Guide on the Side Icon

posted in: Tech Tip | 0

Graphic for a tutorial iconYesterday I created this draft icon for launching Guide on the Side tutorials. I’ve been working with University of Arizona Libraries‘ wonderful program for the last year or so and it figures largely in new research tutorial I am getting ready to unleash upon the world. I created this icon or graphic in an attempt to provide users with a consistent way to launch a tutorial. I’m pretty happy with how this came out, at least for a draft. If you love this icon or would like a customized one with your school’s colors I am happy to share. It’s a small thing compared to what UA has given the community, but hey, we all have to start somewhere.

The icon itself was created with the fantastically easy to use Canva, which I will be talking about tomorrow for Western Libraries kickoff summer Tech Sandbox session. Canva is a free, web-based design tool that features an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. It has a bunch of great layouts to get you started. What I love the most is the vast array of graphic elements that can be customized and mixed together – like the little yellow guys and the button. I didn’t do too much to the little guys other than adding a book and adjusting sizes. I’ve been sharing this tool with some of my colleagues here who have an obvious need, but I’m really excited to bring it to a wider audience tomorrow to see how it can help others. Also, I have to mention that the Canva tutorials that are made in the program itself are totally brilliant. Basically they are slides in Canva that are editable, so they have directions and examples, then they give you a chance to make changes right in the program.

Templates for Research Source Analysis

posted in: Instruction | 0
Photo of a pencil on top of papers
Photo by Philip Taylor: PT Money CC BY 2.0 flickr

I created some documents for my newest version of Western Libraries’s Introduction to Research Strategies class and I have shared them as Google Doc Templates. These templates are designed to help students analyze sources used for research projects.

They include fields for source details, evaluation, and notes. Although they were created for a college-level research course, but they could easily be adapted for other audiences. This Doc can help create annotated bibliographies too. There may be a little too much on the source details for some uses, but you can easily delete sections that aren’t relevant for you.

There are two versions – Doc version and Form version.The Form version is better for adding analysis details all at once and creating a database from the data in associated Spreadsheet.The Doc version is better for adding analysis details incrementally.

At Western Libraries we have been using a template for annotated bibliographies that has done a decent job, but I wanted to improve it so that students could have more guidance through the evaluation and note taking process. With the old template students were typically not really doing much in-depth analysis. Hopefully this will improve their source analysis. I’ll see how it goes with my group this summer and make adjustments when I learn more about how they are using it.

Hope these templates help you and your students analyze sources. What can I do to make them better? How are you using source analysis templates?

Menu Concept

Today I had some good meetings about my online information literacy lessons project. Someday I will have to write a longer reflection piece on where the project has come thus far, but until then I will offer views into where the development process is currently.

Working from some drawings on paper and whiteboard, I put together this poster to communicate this menu concept. This is mainly sketching out the functional side.

Chart of lesson organization and design concept


I am imagining this working as a top level navigation that will take the learner into a lesson. Currently I would like to first present the learner with just three options from the top level (numbered 1). These three lessons correspond to the Learning Commons workshop series Integrating Academic Literacies: Research and Writing that we have launched this past year at Western Washington University. If the user selects Finding and Using Sources the second level of lessons will expand below, and same goes for the third level that expands when Finding Sources is selected.


The workshop that correspond to the top level are the product of collaborative efforts of partners within our learning commons, particularly the Writing Center, Writing Instruction Support and Western Libraries. Instructors can sign up to bring their class to these workshops, but each workshop is only offered during certain times of the quarter to make sure that students are being reached at appropriate times. This model has been working really well and we have seen growing demand, frequently for the whole sequence. As this workshop model emerged and has developed I have tried to incorporate the sequence and the language into my design so that this tutorial can best compliment and extend the what students are learning in the workshops.


Lessons will have their own lesson-level navigation. Here is a design for that. Note that I don’t actually want to have two vertical menus next to each other. I mocked this up this way to partially to point out an issue that we will have if we mix a lesson-level navigation with presentations that have their own menus. This also has helped us identify that the chapters that make up a lesson should be grouped to clean up the menu, although we had a tough time thinking of concise titles for possible groupings.

Lesson-level menu design


OneTab for Research Consultation

posted in: Tech Tip | 0

Do you open lots of tabs when helping patrons at your reference desk or in your office? Ever wished you could easily send all of the great stuff you found to the person you are helping? OneTab is a free Chrome extension that allows you to do just that. Basically it condenses all of your tabs into one list. You can then restore the tabs on your list as you need them, or restore them all at once. This list can also be titled and shared with others. Here is a short list of LIS Open Access Journals I quickly created as an example.

Picture of research desk at WWU

At The Desk


I have found OneTab to be really helpful in my reference work because I can quickly condense all of the resources the patron and I found into one convenient link. It is most useful for research that involves a lot of weblinks, less useful for articles behind paywalls (see downsides section below). Another nice thing about this is that if the patron is willing to let me email them the link, then we both have each other’s contact info. I don’t know about you, but with more in-depth research help, I frequently think of a few other sources or techniques after the patron leaves. Typically I would have no way to provide any follow up, but now that I am using OneTab with certain kinds of questions, I do have a way to follow up. From my experience, students really like this and I have yet to have anyone turn down getting emailed the links from our consultation session. It saves both of us the trouble of writing things down and it can be a nice reminder for the patron.


Other Uses


OneTab is also nice for personal use. It saves computing power to use OneTab, they claim it can save up to 95% of your memory. I also use it at the end of the day so that I can pick up from the same spot again tomorrow. For personal use, OneTab can keep multiple lists from your previous sessions.  I have also begun to play with using it as a tidy way to make bibliographies of web resources. You can also do nice value added things like providing a link to class LibGuide, the library homepage or a page with your contact information. When you share a list of tabs it generates a QR code, which is cool, or at least not a bad thing, but I think the QR moment has passed and I don’t know if its coming back.



The only downside I have found with this tool is that some of our library resources, like subscription databases, are not able to link and restore the way other web pages do. Unless I am missing something, I have yet to find a way to edit a URL in OneTab and make a workaround for this issue. I tried using permalinks, but unfortunately, you can’t save a page until you load it, and once you paste a permalink and hit enter to load the page, the url no longer holds that permalink. I wish there was a way to manually edit a URL in OneTab for these kind of cases. Until a permalink solution in OneTab, you could create a web document with a list of permalinks and add that document to the OneTab set you are sharing. Even with this limitation, I have found OneTab to be very useful and I highly recommend giving it a try and seeing how it could fit into your workflows.



Reboot: Getting (re)started is hard to do

posted in: Misc | 0

Okay, so I began this blog with the best of intentions, but I have neglected it. Sorry about that. Turns out that finishing grad school, getting married, having a child and beginning my first position in a new career, oh and moving too, all in the same year was kind of crazy. I think I am still recovering and trying to catch up. I recently transitioned to getting my very own domain name and hosting this site myself, so now I feel well positioned to reboot this blog.

Even so, I have been a bit hesitant to get started because it feels like a giant blank slate, even though I have copied over old posts, and I am having conflicting thoughts about which of my interests and activities I wish to focus on. Primarily I want to talk about my work as a librarian, but I would like to carve out some relevant space to talk about books, music, comics, films, art, design and whatever else inspires me, but I don’t want it to act as a review site. In the first instance of this blog I began writing about art that excites me because at that time I wasn’t yet a practicing librarian. Now, I want to talk about what I am doing and thinking about in my professional practice, but I also want to draw in the range of influences that shape my practice.

Writing this out like this is actually helping the idea take shape in my mind. Plus, chances are that it will work itself out as I get into the habit of working on this and sharing what I am up to. It also seems like I just need to get started and make a first post already so I can move on and get to the good stuff.

Why Blog?

Lots of you in Library Land are doing wonderful jobs blogging and sharing your working methods with the rest of us, so does the world really need another librarian blog? Probably not, but I believe that I need this blog. If this thing eventually attracts readers, that’s great and I genuinely hope to share useful info with potential readers, but currently I am equally interested in exploring how the process of reflecting and writing about my work will, hopefully, improve my work in turn. I believe that sharing the process can be as important as sharing the finished product, for both reader and writer. When I began my Instructional Design Librarian position at Western I took to keeping weekly logs of activities, but I fell out of practice when I started teaching a class and helping out with our migration to a new ILS. I really liked the reflective practice of the logs, but in that form, I found myself more occupied with the tasks and less with the bigger picture ideas and implications. Hopefully writing in this blog will help me to find a better balance that focuses on the big picture, while being informed by daily practice.

Most of my colleagues in Western Libraries do not have their own work-related blogs at the moment, so I feel extra motivated to do this so that I can share the exciting things that we are working on with a broader audience and maybe even show that there can be great benefits to putting yourself and your work out there like this.

I am also really excited to have my very own server space so I can play and experiment with tools that require some server-side scripting. I will periodically share these experiments and projects when those wheels really start turning.


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