Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On information overload (slightly ranty—be warned!)

Brace yourselves, folks, I’m about to say something heretical. (okay, maybe not heretical, but possibly a tad counter-cultural?)

I am too connected. Somewhere in my post-MLIS plan for networking and professional development I found myself on a couple dozen mailing lists, several web forums, almost 100 rss feeds, and a bunch of other stuff I’m not even remembering right now. I’ve felt the burnout encroaching for the last month or so, and took last week off from all my library sites, feeds, lists, etc. just to see how much piled up if I wasn’t there to read it. The rounded numbers:

540 LIS Blog posts
220 Time management blog posts
300 messages from email lists

In other words, over a thousand to-read items, not counting God knows how many forum posts, additions to the L2.0 Ning, blog comments, etc., as well as the 2 dead-tree magazines that were in my box when I came back. One thing I noticed over and over as I tried to browse my backlog was how many posts/emails were about the same 5-10 topics, over and over. Often I would find the exact same post copied into half a dozen different blogs, with a few brief comments tacked on. I realized that much of my professional development time had been devoted to reading the same bloody thing (with slightly different twists) in many different places. I’ll be blunt—there are too many blogs, and not enough original writers, at least for me to be able to do more than skim and hit the next button. After deleting about 80% of the mess unread, I knew I had to find a better way.

When I am keeping up with that many different inputs, I have no time or energy to respond with my own thoughts, or even really read what I’m looking at, beyond the most basic skim. Also, my own writing is going downhill, simply because I have a finite amount of time I can devote to professional development, most of which is sunk into reading 200 emails and blog posts a day about only 10-15 different topics. Simply put, this is not the most effective use of my time if I want to attain the career goals I have in mind. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know what’s next. Here’s my plan. :-)

1: Cut out half of my RSS feeds. Maybe more. There are about 4-5 time management sites I link to regularly, and most of them link to the minor ones when good stuff is posted. The rest can go. As for the library feeds, I’ve not pruned these aside from unsubbing from dormant blogs. The podcasts I follow are getting shunted over to my iTunes for commute listening. There are about a dozen people who write truly insightful original material on a regular (weekly or more) basis, and their feeds will stay. As for the collected links feeds, I don’t have many of them but they’re higher volume. I’ve already (with deep regret) said goodbye to one particularly voluminous feed in this category—I enjoy it but my week layoff resulted in 110 posts from that feed alone, 3 of which I found interesting enough to click into. I need a higher ROI on my professional development time than that. I think that 3-5 of these types of feeds should cover the vast majority of the good stuff, and give me enough for RSS digest (more on that in a bit).

2: Mailing lists. I plan to cut here, but not as deeply, as I did some editing a few months back. There are a few job search/new librarian lists that can go. I’m also going to take a hard look at lists for ALA sections/roundtables I’m not actually a member of. I have a bunch of lists for our new ILS, but they are low volume and I can’t yet tell what’s I’ll need, so they stay for now. Finally, any list where there is as much flaming/whining/political debate as there is useful conversation is going bye-bye. My work life is a no-drama zone.

3: Forums: Unless I need to search for info on a particular topic, all forums but the library 2.0 Ning are going off my “to read” bundle on Del.icio.us. So far, Ning seems to have an extremely good signal to noise ratio, and I’d rather spend an hour skimming there than try to whip through half a dozen websites in the same amount of time.

4: Scholarly Journals: my high level of blog and mailing list reading is only possible because I do almost zilch to keep up with the scholarly literature, at least since I finished my MLIS. I’m still thinking about this, but I’m considering picking out 2 or three of the best academic library journals to read cover-to cover when they come in. we have access to almost all of darned things either in print or via databases, so I really have no excuse. Perhaps pick out one or two articles a month to review/respond to online? I’m sure most of us don’t read as much of the Literature as we’d like, and that might be a more beneficial use of my blog than writing post #18 about LoC’s newest rule change. And in that vein…

5: Contribute signal, not noise: There are plenty of blogs that provide summaries of the week’s best library posts, most notably LISNews.org’s “This Week in Library Blogland”. Most of them do a better job than I can. Each week I spend a total of 2 hours assembling the RSS digest. I know this service is enjoyed, and IT’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE. However, I’m going to keep it shorter. I currently average between 25-35 links, and I think I can halve that and still have a useful digest. Some of this will come organically via steps 1-3, and the rest will come from being a bit more selective in my linking. Look for the digests to evolve over the next few weeks, and please share your comments and suggestions. I also will try to keep my Tuesday posts under 1000-1200 words.

To wrap up, my goal is and has been to give you the tools you need to improve your professional lives as well as the service you provide your users. To do that, I need to remember one of the first things I learned in library school and not waste the time of my readers. I pledge that if I don’t have anything interesting or original to say on a given topic, I’ll keep my mouth shut, and will refrain from posting for posting’s sake just to maintain a schedule. If I only have a few lines to say about a post, I’ll put it in that blog’s comment thread, NOT here. Will that lower my visibility, or cause me to lose a few readers? Possibly, and I’m fine with that. I am not the best Liblogger out there, and I’m giving up the attempt. Instead, I’m going to focus on fulfilling MY mission, and not worry about the rest.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring break/brain break

Happy saturday! (and my condolences to any of you pulling a weekend shift) This coming week is spring break at MPOW (which we mostly get off work--I LOVE my job), and in the interest of recharging, I'm taking a break from all online LIS-related activities for the week. Have a great week, and don't forget to take time to sharpen your saws!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Administrative note

Due to spam I've changed the permissions to restrict commenting to folks with a blogger account. I may have to start moderating comments, but that's a weapon of last resort. not surprisingly, the only posts that have gotten spammed are ones with a significant number of trackbacks, which makes me unsure whether that feature is worth it. Suggestions are welcome, and I apologize for any inconvenience these new rules may cause.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Well, Well, Well...(SirsiDynix announces new "Rome" ILS)

1st: Starting with this entry, I'll be crossposting selected blog posts at my blog in the Ning Library 2.0 social network. In addition, I'll be experiementing with posting there as well, as I try to sort out what will work best in that community. If you aren't already a member, join in the fun, and if you ARE a member, feel free to friend me! :-) (My profile picture is me with the rest of my T'ai Chi Class in front of the Pearl tower in Shanghai--I'm the one in the red hat with the goofy jetlagged grin)

2nd: yes, I'm really going to do that job hunting article. It got trumped by breaking news in ILS-land. This email from the folks at SirsiDynix was waiting in my box when I got into work today...

Dear valued SirsiDynix customer,

Later today, SirsiDynix will make an exciting announcement for both our company and the library market. Before the announcement becomes public knowledge and a press release is issued, I wanted to personally share now what the rest of the world will hear shortly – as well as explain to you what it means for customers of SirsiDynix Unicorn, DRA Classic, and MultiLIS integrated library systems.

SirsiDynix will unveil that we are blending the strengths and best features of Unicorn, Horizon/Corinthian, and other solutions to create a new, versatile technology platform to serve 21st-century libraries and consortia. Code-named “Rome,” this platform goes beyond the traditional integrated library system to encompass the full range of technology building blocks for managing library operations and resources, while providing meaningful user experiences to your information consumers.

Rome is built on the architecture of the industry-standard Unicorn Library Management System – with its record of stability, quality, and performance – and will include an impressive set of new solutions created as part of Horizon 8.0/Corinthian development. The first release of Rome will be available in the fourth quarter of this year. The target time for the second release is late 2008.

What does this mean to Unicorn, DRA Classic, and MultiLIS customers?

There are several key points you should know:

  • SirsiDynix will continue to maintain and support Unicorn. (Note SirsiDynix’s policy of actively supporting a given product in its current release and two prior releases.)
  • Unicorn GL3.2 and Horizon 8.1/Corinthian will not be released. Instead, the new functionality of both will be incorporated into Rome over time.
  • We will focus our research-and-development efforts on Rome. As a result, Rome will be the platform for all SirsiDynix users in the future.
  • However, Rome will offer a host of features and benefits developed for Unicorn, and the Unicorn architecture is at the heart of the new platform. When upgrading from Unicorn to Rome, current Unicorn users will find Rome to be very familiar, therefore requiring little or no additional training or other upgrade services.

Here are the upgrade or migration paths for Unicorn, DRA Classic, and MultiLIS customers:

  • Customers on Unicorn GL3.1 or earlier can upgrade to Rome using the same criteria as in the past.
  • Customers not already on Unicorn GL3.1 should proceed to this latest Unicorn release, as it will provide for an easy upgrade to the Rome platform. After Unicorn GL3.1, the next major upgrade for Unicorn sites will be Rome.
  • DRA Classic and MultiLIS sites have the immediate option to migrate to Unicorn GL3.1. Otherwise, they can follow the path to Rome in the coming months. (Note that SirsiDynix has announced DRA Classic’s end of life, with support for this legacy product ending on February 28, 2009. Previously, SirsiDynix announced end of life for MultiLIS, with support ending on June 30, 2007.)

The upcoming press release will offer more information about the major features and benefits of Rome. I cannot stress enough that this new technology platform will provide the “best of both worlds” – the stability you require and the features you need.

As always, if you have questions about your particular case, please contact your SirsiDynix account representative.


Talin Bingham

Chief Technology Officer


Note: the press release has since been put out on the sirsi website, click here to read.

Can't say I'm surprised, anyone with a brain knew that they were going to merge Unicorn and Horizon, economies of scale being the whole point of the SirsiDynix merger. From an unashamedly selfish standpoint I'm glad "Rome" is being built on the basic Unicorn framework--we're just getting used to this interface, and I was not relishing the idea of having to relearn our ILS in a year. I'm not acquainted with either platform well enough to venture an opinion on whether they picked the "right" horse. I am intrigued to see how (if at all) SirsiDynix responds to the 2.0 paradigm with Rome's features, and while some of the statements in the press release sound intriguing/promising, we haven't even seen screenshots or a features list, and the PR-speak could really mean pretty much anything. For where we are right now as an institution, a proprietary ILS is the best route for us at the moment (I like the recent description I heard of OA as "free as in puppies"), and it gives us the flexibility for the projects and needs that we have right now. Will it still be a good fit in a year? we'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

RSS Digest: March 8, 2007

RSS Digest time again! I’m taking the comment silence to mean that you are happy with the mix of things I post here (or are trapped under something heavy and can’t reach the keyboard *smirk*). Also, you may have noticed I didn’t do a Tuesday post. I spent half the day Tuesday at an instruction session at one of our remote campuses (and was a bit under the weather to boot), and I just didn’t make it that far down my to-do list. I still plan to do the job search article next Tuesday, and will probably follow that up with a networking guide for shy librarian types. Thanks for all your patience and comments!

LIS Stuff

Building a Personal Finance Library: 25 of the Best Books About Money ∞ Get Rich Slowly Most of these books are no-brainers (and are already in your collections, no doubt)--but take a look for your library--and for yourself. :-)

Tame The Web: Libraries and Technology: Ten Tech Trends for Librarians 2007 READ. Title says it all.

The Shifted Librarian: It's Going to Be Okay, IT Librarians Yes, I know I linked to these guys already. They've done more videos. My hubby Kevin (software developer) and I laughed our butts off...

The Shifted Librarian: Keeping Up When You Don't Have the Time For those of you who can't deal with 20+ mailing lists, a half-dozen journals, and 91 RSS feeds...(some days, I think I can't deal with that either, and I'm an info-addict...)

The Chronicle: 3/9/2007: Information Navigation 101 GO. READ. THIS. NOW!!!! I can't tell you how many students I've helped who navigate myspace and facebook like they wrote the things but dan't put together a basic search query--in ebsco OR google.

LISNews.org | Why Google's universal library is an assault on human identity erm...not sure I'd be that (melo)dramatic about it, but food for thought nonetheless.

Library 2.0 Social network You have joined this...right?

Catalogablog: Masterkey Metasearch tool hmm....sails over my head, but sounds like it's got some interesting implcations.

Less Facebook And More Face In Book A-Freaking-Men. And I say that as n social network addicted blogging uber tech geek.

The Distant Librarian: CFP: Internet Librarian 2007 You're going, right? This conference is worth every penny. I'm hoping to make it myself, if the stars align...

» The embattled MLS Is an MLS needed to be a good library manager? An interesting debate, and honestly, I can see both sides. (I've called on my business experience heavily in my LIS career, but my MLS has halped me a lot too...)

Time Management/Lifehacks

The key to staying calm in an argument - Lifehacker Required reading if your work involves dealing with other human beings (AKA all of us)

Make your brain learn faster - Lifehacker mainly common sense, but worth reading...

Download of the Day: Google Desktop 5.0 (Windows) - Lifehacker Productivity tool or bloatware? you be the judge...

10 Tips to Help Keep Your Desk Clean « Ian’s Messy Desk my desk is okay right now...but give it 5 minutes. A guide to keeping the chaos controlled.

GTD Pitfalls - lifehack.org *nods*--I really try not to be one of those people who blogs incessantly about GTD but doesn't actually DO anything, but it's a fine line...

Productivity & Organizing Myth #7 – A person’s office or home can get decluttered and organized in hours or weekend (or 30 minute t.v. show). - lifehack.org *sigh* sad but true...

How To Cultivate Purpose - lifehack.org Some good thoughts for planning in those "higher altitudes"

Cool Reference Sites of the week

ResourceShelf » More “Doing Business In” Country Commercial Guides Hit the Web Some interesting resources for those of you who have patrons interested in/studying international business...

ResourceShelf » New Web Site: GovBudget.com You pay taxes, right? then go take a look at how they get spent.

Smithsonian Institution Libraries: Make the Dirt Fly! a man, a plan, a canal: Panama (I always wanted to use a palindrome in a blog post!)

Daylight Saving Time - Saving Time, Saving Energy I still not convinced the world needs DST, but here's an explanation of the history and reasons behind springing forward and falling back...

Tartan Day Don't forget to wear your kilt! warning--this site blasts bagpipes at you, so you may want to mute your computer unless you like that sort of thing. I do (except when it pops out of a website with no warning), but I lived in Scotland for a year…

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

RSS Digest: March 1, 2007

Happy day before Friday! Here’s the neatest cites I ran across this week. One other note--I’d appreciate feedback on these digests—please let me know if I’m posting things you’re interested in, or if they’re the same links you get from 50 other blogs, if you want these to be longer, shorter, more or less on particular topics…you get the gist!

LIS Links

Worcester Telegram & Gazette News There's a stupid person born every minute...*sigh*
Wise crowds with long tails | TechEssence.Info Worth reading.
ResourceShelf » CRS Reports: Information, Please I've been seeing this issue around a lot of places lately, and I must agree--if we're paying for this stuff, and it's not classified, why not? They can even strip out the name of the congressperson who requested it if they're THAT paranoid...
ResourceShelf » Usage statistics and scholarly communications & The Open Archive for Library and Information Science An possibly useful batch of statistics...
Library Talk: The Can't Do Attitude A rant that all too many of us can sympathize with...and a reminder of how lucky I am with MPOW--they may not always "get it"at first, but they recognize it's worth getting!
Library 2.0: An Academic's Perspective: Two Must-Read 2.0 Blogs Good blogs, both, but dang it, I have 91 feeds right now! *whimper*
Creating Passionate Users: How much control should our users have? You know...I've suspected this for a while...we can't just throw new toys out there for our users to learn--we have to make them worth the pain of the learning curve, and explain to users why they're worth it.

Productivity Links

Recalculate your paycheck deductions - Lifehacker While I hate the notion of giving George W. Bush an interest free loan for a year (that's what a refund IS, folks...), I hate surprises on my taxes too. a great way to balance your deductions just right...
The GMail Nerve Center - lifehack.org I know I'm not using gmail as well as I could--here are some tricks to make this great tool work even better.
Organizing Paper and Information: 7 Mistakes that Sabotage Your Productivity - lifehack.org #7 on this hits home for me today--I've got a friend who had a freak hard drive crash last night, and lost a lot of stuff...she should be able to recover some of the things she lost, but that will be her main project for the next few weeks...
Priorities and Posteriorities - lifehack.org How to NOT get things done. A must read for those who want to get things done. (yes, this makes sense...)
Productivity & Organizing Myth #6 – I can find anything in my piles. - lifehack.org Confirming what I've suspected for a long time...those piles on the desk don't just not work for me--they don't work for most everybody. :-)
GTD + Your Emotional Life - lifehack.org A thought-provoking article on consciously managing...your emotions. Click through to the comments—there’s quite a spirited discussion going on…
Clean like a maid! » Curbly | DIY Design Community « Keywords: cleaning, tips Where have you been all my life?
Mash up RSS feeds with xFruits - Lifehacker Haven't gotten around to playing with this, but I've got a few ideas rattling in my head on ways I could consolidate my feeds...
Plan your meals more effectively with Meals Matter - Lifehacker I've tried various ways to plan my weekly menus in advance (I belong to a food co-op and get a bag of meat and veggies once a week, which makes planning both easier and harder). I'll give this a whirl and see what happens...
zen habits: Edit Your Life, Part 1: Commitments I've been trying to do this lately...

Cool reference sites of the week: Mostly Maps

ResourceShelf » Resource of the Week: Motherlode of Iraq Maps With the exception of those readers who have family or friends in Iraq, I'm betting you couldn't find Tikrit on a map. If I'm right, check out this site...
Seterra - Learn Geography. Free Software. After you finish refreshing your Iraq geography knowledge, why not expand your focus? download this puppy and you'll be finding small countries on the map faster than you can say Djibouti!
ResourceShelf » Melissa Data Adds Census Tract Info and Maps Continuing on my trend of map-based reference sites, here’s a neat resource closer to home. It seems to do something a bit different from the similar maps at the Census website, and it's very interesting.
ResourceShelf » Pixsy’s Starhabit Database Some new features on a very nifty video search engine...
Fun & Games « Panorama of the Mountains A couple of brain teasers and one addictive-looking game...I've got enough problem with Kyodai, so I think I'll steer clear of the latter...)

Have a good weekend, everyone! :-)