I have recently swapped some of my responsibilities with a colleague at my library. I am no longer e-resources librarian, rather, I am now head of circulation. I am excited about this. At our library, many librarians wear multiple hats, so despite these changes, I nonetheless remain the web librarian.

There are things about circulation that I am looking forward to. Specifically, it will be nice to spend more time working with people. There are 6 college assistants, 3 student workers and one full-time staff member in the circulation department. They are all lovely and I am happy to be working with them. It will be different from e-resources. E-resources is a bit lonely sometimes; you spend a lot of time by yourself, working with spreadsheets and Alma.

The circulation staff are all very competent and self-sufficient, and the previous head of circulation managed the function well, so circulation is humming along nicely, and as long as I don’t mess it up, my interventions in the near term might be minimal. If that happens, it will free me up to work more on coding projects for my department and for the central Office of Library Services. We will see how this plays out; I am currently optimistic and excited about circulation!

Posted in circulation, eresources | Leave a comment


An important part of keeping this blog sustainable has been keeping the comments only open to signed-in Commons members. I undoubtedly make some dumb posts, but I don’t need strangers telling me that. Reading the comments — especially critical comments — requires labor that I don’t have the bandwidth for, so I keep the comments mostly closed.

But this also points to a bigger issue: this blog is often (from a technical perspective) not very sophisticated. While it is largely about technology, I concede that I’m not a very accomplished technologist. What I’ve learned is that there is nonetheless an audience: I stand proudly on the side of the beginner and the non-expert who is working with technology. While I wonder what my friends who are good programmers think about my posts, I will also happily ignore the uncharitable randos who no doubt have a lot to tell me.

Posted in meta, workload | Leave a comment


Since 2016, I’ve hosted many of my Python projects on PythonAnywhere. It has been a reliable and easy platform to use, but recently I’ve been worrying about its future. While I don’t have any particular insights into the health of the PythonAnywhere organization, the technology seems to have mostly stagnated. It makes me wonder how long it will continue to exist.

Maybe I’m being too pessimistic about it, but I am being prudent and looking for alternatives. I was referred to Replit, which I have been poking at. It is a different world in terms of functionality: it’s more of an IDE than a shell (although of course you can use the shell too). It’s more expensive and more modern. Mostly I just want git and vim, so the modern accoutrements are not big selling points for me; but maybe it will be around longer than PythonAnywhere, and maybe I would eventually warm to some of the fancy features. It’s worth considering.

Posted in python, pythonanywhere, replit | Leave a comment

Moving on from ubuntu

There are a lot of reasons that I really like Ubuntu. Foremost among them is the availability of help: there are a wealth of posts on Ask Ubuntu and elsewhere that are often super useful when trying to solve almost any Ubuntu problem. It’s great. It’s especially good for someone new to Linux.

But I am not on board with Ubuntu’s new plan to have everyone sign up to Ubuntu Pro in order to receive updates. This rankles me for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Ubuntu Pro is free for personal use (under 5 machines), and then there is an enterprise tier above that. I assume that the reason for insisting that everyone register is so that they can monetize all those organizations with more than five installs.

But to me this goes against the spirit of free software. Refusing to update non-registered users is just licensing by other means. So I’m probably going to move on to another distro. I’ve posted before about how I have been enjoying running Debian on my Chromebook. I like it for different reasons than Ubuntu. My (possibly incorrect) initial impressions are that Debian is more stable and more command line-focused than Ubuntu. Which is fine; perhaps even preferable.

I have some new (to me) hardware that I’m going to install Debian on this weekend. We’ll see how it goes.

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Replacing libguides’ annoying “email me” buttons

I did some JavaScripting yesterday that I thought might be of interest to librarians who use LibGuides and LibAnswers. The impetus for this was that some of the librarians at my college were dissatisfied with the “Email Me” buttons that are on LibGuides’ profile pages and profile boxes.

I have to agree, the Email Me buttons are not great. They’re old-timey “mailto” links, which are notorious for often attempting to open an email client that is not actually set up. Besides wanting to avoid that obvious annoyance, we also wanted something that would add a patron’s question to a LibAnswers queue, instead of sending an email. A queue is preferable to an email because it will help prevent a question from getting lost somewhere in a librarian’s inbox, and also any librarian can claim it, hopefully improving response times.

Anyhow, it only took a little bit of JS, CSS and a widget from LibAnswers. The code is in our kingsborough-libguide repository on GitHub. I’d like to remove the jQuery from this snippet, but that may have to wait a day or two.

Posted in javascript, libguides | Leave a comment

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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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.

Posted in bots, literacy | Leave a comment

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 :)

Posted in eresources, http status, python | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in alma | Leave a comment
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