Friday, 4 August 2017

Rare Books Cataloguing

Beautiful books: Special collections from John Hopkins University, via Flickr

It's been a while since I covered rare books as part of my librarianship degree (about 4 years, give or take), so when this was advertised I signed up straightaway. Although I don't deal with rare books - the curatorial assistant takes away any of mine which qualify and put them in the rare books department, which is fair, I guess - I do work alongside them, and it's good to have a refresher in case I can ever help out there.

Liam Sims took the course - he's been a rare books cataloguer quite a while now. I have to say, I was *really* ill that day, and very tired having been up most of the night, but went in anyway. I struggled to stay awake for some of it, but that was because I was ill - so Liam, if you see this, and remember the woman dozing off in the corner, trust me, there was good reason, and I'm very sorry!

First we covered book manufacture, which remained principally the same until about the mid-18th century. It's aspects of this that can give us clues to a book's age, place of manufacture and so on.

Making paper from stuff: Monselice z22 by Zyance via Wikimedia Commons

Paper is made from linen rags, or whatever they could use - it's boiled up in a vat, and turns into "stuff" (yes, that's actually the term). Then a frame with wooden slats one way, metal wires another, and overall covered in a fine mesh is pushed into the stuff. Pull it out, let it dry and you have paper! The wires create what's called "chainlines", and you might also see a watermark stamped into the paper - these both help identify information about where and when the paper was made.

Old paper with watermark via Public Domain Pictures

Printing was done with moveable type by putting a line of text together on a "composing stick" (these medieval chaps believed in calling a spade a spade), upside down and back to front. They were kept in cases - the upper case contained the capitals, and the lower case contained the little letters (hence "upper case" and "lower case"). They'd be arranged with the most common letters in the middle, kind of like Dvorak for typesetters. Type, fonts, and styles varied widely according to the time and the location.

Missionary Printing Press, by Brigade Piron via Wikimedia Commons

If there were illustrations, these would be either woodcuts, which were relief images (like a potato print, so you'd cut away everything but the image you wanted to create), or engravings, which were etched into a metal plate, then the plate would be covered in ink and wiped off so the ink only remained in the etching, which was then pressed firmly onto the page.

Woodcut of an alchemist, Wellcome Collection via Wikimedia Commons

Binding is an interesting one, because books often didn't come bound. The idea was that you could make sure your books matched, so you'd get them bound yourself. These books came in paper bindings. Liam glossed over this area somewhat, because he said the terminology for describing bindings isn't very standardized.
We then took a trip to the University Library's Historical Printing Room. They run courses here in printing, which sounded really interesting - when I don't spend half my evenings babysitting it might be quite fun to try.

The next half of the course was "Rare books cataloguing in a nutshell". Liam claimed that there's no mystery to rare books cataloguing, but it is more detailed than for modern books. It lies somewhere between a full bibliography and a modern book record (good examples can be found at ESTC). He mentioned a couple of points: "entered" means roughly the same as published, and edition is very important, as there may be several editions released in the same year (he gave an example of a Rousseau book which had 3 editions published in the same year).

So in MARC, headings are broadly the same, but there are a few differences, including transcription conventions, descriptive conventions, and levels of detail. Use ellipses (...) for unnecessary information. Include at least the first five words of the title and the alternative title, plus as much as possible of the rest. Omit mottoes, dedications and postnomials and similar, e.g. if "by Richard Bentley, DD, DLitt, Master of Wherever", then write "by Richard Bentley ..." (not "by Richard Bentley.").
If the book is by "anonymous" but you know the author, rather than putting it in square brackets in the 245 field, it goes in a 500 $a Anonymous. By Richard Bentley.
For edition statements put them exactly as they appear, no abbreviations, thus  Third edition, corrected, and not 3rd ed., corr.
If the imprint is known but not on the title page then it goes in square brackets: [1750]. If it's in Roman numerals then write it thus: MDCCCLXVI [1866].
For pagination/foliation, unnumbered pages are counted and the number put in square brackets thus: [4], 250, [3].
599 is the MARC21 field for copy-specific information, e.g. 599 $a Imperfect: title page missing. $5 UkCU. Here might also be where you add information about inscriptions, bookplates - I'm afraid here's where I was really suffering and may not have taken down this information correctly. But former owners/donors go in 700 with a $e (and a $5).

An example of a catchword, which is the first word on the next gathering. UV and catchword aehdeschaine via Flickr
Format is how many times a piece of paper is folded to make a gathering - common formats are folio, quarto (4o), octavo (8o) and so on - you can get up to 128o, but that's probably pretty rare. We covered some terminology used to describe how the pages are arranged, like format, signatures, gatherings (or quires), then launched into having a go at cataloguing our own rare books, generously provided by the UL! So here's my attempt at describing some of the characteristics of one of the books supplied:

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Arlis Conference Dublin 2017

This is my report for the Arlis conference, which I also submitted to the Cambridge Libraries Newsletter (doesn't include the edits they made). With the year now corrected (oops).

ARLIS Conference Dublin 2017: [R]evolution: Re-imagining the Art Library

The Art Libraries Society (Arlis) conference took place at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin this July. Always a glamorous and intellectually stimulating conference, this was no different; the Irish contingent put on an amazing show, ably assisted by the many wonderful galleries and libraries Dublin has to offer.

Francis Bacon's Studio, at Dublin City Gallery
 Popular themes this year included discussion of space, in its physical and digital sense, and of the library as the potential third space. One particular highlight was Daniel Payne of OCAD University in Toronto and his talk in the dissonance between perceived space, cognitive space and physical space, and how harmonising these can lead to a sense of place rather than space. Another was an excellent lightning talk from Nicole Lovenjak, one of the authors of the recently published The State of Art Museum Libraries 2016 White Paper – fascinating, if rather depressing, reading. She had recently worked as a consultant on the planned closure of Dayton Institute Library and dispersal of its contents, and had effectively rescued archives of unique material which might otherwise have been lost.

This was also my first foray into conference speaking, so I gave a lightning talk entitled Doing More With Less – which certainly seemed to strike a chord with the audience! It led to lots of interesting conversations with all sorts of librarians, so I’m grateful for the opportunity (and that’s another thing to tick off on my bucket list!).

The Cathach, the earliest extant example of Irish
writing (c.560-600AD), at the Royal Irish Academy
And it wouldn’t be an art libraries conference without taking in at least one art exhibition, so we enjoyed a prosecco reception and a special viewing of Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting at the National Gallery, and visits to places like the Royal Dublin Society, Chester Beatty Library, the Royal Irish Academy and Dublin City Gallery, which houses Frances Bacon’s studio. Sheer indulgence!

So yes. Maybe you didn't spot it, but I GAVE A PRESENTATION. Me. Okay, only a lightning talk, and not a terribly brilliant one at that, but the important thing is I got up in front of my peers and delivered something with the assumption that I would be imparting information that they hadn't heard before. Take that, imposter syndrome!

It was good, although in hindsight I probably dwelt too much on the problem rather than the outcome, meaning a lot of people came up to me to offer sympathy rather than congratulations. However, in all of that, I got a tweet (look! I quote: "#neverknew"!):
And even better, the director of Arlis himself asked me for advice on something. Score!

Next step was to write about it publicly: Cambridge Libraries Newsletter ✔
And I mentioned it to the assistant director here, and she suggested I write something about it for the UCM Blog. It's not going to be a conversation with a woolly bear, but they might still publish it...

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

CPD catch-up

I emailed our HR recently, because they were asking what courses and training I'd been doing. When I made the list of things I'd done/attended/learnt over the course of the last 15 months, it actually came to quite a lot. As in, nearly attachment-worthy-size!
I've done some stuff, I'm planning on doing more.
I guess you could say I've been pretty busy. To my utter delight, I've also been pretty organised about it. Turns out I'm not the best at Bullet Journaling, although I am the king of To-Do lists. I've got a bullet journal, and I take it everywhere. I don't use it for keeping appointments, or as a diary, and the idea of trying to keep track of my frequent targets is one which is slowly falling by the wayside (though it does force me to look back and say "no I really do have to do that someday...just not now"). But it's brilliant as a notebook, and I've found writing everything in there from meetings, courses, training, lectures, etc etc just keeps it all in the one place. I know damn well where my notes are now, and I don't have to look in one place for CPD notes, then in another for meetings (and hope that I've remembered right). And it's chronological, so I can just check the dates on the index, and list everything there. So I did.
Goals for the month: 1. Write a list of goals for the month.
Since the conference I haven't let the grass grown underneath my feet. First of all we presented to CLAG, then FDL and CCLF, about the conference, how it went, what went on behind the scenes, and our thoughts for the future. You won't be surprised to know we're already thinking about next year's conference, and how to make it even better than this year's! But in addition to this I've gone to two training sessions; one on fundraising for library projects, and one on writing engaging content for blogs (This is the bit where you're supposed to say "But why would you need that? You're entertaining already!" Guys? Helloo?), and I've just started a 4-part library carpentry workshop.
In addition to this (but completely non-work-related) I've just finished a 4-part session on sewing, run by our local children's centre. I must really like learning stuff!
I made these!
Fundraising for Library Projects was really interesting. We had talks from three people, one who works to raise funds for library projects at the UL, one who became a bit of an accidental fundraiser for King's College Library, and one who has to try and convince people to spend fortunes on a database which equates to a cost of nearly £800 per user! Each had some really interesting points to communicate. For me there were several take home messages, such as: come at the fundraising from the donors' point of view - their reasons for giving can be quite diverse and may not perfectly line up with why you're trying to raise the money, which means adapting your message to suit them. Another is to really consider whether the return on investment is worth the effort - there is a lot of failure involved, so is it worth you losing your time to fundraising efforts instead of spending it on your regular work? Also helpful was talking to the other attendees, who could share their experiences of fundraising and finding suitable projects. This was a great session, and I would recommend it if it's repeated.
Aligning aims with those of the donor is very important; I look forward to advancing and perpetuating humanistic inquiry with my digitisation project.
The other session I attended was Writing Engaging Content for the New UCM Blog. UCM is the umbrella which covers all the university museums and the Botanic Garden, and their blog is about to be relaunched. I thought there would be a lot I already knew, but there were some surprising gems I'd not thought about before, such as coming up with lots of titles in order to find the perfect one. It was interesting learning from someone who doesn't come from an academic background, as there are some practices prevalent (and useful) in academic blogs that she encouraged us to eschew for communicating on the UCM blog - such as citations, which I think are often necessary! Was it a good session? Well, yes, I guess. I have to admit I felt a bit flat when we shared our blogpost ideas - the course leader was very enthusiastic about most of them, saying things like "I definitely want to read this!" and "Please write that one!" - and when she got to me her response was "Can it be linked to anything else?" But there was another librarian there, and she told me how much she'd enjoyed the Cambridge Libraries Conference this year, so that cheered me up.
Apparently letters from Queen Mary aren't blog-worthy unless there's something more interesting they can be linked to.
So there's a lot to come. I'm going to be presenting a lightning talk at ARLIS in Dublin this July, which is so far out of my comfort zone I can't even see the zone anymore. I'll have to write that, then I still have IAML in Exeter (maybe), and Library Carpentry homework to do, and I've just sent out a survey to the staff here about what to put on our quick reference shelves - I was surprised (in a good way) by the number of responses! Maybe there's hope for UX in this library yet..

Monday, 9 January 2017

See what I did there?

So this happened.

I'll be blogging again about it as an audience member, since I did make copious notes on the day, but this is going to be my "holy heck how did this come off" post.

It all began in the summer of 2016. I'd been back at work for about 8 months, finding myself in a bit of a CPD rut, having not been able to go to any of the conferences the previous year and feeling like I was being left behind. Meg W emailed round, looking for volunteers for the next Cambridge Libraries Conference, and I thought it would be a great way to kickstart my CPD, and to give something back to the community that I've gained so much from. So I signed up, and she seemed delighted, and I went along to the first meeting.

The more we talked, the more I thought "yes, I can contribute in some small and very minor way," and we tossed around ideas for themes, before going away with strict instructions to sign up for a job on the committee list (I immediately went for internal speaker lead. Not too scary, hopefully). Weeks pass, and still no one has signed up to chair, so I bite the bullet and stick my name down there too, along with Tom, my partner in crime, and Martin and Helen G, who both offer to help shoulder some of the burden.

As I look back, it's hard really to see what I actually did. Yes, I contacted a few of the speakers in the first place, but then handed this job off to someone else. I weighed in on a few debates, made suggestions (I think I may even have been the one to first suggest the themes of superheroes and failure!), and pushed for a couple of things I wanted to see - like the opportunity to talk about failure as a positive thing, and the Castle of Reflection (totally not the Fortress of Solitude): a space away from conference information overload which would allow people to gather their thoughts again. But it was definitely other people who made it happen!

It was funny, because I'd talked to my line manager about getting involved, and she was very encouraging. We had my staff review recently, and discussed how it was all going, and I mentioned I'd sort of ended up co-chairing it. She surprised me by saying "that's not surprising, you're good at that sort of thing," and it's funny because I hadn't realised that at all.

Then I thought about it.

In 2014 I got married. We had about 80 for the ceremony, about 160 guests for the rest, and my soon-to-be husband and I organised that all ourselves. And a few years before that, my not-yet-husband and I organised the BUSA (now BUCS) National Student Archery Champs. Which was attended by about 250 people. And in between those events I'd organised, or helped organise a whole host of other archery events, at local and regional levels.

I don't know, the word "organise" just seems so intangible, doesn't it? What it feels like to me is that I was there, just watching while other people did tasks. Observing, but not acting. It's hard to pin down what it was I actually did, and at points I think I took on too many other trivial tasks in an effort to prove I still had value as a committee member. The badges were completed at a ridiculously late hour the night before the conference, the posters with the timetable not long before that; both could quite easily have been delegated to others.

Going back to archery, I've done a lot of coaching in my time. One thing we teach at the very beginning is how to pull arrows out of a target. We have these dense foam bosses, rather than straw, and it can sometimes be really hard to pull arrows out. So one of the things I teach is that it is far, far easier when there are two of you pulling the same arrow. Until you've ever had to do it, you don't realise what the difference is - pulling on your own is exhausting, and you can really wrench something if you're not careful, and then you get someone else on the end and all of a sudden it's like a hot knife through butter, and you actually have to be careful not to pull too hard and come flying back with the arrow.

I guess I'm trying to say that hopefully it wasn't that I did nothing while everyone else worked. Hopefully the reason I found it so easy was because we were all pulling together!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Mapping your workflow for improved productivity

When I saw this advertised, I'm pretty sure I signed up on the spot. I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient - I've got way too much to do and never enough time to do it, so if there are tools out there to help me stop procrastinating and just get on with it, I'm all ears. I mentioned Evernote in a blogpost previously - I stuck with it faithfully for several months, but I've let it fall by the wayside for a number of reasons, the main one being that it had added to my workload instead of taking away.

Kirsten took us through a number of systems, all designed to be 'tool-agnostic', that is, not requiring specific apps or software or specialist equipment. Also, they could be used on or offline - for example using tailored apps, apps you've already got, or just pen and paper. She had two important caveats:
  1. Whatever system you use, you need to trust it, otherwise you're creating more work for yourself (like me and Evernote).
  2. Be aware of the weaknesses of the system/s in place (particularly one area where things can fall down is when shifting from personal to collaborative, or online to offline, and vice versa).
Since Evernote collapsed on me (or I on it), I've taken to using a lot of Post-Its. Like, between me and Futurelib, we've probably kept a few extra staff on this year in the Post-Its company. I've also begun putting more into my work diary, and on reflection, I can see that I am a pen-and-paper-person at heart. It took this course to really beat it into me though! So I'm going to find an offline system and see how it goes. Kirsten is a devotee of Bullet Journalism, which a colleague of mine has recently been raving about. I can see its merits, but the fanaticism of its fans has always put me off a bit. Still, I'll have a go in the new year and see how I get on. Already bought my shiny new Leuchtturm journal!

A number of different methods of improving productivity were introduced and described - some fairly obvious and some a bit of wishful thinking, but Kirsten extracted the most important take-home message from each to sum them up for us, which I found very efficient!

Personal Kanban - 3 columns: To-Do | WIP | Done
Why this works - limit your WIPs - no moving To-Dos before you've moved a WIP. I also like the fact that at the end you have a whole bunch of Dones as a record of your achievement.

Essentialism - Do less, do it better
Why this works - you delegate the stuff you won't be amazing at, thereby only producing amazing work. Of course, this relies on the fact that you can delegate, which often we can't. Kirsten's take-home message was "be careful what you say yes to".

Focus Funnel - Filter tasks: eliminate, automate, delegate, procrastinate or concentrate
Why this works - this and the Eisenhower Decision Matrix (urgent/not urgent, important/not important) encourage a triage approach to prioritisation. Does this task really need doing? Do you really need to be the one to do it?

Action Method - Break projects into 3 categories: Action steps, references and backburners
Why this works - Kirsten's take-home from this was "work with a bias towards action". Everything is manageable if you can break it down into its component steps. I'm not sure everything fits so neatly into these three categories, but if my next bout of productivity fails, I might refer back to this.

Kaizen - Iterative approach which reviews and experiments to constantly improve
Why this works - it encourages you to be reflective and innovative, finding out what works best for you, and ensuring that you don't tie yourself to a system that no longer suits you.

And finally
Getting Things Done - Capture, Clarify, Organise, Reflect, Engage
Why this works - it encourages you never just to think about something, but to add value to something each time you think about it. The idea is you should never waste your brainpower on simply remembering things, which allows for a more creative space. It sounds like a good system, though 5 steps for every task that takes longer than 5 minutes feels like it might take up more time initially.

We got onto the task of mapping our workflows, from inbox to completion, and we had to identify our inboxes. This was a freakin' revelation for me. Your email inbox is your inbox. So is your in-tray. And so is your pigeonhole. But so is every idea you have. Every phone query you take. Meetings, assignments, colleagues popping by for a quick chat....these and more are all inboxes which set tasks for you to complete. How does a task move from one of these to your done pile?

I have to confess, we were a bit lazy on our table. I took the handouts, and I intend to set aside some time to do one for each inbox. I think if I can adapt them a bit, they'll be really useful for work for when I'm not there and a task needs doing. Then we spent the rest of the time chatting between ourselves and discussing the experiences we've had and the tools we've used. Other things which were teased out during this time which I noted were:
  1. Digital tools are often more successful if they're collaborative because of the accountability and the impetus to share with colleagues (which is definitely true in the case of my Google calendar, which I use with work, my partner, and even my wind band!)
  2. Planning a project and breaking it down into steps - it sounds very meta, but one of the steps is making the plan and breaking the project down into steps. Allow time to plan.
  3. Getting things done is easier when you've shared your aims with someone (either digitally or telling them face to face works!) because you make yourself accountable.
Kirsten then pulled us back to finish with her final take-home advice:
  1. Small changes one at a time is the best way to start new habits (or if you're going to make a massive change, make the time to devote to doing it properly).
  2. Be strategic - what is the smallest change you can make that will have the biggest effect?
  3. Sustainability - can you keep this up? (A resounding no from me for Evernote there). Along with this, I think - is your system robust enough to cope when things go wrong? I went away for two weeks and when I came back I couldn't even bear to load up Evernote because of all the things waiting to be done.
So there was a lot there to take in, and a lot of systems to try. As I mentioned up-post, I'm going to try a sort of bullet journal. I liked the standard symbols and the way it records everything accomplished (which my to-do list on a Post-It doesn't). I also liked the simple visualisation of Kanban, and I can see it being a great way to store my library project wishlists as well as the projects I'll have completed.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Presentations: From Design to Delivery

Photofunia provides the image, you add your own text, et voila!

I attended this on a whim, really. There were spaces left, it sounded interesting and probably quite useful, and I happened to be free that day (then they had to change the day). Definitely worth going, really fun and has relevance beyond presentation-giving.

Claire Sewell is a great speaker. She's excellent at distilling the information into simple messages for people to take away, and talks openly about her experiences at presenting - including the disasters! It makes for refreshingly honest and very practical advice.

The first half of the presentation covered design, the second half delivery, and I made a note of the things that grabbed me as being most relevant for my situation. Some of these things are probably common sense, but I think they bear repeating.


Before starting you need to be aware of two things: your message and your audience. These will dictate whether if a presentation is even the best medium for communication, let alone how you go about presenting.

Storyboarding the presentation, keeping a post-it with your take-home points on visible while you write and working backwards from the message in order to make things flow are all good ways of keeping on-message.

What not to do - basic design of slides suggests that you should be sparing with fonts (max 3), colours and animations. This is one of those situations where it's important to know the rules before you break them, because sometimes you might want to create a particular impact through breaking a rule (for example, Claire created a beautifully awful slide demonstrating what not to do!).

Good resources for creating presentations are: Powerpoint (and Keynote, the Apple equivalent), Google Slides (apparently very popular with students, works well for collaborations), Canva, Haiku Deck (image-based) and Prezi (bit faddy and informal for most situations but quite nice for maps).

Good sources for images are: Piktochart (charts, diagrams, maps), Pixabay (all cc-0), Photofunia (which puts your text into images - like the one at the top of this post) and Spell With Flickr (which is a fun tool that creates words from letters in Flickr photos). In all cases it's really important to make sure you're not breaching copyright.

If presenting, then making the slides available online after, the easiest way to not duplicate effort is to add the text for each slide in white text on a white background behind the picture. This gets picked up by Slideshare (other online slideshow databases are probably available) so you don't have to create two separate presentations.


We had a break, where I caught up with the lovely people at the Pendlebury (miss it so much!), then it was onto delivery. This was a lot more active than the first bit, which in itself was an example of great presentation design! (People can only concentrate for about 20 minutes at a time, so try to break it up with activities if it goes on longer than this.)

We started with the Elevator Pitch: if you got into a lift with the head of libraries, what would you say? This was distilled into 4 points:

  1. Identify your goal
  2. Explain what you do
  3. Communicate your USP (unique selling point)
  4. Engage with an open-ended question asking about them/their work

How to deal with nerves: as a musician I'm used to being on stage, so a lot of this I'd heard before, but there were some tips which were good for public speaking specifically. Hands shaking? Use a clipboard. Getting really flustered? Physically take a step back, breathe, step forward and just pick up where you left off. Filming yourself is a great way to highlight a lot that you might not be aware of (but bear in mind you may well be far more critical of yourself than the audience is!). And finally, a 'fun' fact: smiling represses the gag reflex. Take from that what you will.

When it comes to questions, do do DO clarify the question you've just been asked - it lets the audience hear the question, it gives you time to think of answer, and it ensures you're answering the question instead of what you think the question should be. If you're hassled by someone persistent, you can say something like: "we've talked about that for a while. I think it's a really good point, can I discuss it with you afterwards?"

Another aspect which I thought was absolutely brilliant - make sure you have at least one more slide after the questions. This enables you to finish the presentation on the note you wanted to, and to really drive home the message, particularly if there were no questions and everyone shuffled around awkwardly, or if there was a heckler!

Voice projection saw us all attempting tongue twisters, which was a lot of fun. I demonstrated my party piece of being able to execute 'red lorry, yellow lorry' perfectly. Another excellent point that Claire made was the different between what you say when you read aloud and what you say when just making use of odd prompts - it really does make for a startling contrast (needless to say, talking more naturally and only relying on prompts rather than reading out is waaaaay better).

Dealing with disaster - I really liked how Claire shared with us her experiences of disastrous presentations, both on the delivering and receiving ends! Hearing about the things that can go wrong is great - forewarned is forearmed, after all. Just hearing about the things that went wrong already makes you more able to cope with things going wrong, even if there was/is no solution. The second thing I really appreciated was her point that: unless you tell the audience something went wrong, they'll never know (usually). Finally, preparedness helps: knowing where you're presenting, having time before to get ready, etc goes a long way to mitigating the risk of a disaster ever happening.

All in all, this was a great session - very enjoyable, very practical, with lots of take-home points for me, and useful too for scenarios where presentations aren't the best method of communication. An excellent way to spend an afternoon!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Evernote: my Online Tickler File

I've not been on any courses or attended any conferences recently, but I thought I would share my experience with something I've been working on for several months now: my online Tickler File, courtesy of Evernote.

If you've not come across the term before, a Tickler File is just one of the many methods of being organised in the office. A typical system has a folder for each month, then a folder for each day, so 43 folders in all. Scheduled events for the current month are slotted into their daily folders. Each day you tackle the events in the folder, then refile into when they're next due. So January 1st, you do the tasks, and shift the '1' folder to February, adding any daily tasks due then to that folder once they're completed. Have I confused you? There are better descriptions elsewhere, just look.

Apparently there's lots of software available to do this, but a lot is proprietary, or costs, or works on a calendar. I think it's LifeHack or WikiHow that suggested Evernote, and I gave it a go. Basic Evernote is free (Evernote Premium costs), and the most important factor for me to choose it over a physical file cabinet is that it is immediately accessible when I sit down at my desk. I keep nearly all my tabs on my browser on all the time, and Evernote has duly been added.

Evernote has 'notebooks' and 'notes' rather than folders and files, but they amount to the same thing. What I've done is create a notebook for each month, then within these create a new note for each day. Repeated tasks are done that day, then cut and pasted to the next day they're due, while non-repeated tasks are just added to the relevant date then removed once completed.

June 1st, after tasks have been completed and next year's added.

I started in May, so I'm quite impressed that I've kept it going this long. It's a bit trickier when I'm away for any length of time because weekly tasks don't get done, and it's bad enough being behind in the tasks, but it's definitely made worse by seeing how far back I have to go on Evernote to catch up. It's also in some ways a little demotivating to delete something rather than satisfyingly crossing it through, and you can't use it as a record of what you've done that year, unless you keep done tasks somewhere else, and I think for me that just adds an unnecessary layer of admin on an already insane workload.

Where it's been useful though is for the infrequent but regular tasks I have to do - annual statistics can be gathered together in the days before the annual report is compiled, book order chases are done often enough to keep on top of them, but not so often that the vendors get annoyed, and you can see in advance what are going to be task-filled days and work around them when necessary. The fact that it isn't hard copy was the absolute deal-sealer for me - I need it handy but not in the way, and my desk is far too cluttered with stuff to want a diary or something that needs referring to regularly without it ending up on top of a pile of unpaid invoices.

My desk, looking a bit less cluttered than usual, but still woefully cluttered.

Rare Books Cataloguing

Beautiful books: Special collections from John Hopkins University, via Flickr It's been a while since I covered rare books as p...