My #libchat experience

A lot of people know about #libchat, but I don’t actually know anyone who has participated. I decided to participate while I’m in the Eastern time zone since it makes it easier (and since it’s summer, I have some free time). I think libchat is a great initiative making great use of social media and non-geographically tied group communication. I was excited to participate and even downloaded tweetdeck to help me follow the conversation and post.

A disclaimer that I’ve only participated in two sessions, but I think I can make a few general observations of my experience with them.

  • Good way to learn about what other librarians/libraries are doing.
  • One way to find other librarians (to follow perhaps) that may be interested in certain topics.
  • Great way to ask questions and get some answers from a diverse group of people.
  • Can network and promote yourself to a geographically diverse group (good for those who are open to moving across Canada/US).
  • One way to learn about issues/trends that librarians care/want to know more about.

As I said,  I think #libchat is great. I applaud nataliebinder who moderates the discussion every single week. Nevertheless, as a student, I feel like I have little to contribute since I don’t know that much about whichever library I work in. I also felt like it was mostly a Q&A session with little discussion. Not that that was wholly unexpected, but I was hoping for a bit more back and forth between/with others. As well, personally, for networking purposes, I want to get to know people locally (or in Canada at least), but the group is dominated by those from the US. Still, I’ll probably participate again or at least follow discussions to see what people are talking about.

Still, it’s a great experience, especially for someone new to twitter, and I would definitely recommend for people to participate, especially if they have questions they want to pose to a group of librarians outside of their immediate group/network.

Find & Fix Missing Category in WordPress (.com)

Seems like after the upgrade, a number of people have had the problem with randomly missing categories from the admin panel/dashboard. One of mine randomly disappeared after I renamed it. It was no longer a subcategory and was at the bottom of the list (not alphabetical order) on all the filters etc., but refused to show up in the Categories admin panel.

So, I found lots of information on how to fix missing categories for wordpress, but not when you use wordpress.com. After much searching, I found one solution on wordpress.com forums (second last reply), but what’s missing is the key element on how to figure out your category ID. Easiest way then:

Find your category ID by looking at the source code for your blog. You will see for example, <li class=”cat-item cat-item-78954″>. The number is your category ID. Similar thing for tags.

You must have categories (or tags) displayed on your blog for this to work obviously.

National Public Service Week

I had a fairly eventful National Public Service Week last week.

Kick-Off
To begin with, there was a ‘kick-off’ event here with a video in honour of public servants. It was interesting to watch, because although I realized that the government does a lot for the country, it helped me realize that literally all sectors of our country likely have a related government department or agency (beyond finance/taxes).

Appreciation Wiki
To celebrate NPSW, our communications branch (I believe) set up wiki pages (via yours truly and coworkers) for people to add comments thanking other people’s hard work. I am proud to say that I added a comment as well thanking everyone, particularly the team, in helping me get settled in. I also greatly appreciate my coworkers putting up with my newbie questions.

W2P Event
For some context:

w2p stands for Web 2.0 Practitioners of the Government of Canada, a “community [which] focuses on sharing, identifying, helping and providing best practices within the Government of Canada, and share those leading examples across the public service.” You can follow the discussion on twitter: #w2p

Wednesdays of last week was a #w2p event and it was great. My first meetup with the group (since I missed the last one at the War Museum). I didn’t know anyone there, but the hosts were really friendly and so were all the other people I met. It was nice putting faces to names. I found it funny that half the people there either work or worked at NRCan at some point. A lot of good discussions and finding out what other people are doing. In particular, the accessibility web work that’s happening is quite interesting. I was also introduced to the @UXWG which is a government working group coming up with web guidelines. See Laura Wesley’s blog post summarizes UXWG.

Young Professionals Network Mixer
YPN organized an interdepartment mixer to encourage people to meet with young professionals in other departments. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a little more structured. They basically provided a place and time, but that was it. No introductory remarks, no ice breaker games, nothing to encourage people to actually mix. I was happy that I met new people from another department, but they were essentially coworkers of acquaintances. Still, it was great fun meeting other co-op students I hadn’t met before.

So, that was my NPSW. I’m glad I took the opportunity to go out to as many events as I could manage. It makes me all the more thankful that I had the opportunity in the first place. Thanks GC!

Doors Open Ottawa (Part 2)

So, to continue from last time. Here is the other half of the places I visited (in alphabetical order):

For the full list and a map with the actual order I visited places in, see Part 1, the previous post.

Embassy of Hungary

I think the Hungarian Embassy was the highlight of the weekend for me. It’s a smallish place as far as embassies go (is my impression anyway), but it had a great atmosphere and look that I really liked.

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The house part of the building was restored to the original look including all the wood paneling and ironwork. It was elegantly decorated. The study had a cool map of Austria-Hungary (from 1867 I think it was). The dining area had a small table set up with photographs of traditional Hungarian dishes. Best part was when one of the other visitors asked if the beautiful china was used for formal or special occasions. The response from the staff, “No, no, he uses it everyday.” I went early (just before it opened) so I got some pictures without anyone in them.

First Church of Christ, Scientist

Honestly, I only stopped here because it was on my way to Blackburn after the Hungarian Embassy. There was really not much to see. I was hoping to see their organ, but it was behind a wall. Oh well.

Government Conference Centre

Government Conference Centre

The Conference Centre was really nice to see, because it’s the old train station essentially. There was a presenter talking about the history of the station and how it was modeled on the (now no longer existing) NYC Pennsylvania station. We got free popcorn too! (Sorry, no pictures from me. They didn’t turn out well.)

Library of Parliament (Parliament & Sparks St.)

So the Parliament library inside the Parliament you can see if you got on a Centre block tour. The Sparks St. one, however, I believe is not normally open to the public.

Library of ParliamentLibrary of Parliament

(Apologies for the quality of the pictures, but with the sun coming through the windows, it wasn’t easy.) The statue of Queen Victoria stands tall more or less in the center of the circular room with walls of books. At intervals, there are large wooden towers with the coat of arms of the 7 provinces that existed in 1876. It’s the only part of the original parliament that wasn’t burnt down, so it’s quite special.

Library of Parliament at Sparks

I spent little time at the Sparks St. Parliament Library, but I took a couple of pictures. It’s housed in the old Bank of Nova Scotia done in the Beaux-Arts style, so it has a nice open atmosphere to it. It’s quite grand in a modern way, and rather impressive, though I found the one in Parliament more interesting.

Maplelawn Garden & Keg Manor

Maplelawn

Maplelawn was really nice. How often do you see a (what used to be private) acre garden in the city? It actually had a lot of flowers that I don’t remember seeing elsewhere (at least not in bloom). It was great to just get “out” of the city for a little while, especially out of the downtown/core area. One of the volunteers even cut a few flowers and gave it out to the ladies.

Keg ManorKeg Manor Entrance Hall

The Keg Manor is the house next to the garden where the original family lived. It was originally owned by the Thomson family, but is now called the Keg Manor since it houses the Keg Restaurant. It was nice to see the inside since even if you were to dine there, you don’t exactly get to wander around.

National Capital Commission

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is housed in a restored building. Apparently, it was so old and unmaintained that it was pretty much falling apart and unlivable. However, they didn’t have enough money to get it restored, so they made a deal with the management company that the company would get a fixed number of years ownership and would get all profits during that time before it was given back to the city.

NCC buildingInside NCC

The paint colours and everything were restored to the original based on shaving down the layers, historical documents, etc. The style of the building is a really interesting mix including Japanese tea rooms (seen in the railing). The offices that lease that part of the building are really allowed to do more or less what they would like as long as they restore it to the original when they leave.

7 Rideau Gate

7 Rideau Gate

This is where they house foreign dignitaries and it’s pretty much right next to Rideau Hall. In a way, it’s just another house, except that it’s furnished with rather varied cultural decorations and styles. They also have their own chef! Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed on the inside.

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall is the Governor General’s house (and again you can’t take pictures inside, don’t know why). Heads of State and Royalty will stay here, so Queen Elizabeth II stayed in 2010 during her tour. The rooms were quite vast, obviously meant to hold large groups of people and for functions. The tent room was especially neat since it’s an indoor room but is made to looks like you are inside a colourful tent. The highlight of my visit though was seeing Glenn Gould’s piano.

St. Andrews Church

St Andrews ChurchSt Andrews Church Stainglass

This church was near C.D. Howe so I thought I’d take a few minutes to check it out. It turned out to have a really nice looking altar as well as some nice stainglass. (Excuse the poor quality shot of the stainglass, it’s hard without a SLR.)

Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts

Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts

This church is probably one of the nicest I’ve seen in Canada. It has a grand but not overwhelming sense of presence to it (it’s hard to explain). The organ was impressive especially with the stainglass behind it, which would have made a very nicely framed picture if I had a camera that could have captured it properly in the kind of lighting I was working with. What I liked most though was the triple altar with its nice paintings. Of course, I have yet to visit the Notre-Dame in downtown.

Studio of Canadian Landscape Artist Gordon Harrison

No pictures. I just stopped by here since it was on my way to the bus stop. It was interesting though not art that I would purchase regardless of the rather high prices. On the up side, they had a bit of free food and wine! (though I opted for perrier since it was the middle of the afternoon.) The cottage itself was really small, but cute. The garden was made for lounging.

Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of CanadaSupreme Court of CanadaSupreme Court Foyer

The Supreme Court of Canada was a really interesting place to visit, especially with the speakers who were there to talk about how everything works. It was educational learning about what kind of cases would be heard and that each side only has one hour to make their case unlike in lower court proceedings. The Federal Court of Canada is in the same building, and thought I could have guessed, I didn’t know that criminal cases are tried at the federal level, but only federal crimes, such as treason and terrorism.

Phew~ Finally, that was my Doors Open Ottawa 2011 experience!

Doors Open Ottawa 2011 (Part 1)

It was actually two weekends ago now that Doors Open Ottawa 2011 happened (June 4-5). Although it doesn’t quite fit in with the usual library related things I post, it was too cool of an experience not to blog about it.

A quick list of first half of the places I visited (in alphabetical order):

I somehow did all of this in one weekend. Took a day pass, a map, and a bit of planning, but it worked! Be warned: this post will be fairly image heavy. In visited order:


View Doors Open in a larger map

Billings Bridge Artifact Collection (Routhier Community Centre)

Billings Bridge Estate chair and pianoBillings Family Photos

This was a neat little collection of various furnishings and other items that are part of the Billings Bridge collection (exhibited at times at Billings Bridge Estate. I admit that after seeing the LAC Preservation Centre, the storage facility itself was not particularly impressive, but they definitely thought it through (complete with raised floors, humdifier, temperature control, and flood detectors). Nevertheless, as they recently redid the museum to be less showing of what it was like in the old times to more interactive screens/videos, it was nice to have the opportunity to see some of Ottawa’s history.

Blackburn Building

Blackburn Building
The Blackburn Building is really just an apartment building, but the indoor courtyard done in the Art Deco style was neat.

Bytown Museum & Rideau Canal

Bytown Museum and Rideau Canal

Bytown Museum was very interesting as the tour guide gave us a quick history of Ottawa, focusing on how Ottawa started as Bytown, the building of the Canal, and then how it got renamed. In doing so, she also talked about why the Bytown Museum (which was a warehouse and guardhouse) is the only building in Ottawa in the Georgian style architecture (though not quite true to it). Apparently, the Rideau Canal took so long to build, by the time it was done, the Georgian period had passed. While there, I also happened to see one of the Rideau Canal gates open and close. Not something you see everyday!

Carriageway

Dragon Lamp

This is actually restored building done in the Georgian style as the original was burnt down in 1978. It mostly has offices with some retail on the ground floor. This was another building that had balconies and walkways indoors (much like Blackburn), plus some neat lamp decorations.

C.D. Howe (green roof)

C.D. Howe Green Roof

C.D. Howe is the Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) building with retail shops on the lower levels. The building itself, however, was not the point of visiting the building, but rather to see Ottawa’s first ever green roof. The initiative is great for not only having a nice place to lounge with greenery for wildlife, it also helps to reduce energy use and the heat in cities.

Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat

Islamic Delegation building foyer
The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building was really neat. Of all the modern buildings I saw, I think I enjoyed this one the most. Other than the impressive dome, the metalwork you see around the foyer area is inspired by Islamic art created as a sort of screen where it is easy for those on the upper floor to see into the open space, but difficult for someone on the ground floor to see up to the balcony-like upper floor.

Islamic Delegation Courtyard

The courtyard was interesting too since originally it was supposed to have a fountain, but for whatever reason they could not put one in. So the architect found different ways to include water thematically. The courtyard floor is slanted so that water will collect in the center and drain away. The floor is even heated to accelerate the melting of snow during winter. The bushes are also shaped into a wave pattern so that when it snows, it becomes quite obvious.

Embassy of France

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I hadn’t really planned on going to the Embassy of France, but I’m glad I did. It’s a modern building as you can see from the images. The tapestries were very impressive: very large, well made, and some are quite old. The wall sculpture decorations were very nice as well. I thought the mix of decor styles was quite interesting. My only problem with the experience was that I felt like part of a herd.

Originally, I was going to post all the places, but the post was getting way too long. Stay tuned for Part 2.

MediaWiki Image Link Workaround

So, in playing around with my user page and trying to make it look pretty, I found out that you can link an image to an internal or external link like you might normally do instead of the File: page. That’s great, but the problem I found was that except for the basic internal and external link, when you linked the image to something that inherently has a little icon next to it (e.g. mailto link gives you a little e-mail icon), then it would show the icon next to the image (see below left).

So, it turns out that there is a workaround to hide the icon (see above right). You can add this bit of code to the main.css file:

#bodyContent .plainlinks a {
background: none repeat scroll 0 0 transparent !important;
padding: 0 !important;
}

Or if the CSS Extension is installed, you can hack it by using the same code, but you’ll probably want it to be context dependent if you can.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Preservation Centre

So our group actually went on this tour back on May 18th, but I somewhat forgot to write about it.

I apologize for lack of pictures. We weren’t really allowed to take anything in with us, so the best I can do is describe it. Click on the image below though, they have a few pictures on their own site.

Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre

The architecture is really interesting since it’s inspired by the Prairies. The towers look like oil rigs, and the various connected buildings in and outside look like barns or silos. The Centre itself is also separated into two sections. The inside vault is basically in a big cement block and then there’s a large hallway space with a glass building surrounding it. To give you perspective on the size, it’s two football fields big and could fit 2 boeing 747s if the vault wasn’t in it.

The inside has 4 floors of vault and then an open floor above for work areas. Each vault floor has numerous vaults separated into rectangular rooms much like most places that store materials. Humidity and temperature is different depending on the format of the material inside as to be expected. Audio/video is of course as challenge due to the shifts in format/technology. The paintings are pretty neat. There were a number of Laurier portraits, the Churchill one was nice, and copies of the original Proclamation of the Constitution Act. The original we’ve been told is in a top secret vault (no kidding).

Proclamation of the Constitution Act

The top floor is the “village” where they have little huts with all the equipment they need to do restoration, preservation, and format transfers. They’re considered huts since they can be reconfigured (I imagine they don’t do it all that often though). Particularly neat was the page remaking process where they remake and fill in what’s missing of each page from a book, and also the cover remaking/rebinding. We got to watch a short video on the comparison between before and after a film restoration which was pretty cool.

It was a very cool tour. It’s definitely worth going if you have time!

Adjusting Management Styles and Organizational Cultures

I’m sure everyone has experienced it when they change jobs. Everyone has experienced the shift and the need to adjust to a new job, manager/supervisor, and organization. I think what’s really hit me is that I’ve gone from one end to the pendulum to the complete opposite (or so it seems).

Management

At my old job, I was basically given a one liner on what I should be doing, “go do x, and if you don’t know how, just read up on it and give it a go.” If I needed help though, my coworkers would be more than happy to. I used my time as I saw fit in working on projects, and attended workshops on campus.

Now, I get lots of detail on what is being asked of me. I also send everything to be vetted by my manager and sometimes other coworkers. I keep a list of everything I’m working on and completed as well. I ask permission to go to anything my manager hasn’t directly sent me to.

Organization

In general, yes, things were divided by units or departments, but we got good response time for the most part and had a fair amount of control over what we could do. It was fairly easy to contact people and find out what information you wanted or needed.

Now, things are not only divided, things sometimes frustrate me, because we get minimal to little support in some areas. I also find it difficult to get information, having to through unusual ways to get it frequently. Though I admit, I think a lot of it is having no control and being allowed to be given any. It’s irking especially to know that you could probably fix it yourself, but it’s not your job. Then again, it seems I’ve just been “lucky” to encounter a number of issues and it’s not that common for a lot of the little things to happen that have been bothering me. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of things do go very well. I have found people very helpful and willing to help, and IT help desk is great!

Conclusion

There is no better, just different and what fits better with your work style.

 

general, yes, things were divided by units or departments, but we got good response time for the most part and had a fair amount of control over what we could do. It was fairly easy to contact people and find out what information you wanted or needed.

What do you call a wiki moderator?

Just a quick post.

At my old work, wiki moderators = wiki gardeners.

At my new work, wiki moderators = wiki gnomes.

Interesting that they all refer to gardening in some way, but I suppose that’s just a general wiki trend. I think I like the gardener title better, but gnomes definitely allows for some interesting pictures.

Traffic Curbing in a “Collaborative” Environment

So, it seems like lots of social media is used here and a lot of it is done in house. WordPressMU blogs, MediaWiki install, video/audio repository, RSS feeds, SharePoint… you get the idea. However, other social media wouldn’t really make sense to do in house, like Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc.

However, bandwidth is limited for Internet usage (i.e. outside of the Intranet), but perhaps because general Internet usage is needed by many, it’s only certain types of sites that are restricted. Chat/external e-mail is just blocked, but some sites are simply limited by bandwidth; primarily social media sites (Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc.).  Facebook… okay, you got chat, games, apps, pics, vids… very bandwidth intensive stuff.  But why Twitter? It’s all just text. (Use of Google tools too is somewhat encouraged for the collaborative bits, and I have no problem with maps/reader/calendar, but google docs just stalls…)

The Solution? Third-party apps. As long as your supervisor approves of it, you can request to get it installed. So, I now have TweetDeck to post on twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever other social media I’d like to, and keep track of friends too.

In the end, I can’t complain too much, because they’re already way ahead of others in promoting and encouraging use of collaborative tools and social media for work purposes compared to many other organizations, non-government included.