Not Your Normal Librarian

It’s been an amazing year at Briar Cliff. I started here in July 2010 as the Reference and Instruction Librarian, and in July 2011 became the Director of Educational Technology. This is due in large part to having a wonderful library director and incredibly good timing. A quick rundown of things that have happened over the past several months:

Fall 2010

  • the library started checking out iPads
  • started the casual discussion series Let’s Talk

Spring 2011

  • launched an iPad Pilot with 30 faculty member volunteers
  • trained Education and Nursing students in using WordPress as an online portfolio
  • created a task force for staff and faculty to start evaluating LMS alternatives to replace Angel

Summer 2011

  • trained 25 more faculty on the iPad

Fall 2011

  • deployed over 400 iPads to students
  • led a Faculty In-Service on technology training topics, with mini-sessions from our early adopter faculty members

A lot has happened in one short year. We have a new Reference and Instruction Librarian now who brings a whole wonderful set of mad skills into the mix. We have a coffee shop in the library’s lobby for the first time. The campus has switched to a semester calendar rather than terms, and we have students from the Writing Center doing their evening hours in the Library – which has been a goal for the library for a long time.

When I think about how much everyone has accomplished in the last 14 months, I am astounded. When I think about how much my own job has changed I’m downright dizzy.

This semester started out a little strange since Mark and I had to be out of the country when classes started. I’m also trying out a very different schedule: I’m working Mondays to Thursdays from about 10 am to 8 pm. “About” means I actually arrive much earlier but the upside to these long days is that I don’t come in at all on Fridays. I wanted to try out a schedule like this in hopes of being available for the widest range of people on campus. I set my “office hours” as 4pm to 8pm – a time when anyone with iPad or classroom tech questions can come find me and get some answers. The 4pm to 8pm window straddles the time from faculty getting out of their last classes to the evening students arriving for their night classes and the on-campus students start pouring into the library for their late night study time. If I had the stamina to stay up later, I would probably get far more questions between 9pm and midnight, but 8pm is already pushing my bedtime.

I have to admit, the evening hours have been more productive than I expected. I often have a regular stream of questions from both students and faculty, and when I don’t have a visitor I can get more catch-up work done because most staff and faculty go home by 6. Most of my daytime hours are spent answering questions on the phone, in email or going to people’s offices to show them how to do something. I love all this. It feels like That Thing I’m good at. But there is always more to do, too, and it’s very easy to feel very behind. I’m also seeing an unexpected benefit in having more morning hours at home. I’m starting to set a routine of waking up, writing for at least half an hour, reading some RSS articles and with the arrival of our brand new treadmill, I’m even able to squeeze in a work out, which I am absolutely ecstatic about. These things never happened after work even when I was leaving at 4:30. Typical work days leave me wiped out by the end of the day so why not make it the true end of the day? So far, being personally productive in the morning is far more successful than it ever was in the evening.

Next up – I want to set up some specific workshops (the persistent challenge – when will people come?) and find a way to reach out to more students. I’m hoping we can have a couple longer faculty workshops during the J-Term. In the spring it would be great if we could start beta testing a couple learning management system options and Google Apps.

The biggest change I want to make is creating a culture of ongoing professional development across the campus. One of the long workshops I would love to do would cover Getting Things Done and the most basic elements of project management wrapped up in a package to help employees with time management, productivity, and communication. That’s a huge goal and I have to keep reminding myself that it won’t happen with one workshop. I have to figure out a way to incorporate these elements a little bit at a time until they seem second nature. If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear about them!


Library Day in the Life: Day 3

Wednesday 1/25/2011

Had just enough time in the morning to send out some belated email responses before the entire library crew (there are 4 of us full-time) packed into a car for a field trip to see the University of South Dakota’s new Academic Commons.  Don’t worry, we had trusty students working the desk while we were away.

USD is only about 45 minutes from Sioux City, and we counted ourselves very lucky when we heard they had just completed a collaboration / renovation of sorts.  We spent about an hour touring the new spaces and a couple hours talking with the Dean of Libraries and other staff members about the changes, the process, and the challenges.  We came away with very valuable information and insights.

We got back to our campus in the middle of the afternoon, with all sorts of email waiting.  Before I had a chance to even touch that, our IT partner came over and we talked about how to present our ideas to the Board of Trustees on Friday (gasp and woo hoo).

While we were gone, we had the pleasant surprise of being included on the campus tour distribution list – which means that whenever a tour of prospective students comes through the Library, a library staff person will give a 3-minute schpiel about what we offer.  This is something we had talked about but didn’t expect to happen quite so soon, but librarians are all about rolling with whatever comes.  I’m hoping to catch up with the tour coordinator next week when she’s back from vacation and explain the magic of using a shared calendar over several emails a day.

At the last minute, we had a flurry of reference questions — one of which was about Rucker Park in Brooklyn.  It’s amazing to me how very broad and very focused the topics we get can be.

Library Day in the Life: Day 2

01/25/2011 – Tuesday

Day in the Life of a Librarian

Flipped throug the “bestsellers” catalog for our leased collection of popular fiction and nonfiction … reminded myself not to do such depressing stuff first thing in the morning. Managed to pick out a couple books in the end. If I think the App Store is full of junk, I should look at the Bestselling Books.

Updated apps on the iPads. Discoverd a popular writing app had drastically dropped in price and snatched that puppy up.

Sent out an email to other iPad users on campus … asked about starting a users group and mentioned the iA Writers app price drop.

Jeepers. Ate my 3 cookies already and it’s only 9:15.

Answered emails about the iPad user group question — conclusion all around seemed to be that our best bet was a website where we could all post any questions or tips, since no one has time for any more meetings.

Did some email troubleshooting with a campus partner who uses iPads for their instructors — they were looking for a way to easily get iWork files into Dropbox from the iPad. We found two potential solutions: DropDAV ( ) and Send to Dropbox ( ). I tried Send to Dropbox first, but it seems the servers are too overloaded. Fortunately, there is also this list, including a few other similar services: .

Once again, Twitter answered a question for me — I asked about estimates for consultant fees and very soon had a direct message from an excellent librarian far away who told me about her library’s experience. My library is hoping to bring in someone to help us evaluate our collection with an eye toward massive deselection, but we needed a ballpark figure for the budget we were scrambling to put together. Fun times!

Later in the day, my director and I decided to go storm the IT office so we could get some feedback from our IT partner before sending out our proposal document to the campus admin. Turns out our dear partner had a really bad morning but pretty soon we had the converstaion rolling and got some really good suggestions.

I quickly made the changes back at the library before running out again to the Let’s Talk session – which, I am delighted to report, had the highest attendance yet! And the funny thing is, it had the theme “Household Gadgets” with the intention that we would all figure out at least one cool thing about our respective gadget … but the only gadgets people brought were the iPads so it became primarily a Q&A about those, which is fine with me. It was a terrific discussion, and I think we all learned something — either about a cool website, or a resource, or even free text messaging. I’m looking forward to more talks like this.

Library Day in the Life: Day 1

01/24/2011 – Day 1 of Library Day in the Life

Working Noon to 8pm today since it’s my turn at evening reference. Spent the morning putting together a short proposal outline with graphics for a big transformation project that the library and campus IT are working on together. Emailed it out to fellow editors… waited impatiently for feedback.

Got to work at 11am since I couldn’t take the waiting anymore. Quickly answered some emails and in so doing, scheduled a Skype call between an iPad-in-education guru in Scotland and the head of our campus IT. Sweet!

Walked around one of the target renovation areas of the library with my director, pointing at shelves and ceilings, and saying “Oh my…” several times.

Reviewed several articles and blog posts read last week relevant to the projects we have coming up — Lorcan Dempsey’s post about collections ( ), the Educause Learning Spaces book ( ), and OCLC’s NextSpace issue on ROI for 2020 (not on their website yet).

Added batch of new books to our WorldCat list and tags; most of them were Critical Insights – discovered that the link to SalemPress doesn’t show up in our Local WorldCat, only in the old catalog … someday we will be able to afford the OPAC we need.

Sent out a friendly reminder about the “Let’s Talk” session for Tuesday — this is a bi-weekly casual conversation series that I set up last semester for folks on campus to talk about any techie topics that might be on their mind. It’s had really good feedback from faculty and staff who *want* to go but also rather low attendance (maybe 3 – 6 people). This semester I’m trying a different time slot in hopes it will be easier for folks to participate.

Answered a question from our sister campus on the other side of the state about resources for their online instructors. I find that whenever I send out an email to all employees, I get at least 2 or 3 emails back on completely unrelated subjects. It’s like just seeing a librarian’s name reminds people of questions they want to ask. I find that fascinating.

Read through the summary report of local survey findings on faculty attitudes toward technology. We are lucky to have a very intelligent person for campus assessment and she’s fun to work with, too. Hoping to pick her brain about measurement tools for the library as we move ahead on big projects that require plenty of supporting data.

Talked with IT head about possible grant sources for our big collaboration venture / library remodel. Did some scheduling / juggling of phone calls and meetings. Finally tracked down a couple printing extensions for Google Chrome after repeatedly “printing” ugly PDFs. Why no print preview? Why?  Thanks to Twitter, found a couple Chrome extensions that partly fill that void.

Checked out a couple of our new books because I can’t help myself.

Worked all evening with the library director on our proposal document, editing meticulously in hopes of getting it right. Both of us really wishing we had other people to bounce it off of. Specifically, people who know what the college president is looking for. Went home and half-watched the first episode of Dollhouse while recreating and tweaking a graphic to explain how staff of the Library and IT Center will overlap with the new collaboration model we’re working on.

Give me templates

As I get things ready for our new staff member’s orientation, I am realizing how very helpful it would be to have templates of a lot of our documents.  For example, when we need a schedule hand-out created we could just give the schedule template and the spreadsheet of event information and anyone in the office could then put together a hand-out that looks consistent with our other hand-outs.  But creating templates takes time and that is a precious commodity right now.

We’re also getting ready for a planning meeting this afternoon to wrap up the details on the China program.  Only a week away!

Prep prep prep

Yesterday I did prepping for this and that. Coral got our last minute questions ready for today’s meeting. I got projects prepped for the student intern, and I’m getting things organized to start working on the fall program once the China program is over. Of course, we could always do much more prep but there is only so much time.

Back in the office

Back from my semi-vacation to find out we’re getting a student intern after all!  Exciting!  Drafting up a project plan for the 10 weeks the student will be with us and hoping the student won’t be too bored.

Getting things confirmed for the day with the City.  Got a couple more pieces of info for scheduling of the Fall Associates Program.

Meetings about meetings

A lot of loose ends have been wrapped up this week.  We had a good meeting on Wednesday – figured out who’s driving where when and settled on a food provider for most of the meals.  Also have a great outline shaping up for the day with the City.  Sent out emails to all the speakers asking for their PowerPoint files since we’ll need the interpreters to look over them beforehand.

This afternoon a couple of us went over to the Levis Faculty Center to plan out the Opening — we’ll have the group photo outside by the fountain, or on the 2nd floor couches if weather is bad.  Social time will be on the 2nd floor patio, followed by Ceremony with the screen showing a slideshow.  Then downstairs for dinner.  Excellent, excellent.  I think this will work out much better for photos.

Early Birds

The program for the Chinese library directors is about three weeks away and we’re running up on the time when a lot of the details need to be settled and confirmed.  Invitations are getting sent out, speakers are double-checked, making our lists and checking them twice… at least.  Still waiting to hear exactly how many visitors we have in the program… at least ten, but maybe eleven?

The Where and How

Last couple days have been about transportation and location.  The vehicles we wanted to get from the campus pool are already reserved so we have to come up with a different plan that will still be within budget.  Also, the building originally picked out for the Opening Ceremony is too expensive and has a high school dance the same night as our ceremony.  So that’s out.  On to Plan B at many levels.