May 25, 2009

Read to Me . . . .

Posted in Resources at 8:48 pm by melissaautumn

Another favorite blog is Marcia Brandt’s Read to Me . . . .  Marcia is a K-8 Library Media Specialist in Illinois who blogs about literature for children and young adults. Marcia provides insightful reviews of new books, but my favorite posts are about the books she is reading to students in the library. She details not only the plot of the books, but outlines how she introduces, reads and discusses the books with her students. Great insight into how a school librarian works and full of “copy this” ideas for getting kids hooked on reading.


Wolfram Alpha

Posted in Resources at 8:44 pm by melissaautumn

If you like Google’s ability to do simple calculations and other cool tricks you’ll be interested in Wolfram Alpha, a new search engine that focuses on computational knowledge and visual search results. I recommend watching the screencast to see all the cool things it can do.

Thanks to Ellie for bringing this to my attention!

May 12, 2009

Buying a Suit

Posted in Interviewing at 2:43 pm by melissaautumn

In a recent post I recommended (okay, insisted on) wearing a suit to an interview. Lest you grumble that I don’t understand you are poor graduate students who can’t afford to buy a suit, here’s a follow-up post with advice on buying a good suit at a reasonable price. 

You have three basic choices in where to buy a suit:

  • Department Store: Department stores usually have a wider variety of suits from which to pick and if you watch for sales, you can get a good deal. If you are sartorially challenged or this is your first suit, ask a salesperson for help (department store salespeople are like librarians at a reference desk – they want to help you be successful and they know more about the library, er, store, than you do). In some stores, you can even call ahead for an appointment with a consultant.
  • Specialty Store: Men can shop at stores that specialize in men’s suits, while women can shop in mall stores that specialize in business attire. These stores have the advantage of helpful salespeople and well organized stock, but selection may be limited to store brands. Watch for a sale or you’ll pay too much.
  • Discount Store (i.e., Ross, TJMaxx): For women, these stores can have great deals on designer suits, although you’ll need to feel confident enough to shop on your own, as the salespeople won’t be as knowledgeable (sorry, guys, I’m not as sure about men’s suits). Like everything in these stores, the stock can vary widely from week to week and store to store, so it is best to drop in to a few different stores periodically to see what is available.

Be prepared to have your suit tailored, either on-site or by taking it to a professional (ask around to find someone good).You’ll almost always need the pants hemmed, which in a pinch you can get done at most any dry cleaners. However, a professional tailor can make other alterations to improve the fit of your suit, taking it from merely nice to really great. I drive thirty minutes to an old downtown area where this wonderful Korean seamstress owns a little shop crowded with dress patterns, religious literature and clothes waiting to be altered. I don’t even tell her what I want, since I’ve learned she knows better than I what needs to be done – I just put the suit on and she tells me how she is going to alter it.


  • A suit should be comfortable. If it pinches or feels confining, it is too small or a bad fit for your body type. I find that fit varies by designer, so you may want to try on suits from different designers until you find one that works for your body type.
  • Buy a dark suit in a mid-weight fabric so that you can use it in any season. Dark suits are always appropriate and can be made seasonably appropriate with a different shirt, but a suit that is clearly designed for winter (heavy fabrics) or summer (very light fabrics or color) may not transition well to another season.
  • Avoid anything too trendy. A good suit should last years and you can update the look by changing the shirt, tie and/or accessories you wear with it.
  • Men’s ties should add a pop of color and interest to your suit without going over the top. Salespeople can usually consult on shirt and tie combinations that match your suit.
  • Women especially can save money by layering a nice suit with an inexpensive shirt from Target or a discount store. 
  • If you plan to be an academic librarian, remember that interviews often start with dinner the night before. You’ll want to have two nice outfits on hand, although men can probably get by with one suit and two shirts and ties.
  • As you buy, think about shoes. A dark suit will match standard black, blue or brown shoes, which you may already own. If you need two outfits, you can save money by selecting two suits that match the same shoes.
  • Start shopping now – if you leave suit shopping for the week before an interview, your chances of finding a good sale are slim (plus, you won’t have time for tailoring). Watch for sales in department stores or stop by a discount store on a regular basis until you find a suit you like at a price you can afford.

May 10, 2009

Mother’s Day and Amazing Moms

Posted in Inspiration at 3:33 pm by melissaautumn

My mom would have turned 65 yesterday, had she not passed away in 1998 from inflammatory breast cancer. At a certain point in her illness, my mother had to stop working. What I remember from that time are her musings on how she was going to change careers, get away from the teaching she had been doing for thirty years to try something new and exciting. I’m still inspired by her example that we are never too old to consider reinventing ourselves, never too old to pursue something new.

In a similar way, I’m inspired by the many women in my classes who are “returning” students. These women are starting graduate school after years of being out of the classroom, often sprinting to catch up with the new technology required to be a successful distance education student and librarian. On top of that, many of these women continue to raise families, hold down jobs and remain active members of their church and community. Like my mother, they inspire me with evidence that we are never too old (or too busy) to learn, grow, change and pursue our dreams.

So, on Mother’s Day, let’s hear it for moms near and far, here and gone (but never forgotten), librarians or not – thanks for inspiring me to be more tomorrow than I am today.

May 8, 2009

Google Docs

Posted in Job Success, Resources, School Success at 10:05 am by melissaautumn

LIS classes often involve an element of group work (as does the work world, but there we give it fancy names like “task force” and “committee”). One of the challenges of group work can be coordinating access to and editing of a master document, particularly if not everyone in the group uses the same operating system or software. Enter Google Docs – a resource for creating, editing and sharing group work.

Google Docs is free, although you’ll need to create an account. Once you have an account, you can create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The software isn’t as sophisticated as Office, but it is easy to use and offers basic editing and formatting functionality.

The real power of Google Docs is in the sharing – once you have a file, you can share it with other people by giving them access as a “viewer” (read only) or a “collaborator” (editing ability). If you have multiple collaborators on a document, Google Docs shows you when the file was last updated and by whom. In addition, you can revert to older versions of the document – handy if someone edits a section and the group wants to restore the original version. When you are done editing, you can download the file as a pdf or Office document, which is useful if you need to turn your final product into a more conventional format to print, email, submit in Moodle or Angel, add to a portfolio, etc.

May 5, 2009

Dressing for Interviews (or, Yes, You Should Wear a Suit)

Posted in Interviewing at 9:21 am by melissaautumn

One of the questions students always ask is what to wear for interviews. The basic answer – a suit.

Although you may not plan to wear a suit to work everyday should you get the job, suits are the traditional and expected attire for interviews. By wearing a suit, you show you understand there is different attire for different occasions (and by extension, that should you get the job, you will dress appropriately for special occasions, such as meeting local officials).

Men should wear a dark suit. White shirts are traditional. A tie is essential, of course, although you certainly can add some subtle flair here.

Women should also wear a suit, although they do have more leeway than men – suits can be almost any color and you can liven up a dark suit by wearing a shirt with color or a pattern. If you wear a skirt, hose are absolutely required. If you don’t like to wear hose, wear a pantsuit.

Women should take care to project a business-like image. Shirts should be modest – nothing too low cut or tight. Jewelry should be tasteful. Shoes should be business-like – nothing backless, open-toed or too spikey.

Additional Tips:

  • Wear something comfortable and conducive to moving and walking. Wear shoes you’ve worn before – you don’t want blisters halfway through the day.
  • Carry a briefcase or portfolio to neatly hold papers you accumulate during the interview.
  • Polish your shoes and iron your shirt. A little shoe polish can also renew a leather belt.
  • Remember that you may want to remove your jacket if you get warm (it can be hard to regulate temperature in large buildings, including every library I have worked in) and select a shirt accordingly.

May 3, 2009

PVLD Director’s Blog

Posted in Resources at 10:20 pm by melissaautumn

Note: My 504 class asked me for a list of recommended blogs. This post is the start of a series on recommended resources – blogs, websites, and the like.

One blog I consistently enjoy is the PVLD Director’s Blog ( written by Kathy Gould, Director of the Palos Verdes Library District. In fact, when I’m really busy and can’t read everything, this is one of my “essentials.” Kathy brings together a variety of readings from outside librarianship and uses them as a springboard to think about the future of libraries (and librarians). Although Kathy writes from a public library perspective, her blog is thought provoking and relevant to all types of librarians.

May 1, 2009

On Planners and Planning

Posted in Job Success at 1:07 am by melissaautumn

This post was inspired by a student who asked for tips on getting organized and meeting goals (thanks, Megan!).

Getting organized (and staying organized) is definitely critical for job success. In fact, that point is so obvious, I’m not going to elaborate on it. Now that we’ve grown up and our mothers no longer remind of us of homework and doctor’s appointments, we all know we need to organize ourselves, right?

To get organized, you need two things: a to-do list and a planner. To say organized, you need to use them. Honestly, it’s that simple.

Using Your To-Do List

  • Have one to-do list and put everything on it. Random scraps of paper on your desk is not an organizational system. It’s just a mess.
  • Carry your to-do list with you so you can add items as needed. If you are caught without your to-do list and find yourself making notes on scraps of paper, transfer those notes to your official to-do list as soon as possible.
  • I recommend a print to-do list because you get the satisfaction of crossing items off – this gives you a visual sense of accomplishment which can be very motivating. But, an electronic system works, too; the important thing is to pick a system and use it.

Using Your Planner

  • As with to-do lists, pick a system that works for you and use it. I’ve used both print and electronic calendars and in either format, I prefer a system where I can see a week at a time. This helps me see upcoming events I should be preparing for (meetings, classes, etc.) so that I’m not caught by surprise.
  • Once you have a planner, print or electronic, put everything on it. Instead of saving fliers about community events, party invitations, and the like, write those events and addresses on your planner and trash the papers – not only do you have all your events in one place, you have less paper cluttering your desk (if you use a paper planner, it can be helpful to get the kind that has a nice cover with a pocket to store important papers like meeting agendas).
  • Read your planner! I check my planner every evening to see what I have the next day and again in the morning. Every few days I  look ahead a full week so I can start to plan busy days, make notes about errands I need to run, etc.

For me, being organized is about meeting my short and long-term goals and not losing my mind in the process. It is actually not that hard to meet your short-term goals and commitments; just like you can crank out a research paper in two or three nights, you can crank out a library program or a report for your boss in an afternoon. But, when you live your life moving from crisis to crisis or program to program, you probably aren’t doing your best work. In addition, it is easy to lose sight of your long-term goals.

Additional Tips and Ideas:

  • I keep my to-do list on the top sheet of a pad of paper. The extra sheets of paper are handy for taking notes in meetings. If I’m stuck in a boring meeting, I can use that paper to draft documents, presentations or syllabi.
  • On days when I feel overwhelmed I’ll create a post-it note of high priority items and stick it on top of my to-do list or I’ll highlight the most important things on my to-do list. Both techniques help me stay focused on what I need to accomplish.  
  • Some people like to color code their to-do lists and calendars. If that works for you, go for it. Just be sure that your urge to color code your calendar isn’t a procrastination technique. Part of staying organized and in control is actually doing the work that needs to be done.
  • Create organizational systems that live where you live – I keep a running list of songs I wanted to put on my iPod in my email. Why? Because I’m often working on my laptop when I think of a song I like (or hear it on Pandora), so instead of looking for a paper list to make a note, I record the title in my email. A colleague and I use Google Docs to keep a list of potential changes to a course we co-teach because it is a space we can both access whenever we have an idea.
  • Although I prefer calendars that show a week at a time, it can be very helpful to also see further into the future. When I was a library director I had a large monthly style calendar that I used to record important events – the start of the semester, finals week, major library events, my own vacations, etc. Looking ahead two or three months helped me plan my time to accomplish long-term goals (you can also break big projects into weekly pieces and record those on your monthly calendar). My current print calendar gives me both weekly and monthly views; I use the weekly view for day-to-day appointments and the monthly view for the big stuff.
  • Know how you work. Are you at your best early in the morning? If so, try to reserve mornings to work on complex projects. Can you only write when the office is quiet and there are no interruptions? If so, plan to get in early or stay late once a week. Does clutter distract you? If so, spend ten minutes filing papers and straightening your desk so that you’ll be better able to concentrate.
  • Establish annual goals and track them. You may be required to do this as part of your annual performance appraisal; if not, pick a date each year to set them for yourself (you do not have to use the first of the year; in an academic or school library, the start of a new school year or new semester can be a natural time for goal-setting). These goals should reflect your long-term priorities – developing a new program, learning a new skill, writing an article, etc. Write your goals down and look at them periodically to track your progress. Again, pick a few times in the year when things usually slow down, such as the end of the semester, and get in the habit of using those times to focus on long-term goals, instead of day-to-day work.

As always, I look forward to your tips and tricks for organization and time management!