Opting Out

Oct 2nd, 2010 Posted in services | Comments Off on Opting Out

One of the things that apparently happens when one moves across the country is they get a metric sh*t-ton more junk mail than ever before. I’m guessing this has as much to do with purchasing a new home as anything else.

my new house

Since moving here I have been receiving credit card offers, annoying coupons for stores and services I would never use, loan offers, insurance offers, catalogs, and lots of other paper destined to go directly to the recycle bin.

Today I decided to do something about it. I had forgotten these services existed, so perhaps you have too:

One Ringy-Dingy

Many of us are aware of the National Do Not Call Registry where we can register our phone numbers to opt out of telemarketing calls. If you’re unsure if you’ve already registered, the Registry also provides a verification service. I was able to find an old email confirming that, yes, I have indeed registered.

Snail Mail

DMA Choice is run by the Direct Marketing Association. You register for their free opt-out (or opt-in) services by providing your name, mailing address, and an email address. You then have options to control the number and kind of catalogs, magazine offers, and “other mail offers” you receive. The category “other mail offers” includes mail addressed to “Occupant,” which I particularly like.

DMA Choice is super easy if you want to opt out of everything. If you want to be selective, DMA Choice is probably annoying (and probably time consuming). You can read their FAQs here and a nice “about” page here. DMA Choice also allows you to opt out of commercial email. I didn’t do this, because my spam filters are great.

I  just might love Zumbox

Want to go a step farther? Try Zumbox, a promising new “digital postal mail” service that allows you to receive paper-based, postal mail via a secure, online system. It’s free! Start by signing up with a user name, password, and your email. Next, you’ll give Zumbox your physical mailing address. You’ll receive a postal mailing from them that includes a registration number (kind of like receiving a PIN for your credit card). You’ll then enter that registration number to activate your Zumbox account. But then?!? ZOWIE!

You’ll be able to notify senders that you’d prefer paperless mail. You’ll be able to read your paper mail while on vacation (maybe not a good thing), and you’ll be reducing the amount of paper you recycle each week. I think it’s important to note that Zumbox is not an email system. They use email to notify you when you have mail in the secure Zumbox system. You can read their FAQs here and their Help pages here. I’m pretty interested in the future of this system and others like it, so I signed up for the service.

One of the things Zumbox allows you to do is send mail to your social network contacts without needing their physical address. You send a request to your contact, and when/if they accept your request you’ll receive a barcode address label to affix to your envelope or package.

Credit? We don’ need no stinkin’ credit

If you get annoying pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, you’ll need to go through OptOutPrescreen to put a halt to them. This service is associated with the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experion, etc.,), so it requires quite a bit more personal information. The site encrypts transmitted information, and it uses up-to-date security protocols. The service will be more effective if you opt out using your social security number, however it’s not mandatory that you do so (see the security FAQs here).

Talk to the Man

Finally, the Federal Trade Commission provides helpful information and resources for reducing spam and maintaining privacy. Use your government!

Librarians do Gaga (my school is the iSchool)

May 28th, 2010 Posted in fun, school | 1 Comment »

Some pals from the University of Washington’s Information School premiered this video last night, and I think it’s fantastic. Sarah Wachter (@Athenasbanquet on Twitter) was the brainchild behind the video and had this to say about it:

I was listening to a LOT of Lady Gaga and the “Ca-Ca-Ca-Catalog” just popped into my head as I was walking home one day and I went from there. The iSight film festival had been announced a few days before this, and it was the perfect conjunction of fun idea and great opportunity to share it. I worked the lyrics out in dribs and drabs over the next few weeks, and then sent them to Laura Mielenhausen, one of my amazing classmates and a superb musician. She used a karaoke track as the base, sang all the vocals and did the audio mixing (I’m not sure what program she used), and then sent me the finished track. I borrowed a camcorder from the iSchool’s technology department and edited the video with Adobe Premiere Pro, which is on all of the iSchool workstations. Shooting the video took place over a week or so; we did one long four-hour session with all of my fantastic dancing librarians, and then I popped into faculty offices as they were available to get them to do their lines. Editing was definitely the hardest part; I spent about two full days working on it. I was a Communications major in college, but I hadn’t done any video work since 2003 or so, so my skills were pretty rusty.

I had a great time working on it, and the best part was learning what total hams all of my classmates and professors are! Librarians are way more fun than people think!

I was so happy to see so much participation from iSchool faculty and staff. Congratulations to Sarah, Laura, Amelia, Morgan, Robin, Andrea, Jenny, Audrey, Cadi, Eric, and all the others on a fantastic video AND on your impending graduation.

I will miss these folks, for sure. My school is the iSchool!

Cover letters for the rest of us

May 4th, 2010 Posted in jobs, me, reflections | 6 Comments »
275/365 - form letter

Creative Commons License photo credit: jypsygen

While I was looking for a job I read a lot of advice about cover letters, yet I never felt entirely sure that I was doing it “right.” There are lots of examples, but I found few examples specific to the library world.*

In hindsight, I’m pretty sure there’s no one “right way.”  However, I’m sure there’s a right way for YOU. Looking at other people’s examples might help you find your way. I know it helped me. What also helped me:

  • getting feedback from the ALA Placement Center at Midwinter ’10
  • getting feedback from friends, colleagues, and family

You’ll need to highlight your own skills and accomplishments, obviously. But I think it’s also important for you to find your own “voice.” I’m not sure I found my voice until I had written 30 (or so) cover letters.

I wrote a different cover letter for each application I sent, because every single job ad is different. Each of the cover letters I’m sharing landed me an interview.

It’s important to address the job requirements directly. I frequently copied and pasted the requirement wording directly from the job ad, like in this example:

I also played around with being less rigid, but when I did so I made sure to use lots of the same words that were used in the job ad, and I still explicitly addressed the ad’s qualifications:

This job was particularly suited to my background and experience. I was offered an interview just after I had accepted my new job, even though I applied to this job several months earlier.

There’s a lot to say about cover letters, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Mostly, I wanted to share some examples of cover letters that got me an interview. None of these cover letters were for the job I ultimately got, however. That example will be in another post.

What kinds of difficulties do you have with cover letters?

* Colleen Harris, librarian at University of Tennessee Chattanooga, posted cover letter examples online. I met Colleen at Internet Librarian 2008, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t kept in touch. Her blog, Guardienne of the Tomes, is going to my feed reader immediately.

All you want is an interview

May 3rd, 2010 Posted in jobs, me, reflections | 6 Comments »

I was finally offered a job(!*), and I want to share my job-search experiences. What worked for me may not work for you, but – in the spirit of “more information is better”– I hope this helps you clarify how you’ll approach the job search.

I want to write a series of posts, but for now I’m just going to do a scattershot approach:

  • During my job search I didn’t post job-related content on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or other social networking sites. The LIS community is small. I chose not to broadcast where I was interviewing, where I was traveling, etc. This was difficult, and you might choose differently. I will expound on this later.

  • Instead, I frequently chose to tell a few select people about my upcoming <résumé submission, phone interview, in-person interview, offer, etc.>. I chose to tell certain (few) people because I was looking to them for advice; or maybe they could cheer me on or send good vibes. They may have been super close friends who I trust. Or maybe I needed a place to stay; or perhaps they knew the library director well and could make a phone call. In other words, I was picky about talking with people, and I used my contacts. This will be the topic of a future post, because I don’t think you can underestimate the power of networking. It’s how I got my job, actually.  I’m also extremely lucky – my contacts are my friends pretty much to a person. Do not underestimate the power of friends and contacts.

  • I wrote a different cover letter for every single job to which I applied. I’m guessing I applied for 120+ jobs. I will be posting cover letter samples here eventually, because I don’t think there are enough good examples out there.

  • I rarely (if ever) revised my CV based on the job description. I frequently revised my résumé based on the job description. There’s a difference between a CV and a résumé. You might want to consider having both (I will post both of mine eventually, and I will explain the differences, and I will admit what I did wrong).

  • I used a ton of resources for job ads. In addition to all the “usual suspects” (RSS feeds, Twitter, LIS job websites and listservs) I bookmarked library web sites where I particularly wanted to work. I dug deep. You’re (probably) a librarian. You know how to do this. So DO IT!  I’m guessing I checked 60+ resources daily. I will post more about this later too, along with a list of resources I used.

There are so many more tips I want to write about, but I think it’s super important to address the subject of this post – “First, get an interview.”

Really and truly, you want an interview. In fact, you want lots of them. People get hung up about details in the job description, so they end up saying (or thinking) things like:

  • “I don’t want to live in Mississippi.”
  • “I’ve never created instruction plan.”
  • “Catalogers aren’t interested in Reference, so I don’t want to be hired as a cataloging librarian.”
  • “I can’t live in a small town.”
  • “I really don’t want to live in Mississippi.”

We read job ads, and we react all knee-jerky. We decide why we we won’t like the job. Or maybe we save the job ad to re-read and apply later. When we go back to the job ad we think, “That’s not really for me.”


Do NOT take yourself out of the running. (Trust me: you’ll have plenty of other people willing to do that for you). All you want is an interview. An interview doesn’t mean you’ll be offered the job; it just means you get an interview. An interview doesn’t mean you have to take the job even if it is offered to you; it just means you get an interview.

An interview gives you an opportunity to talk about what’s important to you. An interview gives you the opportunity to understand who you *might* work for. If absolutely nothing else, you get the opportunity to practice interviewing. And even that is worth a whole lot. What’s really cool? After enough interviews you become confident, self-assured, and they become FUN. Really!

Let me repeat myself yet again: An interview doesn’t mean you’ll get the job. But an interview gives you a better chance at getting the job. So all you want is an interview.

I’d love to hear any job-related questions you might have. I’ll answer them honestly, and I’ll do my best to answer them quickly.

*(Starting July 1, 2010, I will be the Academic Resident Librarian at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio. YAY!)

Plugging TWIL

Apr 8th, 2010 Posted in news | 2 Comments »

This Week in Libraries is a new, weekly radio show by two of the three Shanachies – Erik Boekesteijn and Jaap van de Geer. They broadcast (and shoot video) from the radio studio in the beautiful Amsterdam Public Library, a.k.a. OBA (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam). You can watch it each week on the TWIL site or on Vimeo. I’ve consistently found it interesting and engaging.

This Week in Libraries #4: Helene Blowers, Michael Stephens and David Lee King. from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Last week Erik and Jaap hosted David Lee King, Helene Blowers, and Michael Stephens, which meant that some of my favorite people were all together discussing innovation in libraries.

When the group was asked, “Will libraries be around in 30 years?” I kept shouting, “Of course, they will be, because communities will still be around in 30 years! Librarians will still be working with their communities to create connections!” My shouts eventually died down when they finally began discussing curating community content toward the end of the show. I’m excited about so many aspects of library and information management, but I am especially excited about public libraries taking on the role of collecting (and then sharing) stories from their community.

Take a look (and listen) to TWIL and especially to this one – my favorite episode so far. And let Jaap and Erik know what you think!

My first Passover – Part I

Apr 2nd, 2010 Posted in meals | 1 Comment »

I have long been interested and intrigued with Passover, since it is a holiday where food plays a strong role. However, I’ve never participated in a Passover celebration or Seder. This year I was extremely fortunate to be invited to Eviatar and Yael Zerubavel’s Passover Seder, and I had a wonderful time.  I have a number of photos, which I will post both here and on my Flickr stream. I have a short, silly video, and I even recorded portions of the songs we sung around the table! I haven’t fully decided on how to best assemble them and make them available to everyone who participated, but I’ll be working on that project slowly over the next week or so. In the mean time, I’ll be uploading some of my photos, observations, and thoughts here.

The Gefilte Fish

Eating gefilte fish was another first for me. Certainly, I had heard of it, and I knew that it frequently elicited feelings of comfort or disgust. Some friends talked about it nostalgically, with fondness, like some people talk about meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Other friends made horrible faces, nearly spitting when recalling their experiences with it. I was glad to try it, and I will definitely eat it again.

Gefilte fish is a mixture of ground fish (frequently carp and pike) and “filler.” It’s helpful to think of gefilte fish like crab cakes, salmon patties, or the Thai tod mun. In the case of gefilte fish, the filler is often matzoh meal, onions and carrots. The patties are frequently poached instead of sauteed or fried.

There are easily accessible resources better than me if you’re interested in the history and cultural significance of gifilte fish. Try:

You might also be interested in a quick video of Abbie Hoffman making gefilte fish. I was surprised to stumble across this!

There were at least three vegetarian guests at the Seder, so Eviatar tried a new recipe intended to “evoke” the gefilte fish. “Evoke” is the important distinction; the vegetarian option was not intended to be a substitute for gefilte fish. I think he was very wise to make such a distinction, and he was very thoughtful in providing a delicious vegetarian option.

As you can see, the cucumbers were peeled, halved vertically, hollowed, and then stuffed with a mushroom mixture. Unfortunately, I do not know what Eviatar included in the stuffing, but I will see if I can get the recipe.

One serving portion was half a cucumber – the size you see in this picture. It was really delicious. There was a nice contrast between the savory stuffing and the cool, crisp “shell.” I will be eager to add this recipe to my collection. When I serve the dish it will always remind me of the wonderful time I had at my first Passover Seder.

I’ll be writing a few more Passover-related posts, and I already have the title of my next entry: We’re all Wallers! Making charoset, the mortar.

Chestnuts roasting…

Mar 4th, 2010 Posted in meals | 1 Comment »

I love hot, roasted chestnuts like the ones sold outside Uwajimaya in December. So when I saw bags of chestnuts for sale outside the Super Cao Nguyen in Oklahoma City I excitedly added them to my shopping basket. I decided to make an  impromptu dessert using chestnuts, honey, thyme, and goat cheese. We didn’t have all those ingredients, so I improvised.

I toasted a couple frozen waffles (show of hands: who knew there was a national shortage of Eggo waffles?) and put a light schmear of (heated) cream cheese on them. I roasted and then chopped the chestnuts. I sprinkled the waffles with the chestnuts, added some chopped fresh thyme, and drizzled the whole thing with honey.

I was terribly disappointed, but I made an important discovery: it’s not advisable to leave chestnuts sitting out on the counter in the dry Oklahoma climate. Many were withered beyond palatability. I’ll probably try this again, but I’ll use the fresh chestnuts right away. Oh, and I probably won’t use frozen waffles.

Olympic medal winning countries’ anthems. Weighted by medal count.

Feb 28th, 2010 Posted in information visualization | Comments Off on Olympic medal winning countries’ anthems. Weighted by medal count.

I had this great idea:

  • note the countries that won Olympic medals
  • translate each of those country’s national anthems into English (this was not a perfect science)
  • note the total number of Olympic medals each country won (e.g. United States won 37, China won 11, Italy won 5, etc.,). No, I did not get so granular as to weight by gold, silver, bronze.
  • weight each country’s anthem appropriate to their medal count
  • put the weighted anthems into Wordle

Yes, I’m a geek – an optimistic one at that. I was hoping I would get a big, beautiful Wordle full of things like “Peace,” “Love,” “Brotherhood,” and “Embrace.”

The countries’ anthems represented are: United States (37), Germany (30), Canada (26), Norway (23), Austria (16), Russian Federation (15), Korea (14), China (11), Sweden (11), France (11), Switzerland (9), Netherlands (8), Czech Republic (6), Poland (6), Italy (5), Japan (5), Finland (5), Australia (3), Belarus (3), Slovakia (3), Croatia (3), Slovenia (3), Latvia (2), Great Britain (1), Estonia (1), Kazakhstan (1)

This is easier to see at a larger size.

The Eyes Have It

Feb 25th, 2010 Posted in signage, usability | Comments Off on The Eyes Have It

I recently finished reading Marilyn Johnson’s new book “This Book is Overdue.” The book has received great press in places like USA Today, Salon.com, Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal. Reviews are making their way to smaller markets too. The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Poughkeepsie Journal recently ran reviews; I’m sure others will follow. So the point of this post isn’t to review the book, since you can obviously find reviews in other places.

Instead, consider what could happen if “This Book is Overdue” continues to receive such widespread (and glowing) press: it could drive people to your library. These might be people who haven’t used a library in a long time. They might be people who have never used a library. And they might even want to borrow “This Book is Overdue!”

Is your library ready for new patrons? Here are just a few things to consider. Try thinking about them from a brand new user’s perspective:

  • What will a new (and potential) patron first see when they walk in your front doors? Have you created a welcoming environment?
  • Are your “policy” signs kind? Or are they an off-putting list of “do nots?”
  • Are your directional signs clear? Do they use language new patrons can understand?
  • Is your staff open and welcoming? Or are they hidden or unapproachable?

I am a strong believer in looking at things with “fresh eyes.” It gets more difficult when you’ve been in the same place for awhile though.

So here’s where these new users present a second opportunity.

Two librarians whose work I admire, Brian Mathews and Jenica Rogers, do great things with informal assessment. I have heard Brian talk about using “every patron interaction as an opportunity for assessment.” And take a look at the latest way Jenica is gathering patron feedback (Jenica was also responsible for one of my favorite communication channels: chalk notes on the sidewalk).

As new people begin using your library consider taking the time to ask them about their first impressions. Tell them how much you value their opinions, because they are seeing your library with fresh eyes. Perhaps develop a quick survey for them to fill out after they’ve signed up for a library card. Or give them their own “new users” suggestion board.

I’d be interested in how your library taps into the fresh eyes of your new users, either formally or informally.

Johnson, Marilyn. (2010). This Book is Overdue. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Lightbulb: Off

Feb 22nd, 2010 Posted in reflections | 2 Comments »

"Dad & Sister Easy Bake" image by shazam791/tlk

Today a memorial service was held for Ronald Howes, Sr. If the name Ronald Howes doesn’t ring a bell, his claim to fame surely will. Mr. Howes was the inventor of Kenner’s Easy-Bake Oven, and he died last Tuesday.

I never had an Easy-Bake Oven, and I was envious of my friends who did. But why didn’t I have one, and why was I jealous?

By second grade – when the Easy-Bake was all the rage – I was already cooking attempting to cook. In fact, my mom was the one who told me I didn’t need an Easy-Bake Oven, because I was already making “real” food. She was right. But the Easy Bake Oven undoubtedly inspired lots of little kids to bake. I can easily remember the plastic smell of the little brownies that my friends made under that 100-watt light bulb.

Instead of an Easy-Bake Oven, I had an Incredible Edibles kit that made gooey, gummy worms and insects to eat.

Kenner’s Easy-Bake Oven has been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Incredible Edibles, incredulously, has not.