I had used Zoom several times before 2020, but not nearly as often and certainly not in all the ways I have used it since the pandemic. Prior to 2020 my major experiences in Zoom were testing our law school Admissions virtual events with others in the I.T. department. To date I have now used Zoom to have small and large library meetings, produce remote library events, record professional presentations, create video tutorials and other trainings, deliver sessions live for virtual conferences, host watch parties, enjoy happy hours with coworkers, and even share birthday parties and holidays with friends and family. With fall coming to a close, I realized I have not seen in a singular post all of the tips I learned (by accident) this year. Below I’ll share my most epic Zoom fails from 2020.

Zoom Test infographic

Take the test: To start with, you have a score of 10! Deduct two points for each of the following fails you have made or encountered this year. Your remaining points will determine if you passed the electric kool-aid Zoom test, OR not (like me). Either way, by the end of this blog post you will definitely not make the same mistakes I have, or if you have already  you certainly will be reminded not to make them again.

 

  • Screenshot of Paranormal Activty 4

    Screenshot from Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

    America’s creepiest home streaming: We’ve all heard of America’s funniest home videos, but what about the creepiest? For video, in a horribly un-popular opinion I have to recommend you keep your own video square visible. Although it is possible to hide yourself in Zoom from your own view while in a meeting (and there are some who recommend it is best to keep yourself from looking at yourself when you should be paying attention to others), if you are like me and sometimes working with other family in the background this can get creepy quickly. How many times has my five year old snuck up on me from behind in a meeting? Too many to count… From experience I can say this can and will jump scare you if you cannot see your own video square and do not know what is coming up from behind. In less creepy advice, viewing your own square helps eliminate unnecessary cat butts on screen. As much as we love our pets, we do not always know what angle our colleagues are getting of said pet if we are busy taking notes or petting the cat (or both). When in doubt, turn off your video completely, and don’t forget to mute! This part is possibly the most popular Zoom tip of the year. It prevents others in your meeting or presentation from hearing the cat clawing at the door or making insane meows that definitely could have come straight out of a horror movie (particularly if your colleagues cannot see where the sound is coming from). There is already a frightening new horror film Host about a haunted Zoom call. And lets not even get started on the highly embarrassing kid comments from the background. They might be funny after the fact, but no parent wants to ponder what was almost said.

Deduct 2 points if something embarrassing, frightening or totally awkward was visible or audible in one of your Zoom calls this year.

 

  • Floating boxes on screen: This one completely caught me off guard. I had been host to dozens of Zoom meetings including a few webinars where I screen shared before I accidentally caused hundreds of attendees to question their sanity with several small floating boxes. I was screen-sharing a pre-recorded video presentation in Zoom and attempting to moderate the waiting room and chat when this happened. It had never happened to me before, though luckily I quickly realized the problem within a minute or so and simply re-started the recording. The problem? Sharing a video full screen on a single monitor. Everything was smooth in practices (even with one screen) BUT I did not need to view the waiting room/attendee list and the chat. Each time I would check chat or let someone in the room, those boxes would hover on top of the full screen video. The audience could not see the box content, but they did see strange grey boxes that covered up the screen share. The solution? If you are using only one monitor, make sure someone else can serve as co-host to handle the chat or waiting room so that no other windows hide the screen share content from the attendees. If you have two monitors, this will not be a problem at all since you can full screen on one, and arrange all other windows (like chat) in the other monitor.

Deduct 2 points if you have experienced floating boxes when screen sharing in Zoom this year.

 

  • Unexplained interruptions in Zoom:  Whether you are recording content for a presentation, creating a training or other library video, or in a live webinar or meeting the possibility for interruption is not out of the question just because people are not physically stopping by your doorway. In fact, interruptions have increased for me with the added notifications from email and Slack, chat reference shifts, and lets not forget our own cell phones or office phones. Depending on the number of devices you are using (on average I’d say there are at least 4 speakers where different sounds could come out all at the the same time) there is more potential than one might otherwise think for audio interference. Before and after you start a meeting or begin recording in Zoom, turn off all of the other devices, or at least mute them. If multiple push notifications are coming from the single device you are using, close programs, use the app settings to temporarily shut off notifications, and for email log out of it in your browser too. Otherwise, even with the apps off, push notices from the browser may still come through. These notices could also pop up in the corner, accidentally capturing them as part of your recording or even show that email title and blurb with meeting attendees in the top right of your screen. If you really need to be “off the radar” to make a recording (one example was when I recorded a short mindfulness audio script for the library), I got three phone calls in a row from a colleague before they realized I was in the middle of something. In hindsight, although this was not technically a meeting, I should have blocked out my email calendar to eliminate unnecessary interruptions while recording in Zoom.

Deduct 2 points if you have experienced a major audio-based interruption during a Zoom meeting or recording.

 

  • personal shopper photograph of text messages

    Screenshot from Personal Shopper (2017)

    Mystery chats: Perhaps we all have had our fair share of Zoom chat fails. I know I have… it is tempting when we do not see or interact with everyone as often or in the same ways that we used to do to chat with them in more private ways in the more public Zoom chat. Sometimes it isn’t necessarily a private conversation, but just not ideal for that particular meeting. In the case of one recent library event in Zoom, with a smaller group of people I private chatted another librarian to ask a question about the event. Although I did not chat the entire room, when they replied to me they did chat the entire room! It was just a simple answer, “No, not right now”, but it was so vague and out of nowhere for everyone else that other librarians working the Zoom event were wondering for days afterward what it was about and questioning if the message was meant for them. This was my fault for asking a question in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was not until later at a follow up meeting that I realized how much worry this simple mystery chat had caused my colleagues. The solution to this epic fail is simple – NEVER private chat in a Zoom meeting. If you feel like you need to do that, use another platform (Slack, email, or even text message) to ensure there will be no accidents. Let’s face it, Zoom chat is the new “reply all”. Just don’t do it! You can take this one step further and use Zoom room settings to prevent others from chatting with anyone but the host, or the disable chat completely. Because, really now, no one wants to be left wandering if their Zoom is actually being bombed by a ghost, à la the paranormal texts Kristen Stewart’s character received in 2017’s Personal Shopper.

Deduct 2 points if you have accidentally sent a private Zoom chat to the wrong person, to the entire room, or if your chat caused another person to reply all.

 

  • Not knowing who came to the party: There has been plenty of talk about how to increase your Zoom room security, from generating unique Zoom room IDs to password protecting the room, and of course disabling screen sharing and video cameras for attendees. I have seen less shared about using the Zoom registration page features and not so much about waiting rooms either. These were two aspects of Zoom that took me all summer to figure out. Initially I thought these features were a part of Zoom webinar and that I needed some special powers to unlock them. After reading up on Zoom’s help documentation I discovered I could not only create a registration page for any Zoom meeting, but that I could brand it with logos, supply it with event descriptions, and for security require an email address. These small improvements can turn your regular Zoom event into something that looks and feels (and is as secure as) a legit Zoom webinar.

The almost-webinar style Zoom:

  • require registration
  • enable waiting room
  • add description
  • use branding
  • mute upon entry
  • monitor RSVPs for suspicious emails

 

Even though I have not had issues with people who should not be attending a Zoom gathering or library event registering, it may serve as a deterrent for un-expected guests to the party. This added step also helps you as an event organizer have a pre-event headcount as well as a list of contact emails for sending information about the meeting or webinar to attendees both before and after the fact. I have used this to generate lists that can be easily copy and pasted into email To or CC fields for sharing recordings, handouts and slides with attendees. Knowing how many people are planning to attend can also help your library to know if publicizing is working well, or if you need to do more advertising for an event. If your event was considering break out rooms, a low RSVP count can also help you determine how many rooms, or if you want to forgo that and let everyone discuss in a single Zoom room for smaller event turnouts. The same place where you set up a registration page you can also check a box to turn on the “waiting room”. This is a little like the waiting room for the Black Lodge. Just because people gain access to the waiting room does not mean you have to let them in. It allows you and any co-hosts a final check-point for verifying people are a part of your event before allowing them access to the actual Zoom room. I highly recommend using this feature for events you expect will be very large, or for smaller discussions you are having with your community that may be about more personal or timely topics. We recently used a waiting room for our One Read Book Talk events so students would feel safe coming into the virtual room to openly and candidly discuss our community read of “We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation of the University of Georgia” by Robert A. Pratt.

Deduct 2 points if you have been a part of any Zoom event that experienced a Zoom-bomber.

 

So, how did you do? Share your score with us in the comments! What are your most epic Zoom fails? Share other tips and tricks you have learned when using Zoom in 2020 below.

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So last month CLIO held its annual conference — wait… I’m pretty sure it was last month  —

*checks CLIO site*

Yes, last month, from Oct. 13-16, CLIO held its annual conference, this year virtually.  Academics could get a $99 pass, so I decided to take advantage of it.  For my money (and no travel expenses), I got 4 days of great programming and materials.  

Every day started with a keynote featuring industry experts. Interestingly, except for the first (from CLIO’s CEO), none were tech-focused.  Similarly, while many sessions focused on using CLIO efficiently, other sessions covered a variety of issues from diversity, to mental health, to design thinking.

(more…)

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Guest post by Amanda Watson, president of LIT-SIS, Director of the O’Quinn Law Library, and Assistant Professor of Law the University of Houston Law Center. 

It’s official! CS-SIS is now LIT-SIS: Legal Innovation & Technology SIS.

Two years ago, our SIS took a survey to ask members to consider our strategic planning moving forward. Many great ideas were gathered, one being that we should evaluate whether “computing services” was a name that captured our goals as a group. The following year we formed a task force to consider just that.

A survey and tricider were presented to the SIS membership to provide information on the potential rebranding. These are the results:

Response Rate

64 members responded to our survey. 48 members suggested or voted on potential new names.

How well does CS-SIS describe our SIS?

When presented with a slider to value this question from Very Poorly to Very Well:

Very Poor (score of 20 and under): 16
Poor (21-40): 14
Slightly Poor (41-48): 10
Neutral (49-51):  10
Slightly Well (52-59): 9
Well (60-79): 2
Very Well (80 and above): 1

Should we change our name?

Yes: 45
No: 3
I don’t think it matters or I don’t care: 10
Other: 5

What should our name be?

LIT-SIS (Legal Innovation & Technology SIS)                                36 votes

LLI-SIS (Library & Legal Innovation SIS)                                       8 votes

At our 2020 business meeting, we voted unanimously to change our name. After a little paperwork with AALL, we are officially the Legal Innovation & Technology SIS. At this time, no links will change.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is, among other things, a massive experiment in telecommuting.” – Brookings

As articles have been telling us non-stop since March, COVID-19 pressed fast-forward on film that is our lives, and we’ve been watching it all like a blur. For my library, and no doubt many others reading this, selecting and getting the tools off the ground for everyone to begin teleworking was easier than the long-haul of making them part of our new normal that we are still in the midst of. Of course we did not know when selecting platforms for tele-communication just what the ultimate duration of their usage would be. As I sit here typing this I continue to ask myself how long it will last, and as tech-savvy as I used to feel I revisit each and every day the new challenges that the mosaic of virtual workspaces, apps, and workflows relentlessly brings. To repeat my favorite keynote from CALICon over the summer yet again, “tech is easy, people are hard“.

Don’t assume people have reliable technology access or understand particular digital platforms.” – The Conversation

The tech that helped initially is not and perhaps never will be a replacement for the casual moments around the office. Stopping by a colleague’s door or talking things out as you pass in the reading room not only happens less and less but has become more awkward than ever before. On top of that, knowing which platform to select for any random communication can be a chore in and of itself. Second-guessing that email wording, length and necessity is at an all time high. How many Slack messages have I typed and instantly deleted OR worse yet typed 5 times only to never send at all? (Answer = WAY too many to confess).

Articles continue to ask us to swallow the (im)possibility pill that “managers and employees can adapt quickly in a time of increased stress”. – Perceptyx

Some technology choices have unnecessarily brought along exclusivity that was unintended, but we reassured ourselves that this was only temporary. All the while, others have experienced increased inclusivity; employees who prior to the pandemic interacted less often or not at all are more involved than before. It can be harder to speak up in some large Zoom meetings and feel like you are heard, while on the flip side easier to candidly talk to some people in smaller Zoom gatherings than ever before. I have found it feels easier to schedule meetings with others, however everyone I know is way over scheduled (enter Zoom fatigue) because unspoken expectations about how much we can multitask are at an all time high.

Video calls seemed an elegant solution to remote work, but they wear on the psyche in complicated ways.” – National Geographic

Intertwined with everything are our external, situational burdens that each and every person carries with them no matter where they are working from. Are family and friends OK? Trying to keep up with the COVID data for your area, or the areas where those you know and love live? Are you still able to have “water cooler” conversations with coworkers? Is small-talk still happening, and if so how and when? Communications are breaking down while our collective anxieties are building up, uP, UP!

If widespread remote work sticks around, those relationships will never be the same.” – The Atlantic

I’ve struggled to blog about the ebb and flow of solutions and challenges all year long, and I’ve been comforted by reading others from across AALL-SIS’s doing the same. We are still riding this wave of perpetual tele-tech transmutation as we are catapulted into Fall 2020. I invite you to join me and fellow AALL member Ben Doherty a.k.a. author of “The Diary of a Lonely Librarian” for the next Virtual Coffee Chat on Monday October 19th at 3 PM Central as we engage with law librarians to share what has worked for their libraries or what challenges they are experiencing when it comes to maintaining remote connections. Registration closes this Friday October 16th!

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This third installment of “Welcome to my Desk” (thanks to Rachel and Deborah for the first two!) doesn’t have any cats in it (I’m sad about it too), but it does have yet another Yeti microphone. Here’s where I’ve been sitting, and occasionally standing and squatting, for the past few months.

First: the home office. It’s not quite a separate room – an unattainable luxury with Bay Area housing prices – but I only sit here when at work and I don’t work anywhere else, which has effectively mitigated the sense of being at work all the time. I retrieved the monitor and keyboard from my actual at-work desk after a couple of weeks of hunching over my laptop; the footrest and webcam are more recent additions that are really helping with the home-office neck-pain blues.

 

 

On the ubiquitous IKEA cart (RÅSKOG), I keep the ubiquitous Yeti mic plus pop filter; I’ve done a lot of instructional video recordings this pandemic and am very glad to have it. Also some Vitamin D, books for an article I’m working on, and all the other miscellany that ends up on IKEA carts.

 

 

This picture has two things I thought I’d probably never use but kept anyway, so I feel completely vindicated in my pack-rat tendencies. The little vlex/Casemaker robot is a USB hub, conference swag from the 2018 AALL Annual Meeting. With my mouse, keyboard, webcam, and microphone all connecting via USB, it’s been essential. The port on its left arm is broken, though, in case anyone from vlex or Casemaker is reading this and wants to send me a replacement…. The fancy-looking mousepad came in the mail from my law school a year or so ago (I think I must have sent them some money?), I didn’t need it but it looked too nice to throw away, and now it’s doing an excellent job keeping my mouse from scratching up my desk. The book is a relic of the pre-webcam days (i.e. last week), raising the camera on my laptop to a slightly more flattering height. But it’s a good book too!

A little lower-tech on this side of the desk, but we’ve got headphones, a Bluetooth speaker (it makes Zoom very angry when connected, alas), and the Whale Stapler. I rarely have to staple anything, but it’s always exciting when I do. I do use a lot of post-its; I follow the Getting Things Done productivity method (very loosely), and the in-box on the left is often carpeted with post-its used to capture items as they pop into my head or my email. If you zoom in, you can probably also see what I’ve been doing today (pink notepad) and notes for a current project (the other pile), although good luck deciphering it. The ceramic jug was made by a friend and its contents come from a tree in another friend’s yard, and it’s great to feel connected to them while I stare out the window – I mean, stare diligently at the monitor.

The last item I want to mention, hiding in their tin just behind the monitor, are book darts. Maybe everyone else already uses these, but I only discovered them about a year ago, and I have to spread the word. They slide onto a page to mark the page or passage, and unlike sticky page flags, they are aesthetically pleasing and a delight to use. (Featured book: Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.)

 

 

 

To close, this is a screw that fell out of my chair when I moved it to take these photos. I’ve examined every inch of the chair and cannot figure out where it came from. If the chair collapses and I break a limb, know that it was in service of the CS-SIS.

 

Misty staring intensely at cataloging statistics (which we actually label “CatStats”).

In the second installment of our “Welcome to My Desk” posts (major thanks to Deborah Ginsburg for diving in with the first!) I wanted to share the variety of spaces I’ve worked from home in, as well as the space I’m gradually returning to a few days a week in the library. Like Deborah, my last full day in the office before COVID-19 closure was March 13th. Since March 16th when I first set up my initial “home office” space, it has perpetually included a kid, several cats, a mac book pro laptop, and a Yeti USB microphone. I’m sensing a theme here…

The types of glitches that happen in many areas of my home due to hotspotting internet.

But unlike Deborah, I couldn’t stay set up in a single area of my house (not even for 1 of my 148 day teleworking spree). With a 5 year old who won’t stay put, a husband who likes to listen to music on the home stereo, and a horrible internet connection, I’ve had to be flexible and literally roam my home for privacy and a cellular signal during certain hours of the work-from-home-day. Starting last week, August 10th to be precise, many of us returned to work at the University of Georgia. With a teleworking agreement in place I am still moving between the two worlds. I need to keep my home office tech either at home or bring small parts of it to and from home and the actual office every other day. This has proven to require another level of flexibility!

Here’s a tour of the spectrum of “desks” I’ve had for the past 5 months and counting, essential tech I need for each spot, and the pros or cons of each set-up:

1. The Bedroom11 AM to 6PM *strongest internet connection & lowest lighting*

LEGO desk figure my son made me of one of our cats.

This is my actual home office space. Pre-pandemic I had purchased an L-shaped corner desk for my bedroom. I primarily used it as a small art and music desk. The first things I brought home, not knowing how long this would last, were my Yeti mic, my favorite desk ornament “Mr. Cat”, a laptop stand, steno pads, pens and pencils, and my thesaurus. Several weeks later I ended up retrieving an extra monitor (formerly my second monitor from work), mouse, mouse pad, keyboard, and my external hard drive. My desk already had a couple power strips below and two nearby wall outlets, as well as a ring lamp that had USB ports for charging other devices (like my phone). Now I’ve accumulated more books, binders, and other items I’ve brought home from the library. I’ve been slowly returning these each time I’ve been back in the library over the last two weeks. I have also accumulated a surprising amount of new custom desk ornaments made from legos!

I live WAY out in the country, and internet access is not so great. We had recently ditched satellite internet that cost more per month than it worked for us and expanded our dataplan with Verizon to hot spot internet from out phones (yes, this is unfortunately the best quality internet available in my area). With this in mind, the bedroom desk turned out to be the most solid internet connection throughout my home. It also has the lowest lighting since most of the afternoon I can stay in the space with the curtains closed and the lights dim. Sometimes I get 3 bars LTE in this spot!! The downsides of this spot are that it is still the bedroom, connected to our main bathroom and of course our bed. If I am working quietly with no meetings, I can sometimes pull off working in this area in the morning – but who doesn’t have zoom meetings before 11 AM? So this location is best between the hours of 11 AM and 6 PM, with random ranges of unavailability in between.

From left to right: laptop, computer stand, thesaurus, external hard drive, desk light with USB charger, external monitor, external keyboard, a cat, small books from the office (like Bluebook), Yeti USB microphone, computer mouse and mouse pad, cat koozie for can/cat coffee mug, pencils/pens holder, librarian action figure, steno pads, notebooks from the office.

2. The Studio7 AM to 10 AM *kid & cat free zone*

Zooming into Istanbul for a live streamed international poster presentation with Anne Burnett.

There have been times early in the morning where I have had zoom meetings or had to give a live presentation virtually before my husband and son are awake. Not wanting to be responsible in any way for waking my son up earlier than anyone is ready for, I head out to our separate studio space. This is actually a garage that was completely re-finished. My husband and I keep much of our media collection out in the studio, along with our largest musical instruments, as well as art materials (dark room enlarger, photographic chemicals, canvases, etc.). This is the only completely kid-free and cat-free zone in our home, and is really well insulated sound-wise since it used to be a garage. The door that closes this room off is a thick exterior door.

8 AM zoom screen sharing with my supervisor to work on Sierra.

The downsides of the studio are the internet connection and power outlets. I only have 1 bar out there which makes for lagging video and audio, and frequent dropped zoom calls. There are also very few wall outlets, and most of them are already spoken for with large gear plugged in that would be a hassle to move. However, in a pinch, this space offers privacy early morning if I have a meeting that would otherwise wake my family up. For this space, I only take my laptop, phone, and ear-buds – the bare minimum.

3. The Living Room Couch9 AM to 4 PM *2nd best internet connection & a window*

One of my earlier work from home photos, about 8 AM in April. Not pictured: third cat above my head.

The couch in our living room is right beside a window with a rose bush, looking out into our back yard. This spot has the 2nd best internet. With the window open and my phone positioned just right on the windowsill it has a solid 2 bars. This spot is super great in the morning before others are awake, assuming I do not have a zoom meeting. The windowsill doubles as a great place for writing utensils and my coffee cup. The coffee table is great for spreading out notes from meetings and looking over anything printed and visual that I need to for organizing the items themselves and my thoughts. It isn’t always a clean table space though – this is also the main location my son builds things (legos, tinker toys, mangatiles, play doh – you name it, it is on the table and sometimes in mass). At this “desk” I’ve quickly learned that looks can be deceiving with comfortable sitting areas.

View of this spot from zoom (with yet another cat).

At first I loved the couch, but I wasn’t used to sitting on it with a laptop for hours at a time. It is slouch-city! And ultimately too much time in this location is a literal pain in the neck. Up side? It is also cat-city. We have four cats, and if a cat in your lap or on top of your head is needed for stress relief, this is the place to be. Another down side though, as the most open area of our home it is the most likely place to be interrupted. I tend to only bring the laptop, my phone, and a notebook or two most of the time. If I’m on kid-duty and working, I’ll bring out my better headphones so I can focus more on what I need to do than whatever my son is watching on the TV. This area is harder to use the later it gets in the day, as my son gets increasingly restless and my husband starts dinner.

4. The Dining Room Table11 AM to 1 PM *best zoom background*

View from zoom.

How many meetings happen during the lunch hour (and are purposely scheduled that way!)? The answer is far too many… I am bad enough about eating late lunches anyway, but sometimes there is no better option than eating during faculty meetings between 12 and 1. I don’t use this location much, but at least once a week since March I’ve had to use this “desk”. The dining room connects to the bedroom so this spot doesn’t work well before 11 AM when others may be sleeping or still getting ready.

View of the “desk”.

What else is happening…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The internet connection is terrible here, but the table is large so there is plenty of space free from toy-creations and dried play-doh to spread out papers for taking notes and still eat at a reasonable time of day. The best part about this room is that we also have our book shelves lining the walls. This makes it my favorite spot for having a nice non-virtual background. For this desk I take my laptop with stand (to put notebooks or a plate of food underneath), phone, Yeti microphone, and headphones.

5. The Kitchen CounterAnytime *best for multi-tasking*

Checking emails while brewing coffee.

By multi-tasking I mean working, being in a meeting (preferably one I am primarily listening to and not leading or speaking often), and being a mom. This is the space with a decent enough internet connection – mostly 2 bars. I can start work tasks (like uploading items to our repository or uploading a video tutorial), listen to or take part in a meeting, prepare food for my son, watch him in the living room, or even wash dishes. I don’t end up working in this area for very long, and like the dining room, it happens only a couple times a week. But when I do, I need my laptop, phone, and earbuds. In a pinch I can manage with just earbuds and my phone. I’ve got zoom, skype, and go to meeting apps all installed on my phone at this point so whatever the virtual platform I can quickly connect. If I really need to be more hands-on with my son or something around the house like in the kitchen, I just triple check that I’m muted and my camera is off since this usually means my phone is in my back pocket.

6. The Actual Office *best for live streamed video presentations & working with the ILS*

Me in the office over the summer, meeting with my supervisor Wendy Moore who was working at home – fear not, she brought MANY file folders home with her.

For the majority of my teleworking experience this past spring and summer, I went into the office as briefly as possible one morning a week (usually Fridays). This was only for the most essential things I couldn’t do from home, like change our library catalog’s physical backup tape, and to download, edit, and upload batches of records for the catalog. We use iii’s Sierra and I’ve found that even tasks that look like they are available in Sierra Web do not always work the same way, or the option is greyed out. It also requires VPN which my bad internet loves to kick me off of, making it too time-consuming or frustrating from home to be efficient. As the summer progressed, I started doing more presentations for virtual conferences. I quickly found that going into the office to present was well worth it to ensure I wouldn’t completely glitch out or drop the video conference entirely while I was mid-sentence as a speaker or panelist. I did this when presenting for CALICon and AALL for example – more on that below.

Changing the backup tape.

Now that the semester has begun for fall, I’m on a three days a week in the office schedule, and two days at home. The things I came across immediately that I would need in the office and at home were a web cam/microphone, and headphones. There have already been days that I ended up forgetting headphones to take into the office. And let’s not forget things to write with (because I did!) – in March I took home almost all my pens and pencils. Returning to work regularly I realized there was nothing to write with! I still need my external monitor at home, and most of my work is on my laptop. So for now my actual office desk in the library is minus my normally 2nd monitor, but I’ve been taking my laptop with me each time. This keeps me from using too many USB drives (and forgetting or losing those) or having to email or Slack myself any items I might need two or more days in a row when I’m alternating between work and home. The single thing I’ve missed the most was probably my barcode scanner. I know it isn’t necessary, but it is one of the things I really missed having at my desk. I’ve also missed having a land-line telephone. I didn’t think I would ever say that! Though working from home using my phone as a hotspot for internet has prevented me from making regular telephone calls AND working on a computer. For my cell phone, it is one or the other. Calling into a meeting or just making a regular phone call with a coworker saves data, but I cannot do anything else while I am on the phone. Just yesterday our systems team did some improvised old school conference calls from our respective offices. I LOVED this! Bonus that there was no delay in hearing my colleagues muffled voice through the walls like I’ve experience on zoom meetings when we are in our offices.

The entire spring and summer I made it until July before using a virtual background. This was actually out of necessity – I just couldn’t get it to work with my ancient Mac Book. It is a 2011 running Yosemite. For presenting live at virtual AALL I was able to get from our Law School IT department a super sweet USB webcam. It is widescreen and has a nice auto-focus feature. I now use this with my PC for zooming when I am in the real office building. Because my PC is newer, I can use virtual backgrounds with no issue in the office with this set-up! Even without a green screen behind me, it worked perfectly. I discovered though that my best headphones (which rise up above my head) are NOT virtual background friendly, and instead use earbuds for calls I need virtual backgrounds for.

Lexis recently upgraded its Lexis Advance legal research platform by tweaking the visual interface and by adding a few substantive tools to its platform. Lexis+ acts more like a quality of life update rather than a revolutionary overhaul, which is a welcome improvement to its current user base but so overwhelming to alienate fans of the older platform.

(For fans of dark mode, Lexis+ has updated their landing page to be sleeker.)

Lexis+ will be a phased and optional roll out for law firms later this fall. Law students automatically receive access to the platform beginning this month. Since Lexis+ will be the first interface for incoming 1Ls, legal research instructors should make some contingencies for somehow still using Lexis Advance as it may be very possible that law students could work with recalcitrant law firms refusing to make the switch.

One new addition to the landing page is the quick tabs on the left, which allow you to quickly access the practical guidance and brief analysis sections. Practical guidance results are also included in the search results if you select the “legal research” option

(New sidebar dock for quick access to the Legal Research, Practical Guidance, and Brief Analysis tools.)

Another feature is the “missing” and “must include” term search in the results list. By clicking the “must include” term, it re-runs your search to require that specific term in the results. This tool was somewhat useful, as it helps visualize key terms in the context of your search results.

(‘Missing’ and ‘Must Include’ features.)

One great feature (for law schools) is the new graphical display, which visualizes how operators and terms affect your search. This is a great way to demonstrate Boolean searches for legal research classes. The tool can also visualize Boolean search issues, for example, typos will be easier to spot given the document counts. You can also hover your cursor to view specific sequences in the Boolean search.

(Lexis+ graphical search query display.)

Lexis is also introducing Shepard’s at Risk, which appears to work just like Westlaw’s Overruling Risk indicator. One difference is that the At Risk cases pop up within the case itself, allowing you to quickly determine whether the At Risk symbol effects the reasoning for your case, which is a simple but effective quality of life improvement over its competitor.

(Shepard’s At Risk.)

Lexis+ also released their Brief Analyzer, playing catch up to other major legal research databases like Bloomberg and Westlaw. One unique aspect of Lexis+ Brief Analyzer is pulling in similar briefs based on the analysis, a valuable resource for smaller firms without expansive brief banks and newer attorneys looking for sample language and arguments.

To test its capability, I used a redacted motion for summary judgment. There were a few hiccups likely due to the optical character recognition (OCR) and the formatting of my PDF. However, the organization of the case recommendations was clean, and the case recommendations were extensive but not overwhelming.

(Lexis+ Brief Analyzer’s dashboard.)

(Recommendations appear next to the sections in your brief.)

Overall, the visual tweaks, search tool enhancements, and results visualization have elevated Lexis+ to finally match its competitors’ offerings. While Lexis+ has narrowed the gap, only time will tell whether these improvements can convince users to make the switch. The underlying theme of this update however is to make the improvements demanded by its user base, but not so revolutionary to alienate new users. I enjoyed my experience with the new platform and look forward to what the future holds for legal research.

Getting Started on my Desk

On March 12, the local schools closed.  On March 13, I went to the office for a meeting, packed some things, and went home. I’ve been WFH ever since.

The first thing I did when I got home was to arrange my desk for work.  Before it had been used for storing important papers that I would look at someday very soon.  Those are now in a box.  I will look at them very soon.

My desk is in my room, which I know isn’t “best practice.”  If you can, set up your workspace in a separate room.  But I only have so many rooms and my other choices were in my basement, which doesn’t have windows.  Windows are important – they tell me what time of day it is.

There are also two children and 2 cats.  This is important.

When setting up my desk, I had to consider several issues:

  1. How could I best fit my computer and at least one extra monitor?  I use two monitors at work, so keeping that system was vital.
  2. How could I maintain at least a half-way decent posture?
  3. Is my internet fast enough?
  4. Do I have enough outlet space?
  5. Can I see at least one window?
  6. Can I see the cats?

My current set up addresses most of these issues.  The internet could be faster.

On March 13, I grabbed what I thought would be most important: The Yeti microphone, the Yeti stand, some cables, my Lexis mugs (you know which ones), and my good tea.  I did not grab my mouse and my keyboard.  I immediately regretted that.  One of my colleagues was able to rescue them before Chicago-Kent shut down.  I’m so glad she did – the laptop keyboard was not sustainable for avoiding pain in my shoulders and hands.

After I came home, I asked my son for one of his many monitors.  He tried to give me an old 20″ but that didn’t work. Sorry kid, one of your three 27″ monitors was going to be mine for a while.  You’d survive with a 20″ for your 3rd monitor.  Once I cleared my desk, set up the monitor, and placed the Yeti, I was ready to record many, many training videos. Not to mention all of my other work.

Over the next few months, I had to make a few adjustments.  The original chair was killing my back, so I got the kind of chair that my kid uses for gaming.  I wanted to try to make a green screen work, which meant I had to move my desk in front of a wall.  I’ve moved this desk at least 3 times.

(more…)

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Several CS-SIS members (myself included!) took part in the TS-SIS sponsored session “Data, Stats, Go: Navigating the Intersections of Cataloging, E-Resource, and Web Analytics Reporting” for AALL’s 2020 annual conference live stream programming last week. In case you missed it, or had issues with the live stream, attendees can now watch the recording on-demand by visiting: https://cdmcd.co/Wv977d

Select “handouts” to access the slides PDF as well as a 2-page handout at the end of the file, and choose “on-demand recording” to watch the video. The content of this session included a wide range of examples showing the types of data we are all collecting for our institutions, and organization represented included both law firm and academic libraries. Several platforms were shared about, and their data types compared including repositories, integrated library systems, websites, ticketing, and more.

We broke down our data-driven discussion into three major parts:

  1. The Landscape (WHERE you pull your data from, and analytics versus statistic)
  2. The [Pain] Points (WHAT you are gathering, with an emphasis on process vs. technology pain points)
  3. The Life of the Story (WHY you are reporting, WHO you share it with, and HOW you visualize it)

The live session featured interactive polling for each section of the presentation, and an “ugly origami” exercise where participants were asked to write on and fold a single sheet of paper to create a symbol of their statistics (…the catch was not knowing exactly what you were doing in advance)! We had fun literally visualizing how ugly our stats truly are when we don’t think about what, why, and how we collect our data in advance. We shared our favorite tools for leveling up stats visualization, and encouraged attendees to think more critically and creatively about their library’s data.

Whether you watched the session live, plan to re-watch it later, or only have time to read this blog post, we encourage you to use this set of questions as a guide for using your data to tell more meaningful and powerful stories about your users, services, and resources:

  • What stories to you need to tell using data?
  • What systems can you get that data from?
  • Does the data actually represent what you think it does?
  • What tools could you use, if any, to visualize or report it?
  • What impact or result do you want your data to have?
  • How could you improve the usefulness of your data moving forward?
    • What data do you wish you had tracked?
    • What data do you track that you no longer need?
    • Do you need changes to your procedures?
  • What unintended issues could your changes introduce to other data tracked?

Thank you to everyone who attended. Now, data, stats, go…!

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In March, I wrote a post for this blog on how to use Zoom. Since Covid-19 still has us all stuck at home, why not learn more about Zoom?  In this blog post, I will show you how to use Zoom’s polling feature.

 

Before the meeting.

First, sign into the Zoom website—not the client.*

Next, you need to check your account settings to make sure polls are enabled. Go to the settings page

Then scroll down to polling and, if it’s not on, turn it on.

With polling enabled, we can then create a meeting, here I have already created a meeting called “Learning about polls.”

Next, click into that meeting’s page—I’ll click on the blue text “Learning about polls.”

Once you are on the new meeting page, scroll to the bottom and you will see a box that informs you “You have not created any poll yet.” Adjacent to this message hit the add button.

This launches the “Add a Poll” dialog box.

Here we can create the poll questions. From this box, you will enter a title for your poll, choose whether participants will answer the poll anonymously (i.e. the system will not collect the participant’s answers), and enter poll questions. This poll contains two questions. One question is set to a single choice and the other to multiple choice. Once you’re done entering questions, hit save. You can create multiple polls for use within a single meeting.

In preparation for my meeting, I created three polls using the various settings available in the Zoom poll creation tool. Next up, we’ll use these polls within a zoom meeting.

During the Meeting

To help with this meeting I enlisted the aid of several law librarians.** The purpose of the meeting was to take some trivial polls and to get some photos to use in this blog post; we accomplished all of our goals.***

As soon as everyone logged in to the zoom, I launched the polls by selecting them from the polling button which appears when you hover over the Zoom window.

Then after everyone responded to each poll, I shared the results.  The second question on the first poll is a multiple-choice so participants were able to select as many answers as they wanted. Also note, as host, I could not respond to the polls.

   

After the Meeting

Zoom allows you to later download poll results. Here’s how:

Log into your zoom account, then go to Reports and select Meeting.

Next select Poll Report and adjust the date range to show the meeting for which you want the poll reports.

After that, check the box for your meeting and hit Generate. Doing so will bring you to the Report Queue from which you can download your poll results.

Zoom gives poll results in a CSV file format. Here is a peek at my poll results after I adjusted the width of the columns. We can tell the results between the first poll and the second. Although all meeting attendees had identified themselves in some way, my poll results unexpectedly list many attendees as Guest. The second poll remained completely anonymous.

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* Thanks to Nicole Dyszlewski for pointing this out.
** Thanks to Mandy Lee, Mike Muehe, Rachel Weiss, and again Nicole Dyszlewski.
*** Thanks to Mandy Lee for the screenshots.