so what's the point?
uWe (myself included) tend to have a romanticized idea of what life was like the in the past. We think that times were simpler and that people were more meaningfully connected. And true, there's no doubt that smart phones and the Internet has revolutionized society and culture. Just the sole fact that I can write this blog post and put it out for anyone in the world to read within minutes is pretty extraordinary.
But let's face it: it is technology that has changed, not people.
If our ancestors had access to a smartphone or the Internet back in 1930, you better believe that they would be sharing pictures of mediocre homemade meals or the amount of snow in their driveway.
I bring this up because a) I love researching family history history and stumbled upon these newspapers blurbs last night and b) I finished reading The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr . Those two seemingly different junctures came together so clearly as I looked at the old newspaper articles and thought "who in the world would post newspaper accounts of playing Bunco or visiting an uncle in a neighboring town?" and then I realized that I have posted anything from enjoying a walk during my lunch hour to a picture of a napkin with a funny quote. And for all intents and purposes, it's the same thing.
Yes, technology has the ability to change people and how we function. For example, papyrus scrolls and clocks have significantly shifted the course of human history and the Internet is no exception. But when it comes down to it: humans are social people who want to share their lives, ideas, and opinions with others. Always have and always will.
(P.S. In my spare time, I like to get my geek out and research family history. In fact, something really cool that I'm investigating right now is a century-old romance that is detailed at length in my aunt's diary. Read my tips for getting started on genealogy research here.
Well, on Thursday, April 16 the second Library OnConference was held! It’s hard to believe that all of those months of brainstorming, organizing, and preparing have come and gone. This was our second conference (the previous one was held in August) and I’d definitely call it a success thanks to our awesome keynote speaker, Beck Tench, amazing moderators, social media organizer, and participants!
It’s been about 1 year since Gwyn and I decided to even create a virtual conference completely held on Google Hangouts. We were inspired by our time at PLA 2014- meeting so many inspirational librarians and also talking about the benefits of Google Hangouts in your library. We had so much fun that we decided to build a (free) virtual conference around these two concepts. Now that we’ve successfully completed two conference (and yes, we’re going for big number 3 in 2016!), these are some lessons that I’ve learned and want to pass along:
1) Keynote: The first time that we did the conference, R. David Lankes was our keynote presenter and he spoke LIVE on Google Hangouts On Air. This time, Beck recorded her keynote in advance and we aired it at a specific time. The benefits of speaking live a la Lankes is that it adds to the allure of the conference: this is live, we’re all watching this happen in the moment, and it’s pretty cool to see the clock countdown on YouTube and you see the speaker get on air. BUT there’s a downside to this. What if they have tech issues? What if there’s a bad storm and the Internet is out? What if something awkward happens- like phone rings, someone comes into the room, uncontrollable coughing fit, etc. etc. SO MANY VARIABLES. Thankfully we didn't encounter any of these with Lankes, but nonetheless we didn't want to chance it with Beck. The pro of having a pre-recorded keynote is that the conference doesn't have to be set at a specific date/time when the keynote is able to present; because it’s pre-recorded it can happen anytime really. The keynote speaker also has an opportunity to watch their presentation and edit it if they so choose and the conference organizers can watch it in advance and possibly adjust publicity and programming around the central message. And it goes without saying, the added relief of not worrying about if all the stars will align and the presentation will not experience tech problems is major.
2) Google Hangouts Updates: Google Hangouts always seems to be evolving and I noticed a few improvements to the process during our second conference. One of my favorites is the fact that when you schedule a Google Hangout or Google Hangout On Air, it will send you a notification, put it on your gcal, and then send you a reminder the day before. Also, on your Google+ page it will have it listed as “upcoming events.” Best of all, it provides a link so that you can create hyperlinks on your conference’s webpage and people can access it that way too. But because these updates on Google Hangouts seem to happen pretty regularly, you need to stay current!
3) Training: That being said, not everyone sees the joy of Google Hangouts. In our post-conference survey, people mentioned how they felt that Google+ was confusing or they had technical difficulties getting into their group. Although we sent out pre-conference instructions (for the first conference we offered drop-in training sessions but they were sparsely attended), it does take practice and you have to encourage participants to practice on their own time pre-conference. Of course, there’s no real way to enforce this, but its highly recommended. That being said, as much as someone may practice using Google Hangouts- their Wifi, computer, bad weather, whatever can just make it not work for them that afternoon. Realize that is the nature of hosting a virtual conference.
4) Group Size: I mentioned earlier that Google Hangouts is always doing updates and one of them is that they expanded their hangout size from 10 to 15 participants. That’s awesome, but not necessarily conducive if you want to have a meaningful, networking experience. We capped our groups at 8 people and I think I’d keep it the same amount. Plus the less people, the less chance for awkward feedback or tech problems.
5) Registration: we used Google Forms for registration this year which was so easy to use and I highly recommend. You can use a Form Limiter tool so that you can cap registration. Google Forms makes things look pretty and you can embed it to your website. We had 6 different Google Forms since we had 6 different hangout sessions. This was a huge improvement to last year when we just had people register and then we tried to corral them into their appropriate small groups.
So there are some definite things to take into consideration when you’re planning a virtual conference or networking event with Google Hangouts, but I think that its well worth it. Its free, interactive, and there are endless opportunities for trying new concepts. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
One of the aspects of public librarianship that pulled me in was the idea of working with a variety of people with different life experiences and backgrounds. The ironic thing is that most people assume that as a librarian I must have a very dull, uninspiring job. They couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is that in the nearly 4 years since I've been behind the reference desk and out-and-about the community, I have had the privilege of meeting some fascinating, inspiring, and interesting people. It's just something that you can't find in an Amazon, Netflix, or Google algorithm. Now this doesn't mean that every single day of work is like a Lifetime movie, but the inspiring days are more often than not. Yesterday was one of them:
I was pulling the morning shift on the reference desk. It was a fairly busy morning which surprised me because it was Monday and usually those start off slowly as people head back to school and work. One of the patrons who came to the desk was an older gentleman who asked me for an obituary. Looking up obituaries and newspaper articles is pretty commonplace at my library- so I didn't think much about it. However, the obituary that this man requested was of his childhood friend whom he hadn't spoken to in a couple of years and recently found out that his friend not only died, but had taken his own life.
We found the obituary and I expressed my sadness over his loss. As the man was about to leave, he turned around and said "Say, could you possibly find an article in the Chicago Tribune from the early 1940s? When we were 12 years old we snuck into a Cubs game and ran out onto the baseball field as they won the game; a reporter took our picture."
After a little bit of digging, the article was found, complete with the picture of the man and his childhood friend, shaking the hand of a Cubs baseball player. With a mix of tears and a smile on his face, he proceeded to tell me more stories of the adventures that his buddy had taken him on, which included a run-in with Laurel and Hardy at a Bears game. As they grew up, their lives went separate ways but they managed to give each other a call every couple of years.
Retelling these stories of his mischievous buddy brought so much joy to his face; it was almost as if he was reliving those glory days. After I printed out the article with the picture, he nodded his head and simply said "Thank you for listening."
People come to the public library for a variety of reasons: study, read, research, learn, engage, discover, connect. The list goes on. But each person comes through the front doors of a public library for the same purpose whether they realize it or not: to know themselves, the world, the future, the past, and one another on a deeper, more meaningful level. Sometimes that's reading the latest thriller, attending a community program, improving their computer skills, or practicing another language. And sometimes its recalling fond memories from your youth with your childhood best friend. It really doesn't make a difference: the important part is that someone was there, willing to help and eager to listen.
I love learning about new ways to improve virtual presentations, and even better, when you can do it for free! Here are a few resources that I've used recently that I recommend for those who want to create virtual presentations for work, job search, or for fun.
1) Jing- This is a great resource for creating screencasts and screenshots. It's easy download and even easier to use. This will make any online tutorials that you want to give a breeze.
2) Slideshare- If you want a place to host all of your presentations and slideshows for easy access, I highly recommend using this website. Create an account, upload your presentations, share them on social media or embed them onto your website.
3) Audacity- If you want to make a podcast series, this is basically the free version of Garageband. While it's not totally intuitive at first, it's an excellent resource for uploading interviews, tutorials, instructions, etc. You can then host them to a SoundCloud account and share on social media or embed onto your website.
4) Google Hangouts- Unless you haven't read any of my previous blog posts, you may not know that I really find Google Hangouts useful for many things, but especially for virtual presentations. Host informational interviews, tutorials, or conversations. You can even broadcast a class or workshop that you're hosting by using Google Hangouts On Air. For even more ideas, take a look at Google Helpouts and Connected Classrooms.
5) Piktochart- Sometimes the best way to convey an idea is by turning information into colorful and easy to convey graphics: voila infographics! Piktochart one of the many free infographic resources available online. Its an easy-to-use tool that goes a long way and you can print out your poster or share them virtually.
What free virtual resources have you used that you've found effective? Share your ideas below!
The job search is not what it used to be. I've met with over one hundred job seekers from a variety of backgrounds who tell me the same thing: "I have the skills but I'm not getting any leads."
I also hear quite often that social media is "for kids", "for the younger generation", "not my thing", and "a waste of time."
Well, ready or not but the job search is shifting towards a social media career hunt. I've said before that the least productive thing that you can do for your job search is sit on monster.com (or any job posting site) for hours upon hours. You have to get yourself out there, make connections, and get your name known. Establishing a web presence is one of the ways to do that.
Consider this: a resume is just a piece of paper. A web presence gives you the platform that you need to showcase your writing skills, unique perspectives, and interesting insights. It's a living and breathing portfolio.
Three ways that a web presence is key for a job search
It establishes yourself as a knowledgeable resource in an industry
It keeps you informed on latest trends, current events, opportunities
It connects you to others who can give you new information and leads
Best of all, establishing a web presence creates confidence in yourself and your talents that can give you a much-needed ego boost in your career search.
To get started, I recommend the basics: a LinkedIn profile, a blog, and a website. You can expand to Twitter, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. but the key is to find something that fits for you that you'll stick with.
Do you have an established web presence? What are your recommendations for job seekers?
On Friday I spoke to a group of career coaches and entrepreneurs about Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts On Air (see slideshow here). Google Hangouts is a great tool for connecting virtually with up to 10 people at a time in a really collaborative way. Google Hangouts On Air is perfect for broadcasting yourself or livestreaming an interview to the whole wide world. Best of all, they're both free and great for careers and job seeking.
But first of all, let's be real: nothing beats face-to-face networking. If you're looking for a job or career change, you've got to get yourself out there and connect in person. In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is spend all day submitting resumes to monster.com. But, your online presence and access to Google Hangouts is key for expanding upon the relationships that you've formed in person. Not to mention, I think it's an excellent platform for creating a presence for yourself in an particular industry or field.
So here are my top 5 ideas for using Google Hangouts/Google Hangouts On Air for careers:
1) Establish yourself as a knowledgeable source. Do you know a lot about a certain topic? Do you have an interesting perspective on an industry? This is your chance to share your thoughts and ideas by broadcasting yourself on Google Hangouts On Air. After your broadcast, it will be uploaded to your YouTube Channel so you can create a career webcast series. Not only does this show that you are social media/tech-savvy, but it also showcases your public speaking skills.
2) Connect with people that you've met. Yes, this one might seem a tad obvious, but Google Hangouts has a lot of collaborative features to make meetings more productive. Use Cacoo for Google Hangouts to brainstorm and create roadmaps, watch a YouTube video together, share a PowerPoint presentation, import your Google Docs and work on them together, etc. The list goes on and its an excellent opportunity to meet with up to ten people at a time.
3) Host an expert interview. Looking to gain more knowledge about a particular field? You're probably not the only one. Broadcast an informational interview with someone using Google Hangouts On Air to share the info.
4) Get involved. Search for people, companies, and organizations that are broadcasting on Google Hangouts On Air and participate in the event. This is a perfect opportunity to gain some more knowledge about a field, meet like-minded people and share your own perspectives.
5) Get creative. Virtual office hours, accountability meetings, tutorials, webinars, meet-and-greets and so much more. Think about your career goals and your proposed industry and see what you can do to set yourself apart from other applicants. On a whim, my colleague and I organized the first-ever library conference held completely on Google Hangouts so there are literally endless ways to use this free resource.. Think outside the box and see how you can incorporate it into your own career.
Don't worry- that's not an existentialist question! Just some genealogy talk.
Blame it on the history major in me, but something that I enjoy doing in my spare time is researching family history. I love trying to understand what ancestor's were thinking/doing/feeling in different life situations. Even when I was a little girl I would ask my mom question after question about what life was like for her when she was growing up. When I was 14, I was published in the no-longer-published Everton's Genealogical Helper about finding the diary my great-aunt kept as a teenager in the 1920s. Since then, I've found many more fascinating pieces of information about relatives.
My favorite part of genealogy research is finding out information that I had never known before. Sometimes its funny, like the time I found out my mom was once in an "Alice in Dairyland" pageant (which she promptly denied until I showed her the newspaper clipping), and sometimes its sad, like finding out that a family lost both of their daughters in a fire.
But for better or for worse, the different puzzle pieces of family history come together and you can slowly get a clear picture of what your relatives lives were like. For me, the whole point of genealogy research is simply to understand how events, relationships, and locations shaped somebody's life.
I'm not a professional genealogist, but I have done my fair share of research for over 7 years. So if you're thinking of getting started on tracking down your own family's story, here are some resources that I suggest to get started:
1) Ancestry.com- it may seem obvious, but it's a great first stop. Make sure that you go to your local library to see if you can get free access.
2) Familysearch.org- a great resource that's similar to Ancestry, but is completely free.
3) Newspapers- Contact a town's local history center or public library to see if they have newspapers in a database or on microfilm. You'd be surprised what you can find. I've found long articles about how relatives met before they got married and extended explanations on death notices. Keep in mind that pre-Internet, newspapers would publish society pages that mentioned whose going out of town for the week or whose hosting a bingo tournament at their house. However, don't discount major city newspapers. I've found obituaries, interviews, and even criminal notices (yes, your relatives may have committed a crime despite family folklore that they could do no wrong), in major publications.
4) Churches- particularly Catholic churches keep extensive records on baptisms, marriages, and funerals. This is also helpful for tracking down information for former Catholic school students.
5) Findagrave.com- I can't tell you how many family trees I have pieced together thanks to the volunteers who contribute to findagrave. Definitely check this page out to see if your relatives are listed with a picture of their gravesite. Sometimes a volunteer will go above and beyond and link relatives together so you can find out who your relatives' family was.
6) Census records- See if you can find your relatives and learn about their occupation, income, and household members.
7) Ellis Island- Find out about your relatives' immigrant history with Ellis Island. They have a free database where you can search for passenger lists and ship arrivals.
8) University Archives- Often overlooked, but I've had success in finding pictures in yearbooks from a university archive. Also, look into alumni archives- I've found survey responses that were sent out to alumni, publications in alumni newsletters, and also pictures from reunions.
9) History Centers- give the history center a call and see if they have information and if they have staff members/ volunteers to help you with your research.
10) Google- don't write off Google! Sometimes you can find family tree websites completed by distant cousins- I've found two family trees just by googling the name of the person and location that they lived in, ex: "Theodore John Clinton" and "Springfield, Illinois."
Those are the top ten resources that have worked for me! Do you have a genealogy research tip? Just getting started? Share your comments below!
How many times have you been asked this question?
I know that I have been asked it countless times. As a librarian, I get an especially interesting reaction; the conversation tends to go like this:
Curious person: "So, what do you do?"
Me: "I'm a librarian."
Curious person: "A librarian? That's...[insert any variation of the following: boring! cute! strange! adorable!]"
Conversation continues...typically with the words "card catalog", "shelving books", "reading all day", sprinkled throughout. Then when they find how that I have a Masters (and yes, you must have a Masters to be a librarian), I get the whole "You need a Masters for THAT?" routine.
Fellow librarians and family/friends/empathizers of librarians know that we DO NOT sit around all day reading books and talking about our cats (I'm more of a dog person anyway). If they only knew what we do and what we create, their responses to US and to PUBLIC LIBRARIES in general would probably be more positive. (*steps off soap box*)
That brings me to this article: How to Tell People What You Do and Be Remembered. I subscribe to The Muse for daily career, business, job seeker advice (and you should too!) This article gives a template for the next time that you get asked the ever-popular question, "So, what do you do?" Except instead of giving a boring answer ("librarian", "attorney", "management consultant"), you capture their imagination and emotion with the parts of your job that make it worth working for.
From the article:
"Use this fill-in-the-blank template to write a new “So, what do you do?” introduction for yourself. And this time, with feeling!
I’m a [insert your job title].
Officially, my job is to [insert your clear-cut job description, e.g., seek out publicity opportunities for my company / write grant proposals / coordinate our annual healthcare conference for 5,000 people].
But really? I [insert your emotional job description, e.g., make A-list celebrities fall in love with our mission / help create miracles for underprivileged kids who still believe in magic / create the party of the year, where hardworking nurses get to kick up their heels and go buck-wild!].
To sum it all up: The key to writing a job description that people will actually read, listen to, and remember is using phrases like:
“Which really means…”
“Basically? It’s all about…”
“Which is a fancy way of saying…”
to get straight to the emotional core of what you do, and why.
The people you’re connecting with will probably bounce back with a few questions. They may need a bit of clarification. They might request a simple run-down of your skills and credentials.
But one thing’s for sure: You’ll spark a new feeling. And you won’t be forgotten."
Don't you love it?! It turns even the dullest job positions (think: "I'm a corporate research analyst") to "I'm superwoman extraordinare." So, I'm going to get cracking on what my librarian elevator speech is so I can avoid as many future "cat-loving, glasses wearing, book shelving" conversations as possible.
And in the meantime, what do you do?