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Month: July 2010

Evernote, Cloud Computing, and Reality

I’ve been an Evernote user for four and a half years (which, incidentally, is pretty much the longest I’ve used any single program other than MS Office and Quicken) and recommended it to several of my colleagues. That’s where I keep notes from every meeting and conference I’ve been to since becoming a librarian, all my class outlines, all my notes in preparation for difficult research consultations, many to do lists, my email archive from our old email system, everything. And it’s great.

And I now need to figure out how best to maintain a local backup.

The Cloud: It's great until it isn't

The back story. Early this month I took extensive notes, almost a transcription, of an intense two-day meeting. My department was going to use these notes as the basis of several important projects (a strategic plan for Information Literacy on campus, just for one). I carefully synced with the servers even more often than the automated sync happens along the way, added and edited the note over the course of the next two weeks (on several computers, always carefully syncing with the servers), and then opened the note at the beginning of the first follow-up meeting at which we were going to actually start mining it and using it. But between the time when I opened the note and when I came back to my computer after talking about a minor scheduling thing with a co-worker, the note had gone completely blank.

Totally blank. Nothing there.

So I freaked out (very quietly and over the course of several hours) while we tried to see if we could recover it and opened up a co-worker’s notes to see if we could work from them in the mean time. After searching user forums and even buying a premium account so that I could see note histories (still to no avail), I emailed Evernote in desperation.

Their reply? Don’t worry, there never was a note.

Now, it was good of them to have a technician go back into the server logs for me, for sure. The fact that the server logs showed that the note had never been edited after I created it, though, was much less heartening. Combine this with an email my mom received earlier this month saying that they may have accidentally lost some of her notes off of their servers, and I’m much more motivated to create local back-ups.

So, if you use Evernote, here’s what I recommend (and I’m open to better recommendations if you’ve got them):

  1. Select all your notes
  2. Go to File > Export
  3. Save all your notes someplace easy to remember
  4. Repeat often, particularly after taking transcription-like notes during department-shaping 2-day meetings.

It’s kind of a clunky back-up mechanism, but for now it’s the best I can come up with. Too bad there isn’t a 4-step mechanism to reset my feelings toward the far too happy elephant in their logo.


Search Empathy

I was just talking with an English professor about his upcoming Argument & Inquiry seminar on the Gothic story. I’ve really be so heartened by these early-stages planning meetings we’ve had so far. The combination of having really engaged faculty, really new syllabi, and a requirement that the courses should “clarify how scholars ask questions, and teach students how to find and evaluate information in reading and research and to use it effectively and ethically in constructing arguments” means that we’re getting the chance to do some really creative thinking about how to foster intellectual independence in first year students.

Anyway, my Ah Hah moment of the day was when this professor said that searching is a fundamentally empathetic tasks. That crystallized for me a lot of my thinking about searching — how you have to not ask a search interface a question (usually) but instead think of terms that your ideal article would have in it or associated with it. So, not my terms for a concept, but my ideal article’s terms for the concept. When I can get my students to make that leap, their results usually get much better.

I don’t know how useful it will be to use “empathetic” as a term when I teach (it’ll depend on the class), but it sure does help me think about the process.

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Teaching Print Journals

Taking down shelving

I’m pretty excited that our current periodicals are moving to join their bound brethren.  The current print periodicals (which no longer actually reflect our current periodical holdings, now that by far the majority of our current issues are online) were housed in a huge, beautiful room on long white shelves, and they were shelved alphabetically by title (which I always hated because it assumed that you knew what you were looking for before you got there).

Now they’re shelved with their LC-classified backfiles! (And now we have a huge, beautiful room for studying in!)

This will make my life easier when I teach because when I teach using print journals (which isn’t always), it’s usually for one of four reasons:

New furniture being unpacked and arranged
  1. I’m teaching stack browsing, and point out that a call number means a topic, and that this means that if you find a great subject encyclopedia in the reference collection and note its general call number, you’ll find lots of books on related topics in the book collection, and you’ll find journals on related topics in the periodicals collection. Before I always used to hedge saying that they should go over to the bound periodical collection, write down names of journals, and then check the current periodicals to see current issues. Now I can skip that last bit.
  2. I’m teaching topic-selection. Most early-career students tend to think in book-sized topics, and we browse periodicals in their fields to get a sense of what a paper-sized topic looks like. That will be no harder to do now, and might be easier since all the discipline’s journals will be classified together.
  3. What we're up to
  4. When I’m teaching online browsing. It’s easier to see that scholarly journal issues usually have a stated or implied theme for every issue when you’re looking at the print version. Then I can stress the importance of browsing the online version to see if the great article they just found is part of a themed issue. Again, this won’t change.
  5. When students will need to use some type of periodical. It’s easier to see the difference between a magazine and a disciplinary journal in print. This won’t change.

So for me, this is all gain and no loss. I hope it’s that way for the rest of the campus, too.

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I Totally Don’t Care That This is a Marketing Campaign

Because it’s just so brilliant.

The Old Spice Guy made custom videos, by request via social media.

Andy did his awesome Andy thing and took that as a challenge, and so we ended up with this library-related video:

And then came the news that 8 out of 5 dentists say that studying in the library is six bajillion times more effective than studying in your shower!

If all advertising were this fun I’d turn off my spam filters.