Librarian Tip for Nonprofits: 90-Second YouTube

I was reading the May 2008 issue of American Libraries and the Internet Librarian column by Joseph Janes jumped out at me with the potential to be immediately useful to me at work (which is not in a library).

I help run a program at a literacy nonprofit, and a lot of people contact me and my colleagues all the time with a large volume of questions.  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m one of those people who actually gets a kick out of answering questions.  It’s just that as I mentioned in my last post, when we’re bombarded with questions, especially redundant ones, it’s extremely difficult to do the rest of of our jobs done.

This article, “Spring Awakening,” describes how the Cornell University Library ended up making 90-second YouTube clips for their incoming first-years about basic research concepts.

As Janes points out, this isn’t earth-shattering, but as he also points out, it doesn’t need to be earth-shattering in order to be dead useful; it just needs to 1) address the need and 2) actually happen.

It brings to mind a huge site I used a few times in college called Atomic Learning.  Schools can subscribe to it to give their students access to tons of tiny (“atomic”) learning modules.  My college subscribed to it, but I don’t have access to it now that I’m out of school, and I think the focus was watching, not creating your own.  The brilliance of using YouTube instead is that it’s free, allows participation on both sides, is easy to embed, and simple to access.

How powerful would it be to have even a couple of 90-second videos addressing super-common questions!  I’m so excited to bring this to the team and see what we can make of it.  I’m thinking that even if we can’t do video, a cute (and very brief) Slideshare really should be doable.  Or hey, even a Voki if we’re feeling cartoony.

Have you done something like this?  How has it gone?  Can you use this kind of resource in your organization?  What can help bring this from the “idea” stage to the “actually happening” stage?

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Tip: Handling Interruptions

I had a great conversation with a coworker recently about how to deal with constant interruptions.  You know what I mean: those days when the moment you hang up the phone it rings again, and all the while your red-exclamation-point emails are piling up, and people are lined up at your door looking worried… it can seem like a conspiracy.

On those days, I take the top thing on my to-do list, write it in large letters on a post-it note, and stick it right in the middle of my desk.  That way when (if) there’s a moment between distractions, I don’t waste a moment trying to remember what the heck I was trying to do.  It’s right there.

Simple, Obvious, Effective
Post-It Reminder: Simple, Obvious, Effective

It’s also extremely satisfying to crumple up and chuck the post-it into the recycling when I finally finish with it!

What do you do when it’s “one of those days?”

CNN’s How To Sabotage Your Job Search… So You Don’t

Great article on CNN.com lists easy ways to derail your job search so that you know what not to do.  Very awesome.

A lot of it is common sense (#2 – don’t burn bridges; #7 – typos make you look like a fool; #19 – be nice to the person at the front desk), but it’s good reinforcement all the same.

Point #1 spoke to me in particular because my mother showed me a quick way to create a working portfolio.  Get a binder and some page protectors.  Pop important papers in as you receive them – letters of promotion, job acceptance, completion certificates, the end product of a big project, etc.  Simple.  Easy to add to.  And always there for you when you’re putting in for a promotion, a new job, or for bragging to your mother.

Taking Back My Environment

This was an amazing weekend.  I had four glorious days to myself!  I got a lot done in my apartment that I’d been putting off, and the result is that I have room in my closets, a desk, and a much smaller population of dust-bunnies.  I’ve effectively expanded my living space now that my desk is a place where I can spend time, and all those pesky tasks of day-to-day living will be easier now that I can find things and put them away.

Even though I’m not quite prepared to start thinking about work again just yet, I definitely noticed myself thinking that it would be nice to spend some time getting a handle on my office environment again.  I think it would make a huge difference in how I feel at work and in how fast I can find things.  I don’t think I’ll be able to work in cleaning/organization/de-cluttering time this week, but I’m thinking that it needs to become a priority for a day sometime before mid-July.  Because wow.

There are a million tips for getting and staying organized all over the Internet.  I didn’t look at any of them.  Three mindsets that worked for me this weekend:

  1. Go for high-impact bulk stuff first.  In other words, don’t start by dusting your DVD collection; start by washing and putting away the 11 loads of laundry floating around the apartment.
  2. Get rid of things.  Ask yourself, “Am I really going to take this item with me if I move in a year?”
  3. Take a moment to decorate your space.  For instance, my desk is now clear of piles of junk, and that’s great.  I also took 5 minutes to decorate the area with miscellaneous pictures that were floating around – a fun reward for present-Emily and future-Emily.
I’d love to hear what works for everyone else out there!