The Novataire Bi-Annual (Winter/Spring 2014)

Wow, has it been 6 months already?? Guess it’s time for the bi-annual update. This year has gone by remarkably fast, and a lot has happened. Some new art and photos have been posted.

The biggest major news is that I got engaged!! The love of my life proposed Feb 22, 2014 after a lovely and unseasonably warm day at the Smithsonian National Zoo, which was where we went on our first date just a year and change ago. After a week of being on Cloud Nine and the surreal-ness of it all, I have been getting down to brass tacks navigating the murky waters of wedding planning. I’ve come to the conclusion that wedding planning is a lesson in learned helplessness. Like Seligman’s poor dogs, no matter which side of the fence I jump on, I get shocked. For my perfectionist self, I have to take some time to breathe and just accept that things will go wrong…and I will hurt someone’s feelings (hopefully not irreparably ^^;;).

In case you’re wondering about a date, we’re getting married early April of next year. Hopefully it won’t be TOO cold up here…

On the professional front, I’m taking on more initiatives in the Special Libraries Association. I’m now chairing the Employment & Career Resources Committee for the DC Chapter. During this time, I have asked more than my fair share of stupid questions…as it’s my first time chairing a committee. We just wrapped up our first event of the year…Speed Networking. It’s like speed dating, but only slightly less awkward since you are meeting people on a purely professional level ;-). Shout out to my colleague Angela for her awesome write-up on the SLA Blog!

Time is approaching fast for the SLA Annual Conference in Vancouver. After meeting a dear Canadian friend, I head to the conference festivities and exhibit hall, where many free pens and vendor swag await. I will be co-presenting on my topic – learning management systems – on June 9. About a month ago, we found out we had 90 min instead of 60 (wow, they must really love us, haha)! Well, to not bore our audience with straight talking, my co-presenter and I decided last month to do a more informal panel discussion, so I have had to do some last-minute work on what I thought were my perfected slides…which I completed back in, like, January. When you are getting your first speaking opportunity at a national conference, you tend to get a little over-eager…not to mention SUPER excited to display my speaker badge!!!

My next post will cover my experience in Vancouver, as well as at the conference. This will be my second BIG conference…the first being the ALA conference that I attended a few years ago. Hopefully I will take to heart my lessons learned.

Introducing…the Mass Effect Myers-Briggs Chart!

So, you might have seen these things floating around Facebook. A little chart where you can pick which Harry Potter or Star Wars character you are most like, based on your Myers-Briggs type. Well, I kind of got sick of seeing INTJ’s represented as villains, so I decided to make my own.

I finally got around to playing Mass Effect, and it has such a rich vastness of characters of differing personalities that I thought it would be cool to make my own chart. Please open the full image to read the descriptions.

Now, I am sure that some people may not agree on the classifications. No one fits a partiuclar type perfectly well, though some of the characters show some classic strong preferences towards a certain type.

I also had some debate about including Commander Shepard, considering there are so many different scenarios and customizations…but I think that in most of them, the character represents several variants of ENTJ. Plus, it was either that, or make the ENTJ a villian…which I just could not do…since my extroverted halves often get stuck in the villain class right behind us evil mastermind INTJ’s.

Photography Now Available + More Updates

I suppose it’s about time for my biannual update of the blog. Hope those of you on the Northern Hemisphere are  staying cool this summer. It has been pretty rainy and muggy here…not great for picnics, but great for my allergies.

You many have noticed a new link for Photos. For the past few months, I have been trying my hand at photography, which has emerged from my newfound birding hobby.

Last spring, I started to get very interested in birds when I noticed that a sweet mourning dove used to come to my window and coo at me each morning. I live on the second floor of an apartment building, surrounded by lots of trees. I also noticed that I had occasional visits from a robin. Since I don’t have a window (just a window ledge), I decided to just put some peanuts and a suet block out to see if I could attract a blue jay. I love blue jays, and I read that they like peanuts. Well, I still have not had a blue jay come visit, but I noticed I had a large variety of other birds….chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, and titmice are the main visitors. Have also gotten some grackles, starlings, robins, and doves of course.

Soon, I started getting really into this, trying to see how many birds I could identify. I love going to Cornell’s bird database to try and find as many birds as possible. Of course, I wanted to document my findings, so I started taking pictures. I realized to get some good shots of birds, I needed a better camera than my point & shoot, so I got a new camera with much better zoom and control over the camera settings, and have gotten some crisp shots that I wanted to share with you (and also make available for sale). CLICK HERE to view the photo gallery.

In other news, I just attended the Video Games Live concert at Wolf Trap last night. Having a life and all has been really cutting into my gaming schedule, so I downloaded a couple of games on my PS3…Mass Effect and Journey. I beat the main storylines of Skyrim not too long ago, but have gotten a bit burnt out on doing so many quests.

I was so happy to see the first Mass Effect available for download, since I never got around to playing that game…now my decisions I make can be cumulative. I have some hard work ahead of me to get caught up and finish all the games. I hope to get some relaxation out of Journey. I have played Flower (another game by the same company), which I find I lose hours playing (well, that goes for any addictive video game).

On the professional front, I am still working and getting new projects at work. One project has the potential to turn into a speaking engagement at next year’s SLA Annual Conference. Last year, we adopted learning management software last year to organize and promote database training at my firm. I’ve also been working on creating e-learning courses from our recorded webinars. I have taken over a lot of this project, and in talking with some colleagues, was encouraged to share this at SLA.

New Artwork Published + Prints for Sale!

Happy holidays! Just posted some work I have done this year. Only 3 pieces…it’s sad, I know…

If anyone would like prints, I am selling prints of some of certain pieces in the Art and Design pages. Pieces that are for sale are marked. An 8 x 10 goes for $25, 11 x 14 go for $40. Prints are hi-res and on fine quality art paper. Please allow up to a month for delivery; I outsource printing to a service in Denver and they take a couple of weeks to get the items in.

Want to send a print as a Christmas present? Some stuff I have already printed is currently available and can be shipped in 2 weeks.

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl
Celtic Cross
Celtic Cross
Mochi the Racoon
Mochi the Racoon

Keep Hope Alive!

I am normally not one to circulate news about fundraising, but I really want to get the word out about my colleague and friend Deborah. Despite suffering for years from an auto-immune disease that has attacked her lungs, Deborah has always been an encouraging and positive influence during my studies at UNT and beyond. She is an inspiring and intelligent librarian and mother. Her catchphrase “Keep Hope Alive” has kept me sane during grad school and the ensuing months of job searching, and is something to be remembered for whatever trials I go through.

Deborah is currently raising funds for a lung transplant. In getting a transplant, she will not be dependent on oxygen and will have a better quality of life. The Georgia Transplant Foundation will match a $10,000 donation raised prior to receiving the transplant, which will cover medical expenses and treatment she will need during her recovery.

Her story and journey is captured in her blog at http://deborahgailsimmons.wordpress.com, and there is a PayPal link for sending donations. No amount is too small. And if  you are unable to make a financial contribution, please keep Deborah and her family in your prayers.

How to Train a Cat To Use the Toilet

For my Java class, our first assignment is to write out a list of instructions for simple everyday tasks, keeping in mind all of the contingency planning in case things go wrong. The idea is that a computer takes things very literally and will often not successfully complete a task since it cannot make an assumption.

Being my snarky self, I decided to write fictitious program instructions on how to train a cat to use the toilet. One day, I would like to make this into a flowchart so it can join the ranks of all of the other everyday tasks, such as The Grad Student’s Flowchart for Doing Laundry.

Warning: it is very complex. And I have never tested whether this works. But it is totally for humor.  Enjoy!

BEGIN:

1) Do you have a toilet? (Y/N). If Yes, Proceed to Step 2.

If no:

  • 1a: Go to Sears and talk to sales-person about purchasing a new toilet.
  • 1b: Proceed to Step 2a: Call a plumber.
  • 1c: Consult with plumber about what kind of toilet works with your plumbing
  • 1d: Go back to Sears and buy toilet.
  • 1e: Spend hundreds of dollars and proceed to Step 2.
2) Does toilet work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to step 3.

If no:

  • 2a: Call a Plumber
  • 2b: Have plumber look at toilet and fix it. If fixed, proceed to Step 3.
  • 2c: If plumber is unable to fix toilet, replace it. Repeat Steps 1a-e and 2.
3) Do you have a cat? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 4.

If no:

  • 3a) go to shelter and adopt a cat. If you are unable to adopt a cat, steal one from the crazy cat lady next door. Trust me, she won’t miss it.
  • 3b) Put cat in the bathroom
  • 3c) Put food dish near toilet so cat makes positive associations with it.
4) Is cat able to jump a vertical distance of at least 20″? (Y/N). If Yes, proceed to Step 5.

If no:

  • 4a: Is cat too old? (Y/N). If Yes, purchaes pet ramp.
  • 4b: is cat too fat? (Y/N). If Yes, put cat on diet.
5) Is cat currently using the litterbox? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 6.

If no:

  • 5a: Did the cat go potty inside the house? (Y/N). If yes, give cat a stern “NO!” and proceed to Step 8.
  • 5b: Did the cat go potty outside the house?(Y/N). If yes, you probably have an outdoor cat, and really do not need to train a cat to use the toilet since you rarely have to clean the litter box. Proceed to END TASK.
6) Open first toilet lid
7) Place litter box on top of toilet.
8 ) Place cat on toilet
9) Wait for cat to go potty.
10) Keep waiting…

11) Decide that the cat’s evil glare as you wait for him to do his business is not effective, as he has made it clear through his death stare that he will not, under any circumstances, bow to your wishes.

12) Go to Sears and buy camera for bathroom (referred to from now on as CatCam.

13) Install CatCam per product instructions (refer to separate program entitled “Vague Instructions in 145 Different Languages”) and connect it to your wireless device. If you do not own a wireless device, END TASK, as you are therefore not a functioning member of society and thus unable to perform a complex task such as training an unyielding animal to effectively utilize a toilet.

14) Does camera set-up work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 15.
If no:
  • 14a) Find receipt (you never throw those away, right….right??!!). Since you totally threw it away…
  •     14a-1) Call geek friend and pray he can fix it. If so, proceed to Step 15.
  •     14a-2) If no, go to paint store and find colors that match your shower curtain. Skip Steps 15-17. Repeat Steps 9-10 and pray.
  • 14b) You have the receipt, which means that the planets have aligned, Jesus has returned, and you are existing in a transcendent universe where cats do, in fact, use the toilet. Therefore, proceed to END TASK.

15) Go to Starbucks.

16) Order an over-priced sugarbomb latte and turn on your CatCam. Repeat Steps 9 and 10 as your glucose levels spike to Pluto.

17) Rush home when cat finally does do his business.

18) Place a cat treat on flusher

19) Does cat operate the flushing mechanism by reaching for the treat? (Y/N). If yes, give cat another treat. If no, manually place cat’s hand on flusher and provide treat.

20) Hide litterbox and place catnip near toilet. If cat decides to go potty inside the house (which he will just to spite you) repeat Steps 5a, 6, and 8.

21) Continue repeating Steps 8-19 until cat finally gets it.

22) If you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and the cat is in there reading the Wall Street Journal, congrats! You have successfully trained the cat to use the toilet!

23) Smile in satisfaction as you hear the flush.

END TASK

Getting There

I’ve really been dragging my feet trying to get this site up and running, but luckily the template issue resolved itself. It must have been a fluke or a bug with WordPress. I am very excited provide a more customized look to this site. Spent most of the day Saturday creating the header and background images, and will probably do some more tweaking with the color scheme.

Hope to be posting more soon!

Where Do We Go From Here?

In case anyone actually reads this thing, I realize it has been months since I have posted. I am still trying to figure out what exactly I want to do with this site, where I want it to go, how I want to brand it, etc. It’s so hard for me to come up with stuff that is worth writing about. Frankly, a lot of it is personal and I don’t want to put it all up for the Interweb’s viewing pleasure. Right now, it’s just a web presence.

I want to share and write about so much but do not know where to start. Usually I am very organized, and do not just jump into stuff without a plan. I created this blog in 2010 mainly as a resume booster so I could show potential employers I was knowledgeable about my field, that I could put together a coherent sentence, and so on. However, I do have a vision for this blog. There are so many blogs out there about library science, and I just hate being put into a box and being forced just to write about that. Which is probably why you as the reader may have noticed the later entries have little to do with library science. Not that I will stop writing about the library profession, but expect a wider range of topics.

I switched from cloud hosting on WordPress.com and bought my own domain. Now that I have all of these options I can work with and plug-ins I can install, I feel very overwhelmed. I am one class away from completing my Advanced Web Development certificate, but what I learn in class really does not go far. I really want to do more with experimenting with different themes, but for some reason, I cannot get content to display correctly, despite scouring the CSS and PHP files for any possible reasons. It would probably be obvious to someone who is a pro at this, but I am still learning.

There is so much I want to do, to learn, and to explore. Yet I only have so much time. And when I do have the time, I feel very unmotivated. Trying to get into a creative swing when working a full-time job and wanting to have a social life has not been easy for me. When I do have free time, I usually crave the comforts of my bed :).

What courses should / shouldn’t I take in my MLS program? My experience…

I realize it has been a while since I have posted to this blog, but since it has been a little over a year since I finished library school and have been working in the field for a while, I wanted to reflect on my decisions to take certain courses while getting my MLIS.

If any current or prospective students are reading this, I am sure you are experiencing an overwhelming array of tempting course options. However, not all classes are created equal, and you might find there are better (and cheaper) alternatives. The goal is to maximize your coursework and your tuition money so that you are in the best position to get hired :).

Please note that what I will state below is my subjective experience, and that the classes I took at my MLIS program might be different from the curricula at other programs.  However, I will be listing some general course categories that I took (whether I felt they were useful or not), or classes that I wished I had taken.

I also point out that my focus in library science (digital content management), will be different from others, so my response will be somewhat tailored to this area. However, in talking to people in the field, and my experience on the job, proficiency with new tech is vital to getting hired, as Laura Krier bluntly puts it. She also lists some course ideas that are beneficial to digital content management.

Classes I did not regret taking:

1) Relational Databases and Data Modeling

Despite the fact that my course had less than 15 people enroll, which is pretty sad for a school that spits out the 2nd most MLIS’s per year, this was one of the most informative classes I ever took. Relational databases serve as the backbone to nearly all applications that librarians use, no matter what area of the field, so knowing how they work provides a huge understanding to troubleshooting application issues, finding information in databases, and even providing the foundational knowledge for writing your own programs. Since we librarians are always designing with the user in mind, being able to model and implement our own database applications is a real asset as the field becomes more technological.

2) Metadata / Electronic Information Retrieval

In addition to the mandatory cataloging class, knowing how to apply metadata fields in the right circumstances is  key to managing content (more of which will become electronic as time goes on). While cataloging classes often reiterated the importance of standard entry rules and validation rules for standard schemas like MARC, it does not really discuss issues such as how to export your data, how to incorporate your data in another system, and how to create metadata that will help preserve your data.

Since the growth of technology is not getting any slower, this is key knowledge if we want to be stewards of tomorrows information. After all, don’t forget that only 10 years ago, we were storing data on floppy disks. Now the only thing a floppy disk is good for is a coaster….those 1.44 MBs relics  cannot even hold one iTunes song, but they certainly keep my Coke Zero from sweating  ;).

3) A subject area reference course, preferably  in the sciences or business

Any library job you take will require the keen skill of extracting the information from your user and translating it into something you can use to find the answer, you don’t want to leave library school without having this down pat. Every library school on the planet offers some variant of Reference 101, but it won’t provide the opportunity to delve into a subject, and to really learn how to utilize the various databases and tackle more challenging questions.

Science/technology reference class are in higher demand, especially in medical libraries, pharmaceutical companies. Business research skills are also highly in demand, especially if you want to work for a law firm, corporation, or other special library. As the private sector picks up, these places are likely to hire  (hint, hint), assuming we don’t have a double-dip recession. And academic and public libraries will find this reference skill set useful as well.

Courses I wished I did not take

1) HTML/CSS (or any programming language)

Unless you have been living under a rock before considering library school, you know that knowing at least a little HTML is basically a requirement to get a job in this field. However, I would not recommend taking this course through your MLIS program. Not that the course is not useful, but that there are several other alternatives that are much cheaper and much better. Ed2Go offers an HTML class for less than $200,  and lynda.com offers unlimited tech tutorials for only $25 a month. Lynda.com not only offers HTML courses, but programming courses, software application courses, etc. as well (which will probably be more current than what you would take in class anyway).  The tuition cost for an HTML class in grad school is the same as 5 years or more of a membership to Lynda.com. And you can learn a lot in 5 years…. ;). Plus, don’t forget all the free stuff like MIT’s Open Courseware and Google Code University! 🙂

2) Library Management

In my experience, I felt that these classes were a waste of tuition dollars, even though they required very little work. While they are great for an easy “A’, you don’t really need an easy “A” in library school…since most of your classes are not particularly challenging (strongly depending on where you get your degree, of course). Any manager will tell you that management and leadership are learned on the job, and many of the theories you will learn in these classes fall apart in the real world. Becoming an advocate for your profession and your staff has to come from within;  no excessive knowledge or theory is going to magically give you the resolve to be a good leader.

For what is is worth, I took 2 management classes, and I found neither of them to be very beneficial…

Classes I wished I took

1) Collection Development / Acquisitions

I deal a lot with vendors in my job, and I deal a lot with questions regarding how much subscriptions cost, license agreements, etc. A lot of people do not realize that the acquisitions budget of a large company or university is likely in the 7-figure range (though many are getting slashed…). That’s some serious cash money!

License agreements are convoluted, and publishers can be ruthless about price increases. While I would say that, like the management courses, much of what is learned in acquisitions is learned on the job, I wished that I had at least had some background knowledge before being thrown in with the sharks without a life jacket.  If you know how to be economical with an acquisitions budget and to negotiate sweet deals, that skill is better than sweet liquid gold and a titanium cherry on top :).

I hope that this information is helpful. Again, please realize that this reflects my experience, but I wanted to share my knowledge. I read a lot of people’s perspectives on what people should / should not take in library school, and I hope that this provides some unique information, especially for those interested in pursuing the digital track.

Why I Don’t Call You

NOTE: This only applies to personal calls and NOT those of a professional-related nature.

I sometimes receive complaints from friends and family that I never call them. And I admit, I am very guilty of this. I need to be better about being in touch. However, here is my answer to that oft-asked question that I hope will unveil the mystery, and may provide some insight for others who have introverted friends who are not real keen on the phone. (Hint: at least 25% or more of the population is introverted, and about 100% of us hate using the phone.) However, please be reassured that it is nothing personal, it does not mean I don’t like you, it does not mean I don’t want to spend time with you.

Aside from the 10 reasons listed in this comic from The Oatmeal, are 5 blunt and honest reasons why I do not call you:

1) I am too tired to deal with the phone. My day starts at 7:30, and while that is not that early, I am NOT a morning person. Sure, you may say you are not a morning person, but I am REALLY not a morning person. I function best between 8:30 PM and 1 AM. Of course, that is not conducive to my work schedule, so I am often extraordinarily fatigued during the week. Between dealing with people and projects at work, dealing with a crowded metro where I get no phone service, getting my gym workout in, I do not even get home til 8:00 PM. And by then I am tired and hungry because I have not had dinner yet, and neither have the cats. And I need a shower. But to get a functional level of sleep, I need to be in bed by 11 PM, which does not give me a lot of time to myself to recharge so I am not coming to work a brain-dead zombie.

2) I am much better at communicating in email, text, Facebook, or Instant Messaging, especially at work. I communicate much better in writing, and I tend to fumble my words when I talk. I also get more of a response when I text or email, which is why I have a much better time communicating using those mediums. But still, it is hard to get hold of people, and they can never get hold of me.

I am not the only one with the busy schedule. Everyone is busy. I have very good friends who never, ever answer their phones, and as a consequence, I never, ever call them. Am I guilty about not being near my phone 24/7? Absolutely, and no one should be expected to wait around for my call. And even if you do answer, the chances that you will be available to meet up for coffee, lunch, whatever at a time when our schedules both permit is so low it almost does not seem worth it. This gets especially worse as friends get married and have kids. By then, there is no point in even trying to call them…

Today, someone who is “good” about answering their phone picks up about 50% of the time. If you are one of those people, you have a 50% higher likelihood that I will actually call from time to time. However, that still leaves a good chance that you will not be available, so I make my assumption that you are busy, which brings me to my third point…

3) I ahbor voicemail. Nothing is more painful than getting some message that the person is “unavailable right now” (aka has more important things to do than talk to you), and then having to turn around and blabber and fumble around awkwardly leaving some message about why I called and whether it is really necessary to have you return my call, thus trying to walk that thin tightrope between blunt curtness and pitiful, irrelevant rambling. So, if I know there is a 50% or more chance I have to deal with the relegation and torture of leaving a voicemail, logic prefers me to not even bother picking up the phone. So I don’t.

4) If I have not spoken to you in a while, I actually want to have a real conversation that lasts more than 5 minutes. I actually want to call you and catch up, but I want more than 5 minutes quality time talking to you. And chances are, you do not have it. However, I know that I cannot get that because we are both very, extremely busy. And I want to call and potentially schedule a time to talk more, but then again, I have to risk the pain of the voicemail. Which loops me back into not wanting to pick up the phone in the first place, unless I need to speak with you urgently.

5) P.S. I really hate it when people use songs instead of the default ring. Because it seems all I ever hear when I am waiting for an answer (or the inevitable voicemail) is some crappy pop like Katy Perry or Nickelback.

So, in sum, I do not call you because neither of us can often reach that sweet spot where the planets align and we can answer our phones, and I find voicemail to be akin to being stabbed in the heart and twisting the knife. Of course, if we are not able to meet in person and the phone is the only want to chat, then it works best to schedule a time to chat that works for both schedules, so no one has to deal with the pain of unrequited phone answering.