Learning to talk

Feb 15th, 2010 Posted in pla2010 | Comments Off on Learning to talk

My friend Becca recently wrote about starting a job search support group on her blog “what about lunch?” One of her outcomes really resonated with me:

“I learned to talk about what I want to do with more clarity and confidence…”

I process and clarify lots of my ideas by writing them down, which is great (although some of my friends are surely sick of reading long missives). But writing only goes so far. It has been important to talk about my goals and philosophies out loud too. Articulating a vision takes practice. Luckily I have people in my life who are interested in the things I do and who are eager to talk. Some of them even listen!

It is relatively easy to have these kinds of discussions while in school or at work, because you are surrounded by peers and colleagues. It definitely takes more of an effort when you’re not in school or not working.

Which reminds me…I am looking forward to attending PLA and being surrounded by “my people” again. Advance registration ends this coming Friday!

The Edible Library

Feb 14th, 2010 Posted in programming | 6 Comments »

Last year, in my “Management of Information Organizations” class, I was required to write a vision document which would, among other things, successfully communicate a future view of an organization. I had been thinking about creating an “edible library toolkit,” so I expanded my vision a bit and wrote about a potential business venture – The Edible Library.

Jamie Oliver’s recent TED Prize and his corresponding TED Talk got me thinking about The Edible Library again.  Oliver says his tools are “information and education. Aren’t libraries exactly poised to provide exactly those things?

From my original vision document:

The Edible Library believes in the transformative values of food, nourishment, and stewardship of the land, and we maintain that these values have the power to build healthy communities. The Edible Library works to increase awareness and appreciation of these values by providing libraries with integrated tools and services for community-appropriate food-based education, programming, collection developement, and outreach. The Edible Library’s products and services are the first choice among librarians seeking to use gardening, cooking, food, dining, and associated activities as one means to educate and support the communities they serve. The Edible Library helps libraries nationwide implement programs they may not otherwise be able to financially or logistically afford.

The vision document goes on to identify several products and services including:

The Edible Library Toolkit contains detailed instructions for implementing different food-related programming in libraries. The tools and instructions are flexible, engaging, culturally relevant, and tailored to individual communities…We understand the challenges of providing food-based instruction, planning and executing your library’s own garden (and then growing tomatoes in January), creating an engaging “National Pickle Week” display, teaching pasta-making classes without a kitchen, or arranging a perishable vegetable delivery to a local food bank…

Jamie Oliver’s plans include a network of community kitchens and a “traveling food theater.” They are actively looking for partners. Libraries – especially public libraries – are in a perfect position to take a leadership role in Oliver’s mission.

Does your library currently have food-related programming in place? I am bursting with ideas about this. In fact, one of the reasons I went back to school for my MLIS was because I wanted to open up my own non-profit Edible Library. Maybe it’s time for me to partner with Mr. Oliver AND you?!?

The Right Tool for the Job

Oct 5th, 2008 Posted in managing | 6 Comments »

We all recognize examples of good customer service, and we can distinguish them from poor customer service.  Yet our analysis of customer service often focuses on how we felt after an encounter.  Did we feel better about the organization than we did before?  Or were we angry, vowing never to do business with that company again?

Let’s take a look at the other side of the exchange for a moment though.  Why do some employees seem to ooze goodwill, and why do certain organizations excel at customer service?  I’m not going too far out on a limb when I suggest that much of it can be traced back to good managers providing their employees with the right tools to do their jobs.  And one of those tools is empowerment.

But empowering people is more than just telling them they have the latitude to do what is best.  Empowering employees doesn’t happen overnight.  Instead, employees become empowered when they have a deeper understanding of your organization’s “why’s.”  This kind of understanding is cultivated in an environment where managers listen, share, support, and trust.  Neglect these basic values, and employees will surely feel disconnected and unrecognized.

Who do you think provides better customer service – an employee who feels disconnected and unrecognized?  Or an employee who feels supported, knowledgeable, and empowered?

“Yahooeee!” they exclaimed?

Jan 23rd, 2008 Posted in uncategorized | Comments Off on “Yahooeee!” they exclaimed?

Well, no. “Holy cow,” it was.

Perhaps because I am frequently an anonymous donor, I love stories like this. It’s a press; it’s a good press, and it’s a local press.

“Yay!” to the donor, whoever you are. I’ve been thinking about my giving a lot lately, and this came at a timely moment.

Copper Canyon Press gets big — and anonymous — donation

You had me until the word “Amazon”

Jan 21st, 2008 Posted in uncategorized | Comments Off on You had me until the word “Amazon”

Wikipedia founder wants librarians

The stacks are different now

Jan 20th, 2008 Posted in uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Steve Warren has just been hired as the Upsher (Texas) County Librarian by the county commissioners there. The headline in the Tyler Morning Telegraph reads, “Upsher County Hires First Male Librarian.” While the headline might merit some discussion, I think Steve Warren’s reason for wanting the job is even more talk-worthy:

” (I have) always enjoyed being in libraries…”

Mr. Warren may be the perfect person for this job, and he may be very well-qualified. He doesn’t hold an MLIS or an MLS, but he was hired with the stipulation that he must get one within three years (another topic for discussion). He may really enjoy his work at the library. However…

Anyone considering a career as a librarian needs to have a much better reason for wanting the job and joining the profession. Hopefully Mr. Warren has better reasons, and they just didn’t get reported in this article.

Quick Bit with Michael Pollan

Jan 20th, 2008 Posted in uncategorized | Comments Off on Quick Bit with Michael Pollan

I picked up The Omnivore’s Dilemma right before I started school. I’m sad that I haven’t finished reading it. I have lots of other reading that, while very enjoyable, interesting, and thought-provoking, seems a little more necessary and a little more like “work.” I still keep buying Michael Pollan’s books though.

He has a new book, In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto. I will likely buy a copy at the University Book Store which will give me a free ticket to hear Michael Pollan speak at Town Hall in Seattle.

In the mean time, here’s a snippet from an interview I ran across today:

I have eaten locally and seasonally for years now, although I used to supplement my farm share frequently. I would buy meat, cheese, fruit, out-of-season veggies, and loads of “pantry items.” I now find myself supplementing my farm share with less, although I frequently buy fruit. More importantly, I’m actively working to supplement it less. I’ll expound in a later post. I have lots of reading to catch up on right now!

Taking License

Jan 6th, 2008 Posted in uncategorized | Comments Off on Taking License

Many software companies license their software to a single user on multiple personal machines. When I buy software from those companies I am free to install it on my desktop computer and on my laptop computer.

Apple licenses Leopard for a single machine, not for a single user. That means I need to buy one license (at $129.00) for my desktop and another license for my laptop. $258.00 plus tax. Unacceptable.

Apple created a "Family Pack" — five licenses for $199.99 — as a way for people to have multiple licenses at a lower cost. Still unacceptable. "You can give the other three licenses away," said the employee at the Apple Store.

I bought the Family Pack at a ridiculous $216.71, but I wanted to think about the situation before opening it and installing it. Would it really do any harm to buy the single license and install it on my two personal machines? Could I sell the remaining three licenses in my Family Pack and recoup some of the money I spent?

I’m comfortable with the decision I finally made, although it’s still not ideal. I forgot I’m eligible for the academic pricing. I will return the Family Pack to the Apple Store, and I will buy two licenses for $138.00 under academic pricing at the University Bookstore. The result: I play by the rules and only have to pay a semi-ridiculous price.

I don’t always play by the rules, but if I’m going to break ’em I need to feel confident in my logic and reasoning about why I’m breaking ’em. I’m loyal to Apple, but situations like these annoy me and erode my allegiance.

On Thin Ice

Jan 6th, 2008 Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments »


I don’t even know where to begin here.

Tim and I came across this product while wandering around Whole Foods yesterday. They’re called “IceRocks.” For $4.00 you get four blister packs each containing twelve sealed compartments of water. Pop ’em in your freezer, and guess what!?! You get ice!

This is ludicrous on so many levels. I have tried to think of situations where this product would be beneficial, but none of the resulting situations (mostly dealing with widespread, emergency aid) involve a $4.00 purchase at Whole Foods.

Doesn’t everyone have the recipe for ice? If not, isn’t it easy enough to learn? If you don’t want to use tap water for ice, why not buy bottled water? Better yet, why not install a filter on your tap or use a BRITA? I’m trying to understand the rationale of buying pre-portioned water to put in your freezer. I’m also trying to understand the energy costs associated with such a product.

Here are some gems from the IceRocks website:

“Do it for yourself.” (WHY is this one of their mottos? This doesn’t even make sense.)

“Think blue, be green.” (Greenwashing anyone?)

“ICEROCKS® is sold in its unfrozen state (liquid), making it a product offering substantial savings in terms of delivery costs, in that it does not require trucks to be refrigerated for transportation.”

It’s hard to pick a favorite line from their site, but this one might be it:

“These ice cubes will be an enjoyable way for children to experience and practice healthy eating habits and pure ice.” (Yes. Think of the children.)

I expect I will be writing a letter to Whole Foods today. WF carries a lot of crap and does a bit of greenwashing itself. But this one is the ICE-ing on the cake.

Oh the humanity

Dec 29th, 2007 Posted in assignments, MLIS, school | Comments Off on Oh the humanity

Assignment: What does it mean to be human?

  • Select “something” (object, image, etc.) that exemplifies what it means to be human.
  • Write a brief explanation (two pages, double spaced) of your opinion. Address these questions:
    • Why does this “something” symbolize what it means to be human?
    • How might this “something” relate to the design of an information system?

Humans strive to make meaning of their lives and the world around them. More importantly, humans have the capacity to make meaning. One method humans use to understand the world around them is by recording their lives and thoughts in words, drawings, and symbols. Therefore I have chosen a journal to symbolize what it means to be human.

In a journal humans document their lives, work their way out of problems, and create meaning. We use journals as a repository for our emotions; our writing serves as a way to grieve and to express joy. Journals act as our confidante – a place where we confess our greatest secrets, our greatest needs, and our greatest desires. In journals we can stockpile the treasures of our imagination.

Journaling provides us one way to distinguish what is important and what is unimportant; what is relevant and what is irrelevant. We use journals to sort things out, and our sorting allows us to solve our problems, to adapt, to evolve, and to survive.

We have the ability to project or reflect in journals. We can look forward and dream what may be. We can look back and remember what was. We can use the combination of hindsight and clarity to avoid the same mistakes.

In journals we can draw, doodle, and paste. We can write on impulse, or we can write thoughtfully. We can rewrite and revise. We can erase.

The journal can become a scrapbook, and the journal can become an archive. The journal I’m holding today can also be viewed as a symbol for diaries, cave paintings, calendars, tics on a prison wall, a blog, a sacred text. Therefore, this journal — by its contents and by its being — also illustrates the human capacity to think symbolically.

We can choose for our journals to be private or public, and both have value. Anne Frank, Jim Carroll, Buckminster Fuller, Anne Morrow Lindburgh, and Michael Palin all kept diaries or journals. But perhaps more illustrative are the journals from the unknown and common: the 19-year old mill girl in 1845 Lowell, the Oklahoma rancher’s wife in the 1934 dustbowl, the 63-year old mayor-domo in Chama, New Mexico. Their journals provide an insight into their lives, and they – in turn – give us meaning today.

Information systems are created for users, and systems will be used if they fall within a framework that people understand. Therefore, designing a meaningful, useful information system requires an understanding of users’ needs and values. Our examination of people’s personal writing — their diaries and journals — is but one way to understand human needs, the needs of a certain population, or the needs of an individual. When we gain insight into how people think and insight into their culture we can design systems that match. We can study the sounds and structure of their language and design systems that follow. We can study journals and diaries to find gaps in understanding and knowledge, and we can then design systems with those gaps in mind. We can design a more usable, and therefore more valuable, system by studying the human record, and a journal is one of those records.