Thursday, December 29, 2005

Adapting to change: Putting together the SCL News

I've been busy (both on and off work) putting together the Dec 2005 issue of the IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section newsletter, or SCL News for short. It's part of the Information Coordinator's duty.

My first time putting together a newsletter. It's a one-person operation with the editing, design and layout. Am learning lots about desktop publishing in a hurry. The biggest problem has been the desktop publishing software, or the lack of a dedicated one. It's not for lack of planning, but some things I guess I could only learn it the hard way.

Here's what happened:

After asking some colleagues familiar with desktop publishing, I settled with using MS Office, because (1) I was only familiar with MS Office, (2) buying a dedicated desktop publishing software was out of the question, and (3) it was what was available on hand.

MS Office proved more than adequate for the 20-page newsletter, once I discovered about customising templates (also learnt where to download free MS Office clip art). Then another problem appeared.

I needed to convert the finished MS Word document to a PDF format. I only had OpenOffice on hand (export the MS Word file as PDF) which worked fine in my initial test with a small MS Word file. But when I exported the 12MB MS Word document, the alignment in the converted file was haywire.

At that stage, I did a reality-check:
  • IFLA will not take my 12MB MS Word file to be uploaded on IFLAnet
  • I had to convert it to PDF but exported file isn't acceptable
  • Couldn't try other freeware PDF converters 'cos I'm using office computers and there are installation restrictions
  • No one else can do this for me (even if I wanted to pay somebody, there wasn't time)
  • Basically the only logical choice is to start over using OpenOffice
  • But I've never used before (given my relative familiarity with MS Word, it already took me days to put together everything together)

Finally, after 5 minutes of denial, I took the only logical choice and started to learn OpenOffice. It's funny how everything gets focused once a decision has been made.

After a 4-hour self-discovery trial-and-error crash course in OpenOffice, I mastered enough to be confident that I could pull it off. Another saving grace was that much of the thinking behind the design and layout had been done with the previous document.

As of this blog post, I only finished page 4 of the 20-page newsletter. But at least there's an end in mind, a light at the end of the tunnel. What's needed is some slick time management to pull it off.

Plus, it's all a blessing in disguise. Rather than think of having wasted my time with the first attempt, I have now learnt much more about MS Word and OpenOffice compared to when I first started with the newsletter.

That already counts for something.