2022 Cool Tools Cafe Roundup

2022 Cool Tools Café Roundup by Chi Song

Chi Song is the Web Services Librarian at the Thurgood Marshall State Law Library in Annapolis, Maryland, and one of the recipients of the LIT-SIS grants to attend the AALL Annual Meeting in Dever. 

The Cool Tools Café is one of my favorite programs at the Annual Meeting and Conference because I always learn something new – whether that’s being introduced to an emerging technology or learning how my colleagues have utilized an existing technology to meet their library’s needs.

The lightning round at the beginning of this year’s session featured:

  • Calendly – online appointment scheduling software;
  • PowerNotes – browser extension to capture and organize sources, citations, and other information;
  • Workflowy – organization, notetaking, and outlining app;
  • Tango – browser extension/desktop app for documenting workflows, including screenshots;
  • RescueTime – time management software;
  • Timely – time tracking software;
  • Screencastify – video creator;
  • LibWizard (Springshare Platform) feedback and assessment tools (e.g., forms, surveys, quizzes, and tutorials)
  • Goose Chase – scavenger hunt app;
  • Perusall – social learning platform;
  • Prezi Video – video creator; and
  • Airtable – online platform for creating/sharing databases.

Tango and Airtable caught my attention as both were new to me, and I could immediately envision utilizing them at my library. So, I took a closer look at both during the small group presentations/discussions.

Tango is a Google Chrome extension (or desktop app) that documents workflows by capturing actions performed on a website, screenshots, and URLs. It is not a video recording. Instead, the end-product is a step-by-step workflow/guide/tutorial that can be copied into anything that supports HTML or exported as a PDF file.

The potential to save time is what drew me to learn more about Tango as it is time-consuming to draft descriptive language for actions as well as manually take screenshots. I also like the editing features, including adding titles, editing the descriptions, importing additional workflow captures, changing the order of the steps, adding graphic elements, and manually adding steps. Tango also allows for collaboration as you can share the workflows with others who can also edit the workflow.

After seeing it in action, utilizing the extension appears straightforward and intuitive. Note, however, that Tango can only capture what’s in the Chrome browser, so steps outside the browser must be added in manually. Also, Tango is based on a freemium model, but it looks like everything that I would likely need would be covered in the free starter, so it’s certainly something to explore.

Airtable is a low-code platform that allows users to build databases with various features for automation, visualizations, processes, integrations, and collaboration. In particular, I found the potential to integrate both project management and data management in a single platform intriguing. The presenter uses Airtable for publisher permission request tracking as it helps manage an unpredictable workflow and is ideal for the number of records being tracked (700+). While my library does not track that particular type of record, we have a lot of data and related workflows to manage.

It’ll take some time to consider whether Airtable would make sense for my projects. However, considering that the interface appears user-friendly (including importing spreadsheets), the potential to integrate project management and data tracking, and the freemium pricing model, it’s certainly worth exploring as well.

Associate Director of Research and Instruction, Boley Law Library, Lewis and Clark Law School, in Portland, Oregon.