October 28th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

This has been an interesting program for me as it’s made me think a little more deeply about how I view my career, both how I got to where I am and where I’m going. As much as I’d wished that I didn’t have to batch some of the things as much as I have, some weeks there just wasn’t time to focus on this program. But, in the end, here I am at the last post within the (Nebraska’s) deadline by a few days.

Moving on I’ll of course continue to blog the larger things but remind everyone that I post a lot of other things, most recently over on Google+. Hey, and wouldn’t you know it, but that’s our next thing when we get back to the regular monthly Nebraska Learns 2.0 program early next week. I’d better get to writing that lesson…

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October 26th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

Phone bankingWhen it comes to what I would consider large-scale volunteering, back when I was in Aurora, CO for a period of years on was both on the board of the Aurora Public Library and the Friends of the Aurora Public Library, the later involving being the manager of the bookstore. While here in Nebraska I’ve been the chair of the Information Technology and Access Round Table (ITART) of the Nebraska Library Association, wan the local liaison for the annual NLA conference this year, and I’ve been asked by several people to run for NLA president next year.

On what I would consider small-scale volunteering I regularly give talks on topics to libraries and library-related groups that aren’t officially part of my job duties (i.e. for groups outside of Nebraska) for which I don’t ask to be paid. (This isn’t to say that I never charge, it just depends on a lot of different factors.)

All in all, I’d say I have a strong history of volunteering and giving back to the library profession. I’ll also add that not all of the volunteering I’ve ever done has been simple or easy but in the end they’ve all be satisfying and worthwhile experiences. So, the simple answer is yes, volunteering is a good thing and I hardly feel that it devalues our profession.

In the past week I’ve had discussions with two colleagues about requests they’d received about speaking outside of their normal job duties. In both cases the conversations started with “how much should I charge” and ended up focusing on how much outside-of-work work were they willing to put into the experience. In both cases I stressed that speaking for pay does look good on a resume but that doing it for free is nothing to sneeze at either, especially when the speaking gig wasn’t your idea. 

In then end, it’s all a balancing act. Sometimes giving back is more important than a check.

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October 26th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

Rex AuerThis thing doesn’t ask us to get specific about what we like and dislike when it comes to our current jobs, but “what do you like to do? What do you dislike? Do you remember the last time you felt that feeling of deep satisfaction after creating, building, completing something? What was it about? What skills do you need to do the things you like? These skills are your strengths; they stem from your interests.” Let me try each of these in turn.

What do I like to do? Read, obviously. Write, not as much but it is fun. And helping others learn. I suppose I can throw in things like bike riding and travel, but those aren’t necessarily central to my career. Ok, I guess the travel thing is.

What do I dislike? Frustration, which I suppose is an odd thing to dislike when you’re helping others learn. However, that dislike has forced me to become more able to deal with frustration in general.

The last time I felt deep satisfaction? That would be just a few days ago when I received an e-mail from a soon-to-be library student who attended one of my presentations at Internet Librarian and she took the time to track me down online, and send me an e-mail letting me know how much that presentation meant to her. (Thank you!) Sometimes it’s hard to judge your impact and it’s words like those that allow you to know you’re having an impact.

What skills do I need to pull all this off. First a willingness to speak in front of a group, no matter how small or large. Second, the ability to deal with frustration. Third, the ability to try, fail, and try again. (These don’t necessarily apply to the reading bit, but they most definitely apply to writing and helping others to learn.)

So, I guess those are my strengths and the next time I apply for a job (hopefully not any time soon) I’ll be sure to focus on those.

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October 25th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

This thing centers on talking about your roots but gives those of us that have discussed this topic before and out or two. One of those outs is to talk about advice we might give to those new to the profession. So here’s my advice.

  • Free adviceDon’t keep quiet. Whether it’s via presentations at conference or just talking to someone at a bar, talk about libraries and your experiences in and with them.
  • Start the conversation. I suppose this is similar to my first piece of advice but just talking isn’t enough. It needs to be a conversation and if you won’t start one, why should you expect others to do so?
  • Always strive to improve yourself. The learning opportunities today are almost limitless. Read blogs. Read books. Watch videos. Then, do all that outside of your skill level and community. You never know what you might learn from someone that isn’t in libraries.
  • Take the long view. Things you do now may not pay off immediately, but they might just help you later on in your career.
  • Develop your network. Those of us in the library world are genetically predisposed to helping others. The more people you know, the more people you can call on when you need some help.

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September 22nd, 2011 by Michael Sauers

I looked at Prezzi back when it first arrived on the scene and even did a version of my Creative Commons presentation using Prezzi. This thing was enough to make me consider updating that version from 2009 in order to present it next week at the Wyoming Library Association Conference. After thinking about it I’ve decided to stick with PowerPoint for the forseeable future. Let’s just say that I’ve only ever seen one Prezzi-based presentation that actually pulled it off…

I’m no Chris Anderson.

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September 22nd, 2011 by Michael Sauers

I’m in a reflective mood but I’m not being all that reflective of the program itself, maybe since most of the things in this particular program aren’t all that new to me. However, this week Gina Trapani of Smarterware.org posted the following titled Automattic’s Company Creed:

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

She didn’t provide any context so I don’t know any more than just that statement but it has made me start to think about my own priorities and I feel that this has a lot to say about how we as librarians need to conduct ourselves when it comes to things like lifelong learning, and the sharing of the knowledge we already have. This is one of those times that I wish I could be that eloquent and since I’m not I’m not going to say much else and just let those words stand on their own.

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September 15th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

Where to start on this one considering I do both of these things pretty much weekly, if not more often.

When it comes to screencasting at the Commission we use our GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar account to record both training videos and our weekly NCompass Live webinars. Granted the GoTo products aren’t free, or even cheap for that matter but considering the amount of work we do with them they’re worth every penny. I have used free services such as Jing in the past but I just don’t have any need for them any more.

Then, after any session we record, whether it be NCompass Live or another live session of training or a presentation, I use a number of programs to turn those recordings into our NCompass Live Podcast., the latest episode of which I’ll be working on after I’m done writing this. The process is somewhat detailed but on a minimal level, here’s what’s involved:

  • GoToWebinar records the video and audio from the session or I transfer the video from our HD video camera to disk using Windows Live Movie Maker.
  • Using VLC I create an audio-only WAV file from the video file.
  • I then run the audio file through Levelator to get the audio levels as consistent as possible.
  • I then take the revised audio file into Audacity to add opening and closing music and narration, and edit out any obvious and significant audio problems.
  • When that’s done I export the resulting audio file as an MP3 using the LAME encoder.
  • I then use ListGarden to generate the RSS file for the podcast


It sounds like a lot but after a few months of doing this every week it gets much easier.

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September 12th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

DSC_0079.JPGThis one has really got me thinking but I’m not sure I have much to say. Basically it’s made me realize that when people have asked me recently “what do you do?” I’ve been responding “I teach computers” or “I work for the state”. Notice that those answers don’t include the word “librarian” anywhere. Maybe sometimes it’s because I don’t really want to have a conversation (I’d really prefer quiet when getting my hair cut; it’s not a social thing for me) or maybe it’s the situation (when talking to someone else about a computer problem, mentioning that I deal with computers is more relevant than being a librarian) but now I want/need to figure it out for myself.

So, simply put, I need to advocate more to people who aren’t librarians themselves. Granted talking amongst ourselves is important but considering the majority of us are employed based on taxes, we should all be doing more to let everyone know that librarians are lurking where others may least expect it.

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September 9th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

So, conferences. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Let’s focus on each of the three issues of this thing:


Regularly I attend the Nebraska state conference and both Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian. In the past I’ve also attended ALA annual and many different state conferences.

ALA just doesn’t interest me any more. Maybe because I don’t have any meetings to attend and I don’t need to generally talk to any vendors. Granted I’d love to go back for the author meet & greets along with the free books, but I can’t honestly say any of that benefits me professionally.

CIL and IL on the other hand are events that I look forward to, and work by tuchus off in preparation of. Beyond these two events being a great place to learn about what other libraries and librarians are doing in the world of technology, I’ve created many connections and friendships over the years and always love being able to reconnect will colleagues from all over the world.


Speaking of working my tuchus off, I generally speak at both IL and CIL which allows most of my expenses to be covered. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy it but just attending and presenting several sessions are sometimes two very different animals. It’s not that I don’t like presenting but it does generally tend to control your schedule while you’re there.

In addition I’ve spoken at many different state association conferences and an endless number of workshops. The state conferences are sometimes completely different worlds than national conferences which maybe I’ll save my thoughts on for a different post.

However, what I must say is that everyone should present, whether it’s to your follow staff members or starting off at a regional or statewide conference. First, it’ll boot your confidence and second, the more you do it the better you get at it and it’s a great skill to have that can only help your career. If you’re nervous the first time out, find a more experienced presenter and ask if they’d be willing to team up with you on the presentation. I, and most of the other regular presenters I know, started out this way ourselves and would be more than happy to help get someone else started.


Ah, now this one’s new to me. This year I’m the “local liaison” for the Nebraska Library Association end of the NLA/NEMA conference here in Nebraska. It’s been an experience and it’s not quite over so I’m going to save my thoughts on this one until it’s all over. For now, let’s just say that I’m glad I’ve done it but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll ever want to do it again.

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August 19th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

This week we’re talking about online collaboration, specifically Google Docs, Dropbox & Wikis.

Google Docs

Google Docs LogoI’ve been using Google Docs more and more this year. My main use recently is in storing and sharing documents that are involved with the semi-large committee of planners for this year’s state conference. Logs are kept there and PDFs are shared so that everyone can see what everyone else is working on.

I’ve also got a few other documents stored there as reference. For example, it’s a great place to store my spreadsheet of all the DVDs the family owns. This way any of us can look up the list on our phones while out shopping to answer that age-old question, do we already own this?

However, I still see a significant amount of limitations when it comes to Google Docs and actually editing files. In most cases it works great for basic documents but not for things that are more heavily formatted. One of my forthcoming books is on Google and I have a co-author so we were thinking that we might actually write the book using Google Docs. However having worked with another author recently that did use Google Docs I’m no longer sure that’s a good idea. (Things like comments and some formatting just never did translate well between Google Docs and Word, which is what the publisher needs when it’s all said and done.) So, we’ll probably be sticking with Word and using Dropbox to share the files.


Dropbox LogoDropbox does what it does and it does it well. I store very little in Dropbox for reasons I’ll get to momentarily, but I do use it a lot when I’m sharing documents with others. For example with the book I just finished I, the other author, and our editor had a shared Dropbox folder in which all the files were stored. This way everyone had access to the current versions at all times. I’ve got another shared folder in which several of us share images for use in creating slides for an upcoming Battledecks competition. For a more techie example, I’ve got another Dropbox folder into which I can drop .torrent files.  This folder is then monitored by my BitTorrent client and when it sees a new file it’ automatically starts the downloading process. 

However, I’ve moved much of my sharing of personal files that I’m not sharing with others, to a similar service named Wuala. At the basic level it does the exact same thing Dropbox does but it adds automatic encryption to anything you drop into the folder. I’m not exactly paranoid, but after the recent change to Dropbox’s terms of service, I’m more comfortable using a service which has no access to my files in any way. (This does slow down the transfer of files due to the encryption, but it’s not often that I need to share something between my computers quickly.)


Wikis and I have had a love-hate relationship. I went through a period where I loved wikis and tried to get a lot of stuff at the office moved onto a wiki platform. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to convince more than a small number of people and so the whole thing has died a slow death. So for the time being, short of using Wikipedia for reference, the amount of collaboration I’m doing on wikis is pretty much nill.

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