Dee’s Favorites (Part 3 of 3): Making Your Patrons’ Lives and Your Jobs Easier

Dee’s Favorites (Part 3 of 3): Making Your Patrons’ Lives and Your Jobs Easier

This is the final installment of my favorites series… for now.  This is sort of a catchall post where “everything else” fits.  I’ve given it the very long, but appropriate title, “Making Your Patrons’ Lives and Your Jobs Easier” because that’s what these tools are all about… so, let’s dive in! Continue reading “Dee’s Favorites (Part 3 of 3): Making Your Patrons’ Lives and Your Jobs Easier”

Dee’s Favorites (Part 2 of 3): Basic Graphic Design Tools

Dee’s Favorites (Part 2 of 3): Basic Graphic Design Tools

The tools I’m going to share with you in this post are some of my favorite to tinker with and explore.  I’ll call this the “fun segment” of this three part series.  We don’t really have a budget for marketing at my library (and I’m guessing a lot of you probably don’t either), but that doesn’t mean we can’t have great looking materials to distribute on our website and in print.  Anything you present to your patrons will be a reflection of your library and will contribute to the overall user experience.  Remember UX from last time?  Everything from your website, to your signage, to your program flyers are part of telling your story.  And let’s face it, you don’t want your story to be clipart and Microsoft Paint, so let’s jump right in.

Design, Document Creation, Infographics, etc.

Canva is probably the best thing I’ve ever stumbled upon.  I use it A LOT, both for work and for personal use.  It’s another tool that I have a hard time believing it’s free.  I’m not a graphic designer.  Design elements don’t exactly come intuitively to me, which means Canva is the perfect tool for me to make great looking graphics for our website and marketing materials.

So, what can you make on Canva?  Just about anything.  Check out my previous post on Canva to learn more.  One update since this post that I love: you can now search template content.  This is a huge improvement!  Did I mention I LOVE CANVA! Continue reading “Dee’s Favorites (Part 2 of 3): Basic Graphic Design Tools”

Dee’s Favorites (Part 1 of 3): UX & Usability

Dee’s Favorites (Part 1 of 3): UX & Usability

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I had a baby in October and as expected, I’m on a different, much busier schedule these days!  The day before my little one was born, I presented at my state library association’s conference for the first time.  It was a fun experience, and I hope I get to do it again (though maybe in a bit more comfortable circumstances).  The theme of our conference was “Tell Your Story.”  I chose to talk about some of my favorite online tools to make telling your story easy and effective.  Some have been mentioned on the blog before.  However, I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts and some of my favorite online tools that I find myself coming back to over and over, as well as a few that are just neat and worth mentioning.

The tools mentioned here are some you can use in your own libraries to help market the library and its services to your patrons, regardless of library type.  All of the tools and websites listed have free options, though some may have additional perks if you want to purchase packages.  I will say, I have not purchased a single upgrade, and they have all met the needs of my university library well.  I am not an expert at using any of these, but I’d love to hear some feedback from readers on how any of you are currently using or plan to use these tools.

I’ve broken the tools down into three broad categories: usability and user experience, very basic graphic design, and things to make your patrons’ lives and your jobs easier.  Some tools will work for multiple categories.  I’m going to cover these tools in three posts to break it up a bit, so for now let’s jump into user experience and usability.
Continue reading “Dee’s Favorites (Part 1 of 3): UX & Usability”

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

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”

Productivity enhancement using blockers

Productivity enhancement using blockers

So… I have a confession to make: I am not disciplined enough to have tried these website and app blockers myself.  ONE DAY, I will break my habit of checking Facebook 20 times a day and having 15 tabs open, but today isn’t that day.  However, after admitting I check Facebook so often, I know I have a problem and could potentially be much more productive and focused at work if I blocked such sites and apps on my work PC.  I have a feeling some of you probably feel the same way, so with the caveat that I can offer no personal experience using these add-on blockers, I am listing just a few I recently learned about here in hopes of publicly shaming myself into trying them. Continue reading “Productivity enhancement using blockers”

Literature-Map

Literature-Map

Today, I just wanted to share a fun reader’s advisory tool, Literature-Map.  You simply search the name of an author you enjoy, and the site creates a word map of related authors.  It’s super simple and fun!  I can see this being very helpful in the library when a patron mentions an unfamiliar author and wants recommendations for similar works.

Here’s one I did for Michael Crichton:

literature map

Enjoy!
-Dee

LibGuides v2

LibGuides v2

Have you guys tried the new Springshare update, LibGuides v2?  I’ve only recently been playing around with my beta site, and I have to say I really like what I see so far.  One of the complaints I’ve had about some library websites in the past has been that they look to “LibGuides-esque.”   I’ve never liked the clunky appearance.  Let’s face it, the awesome thing about LibGuides has always been the ease of use for librarians, not the ease of use for patrons.  That being said, they’ve really listened to users and stepped up their game.  If you haven’t ordered your beta site for v2 yet, go ahead and do it.  It’s simple to use, and there’s a ton of documentation to help you get started.  You can even choose to import guides from your old site if you wish.  If you decide to use their CMS, you can create your entire site on LibGuides and even have a very non-guide looking homepage.  I give this new product two thumbs way up!

If LibGuides is out of your budget, you might consider trying out a free alternative such as SubjectsPlus.  Many libraries already use this product, and the guides look great.  The sites are responsive and user-friendly.   It was created by libraries for libraries, so you are just the audience they have in mind.  Give it a go!

No matter the type of library, there is bound to be a need for subject guides.  If traditional subject guides aren’t for your patrons or colleagues, think outside the box and try something new.  I hope to one day create a “behind the scenes” dashboard guide for our student workers to use.  Ideally, it will have training modules, schedules and contact information, as well as expected tasks or duties for each shift.  What innovative ideas do you have for using LibGuides or a similar product?

-Dee

Professional Development on a Budget

Professional Development on a Budget

If you’re like me, opportunities to attend conferences and other professional development events are a pretty rare occurrence.  For one thing, I work at a very small, private institution.  I have a very odd job description (read: I have A LOT of responsibilities), including all “systems” activities, as well as all reference and instruction classes for the university, and the ever present “other duties as assigned.”  Also, if you read my February post, you’ll remember that my university, and subsequently my library, was heavily damaged when our campus sustained a direct hit from a tornado on January 21st of this year.  (We’re recovering quite well, by the way!)  So… for reasons beyond my control, it isn’t feasible for me to be away from the office.

Long story short: travel and spending isn’t an option right now, BUT I find other ways to make sure I’m working on professional development and growth.  One thing I really enjoy is finding free recorded webinars that I can complete on my own time.  You can find them on just about anything; topics include technical services, reference, information literacy, customer service, collection development, programming, and just about anything else.

Today, I thought I’d share just a few of my favorite resources for free webinars:

I think webinars sometimes get a bad rap, but I personally really enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to learn from others what they are doing in their own libraries and about up and coming trends in library land without breaking the budget.  Being able to complete them on my own time is well worth the wait for the recording, rather than attending in real time because I rarely get to begin and finish any task without interruption.  There are tons of resources out there beyond the ones I’ve provided, so don’t be afraid to get out there and Google your specific webinar needs.

Happy developing!
-Dee

Infographics

Infographics

Let’s talk about infographics!  Infographics are great way to get a message across with visual interest.  I especially like to use infographics when I teach library instruction classes.  I find that if I can give my students handouts highlighting the key points of our discussion, they pay more attention and are more interactive throughout the class.  I suspect this is because they aren’t frantically trying to write down everything I say.  I’ve also learned that it’s important how the information is presented.  When I first began teaching instruction classes, I gave my students WAY too much information.  Trust me, they aren’t going to read a packet full of library information.  They might even leave it sitting on the table when they leave.  (Ouch!)   However, they will almost always take a cool infographic with them.

If you’ve read my past posts, you probably know I’m a huge fan of Canva.  Canva is my “go to” when it comes to anything graphic design related.  It’s easy for me, a non-designer, to create a great looking graphic with this program.  Simply choose the infographic template option and start designing.

I’ll mention a couple more options for you if you’re ready to create your first infographic: Piktochart and Venngage.  Piktochart is specifically made for the design of infographics, meaning you can get a little more sophisticated with your layout than with Canva.  You can sign up for free and accomplish just about anything you’d like in a graphic.  Their support and tutorials are fantastic, and I can’t really tell you anything they haven’t already covered.  I suggest you just jump right in and get your feet wet.  Here’s a quick overview of their product.  Once you start playing around, you’ll notice the layout is very similar to Canva. Continue reading “Infographics”