My dear friend and partner-in-crime, Lisa Rabey, commented the other day that I have been hot and heavy with the link-posting of late. Admittedly, I’m in an odd position here at my new job, as our director is on leave, and so I’m kind of on my own, so I’ve been filling in time (between new website mockups) with catching up on my RSS feeds. This is a good thing for me, since I’ve switched focus from reference/instruction/marketing to web services, so I feel like I need to get the lay of the land before doing anything major with the site. That being said, Lisa asked if I could do a post with all the links I’ve tweeted recently, in one place, and because she’s my buddy (and because she is a WordPress guru, and I will need her help with that, as well as a little RSS project I’m working on) I am going to oblige her. Just this once.


The Researching Librarian: Web resources helpful for librarians doing research | http://researchinglibrarian.com/index.html | I’m tenure-track at my new job, so it’s publish-or-perish for me! This site is a good place to get started, including grant sources and a list of LIS-related journals.

How bad research gets published (and promoted) | http://boingboing.net/2013/02/05/how-bad-research-gets-publishe.html | A 2010 groundbreaking article, with research sponsored by NASA, gets published in a highly-respected journal. Within days, it faces serious scrutiny and we now know that it was totally wrong. But the work was peer-reviewed. How do so many experts make such a big mistake?

Gaming Google Scholar Citations, Made Simple and Easy | http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2012/12/12/gaming-google-scholar-citations-made-simple-and-easy/ | In a recent paper uploaded to the arXiv, ”Manipulating Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics: simple, easy and tempting,” researchers find that the effort required to radically alter citation counts to one’s papers (and thus increase one’s h-index) are open to anyone who can cut, paste, and post.

Amusing titles affect the perception of research in a negative way | http://rolfzwaan.blogspot.nl/2013/01/the-preliminary-results-are-in.html | Apparently trying to be funny with your research paper titles can lead to decreased confidence in your data. Or something like that. This article didn’t have a very amusing title, so I just assumed it was all true. The author later tweeted a link to this article, which says that certain subject areas actually do enjoy a little “linguistic playfulness.” I don’t really want to know where library science falls on this spectrum, but I suspect it falls firmly in favor of puns.

Cool Tools

Bookish Uses Big Data and Real Editors to Help Pick Your Next Book | http://mashable.com/2013/02/05/bookish/

This GIF Search Engine Is Everything You’ve Ever Wanted | http://mashable.com/2013/02/01/gif-search-engine/ | Here ya go: http://giphy.com/#tags/sherlock. You’re welcome.

Job/Internship Opportunities

NY Public Library internship: Timothy Leary Papers | http://boingboing.net/2013/02/05/ny-public-library-internship.html

The White House Is Looking for a Few Good Coders | http://mashable.com/2013/02/05/white-house-coders/


Using technology to spark interaction in class | http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/02/new-teaching-tools.html


The psychology of the to-do list | http://mindhacks.com/2013/02/05/bbc-column-the-psychology-of-the-to-do-list/

The psychology of Tetris | http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20121022-the-psychology-of-tetris


Learn more about Black History Month with 12 free lecture clips from The Great Courses |

Posted in academia, academic libraries, articles, feeds, links, professional development, psychology, publishing, resources, TheUbiquitousLibrary | Comments Off on LLLLLLIIIIIINNNNNNKKKKKKKKSSSSS!!!!!!

Just one more thing…

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post on Harvard’s library site… They have a really sleek user feedback system. When you click on the “Tell Us” button at the top of the page, you get the following javascript pop up:

I love that it not only gives you a place to provide feedback, but also tracks and reports on known issues. This saves time for both the user, and the helpdesk, since the helpdesk is used to receiving untold numbers of reports on the same printer being broken, or the wireless being down. This system allows users to see what issues are currently being dealt with before submitting their comment. Users can also comment on or “vote up” issues without having to submit a new ticket.

I did a little snooping around in the code, and it would seem that they are using (and correct me if I’m wrong here) an online helpdesk system called UserVoice. I like not only the functionality of the software, but also the sleek way it integrates into your website, and provides a social aspect to the online helpdesk. Nicely done, all around!

Posted in customer service, helpdesk, higher education, information technology, interfaces, IT, javascript, library technology, library websites, web design, web development, websites | Comments Off on Just one more thing…

Harvard Library: a closer look

I took a look at the Harvard Library website over the weekend, to pick apart the elements of the site that I really like. First and foremost, I love the minimalist layout and color scheme. The white background makes it look less boxy, and the sections are separated by horizontal lines instead of rectangular borders. I know library websites are chock full of content that we want our users to be aware of, but when there’s too much content on a page, I find I can’t focus on anything.

When it comes to details, I like the mix of text and images. They use icons in the upper right corner to draw attention to popular services (1). I think these are fairly good icon choices, but in general you have to be careful with them. You can get creative, but don’t use an icon that’s commonly known for one thing, for something else. For example, a wrench or gear(s) is often used for “settings,” so this icon can cause confusion when linking to something else. I think they’re ok here, though, since they include easy-to-read labels under the icons. (Joshua Porter just posted on the use of labels with icons. How fortuitous!)
It’s common practice these days, but I’ll mention it anyway: I like having the search box function front and center (2). I think this site does the service one better though, in including a “What am I searching?” feature. Library collections can be confusing, and often we have different search functions for different collections (catalog for books, integrated search for databases, digital repository for archives, discovery service for everything…) I know not everyone will read the text, but it’s concise enough not to be obtrusive, and adds useful information for anyone willing to scan over it.
The scrolling news items at the bottom of the page (3) offer another graphical element on an otherwise sparse page, and allow you to highlight events, collections and perhaps even offer a place for alternate entry points to resources for specific communities or to commonly-asked-about services. For example, you could create one specifically for students or faculty, or have one for using Blackboard, logging onto the campus network, or finding textbooks in the library. 
The drop-down links at the top of the page (4) use symbols to denote internal links (which open in the same window) and external links (which open in a new window/tab.) This is especially important in library sites, as many resources we offer are provided by third-party vendors, and it can be disconcerting to click on a link and be faced with a different website, with a completely different look and feel from your own. 
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. I like deep footers (5). It was at a workshop a few years ago, where a presenter was talking about the NYPL migrating to Drupal, where I first met the deep footer (you can see it in action here), and though I can’t remember if it clicked for me right away, or if it upset my 2002 web developer sensibilities, I now think of it as a great, unobtrusive way to add relevant links to your site. I like it especially as a place for all your social media links/icons, as well as for links to content that your users might find useful, but that are outside your own site. For academic libraries, those links might be to the school registrar, the writing and/or tutoring center, and the academic calendar. Especially since many university home pages are catered towards prospective students, rather than current students, these links can help position the library’s homepage as a portal for students who want to access information and resources for the school as a whole. 
Finally, I like that when you scroll over the drop down link boxes, you can not only click on the links that appear in that drop down menu, but also the main category under which they are grouped. This gives you a landing page for each category, and a chance to help guide users who want more information on that category, or aren’t sure which link they need in the group. The only thing that threw me a bit, was that the landing page links did not match up more closely with the options in the drop down (6). This creates a bit of a logical disconnect in terms of “training” users on navigation. (ie- If they visit the landing page on their first visit, does that help them understand and be able to use the quick navigation on their next visit?)
One final note regarding accessibility: When I learned html (many moons ago) you used the “alt” attribute for both accessibility and as a way to provide information via mouse-over text (or “tooltips”.) While poking around in the code of this site, I noticed that they were using both an “alt” *and* a “title” attribute with most of the images. Apparently, it’s now standard to include both of these, as not all browsers will render the “alt” tag as a tooltip if the “title” is absent (which used to be the case.) So you want to include an “alt” description for accessibility (and for images that don’t display) and a “title” description with whatever information you want the user to see when they mouse over the link or image. For a more thorough explanation of the alt vs title attribute, see: http://www.456bereastreet.com/archive/200412/the_alt_and_title_attributes/ 
To learn more about how screen readers treat various html elements, I found this resource helpful: http://webaim.org/techniques/screenreader/ (If your library uses LibGuides, they also have an accessibility page, with info on what they do, and what you need to do, to ensure 508 compliance: http://help.springshare.com/accessibility)
Posted in accessibility, library websites, TheUbiquitousLibrary, web 2.0, web design, web development, websites | Comments Off on Harvard Library: a closer look

Onward Toward the Next Next Gen Library Website

I want to do a series of posts on designing and building a website for an academic library. I’m mostly doing it for myself, as a way to organize my thoughts on the process (since I will be building a library site this semester,) but I thought it might also be useful to share some of the resources I am and will be collecting. And, of course, it’s always helpful to have a place to think out loud, so you can get feedback from outside sources.

I do want to make a point before I get started though; these posts are meant to be critique, not criticism. (Or, at least *constructive* criticism.) I don’t want to tear anyone down, or poke fun at anyone’s efforts. I understand how hard it is to get things done in libraries, given our limited budgets, and the multiple roles everyone on staff must play. Rarely does a library have the staff or the money to hire a specialist to design and build a website, and even when they do, it’s hard to find someone with that skill set who also understands libraries and library culture. I feel lucky that I’m in the unique position of having been a reference and instruction librarian for 7 years, and am now in a job that allows me to use the insights I gained working directly with faculty and students to make our website work better for them.

If sacrifices must be made, due to the afore-mentioned budget and time constraints, I can give you a wee piece of advice on the topic: sacrifice style for function, every time. Choose the easiest-to-use software, and make the most popular resources and services the easiest to find. People may snicker at your color choices (I recommend checking out design seeds to help with that) but that’s much better than them being frustrated by not being able to find what they’re looking for. Snarky users are not necessarily unhappy users. Frustrated users are pretty much *always* unhappy users.

In searching around, I found (and was directed to) several library sites (both academic and public) that I like, and am using for inspiration. Check out:

Harvard Library
Salt Lake City Public Library
Detroit Public Library

I’ll tell you why I like them. With the rise in popularity of open source content management systems like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress, websites got very “boxy.” Because these CMS’s are organized around interchangeable modules, people tend to just drop those module boxes into their site like a puzzle. The above-three sites (at least 2 of which use Drupal) get around that boxy look by using a white background, so the content boxes blend into the rest of the site. This style also works well with responsive design, which uses stylesheets to create a website that is automatically optimized for whatever screen-size or orientation it is viewed at. The trend towards ubiquitous computing means sites have to be able to easily “jump” from desktop to laptop to tablet to smartphone with minimal sacrifices to functionality.

I think for the next couple of posts I might actually pick one site for each, and go over what I like about it. In the mean time, if you’re just getting started with web design (or even if you’re an old pro,) I highly recommend taking a look at Hongkiat, which has great design and technical tips, as well as tutorials and guides for all aspects of web design and development.

Posted in CMS, library 2.0, library technology, library websites, responsive design, TheUbiquitousLibrary, web design, web development, websites | 5 Comments

In which I tell you how I was almost a Mover and a Shaker

Julie Jurgens is a friend of mine. When I read her post, ego, thy name is librarianship, I nodded along to a lot of what she said, but I didn’t feel it necessary to weigh in on the back and forth discussion that ensued (both in the comments, and in others’ response posts.) Part of why I didn’t post on the topic was because, after some unfortunate whining in the past about library-world controversies, (see: Michael Gorman. Go ahead, scroll back. Those posts are embarrassing, but still there for me to cringe at,) I told myself to stop commenting on issues if I didn’t think I was adding anything useful. Honestly, I thought the ensuing discussions covered pretty much anything I might have to say, so why add another voice just to restate already-stated viewpoints?

The other, and main reason I didn’t comment, was that I, myself, had a big old pat-on-the-back coming my way, so I really couldn’t complain about wanting attention or credit. You see, I had received an email saying:

As you probably already know, you’re pretty much a shoo-in as one of Library Journal’s 2013 Movers & Shakers—our annual group of worthy individuals making a difference in the library profession. You’ve been nominated and vetted by LJ’s staff, so it’s just a formality at this point before confirmation is made. You’ll be getting spotlight profiles in LJ’s March 15, 2013 issue where we announce this year’s group, with Movers & Shakers being the cover story of the issue.

So I really wasn’t in a position to want to be noticed. I was finally about to be! Well, until yesterday anyway, when I received an email saying, sorry, but I had not made the final cut. A full 3 weeks after that last email, where I was such a shoo-in, I got a terse, thanks for playing, good luck in the future email. *After* I had gotten the pictures taken. *After* I had done a lengthy phone interview with their reporter. *After* my nominators and references had also done lengthy interviews about me. The news just about crushed me.

I did email them back to tell them how I wish they would have let me know sooner, or kept me in the loop on the decision-making process, and asked about what I could have done to present myself as a better candidate. I received an apology about the late notice, and told that, although I have a slew of accomplishments, it would have been better to outline one noteworthy achievement.

Wait, what? So my history of innovation across the board is not worth as much as one, flashy, project?! But hold on, I’ll get to that in a bit, because I have A LOT to say about that, and what it means for our profession. Before I go there, I’d like to point out that I DO have single, note-worthy projects, and that I made an effort to discuss them, and provide specifics. The phone conversation with the reporter was a bit rambling though, and all the back and forth and chat kept pulling me away from the fairly comprehensive notes I had written up ahead of time. If they thought I needed to flesh any of my projects out, they only needed to ask.

I could have, for example, given them specifics on Barbara Arnett and I’s library search bookmarklet, which resulted in an article in a peer-reviewed journal, a national conference presentation, a paid workshop, and several regional conference talks. Oh, and it was also adapted and highlighted by the University of Michigan’s library system. I think that’s pretty cool.

I could have given more info about Twitter search RSS cheat sheet, a series of blog posts on hacking Twitter urls to create RSS feeds to keep track of various Twitter searches, after Twitter itself stopped supporting the feature. Those posts were retweeted, reblogged, and highlighted by The Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker blog, among others.

I could go on, but I’m not going to. This post is already getting sprawling, and I have more to say. So I’ll let that point go for now, and get to what my real point is.

I don’t necessarily think I deserve awards (yet.) The truth of the matter is this. I’m good at my job. Scratch that. I’m *very* good at my job. Higher education, information access, technology: these are my passions. It’s not just work to me; it’s a career, a calling. And that’s the amazing thing about the library field, so many of us feel that way. It’s so cool to work with so many people who love their jobs so much. But there’s also something insidious going on. Judging from the responses to Julie’s post, there are so many of us who feel unknown, unappreciated. And I think that’s why I wanted an award. Not necessarily because it was really and truly my time to be honored (I’ve only been a librarian for 7 years, yanno) but because I feel like I need to be getting these sort of honors to keep up with my peers. We’re judging ourselves not necessarily by our accomplishments, but by who’s keynoting what conference, and who’s winning what award, and omg, we are so much better librarians then they are!

This is not to say that everyone who keynotes, or everyone who wins an award, sucks. The truth is, it’s a competitive field because there are so many passionate, motivated, ambitious people doing awesome things. But come on, you know you do it too. If 50 people are Movers & Shakers, you’ll scan the list and find the couple that seem a bit weak, or perhaps undeserving in your eyes, and you’ll compare yourself to them, not the 48 awesomepants ones. And you’ll say, wtf?! THEY are a Mover and a Shaker, and *I’M* not?!

As a profession, we’ve gotten a bit high school, I think. We get mad at the “cool kids” and we get caught up in pettiness. Which is human. But the good news is, there’s a solution. Library Journal is a magazine. They want to sell subscriptions, and they’re going to do it with things like Movers & Shakers, and highlighting people they think will sell copies. Same thing with keynoters. They’ll pick names they can advertise. I’m hurt that I was told my history of accomplishments don’t add up to one campaign to get a library flavor of ice cream. (I’m not trying to pick on Andy here, by the way. He’s a friend of mine, and a cool dude. I could mention a lot of other examples, but I happen to know he can handle my mentioning him, while maybe other people would get pissed. Andy’s got thick skin. Plus no one’s disparaging ice cream. We all scream for ice cream, right?) But I just finished my third masters degree. I’ve got two peer-reviewed articles and two national conference talks under my belt. I’ve actively contributed to the world of library technology. What message are we sending future librarians when we push them to elevator-talk themselves into a little box? To make themselves wholly into brands, and funnel their career away from daily contributions to their employers, their communities, and their profession, in order to focus on one or two projects they can tack their name on and get noticed?

I don’t like it.

I’m sad. I’ve put myself out there a few times (ALA Emerging Leaders rejected me too, boo hoo.) Rejection is hard, and it STINGS. But here’s the thing. I had a rough year last year. I did, in fact, take some time off of professional endeavors in order to finish my latest degree, and to find a new job in order to get out of a somewhat unpleasant work situation. So this probably shouldn’t have been my year to be a Mover and Shaker anyway. I’m letting it go. I’m letting all of last year’s work problems go. This post was my final purge of all the crappy feelings.

On Monday, I start my new job as Web Services Librarian and Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island. I’m incredibly excited to be joining the ranks of the City University of New York, because I know their libraries are full of amazing people (like Stephen Francoeur, for example, whose career I’ve followed for years!) I will be creating a new website for them, and I’m both scared shitless, and ridiculously excited. I HAVE SO MANY IDEAS, U GUIZE! I’m going to get involved with code4lib, a group I’ve followed at a distance for a long time, but been intimidated to join, because I know how smart and amazing they are. I’m going to renew my commitment to local groups like NJLA and Metro, and hopefully get involved with my new New York library community through NYLA. And I’m going to start focusing on my other niche communities, like IT in higher ed, by getting involved with Educause. And I’m going to let the rest go. If there are people in the library community I think are all fluff and no substance, I’m not going to let them get to me, even if they are winning awards. I’m going to treat them like I treat comment trolls, and ignore them. Unfollow. Disengage. I need to stop gauging my value by others. You can’t keep up with the Joneses. You don’t need to.

PS- I wish you could use an animated gif to title a blog post. Because if I could, this would have been the title of this post:

Posted in awards, career, honors, Movers and Shakers, rant, Val Forrestal | 15 Comments

The sociology of Sociology 101 (or "Psych 101" 101)

I just had a really great chat with a professor here, and it got me thinking. I’ve been pondering the idea of doing my PhD  at some point (I will be finishing my third masters this December, and I’m declaring a moratorium on masters degrees after that.) Having taken many of my classes for this past degree online, I’m fascinated by educational technology, but that doesn’t quite cover what I want to research. What I’m *really* interested in is the sociology/psychology of learning behavior in college students.

In the last five years or so, I have gotten really passionate about learning. I want to learn. I need to learn. I take classes, and get degrees, not for a line on my CV, but to learn. This is a sharp about face from my undergraduate years, when skipping classes and bullshitting my way through classes was the norm. I’m not proud of it, and I’m sure my feminist card will be revoked for this, but I even cried my way into a passing grade once. OH THE SHAME!

::ahem:: Aaaaanyway. There came a time in my educational career, when the joy of learning hit me hard, and now, I finally *get* it. But that’s not to say that I never have classes where it’s just too easy to fall back into old habits. Multiple-choice quizzes, required forum posts with extremely restricted topics that are of no interest to me, slides that the professor has copy-pasted from another source, and formulaic group projects (especially when I can’t pick the topic *or* my group members) send me reeling back into “just-get-it-the-fuck-over-with-with-a-passing-grade” mode.

So that’s what lead to my discussion with the professor this afternoon. We talked about what factors could seemingly change a bright class into a dull one (time of day, class troublemakers, strict lesson plans created by a third party, unclear performance expectations, banning of technology, etc.)

Educational technology is powerful, but it’s not a cure-all. You have to be very pragmatic about what tools you use to teach certain curricula, and you have to understand that it’s all a work in progress, always. How your students use technology, and what kinds of technology they use are ever-changing things, and the most important aspect of any class is engaging them. Getting them interested, getting them involved in the learning process, getting past remembering and into *understanding*; that is the ultimate goal, and sometimes you have to sacrifice quantity for quality (that’s just a fact of life, right?)

Does anyone know of anyone doing research in this area, or any pertinent books or articles on the topic of psychology in post-secondary education?

Posted in academic libraries, educational technology, higher education, learning behavior, PhD, psychology, reaching students, sociology | 7 Comments

Bracelets for Breasts Recap

Thank you all so, so much for your amazing support for my little fundraiser. On October 12th I attended a fundraiser for my friend’s mom, and was able to give her a check for $500, which made her cry, and made me feel so incredibly wonderful (to give her the check, not to see her cry. For the record, I don’t actually enjoy making people cry. But this was crying in a good way, so I guess it’s ok. This time.)

::ahem:: Anyway. I just wanted to let everyone know that your donations amounted to $513, which was $494.13 after PayPal took their cut. I ended up not taking anything out for supplies, because the $494 was so close to $500, and I really like nice round numbers. Plus, a mutual friend donated a hundred bucks, so fifty or so dollars in supplies, plus a little time, seemed like the least I could do in terms of my own donation. 

Here are some pictures of my friend and her mom from the fundraiser, the check, and the super-yummy cake that was donated by the Cake Boss:

Posted in Bracelets for Breasts, cancer sucks, charity, kick cancer to the curb | Comments Off on Bracelets for Breasts Recap

Bracelets for Breasts*

So here’s the story: my friend’s mom has stage 4 breast cancer. She is currently pursuing non-traditional treatment with a fancy doctor in NYC, because the regular doctors say they can’t help her anymore. Her treatment is awesome, and doing wonders for her, but it’s not covered by her health insurance. (Don’t get me started on this fact. She was a hospital nurse for years and years, and I think nurses should automatically have cadillac health plans.)

My friend is trying to raise money to help defray the costs of her mom’s treatment, which is super expensive. I want to help, and you all keep asking me where you can buy my bracelets, soooooooo… BRACELETS FOR BREASTS!*

Here’s the deal: I made a bunch of bracelets with various kinds of pink beads/stones. Here’s a random sampling:

For $10, you get one of these. I get to choose the design. You get to choose whether you want gold-tone or silver-tone, and also the length (hint: that’s how I’m going to choose the design, because I made them in varying lengths.) The lengths are 6 1/2″, 7″, 7 1/2″, and 8″.

For $20, I will make you a custom bracelet, in the color(s)/stone(s) you choose, in gold-tone, silver-tone or black metal (\m/) in whatever length you want. Here are some sample bracelets in various styles:

It costs me about $3 to make and send a bracelet, so the rest of the money you donate goes directly to my friend’s mom (I think I’ll do this for about a month, and at the end of the month I’m going to cut her a check.) This means if you want to send more than $10/$20, you can feel free to do so. Also, if you just want to donate to the cause, obviously the entire amount of your donation will go into the fund. I’m not taking anything out for PayPal costs, because $3 per bracelet should cover that too (and if it doesn’t it’s such a small amount anyway, who cares?)

To donate, or to request a bracelet, use the following button (I’m using PayPal.) Make sure you tell me what kind of bracelet you want (and the length you need), or if it’s simply a donation. Also make sure you give me your correct address if you want a bracelet.

*The bracelets are actually for your wrist, not for your breasts, because I don’t know how breast bracelets would actually work and I’m too lazy to figure out the logistics. 

9/19/2012 – We are now over $200!!! Thank you SO SO SO much to everyone who donated, reposted, shared, and encouraged! Enjoy your bracelets, and enjoy some DANCING VAL!!!!

Posted in bracelets, Bracelets for Breasts, cancer, cancer sucks, charity | 1 Comment

Hit the Ground Running: Some (Simple) Advice for Job-Hunters

(Note: this is cross-posted at Letters to a Young LibrarianJessica Olin‘s blog, which is amazeballs and you should totally read it. -vf)

Last month at the New Jersey Library Association conference I volunteered for a resume-review service. The session was run speed-dating-style, where a job-seeker could bring their resume, and sit down for five minutes each with about 8 different librarians, who each gave comments and critiques.

The session turned out to be incredibly popular, and I ended up staying for an extra hour. It was fun to do for networking’s-sake, but it was also very insightful regarding my own resume. I am by no means an expert on the topic, but I have served on a few search committees for academic library positions, so I felt comfortable making some pretty basic observations, which I am about to share with you lucky readers:

  1. Stop putting “objective” at the top of your resume. Your objective is obviously to get the job you’re applying for. This is assumed.
  2. Don’t hurt my eyes. Seriously. This should be a given, and not that hard to accomplish given the availability of templates and such. But apparently it is *not*, in fact, a given at all. Everything should line up. Indents should be equal. Random things should not be bold or italicized. There should not be random font switching. Every person who sat down across from me that had a well-formatted, eye-pleasing resume made me happy. If I’m about to decide if you go in the “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” pile, you should want me to be happy.
  3. Show me your education, experience, and skills, but don’t waste my time with minutia. I actually had to tell a few people to take “internet” out of their skills section. “Internet” is not a skill, and you saying it is makes me think you’re either padding your skills section because it’s lackluster, or that you think I’m a luddite. While we’re at it, unless the job advertisement specifically requests that you have experience with certain operating systems, please don’t list “Windows XP” as a skill. (No, not even Windows Vista. #rimshot) While we’re at it, I noticed that the hot new trend is starting your resume off with a bullet-point list of items summarizing your skills and qualifications. I, personally, don’t think this is necessary for academic library jobs, but it doesn’t bother me if you include it, as long as you abide by the above-mentioned rule: don’t waste my time. It seems like a lot of people are using this resume section to say generic, incredibly unhelpful things like “good communicator,” and “can work independently or in team.” For goodness sake, can we stop putting that in every single job ad AND cover letter AND resume? I’m not saying you are not those things, I’m just saying that everybody *says* they are those things. If the job ad asks for them (and they will, because they *always* do) put those statements in your cover letter, backed up by actual examples of *how* you are good at them. Did you work on a successful team project? Did you start a regularly-scheduled meeting or work wiki? Did you co-write a paper? (Interdisciplinary cooperation is particularly hot right now. If you worked on a project with a non-librarian, in-school or out, highlight this.)
  4. Find someone to critique your resume, but don’t take that criticism personally. A resume or cover letter is not a reflection of your writing skills in general. They’re each a unique beast that is hard to explain, but easy to critique. It’s hard to say what makes a great resume, but it’s extremely easy to recognize a crappy one. So just get started, make sure all the formatting and spelling is correct, and get it in front of as many eyes as possible. Be open to what people say, especially people who have hired or been on search committees for the specific type of job you want. I noticed from this workshop that the public librarians differed slightly from the academic librarians in how they liked a resume to look. I’m sure corporate or school librarians are a whole different kettle of fish.
  5. Finally, if possible, don’t just have people read your resume, but stage a little mock-interview, like this session. When you are speaking to someone in person, you get an idea of their immediate impressions of your resume, experience, and education, not just their thought-over, carefully formatted edits. Looking at one person’s resume, I was prompted to ask them questions about their previous careers/degrees, if they had them, or about what they focused on in school, and why. This is extremely useful information to have for if (when) you get the interview, because it helps you identify and prepare for any concerns interviewers might have. It also helps you your experience in the best light. Learning what prospective employers value will make it so you don’t waste your time in your interview talking about what might be insignificant details.

Here are some excellent job resources you should know about, as a bonus to this version of the post, because I’m nice like that:

What about you? What job-hunting advice would you give recent graduates? Have any terrible resume horror stories to share?

Posted in career, employment, job hunting, professionalism, resumes | Comments Off on Hit the Ground Running: Some (Simple) Advice for Job-Hunters

The Joy of Learning, part deux

Conveniently enough, right after the first of this series of blog posts, I came across another inspiring article, this one about the use of mobile media in the classroom (and on campus). This wasn’t 100% the direction I was going in with this topic, but the way this professor has used technology to engage his students is inspiring. I love, love, LOVE his use of location-aware apps to have students explore their campus. Could you imagine a professor sending you outside on a lovely day like today during class? (And the possibilities for having the library be part[s] of this assignment?!)

Also, I’ve long been a proponent of the idea of actually ::gasp:: *encouraging* a Twitter backchannel during presentations. (See: https://twitter.com/#!/val_forrestal/statuses/127455465339752448, for how I feel about the matter.) I do agree that students with their heads buried in their laptop/tablet/phone can be distracting and off-putting for a presenter, so you may have to set some ground rules, or intervene if you feel that they are *never* looking up, but banning mobile devices from all classrooms is not the answer, imho.

The truth is, information without context is dull, and can be confusing. Allowing students to go outside the classroom to find that context will help them engage with the information. This doesn’t always have to include technology. For example, I love when a professor asks me to read an article or book chapter, and then, instead of summarizing it, asks for my thoughts/impressions/insights on the topic. This allows me to interact with the information presented, beyond just reading enough of it to paraphrase the gist of the article. You can also do this in classroom discussions; (especially on a graduate level, quizzing students to see if they did the reading is a little insulting. Class/forum discussions on the reading helps you asses whether they’ve done the reading, and gives students the benefit of each other’s understanding of the material.)

With online classes (which I’ve done most of my current degree program though) use of technology becomes increasingly important for fostering this kind of discussion. CMS forums, wikis, twitter hashtags, blogs, facebook pages, and even pinterest boards can all help professors and students link what they are learning, with what they already know, and this is a vital step for fostering knowledge.

Anyway, if you are doing anything cool with technology in the classroom (especially, but not limited to, library and info lit training), let me know in the comments. I’d love to steal… ::ahem:: borrow your ideas!

Posted in distance learning, EdTech, educational technology, social media, social networking | Comments Off on The Joy of Learning, part deux