All posts by Meg Simon

NextGen to Middle Manager

There’s been a collection management changing of the guard and I’m back at the Weirdo Zeros, as I like to call them: UFOs, conspiracy theory, “hidden knowledge,” THE BOOK.

It’s also the Dewey home for Library and Information Sciences, where I ran across these gems while weeding:

Look at them baby librarians! So scrubbed yet so alternative, so edgy and keen, so very someone’s idea of the aughts that look more like the nineties, mall goths and awkward lady neckties. These titles bookend my time in library school: The NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide was published in 2006 and You Don’t Look Like a Librarian was released in 2009.

The internet kept happening to the profession, and those of us who more or less grew up with it were learning what it means to be a librarian while simultaneously being forewarned and dazzled by something called Library 2.0—as if it were something separate, or new. We didn’t need a Second Life, it was all one thing. Why were we being sold something we already owned?

I remember class conversations encouraging navel-gazing, to challenge and embody stereotypes because raise your hand if you have a tattoo. What?! It was so weird, at the time and looking back now. I can hypothesize that I and others in our twenties weren’t actually the audience for those conversations or the above two books. But I think that we were. It’s confounding and delightful all at once.

Especially considering that now I am this:

Toward the end of 2017 I competed for and was hired as a Librarian III at Austin Public Library. Yes, this announcement is way late in coming. It’s also rather odd I haven’t said peep about our award-winning gonzo-bananas new Central Library yet. Honestly, I am still processing—what happened and what is still happening. It’s breakneck, burnout busy. It’s an amazing facility but it’s been a rough transition, even now, 18 months on, still doing triage and scrambling for our sea legs.

As Librarian III, I stayed with the same team of 18, and in many ways continue to do my previous job: all of the same reference activities and serving as the now official instead of de facto Technology Liaison with our IT group. I am the lead trainer and Troubleshooter in Chief for my team, stress-testing all the tech bits and wrangling documentation so everyone stays up to speed.

I have three direct reports, two of whom I hired and trained. With the sprawling tasks of supervision plus filling in at public service points after losing several positions, I had to give up most outreach and a few projects, plus get better at saying No—less the relaying it than feeling bad I can’t take on more.

In fact, one my largest challenges opportunities has been learning to delegate, despite having an interview prep card all about it:

While delegation remains a bugbear, I am getting better. It’s rewarding to watch my team grow and thrive, to serve as a sounding board and mentor, to celebrate success and practice diplomacy when engineering better outcomes or delivering bad news. I feel a genuine commitment to support them as professionals, wherever their careers may lead them.

That authentic deep caring, that empathy and trust makes it hard to serve up the occasional crap sandwich. In the end, I might make a better leader than a manager. My main goal is to hang onto being a librarian, to stay close to the work that still challenges and inspires me and (shucks, I’ll say it) changes people’s lives.

All three books are on display in my cube. They are certainly no longer shelf worthy, but I can’t bear to box them up to send to the pulper. “A library is not an archive,” or so goes the weeder’s mantra, and I fully agree. But this trio feels akin to personal history, a mushy warm spot square in my saccharine heart.

Adventures in APLTV

One of my favorite responsibilities at Austin Public Library is creating and managing APLTV. The Central Library has several LCD screens around the building and in the bookable meeting rooms. A subgroup of librarians on the reference team develops content for eight of these TVs, known as APLTV.

Here’s one of the screens on Floor 6.
This slide was in a sequence of several books about writing for November’s NaNoWriMo. When “live,” the video on the right plays continuously while the books show in a slideshow on the left.

I worked with an in-house programmer to create slide templates, which include a mix of text and slots for item covers and related videos. The backend is managed through Drupal. We plug in catalog records which pulls in the item images and metadata. A few description tweaks later, and we’re in business—curated slides of content display on the screens for the enjoyment and intrigue of our customers.

I coordinate the content themes with our APLTV Team of eight using a sprawling production schedule in a shared spreadsheet. My co-manager and I trade off months loading the team’s new content, which loops every 20 minutes or so, into two channels (we need not have unique content for all 8 TVs, oof!). We also select timely slides for What’s Hot, which repurposes the content for consumption through our website.

We highlight the official themes chosen by our marketing team—things like Banned Books Week and National Hispanic Heritage Month—along with the library’s strategic priorities, like STEM, Workforce and Economic Development and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Then we go to Weirdsville and let our imaginations run wild, weaving pop culture references with personal interests, promoting specific materials and broader resources, sometimes both at the time, like with my Bird Box slide:

Bird Box without the Wait slide

I even pulled this off with Clean Off Your Desk Day, directing visitors to check out our temporary paperweight display:

Clean Off Your Desk Day slide

We have some standard content that we refresh monthly, like our What We’re Borrowing series:

What Meg is Borrowing slide

Most content, though, is original each month, tied to our seasonal themes with creative hooks. I am particularly proud of this slide, which helped me win our traveling Triumphant Beast trophy in January, as voted on by the contributors of APLTV:

Vampire Movies That Don't Suck slide
This is the Triumphant Beast award, initiated by my co-manager Betsey and I to motivate our team and celebrate creativity. Only now do I realize it looks like it says Content of the Mouth. 😛

Here are a few more favorites. All examples in this post are my own:

This was in a sequence of four books about sharks, each with its own short shark video uploaded from YouTube.
National Bookmobile slide
This was in a set of four slides, showing off archival photos of APL bookmobiles interspersed with shots of our current vehicle.
Put a Bird On It slide
National Donut Day slide
Grisly Texas: Movies filmed in the gory heart of Texas slide
Jesus Christ Superstar slide
We Need Math, STAT! slide

It’s so much fun, and there’s so much to love—the piles of dumb puns and irrepressible passion for books, films, music, information and community.

Q&APL: Facebook Live at Austin Public Library

For the past several months my colleagues Cesar Garza and Amy Mullin and I have been producing Facebook Live episodes in series called Q&APL Live. These 20-30 minute broadcasts focus on a theme like New Year’s Resolutions or cooking. We show off the collections—in print and online—related to that topic while taking live questions. We’ve also done program teasers for crafting and music events.

Check out the the archived videos here and the upcoming schedule here.

Meg and Cesar doing Q&APL Live with Facebook Live.

In December 2016 we had a brief shoutout in the Texas State Library Library Developments blog:

Tech Success Story: Austin Public Library & Facebook Live

This led to a web article in Library Journal

Live from the Library

…which in turn has led to a webinar speaking gig with Library Journal later this month!

Social Media Made Easy

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a webinar, standard fare in my previous librarian life at Walden University. I’m obviously still not camera shy, at least not enough where it gets in the way. 😉 It will be fun.

Did I mention I’m in parades?

I’m a proud member of the Austin Public Library Bibliofiles Book Cart Drill Team. Wait, that’s a thing? Oh yeah it is. Award-winning, even! My first performance was at the 2015 Texas Library Association… and that time we placed rather poorly, but that’s because they didn’t understand our art:

(I was part of the river.)

While performing was giggly nerve-wracking good fun, what I really enjoy is marching in parades. Our krewe dresses up, sometimes elaborately, and pushes book carts in choreographed patterns, waving to kids and dancing, either to our own music from an APL truck driving in front of us or to whatever music’s coming from nearby marching bands or floats.

Before I was an official member, I joined the Pride Parade as add-on staff to essentially be an extra. The theme was The Wonderful Land of Oz-tin for the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz. All of the major characters were claimed so I went as the horse of a different color, cementing my reputation as a ridiculous force to be reckoned with.

Horse of a Different Color
 
I’ve since joined the Juneteenth Parade, Chuy’s Children’s Parade and the Honk!TX parade.

Juneteenth Parade 2015

Honk!TX Parade 2016

This shot is from a GoPro on our library bike during Honk!TX, the annual community street band festival in Austin. After the parade we did a pop-up library with the bike next to the band revue in Pan-Am Park.

It’s good fun and awesome community relations, particularly for the parades crammed with corporations. They’re part of our community too (along with the small businesses, churches and clubs) but our presence feels especially important as a neutral civic institution, where everyone is welcome and you don’t have to buy, believe or belong to anything to show up and engage, or show up and just be.

The Library Bike is Here!

After over a year of planning and unexpected setbacks, a few months ago we finally got our book bike, Unbound: sin fronteras! It turned into two builds, actually:
 

Zane, Conor, Andrew and Sarah on our rainy inaugural ride.
Zane, Conor, Andrew and Sarah on our rainy inaugural ride.

No. 1 is a front-end unit on an attached bike created by Haley Trikes in Philadelphia. They’ve done a handful of library bikes now and got it down to a (library) science. No. 2 is a custom trailer to attach to a personal bike made by Austin builder Saila Bicycles. Both have ample room to hold books and materials, plus a laptop, wifi puck and all the swag you can stand.

Each has its idiosyncrasies but nothing unmanageable. The trike is slow going but steady (winning ALL the races!) and the trailer is so smooth you almost forget it’s there… until you turn too tightly into a parked car. I haven’t crashed either yet. After making it down the hill of Guadalupe on the trike during rush hour without dying, I’m confident I can handle anything.

Administratively we’re still figuring things out—where to store it, how to streamline all the bits and most importantly, how to staff it. We have willing riders but staff shortages at the branches keep people on the desk instead of in the Austin wilds. This is understandable but still. Sad face. I’m fortunate to have more flexibility with my schedule.

So what do we do with it? Community outreach, of course! We’ve shown up at Movies in the Park, Books and Beer and random farmers markets. We tailor a mini-collection to the theme and vibe of the event and check out books and DVDs, sign up new members and demo the Virtual Library. Many who get their library cards from the bike are newcomers to the city. What an awesome introduction to the Austin Public Library.
 

Unbound:si fronteras is hanging out at Palm Park for Movies in the Park #aplunbound #aploutreach #austinparks #moviesinthepark

A photo posted by Austin Public Library (@austinpubliclibrary) on


 
I led the proposal team to get the project greenlighted then took a more passive role on the task force. I’m super impressed with and proud of the research and tireless diligence done by Conor Walker, Betsy Evans and Andrew Murphy, the chair and deputy co-chairs of the team, to make both builds happen.

Unbound: sin fronteras
is a fun, fresh take on community engagement that will be enjoyed by Austinites—and us!—for years to come.

Tech Time: Project of the Year!

Tech Toy Time continues its supremacy. This is the program I created in January 2014 for technology novices to bring in their tablets and phones to learn how to download library eBooks to them. With the help of a train-the-trainer session I provided and a mondo OverDrive LibGuide, the program has rolled out to our neighborhood locations where it is run by branch staff.

I also got another KXAN gig last August where I talksupermegafast about Tech Toy Time and how awesome the Virtual Library is:

 

Rebranded as Tech Time to avoid confusion (where toy = kids = disappointment we aren’t breaking out the Makey Makeys), the program was nominated for the Employee Awards 2016 Project of the Year, and we won!

Employee Awards 2016 Project of the Year
 

The competition was stiff and I didn’t expect to win. I also didn’t expect to be half as giddy as I was when we were announced. All staff who participate in the program got not only the token Shining Star paperweight, but a full day of free vacation. Woo hoo!

new design!

About a year ago I embarked on a mission to update every website I own. This wasn’t exactly intentional, but once I started, every old theme became a prickly thorn begging for attention, extraction, re-imagination, a fresh set of clothes and shiny new tools.

My weekends over the months became swallowed up, taking Death Ref and Deepsicks to the mat. Even the cheeky The Author is Dead got a new headstone.

Today I am pleased to reveal the re-vamped Meg Holle, Librarian site. Responsive and not so darned 2009, the design is a more apt reflection of my identity as a librarian.

^ That sounds overblown, but I’m going with it, folks. Have a look around! I’m hopping in the tub with special tub salts where I will try for the next forty minutes to not dream up any more projects.

 

bound by obsolescence

I shepherd the library’s zine collection, buying zines and processing donations. This includes adding a courtesy staple in loose-sheaved zines that fancy themselves lovingly handled with white-gloved nimble fingers and never once crammed in a magazine file or scattered across the room.

I was jazzed to discover a gorgeous saddle-stitch stapler hidden in a cupboard, collecting dust. But despite being built to withstand nuclear holocaust, this behemoth is mere brick paperweight in the face of the discontinuation of its Swingline SF 15 staple.

The zines arrayed behind are in mourning, badly in need of repair without destruction—that is, jamming the pages in the vise of a regular stapler. “Do no harm,” isn’t that the librarian motto?

I did find a long-armed stapler in the newspaper processing area, but I’m still saddened by the forced obsolescence of this amazing beast.

I’m going to keep it in remembrance. And as a weapon. It can’t staple zines, but it can clean clocks.

New portal!

For a while I’ve been hankering for a personal and social media website portal of sorts—something simple, elegant, and responsive on various device sizes. With a little work and WordPress magic, I’ve turned megholle.com into just that, and have shifted my résumé/portfolio site to the subdomain librarian.megholle.com. I think it turned out pretty swell.

For you champs who rock it old school, I uhhh think I updated the RSS feed to properly port the content from the new subdomain into the existing/old RSS link at Subscribe in the upper right. I guess I’ll find out as soon as I publish this post….

After oh my… fifteen years? I still find thrashing around in web code stimulating and satisfying. Next on the hacking block is the Death Reference Desk, which after 5 years badly needs an overhaul. As I type this I realize that this website is also 5 years old. This was the spring/summer of graduating from library school, so I had some time on my hands. I think the design here has held up slightly better, though it still looks dated and could a new theme. Hrm… no promises on that just yet. 😉

sxsw2014

6I kicked off my first South by Southwest Interactive with a live-streamed discussion about library innovations at the #Ideadrop House. A colleague and I shared goings-on and comings-up at the Austin Public Library, including our new Central location and Google Fiber. Not bad!

Video streaming by Ustream

SXSW also gave us a chance to soft launch our Geek the Library campaign alongside Harvard’s pop-up LABRARY on the lawn of the O. Henry House. Luring passersby with shiny stickers, we asked them what they “geek”—what are they interested in and curious about, what inspires passion and awe? Film? Technology? Makery? Cupcakes? We’d then remind / assure / astound with all the ways the library has got their backs then snap a shot of them proclaiming their zeal.

For me, it was tempting to geek biting the heads off of chickens, but I kept it tame.

Being badgeless, I was surprised by how many events and conversations I could elbow my way into, but I was also wistful and envious and mostly on the reference desk at my regular, you know, job. Yet I met so many awesome librarians from all over the country (world!) who do awesome things. What little I experienced was exciting and tremendously energizing, and I want in, all the way.

Perhaps next year…

Tech Toy Time

Anticipating the post-holiday crush of customers with new devices they don’t know what to do with, I proposed a designated drop-in time for hands-on help downloading ebooks from the library. Tech Toy Time was born! Throughout Sundays in January at the Austin Public Library, dozens of people brought in their iPads, tablets, phones, Kindles and Nooks to get set up with OverDrive. They even put me on the teevee! The initial program was a great success, and we’ve rolled it into our regular repertoire of computer/tech offerings.

However ubiquitous such devices are becoming, digital literacy is still at a premium. If you don’t have a grandkid or a niece to walk you through it—or if the genius bar cats terrify you, or Amazon phone support gives you the vapors—what do you do? You never turn on your $200 paperweight. It’s a huge gap the library can fill, at least when it involves accessing our materials (ebooks, e-audiobooks, digital magazines and more). If only there were time and staff to push it to the branches….

public librarianship is go

Believe it or not, I’ve been working at Austin Public Library for nearly four months. For all our epic plans, day-to-day it’s a position of minutia, unraveling policy, battling torpid interfaces and remembering a million acronyms, passcodes and who’s who.

But it’s also a delightful realm of Real Live Collection Development, spending real money making a real difference updating my areas (Computers and Religion) to reflect community needs and cultivate curiosity. On top of that, weeding is a joy. Too long my preconceptions have been clouded by milquetoast librarians for whom deselection gives the vapors.

I could weed all day, especially when such treasures await:

 

Who knows how many times the collection had been shifted till at last stars aligned and mind and no mind met Arizona highways?

It seems crazy to say I’m still discovering what my job is. I have things I do—always! ever!—but figuring out where I fit has taken more finesse. I’m thankful to have the freedom to self-direct and -select the projects and priorities of interest to me.

I am on the Databases Team and the Internet Advisory Committee in tireless pursuit of intuitive user experience. I also developed a library class syllabus and am helping strong-arm our information guides. But the wheels of assimilation turn slowly, and weirdly. I’ve taken training for cybersecurity, active shooters and blood-borne pathogens but not the official module for how to use our catalog. I just hope I can take the class before I teach it, which I know I’ll be doing eventually.

Reference has become a completely different animal. Unlike the online, for-profit education world with 30 minute phone calls of intensive remedial information literacy, tech support, assignment interpretation and life coach cheerleadering, the public library phone call averages 30 seconds. And yet so many wonderful, off-the-wall questions, requests and misinformation about how things work.

I still encounter a handful of rude, frantic, mentally ill patrons, with the added tension of much of it in person, but it’s still leaps and bounds less nerve-wracking, and that goes for the rest of the job, too. I haven’t torn the velcroed head off Stress Kitty once.

 

And it’s fun. In June I volunteered at Yomicon (“reading con”), the annual manga cosplay event for teens. There were costume and art contests, geeky crafts, games, drawing workshops and more. I staffed the photo print station, arranging shots into fake photobooth strips, like so:

Horsehead was a hit and my efforts were well appreciated. In fact, I won an award:

 

Here’s what my nominator had to say:

Not even out of probation yet, and accolades already! Not bad. 😀

Farewell, Walden University… Hello, Austin Public!

I have a new job! Next month I extend my career as a Librarian II at Austin Public Library—yes, that Austin, the People’s Republic Of. Stationed at Faulk Central, the main library building downtown, I will do reference, instruction, collection development, adult programming, web- and word-wrangling and more.

While much of my experience overlaps or translates, I have not worked in public libraries before. I am ridiculously, ecstatically excited. For all I thrive online, the thought of wandering stacks and teaching face to face makes me downright giddy. I’m eager to engage with a different kind of patron, collection, mission, everything—all of this on top of the adventure of moving, immersing myself in a fun, new city.

With this opportunity, I leave behind Walden University—but not without accolades. At the start of March I was awarded the Frondie, an employee of the month recognition in the library.

What the heck is a Frondie? Why, it’s a creepy Green Man statue/plaque/thingy:

My nominator colleagues said about me:

“I would like to nominate Meg for all the work she does and has done to make the website and guides be fantastic and seamless. Yes, there are working groups for these things but it seems that Meg has often done beyond what is expected.”

“Our successful, on-time launch of the library website re-design may have been neither without Meg’s involvement. She asked insightful, hard questions about the project, but also dedicated extra time to researching and drafting possible solutions to any issue she raised. Meg communicated with her colleagues throughout the project, both sharing progress from the team and collecting feedback from others. She has also stepped up to create resources and support for her colleagues, such as workshops on SnagIt image editing and the content and style guide.”

“Meg has a history of supporting her colleagues and helping us all do quality work (offering SnagIt image workshops, all the crazy work on the content and style guide, etc.) She has also had openness to being flexible to bring success to the library (think all the twists and turns of the website redesign). Once again, we are grateful to Meg for her adaptability and strong support of the team: just recently she has agreed to let us all experiment with her role as a liaison. In order to help meet the ever changing workloads from College of Health Sciences and RWR College of Education and Leadership, Meg is now flexing back and forth between the two schools and collaborating to take care of business. This pilot project is very important to all of us as we explore more ways to keep up with new programs and projects.”

“She doesn’t hesitate to call shenanigans and is great at providing detailed feedback with examples. She’s blazing a trail and taking us with her. Bravo, Meg!”

HOW MORTIFYING! I knew the Austin Public offer was coming—I was trapped in criminal background check limbo for nearly a month and half. Then I find out that people like me and think I do rad work! Can’t say I don’t feel a little guilty, but it’s equally awesome to be recognized and appreciated.

On my last day of work, my Walden colleagues presented me with this wondrous gift:

May my new colleagues in time understand me so well. 😀