NASIG 2013: Libraries and Mobile Technologies in the Age of the Visible College

“This morning’s audience, seen from the lectern.” by Bryan Alexander

Speaker: Bryan Alexander

NITLE does a lot of research for liberal arts undergraduate type schools. One of the things that he does is publish a monthly newsletter covering trends in higher education, which may be worth paying some attention to (Future Trends). He is not a librarian, but he is a library fanboy.

What is mobile computing doing to the world, and what will it do in the future?

Things have changed rapidly in recent years. We’ve gone from needing telephone rooms at hotels to having phones in every pocket. The icon for computing has gone from desktop to laptop to anything/nothing — computing is all around us in many forms now. The PC is still a useful tool, but there are now so many other devices to do so many other things.

Smartphones are everywhere now, in many forms. We use them for content delivery and capture, and to interact with others through social tools. Over half of Americans now have a smartphone, with less than 10% remaining who have no cell phone, according to Pew. The mobile phone is now the primary communication device for the world. Think about this when you are developing publishing platforms.

The success of the Kindle laid the groundwork for the iPad. Netbooks/laptops now range in size and function.

Clickers are used extensively in the classroom, with great success. They can be used for feedback as well as prompting discussion. They are slowly shifting to using phones instead of separate devices.

Smartpens capture written content digitally as you write them, and you can record audio at the same time. One professor annotates notes on scripts while his students perform, and then provides them with the audio.

Marker-based augmented reality fumbled for a while in the US, but is starting to pick up in popularity. Now that more people have smartphones, QR codes are more prevalent.

The mouse and keyboard have been around since the 1960s, and they are being dramatically impacted by recent changes in technology. Touch screens (i.e. iPad), handhelds (i.e. WII), and nothing (i.e. Kinect).

If the federal government is using it, it is no longer bleeding edge. Ebooks have been around for a long time, in all sorts of formats. Some of the advantages of ebooks include ease of correcting errors, flexible presentation (i.e. font size), and a faster publication cycle. Some disadvantages include DRM, cost, and distribution by libraries.

Gaming has had a huge impact in the past few years. The median age of gamers is 35 or so. The industry size is comparable to music, and has impacts on hardware, software, interfaces, and other industries. There is a large and growing diversity of platforms, topics, genres, niches, and players.

Mobile devices let us make more microcontent (photo, video clip, text file), which leads to the problem of archiving all this stuff. These devices allow us to cover the world with a secondary layer of information. We love connecting with people, and rather than separating us, technology has allowed us to do that even more (except when we focus on our devices more than the people in front of us).

We’re now in a world of information on demand, although it’s not universal. Coverage is spreading, and the gaps are getting smaller.

When it comes to technology, Americans are either utopian or dystopian in our reactions. We’re not living in a middle ground very often. There are some things we don’t understand about our devices, such as multitasking and how that impacts our brain. There is also a generational divide, with our children being more immersed in technology than we are, and having different norms about using devices in social and professional settings.

The ARIS engine allows academics to build games with learning outcomes.

Augmented reality takes data and pins it down to the real world. It’s the inverse of virtual reality. Libraries are going to be the AR engine of the future. Some examples of AR include museum tours, GPS navigators, and location services (Yelp, Foursqure). Beyond that, there are applications that provide data overlaying images of what you point your phone at, such as real estate information and annotations. Google Goggles tries to provide information about objects based on images taken by a mobile device. You could have a virtual art gallery physically tied to a spot, but only displayed when viewed with an app on your phone.

Imagine what the world will be like transformed by the technology he’s been talking about.

1. Phantom Learning: Schools are rare and less needed. The number of people physically enrolled in schools has gone down. Learning on demand is now the thing. Institutions exist to supplement content (adjuncts), and libraries are the media production sites. Students are used to online classes, and un-augmented locations are weird.

II. Open World: Open content is the norm and is very web-centric. Global conversations increase, with more access and more creativity. Print publishers are nearly gone, authorship is mysterious, tons of malware, and privacy is fictitious. The internet has always been open and has never been about money. Identities have always been fictional.

III. Silo World: Most information is experienced in vertical stacks. Open content is almost like public access TV. Intellectual property intensifies, and campuses reorganize around the silos. Students identify with brands and think of “open” as radical and old-fashioned.

ER&L 2013: Internal and External Clients — Why Do We Treat One Better Than the Other?

Speakers: Dawn McKinnon & Amy Buckland, McGill University - Since it's difficult to infer tone in an email, you should assume all mine are sarcastic or bitchy.

We have pretty good outward-facing communication and support, but internally, we’re not so polite or explanatory.

Always reply to an email if a reply is needed, even if it is to say you can’t do it right now (or ever). Use the same pleasantries you would with an external client.

One solution is to make everyone give a job talk, which helps everyone understand a little about what each other is doing. Another solution is to provide topical workshops and general updates to help everyone understand workflow and impact on other departments.

Committees that combine staff from different departments/areas can help make sure that all the bases are covered.

Communicate! You cannot communicate too much, especially if it is important. Email lists, blogs, weekly meetings with management, regular open office hours, bimonthly recorded talk with the Dean, etc.

Pitfalls to watch out for: spreading negative misinformation, public shaming, and shoveling crap (i.e. typical librarian passive-aggressiveness, or passing the buck).

Libraries are about community. Service levels should be the same for students, donors, colleagues… anyone who is part of the community!

conference tweeting etiquette

“Tiny birds in my hand..” by ~Ilse

Conference season, or at least the part of it that appeals to my area of librarianship, is starting soon.

Up first for me is Computers in Libraries in DC, where I won’t be attending, but instead vacationing nearby (since it is so close) and visiting with colleagues and friends who will be attending. I’d go, but I already have funding this year for three conferences, and it didn’t seem fair to ask for another.

Next,  I fly to Austin for the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference. From the venue to the content, this is becoming my favorite conference. I’ve had to actively introduce more diversity to the sessions I choose to attend, otherwise I would spend the whole conference geeking out about use data and spreadsheets and such.

Finally, I head to Buffalo for the conference that shaped me into the librarian I became: NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group). I like this one because I’ve known many of the attendees for the entirety of my relatively short career, and because it works very hard to not be just a librarian conference, but rather an industry-wide discussion of all things serial in libraryland.

It was in the context of thinking about these upcoming conferences that I read the latest Prof Hacker blog post from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Ryan Cordell writes about his experiences with conference tweeting and the recent revelations he has had regarding the impact this can have on the presenters, whether they are active participants on Twitter or not. Many things he wrote resonated with me, and reminded me that Twitter — as well as other popular social media platforms — is no longer the private back-channel of a few techie friends, but is a global platform that can have a broader impact than any of us may know.

I suggest reading the whole article, but I would like to quote here the Principles of Conference Tweeting that Cordell offers, as something for us all to keep in mind:

  1. I will post praise generously, sharing what I find interesting about presentations.
  2. Likewise, I will share pertinent links to people and projects, in order to bring attention to my colleagues’ work.
  3. When posting questions or critiques, I will include the panelist’s username (an @ mention) whenever possible.
  4. If the panelist does not have a username—or if I cannot find it—I will do my best to alert them when I post questions or critiques, rather than leaving them to discover those engagements independently.
  5. I will not post questions to Twitter that I would not ask in the panel Q&A.
  6. I will not use a tone on Twitter that I would not use when speaking to the scholar in person.
  7. I will avoid “crosstalk”—joking exchanges only tangentially related to the talk—unless the presenter is explicitly involved in the chatter.
  8. I will refuse to post or engage with posts that comment on the presenter’s person, rather than the presenter’s ideas.

food blogging & making things so labor intensive I don’t do them

derby pie
derby pie

I started a food blog on Tumblr last January. Here’s the about statement:

I started this project because after a year of taking photos of myself every day, I wanted to document something else. Over the summer and fall, I had developed a routine of trying new recipes on the weekends and some weeknights. This blog is where I share photos of the results, talk about what went right or wrong, and link to the recipes.

And sometime in May/June, I stopped. I got busy. I remembered to take some pictures, but they sat on my desktop waiting to be blogged for so long that I felt guilty and overwhelmed, so I eventually deleted them.

It wasn’t like it would take all that much time to write up something. And add a link. And format it the same as the previous posts. But it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Also, I stopped cooking/baking as much in the summer.

I have this tendency to make things that should be simple and routine into complex, detailed processes that become burdensome. Is this just some freak aspect of my desire for control and order, or is it simply human nature?

my presentation for Internet Librarian 2012

Apologies for the delay. It took longer than I expected to have the file and a stable internet connection at the same time. You’ll find the notes on the SlideShare page.

IL 2012: Sensible Library Website Development

Jakob Lodwick
“Jakob Lodwick” by Zach Klein

Speaker: Amanda Etches

Asked some folks on Twitter why their library has a website. A few of the responses: to link to online resources, to allow access to the catalog, to support research needs, to provide access to resources & services, to teach, to help, to provide access to account function, to post events, to post policies & hours, it’s the primary way our patrons interact with us, and as a two-way communication tool between the library and the community they serve. Audience member noted that marketing your library is missing.

While we are all unique little snowflakes, we aren’t all that unique in our motivations for having a library website. So, how can we learn from each other?

Website planning needs to have a clear understanding of scope. Since most of us have a website, this talk will focus more on redesign than from building from scratch. Most people tend to skip the scoping step when doing a redesign because we assume that it will cover the same stuff we already have.

Sadly, most libraries are like a big, messy junk drawer of stuff. We tend to take a “just in case” approach to designing sites. Less is not more, less is actually less, and that’s a good thing. Consider the signal to noise ratio of your website. What users don’t need is too much noise drowning out the signal. Pay attention to how much you are putting on the site that meets your needs rather than your user’s needs. It’s better for half of your website to be amazing than all of it to be bland.

Think about your website like a pyramid, where the bottom half is the basics, followed by destination information, then participatory components, and finally a community portal. Think of it like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — the basic stuff has to be good or you can’t get to the participatory level.

Etches and some colleagues created a website experiment that is an entire library site on one page called the One-Pager. Freehold Public Library has taken this and ran with it, if you want to see it working in the real world.

Designing for mobility requires you to pare back to what you consider to be essential functionality, and a great way to help scope your website. If you wouldn’t put it on your mobile version, think about why you should put it on your desktop website. Recommend the book Mobile First as an inspiration for scope.

How do you determine critical tasks of a website? As your users. A simple one-page survey, interviews, focus groups, and heat maps. Asking staff is the least useful way to do it.

Web users don’t read content, they skim/scan it. People don’t want to read your website; they want to find information on it. When writing copy for your website, pare it down, and then pare it down again. Your website should be your FAQ, not your junk drawer. Think about your website as bite-sized chunks of information, not documentation. Adopt the inverted pyramid style for writing copy. If you have a lot of text, bold key concepts to catch skimming eyes. Eye-catching headers work well in conjunction with the inverted pyramid and bolded key concepts.

Treat your website like a conversation between you and your users/audience. Pages not be written by passive voiced writers. Write in the active voice, all of the time, every time. Library = we; User = you

It is not easy to redo the navigation on a website. Bad navigation makes you think, good navigation is virtually invisible. Navigation needs to serve the purposes of telling the user: site name, page name, where they are, whey they can go, and how they can search. Salt Lake City Public Library and Vancouver Public Library do this very well, if you want some real-world examples.

It’s very important to match navigation labels to page names. Also keep in mind that your navigation is not your org chart, so don’t design navigation along that. Do not, ever (and I’m surprised we still have to talk about this 15 years after I learned it), use “click here”. Links should be descriptive.

Why test websites at all? A lack of information is at the root of all bad design decisions. Usability testing runs the gamut from short & easy to long & hard. Watch people use your site. It can take just five minutes to do that.

We are not our patrons, so don’t test librarians and library staff. They are also not your primary user group and not the ones you need to worry about the most. Five testers are usually enough for any given test, more than that and you’ll get repetition. No test is too small; don’t test more than three things at once. Make iterative changes as you go along. Test early and often. The best websites do iterative changes over time based on constant testing.

Have a script when you are testing. You want to ensure that all testers receive the same instructions and makes it a little more comfortable for the test giver. Provide testers with an outline of what they will be doing, and also give them a paper list of tasks they will be doing. Remind them that they aren’t the ones being tested, the website is. Don’t tell them where to go and what to do (i.e. “search a library database for an article on x topic”).

From Q&A section:
All of your navigation items should be in one place and consistent across the site.

What do you do when use and usability says that you should remove a page a librarian is keen to keep? One suggestion is to put it in a LibGuide. Then LibGuides become the junk drawer. One way to keep that from happening is to standardizing the look and feel of LibGuides.

For policies, you could put a summary on the website and then link to the full document.

IL 2012: The Next Big Thing

Moving on
“Moving on” by Craig Allen

Speaker: Dave Hesse & Brian Pichman

They used a Lazer Tag like system to set up “Hunger Games” nights in the library. They also used a bunch of interactive tech toys for different kinds of game nights.

They’re mounting tables as shelf labels that show the range in sleep mode, but when activated will display reviews and other information about books in the range, as well as other interactive multimedia.

Speaker: Sarah Houghton

Cutting stuff. Cutting lots of things out of the budget, services, etc. All of these things we learn about take time and money, and we can’t do all of them. She’s making everyone in her library earn their pet program. It has to show some sort of ROI (not specifically financial). Make business decisions about what we do and why.

Q: What did you cut that you didn’t want to?
A: Magnatune deal — really wanted to do it, but didn’t have the staff time and a negative amount of money to dedicate to anything.

Speaker: Ben Bizzle

We are doing a really poor job of marketing ourselves to our communities, and we’re wasting money on old methods and tools to do it. There are more cost-effective ways to do this, particularly for public libraries. Facebook is a really cost-effective way to market to your community over and over again, and running ads to get people in your community to like your Facebook page has been shown to be very effective. Be part of the stream without being disruptive. Facebook events invitations are disruptive and ineffective.

Next big things from the audience:

  • Would like to have a better way to provide remote authentication for users from anywhere, regardless of the speed of the connection (i.e. 3G mobile phone or a hotel wireless connection).
  • Focusing on programming that brings the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities together.
  • Integrating local self-published creators’ content within the rest of the library’s electronic content.
  • Trying to find better metrics to measure success for ROI.
  • Developing community investors from FOL and active volunteers.
  • Giving up paper flyers/posters and moving to digital.
  • Moving social media effort to marketing department.
  • Looking at duplicate efforts and winnowing them down.
  • Learning how to code.
  • Hiring part-time and hiring non-librarians.
  • FRBR. RDA. Say no more.
  • Advocacy. Facetime with politicians and other sources of funding.
  • Would like to hear more from public libraries on ‘bring your own device’ initiatives that could be applied in the academic library setting.
  • Gamification of library resources and services.
  • Wikipedia – we should be creating more content there.
  • Better relationships with publishers.
  • The next level of life-long learning like Coursera and making the library a hub for it.
  • Downloadble database of music by local musicians.
  • Copyright, curations, folksonomies, and other issues of creating communities.
  • Podcasting.
  • Digitization projects that engage specific communities.
  • Keeping my head above water. Migrating to a more self-service model while maintaining a high level of service.
  • Moving to a new ILS. Proprietary or open source?
  • Reaching out to atypical non-users. Running ads in local for sale magazines.
  • Lock-in gaming nights.

ER&L 2012: Consortia On Trial — In Defense of the Shared Ebook

Hi, how are you?
an Austin classic

Speaker: Nancy Gibbs, Duke & TRLN

The consortia TRLN began in the 1930’s as a shared collection development strategy for print materials. They share a catalog, print repository, approval vendor database, and they collaborate on large and individual purchases. This was really easy in the print world. As of 2006, only 8% of print books were duplicated across all three schools (Duke, NCSU, & UNC-CH).

Then ebooks arrived. And duplication began to grow exponentially. Many of the collections can’t be lent to the consortia libraries, and as a result, everyone is having to buy copies rather than relying on the shared collections of the past.

Speaker: Michael Zeoli, YBP

YBP has seen a small increase in ebooks purchased by academic libraries, and a much larger decrease in the purchase of print books, despite acquiring Blackwell last year. This is true of the TRLN consoritum as well.

About 20% of the top 24 publishers are not working with PDA or consortia, and about half that do are not doing both. Zeoli tries to meet with publishers and show them the data that it’s in their best interest to make ebooks available at the same time as print, and that they need to also be include in PDA and consortia arrangements.

Consortias want PDA, but not all the content is available. Ebook aggregators have some solutions, but missing the workflow components. Publisher role is focused on content, not workflow. PDA alone for consortia is a disincentive for publishers, it ignores practical integration of appropriate strategies and tools, and it’s a headache for technical staff.

A hybrid model might look like Oxford University Press. There are digital collections, but not everything is available that way, so you need options for single-title purchases through several models. This requires the consortium, the book seller, and the publisher to work together.

Speaker: Rebecca Seger, OUP

The publishers see many challenges, not the least of which is the continued reliance on print books in the humanities and social sciences, although there is a demand for both formats. Platforms are not set up to enable sharing of ebooks, and would require a significant investment in time and resources to implement.

They have done a pilot program with MARLI to provide access to both the OUP platform and the books they do not host but make available through eBrary. [Sorry — not sure how this turned out — got distracted by a work email query. They’ll be presenting results at Charleston.]

How do MARLI institutions represent access for the one copy housed at NYU? Can download through Oxford site. YBP can provide them. The challenge is for the books that appear on eBrary a month later, so they are using a match number to connect the new URL with the old record.

And more questions. I keep zoning out during this part of the presentations. Sorry.

peer-to-peer sharing — the legal kind

I’ve been watching with interest to see what comes out of the TERMS: Techniques for Electronic Resources Management, for obvious reasons. Jill Emery and Graham Stone envision this to be a concise listing of the six major stages of electronic resources management, as well as a place to share tips and workflows relating to each. As they publish each section, I’ve marveled at how concise and clear they are. If you do anything with electronic resources management, you need to be following this thing.

Evaluation of resources has been a subject near and dear to my heart for many years, and increasingly so as we’ve needed to justify why we continue to pay for one resource when we would like to purchase another equally desired resource. And in relation to that, visualization of data and telling data stories are also professional interests of mine.

renewal decision report
renewal decision report example

When the section on annual review was published last month, it included an appendix that is an example of usage and cost  data for a resource delivered as both flat numbers and a graph. While this is still a rather technical presentation, it included several elements I had not considered before: cost as a percentage of the budget line, cost per student, use per student, and a mean use for each year. I decided this method of delivering statistical information about our electronic resources might be more useful to our subject specialists than my straight-up number approach. So, I’ve now incorporated it into the annual review checklist that I send out to the subject specialists in advance of renewal deadlines.

I’m not going to lie — this isn’t a fast report to create from scratch. However, it has made a few folks take a hard look at some resources and the patterns of their use, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it work my time and effort. Repeat use will be much faster, since I’ll just need to add one year’s worth of data.

NASIG 2011: Books in Chains

Speaker: Paul Duguid

Unlike the automotive brand wars, tech brand wars still require a level of coordination and connectivity between each other. Intel, Windows, and Dell can all be in one machine, and it became a competition as to which part motivated the purchase.

The computer/tech supply chain is odd. The most important and difficult component to replace is the hard drive, and yet most of us don’t know who makes the drives in our computers. It makes a huge difference in profit when your name is out front.

Until the mid 1800s, the wine sold had the retailer name on it, not the vineyard. Eventually, that shifted, and then shifted again to being sold by the name of the varietal.

In the book supply chain, there are many links, and the reader who buys the book may not see any of the names involved, and at different times in history, the links were the brand that sold it. Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling tried to trademark their names so that publishers could not abuse them.

In academia, degrees are an indication of competency, and the institution behind the degree is a part of the brand. Certification marks began with unions in the US, and business schools were among the first to go out and register their names. However, it gets tricky when the institution conferring the degrees is also taking in fees from students. Is it certification or simply selling the credentials?

Who brands in publishing? We think the author, but outside of fiction, that starts to break down. Reference works are generally branded by the publisher. Reprint series are branded by the series. Romances are similar. Do we pay attention to who wrote the movie, TV series, or even newspaper article?

What happens when we go digital? The idealist’s view is that information wants to be free. The pragmatic view is that information needs to be constrained. Many things that are constraints are also resources. The structure and organization of a newspaper has much to do with the paper it is on. Also, by limiting to what fits on the paper, it conveys an indication of importance if it makes it into print. Free information suffers from a lack of filters to make the important bits rise to the top.

We think of technologies replacing each other, but in fact they tend to create new niches by taking away some but not all of the roles of the old tech. What goes and what stays is what you see as integral.