Free Friday: Leveling up and staying organized!

At  University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the new semester is upon us.  For many academic librarians, this means running here and there, teaching classes, holding consultations, fixing electronic resources when they break, and just trying to keep one’s head above water.  In honor of this crazy time of the year, and also of our upcoming webinar on the 29th of August on the organizational tools of Trello and Evernote, I am going to use this post to tell you about a to-do list and habit reinforcement site that I have found to be highly useful.

The tool I am talking about is called Habitica.  Available both in browser and also as an App for iPhone and Android systems, this tool is at its heart a way to reinforce positive habits and keep track of to-dos.  What is really genius about it is the way it keeps you motivated to stay on track.  It takes completing tasks and turns them into a simple role playing/ questing game.

This is my avatar, a level 38 rogue (look at my adorable panda mount!):


You level up, gain more equipment, and collect new pets and mounts by completing the tasks you have put in your lists.  You can make as many to-do lists or habits as you want.  The most important list though is the list of “Dailies”, which are simply enough tasks that you want to perform every day.  Not performing them all hurts your health and can eventually kill your character (don’t worry, you can come back easily but you lose some levels!).  This is a fantastic way to build a daily routine.  I use it to try and make myself remember to organize my email inbox, check UNCG’s electronic resource problems email, and write for one hour.  The main interface looks like this:


For both habits and to-dos, the longer you ignore them, the brighter red they turn.  When you complete a to-do, it vanishes, but when you complete a habit, it turns from red to green.  Dailies turn gray once they are done for the day.  To-Dos can also be given due dates or have their own mini checklists of steps attached to them.  The more steps a task has, the more experience it is worth when finally completed.

Finally, on top of all the rewards and getting to make your avatar look cool and ride pandas, you can also join a party of friends and go on quests together.  When you are questing, every time you complete a habit, to-do or daily, you deal damage to the big monster you are all fighting.  But every time you miss a daily, the monster hurts everyone in your party.  The extra peer pressure of not wanting to hurt your friends has really motivated me to complete my dailies and being able to help your friends has pushed me to complete my to-dos.

Habitica is free to use, though you can get extra equipment and prettier backgrounds if you subscribe on a monthly basis.  While I have tried many other to-do list programs before, this tool, with is combination of working as a group and getting rewards for progress, is the first that has really clicked for me.  As you enter into a new semester, I would encourage anyone interested in a better way to keep organized to try it out.






Free Friday: Infographic Design is for Everyone


In this installment of Free Fridays, let’s take a look at Piktochart.  This tool makes it easy to quickly design professional looking banners, reports, infographics, and presentations.

Piktochart offers hundreds of templates that can be customizable with lots of icons, shapes, and designs that can be used.  The tool also allows you to change colors and fonts to match your theme.  So, anyone even those without a graphic design background will be able to create visually appealing content.

There are several versions of Piktochart – one at no cost and several that are fee-based. The free account does come with some limitations such as fewer templates and the Piktocchart logo at the bottom of all your creations. Piktochart also offers a purchase option for those that need to upgrade to the pro version for students and professionals.

While Piktochart is generally used as an infographic tool; however you can also use the tool to create dynamic presentations, providing  an alternative to power point slides and prezi presentations.  The tool is very user-friendly and easy to learn.  Within minutes you can be designing your own infographic and presentation slide using Piktochart.  I’ve often use this tool to create infographics; however just this week I used this tool to create a slide presentation for a student orientation. The audience loved the look of the presentation, and everyone wanted to know what platform I used to create it; as it provided a very different look from the traditional Power Point slides and Prezi presentations.

Some sample infographic templates:

infographic edu


Check out Piktochart — it’ll give you a new perspective to presenting information!


Suvanida Duangudom, Director, TNT RoundTable

Come back next Friday, August 19th for our next installment of Free Fridays!


Free Friday: Messaging Made Easy

Imagine a world with fewer emails flying into your inbox each day — Slack can help with that! Slack is a free (with premium options) instant messaging tool that does so much more.

Slack breaks team messaging into Channels, that can be public or private, and direct messages for one-on-one communication. Each Channel can be focused on a single topic or project. Once that project or topic is no longer relevant, the Channel can be archived. But don’t worry, you still have the ability to search your entire archive using the built-in search functionality which indexes all public messages and files.

Slack interface

Within your messages, you have the ability to blend other tools such as Google Drive, Trello, Jira, and many more. Add in the ability to drag-drop files for sharing and you’re set. And for those who need a little fun during the work day, there are plenty of add-ons like Giphy:

Gif of Giphy

One caveat for the free version of Slack is the limitations put on the number of apps you can integrate and the number of messages that it archives. You can integrate 10 apps in the free version. And it will only archive up to 10,000 of your team’s most recent messages. You are also limited to only 5GB of document storage. It’s not all bad news though!

Slack provides mobile and desktop apps for both Windows and Apple products, so you can be connected to your team 24/7 if you want. If you prefer a nice work/life balance, there are Do Not Disturb options that can be set for specific times for yourself or your entire team.

If you’re not quite convinced that you need Slack in your life or don’t have colleagues willing to take the plunge, you can try out some fun library-related channels focused on user experience in libraries or that old library favorite, LibGuides.

Sarah Arnold, Director, TNT RoundTable

Come back next Friday, August 12th for our next installment of Free Fridays!

Free Friday: Time to Get Organized!

For this installment of Free Friday, we want to highlight one of the tools in our members only list, a personal organization tool called Cozi.

Cozi is a flexible tool that you can access for free as an app and website. It helps you manage your busy life with a shared calendar, shopping lists, to do lists and more–just as the end of summer/back-to-school season is in sight!

cozi 1

It allows you to keep track of everything from school schedules and sports activities to grocery lists, meals and chores — all in one place the whole family can access anytime, anywhere.

The plusses: it is a tool that the whole family can share and you can color code the calendar for each family member. You also can link calendars that you already use right to it (Google, Outlook, even Facebook)! It is very mobile-friendly with an app that is compatible with most devices.

When you go to the website, you can access some other cool features. They have a wealth of prepared lists that you can use for a wide variety of tasks, from packing to grocery shopping–they even have cleaning tips! There is also a section for Freebies and Downloads that offers free printable calendars.

cozi 2

Even though the free version is sufficient for most things, there is also the option to sign up for Cozi Gold at a low cost of $19.99 per year that is ad-free and offers more in-depth features.

So, if you’ve been looking for something to help keep yourself and your family organized, now is the time to try out Cozi!

Also, we want to hear from you! We’ve posted a poll on our Wiggio page asking for input on webinar topics for this fall. So, when you get a chance, go over to and let us know what you’d like to see. It will take less than a minute to do and it will help us plan upcoming presentation on topics that YOU want. We’d love to hear from you by August 5th!

Julie Raynor, Vice-Chair, TNT RoundTable

Come back next Friday, August 3rd for our next installment of Free Fridays!

Free Friday: Engaging Library Users with Pokémon Go!

I’m sure you knew it was coming! Pokémon Go has exploded this month, and many libraries are getting in on the game. Whether or not you play, you can take advantage of this fad as a way to bring new people into your library  and to engage with current users!

If you’re not familiar with it, Pokémon Go is a free app-based augmented reality game that has people of all ages out and exploring their environments this summer as they capture and train Pokémon. Chances are, you’ve seen patrons with smartphones exploring your library spaces in new ways while they search for digital creatures.

School Library Journal recently published a rundown of the game, how it works, the privacy and safety implications, and ways that libraries are getting in on the trend. There are easy and free ways for libraries to get involved, including posting about the game on social media. Academic and public libraries across North Carolina are using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to post about the game while also promoting their collections, spaces, events, and services.


Libraries are also creating digital content about Pokémon Go, like the PokéGuide: Pokémon GO @ FIULibraries, as well as physical displays of collections, like the San Jose Library PokéStop featured below that showcases Pokémon themed media from the collection.


Vineland PokeStop by San Jose Library on [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Are you using Pokémon Go for fun, at work, or both? Tell us about it!

-Jenny Dale, Chair, TNT RoundTable

Come back next Friday, July 29 for our next installment of Free Fridays!

Free Friday: Visual Readers Advisory Tool

As a public librarian, we are asked all the time for recommendations for books, movies, even music sometimes.

Here’s a free tool to use for this that’s very visual in nature (and fun, too).

If you don’t know about it already, check out GNOD: the global network of discovery ( Today’s libraries are all about discovery, so this site will fit right into that aspect of library service!

This site is unique because it uses a mapping tool that allows you to see visually how similar books, music,  movies, and even artists are with each other. There are ads on the pages that are only slightly distracting, but you can turn them off.

For books (gnooks) and movies (gnovies), you type in the name of an author and film, respectively, and the site produces a visual map of author names/movie titles with your selection in the center and a wide variety of options that are similar spaced around it. The names move around on the screen until they reach their final similarity map. The closer the options are to each other, the more similar they are. For this example, I chose JoJo Moyes. If you click on another author (or movie), the map shuffles the names to place that new choice in the center and adds in similar options around that one.

gnod for TNT blog

For the music (gnusic) and art (gnod art), you type in 3 groups/musicians or artists.

gnusic1 for TNT blog

From that it displays options (“predictions”) and allows the viewer to “filter” their options based on their preferences (like, don’t like, or i don’t know). Not quite as visual, but definitely interactive.

gnusic2 for TNT blog

I don’t know what criteria they use to make their recommendations, but the mapping and “predicitons” approaches are both very serendipitous (also desirable for discovery).

So the next time you’re faced with a patron wanting some quick recommendations, why not give gnod a try. They will be impressed by your access to such a unique tool and they’ll leave with some good suggestions. A win-win!

Julie Raynor, Vice-Chair, TNT RoundTable

Come back next Friday, July 22 for our next installment of Free Fridays!


Free Friday: Improving your Website with Optimal Workshop

Nowadays users are demanding more and more out of their online experiences. They develop certain expectations of what they can be d̶o̶ online based on their use of commercial websites and search engines. These experiences and expectations from users are a driving force behind library’s assessing and improving their websites and online tools. Users are our bread and butter in library land. Even if your library hasn’t dipped its toe in the user experience (UX) waters yet, you should be thinking about it.

But how do you get started?

Collecting input directly from your users whether through in-person interviews, online surveys, or usability testing is the best option for getting started. While the first method for interviewing users in-person can be difficult to organize when you’re first getting started, the next 2 methods are easily accomplished using Optimal Workshop.

While not 100% free, this suite of tools is too good to pass up when it comes to quick and easy online usability testing. There is a free plan available that provides access to the tools with some limitations. You are limited to 10 responses per study, which still provides you with enough feedback from users to be able to tell where their pain points are and why.

Optimal Workshop provides “a suite of usability tools that help improve your website navigation, define information architecture, understand first-clicks, and more” according to their website. There are 3 main tools that I want to highlight: Treejack, OptimalSort, and Chalkmark.

Treejack will help you identify where your users are getting lost on your site and why using tree testing. Tree testing helps assess the findability of content on your site by removing all visual queues. After using this tool, you will easily improve the information architecture of your site, which will allow users to navigate your content much easier.

The next tool is one of my personal favorites because it saves so much time and effort. OptimalSort is an online card sorting tool that shows you how your users would group different types of content on your website. Results can be reported in a similarity matrix providing a visual look into how users grouped your content.

Chalkmark provides insight into where your users are looking on a particular webpage using first click testing. Using a screenshot of the page, you can ask users where they would click to perform a specific task. This tool generates heat maps and density grids to illustrate how many users clicked on certain areas of the screenshot.

In addition to using these robust tools, you are able to create short surveys before and after that allow you to gather demographic and related information from your users. These results give you greater insight into what different sections of your users are doing on your site and what they think about it.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, we have been using Optimal Workshop’s premium version for a couple of years now and have no complaints. We’re able to quickly assess different parts of our site and even used these tools to update our top navigation and assess it after going live. Overall, the reports and information gathered from Optimal Workshop allow you to create a fuller picture of how users interact with your website, which can aid you when meeting with stakeholders or making decisions on updates to your site.

-Sarah Arnold, Director, TNT Roundtable

Come back Friday, July 15 for our next installment of Free Fridays!