PLN: A Network for Professional and Personal Development

Goals

  • My online personal learning network will help educate me about current news in libraries, electronic resources, education, information retrieval, web design and user experience. This includes peer observations, news articles and scholarly articles.
  • My online personal learning network will help educate me about emerging technologies and their potential impact on libraries and education. This includes peer observations, news articles and specific examples of implementation.
  • My online personal learning network will help educate me about the state of the current job market in libraries, what kinds of jobs I might be qualified for and best practices for applying to specific positions.
  • My online personal learning network will help me answer specific technical questions to meet immediate needs.

Defined Scope

I currently work for a vendor in a user research and design role, which has been a great learning experience for me in terms of getting to know the technology that drives a lot of library services. My current goal is to continue learning and advancing in my current job, which requires staying up-to-date on a number of different topics – primarily trends and emerging technologies that affect libraries, but also education, information retrieval, web design and user experience. My long-term goal is to work in a library that wants to fully control or even build the technologies they use themselves, which requires watching the evolving job market in the library space to understand where I might fit. In addition to these larger-picture goals, I occasionally have small day-to-day technical questions I have an immediate need to answer, including how to formulate SQL queries, accomplish something specific in CSS or define unfamiliar vocabulary.

PLN diagram

Resource Network

Career

These are resources I use to keep up-to-date on careers in the LIS field. There are several other resources I would check in on regularly if I were actively looking for a job, but these are the ones I keep up with to maintain a sense of perspective on the job market.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/deirdre-costello/12/440/593/

Keeping up with my classmates’ and colleagues’ experience and job titles helps me benchmark where I am in terms of my own career and the career-oriented decisions I make. The link is to my profile – let’s connect!

Hiring Librarians: http://hiringlibrarians.com/

Reading survey responses from people who are responsible for hiring librarians help me understand what employers may be looking for and how to be a good employee now, as well as best practices during the application process.

I Need a Library Job (INALJ): http://inalj.com/

A site intended to help new librarians find a job in the field, the information here helps me understand what the job market looks like and what my career choices might be.

Open Cover Letters: http://opencoverletters.com/

People who get jobs in the LIS field can post the cover letters that helped them get those jobs here. I find it helpful to read the way people write about their own experiences, and how those experiences end up fitting the positions they’re hired for.

Librarian Hire Fashion: http://librarianhirefashion.tumblr.com/

I get really nervous about what to wear to an interview and dressing appropriately and professionally beyond that – it may sound silly, but this site has given me a lot of ideas and a lot of confidence.

Conferences

Between working and going to school full-time, I haven’t had much of a chance to go to any non-local LIS conferences. However, my current employer has a professional development budget, so I hope to be attending a wider range of conferences soon to meet colleagues and make connections.

 

User Experience

These are resources I use both to research the UX field’s previous findings on specific topics and stay current on topics like the usability of new technologies and the evolution of the user researcher’s role in the development and design process.

Nielsen Norman Group: http://www.nngroup.com/

The “fathers of modern usability,” Jakob Nielsen and Donald Norman, regularly publish their thoughts and findings, including updates to usability heuristics that have become “canon” in the field of user experience but need to be updated to include current technology.

User Experience blogs

These blogs all provide thoughts and reflections on specific aspects of user experience. They’re especially helpful in providing perspective on how user research can fit into the big picture at a larger organization, as well as reporting on the user experience of new trends in web design.

Walking Paper: http://www.walkingpaper.org/

This blog is dedicated to the user experience of libraries specifically. It’s a fascinating look at all the small things libraries can do to improve the experience of their users.

UXPA Boston: http://upaboston.org/

I am a member of UXPA Boston, which includes membership on a listserv announcing user experience-related events in the Boston area and access to an online job board. Attending these events, which are primarily talks by local UX professionals, helps me expand my knowledge about the field as well as make connections.

 

Emerging Technologies in Libraries

These are resources I follow in order to stay informed about new technologies – from methods of data visualization to iPhone apps – in order to understand how these technologies could be leveraged in the LIS field.

Read Write Web: http://readwrite.com/

While not specifically about libraries, following this site makes it easy to keep up with trends in emerging technologies. I also like the thought exercise of trying to understand how these technologies may impact libraries.

Pew Internet: http://www.pewinternet.org/

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is a great resource for information on how people are using technology, and they often report data specific to technology in libraries and library usage.

Linda Braun’s twitter feed: https://twitter.com/lbraun2000

Linda Braun is a professor at Simmons College and tweets frequently about new technologies – or new uses of existing technologies – and how libraries are implementing them.

Twitter in general: https://twitter.com/deirdre_lyon

I follow a number of classmates, colleagues, interesting people I’ve met at conferences and thinkers in the LIS field who are interested in technology in libraries and I often hear about new technologies via my Twitter feed. The link is to my profile – let’s connect!

Harvard’s library design resources

Harvard has two resources that are essentially sandboxes for design ideas to improve users’ experience of both the physical and online library.

 

The LIS Field

These are resources that help me stay up-to-date with current news and major ideas in the LIS field.

Library Stuff: http://www.librarystuff.net/

This is essentially a feed that links to articles about events that may directly affect libraries. It’s especially useful for keeping up with the open access debate and the communication between libraries and publishers.

In the Library with the Lead Pipe: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/

This started as a blog, but has turned into more of an online journal that publis

hes relatively long-form, thought-provoking articles on topics directly relevant to libraries and library professionals.
NYPL Blogs: http://www.nypl.org/blog

I think of the NYPL as a flagship library that bridges the gap between public and academic librarianship. I like to follow what this library is doing because it’s a chance to see the way some of the major ideas in the LIS field are implemented.

 

Librarians

These are major thinkers in the LIS field whose blogs I follow to stay current with the major ideas in the LIS field as well as to see examples of all the different ways to be a passionate, engaged librarian.

Tame the Web: http://tametheweb.com/

I’m assuming readers will be familiar with this one, but I count on this resource to help me stay up-to-date with technology trends in libraries and education. Also a great resource for implementation examples.

Librarian by Day: http://librarianbyday.net/

I cound on Bobbi Newman’s writing to help me understand all the possible roles for a 21st century librarian and keep me up-to-date on all the major topics that librarian should be well-spoken on.

The Wikiman: http://www.thewikiman.org/

Ned Potter, an academic librarian, writes frequently about the profession and professional development, and I find his perspective valuable in terms of making my own career decisions.

Librarian.net: http://www.librarian.net/

Jessamyn West is a user-centered library activist who has chosen a non-traditional career path in the LIS field. I also keep up with her at http://www.jessamyn.com/.

 

Quick Questions and Reference

These are resources I use when I have a question about a specific technology that I need answered right away.

CNET: http://www.cnet.com/

I use CNET to evaluate tools I can use for specific tasks.

W3Schools: http://www.w3schools.com/

I use W3Schools as a reference when I’m working with a language I’m fuzzy or rusty on.

StackOverflow: http://stackoverflow.com/

I use StackOverflow to see how people have solved the specific problem I’m also trying to solve.

 

PLN in Action

I was recently putting together a literature review on teenagers’ information-seeking behaviors to provide to someone new to the LIS field who was going to be working on a product for that audience. I performed searches in the scholarly article databases the company I work for provides, but the most compelling evidence came from Pew Internet (How Teens Do Research in the Digital World, http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Student-Research.aspx) and the Nielsen Norman Group (Teenage Usability, http://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-of-websites-for-teenagers/). Both provided research results in an easy-to-read, engaging fashion that made it clear they intended for others to take those results out into the world and create based on them.

I’m also frequently asked to pull data about how specific features are used, which involves interacting with the massive amount of data kept in the company’s logs. This requires writing complex SQL queries in Transact-SQL, which I’m not totally familiar with yet – I’ve gotten a lot of help from StackOverflow in terms of figuring out how to write queries that will do what I want.

As mentioned above, I also get really nervous about what to wear for job interviews, so I consulted Hiring Librarians’ survey results (http://hiringlibrarians.com/category/what-should-candidates-wear/) and Librarian Hire Fashion before my last interview and ended up wearing a dress and cardigan combination that the interviewer (my now-boss!) complimented me on.

 

Network Maintenance Plan

I currently maintain my PLN using several tools, which I check into weekly if not every day:

  • Feedly: Most of the blogs and websites mentioned above have RSS feeds, so I use Feedly to check in on them every day. I actually like it better than Google Reader – I love the interface and how customizable my experience is.
  • Twitter: I check Twitter on my phone on a regular basis and often email either tweets or links to myself to follow up on when I’m at a desktop and have more time.
  • Email: The Nielsen Norman Group and UXPA are both listservs, so I get updates from these resources via email. I also use email to keep in touch with classmates and previous colleagues.
  • LinkedIn: I log in to LinkedIn about once every week or two to see what’s changed, especially in terms of the experiences my classmates are listing and how peoples’ job titles have changed.

Generally I find that my PLN grows more often than it gets trimmed, and I’m sure it will grow exponentially as I read about classmates’ resource networks. In terms of trimming, I tend to unsubscribe from a blog’s RSS feed or unfollow someone on Twitter when I find that either the nature of the content has changed or my need for it has changed.

As I prepare to graduate next fall, I anticipate that I will actively expand my PLN to fulfill the information needs currently fulfilled by my classes and regular interaction with my classmates; I will try to find those classmates on Twitter and LinkedIn, follow their blogs, and use those connections to find other valuable resources. I also anticipate that as my current position evolves, I will discover and be directed to a number of user research, user experience and web design resources that I will add to my PLN in order to stay current on issues in those fields.

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A totally different kind of online learning

I live in Melrose, which is a small city about seven miles north of Boston. I’m fine, my whole family’s fine, and so far I don’t think anyone I know was touched by any of this week’s tragedies – except for the fact that we live in greater Boston and were so scared for, now proud of, our city.

But what I want to write about today is my experience of the way some of the tools we’ve talked about in this class – Twitter especially, but also blogs – have been and are being used to disseminate information during events like the Boston marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt.

My husband and I don’t have cable TV – we have a Roku box for our streaming services, but we can’t watch live television, so we were pretty much glued to the radio this last week. On Monday, when everything started, and then on Friday, when neither of us could go to work, we sat in our living room with the radio on, a live newsfeed on mute on the computer, refreshing Twitter on both of our phones every 30 seconds and reading any new-seeming piece of news out loud along with where it came from. This last piece was especially important: was it a news source, was it someone on-scene being retweeted, or was it just someone totally unrelated to the event declaring something. Twitter was often minutes, if not hours, in front of other news sources in terms of circulating new pieces of information, but it was also much, MUCH more likely to get all excited about some new piece of information that was just speculation or, in some cases, completely made up, sometimes by a news source. While it felt to us like a lifeline, a window into what was ACTUALLY happening, we quickly had to come up with our own system for trying to assess the credibility of sources and the information they were reporting. That said, we also saw well wishes from all over the world – New York, Syria – that were really meaningful, as well as remembrances of people who had been hurt or lost their lives that helped us remember the big picture of what the city was going through.

When the evening rounds of gunfire started in Watertown, we went over to my aunt and uncle’s house to watch their TV – we could tell it was coming to a conclusion, and we wanted to see it on TV and experience it with family. The visual seemed really important, as did being with people we cared about. So we sat in front of the TV talking about all we’d seen and read that day  and making a story for each other- how the FBI had interviewed the older brother in 2011, how his boxing coach said the younger brother looked up to his older brother so much. But my husband and I grew impatient with the recycled images on TV and with the loopy commentary from tired newscasters (at one point, a newscaster said it wouldn’t be long until the “knucklehead” at large would be in custody), and turned to Twitter – my family eagerly listened as we reported what was happening on-scene far before the newscasters got wind of it. By that point, we were both following the feeds we knew to be credible and could be pretty confident in their accuracy. Nothing could beat watching Watertown celebrate on-camera, though, or the fireworks we could hear after we turned the TV off.

Now that the climax has passed and everyone has the opportunity to piece together their own version of events, blog entries by people who knew the bombers, or at least about them –  classmates, a girl who went to their mom’s living room spa for years, an anonymous FBI aide frustrated that Russia had warned them in 2011 and no one had kept track – are pouring out of the woodwork. For me, they paint a picture of a scared 19-year-old heavily influenced by his older brother, but there’s a lot out there I haven’t read that probably says something different – people could get any number of things from these accounts, more of which are showing up in my newsfeed by the hour.

Overall, I think the use of social media to receive and disseminate up-to-the-second news information will ultimately replace TV and radio during events like this in the future, but this will only happen successfully as news consumers learn to cull the credible from the speculative and exclamatory. I also think some Republican senators should think more carefully when they tweet during a crisis, but that’s neither here nor there. In terms of how communities process tragedy, that’s necessarily a little murkier, but for me the blog posts about how Dzhokar was polite to his friends’ families, spent a whole night helping a girl retrace her steps to find the new cellphone she’d lost and moved his mom’s customer’s car so she wouldn’t get a parking ticket have an important humanizing effect.

Reflection: Going Through Modules

This week, I went through two other classmates’ modules:

  • Pinterest, on Links to Literacy: https://litlink.wordpress.com/module-6-pinterest/
  • Jing/Prezi, on Connect 2 U: http://connect2u2013.wordpress.com/weekly-modules/week-3/

Loved ’em both!

 

Pinterest

The thing that struck me most in Elaine’s module is how often she reminded her users to

Have fun!

This encouragement, combined with the appealing screenshots she included, are really helpful in reminding the user that technologies like Pinterest are useful tools but they’re also exciting and can be integrated into your lifestyle in fun and interesting ways. I also thought Elaine did a great job writing in clear, simple language, which is really important to our intended audience.

I think the one thing I might change about the module is something more design-based than anything else – I would change the way the screenshots are presented. In the template we chose for our program, there’s a lot of white space, which I like, but it looks very similar to Pinterest and it can take a second to process what’s a part of the module and what’s a part of the screenshot. I would center the screenshots and put a frame around them to make that a little clearer.

That said, I’m an on-again off-again Pinterest user, and this module made me more excited to become more invested in it. Like I mentioned, I found the module to have a very encouraging voice, and I also liked the personal touch Elaine included by taking pictures of her own account – it made me feel really connected!

 

Jing/Prezi

I love both of these tools, so I was really excited to read about what other libraries are doing with them. Some of the Prezis are so creative! There was some feedback that suggested this program’s users weren’t huge Prezi fans, which I understand – it does require a real learning curve, but some of the examples Danielle includes are very inspirational.

The one thing I would change about this module is that it tackles two very important tools at once, which can steal focus from either one (like in superhero movies, when the hero has to fight two major villains when just one nemesis would do). I would either split these two tools up into two separate modules or organize it so that the Prezi activities came directly after the description of Prezi, so users could easily move from one tool to the other.

Overall, though, I think these tools will end up being really valuable for the librarians working through these modules! Once you learn about Jing, it’s impossible not to use it, and even just being introduced to Prezi will change the way people think about presenting. Also, I just want to say I really like the template this group chose for their program – the font is nice, large and readable, and it’s all very pleasant on the eyes!

My first module comments!

thanks im happy to use this program its very intersting

This week I received the first few comments on my module. As I’ve mentioned before, our program was designed for a slightly different set of users than most other groups – our library wanted to build a program for the English language learners they tutor regularly to help them learn how to to use technologies like email and YouTube as well as familiarize them with using a computer.

We’ve had some feedback via our liaison about how much the library likes and appreciates the program, and we’ve had a number of people register – mostly volunteers and tutors either going through the program themselves or demonstrating how to register for users. We’ve also heard that participants are excited because skills like using email will be really useful for them in their jobs, but feedback from the participants themselves has been a little scarce, although we have seen a number of members of the intended audience register as well. I think it’s been a little slow going for them; I know all the groups have experienced ebbs and flows in terms of participation, and I think ours also has to do with when group tutorials are scheduled.

We put our email module first – a module I think is new to the Learning 2.0 archives for this course – because almost all our other modules involve creating an account, which requires email. Anyway, this module had gotten several comments, and my module – the second module, on Google searching (another essential basic, we felt) – got its first few comments this week! They were very simple comments, mostly thanking us for the module, possibly just to demonstrate to the instructor that they had completed it. But just to know that they’re working through the modules is a great feeling – the most we can hope for is that they’d be useful and help build basic computer literacy skills. So I’m really pleased!

 

Investigating my PLN

When I first read the description of this assignment, I thought:

Uh-oh. I use my network for entertainment exclusively. I’m going to have to build one from scratch.

I have a lot of different kinds of accounts I check regularly, if not on a daily basis, but I don’t use them for what I would consider professional development or relevant learning:

  • Rdio – on constantly. Listening to music, following others to see what they’re listening to (mostly music writers – I don’t really care what my friends are listening to and our tastes don’t generally overlap).
  • Pinterest – every day. Keeping track of vegan recipes I’ve tried or want to try and those reviewed by friends.
  • Twitter – a few times a day. Following a handful of celebrities I like and some humor accounts.
  • Facebook – every few days. Mostly looking at animal pictures.
  • LinkedIn – rarely. Mostly looking at my high school friends’ new jobs.

But then I looked a little closer at my Twitter feed and Facebook friends, and realized they include the following:

  • Friends from library school
  • Friends I’ve made at conferences
  • Library professionals who are also funny that the above friends have introduced me to

Many of the members of this network post things like non-sequiturs and pictures of their cats (which is why I follow them in the first place), but they also throw in on-the-job observations and new technologies they’re excited about. I realized I had a pretty good start – I learn on a daily basis about what different career paths in the field might bring, and usually hear about new technologies and ways of doing things well before they get discussed in the classroom.

Between the network these different services create and the library- and technology-related blogs I follow via Google Reader (soon to be Feedly, I think), I actually think I have a pretty good foundation!