Looking Back and Looking Forward

I don’t call my New Year’s resolutions as such; I prefer to think of them as goals – I find calling them goals motivates me more to keep them.  I wrote down my goals for 2010 on my Facebook page, and in one of the many profile revamps they have disappeared, but I do remember them for the most part:

  • Graduate with my MLS: Probably the easiest of the 2010 goals to keep, because I was only one semester away from my degree, and barring catastrophe that would bar me from finishing the semester, this was going to happen.  And happen it did – I graduated on May 17, 2010.
  • Travel More: I think I traveled the same amount in 2010 when compared to 2009, if not a little bit more.  In 2009 I went to Washington DC, Seattle and Vancouver.  In 2010, I went to Tampa (twice), Seattle, Washington DC, and western Maryland. I never did make it to Northern California or Portland like I wanted to, though.
  • Learn to Cook: Done.  I experimented with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and several vegetarian recipes, and found my niche in the latter.
  • Relax: Done, in some small part.  As a Type A personality, this may have been the hardest of my goals to achieve, and I have made some progress.  Part time work and unemployment forced me to slow down my lifestyle and realize that it is okay to be idle, in fact, very healthy.  The extra time allowed me to manage my days better and get more rest.

And now, Goals for 2011, broken down into several broad categories:

  • Physical Health: I went on a bit of a health kick in 2010, phasing out meat for the most part (though I will still eat it occasionally), running more, trying to sleep better, and giving up alcohol (this was my Lenten sacrifice and I enjoyed it so much I stuck with it).  I’d like to continue with all of these in 2011.  I will start running again in late winter/early spring.
  • Travel: I’d like to exceed my traveling for 2010, and I’m on pace to do so when planned trips are taken into consideration.  I will be going to San Diego next week and New Orleans in June for ALA’s Midwinter and Annual Meetings, respectively.  As I am becoming active in ASIST’s Leadership Committee, there is a chance I will be going to their annual meeting in New Orleans.  Proposals for papers/presentations at other conferences may take me to Philadelphia and Minneapolis, and I will be hitting up my parents’ vacation house in Tampa and if things hold out, making a return trip to InfoCamp in Seattle or a first-time trip to the IA Summit in Denver.
  • Professional: This is the elephant in the room.  I need a full time job.  I have been working at JSTOR part time since October, and there is a chance this may become full time.  However, this is no guarantee, and I need to continue pursuing opportunities.  I slacked on applying for jobs near the end of the year, and I need to make sure I send at least 1 – 2 applications a week.  Furthering this goal, I need to continue pursuing professional growth by continuing to seek speaking/writing opportunities, and keeping up with technology and professional literature.  My largest project the first half of this year will be my ALA Emerging Leaders project, but I would like to teach more podcasting classes, blog more,  get InfoCamp New York City off the ground, pursue leadership opportunities on local, regional and national levels that fulfill my research interests (and maybe pick up a few new ones) – in short, take one of Andromeda Yelton’s inchoate lessons from 2010 to heart – be famous, even if I don’t have a job.   I would also like to keep options open for a second master’s degree (starting in 2012 at the earliest), and will continue to research various programs in public affairs, public policy, and education policy.
  • Financial:  Given my current lack of full time work, this is a bit tricky to make goals.  Unemployment forced me to cut back, and I have noticed more money in my checking account throughout the year as a result.  I would like to spend less (but indulge now and then) and continue to pay down debt, particularly student loans so if I do end up going for a second master’s in 2012, I don’t end up with six figure loan balances.
  • Podcast: Yes, I make podcast goals. :)  I was very erratic with recording my podcast, and I want to stick to the every two weeks schedule a bit more.  I want to experiment more with podcasting, including format and recording hardware/software, and be a better podcast marketer.  With this, I can grow my experience and knowledge base, eventually fulfilling one of those professional goals of teaching podcasting lessons with a superstar lesson plan.
  • Social/Cultural: I didn’t read or knit as much as I would have liked in 2010, and I want to do more of each in the coming year.  I’d also like to take in more cultural events in New York – I’ve never been to Lincoln Center or the Metropolitan Opera, and I’m hoping to find some deals (signed up for Groupon!) and take in a performance or two.  If I find time, I want to try some new hobbies and crafts, like embroidery and sewing.
  • Mental/Emotional Health: I will continue to find that good mix of Type A motivation and Type B relaxation, worry less and enjoy life more. Ensuring that I build time in my day for personal pursuits, sleeping better, and incorporating those personal pursuits into my travel plans (yes, I do go to a lot of conferences) will help me stop and smell the roses.

And with that, I conclude blogging for 2010, and will see you all in 2011.  A Happy and Healthy New Year to all.

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The Knitting Librarian Podcast Episode 14 – Holiday Surprise

Click here to download the podcast. Copy and paste the RSS feed into iTunes or your media player of choice to subscribe. Also find us on iTunes.

Missed an ep? The podcast feed from Libsyn is in a sidebar on the blog for easy download!

Episode recorded December 20, 2010. The Big News of the Day.

As my gift to you, I’m scrapping regular programming to bring you a special holiday story: O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi.  My thanks for Eric at Sweaters for Dragons for the idea inspiration, NPR for the story selection, and LibriVox for the recording.

The (Last Minute Gifts) Awesome Sauce:  Mildly Attractive Men of SLIS 2011 Calendar:  Hot Covers

How to Contact Me

Want to know what I’m reading?  Check me out on LibraryThing and Goodreads.

Intro music is O Tannenbaum by Wooden Shjips, end music is Winter Wonderland by Leah Morrow (both from the Free Music Archive)

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy holiday season and a peaceful New Year.  We’ll be back in 2011!  :)

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Review: Radioshift

Through the Indie Mac Gift Pack, I discovered a wonderful new Mac-based Internet radio tuner called Radioshift.  I love Internet radio, given that my location in New Jersey, while convenient to New York and Philadelphia, makes it difficult to pull in stations over the air – too much interference, being in the center of the state and all.  Along with fond memories in college of listening to streams (several of us became rather enthralled with a top 40 station from Hawaii), I proudly wear my “Internet Radio Nerd” badge with pride.

The interface is very similar in look and feel to iTunes (which you may consider a compliment or an insult, depending on your feelings towards iTunes), with a home page featuring a search box, the popular stations, and a place to mark your favorites.

Exploring by genre is simple and almost dizzying with the amount of options available.

Searching within these categories does leave a little bit to be desired, if you’re a fast scroller like I am you might miss what you want, and you can only sort by name if you have the list view turned on in the list of stations.  Geographic searching isn’t the greatest either. Your only option is searching based on a world map through the “world” link at the top of the screen, clicking on the green dot representing city of choice, and the search results are limited to the bottom 1/3 of the screen.

Where possible, there is station information, including a broadcast schedule.  However it would be useful in future updates to include a link to a station website, where possible (especially if there is no broadcast schedule information available).

As radio stations change format frequently and unexpectedly (I still mourn the loss of WHFS in Baltimore/Washington), the software has a built in contact form for users to update or correct station information.  (And it’s separate from the technical support form so you know the information is not going to get lost in a tech support shuffle!)

I do wish the link was larger; you can see in the earlier screenshot of a station information page how small the text is and how difficult it can be to see on the page.

You also have the option to subscribe to streams and record directly from them, which I was surprised to find (given the international reach of the tuner, it can be a copyright nightmare!) but pleasantly reminded of my childhood pastime of making mixtapes from terrestrial radio stations. (I wonder if the developers grew up in New Jersey in the late 1980s…)

Other complaints with the software include difficulty to return to the home page when browsing (much like the new iTunes store) and slowness of the search/browse functions.  (As an alternative, you can use the Radio Talk directory to browse and then do a direct search within Radioshift.)  It is also hard to tell if times for broadcast schedules are in the state/country of origin’s local time zone or the listener’s local time zone (right now, I’m working on the assumption that the former is true).  Pulling in international stations was a bit difficult at times – the CBC Radio 3 feed from Montreal was choppy and the BBC Radio feeds took a few tries to get going. It is great to have access not limited by borders and having the capability to listen to BBC Radio 5 from the comfort of my home in New Jersey is quite a little geek thrill.

I’m not sure what application this can have for library service, though it might prove a nice direct or indirect marketing tool for both academic library and campus radio station.  You can have the stream of the local classical, NPR or college station playing in the library, and you can send library programming or underwriting to the station with less fear that your audience won’t be able to hear it.

On the whole, Radioshift is purely a fun personal tool, has a larger library that the tuner built in to iTunes, and might give new life to terrestrial radio. It needs some fixes and updates to its interface to improve usability, but it has its breadth and depth of content in its favor.

Radioshift is available from developer Rogue Amoeba (you can’t NOT love the name!) as a free trial download with full  license for $32, or as part of the $60 Indie Mac Gift Pack.

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Bad Info Lit? Don’t Always Blame the Students….

In the realm of information literacy, much blame has laid at the feet of students, for a lack of search skills. While I agree with the research, I think some blame can also be placed at the feet of search sites for poor usability and search metadata – the larger source of these poor skills. Here’s a recent example.

After reading a very interesting article in today’s New York Daily News print edition about the doctor who treated John Lennon when he was shot, I wanted to share it with family and friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc. So I went to the New York Daily News homepage (www.nydailynews.com), and figured the easiest and quickest way to search for the article would be a site search.

(As will all images used in posts, click on the oversized thumbnail for a larger version.)

(Yes, I know the home page is ugly. Very ugly.  Some may even call it “fugly.”)

My first search, probably a poor choice, was to search for the article based on the term “John Lennon.” I narrowed it down tot the last 7 days to make sure I got the closest results to today’s paper, instead of a glut of articles about John Lennon and the 30th anniversary of his death. Results? Not what I was looking for. In fact, the article wasn’t even there!

(I’m also annoyed that I had to scroll past a rather large “sponsored results” box to get to what I wanted to see – the actual site results. But that’s another story.)

Realizing that “John Lennon” was a bad choice, I grabbed the print edition of the paper from the recycling pile and flipped to the article to get the doctor’s name – Stephan Lynn – for my next search. Surprise, surprise – nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. And I even double checked spelling, and used the alternate first name spelling of “stephen” just in case the Daily News taxonomist was asleep at the wheel.

Search results for Stephan Lynn, correct name of interviewee


Search results for Stephen Lynn, incorrect spelling of first name

Now I’m getting annoyed and went for the crapshoot option, clicking on the “local” option in the menu bar. And well lookee here – see what’s on the front page?! Just what I’m looking for!!!

It seems that this is the m.o. of the Daily News search functions – not counting the current day in their site search. To test this further, I decided to search for articles on the recently censured Charlie Rangel after I noticed one in that section. The most recent result that came up was dated Friday, December 3rd – not even close to whatever was published today on Mr. Rangel.

Nowhere on the Daily News web page is this clearly explained; the user is expected to make the conclusion to the time frame that encompasses “past 7 days” and there is no option to include the current day in this search. In fact, the site box itself is extremely misleading – it leads the user to believe that you’re searching the entire site – currently published and archived content. My ability to find the article in the Local section was pure luck and a little bit of my knowledge of how the paper organizes their print content, something that casual readers of the paper probably will not know.

When students are raised on this kind of poor usability and information literacy from the side of a website, it’s not all that surprising that their search skills are poor. It’s like a child raised only on meat and potatoes, without exposure to other vegetables – when that child comes to adulthood and must grocery shop independently, their nutritional literacy skills (knowing what vegetables to purchase, nutritional content, etc.) will be sorely deficient. It’s hard to break such bad habits with scholarly web sites when even those with the best skills can’t get what they want on a popular web site!

Further testing with other newspaper sites will be necessary to see if this this a localized problem (meaning, just the DN site) or endemic to other newspaper websites.  In the interim, it would be wise for instructors to include experiences like this, the larger problems of poor construction and web usability, in their information literacy and library instruction lessons.

Edit (12/5/10, 2:46 PM EST):  My friend Vinessa, a librarian at the Newark (NJ) Star Ledger, pointed out the Google search results for “john lennon doctor,” which just furthers the case for Google reliance (or over-reliance, perhaps):

(I chuckle at the discovery that one of the top 10 results is the Doctor Who wiki!)

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Free? You mean F-R-E-E-E?

Who doesn’t like free stuff? Free wifi, free airfare, free food, free minutes…well, the list can go on and on.  One thing that librarians really should get excited about is free learning.   To quote an HR director in my previous life (law firm land), “when you stop learning, you’re in the box.”Crude, yes, but very very true.   In the 21st century, when technology makes learning ridiculously easy, there’s no excuse.  You can build your skill set from the comfort of your own home in your pajamas, or on your lunch hour.

If you don’t believe me, these two more eloquently written posts should sway you:

You can’t and won’t have time to learn everything you could possibly know for the position of librarian/information scientist/informationist provocateur*. and chances are you will be asked to do something at your workplace that you don’t know how to do, and you can’t call upon formal library school education to complete that task.  Thus it’s time to put on the thinking cap and take it upon yourself to learn a new skill – even if your job does not require it.

I do practice what I preach.  Since October, I’ve been taking an O’Reilly Media/createLIVE course on XML and Information Architecture. (While you’re there, look at some of their other course offerings; they’re very interesting.)  I don’t get any credit or certification for this, but I know it will make me indispensable in any future workplace, which is why I do it.   After three years of combining work and grad school you might think I am off the wall for diving right back into a class and homework (much less one where the benefit is not so obvious).  But, I press at it since I know that in the long term, giving up two hours each Tuesday afternoon for ten weeks** teaches me a skill I have wanted to learn for a long time, didn’t learn in library school, and will more likely than not use on some job in my informationist career.

So go off and take a free webinar (0r plan one for your institution if you have the chutzpah; Lori’s post gives some great tips).  You’ll be a better person for it.


* If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to listen to The Knitting Librarian Episode 13.  But I will tell you it has nothing to do with underwear.

** Including when I was on vacation in Florida.  I logged in for class from my parents’ lanai.

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