Apps for Librarian Productivity

Caveat! This post isn’t intended as technical review, but one busy librarian’s experience!

A few days ago, I received another in a growing line of requests for a list of iPad apps that I find most useful in my workaday life. While the list does, of course, go through the necessary evolution that is part of contemporary tech, maybe sharing a current snapshot list here is in order.

First off, I use my iPad for both work and play. I teach online courses from it, develop curriculum on it, file as well as read email, Tweets and assorted blog-posted sites I think warrant return visits. And I move around a lot while I work so the iPad travels in my small backpack and is protected by a well-padded cover that has both a fold out stand and a hand strap to support it should I want to read, write or converse while lounging. In other words, my iPad is a practical extension of my hands as well as my workspace. With all that in mind, here are the apps that keep me productive:

For word processing, I use Pages. This app allows the finished (or finished-for-now) doc to be emailed in Word. (For less polished, private notes I just use the built in Notes app and like how it stores past ones, as well as providing instant sharing options.) Pages also allows for loading pictures and you can insert tables or shapes to further format the document you are creating.

One of the apps I am most excited about is the collaboration-oriented SynchSpace, which allows multiple users to work on a shared whiteboard, or to share and add to documents in the same space. It allows docs to be created with typing , but also with freehand drawing (such as arrows) and emailing as a pdf so that content can’t be altered by the recipient.

Skitch allows me to take screenshots and then annotate them. You can also annotate photos and maps, or draw freehand on a blank. You can choose text colors, fonts, etc., and can share the resulting page. And never a big spender (except for books!), this one has the added allure of still being free!

Flipboard is another one I really love, both for its visual-tactile connection and the time-saving it offers.  It allows you to make your own personalized “magazine” by compiling your Twitter account(s), rss feed(s), and any other social media (such as news feeds from specific sources like Mashable or comic strips) into a source that presents you with the actual content, rather than the link to content. So, instead of seeing that the Guardian has a link to a story on a particular person, I am seeing the opening paragraph of the story itself and with one click am at the full story, able to go back to the Flipboard page with one tap, and also able to email, Tweet, or otherwise share the full story with one more tap.

Keynote is what I use for creating presentations (along the lines of Microsoft’s PowerPoint) and with a portable projector, the iPad can be plugged in to actually provide the presentation to a group!

The iBooks app allows me to save pdf’s I receive via email as “books” on its shelf, so I can much more readily refer back to lengthy ones, like government reports. The fact is, that storing such lengthy pdfs in a bookcase-like setting makes it far more likely that I will refer to the document more attentively. The iBooks library feature also shelves pdfs and books separately, so I can locate those reports much more quickly than when they arrived as spindly 25-page papers that I had to hold up on my professional bookshelf by slotting them between probably unrelated titles.

Since the iPad is a mobile device, not a computer, I don’t store my own documents on it, but rather on my laptop. However, I do create documents on it, and the only way to NOT store the ones I create there is to willfully delete them, so the default is actually storage.

This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, nor a sales pitch, just a more thorough response than I’ve been able to provide those who ask me for a quick reply about I get my work done efficiently with my iPad. How do you?

George and Joan, Thinking Out Loud about Ideas That Will Change the World

podcastIn this edition of Thinking Out Loud, George and Joan discuss (in their own inimitable way) and article that appeared in Time magazine on March 17, 10 Ideas That Will Change the World.

Looking at trends, they agree, makes us look at how we do things and ask good questions and start conversations that we normally wouldn’t have. It helps us step away from the day to day firefighting and take a gander at the bigger picture. It’s a refreshing listen!

This seems like an opportune time for a (mostly) relevant Infopeople plug: George is teaching an online course that starts on April 3, 2012 titled Libraries and Change: Skills for Successful Change Management. Seats are still available!

Stacey Aldrich, Libraries, and Planning for the Future

Acting State Librarian of the California State Library Stacey Aldrich will be helping current and prospective library leaders use current tools to explore the future in her Infopeople workshop, “Building Leadership Skills: Planning for the Future,” scheduled in libraries throughout California in June 2009.

“We’ll be looking at what kinds of sources you should be scanning for clues to the future and why; what kinds of triggers you should be looking for; and how you ask the right questions about the future,” she said during a conversation earlier this week. “The key here is that the more tools that you have for thinking about the future, the more proactive you can be about creating the future. This workshop is an opportunity to learn and practice some future-thinking tools and then spend some time thinking about the future so you can find opportunities.”

Included in the curriculum are explorations of scenario planning, a concept explored by futurist in his book The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World; environmental scanning; and top trends which library leaders need to watch.

“We need to look outside of libraries for the forces and trends that are changing people’s expectations about information, technology, and community,” Aldrich says. “If we’re asking the right questions about our future, we can keep developing services that meet the needs of the people we serve.”

Among the sources she cites are the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conferences with talks which are archived at; the Pop!Tech conferences with similarly archived materials at Pop!; and, which offers a variety of resources including free monthly “trend briefings.”

Using these tools will help library leaders engage in more effective environmental scanning and scenario thinking. Environmental scanning, she suggests, is “taking an interest in observing the world around you…reading and observing things you may never do,” and scenario building, “in its simplest terms, is creating stories about the future to help your library think about possible futures, and then build strategies that will help you thrive in each of them, and to help your library create its preferred future.”

The workshop is the latest offering in Infopeople’s multi-stage Eureka! Leadership Program with its “Building Leadership Skills” series, and it will remain available as a contract workshop through Infopeople for those who are not able to attend the currently scheduled sessions. Registration ($75 per person) for “Building Leadership Skills: Planning for the Future” and other “Building Leadership Skills” sessions is continuing on the Infopeople website; instructors for other sessions in the series include Marie Radford and Steve Albrecht.

Sessions of “Building Leadership Skills: Planning for the Future” are currently scheduled for Buena Park Library District (6/4/2009); San Diego County Library Headquarters (6/5/2009); San Francisco Public Library – Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room (6/11/2009); Belle Cooledge Library in Sacramento (6/12/2009); Fresno – Woodward Park (6/16/2009); and San Jose Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (6/23/2009).

Planning Your 2008 Trendwatching Strategies

If the January Infoblog postings about trend watching didn’t grab you, but you’ve become more interested after listening to George and Joan’s podcasts, take a look at’s September 2007: Top 5 Trend Watching Tips and get ready for the changes 2008 is sure to bring.
The five tips for September are easy to read and understand; here’s the list with a brief description to whet your appetite for more.
1. Know why you’re tracking trends – Keep up with what’s happening, get new ideas and be poised for innovations.
2. Have a point a view – When you have a broad point of view, even tiny observations start to make sense.
3. Weave your web of resources – Soak up the insights, the spottings, the reports, the live dispatches from the global consumer arena.
4. Fine-tune your trend framework- Start building your own Trend Framework by copying consumer trends from existing trend curators.
5. Embed and apply – Start your own Trend Group even if you are the first and only member until your fervor attracts others.