Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Taking Chances, being present, and a review of the past year

I thought I would include a little something of everything in this post. It’s a little long, but it covers almost everything this year.

New Year's Resolution
My New Year's Resolution last year was to become a better cook. I have been a notoriously terrible cook. I used to even mess up pasta. I didn’t cook because I was afraid to cook. I wasn’t very good at it and I didn’t want to try. When I stopped being afraid to make mistakes and just did it, I could improve. It wasn’t the end of the world if it didn't come out right. Cooking is a good metaphor for life. In which I was reminded by this post from the Smitten Kitchen:

Why We’re Afraid to Cook
  1. Our mother or mother-in-law cooks it better: Whether it is out of respect, deference or certainty that your version will pale, it seems that there are many of you who don’t even want to touch dishes that are others’ signatures.

  2. The Food Police scared us: They’ve struck an absurd amount of fear into our hearts, now our panic over undercooked chicken and eggs or imperfectly canned food is so great, we cannot approach either calmly or rationally. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to all of these in time.)

  3. It went really badly the last time (or times) we made it: So you’ve responded by keeping your distance. Had I not been actually forced by the deadline of the wedding and my desire to make a specific frosting for the wedding cake, I would have taken a year to get back to Swiss buttercream. At least.

  4. We jinx ourselves: Failure is so often a self-fulfilling prophesy, wherein we are so certain something is going to go wrong, we indeed make some futzy errors. (This would be me, with phyllo, every single time.)

  5. It’s hard to get our head around the steps: I admit, I feel more confident when I can remember a recipe without even looking back at it, because it is simple, or proceeds in logical steps. I always forget that I’m only expected to do one thing at a time.

  6. There’s a very specific deal breaker: It requires pig’s blood, will stink up your apartment or serve 24 people. Kim Severson discussed these in a funny article in the New York Times last month, and she’s absolutely right. It only takes one word of some of these for me to flip the page and call out “next!”

  7. We’re afraid of wasting an expensive ingredient: Many of you mentioned this in reference to large cuts of meat and good fish, where the price of making an error seems so steep, a flop is that much more of a risk. I totally get it as when I blow it on a pricey dish, I feel that much more awful about it.

  8. Our skills aren’t where we wish they were: Recipes that require poached eggs, when you’re terrible at poaching eggs, just seem easier to skip. So can instructions that demand a fine brunoise or long, thin juliennes if you haven’t taken a semester of knife skills, or have a natural finesse in the area (or a really good mandoline, at least in the case of juliennes).

I can look at this list and apply it to anything I tried that was new this year. Fear of failure, jinxing yourself, or things going badly sometimes can freeze us from doing anything. Getting over those issues can get you moving forward and getting better. My family prefers my cooking to eating out now. I am even planning a special dinner for New Year's.

I also choose to be a better cook because I wanted to make better meals for my family. I also wanted something to help me focus on home when I was home. I tend to get too distracted with work with the many issues of the day. Cooking connected to my other resolution, to be present. The thoughts about work end up spilling into your head when it should be focused at home.

Art of Mindful Living
There was a book I listened to at the end of last year, The Art of Mindful Living, that taught me to focus more on the present instead of being somewhere else. It allows you to give people all of yourself. If you are focused at work when you should be focused at home, you might as well be there.

Compassionate emptiness
Another one I read the middle of this year that taught me a lot about management was It’s Not About the Coffee. The greatest thing I learned from it was Compassionate Emptiness. (from the book)
“Compassionate emptiness: A buddhist teaching Compassionate emptiness involves listening with compassion, but without pre-conceived notions. Compassionate emptiness asks us to be caring, but empty of opinions and advice. When we stop and wait for the meaning and emotions to unfold, we hear a message. This is communication with heart. “

EBooks have made me a faster reader (or is it just the more accessible books are, the more you read?)

I tried the 1001 book challenge this year. Over 400 of those books can be found online for free from various legal sites. Before I began the challenge, I read a book or two a month. Once I began the challenge I was averaging about six books per month. I was able to do this with my Sony Reader downloading books from, downloading books from my library’s Overdrive collection, and downloading audio books from my library’s overdrive collection. I find that after reading an e-book on my Sony Reader, that I can read a print book much faster. It’s probably because I have a more restricted screen and have to be a more disciplined reader for an e-book. In one year, I read 50 books. On average, I would be lucky to get through 10 in one year. I think it is more availability than anything else. If you have access to good books, you will read more.

My Writing in other places

I had several guest posts at a variety of blogs. I had a few over at Teleread, which helped me break the story about the Sony Reader working with Overdrive, . One at Leadership Turn (
, a few at MCLC Tech Talk ( , although not as many as I would have liked. That’s a great blog if you don’t know about it. I was also highlighted by Walt Crawford over at PLN Leadership Network ( , which was a great honor and thrill to be included.

The library’s accomplishments

Live with Overdrive
Went live with Overdrive services and created promotions for the service. We were allowed to join the Greater Phoenix Digital Library Consortium. As a result, we can provide 40,000 more titles to our patrons at very little cost. We joined in 2007, but didn’t go live with promotions until January.

We had an mp3 player giveaway contest. Those who asked about the service at the front desk were entered into a raffle for a free mp3 player. We ran the promotion for about six weeks. We saw an uptick in usage and a great deal of excitement over the promotion. We ran the winner's picture in the paper each week getting the player.

I also ran several YouTube tutorials to download audio books. Then the Sony Reader upgraded their firmware in July 2008, I also wrote a story how it works with Overdrive. It was featured on Teleread. Overdrive also provides mp3s to download for your Ipods and Zunes. There will also be a portable version of the media console that will work on a smart phone. This means that you don’t have to download an audiobook to your computer and transfer, you can download an audiobook or ebook straight to your phone!

Calendar System
We switched from Google Calendar to E-vanced solutions which resulted in more self-reservations. I no longer have to field email requests for the room and do them myself. Now, people fill out the form, send in the reservation, and I say yes or no. Staff members are more aware of upcoming programs; the public can see them as well and make reservations for what is available.

Virtual Reference
Started up a virtual reference and tutoring services by going with I debated virtual reference for some time and realized that we may not have the staff time to dedicate to it. Out-sourcing this has helped greatly. The problem with out-sourcing virtual reference is that it isn’t local. Patrons will ask specific information, mostly about their accounts, and the person would be unable to help them. However, even if we went with an alternative model, which would have been a consortium, we would have non-local librarians answering reference as well. A few funny things I noticed about virtual reference. Most of the questions are coming from inside the library. Patrons using our Catalog computers that are three steps from the front desk will click on the Live Assistance Now! Button rather than walk to the desk. I have placed the button on the sidebar throughout the catalog and particularly on the drop pages. Polaris is a little tricky so I couldn’t put it in the middle of the screen. However, even on the sidebar, it gets clicked on fairly often. We get about two questions on the service per day.

Disc Cleaner
We purchased a Disc Cleaner. It’s amazing how people treat DVDs. Are they using them as Frisbees? How did they get dents in the DVD? Luckily, the RTI Eco Cleaner can handle just about anything. However, we are constantly cleaning everything, particularly kids DVDs. On a similar note, we are noticing that some discs aren’t damaged, but they will simply not play on certain DVD players. For example, I have a JVC DVD/Vide player. It can record DVDs. Since it can do this, I cannot play any DVDs that have a strong copyright protection on it. I can’t watch anything produced by Sony Pictures. I couldn’t watch The Pursuit of Happyness because of it. However, when I put the movie on my cheap DVD player we use for car trips, it plays just fine. I don’t know what we can do to solve this problem. I feel like I have to do something since we put out DVDs.

Vocera is a voice activated badge in which you can call anyone in the library immediately. You simply press the button, say Call Jeff, and you are immediately connected. Our library is three floors and 16,000 square feet. As a result, we are often on the floor helping patrons and away from a phone. This allows instant communication if we need to find someone or if we need assistance. It is great for security and great for customer service.

The mini-renovation
It seems like we do one of these every other year. In order to improve our services, we move collections, computers, and services around to create a better experience and to make things easier for our patrons. This year, we had to solve two problems. We had all of our computers downstairs which resulted in certain patrons getting a little rowdy. We also had many requests from our public for a quieter library. To solve this, we decided to move all of our computers upstairs to the main floor and move our non-fiction collection downstairs. When all the dust settled we had computers that we can monitor and provide quicker assistance for patrons as well as create a quiet study area downstairs with all of our non-fiction materials. Furthermore, with all the computers upstairs, it made the whole library much quieter.

The rubber hits the road
Like many other libraries, we had a huge increase in usage. Since July 2008, we had a 30% increase in circulation, 20% increase in walk-in business, a 33% increase in Information Transactions, a 10% increase in computer usage.

It’s exciting to look back on the last year and have accomplished so much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like 2008 was a wonderful year! Many kudos. Thanks also for the book recommendations - just requested these for myself!

Leigh Anne V.