welcome to code4lib

This was my first code4lib. It was awesome and one of the best library things I’ve ever been to–I’m inspired by the work people are doing, I’m excited to research new things and most importantly I feel like I’ve finally found my people in libraries.

I have been reluctant to go to code4lib in the past, as I’d heard it was a hostile environment for women. While I’ve heard about a couple of crappy incidents in the past, this was by far the most welcoming tech event I have ever been to. Here are some of the things that the code4lib community is doing to make the community and conference welcoming and inclusive place.

Community norms
While code4lib is a really loose community there are strong informal community norms. The community leaders (who would likely balk at being identified as community leaders) socialize new people by demonstrating what the community values (openness, sharing, creativity, humour and craft beer) in informal and slightly more formal ways. An example of a more formal way is Declan‘s post on hacking code4lib, which includes some guidelines for IRC:

Don’t be sexist/racist/*ist

It’s great to be funny, maybe even a little blue at times, but be careful about steering into areas that make segments of the world uncomfortable, or even feel attacked. We are in a very interesting niche of the technology world. Our librarian population is primarily female, but our technical aspects of librarianship tend to be more stereotypically white and male. We have a wonderful opportunity to attract and promote equality in our field and there’s no reason to make an underrepresented group feel unwanted just to get a couple laughs.

Seeing the gender imbalance written out and reading that this is an opportunity to promote equality makes me relax as I know there are other people who notice that this is a predominantly male environment. I really dislike how some people equate having an environment that is welcoming to women as politically correct unfun spaces. People are funny, in person, in IRC and on the mailing list, yet I don’t feel like the jokes are racist, sexist or homophobic. There’s some “that’s what she said” banter, but I didn’t hear “website that even your mom could use” rubbish or comments that made me angry, sad or feel like I was not among my people. It’s possible to be clever and funny without being a sexist douche.

It’s awesome to see a community put some money where their mouth is. There are  scholarships to promote gender and cultural diversity. I love that gender diversity are includes both women and transgender people. This is another language flag that signals to me that these are my people and they get it.

Newcomer dinners
The newcomer dinners are a great way for new folks to meet people. It’s hard to have indepth conversations with large groups, so having dinner with 6-8 people is perfect. For a community that is more introverts than extroverts, this is a great way for people to connect. It would be better to schedule these for the first night, instead of the second night of the conference.

It was good to see a number of smart women presenting. The code4lib community has their own (broken? see some notes from Erik Hetzner’s lightening talk) way of voting for presentations.

It’s tricky–I want to see more women attending and presenting, but I don’t want to see women presenting on topics that aren’t appropriate for a technical audience. I think this is setting some women up to fail and reinforces that women aren’t doing good technical work. When I helped select the program for Access 2011 one of our goals was to aim for equality in the ratio of male:female presenters. While I think the liberal feminist strategy of counting the number of women is useful, it is also limited. After reviewing the submissions that we received I contacted a few women who I thought would have interesting things to present and invited them to present at Access. I didn’t want presenters to feel tokenized because of their gender but I didn’t want to organize a conference that was mostly men presenting.

Encouragement from code4lib vetrans
At Access both Bess Sadler and Karen Coombs encouraged me to go to code4lib. I have a lot of respect and admiration for these two geeky women who do great work. A lot of other folks in the code4lib community also encouraged me to go too. I’m so glad I did, as I met so many awesome people, have some more insights on how to put on events, learned some new things and am inspired to hack my library’s culture.

This year about 22% of the participants were women, and 38% of the presenters were women. On my bike rides to work I’ve been pondering what an ideal code4lib looks like in terms of women’s participation. It will never be a 50-50 split, and I’m not sure if that’s a super useful way to assess things. Many communities struggle with how to be inclusive while retaining their core focus. I think code4lib is doing a bunch of things right. Thank you everyone who has put their energy into making code4lib such an awesome conference and community, and doing interesting and awesome work in libraries with technology.

Also, thanks Equinox Software for the scholarship, Erik Hatcher from Lucid Imagination for your registration slot, and Kathleen Jacques for the Photoshop help.

Edit: Bohyun Kim and Becky Yoose started a Google Doc as a place to brainstorm ways to make code4lib more welcoming for newbies, go add your clever ideas there.

Evergreen unsung heros: an invitation to participate

I’m so excited about the Evergreen community. There are a lot of smart people who work hard and do really excellent work.

I’ve really enjoyed Chris Cormack’s blog posts about the unsung heroes in the Koha community.

I also appreciate all the other people who do work in this community. It’s inspiring to see people working on documentation, translation/internationalization, governance, testing, submitting bugs, teaching Evergreen in library school and library tech programs, doing design work, writing code and contributing in other ways to make the software better and the community more stable and functional.

It’s really exciting to see where Evergreen libraries have sprung up: it takes guts to be the first one in your country to migrate to Evergreen, or to be one of the new Evergreen libraries in a specific sector (government, K-12, corporate, etc.).

I want to create a slideshow showing lots of awesome people in our community.

Please send me:

  • a photo of the person (print quality if possible)
  • their email address (I want to get permission from the person profiled)
  • city, state/province/whatever
  • library name
  • information about how they contribute to the community, in less than 100 words

You are also welcome to submit information about yourself–please don’t be shy.

The Evergreen International Conference organizers in Indiana have agreed to show the slideshow that I put together. I’m part of the organizing team for the Vancouver conference and we’d like to build on this–perhaps with a longer slideshow, posters, or perhaps an ebook.

The deadline is Friday, March 16th.

DIY course reserves kiosk, or, the day we tossed the grotty old binder

We’re using Laurentian’s reserves interface (see Kevin Beeswick’s code on github) and just rolled out a reserves kisok on our circulation desk using:

When we were on our legacy ILS our reserves staff person would manually create a page for each course in Word, print them, then file them (alphabetically by instructors last name) in an old navy blue binder that was tethered to the desk with a lanyard that was at least 3 years old. I can date the lanyard because it said Emily Carr Institute, and we were granted university status in 2008.

This kiosk is a way better user experience for students and it saves staff time in creating and maintaining paper sheets of reserve items. Hopefully this small improvement in user experience improves the perception of the library in students’ eyes. Much like redesigning the library forms, I think that caring about these details demonstrate that we are thinking about ways our library can reflect the values of our students. I’m the liaison to Design and Dynamic Media, which includes communication design, interaction design, industrial design and animation. I know that my faculty and students notice and care about these details.

Dan Scott has a great post on other ways to manage course reserves in Evergreen.

ApacheCamp: brainstorming the future of libraries

I recently attended ApacheCamp. I had been meaning to have a conversation with a friend about the future of libraries and threw it up on the scheduling board. I was delighted that about 20 other people were interested in participating in that conversation too. It was awesome to pick the brains of some really clever people about what libraries could be doing with technology.


Zak Greant elegantly summed up the conversation by stating that technology, namely the shift from physical books to ebooks and other licensed electronic content, is eroding many of the core values of libraries, like access and free speech. Someone complained that they can’t use the ebook and audiobook content that their public library provides because it only works with proprietary software. I also learned that Amazon is now renting ebooks.

Librarians need to collectively educate and lobby publishers, content creators, content providers and vendors to create content that supports access and intellectual freedom. The boycott of HarperCollins is one of the more aggressive things that libraries have done. Librarians need to better understand copyright and licensing issues and how they affect our business.

Other ideas

The mention of Amazon brought up the suggestion that it would be great if libraries could embed themselves in Amazon and show Amazon customers that the items that they are about to buy are available at a library close to them. This reminded me of the Greasemonkey script that Steven Tannock wrote for VPL’s holdings. Luke Closs said that while that was useful he was doubtful that many people used it. He’s right, it’s only been downloaded about 300 times.  Luke thinks this is a good proof-of-concept, but that libraries could do a couple of things to make this work better:

So if your org came to the conclusion that the amazon hack is a useful thing, your next step should be how can we get as many people using it as possible. This would require 2 things. 1) Technically – you’d want to re-package it to be as easy as possible to use. This probably means re-creating it as a Firefox/Chrome browser plugin so that it can be installed with one click.  2) Putting some marketing muscle behind it – maybe posters in the libraries, add it to email footers on outbound notifications to your users…

I’m sure there’s something that could be done with the WorldCat API.

Zak suggested that the library could be a place where people could bring old files that they can’t access because they don’t have the software like Lotus 1-2-3, or the hardware to access stuff on old floppy discs. In Vancouver I reckon this could be a great partnership between VPL and Free Geek, though I imagine the biggest hurdle would be library staff’s anxiety around not being experts in this area.

In discussing content models and how expensive digitization was, someone suggested using Kickstarter or setting up something similar for digitization projects. In addition to fundraising for digitization it would also build a community support around digitization projects and digital collections.

Ross Gardler flipped things and suggested a kind of reverse digitization. Ross stated that librarians are good at curating information and can find you stuff you don’t know exists (it makes my heart sing to hear non-librarians say this). He thought it would be useful if he could get a printed book with the most relevant information curated from various print and electronic sources. This reminded me of Peter Rukivina’s paper ebooks.

I feel really lucky that so many smart folks at ApacheCamp love libraries and were willing to brainstorm on how to make libraries better. I’m super excited and energized by this type of cross pollination.

we are not the experts

In the spring I was invited to speak at a design event hosted by Continuing Studies. We would each have 10 minutes to talk about what’s been happening in our respective fields, or what our careers have been like for the past 10 years. Public speaking is slightly scary, but the idea of speaking at an non-library event scared the crap out of me. Of course I said yes.

I really enjoyed the other speakers: architects, graphic designers, interaction designers, folks working in sustainable design. Favourites for me included architect Marianne Amodio, who talked about feeling love in the details of design and Oliver Kellhammer, an interdisciplinary landscape artist, activist and wonderful weirdo.

My talk was titled “Power and control: How library catalogues have changed in the past 10 years”. Sound thrilling, right? There’s been a big shift in the past 10 years with libraries becoming more empowered with technology and embracing open source software and starting to develop their own systems, instead of relying on expensive proprietary software that didn’t meet our needs. I gave some examples of how controlled vocabularies are awesome, and how user tagging provides another way to access information. About 5 years ago when I was in library school the conversation about user tagging was framed in a really dumb way: either controlled vocabulary or tags.  It didn’t take long for librarians to figure out that ‘both’ is the correct answer. I used some examples from radical cataloguer Sandy Berman to illustrate how Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are slow to change and sometimes really absurd, like Cookery–Indic instead of Indian cooking, and Electric light, incandescent, instead of lightbulb)  Also Tim Spalding’s talk “What is social cataloging?” has some great examples of where user tags are far more useful than LCSH. The best example of this is William Gibson’s  Neuromancer. LSCH for this title include:

  • Business intelligence — Fiction
  • Computer hackers — Fiction
  • Conspiracies — Fiction
  • Cyberspace — Fiction
  • Information superhighway — Fiction
  • Japan — Fiction
  • Nervous system — Wounds and injuries — Fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Virtual reality — Fiction

“Nervous system–Wounds and injuries–Fiction”?? Neuromancer is the best example of cyberpunk, which is not listed in the LCSH.

I remember librarians fretting: what would we do if someone tagged something incorrectly? What would we do if someone tagged something using a naughty or rude word? And what would we do about things like plurals (i.e. dog vs dogs), should we clean up the tags our users apply, so that there’s consistency? If other people saw messy or inconsistent tags, what would they think of us? Would they still trust us?  The attitudes underpinning these conversations were that we don’t trust our users and as the “experts” we think we know better than the people actually using libraries. It makes me a bit bonkers that our library catalogues have sucked so bad that we need 1 hour instruction sessions to teach people how to find things. Instead of being unidirectional (from us the “experts” to our uses), I wish we viewed instruction as a way for us to teach our users about some of the information we provide access to, and for users to teach us how they are actually looking for things.

A friend who works at A Very Large University was telling me about an internal debate their librarians were having about library FAQs on their website. Currently the FAQs are maintained by only librarians, are out of date, and according to analytics data, don’t seem to be answering all the questions that users seem to frequently ask. One such question, asked by hungry students, was “where can i get food?”. He suggested allowing users to add their own questions and answer and rate whether the answers was useful or not. Similar concerns to the tagging debate were brought up: what if users answer questions incorrectly, or in an incomplete way? What if these FAQs get out of date because they are not being properly maintained by a librarian? Librarians seemed to want to teach users the right way to navigate the library website to find this information. Hungry users just wanted to find the closest place to grab something to eat. This is another example of us dictating what the correct way to find information, instead of being responsive in changing the way that we do things to better serve folks.

We need to let go of the idea that we are the experts and instead view library spaces, collections, websites and catalogues as places for co-creation with our users. We need to thoughtfully evaluate data, have meaningful conversations with our users, and really listen to what our users are saying. We will need to give up some power and control and that’s okay.

libraries need designers

My friend and colleague Baharak has complained that there’s no beauty in libraries. For the most part, I think she’s right.

I love the brand for Access that Emily Carr students Brian Tong and Jack Curtis developed. This is a generous gift to the Access community that I appreciate deeply.
Access 2011 design work by Brian Tong and Jack Curtis

In the spring semester I convinced Haig Armen and Tak Yukawa to take on branding Access as an in-class design competition for one of their 3rd year classes. Students had about 3 weeks to put together a comprehensive brand for my favourite library conference. It was awesome to have time to chat with these students about the technology work that happens in libraries. They asked smart questions about the participants (demographic, jobs, outside interests), why this was such a great conference, and why they, as library users, should care about the work that we do. It was a reference interview in a design context. Their questions helped me articulate what Access is all about.

3 weeks later a few members of the organizing committee came for the student presentations. We were all super impressed with what they came up with. I was relieved that none of the designs were book focused. The work was fantastic, but what was more impressive was how the students articulated their creative process and design thinking. Libraries need to hire designers because they can make us look really good. Librarians often complain that people do not respect our professional skills, yet we often believe that we can do our own design work, even though we are not designers. This is as stupid and offensive as people saying we don’t need libraries because we’ve got Google. Google is a tool and not a replacement for a librarian. Adobe’s Creative Suite and a suitcase full of fonts do not make you a designer, it just means that you have some tools.

For me, reference is magical when I can help a user find the perfect bit of information that they never knew existed. Designers are awesome because they do something similar. I didn’t ask Brian and Jack for a smart orange logo and avatars that used the filament from the letterform as part of the face. I told them about why I love coming to this conference, the awesome community of people and the work that we do. They heard the important parts and developed a clever brand around this.

Normally designers despise design competitions, as they undercut their professional skills. Also without a relationship between a designer and client the output is often not as good as it could be. There’s a good post on Core 77 explaining why design competitions suck. This case was different, as this was part of a course for which they received a grade.
I love libraries and open source software, but both communities tend to make some pretty ugly (but functional) things–there is very little beauty. Imagine a Venn diagram: the overlap between library ugly and FOSS ugly is double ugly. We need to budget hiring designers into our library software projects.

The work that Brian and Jack did for Access was beautiful and hopefully inspired participants to consider design and beauty in their own work.

organizing Access 2011 – how we done it good

I’m exhausted and thrilled that we pulled off an awesome Access conference. I normally hate the “how we done it good” posts and presentations, but I think we did a great job. Here’s a brain dump of some of what we did and my thoughts on why we made some of the decisions we did for future conference organizers.

Pick a good team

We had an awesome team of 7 eight people. I quickly reworked the Vancouver code4lib proposal and got some other people from other institutions to put their name on it. Once we were awarded the conference I put together the organizing team with a few people I knew I wanted to work with, then we collectively picked a few more people. There were two rules in adding people to the group: do they get stuff done? are they drama free? I’ve organized a lot of events, but this was my first library conference. This was the most functional and fun group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

While we each had areas we were responsible for, we updated and got feedback from each other. It was the best of both worlds–we all felt empowered to make decisions and get stuff done, but also benefited from the support and input from everyone else. Most of us communicate in similar ways and preferred to use email. We met in person once a month. It was challenging to keep our face-to-face meetings moving forward, as most of us have strong personalities and most people are detail oriented. One person said that they normally hate meetings, but always looked forward to our monthly meetings. This was deeply satisfying for me, as the majority of my work meetings are inefficient as they take the most ineffective person as the lowest common denominator.

One of my hidden agendas was to develop more of local systems community and to get to know some people who I admire. I achieved this and developed some friendships with people I only knew professionally. Now when I need to call this guy, with questions about CONTENTdm, we are no longer just faceless email addresses at different institutions.

Know your audience

Access is my favourite library conference because it’s my favourite people in libraries: geeky, creative, generous problem solvers. These folks are passionate about libraries, sharing, learning, teaching and not afraid of failing or breaking things. These are people who delight in rolling up their sleeves and helping out and getting stuff done. I know that some things that are important to this group include: good wireless (including free wireless in the hotel rooms), somewhere to charge their devices in the conference and tasty food and beer. We chose to DIY many things to save money, so we could spend the majority of the budget on good food at the conference hotel and good local beer and tasty food at the social events. After all, the best conversations often happen over good food and drink.

No swag but stickers

We went back and forth on conference swag and decided not to have a bag of paper stuff that most of us usually throw out. We didn’t want to waste time making these bags and we think they are wasteful. This made it a bit tricky when soliciting sponsors, but many companies, organizations and libraries generously sponsored us anyway.

Emily Carr design students Jack Curtis and Brian Tong developed an awesome brand for the conference. Part of the brand was an avatar that we turned into stickers for attendees. They also made custom avatars for each of the speakers that were used on the website, as introduction slides for each session, and turned into stickers as part of the speaker’s gifts (or gifs as someone quipped on Twitter). Both of these were a huge hit and it made me really happy to see the stickers on people’s laptops and on their online profiles. This was better (and cheaper) than making ugly t-shirts. They gave their brand to the Access community. I need to chat with them about how they want to license it, if they want to write a brand standards guide, and figure out where we should put the files.

Social events

Photo credit: BigD on Flickr

Most people at Access are a bit shy and introverted, so having structured social events makes it easier for people to interact and connect with people. Alcohol also helps as social lubrication. I was worried for the first bit of the karaoke event, as there were only about 40 people in a room that was too big. Normally when I plan public parties, how many people come is a measure of success. However in this case, the attendees were so awesome that they decided to give ‘er, get up and sing and at one point, there were a bunch of people dancing. (We also realized that there were 3 kegs of beer that needed drinking and decided not to charge for beer–free as in beer.) It turned out to be one of the most epic library social events I’ve ever been to. Look and see for yourself.


I’m really proud of the program that we put together. The theme was “the library is open” so it made sense to do an open call for submissions. We considered what people proposed as well as what we knew about their presentation skills. We were reluctant to give people who are doing cutting edge work but have weak presentation skills, a full 45 min session. We had 3 sessions of lightening talks and encouraged some of the people to do that instead. Access is a technical conference. One of the proposals talked about Solr as being a “new and exciting technology”. Solr is rad, but it was new to libraries about 5 years ago.

Some of my favourite sessions were from people outside of libraries: Heather Piwowar and Kimberly Christen. We collectively decided we wanted to introduce the Access group to local Vancouver people who were doing amazing things, like Jon Beasley-Murray and Andrea Reimer. I met Jer Thorp when he was an artist-in-residence at Emily Carr. Many people said that Jer’s talk was one of the best talks ever at Access and I’d agree.

One of my other not-so-secret agendas was to be mindful of women’s representation on the program. Access 2010 in Winnipeg had 4 female speakers out of a total of 23 (17%) and Access 2009 in PEI had 5 female speakers out of a total of 23 (22%). We did slightly better with 8 of the 29 speakers (28%), which still isn’t great. We need to do better. I invited two women who hadn’t submitted proposals to speak. I explained to them at the conference that I didn’t want them to feel tokanized, as they are working on amazing projects and doing cutting edge work in the sphere of library technology. It was awesome to hear that the Hackfest was close to 50% women. Simply counting the number of women on a conference program is a crude measure of participation, but is an important one nonetheless. We talked about this at the pub and agreed that we need to get more women coding, but we also need to incentivize other types of participation in open source library projects.

My last agenda was to encourage more collaboration between the Koha and Evergreen communities. There was strong representation from the Sitka and KCLS (BC and Washington state installations of Evergreen) as well as someone from Bywater Solutions (Koha) and Chris Cormack, one of the first Koha developers from New Zealand. There were 3 sessions related to open source ILSes and quite a bit informal conversation.

Create ways for people to participate

For me, being able to actively contribute something to an event is more satisfying for me than just passively attending. Most of the Access folks are like this too. Amy Buckland organized a panel on library fail, then invited other people to share their fail stories. This was excellent warmup for the Ask Anything session, that Dan Chudnov started at code4lib. Brian Owen, the convenor for Ask Anything, described the session as part Craigslist (have equipment to get rid of, need a specific driver?), part Trivial Pursuit and part speed dating. He compared himself to a cable access channel 4am host of some game show. It was excellent. The lightening talks and hackfest report sessions were also great and it was nice to see new people get up and do their first short presentation at Access.

Amy Buckland did live note taking, which will be useful for people who need to write conference reports. Declan became the unofficial conference photographer and also offered to help archive the live stream video. 3 people responded to my tweet asking for help with Illustrator. It was very easy to find volunteers to lead groups to various restaurants. When the morning finished 30 minutes early and lunch wasn’t quite ready, we threw in an impromptu lightening talk session and a few people got up and spoke. Peter Binkley started a Google doc to document the history of past conferences, within a few hours, most of the basics had been fleshed out.

We also invited people from our institutions and from the wider library community in the Lower Mainland to do speaker introductions. This was a way for us to involve people who may not have attended the conference (and to have them hear some of the issues that we think are important) and to give some of our bosses a useful role that didn’t require much of their time.

Software tools to make your life easier

  • Eventbrite – the fees are worth the time and hassle you’ll save in managing registration and processing money
  • GroupMe was a good way for all of us organizers to keep in touch during the conference
  • Google Docs – we put all of our planning docs here, which will make it easy to hand off to the next organizing committee

If you were at Access, please fill out the feedback form. I’d love to hear what you thought worked, and what we could have improved on.

Access preconference

Here are my slides from the Access Preconference on Open Source for Library Decision Makers, organized by Brian Owen from SFU Library. Brian summed up the main themes from the panel as project maturity, community, expertise and openness.

Most of the images are Emily Carr student art under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.


Welcome to Granville Island!

People who are coming to Vancouver for Access have asked what touristy things I’d recommend. Stanley Park and Lynn Canyon are great if you like nature and it’s not raining. Granville Island was the place I used to go to pretend to be a tourist in my own city. I’d bike down, get a coffee and a croissant and wander around. Now that I work there it’s lost its touristy appeal, but it’s still a great places. I love corrugated metal and rust. There is plenty of both. The Vancouver International Writers Festival is on until October 23rd.

Many of you have been really sweet to me while I’ve been traveling through your town. I like to know what people enjoy in their neighbourhoods. I wish I could show you my favourite places on Granville Island, but as I’m on the organizing committee I can’t really skive off from the sessions to show you around, can I? So, I thought I’d jot down my favourite places for you.

Getting there

From the Hyatt, you can catch the #50 bus on Georgia @ Howe St. It’s about 15-20 minutes. Or, you can walk down to Yaletown or the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and catch one of the cute, wee ferries across the water. Or, you could take the Skytrain (Canada Line) to Olympic Village, and then walk along the sea wall. A taxi is probably about $15.

My favourite places

Emily Carr is worth taking a look at. There are two free galleries: the Charles H. Scott and the Concourse Gallery. Right now the Charles H. Scott has a exhibition on about shipwrecks. Not really my thing, but perhaps it’s yours? The library where I work is tiny (see! I told you!) but has a wicked collection of art and design materials. The magazines are especially delightful to browse–my favourite is Uppercase, a quirky magazine from Calgary that feels good in your hands. The South Building, where the library is located, was designed by Patkau Architects, who have designed a few libraries too. The second and third floors of this building are card access, but you might be able to sneak in and take a look. I like the light, the wacky walkways and the huge garage doors that open.

Behind Emily Carr there are some houseboats. If it’s sunny it’s wonderful to sit there and watch random things go by: sailboats, kyacks, cyclists and pedestrians on the downtown side of the seawall, birds, etc. It delights me that there are houseboats a 3 minute walk from my cube.

Behind the South Building of Emily Carr is Railspur Alley. Agro Cafe is the best cafe if you want to sit. They are really slow, so if you are feeling impatient, go to the Market instead. There are some artists who make beautiful things: Peter Kiss’ whimsical sculptures, Dalbergia Wood, artisan sake maker, and cute ceramics and gorgeous colourful felt at Funk Shui. i.e. creative is on the corner, and they made all sorts of amazing things, like kinetic sculptures. They made the one by the cement factory.

Things to eat

There are lots of tasty things to eat in the Market.

  • Terra Breads – tasty baked goods
  • Stock Pot – delicious soup
  • the burger place by the soup place
  • Granville Island tea – Cream Earl Grey and their Granville Island Blend (black tea with vanilla and pomegranate) are my current favourites
  • JJ Bean – good local coffee
  • Petit Ami – excellent coffee served with sass
  • Oyama Sausage – so much delicious meat
  • Siegal’s bagels – delicious Montreal style bagels, needless to say, if you are from Montreal you will probably be disappointed, get a burger instead
  • Apples – there’s a stand of fresh, crunchy apples from the Okanagan, BC’s fruit and wine region.

Sushi in Vancouver is generally delicious, fresh and cheap. One of the exceptions is Granville Island. Don’t get sushi here.

There are two places to get fish and chips on Granville Island–don’t. Instead walk 5 minutes to Go Fish, the fish and chips, the tacones, soup and whatever sandwiches they have on offer are all amazing. Plus, if it’s not raining you can see Rock Stacking Guy stacking rocks.

There are a bunch of kinda spendy, not super tasty restaurants. Sandbar has a good mussels/fries/beer special on from 3-6pm Monday to Friday. The view is pretty, but…there are much better places to eat.


The Net Loft has quite a few excellent shops: Granville Eyeland, Edie’s Hats, a posh craft store and a postcard shop. Paper-ya is a stationery fetishist’s dream–so many cute things and gorgeous paper. If you need to buy a crocheted moustache pin, you can get one here. There’s other places to shop on Granville Island, but I don’t. You might.

Oh yes! Back to Emily Carr, the bookstore, READ books, looks tiny (and it is) but it has a spectacular selection of contemporary art books and some awesome local stuff.

Kids Only Market might be fun if you have tiny people in your life. Even if you don’t, it’s fun to enter through the tiny people door. Across the street is Granville Island Brewing. There are tours and tastings. Apparently the Winter Ale is tasty.

The BC Ceramics Cooperative has some beautiful stuff, from chunky hippie stuff that my mum likes, to elegant modern white plain shapes that I adore. Claire Madill‘s porcelin vintage jars are really pretty and functional. Crafthouse sells Gailan Ngan‘s pottery, which is somewhere between my mum and my tastes.

I will be on Twitter most of my waking hours during the conference. Please let me know if you have any questions or need more recommendations. I hope you have a great time in Vancouver.

redesigning the library, one ugly form at a time

Welcome to the library” says the handout that was made in Word, written in Arial 10 point font with a random bit of bolded text. While the text claimed to welcome new library users, the design clearly said that we are outdated, institutional and that we do not care.

I work in an art and design university and I know my users are especially visual people. How we visually organize the physical space, our website and small things like our library forms really impacts how our users feel about our collections and services.

It was extremely satisfying to be a client for Celeste Martin‘s 3rd year Communication Design class. We ended up with the modern and cheerful forms that Sophie Lundstrom designed. She redesigned the information sheet about the library, the slide signout sheet, reserve request form and a few others we decided to stop using paper forms for.  She did an amazing job. It’s been delightful to see people notice the new forms, especially the Communication Design students. This is what the old guide looked like.

Community Borrowers

The timing for the redesign was perfect as we are now offering Continuing Studies students borrowing privileges. While there are about 1800 FTEs in credit programs, there are over 4000 students taking Continuing Studies courses. Each one of these students will get this information sheet about the library. This will make a much more positive impression of the kind of services and collections we offer.

One of the most satisfying parts of my job has been the liaison with the Design department. I like how the faculty and students are problem solvers and how they manage to bring beauty and elegance to their solutions. After working here for 2 years, it’s hard to see my library with fresh eyes. As a user, I notice and appreciate small details like how a local sewing shop patched cracks in the floor with clear epoxy and buttons  or when a website has a clever 404 error page.

The improvement in these forms will hopefully improve user experience in a small way, so that people truly feel welcome in the library.