Thursday, December 28, 2006

5 Things you didn't know about Sarah

Well, Nicole's tag has me taking a brief hiatus from my goes. I...

1. was an exchange student in Scotland during my Sophomore year of college. As a girl away from home for the first time (I lived in the dorms all through college, but said college was only about 30 minutes from my hometown) I learned more from this year than any other time in college, little of it to do with what I did in the classroom. I love the climate, the people, the everything, and I'd love to figure out a way to retire there. During my 1-month-ish backpacking through Europe during the winter break, I also...

2. Attended Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican. While I was a good methodist girl (okay, a lapsed methodist girl) at the time, one of my travel buddies was a catholic, so this was a must see. However, she hadn't known she needed to get tickets from her bishop in advance to get seats, so it was looking like we'd be watching outside on the Jumbotron until some nuns came up, overheard us, and gave us their spare tickets as a christmas present. We tried to give them a donation for their order, but they merely said "Merry Christmas" nicely but forcefully, and disappeared into the crowd. So it came to pass that we had some of the best seats in the house for my first (and most memorable) Catholic Mass. They give those nuns GOOD seats. :-)

3. Hail from the same hometown as Toby Keith--Moore, Oklahoma. Let's just say this isn't exactly a point of personal pride for me and move on to...

4. I nearly became a lawyer. After I lost my telecom marketing gig in 2002, I was working a "pay-the-bills" type of job in social services while I tried to figure out what I wanted to be when i grew up. I took the LSAT and even did fairly well on it, but I just couldn't see that I'd make enough being the type of lawyer I was interested in being to justify law school-sized loans. So I went back to the drawing board. I looked at the master's programs available at local universities, saw the MLIS program, and, well...I suspect you can guess the rest. :-)

5. I'm a HUGE Alton Brown/Good Eats Fan.(aka "Briner")I'm something of a foodie to begin with, and his knack for making complex recipes seem simple have gotten me to regularly make such dishes as Cheesecake, Risotto, Nigiri Sushi (I'm still getting the knack of Rolls), and even my own bread.

So, that's 5 more things you probably didn't know about me! Have a happy rest of 2006, and I'll be back next week with resolutions/predictions in the worlds of LIS and Time Management.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Photos of my final Indexcard Dock & Hiatus

First, head over to my Flickr photo set to take a look at my final(?) implementation of my new 3*5-based GTD system, complete with notes. Input is welcome.

Second--Barring some major news that I can't resist talking about, this is most likely my last post until the New Year. Have a happy winter solstice-related holiday of your choice, drive safely, and remember to put your loved ones first in your next actions lists. See you in 2007! :-)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A day in the life of a Distance Learning Librarian, Part 2

(divided into two posts in order not to choke your bloglines)

Good heavens, I didn't realize I was this productive in a typical day! Three cheers for David Allen! and on to my afternoon...

1:00 Back at my desk (I always leave my office for lunch, even though I usually brown-bag it, for mental health reasons), I blast through my "to-read" folder in outlook (where all of my mailing lists are automatically sent), and then take a quick skim through my LIS-related feeds in bloglines, flagging anything I want to read more closely and/or respond to when I get home that evening.

1:30 (you people write a LOT!)--next up in the deck is a new office supply order. Yes, I DID just receive some supplies that morning--I ALWAYS get requests for things 15 minutes after I put the requisition in the approval queue--it's a law of physics. :-) Band-aids for the first aid kit, some new pens, and index cards get entered into the quote form on the vendor site, which spits out my prices and shipping charge, which I then use to generate a requisition in the purchasing system.

2:00 The afternoon mail came while I was generating the supply request, and with it my purchase order for some more overdue notice forms. I check it against my notes and the screen print of the requisition to make sure everything looks right, and fax the PO to the vendor.

2:15--the next hour or so I take a few login questions via email and phone (random question to the universe: if you're having problems logging into the databases during FINALS, what does that say about your study habits?) while cranking out my holiday cards for my friends at the library, teachers I've done instruction for, and miscellaneous other folks on campus who make my life run smoother. I try to jot a note in most of them, which takes longer but (I hope) makes it a bit more personal. I get everything in the outgoing mail right before the last pickup--life's little victories :-)

3:30--i have a next action to find a good book on networking in the collection, so I fire up the opac and then run upstairs to the main stacks, returning with Diane Darling's "The Networking survival guide" (which I've since started, really like, and will post more about soon!). I check the book out to myself at the circ desk and stick it in my to-read basket.

3:45--The reserve class I took this morning reminded me that we will have to recreate our reserve records from scratch in the new ILS after the migration in march. Trying not to think of the time I spent cleaning out dead records during the last intersession and getting the reserve room in shape, I sit down with my meeting notes and training manual to bang out a draft workflow for the migration project. The best solution is probably to add things to the reserve room as needed for the last 6 weeks of the semester post-migration, and then add in what's left during the may intersession. I suspect we'll have enough on our plates getting used to the new system without trying to re-record 3,000 or so reserve items at the same time. I write up a quick process for on-the-fly reserve additions, note that we need to train the student workers to let our full-time library assistants handle those to ensure quality control, and bang out the outlines of the main migration project plan. I file the plan in my tickler to revisit during go-live, when we'll have a tech onsite to answer questions and make sure our servers don't explode the first time we boot up.

4:15--I probably spent almost 2 hours of my day on purchasing-related activities, and while that's a little on the high side, it isn't atypical either. Until hell freezes over and the library gets an administrative assistant, I'm probably going to be the purchasing person, and I really don't want to spend this much of my time fiddling with office supplies while I watch more interesting things (like a paper I'd like to write with a friend of mine who's a DL librarian in Michigan)go stale in my someday/maybe file. I write my current workflow down in excruciating detail, circle things that could be condensed or deleted, star stuff that could be offloaded to a student worker (like that 20 minutes I spent this morning unloading boxes), and then clip the notes to my reminder card in next friday's tickler slot for my biweekly email to the boss.

4:50--The home stretch! I take a few minutes to skim my to-read folder again, check that I have no inbox items that need screening, and tidy up my desk. My last next action for the day is to grab my binder for the non-profit board I'm on (meeting tonight), and I plop it directly on top of my purse before taking one last look around my desk for rogue cards, file everything where it needs to go, add one errand I brainstormed earlier in the day to my travelling card caddy, and shut down at 5 on the dot. Can't stay late today--got that meeting. (The boss likes us not to stay much after our shift anyway unless neccessary--he's pretty good about making sure we don't burn out :-) )

So...that's it! I must say, typing all that out makes me feel like less of a slacker. How does it compare to YOUR work?

A day in the life of a Distance Learning Librarian

Inspired by Meredith's post on a typical day in her life, I decided to share a "typical day" from last week as well, to highlight how every library is different, but that there are similar issues that all DLLs have to deal with. One note: I really wear three hats at work (this is what happens with 5 F/T librarians and 3 lib. assistants): Distance Learning, Access services, and purchasing. I also handle most front-line IT issues that the front desk staff can't sort out, and even catalog a cart or two of books on occasion when tech services is backed up. Here's my log from last tuesday, which was during our finals week but was still a pretty normal day, all told:


8:00 arrive at the office, turn on computer, eat granola bar, pull my next action cards and today's tickler cards out of my dock, dial into voice mail and grab inbound mail from my inbox in the breakroom while Outlook starts up.

8:05: My morning routine: I do this every morning to keep my desk/brain from exploding--I'm a bit of a foodie so I sort of liken this to a chef getting her mise en place together before the rush starts. It takes about 15 minutes, but it probably saves me an hour of chasing my tail later in the day.

1. Everything work related from my purse, mailbox in the breakroom, notes/books left on my desk by the night shift, voicemails, etc. goes into my inbox.

2. Everything in my physical and virtual inboxes then gets DONE RIGHT THEN (if it'll take less than 2-3 minutes) and trashed/filed as appropriate, or gets added to my card deck as a next action. The inspiring book/printout/email is then either trashed if no longer needed, or filed either on my next action shelf (if a book) or physical/outlook N-A folder. The upshot, I have empty inboxes--if only for 5 minutes. *sigh*

3. I grab some blank cards and do a quick "mindsweep", basically being quiet for a minute and checking if there are any pending tasks in my brain that I haven't captured. Any actions, key thoughts, ideas, or whatever gets jotted down (one item per card), and filed (if not a next action) or added to my next action stack for the day.

4. I check the reference schedule for the day on the shared calendar and set alarms in outlook for the shift(s) I'm on the desk. None today--Woo hoo! Then I look more closely at my own calendar and realize that's because I have a training class for our impending migration to Sirsi Unicorn--starting in 45 minutes!

5. I start my daily log, which is just a card where I jot down the actions I complete through the day--it gives me a good archive of what I accomplished in a day without having to keep a zillion index cards (I easily rip through one to two dozen in a "typical" day...). I send an email to my boss every other friday to let him know the status on all my pending projects, and this makes it easier to recreate the last two weeks of my work life.

6. Last but not least, I take a minute to lay out all my next action cards and sort them by priority-- basically "Do today (in the order i want to get to them)", "try to finish in the next week", and "do whenever". This trumps a to-do list for me because when a new action pops up, all I have to do is jot it onto a card, and shuffle it into the appropriate place on the stack.

8:20--see, I told you that only takes 15 minutes! (it actually took me about twice as long to type as it does to do) Done with my morning routine card that gets added to the log, and the card is filed back in the next action slot in my dock for tomorrow. First up is the list of inactive student accounts due to be purged from the system--I take a glance through to make sure there aren't any mis-entered community borrowers or other accounts that need to be kept, and respond back to our IT Librarian, the awesome Carolyn, that the list looks fine.

8:30--Yesterday after I left our most recent supply order came in, and I unpack the boxes and detail a student to help me move everything to the supply closet. There were a few calendars and other special orders from specific staff members, and those go in their inboxes. I note that we didn't get one of the toners we ordered, so I make a quick call to the vendor, who verifies that the last toner is on order and should be here next week. I make up a quick card to follow up if the toner hasn't arrived in 10 days, file it in the tickler section of my deck for next friday, and add another confirmed kill to the log.

8:45--I got an invoice for a nw UPS for one of the lab computers in the mail this morning, and quickly get my boss's sign-off to close the PO, make copies for the files, and send the invoice and associated paperwork to Accounts Payable. Add Accounts Payable to my christmas card list, which I have working on the side of my desk as I think of people.

8:55--Yipe! time for training! I quickly print out the login information, remind my classmates for this course, and go get us logged into webex to learn about the thrilling world of reserve room management. (did I mention that I'm in charge of reserves too?)

10:15--We were the only people taking today's class, so we covered ground fast and finished our two hour course in a little over one. That left me time to respond to a few panicked emails from distance students regarding database access, run out to the desk to help another student sort out the graph function in excel spreadsheet for her finals project, and then came back to my desk to put a few plays on reserve for the drama class.

11:00--I get another phone call from a distance student, this time with a reference question for her take-home final in business. I walk a tightrope of not giving her the answer straight out (which she's obviously fishing for), and refer her to the statistical abstract for one question and LexisNexis for another.

11:15--Next up is my twice-weekly tickler to do a post to Scattered Librarian. I had slapped a post-it on the card to remind me that I wanted to do a follow-up post on my new card-based organization system. I still liked that story idea, knocked out a quick draft in word, added a few links, and posted the finished article right before a well-earned...


Part two of A Typical Day coming soon...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On Networking

First things first, A confession: Networking makes me uncomfortable.

There, I admitted it. I am always a little nervous the first time I walk into a room of colleagues for the first time, plastering on my fake smile and looking frantically for the 2 or 3 faces I know. But I get out there and do it anyway, even though I don't always feel confident in the process. Fortunately Librarians are pretty much a universally friendly and welcoming bunch, and I can usually insert myself into a conversation without too much fuss.

However, I suspect I could be doing a better job than I am currently in building and maintaining connections, and I know from my previous life in corporate america how important a solid business network can be. Fortunately, today I ran into this great post on businesspundit that discusses how introverts like me (and like most librarians, i suspect) can successfully build business connections.

The points I found most helpful were "At first you have to kiss a lot of frogs", and "don't network just for the sake of networking". While I seem to be somewhat more extroverted than some of my colleagues, I still consider myself an introvert in the Nyers-Briggs sense of the word (I'd much rather be curled up in my chair with a good book than schmoozing at a party, unless I'm in a really good mood). And I used to get disappointed when I didn't "magically" develop an awesome network after one event. You meet a lot of people on the road to building a network, some click with you and some don't. there's nothing wrong with this. Also, you don't need to try to meet someone just to add a tick mark on your "meet 5 new people at X event" to-do list. Focus on people you've heard of, or have read online, or who generally sound interesting, and strike up a conversation with an insightful question or some other thing that will make them interested in you. The cool thing about our field is that this stuff comes naturally to very few of us, which means you're rarely going to run into primadonnas.

After being in this field a little while, I have what might be considered the core of a good network, though it could use some growing yet. But I'm to the point where I have to focus on nurturing those links, especially with out of state contacts I may only see once or twice a year, plus a few comments in their blog. I just sent off a ton of holiday cards, and am thinking about burthday cards as well. However, I also had the good sense to jot down a few interests of many of the people whose cards I've collected over the past two years, mainly as a crib in conversation starting for my feeble mind.

But I now have the beginnings of an interesting little database of my connections' interests, which I might be able to put to good use. For instance when I see an interesting story on Jazz music or whatever, I could tag that in, and then send the link on to my contacts who expressed an interest in Jazz. I'm still sorting out how exactly I want to do this, but I think that It could be a good way to cultivate quality contacts, as opposed to just racking up a list of 500 names in outlook, most of whom wouldn't be able to recognize me if their lives depended on it. I'm still trying to sort this out, and I'd be very interested in the networking tactics others have tried. Suggestions?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Latest on the indexcard migration and a Cool Link

Well, as I mentioned last week, I've adopted a index card organization system that is something of a hybrid between the HipsterPDA and Hawk Sugano's incredibly detailed card dock database. I'm now almost two weeks into the thing, and I LOVE it. My system consists of two main parts:

1: my master dock at work, an old card catalog drawer I found in the storage room. I picked up some sturdy plastic dividers at walgreens, which I use for the following sections:
Next actions
Waiting On
Weekly recurring tasks
This month (both recurring tasks that haven't happened yet for the month--supply inventory and such--as well as one-off tasks that need to occur on or after a specific date)
Next month
Completed Log cards (instead of saving all my completed task cards as Sugano does in his implementation, I jot down completed actions on a card I keep on my desk, which i file at the end of the day)
Reference cards (I use this for meeting summaries, insights I want to capture, project plans, and other stuff. This section is still evolving somewhat.)
Archive: I plan to keep log and reference cards back at least 3-6 months, possibly longer if I have the room for them.

My project master list and someday-maybes still sit on my hard drive, which seems to work okay as I get tickled to review those in my weekly review process. My calendar has stayed in outlook, as I couldn't think of a good reason to change it. non-work appointments also go into the work calendar.

2: The second major part of my system is my little index card case which serves as my repository for @home actions and data. This deck is mostly recurring tasks related to housework/errands/etc. which I created as my own improvization off the highly cool (if somewhat touchy-feely) Flylady home organization plan, but it's also home to errands lists, one-off home tasks, and my @home log cards (which I use to track daily expenses, calories, and assorted other home stats). This deck is divided into sections for log cards (which are shifted over to the master deck every few days), reference cards, daily tasks, weekly tasks, and monthly tasks.

Tasks port between work and home much more easily, my log cards give me a quick history of my accomplishments for my biweekly update email to my boss (something I'm going to do a post on soon, possibly thursday?), and I can tell with a quick flip through my card box where I am on all my pending tasks. I was going to post some pictures here and to flickr of my implementation, but I keep forgetting the camera at home.

*gets hit with the obvious club*

*adds tickler to tonight's next actions in the travel card case*

I'll should be able to provide some visual aids next week. Please forgive my horrid handwriting. :-) But all in all, things are going smoothly, the system seems to have solve the problem of things falling in the cracks between work and home, and it's all good.

Now, that cool link: Lifehacker had a post today about a delightful GTD-themed desktop wallpaper... now I just have to tidy up all my desktop icons so I can see it! *blush*

Yes, I'm a Nerd.

Yes, I'm okay with this. :-)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I LOVE this job...

Well, I got to cut out of work a little early on Thursday to attend a holiday party put on by the local LIS and KM networking group. At first, the event consisted mostly of the standard schmoozing around the chocolate fondue fountain, and swapping war stories with the current MLIS students. Then after mingling and nibbling, we met several young men who had got doused with pepper spray earlier in the afternoon, we got to see a demo by the K-9 team, and watched the kids of one of the other attendees race McGruff the Crime Dog robots around the hallways.

You see, the holiday party was held at the local police academy, as it was hosted by one of the coolest (and most well-armed) librarians I have the privilege to know--Officer Tom Rink, Librarian for the Tulsa Police Department. Unfortunately I was a doofus and left my camera at the house that morning, but I believe some piccies of the event will be going up at the website in the next few days (which I will link to, don't worry!). In addition to good food and good friends, I learned a lot about the travails of running a VERY special collection with a minimum of resources, got a tour of police facilities that most "civilians" never get to see, learned some interesting factoids about our police department (ours is one of a relative minority that requires all officers to have a bachelor's degree, and about a third of the department has a graduate degree), and generally learned a lot about the folks who keep my city safe.

And, I ask you, would I have gotten to go to a shindig that cool if i still I worked in telecom? :-)