How I Work: Susie Smith

IG_Close-UpLocation: Lister Hill Library, Reference

Current gig: Reference Librarian & Liaison to UAB’s School of Health Professions

Current mobile devices: iPhone 4S, iPad Mini, and decreasingly, iPad

Current computer: My work computer is a Windows Dell laptop connected to a docking station with double monitors. I use (and LOVE) a MacBook Pro at home, so when I was due for a new computer at work a few months ago I really debated whether to switch to a Mac at work as well. In the end, I decided it would be really helpful to be proficient in both operating systems. I like being able to more confidently troubleshoot library technical issues and help patrons on either OS. I’ve been extremely happy with my decision to use one OS at work and one at home. Also, I don’t think I could ever go back to having a desktop computer. I love knowing I can just undock my laptop (work or home) and go wherever.

One word that best describes how you work: Focused with a side of adaptive. I have a list that I set out to accomplish each day. Usually I write out this list on a sticky note at the beginning of the day and stick it right in front of me. The sticky note is usually just the key things that really must/should happen that day, but I have a much longer to-do list that I constantly refer back to so things don’t fall off my radar. I also have my yearly goals posted right behind my monitors so I never forget them, and I am always checking and re-checking my calendar to see what deadlines are coming up. Because of the nature of my job, I’m accustomed to dropping whatever I’m working on to help a library user. (That’s where the “adaptive” part come into play.) I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to switch gears quickly and using small pockets of time to work toward my goals. My natural tendency is to be a perfectionist about everything I do. While I still strive to do the best I can do, I’ve gotten better at giving myself a break. Some projects/tasks are better “good and complete” than “perfect and never completed”!

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Outlook (especially calendar), Wunderlist, ZipList, and Gmail.

What’s your workspace like? Organized piles of papers that don’t always look like organized piles of papers. This is another way I’ve adapted. I am a clean and organization freak, but I am usually too busy to tidy up my desk like I really want it to be. So I just keep my project papers grouped in piles that get a little messy-looking at times. As soon as I get a chance, I put them in labeled hanging file folders, and I always file away papers for projects that are done or not “active” at the moment. I mentioned the double monitors above. Like anyone who’s ever worked with double monitors, there is no way I could ever operate without both of them again. I have lots of photos of my family and some of my kids’ artwork. They are my absolute #1, no matter what the work day brings. Oh, and I also have a couple of sickly violet plants that are technically still alive but haven’t bloomed in a few years. Though I keep hoping one day they will surprise me. No green thumb here!

What is your best life hack? Pausing to soak in the details of life, praying/listening, and when I can force myself… putting the iPhone away.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Wunderlist is what I’ve ended up using, though I’m sure there are other good ones.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? GPS in my car.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Being a mom has made me a pretty darn good multi-tasker.

What are you currently reading? I don’t remember the last time I had time to read anything for pleasure. But when I DO have time to read, it’s nonfiction.

What do you listen to while you work? Usually nothing, but if things get “rowdy” in our suite (insert librarian joke here – yes we get rowdy!) and I’m trying to finish up something I’ll turn on something soothing without words. Yo-Yo Ma is one of my go-to’s at work.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? Definitely an introvert, but not a hermit kind of an introvert. I really enjoy being with others and working in teams. I just also need a good bit of “me” time to re-charge.

What’s your sleep routine like? I am a finicky sleeper. The Princess and the Pea story may be an exaggerated comparison, but I’m pretty silly about my sleep environment. Any tiny sound will keep me awake. When you couple this with the fact that I have two kids, one of whom is a 1-year-old… well, sleep has been a sensitive issue with me for the past year. I’m up at 5:15 am each morning to get myself, the kiddos, and sometimes the pug ready. I require lots of sleep, so I go to bed embarrassingly early.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I don’t remember anyone ever telling me this, but the older I get I find myself coming back to this thought: “You think you know. But you don’t really know.” We all have more to learn. This also applies to what we think we know about others. Pretty much everyone is going through something tough that you don’t know about.

I love my iPad Mini

I’ll admit it.  When Apple first announced the iPad mini, I was skeptical. Why would anyone want one, since the iPhone and iPad did everything so well and the iPhone is so portable?  Then I learned the mini fits in a doctor’s white coat pocket. And that the new mini has (almost) all the features of the iPad Air. So when offered the opportunity to upgrade from my iPad 2, I chose the new Mini with Retina Display and I could not be happier with it.

The size feels exactly right.

new coat size

To learn specifics about the features of the new mini, start withone of these comprehensive reviews from my favorite sites:

Why I like the iPad mini

  • It is small enough to carry in a large pocket or small purse, but has the functions I need to work productively as well as the apps for personal use that I also have on my phone
  • I have a case with keyboard for when needed for writing and email
  • Webpages open in the full site view, not the mobile view, so there is a full range of options for using them

The LHL Website in Both Views





Working with PDFS

Most people in academia need their tablet to work well with PDF files so they can easily find, read, annotate and store papers.  The smaller size works very well for these tasks in part because of the sharpness of the retinal display. The tablet fits easily in my hand for reading or sits upright in its case on a desk. If the PDF print is tiny, a pinch magnifies the screen.

  • From the LHL website, you can search in PubMed, CINAHL or Scopus to find articles. Many other UAB resources offer apps or mobile sites.
  • There are many apps that store and open PDFs.  I often use GoodReader because it has an excellent set of annotation tools.

Screenshot of an Annotated PDF on the Mini



  • Most PDF apps allow you to upload the finished PDF to Dropbox, email it to yourself to save storage on your phone, or open it in another app, like Papers or EndNote.  I use the EndNote app ($) because it syncs with my other computers. A recent upgrade added a robust set of annotation tools to EndNote as well.

Screenshot of an EndNote Library


Share your experience with using tablets for clinical care or research in the comments below.

Your very own food compass: Foodspotting

If you like to discover new restaurants or cuisine, or if you’re of the kind that routinely takes pictures of their food to show off on Facebook, you might be interested in Foodspotting.


Foodspotting is a app that works with your location, so wherever you are in the world, you can see where and what people are eating.  This is my go-to app when I’m out of town.

Two testimonies:  A few weeks ago I attended the Medical Library Association conference in Chicago.  A friend and I wanted breakfast.  We were walking around for a bit when I decided to pull up my app.  We were able to scroll through dozens of plates posted by other foodspotters.  We picked what looked like a cute brunch place, clicked on the link for directions (which melds really nicely with the navigation on your phone) and walk right to it.  My friend said it the best oatmeal of her life–it did look really good, they bruleed the top!  And I had some really wonderful soft scrambled eggs topped with fried kale.

I also use the app when I’m in a very touristy location–like Gulf Shores, and Savannah, and New Orleans.  I’m not often dazzled by the pirate ships and neon…I want the small local places.  I was able to find a place in Pensacola called Fisherman’s Corner…it is literally under an overpass and hands down has the most unique shrimp and grits I’ve ever seen, and one of the best tasting.

If I had seen this tin can crab on Foodspotting, I probably would have skipped this place.

If I had seen this tin can crab on Foodspotting, I probably would have skipped this place.

In the background is the shrimp & grits--that's a ball of fried grits!

In the background is the shrimp & grits–that’s a ball of fried grits!













Pros: If you’re a fan of Yelp Reviews, they are featured with every foodspot.  Quick connection to maps and directions. Great when you’re already on the go.  I’ve never been disappointed with the restaurants I found with Foodspotting.  Less chance of being disappointed in your meal when you can rely on real people to do the research for you.

Cons: There are plenty of pictures of McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks.  And so you have to scroll through some unexciting, typical chain eateries.  There is a desktop version, but it doesn’t have as much to offer.

And on a related note: Birminghamians know that Birmingham is a foodie town.  From our well-renowned fixtures (Highlands, Botega, etc.) to the newly established food trucks (Shindigs, Melt, etc.) this town makes some really good food.  So show the world!  Take a picture of your food, be proud, and post it to Foodspotting!

& follow me JillD!

This pizza was divine!  Gulf Pizza, Algiers, NOLA

This pizza was divine! Gulf Pizza, Algiers, NOLA.


How I Work: Karen Wood

Location: Lister Hill Library

Current gig: Administrative Associate/Finance & Personnel

Current mobile device: iPhone 5s

Current computer: At work: Dell desktop – At home: Dell Inspiron laptop (2009 model but still reliable)

One word that best describes how you work:    Haphazard Adaptive – - on any given day my initial plan to tackle multiple priorities has to be adjusted for something unforeseen, so, like that military phrase, I must “improvise, adapt and overcome.”

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? I am always logged in to the online administrative finance and HR system, and use Office apps and the UAB Report Viewer throughout the day. I use Firefox and/or Chrome frequently but will use Explorer out of necessity for certain UAB system applications. I am really enjoying dual monitors; they are so useful when working with multiple programs and documents.

What’s your workspace like?  Comfortable and spacious with a touch of clutter – I’m not a hoarder and don’t need an intervention, but being something of a pack rat has proven useful on more than one occasion. My Outlook inbox would be horrifying to some but I have a system . . . . I do clean out and toss items (online and paper) on a frequent basis so it doesn’t get overwhelming, and I make good use of folders and rules in Outlook.

kw chairs









What is your best life hack?  I unwind and de-stress from a difficult day by porch sitting (I am a card carrying member of the Union). Porch sitting is best done with my two dogs, Bud & Sissy.

kw pups










What’s your favorite to-do list manager? It’s a split between a basic QuickNotes® paper list and Outlook Tasks – I had a simple phone app called “Teux Deux” that I used regularly, but abandoned it last year when monthly charges were initiated. My phone is convenient for work calendar reminders and email, but is great for recurring items (mostly non-work related) like the really important ones such as getting the recycle bin to the curb every other Wednesday and being sure to set the DVR to record the latest episode of The Blacklist. I am quick to try new apps for to-do management, but none so far have kept my interest or worked as I expected. Recently I downloaded Springpad, we’ll see how that works out.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? “Live without” is too strong but I would have some separation issues if I had to suddenly be without my single-cup coffee brewer. I’m so addicted accustomed to it that I literally don’t leave home (for an extended overnight trip) without it.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? I am really good at recognizing artists or tunes after hearing only a few riffs or a phrase from the lyrics, if it’s from the 60s, 70s or 80s. I was raised on the radio.

What are you currently reading? I just started “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold. Titles by Ann B. Ross, Janet Evonovich, Patricia Cornwell, Jeffrey Deaver and Robin Cook are all on standby. Escape reading at its finest!

What do you listen to while you work? Ear buds annoy me so I don’t listen to music very often while working. I make up for that during my daily commute (50 miles round trip); my shuffle this morning included Eric Clapton, Jeff Healy, Luther Vandross, Zac Brown, Gordon Lightfoot, The Drifters, Steely Dan – and Glenn Miller.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Probably more an introvert – I’m not antisocial and I enjoy the company of others, but I need plenty of “Karen” time to be at my best – I find it very easy to occupy myself and can honestly say I am never bored.

What’s your sleep routine like?  Decent sleep for me comes in stretches of 2 to 4 hours at a time, so I’ve found it’s best to turn in by 9:00 or so on week nights. I’m an early riser though, even on the weekends – - my dogs are creatures of routine and will let me know when it’s time to get up, usually between 5am and 6am.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? “Put your brain in gear before you open your mouth.” Haven’t perfected this (and never will) but I’m working on it.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see everyone at the UAB Libraries answer these same questions.

Hot Zone Apps


In 1995 The Hot Zone was published, providing its many readers with not only a hair-raising account of lethal virus outbreaks, but also a glimpse into the work of epidemic investigators in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health agencies around the world. This real-time investigative epidemiology is exciting, dangerous and vital in preventing mortality from deadly outbreaks such as Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. These workers are, in military parlance, the “front lines” of disease prevention.EIS1

Like any front lines, however, an unfolding outbreak investigation is a chaotic process, prone to confusion and information gaps.  A recent piece by Dr. Tom Friedan on looked at the development of a mobile app for use by outbreak investigators which would provide real-time connection to a centralized databank of continually updated disease information even in low bandwidth areas. The developer is one of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) investigators, Illana Schafer. This new app is currently in use in disease outbreak investigations around the world and is part of a global investment in technology as key to the prevention of widespread plague.

In addition to this on-the-job technology for epidemiologists, the CDC is using technology to recruit and train new disease outbreak investigators – see their “Solve the Outbreak App,” which provides different scenarios to budding disease detectives to try to figure out the bug that’s causing the outbreak symptoms described. This app is freely available for download at sto-disease-detective_200px


How I Work: Scott Plutchak

Location: Lister Hill Library

Current gig: Director


Scott at the Bodleian Library in Oxford in April



















Current mobile device: iPhone 4. On/off switch is dead, but otherwise it does what I need. A 1st generation iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard that I take with me when I’ve traveling – it’s not upgradeable so I’ll need to replace it at some point. But I don’t think I’ll ever need to travel with a laptop again.

Current computer: Dell desktop w/ dual monitors at the office. At home I go back and forth between a MacBook Pro and a Dell laptop. I’ve had the Mac about 8 months and there are still a couple of things that are easier for me to do on the Windows laptop.

One word that best describes how you work: Reactive.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? iTunes most of all. Evernote more and more. Dropbox has dramatically improved my productivity.   Email, obviously, and a decent word processor.

What is your workspace like? Cluttered around the edges. Lots of piles of things that I printed out intending to read but never got around to. Too many binders from conferences and workshops long forgotten. If it’s on paper I should probably recycle it.

What is your favorite to –do list manager? For many years I’ve used a simple Word document. I keep it in Outline view which makes it easy to rearrange things. There’s some simple color-coding. I put a double line through things I’ve completed just for the emotional satisfaction of seeing them crossed off, and then delete them after a couple of days. I usually have about a week’s worth of items, along with a list of things to get to one day when things settle down a bit. They never do.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?  Coffee pot with a timer and a built-in grinder. It goes off ten minutes before my alarm clock so that fresh coffee is ready for me when I get up.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Dealing with people the way they are and not expecting them to act the way that I wish they would (or that someone thinks they should).

What do you listen to while you work? iTunes, usually on album shuffle, sometimes song shuffle. I have very eclectic tastes and a nearly 18,000 item catalog to draw from. Recent album purchases include the Iggy Pop anthology “A Million in Prizes,” Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” the Peter Gabriel pair “Scratch My Back…” & “…And I’ll Scratch Yours,” Ron Carter’s “Where?” and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.” I try to keep the volume down so I don’t freak out the neighbors.

What is your sleep routine like? During the week, in bed by 10:00 for the Daily Show and Colbert, although I’m usually asleep before we get to the end. Not sure what I’ll do when Colbert moves. Up at 5:45 for coffee and an hour of journal writing, then breakfast, shower and go. On weekends to bed an hour or two later and sleep until 7 or 8.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  Most people aren’t sure what to do next. If you act like you know what you’re doing, they’ll follow you.



Wearable Tech

From Google Glass to a variety of wearable fitness trackers to smart watches to gesture rings, is resistance really futile? We can already control most of our lives with a smart phone and now it seems we’ll be able to do the same with a stylish wearable accessory. It is kind of ironic really. We buy an activity tracker to help be fit but then buy a gesture device, like the Nod Gesture Ring, that will let us control our TV, house lights, and environmental controls without moving from our seat on the couch.

According to Daniel Bulygin on, 82% of Americans that have wearable tech believe it has enhanced their lives. No doubt that technology has enhanced lives throughout history. The flushing toilet alone was certainly an improvement over the outhouse. But for the everyday person, how much of this really makes our lives better or easier? I’ve kinda decided that wearable tech is kinda like library instruction without a course assignment. It isn’t very useful until you actually need it for something.

For instance, a gesture ring could seriously improve the life of someone who is wheelchair bound. If someone is really motivated to get fit then a health tracker could make a real difference.

So what is the verdict on wearable tech? You tell me.

7 ways to make your (finals) week less stressful

1. Find a stress buster event on campus near you

Take a break from studying and join Campus Recreation, the Counseling and Wellness Center, and the Student Nursing Association for our FREE Stress Buster Program!  Enjoy chair massages, blood pressure screenings, yoga classes, and stress relief handouts. There will also be free blue books, scantrons, and stress balls!

Free Massages* & Blood Pressure Screenings+

  • M // APRIL 21 // 4-6PM // (COMMONS)*+
  • T // APRIL 22 // 11:30-1:30 PM // (LISTER HILL)*+
  • W // APRIL 23 // 11-1 PM // (COMMONS) + (no massages on this date)

Free Yoga in Studio 1 of CRCT

  • M // APRIL 21 // 4-5PM (KAITLYN)
  • T // APRIL 22 // 12:15PM-1PM (TERRIE)
  • W // APRIL 23 // 4PM-5PM (IHSAN)

2. Take a humor break

Basset Hounds Running

Image source: Buzzfeed Bassett Hounds Running







3. Drink some tea – we’ve all heard that tea drinking is good for you but another benefit it provides is a chance to stop what you’re doing and take a break.  Afternoon tea is a Wednesday tradition that Lister Hill Library has been doing for several years – we know it’s popular with students and it’s been great for us too!  We enjoy hearing what you think about services and resources at the library so stop by, have a cup of tea (and a scone) and tell us what you think!  Wednesdays from 12:30 to 2:30

4.  Go outside – take a walk around the block or just sit outside on the green or at a table on the plaza for 15 minutes.  Turn your phone off and enjoy a few moments to feel the breeze, listen to birds, and breathe.

5. Speaking of breathing, if you don’t already meditate, try spending time each day sitting quietly.

6. Make a list – If you have lots on your mind, it often helps to write down your TO DO list so you can stop worrying that you’ll forget something important.  While you’re making lists, write down what you’re thankful for – it will help to keep things in perspective as you juggle a busy day.

7. Find more helpful hints at Lifehacker, The Joy Diet, & Zen Habits.

iPhone Shared Photo Streams

Are you tired of sharing your life through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Or maybe you have privacy concerns about these sites and have avoided them altogether. I recently discovered an easy-to-use, fun, and less public way to share and comment on photos among my closest family and friends: iPhone Shared Photo Streams. Granted, I think this has been around for a couple of years, but if it’s taken me this long to discover and use it maybe it will be something new for someone else out there!

Most of us iPhone users take oodles of photos on our phones. I often either text photos to someone or share them through one of the sites mentioned above. But have you ever noticed the “Shared” button at the bottom of the Photos app? That’s what I want to do (share), but why have I never clicked on that to explore the sharing possibilities?!

The first thing you have to do if you want to use this feature is check your iCloud settings. Make sure you have Photo Sharing set to “on.” (The screen shots in this post show iOS 7, but this is also available in iOS 6.)

Photo Stream Settings

Next, you need to set up a shared photo stream. Go to your Photos app and click the “Shared” cloud icon at the bottom. Click “New Shared Stream,” give it a name, and invite people. (I did have trouble inviting one person. I got an error message saying, “The phone number invited to [shared stream] cannot receive shared stream invitations.” I haven’t figured out why that happened, but iCloud support suggests trying an alternate email or phone number if this happens.) The people you invited should get a invitation to join the shared photo stream. To add photos to your shared stream, tap on the name of your stream (my shared stream in this example is “Springtime!”), tap the + sign, and navigate to select the photos you want to add from your phone.

You can make comments on each photo:


You’ll receive notifications when another person in the shared stream comments, likes, or adds to the stream.

Stream Feed

If you really want to focus on the images in a photo stream, turn your phone horizontally. It cuts out all of the extra white space, comments, etc. and makes a great little personal slideshow!


Another really neat thing you can do with shared photo streams is instantly create a public iCloud website, a URL that’s accessible to anyone. All of those iPhone photos you took on your fabulous trip to Europe? Just create a shared photo stream, turn on the “Public Website” option, and click “Share Link.” This will allow you to email them the URL and see a beautiful display of your images. Check out my example website created from my shared photo stream.

I’ve already started using this for sharing photos of my kids with their grandparents, but I could certainly see this being a fun tech tool to use in the educational setting. I’m thinking group projects in which students go out and capture photos to complete an assignment. Scavenger hunts, photo examples of certain types of architecture, plant identification, documenting before and after of some community project… and those are just the first few ideas that popped in my head! Endless possibilities. Oh, and of course the greatest part would be when students make their photo stream public on an iCloud website to showcase their work. Fun!

I’m Billie Montey and this is how I work…

Catch up on the other “How I work” posts: Pat, Gabe, Lisa, Jill

Location: Lister Hill Library, Administration Dept

Current gig: Office Services Specialist III

Current mobile device: Old dependable Droid Incredible years old and going strong

Current computer:  Dell desktop (work), Dell Inspiron laptop (home)

One word that best describes how you work: Distractedly

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My dual monitors. I’m always working in multiple programs at a time so this has saved my toggle fingers from cramping. 2014-04-07_1013

What is your workspace like? Organized-ish. If things on my desk get out of control I stop and deal with it. I’m not swimming in paper anymore thank goodness so most of it is trying to keep email somewhat organized. I also have a lot of spiral ringed notebooks with random work details I need. After being at a job for 12 years you can accumulate a lot of information that you may not use daily but are afraid to throw away.

What is your favorite to –do list manager? On my computer I use outlook to block time for projects I need to focus on. On my phone I use color note to make lists and set reminders.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My garlic press! I’m dangerous with knives so this gadget has probably saved my life more than a few times, or at least my fingers.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? I’m very good at working through distractions. Being at the front of the office where some days it’s a hub of activity multiple conversations, ringing phones and random questions and emails all the live long day. I’m really good at focusing back on task easily. I can even ignore conversations that happen right in front of me. It just becomes white noise.

What do you listen to while you work? I use Spotify some when I’m doing mindless tasks but due to all the distractions I get during the day I end up pausing or turning down the music and forget to turn it back on so mostly just the hum of my heater.


What is your sleep routine like? I like to describe myself as wide open until I stop then I’m usually sleeping which usually means bedtime could be anywhere from 8 till midnight. Regular wake up time is 5 am though i have found my ideal wake up time is 7. I think I “zombie” my way through the first two hours of the day.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Let it go! It can be applied to so many situations.