stop worrying and use my smartphone

propaganda poster at the International Spy Museum
Darth Vader?

Yesterday I took the train up from Richmond to Washington to visit with Kathryn Greenhill and family. They’re on a whirlwind holiday spanning the globe, and since it’s not often I get to visit with folks from the other side of the world, I snatched the opportunity to spend most of the day with them.

I learned quite a few things on this visit — from vocabulary like rubbish bins and biscuits (trash cans and cookies, respectively) to how to avoid being uncovered as a secret agent. I also learned that a smartphone and a useful mobile web interface can take a lot of stress out of travel.

After visiting a farmer’s market near DuPont Circle and the Gertrude Stein exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery, we toured the International Spy Museum. The museum is enormous, with displays that bleed from one to the next and never seem to end, until suddenly you find yourself at the exit. We had been there for two hours when it occurred to me that my time was running out.

After we made our way back to the Metro stop and said our goodbyes, I had just enough time to get back to Union Station and catch my train home. Or, I would have, if I had made sure I was going the right direction on the Metro. Two stops later I realized I was on the wrong train, and I assessed my options.

By the looks of things, the correct train wasn’t going to be coming by anytime soon, so I decided to hoof it to DuPont Circle (where I landed instead of Union Station) and catch a cab. Union Station was fairly close, and the cab maybe could get me there in time. Luckily, an available cab pulled up soon after I started looking for one. Not so luckily, we ran into too much traffic and I missed the train.

Normally, this would have prompted a huge breakdown with frustration and tears directed at myself for screwing up. However, by the time we were half-way to the station, I already knew that I would miss the train (it was early and left on the dot), and that there were three more trains going to Richmond this evening, so I’d get home one way or another.

Without my smartphone, and the information it provided me, I would have had to sit in worry and self-directed anger for the long minutes it took to get from DuPont to the Amtrak ticket counter at Union Station. Knowing I had plenty of options meant that worry was unnecessary and avoidable.

My smartphone is a lot of things to me (my calendar, my communications, my social connection) and it’s also the antidote to one of my biggest stress triggers — the unknown.

peer-to-peer sharing — the legal kind

I’ve been watching with interest to see what comes out of the TERMS: Techniques for Electronic Resources Management, for obvious reasons. Jill Emery and Graham Stone envision this to be a concise listing of the six major stages of electronic resources management, as well as a place to share tips and workflows relating to each. As they publish each section, I’ve marveled at how concise and clear they are. If you do anything with electronic resources management, you need to be following this thing.

Evaluation of resources has been a subject near and dear to my heart for many years, and increasingly so as we’ve needed to justify why we continue to pay for one resource when we would like to purchase another equally desired resource. And in relation to that, visualization of data and telling data stories are also professional interests of mine.

renewal decision report
renewal decision report example

When the section on annual review was published last month, it included an appendix that is an example of usage and cost  data for a resource delivered as both flat numbers and a graph. While this is still a rather technical presentation, it included several elements I had not considered before: cost as a percentage of the budget line, cost per student, use per student, and a mean use for each year. I decided this method of delivering statistical information about our electronic resources might be more useful to our subject specialists than my straight-up number approach. So, I’ve now incorporated it into the annual review checklist that I send out to the subject specialists in advance of renewal deadlines.

I’m not going to lie — this isn’t a fast report to create from scratch. However, it has made a few folks take a hard look at some resources and the patterns of their use, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it work my time and effort. Repeat use will be much faster, since I’ll just need to add one year’s worth of data.