Using Evernote in Library Work

I have been a pretty dedicated Evernote user for the past seven years. I used the free version for a while until I had to admit to myself that I used the app enough to warrant a subscription and I haven’t looked back. I don’t think enough people are aware of this awesome app and all the things it can do to keep you organized, and I try to convert all my friends who ask about it.

(Use my referral link to sign up!)

What is Evernote? It’s essentially a digital file cabinet. Instead of folders full of newspaper and magazine clippings, random pieces of paper with lists, and certificates and programs and manuals I may need to refer to later, I can have them all available digitally and searchable on any of the devices I use that have wifi. I use this app to take and organize notes during conferences, clip articles and blog posts I want to retain for future use, hold a lot of rough drafts of writing ideas and projects before I develop them further, and just generally retain and organize a lot of information for me that I might otherwise have in a physical file cabinet. My long-term use of the app has cleaned up a lot of physical clutter I might otherwise have, and since I can create separate notebooks for the different kinds of information I gather, and tag individual notes for my own personal filing system, AND keyword search for information in the whole app, it’s been a marvelous way to keep all the information I may need or will need at a later time.

I discovered pretty early on in my usage that it was especially beneficial to my work as a librarian. So I thought I would lay out what I have used it for during the course of my career.

  • Readers Advisory/Collection Development. I am not currently a selector for my library, but in past positions I was and as I went through the reviews and catalogs and lists of upcoming titles, I’d inevitably find titles that sounded really good for certain patrons and I would want to remember that book. So I started a rather extensive notebook in Evernote just of book lists under various topics. For instance, I worked at a library that had a very active mystery book club, so new mysteries were always on my radar. I’d sort upcoming and new releases into lists of tropes (gardening mysteries, animal mysteries, mysteries with professional cops, mysteries with older women sleuths, etc.) and I would pretty quickly come up with a list I could eventually turn into a bookmark to handout or leave out for patrons. At this point all those lists I created are a few years out of date, but if needed, I could still pull up my “time travel” book list and have a good foundation to come up with a display or bookmark or suggestions for a patron.
  • Professional Development. I have worked at four public libraries in my career. That’s a lot of movement. And I figured out that I couldn’t rely on my work provided email and computer drive for retaining some of the information I was learning and developing. Your work-provided email and computer drive are NECESSARY and you do need to have certain things stored on both. However, when I go to ALA or PLA or a state library conference, I found it was so easy to create a tag for that conference and have a whole series of notes from the sessions of that conference that I could absolutely use back at my home library, but might also be useful to me later in my career, or spark ideas for another library. I can keep track of any continuing education certificates or classes and access them wherever I am. 
  • Diary. This can get a little more into the weeds, but hear me out. I don’t use Evernote for my calendar or to-do list (I have other apps/systems for that), but I have used Evernote to keep track of any daily or noticeably regular occurrences for various reasons. For example, I have used it while I was at the reference desk to keep track of the funny stories of patron encounters I have. I maintain patron privacy, obviously, but when you work public service you gain a large collection of “people are weird/funny/disturbing” stories, and workers like me like to keep track of those for posterity’s sake. I keep thinking I’ll one day write a book about my public library experiences, and my diary of various patron weirdness is at least a starting point. It’s also a great treasure trove of quirks to work into characters if you’re also a writer. 
  • Reading Log. While this is certainly not exclusive to working as a librarian, I have found keeping track of my reading in Evernote is beneficial. Many of us track our reading through Goodreads, but I read plenty of things that I don’t necessarily care to advertise on book social media for various reasons. So I can keep track of it through a simple spreadsheet I designed for that purpose that keeps track of the book title, author, format, and date finished. Many people in the book world have developed complex spreadsheets to track different factors of their reading habits, but this system has been sufficient for me. Plus, you can add keywords or impressions about the book that you can search for later on when you’re doing readers advisory as well.

What kinds of things do you find yourself tracking or organizing on a regular basis? 

(Use my referral link to sign up for your own Evernote account!)

I’m working on a book about Simple Digital Productivity to help folks use their smartphone to plan and accomplish tasks. Let me know the kinds of productivity and organizing helps you could use!


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