Monthly Archives: January 2013

On making friends


When I moved into my office and started opening drawers and moving things to the storage room, I found a huge bag of peppermint candies. I mean, HUGE. I had no idea how long it had been there, but I knew for sure that it would take me approximately 10.4 years to eat them all myself. I closed the drawer and only opened it sporadically to placate sugar cravings I couldn’t ignore.

At one point my grandmother had given me a nice, copper colored pumpkin. It was big and heavy and had a handle and a jack-o-lantern face. Not being a person who can effectively say no to her grandma, and also not being a person who does much holiday decorating, I brought it to the office and plunked it on my desk around Halloween. It looked empty, so I dumped the peppermints into the pumpkin. Every now and then, a student who came to my office for help would ask if they could have a peppermint. “Of course!” I said. “That’s what they’re there for!”

Halloween passed the the pumpkin looked out of place, so I turned out the peppermints onto my desk and decided to bring something else to work to hold them. Well, I forgot. I kept forgetting, and the pile of peppermints on my desk was pretty conspicuous. Soon, traffic increased. Students would come into my office for a quick chat and a peppermint. Students looking for help would often leave with a handful. Even faculty and staff started stopping by when they spotted the pile in the window. They would carefully comment on the size of the pile with subtle undertones questioning my sanity, but they always left with a peppermint and a smile. We would chat, and they would remember me.

Yesterday I gave a number of library orientation workshops for students new to the college this semester. In one session, as I was explaining the location of my office a student interrupted to ask, “Is you office the one with the huge pile of mints?” And today, a student interrupted me while I was on the phone to ask if she could have a mint. While I could take issue with execution of basic manners by interrupting someone on the phone to ask for candy, I can’t deny the steady parade of people through my office.

I’m at a loss to explain why my most effective outreach effort to date is an accident involving a massive and well-placed quantity of undated peppermint candies. I mean, I don’t even think peppermints are particularly desirable as candy, or maybe that’s just my bias. I’m guessing that the size of the pile, now quite diminished but truly remarkable in its heyday, and the visibility of my office had something to do with it. People come just to say, “Wow. That’s a lot of peppermints.” Whatever the reason, I’m not sure I can take credit but I’m definitely grateful.


face plant

This is me on a self-imposed crash course in Photoshop. Oh, the possibilities! Oh, the fun! Oh, the faceplants. Ctrl Z is my friend.

I’ve been teaching myself InDesign and Photoshop for no good reason except my own personal curiosity and standards. I’ve been fascinated for a long time with form and function, effectiveness of design, and elegant solutions to problems. Also, I can be particular about stuff, and learning these programs allows me express my particularness in very particular ways.

It started last winter with poster design. For example, this poster was created for a conference based on my work with the University Musical Society. When I started this job, one of my goals was to publicize our LibQual results from this year. Based on my experience, and as a way to model poster design for our students who must create one as part of their Capstone projects, I chose to create a big, conference-sized poster at the front of the library. When I sat down to make the poster in September, it turned out that I remembered almost nothing about InDesign. This was probably a good thing, as I knew that I was using it in the most amateur-ish, ugly, inexperienced way possible. Better I forgot everything.  So I decided to learn how to use it for real, and let me tell you, it’s quite the process.

LibQual poster

Luckily, I’ve been taking advantage of the subscription to Lynda that is available to me through the Northern New York Library Network. The tutorials are great and useful, but they’re more focused on the traditional uses of InDesign for books, magazines, order forms, etc. What I’m looking to do is a bit more free form. I’m finding it nearly as effective to work until I come up against a specific problem and then just Google the problem. It’s a cumbersome method, sifting through search results and cobbling together pieces and parts from tutorials to accomplish what I want to do, but it is effective in a sledgehammer-y way.

I do enjoy a challenge, even when it occasionally leaves me faceplanted in my desk at the end of the day.