CIL 2010: post-conference thoughts

I should present more.

I should present more.

That’s what I have concluded at the end of this conference. There were a few sessions I was jazzed to see, and some others that surprised me, but for the most part, I found myself too often realizing that if I had done a bit of research on my own, I would have known about as much about a session topic as the presenters. Those tended to be the sessions in which I stuck around for the intro and then left, or looked at the slides in advance and decided to go to something else.

While I may be learning about a lot of new tech and ideas outside of the ITI conferences, there is nothing to replace the “lobbycon” aspect of theses events. The connections I have made with other folks who are as equally excited about pushing libraries forward is well worth the price of admission, in my humble opinion. ITI conferences are my equivalent of going to ALA, and very few folks I know talk about going to ALA for the presentations.

I may joke about the “beer track” at conferences, but the reality is that as much as I may advocate for virtual attendance and online communities, they can’t replace the connections (serendipity, perhaps?) of real-time, face-to-face interactions.

CIL 2010: Digitization Practices

Speakers: Deborah E. B Keller, Jody L. DeRidder, Amy Buckland, & Louise O’Neill

[I arrived late due to slow lunch service, so I missed the first half of this presentation.]

Louise O’Neill spoke about digitization at McGill University (Montreal, QC). The goal of the program is to make rare and unique items available to everyone and to the students & faculty of the university. They want to make the items both discoverable and deliverable through their catalog(ue).

They’re also making material available in hardcopy (Espresso Book Machine and/or OCR PDF), mainly public domain items or those with permission; thus making them available to the masses without damaging the originals. Items are selected by anticipated demand and uniqueness, and also priority is placed on items that will be used directly in research and instruction.

Amy Buckland shared some examples of collections/projects. They just bought a 3-D scanner to digitize realia, like their Olympic torch collection. All physical exhibits are digitized and made available online for those who may not be able to visit the library. They also put the digitized items in their Second Life locations as appropriate.

Their biggest challenge is copyright. The technical issues are what you may expect, but copyright is the biggest barrier they have to getting valuable research items off the dusty shelves and into spaces where they can and will be used.

CIL 2010: Productivity Tools

Speaker: Lynda Kellam & Beth Filar-Williams

Check out the presentation wiki for a list of the tools and such. I’ll just note the ones I really like or other commentary I might have. They’ve grouped them into three categories: tasks, notetaking, and scheduling.

The presenters are using Poll Everywhere to get audience input on which category to focus on first, as well as asking for hands for which one. They started with Tasks.

Things is awesome, but Mac/iPhone only. Without a cloud-based interface, it’s not accessible by any other OS. Based on Getting Things Done, the application helps you organize tasks based on contexts.

Todoist is cloud-based task tool. I just started using it myself because I wanted something that could let me add sub-task to tasks.

Remember the Milk is also cloud-based, and like Todoist, it has a mobile interface. Unlike Todoist, it has apps for Blackberry and Android as well as iPhone. Tasks can also be added by SMS. One complaint I had was not being able to see a list of everything due today or overdue in the main web interface (can see it in Gmail), but now I know how to create a saved search that shows overdue tasks (dueBefore:today) and tasks due today (due:today).

The presenters have lots of scheduling tools to share. I’ve heard of only one of them, Schedule Once. The presenters are most excited about jiffle, which pulls your Goolge Calendar availability along with your own selection of available times, and allows the user to request a meeting through the site, but only for the available times. This is really useful for students scheduling personal appointments with instruction librarians. If you’re not using GCal, there is likely a tool that will allow you to sync your calendar with a GCal account.

Cozi integrates calendars, photos, widgets, journals, tasks, and is more geared towards groups or families. It might be more friendly for folks who are not comfortable with disparate, more complicated tools.

They don’t have many notetaking tools listed (Google Docs, Evernote, & wikis). More folks were interested in Evernote. Personally, I just haven’t found a good way to integrate Evernote into my life/work, and I’m not interested in paying for the premium features until I have a reason to use it regularly. I like using the journal feature of Outlook for taking work-related notes, and I rarely need to note things for personal stuff beyond adding them to a task.

CIL 2010: Library Engagement Through Open Data

Speakers: Oleg Kreymer & Dan Lipcan

Library data is meaningless in and of itself – you need to interpret it to give it meaning. Piotr Adamczyk did much of the work for the presentation, but was not able to attend today due to a schedule conflict.

They created the visual dashboard for many reasons, including a desire to expose the large quantities of data they have collected and stored, but in a way that is interesting and explanatory. It’s also a handy PR tool for promoting the library to benefactors, and to administrators who are often not aware of the details of where and how the library is being effective and the trends in the library. Finally, the data can be targeted to the general public in ways that catch their attention.

The dashboard should also address assessment goals within the library. Data visualization allows us to identify and act upon anomalies. Some visualizations are complex, and you should be sensitive to how you present it.

The ILS is a great source of circulation/collections data. Other statistics can come from the data collected by various library departments, often in spreadsheet format. Google Analytics can capture search terms in catalog searches as well as site traffic data. Download/search statistics from eresources vendors can be massaged and turned into data visualizations.

The free tools they used included IMA Dashboard (local software, Drupal Profile) and IBM Many Eyes and Google Charts (cloud software). The IMA Dashboard takes snapshots of data and publishes it. It’s more of a PR tool.

Many Eyes is a hosted collection of data sets with visualization options. One thing I like was that they used Google Analytics to gather the search terms used on the website and presented that as a word cloud. You could probably do the same with the titles of the pages in a page hit report.

Google Chart Tools are visualizations created by Google and others, and uses Google Spreadsheets to store and retrieve the data. The motion charts are great for showing data moving over time.

Lessons learned… Get administrative support. Identify your target audience(s). Identify the stories you want to tell. Be prepared for spending a lot of time manipulating the data (make sure it’s worth the time). Use a shared repository for the data documents. Pull from data your colleagues are already harvesting. Try, try, and try again.

CIL 2010: The Power in Your Browser – LibX & Zotero

Speaker: Krista Godfrey

She isn’t going to show how to create LibX or Zotero access, but rather how to use them to create life-long learners. Rather than teaching students how to use proprietary tools like Refworks, teaching them tools they can use after graduation will help support their continued research needs.

LibX works in IE and Firefox. They are working on a Chrome version as well. It fits into the search and discovery modules in the research cycle. The toolbar connects to the library catalog and other tools, and right-click menu search options are available on any webpage.  It will also embed icons in places like Amazon that will link to catalog searches, and any page with a document identifier (DOI, ISSN) will now present that identifier as a link to the catalog search.

Zotero is only in Firefox, unfortunately. It’s a records management tool that allows you to collect, manage, cite, and share, which fill in the rest of the modules in the research cycle. It will collect anything, archive anything, and store any attached documents. You can add notes, tags, and enhance the metadata. The citation process works in Word, Open Office, and Google Docs, with a program similar to Write-N-Cite that can be done by dragging and dropping the citation where you want it to go.

One of the down-sides to Zotero when it first came out was that it lived only in one browser on one machine, but the new version comes with server space that you can sync your data to, which allows you to access your data on other browsers/machines. You can create groups and share documents within them, which would be great for a class project.

Why aren’t we teaching Zotero/LibX more? Well, partially because we’ve spent money on other stuff, and we tend to push those more. Also, we might be worried that if we give our users tools to access our content without going through our doors, they may never come back. But, it’s about creating life-long learners, and they won’t be coming through our doors when they graduate. So, we need to teach them tools like these.

CIL 2010: Conversations with the Archivist of the United States

Speakers: “Collector in Chief” David Ferriero interviewed by Paul Holdengräber

Many people don’t know what the archivist does. They often think that the National Archives are a part of the Library of Congress. In fact, the agency is separate.

Ferriero is the highest ranking librarian in the administration. It’s usually a historian or someone with connections to the administration. He was surprised to get the appointment, and had been expecting to head the IMLS instead.

He is working to create a community around the records and how they are being used. His blog talks about creating citizen archivists. In addition, he is working to declassify 100 million documents a year. There is an enormous backlog of these documents going back to WWII. Each record must be reviewed by the agency who initially classified them, and there are 2400 classification guides that are supposed to be reviewed every five years, but around 50% of them have not.

You can’t have an open government if you don’t have good records. When records are created, they need to be ready to migrate formats as needed. There will be a meeting between the chief information officers and the record managers to talk about how to tackle this problem. These two groups have historically not communicated very well.

He’s also working to open up the archives to groups that we don’t often think of being archive users. There will be programs for grade school groups, and more than just tours.

Large digitization projects with commercial entities lock up content for periods of time, including national archives. He recognizes the value that commercial entities bring to the content, but he’s concerned about the access limitations. This may be a factor in what is decided when the contract with Ancestry.com is up.

“It’s nice having a boss down the street, but not, you know, in my face.” (on having not yet met President Obama)

Ferriero thinks we need to save smarter and preserve more digital content.

CIL 2010: Google Wave

Presenters: Rebecca Jones & Bob Keith

Jones was excited to have something that combined chat with cloud applications like Google Docs. Wave is a beginning, but still needs work. Google is not risk-averse, so they put it out and let us bang on it to shape it into something useful.

More people joined Google Wave and abandoned it than those who stuck with it (less than 10% of the room). We needed something that would push us over to incorporating it into our workflows, and we didn’t see that happen.

The presenters created a public wave, which you can find by searching “with:public tag:cil2010”. Ironically, they had to close Wave in order to have enough virtual memory to play the video about Wave.

Imagine that! Google Wave works better in Google Chrome than in other browsers (including Firefox with the Gears extension).

Gadgets add functionality to waves. [note: I’ve also seen waves that get bogged down with too many gadgets, so use them sparingly.] There are also robots that can do tasks, but it seems to be more like text-based games, which have some retro-chic, but no real workflow application.

Wave is good for managing a group to-do list or worklog, planning events, taking and sharing meeting notes, and managing projects. However, all participants need to be Wave users. And, it’s next to impossible to print or otherwise archive a Wave.

The thing to keep in mind with Wave is that it’s not a finished product and probably shouldn’t be out for public consumption yet.

The presentation (available at the CIL website and on the wave) also includes links to a pile of resources for Wave.

CIL 2010: Black Ops Ninja-style Tech Projects

Speakers: Amanda Etches-Johnson, John Blyberg, & Sarah Houghton-Jan

One of the frustrations people have is that there are all sorts of exciting projects you could do, but often they are blocked by things that may be confusing to you. If you’re persistent, you can find ways to get around them.

We need to change the hearts & minds of the stakeholders in order to effectively implement something new. "Because we’ve always done it that way" might be a frustration and source of some amusement, but the reality is that we all have some attachment to established routines and processes. Make sure whatever you implement fits within your institutional strategic plan.

Often you can make changes without anyone noticing, and when they do, it’s already established. Start planning in advance – if you know you want to implement something, get people familiar with the idea or tech before introducing it as something to implement locally. When it’s no longer a foreign or new thing, then they will be more likely to go along with it.

You need to provide a counter-vision for people to latch onto. You need to have a vision that you know will be successful and that people will get behind you on it.

Evidenced-based librarianship requires due diligence. Do a literature search. Ask your colleagues about their experiences. If there is no evidence to support it, do it anyway. Make sure to collect the evidence as you go to share with others.

Try not to step on any toes as you are moving forward on your project (avoid collateral damages). Talk to everyone – you need to know where your project will impact other people, and you don’t know what you don’t know. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE A MEETING. You can do this virtually.

What if the thing you want to do isn’t right? Give it a try and fully commit to success, and if it fails, that’s okay. You learn more from failure than from success. Figure out what went wrong and why. Don’t be discouraged.

Timing is everything. It may be too soon, so hang on for a bit and deploy when it’s most effective. No right now doesn’t necessarily no six months from now. Don’t get discouraged with nos.

Project teams can be a force for good. The team needs to buy into the process, and having specific goals/tasks can help.

When do you get buy-in from stakeholders versus just going forward with it? Use your best judgment. You often know when you will get unreasonable resistance, so sometimes it’s okay to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but be ready if it backfires.

Trust yourself. You know what you’re doing.

Know when to quit. Evaluate your situation, and if the returns are diminishing, then it’s time to move on to something else, even if you’ve invested a lot into it already.

Make sure you take care of the infrastructure first. You will have trouble getting stakeholder support for your project if the day-to-day stuff is falling apart. Unless your project is designed to fix infrastructure problems.

Keep some cards hidden. Let people feel like they’ve made suggestions for something (that you’ve already planned to implement) or put off implementing some features unless you or your team have time to do them.

[Sarah recommends drinking heavily, also.]

Update: Sarah has posted a list of the tips, if you would like to consume them unfiltered.

CIL 2010: looking ahead

I spent some time this morning planning my schedule for Computers in Libraries. It’s next week, so I figured it was time to start getting my head into conference/learning mode. Plus, I feel more relaxed when I’m prepared in advance.

I must say, after browsing through the entire schedule, there are fewer sessions I’m really jazzed about seeing this year than the first year I went. Don’t get me wrong — I still think it’s a good conference. But, having gone the past two years, I’m seeing some of the same sessions (and often the same speakers) show up again this year, and I’m having a hard time imagining that the content will be fresh enough for me to glean something new from them.

So, instead, I’m trying to branch out and attend sessions on other topics. This is good for me because I consider the ITI conferences to be like ALA only geekier — broad swaths of librarians from all sorts of libraries and departments, getting together to talk about tech in libraries. It gets me out of my cubby hole of electronic resources.

However, I’m not as into library instruction (for example) as I am gadgets and gizmos, so I think this CIL is going to be a different experience for me than the CIL I attended two years ago.