When I was in the Army, there was a surprising amount of focus on the presentation of the intelligence we gathered. In the beginning, I was frustrated. I was young and could not imagine why it mattered so much that our presentation to the higher-ups had to be as clear and simplified as possible. It seemed like a waste of valuable time. I remained skeptical until I started comparing our work to that of some of the other units. It became blatantly obvious how well-manicured presentation of information can help inform the reader quickly and effectively. Since then, I fell in love with the process of synthesizing information into presentable formats.
In my current job, that has translated into learning to use Tableau Public. It is free. It is flexible. And it is powerful. It allows you to visualize data by dragging certain elements into the worksheet. The best part of Tableau is the video tutorial library. The community is helpful, but when you are starting out, the tutorials are priceless for understanding how to take advantage of Tableau flexibility.
The HUGE limitation is the lack of private storage options. If you use the free versions, your choices are to start from scratch later or save information publically to cloud community. If privacy is an issue for you, you can take the hard road, make graphics and clip the images for use in different apps. You won’t be able to manipulate the graphic later, but once you get used to using the program, retracing your steps will often not be terrible.
Another interesting option for pumped-up visuals is Vengage. It is not as powerful as Tableau, but it has infographic templates to model yours after and myriad options for visuals. The free version maxes out at 5 infographics. Depending on your needs, that may be enough. Often, because of my desire to tinker and limited budget, I often find myself bouncing between programs I have access to in order to take advantage of each ones particular strength (e.g., Publisher’s set to transparent feature, Powerpoint’s fill a shape with image options, or Canva’s free elements). It can be a bit taxing, but it can create great results.
I’ve gotten better at creating visuals that tell a story, but it takes a good deal of practice. I’ve learned the most by keeping an eye out for impressive visuals and analyzing their components. Hopefully, these tools can help you tell a story you need to tell.
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”→
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”→
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?
Sometimes you have to step away from a problem to better be able to tackle it. I have been wrestling with my google apps script for weeks. After that last post, I put it away for a bit, but apparently not long enough. I had a goal: create a form using Google Apps Script that uploaded files and the recorded the information submitted. Seems simple enough.
But the difficulty was my fault, not the code. My brain didn’t formulate the problem the way I phrased it above. My brain had already decided how we were going to solve the problem. So I spent weeks playing with the code so that I had a form that uploaded a file to Google Drive, imported information into a Google Sheet, and sent an email that there was a new submission.
If it isn’t obvious by now, I often take projects that force me to learn new things. This was not one of those times. As part of some committee work, I agreed to help build a form for member submissions to a social media platforms run by the organization (e.g. submit your twitter or blog post here!).
It seemed straight forward, until I realized Google Forms doesn’t have an upload option on the free version. Ok. So I went on to search other options. I found that many people used a combo of Google’s Drive and GoogleApps Script to code a Google Forms-esque upload form. I copied the code to my personal drive, and womp! It would not run, even in its initial iteration. I would just get a blank screen.
To be completely honest with everyone, I’m still not completely sure why the code would not work for me. I was sure it was an ID10-T user error, but after sending my sysadmin friend a video of what I was doing, he was stumped as well. It was working for him. He could run it with no issues, and it seemed like I was doing all the same things he was doing. After about an hour of tinkering, which left me with a deep desire to flip my desk, I closed the window to revisit later.
Later has not quite come yet; I started this project only four days ago. This post is a testament that using tech is never all success without complication. It’s completely ok to fail or hit a set-back. This is why you start things a month before they are due (take that procrastination brain). I’m jumping back into it today, hopefully. Expect a follow-up post once I get the code to submit, but for now, happy tinkering!
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”→