Category Archives: Blog

lesbrarian buttons

lesbrarian flag

Several years ago I decided I wanted to get a group of lesbrarians together for the Dyke March. The night before the Dyke March I used some paint from the dollar store on a sheet to make a Venn diagram illustrating the overlap between lesbian and librarian. That photo has gone around the internet a few times now, been included as an entry in Urban Dictionary, shown up in Questionable Content, an awesome webcomic. This year I wanted something different and Kathleen Jacques agreed to design something new.

I picked up the buttons for this year’s Vancouver Dyke March the other night and I love them. Designers like her are amazing–the final design was better than anything I could’ve articulated.

Here’s some of her explanation about the design choices she made:

What do you think of this Lesbrarians family? It struck me that, if there are going to be multiples for buttons (and potential other uses), it’d be cool to have versions with splashes of solid color so that they kind of do a rainbow as a set. I ended up with five: three shushers and two book-lurkers. My general idea is that it’s a family with a unified visual identity, but with flexibility within it. I think I like the black lineart/color background better than the solid colored ones…what do you think?

My rationale for the font goes like so:

  1. the condensed narrowness lets the word be a little bigger in small spaces, yet it’s still easy to read
  2. the ALLCAPS makes a punchy rectangular form that’s easy to fit and stack and curve in various ways
  3. the slab serif is kind of reminiscent of old typewriter or book text, but the font itself is a contemporary design (and an independent one that’s available for free, which is cool)
butchy book peeper

curly haired profile shusher with book

green two-tone hair profile shusher

blue shushy McBunheadhalf shaved baby dyke book peeper

lesbrarian text button

I was super happy with Chris Bentzen‘s button making. He was fast, inexpensive and they look great. Also, he lives in my neighbourhood so it was really convenient for me.

I’ll be selling buttons for $1 each to recouperate the money in paying for the design and the cost of getting the buttons made. At some point I’ll make an online store and also have tshirts and bookbags, but if you want some now get in touch.

Happy Pride!

lesbrarians vol. 3

lesbrarian, complete with bun, winking over an open book

I’m super excited about the new lesbrarian logo that Kathleen Jacques has been working on. This isn’t the final one, but it’ll be close. I hope to have buttons made in time for the Vancouver Dyke March.

If you’re a queer lady working in libraries, archives or just a fangirl, please consider this your invitation to join us. Feel free to dress up as the stereotype or not. I’ll be there at 11am, though the march doesn’t leave McSpadden Park until noon. We’ll have lesbrarian approved booklists to give out to people. If you have other ideas, please let me know. (I’ve had fantasies about a book cart drill team, but the logistics of acquiring the book trucks and returning them seem like too much of a pain during the busy Pride weekend.)

RSVP on Facebook, or just show up. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Get in touch.


new job

This is my second week at CILS, a unit that serves post-secondary students with print disabilities by creating alternate formats like: etext, accessible PDFs, Kurzweil and DAISY. I’m getting familiar with our production workflows, cataloging alternate formats and the related policy issues around alternate format production: stuff like copyright and advocacy. I’m also trying to remember new names, figure out where things are and get around the Langara campus without getting lost.

Print disabilities, alternate formats and (web) accessibility are a new areas for me. Which blogs and sites should I be reading? Who should I be following on Twitter?

Evergreen Unsung Heroes

I was inspired by Chris Cormack’s excellent series of blog posts highlighting awesome people in the Koha community. I wanted to adapt Chris’ idea to the Evergreen community. Here’s the call for submissions from a few months ago.

I have two observations from the last few months. First, people were reluctant to promote themselves and write bios listing all their accomplishments. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. It was more effective to ask someone’s coworker, colleague or boss to highlight their contributions. I like that our community values humility, but know that most people enjoy being recognized for work that they are proud of. Second, some people felt that the work that they did was insignificant and not worthy of being recognized. Almost all of these people were women who had been nominated by other people in the community. After an email or two all of these people agreed to be profiled.
I’m going to continue this project for the next year. I’m sure the design students at Emily Carr University will do something interesting with this content (ebook? website? deck of playing cards? laser engraved beef jerky?) for the Evergreen 2013 conference.

sharing serial prediction patterns

One of the core strengths of libraries is shared standards and sharing library data. Since we migrated to Evergreen in May I’ve been doing migration cleanup, implementing acquisitions and trying to figure out serials. Setting up serial prediction patterns is ugly in any ILS because prediction patterns are ugly.

There’s a great opportunity for the open source ILS world (both the Koha and Evergreen) communities to develop a standard so that libraries using these systems can save time and money by sharing serial prediction patterns. As more academic libraries are considering migrating to Evergreen, this would also help remove a barrier to selecting Evergreen. While it’s painful and annoying for me to manually set up all of our serial prediction patterns, I work in a small library, so it’s still possible. There’s only about 150. For a large university library it would not be possible set up a prediction pattern for each title.

Examples of serial prediction patterns

Can you guess what these prediction patterns describe?

  • Published Monday – Saturday, except for Christmas Day. Issues are identified by date. (daily newspaper in most cities)
  • Published weekly on Thursday, except for a double issue in the last two weeks of December. Issues are numbered continuously and four volumes are published annually, starting in Jan, Apr, Jul, Oct (The Economist)
  • Published twice monthly, except monthly in Jan, Jul, Aug, Dec. Issue numbers restart in each volume, which starts in Jan (Library Journal)

None of these are terribly complicated and yet they are still pretty messy. Thanks to David Fiander for letting me pinch these examples from his slides.

What’s a serial prediction pattern? Who cares?

Scholarly journals/magazines/periodicals/newspapers are published on different schedules. For example, some are published weekly, monthly, bimonthly, quarterly or yearly. There are also cataloguing codes for semiregularly, 3 times a year, biennial, triennial, and completely irregular.

In academic libraries it’s important to know if the library has a specific issue of a title, as users are most often looking for a specific article in a specific issue of a title. Generally, in public libraries this level of detail is not necessary. However, if libraries shared these prediction patterns perhaps more public libraries might use them.

Prediction patterns are also used to figure out which issues of a title should have arrived but haven’t. Libraries can then claim the missing issues with the vendor or directly with the publisher. (As an aside, I think journal claiming is a silly process that involves a lot of correspondence that doesn’t often end up in the issue being replaced. Some libraries are giving up on claiming for each issue.) Still, it’s important for both the user and the library to know which issues are missing in a run.

If serial prediction patterns interests you I highly recommend watching David’s webinar from 2009 on this topic.

What’s information is included in a serial prediction pattern?

There’s a bunch of information in a MFHD record, namely:


  • Hierarchy of enumeration, for example volume, issue, number, part (can have up to 6 levels in the hierarchy)
  • Does the numbering restart? If so, when?


  • How often does the title come? weekly? monthly? 4 times a year?
  • Are there exceptions to this pattern? If so, what are they?

Pattern (both publication and enumeration)

  • When is the journal published?
  • What publications will be omitted?
  • What issues will be combined?

Next steps

I’m not really sure what the next steps are. I think the open source ILS communities are best positioned to tackle this and figure out a standard way of sharing prediction patterns. We might want to talk to serials and cataloguing experts, like perhaps the folks at CONSER or NASIG. Perhaps it would be useful to talk to folks at OCLC or NISO. We might want to look outside the libraryland–what other industries are sharing information about odd, picky, sometimes irregular patterns? How are they doing things and what can we learn?

I’ll be presenting on this topic at the Evergreen conference next week and want to explore some next steps with people. I’ll be copresenting with Grace Dunbar and Mike Rylander from Equinox Software on Resource Sharing in Evergreen on Friday, April 27th from 3-4pm


welcome to code4lib

This was my first code4lib. It was awesome and one of the best library things I’ve ever been to–I’m inspired by the work people are doing, I’m excited to research new things and most importantly I feel like I’ve finally found my people in libraries.

I have been reluctant to go to code4lib in the past, as I’d heard it was a hostile environment for women. While I’ve heard about a couple of crappy incidents in the past, this was by far the most welcoming tech event I have ever been to. Here are some of the things that the code4lib community is doing to make the community and conference welcoming and inclusive place.

Community norms
While code4lib is a really loose community there are strong informal community norms. The community leaders (who would likely balk at being identified as community leaders) socialize new people by demonstrating what the community values (openness, sharing, creativity, humour and craft beer) in informal and slightly more formal ways. An example of a more formal way is Declan‘s post on hacking code4lib, which includes some guidelines for IRC:

Don’t be sexist/racist/*ist

It’s great to be funny, maybe even a little blue at times, but be careful about steering into areas that make segments of the world uncomfortable, or even feel attacked. We are in a very interesting niche of the technology world. Our librarian population is primarily female, but our technical aspects of librarianship tend to be more stereotypically white and male. We have a wonderful opportunity to attract and promote equality in our field and there’s no reason to make an underrepresented group feel unwanted just to get a couple laughs.

Seeing the gender imbalance written out and reading that this is an opportunity to promote equality makes me relax as I know there are other people who notice that this is a predominantly male environment. I really dislike how some people equate having an environment that is welcoming to women as politically correct unfun spaces. People are funny, in person, in IRC and on the mailing list, yet I don’t feel like the jokes are racist, sexist or homophobic. There’s some “that’s what she said” banter, but I didn’t hear “website that even your mom could use” rubbish or comments that made me angry, sad or feel like I was not among my people. It’s possible to be clever and funny without being a sexist douche.

It’s awesome to see a community put some money where their mouth is. There are  scholarships to promote gender and cultural diversity. I love that gender diversity are includes both women and transgender people. This is another language flag that signals to me that these are my people and they get it.

Newcomer dinners
The newcomer dinners are a great way for new folks to meet people. It’s hard to have indepth conversations with large groups, so having dinner with 6-8 people is perfect. For a community that is more introverts than extroverts, this is a great way for people to connect. It would be better to schedule these for the first night, instead of the second night of the conference.

It was good to see a number of smart women presenting. The code4lib community has their own (broken? see some notes from Erik Hetzner’s lightening talk) way of voting for presentations.

It’s tricky–I want to see more women attending and presenting, but I don’t want to see women presenting on topics that aren’t appropriate for a technical audience. I think this is setting some women up to fail and reinforces that women aren’t doing good technical work. When I helped select the program for Access 2011 one of our goals was to aim for equality in the ratio of male:female presenters. While I think the liberal feminist strategy of counting the number of women is useful, it is also limited. After reviewing the submissions that we received I contacted a few women who I thought would have interesting things to present and invited them to present at Access. I didn’t want presenters to feel tokenized because of their gender but I didn’t want to organize a conference that was mostly men presenting.

Encouragement from code4lib vetrans
At Access both Bess Sadler and Karen Coombs encouraged me to go to code4lib. I have a lot of respect and admiration for these two geeky women who do great work. A lot of other folks in the code4lib community also encouraged me to go too. I’m so glad I did, as I met so many awesome people, have some more insights on how to put on events, learned some new things and am inspired to hack my library’s culture.

This year about 22% of the participants were women, and 38% of the presenters were women. On my bike rides to work I’ve been pondering what an ideal code4lib looks like in terms of women’s participation. It will never be a 50-50 split, and I’m not sure if that’s a super useful way to assess things. Many communities struggle with how to be inclusive while retaining their core focus. I think code4lib is doing a bunch of things right. Thank you everyone who has put their energy into making code4lib such an awesome conference and community, and doing interesting and awesome work in libraries with technology.

Also, thanks Equinox Software for the scholarship, Erik Hatcher from Lucid Imagination for your registration slot, and Kathleen Jacques for the Photoshop help.

Edit: Bohyun Kim and Becky Yoose started a Google Doc as a place to brainstorm ways to make code4lib more welcoming for newbies, go add your clever ideas there.

Evergreen unsung heros: an invitation to participate

I’m so excited about the Evergreen community. There are a lot of smart people who work hard and do really excellent work.

I’ve really enjoyed Chris Cormack’s blog posts about the unsung heroes in the Koha community.

I also appreciate all the other people who do work in this community. It’s inspiring to see people working on documentation, translation/internationalization, governance, testing, submitting bugs, teaching Evergreen in library school and library tech programs, doing design work, writing code and contributing in other ways to make the software better and the community more stable and functional.

It’s really exciting to see where Evergreen libraries have sprung up: it takes guts to be the first one in your country to migrate to Evergreen, or to be one of the new Evergreen libraries in a specific sector (government, K-12, corporate, etc.).

I want to create a slideshow showing lots of awesome people in our community.

Please send me:

  • a photo of the person (print quality if possible)
  • their email address (I want to get permission from the person profiled)
  • city, state/province/whatever
  • library name
  • information about how they contribute to the community, in less than 100 words

You are also welcome to submit information about yourself–please don’t be shy.

The Evergreen International Conference organizers in Indiana have agreed to show the slideshow that I put together. I’m part of the organizing team for the Vancouver conference and we’d like to build on this–perhaps with a longer slideshow, posters, or perhaps an ebook.

The deadline is Friday, March 16th.

DIY course reserves kiosk, or, the day we tossed the grotty old binder

We’re using Laurentian’s reserves interface (see Kevin Beeswick’s code on github) and just rolled out a reserves kisok on our circulation desk using:

When we were on our legacy ILS our reserves staff person would manually create a page for each course in Word, print them, then file them (alphabetically by instructors last name) in an old navy blue binder that was tethered to the desk with a lanyard that was at least 3 years old. I can date the lanyard because it said Emily Carr Institute, and we were granted university status in 2008.

This kiosk is a way better user experience for students and it saves staff time in creating and maintaining paper sheets of reserve items. Hopefully this small improvement in user experience improves the perception of the library in students’ eyes. Much like redesigning the library forms, I think that caring about these details demonstrate that we are thinking about ways our library can reflect the values of our students. I’m the liaison to Design and Dynamic Media, which includes communication design, interaction design, industrial design and animation. I know that my faculty and students notice and care about these details.

Dan Scott has a great post on other ways to manage course reserves in Evergreen.

ApacheCamp: brainstorming the future of libraries

I recently attended ApacheCamp. I had been meaning to have a conversation with a friend about the future of libraries and threw it up on the scheduling board. I was delighted that about 20 other people were interested in participating in that conversation too. It was awesome to pick the brains of some really clever people about what libraries could be doing with technology.


Zak Greant elegantly summed up the conversation by stating that technology, namely the shift from physical books to ebooks and other licensed electronic content, is eroding many of the core values of libraries, like access and free speech. Someone complained that they can’t use the ebook and audiobook content that their public library provides because it only works with proprietary software. I also learned that Amazon is now renting ebooks.

Librarians need to collectively educate and lobby publishers, content creators, content providers and vendors to create content that supports access and intellectual freedom. The boycott of HarperCollins is one of the more aggressive things that libraries have done. Librarians need to better understand copyright and licensing issues and how they affect our business.

Other ideas

The mention of Amazon brought up the suggestion that it would be great if libraries could embed themselves in Amazon and show Amazon customers that the items that they are about to buy are available at a library close to them. This reminded me of the Greasemonkey script that Steven Tannock wrote for VPL’s holdings. Luke Closs said that while that was useful he was doubtful that many people used it. He’s right, it’s only been downloaded about 300 times.  Luke thinks this is a good proof-of-concept, but that libraries could do a couple of things to make this work better:

So if your org came to the conclusion that the amazon hack is a useful thing, your next step should be how can we get as many people using it as possible. This would require 2 things. 1) Technically – you’d want to re-package it to be as easy as possible to use. This probably means re-creating it as a Firefox/Chrome browser plugin so that it can be installed with one click.  2) Putting some marketing muscle behind it – maybe posters in the libraries, add it to email footers on outbound notifications to your users…

I’m sure there’s something that could be done with the WorldCat API.

Zak suggested that the library could be a place where people could bring old files that they can’t access because they don’t have the software like Lotus 1-2-3, or the hardware to access stuff on old floppy discs. In Vancouver I reckon this could be a great partnership between VPL and Free Geek, though I imagine the biggest hurdle would be library staff’s anxiety around not being experts in this area.

In discussing content models and how expensive digitization was, someone suggested using Kickstarter or setting up something similar for digitization projects. In addition to fundraising for digitization it would also build a community support around digitization projects and digital collections.

Ross Gardler flipped things and suggested a kind of reverse digitization. Ross stated that librarians are good at curating information and can find you stuff you don’t know exists (it makes my heart sing to hear non-librarians say this). He thought it would be useful if he could get a printed book with the most relevant information curated from various print and electronic sources. This reminded me of Peter Rukivina’s paper ebooks.

I feel really lucky that so many smart folks at ApacheCamp love libraries and were willing to brainstorm on how to make libraries better. I’m super excited and energized by this type of cross pollination.

we are not the experts

In the spring I was invited to speak at a design event hosted by Continuing Studies. We would each have 10 minutes to talk about what’s been happening in our respective fields, or what our careers have been like for the past 10 years. Public speaking is slightly scary, but the idea of speaking at an non-library event scared the crap out of me. Of course I said yes.

I really enjoyed the other speakers: architects, graphic designers, interaction designers, folks working in sustainable design. Favourites for me included architect Marianne Amodio, who talked about feeling love in the details of design and Oliver Kellhammer, an interdisciplinary landscape artist, activist and wonderful weirdo.

My talk was titled “Power and control: How library catalogues have changed in the past 10 years”. Sound thrilling, right? There’s been a big shift in the past 10 years with libraries becoming more empowered with technology and embracing open source software and starting to develop their own systems, instead of relying on expensive proprietary software that didn’t meet our needs. I gave some examples of how controlled vocabularies are awesome, and how user tagging provides another way to access information. About 5 years ago when I was in library school the conversation about user tagging was framed in a really dumb way: either controlled vocabulary or tags.  It didn’t take long for librarians to figure out that ‘both’ is the correct answer. I used some examples from radical cataloguer Sandy Berman to illustrate how Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are slow to change and sometimes really absurd, like Cookery–Indic instead of Indian cooking, and Electric light, incandescent, instead of lightbulb)  Also Tim Spalding’s talk “What is social cataloging?” has some great examples of where user tags are far more useful than LCSH. The best example of this is William Gibson’s  Neuromancer. LSCH for this title include:

  • Business intelligence — Fiction
  • Computer hackers — Fiction
  • Conspiracies — Fiction
  • Cyberspace — Fiction
  • Information superhighway — Fiction
  • Japan — Fiction
  • Nervous system — Wounds and injuries — Fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Virtual reality — Fiction

“Nervous system–Wounds and injuries–Fiction”?? Neuromancer is the best example of cyberpunk, which is not listed in the LCSH.

I remember librarians fretting: what would we do if someone tagged something incorrectly? What would we do if someone tagged something using a naughty or rude word? And what would we do about things like plurals (i.e. dog vs dogs), should we clean up the tags our users apply, so that there’s consistency? If other people saw messy or inconsistent tags, what would they think of us? Would they still trust us?  The attitudes underpinning these conversations were that we don’t trust our users and as the “experts” we think we know better than the people actually using libraries. It makes me a bit bonkers that our library catalogues have sucked so bad that we need 1 hour instruction sessions to teach people how to find things. Instead of being unidirectional (from us the “experts” to our uses), I wish we viewed instruction as a way for us to teach our users about some of the information we provide access to, and for users to teach us how they are actually looking for things.

A friend who works at A Very Large University was telling me about an internal debate their librarians were having about library FAQs on their website. Currently the FAQs are maintained by only librarians, are out of date, and according to analytics data, don’t seem to be answering all the questions that users seem to frequently ask. One such question, asked by hungry students, was “where can i get food?”. He suggested allowing users to add their own questions and answer and rate whether the answers was useful or not. Similar concerns to the tagging debate were brought up: what if users answer questions incorrectly, or in an incomplete way? What if these FAQs get out of date because they are not being properly maintained by a librarian? Librarians seemed to want to teach users the right way to navigate the library website to find this information. Hungry users just wanted to find the closest place to grab something to eat. This is another example of us dictating what the correct way to find information, instead of being responsive in changing the way that we do things to better serve folks.

We need to let go of the idea that we are the experts and instead view library spaces, collections, websites and catalogues as places for co-creation with our users. We need to thoughtfully evaluate data, have meaningful conversations with our users, and really listen to what our users are saying. We will need to give up some power and control and that’s okay.