to say* that librarians need to at least have it on their radar. So, this post is going to cover cryptojacking.

Cryptojacking is a new term created to described when websites embed coding that coopts your PC’s hardware to mine for cryptocurrency. This wonderful new addition to the world of malicious code was graciously brought forth by the website CoinHive. CoinHive provides a bit of javascript code that can be added to website causing the computers of anyone who visits the site to be used to mine Monero, a cryptocurrency, for the website owner. CoinHive, for their efforts, takes a cut of the proceeds.

The result in many cases is that the user’s computer’s performance tanks as their resources are being co-opted to mine currency for third parties. Much like the sneaky tracking cookies of old**, there is no notice of this pirating of computer resources. While news of this began several months ago, it is continuing to pick up steam as it has been found on free Starbucks Wi-Fi networks.

Thankfully, there are now extensions for browsers to block the script or you can simply beef up existing ad blockers by adding the site to the block list (as described in the above link). Review the options that work best for you, and protect your computers!

-Cas

*famous last words
**Old as in big news of the past, not as in no longer an issue.

Thank you libraries & librarians!

I was hoping to write a simple post about library technology, but then I woke this morning to the news about Las Vegas. This is not going to be a political post. That is not the focus of this blog. This post is a thank you.  A thank you to all the librarians who work tirelessly to make sure that their library remains a haven in chaos, a place to get information when people are lost, and an access point to services they might not otherwise have (e.g. internet).

I took a break in the middle of last month because I was helping some of my family evacuate from South Florida to Durham to escape Irma. Many were able to leave, and for that I know I am fortunate. However, my father, who manages an airport, was not. It was stressful.  In the midst of this, I was no in the mindset to write another emergency resources post.

While I was focused on family, so many libraries were creating resources for their patrons. Libraries are essential for connecting patrons to the resources they need in these times of crisis. Knowing this, librarians accessed the damage and determined ways to get back online as fast as possible. Thank you. Thank you to my partner Dee for stepping up in her own community when crisis hit. Thank you to all the librarians in areas affected by the storms and events for all that you have done.  Thank you for guiding patrons to FEMA applications and crisis counseling. Thank you for creating resource flyers. For those in areas unaffected, thank you for informing patrons on ways they can help. Thank you.

I am proud to be in a profession that remains a beacon in every squall, leading their communities to the information they need to move forward. If you have not already read it, there is a great piece on American Libraries by Timothy Inklebarger called Rebuilding Communities after Disasters. It highlights just a few ways libraries are being so amazing in such troublesome times.

-Cas

Hurricane Harvey Library Relief

Hurricane Harvey Library Relief

Our mission here at Tinkering Librarians is to share tech tools that library staff may find useful in some way, be it with a goal of being a more productive librarian or helping our patrons.  However, we do occasionally deviate to talk about things we think are important, and today I’d like to share a couple of ways you can help Texas Libraries in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

We get our fair share of bad weather in south Mississippi, and I know personally how tough it can be for a library to recover from a natural disaster.  My university’s campus, including our library, was directly hit by a tornado earlier this year.  No building on campus escaped some degree of damage or destruction.  Before I joined my university community, an entire campus was lost to Hurricane Katrina and was thankfully rebuilt in a new location.  It’s not always easy to bounce back, but it certainly can be done with help from the greater community.  Right now, Texas libraries need our help.

Library Journal posted an article detailing the situation for Texas, and Houston libraries in particular, on Tuesday.  It’s devastating to think of the destruction that awaits these library staff members and their patron communities.  If you’d like to help Texas libraries recover from Harvey, the Texas Library Association is accepting donations and selling coloring books to benefit their disaster relief fund.  This is a great way to donate where 100% of the proceeds will go directly to Texas libraries in need.

I’d also like to urge each of you to either review your library’s disaster preparedness plan on a regular basis or to create a plan if you don’t have one in place.  The American Library Association offers resources to help create and assess such a plan.  Don’t let yourself get stuck in the mindset of “it won’t happen to us.”  Hopefully, you’ll never need to put your plan into practice, but if you do, you’ll want to make sure it is up to date and sound.

-Dee

Eclipse Online

Eclipse Online

Glasses prices are skyrocketing, and more people are looking to their local libraries to provide them with glasses. Unfortunately many have or will run out, and others never had the funds to get them. To help assuage the frustrated patron, I have made a flyer pointing to some great sites hosting live streams of the eclipse. You can find links to it at the end.

Here’s a little more information on the links in the flyer.

  • The NASA Live Stream will host “a four-hour show, Eclipse Across America, with unprecedented live video of the celestial event, along with coverage of activities in parks, libraries, stadiums, festivals and museums across the nation, and on social media.” It will be broad cast from telescopes, airplanes, and high altitude balloons (HAB). Some of the HAB footage will be coming from the Eclipse Ballooning Project, a collaborative project with students in 25 locations along the eclipse path in North America.
  • Slooh is a website that touts itself as “Syndicate Live Telescope Coverage.” They will be streaming live from their telescope in Stanley, Idaho, with commentary from Slooh astronomers.
  • A second NASA hosted stream is NASA Edge. It will feature interviews with scientists, educational content, and telescope feeds.

Continue reading “Eclipse Online”

Disposable Email Services

Disposable Email Services

There are several reasons why you or your patrons might want to use a disposable email address: maybe it’s for anonymity, maybe you want to avoid tons of SPAM from a site when all you need is a validation email, maybe you just want to make a post to a forum and be done with it forever, maybe you’re up to no good.  Who knows?  As a librarian, I don’t need to know why you need an anonymous email, but I can give you some tools to help out!  There are many options out there, but I’m just going to highlight a couple. Continue reading “Disposable Email Services”