Robin Camille Davis
Digital librarian, web developer
Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Robin Camille Davis (@robincamille), and I am the new Emerging Technologies and Distance Services Librarian at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. I research effective distance librarianship practices and look at ways new tech can aid learning and discovery. I also build and test websites and digital resources to support student learning, both on - and off - campus. Currently, we are redesigning the main library website and migrating everything into Drupal. I am a managing co-editor of the DH Curation Guide, a community resource for data curation in the digital humanities.
What hardware do you use?
I use an iMac and 11” MacBook Air for work, and a 15” MacBook Pro at home. I also keep a Dell in my office, although at this point I mainly use it for testing. I use an iPad 2 (in a Dodocase) mostly to read PDFs and when traveling to conferences. My iPhone 5 is a fifth extremity.
As Jerome McDonough puts it, everything digital dies. To that end, I back everything up onto two local external hard drives, a Western Digital 2TB and a 1TB Seagate. I do this on a weekly basis, and it has saved my butt twice. (More on backup later.)
And what software?
Web technologies: I love oXygen, the XML editor, for most web development involving code (not just XML). When building websites that require a CMS, I stick to WordPress or Drupal. My favorite FTP client is Transmit, from Panic. I use Git from the command line for version control. For usability testing and other screencasting, I’m trying out Adobe Captivate. (I tried using Morae, but because I’m testing small/mid-size project sites, I have no use for most of its features.) BrowserStack is great for cross-browser/platform website testing.
Information organization: I open Microsoft Office as little as possible. Most of my word processing happens in Evernote, either online or in the app. I love it because they have an export-into-HTML function I use to back up everything. (Make sure the services you pour time and soul into have the option to export into an open format! The cloud can be great, but you still need to cover your bases.) I track project progress using Trello, and organize sources/citations using Mendeley.
Text: Python comes in handy often, since I do some text processing and mining. I use Python 2.7 in IDLE and have found the Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK 2.0) to be helpful. I have also made good use of Oracle SQL Developer and Data Miner. For plain text work, TextWrangler is a necessity, and Jumpcut is the best tiny app — it remembers up to 50 of your most recent clipboard items.
Backup and transfer: Apple’s built-in Time Machine is all right. But of course, one should not have solely local backups! I’ve been using Backblaze for a few months and am satisfied. The service offers full restores, which I am happy to say I’ve never had to use. I have, however, used the restore function on individual files I needed to access from afar. I also use Dropbox as a file transfer and sharing service.
Fun: I manage five Twitter accounts using Tweetdeck. Rdio is my go-to for music. And I just discovered that LIMBO, the most beautiful game I’ve ever had the pleasure to play, is available in the Mac App Store.
Contact: On behalf of the library, my colleagues and I use Facebook, Twitter, and email to communicate with students. We also have a biannual newsletter and a handful of video tutorials. We are now considering experimenting with Skype, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, and/or Pinboard to further facilitate communication, instruction, and reference services - and to show off the cool collections at the Lloyd Sealy Library.
What would be your dream setup?
John Jay has some incredibly interesting and frequently used special collections. The library has already digitized quite a few items, including trial transcripts and crime images from New York 1850-1950. My dream setup would certainly include the scanning equipment and student worker minions to get more of our collections online.
I once worked at the Smithsonian Institution Archives for a summer as a web preservation intern. For someone who truly believes in the importance of digital preservation, it was a dream to be surrounded not only by fancy modern computers and scanners, but also by legacy equipment from many years ago – old laserdisc players and ZIP drives, card readers and computers that predate me, all kinds of old machines necessary to extract information from the boxes of research and cultural material the Smithsonian regularly receives. So, a dream setup would be a lab with all of this great old (and working!) equipment, ready to preserve our digital cultural legacy!
Lastly, I just moved to New York City, and now I understand why everyone drinks coffee all the time - it just takes so much energy to live here. So my dream setup would include a fancy espresso machine.