The A,B,Cs of It

Image001 (3)Like everyone, I struggle with staying on top of tasks and projects. I recently attended a seminar on managing multiple projects. The most useful concept I garnered from the workshop was the concept of "A,B,C" tasks. It goes like this:

"A" tasks are due today
"B" tasks are due in 30 days
"C" tasks are due in 90 days

If you are doing an "A" level activity when you should be doing a "B" level activity, you are doing the wrong thing. 

After the workshop, I asked myself how can I use technology to help with this? I have been using Remember the milk for years to manage my "to do" lists. This is a great free tool that works on PCs as well as mobile devices. I looked a little closer and discovered that you can assign one of 3 color-code priorities. 

I don't follow the "A,B,C" system exactly. I use Priority 1 (red) to flag projects or tasks on their due date. This is nice, because each week I can scan for those items to see what major deadlines I have coming up (like write my Tech Bits post). I use 2 (dark blue) for things I should get done that day--these are my true priority 1 tasks (like creating agendas). I use 3 (light blue) to flag more routine tasks that effect mostly me (checking my "waiting" email). So, on a given day I had better not be working on priority "light blue" items if I have "dark blue" items to do. If I miss a "red" item, I am really in trouble. 

What task management systems and techniques do you use?

By the way, the minute I started writing this blog, the song "Teach me tonight" was playing on AccuRadio. It includes in the lyrics the phrase "the A,B,C of it." 

 

Kahoot!

At the All Directors Meeting last month, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt from DPI used a cool game to end the Annual Report: Before, During, and After workshop. It was a really fun way to wrap up the presentation and reinforce some of the main takeaways it. As I watched, all the participants were really engaged in the game, laughing, and working together to figure out the answers. What an awesome tool to use for workshops - for your patrons or for your staff.

KahootIt's called Kahoot and it's free to use! Simply create an account to get started. Then play the intro quiz to get familiar with the game and then create one of your own.

I created a test Kahoot survey about TechBits. Try it out here! You'll need either two windows open on your computer or a computer and a mobile device. In this example, you're playing both the teacher and the student.

After you open the link, choose the Play button and then Start Now. Choose Classic  or Team mode (I used classic in my testing). If you are using a mobile device, there's a free Kahoot app you can use or go to Kahoot.it on the web browser. When the game PIN appears, enter that on your device or web browser to join. You'll play the game on one screen/device and you'll use the other screen/device to advance the questions - you get to see both sides of Kahoot this way.

Let me know if you create or use Kahoot in any of your workshops or training sessions. Have fun!

Image on my computer:                                                                             

KahootPIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image on my phone:

 KahootPhone

 

ProProfs Quiz Maker

We'll have a new hire starting soon, and that had me thinking about all the delivery codes used by the system and wondering whether there was a tool out there to easily put together a quiz to help in learning all of these.

ProProfsQuestionTypesI took ProProfs quiz maker for a spin. They have a free option with no limits on how many questions I could include in my quiz. The interface was easy to use and offered many different question types and quiz settings. With the free account, all quizzes are public, security is removed, ads are added to the quiz, and any results are deleted. Paid accounts are a little on the pricey side, but might be well worth the money if you find yourself using lots of quizzes for training purposes and would like more options and flexibility.

Want to see the end result of my experiment?
Here's a link to my LINKcat Library Delivery Codes quiz. I'm sure you'll all score 58 out of 58*!

ProProfsNumberOfQuestions*There's a setting that lets users decide how many questions they want to answer. I've enabled this, so you can actually opt for a subset of the full 58. Just click on the little gear to select the number of questions before you begin!

What tools have you found for helping to train new hires? Please share them in the comments.

When you say "it seems slow", what does that mean?

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About five years ago, SCLS recommended that libraries use a timing tool for Firefox called Life of Request Information (LORI), to help assess response time for applications and network connections, especially for Koha.

Unfortunately, LORI hasn't been updated recently, and it is not 100% compatible with modern Firefox. You can still make LORI work, but technically it is obsolete and in some cases it may have serious conflict with websites or other add-ons.

Luckily, a pretty decent replacement is available for it; the Page Speed Monitor (PSM) extension. The free PSM widget is easy to install, easy to use, and available for both Firefox and Chrome. In each browser, it shows up as a small icon in the toolbar, typically in the upper right corner of the window though this may vary if you're using a custom theme. The appearance of the toolbar icon is slightly different for FF and Chrome, as shown here.

App.telemetry.toolbar.iconsEach time you load a page, the PSM toolbar icon is overlaid with the total load time in seconds, timed from when you first requested the page to when the browser finished rendering it. If you click the icon you'll see a detailed breakdown of the timing elements.

App.telemetry.details

From these elements you can estimate how much of the time is due to network or web server responsiveness (the DNS and TCP metrics), versus how much is from the weight or complexity of the page content (the Processing metric). Refer to the Page Speed Monitor download page for a technical description of each timing element.

TechSoup for Libraries

TechSoup for LibrariesDo you know about the TechSoup for Libraries blog? It's one of my favorites!

TechSoup for Libraries is a project of TechSoup, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit devoted to making technology and technology education available and affordable to nonprofits and libraries all over the world. TechSoup for Libraries continues to gather and share stories from the field so libraries can keep learning from each other.

I was just looking over the blog recently and was amazed all over again at what a helpful collection of topics it covers. Some recent examples:

And those are just some of the posts that I find most appealing given my interests! There are many, many more posts on a variety of library technology topics.

You can browse to the blog, sign up for their monthly newsletters, follow them via RSS, or follow them on Twitter.

Guest Post: Madison Public Library's Personal Archiving Lab

This Guest Post is from Samantha Abrams, a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Library and Information Studies. You can find her on Twitter as @sabramse.

Inspired by similar projects like the Memory Lab (in Washington) and the Inspiration Lab (in Vancouver), the Personal Archiving Lab at the Madison Public Library made its debut in June of this year. Funded through the Madison Public Library Foundation by a gift from Martin J. Levy, the Lab is a collection of equipment that can be used by Library patrons to digitize at-risk analog materials, like home movies, video tapes, audio cassettes, photographs, floppy disks, and paper-based documents (including photographs).

Personal Archiving LabThe Lab — as it stands — fits on a small cart (like this one), and is fully mobile. In addition to a Macbook Air, the Lab contains a flatbed scanner (which can handle poster-sized documents as well as slides and film negatives), a Sony HandyCam, a portable miniDV player, a tape deck, a combination VHS / DVD player, and a floppy disk drive. For video-based transfers, the Lab uses Elgato Video Capture. Some form of external storage (thumb drives are recommended) is required to use the lab, and the transfer of all tape-based media occurs in real time (60 min video = 60 min to complete the transfer).

The equipment we use to capture important memories today — smartphones, digital cameras, social media — makes the tangible feel less urgent. As a result, our tapes and our photographs are often stored out of sight, and out of mind. It isn’t until we run across that box in the attic, or garage, or relative’s basement, that we rediscover them. Since the debut of the Lab at the Madison Public Library, I have helped patrons access memories that are — seemingly — trapped on all kinds of outdated material: VHS and Hi8 tapes have been the most commonly digitized, but it has not been uncommon to work with patrons interested in digitizing cassette tapes, too.

Of course, not all obsolete media can be saved. Often, old tapes become demagnetized, or unintentionally damaged as time passes. But what the Lab can do — at the very least — is provide the equipment needed to access old media and the instruction required to begin the digitization process. And, based on the fact that the Lab’s appointments are often booked weeks in advance, this seems to be a much-needed service, met with great enthusiasm.

What makes the Lab truly great is not its equipment, but its ability to foster connections: not only does it allow Library staff to interact one-on-one with interested parties, but it allows patrons the ability to interact with the past. Earlier in the year, at Madison Public Library’s Pinney Branch, I sat down with a patron interested in digitizing a single cassette tape. As I prepared the computer and tape deck for our work, I made conversation with them: how did they hear about the Lab? What was it about the Lab that made them stop in? Eventually, we landed on the subject of her cassette: a conversation, recorded long ago, between the patron and their father. As they explained further, their father had passed away years before and the cassette — which was over twenty years old — was the only remaining recording of his voice. And what the Lab was able to provide the patron with was this connection: a memory from long ago, brought back to life.
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More about Samantha's personal experiences with the lab can be found here.

DPLA + Recollection Wisconsin

Since TechBits last featured the Digital Public Library of America, DPLA has continued to grow in exciting ways. DPLA is a portal for finding digital resources, a platform enabling use of those resources, and an advocate for public access to digital materials. And now that Recollection Wisconsin is the latest DPLA service hub, the riches of Wisconsin's digital resources are a part of it too.

Wisconsin map image in DPLA results
Example of a Wisconsin resource found via DPLA

As libraries and other organizations build local digital collections, service hubs (like Recollection Wisconsin) harvest metadata about items in the collections and share it with DPLA. Using that metadata, DPLA provides a centralized portal website with many ways to discover digital resources across the country: search, curated exhibitions, a map for browsing by location, and a timeline for exploring throughout history. Now that Wisconsin resources are included in DPLA, it's a great resource for finding local materials and also getting a nationwide context. (Fans of libraries might enjoy the DPLA exhibition "A History of US Public Libraries.")

Using DPLA as a platform, developers can mash up digital resource metadata with DPLA's API to "create novel environments for learning, tools for discovery, and engaging apps." Wonder what that looks like? For starters, there is a Twitter bot app that tweets cat pictures found through DPLA. Other apps provide combined searching of DPLA and collections beyond US borders, find digital books by language, and other specialized tools for using DPLA.

DPLA's advocacy extends throughout projects that further their mission as well as community activities that build engagement with digital collections in fun and educational ways.

Inspired? DPLA also offers a free self-guided curriculum for public libraries to get started on digitization projects (more info & archived webinar).

Litsy - Part 2

As I promised in my Litsy post of June 27, here's my update on using Litsy. I was a little hesitant about joining another social Litsy4network - even one that focused on books. As I've mentioned before, I started a LibraryThing account 10 years ago and have used it consistently since then (and plan on continuing) to keep track of my books. I also have a Goodreads account but that platform never really grabbed me - it's almost too social for me.

Litsy is in the middle. I like the community aspect of Litsy - focused around the book and reading (or listening) experience. Anything you post is tied to a book whether it's a review, a blurb, or a quote. You have limited options when rating the book: Pick, So-so, Pan, or Bail. I appreciate having the Bail option - I recently added a collection on LibraryThing called Started and Abandoned to keep track of those books I started but didn't finish. And, I like not trying to figure out whether a book is 3, 4 or 4.5 stars. The books I finish, I tend to like so they all end up in the same range. Litsy's options fit me.

Over this past weekend, Litsy participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon - another new thing to me. I followed along on Litsy but didn't formally participate. There were giveaways and prizes and it sounded like a lot of fun. Maybe next year...

Here's are my stats for my first month on Litsy:

  • 13 books read 
  • 11 posts
  • Followed 18 people
  • Followed by 25 people
  • Litfluence increased from 42 to 73

Litsy3                 Litsy7

 

Litsy recently did an update to the app and I highly encourage you to read the "What's New in Version 1.4.1" as it's quite entertaining. I haven't found the Litsy Librarians yet and I want to join them! I'll let you know when I figure that out.

Want to know more? Litsy is on Facebook and Twitter. There have been a number of articles about Litsy recently including this one from Publishers Weekly. Connect with me, pandalibrarian, on Litsy and let's talk about books! Happy reading!

Hands On with Virtual Reality

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The Oculus Rift has finally reached the market and I had the luck of getting my hands on a set and showing it to the office. Getting to wear one is truly an amazing experience. Imagine being able to stand toe-to-toe with an alien, face-to-face with a T-Rex, or towering over a miniature cityscape, in each case feeling like you'd be able to just reach out your hand and touch them.

This is what it takes to get one:

  • The Oculus Rift, itself, is $599
  • A computer that's able to support it is $999.99

I understand that that's a pretty steep cost for most people and most libraries, but if you could swing it I bet you'd be able to garner the attention of quite a few teens and young adults.

There are cheaper, less robust, options out there as well; namely Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard is most simply a mount with lenses that can turn most any smartphone into a pair of VR goggles. The base "cardboard" set is only $15, and there's many other more structural options as well for various prices. Phones are not included, however.

There are some libraries already using Google Cardboard in some programming events. Some articles can be found here, here, here, and here.

Very similar to Cardboard, but a little more cleaned up and more expensive, is the Samsung Gear VR. The headset is $99 and requires a Samsung Galaxy S6, S7, or Note 5 to use it.

Spheros are here!

Several Spheros Silently Sitting StillThe YA iPad kit will be getting a new addition in two weeks. We’ve purchased seven Sphero 2.0 robots to join the seven iPads. If you are not familiar with Sphero (like me) they are simply robotic balls. However, the more I learn about them the more it’s clear they are not all that simple. Sphero’s make a nice toy and even better learning device. All the iPads in the YA iPad kit will have the SPRK Lightning Lab app installed to allow block based programming, very similar to the Lego MindStorms kits we offer. I loaded this app on my smart phone and played around with it a bit the other day and found it very intuitive. In only a matter of minutes I had created a program and modified it to complete a task of moving the Sphero in a square around my office and back to its original starting point and change colors at every turn. I know it sounds simple, that’s because it is! If you’re not into the whole programming thing you can also use the app to treat the iPad like a remote control for the Sphero and roam around your library with it, that’s fun too!