Five tech-based tools to love

Though technology is not always my best friend, especially when the ‘blue screen of death’ appears — it has given me some truly can’t-live-without-you tools. Here’s a show and tell of five tech-based tools I love and regularly use to accomplish my work, find inspiration, and spark innovation. They are all freely accessible for anyone to use or subscribe to. I encourage you to check them out, give them a test, and see how one of these tools can change the way you work

1. Trello | A web-based application for project management 


You can use Trello to create project boards in order to manage tasks and timelines. I use it everyday to track and break down my own work; my team uses it to manage project workflows and organize, track, and delegate assignments. It’s an easy-to-adopt tool that’s so flexible you can use it to plan a launch of a new library service or chart meal plans for the month.

This is a tool for anyone who appreciates a visual way of managing tasks.

2. Figma | A web-based application for interface and document design 


Figma is typically used for creating prototypes for websites or interface design. It was a great tool for my work on our library’s web team. It had just the right simple, streamlined features I needed, and it made creating sketches of webpages quick and easy. I’ve shifted roles temporarily and no longer do web design, but to my surprise and delight, I can still use Figma to think creatively. I now use it to design documents and create quick sketches for ideation—others might consider using it for space and display design. Although I have yet to test Figma’s team collaboration features, it seems promising, and it’s easy to share work by exporting a file or sharing via generated links.

This is a tool for anyone who enjoys visualization and design.

3. NN/g Articles Articles from industry experts on topics that can translate to the library including user experience, human computer interaction, assessment and evaluation methods, communication and marketing

The Nielson Norman Group publishes articles that cover a range of topics related to usability and user experience (UX). I follow the feed to keep apprised with trends in the web and UX world. This is not a conventional library-specific journal, but articles such as “28 Tips for Creating Great Qualitative Surveys” and The State of Transactional Email” cover topics (like evaluation and communication) that cut across industries.  It’s worthwhile for libraries to seek out best practices and learn from experts in the larger world.

This is a tool for anyone interested in translating knowledge from other industries to your library.

4. Code4Lib Slack Community | Community network on all things library and technology via Slack, a web communication platform

The Code4Lib community (learn more about them and our local BC chapter on their website) has a number of communication channels; one of them being a Slack team. Code4Lib’s Slack team is used for discussion, announcements, interest groups, and working groups. A few topics/interest groups include web accessibility, metadata, data visualization or modeling and DevOps. The Slack team is a welcoming low-barrier (chat room) space that I often go to in order to ask questions to the larger library community. I learn from folks in other systems who have experience and lessons to pass on.  For example, I was recently conducting preliminary research related to a project with our ILS, and I sent message to the #general channel — broadly and openly asking if anyone has done anything similar in their libraries. As a result, I connected with a colleague in Seattle and downloaded a wealth of knowledge from her on the subject. It’s a great resource whether you want to follow the discussion quietly or actively engage with thoughts, questions, or some wordplay and puns every now and then.

This is a tool for anyone seeking a broader library community.

5. [Create Your Own Tool] | Create your own tech tools to make your work easier, fun, and creative 

This year, I was inspired by projects I found on GitHub (a development platform) and I created a persona generator using HTML,CSS and JavaScript. The generator offers up a combination of attributes in order to create a potential user. Whether in a workshop or at my desk, I can quickly generate simple starter personas in order to assess a problem or test solution by seeking to understand users who may use a library service. Using personas can help us step into the shoes of our (potential) patrons so we can problem solve and generate ideas that are responsive to their needs. I created a customizable tool for myself that would be a helpful aid whenever I need to apply user-centred thinking to a problem. Creating your own tool requires time and patience, especially if you’re tackling a learning curve, but the reward is great and you may be able to continue to build upon it in the future.

This tool is for anyone looking for a custom tool to fit your needs.

Jessica Whu is a Web Librarian at Vancouver Public Library