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Organization and Creativity as Partners

May 15, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been lovely and you have some fun planned for the weekend. Before we get to the weekend, however, I wanted to take a few minutes to share some ideas about organization and creativity that I’ve been thinking about this week. I have numerous projects going on at the moment so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be organized to get everything done, but I’ve also been thinking a lot about how to partner organization with creativity and how that works in my life and work.

So I didn’t want to talk about creative organization. I think there are enough blogs out there writing about that. Instead I just wanted to share a few observations about how organization and creativity, at least for me, are partners instead of head-butting opposites. I know that there are people out there who believe that creativity has to be messy and I’d agree. But having a messy creativity process, like getting paint on the floor or ink on your wrists from all the edits on your manuscript are not the same as being unorganized. Sure, creativity is messy, just look at my kitchen table when I’m writing or my work desk when I’m creating a new tutorial or video for my classes. It’s a super-big mess, maybe one that I’ll share sometime with pictures. It’s messy, but it isn’t unorganized.

Being organized for me is a way of saving time and headspace so I can devote more energy to being creative. If my stuff is organized (and I have less of it to organize), then I don’t waste precious minutes or hours searching for what I need, be it some more fountain pen ink, my audio recorder, or a stack of notes for a video script. I’m a firm believer in putting things away, in the same place, every time. It not only keeps it organized, but then I don’t have to try to remember where I last saw something. I know where it is.

This, in turn, allows me to free up space in my head to organize thoughts and projects. Do you ever have days when it feels like the index cards or files in your brain are all hodge-podge on the floor? That each thought you have scurries away before you can link it to the next? I feel like that sometimes, but notice that I feel that way a lot less if I’ve been diligent about organizing my stuff, my time, and my projects. Then I actually have the room in my head to make connections I’d otherwise miss in the noise and I’m calm enough to get something new done. And, I like that.

One of the projects I’m currently working on is a poster session for ALA Annual. I’ll be there on Sunday, June 28th, from 2:30 to 4:00 pm in the Exhibit Hall. You can see details about the poster session here. I’d love it if you’d stop by. We can talk graphic design and libraries. It will be fun or at least hopefully not awkward. I’ll be posting more about poster design as I continue to work on them in the coming weeks.

I hope you have a wonderful spring weekend. I’ll be back soon. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

May 12, 2015

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Is it just me, or does the world seem to be spinning faster? I swear I don’t have as many hours in the day as I did a few months ago and the days are getting longer and that just makes absolutely no sense to me. Then again, it could just be we are getting to the end of the quarter and there is too much to do. So in honor of all of that, let’s take some time to have some fun because Tuesday needs some love, too.

If you teach, I’m sure you’ve gotten an email from a student at some point that started with the lovely salutation of “Hey, Prof!” If so, enjoy this wonderful comic from PhD Comics How to Write an Email to your Instructor or T.A.. Yeah, it is like that sometimes, though this quarter my class is fantastic so I’ve not had to deal with this particular brand of fun communication.

I love design and typography and am continually blown away by artists who hand-letter their designs. So please, give yourself a delightful break and watch Seb Lester draw logos by hand. Incredible!

xkcd is one of my favorite web comics and I’m so happy there’s been a new biology comic I can share with students. Degree-off is wonderful. Enjoy.

"degree-off" by xkcd

“degree-off” by xkcd

I hope you have a wonderful, productive, fun, and awesome day, dear readers. Or, at least a day that is not super-stressful and worrisome. I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on designing posters as I work towards completing mine for ALA Annual. :) Allons-y!

Bits and Bobs

April 24, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! Do you ever feel like all you have to talk about are bits and bobs that somehow make sense in your brain, but don’t really seem to have a common thread that would make sense to anyone else? Yeah, this post is kinda like that. I just have a few things to share with you that may or may not be useful for you or your patrons, but they made sense to me, so I’m sharing them now.

I love books. No surprise there. I’m also a fan of adorable and useful infographics, so I had to share this one from BookPal. Yay, books!

Presented By BookPal

If you are trying to teach students that all websites that end in .edu, .org, or .gov are not necessarily great sources of up-to-date, accurate information, you might like this post from Gizmodo on a hidden treasure trove of dead .gov websites. Both fun to look at from a design/history standpoint and as a potential resource for teaching. Also, wow for some of those URLs.

As we get into the weekend, I felt like I had to share this Lifehacker article on the need to stop working on your day off. Like, really, just stop it and go out and do something fun. It will make you more productive at work, promise. I for one am looking forward to napping, reading some new books I just got from the library, and maybe even some baking this weekend. What are you looking forward to this weekend?

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of fun and relaxation. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting about graphic design and libraries. Hopefully you’ll find some of it useful. Allons-y!

Creativity and One Design Tip

April 17, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a lovely week and are looking forward to a lovely weekend. Also, Happy National Library Week! We’ve had a week of events here at the library, which has made for a fun (and busy) week. I enjoyed designing posters and flyers for our events so I wanted to talk a bit about creativity today as well as start talking about design. Since one of my new research areas is looking at graphic design and libraries, I wanted to start sharing some of that on this blog. So let’s get into it.

First, I had to share this article from Lifehacker on How You’re Sabotaging Your Creativity Every Day. Go ahead and read it; I’ll wait for you here. I really like this article. It is a good reminder that we shouldn’t feel like we need to copy someone else’s schedule to be more creative. It is about what works best for us. And, if you need one, the article gives you the excuse to keep working on side projects, which I think is great. I would also add that we have to give up the myth that we just wait around for the muse to strike to be creative or that we have to keep a totally rigid schedule to be creative. I think it is great to have a schedule and figure out your best times to work. It helps to be consistent and work consistently as you are more likely to train your brain to know when you are “being creative.” But, on the flip side, not all of us can always keep a consistent schedule for our creative work. I’ll give you an example.

While not the most creative work I do, I would argue that writing up research articles takes a measure of creativity. You have to synthesize literature, you have to be creative in spotting where you can make a contribution, and you have to ultimately write up your findings in a way that will get accepted for publication if you want to share out your results in the peer-reviewed literature. Being in a position where publication is expected, I do this quite often and it is definitely a creative and at times exhausting process. When I first started in my position, I could only write in the mornings and only if I had long, uninterrupted stretches of time. When I first started, I also had fewer commitments on campus which made this possible. Shutting the door actually worked and I could get work done. But now, almost 7 years on, I rarely am able to take a day away from campus (or even a half day) to dedicate to writing. It’s kinda sad, but at the same time, I’m much better now at using 15, 20 minute breaks in my day to write and revise articles. My last article, which I’m currently revising, was written completely in small time pockets at work. So while I’m a huge fan of scheduling writing/drawing/creating time, I think it is also important to maintain flexibility to still be creative (and productive) when scheduling problems throw a kink in our best laid plans. Life happens, but we can still create.

On that note, I just wanted to share one design tip today. If you are interested in graphic design and are a librarian, look for inspiration and experience outside of the library field. Don’t confine yourself to literature, webinars, courses, etc. that are written only within our field. One of the best, fondational books I just read for graphic design was Best Practices for Graphic Designers: Grids and Page Layouts. It is an excellent introduction to using grids to organize your designs and the importance of planning before creating designs. I highly recommend it.

I hope you have a lovely weekend planned full of everything that makes you happy. I’ll be back next week with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Designing and Being Brave

March 27, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a wonderful weekend planned. I can hardly believe we’ll be in April next week. The time really does pass quickly, even if the spring days are getting longer here in the Bay Area. Today I just want to share a few links and thoughts about designing and being brave. I’ve been doing a lot of graphic design work this week so these two topics are on the forefront of my mind.

We’re getting ready for a week of National Library Week events at my library and I volunteered to take the lead on designing flyers, posters, and handouts for our events, so I’ve been doing a lot of graphic design work this week. And I love it, but it does take a significant amount of time, which I don’t mind because designing is one of the most fun tasks, outside of teaching and research, that I get to do. But it does mean that I have to be brave because when the posters go up and the handouts get given away, my designs are out there for potential criticism, which can be scary, even if you’re not designing something for some major campaign.

So I re-read this Lifehacker post on How to be braver in your everyday life and wanted to share it because I’m thinking a lot about being braver in everyday life, especially when it comes to sharing out my work and designs. Creating is super-fun, but sharing those creations can be a fear-producing thing because then it is in the public and not everyone will always like what you do. But I figure if I can handle the barbs (and sometimes incredibly unprofessional comments) from anonymous peer reviewers of my research, I can handle criticism of my designs. So that’s my baby way of being a bit braver and sharing out a bit more. I have to give a shout-out to Online Northwest because my presentation on graphic design there went over well, which has given me a lot more confidence to be brave about volunteering for design work and suggesting things at work.

I love hearing from artists about their work processes and what they love about what they do, so I obviously loved James White in this short video, How professional designers create their posters. I love how enthusiastic graphic designer, James White, is about his work and it looks awesome. If only all our library posters could look so cool and have such thought put into their designs.

One great way to make awesome posters or other designs for the library, or really for anything, is to start with a great photograph. So I had to share this lovely video on nine tips for photography composition, which uses amazing photographs by Steve McCurry to illustrate the tips. Watch and learn, or if it is all review for you, just admire the beautiful photographs.

I hope these videos and articles have pushed you, maybe, just a bit, into thinking about how you can be a little bit braver in your life and/or your library. Maybe they’ve inspired you, just a bit, to take a second look at a sign in your library or a flyer or a handout and think about how you might be able to improve it, just a bit. Or maybe you’re inspired to go out and capture some moments from you weekend. In any case, I hope you have a fantastic weekend and I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

March 24, 2015

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope your week is going well. It’s spring break here on campus. And you know what that means: the library is super-quiet and all of us are running around trying to get as much done as possible before the spring quarter starts. But during all that running around, we need to remember to take some breaks, which is what the Tuesday Fun post is all about.

I love the movie, Jurassic Park, and I love LEGOs, so I had to share this wonderful video that a daughter and dad team created. So much fun!

Also, I love that there are 19th century Japanese woodcuts that show LOLcats. No really, you can check out the article and video here. I’d love to go see this exhibition, Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection,  at New York’s Japan Society.

Springtime also means more baking, at least in our house, so I wanted to share this great video on how to make swirled cupcake frosting. Now I’ve got to make some fancy cupcakes because just about everyone loves cupcakes.

I hope you have a wonderful day and rest of your week. I’ll be back on Friday with some library news and notes. Allons-y!

Projects, Projects, and More Projects

March 20, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! Also, happy first day of spring! I don’t have much to say on the spring front other than I wish we’d get more rain in the Bay Area so that gardening can be a thing this year. But one thing that spring does make me think of is starting projects, both at home and at work, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on projects today.

Although it should be self-evident, I like the reminder from Lifehacker that you can’t make time for more new projects without changing your priorities. Time really is the one non-negotiable constant in our lives and you can’t just cram more stuff in each day without something giving. It is really important, whether at work or at home, to determine what you can actually get done before taking on something new. No one wants to be the person that drops the ball on a project or is so stressed that they make others around them stressed. I think being mindful about your priorities and what you take on is key for maintaining (or creating) a balanced life that is challenging and rewarding.

Also, on that note, it is said a lot, but is worth repeating that stressing yourself out by running around like a chicken with your head cut off doing too much is not helping anyone. There should be no guilt attached to actually prioritizing time to rest, to recharge, and to read something that isn’t related to work. I always think it is sad when my fellow librarians are too busy and tired to read for fun, something that probably led us into the world of working with books in the first place.

This new year has been a year of many projects, especially research projects for me. It has seemed like all opportunities got dropped in my lap at once so I’m having to be very disciplined about timelines and deadlines for each project. Could I take on another one at this point? Not without seriously compromising the quality on the other projects I’m doing. I have to remind myself, and I’m sure others do too, that it’s okay to say no. Better say no than not be able to follow through for your project team.

To me the topic of projects is always tied to creativity because I think we can be creative in most of our work. I wanted to share this other article from Lifehacker on five creativity myths. While I don’t agree with everything in the article, overall it is a good reminder that creative people aren’t just born that way and the rest of us are out of luck. We can all do things to up our creative minds so we can add new twists and ideas to our projects. I think about this all the time when working on graphic design projects at work or when I’m trying to figure out how to best conduct a study for a research project. Have fun and don’t let the naysayers of the creative world get you down.

And because it is the first day of spring, I had to share a Joy the Baker recipe that says spring to me: classic lemon bars! I made these a few weeks ago and they were delicious. Her cream cheese pound cake recipe is also fantastic with some homemade jam as a spring time tea treat.

I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend, dear readers! I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes.

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