2011 Action Items

It’s nearly the middle of January, so these resolutions are a little late.  I made a conscious decision to Stay Off The Blog in December so I could take a proper vacation.  This past fall, I took on a number of projects at home and at the office that was pulling me in too many directions, so going off the grid for a while was good for the soul and mind. (For what it’s worth, I visited family in Palm Springs, California for 2 1/2 weeks.)

Here are a few New Year’s Action Items I’ve been mulling over these past few weeks.   I don’t want to call them resolutions because I don’t want to resolve to do these things so much as I want to do them:

  • Develop better work plans. My colleague in Saskatchewan, Brian Dewar, has some good advice on this one: making (and owning!) a plan can make all the difference on the job.  I’ve taken his thoughts and modified them to fit my own game plan.  I believe it’s vital to think about the long term, but it’s important to be nimble about these things, too.  Don’t let one part of your work overwhelm all of your goals.  And, always be prepared to congratulate yourself for the little victories – you’ll never make it through the week if you don’t find ways to pat yourself on the back for the little things you do.
  • Redefine my position’s role and duty within the organization. My work in instructional technologies this year is largely task-oriented.  I was asked to join a team because of my ability to create online learning objects and because I have a wealth of experience in reference and research services.  My place of work has been working with instructional technologies for many years now, but we’re at a stage where it’s time to redefine our online strategy. I may be on a short-term contract with Dal Libraries, but I wholly believe that what the organization needs right now is not a mechanic (as my colleague has nicely put it) but an engineer.  I’ve held roundtables within the library so we can openly discuss what our success are, what our failures have been, and how we can go forward.  A big part of the winter term will be to develop a plan the library can take forward.
  • Learn more about librarianship. I’ve worked in academic support services for five years and have studied LIS for two years, but there’s still much to learn.  I’m aware of so many issues that affect our profession, but I’m hardly an expert. I intend to spend more time studying pedagogy instead of just talking about it, and involving myself with collections and access instead of just watching colleagues discuss it at reference meetings.
  • Write more about librarianship. Even in our profession, which is made up largely of practitioners instead of academics, we hear the phrase, “publish or perish.”  However, I’m not worried too much about publishing right now. Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that new professionals have the expectation – and burden – of publishing put on them.  It is my professional opinion that new professionals should spend as much time on praxis as they can.  We need to learn what we’re great at doing before we can teach others about it. However, this won’t stop me from writing on this blog.  I’ve made plans to lay down my opinions on things twice a week, and I hope you might find the time to write back and tell me where you think I’m wrong or what you think I should more of.
  • Talk more about librarianship. I have two speaking engagements lined up this winter and spring, with another proposal to be vetted by an organizing committee.  I’m making a point to speak and be heard in venues that are informal and collaborative (which is similar to blogging, in my mind).  This January, I will present on screencasting in education at PodCamp Halifax 2011, and this spring I’ll take part on an IT panel at the Canadian Library Association 2011 conference, also in Halifax.
  • Build communities.  I’ve been floating around an idea for a long time to build either an online LIS blogging community that shares tags and categories or to build an online magazine/portal that can do for LIS what Open Letters Monthly can do for literature and literary criticism.  (In fact, I originally bought thezeds.com because I saw its potential as an LIS brand, even if it doesn’t reference librarianship in its SEO.)  We’ll see if anything happens – stay tuned for possible calls to action on this front.

Happy 2011, all.   I’ll see you on the interweb and in real life.


The Zeds is now on Facebook! (We may have a logo, too.)

In honour of this week’s premiere of The Social Network, I decided to get with the times and create a Facebook fan page for the website.   I don’t really know if it will bring in more traffic, but it will definitely make it easier for some current users to know when a new post has been uploaded, i.e., I won’t spam your Facebook wall anymore; now it’s automated.  🙂

The Zeds. The answer is yes.

Through it all, I may have created a cheesy logo, too.  We’ll see what happens on that front, as well.


The Benefits of using WordPress.com

I’ve been using a WordPress platform to blog since about 2006.  In that time I’ve used both WordPress.com and have installed self-hosted implementations of WordPress.org software.  Last week, I moved this blog back to WP.com.  Even though I’m a seasoned user and sysadmin of WP.org, and I am comfortable working in LAMP installations (the tech working in the background to operate software), I’ve decided WP.com is the ideal platform for blogging.  Here’s a list of reasons why:

  • WordPress.com rarely crashes. Since my first registration in 2006, I’ve only seen WP.com go down *once*.  There have been glitches along the way, but the snafu that happened last winter is the only one of note. The same can’t be said for Blogger, and the same can’t be said of WP.org installations since you’re at the whim of your host and your own knowledge.  (e.g., Despite backing up DB’s regularly, I lost content twice this summer with my self-hosted WP.org.  This is an anomaly, but it’s caused headaches for me and for my readers since new RSS notices and trackbacks were sent out on old posts that I’ve recovered and returned to the database.  My sincere apologies for this, dear readers.)
  • WordPress.com has a robust suite of themes. There are over 100 to choose from, and some are better than others.  But almost all can be customized right down to the font you want to use.  WP.com only uses themes that are glitch-free, and they all have strong SEO (see below).  If you think you can’t find the “perfect” theme with WP.com and would rather go with a WP.org install, then I think you may fall victim to spending more time uploading themes than you will publishing what you have to say. (I speak from experience on this one.)
  • WordPress.com has strong internal stats. I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one.  Look here, newbies, you frankly don’t need what Google Analytics can offer unless your site is receiving thousands of hits a day.  And if you are lucky enough to have that many hits, then maybe it actually is time to switch to self-hosted installation for that feature.  But like the point above, WP.com gives us more than we need, for free, which means that writers can concentrate on writing strong content more than anything else. Stop worrying about every page view and instead focus on what it is you’ve got to tell the world.
  • WordPress.com builds communities. This is by far the best thing about this site.  When you blog with WP.com, you get to use common tags and categories, and WP.com will link your posts to other users’ pertinent posts.  This means that it’s easier for people to find your content.  Community-building is inherent to blogging, and WP.com’s built-in community is a feature than can’t be found on a self-hosted blog, where’s you’re just an island in the sea.   This community will do wonders for your stats, by the way: in the week that I exported my content back to WordPress.com, hits to my site have increased nearly 5-fold on account of the Global Tags and Related Posts. This community is optimized for search engines, so it will do wonders for people trying to find content like your own.

I don’t really know what else to say on this one except that if you want to write content on the web and not have to worry about the back-end, and if you want to write content on the web and improve the chances that people will read it, then I think you should go with WordPress.com.  Even if you have what the skills to run a self-hosted implementation of WordPress.org.  WordPress.com makes writing and publishing your main concern – which is what should be when you blog – by taking care of site management for you.  Writing any other way is like putting the cart before the horse.

A final note: Check out One Cool Site Blogging Tips for straight-talk advice on how to make the most out of your WordPress.com blog.  That’s not a paid endorsement – just a pointer to get you on your way.

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The Ides of March

Happy Spring (more or less), everyone,

The Ideas of March are almost upon us, which means we must all beware.  As for me, my blogging life has slowed nearly to a halt due to end-of-term madness: I complete my degree, so there are a lot of extra-curricular things eating up my leisure hours.  Things will begin to even out mid-April, though, so keep an eye out for more maps projecting socio-economic data then.

In the mean time, be sure to check out DoyleMaps, which plots streets and spaces in St. John’s, Newfoundland, that are mentioned and seen on CBC’s excellent new show, Republic of Doyle.

See you in a month or so,


Planning for 2010

One resolution I made for the New Year is to write on this blog with greater frequency.  The first thing I tend to drop when things get busy are reading blogs and writing on this one, which bothers me a fair bit since I see blogging as a great way to keep in contact with the professional community.  Blogging, as well Twitter, has given me a chance to meet and interact with so many other librarians and information professionals outside of Halifax, so I shouldn’t be so quick to let it go.

Therefore, I’ve decided to start summarizing my work weeks in 2010. Every week, I’ll hopefully write a work-related post that might touch a nerve with LIS professionals.  The fact that I’m in the final term of my MLIS means that some weeks might be devoted to coursework instead of my time working in information literacy at Saint Mary’s University, but hopefully that will add a little variety to the mix.

In the mean time, I’m going to continue generating maps that visualize census data for Halifax Regional Municipality.  These maps, as few in number as they are, have proven to be popular on the internet, so I’m going to make an effort to build a library of maps that project census figures.  Look for projections not only of Halifax, but of all of Nova Scotia (and possibly the Maritimes if not Atlantic Canada) in the near future.

Finally, like so many other LIS bloggers on the web, I’m going to leave you with a list of my most popular posts from the 2009.  It’s so easy to lose the data we enter into blogging CMS’s under the weight and number of newer posts, so this sort of list-manufacturing is actually useful to create from time to time.  (This list excepts my About page, as well as the Homepage, which was far and away the most popular hit but doesn’t speak to content so it’s not too helpful for this list.)

  1. StatCan and Canadian Aboriginal Incarceration Rates
  2. The library science doctorate and the professional librarian
  3. Libraries, West Bend, and Civil Liberties
  4. FRBR and the (or my?) future
  5. 80/20 for librarians
  6. CLA 2009 Recap: Tech / Copyright / Leadership
  7. Understanding librarianship
  8. Mid-term report card
  9. DRM, Canada, and the long arm of contract law
  10. Canadian Culture at the Library