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Thankful Post 2015

November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! In honor of the holiday of giving thanks (and a not-quite-annual tradition on this blog), I wanted to take today to write a bit about things I’m thankful for in the library. I’m not going to be comprehensive (at this point in the term the memory is a bit fuzzy) or try to fit it into a predefined list (too hokey). Instead, I’m just going to write a bit of thanks and call it a good day.

1. East Bay Wrimos This was the first year that I signed up the library as an official Come Write In partner for National Novel Writing Month. It has been a long, exhausting month hosting write-ins every weekend, but the people I’ve met and gotten to know better over the course of the month has made it all worth it. (Even the running around like mad trying to figure out how to work a colleague’s coffee maker when my order for coffee hadn’t been received so there was no delivery one weekend). It has been great to write with other people, listen to their stories, and share laughs as we all do this crazy, novel-writing thing. It makes me happy to see so many people, who wouldn’t normally come to campus, come to the library and have a great time.

2. Students I’m continually thankful for my (mostly) wonderful students, both in the classes I teach, the ones I see at the reference desks, and the ones that come for help in my office. They keep me on my toes and make me remember why I love to teach and learn. I’ve felt especially grateful this year for students I’ve had in previous terms who’ve come back to say hi, get help on research for their current classes, and introduce me to friends who need a bit of research help, too. It makes being a teaching librarian a lot of fun (and makes doing grading seem a little easier, too).

3. Colleagues I love having colleagues I can collaborate and learn with at my library. A couple of colleagues and I were in the same faculty learning community this year and are just finishing up an article manuscript together. It has been great to share the learning experience and article writing experience with them.

4.  Generosity This is the fourth year we’ve participated as a library in our campus’ Bountiful Basket food drive. I’m always so grateful for the generosity of my colleagues in giving to the food drive and how we are able to represent the library in another positive way within our campus community. Plus, it is always fun to see just how many cans of green beans we get each year. ;)

So really, I’m thankful for so much of my work and my ability to keep learning and sharing. I hope that you have many things to be thankful for this year, too, dear readers. I’m also thankful that next month is December and I should have some more time to write and share here. Because, as always, I’m thankful that you read this blog, dear readers. It is always a journey. Allons-y!

Design in Libraries is Serious, but Sometimes We Need Fun

October 30, 2015

Happy Friday and Happy (Almost) Halloween, dear readers! So I think graphic design, and design generally, in libraries is a serious business. How we present ourselves visually, how well we communicate, and how intuitive our services and resources are to use are of great importance to the effective and efficient functioning of our libraries. However, just because it is serious doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun, especially so close to Halloween.

The first piece I ever got published when I became a librarian was a short piece about having fun as a librarian and how important that was to growth. I thought it was obvious. There’s lots of research about the value of play and how integral it is to work and life, especially if you want to be balanced and creative. I thought it would be a short article to get my feet wet and a piece that would help others see that adding some levity to their days could help out. Most saw it that way, but I still recall one comment that said fun and play had no business in an academic library and they’d never want to work with someone who thought that way. I guess not everyone is into playing and doing things differently. But in any case, I still think play is important in libraries and especially when we talk about design work. And what better time to think about play than on the eve of a holiday that is all about play and fun: Halloween.

So for the Halloween fun, here’s a spooky, fun, and somewhat scary look at monsters in literature. Be warned the banner image is a clown. If that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is.

Also, for Halloween fun, check out Smashing Magazine’s free Halloween icon set. Not terrifying, even kind of cute, icons that you can use for some last minute designs. Because Halloween means time for designing, right? :)

Back in the library, don’t be afraid to play with your designs and try new things. Even if you have a branding manual, you can still play. Sometimes events call for using Chiller in a huge font size on a banner announcing a costume contest or scary book reading. Sometimes you need to allow yourself the room to play with a new icon set for creating some lovely spook-tacular bookmarks to hand out for anyone checking out a frightful book for the weekend. And sometimes you need to tell yourself that even if you get it wrong with your designs, it isn’t the end of the world and no one is going to ship you off as fodder for the Headless Horseman. You always have next time to get it right and you’ll probably learn something along the way.

Design in libraries is serious business, but it is also great fun. Don’t lose track of that and I know you’ll not only create some great designs, but you’ll also enjoy the process.

Hope you have a fantastic, fun-filled, beautifully designed weekend. Allons-y!

Thinking about Design, Committees, and Libraries

October 23, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers. I hope your week has gone well and you have some fun planned for the weekend. Today I wanted to take a little time to share some thoughts on design and libraries. Or, more specifically design by committees, potential pitfalls, and a way forward.

I think about library design a lot. I can’t help it. One of my great loves is for good design, specifically good graphic design. I have an incorrigible habit of volunteering to design or re-design things for my library, even when I really have enough to do because I can’t stand having something get printed up or posted online that doesn’t reflect well on our library. Plus, I love design. I love the challenges and constraints and being able to communicate well visually.

I also think about library design a lot because I research graphic design and librarians. In an upcoming paper, I share information about best practices and processes already in place at libraries (article will be published soon, I hope, since it was accepted). One of the takeaways from my research thus far is the variation of how design processes are handled at libraries and the costs & benefits of design committees. Like all committees, design committees at a library can either be a blessing or a curse and either way, there is sometimes no way around a committee. But I wanted to talk a bit about how we can make the most of design committees.

First, try to get people on your design committee that actually know something about design. That always helps. If the people making the decisions don’t know about design, how can you expect to have great, or even good design, come out of the committee? Common sense, but sometimes committees are filled more by seniority or crystal ball than by actual experience or knowledge. So if you have control over a design committee, get people who know something about design.

Second, make sure your mandate and authority are clear. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do or how much authority/control you have over the design work in your library, you are being set up for failure. Don’t allow it and get as clear of an answer as possible from whoever implemented the committee and has final approval over the designs you’ll produce.

Perhaps most importantly, remember that you aren’t going to please everyone with your design work and that’s okay. As Seth Godin wrote about the 2% who misunderstand you, they aren’t the ones you are designing for. You are never going to please everyone. If you try to, your designs will become so watered down and boring that it would have been better just to stick with the clip art and default typefaces you were using all along; at least then you would have saved time. Design is about function and form, but also about beauty and aesthetics. Not everyone agrees on those last two. Make your peace with that and, if you can’t, doing design work for your library is probably not for you.

Just like we shouldn’t create library policies based on one or two squeaky wheels, we shouldn’t make design decisions based on the squeaky wheels. Be bold, be daring, make a mark with your library’s designs whether online or in print, on a huge banner, in the remodel of a study room, or the sign-up form for your programs. Merge utility and beauty to create amazing functionality and fabulous form. Solve problems and present improvements, do user testing and read the research, and then get your committee moving. Don’t wait; don’t fuss; just make.

I wish you all the best in your design work at your library. I’ll be back with more thoughts and research updates. Until then, I wanted to share a couple more things that may interest you as a librarian designer. One, planner subscription services, who knew? Not me, but they look fabulous and fun. I’ve actually been ruling a personalized planner in a Rhodia journal my husband bought me. I couldn’t find a planner I liked at our indie bookstore and thought, why not make my own? So far so good. Also, another lovely freebie from Smashing Magazine: Office and Business Icon Set. Love these icon sets. Great, classy alternatives to the dreaded clip arts. Reward yourself and your designs and download this set!

Have a wonderful day and weekend. Allons-y!

Blog Action Day 2015: Raise Your Voice!

October 16, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! So today is Blog Action Day 2015 and this year’s theme is Raise Your Voice! It brings a spotlight on the silencing and abuse that people sometimes face when sharing their views, research, and ideas online. This is an issue that happens especially if you do not fit with the dominant majority (aka not white, cisgendered, heterosexual, and male). So Blog Action Day is a time for us to come together and spotlight this issue and take a stand against it. Today I’m sharing some information and how I think libraries and librarians can, do, and should be advocates and allies against the hatred and silencing that occurs all to frequently online.

Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency, continually amazes me with her insightful commentary on representations of women in video games and her courage to continue her work through the vitriol and threats that she is subjected to constantly online for speaking out in an arena that a very vocal minority feel should remain a male-only space. If you’ve never heard of Feminist Frequency before, go check out some of her videos and interviews. They are amazing and I’m thankful that she’s continue with her work. She’s making a difference and we should support her against the bullies, trolls, and others who somehow think it is okay to threaten someone online.

Monica Lewinsky gave a powerful and moving TED Talk about her dark days of personal harassment on the early days of the Internet and how she is speaking up now to reclaim her narrative and advocate for safety and compassion online. It is a great speech and reminds us that we need to practice compassion in all aspects of our lives, including online. Harassment and intimidation should not be acceptable to us no matter the medium. It’s up to us to create a better world online and off.

Finally, I wanted to note that I think all librarians can help advocate for and promote values of equity, safety, and compassion online through our work. Librarians already affirm core values of social responsibility and diversity, among others. I see advocating for the safety of all people’s to share their ideas and creations online without fear of death and rape threats, doxing, or other forms of harassment and threat as part of our role as librarians, as people who support everyone in our communities access to information and education, life-long learning and community-building. It is up to us to decide how we want to use our professional standing, our lives, to support and build up instead of tear down others. My hope is that we work together to raise our voices in strength and solidarity to support those who are silenced.

That’s all for today. It makes me saddened that we can’t act better towards each other online, that we are over a decade into the 21st century and we can’t seem to be rid of such vileness and hatred. I want us to have a world that is better than that, for everyone. So that’s why I’m raising my voice with Blog Action Day today. Enough is really enough.

Design Fun for Friday

October 2, 2015

Hello, dear readers! I hope your Friday is going well and you have lovely plans for the weekend. For today, I wanted to share some design and inspiration resources as we head into the weekend.

I love Smashing Magazine. Great posts, tips, and inspiration. Plus, every once in a while they post freebies, including awesome icon sets. I love these icon sets for creating graphics for my library, especially helpful when trying to freshen up some of our brochures to make them more user friendly. To get you started in the world of their icon sets, I thought I’d share the link to the Smashicons Icon Set that has 500 icons! Pretty nifty. Plus they recently released the World Landmark Icon Set that is also lovely.

I love calligraphy. I don’t think that is a secret. But I do think more people should get into calligraphy because it seems like handwriting is a dying art and beautiful writing is important. So whether you love calligraphy or just want to watch a beautiful video, check out the short Ink. You’ll be glad you did.

As we near the end of Banned Books Week, I thought we could all use a little inspiration and what better place to get it than from books? So check out this infographic of inspiring quotes from children’s books.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of beautiful moments and time with what makes you happiest. I’ll be back soon. Allons-y!

Design in Libraries

September 25, 2015

Happy Friday! I hope your week has gone well, dear readers. It was the first week of the quarter here, or rather the first two days of classes. Technically called Week Zero, but that doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, so I call it the first week. But that is neither here nor there. Today I just wanted to share a few thoughts about design and some other interesting things as we move into autumn.

First, I really think everyone needs to read this article from Smashing Magazine on how designers can stop being an afterthought. It’s a really good article, so I’ll just wait here quietly until you get back. Read it? Great. So I think that even if librarians don’t consider themselves designers, this article is really useful for our work. One of the things that I was told through my research so far into librarian designers is that they sometimes feel that design is an afterthought in their libraries. Too many people equate design with making things pretty instead of solving problems. So it is time we change that in libraries, and not just for the huge projects at big libraries with lots of funding and splashy programs. We can change that and we need to change that.

There are a lot of great suggestions in the article to re-educate people about design work (it’s not about the decorations), re-brand design work as strategic (because it already is), and improve our own work (because we can always improve). I love the reminder to talk the jargon of the administration and decision-makers at your library. If they don’t have a background in design, they can just be hearing “decoration” or “make things pretty” in their heads instead of “functional user interface” or “accessible, intuitive wayfinding.” Use the jargon you need to get the job done. Everyone at my university is always talking about strategic planning, so much talk about strategic planning, that it is a great place to jump in with strategy talk about design, especially since part of our planning is involving revamping our library’s website.

As librarian designers, we solve problems. Design, graphic design, all design solves problems and gives us the ability to communicate better. So let’s look at being the sometimes afterthought as a problem to solve and get on it.

Since it is autumn, I just had to share this fall foliage map. I’m looking forward to seeing the trees outside my office window turn colors again this year.

Also, because I don’t yet want to let the feeling of being able to travel anywhere through my summer reading slip away, I have to share this lovely image from This Is Indexed. Now if only I could read as much when the school year starts as I do in the summer, life would be even better.

And, finally, because it is Friday and Fridays need some fun, I give you this hilarious comic by xkcd.

vet by xkcd

vet by xkcd

I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day and lovely weekend. Allons-y!

Friday Fun for the End of Summer Term

September 4, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a lovely week and, if you are in the United States, have a lovely holiday weekend planned. Today, I wanted to share a grab bag of articles and things that are fun and useful and may help you to keep some of the summer feeling as we go into the school year and into fall.

I love summer for many reasons, but one of the reasons I love summer is because it always seems like the perfect time to have potlucks, BBQs, and parties. If you didn’t get your fill of fun yet, check out Lifehacker’s article on the top 10 tips for hosting the perfect get-together and schedule one with your friends to enjoy the last days of summer before the frost of fall.

While it is already September and a lot of people are back at school and work, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice good design or some fun. Check out the September Desktop Calendars from Smashing Magazine to give your work desktop a refresh. I love changing up my desktop wallpaper each month and this month it was such a hard choice with so many lovely wallpapers combining summer with autumn designs.

It isn’t a new article, but it is a great read, like a pep talk and a pat on the back for librarians as we roll into another school year. So reread Neil Gaiman on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming because it is wonderful.

And it wouldn’t be a Friday without a bit of fun, so check out this previous Fashionable Friday: word nerd by The Well-Appointed Desk. Seems like a good one to share at the start of the school year.

Also, I can’t help but share this laptop scratching post lets your cat create its own viral content. So cute and silly.

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and lovely weekend full of all good things. I’ll be back again with news and notes. Allons-y!


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