Category Archives: Tech Tuesday

Tech Tuesday: 10 tools for library school students

This post was inspired by Zachary Frazier’s recent post at Hack Library School for their Library School Starter Kit series. For this installment of Tech Tuesday, I wanted to talk about some of the sites and software that helped me get through my distance education program at San José State. Keep in mind that everybody has different methods for productivity. Part of the fun is figuring out what works for you! Here’s what worked for me:

Don't let this become a metaphor for your brain! Get organized - life will get easier.

  1. My MacBook Pro (I am still running OS X from 2009). I love love LOVE my MacBook. The OS and interface are designed for simplicity, which is exactly what I needed during library school. With at least a full load of classes each semester, I didn’t have time to fiddle around with antivirus software, webcams and microphones. There was only one instance in which I REALLY needed a PC and that was when I had to use this old database creation software for my Information Retrieval class called DB Textworks. Luckily, I had access to my parents’ computer.
  2. Gmail. I’m obsessed with Gmail. When you’re in library school (especially if you’re going to school online), you will probably be inundated with listserv and Google or Yahoo! group digests. Gmail’s label and filter functions make it easy to manage what comes into your inbox. Here’s the kicker: you don’t have to have thousands of emails in your inbox. Once a day or every couple days, archive what’s important, delete trash, and use the labels HOLD [for unfinished business] and FOLLOW UP [for things you need to reply to] or whatever terminology works for you. You can even use different colors. When I was in school, I had labels for different classes, job posting announcements, and receipts. Inbox Zero feels so much better when you literally have zero items in your inbox.
  3. My .edu email address. Did you know students with a .edu email address can get Amazon Prime free for six months? Did you know you can also get a Prezi Edu Enjoy account for free with your .edu address? If possible, get your school to give you a .edu email address and use it to your full advantage while you can. You can even have your mail forwarded to your Gmail account.
  4. Google Chat, Google Docs, and Skype. I used all of these for group meetings and collaborating on documents. Google Chat and Skype were also invaluable for keeping up with my friends who went to grad school on the east coast.
  5. Facebook. The people in my program make heavy use of Facebook for meetups and alumni events.
  6. Twitter. Librarians LOVE Twitter. It’s a great way to network and share ideas.
  7. Google Reader. RSS feeds are magical. I don’t know how I survived without them. If you’re not familiar with RSS, don’t let the technical-sounding acronym frighten you. All it means is that when someone updates their blog or website, that update gets pushed to you in the feed reader of your choice (I use Google Reader). So you don’t have to visit each blog in your bookmarks list to see if you missed something. All updates will be waiting for you in  your reader! Sometimes you can also subscribe to the RSS feed for your school’s event calendar or announcements page.
  8. LeechBlock for Mozilla Firefox (or any other blocking program supported by your browser). For when Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader get in the way of your studying.
  9. iCal and Google Calendar (and a paper planner). Whatever you use for a planner, be consistent. Write things down. Use the task functions in Google Calendar or the color-coded ones in iCal. I synced iCal and Google Calendar and used a cheap-o paper planner from Barnes and Noble.
  10. Evernote. I used Evernote to take notes in class and also keep track of passwords, job postings, and recipes. You can even upload pictures as notes. I think I once heard it described as the equivalent to Dumbledore’s pensieve. Pretty awesome and accurate analogy.

Bonus tip: know where you can get free wifi in your area. If your wifi craps out on you an hour before you are due to give a presentation, you must have a backup. One of my friends had to give a presentation last year from the parking lot of a Starbucks. You do what you gotta do!

Hope this helps.

UPDATE: A very kind reader has offered a few more excellent suggestions in the comments:

“Dropbox: ooooh, lordy do I love dropbox. A flash drive that lives on the net, and the first 2GB are free. [YES. Dropbox is wonderful. On a related note, it’s very important to have some method for backing up your files.]

Pencil and Paper: Old tech that requires no batteries, keep a small memo pad on you at all times to jot down notes you might otherwise forget

FireNes: Free Nintendo games for your firefox browser. It’s not ALL about studying.”

Thanks, Evan!

Tech Tuesday: MP3s and the Sony/PIAS Warehouse Fire

I want to say this first: as I type, there has been one death as a result of the London riots that are still taking place. This is a real tragedy. Any loss of human life is a real tragedy.

Sometime last night, a fire destroyed the Sony/PIAS distribution warehouse as a result of the riots. Many independent record labels lost their stock of CDs and vinyl. For some, it could mean months of no physical record sales. But there’s something really easy we can do to help: buy MP3s. Digital sales will help to soften the blow. You get music you like in return.

You can find a list of labels affected by the PIAS fire here.

There are some very talented artists on these labels. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr., Julian Casablancas, Gogol Bordello, Belle & Sebastian, Bjork, Joanna Newsom, PJ Harvey, The Hold Steady, STARS, !!!, TV on the Radio, Andrew Bird, Chuck Ragan (of Hot Water Music), Fake Problems, Bedouin Soundclash (one of their lyrics is tattooed on my left wrist), Dustin Kensrue (of Thrice), Thrice, Yim Yames (Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk, both of whom are on Rough Trade), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, School of Seven Bells…and so many more.

And just so you know I’m not on some soapbox doing nothing about this myself, I spent some of my hard-earned Chuck E. Cheese money on Gogol Bordello’s latest album Trans-Continental Hustle.

Tech Tuesday: The Dangers of Spotify

Last week I read an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Why I’m Not Going Near Spotify (and Why You Shouldn’t Either).” My first thought was, “shuuuutuuuuup. Quit being so dramatic!” But it was early in the morning when I saw that title pop up on my phone’s Twitter feed. After some coffee (and listening to Cults on Spotify for a few minutes), I decided to hear Mr. James Allworth* out.

Look at all them musics...

Allworth posits that Spotify’s likely to pull a bait-and-switch move on subscribers, just like Netflix did recently, and increase their subscription fees. I don’t disagree – this seems possible, especially when they beat out other competition, like Netflix did. He says the danger in this lies in the way we consume music versus the way we consume movies/TV.

Think about it. It is relatively rare to own a movie or TV series that you sit through and watch multiple times. Sure, there are some classics where that’s the case, but most people watch a video once and that’s it. Music is not like this. The same songs get listened to time and time again. We build playlists (custom CDs or even mix tapes, if you’re old enough) around them. It’s the very reason most people don’t just listen to the radio. They want to own their favorite songs and albums so they can play them when they want. Understanding this — that we consume audio in a fundamentally different way from video — is critical to understanding why, from a consumer point of view, paying a monthly rental fee is a risky way of obtaining music.

Reading the article, I breathed a sigh of relief as he seemed to be targeting his argument at people who are already paying for their subscription (I have a Free account: unlimited streaming with ads, but not offline/mobile, and I am perfectly satisfied with that). He does make an excellent point. And that point became ever more excellent yesterday as I realized how terrible I’d feel without the music “library” I’ve built up.

I don’t stream music that I already own. It’s pointless. Instead, I’ve built a library of hours’ and hours’ worth of music: 32 public playlists alone, full of music that I would buy if I had the money and music that I want to listen to but probably wouldn’t spend money on. The allure is that it’s THERE at my fingertips when I want it. If Spotify wanted to charge me, that allure would be gone. My music would be gone. I’d go back to listening to singles on YouTube. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but it’s like sitting in coach when you sat in first class the flight before. And I’m in no financial position to be making any upgrades.

Anyway, I thought Allworth made an excellent point, and I’d like to add that the danger exists for Free account holders, too. I think I should wean myself off of Spotify a little. It’s going to be hard – I’m a voracious music consumer – but it’ll be worth it if the bait-and-switch does happen.

*Doesn’t he just SOUND like a Fellow at Harvard Business School? ALLWORTH!