Monthly Archives: March 2009

Twitter mania

I’m on Twitter.  I’m still not completely onboard, but I have at least one foot on the boat.  I must admit that it’s growing on me.

Speaking of, apparently your plants can now Twitter.  Thanks to a product called Botanicalls, your plant can Twitter and tell you that it needs watering.  It then thanks you for watering it.

I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or creepy.

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I just had a conversation to cancel a service that DH and I no longer need. The odd thing is I’m not sure whether I was talking to an actual person or a computer-generated program. The voice was vaguely British/Indian and seemed to answer my replies with appropriate responses…..but not quite. Rather unsettling to think that I might have just had an entire conversation with a computer.

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Shovers and Makers

I’m one of the 2009 Library Society of the World Shover and Makers! I’d like to thank the Academy…

You’re a Shover and Maker, too, if you say you are. So go ahead – declare yourself.

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Library as Job Creator

An interesting article popped up today on the LifeRemix site.  (Always interesting stuff there, by the way.)

Entitled Land Your Dream Job: Ditch School and Get a Library Card, it touts the advantages of entrepreneurship and innovation via self-teaching.  The key to all this is choosing a path that lends itself to self-teaching:

The possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Most of the skills needed for these pursuits can be learned with a simple library card and self teaching. You can obviously study most of these career paths in a formal setting as well, but it’s not necessarily required.


If you’re looking to become a chemist, anthropologist, a doctor or a lawyer, the self-educated path is probably not the best choice for you. If you’re looking for a career in technology, social media, writing or starting your own business, self teaching is probably your best bet. It all depends on what you want out of life. You can obviously have a hybrid of both, too.

Interesting how the library is becoming more and more necessary as the economy becomes more and more unstable.  It’s all the more imperative that we’re communicating this need to our funders, lest we become one of the unfunded.

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Technology Trends and Libraries: So many opportunities

Big room, pack with librarians.    Some folks on laptops, but not as many as you’d think at a tech conference.  (Maybe it’s just me…)  Applause for lunch.

Speaker: Eric Lease Morgan, Head of Digital Access and Information Architecture Department at the University Libraries of Notre Dame.  LITA trendspotter for ALA.  Folds defective floppy disks into decorative origami flora and fauna.  (Big applause on that one.)

Enormous opportunities for our profession.  It’s not about the “what”, it’s about the “how.”  

See the technology that’s happening and extract that one level out.  It’s not about the iPhone, it’s about mobile computing.  It’s not about web 2.0, it’s about making sites interactive.  It’s not about the Prius, it’s about green living.


We’re getting to smaller and smaller bits of information.  People expect little facts.  Not looking for reading lots of text, they just want this date, or that telephone number.  

Mobile technology.  People expect their content to be on the little gizmos.  

Semantic web is more of a reality than we think.  Making information readable by comuters.  If computers can read this linked data, it will find relationships between data quicker and more thoroughly.   Example of linked data set. Uses RDF to describe Walden.   Linked data doesn’t have specific value to things, but pointers.  A pointer would, for instance, have a pointer to the author and link to a URI.  Computers can find relationships between the pointed data and allow researchers to see the links, the long ends of the tail that perhaps aren’t as well-known or as researched.

Libraries have created a lot of cool technologies.  The MARC record was really cool in 1965. (Laughter.)  Invented way before many other computer applications.  The first 5 characters in a MARC record are a left-hand, 0-padded string that tells you how long the record is.   There is an aski character at the end of the record – character 29 – that indicates the end.   Another cool library invention is Z-39.50.  Broadcast searching.  Worked in its heyday, but open search works better today.

We have to realize that we had lots of cool technologies but others have superseded them.  

Search is more powerful than browse.  People feel more comfortable doing search; there’s too much stuff to do an effective browse.  However, the concept of browse is to find more like this one.  How to implement that around search some way?  Search is not so much about high-precision, it’s about needing a few things that will solve my problem now.  The universe of people doing comprehensive search are primarily people doing dissertations.  Relevancy rating is about who you are and what your context is and how to magically insert the reference interview into the equation.

Wisdom of the crowds.  Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear attack.  There is no central place.  That concept means there is no central authority.  The wisdom of the crowds is an alternative to authoritative something-or-other.  

How do libraries fit in to this?  How can we use these things?  The challenge is to see the forest for the trees.  Don’t be too concerned about specific details.  We’re trying to provide the same sorts of services about books, etc. and also provide services on new media and electronic resources.  We’re being stretched.  Journalism facing a similar problem.

Principles of librarianship still very important.  We build the collections for the historical record.  Organize it so it can be easily found.  Preserving the collections – preservationists have the hardest road.  Provide access to the stuff.  How do we do this in today’s environment?  This is where there are enormous possibilities.

There are a number of places competing where we are.  We used to be more of a monopoly.  Now it’s fashionable to be into information.  We’re not as much a “public good” as we used to be.  Can’t take for granted that we’re going to be funded.  Need to prove that we can save people time.  

We have to spend time doing more R&D, innovation.  We need to spend more time playing.  

Why not figure out a way to systematically start collecting the stuff that’s out there that’s free.  Why not develop communities to systematically collect?  

Once you collect you’re going to want to organize.  Don’t advocate MARC.  We have to communicate in XML, which more people understand and use.  Controlled vocabularies aren’t as important as they used to be.  

Access – many times we think in terms of databases.  We want to use indexers to more of our advantage.  Indexes are really good at finding content.  Indexes work like the back of a book index – it’s a list of words with a number that says where the word can be found.  

For extra-credit, go beyond just giving them the thing.  Perhaps provide tools to help the patron use the content.  What might you want to do with a book?  Read, understand, share, trace an idea, cite, annotate, etc.  What we can do is with a combination of statistical analysis, we can provide data sets that can act as a tool for them to use.

It’s possible to create a collection.  Directory of Open Access Journals.  Available via OEI.  Wrote a program that harvests the information via OEI.  End up with a searchable index of journals.

Google books and the digital access archive.  The internet archive has  indexed and scanned and digitized public domain content.  It is 100% free.  You can get the book, the full text of the book, and then do really cool things with it.  Has been creating his own library.  Can search the full text listing.  

We can provide services against the index or against the texts. – universal access to human knowledge.

Has created tools to harvest this sort of information.  “If one person can do this, imagine what a whole community can do.”  Once the text is collected, you can offer services against the text – dictionaries, find in a library, turn into an audio version.  

Question about privacy.  Probably more important to us than patrons.  Might become an opt-in service.  

Question – do you see this process becoming a more automated process?  Can fall into consortial model.  One consortium can collect one particular type of knowledge (health and medicine) and another something else (forestry.)  The consortia can then share their collected knowledge.

Fascinating presentation, frankly more techie than my skills allow but thought-provoking.  What sorts of collections could we gather with this sort of concept?  What fabulous things could we do with it?

I’m definitely going to follow up with this guy.


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Meeting them halfway: Using YouTube in a first year information fluency program

Mission: wanted a “common experience” first sessions – introduction to the library and IT resources.  Wanted it to be engaging; video on broad, interdisciplinary topic.  Message generating questions.


Introduction: goals

Library/network overview

Student scholars: critical evaluation of information.  Video: Finding the Evidence: library website, Macalester WorldCat, Academic search premier.

Disciplinary conversations.  Create bibliography and save to network.

Shows YouTube video using the Blue Man Group.  Asks audience what video conveys.  (We’re acting as first-year students.)  Asks who would use this information or who it would impact, people having these sorts of conversations.  Where do you go to find these conversations?  Google (laughter.)  Wikipedia.  Databases.  Few students mention libraries.  

After video and discussion, shows library page, Google Scholar, Macalester WorldCat, Academic Search Premier.

Gives out a worksheet with search topics using specific steps and keywords.  Want students to understand Macalester WorldCat, how to request a book, etc.   Second part of worksheet, which has the students search using different disciplines, choosing articles, uploading files to network.  Presenter divides room into disciplines.  (Our table is history.)  Think about how someone in our field would approach global warming.

Did this process meet their goals?  They think so.  Easier to schedule and less preparation than going to individual classes.  All 32 sessions were held in Spetember; 13 classes had multiple sesions.  Liaisons and academic librarian advocates were comfortable with the process.  Students were engaged.  Baseline was let for all first year students.  

Information fluency goals:  

1) The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed

2) The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently

3) The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

Liked: Discussion.  Was interesting finding out where students would look for information.  More critical of Wikipedia and Google than expected.  Inventive when it came to looking for articles from their discipline.  Session is hands-on with resources, both library and IT.  Fall was less difficult than in other years – much less stressful.  Students liked it, too.  

For fall 2009: Streamline 60 minute presentations.  Discussion critical – tips for liaisons when students not participating.  Include RefWorks for 90-minute presentations.  Find a new video/topic?

Q: how did faculty feel about less course-specific session?  No problem – sessions scheduled early in semester, to give them the search skills needed.  

Q: did discussion session have specific questions?  Had questions and developed tip sheet if you weren’t getting responses.  Pushed for faculty to be in room, so there was added pressure to perform.

Q: any formal assessment done?  Started with formal assessment and will be redone in spring.  

Q: did the faculty teaching the class attend the sessions?  Most showed up; was strongly encouraged.  Unwritten assumption that faculty will be there.  

Q: do you see more students coming in and being comfortable talking with librarians?  Consultations with first-year students have shot up.  Remembered the session and how friendly librarians were, and came in for a consultation.

Q: have you considered student videos as presentation video?  Interesting possibility.

Q: does the professor allow one whole class period to do this?  Yes, course integrated.  Faculty know they need to give up one session to library instruction.  

Q: did you notice a difference in the amount of discussion in AM vs. PM classes?  Depended more on whether thes was engaging rather than the time of day.

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Applying the information commons concept in your library

Stacey Greenwell, University of Kentucky Information Commons

Ron Joslin introducing, teasing Stacey that Kentucky is not in the NCAA tournament this year.  

(Initial technology problems with the projector.  Ironic at a technology conference….  Tech guy comes up and saves the day.)

Just went through an info commons planning process.  Will discuss what did work and what didn’t – “frankly, some things were terrible and were a waste of money.”  Has background in public libraries.

IC called “The Hub.”

What is an Information Commons?  Focused on collaborative, flexible workspace.  Three elements: collaborative space.  Can make a bit of noise.  Can socialize.  Comfortable space with comfortable furniture.  2) well-equipped with technology and related services.  Can get help from librarians and IT professionals.  Specialized software and hardware.  Scanners, AV editing equipment.  Well-trained staff.  3) Having fun.  Student influence.  Food policy a bit more relaxed.  Cafe or vending area typically part of the space.

Why would you want an Information Commons?  Brings students into the library.  80% of undergrads visit IC.    Encourages active learning; group projects a big part of classwork.  Fosters creativity.  Opportunity to expand technology.  IT customer service staff is at the IC, so students can get service on passwords, etc.  right away.  Now has Macs in the library. (Very popular.)  Management of the computers – library was managing computers one way, IT was managing another.  Simplification – make them all the same.  Expanded infrastucture: increased cell phone usage.  

Planning.  At UK, the timing was right.  Focus on undergrad education.  Partnership opportunities.  Funding was available. 

Initial steps: Dean called together key players.  Subgroup produced white paper.  Funding obtained – 95K.

Working group composition:  Met for year.  Student computing services, teaching and academic support center, library public service and IT, architect, interior designer.  

Field work: did a lot of visits.  If you can’t do visits, there are lots of pictures on Flickr.

Huge space – 40,000 square feet.  In the basement, so noise is relatively contained.

Called information commons only among the librarians.  The name “commons” is used a lot on campus for other venues.  Asked the students.  The students call the library “Willie T.”, and so the first thought was to call the commons that.  The family wasn’t thrilled.  (The library is the William T. Young Library.)   “The Hub” was suggested.  “Call it whatever you want, as long as you can market it. ”

Services: Need  librarian help.  Cool desk with sign abover reading “Help.”  Open for reference questions, but tend to get technology or information questions.  The desk is basically a mall kiosk.  Is on wheels and so can be moved.  Need IT help.  Help with passwords, accounts, etc.   Took some struggling to get IT on board; weren’t many people initially using the IT services.  Took the main help desk number for the campus and distributed it through campus, so the people staffing the IC can answer help desk calls.  Added a Mac lab.  Student computing lab.  Includes comfy furniture as well as computer stations.  A/V services.  Check out laptops.  

Amenities.  Canopy work island (Herman Miller furniture.)  Not much place for “stuff.”  Got bins to store “stuff” so it’s there – hasn’t been used.  “Help” sign above.  Caper chair – have broken many of them, but have 15 year warranty.  Relatively inexpensive.  Tall tables – open access computers with taller chairs.  Rolling tables.  Lounge chairs.  Need places to sit and spend a lot of time.  Whiteboards – can’t have enough.  Students love them.  Markers  – initially had markers tied to the board, afraid that they would walk away.  Students use them up, not steal them.  Have become an expense to build into budget.

Eveything old is new again: use the old library tables and put wheeled chairs around it.  New carpeting and color.  

Food and beverages.  You have to relax your food policies.  Presentation folks were worried about vermin.  Have fewer spills now that they allow food rather than before, when they were hiding it from the staff.  Relatively few issues.  Have vending machines in their space.  

Video windows.  Since the space is in the basement, worked with art department to create video windows that rotate.  Have done student art, video shows, video games.  Right now is showing old UK basketball games.  (“Can watch UK win over and over again.”)  One exhibit was “Moustaches of the 19th Century.”  

Whiteboard signs – have students draw signs.  “Enjoy snacks here.”  

Flat panel displays/TVs.  Feels was a mistake – have to come up with stuff to put on them, and so ends up creating a lot of work.  Only time people watch is when they show a basketball game.

Signs – worked with graphic designer.  Floor signage – uses old projector and laptop computer and displays directions on the floor.  

Special events.  Hubbub Party to celebrate the birthday of the library.  800 kids in The Hub at the party.  (Will not do prize drawings ever again.)  Can never buy enough pizza.  Balloon animals were incredibly popular – freshman wore balloon hats all over campus during orientation.  Liked video games on projectors.  Played Guitar Hero, etc.  Did palm reading and Tarot readings.  Makeovers – got Sephora to come out and give makeovers.  Created photo “booth.”  Had props – hats, etc.  

Fun with signs – “The Hub is a No Shushing zone.”  (Fabulous!)

Uses open source library stats database from Wisconsin.  Door counters.  Counts computer logins.  

The Young library has 15 shades of white paint.  (Laughter on that one.)  Added color into The Hub.  Did a lot with paint, colors, and furniture.

Promotion: Writes press releases for everything – has gotten to be a staff joke.  YouTube video.  Articles in student newspaper.  Markets the Hub any way she can.  Had Student Technology Forum – 150 students attended.

Would like to:

Increase reference questions, offer more services/amenities.  Paperback/magazine swap collection.  More partnerships – tutoring center, writing center, expand IT services.  

The Uncommon Commons blog.

Question on quiet area – students request.  The Hub is not quiet; quiet areas on 3rd and 5th floors.  

Question on IT desire for security and open access – talked to IT about the fact that as a Federal Depository, they need to have some access.  

Question about whiteboards – are Herman Miller Easel whiteboards.  

Question on open source stats program – Library Stats.  

Question on too many students and not enough machines – only run out during mid-terms and finals.  Don’t limit time.  

Question on services in physical space; how has it affected virtual services? – some students only use virtual space.  On Facebook.  Have delved a bit in Second Life – students aren’t there, but faculty is.  (Seems to be a space for older people.)  Have chat reference.  Offers as mcuh as possible in veritual realm.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I arise today, through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness, of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today, through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism, through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension, through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today, through the strength of the love of the Cherubim, in obedience of angels, in the service of archangels, in the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward, in the prayers of patriarchs, in prediction of prophets, in preaching of apostles, in faith of confessors, in innocence of holy virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of heaven; light of sun, radiance of moon, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea, stability of earth, firmness of rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak to me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me, from the snares of devils, from temptations of vices, from every one who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a multitude.

I summon today, all these powers between me and those evils, against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of pagandom, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of women and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today, against poisoning, against burning, against drowning, against wounding, so there come to me abundance of reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me, Christ in the eye of every one that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today, through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness, of the Creator of Creation.


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ACRL thoughts

It’s been a lovely experience here in Seattle. The city was kind enough to provide us with warm, sunny weather for the first two days. We’ll forgive them the typical drizzle today, since that is the traditional Seattle ambiance. (One librarian, originally from London, commented that it felt like home.)  Spring is just around the corner in Seattle judging by the just-starting-to-bloom trees at the conference center.

A few random thoughts….

Librarians are friendly people.  Every morning, I’ve invited myself to join a table at breakfast.  The query has always been joyfully accepted and interesting conversations ensue.

There is never enough seating at convention centers.  People end up plopping themselves on floors and staircases and ledges.  I know they want to maximize the flow of people, but really…would a few chairs be that disruptive?

There were many fewer folks with laptops than at other conferences I’ve attended.  At Internet Librarian, virtually the whole audience is typing away during presentations.  Not so at ACRL.

You meet people in real life that you’ve only known online.  Iris Jastram and I have chatted online for a few years now.  She’s not that far from me in real life, but it took the conference in Seattle for us to actually meet.  She’s as delightful in person as she is on her insightful blog….and has a great sense of humor, too!

Librarians need work on their presentation skills.  Some are good presenters, but many….well, need work.  And if I hear one more presentation?  By a person that speaks?  As if every statement is a question?  Ahem.  Here’s a tip, folks.  If you’re not used to speaking in public (or have an acting background, like I do, so you’re a total ham) have someone videotape you speaking.  You’ll learn a lot about the quirks you have – and we all have them – and then you can correct them.  Some people have a verbal tic (uh) and others have physical tics (pacing, rocking.)  You won’t be aware of them unless you either tape yourself or work with someone that can give you direction.

Conferences are really great for networking and meeting people. And getting together with people you might not normally get a chance to see.  Grad school buddy Jen and I were able to spend time together, attending sessions and having dinner.  Since she lives in Virginia, we don’t get to see each other very often, so it was terrific to see her.

It’s been a wonderful few days.  Tonight I’m off to dinner with another friend named Jen: Jennifer Peterson of WebJunction fame.  Should be a fun evening!

I must admit, I’ll be glad to get back home to DH and the furry “kids.”  I miss ’em.

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Reinventing Research Guides

LibGuides at two academic libraries

Emily Frigo & Laura Harris, Grand Valley State University; Kenn Liss, Boston College; Maura Seale, Georgetown University.

Huge room, overpacked with people.  Folks sitting on the floor along the walls, some to access the one electrical outlet in the room, others to be comfortable.  The obligatory knitter is in the floor group.

History of research guides

Beginning: MIT pathfinders.  Early 1970’s.  Coined the term “library pathfinders.”  Provided instructional information on how to search.  Introductory sources, key subject headings, aimed at beginning researchers.  Fairly brief.  Made them available to other libraries to adapt.

Questions raised in the literature

How broad or narrow in scope should the research guides be?  Some are very narrow in scope.  Some broad.  Lately more emphasis on course guides.

Guidance: should guides lead students to the research sources or help them find their own paths?  Some guides have gone back to a simple list, others incorporate instructions.  Key subject headings, steps in research projects, etc.

Design/terminology.  What do you call them?  Pathfinders, research guides, webliographies, library guides.  Library jargon=bad thing.

Standardization: how much should there be among guides?  Standard format, or color?

Workload: what impact does guide management and maintenance have on librarians’ workload? As guides have gone online and our contact with students is online, does that make them less important?  Is it important if nobody uses them?

How can guides best be brought to the attention of those for whom they are intended?  The more prominent they are on a library page, the more likely it is they will be used.

Implementing LibGuides

Librarians at GVSU and BC were frustrated with the systems they used to create subject guides.  LibGuides helped reduce the workload – boxes and pages can be copied.  Boxes and pages can be copied from other institutions – are we moving back to the MIT model?  Web 2.0 features: RSS, videos, books, files, Delicious tag clouds, Google search boxes (including Google Scholar.)

What should LibGuides be used for?  What shouldn’t it be used for?  Both institutions are increasing number of course guides.  Can have different ways of organizing the guides.  Has moved from long list of resources to tips and suggestions on how to do the research.  Changed “Indexes and Databases” to “Finding Articles.”

Neither institution has done much promotion, but link placement has helped.  Little customization in the guides.  Trying to find balance between individual creativity and standardization.

Librarians are loving LibGuides.

Student survey

Lack of information about users of research guides in library literature.  Conducted survey at GVSU and BC.  Questions asked about scope, guidance, design and terminology, and promotion.

Scope – Non-users preferred more specific guides at both BC and GVSU.  Course guides seen as most useful.

Users thought the amount of information offered was appropriate.  Descriptions were deemed useful.  Users at GV preferred general subject guides; BC users preferred specific guides.

Guidance – non-users: significant number expect help, how-tos, explicit guidance.  Some expectation of credible, reliable, high quality information.

Users: “How to do research” and descriptions desired in addition to lists of resources.  Majorities had not used librarian profiles to contact librarians.    Hoping this changes when the guides are promoted more.

Design and promotion – Close to 90% found tabs at top of page helpful.  Argues against long, linear pages.   Best to keep info above the fold.  97% of BC users liked “research guides.”  75% at GVSU liked ‘library guides.”

Where to link from?  Strong response for Blackboard and syllabus.  Student comment – “NOT Facebook, that is unprofessional.”  Having a link from the library website had an influence at GVSU, less so at BC.  Students heard about the guides from professors, librarians, library website, classmates, and blackboard – in that order.   Few users accessed guides from Blackboard, but 90% recommended they place links there.

Non-user answers: library homepage, university website, email reminders, department website.

Many of the open-ended responses indicated that they had never heard of the guides.  “The survey is the greatest promotion tool that we’ve done so far.”  (Chuckle from the audience on that one.)

Next steps

Market to major stakeholders, get on Blackboard and syllabi, integrate with instruction, more course guides, more guideance and “how-to.”  Will do deeper analysis of survey data and will do further testing (2009-10.)

LibGuides is not the only way to do subject guides – can use wiki, delicious, home-grown solutions.

For more information.

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