Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

On Library Websites

with 7 comments

Quick evals from two different upperclassmen (in the same class) following a library instruction session I did a few weeks ago. Please discuss:

2 student evaluations side by side

  1. “What confuses me is how the university thinks we don’t understand the website – we know how to find everything online, it’s what our generation does.”
  2. “I think the whole library page setup is confusing and difficult to navigate.”
If you really love library websites (gag), the Journal of Web Librarianship is offering free access to my summer 2011 article “A Use of Space: The Unintended Messages of Academic Library Web Sites” as part of their Back to School Reading List.

Written by Erin Dorney

September 20, 2012 at 7:39 AM

Help us speak at SXSWi 2013!

with one comment

sxsw logo

This year I submitted two core conversation proposals for SXSW Interactive. Acceptance at this conference is extremely competitive—over 3,200 speaking proposals were submitted for 2013, more than ever before. This is where I need your help! Public voting accounts for 30% of the decision-making process regarding which proposals are selected (40% of the process is the SXSW Advisory Board and 30% is based on the input of SXSW staff).

Anyone who creates an account on the SXSW Panel Picker is eligible to vote on the ideas they believe are most appropriate for the 2013 event (even if you don’t plan on attending). It’s a simple process that will only take a few minutes of your time. If either (or both) of my topics sound intriguing to you, I would love your support! It would be a dream come true to present at SXSW—I’ve never been to Texas, y’all!

Voting is open now through August 31st. Thanks in advance for your help! And if you’re a librar* aficionado, check out and vote for the other library, archives, and museum-related proposals (follow #sxswLAM on Twitter for details).

Proposal 1: Seriously Good Writing on the Web w/ @frierson re: @libraryleadpipe

Everyone’s got opinions. How do you make sure yours don’t stink? Join our core conversation for an engaging discussion about how to ensure your writing is taken seriously on the web. Team members from the award-winning blog In the Library with the Lead Pipe will facilitate and share tips on new, nimble, proactive forms of digital publishing which borrow editing practices from academia but add an idea-centric, action-oriented approach to content. Help us define a new genre of publication that leverages seriously good writing while at the same time encouraging commentary, discussion, and participation.

  1. How can I ensure my writing is taken seriously on the Internet?
  2. How do I structure an editorial/peer-review process?
  3. How can I get people to volunteer to create content for free?
  4. How can I maintain an action-oriented approach to long-form, scholarly writing?
  5. How do we define this new genre of publication?

Proposal 2: The SXSW Statements: Your Email is Killing Us w/ @lcsarin

Email drive you batty? “Reply All” make you want to scream? Lots of people have tried writing email manifestos and bills of rights, but the problem remains. It’s time for the thought leaders at SXSW to stand up and say NO MORE. At this participatory session attendees will create an collaborative digital public declaration that takes a stand against clumsy communicators. Once designed, this crowd-sourced manifesto will be shared around the globe, in the hopes that we can enjoy a little less work and a lot more play. Let your voice be heard!

  1. What are the “new rules” of email in the digital age?
  2. What does an effective email look like?
  3. What are the rules for “reply all”?
  4. How can I manage my inbox without having a mental breakdown?
  5. How can I teach my friends/colleagues/boss about proper use of email (without pissing them off)?

Written by Erin Dorney

August 13, 2012 at 2:08 PM

How to attend a virtual conference

with 2 comments

computer on a desk

With the 2012 ALA Virtual Conference right around the corner, I’m sharing some tips for attending online conferences and webinars. Below are things I’ve learned while completing an online master’s degree, presenting content virtually, and organizing/attending the ACRL virtual conference back in 2011:

1. Clear your schedule.

Multitasking is a fabulous thing, but it’s easy to slip into mindlessness during a virtual conference, particularly if the slide deck is less than scintillating. Don’t double book yourself to be on-call or monitoring emails during the time you’ve set aside to learn a new skill. Chances are you or your institution paid quite a bit of money for this opportunity and it’s important that you engage actively with the presenters, audience, and content. Lock your office door, block out time on your calendar, and force quit Outlook. It’s time to learn.

2. Get yourself a rocking headset.

There’s nothing more attractive than a earphone/microphone combo unit. I jest, but honestly, if there is any kind of audience/presenter interaction planned, you’re going to want something more than your built-ins. Most online conferences allow audience members to chat/IM with the presenters or moderators in order to ask questions. Only a few sessions I’ve attended have allowed people to actually speak to one another and usually these were smaller, more intimate events. I can only imagine what kind of nightmare would occur if hundreds of attendees tried to speak over one another. If you’re attending a virtual conference from work, wearing headphones sends a non-verbal message that you are busy. If attending a virtual conference from home, I’ve found that wearing headphones helps me concentrate on the session instead of wandering off to wash the dishes or organize my colored pencils.

3. Forage for noms.

Having some delicious snacks can help you stay focused on the task at hand: learning. Plus, carefully selected, healthy foods can give you a quick energy boost when staring at a screen just… becomes… too… boring… zzzz. I recommend coffee (it’s one of my main food groups), fruit or veggies like green peppers, apples, or carrots (just make sure your mic is muted!), and little bit of trail mix with raisins, nuts, and chocolate.

4. Cue up conference hashtag.

We all know and love tabs and multiple windows, right? Use them to open the webinar software and Twitter simultaneously so that you can monitor off-site mentions. Most events will have a designated #hashtag and this can be a great resource. You can connect with other attendees to build your network. Sometimes people will live-tweet the webinar and non-attendees will chime in with their own thoughts and questions. Presenters will often interact via the hashtag pre-event to drum up excitement and curiosity. And if you blog about the virtual conference, be sure to tag your post to maximize reach.

5. Take breaks.

It’s really, really tough to sit for an extended period of time and maintain focus while looking at a screen and hearing a disembodied voice. I recommend taking a few breaks throughout the day. Some virtual conferences have these built in as transition time. What I’d love to see is a virtual conference that incorporates some sitting/standing/stretching exercise techniques for attendees to go through during the down time (ALA, go!). This leads right into my last tip, which is…

6. Find out if the sessions will be recorded.

Attendees often have access to recorded sessions for a certain period of time after the event. This allows you to take breaks when you need them while still getting the most out of the virtual conference. Another thing you can do if you have access to recorded sessions for an extended period of time is pace them out. For example, if you had access to 9 recorded sessions, you could watch one session a week for 3 months. You could learn a new skill from a new presenter each week!

I also encourage you to check out Jo Alcock’s Ten Tips for Presenting a Webinar, if only to get a feel for what it’s like on the opposite side of the screen. So, what other advice do you have for attending a virtual conference? Feel free to share in the comments!

Image CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 courtesy of Pörrö

Written by Erin Dorney

July 9, 2012 at 7:14 AM

Poem “Kitchen Drawer” published in Curio Poetry

with 3 comments

Curio screenshot

I found out early last week that my poem “Kitchen Drawer” was accepted for publication in issue 7 of Curio Poetry! Curio is a (newish) online journal that highlights “the world at a micro-level: tiny spaces, instants, individual objects, scraps of dreams and memories, et cetera.” I decided to submit to this journal after seeing three poems published in issue 2 by M.J. Iuppa. I studied under Iuppa as an undergrad at St. John Fisher College, and her instruction deeply influenced my craft development.

“Kitchen Drawer” was initially composed during an in-class writing exercise for one of my workshops with Kim Bridgford at West Chester University. The poem underwent a bunch of revisions after that, but if you’re interested, here are some similar prompts you could start from:

  • List the items in your junk drawer and write about how the items in a person’s junk drawer can tell a lot about that person.
  • Write a poem about the clutter in your emotional junk drawer.

Thanks to M.J. for introducing me to Curio, Kim for the prompt, and Joseph Harker and Tessa Racht (Curio editor and assistant editor, respectively) for giving me the opportunity to publish this poem next to all of the other amazing work in issue 7.

Written by Erin Dorney

June 11, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Women Who Tech TeleSummit 2012

with 3 comments

Women-who-Tech

I first heard about the Women Who Tech TeleSummit back in 2010, after reading a blog post by librarian Bobbi Newman. I have been trying to expand my professional development to areas outside of librarianship, so this affordable ($20!) and accessible virtual conference seemed like just the ticket. And I was not disappointment.

Mostly, I attended the sessions relating to startup culture. Half the time, I had no idea what was going on. Awesome! That almost never happens at library conferences. But it was really neat because I was so intrigued by the things I didn’t understand. I feel like I’ve been exposed to an entirely new vocabulary and I’m definitely going to be investigating some of the speakers’ recommended resources. As someone who dreams about owning her own business someday (there, I said it), it was inspiring to hear from this dynamic, creative, tech-focused group of women. It was also interesting to listen to the discussion with my ears bent library-wards… à la Brian Mathews’ recent “Think Like a Startup” whitepaper. Lots of possibilities for applying these principles within higher education and librarianship.

I definitely recommend attending the 2013 Women Who Tech TeleSummit if you can! Below are my notes. Do you have any thoughts on startup culture or how it might be applied in your field?

Funding Your Own Startup
Amy Errett (Maveron Capital), Amanda Steinberg (DailyWorth), Joanne Wilson (Investor) & moderated by Pemo Theodore (EZebis)

  • Can you have an idea funded? It’s difficult – you need proof of concept to gain traction. Business is 1% idea, 99% execution.
  • You usually have to give something for crowd-funding models (not equity, but a product) so it might not work for something like an online media company. Music, arts, consumer products have been successful there (i.e. Kickstarter).
  • CircleUp just launched 6 weeks ago. Depends on the amount of money you want to raise, but at least crowd-funding gives people options.
  • Understand the character, values of the people who are investing with you. You will live with them for a long time. Investments go through cycles of good and bad.
  • Entrepreneurs often don’t think they have the luxury of being picky about investors, particularly in the early stages when they are just excited to be funded.
  • Focus on revenue to have negotiating power. Quality of business model and financial model are very important. Investors have their own agendas.
  • (Steinberg recently got a $2 million investment) Now looking at ways to segment her audience at DailyWorth (daily email about money geared to women), launching CreateWorth, hiring more people. Bridge between financial services and women.
  • Required reading on start up culture/entrepreneurship?

Harnessing Your Power
Elisa Camahort Page (BlogHer), Lynne Johnson, Susan Mernit (Oakland Local) & moderated by Jill Foster (LiveYourTalk)

Professional purpose & one critical decision that has shaped you as a leader?

  • Journalism background, technologist, critical cultural thinker. Wants to bring those things together in her profession. Shape young people, is overjoyed to see them surpass her. Critical decision: To start blogging in 2000/2001, lead to her being seen as a leader on and offline (Johnson).
  • “hyperlocal site” Oakland Local. Critical decision: thinking about non-traditional career paths, what work would utilize her strengths and be rewarding to her? (Mernit)
  • Creating opportunities for women. Critical decision: took a job in an industry she knew nothing about, was confident about succeeding or failing, then moving on to something else (Page)
  • What does asserting your power mean within the industry you’re working in? Context/culture matters. Know what battles to pick. I will always pick the battle for the customer, for the user. Back down when it will truly demoralize your staff.
  • Learn to understand group dynamics and how to harness that power for the greater good. Confidence is very important for a leader. Taking risks enables self-confidence, absolutely.
  • Engage others, bring them in on the conversation, listen to their ideas.
  • Women competing with other women? You’re often competing to be the token woman, so it’s understandable. But that’s not a solution.
  • Be strategic & display assets that you have that the rest of the group doesn’t.
  • As a new manager, how would you form relationships with existing employees? It’s difficult in a corporate environment, people below you may have interviewed for the job. In a small company, things are flatter and it’s easier to assimilate into the culture.
  • Ask questions as often as you make statements.
  • Practice public speaking – presentation means a lot in leadership. Find mentors. Reach out and help others.
  • Make time for yourself, don’t make yourself the last person on the list. Be willing to go around obstacles instead of over them. Don’t stay in a place where you’re stalled.
  • “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does allow freedom.”

Agile Development and Failing Fast
Sarah Allen (Blazing Cloud, Mightyverse, RailsBridge), Shaherose Charania (Women 2.0, Founder Labs), Tara Hunt (Buyosphere) & moderated by Jen Consalvo (Tech Cocktail, Thankfulfor)

  • Agile Manifesto – 2001. Emphasis on working together nimbly. Refined & primarily adopted by the engineering side of software. Promoted on business side through lean startup movement.
  • Idea generation, validation, prototype. Cutting out the fat – what can I build today, quickly, at a low cost to test my assumptions? Lean startup – getting data from customer, making iterative changes (small changes each day), designing your product in real time with your customers (early adopters who are OK with a fuzzy product and will give you feedback).
  • Minimum viable product (MVP)? When should a product be pushed out? Different viable products for a beta customer vs general population.
  • Do you want press or do you want polished product? Get feedback from more than just your friends & supporters. Test with your target audience. How will you define your market? Early MVP can be the smallest unit of work that you can use to test your key assumptions. Doesn’t promise more than you can deliver. Release a tiny product with A feature, not the all the features.
  • Failing fast? Take customer data and your vision and merge them. No one is 100% right (you or the customer).
  • It’s a challenge to not be afraid of failure. Things we can prove vs things we believe. Assumption might not be completely wrong, but we need to know more about it.
  • Is this failing fast culture killing creativity? What are we measuring as failure? What are the metrics? “pitch deck” Failing fast versus succeeding slowly.
  • Agile practices – balancing art vs science? Unique to your team, the vision for your startup & their appetite for risk. Startups are creating something from nothing, isn’t that what artists do?
  • The Starfish and the Spider, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom
  • Find tools that work for your team. It’s about communication and collaboration.
  • Don’t take funding for as long as possible. Be independent. Allows you to tweak, think about things differently.
  • ⅔ of new startup ideas right now are not new, they are mashups, derivatives. Not that those aren’t important.
  • “Creative Fridays” – stretch your mind in a different way for a few hours.
  • Intellectually give yourself permission to do stuff that seems completely unrelated on a regular basis. Something that seems fruitless to keep your mind alive.
  • Have a personal board of advisors during this time. A startup can be chaotic and lonely.
  • Write down what you think the vision of your product is, what your key assumptions are and how you intend to test those assumptions.

Written by Erin Dorney

May 31, 2012 at 2:27 PM

C&RL News – Job of a Lifetime – Leo Lo

leave a comment »

My sixth interview for the Job of a Lifetime (JOAL) column in College & Research Libraries News is now available online! I spoke with Leo Lo, research and development librarian at Kansas State University. Leo has a pretty unique position which allows K-State Libraries to experiment with new initiatives and services. Check out the interview here:

Job of a Lifetime – Leo Lo: Research and Development Librarian at Kansas State University

You can also visit his blog at http://www.leoslo.com/ or tweet to Leo at @leoslo. Do you have the job of a lifetime? Enjoy & feel free to leave comments!

Related posts:

Written by Erin Dorney

April 9, 2012 at 8:29 AM

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,736 other followers