Monthly Archives: February 2014

Link Friday

design on paper

Designing digitally uses a lot more paper than you might expect.

Here are some informative/fun links for your Friday viewing pleasure.

This short blog post on how to read a book in two hours gives lots of practical advice for reading for content. The emphasis on understanding the argument could be useful for teaching undergrads how to get into scholarly reading.

Relatedly, argument mapping could be all kinds of fun and interesting to do in a class.

And speaking of reading, that font is giving me lots of feelings. A good reminder of why design matters.

I always wondered when Americans lost their British accents.

Facebook is hiding things from you, and it makes me wonder how much longer we will feel like a library Facebook page is something we should be doing.

An excellent downloadable To Do List from Char Booth. I typically use quarter sheets of paper as my brain dump of choice. I’m thinking about upgrading to something like this that makes me look a little more organized.

How to politely say no is a lesson we should probably all take. Special shout out to musicians and other creatives who often get asked to work for free.

Crazy beautiful.

This is pretty much how I feel about the tablet market since always, which is why I don’t own one.

What font are you? I’m Courier. Figures.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Design without tears


I heard about Canva in two places in the last week. As I am currently doing the Sunday Librarian thing, I decided to spend some time playing around with it. Above you see a minimally altered example of the kind of thing you can do with Canva. You sign up for a free account and then have the ability to work a number of different options for specific, pre-made sizes or you can customize your own. For each size, there are different templates you can use and alter or you can disregard the templates entirely and put together one of your own using backgrounds and images from Canva. It’s a freemium service. You can access lots of great stuff without paying, but for more involved layouts and images you must pay $1.00 per element for each time you use it. Then you can download or link to the images and they are also saved with your account. There’s the option to share with Twitter and Facebook, bien sur.

I think the strengths in Canva for librarians are probably for infographic-type posters, flyers, and images for presentations. Although I don’t put loads of effort into my everyday Powerpoint presentations, I can see myself leaning heavily on Canva for professional presentations to pull together an eye-catching, memorable talk. Canva could also be great for other non-library things: blog icons, invitations, Christmas cards, and other design-y things that you may want to look great but not have to pay someone else to do for you.

Another great service similar to Canva but for photo editing is PicMonkey. You can do a lot of basic photo editing with it, and it also has options for adding some fun to photos. Behold, the fun I had last Halloween editing myself into a Cherry Pie Vampire:


While I do love me some old school design fun, I’m not one to turn up my nose at these great, fun services to take some of the learning curve out of getting me what I want. I’ll definitely be making use of Canva and PicMonkey in the future.

30 minute citation class

Attribution chart from Austin Kleon's new book Show Your Work.

Attribution chart from Austin Kleon’s new book Show Your Work.

Here’s the outline for the citation class I was having trouble wrapping around my head. It is based on this idea from Iris Jastrom. This little workshop was at the request of a 300-level Canadian Studies class that wanted me to cover MLA and APA citation. I prepped handout packets for small groups to examine in the activity. I used one each of book, journal, and newspaper in order to bring up more questions of what kind of information is valuable to a citation. The class lasted about 25-30 minutes.

Citation has many goals. Avoiding plagiarism is only one of these goals and the least interesting reason to cite. These goals have to do with the fact that writing is inherently communicative, and communication happens primarily within a community of inquiry (a group of people interested in and questioning the same kinds of things).

Why do we cite? Here students brainstorm ideas that I type up on a blank Powerpoint slide for why we cite which can include but are not limited to:
  • to share information
  • to join a scholarly conversation.
  • to reflect the careful work you have put into locating and exploring your sources
  • to help readers understand the context of your argument
  • to help people who may share interests find more information
  • to give credit to the authors and ideas that have inspired your work
  • to illustrate your own learning process
  • to participate in your community of inquiry
There are three interlinked rules that all citation styles strive for:
  • Rule of Least Confusion (get your readers to exactly what you want them to see)
  • Rule of Brevity (Accomplish the first rule as succinctly as possible)
  • Rule of Readability (Think of it like a code.)
EXERCISE: Working in groups, look at these three articles and build your own citation style that fulfills the three rules of citation and that reflects the values of the “community of inquiry” that is your class. Report back what you decided to include, exclude, and why. Questions to consider: What pieces of information does your community value? What pieces of information would you need to find these sources on your own?

Comparing MLA and APA
The pieces you choose to include reflect the things your community considers to be important. These things might be different depending on the kind of material we’re using. Can you tell which of these citations is a book and which is an article? Bonus points if you can tell me which citation style this is. How do you know? MLA is designed specifically for the humanities, such as languages and literature. You notice that the author’s full name is used and the date appears late in the citation. This style considers who wrote it and the title of the article to be the most important pieces of information. This is because most work in the humanities isn’t time sensitive and is focused instead on the people doing the work and their ideas. APA highlights authors and dates. It is used by the sciences where information is very time sensitive.  Consider a book on climate change from the 1970s or a computer instruction manual from the 1980s.

Where do I find help?
This is where I talk about the citation page on the library website, the books on permanent reserve, and the ability of the databases (if you’re looking for articles ) to cite automatically. I always give a caveat about the database citation feature because I regularly find errors in the citations they produce such as titles in caps lock or no spaces after periods. I tell students that the auto cite feature can help them get to a perfect citation but that they will just want to double check that everything looks standard before handing in their papers.

In the sense that the professor was very pleased, the class was quite successful. 30 minutes is a long time to hold attention on citation, and by the time I left class, the students were ready to move on. I think the exploratory activity was a great way to get students to consider a standard of academia that they probably had never examined before. This would probably work even better in a lower level class without such preconceived notions on that is “correct” in citation. I will probably tweak this again the next time I teach citation, but I’m glad to find an approach that satisfies my need to do something more than talk and wave my hands in class. I’d like to incorporate the attribution chart at the top of the post, too. It’s visual and neatly sums up everything.

Marketing in real life

Between the trees by subadei, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  subadei 

In my last post I mentioned that I wanted to read more about the work of librarianship – the on-the-ground, day-to-day, how-do-you-do-that kinds of stuff. If that’s what I want to read, then that’s probably what I should write. So, as a follow up to gaining confidence in marketing, here’s what the campaign to get the word out about OverDrive looks like in my library.

Firstly, I skimmed through portions of Brian Mathew’s book Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students. I’d read it cover-to-cover before, but Chapter 8 Promotional Building Blocks was particularly helpful in identifying the different avenues I might choose for this project. Then, I familiarized myself with OverDrive’s self-produced marketing materials.

I made a list of the different places I wanted my message to appear and then assigned those places to particular weeks in the semester. So, for example:

Week 1

  • The Thinker (our monthly bathroom newsletter.)
  • Bookmarks and Getting Started guides next to circulation
  • Image to library webpage carousel

Week 2

  • Directed emails to campus community
  • Table tents. I used the other side of the table tent to promote another program. Waste not, want not.
  • Library news feed blog. Appears on the library webpage and also on Facebook.

Week 3

  • Facebook

For all of these things, I either directly used the materials provided by OverDrive or slightly modified them while still using the same imagery and language in order to preserve recognition. Having access to OverDrive’s materials made things much less time consuming than it could have been. I did have to design the table tents on my own, which, as with any formatting challenge, took longer than anticipated. I made a simple two-sided, tall triangle out of regular printer paper. Next time, I’ll look into doing a three-sided, round-ish table tent and possibly use cardstock. The ones I made for this are pretty flimsy.

I could have kept going, printing flyers and large posters, etc. but I don’t want to overwhelm the community with the message. Plus, I’ll be promoting other services and programs over the course of the semester and I don’t want to exhaust my allies. I’ve planted the seeds, and I’ll check in regularly with our statistics to see what’s happening. Throughout the semester, I might post book suggestions to our Facebook page, and I’ll make sure to refresh the message for the summer travel season.

The meaning in the pattern


When I was learning to code, I started to recognize a pattern. I’d work and work and get 80% of the way to functional code. Then, I’d run into a problem I couldn’t work my way around. I knew what I needed the code to do. I knew what needed to happen afterwards. I didn’t know how to overcome the obstacle. I’d stew and research. I’d go back over the code and re-read the textbook over and over. Nothing worked. Then, I’d complain to a friend, explain what the problem was and how I couldn’t do fix it, and suddenly, before the friend could make any steps to help, the answer would appear fully formed inside my own head. Telling someone else I had a problem was integral to my ability to solve it myself, even when the other person did absolutely nothing besides listen.

In that vein, thank you for listening to me complain about teaching citation. I have found a solution, or at least an approach I can make my own. The seed comes from Iris Jastram at Pegasus Librarian. Her approach to the goals of citation is one that I use when I teach citation, namely that the least interesting reason to cite is to avoid plagiarism. We talk about this in class, but I love her approach to getting students active with citation, and I will definitely be trying it out.

I read a lot of blogs in order to keep my head in the librarian game, but a relatively small portion of those blogs deal with the work of librarianship rather than the ideas in librarianship. The ideas are incredibly important, but without the everyday work the ideas mean nothing. I want to see more blogs that talk about successes and failures on the ground in libraries. Here are a few that buoy me: