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Thursday, October 27, 2011

TechTalk: What I Use / Gina DeConti

I've been following a blog called The Setup for a while now. Every few weeks they profile a creative person and the technology that person uses. As an homage to the The Setup, once a month the TechTalk series will feature a library staff member and the tech, gadgets, and software they use to learn, work, and play. It's called "What I Use"

Gina DeConti, Manager of Creative Services

Who are you?

My name is Gina DeConti and my official title at the library is Manager of Creative Services. My background is in graphic design, multimedia design, illustration and photography. Basically, I'm in charge of branding and maintaining a consistent look and feel over all of the promotional materials created at the library. Creative Services also designs the posters and displays you see throughout the building. My work here includes things like creating large scale three dimensional wall art, designing Library-wide campaigns, photographing programs, and much more. My main focus is for the library to be an amazing visual experience for our patrons. I want them to feel like they've arrived somewhere special when they walk through our doors.

What hardware do you use?

I currently have a brand new iMac 27" with 3.2 GHz. It's an amazing machine. I also use a Wacom tablet, and a myriad of other peripherals that I find indispensable, such as a large format poster printer, Epson scanner, and a beautiful Apple wireless mouse. Which I LOVE.

What software do you use?

My favorite program is Adobe Illustrator for sure, but I also use the entire Adobe Creative Suite daily. Occasionally I have to design something in Word for the librarians to use as a template that they can modify. Creating something in Word is always a painful experience for adesigner.

What would be your dream set up?

I would love to have a Cintiq 24HD so that I could work directly on the screen. I'm also working on getting our department a brand new Epson large format printer that will greatly improve the quality of our displays. And of course we are waiting to upgrade our OS to Lion so that Apple can work out all the bugs first (but I can not wait to get it!!!).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A "national digital library"
It's Open Access Week this week and it seems like a good opportunity to talk about the Digital Public Library of America and how it is trying to promote greater access (or availability) of online resources.
Open access = Free, immediate, online access to information
Last Thursday and Friday, a group of librarians, scholars, industry leaders, and educators came together for the first plenary meeting to begin serious plans for a "Digital Public Library of America." As the name suggests, the DPLA hopes to build a national digital library of resources. These resources will (should?) be available to anyone in the United States.

Because this ambitious project is still in the planning stages, the specifics about what such a digital library would include, how people will access it, and who will contribute to it need to be worked out. Part of the planning also involves figuring out how the DPLA will be different from large scale digital archives like, Hathi Trust, Google Books, and, why not,

Each of these archives has taken enormous strides in making mass quantities of material available online. But with each one there is a drawback. Some are non-profits ( and Hathi Trust) that need to find support; some are not (Google and Amazon) and might not always be interested in providing digital materials online. Some make content freely (or partially) available to the public ( and Google Books); some do not (Hathi Trust and Amazon).

So, what is the grand promise of a "national digital library"? The grand vision is to provide comprehensive collections and wide-spread access. Why is this an issue?

If you have spent any time on our library website or reading this blog, you know that we have a variety of online resources that you can access from home—everything from newspaper article archives, to business information, to genealogy resources, to ebooks (with support for Kindles now too!). These are great resources that your taxes help make available (See our library value calculator for details).

Of course, there is the problem. As a resident of Des Plaines, you have (or don't have) access to content that someone in Park Ridge or Morton Grove or Skokie may (or may not) be able to use. The benefit is that we can select resources that we think will be most beneficial to you. The downside is that people separated by mere miles may not be getting access to the information that they need and want.

What do you think about the idea of a "national digital library"? What are the pros? What are the cons?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TechTalk: Getting the Feel for Technology
Thursdays are "TechTalk" Thursdays. I'll write about something in the world of technology that interests or inspires me.

I went to a training this week on personal organization and productivity. The trainer stressed how affect—our emotions and feelings—deeply influences our productivity. One of the tricks to being more productive is learning how to manage your feelings about getting work done. I think that our relationship to technology is the same way.

When I was in library school, I took a class on computer programming (well, it was computer programming for librarians). We learned how to write useful programs with a language called Python (here are some books at the library about Python). The course was a great introduction programming, but more important was something that the instructor said the very first week of class:
Learning to program is all about learning how to deal with frustration.
I carried that lesson with me throughout the course (it was, in fact, really useful advice) and beyond. When I am trying to solve a problem with a computer—a webpage that doesn't look right or a printer that isn't working properly—I mentally prepare myself for the sucker punch of frustration that is about to come my way.

The idea that there are digital natives and digital immigrants (see Mark Prensky, or this book) has always bothered me (in fact, it may not be true at all). No one is born being "good" with technology. Being "good" with technology is all about getting the feel for it. Most of time, unfortunately, that feeling is an itchy, annoying feeling. What makes someone "good" with technology is the ability to scratch and scratch at that itch and not throw up his or her hands until the problem is resolved.

How do you deal with your frustrations with technology?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Des Plaines: The Project

In case it wasn't clear from my last post, I'm a transplant to the Chicago area. Before I moved here, I read a fascinating book called Nature's Metropolis by the historian William Cronin. In this book, Cronin describes the extensive economic, cultural, and social network that grew out of Chicago during the 19th and 20th century.  Key industries like timber, meat packing, and manufacturing connected the city to places near and far in the Midwest and beyond. Railroads, of course, were the ties that bound the system together.

Russell Lee, Chicago Skyline and the 14th Street Passenger Yards, May, 1948. The Newberry Library
Because of this book, I have always thought of the city—and the areas around it—as a vast organism, a nervous system—wonderful because of its complexity. Now that I'm working in Des Plaines, I find myself learning about a whole new area of this intricate system and full of questions about its origins, the people who live and work here, and its future.

Because I have so many questions, I plan to do the only sensible thing that a librarian can do: start a research project! Only this research project won't involve books and magazines (well, maybe a few), it will involve talking to people in the community and reporting back here what I find out.

So, to get the ball rolling, tell me in the comments what I need to learn about Des Plaines. Who should I talk to? What questions should I ask? In the coming months, I will try to incorporate your responses into my features.


Monday, October 10, 2011

New Web Services Librarian

Hello. I'm your new Web Services Librarian at the Des Plaines Public Library. My name is Brodie and I'm pretty excited to be here. That's me in the lower left part of the picture walking with my son in Boulder, Colorado.

I started working in libraries during my senior year of college when I applied for a shelving position at the Boulder Public Library. I worked for several years in the reference department as well.

From there, my path to becoming a librarian say the least. I spent three years in a PhD program at Northwestern University, left school to work at the Newberry Library in Chicago, earned my library degree last December, and now I'm here.

I'll be tending to the website, contributing to this blog, watching the action on Twitter, and thinking of new ways to provide services for you on the web. I hope to see you "around" online and here in the library.