Archive for the ‘employees’ Category

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Work From Home Like LibraryThing Does

Kate's "Standing Desk"

Kate’s Microwave Standing Desk

Millions of workers are suddenly working from home (WFH) with the social distancing required to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, LibraryThing staff have been 90% remote for more than a decade! So thought we’d pass on some advice on how to do it effectively—and stay sane. We don’t always agree, however.

(Come talk about your WFH experiences on Talk).

Where to Work

KJDON’T work from bed. It’s there, it’s warm and you have a laptop—ah, the siren call.

Tim: Or from your couch. Or a comfy chair. Zzzzz.

(KJ, who has successfully worked for years from many couches, contests this point.)

Abby: For years, people have thought when I say “I work from home” that it means I’m on my couch, watching TV, with my laptop just incidentally next to me. Spoiler: I am not. I have a desk, set up an external monitor and my post-it notes and all my stuff. And, now that my wife and son are also WFH, they have work spaces set up as well, albeit at the kitchen table.

Kate: Although I have a desk, if I need a break from sitting I sometimes work standing up with my laptop on top of my microwave. (See image). Luckily, it’s the perfect height. Get creative.

What to Wear

KJ: First, wear pants. Or leggings. Or a dress. Wear something. Trust us. You don’t want to be the one wearing a towel who accidentally turns your camera on when you don’t expect it. Also, change into something different from your pajamas, even if it’s “daytime pajamas.”

Kate: I’ve worked from home for nine years now and I maintain that if you wear one when leaving the house, you need to wear a bra when you work. Your brain will thank you with productivity.

Abby: Shower.

Tim: You’re at home. Wear what you want.

Set up Your Desk

Biking at the desk
Abby: Get thee a chair you can sit in for a long time. I used to have a ball chair, which yes, I fell off of many times, sometimes while on video calls. Now I have an ErgoErgo wobble stool, which is both comfortable, and I manage to stay seated on it. But I can’t imagine sitting on one of my dining room chairs for hours on end.

Kristi: Lighting is key: if your office space feels more like a dungeon in the basement or away from natural daylight, make sure you’re working for at least a few hours where you can get some natural daylight. Your future mood, and anyone sharing a living space with you, will thank you for it.

Abby: Get an external keyboard and mouse, so you’re not stuck using your laptop’s tiny mouse pad. It really does make a difference.

Chris C: I use Apple’s trackpad instead of a mouse—too many hours mousing is no fun. I find the trackpad ergonomic in the sense of not having to contort my hand into one position to make the mouse go.

Tim: External mouse, keyboard and a huge monitor. A lot of programmers use multiple monitors, but I find they fragment my concentration.

Although we all work on computers, a number of us keep paper to-do lists on the desk. There’s magic in that separation.

Liquids and Laptops!

Tim: The risk of laptop accidents goes way up when you work from home every hour of every day for weeks. LibraryThing employees have ruined several. We even had coffee go into a laptop during an employee all-call. (Abby exclaimed “No!” Then it sounded like she was tumbling down a hill. Then the line went dead.)

The key is to anticipate failure. You WILL bump your drink, and the table too. Your system needs to survive these eventualities. I have a “drink zone”—back and to the left of the laptop, where even a full tip won’t end up on the keyboard. The cup doesn’t rest anywhere else.

If you get your laptop wet, TURN IT OFF as fast as possible, before the liquid shorts everything out. You have seconds, so find out how, and practice doing it. Once it’s off and unplugged, you can Google around for advice on how to dry it out, and how long to wait.

How to Communicate

Here at LibraryThing we use Slack for text conversations, calls, screen-sharing, sending one-off files, sharing funny cat memes, etc. We used to use Skype, but it kept getting worse (and didn’t allow for GIFs).

The Office It's Happening GifKate: I think the secret to LT’s success is that we all enjoy our work and get it done, but we also have fun. For instance, I employ the Steve Carrell “IT’S HAPPENING” GIF at least once a week. Schitt’s Creek gifs also abound.

Chris C: Stay in constant contact and be prompt with replies. Be present—not incommunicado.

Abby: We have a separate channel set up for “off topic” which tries to keep the cat memes and “how is the world exploding today?” chatter contained in one place.

Tim: LibraryThing does most of its group calls without video. One of the perks of working from home should be not having to prepare visually for a call. There are all sorts of articles online about prepping the camera zone to look professional, suggest sophistication, etc. Yuck!

Also, video adds technical complexity and bandwidth. As anyone who’s done a lot of video calls knows, the moment things get choppy, turn off the video. Skip that nonsense and start without video.

Avoid Distraction

Tim: Distraction is the mind killer. I’ve found some solace in Freedom, which allows you to disable specific websites for a period of time.

Abby: You might be able to avoid checking Twitter every two minutes, but if you’ve suddenly got an “office” that also happens to contain your kids and your spouse, then distraction isn’t going to come from the laptop. Build in more breaks, be more forgiving, accept that it’s going to keep happening.

Caring for Yourself

Winnie the Pooh working out at homeYou probably had a whole routine worked out to help you maintain sanity and also so you got up and moved every so often in your office job. Now you get to rebuild that routine inside your house!

Kristi: Break for snacks and meals, walks. Just like in the office, you get a lunch break. Take breaks for yourself, walk away from your desk, couch and screen. Get outside. Pro-tip: use your breaks to prep dinner and get ahead of the game for the evening!

Abby: I always do this! Use your lunch break to chop a butternut squash and get it roasting, make pizza dough so it has time to rise, etc. You work from home now! You get to be one step ahead of yourself for dinner!

Kate: Taking a break once an hour to do a few jumping jacks (in addition to grabbing water, visiting the restroom, putting clothes in the dryer, etc.) helps me wake up a bit and have renewed energy when I return to my computer. Oh, and TAKE SHOWERS. Daily.

Abby: I also recommend doing squats while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing your 30th cup of the day. Squats are the perfect “while you wait” activity. All the squats.

Tim: I do my best programming away from the keyboard, taking a walk. But I do not attempt squats.

KJ: I’m not great at remembering to get up and move, so setting an alarm helps me get going. Also, for the duration of this period of social distancing, I’ve also set up virtual “lunch dates” with friends now working from home. Tomorrow I’ll “have lunch” with a friend from Boston, later one in Rome, next week a friend from just across town.

Working with Children

whatcha doin bbc journalistTim: Not only does it seem everyone is joining LibraryThing in going remote, they’re doing something far more difficult—remote with children! And we’re expected to homeschool too.

Having worked remote for a number of semesters while homeschooling our kid, I can offer some advice:

1. You will not get as much work done.

2. Actual homeschooling is best done in the morning. In Turkey I could homeschool in the morning and start work at 2pm. Here, we’re doing a before-work shift.

3. You can’t wall your kids off all day long. They’re going to be around. So everyone needs to chill out about children interrupting office calls.

4. My family gets a lot of mileage out of audiobooks and drawing—two activities that are great for kids, and also cut down on extraneous, concentration-killing chatter. Check your library for online audiobooks, and Librivox.

5. Properly homeschooling your kid is a big topic. But there are shortcuts. First: Reading is the best homeschooling! If your kid reads for several hours a day, the rest is cream. I also recommend daily journaling, and Khan Academy math.

Abby: My 11 year-old thrives on structure, so we made up a schedule for him, but it’s day two and he’s standing behind me while I work, chanting “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored.” Here’s how we’re filling his time: Duolingo (learn a new language, any language), Ari Shaprio’s new current events school, a million different baking projects—until we run out of flour—and then reading, reading, reading. My wife is also (luckily?) home, so we can take turns being the kid-point person.

Tim: When Liam says he’s bored I reply that boredom is important for kids, and good for creativity. Go draw something. He doesn’t like it at all, but it makes me feel good to annoy him that way.

Kate: There are a lot of online resources for kids stuck at home right now. Some I’m using with my three year old and five year old (who can’t quite read or write independently yet):

Exercise: Noodle, Cosmic Kids Yoga, and take them outside for fresh air at least twice a day (if possible).

Learning: Storyline Online, Scholastic Learn at Home, Mystery Doug’s YouTube channel.

Kristi: Being a new parent myself, I can only offer some tips for surviving working quarantine with an infant. Work when they’re sleeping or (if they’re old enough) playing independently. If they’re little enough—or if you want to get a little workout in at the same time—try babywearing* at a standing desk! I ran a meeting once with my 9-week old strapped to my chest. It’s challenging, but also you can enjoy the extra time you are getting with them.

*I love my Ergobaby 360: it’s got great lumbar support and a mesh screen so you can use it for quite a while without fatiguing or overheating.

That’s it! Good luck and work hard (albeit in your pajamas). We hope these tips help. Best wishes of health, hope, and home-productivity from all the LibraryThing staff.

Labels: employees, LibraryThing

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Job: Remote Sysadmin for LibraryThing

We’ll let you out from time to time.

Work with a great team, without meeting them!

LibraryThing is looking for a full-time systems administrator, starting soon. The job can be remote or local to Portland, Maine.

Why? Seth Ryder, LibraryThing’s sysadmin is moving on to an exciting new job at HarperCollins. This is bad for us—Seth was a fantastic shepherd of the LibraryThing systems. The good news is, thanks to Seth, our systems have never been stronger, more organized or better documented!

Specifics

Hours: In the past, we’ve listed the job as full- or part-time. This time we’re listing it as full-time, expecting the new sysadmin to take on various systems projects. We remain open to considering part-time applicants who are a particularly good fit.

Qualifications: We’re looking for someone with broad systems administration experience, who can quickly pick up unfamiliar technologies, diagnose problems and keep everything running smoothly. You need to be calm under pressure, cautious and an excellent communicator. We’re a small team, so when things break at 4am, you need to be available.

Work Anywhere. LibraryThing is “headquartered” in Portland, Maine, but the servers are in Massachusetts and most employees are in neither.

Experience: Applicants need considerable experience running websites. Experience in Linux systems administration is essential; we use RHEL and CentOS, but you’ve probably got professional experience with at least half a dozen distros. Experience with MySQL is also important, including replication, monitoring and tuning. You will need to be able to demonstrate experience with remote server administration including lights-out management techniques and equipment.

Technologies: Here’s a partial list of the technologies we use.

  • Apache
  • Nginx
  • MySQL, Master-Slave replication
  • Memcached
  • Solr, Elasticsearch
  • Subversion
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Bash shell scripting
  • Munin, Graphite, Logstash (ELK)
  • Xen and KVM virtualization
  • rrdtool
  • NFS
  • LVM
  • iscsi

Compensations: Salary plus great health insurance.

How to Apply: Email sysadminjob@librarything.com. Send an email with your resume. In your email, review the blog post above, and indicate how you match up with the job. Be specific.(1) Please do not send a separate cover letter.

If you want to stand out, go ahead and take the LibraryThing Programming Test. If programming is part of your skills, we’ll ask you to take it before we interview you.

We aren’t considering head-hunters or companies.


1. This job is going to be posted lots of places, and that means we’ll get a lot of people “rolling the dice.” If you don’t seem like you’re applying for this job, we’ll ignore your email. If you want us to KNOW you read the job post–and are therefore a detail-oriented person–please put “banana” in the subject line, as in “Sysadmin Job (Banana).” Really.

Labels: employees, employment, sysadmin, systems adminitration, Uncategorized

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Welcome Ammar

We’re pleased to introduce Ammar Abu-Yasein (member LT_Ammar) to the LibraryThing gang!

Ammar will be working as a developer from across the pond (in Jordan), mostly on LibraryThing.com, developing new features and improving old ones. His first feature was improved export. Say hello to Ammar on his profile, or join us in the “Welcome Ammar!” Talk topic.

About Ammar

Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Ammar has loved computers and video games from an early age. He graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Toledo in 2011, and a year later he joined a strong and vibrant IT community in Amman, Jordan. Ammar has spent countless hours building all types of software, from mobile to web apps. He’s excited to join the LibraryThing team and develop further skills.

When he’s not in a staring contest with his monitor, Ammar enjoys picnics with his family, swimming, making money, and of course, reading! His favorite authors include Stephen King, Steve McConnel, and J.K. Rowling, respectively. Ammar dreams of one day owning a helicopter (who doesn’t?)!

Labels: employees

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Welcome Kristi

We’re thrilled to welcome Kristi (LT member kristilabrie) to the team, as our new Project Specialist for LibraryThing.com. Say “hi” on her LT profile or on the “Welcome Kristi” Talk topic.

Last month, LibraryThing began scouring the Portland area for a new Junior Social Media Specialist. We interviewed a number of excellent candidates, and after meeting Kristi, decided to take the job in a different direction. While Loranne will continue to run Early Reviewers, social media, etc., Kristi will be keeping tabs on site business like managing new feature requests, keeping track of progress, and following up on bug reports. Expect to see a lot of her on Talk!

About Kristi

Kristi’s passions are eating, cooking, exploring the outdoors, eating, travel, and eating (did we mention she loves food?). While studying for her B.A. in Zoology, Kristi spent a semester in Tasmania where she fed kangaroos, explored the rainforest, and interacted with Tasmanian Devils. In 2010 she graduated and moved to Portland for a summer with Environment America, U.S. PIRG, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Kristi fell in love with what the city of Portland had to offer and decided to start planting her roots. She worked as an administrator at an independent children’s school for a few years and cultivated her love for lifelong learning, systems, and general technology geekery. She just recently purchased her first home with partner Chris in the summer of 2013. They live in a lake house with their two Maine Coon cats and hope to soon add a Golden Retriever puppy named Duncan to their family. In her spare time, Kristi is learning to kick box, paint, and practice permaculture on her property—where she can harvest food to eat. She loves DIY books and sci-fi novels!

Labels: employees

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Welcome Kirsten

We’re delighted to welcome Kirsten Griffith to the LibraryThing team! Kirsten will be working with Abby, Kate, and KJ in providing technical and customer support for our LibraryThing for Libraries products. She’ll be working from the LibraryThing HQ in Portland.*

Kirsten is a longtime LibraryThing member (member GlitterFemme), and an avid reader and book collector. She was born in Massachusetts and lived in Virginia and Puerto Rico before landing in Maine, where she has spent most of her adult life. She lived in San Francisco from 2007–2010 and did her best to clean out the Bay Area’s many independent booksellers, requiring an upgrade from a 10′ box truck to 16′ when she moved from California to Maine.

Kirsten lives with her 16-year-old brother who is a computer and video game aficionado, and their two very spoiled cats. She studies belly dance and ballet, rides a metallic purple beach cruiser, and enjoys trying to make complicated dishes in her tiny, ill-equipped kitchen.

Her favorite authors include Roald Dahl, Brandon Mull, Mercedes Lackey, and Sarah Waters.

You can follow Kirsten on Twitter at @Glitter_Fem.


*For the longest time we were a completely virtual company. We now have enough employees in town to justify the occasional pizza or—today—donuts from The Holy Donut. Progress!

Labels: employees, LTFL

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Welcome Jon

Back in January, we announced that the search was on for a new programmer—one who’d be devoted entirely to LibraryThing.com, and there’s been much excitement. Today, I’m pleased to say that the search has ended!

Everyone, meet Jon Kiparsky (long-time LT member kiparsky), our new developer! Say hi on his profile, or on the “Welcome Jon” talk topic.

Jon was born in Boston and has never lived more than a hundred miles from an ocean. He has a degree in Linguistics from Reed College, and his career has been varied, with past positions including tech writer, music label bigwig, radio personality, and sound tech.

Jon spends his non-programming time playing music (largely Irish session tunes), brewing beer and mead, and studying math, and he’s working very hard on controlling his nearly Tourette-like tendency to spout atrocious puns with little provocation or warning. He also translates fiction from German, Spanish, and Portuguese into English—having learned Portuguese in order to read Jose Saramago stories that hadn’t been released in his native tongue.

Favorite authors include: Iain M. Banks, Douglas Hofstadter, Raymond Smullyan, Steven Brust, and Theodore Sturgeon (but no guarantees that asking again will produce the same list)

Jon’s job at LibraryThing is a big one. He’ll be working with Tim on LibraryThing.com, developing features, fixing bugs and improving performance. We expect great things from him. But it’s going to take him a few weeks to ease into how we do things, so don’t expect everything to get better immediately!

So, who gets $1,000 in books?

Many of you may remember that we offered a bounty of $1,000 worth of books to whoever managed to connect us with our new developer. That lucky individual is Jon’s girlfriend, Nadia, an archivist who saw Tim mention the job on Twitter! Many thanks to you, Nadia, and enjoy your books!

Labels: employees

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

700 Thank-Yous

After congratulating Loranne and Matt, I want to thank everyone who applied for the job and didn’t get it.

You are superstars

Almost 700 people ended up applying. Many put a lot of work into their cover letters, and I asked almost 100 to complete detailed follow-up questions. I interviewed 10–at two hours each, on average. People gave us a lot of time, and I’m grateful for it.

The applicant pool was amazing, including booksellers, librarians, publishing people and book lovers of innumerable types and talents. We seriously considered everyone from a director of marketing at a red-hot imprint to first-job people who just loved books so much they had to apply. Many were long-time LibraryThing members, many “outsiders.” Each “cut” was difficult. I suspect that most could have done the job, and I suspect hundreds would have rocked it. Deciding on Loranne and Matt was exciting. But saying goodbye to so many great people feels like a loss.

So, thank you for your time, and good luck in your careers. You guys are the superstars of the book world.

And all I got was this lousy t-shirt?

If you applied for the job, and if you’ve read all the way down to this, you may be saying “I applied for this job, and all I got is nice words?” But if you applied, you also know the original job post hid something at the bottom.(1)

Well, not true. You also get a t-shirt. Well, at least the first 100 people to ask will get one. (We might go above 100, but supplies here may give out.) Just email Tim your address, color and size, and we’ll hook you up.


1. About 1/3 missed it.

Labels: employees, employment, jobs

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Welcome Loranne

As Tim wrote earlier today, LibraryThing’s epic search for a “new Jeremy,” ended by deciding we’d take things up a notch and hire TWO people!

Hi, everyone, I’m Loranne Nasir (LT member lorannen)! I’m joining Tim, KJ, and Matt at LTHQ here in Portland. Along with Matt, I’m taking over for Jeremy, as Member Support and Social Media Librarian.

Originally from a small town in Missouri, I went to the University of Chicago, and recently completed a MSLIS at Syracuse University, where I studied everything from cataloging to information visualization. My social media experience includes helping Barbara Stripling with her successful campaign to become President of the American Library Association.

My hobbies include photography, swordplay (épée), wordplay, reading, and gaming. Among my favorite authors are Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, and Haruki Murakami.

I’m very excited to be joining the LibraryThing team and moving to Portland all at once. Going forward, I’ll be handling Early Reviewers, contests and games (really looking forward to Edible Books come April!), as well as official Facebook and Twitter accounts.  I was drawn to LibraryThing by the outstanding community here, and while I’ve got big shoes to fill, I look forward to working with and for all of you!

Come say hi and welcome me and Matt on Talk.

Labels: employees

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Welcome Matt

Last month LibraryThing held an extensive, worldwide search for a “Bookish and Social-Media Savvy” employee.

We ended up unable to choose! The job is big, and we wanted to take it up a notch. So we chose two people–a small team devoted to helping LibraryThing members and advancing the site however and wherever it could be advanced. The first is Matt Mason, joining us as the “intern” or “junior” member of the team. (The other is Loranne; check out her blog post.)

Matt (LT member matthewmason) was born in Portland, Maine and grew up in Kennebunk.

This past May he graduated from the University of Vermont with a BA in Latin and Italian Studies.

While at college, Matt wrote his thesis on two fascinating Latin poems composed by Dante Alighieri, and had the opportunity to work within the Special Collections department of the Bailey-Howe Library. He also studied for a semester at L’Università degli studi di Urbino Carlo Bo in Le Marche, Italy, widely exploring humanist Latin poetry and drinking espresso.

Matt’s favorite authors include Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Leo Tolstoy and Roger Lancelyn Green.

Besides reading and translating, he tries to cook and oil paint whenever he gets the chance, and has taken up pottery as a hobby.

Come say hi and welcome Matt and Loranne on Talk.

Labels: employees

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Goodbye Jeremy

Jeremy wins one.

Tim and Jeremy lose one.

Yesterday LibraryThing turned eight, and today we say goodbye to Jeremy Dibbell (jbd1), LibraryThing’s social-media guy and all-around LibraryThing soul.

After nearly three years at LibraryThing, Jeremy is moving on. Next week he begins work as Director of Communications and Outreach at Rare Book School, located at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. We’ve loaned him to Rare Book School each summer he’s worked for us. He’s looking forward to joining the team there full time.

Jeremy is a long-time and much-loved member of the team. He was an early adopter, and became LibraryThing’s official-unofficial head of the Legacy Library project long before he came to work for us formally. Most members probably know him from the newsletter, our Facebook and Twitter feeds, from member-help emails, and for his Talk posts, helping new members and laying out his vision for LibraryThing’s development.

We aren’t going to lose him completely. Jeremy will continue on for a few weeks helping us where he can and giving his successor(1) some tips. And he will continue as head of the Legacy Library project. Indeed, as he says, he’ll have more time for it now. I suspect he’ll make his views about the site known too. I doubt he could help it.

It’s not easy to summarize everything Jeremy has done for us. Some highlights include:

  • Sending 10,600 emails, not counting those that came from info@librarything.com. He saved us from drowning, and far exceeded what a run-of-the-mill “social media” manager could have done.
  • Growing the size of the Early Reviewers program from around 1,200 books/month to today’s 3,500 or 4,000/month.
  • Helping to design, troubleshooting and discussing every major new feature in the last three years.
  • Continued growth of the Legacy Libraries program (see an overview here), including the new landing page, most of the Libraries of Early America (1,500+), and a number of wonderful LL flashmobs.
  • Special events, like our edible books contests, and book spine poetry.
  • Playing Santa for SantaThings 2010 (the Book Depocalypse), 2011 and 2012.

Jeremy moved to Portland to take this job, living only a block away from my house and the office. (My wife and my son were particularly grieved to hear he was leaving.) Being in the office gave his advocacy for members and his vision for LibraryThing extra impact. He’s been at the center of every major decision–from features to hires–for some time now. He’d be harder to miss if his contribution was not more obvious in the culture he leaves behind.

Sad as we are, we’re also excited for him too. He’s been passionate about Rare Book School for years–continuing to help out there in the summer was a condition of his taking the job. Charlottesville is a beautiful place. It is also close by Monticello, where Thomas Jefferson built his library. When he left Jeremy gave my son Liam a children’s book about Monticello and Jefferson’s love of books. It is fitting that Jeremy is there now, with his Jefferson-sized library and bibliophilia.

So, from me and all the LibraryThing staff, thank you Jeremy.


1. In case you’re wondering, our social-media job is still open, but closing fast. See the job post.

Labels: employees, employment, jefferson, jeremy dibbell, jobs, legacy libraries