Things that changed my (Library) life in 2016…

Things alone do not make us happy, but the right tool at the right time can make all the difference in our sense of satisfaction! In our jobs as librarians we are asked to be organized, informed, energetic and agile. We are asked to make the library the best place it can be for our patrons, but I believe that in taking care of ourselves we do a better job taking care of others. I don’t often say that a “thing” changed my life, but these products and services changed the way I do “Library” in 2016. (And no, I am not being paid anything for promoting these products or services. I just hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me!

  1. My Fitbit. This was a Mother’s Day gift from my two boys. They bought it for me because it would buzz when they call me. Very cool. They got tired of me saying, “No, I did not get your call. I was working!” I never considered myself a fit person, but this made me want to change that. In the same way that Facebook is addicting because it constantly changes and has something new to see, your Fitbit keeps track of your steps. Having this, and seeing how much I was moving all day made me think of other ways to bring fitness into my routine. Walk during my lunch break. Walk to work. Meet with a friend and go running by working through a “Couch 2 5K program”. I began actively walking 10,000 steps every day, which is a little more than 4 miles for me just doing tasks around the library. I read people who walk/run 10,000 steps a day are more productive at work,  happier with their body image, and more positive in their mindset. I ran my first 5K this summer, and then again later in the year. I totally credit that to this device. And, the more I walked and ran, the better I felt. The better I felt, the happier I was at my job, at home, and with myself. Happiness changes everything.
  2. My slow cooker. I work full time, and I am also a full-time student. I also have a family. Becuase of our schedules, we often are not all at home together until 8:00 p.m. Once we are home, I want to eat dinner, not take another hour to prepare our meal before we can sit down together and talk about our day. Enter the slow cooker. It made being a full time in school and work possible. Every few weeks I take a Saturday afternoon and I make slow cooker freezer meals. My goal is to make enough freezer dinners so that I do not have to worry about cooking for several weeks. Almost any recipe can be converted into a freezer meal, although Pinterest has more than you could every try! 
  3. Feedly. Keeping track of the blogs of my colleagues would be a part time job if I had to check on them one at a time. By creating a free Feedly account, now all that is done for me. Feedly combines all the recent posts from the blogs and websites that I add, and once every other week when I have time I check my account. All the posts are there for me to go through and read when I am able. Slick.
  4. Evernote. I had a pile of papers on my desk. I have the belief that paper is evil. I tried continuously filing them, but the problem is that filing papers requires more time than I think it should,  and I can not seem to ever remember what files I have saved, so I end up looking the information up elsewhere anyway. Out of sight, out of mind.   (Am I alone in that?) Now, Evernote takes care of filing for me. A free account allows you to take pictures of any papers you have, upload them, and organize them into notebooks (folders). All posts (notes) are searchable! The pile of papers on my desk are now uploaded to Evernote, giving me a clean desk and access to my documents whenever I need them. Other cool features include how you can also clip and save parts of web sites into Evernote (saving them into a notebook so you can find them again).
  5. Yoga pants. When I first was hired as the Youth Services Librarian, I had a wardrobe of business clothes from a past job.  The problem is that business pants are not very comfortable to get down on the floor with when leading Storytime. I bought a pair of professional looking yoga pants, and everything changed. Now, I don’t think twice about sitting on the floor with my Storytime families. Game. Changer.  
  6. Tennis shoes. After a busy summer leading Storytime, playing Parachute Games, and running from one program to another it occurred to me, “Why don’t I wear shoes that actually feel comfortable?” If your feet are happy, then you will be happy.
  7. Adobe Spark. The website calls this tool, “A bit of art, a smidge of science.” I am in charge of creating all the social media, website, and print ads and posters for our Youth Services programs and services. For me, it was a tool that allowed me to create Facebook images and posts better than I ever had before. Adobe Spark allows you to add text to images. I use it every month when I create the new flyers for our programs. And, my posts started receiving more views once I made them into Sparks. 
  8. Chrome Extensions.  As part of a grant, our library was able to attend an educational workshop on Chrome apps and extensions.  “Ad Block Plus” made the biggest difference for me. If you have a Gmail account, use it to sign into Google Chrome. From there, go to the Chrome store. Seach for “Ad Block Plus” and install. This one extension removes ads from web pages, making your internet work faster for you. It also removes ads from websites like Pandora, allowing you to listen to your stations without ads, and without paying the fees to remove them. There is also an Adblock for Youtube extension that removes ads from Youtube videos. This is especially helpful when you want to show a clip of a youtube video in a program. No more worrying if an ad will pop up when you begin the video, or if it will be inappropriate for your audience! Additional helpful extensions I use: Glue tabs, Cut tabs, Screencastify, URL shortener, Similar Pages, Google Docs Quick Create, Go to Feedly, Honey, Grammarly, and Evernote Web Clipper.
  9. Duolingo. For my college senior Capstone, I decided to conduct an original research project for my public library which would eventually become a formal needs assessment detailing ways our library can better serve Spanish-speaking populations in Richland County. I knew about fifteen words in Spanish, but I was determined that our library could better fulfill the needs of this population in our community, and that as a Youth Services Librarian, I could be doing a better job connecting our library to Spanish-speaking families and recruiting them to be library patrons. To prepare for the beginning of my project, I decided to learn Spanish. At the beginning of this summer, I knew maybe fifteen words. I found Duolingo, which is a FREE program available through a smart phone app and as a website. I worked on Duolingo learning Spanish for seven weeks, dedicating at least 30 minutes to two hours every day to learning Spanish on Duolingo. At the end of seven weeks, I took my university Spanish language placement test and tested into second semester Spanish. This program works like a game, giving you rewards every few minutes as you move to the next mini-level, which is powerfully addicting, and powerfully educating. If you want to learn more Spanish (or any of their other dozens of languages), this app will start you off fast and keep you learning.

What products or services did you use last year that changed the way you do “Library”?



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