Take a Break and Be More Effective

There’s no doubt about it. This is a busy time of year! As you work to jugglejuggling the many personal and professional demands the final months of the year bring, it’s important to remember to take breaks, too. Research has shown that taking some time off actually makes us more effective. In her upcoming Infopeople course Managing Digital Overload, instructor Crystal Schimpf discusses the importance of taking breaks from technology, too.

Breaks from technology are beneficial and necessary. Breaks help us manage information better and help our brains to renew and recharge. Research shows breaks can help clear our head, making us more productive and creative when we return. A recent study shows the benefits of taking a short walk once a day at work.

In the course, Schimpf will share a number of specific ways we can effectively take breaks, including tools that can help! Here’s a sneak peek at a few of her suggestions:

Stand Up and Stretch

  • Gently stretch the wrists and hands to relieve tension from repetitive motion.
  • Develop a sequence of stretches to do once daily, such as these stretches from the Mayo Clinic.
  • Download a free app like Big Stretch Reminder to get pop-up reminders on your computer to take a stretch break.

Exercise Your Eyes

  • Prevent eye strain by periodically looking away from your computer and focusing on a distant object. Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Try using Eyeleo, a free computer app that reminds you to give your eyes a break and offers suggested eye exercises at regular intervals.

Turn Off the Technology

  • If you don’t need your technology, try turning it off (or putting it to sleep) while you work on other things.
  • Freedom is an app that freezes your screen so you have to take a break from technology. The app is free for a basic plan, and additional paid options are available.

Are you a busy task juggler, ready to tackle the challenge of keeping up crystal_schimpfwith all of those blogs to be read, apps to be tried, tasks to be completed, and emails to be read, too? Sign-up for this course to discover strategies and tools… and also for affirmation about the importance of taking a break now and then, too!

Course begins December 8th. Space is still available and registration is open at https://infopeople.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=535

 

Public libraries, the Affordable Care Act, and news in 2014

With the initial healthcare insurance enrollment period, and the attendant media running up to and during those months, just fading in memory, it’s already time to use what we learned and improve on the remarkably smooth Covered California/California public library interfaces we began to build a year ago. WebJunction has been pursuing the study and documentation of public library processes and lessons in various states. Reading their report on the California experience offers insights on what worked here and why.

The second open health insurance enrollment period is scheduled to begin November 15. The Affordable Care Act includes many directives besides this particular and complex one. Now is a good time to review the various aspects beyond insurance coverage that might be affecting your community and be prime to target by library staff as local information development needs.

This year at CLA, a program featuring Covered California, the community aware staff at Alameda County Library who gave a star performance connecting community to Affordable Care access and information the first year out, and Infopeople, which continues to update and provide free access to the independent online series Affordable Care Act @ Your California Public Library, is slated for Sunday afternoon.

Do you have programming experiences around Affordable Care you’d like to share? As WebJunction notes in its report, our collaborative capacity is a California library strength.

National Archives and Wikipedia

The continuing development of the US Open Government Plan, first promoted in 2010, and leading, in 2011, to the naming of a Wikipedian in Residence at the National Archives (NARA), is set to go the next step. All of NARA’s digitized content will be loaded into Wikipedia. Already 100,000 images from NARA are available freely and readily via Wikimedia Commons.

This is another alert to us in the library world that we need to take Wikipedia as a serious reference source, help develop our community members’ understanding of how to evaluate its content, and use it ourselves for some serious research.

This new open data reality can save us time and collection money. It furthers our capacity to bring vetted, primary sources to local users. It doesn’t mean that Wikipedia is close to perfect. But it is a strong indication that we need to move our professional discussion of best practices beyond the yes/no evaluation of resources to discover, learn and teach the how and why of discovering the best resource available to respond to the user need.

 

Librarians going beyond Google

In a continuing series of engaging panel discussions hosted by American Libraries, AL Live, the episode presented last Thursday offered a rich mix of observations, insights, and big questions about how library staff–most particularly reference staff–out-Google Google’s popular reputation as the resource par excellance. Going Beyond Google  worked through such concerns as utilizing Google web crawling to reveal library contents for user discovery; recognizing reference staff’s shift from fact-finders to evaluation guides; teaching students the difference between the wisdom of crowds and authentic data; and, most especially, the seemingly irreplaceable role human interaction–conversational communication–plays in getting the person with the question to infomation that best responds to addressing it.

The live webcast itself epitomized the very values being named and addressed throughout it. Panelists engaged each other, through Dan Freeman’s fast paced hosting, rather than announcing positions held individually outside the influence of the ongoing conversation. Virtual participants added meaty remarks, with Dan turning to these text chatters frequently enough to keep the preset discussion questions fluid and evolved under the comments added extemporaneously.

Among the takeaways from this model reference engagement process was the citing of an ACRL document authored by Megan Oakleaf,  The Value of Academic Libraries, which provides–and importantly for public and other libraries beyond academic ones–replicable charting methods for displaying how libraries, and librarian-provided services, provide institutional value.

Other takeaways included the restatement of reference (and other library provisions) in a “Google world” as being one of fruitful addition, wayfinding, mentorship, and authoritative balance rather than an unfruitful competition between librarian and search engine. The incomparable worth of communication–between librarian and information seeker–was highlighted as the epitome of library added value to any knowledge search beyond the identification of simple fact. And to that end, the webcast itself was a model of communication among librarians about where and how to get beyond Google.

Listening to literature

June, we have been celebrating across nearly two decades now, is Audiobook Month. In many parts of California, the audiobook experience is tied to car-based commuting, and, in agricultural areas, tractor driver companionship. California is also the birthplace of Earphone English secondary school programming targetting English Language Learners in a long-running public/school library collaboration.

And audiobook appreciation is a whole lot more. Audiobooks give inveterate book worms the opportunity to get their reading jones on while working out, walking about, cleaning house, and drifting into sleep. Professional performance turns the written word into, as Booklist audiobook maven Mary Burkey calls it, “Voices in My Head”–voices that pronounce unusual vocabulary correctly, give body to cultural and regional accents, and give those for whom reading with the eyeballs is less than cimfortable ready literary access via reading with the ears.

June now stretches into all summer, with industry promotions bringing all sorts of audiobook freebies, including SYNC, Spoken Freely, and for those who love lists, the shiney new Audies list–with clips, of course. The big news this Audiobook Month is the serious reconsideration DRM is getting from production companies. Oh, and EBSCO’s new audiobook “sound alike” algorithm incorporated into NoveList Plus.

Audiobooks turn literature into performance art, more than just a pretty good aesthetic deal available with a library card. The medium also puts the legs on the idea that we can all become better listeners. We spend a lot of time learning to communicate out. Audiobook Month can remind us thst communication isn’t a one-way street, and the traffic of literary appreciation has intersections, varying speed zones, and unexplored neighborhoods.

Let’s get listening.