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

Nightmare on GoogleApps Script

Nightmare on GoogleApps Script

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!

-Cas

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”

Digital Trust

I just bought a new house. New house + new job = late blog post. For that, I’m TERRIBLY sorry. On the positive side, I had a very interesting conversation today, which has inspired this post. A gentleman named Jeffrey Ritter, a professor at Oxford and self-proclaimed digital information expert, came by my reference desk, as everyone does, looking for resources. While we talked about various things, the thing I thought would be great for this post was the idea of achieving digital trust.*

The idea centers around overcoming the initial skepticism around any new technology. How do you get business men to trust a fax of a signed document? How do you get lawyers and courts to accept e-signatures and e-filing? Obviously we have moved passed the skepticism on these issues, but emerging technology always faces that initial wall of skepticism before people will accept it as reliable.

This is different from Malcolm Gladwell‘s tipping point, which is more about predicting wide spread adoption than trust. However, achieving digital trust can necessary for a new innovation to pass the tipping point. I cannot say I know the answer or that I have a complete grasp on the issue. Our conversation was not that long or that in depth. What I can say is that I’m curious. I want to explore this idea. I want to learn more. I wanted to share this new, at least to me, topic of interest, because if you’re reading this blog, you might find it interesting as well.

What are your thoughts?

-Cas

*He wrote a book on this. I’m not writing this blog as a plug, so if you are interested, you can do a quick google search and look more into him and his book.

#CareyStrong

#CareyStrong

I’m going to deviate from our typical posts today to share something personal with our readers.

As many of you know, a string of devastating storms swept through the southeast a little over a week ago.  The beautiful campus and surrounding community where I work took a direct hit from an F3 tornado early Saturday morning, January 21st.  The damage is truly heartbreaking.  All buildings on William Carey University’s Hattiesburg, Mississippi campus sustained damage, many severe and some beyond repair.

It was very emotional to return to campus and see the damage in person.  It was even more emotional to clean my desk out in the library and start the salvage/preservation process with some of our special collections materials.  Thankfully, most of our collection will be salvaged.  There’s no doubt that William Carey will come back stronger and better.  Our university lost an entire campus to Hurricane Katrina, so unfortunately, this isn’t our first rodeo.  That being said, we have pretty strong disaster protocols in place.  However, we couldn’t do it alone.  I can’t thank our neighboring university (and my Alma mater!), the University of Southern Mississippi enough.  They have gone above and beyond to house our students, set up classrooms and labs, and provide library access.

While the immediate needs of our students have been met, financial assistance will be needed to help out with textbooks, computers, clothing, vehicle repair, and the like.  If you’re interested in helping our students and/or campus, please visit the William Carey University Office of Advancement donation page.

Also, please don’t forget our surrounding community.  This tornado tore an approximate 25-mile path through Hattiesburg and Petal, Mississippi, following close to the same path as an F4 tornado which devastated our area almost exactly four years ago.  Numerous families and businesses are suffering major damage for the second time.  Various relief efforts are listed in this article from the Clarion-Ledger.

#CareyStrong,
Dee

 

Keep it private

Keep it private

As part of starting my new job, I had to set up my new computer. Doing this always reminds me of the things I take for granted. The set up of my desktop, the icons pinned to my taskbar, and the extensions on my browser. However, the shake up in my complacency also made me reevaluate what privacy measures I’m taking. I did some research, and while not a ton has changed, there are some new developments. So, for this short post, I give you a annotated list of privacy extensions, apps, and programs you should know about if you don’t already.

Privacy badger – A browser extension created by EFF that blocks third party cookies.

HTTPS: Everywhere – Another browser extension created by the good folks at EFF. This one makes sure that your communication with major sites is encrypted using https regardless of whether the site defaults to http. Continue reading “Keep it private”

OptimalWorkshop.com

OptimalWorkshop.com

It’s the beginning of a new year, and for many it marks a time of change.  While we’re busy making resolutions in our personal lives, it’s also a good time to evaluate our libraries as well.  I like to begin the new year by thoroughly organizing my desk and prioritizing any ongoing and forthcoming projects.  Just like our desks and the library shelves need a little tidying up sometimes, so do our websites.  If one of your library’s resolutions is to create a clutter free,user-friendly website, consider using Optimal Workshop to get started.

Optimal Workshop consists of several user experience tools to help you organize your website with your users in mind.  I’ll highlight three in this post.  Focusing on user experience (UX) to me means giving our patrons a usable, desirable library website.  In other words, I want to give them what they are looking for without making them think about it.  Usability is only part of the user experience, but it is a very important part.  For an excellent (and entertaining) review of website usability, read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.

In order for a site to be usable, the navigation must be instinctive and as concise as possible.  If a patron visits your website to use a database, they will probably look for something that says “Databases” or “Research.”  If your databases are located in the “About Us” section, chances are some people will miss them.  Optimal Workshop has two tools to help with your navigation, Treejack and OptimalSort. Continue reading “OptimalWorkshop.com”

OpenCon 2016: Part Two

The last major focus for OpenCon was Open Education. Open education is about opening lecture notes, assignments, and creating and using open textbooks. With dwindling budgets, states scrambling to find qualified teachers in an ever dwindling pool, and teachers burning out on a daily basis, open education should have a brighter spotlight. Using open textbooks can save schools and college students a great deal of money. Open lecture notes and assignments helps often overworked teachers and new teachers save time by not having to build each class from scratch and lessening preparation time at home.  Continue reading “OpenCon 2016: Part Two”

OpenCon 2016: Part One

OpenCon 2016: Part One

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending OpenCon thanks to a gracious sponsorship from my institution, the University of Arizona. What is OpenCon? It is a small three-day conference of researchers, entrepreneurs, librarians, and others, where attendees learn about open access, open data, and open education through a series of keynotes, panels, and workshops (called unconference sessions) that finalizes in a day of advocacy. That sentence makes it seem like an overwhelming amount of information to pack into a short few days, and it was. It would make for a very long post, so I’m going to spread the information over two posts.  Continue reading “OpenCon 2016: Part One”

PrintFriendly

PrintFriendly

Personally, I have a hard time reading on the web for very long.  Often times when I find an interesting article or blog post, I’ll print it out and stick it in my planner or somewhere on my desk to read later.  It may be a bit archaic, nonetheless that’s my method.  If you’ve ever printed anything from the web, you know it usually looks terrible.  There are typically numerous ads and a lot of “junk” that have nothing to do with the actual content of the webpage.  PrintFriendly makes printing pages from the web a little less painful, and you can feel good about helping the environment in the process.

All you do is enter the URL of the page you want to print:

printfriendly

And voila! You have the option to edit the suggested PrintFriendly preview to include things like relevant charts and graphs if they were removed or delete parts you don’t need.  When you’re satisfied you can print or save the edited page as a .pdf file.

This tool is particularly helpful in the library when you are trying to help your patrons save on printing costs or if you need to enlarge text for the visually impaired.

Bonus: There’s a browser tool you can add, as well as a code builder if you want to add a print friendly button on one of your own website pages.  And it’s all free!

-Dee