November 476th, 2022

November came and went on Mastodon, without almost any mention in my timeline of the anniversary of the previous year’s Eternal September. It was such a non-event, I’m only getting around to posting about it now. I’m not sure why the anniversary was passed over in silence; it seems strange. Perhaps no one really wants to remember a trying time in the history of the network. I made some rather emotional posts in 2022, when stuff was hitting the fan, but like most everyone else, I’ve been silent about it since then.

Hopefully this lack of attention is because the fediverse has moved on. As best I can tell, there wasn’t a mass abandonment of the network. Most everyone that I paid attention to before is still there, but the conversation has changed a bit. We have some new problems now, and it remains to be seen how transitory they are.

Mercifully, the conversation about quote-toots has finally gone quiet again and we can now hopefully all go back to posting our usual nonsense.

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Following academic journals with rss

RSS is really the perfect way to follow an academic journal. Even better, it’s a really good way to follow lots of academic journals. This is particularly true because journals are generally low volume and sometimes irregularly published. They’re also something you only want to dip into when you have a free hour or two to devote to some articles.

Sure, some people claim RSS is a dead technology, but they can be ignored. Most journal sites still support RSS. I love that Taylor & Francis link their feeds directly from their journal homepages rather than hiding them; but even when feeds are hidden, a decent reader should be able to locate and follow them for you.

Keeping tabs on some feeds is a very efficient way to keep on top of the latest scholarship. If you need a reader, NewsBlur is one I’ve used for ages and which is very solid. Happy reading!

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Literacies

Librarians have long been known to focus on literacy skills in their communities. But literacy is of course not monolithic. Besides reading skills, there are plenty of other literacies, such as financial literacy, computer literacy, research skills, interpersonal skills, career literacy, and so on, that librarians have worked on for decades.

Robin Davis and I focused on this topic a few years ago. We were interested in exploring bot literacy, or the ability to understand how bots work. These efforts produced some technical workshops for librarians and an article. My conclusion from this work is that understanding how bots work is very much a “threshold concept” in the sense of the ACRL Framework.

While Robin and I mostly drew upon an existing, long-standing literature on code literacy (Papert, diSessa, Kafai and Burke, Vee, etc.), I’m realizing now that we neglected to tie this to the parallel literature on literacy that produced the Framework. Now I think that there is more work to be done to bring together these two different conversations on literacy.

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Return to python

After a lengthy absence, I am returning to Python. This is thanks to my new involvement with CUNY’s Alma Extensibility Task Force, which I mentioned in an earlier post. I am excited. My recent work in JavaScript has been fun and instructive, but I feel more of an affinity for the Python community, and I’m happy to be back.

For the Task Force, I’m going to start with two projects: (1) building some automated backups for Alma collections, and (2) a eresources list for the entire university. Hopefully the latter will include some of the previous incomplete work I did on an eresources status page.

Anyhow, to get started, I fired up a new venv, and quickly remembered that my Python setup on my work machine is borked. This is partly a Windows problem; if this happened on one of my Linux machines I would just wipe it and start again. But I messed something up working with pyenv and now I am a bit stuck. More debugging is in store for me in the next few days :)

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My apologies, alma

I think I started on Alma from the wrong end. My initial foray into the software was attempting to keep track of the e-resources budget through funds, ledgers, etc. I hated it. It seemed needlessly complicated and very unintuitive. I got very discouraged and doubted my own abilities as a librarian. I sulked about it a lot, and complained way too much to the librarian in the next office over. It was a big fail on my part.

But I may have just picked the wrong entry point. More recently, I activated a bunch of electronic collections, and that went fine. I set up SUSHI, and that also went well. Some small victories have really helped improve my attitude about the whole thing. I’m feeling less defeated, and I’m finding the software more approachable. As I went on about in a previous post, I’m very excited about the upcoming Alma Extensibility Task Force.

I remain very intimidated by budgets in Alma. But if I keep tackling small improvements in my Alma workflow, maybe I’ll get there eventually.

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Sushi in alma

A couple of years back, I posted about how I had been working on my own SUSHI client. It seemed like a sensible project at the time, but even back then I knew that getting SUSHI functionality set up in Alma would obviate the need for my own client. Now, a couple of years later, I’m finally setting it up in Alma, and I am much happier with the new workflow.

Perhaps the SUSHI ecosystem has gotten better in the past few years, with more vendors figuring out how to reliably offer SUSHI endpoints, but I suspect that most of the improvement in the workflow comes from not having to maintain my own client anymore. Alma’s SUSHI interface is passable, and really that’s all we need. If the data is in Alma, we can access it in Alma Analytics for ACRL/IPEDS, and the central Office of Library Services can access it for their purposes too. Win/win.

Right now, I’m in the process of getting all the endpoints wired up so that data can be gathered with a couple of clicks. While that’s time consuming for this year’s harvesting, I am optimistic that it will be much faster next year, once it’s almost entirely automated.

Posted in alma, sushi | 1 Response

Overwork

Sometimes it seems like there’s way too much work to do. I know this is a bit of a platitude, but it’s such a common experience in so many workplaces, it bears looking into. In my specific workplace, as a former colleague explained, the problem is that tasks are sticky. Once you do something once you will be stuck with it permanently.

It’s possible to lose track of the occasional joys of librarianship when your to-do list is too long and overbearing. You miss out on working on things you want to work on because there is too much other stuff weighing on you. This happened to me this week when I missed a conference proposal deadline because I simply did not have the spoons. I would have loved to go give a talk, but nope, it’s ACRL/IPEDS season, my friends.

I don’t have any solutions to these problems, but writing posts like this helps. It’s a small catharsis that briefly improves things in small ways.

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Could it run somewhere other than libguides?

As a thought experiment, I was wondering if we could easily get our library homepage up and running on a platform other than LibGuides. On the one hand, this seems like it should be pretty easy, as it’s all HTML/CSS/JS. But nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be some problems lurking in the corners.

Our page is a LibGuides group homepage that we totally emptied of content and rebuilt from the ground up. So there’s basically no boilerplate Springshare-written code in there; we wrote almost all of it all ourselves. In theory, this would make it more portable.

On the other hand, the carousel would break, as that is LibGuides-specific. But that’s really not critical to the site, and could be replaced with other content. Other bits could be adapted. For example, the script that fetches the library hours would need to be pulled out of the LibGuide where it lives now. It might throw an error if you tried to run it from a different domain. I’m not sure; I’d have to try to see.

It’s interesting to think about these things, which may someday be relevant. I’m not going to try migrating it now, as there is no pressing need, but I’ll definitely continue with the thought experiment.

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AR, future directions

For me, holidays are a time to do a bilan, to take stock and to think about what’s next. In that spirit, here are some augmented reality things I’d like to pursue in our library in the new year:

  • Use AR.js to render text in the virtual space, not just shapes.
  • Explore more of the possibilities offered by the A-Frame framework.
  • Build out our AR game’s UI to allow for dialog boxes, quiz questions, etc.
  • Look at alternatives to AR.js. Maybe now there are other, more robust options?
  • Try hosting the AR game somewhere other than on LibGuides. (Because having access to server-side scripting — which LibGuides does not offer — would allow us to capture more interesting analytics.)
  • Finish a paper that Prof. Carrie Jedlicka and I are writing on this.
  • Maybe try to get a poster accepted at a conference?
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Task force

It is probably very nerdy that I am as excited as I am to join something called the Alma Extensibility Task Force. It’s basically a committee to work with the Alma APIs, and I am totally here for it. There are a bunch of reasons for this:

  • It’s a chance to work with some stellar colleagues. Seriously, the people on this task force are top notch.
  • I’ll probably get to do some substantial Python programming. After some time spent wandering in the wilds of JavaScript, this sounds very appealing.
  • I might be able to finally contribute meaningfully to the Alma work on my campus. Up until now, I’ve been lingering in dissatisfied way on the edges of our library’s Alma work, not really wanting to become a power user of the Alma web UI, but still wanting to contribute more meaningfully. This task force may be my chance to do that.
  • I may actually have some knowledge to contribute here. I’ve done a lot of API-based projects over the years, and this (I think) is exactly the skill set they’re looking for.

So I will hum with excitement in advance of our first meeting in January. Until then, I hope everyone has a happy holiday!

Posted in alma, api, committees | Leave a comment
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