December 22, 2010

Tag, You're It.


This post was originally going to be called "End of an Era," but not only was that already used for several articles on the topic at hand, The End is not as certain as it seemed last Thursday.

Long story short: A Yahoo! meeting slide that showed Delicious as one product to be axed was leaked last Thursday on Twitter and the rest... Let's just say it went the way of Internet rumors and then morphed into a scrumptiously unorganized (though not disorganized, thanks to Twitter hashtags like #SaveDelicious) grassroots "campaign" to send Yahoo! a message.

By Friday morning the news was a patchwork of conjecture, export instructions, and lists of alternatives from Amplify to Zukmo. There were premature obits, emotional laments, memorable tweets, bold assertions that we should have seen it coming, or that we shouldn't rely on free food, and a pointed question from the Washington Post: If this many people love Delicious this fiercely, why can't Yahoo! figure out how to make some money off it?

Yahoo! has still not released an official statement. The Delicious blog confirmed that something was going on, but very little in the way of actual information was provided last week, and below are 1,000 words from the Delicious blog today:

As for me, Yes, I traveled through brief devastation, acted the town crier, set up news alerts, and roped Gretchen into a Farewell, Delicious happy hour. Then I calmed down and started reading as much as I could in order to filter fact from fiction.

My tagging reflexes have taken a hit this bookmarklets are like another appendage, and let's just say it's in a sling right now. I haven't bookmarked anything since Thursday because I didn't want to add to my collection (lingering hysteria mixed with a bit of conservatism for the future) and I didn't want to commit to a new service. One upside was that my tendency to tag everything remotely interesting as "TimePermitting" was tempered, so I had to refine my criteria quite a bit for what I truly thought I would read later. (For all those articles, I emailed them to myself using my AddThis made me much more selective and much more likely to read the things I had grabbed.)

I enjoyed the absolute Meta of seeing articles about Delicious tagged in Delicious, which was more fun than Facebook groups protesting Facebook or tweets about Twitter. It showed that this is a community of users whether you like it or not. I felt part of something, and not primarily because we were venting in unison, but because we were sharing: tips, thoughts, and memories.

(And by the way, I saw some funky versions of the Delicious logo...I'm not sure if that was stylistic in nature or maybe intellectual property paranoia, but don't forget you can use Photoshop to find the exact color mix of an image.)

December 15, 2010


"Extroversion: The act of turning outward; the condition of being so turned."
~The Universal Dictionary of the English Language (1940)

My mentor Dave Shumaker over at EmbeddedLibrarian.Wordpress posed the following question last week and I can't help but respond: Can introverts succeed as embedded librarians? His answer was a resounding Yes, and mine will be, too.

As is my standard practice, I will start with two disclaimers: (1) I do not claim to have any knowledge of this topic except first-hand knowledge from my own experience; (2) I acknowledge than many people would not consider me introverted. However...

When I read Dave's post last week I stumbled down undergraduate memory lane. In college I did a double major in French and psychology, the latter being somewhat of an afterthought and a major academic challenge for my (then) anti-science brain. The best psych course I took was Tests and Measurement. As things came to pass, I ended up with a job in educational testing before I went to library school--to the delight of my Tests and Measurement professor. In this course we basically ripped apart every reputable test, including the Myers-Briggs (now MBTI), and we learned to think critically about testing in general. I took this a step further and approached every known assessment with skepticism and disdain. Dave's post made me realize that it was high time for me to revisit Myers and Briggs, at least as an exploratory mission to respond to his post. Lo and behold, I am an introvert.

I had started to suspect as much. Dave makes the crucial point that folk definitions of introversion and extroversion are not sufficient; it has more to do with where you find energy and insight. As for me, it's true than when I'm with others I tend to talk a lot (and loudly), but I enjoy spending time alone more than would likely be healthy for a true extrovert. As my neighbors will attest, I prefer to spend my commute reading rather than discussing local politics (although I will be forthright in saying so), and my coworkers will tell you that I have my headphones on whenever I am at my desk, drawing a lot of strength from my own reactions to music.

My "I" score was not as clear-cut as other dimensions, but it would be dangerous to correlate that with a measure of success in embedded librarianship. True, I often speak about "walking around the office asking people what they are working on," which may sound like a behavior tipped toward extroversion, but where do I get the courage to do that sort of thing?

The real "E" in this job has been entrepreneurship. I had very little to build on except my own skills and strengths. There was so little structure that I had to go out and find staff members to collaborate with, and to learn from. But it was in equal part a matter of deep and careful reflection on how to make my way here, what I had the capacity to do, and what would be of service to others. (Service is perhaps another way to view the "outward turning" in the 70-year-old definition of extroversion above.)

It would be interesting to look at correlations between MBTI scores and entrepreneurial activities, as well as "measures of entrepreneurialism" as a characteristic of embedded librarianship.

December 14, 2010

(Special Edition) My Year in Books: 2010

My book life this year, by the numbers:

I finished 22 books, nine of which were fiction, and 13 non-fiction. Five of these were memoirs, and three were books of short stories. Nine were written by male authors (2 by Kurt Vonnegut), and twelve were written by female authors (4 by Lorrie Moore). One was written by a man and a woman (Your Money or Your Life). I published a review of If We Can Put a Man on the Moon in a trade magazine for transit professionals.

I met one author: Chris Guillebeau. (See photos from the DC stop of his Unconventional Book Tour.) I contacted five authors besides Guillebeau: Marlee Matlin, Lorrie Moore, David Carr, Michael Idov, and Daniel Pink. I heard back from Marlee Matlin, David Carr, and Daniel Pink (and Michael Idov reTweeted me – does that count?).

(Fiction) The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Ground Up by Michael Idov; and
(Non-Fiction) The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell and Lessons in Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn.

Here is the entire list:
(*=highly recommended)
1. I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin
2. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
3. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell*
4. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore*
5. If We Can Put a Man on the Moon by Bill Eggers and John O’Leary
6. Like Life by Lorrie Moore
7. Emergence by Steven Johnson
8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett*
9. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
10. Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut
11. Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins
12. The Night of the Gun by David Carr*
13. Lessons in Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn*
14. Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
15. Ground Up by Michael Idov*
16. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez*
17. Cleaving by Julie Powell
18. The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
19. The Case for Books by Robert Darnton
20. Drive by Daniel Pink
21. A Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
22. Lucky by Alice Sebold*

Some of the books burning a whole on my shelf for 2011 include Your Money: The Missing Manual, There Will Be Rainbows, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, Sundown Towns and The Happiness Project. Stay tuned.

December 8, 2010

Ten Weeks to Prepare and Ten Seconds to Tweet

When I was in library school, wading through Bopp & Smith's tome on reference, I read something about the responsibility of the public librarian to "index the community." It was a passage about how a librarian fulfills a role much like that of a hotel concierge in some communities. This phrase stuck with me, likely because when I was in high school planning my majors in French and communications (one of which came to fruition)--loving learning the ins and outs of Chicago city blocks--I wanted to be a concierge when I grew up.

While I do love showing DC visitors the best pizza place and tea shop in town, I became a librarian, not a concierge, but I'd like to think I still do my best to "index the community," whatever that community may be in my small special library. One of my favorite ways I have succeeded in doing this is to run the Twitter feed for our annual conference. You may think this is a no-brainer, but let me tell you how to do a bang-up job of it as a special librarian and make yourself indispensable in the process.

We had a "gently used" conference feed from the previous year hanging around. About ten weeks prior to the conference I was offered the reins and the password. Unlike some conference Twitter feeds where the username indicates the date/year of the event, this one was general enough that we could reuse it once we rebranded the profile with the new conference locale, logo, conference dates and themes.

I looked up the Visitor & Convention Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and local media outlets in our destination city, followed their feeds, and looked to see who they were following. I also found a number of feeds from restaurants near the convention center, and from big attractions like the aquarium and museums that conference attendees might want to visit during free slots. I tweeted for a while as the conference before doing much promotion of the feed, which I highly recommend.

When I had a rich feed going, I worked with other staff to have a link to the conference Twitter page in all the marketing pieces we were using leading up to the big event. This included our website, Facebook page, and correspondence with people who had already registered. When people completed their registration in Cvent, a link to the Twitter feed would appear with the phrase "Get conference updates on Twitter!"

For a few weeks I would tweet three times a day, mixing the announcements to have a good combination of logistical information for people who had already registered, and tweeting the allure of our conference subject matter with strategic hashtags. I looked up the speakers slotted for various sessions, and the sponsors for conference events, and found their Twitter feeds. At this point I was getting great use of the mention feature, which led to a lot of followers. (Much of what goes on in Twitter operates on the vanity principle, and there is no shame in that.)

When we were a couple weeks out I worked with the webmaster to get a demo of the Twitter feed on our home page so we would know how it would look. It took a little bit of code to upgrade the standard widget so it would include both manual and automatic retweets, and we were glad we had started early. Three days before the conference started we went live with the new page, and then I had to really keep up the tweets (which by this point were about weather, schedule changes, and last ditch efforts to get more registrants).

Then the fun really began. I was running around the convention center for a week posting fliers about the feed in strategic places, handing out stickers for people to display their usernames on the official conference badge, and switching between two Blackberrys as I ran the official feed and a separate feed for one of the pre-conference meetings. Conference organizers were great about announcing me if I was live-tweeting a session so attendees could jump on board, mention us, and have us mention them. I was also taking a lot of pictures and tweeting those.

While I was in sessions it occurred to me that my broad knowledge of the organization, a good lock on who's who in the field, my ability to think fast and know a good soundbite when I hear one, and the discretion required when anything mildly political spills into the soundbites--those library skills enhanced each and every tweet. And hey, the local Greek restaurant started following us and then offered free appetizers to any attendee with a badge from our conference!

After the conference I was asked to give a presentation on how all this came together and I talked about the 700+ messages we had generated as a way of codifying our institutional knowledge, our impact on the field, and our outreach to new stakeholders by putting ourselves and our issues into the Twitterverse.

December 1, 2010

Librarians with "Issues"

I found that by looking at the white spaces on the organization chart--the gaps between jobs, where no else had responsibility--that there were new job opportunities, like building an intranet, starting a corporate university, creating a daily business intelligence report, that needed to be done. As it turned out, sometimes I was promoted into a job and sometimes I was promoted because I created the job that needed doing. ~Susan Fifer Canby

Two posts over at Gypsy Librarian have gotten me thinking about librarians, neutrality, and advancing issues beyond information organization and literacy. The specific issues Angel addresses (LGBT suicide, for example) are ones that arise in his context, not mine, but the topic is a good one for embedded librarians. The closest I have come in this forum to advancing any "issues" was when I wrote that modeling good reading habits should not be outside the domain of the special librarian, even in a corporate setting. Let's start there.

Information literacy in our specialty is certainly within our scope. This is without question, and general information literacy or search strategy is a natural offshoot of that topic. These are all "safe" issues for us to get behind. Taking on web accessibility can be a bit risky, and very difficult, but it falls very naturally within a librarian's scope of responsibility and influence. What about other issues? The farther into the white spaces we move, the more complicated it becomes, and the more opportunities there are for advancing important issues.

I found myself being the cheerleader for Census 2010 in our office--both in terms of encouraging our stakeholders to be counted and in terms of what the results will mean for our work--and I did a lot of good by sticking with it. I recently took on a voluntary research project about Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and what it has to do with transit agencies' outreach, and this has been productive and praised as well. There are also the innocuous issues that I take on, like partnerships between libraries and transit agencies, that may or may not bear fruit and probably won't offend anyone along the way.

Whatever the topic may be, we are sure to do more good, create better job security, and get greater satisfaction from our work, by following the issues rather than hiding from them.