or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Archives for Personal:

Knowing When To Say When

   January 26th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Reduced signSo, this post might not matter to anyone but me, but I felt like I should announce it anyway.

For the last few years, the blogging schedule I've stuck to was new posts every Tuesday and Thursday, and the Reference Question of the Week on Saturdays. Over the last couple months though, I've felt that I'm both running out of things to say and have less free time to work on posts, so I've decided to cut back to just one new post a week and the Reference Question on Saturday.

Not a major change I know, but it feels major to me because it's a schedule I've stuck to for so long. I know a schedule isn't mandatory for blogs, and most people probably just post only when they have something interesting to say. For me though, I think that if I didn't make myself stick to a schedule, I'd quickly slip into nothing at all.

So anyway, again, I don't know if anyone would have even noticed if I didn't say anything, but there you go.

But I am curious about the schedule/no schedule thing, both for personal and library communications. Does you're library have a set goal or schedule for blog posts, tweets, email newsletters, etc., or do you only do it when you've got something to say? In my library, it varies: I try to have a new blog post once a week, but Twitter is much more as-needed (in addition to automated tweets for library events). We have a main email newsletter that goes out once a week, but also sort of a childrens supplement which only goes out when the Childrens Room has something specific to communicate.

It seems like all models work in their context, but I'd be curious to hear if other libraries have had success following one path or another.

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Reference Question of the Week – 11/13/11

   November 19th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Fanned savings bondsThis week's question is actually something I needed to find out for myself. And I'll tell you up front: once I found the answer, I ultimately just walked away because it's too difficult (which is something I see many real patrons doing).

When my siblings started having kids (ten years ago), I decided I'd give each child a savings bond for birthdays, Christmas, etc. I thought it was something nice to do for their future, and it wouldn't clutter up their house with more toys (although I also usually give a book or small something too).

This has been working great, until this week. When I went to the bank to get a savings bond for my niece Alexis' birthday, the bank teller told me they no longer do paper savings bonds as they are now only available online.

Well that's a pain. But lots of things are transitioning to online-only options, so I gave it a shot. The bank lady didn't know the website I had to go to, which actually made me skeptical of the whole thing, so I just searched for buy savings bond. The first two results were:

Individual - Buy EE Savings Bonds
Jul 12, 2011 – Buy EE Savings Bonds. As of January 1, 2012, paper savings bonds will no longer be sold at financial institutions. This action supports ...

Individual - Savings Bonds As Gifts
Jul 21, 2011 – You can give savings bonds for any occasion or purpose - like birthdays, weddings, or graduations. You can buy gift bonds in several ...

Those were both informative, and I've used TreasuryDirect.gov before. I opened them both in different tabs, but expected to use the second one to get the gift savings bond. A note on the top of each page read:

As of January 1, 2012, paper savings bonds will no longer be sold at financial institutions. This action supports Treasury’s goal to increase the number of electronic transactions with citizens and businesses. See the press release.

It seems my bank was jumping the gun with no longer providing them, but that's fine. If I want to keep giving savings bonds this is obviously something I'm going to need to do anyway, so step one of the online process was to create a TreasuryDirect.gov account.

I don't doubt the trustworthiness and reliability of TreasuryDirect.com, but I was surprised the new account form required me to enter my social security number. But then at the bottom, it also required my bank name, account number, routing number, and other account information - it was at this roadblock that I decided more research was necessary (I was doing this on a Saturday morning from the couch in my pajamas, and didn't have that info handy).

Any time I have a problem with a tech something (be it an error code, weird account creation requirements, etc), I always search for my problem online, figuring someone else had the problem too (and hopefully solved it). So this time I searched Google News for buy savings bond and found an article from the Sacramento Bee, specifically about giving the online-only savings bonds as gifts.

It did reaffirm everything I'd encountered, but this part was the last straw:

...recipients of gifts purchased through TreasuryDirect will require an account of their own to receive the gift bonds...*

*Children under age 18 must have a minor account linked to a parent or guardian's TreasuryDirect account.

This is when I decided the new process was too difficult and just walked away from the entire question. I'm going to look for a bank that still does paper savings bonds so I can get one for Alexis, and also stock up for the rest of the kids for Christmas. But after that, I'm going to look for another gift for them - I highly doubt that all my siblings will want to set up TreasuryDirect.gov accounts for all the kids.

Oh well - supporting the government was nice while it lasted.

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I am a Statistic, by Demetri Martin

   June 28th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This is a Book coverA friend of mine is reading This is a Book, by Demetri Martin, and shared the passage below with me.

I know it's a humor book, but I found one of the comments only marginally funny. Well, not that it was unfunny, but moreso that I have just always sort of taken it for granted.

The line I'm talking about is the fourth one up from the bottom on the page below. As a friend of mine from college used to say, "I am the norm; everyone else is just a deviation from me."

Also, the boomerang one is funny.

page from This is a Book

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2011 Salem Press Library Blog Award Winner!

   June 14th, 2011 Brian Herzog

2011 Winner - Salem Press Library Blog Award - Public LibraryHey, check it out - my website won the 2011 Salem Press Library Blog Award for the Public Library category!

What a nice way to come back from vacation.

Thank you to everyone who voted, and to everyone who reads my website. It's great to get feedback that lets me know people find what I have to say useful and helpful.

And congratulations to all the 2011 winners and nominees:

General Interest: Blogs providing broad discussions of library topics and trends, including reviews of books and products.

Academic: Blogs targeting academic librarians and academic institutions

Public: Blogs addressing the challenges and triumphs of public librarianship

School: Blogs covering topics relevant to school libraries and K-12 education

Local: Institution-specific blogs promoting the interests of a public, academic, or school library

Commercial: Professional blogs written for profit, generally tied to a trade publication

Newcomer: Blogs by next-gen librarians who have only recently started blogging

Quirky: Character-driven blogs covering an array of library topics that defy categorization

I read quite a few of these blogs (and quite a few others as well). One thing I like most about the field of librarianship is our spirit of collaboration and cooperation - there is no way I could do what I do without all the people I swipe ideas from.

Thank you again everyone - I'll try to keep earning this.

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Being Personal and Professional on Twitter

   May 12th, 2011 Brian Herzog

At the NHLA conference last week, I was lucky enough to attend a talk on using Twitter by Twitter for Dummies author Leslie Poston (a.k.a. @leslie).

The talk was great, and the part I found most interesting were her guidelines about what to say, what not too say, and how to draw a line between being personal and professional online. This included my favorite advice:

Tweet on Twitter about Tweeting

I think toeing this line is easy on the library's Twitter account/blog/flickr/et. al. - the topics there are always library business, but in a friendly and engaging way. My goal is to be personable, not personal. The trickier area is with personal accounts, which are read by both personal friends and professional colleagues.

In my own head, I drew a distinct line between what I post here (on SwissArmyLibrarian.net) and what I post on my @herzogbr Twitter account. The blog is professional (well, mostly-professional), and the Twitter account is personal - hence choosing @herzogbr as my username. I don't know if anyone else noticed it, but it's the rule I try to follow.

But @leslie's talk got me thinking, and so did a recent blog post by @LibrarianE13 on this very topic. Which also reminded me that Jessamyn West solved the problem by dividing and conquering - she has a personal @jessamyn Twitter account, and a separate @librariandotnet for librarian.net library-related things.

Since doing what Jessamyn does is often a sound strategy, last week I created a new Twitter account just for Swiss Army Librarian stuff: @SwissArmyLib (drat that @SwissArmyLibrarian was too long). I'm using Twitterfeed to automatically tweet new blog posts, so if you'd like to follow* my posts via Twitter, now you can. I'm not sure if I'll use that account for anything else, but if I do it'll be totally library-related.

Having a separate account for personal stuff and for professional stuff theoretically should eliminate cross-over confusion, but things easily get mixed and mashed-up online. I am a bit leery of maintaining two accounts, because it seems like twice the effort. Which is another point @leslie made: with multiple accounts, it'll quickly become obvious whether you enjoy personal tweeting or professional tweeting, because the one you enjoy less will get less attention and quickly feel like a chore. I'm curious to see what happens with mine.


*I also recently added a follow-by-email feature, which is part of Google's Feedburner.

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Upgrading WordPress

   February 12th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Wordpress logoI'm upgrading my WordPress installation this weekend, going from way-out-of-date v2.5 all the way up to v3.0.5.

So far so good - a few glitches, but nothing major.

I know commenting is a little different, but if you notice anything out of the ordinary, please let me know.

I'll post the bigger problems I'm having here, and then solutions as I find them (but I am also open to suggestions if someone else has encountered these):

  • WordPress won't accept my FTP credentials - this is annoying, and it is preventing me from updating any of my plugins
  • Save Draft button isn't working - these are a few interrelated issues here: it seems like something is wrong with the permalinks, which is preventing me from previewing draft posts. Draft posts are also not saving to the list of draft posts, which means I can't save anything in advance

Update 3/8/11:
It looks like this is finally resolved. The root cause was two-fold, I think

  1. I hadn't been keeping up with regular upgrades (it had been years)
  2. The underlying database was corrupt, and wasn't allowing me access to everything I needed access to

Even before I upgraded, the access problem existed - it only became noticeable after such a huge upgrade jump, because WordPress had changed how it accessed the database, and now the parts I couldn't access were more critical than before.

The ultimate fix was to scrap the old install completely and start over with a fresh install - new WordPress, new database, everything. I exported all my posts and other content, got my theme set, and then my host essentially redirected my domain to point to the new directory.

A pain in the butt, basically, that could have been avoided long ago if I had been upgrading properly.

Thanks to Otto from WordPress for all his troubleshooting help, and to Chris of thevale.net for fixing everything I couldn't.

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