How To: Do something (anything) to enhance your skill set

Dear Internet,

In the last six months of job hunting, I’ve begun paying closer attention to the fluidity of the requirements of positions. While my background is  pretty diverse, I wanted to start thinking more of becoming a specialist in a few areas rather than just being an overall jill of all trades.

(Yes, yes, I know I ranted about unicorn / blended / full stack librarians and how it is bunk (still is bunk) but girl needs to pay her bills and the profession doesn’t move that fast.)

Part of the problem in having a huge variety of interests is they’re closely related fields so there is a lot of crossover but this is slowly not becoming a problem as I start breaking out the pieces I was most interested in and fitting them into a puzzle I can better understood.

After going over my interests, it became pretty clear what I wanted to do, as much as I loathe to say these two words, is to become a full stack developer. I want to know the back end of the server but I also wanted to learn how to develop and optimize the front end too. I’ll be writing more about how I’m doing on these things the upcoming weeks as I continue to sort and shuffle to make it work for me.

(And how you can do most of this training for free.)

For today though I want to to give you an idea how to get started if all or some of things interest that interest me and might interest you. Fill out the comment box below if you have more suggestions.

Back End
I’ve done some back end server stuff a million and a half years ago but that stuff is getting beyond rust. I keep it on my resume as most places want to know you can understand and move along the command line, write a few scripts, typically things many of us can do in our sleep. I wanted to reboot my back end education and this is how I’m starting:

  • Step one: Buy a book on linux. Yes, yes, I know there are a trillion and a half websites that will teach you a-z of linux, but I am a tactile as well as a visual learner. I need a book next to me when I’m working so I can take notes and what not. If websites work for you, awesome. I will probably use them for troubleshooting and quick reference.
    • I recommend The Linux Command Line for a couple of reasons, even if you’re familiar with using the command line already. This is a thorough walkthrough from setting your terminal shell to writing scripts. Caveat: Do not buy a flavor specific book (Redhat, Ubuntu, etc). While 95% of the commends work on all flavors, that 5% will get you if you buy a Ubuntu book and you’re working on Redhat.
  • Step two: Download VirtualBox, a virtual machine software. Some like VMWare or, if you’re on a Mac, Parallels but I found both to be clumsy and / or resource intensive. Things may have changed in the last few years since I looked at them, but they left such a terrible scar on my soul I refuse to use them.
  • Step three: Download your flavor of linux. You’ll need to download the ISO separately from VirtualBox but you’ll install your flavor within VirtualBox. To clarify: VirtualBox doesn’t come with any OSes and you’ll need to get them separately. Which I suppose I could have just said outright.
    • Choices are: Ubuntu, CentOS, RedHat and a metric ton more. You’ll want to make sure you’re downloading the desktop version for your experimentation. Now that you have a virtual machine, you can download variety of flavors to see which one works for you.
    • What’s the difference between the flavors: Think of cars. Every car on the planet has similar set up: four wheels, an engine, doors, steering wheel. What makes them different is design, size, and features. That’s exactly the same thing for the differing flavors of linux.
  • Step Four (optional): If you need something beyond books or websites, look for online classes. Udemy has classes fairly cheap but I found their classes to be hit or miss. Linux.com has suggestions. If your library has a subscription, Lynda.com also has pretty intensive courses.

Front End
I use “front end” to refer to not only the coding but also the organization of information, how it works, and its accessibility. These are a lot of different whole positions in themselves but I’m curious as hell about all of them. There is a lot going on here but just so we’re clear most librarian positions do not expect you to have expert knowledge (they may say so but really, what they ask for and what they want are two different things) in any or all of these things. Most will refer to front end as strictly web development / coding. If you decide to work outside of library land, YMMV.

  • SEO Search Engine Optimization is easy to learn but with libraries difficult to implement. The basic idea behind SEO is to better improve your site’s rankings in search engines so you can be found, but with libraries it becomes moot as most people use “name of city library” in their search bar and the first hit is usually that city’s library website. What SEO can do for libraries is optimize their sites for accessibility, which is important. It’s also a good skill to have if you’re looking to consult or move out of library land. Some things to know:
    • There is currently no industry standard certification on SEO. If you find websites that claim to get you industry certified, it’s bullshit.
    • Be weary of sites that want you to download software, even free, as most of them are ad ridden, unneeded, and only for Windows. A lot of the tools, if not all of the tools, you’ll need are already available online.
    • SEO Beginners has a good list of sites to read if you’re interested in keeping up with the hows and why of how search engines work, the research, the techs, and new techniques. (Google’s algorithm changes enough that what works for SEO in one version won’t necessarily work in the current version.) I read moz.com and searchengineland.com on the regular to keep abreast of changes and news.
    • Books are hit or miss. Mainly miss and mostly bunk. As of July 2015, a lot of SEO books just cull information from the internet, slap it together as an eBook, and call it a day. Don’t be fooled by most of the books that have high rankings — you’ll notice a lot of them are not verified purchases (which if your book is only available on Amazon and in eBook form — how in the hell are these people giving A++ stars?). I do recommend Adam Clarke’s SEO 2016 eBook. While I originally gave it three stars, his amiable response and updates were significant enough to move that up to a 4.
    • You can take classes at Udemy and there are a ton of free ones. The ones by moz.com are going to be legit since they are the SEO experts but look for highly rated popular ones to step your toes in.
  • Social Media This is more of my expert area as I’ve been writing, using, and lecturing on social media for years. What I’m more interested in is not what is popular and what the youths use in so much as what social is (ir)relevant to libraries, how to manage and produce content, and getting started. My stance has been, and will be, not all social media is for all libraries. I’ve fallen off the wagon for this but bookmark the above page if you want to get updates on the regular, which I promise to do.
  • User Experience / User Interface / Information Architecture These are fields I’m really interested in and the ones I really need more instruction on. I have given introductory talks on very, incredibly, simple introductions to UX, but a lot of what I’ve gleaned over the years has been listening / learning from experts. Smashing is a very good resource. Listen to the LibUX podcast which is run by twitter friends Michael/Amanda for talks, resources, and more. The holy grails on UX/UI are The Design of Everyday Things and Don’t Make Me Think. Amazon has a wide variety of books on UX, UI, and IA. I have the first edition of Information Architecture (looks like I’ll have to update), which is also a holy grail. IA is typically tied in with UX/UI in a variety of fashions (mainly usability).
  • Coding I will freely admit I am eating crow on this topic. I postulated for years not every librarian needs to learn how to code to work in tech (and why I get my knickers in a knot when a lot of the librarian tech stuff is mostly coding), and while I still maintain this to be mostly true, I’ve conceded I need to learn how to code. Something. Right now I’m mainly interested in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Ruby on Rails.
    • First, I’m going to sing the praises of teamtreehouse.com. My local library has a subscription to the service (and they also have a subscription to Lynda.com), so for me it’s free. Their classes are fantastic, well organized, in-depth, and some places (Like CodeLouisville) consider them to be a standard for learning. Plus the instructors are professionals in their field, not some Tom, Dick, and Harry who can put up a class on Udemy. Treehouse also has a large variety of coding  tracks (WordPress development, Ruby on Rails, etc) that are comprised of variety of classes within those tracks. Plan on spending between 25-40 hours per track. Don’t be an idiot like me and do 40 hours over 3.5 days for reasons. They are going to include tracks on soft end development like SEO and currently have a track on starting your own consulting firm and digital literacies. And if my library dumps Treehouse, I am going to cough up the $25/mo to get their service as I love them that much.
    • Second, in addition to Treehouse there services like Udemy, UdacityLynda.com, and others have loads of free (and cheap) classes to take on a particular language. Lots of languages (I’d hazard most if not all) have classes/tutorials set up already on their or related sites.
    • Third, if you’re going to code, hie thee over to cloud9, a cloud based development workspace. You get one work area for free in which you can run one whatever at a time. e.g. If you install and muck about WordPress, you won’t be able to install the environment for Python. You’ll have to scrap your WordPress workspace to do Python, but hey!, it’s free. (They also have paid tiers which allow you to upgrade to more workspaces and so on.)

Additional jazz

If you’re going to program/web dev/whatever, you’re going to want to find a local geek/nerd/hacker space. L-ville has CodeLouisville (where I’m going to be taking in-person classes on front end web dev starting in the spring) and as well as a few other hacker spaces. Almost every city I’ve been to has some kind of *space where you can muck about, learn new things, and find your peoples. If you search MeetUp, you should find specific groups, e.g. Louisville Linux, where you can meet people, learn something, participate events, and so on. Last but not least, find mailing lists of what you’re interested in to keep you fresh on what’s happening in that thing. Alternately, you can get updates from their websites via RSS or mailing lists as well.

tl;dr

I’ve covered a lot of ground today but this should give you a good idea of where to pick up training, information, and etc if you’re interested in any of my topics or you can use these techniques for your own interests.

As mentioned, I’ll be updating over the upcoming weeks on projects and things to keep me on track and so nosey people can follow along.

Au revoir!

40 Days: My Yearly Twitter Sabbatical

Dear Internet,
It’s that time of year again, 40 days and 40 nights without Twitter. First started in 2009, I’ve gone back and forth over the last few years about keeping this up. But you know, in the end, I end up doing it because I have felt mentally so much better.
As most of you may have noticed, I’ve scaled back on my social media usage within the last few years. I’ve dumped my old Facebook account and started a new one with my new soon to be legal name which has significantly fewer FB BFFs and I’m quite happy about that.
I’m off of Google+ and have been for months. I’ve stopped using Foursquare and a few other social services within the last few years. I’m an on/off with Pinterest and Tumblr, and I selfishly hold on to LiveJournal like no one’s business though it’s more or less dead.
But Twitter is my crack and the conundrum is that it’s been really good for networking and PR related stuff for my various projects. So I waver how to handle this. In the end, I don’t have a problem with setting up tweets for networking/PR stuff, and content posted from EPbaB will continue to auto-post to Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and Tumblr. Content, as always, is also available via RSS.
But everything else outside of that, such as sharing of links, diatribes, responses, and the like, will be on hold until after the 40 days are done. For 40 days, no reading of my timeline, checking for messages or mentions.
As I do every year, I’ve gone ahead and deleted the apps from my phone/tablet, and removed the apps from my laptop startup. And as always, if you need me, you can always contact me via this site.
xoxo,
Lisa
P.S. Yesterday’s entry was about putting my daily journals on pause, not the site.
P.P.S. It’s been pointed out I’m a week early as next week starts Lent and I’m okay with that.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2003, 2002, 2002

Writer How To: the writer’s website

Dear Internet,
This is a bit of a chicken and the egg conundrum: Do I write a bit on the launch my new writers’ site and then talk about what went into it or do I write about the influences and decision making  first?
I decided to go with the egg first.
One thing I wanted to get done immediately on this new career of mine, even if it was damned near empty, was my writer site. TheHusband suggested, and I agreed, that having a site dedicated to my work would make my life easier in the long run rather than trying to shove everything under the EPBaB banner or tossing it over in my librarian profesh site.
While I’ve always mentally noted what I’ve liked or didn’t like when I came across an writer’s site, I wanted to see what others thought. A couple of weeks ago, I started asking around the Internet what people liked / didn’t like / expected on their favorite writer’s websites. Do writers need one and if so, what should they include on it?
A couple of days later, Katie Dunneback asked the same thing with the intent to write a piece on the results. She and I more or less got the same responses which could best be summed up as:

Short answer: Yes. Everything but the kitchen sink.

Long answer:
(Italicized is Katie’s round up, non-italicized is my addendums)

  • Information about upcoming releases
    • Synopsis, book trailers, ways to get ARCs
  • Excerpts from past, current, and upcoming releases
  • Publication history about previously published works whether they are currently in print or not* – double points for printable (we librarians have patrons who still really prefer getting a piece of paper from us)
    • Sorted by format: Short stories, novels, novellas, and so forth. Also break out non-fiction work from your fiction work. If your work has been published online, links to to the work.
  • Reading order information for series* (this includes “you don’t have to read these in order!”) – again, printable
    • If you write under multiple names for multiple works, make sure the sites connect or list everything in one site
    • Also, book club information would be grand
  • Contact information* – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, other social media du jour, email (maybe I’d like to book you for a program if I were to book programs for my library), newsletter sign up link/form
    • At the very, VERY least, a newsletter and email form for contact. Many of my friends said they mainly follow people on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr but like Katie points out, having email form for contact is great.
    • Newsletter is fantastic if you don’t plan on writing a blog or have a news page
  • Biography – @surlyspice suggests two: 1 brief and 1 expanded
  • Every cover that your book has ever had
  • Direct links to where to buy your books
    • Not just to your publisher, but also any retailer (online or brick and mortar) that sells them and or you want supported
  • Events /Appearances (online and off)
  • Influences or “you may like me because”
  • News page. Example: “I just sold the rights to Three Blind Mice to Germany — here is the new cover.” “I have a new story coming out in Fairytales Unlimited, you can read it here.” “I’ve been nominated for a Locas, Hugo, and Wednesday awards. Please go vote for me.”
  • Blog. If not integrated into your site, at least a link from your site to the blog, and a link on your blog back to your site.
  • Awards won and reviews
  • Periodically updated
  • Press kit (bio, selected list of works, professional grade headshot)
  • FAQ page
  • Easy to navigate, content is easy to read

The very bare bones site should contain: about (this site), bio (brief/extended), list of works, sorted by format; contact info. If you’re on social media, make sure to link to those sites. Same with a blog. Readers build relationships with the writers just as much as they do with characters of the stories they are reading. Some have said that the less they know about writer, the less likely they would be read more of their works.
With that in mind, I decided to poll the last 20 writers I have or am currently reading from my GoodReads account to see what I could find on their online presences. The genre classifications comes directly from GoodReads and I wanted to see if it had any bearing on site design or content. (Hint: It doesn’t.)
(If the embed isn’t working for you, you can view the spreadsheet in full.)
[iframe src=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1TXSjg2dqvbImUJ8MLo7Z3HVp6t6sXcMzwudrYP6EROA/pubhtml?widget=true&headers=false”%5D

  • 18 had websites
  • 18 had some sort of bibliography available, but five of those were only partial lists
  • 17 are on social media but only 10 actually linked to their social media accounts
  • 16 had an about page
  • 15 direct linked to buying their works online
  • 11 were built on WordPress
  • 11 had a contact page (not social media links)
  • 11 had a news or a blog
  • 6 had a FAQ page
  • 6 had newsletters
  • 2 had a link to donate / tip jars

A million years ago, Kristin and I started a research project on the online presence of public libraries in Michigan and the stats were kind of along the same vein. Libraries bitching no one is using their online services, but libraries aren’t putting the work into building their virtual front door.
I haven’t even dug more into SEO, branding, marketing, and maintenance of the sites either which by looking at what stats I have available now, would be a complete nightmare to untangle.
Some of you are looking at the list at the very beginning and are thinking, “Fuck. That is a lot of work.” And you’re right, it is. But being a writer these days is a lot more than sitting down and spinning stories. My pal Saladin Ahmed recently quipped that he felt like he did more administrative work for his writing than actual writing work — and he’s a 100% right. I’ve been writing for years, but as I start unraveling the pandorica of submission, editing, publishing, and more, my todo lists now have todo lists. Now I have to schedule time when admin work is done versus writing time is done.
Look, I get it. A lot of people think the Internet is a fad, some don’t give a fuck, and even more think it’s a waste of time to have a new fangled website. Or they don’t want to spend the money, the energy, or the time. But as a reader, a writer, and a librarian (not in any preferential order), I can tell you with surety if I can’t find your work, if  I can’t get a list of your books without looking at the back mater of a printed copy, or you don’t have a Wikipedia page, how in the fuck do you expect the people you’re writing for to find you?
If you want your work to be read and you want to build a community around your work, you need to have an online presence and you need to keep it updated. You can’t fuck around anymore thinking having only a Facebook fan page (like Helen Fielding) is enough or that your sparsely, outdated website is sufficient. As a reader, I want to know more of what you wrote. As a librarian, I want to get printed lists of your works to my patron. As a writer, I’m looking at your practices as to whether or not model my own after yours.
Anyone with any level of technology can create a website these days. You can knock out a pretty professionaly looking site with Tumblr or WordPress.com in a few hours if you don’t want the pains of going tits to the wall and buying a domain and hosting plans. And then spend a few hours a month making sure it’s updated with all of your current work and news.
If you’re not willing to put the time in to get your work out there, how do you expect your readers to do the same?
xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 1999

the symbol of the thing in the thing itself

Dear Internet,
I want to take Chingy’s Holidae In and gender reverse the roles, something along the lines of Law Revue Girls’ Defined Lines. As I can neither rap and laughably have moves that no way indicate my decade of dance lessons as a child, someone else should get on that toot suite.

««««»»»»

TheHusband asked me how I was doing with the social media sabbatical, I found myself answering honestly — I kind of have not missed it. Oh sure, there have been times when I want to just brain dump and Twitter is a natural fit for that activity or there are times when I find this really awesome link and I can’t really share it excent on my weekly roundup, which doesn’t quite have the same satisfaction.
Before I took the sabbatical, I was often finding myself posting a link or a quote from somewhere and spending more than say 2 or 3 tweets giving my opinion on the matter. Which is, frankly, kind of useless giving the context of how Twitter works. Someone coming in on the middle of me bestowing random commentary would be confused. I was churning how to handle this since I recognize this is not Twitter’s intent and that I often get cross when others do the same trick. I came up with linking, asides of things I want to share but do not want to get buried in the weekly round-up.

««««»»»»

I’ve started Clarice Lispector’s Near to the Wild Heart and it is beyond exquisite. I injected half the book in one sitting last night and had stop because I was getting woozy on a Lispector overdose. She adroitly does things to language and words, even in translation from Portuguese to English that is just breathtaking. I am having trouble reconciling that it was published in 1943 as it reads so contemporary. Reading Lispector is breathing flames under the muse for me and I’m reconsidering how to write fiction.

I’m terrible at fiction. I always feel so damned constricted when trying to form the rules of the game, my writing comes out halting and unsure. I’ve got brilliant ideas for stories, I see the stories in my head as they are played out but getting them onto paper? No. The ease of my language sounds immature and protracted. Sure, you could argue if I practice more it would mature and grow and there is some truth into that. But I think because I’ve been reading tightly bound prose for so long, I’m near drunk on Lispector’s stream of consciousness and realising that yes, this is how you do it. This is how you give birth to a story and how it will end.
Feral. Unstructured and messy, like life.
xoxo,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2012, 2003

quotidian victories

takeoffandlanding

Dear Internet,
Sometimes you  just need to celebrate life’s little victories, even when they feel so tiny against the bleakness of the world.
For today, this entry has theme song, which is Elbow’s One Day Like This. You should see a Spotify embed below to play while you read or you can click here to listen directly within Spotify.

[iframe src=”https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:7oTYgZAZhTlZnZEH45mfpo” width=”300″ height=”80″ frameborder=”0″ allowtransparency=”true”]

  • I have a job interview this week. I am beyond chuffed as chips because I’ve applied for approximately two jobs and sent my resume to a beloved vendor, who seemingly was very, very interested in me. So out of three cautious approaches, I’ve got a definite bite, a very flirtatious interest, and who knows yet on the third. I told TheHusband that for next six months, I’m going to be ultra picky about the jobs I apply for, meaning the ones I really, really, really want and not the mass ijustgraduatedilltakeanythingavailable I did four years ago.
  • Elbow’s latest studio release comes out tomorrow, but since I pre-ordered on Amazon, the mp3s were made available to me this weekend. TheHusband argued that since everything is now, more or less, on Spotify, why the deuce am I buying albums on Amazon? Because I’m supporting a band I love and not everything is on Spotify as evident by my massive collection of b-sides and one-offs from Elbow that triples what Spotify has available to US customers.
  • I bought tix to Elbow’s upcoming show at the House of Blues in Chicago in May as part of their 11 date North American Tour, so TheHusband and I are going to take a mini-break to Chicago which I’m super excited about.
  • Plans have been laid this week for CMMRB’s return to C2E2 in April, which marks our third year attending the con. I love this con with all of my heart.
  • Daylight savings. FINALLY. It is not officially spring but it’s getting on towards twilight at 7:30PM now and winter is finally ending. THANK THE GODS. We’ve had 110″ of snow this season. Throbbing Cabin? Oh they got 243″. That is not a damned typo.
  • I cleaned and sorted my office this week and no dead bodies were found, which is always a bonus.
  • My hair has gotten long enough for mini pigtails. This delights me beyond end.

And in other news:
The social media sabbatical is going surprisingly well. I’ve toyed with the idea of keeping a text file of The Husband’s witticism and my often laments of the world for when the need to depart wisdom gets too heavy and perhaps do a weekly round up of said pithy comments.
The need to tweet was especially bad this weekend when we went to see 300: Rise of an Empire, because holy hell was that a fecking terrible waste of celluiod. Fishnets are not period authentic, okay? I didn’t necessarily have SUPER HIGH HOPES for this movie, but I was expecting more than blurred action shots, bad acting, and convoluted plot lines.
TheThrobbings give it two thumbs down.
I finished two books this week, got caught up on my profesh dev magazine reading, and have cut through some of my RSS feed reading. Plus, I’m back to writing every day. Everything is coming up crocuses right now.
I am still caffeine free and other than a few hiccups, that has also been working out dandy in this development. Thus, I’m feeling pretty good!
Thing you learned today: During triumphal processions, Roman generals would carry a model phallus in their hands to ward off envy. [Source: Veni, Vidi, Vici: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Romans but Were Afraid to Ask]
xoxo,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2012, 2010, 2003, 1999

40 Days and 40 Nights: Taking a vacation from social media


Dear Internet,
Last November I made the adulting decision to give up Facebook for a variety reasons. I forgot to add to those reasons the “theymeanwellers” and “helpfuladvicers.”
Theymeanwellers are the types who almost habitually post the same shit other people have already posted on your Facebook wall because they think you may like it — even though it’s clear 900 others thought the same. They are kin to the helpfuladivcers, who when you post an image showcasing your meal for the night, will offer up unsolicited advice on how it should have been cooked, presented, or something of that ilk. If you make a statement about your allergy, will start educating you on said allergy even though they are not allergic themselves to OR have any type of medical expertise or education.
You know these types. May the gods save you if you even point out what they are doing is not well or helpful for you’re a terrible, awful person.
The above coupled with Facebook’s continuing disregard for respect and allowing people to control their own privacy, Byzantine rules for posting content and how it was being viewed, I left.
I said,

If we’re friends on Facebook, as of this writing, I’ve deactivated my account. I have a private account I’m using to manage pages since several projects require it, and if we were friends on that particular account, I’ve unfriended you and made it as private as Facebook possible.
…there is an intimacy associated with Facebook that isn’t even available anywhere else, regardless of how many layers I peel back as I write on this site. I need to reign in the control of what the world can see and Facebook was the first to go. At least here, in my sandbox, I’m forcing you to come to me and not the other way around.

Since that time, I’ve gotten the occasional email, text, ran into someone locally who wanted to know where I was and why I hated them. But out of over 300 Facebook BFFs, I’ve heard from about two dozen in some capacity as to why I left. Almost all thought it was personal and about them.
It has not been a totally glorious rebellion as there have been a few kerfuffles on participating on some sites because they ONLY allow Facebook connect to add content and I’ve chosen to just not participate. Or apps that require ONLY a Facebook account to function, so I stop using the app. Overall, I’ve been pretty happy about stripping Facebook out of my life. The private account, which has been stripped of identification, locked down, and only used to manage pages, remains blissfully ignorant of any drama, shitty product endorsement, and related items.
Five years ago, I gave up Twitter for Lent and then wrote about coming back after the break.
Then I noted that all the supposed free time I thought was going to appear, didn’t. But I was wholly naive in the process because I was bloody on Facebook the entire time! Giving up Twitter wasn’t really a hardship rather it was feeding the obsession (Twitter) into another (Facebook). I may have patted myself on the back for being so restrained during that period, but who the fuck am I kidding?
Twitter has started to go the route for Facebook for me in that the bullies, the “theymeanwellers,” the “helfpfuladvicers,” and now the “talkarounders” are starting to grow in leaps. Talkarounders are a breed I’ve identified of people who, for whatever reason, talk about you, your work, or things related to you and your work without engaging you. It’s frustrating trying to work on goals when people dismiss you on a regular basis so while I’ve stopped following and engaging, they still creep into my world.
So I’ve decided that I’m not giving up one or the other, I’m giving them all up for 40 days. But, and I have to stress this, much my work requires me to be socially active. Any content posted will be done automatically and I will not be engaging anywhere. Here are the rules:

  • No Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, or any other social media engaging or responding from March 5 – April 17
  • Content posted from EPbaB will continue to auto-post to Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Google+, and Tumblr. It is also available via RSS
  • If you comment/respond anywhere or send me DMs through any service, I will not respond or engage. If you want to get in touch, I recommend sending me an email

What do I hope to gain out of this? Less stress about being up to the minute on everything. Less frustration from people’s stupidity. More work on the projects that are important to me. More time with TheHusband. More time to read.
More of everything.
xoxo,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 20132003

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part V

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part V: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part ii: The Big Why

A couple of weeks ago I ended the post on advocacy with the following:

You might be asking yourself “Why should I do this?” Good question and also the point of this post: At the heart of library/archive advocacy is the active pursuit to continue to influence the community at large to the worth and purpose of the local library or archives.

In last week’s (fairly lengthy) post, I summarized the entire post with one sentence that gets to the heart of the matter:

Engage with your community.

In April of this year, ALA released their annual report, The State of American Libraries [pdf], with the beginning tag line, “Recession drives more Americans to libraries.” Statistically, ALA noted that library use has increased, nationally, on average of 20% since the last report. In addition, the ALA also found that 94% of American’s find presence of libraries in their communities as enriching their lives and that 71% of libraries report they are the only sources of free access to computers and interwebs in their community. Those statistics, to me, are pretty staggering and it would also suggest that if public libraries are so beloved, we’d do anything to keep them open and running, yes?

Well, not quite. Here is the reality of this year’s election results:
Tacoma, WA look to close branches
Buffalo, NY looks at $4M cut from their library system
Indy libraries cut 37 employees
And the cherry on top:
Troy, MI libraries set to close June 30, 2011

Let’s take a look at some other stats, this time from Pew Internet:
American adults (ages 18 and over):

  • 83% have cell phones or smartphones.
    • 35% access the web from their phones.
    • 17% own a smartphone
  • 74% use the Internet.
  • 60% have broadband at home.
  • 46% have a laptop.

The Pew Internet statistics validate that an ever growing number of Americans are not only getting online, but they are also accessing the web in a variety of ways, outside of a plain old home computer. Your patrons are not only going mobile, but your virtual front door is another portal for them to access. So why are you keeping that door closed?

Since I love statistics, here are more stats from ALA’s The State of American Libraries [pdf] 2010 report:

  • 71% of public libraries provide their community’s only free public access to computers and the Internet.
  • 60% [of Americans] renew their materials online
  • 57% access their library’s website on a regular basis
  • Number of social networking users has doubled in the last 2 years.

The research project that I’m currently working on with Kristin LaLonde, and presenting this week at Michigan Library Association Annual Conference, looks at how Michigan public libraries utilize and represent themselves online. Taking the information from the statistics listed above and applying them to our sampling data, we found that nearly 10% of Michigan public libraries did not have ANY kind of web presence (including a library website) and almost 50% of those that did have a website, were not updating most of the information, including even listing contact information or news bits. What makes this even more shocking is that the Library of Michigan has a FREE program in which they will build, deploy and train staff on using Plinkit to maintain their library website. FREE!

David Lee King is paraphrased in the The State of American Libraries [pdf] report that librarians who state they have no time for Lib2.0 projects or initiatives have bad time management. At first I thought this was very provocative but then I realized, he’s not softening the blow on the reality of the situation AND he also has an incredibly valid point.

There is no reason why any library, regardless of class size, cannot find or make the time to create and maintain their web presence online when 99.9% of the tools available are free, include tutorials, and can be operational in under 15 minutes. There is no longer a relative, logical or reasonable argument that money or time is the factor on why librarians/archivists and libraries/archives cannot do these things.

If libraries/archives need to engage with their community, and their community is going virtual, shouldn’t these institutions be engaging with their community where they are most likely to be found? Why continue to use promotions and services that are slowly becoming irrelevant or no longer useful?

How are YOU representing your institution online?

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part IV

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part IV: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part i

Last week, I talked about the difference between advocacy and public relations as well as presented a good base on how to create and use social media as advocacy outlets. Since the steps to create a social media outreach/PR campaign are similar to creating an advocacy campaign, I’ll discuss more on how to use social media effectively to create, maintain and engage with your community.

Because there is so much to cover with this topic, it is divided into two parts, the first of which covers creating a brand, connecting your social networks, engaging your users, and lastly, creating meaningful content. While I give examples to illustrate my points in this week’s post, next week I’ll spend more time on the WHY you should be doing this rather than just creating the approach to doing it.

  • Create a (consistent) brand
    This is one thing I did not cover last week, but is an incredibly important part of your social media strategy/policy. When creating accounts on social media or blog networks, make sure the username you create is consistent AND searchable across the network. For example, Detroit Public Library (DPL) is known as DetroitLibrary on Twitter. At first glance, this username doesn’t seem unrealistic given the public library’s name, but actually it is problematic. Since Twitter (and most social networks in general) has a character limit for username creation, the word “Public” was dropped. Since there was also a character limit in the “Name” field, the word “Public” was again dropped. Why is this a problem? Because if you decided to search and friend DPL on Twitter using the keywords “Detroit Public Library,” you would not be able to find them.1
    Here is another example: Traverse District Library. A search for them on Twitter by name reveals nothing. So I searched Google instead. Aha! Found them. Their username is not indicative of who the account is for and while their institution name is in their bio, Twitter does not search the bio via keyword searches, and their account was only found via Google search. Secondly, consistent name across social networks. If I find a library and I’m curious to see their presence across the social web, I’ll search for the same username across those networks. 90% of the time, these institutions are not using a consistent name across the social web. I end up finding these institutions by searching for their full name, adding or removing words as necessary until I can either find them or give up and mark it as a loss. With character limitations, names already used by other entities and such can be an issue, the idea is to create a single username or similar enough name that your patrons can find you. For example, Alpena (MI) County Library has direct links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts of their main page of their website – great! Not great – Their Twitter username isAlpenaCoLibrary, their Facebook username is Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library and a non-linked Flickr account is AlpenaCountyLibrary. With very little consistency, if they had not linked their Twitter and Facebook pages from their website, as a patron and unable to find them otherwise, I would have never have known they had online presences since searching for them via those social network websites initially turned up no results.The question to ask yourself is, “If my patrons are using Facebook/Twitter/Flickr/YouTube, can they find my institution via search?” Then search for your institution. If you cannot find your institution via the social network’s search function or using Google, then neither can your patrons.
  • Connect your networks
    Have a blog? Facebook page? Multiple Facebook pages? Twitter or Flickr account? Do the patrons who visit your website know that you do? Make sure that you provide links or badges or widgets pointing your users/community to these other virtual front doors. Detroit Public Library has two large, easy to find badges hyperlinking to their accounts on other social networks. Links, badges, and widgets should be eye-catching, easy to find and correctly link to these social networks. They should also be available on all of the sites. For example, you should have links on Facebook to your main website, blog, and other social network accounts in your info tab or in the about me section. On your blog/website, add badges or widgets to link back to your other networks. On social networks that only have space for one website link (like Twitter), make sure that link goes to your main virtual front door.In my research on Michigan public libraries and the status of their online presence, 85% of those libraries that have a Facebook page (or a presence on any other social networks) do not advertise it anywhere else – even on their own website. How did I find out about the library having a Facebook page if it’s not on their website? I searched Facebook directly and found them. But I also know that not everyone is like me, so to assume that your patrons should or will automatically know to search the social networks for your presence is a dangerous assumption that may cost you big in the long run.Another interesting phenomenon is that most of libraries with a Facebook page were incredibly active by routinely engaging with their community while their other presences (website, blog, whatever) were nearly stagnant. Yes, you should go to where your online community is located but it should not be assumed that all of your online community is going to be in one centralized location. Having at least a public website will provide the basic information of hours, services, catalog search and other pertinent information to the public at large AND makes it searchable via search engines. Remember, for services like Facebook which require logins to participate, many people do not feel comfortable with creating accounts or providing information they feel is private AND the content is not searchable via search engines or viewable to the public without an account.
  • Engage with your users
    First sub-rule of this rule? Do NOT utilize your institution’s social media accounts for personal use. I mutter “They’re doin’ it wrong.” a lot when I look at social media accounts linked to public institutions and the person running the account is using it for personal use. Personal use means engaging in behavior that would not be associated with the public face of a public institution, such as discussing what you ate for lunch, how sick your pets are or how big your behind looks in that day’s outfit. Second sub-rule of this rule? Only follow people on public services (such as Twitter) that accurately reflect your institutions goals or services. I live in the Detroit-metro area. On my personal Twitter account, I get followed A LOT by public libraries across the globe. On one hand, it’s flattering. On the other, I’m perplexed as to why a local library in Colorado or Sweden who only tweets about what’s happening in their particular branches is following someone who is clearly not in their community. If you find someone you think is interesting then create you own personal Twitter account and engage with that person outside of the “professional” account. Last week I talked about creating a social media policy – this type of issues and behaviors would be covered quite nicely in that policy.Now that I’ve covered two sub-rules: Here is the main crux of this post: Engage with your community. There are dozens if not hundreds of ways to engage with your community virtually. How?

    • Host contests (and offer prizes) for your patrons only via Twitter or Facebook or your blog or whatever social network(s) you use.
    • Feed your blog into Facebook2, so that you can streamline your posting process across multiple social networks so that you are spending less time updating all of your social networks and more time responding and engaging with your community. Use a free online tool, such as HootSuite, which allows you to monitor your social networks, cross-post, post-date and autopost your posts and much more, all in one tool.
    • Dedicate a short (15 minute) chucks of time several times a day to check your accounts, respond to messages and provide status updates. Lots of libraries use Twitter and Facebook for Reader’s Advisory and quick reference questions, incorporate checking into your social networks and responding to your patrons inquiries part of your daily duties.
  • Create meaningful content
    This is the second emphasis of this post: Create meaningful content. Meaningful content is anything that is related or of interest to your institution and the community you serve. Use social networking to promote upcoming programs, events, author signings or any other happenings at your library and don’t be shy on promoting as often as you need. Several libraries will post about a big event on Twitter several times a day for a week or two leading up to the event, which is then pushed forward by their followers retweeting it for them. Or create multiple reminders in Facebook for their fans and have those reminders forwarded on to other Facebook fans. Other types of content to provide is historical or fun facts about the library, archives or community. Create auto-posts to post couple times a week reminding the community of the services you provide and vary the posts.Does your library offer services that are underused such as ILL, typewriters or special services for the physically impaired? Self-checkout down? Printers jammed? Wireless gone the way of the dodo? Did an author come in and do an impromptu signing? Is a popular book that is constantly checked out now have multiple copies available? Offering a one day only dismissal of fines for some reason? You can use social networking to broadcast the great to the mundane and it is communicated to your patrons quickly and efficiently.The Orkney Library in Scotland Twitter account does all the above beautifully as they combine humour, promotion and fun facts while also engaging with their community. Some examples of their tweets,

    Enjoying the Autumnwatch seals? Find out more about the folklore and mythology of selkies in Orkney with a book from 398 Y

    and

    Stromness Library Reading Group is canceled this evening due to a swarm of killer eagles circling the town

    Which was followed up by:

    RE: Stromness Library Reading Group. That should have read canceled due to illness.

Next week: Part V: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part ii


1. The person who runs DPL’s Twitter is aware of the naming issue. While the word “Public” is in the Twitter bio, the Twitter search algorithm does not search bios when doing keyword searches. However, if you search Google for “Detroit Public Library Twitter”, DPL’s Twitter account does come up. Since the account has been active for a year or two, renaming it would be more of a pain than it is worth. So be careful when selecting usernames on social networks.
2. I wrote about “Feeding Your Blog Into Facebook” a year ago and of course, the whole process has changed AGAIN as Facebook has changed its API setup. If you’re using WordPress, using the Notes import tool in Facebook is haphazard at best. A plugin I’ve started using recently on my personal blog is WPBook. There is few extra steps than what I describe in the post above, but it is consistent AND reliable, which is pretty significant.

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part III

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part III: Using Social Media for Advocacy

When I began to outline this series, my goal was to make sure that each weekly topic flowed into the next so that the current week built upon the previous weeks discussions. As I spent time moving topics around so that each week would (hopefully) flow seamlessly to the next, I kept getting a nagging feeling that something was just not right. Two of my topics, advocacy and public relations/outreach, were the culprits and I finally realized why. The nagging comes in because at first blush, I tend to personally use the words advocacy and public relations pretty interchangeably and I wondered if I did that, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to believe that others might do so as well. So what is the difference between the two and why are each of them important?

In very broad terms, the definition of advocacy is the active support for a cause by influencing those in public, political or societal groups who allocate monetary and other resources that can help the cause out. Public relations/outreach, on the other hand and which I will cover next week, is the art of promoting and maintaining goodwill of a product/service/person to the public. The difference between the two is slight, but enough to necessitate that libraries/archives need to utilize both approaches.

It is also easy to see why I used these words interchangeably with the other, but the distinction between them is important to note. In the library/archives world, the public doesn’t necessarily see how much the services provided by these institutions are vital to their community until it is almost too late. Thanks to social media, the face of library advocacy is quickly changing but it is still not enough as we need to start and continue to do more. Advocacy, regardless of how it is done, should not be something that is done when the library/archives are in dire need but rather it should be kept up even in good times. This is where the public relations aspect comes in but since advocacy is more about, and I hate to use this word, pleading for monetary and other resources, advocacy should not be discontinued once the financial or resource goals are met.

Here are some steps, using social media, an institution can use to begin and maintain their advocacy:

  • Create a social media plan or policy
    If your institution does not have a social media plan or policy, it should probably draft one as it will not only protect you but also your patrons. This will be your cornerstone for any type of social media you use or engage in, regardless for what purpose. Tame the Web and Mashable have excellent tips on creating social media policies for your institution.
  • Define what services to use and why
    When constructing your social media policy, do not worry about the intricacies as this will always be a living document, but one thing you do want to concentrate on is what services you should use and why. Other than your website and blogging, the major services are Facebook and Twitter, withMySpace/LinkedIn/YouTube/Flickr and other smaller or lesser used services making up the backlist.
  • Create a portal 
    I’m currently doing research on the online presence of public libraries in Michigan and nearly 20% of public libraries Michigan do not have a web presence in ANY form (website, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, whatever). For those that have web presence, the presences are not connected. For example, it was not unusual for a library to have a website AND a Facebook page, but the Facebook page was almost never linked off their website or vice versa via Facebook info page. Whatever you decide to do, whether it is a single presence (website OR Facebook) or many presences, make sure you choose one as the main portal (aka jumping off point) to the rest of your web presences. This will also make it easier to scale and add web presences as they are needed.
  • Create a blog 
    If you have little time (or money or hours or employees or whatever) to update your website but you want to keep your patrons and community current on what is happening via online, you can always create a blog on one of the many free sites such as WordPress or Blogger. With the learning curve low, support and additional free features high, these sites are attractive option for libraries on limited budget or time. To make your time even more efficient, you can automatically feed your blog into your Facebook page or just update your Facebook page when you update your blog via cut/paste.
  • Email lists 
    I’m a big proponent of email lists and I know that many other people are as well. Why? Email lists are great for those of us who are not diligent in visiting a website, logging into Facebook or reading RSS feeds on a regular basis. Creating and maintaining a mailing list is an excellent way to keep in touch with your patrons without depending them to come to you for that information. When creating social presences, we often think that if we are on X social networking site, so too will the people we wish to engage with will be as well. This is not necessarily true. I have friends who refuse to use Facebook, refuse to use Twitter and only read my blog via RSS feed. Mailing lists, with the option to opt out of course, allows you to push information to the community without requiring the community to participate with you. The other nice thing is that you don’t necessarily have to format your mailing lists differently than your blog posts. You could, for intents and purposes, just cut/paste your blog post into your email and viola! Instant newsletter.
  • “Friends of”
    Another thing I have noticed in my research is that the “Friends of” support of whatever library’s website I’m looking at is almost always missing. This does not mean that that particular library does not have a “Friends of” affiliation, almost every public library has a “Friends of” board/group, but their information is almost always missing from the website/Facebook/blog itself. “Friends of” groups are hugely paramount in gaining and maintaining financial support of their particular library and because of the work that “Friends of” groups do, they too need their own space. Why? Since “Friends of” groups operate separately from the library, they should be treated as separate entities. Many “Friends of” pages were used to successfully campaign for money, resources, supplies while keeping the community up to date on donations, programming, speakers, and other activities happening in the community and the library. For many libraries, “Friends of” groups are directly responsible for maintaining support for the library.

Now that I’ve listed steps on how to get your advocacy group up and running from the ground up, I’ve also included web links below for additional sources on library/archives and advocacy. You might be asking yourself “Why should I do this?” Good question and also the point of this post: At the heart of library/archive advocacy is the active pursuit to continue to influence the community at large to the worth and purpose of the local library or archives. This pursuit should not be only when the institution is in danger, but constant to remind the community just how important and needed the institution is. Local libraries/archives will always be “in need” whether it is for resources, volunteers, money, supplies or something else and it is always good to keep the presence of the library favorable in the community’s opinion.

To paraphrase a presentation from #ALA10, “We are at war. Your portal/blog/website is your castle. Your community is your army to fight for you. Your social media policy is your battle plan. Use your battle plan to mobilize and deploy your army to help keep your library.”


Resources:

  • ALA 2010: REFORMA Advocacy & Social Media: Library Services for All in the Community – Breakdown of the presentation at ALA annual, presented by Andy Woodworth.
  • ALA’s Clearinghouse for Advocacy & Legislation
  • Everyday Advocacy: Making a case for libraries is easy with web tools.
  • i love libraries – ALA’s website dedicated to grassroots advocacy and organization, geared for the general public.
  • Save Libraries! – Nationwide grassroots listing hub of library advocacy campaigns.
  • Wikipedia: Public Library Advocacy

 

Next week: Part IV: Using Social Media for Outreach/PR

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part II

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part II: Social Media Simply Explained

When we presented on social media at AMIA last year, we opined that social media could be easily explained by two statements:

  • Social networking is about connecting people with similar interests on a much larger scale.

AND

  • It is about conversations.

A year later, I still firmly believe that it really is that simple. As I said last week, the problem, however, is that in the last year there seems to be plethora of presentations, sites, workshops, and classes (to name a few) that will push the need for social media in libraries and archives but rarely will define what social media is. One hand, this is great as it gets the word out for the need of using social media as part of a librarians or archivists daily job routine. On the other hand, the pushing of the tool without defining the tool is still causing huge resistance in using that particular tool.

Why?

One answer is that the approach seems to be, “Everyone is doing it, so should you.” This approach is hugely problematic. If one cannot understand the foundation of using a particular tool, one is less likely to even use the tool. It is with this understanding that I believe is one of the reasons why social media has yet to be adopted more widely across libraries and archives.

I would like to add one more statement to the above list:

  • Social media is your institution’s virtual front door.

Just as one would not barricade the entrance to an institution’s physical location, why would one barricade or remove the front door to your virtual institution?

It is easier for an institution to visualize that, “No, we won’t barricade the front door of our library!” because by doing so would be incredibly silly. By applying the same logic to their virtual presences, it provides a better rationale (perhaps even logical) way to approach the why on using social media.

Many institutions still firmly believe that their virtual presence is not as important as their physical one, while the Pew Internet & American Life project illustrates the complete opposite. Information seeking behavior, according to Pew, is constantly changing and as such, content providers (i.e. the Internet) need to make sure they are keeping up with those changes. For example, within a year (2009 to 2010), the amount of seniors (defined as those aged over 50) using social media has doubled from 22% to 42%. While Pew documented that were also huge jumps across other age groups, the largest was with seniors.

What does this mean? It reshapes the perspective that the only ones getting online and using online tools are the younger generations and also illustrates the growth in the older market, as it were, is only going to increase as the population ages.

Let’s take a step back for a moment: The reason for this series is to explain social media and networking, what it is, why you should use it as well as giving tips and tricks to making the most out of it. So, let us answer the questions posed at the beginning of this post:

What is social media?

  • Social networking is about connecting people with similar interests on a much larger scale.
    It allows for libraries, archives, communities of any type or sort to create advocacy, marketing, public relations, transliteracy and communication device to its community both near and far while also acting as a discovery tool for that community.
  • It is about conversations. 
    Social media is dynamic. It allows the institution to engage with community and for the community to participate and be a part of the institution.
  • Social media is your institutions virtual front door. 
    Just as an institution is concerned with its physical appearance, it too should be concerned with not only having a presence online but also how the presence is being utilized. Having a website is good, having an active website is even better. Engaging with your patrons and community via your online presence is ideal.

Next week: Part III: Using Social Media for Advocacy