Thursday, December 27, 2018

Back to Class: User Research

I haven’t posted in a while and in part that was because this fall I embarked on a class on User Research from Simmons University, which between the reading, assignments and group project added significantly onto my normal daily routine making writing an even more hectic experience.

This was my first experience in an online learning environment as well as my first collegiate experience as a working professional with a family. (My education has been largely traditional residential programs for both my undergraduate and graduate experience). The class consisted of video lectures and assigned readings every week to support a large group project where we completed an actual user research study throughout the semester. There were also three all-class meetings throughout the semester where we interacted via webinar.

As this was my first online program, it was interesting using the instructional portal ( and seeing how the class blended the readings with lectures and live online meet ups. The professor was extremely active and helpful if we had any questions so I felt like the experience was equal to my terrestrial classes. The main advantage was that I didn’t need to be in a certain place and a certain time for class so I could continue my job and also pick up my kid(s) from preschool etc.
The hardest part was managing my own calendar and I could have done a better job juggling the time commitments and also communicating those to my spouse (who I owe a debt of gratitude as I couldn’t have completed the class without her).

The readings and lectures provided an excellent theoretical overview of the user research discipline though I especially loved that the class provided me live experience in the user research process. We had a real client, a large public library, that was hoping to improve their library website. Our group liaisoned with the client, prepared our tasks and user persona, conducted usability sessions and the prepared a final report. Hopefully from the report the library will be able to make some changes to the site and improve the user experience.

The was an amazing experience (albeit exhausting at times) that I would recommend it to anyone. I hope to now take the knowledge and experience I’ve gained to perform some usability research at my day job as I am interested in learning how users access data across our system(s) and how we can improve their experience.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Career Launch

My favorite podcasts like Marketplace and Planet Money have been doing retrospectives lately on the financial crisis for the 10 year anniversary. Listening to their programming has made me realize I don’t think I knew just how close to the brink we came to worldwide financial collapse. We were in truly uncharted territory and as interconnected as the worlds economic system is today (as evidenced in modern supply chains) sickness in one part of the economy quickly spreads. Both Marketplace and Planet Money are great podcasts that really helped me understand the economic news and sparked my interest in economic theory. They both highlight current trends that I might otherwise miss (and now Planet Money has a daily podcast, which is a deep dive into a single economic datapoint).

Much like Planet Money (which premiered a week before Lehman collapsed)my career was just launching during the financial crisiS.It was almost a month after graduating from library school and I found myself looking for my first professional position in a quickly contracting job market. I had planned on being a taxonomist though hadn’t found a position before graduation so I ended up taking a retail position with a great company that could supplement my library assistant job I had gotten during school. A few months later found a part-time librarian position working for my librarian idol(who still inspires me) and started working in taxonomy development while still working in retail to pay the rent. About 8 months after that I found a full time position as a Content Analyst for a government contractor managing a large digital library and left the Boston area for eastern Maryland. I worked in library school and made an effort to network well though I was also lucky. I got the job as the part-time librarian and met my librarian idol thru a class project in library school, which gave me the subject analysis and taxonomy experience to help land my next position. There was some skill involved for sure though there is also some value in being in the right place at the right time.

If anyone asks my advice on career management (which I will be the first to admit is something I am still learning) I recommend networking and keeping an open mind. Meeting people who share your professional interests is invaluable to planning your career and also helping you find your next position(s). Even once you have the position it is imperative to keep networking inside your employer and also within your professional organization. I personally belong to SLA, which collection of info pros including researchers, data managers, librarians, content analysts, taxonomists and many others. I’ve made a point of being involved in my local chapter and joined the board for a spell. The fact is your plans for your career could wary widely from the reality and it is just fine. Since working at the government contractor I’ve worked for an international law firm as a data specialist and most recently as a data analyst in higher education. Be prepared for change and be flexible.

Continual learning is going to be an ever present theme throughout your career. After getting some experience in data analysis in earlier positions I am looking to gain skills in user research and user design to help build better tools for information retrieval. I personally like more formalized education settings as I like being accountable to someone, but for those who are comfortable with a self paced approach there are MOOCs on a variety of topics and also bootcamp style instruction methods like General Assembly. It’s hard work at times though if you never stop learning and evolving in your skill set that will keep you engaged and ahead of the robots.

There is only so much you can control in your career and so much that you can’t (like graduating into a recession like me or boom market like today). There will be good times and bad times and the best thing you can do is be as prepared as possible and then be flexible when it comes to the route your career takes.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Thinking Outside the Stacks for your Career

I recently came across the excellent post from Rose Maclin-Hurd on her blog, Archives and Sundry about librarianship and the future of libraries. It is a great post and sums up many of the questions those in our profession get about being a librarian (i.e. do you think libraries are obsolete? I didn’t know you needed a degree for that…) Contrary to the recurring articles about “libraries demise” public libraries arestill very popular with the public having expanded beyond traditional print materials to lending e-books, audiobooks, and other electronic resources. Beyond proving materials libraries are community centers with programing on gardening, gaming, resume workshops and many more for young and old alike. Librarians are literally helping to saving lives alongside providing more traditional services like readers advisory.

For those interested in librarianship as a career, while public and academic librarianship is often the most visible roles for librarians there are applications outside a traditional library. I highly recommend the Beyond the Stacks, podcast if you want a “big tent”’view on librarianship. It was a great podcast that interviewed information professionals on their career trajectory and how they built the career their post-library school including interviews with professionals in very traditional library land type roles (archivist at Baseball Hall of Fame) and also those with more non-traditional library jobs (Taxonomist at Etsy). I really enjoyed hearing about how other MLIS holders are leveraging their skill sets and experience. I have had a fairly non-traditional library career and I think more and more MLIS holders will look outside traditional librarianship in the future to build their careers.

If you’re in library school and not sure where you’ll end up I would recommend a recent presentation sponsored by the SLA Chapter of the entitled "What Do Librarianship, User Experience, Virtual Reality, and Silence Have in Common?. The speaker is engaging about their current work though also talks about how their past career experiences have lead them to their current role, which is invaluable as it shows just how wide ranging the career options are for those interesting in librarianship.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

New Heaphones (No AirPods)

I have written about my battles with the earbuds before on the blog and while I had decided on the Anker Earbuds I ended up sticking with the branded Apple earpods longer due to simple inertia. It wasn’t till this past January that I decided to finally purchase a non-Apple branded set. Due to the fact that I had sent my earbuds thru the washer one last time and that I was tired of having earbuds crammed into my ears I decided to go with an on ear model. I ended up going with the Lasmex HB–65, which were well priced and had decent reviews. My expectations were mainly that I wouldn’t send them thru the wash as easily as the EarPods and also that they would have generally better sound (plus have some better capability for isolating me from office chatter than EarPods). After six-months use that included travel, office use and also use around the house The Lasmex HB–65 have some strong features to recommend them.


1) Design: The headphones collapse/fold up easily for easier storage and packing. Plus, the headphones are large enough to not get lost accidentally (unless someone puts them away in the wrong place or your house is plagued by house elves) nor is it easy to accidentally wash them like EarPods.

2) Cost: They are inexpensive when compared to other on-ear headphones (and even other airbus) with them being comparable in cost to Apple’s Earpods.

3)Bluetooth: Since Apple and Google have both eliminated the headphone jack on their phone line up Bluetooth headphones save the need for an adapter and also allow you to charge your phone while listening.


1) Bluetooth: The Bluetooth works well enough for music though even though they advertise that you can take phone calls I wouldn’t recommend it. Whenever I receive a call while listening to music and try to answer the person can’t generally hear me and when I initiate the call the call starts fine though their are invariably sound issues.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Handsfree and Siri

The state where I live in the US recently passed a handsfree law that limits the interaction users can have with their phone while driving to avoid driver distraction. Siri often gets the short shrift in the realm of robot assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant etc) though I have been using the "Hey Siri" function for a while now and have found it fairly reliable. There are a few tips for helping make Siri better for hands free operation that I thought others might find useful.

1) Train Siri Better: When you first set-up the Hey Siri it asks you to say “Hey Siri” a few times to train the system to recognize your voice. This used to not work well for me till I ran across this this article that referenced making sure you do this training with some distant between yourself and the phone. Once I retrained Siri’s recognition from across the room that has improved the pick up immensely when in the car. Siri now hears me over podcasts, music and the other ambient noise related to car trips rather well.

2) Better Data: The Contacts app on the iPhone doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention in the app world though this bedrock app is incalculably valuable for Siri. I highly recommend putting in as much data (home address, work address etc.) as possible into your contact card as this enables you to given Siri for detailed instructions (i.e. Hey Siri directions Home). A field that is particularly helpful is “Relationship”, which allows you to link your contact card to others in the contacts database with a relationship definition. For instance, I’ve linked my card to my wife’s with the “spouse” designator so I can say “Hey Siri, text my wife..” and the system will know who I am trying to text.

If you’re having trouble working with Hey Siri for handsfree communication while in the car I would highly recommend the above to help improve your experience. If anyone has any advice and/or tips or tricks for making Hey Siri more useful I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

To Dos and Time Management

It has been almost over two months since the last update, which is largely due to scheduling collisions between my work and home life. Time is a rare resource and we can’t make more of it and we can’t redo it. We get one shot so we need to make the most of the time we have got. I am in a continual struggle with the clock; I am not great with time. I am intuitively curious and have a tendency to get pulled down tangents and into different projects. I am good at handling the immediate task at hand though often get weighed down or scramble to plan even a few weeks out. I am constantly trying to find a better system or tools to help me manage my time so I am often switching between different apps or systems to find the ideal method.

I used to/still struggle with using my inbox as a to do list, which is like the maginot line for time management pundits (i.e. it seems like a great idea though you are quickly overrun by to dos). While it is highly convenient to use your inbox as a to do item it can be hard to tell which items are messages and which items are actual to dos. Furthermore, if you don’t clear our email regularly and you have all these unread emails it gets daunting.

I am never fully satisfied with a system and have tried several different to-do style apps: Things, Todoist, Google Tasks, Microsoft To Do, and Remember the Milk and I am constantly on the look out for the next one on the horizon. My current app is Things from Cultured Code as I love the design and the functionality for their iOS app. (I am a die-hard iPhone user and having a rock solid iOS app is a requirement.) I also like the fact that the app is not subscription based so their is only a single upfront payment required to access the full app.

I have been using the app for several months now and it is a work in progress though I come across a couple of rather simple lessons learned to help make the everything run more smoothly.

1) Curate your Tasks: Any task management app only works if you can set-up your tasks properly. Things has a share sheet function on iOS, which allows you to import items from the web into the app though it doesn’t really matter your import the item into the app so long as it is availiable.

2) Don’t over Engineer: Don’t spend too much time formatting or setting up a faceted structure around your tasks (even if you want to…). The task should help you manage your workload and not be adding to your workload.

3) Focus on the Large Picture: Improving your time managment is easier to conceptulize if you have a goal or series of goals that tangible. If you have a marker that you want achieve then you can measure your progress.

4)Constantly Iterate: If the system is not working or your seeminly still not where you want to be then change things. The system needs to work for you and provide results. Time is too important to waste unknowingly.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Webinar Debrief and Conference

March was a busy month. I presented on a webinar on alternative careers in librarianship and then spent the next week at the HEUG conference with some personal travel capped onto the end. I had hoped to be able to post the slide for the webinar though I don’t know if they will be posted. (If they are then I will make an addendum to this post with the link.) I thought the presentation went well overall though I sped thru my slides a little too quickly and was not as organized as I would like in outlining my points. This is my third webinar and I have not gotten the hang of public speaking. I think I still need more experience and as much it doesn’t come naturally/ is not my strong suit I need to do it more.

The presentations genesis is that librarians can save any organization money by helping knowledge workers focus more on producing work product and less on information plumbing. The plumbing is refers to handling the necessary though time consuming informational foundational work (search for prior art on the project, uploading work to the DMS, researching aspects of the project etc) that is part of their job. Any company wants their workers focused on what they are best equipped and skilled at doing while minimizing extraneous work. In a world where information is quickly expanding I think the future of work is focusing on a singular idea or function. Librarians play an invaluable role in this change as they can help sift thru the external information and catalog the internally created information. Librarians in an organization are often considered an expense though if you align yourself with revenue then you’re able to better advocate for resources and expanding your practice.

The Higher Ed User Group or HEUG is for users of the Peoplesoft Campus Solutions database which I am now a user at MPOW. It was a fantastic conference where I learned a great deal that I can bring back to my office. The conference this year was held in Salt Lake, which is a lovely city to visit. (For anyone working in Campus Solutions I would highly recommend they attend as you’ll learn a great deal.) As you can imagine, higher ed is getting more concerned with data and using data to help make decisions. There seems to be a lot of focus on tools, extracting data, and data in the cloud which as a tech enthusiast I enjoy though as a librarian I see the data literacy aspect is the next step. What do you want the data for/how will the data inform your decisions? Institutions large and small (or even individuals) need to understand the data and then use that data to make the best choice. There was a speaker at the conference who said that we need data curators and then referenced librarians as people who act as curators (Note: I thanked him for his shout out after the session). As a society we are drowning in data and that is a very different situation than we’ve been in the past. As more and more data becomes available curation is more and more important. Part of that curation is choosing what is valuable (and what is considered fine to collect re: privacy) and then what we do with the data. I love data (and data tools) though more important is what we do with the data to inform and understand our decisions.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A User Persona Built from Likes vs Libraries

I had an amazing mentor in library school who said “Communities get the libraries they deserve”, which I thought was amazingly insightful. Her meaning was that if a community doesn’t invest in their library (attention, policy, and money) then their library would falter. Given my recent post on the Taxonomy behind Facebook and the recent story from the New York Times about how Cambridge Analytica leveraged data from Facebook to build detailed user personas I have been thinking a lot about the nature of information consumption in our culture.

While Cambridge Analytica took liberties with Facebook’s data not envisioned or condoned the basic premise behind Facebook being a free service is that the users give up their data so Facebook can serve targeted ads based around their individual profiles (among other revenue streams it now seems). As users we have chosen to sell our digital selves for a free service. Facebook is hardly the first service to do this type of exchange (tons of websites show ads to keep their content free) Facebook is just in a unique situation considering the data they possess. While the #deletefacebook trend removes the app from your device it doesn’t look at the larger cultural issue around exchanging data for services.

I find myself personally torn between privacy and convenience. When I did my dive into Facebook’s taxonomy and I saw how they were building a profile on my behavior for ads I didn’t stop using the service and when the Cambridge Analytica program details were released by the Times I didn’t delete my account either. Why? Facebook is so useful.* I can keep in touch with people who I knew during college, find other users in my area with similar interests, and it is especially useful as a parent for advice on how to manage my offspring. Facebook (and services like it) is a connective web for communities to come together, which is a fundamental foundation in being human: connection.

Facebook could charge for their service though that would limit who could reasonably afford it and thus cap their potential user base. Within those who could afford it would they actually pay? Old word newspapers have had to turn to subscriptions services and micro media outfits have custom newsletters that build a direct money for value relationship. I don’t know the specific financials behind these models nor how they compare versus selling ads though it does prove their is another path for revenue (note: which is funny to write as before “the internet” pay for service was the ONLY model.) Yet we as users have become accustomed to the internet being free and I think there would be an uproar if Facebook started charging users nor would they have been able to build such a global community if that has been their business model back in 2004.

In contrast to Facebook, libraries are privacy oriented when interacting with users. There are strict privacy laws (note: this is in the US) about divulging patron records and librarians have a strong ethical code around patron privacy:

“We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” (From the ALA Code of Ethics)

However, while libraries may seem free to users they are decidedly not free to operate. Like any organization they have facility, staffing, materials costs that is paid for by the users. Rather than giving data community members pays thru their tax base (or membership fees) to keep the library open. Bonds and referendums are regularly brought before communities to fund libraries with success and failures. This is done as I think patrons would balk if the library sold their information to fund their operation (I would).

Privacy is the issue of our time and we need to be data conscious consumers. What are we giving up for a service and what value do we get back? The limits in computing are not in technology but human will. What will we comfortable with as a society? Without having this discussion another company with another dataset is bound to do the same thing as Facebook.

*If like me you’ve struck a sorcerer’s deal with Facebook the EFF has a great article on how to clamp down on your privacy settings.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Alternative Careers in Librarianship Webinar

As mentioned briefly before I am participant in an upcoming webinar for SLA (see official blurb below) about alternative careers in librarianship. This is a topic I am particularly passionate about as I firmly believe in “Big Tent” librarianship is the future of the profession as the we humans create more about data our skillset is ever more relevant.

If anyone had any questions please comment below or send me a note via Twitter (georgedpr) or you can email me at george (at) georgedpr (dot) com.

Official Release: The SLA Illinois Chapter and Upstate New York Chapter, in conjunction with the Students and New Professionals Advisory Council and SLA staff, are proud to present Not Your Everyday Career Advice: Alternate Careers in the Library and Information Field.

The webinar is hosted by Rachael Altman and Jill Wilson, and features a dynamic and experienced panel of LIS professionals: Jamal Fisher, Deb Hunt, Ted Slate, Rachel Cole, and George Peckham-Rooney.

Join us and listen to our panellists speak about their career trajectory, give real advice, and share stories about what worked for them. Come away with a newfound appreciation for the highly adaptable and transferable skills we all possess.

Who should attend? This webinar is for anyone and everyone—no matter where you are in your career!

Please join us on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 2:30 pm ET.

Monday, March 5, 2018

SEEDs Conference 2018

Last week it was my great pleasure to attend the latest SEEDs Conference(Southeast Educational Data Symposium) on behalf of MPOW. There was some fantastic speakers/panels on educational analytics technology, the state of higher education, and building business intelligence communities. Though I wanted to mention two speakers where the topics pertained specifically to librarians and librarianship writ-large.

The first I wanted to mention was the session from Bertha Adeniji* (The Adoption of Learning Analytics in Higher Education), which used bibliometrics to look at the research around learning analytics and its adoption in higher education. It was fascinating to see how young the fields is with the research really beginning around 2011 and still seemed in its infancy 2018. In an age of “big data” in many ways it seems like we are just beginning to look at how data can be used hack learning. (Also, the librarian in me loves bibliometrics.)

The second session that really grabbed my attention was the closing keynote by Dr. George Siemens** entitled Directions in Learning Analytics, which covered the past, current state and potential future for the field. Part of the presentation looked at the changing economic landscape and the need for workers to retrain to enter new fields, which would be accomplished not by getting a new degree, but by a micro program that accumulated all their prior knowledge alongside their new skillset. Dr. Siemens mentioned that we will move more toward life long learning and accrediting locally (maybe thru online badges). It made me think about libraries and librarianship again as in this burgeoning world there would need to be resources for those life long learners to build their knowledge and libraries have traditionally be part of this paradigm. If learners have to return to continue to build their skillsets they are going to need a guide a librarian could be that guide.

*A Phd student at the Palmer School of Library Information Science at Long Island University CW Post

**Dr. George Siemans, the founding president of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Library of Congress and the Public Domain

The Library of Congress in many ways seems more like a mythical institution than a traditional library so I am always excited when they find ways to leverage their collections in interesting way. I recently came across a recent collection of Free to Use and Reuse sets of digital images where the images are in the public domain or they have been cleared for use (there is an accompanying statement with each item). I particularly love the travel posters showing notably American landmarks.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Taxonomy of Facebook

I went to library school because I really like helping people find things and connecting people with books is somthing I’ve always enjoyed. I thought I would be traditional academic librarian though during library school I fell in love with taxonomies. (An organized structure that broke down information into separate atomized categories really spoke to me a cellular level.) I have since drifted away from doing regular taxonomy work though I still love the practice and was thus intrigued when my wife and I were listening to a recent Reply All episode where an unusual taxonomy came up.

The hosts tried to debunk the often compelling myth that Facebook is secretly spying on you and they mention how Facebook categorizes users into different groups depending on the data we provide Facebook as well as our activity.

How you find the specific results is a follows: Login to Facebook -> Access Settings -> Ads -> Your Information -> Review and Manage Your Categories.

Looking thru my data it is fairly comprehensive in terms of content depth and breadth. There is information on how I access Facebook (device/browser) as well as interest oriented categories that appear to be faceted (Parents - All, Parents - Toddlers). Once you have the categories you can then select them and the types of ads that are aligned with that category. (You can also confirm or not whether this category is not something you’re in fact interested in too. If you don’t confirm you’re interested in a topic the system will remove it from your profile.) The taxonomy appears to be controlled and undergoing changes (one of the terms changed in the past two weeks since I first listened to this podcast and as of this writing).

I found the taxonomy really interesting though it definitely reenforces that Facebook is a Ad platform that happens to host your content. I would recommend everyone access Facebook to check out the categories they’ve been assigned and make sure you’re comfortable with the arrangement. I personally have gotten value from Facebook Ads. I have products that are useful and the big-brotherness is outweighed by the service it provides. I definitely post on Facebook as though it was public as even if you limit the privacy settings to limit the access Facebook still knows and it could affect your ad profile now or in the future.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Comes to An End

I have been trying to figure out a year end post for a few weeks now and it has not been easy. There was some potential in a post hardrive failure since my MacBook died (see my earlier post)last month that didn’t really have the gravitas I was looking for in a last post of the year. In terms of hard numbers, I wrote sixteen posts this year on mostly Apple related topics and with one on professional development and another on e-books. I had hoped to write more in 2017 though it has come out about the same as in prior years. I would also like to move away from writing about Apple as much and more about embedded librarianship, which is something I am more bullish about and where I can add something to the space. There is plenty of commentary (both good and bad) about Apple already on the internet writ large and I don’t have volumes to add to that discourse. I will probably still write about my laptop odyssey though and also will still write about Apple announcements as I follow the space.

While I want to reiterate my goal to write more in 2018 I am less sure about the blogs place in that content distribution. One of my favorite writers, John Scalziwhose work I rather enjoy had a great post earlier this year about how visitors had dropped significantly to his personal blog since 2012 and his conclusions were that blogs are fading from the distribution channels in favor of social media. As someone who is a firm believer of owning your own domain name and having control over your content this makes me though is not surprising. My generation grew up setting up their first website via Geocities/Lycos and the latest generation has always had closed platforms like a Facebook or Twitter. To be fair, I am on both these platforms and enjoy them though you don’t really have a lot of control over your content once it is pushed into the environment. For instance, Twitter has been rumored to be in trouble for awhile and if it were to go away as a platform the content you put into it would be gone in its current format. I push all my content onto those platforms though the website has always been “home base” for my writing. If this were not a blog I don’t know how this site for function. I personally like it as blog though clearly the trends are moving more toward closed platforms.

This blog has always been an avid experiment so to that end, I am going to spend 2018 experimenting with other types of writing beyond the blog. I am going to be writing a monthly newsletter about genre comic books/graphic novels, tv shows/movies and other types of entertainment. I will probably try to push out a post with each issue to tie it back into the blog so if you miss one you can find it here.

I have another project or two that I hope to work on in coming year and as those come to fruition or move further along I will talk more about them.