Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘communication

How to improve your visual aids for presentations

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public speaking project

One of the things I love about my job is making connections. Sometimes it’s a connection between individuals and the information they need. Sometimes it’s a connection between two people who can help each other. Sometimes it’s a connection between a person and a unique opportunity. Recently, I was able to connect a two colleagues: a librarian from Mansfield University and a professor at Millersville University. The result was a chapter on visual aids for Public Speaking: The Virtual Text, a free online public speaking textbook.

I love this project—Creative Commons-licensed, well-written by authoritative speech professionals, an alternative for FAR too expensive communications textbooks. Really, what’s not to like?!

Anyone with an upcoming presentation who is considering using visual aids (Midwinter, ALA, and ACRL librarians, I’m looking at you) should take a moment to check out Chapter 13: Visual Aids. Sheila has great advice on:

  1. Identifying when and how visual aids will enhance a presentation
  2. Identifying the different types of visual aids
  3. Identifying effective and ineffective use of visual aids
  4. Applying basic design principles to slide design
  5. Identifying best practices to incorporating visual aids in a presentation

I’ll be keeping these tips in mind when I work on my upcoming presentations—no more crappy slide decks! Seriously, give it a read. You can download each chapter as a PDF in color or grayscale. Share this resource with anyone interested in public speaking!

Written by Erin Dorney

January 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Facebook Messages: Where Things Go To Die

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I have a co-authored article up over at In the Library with the Lead Pipe about email management. We would love to hear more about your experience with email and your strategies for dealing with messages in your inbox!

Lindsay and I didn’t really delve into other types of message management—the article is about standard email inboxes. But there are messaging/inbox capabilities built into many social media tools these days. On Twitter you can send someone a Direct Message (DM), a private tweet that acts like a limited character email message. DMs aren’t a problem for me because I really only check them when I specifically ask someone to DM me. Otherwise it’s not even on my radar and I don’t forward these messages to any other account or device. The limited scope has helped me handle my DM inbox.

facebook notifications

Facebook messages are a different story. Facebook messages, for me, are where things go to die. True story. I don’t mind Facebook chat… if I am online, definitely message me in real-time. But for some reason, I have not been able to incorporate the Facebook inbox into my normal flow of checking and responding. For fun stuff with my friends it’s fine because there is no real pressure to reply right away. But I do get a number of Facebook messages related to library/work stuff. Those are the messages that always seem to fall through the cracks. I’m not really sure why this is but I have some ideas:

  • I have a gut reaction to the little red numbers that pop up for notifications, messages, and friend requests, so I click on my messages (but often don’t read them right away) just to get that alert to go away. Seeing it there makes me kind of anxious. Am I the only one or do other people feel this way? Then, I forget that there are new messages and it could be days (weeks?) before I get around to reading them.
  • To a certain extent, I see Facebook as more of a social/fun site than a tool I conduct work within. It’s great for some aspects of work—networking with other librarians, building your online identity, promoting different events, engaging through your institutional page, etc. I go to Facebook to learn things and to connect but it’s pretty casual.

I just always seem to forget about messages that are living in Facebook. I see them and then I forget about them. Maybe this is because I really do use my email inbox as a to-do list (although I’m trying to break that habit) and Facebook just seems more… fleeting? It might come down to having too many places to check for messages. Perhaps it’s not email that is overwhelming me, but multiple inboxes? There are so many different places where my response is required:

  1. Personal email
  2. Work email (including accounts associated with research help, outreach, and the renovation)
  3. Twitter (personal feed + DMs; library feed + DMs)
  4. Facebook (personal wall + messages; library wall + messages)
  5. Blog comments (personal + Lead Pipe)
  6. Voice mail (work + personal)
  7. Text messages
  8. Chat (Facebook + GChat)

I’m probably forgetting some. It’s helpful for me to list these out so that I can think about making a plan for managing my communication. When I don’t reply, people typically reach out to me through another channel but I’m sure I miss people (and opportunities). I want to apologize to anyone whose Facebook message I have missed—it’s nothing personal! And despite this angst, I have contacted people via Facebook message regarding library/work stuff. So, I have not been good at setting expectations for where different type of communication should take place.

This is something I want to reflect more on and potentially share my communication preferences with everyone. I think this would lower my stress and alleviate frustration for people who might not be receiving a timely response. How do you cope with multiple message streams? Any suggestions for me? Feel free to share here or over at Lead Pipe!

Written by Erin Dorney

November 5, 2012 at 9:43 AM

What should I put on my business card?

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I’ve been following a great NMRT listserv discussion about business cards for MLS students/new professionals. I thought it might be nice to synthesize some of the advice in a blog post, along with offering some thoughts of my own.

Traditionally, print business cards were standalone pieces, designed to provide a glimpse of an individual’s qualifications and contact information. Cards included things like an individual’s name, mailing address, phone number, fax number, office location, etc. However, business cards have undergone major transformation within our increasingly digital era. They now have the potential to provide a gateway to an individual’s full-fledged online persona.

So, what should we put on our print business cards? As a designer, I am a fan of less text. Using visual elements to create an impact is something I am always striving to improve in my own work, and that includes personal branding/identity management. Instead of listing every little detail in lines of uninspiring text (typography is the most difficult design decision for most individuals), I would advocate for the following:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • QR code AND/OR a link leading to a landing page or something like an profile
  • Optional – If you are a student, you may consider including “MLS Candidate, Institution Name, Year of Graduation” next to or beneath your name. This indicates to potential employers and new contacts that you are on the market.

Potential things to include on your landing page: LinkedIn profile (if you don’t have one, go make one now), Twitter (if you tweet professional or pseudo-professionally), email, Skype, e-portfolio, blog, major awards/recognition (Library Journal Mover & Shaker, ALA Spectrum Scholar, ALA Councilor, etc.).

Using a QR code on your business card is a quick and easy way to link smart phone users to your virtual persona. QR codes are becoming more and more popular (I recently spotted one in a Sephora magazine and another one on a table tent in the University dining hall). You can generate a barcode for free as sites like this QR-Code Generator. The only thing to keep in mind is that not everyone has a smart phone (I don’t), and some who do may not have downloaded a barcode scanner. I would recommend including a short link in addition to the QR code for individuals who either don’t have barcode-scanning capacity or who are unfamiliar with QR code technology.

If that seems sparse, don’t worry. White space is one of the most valuable elements designers can have in their toolbox. Consisting of the empty space between and around graphical elements and text, white space provides breathing room and is sometimes referred to as negative space. It gives the viewer’s eye a chance to rest, along with subtle cues regarding intended visual path. Although a business card is small space-wise, visual clues and breathing room are still important. Use remaining space on the card to make some kind of personal statement, through colors (fun, professional, minimalistic), a logo, a quotation, embossing, etc. You can find some great examples on The Business Card Flickr group. Be wary of cramming too much on both sides of the business card – many people like to write notes on the back about where and when they met you, things to follow up on, etc.

Some might argue for including your job title on your business card, but I think if you want to remain flexible, leave it off. You can always include a section on your job/institution on your landing page. Plus, when you purchase business cards (check out sites like VistaPrint and MOO), you usually have to buy them in large quantities. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with a box of outdated and useless business cards (although there are some fun things you can do with them; check out cards of change). However, you could put a more generic title after your name (one that’s not tied to your business or institution), like “Information Professional”, “Graphic Design Guru” or “Instructional Designer”.

There are lots of other voices out there, some even pondering whether print business cards are dying.What do you think? What’s on your card?

Written by Erin Dorney

February 7, 2011 at 8:39 AM

Conference Attendance Advice.

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ALA Midwinter 2010 Exhibit Floor

At the request of Jen & Jason of The Dean Files, I’ve put together some conference tips for ya’ll. To be sure, the tips below are based on my own experience and your conference experience could vary based on a number of factors (where, when, weather, personality, roommates, alcoholic tolerance, available technology, etc). I’m drawing from my attendance at various state, local and regional conferences (the State System of Higher Education Library Cooperative Organization, the Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Conference), two ALA Midwinter Meetings, and one ALA Annual Conference.

(in no particular order)

1. Volunteer for something. It doesn’t matter what, just do it. If you’re a student, it gives you something to put on your resume other than just attending a conference. You can volunteer at the exhibit booth for your alma mater or for one of your professional associations (ACRL, PLA, LITA, YALSA, etc.). Try being a NMRT resume reviewer or greeter. Some conferences seek bloggers/microbloggers to cover certain presentations which can help you get your name out there and hone your journalism skills. I know for the ACRL Virtual Conference we’re going to be looking for volunteers to moderate webcasts and give tours in Second Life. There’s something for everyone! It’s a way to build in some structured social interaction to your conference experience and you never know who you will meet or what you’ll be invited to do next time once people realize that you’re reliable.

2. Some of the programs you are really looking forward to will inevitably disappoint you. Maybe this is just me, and it’s probably just because I read about the programs weeks in advance and literally plan my entire day around them. Maybe I just build things up too much in my mind. But the point is, you should have a “plan b” for almost every session you want to attend. Just in case there’s no room, the speaker winds up droning on and on to a text-heavy PowerPoint, or you realize that you already learned all of this in library school or real life.

3. I have to second Steven Bell’s suggestion to leave the program book behind. You do not need to carry the weight of that book around with you all day in addition to your laptop, food, water, notebook, smartphone, cords, business cards, etc. I usually end up looking at the schedule online or the night before, tearing out the one page with the hotel map, and tossing the whole thing into a garbage recycling bin in the hotel. I think the program book could probably get phased out if conferences are really looking to be more green. You tell me, do we need printed programs with the net and all this mobile? Just a thought.

4. To borrow a phrase from Stephen Abram, don’t hoard your business cards. “They’re like smiles – they only have value when they’re given away.” We’re all at a conference to learn, not only about libraries, but about each other (aw, so touchy feely, but true). Personal connections are really important, so trade information with the people you meet so you’ll remember each other later. There are also some technologies that help you do this without having to hand out actual cards, like QR Codes or the iPhone Bump app. Follow up with your new friends after the conference about collaborative projects, job opportunities, and shared interests.

5. Things to bring: ibuprofen, band aids, water bottle, granola bars, a sweater, mints/gum (sooo much conference coffee breath!), cold medication for days and nights, at least 2 pairs of comfy shoes.

6. Make a schedule. You will probably deviate based on how you feel that day and what opportunities come up (a colleague or new acquaintance cancels or asks you to join them for dinner, you don’t get enough sleep the night before because you’re adjusting to the hotel bed so you sleep in, etc). But having a schedule will give you a starting point. Another note on schedules – pace yourself! Resist the urge to cram one thing after another day after day because you will wear yourself out. Leave enough time in your schedule to accommodate spontaneous activities (these are often where you learn the most!). Allow yourself to enjoy being in the presence of others who care and make sure you have time to test the local flavor (a bar, restaurant, theatre performance or local band).

7. It helps to know a few people who will be attending the same event as you, so utilize your computer-based social networking connections to facilitate real-life networking opportunities. Conferences are a great place to meet the colleagues you have been tweeting with virtually for the past six months or that blogger you follow religiously. Let people know you’ll be in the area and put out some feelers for meetups, dinner, coffee breaks, etc. Lots of this happens serendipitously as you network, but you’ll feel more confident if you can recognize a few familiar faces.

Some other library conference tips can be found here:

And interesting non-library specific conference tips can be found here:

So tell me, what conference tips do you have?

Written by Erin Dorney

March 1, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Social networking: Be an active, responsible user.

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Image by m-c and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License.

I have been thinking about social networking websites lately. I think it’s because things are becoming increasingly integrated/cross-platformy. I wouldn’t say that this is a “manifesto” per say, but I’d like to talk a little bit about my philosophy on said sites.

I try my best to be an active yet responsible user. Let’s break that down into two parts, shall we?

I think it’s pretty important for me to have a profile on some of these sites. The age demographic I encounter most at work is the “millennial” generation, amongst faculty members, staff and adult learners. Even if the students never know I have a profile on Facebook or another site, I feel like it brings me closer to seeing their way of life. Which in turn makes me a better librarian because I can gauge their wants and needs more effectively. I can catch a glimpse of what issues are riling up the campus (based on student-created groups, pages and posts) and use this information in a number of ways. As the outreach librarian, I coordinate some of the library  events and exhibits – if a group of students create a Facebook page protesting/welcoming a particular guest lecturer, I can design something based on that interest. Heck, maybe we even have some of the visitor’s books to display, or could invite him/her to host a post-event debate in the library.  As a subject liaison, I teach some library instruction sessions – if I notice lots of students tweeting or commenting about a certain news story, I can pull that into my search strategy to try and keep their attention. It gives me a way to create connections between the library and student interests.

In addition to working with millennials, I am a millennial. I have already had three cell phone numbers in my lifetime and more ridiculous screen names than I care to share (Starbeam3? What was I thinking…). I would be on some of these sites regardless of my career because technology is something that is tightly integrated with the way I live my life. I use social networking to keep in touch with friends from high school, college and grad school as well as professional contacts, co-workers, and people I respect. I find support and knowledge in these connections each time I log in.

When doing anything on the Internet, we should try to be responsible. That can range from locking down certain profiles to protect your (and others’) privacy to limiting the frequency of your updates. I have recently found myself un-following Twitter accounts that were posting too many messages because I was missing posts from everyone else. It’s nothing personal and it’s not because the tweets were uninteresting or bad. I simply look forward to seeing a variety of information when I log in to Twitter – posts from my friends, recording artists, organizations and professional contacts all jumbled into one stream of consciousness. I guess this might stem from one of the traits of my generation – many of us enjoy multitasking and jumping from one thought to a completely unrelated topic. It’s exactly this reason that I don’t have separate Facebook or Twitter accounts (one for work and one for personal). It is an idea that seems foreign to me because my online identity is so closely tied to the one I display walking around every day.

Another aspect of responsibility that I am referring to here is the strength to know when enough is enough. A few years ago I deleted my Facebook account for approximately 6 months. I needed a rest because things were getting too intense with a relationship breakup and transitioning from college to something more closely related to real life. And there are still days when I go into work and have to say “Today I will not get on Twitter”. You could engage in endless conversation and having the power to control yourself is very important. If you say something in haste, it might stick around on the Interwebs forever to haunt you.

I try not to post tons of updates so that I don’t tip the scales of my readers. When I do, I send both personal and professional updates because I am both of those things online and in real life. I advocate for being an active, responsible user of social networks. How about you?

Written by Erin Dorney

August 21, 2009 at 10:57 PM

So, you’re thinking about becoming a librarian?

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One of my favorite things about being a new librarian is that I now have a little bit of experience to offer to others. I am in constant communication with people across the country who are considering becoming  librarians or who are going through library school. These people find me a number of ways, including:

Other potential librarians find me through mutual acquaintances, Facebook, internet searches that turn up my blog, or Twitter. I have even had faculty members encourage their students to talk to me about my recent experience in library school. These communications are fascinating to me! Sometimes they consist of a phone call, sometimes in person, sometimes off the cuff, via email and even through Facebook messages and chat. I truly enjoy this aspect of now being an “MLIS-toting” librarian – I hope that my honesty can assist these interested parties in making a decision on whether this is the right career choice for them.

I think that this is certainly another area where librarians can utilize their networking skills. Not only do both parties benefit (you get connected to library newbs and get to share your passion while they gain insider information about the field from someone with experience), but you never know when relationships will develop. You might just kindle a friendship or professional working relationship that can last years. It’s also another way to get your name out there and encourage new and innovative people to join the field. Librarianship as a profession is not uber-complicated, but I think the misunderstanding of who we are and what we do encourages a certain level of secrecy that potential newcomers may be intimidated by. When I talk to someone, I try to be as open as possible, sharing  both my positive and negative experiences.

Recently, I was contacted by a student at my undergraduate alma mater, St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. She found my name through the CARD database mentioned above and asked me a few questions about my job. Below are her questions along with my responses. Do you have anything to add? I encourage all librarians to get involved in mentoring newcomers… most colleges and universities already have systems in place where you can enter your information in order to be connected to current students and recent graduates. Not only is it good for networking and information sharing, but the PR effect of having librarians listed in these types of directories can do a lot for the changing image of our profession!

What is the level of schooling needed for your career?
In order to be a librarian, you need to attend graduate school. A list of programs accredited by the American Library Association can be found here: It’s important to go to an ALA-accredited school.

Are there any specific courses or classes you would recommend I take?
All of the library programs are basically the same. You will learn stuff like customer service, cataloging, reference and research assistance, collection development, how to use databases, etc. Most programs have a management class as well, and sometimes a marketing class. I would recommend technology-related courses, anything with digital libraries, web design and development, and marketing.

Are there internships or shadow days that I can take advantage of?

It is almost imperative. Many students graduate from their library program with no experience in an actual library. It is very difficult to find an entry-level position with no experience. If you can’t find a position as a staff member (technician, part time, etc) while you are in school, interning somewhere or volunteering is a great way to gain that experience. I worked at Lavery Library while I was an undergraduate, then I worked as a clerk in a public library for a few months and then as an interlibrary loan technician at RIT while I was getting my master’s degree. That experience allowed me to secure a permanent position in an academic library before I even graduated. Most libraries are very willing to accept interns and volunteers, especially future librarians.

Is it important to make the patrons feel comfortable? How do you go about doing so? (I volunteer in a library occasionally, and that always plays a big role in to who visits, and when.)
It is very important. For me, it’s a little easier to do in an academic library setting – the students are close to my age, so I think they feel more comfortable asking me for assistance than the older, more experienced librarians. They won’t ask for help if the perceive you to be busy or unwilling to offer guidance. So it’s important to look approachable. I try to make eye-contact with people as they walk by and ask if they need anything. I think making sure that your lines of verbal and non-verbal communication is beneficial. I’m sure you know this from volunteering, but once people establish a repport with you, they will come back time and time again. This leads to mutually beneficial relationships because the patron feels more and more comfortable asking you for assistance and feedback.

What is the end that makes all the means necessary? Do you want to sell a product or endorse something or do you want to improve someone else’s quality of life?
I think I’ve chosen the perfect profession. I get to go into work every day and help people with whatever they need. Every day is different. In an academic library I get to be surrounded by a culture of learning. I love the fact that I don’t have to work for some evil corporation and especially that I don’t have to meet sales quotas, lie during pitches, or reprimand people. I simply help them have a better experience in the library and hopefully find the information their looking for.

Do you create your own schedule or do the people around you do that?
I have to say, I have a sweet job at the moment. I am at an academic university where the librarians are considered faculty members (people refer to me as Professor, which is a mind-trip!). As such, all library decisions are made at the departmental level, which means 12 librarians. We don’t have direct supervisors and I don’t report up. I simply work for the best interest of the library and the students. I get to set my own schedule, which is amazing. I have never had such freedom and flexibility in a job before. Along with that comes a high level of responsibility, but I think it’s totally worth it!

Do you mentor other people or do you emulate others?
I do both. I mentor lots of people who are considering entering the library profession, including former classmates, student workers and people who ask me for help (such as yourself). Lots of people find me through my blog, Facebook, Twitter, or the Syracuse University website where I am listed as an alumni class leader. So I help a lot of people by just sharing my experiences with them. I try to emulate the librarians and library professionals who I look up to. I read a lot of blogs, participate in conferences and presentation, networking, etc. I think we can all learn a lot from each other.

Is your field growing or staying the same? What are potential opportunities arising in your field? Do you think that, when I graduate in two years, your career will still be open?
There will be lots of people retiring from the library field in coming years. Sometimes that is referred to as “greying of the profession.” At the same time, libraries are changing dramatically. Positions that have been filled in the past are being revamped, updated, and eliminated. New and less traditional positions are appearing. Lots of them are technology related, some are like mine, dealing with public relations and marketing (I am the Outreach Librarian), some are customer service oriented like User Experience Librarian. There are tons of opportunities for newcomers. Everyone I have encountered so far has been helpful and appreciative of new blood entering the field. There are places and people where that is not the case (librarians who dislike the change that is accompanying the generational shift), but for the most part, people are open. I think if you keep your goal in mind throughout school, and participate in activities that bring you closer to that goal, you should be fine. Just realize that the old days of the card catalog and shushing librarian are (for the most part) already far gone.

How do you see your place in the world? Is there anything specific you hope to achieve? (Monetary amount, personal goals)
I see my place as helping students on their educational journey. I want to help them become better, more educated and experiences citizens who can achieve their goals. I want their experience with the library to be a positive and beneficial one so that they will become library champions, utilizing their public libraries in the future and with their children, appreciating literature and reading, using technology to interact with the global community and being knowledgeable about the viewpoints of humanity. These are some of the things I hope to achieve.

Who do you rely on? A personal coach? Friends? Family? Assistants?
I have a huge network of people I rely on daily. I have many professional contacts including librarians from around the country. I have close friends who I attended graduate school with, and friends from every stage of life. Their constant support is imperative to my mental state of mind. They present opportunities for me, help me to make decisions, and support my personal and professional journey. I hope that I offer the same to them.

Written by Erin Dorney

August 1, 2009 at 9:25 AM

Do you have a cool job??

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Yeah, yeah, we all have cool jobs, but what I mean is this: Is yours the job of a lifetime??

If you think so, I’d like to know about it. I am going to be working on a column called “Job of a Lifetime” for College & Research Libraries News featuring interviews with people who have interesting jobs in the realm of the college & research library world. If you would like to be added to the list of potential interviewees, let me know! Or feel free to submit ideas or  leads on other people I should contact. Just as a disclaimer – I can’t promise everyone an interview, but I will definitely try to include as many “jobs of a lifetime” as I can! In the meantime, you will always have the personal satisfaction of knowing you’re awesome!

Thanks for your help!

Written by Erin Dorney

February 17, 2009 at 10:03 PM