New year, new skills, new projects?

Meh album cover, courtesy Uninspired bandWell now, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I have a number of draft posts from events last year that I’ve been meaning to publish, but just haven’t been motivated to continue talking about the same old stuff. I’ve been feeling…uninspired at work. Too much administration and busy work (some of it my own doing, admittedly), not enough action-packed fun projects.

Having worked at one institution for seven years now (my longest stint with a single employer), I notice that it’s easy to slip into a daily routine that doesn’t present much stimulation or challenge. After the grueling review of 2013 (a process that our professional staff complete every 3-4 years) and the challenge of organizing my first big event on campus (more about that in another post), Remain Curious and Keep LearningI was experiencing some level of burnout combined with that odd sense of ennui that I’ve felt after completing other major projects.

So, to get myself out of this mental quagmire, I’ve decided to start learning some new skills this year, notably computer programming (lite). I have started with JavaScript, which I’m learning via Code Academy’s great free online tutorials. And next month I’ll begin the first in a series, Fundamentals of Computing, offered by Rice University via the free Coursera MOOC platform. The series starts with basic programming in Python, and I think these two tools should give me a foundation to be able to work on developing or extending some web-based tools. At least, that is my current goal.

Of course, my efforts to learn these new skills are dependent on being able to put them into practice in a meaningful way. I will probably post some practice exercises here to document my progress and remind myself of the techniques I’m learning. However, eventually I’ll need a peg to hang continued learning on. The good news is that my job (and my supervisor) allow for flexibility to develop new projects on my own, as long as those efforts fit within the general mission of our library. The difficulty, at times, has been to have the tools, resources, or authority to be able to create something new or make significant changes to an existing system or service. It is impossible, for example, to make progress towards the goal of an online media collection of college-produced materials when we are still using an ancient QT media server and have not, over multiple conversations in the past three years, been able to implement technology that is up to the modern standard. (On the bright side, it appears we might be able to skip over Flash video entirely and head straight to an HTML5-complient platform!)

Here are some goals I have for this year:

1. Learn JavaScript and Python as above.

2. Brush up on HTML (particularly new features in HTML5) and CSS.

3. Develop workflow for digitizing videos and putting them into an online repository and media playback system.

4. Learn enough about Flowplayer and Wowza playback options to be able to recommend a way to implement these and/or related technologies. Include options for transcript sync and closed-captioning for college-produced video collection.

Depending on institutional purchasing and implementation, I might even be able to pilot ideas from #3 and #4 later in the year. Here’s to getting (and staying) inspired and challenged.

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