March 07, 2011
Reflecting on my ASB experience – II. Beyond Work and What I’ve Learned
I thought I would not have this much excitement other than working at LOC, since I have been to DC a couple times – twice as a tourists and another three-month stay as an intern. Well I was wrong.
For touring around DC, I didn’t go to the usual site-seeing this time (the Mall area, Capitol Hill, the White House, etc.), since I’ve been to those places a couple times. Instead, I spent one day at Georgetown – shopping, visiting the Georgetown University, and taking a walk down the Potomac River. The weather was gorgeous – esp. after what we’d been through in Ann Arbor. I also went to the Newseum (big thanks to Rob for giving us free tickets!) on a weekday morning (and of course, made up my hours later). It turned out to be the most impressive museum I’ve visited recently. I guess visiting the museum satisfied my hunger of both newspapers and major historical events. I will recommend this to anyone!
Dinning was more than I had expected too! Chinatown was just several blocks away from our hotel. The noodle place we discovered was just great – we went there twice and got completely stuffed each time~ Lunch at LOC’s café was also pleasant, and we got the 20% discount as LOS “employee” LOL
To save the best thing to the last – I really had a great time being with my fellow classmates, both on personal and professional levels. Evan is probably a better HCI student than me so he almost took the lead in our work, and I really appreciate his diligence and work ethic. I became good friends with Ruidi, Xiaoxi, Tiantian, Liuliu, and so on. Despite of the fact that we already knew each other, going to ASB together just offered so much more time to get to know each other. Next time if you want to be friend with someone, get them to go to ASB with you :)
Speaking of what I’ve learned, working at LOC was not exactly what I had envisioned. The fact that they wanted us to expand the website content on digital preservation was a surprise at the beginning, but it started to make more sense to me. People you work for sometimes don’t care what title you have or what you claim to be good at, they only care to make their stuff better – if this involve knowledge and actions beyond what you have prepared for, then acknowledge it and improvise. I wasn’t a digital preservation specialist at all but improving such content became an important aspect of my job. This also reminds me of the argument of defining information architecture and its relation to user experience design. One voice is similar – who cares how you define your title, just get yourself out there and get the job done.
Reflecting on my ASB experience – I. Working at the Library of Congress
One of my fellow ASB-ers just updated his Facebook status to “ASB was way more than a blast! Don’t want to go back to school now.” Well, as you can probably guess, I couldn’t agree with him more. My ASB experience is not just about working at Library of Congress (although a big part), but also how I spent a fantastic week in DC.
Working at the Library of Congress (LOC).
It’s been almost four years since I visited LOC last time, when I was interning at the National Women’s History Museum for an online exhibition on Chinese American Women. I still remember how much I enjoyed working in its breathtaking main reading room and how I still wonder how big LOC’s structure is – so here came the opportunity to work for a week for LOC! What was even better was that I chose a project that somewhat had to do with HCI – at least from the description.
There were more than a dozen of us volunteering at LOC this time, and projects we got assigned were diverse – some would catalog historical photos, some would work with Japanese manuscripts, some would work at the Law Library. Four of us worked with the Office of Strategic Initiatives – among whom Evan and I worked on the website digitalgovernment.gov
There were two major sections of the site we mainly worked on – since these sections have been getting a great amount of hits and could be optimized potentially. One is the Tools and Services, and the other is the Personal Archiving. After communicating with the staff, we found that they were actually not only interested in optimizing the site with whatever it already had, but also augmenting its content to include more information. We were confident to do the former task, but were not sure how much we could contribute to the latter ones – since we are not digital preservation experts. We expressed our concern, but they seemed really interested in the latter task; as I understood later, since the site is targeted toward the general public, they probably wanted us to provide our non-expert point of view, which is closer to their target users.
So half of my week was spent on learning all the digital preservation tools from Tools and Services, adding some metadata, and trying to come up with a visualization method using a free open-source software called Recollection. While working on this, I couldn’t help thinking how many times I’ve heard of people’s first job experience doing things they were not good at but were just what need to be done, and I felt exactly the same. Good thing was I’ve really learned a lot about digital preservation tools; in fact, in this morning’s 500 class the professor brought up a project that I just learned – LOCKSS.
For the usability testing, Evan and I had a lot more freedom to explore whatever we wanted to do to make their website better. Due to the time limit, we couldn’t do any user-involved testing such as interviews and surveys, so we conducted heuristic evaluation, comparative analysis, and developed a testing protocol for their future use. They were like mini-622 projects with a two-people group. It was great to apply what I’ve just learned from class to the real world. Evan was also a great partner – we got a lot done within the several days.
On Friday afternoon we did a 30-minite presentation to present all our findings and recommendations. We will also send them other deliverables, such as the comparative analysis chart, and heuristic evaluation results – still trying to find time to work on them. We were really glad that what we’ve found seems helpful to them~