Library Gazette

In the 'Technology' Category...

Network Downtime, 7/26 and 8/2

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 9:47 am

Due to scheduled hardware upgrades, Internet connections will be down for most or all of the Reynolda campus on:

  • Saturday, July 26, from 4:30pm to 2:00am
  • Saturday, August 2, from 7:00am to 5:00pm

During these times, users in ZSR will likely have no access to the ZSR home page, library catalog, databases, or e-books and e-journals, and will likely have no access to e-mail and other online services.

You may be able to use your smartphone’s cellular connection for library research, but please be aware that this will count toward data limits in your cell phone plan.

ZSRx Digital Publishing: The Reckoning

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 5:24 pm

Back in the Fall of 2013 (when we were all young and innocent), a young librarian named Billy was approached by a nice library dean and asked if he wanted to conduct a MOOC of his own. He agreed, under one condition: pro humanitate. As such, our (normally shy) hero enjoyed complete autonomy and/or academic freedom re the content of the thing. This is his story. This is history. This is the dramatic story of ZSRx Digital Publishing.

Our friend Kyle had a platform, but needed content. Billy happened to have content, but needed a platform. Either way, Lynn had the “students.” And so the deal went down: Bill would record three modules’ worth of digital publishing-related content, provide external links and readings, conduct online (and “plausibly live”) discussions going for about three weeks, and promise to keep the distracting Tom Waits clips to a minimum, with Kyle massaging said content into the Canvas platform, all while Lynn would recruit some registrants.

Meanwhile, I used primarily the (free) screen-capture program called ScreenCast-O-Matic, and it was awesome, in that it recorded my yammering in front of PowerPoint slides and online websites in such a way that I didn’t really even need a firm script, and so the clips had the distinct feel of a loosey-goosey (who me?) lecture — complete with my incessant stammering and ill-paced cadences. (Honestly, ten minutes of that at time is plenty.) These clips were published directly to my YouTube channel (everyone has one, btw), which Kyle would then “embed” into the Canvas platform, so we didn’t need to bother with fancy/costly video production (or lighting (or makeup (though we probably could’ve stood some of the latter))) or other hassles regarding video storage or distribution. (And I was ready with a rejoinder if anyone might’ve complained about the homemade/rickety aspects of the clips: you get what you pay for.)

Anyhow, we sent come-hither emails in January to various listservs (ASERL, Library Publishing Coaltion, WFU Alums, etc.) and waited. I bought a press release, which got picked up by LJ online, and we waited some more. By the time the course started in February, we had about 400 students signed up — librarians, publishers, vendors, parents, friends, neighbors, homeless people — mostly from North Carolina and the U.S., but some international folks. And since there were actually at least one student each from the continents of Europe, Asia, and Australia, it’s fair to say that ZSRx Digital Publishing was a global phenomenon by the time it officially launched in February (right after the SuperBowl).

We rolled out one “module” a week, for three weeks, with each module consisting of maybe 1 hour’s worth of video (in maybe 6- to 12-minute segments) and links and readings and discussion considerations. I would send a jaunty “announcement” each week, and Kyle and I would prompt some “engaging” discussions based on that week’s module’s content. The discussions turned out to be a hoot and a half — we had a nice handful of maybe a dozen regular contributors, who helped move things along.

Speaking of moving along, I better get around to telling the dark side of my mini-MOOC: there was some distinct attrition, participation-wise. That is, though we had ~400 folks sign up, and though those folks consumed thousands of pages of web content, the course analytics indicated a pretty significant (if typical, according to Kyle) drop-off:

Still, and though the formal exit survey is yet to come, I did fashion a fun little “final exam,” wherein I left some room for “final thoughts,” and here’s where I’ll perk back up by quoting exactly what some students said therein:

  • I appreciate the time that was spent putting this together!
  • I did learn a lot, although I was definitely a passive learner simply because of other commitments for my time!
  • This was an awesome MOOC!
  • I learned so much about digital publishing that I never had an inkling about!
  • Every MOOC should be this much fun!
  • Very interesting course. Thank you for offering it!
  • Enjoyed the course; lots of good information!
  • For my first “online” course…I really enjoyed this!
  • Thanks for your time and effort to put this together!
  • Mindboggling – the amount of digital information and books available!
  • Thanks!!

Not gonna lie, the exclamation points got to me.

And so I’ll close now by just stone-cold declaring my personal and genuine feelings about the whole deal (minus any and all hint of irony or sarcasm or impatience (of which I’m sometimes accused)): my participation in ZSRx has been the highlight of my career at Wake Forest University (and maybe anywhere) so far. And I can’t thank Kyle and Lynn and everyone at ZSR Library enough for allowing me the honor.

–wpk

 

 

ZSRx: The MOOC that wasn’t a MOOC

Friday, May 10, 2013 1:37 pm

Remember that time ZSR offered an online information literacy course? No, not that one. This one. The one we designed to be MOOC-like, free and open to anyone, focused on general web literacy skills, in the hopes that *maybe* 100 people would want to sign up. No? Well, let me tell you about it.

Let’s start at the beginning. It was a little more than two years ago that Lauren Pressley designed and taught her online version of LIB100, the first online course of any kind at Wake Forest. She worked hard to create a “Wake Forest” feel to the course: lots of reflection, video responses, close contact. And it worked. She was asked to go before the College Board of Visitors to show them what she’d done, and they were impressed. I’m told that many came up to Lauren after her presentation to ask how they could take her class. This was all before I came to ZSR, of course, but I know enough about this place to understand that when the College Board of Visitors wants to take your class, you find a way to let them take your class.

So we found a way. We gave LIB100 the MOOC treatment: we generalized the content and learning outcomes, focusing on web literacies that are relevant to everyone. We curated third-party content from around the web, finding readings, videos, and websites that anyone could access and easily fit into their busy schedules. We set up a discussion forum and a community blog. We organized everything into thematic modules and built a simple website with free tools to hold it all together. We called it ZSRx: The Cure for the Common Web, and then we told people about it, focusing our marketing efforts on parents and alumni, hoping 100 or so would be interested enough to sign up. Then 700 people signed up.

Let me tell you, dear reader: there’s nothing more real in the life of an eLearning Librarian than when 700 people show up to your party. It was terrifying. I was ecstatic.

As people started introducing themselves on the discussion board, we learned that we had participants from 23 states and 10 countries. There were parents of current and former students, alumni from the class of 2012 all the way back to the class of 1954 (old campus!), and folks here on campus who were just interested in what we were doing. We had folks who had very little computer or web literacy and folks who had taught online for the University of Phoenix. I met an alum living in Florida who is close personal friends with the minister who married me and my wife. People started connecting to old friends, swapping stories of their time at Wake, reminiscing over favorite professors. Although introductions were coming fast and furious, it all felt very… small.

Each of the four modules focused on a different aspect of web literacy. Module One focused on being a more strategic web searcher, Module Two on advanced search tools and techniques, Module Three on privacy, filtering, and SEO, and Module Four on using free web apps to make life easier. For each module, there was more content and more opportunities to participate than I expected anyone to actually get to in a week. The idea, as I shared with participants, was not to try to learn everything the course had to offer, but to treat the course as one would a candy dish–to pull out the one or two things that look most appetizing, and be OK with leaving the rest. If they learned one new thing each week, I emphasized, the course was a success.

It’s strange, actually, calling ZSRx a course. It felt vaguely “course-like,” in that it had a beginning and an end, students and instructors, content that was organized to address learning objectives, and interactions between participants and facilitators. And learning was happening: that much was obvious from the discussions. There wasn’t any traditional assessment of learning, though: no quizzes or assignments. And I think that was a strength, as it forced participants to rethink what a course is and what a course can be online. Although ZSRx was modeled after MOOCs, it was certainly not massive, and it was definitely not impersonal. ZSRx wasn’t a MOOC: this was Wake Forest gathering around a collection of online content and using it as a tool to learn new things as a community. This was a community and a platform for informal learning, and it was awesome. If you’re interested in participation numbers and feedback, I’m working on making it look pretty, but you can see what I’m working with here.

I see offering courses like ZSRx–lightweight, informal, communities wrapped around a collection of content–to be a huge opportunity for libraries of all kinds. We have so much more to offer to the MOOC discussion than locating public domain images or providing copyright assistance for “traditional” MOOCs (if there is such a thing). Libraries have always been hubs of their physical communities–let’s start being hubs of our digital communities. I’ll be helping that process along in the coming months by creating a more robust template of the course with lots of documentation for getting a course like this running for your own community. For now, here’s a quick-and-dirty version of the template. Use it if you’d like!

Finally, a special thanks to Lynn Sutton, for trusting me enough to do this crazy thing, and to Roz Tedford and Hu Womack for being right there alongside me during the planning and running of the course. This isn’t the last of these we’ll be doing. Stay tuned!

TechXploration2013

Friday, April 5, 2013 3:14 pm
The presenters from a great distance

The presenters from a great distance

On Thursday, Hu, Kevin, Craig, and Rebecca ventured to Benson to represent ZSR in the campus-wide TechXploration, an event that “showcases faculty use of technology andbrings together faculty and staff who want to share their experiences with current technology efforts.”

Hu was the acting ambassador for ZSRx and fielded countless questions and received quite a bit of interest from attendees.

Craig, Kevin, and Rebecca’s poster”The Missing Link: Connecting Past, Present & Future Through Web Archiving” highlighted ZSR’s efforts to create a comprehensive archive of WFU’s web presence using ArchiveIt. Attendees were particularly interested in this topic and how it adds to the record of the University.

Kevin and Rebecca’s poster”Unforgettable: Enhancing Digital Collections, Creating Digital Connections” highlighted the redesign of our digital collections space for ZSR’s Special Collections and Archives.

Wake Forest’s innovative use of technology was well represented with over 25 presenters from across campus. It was a wonderful opportunity to share experiences, make cross campus connections, and see the innovative and impressive uses of technology at Wake Forest.

E-textbook for Information Literacy is Published

Friday, February 22, 2013 11:30 am

During the summer of 2011, a group of us formed to create an e-textbook for information literacy and received a STEP Grant from a group headed by Rick Matthews in IS. Our group, guided by Lauren Pressley, consisted of Kaeley McMahan, Rebecca Petersen, Audra Eagle Yun, Gretchen Edwards, Kevin Gilbertson, and Craig Fansler. We put out a call for authors to contribute chapters by creating a video. As a result, we received written contributions from Molly Keener, Mary Scanlon, Mary Beth Lock, Ellen Daugman, and Ellen Makaravage.

For most of the STEP grant recipients, the project was a finite period of time covering the summer of 2011. For our group of open-access technology (affectionately called Oats and Tea), this project lasted two years. Last year, we presented our work at TechXploration – which showcased our work to the larger university community. We wrote chapters for this book and conducted editorial review which took longer than we anticipated. Thanks to heroic efforts by Kevin Gilbertson and Lauren Pressley, this e-textbook is now published and ready to be used.

Recent Improvements to the Library Catalog

Friday, February 22, 2013 10:53 am

Based on recent suggestions from our reference librarians, we have pushed a few key improvements to the library catalog into production:

  • Due date: Due date now displays on record pages for items that are checked out. Yes, that’s right, you won’t have to check classic view to see when something is due.
  • Call number browsing: Call numbers (in the holdings tab on record pages) are now direct links to call number browsing. It’ll be just like browsing the shelf – except this shelf contains ebooks and other electronic materials.
  • Facet order: We reordered the facets in the sidebar, pushing publication date and location to the top. We’re hoping that we can condense these long lists into something more manageable – we’ll keep you posted.
  • Zotero: We added support for secondary authors and place of publication and removed the trailing slash from the title for Zotero imports. So, the next time you add an item in the catalog to your Zotero library, rest assured – that slash won’t be there.

If you have any improvements for library catalog that you would like to see, please let us know.

New Video Efforts

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 4:58 pm

One of my goals for my first year is to do a complete refresh of all of the content in the Toolkit. In my role serving online students, I understand the power of video in teaching library tools and selling the library as the place to go for research assistance, technology training, and self-help. Having a digital space like the Toolkit–a centralized location for all of our video and other digital learning objects–is incredibly valuable for reaching students and faculty both on campus and online. However, when a space like the Toolkit starts to show its age, we risk losing a bit of credibility. For as much power as they have, videos quickly become outdated as web interfaces or link paths change. It’s also no secret that we’re bound by constraints on our time, so producing video of high production quality often takes a back seat, resulting in videos that look outdated before their time.

So, to help restore the Toolkit to its former glory and to put in place more sustainable workflows, I’ve started using Camtasia Studio to create what I hope are high-polish, ZSR-quality videos that will stand the test of time. I just finished my first one–a teaser video for Zotero–and wanted to share how I did it.

Scripting

With any video project, I find it’s much easier to get the audio down first and make it perfect before worrying about capturing video. I’m not one for improv, so that means writing a script first and paring it down to what’s really essential to get the message across. Our users don’t expect elaborate, drawn-out explanations; they’re watching the video because they hope it will save them time. If the content requires a video much longer than two minutes, it should probably be split into two separate videos. So to keep things brief, I scripted and timed myself rehearsing the script. I kept paring it down until I was comfortably under two minutes, and only then was it finally time to record.

Audio Recording

The scripting and audio recording take up the bulk of the time, but I’d argue that they’re the most important parts. Even the shiniest video will be ignored if there’s annoying background noise or if the speaker is rambling or talks too quickly or too quietly. I used Camtasia to record myself reading through the script twice three four times, then cut and spliced the best parts into the final audio track. So the video doesn’t feel quite so librarian-sitting-in-an-office-talking-at-you, I used a royalty-free guitar track that came packaged with Camtasia to add some interest.

Screen Recording

Now that I had the audio ready to go, it was pretty easy to record the screen. Screen capture is really what Camtasia was made to do, and it does it beautifully. All I had to do was mentally map out my mouse clicks, record a few run-throughs of each “scene,” and I was ready to edit.

I want to note here the significance of recording audio and video separately. One of the major weaknesses of using free, web-based screen recorders like Jing is that you can’t separate the audio from the video; that is, when something in your video changes, like a database interface, you have to re-record the entire video to bring your video up to date. By separating the audio and video, I can feasibly use the same audio track and only update those portions of the video that need updating, saving tons of effort in the long run.

Editing, Callouts, and Text

To bring everything together, I had to manipulate the video clips to match up with the audio. Because this particular video was more of a teaser and not intended to be a “how-to,” I sped up the video clips to keep everything flowing quickly. I focused the user’s attention with some appropriate zooming and panning, then added photos, text, and colored backgrounds when there was no video to display. You’ll notice I like big, bold text that’s readable even on the smallest smartphone screen.

Accessibility Concerns

Finally, to make the video accessible to those with hearing impairments and to those who might not have a pair of headphones in a quiet room, I added a caption track that the user can turn on and off in YouTube. Camtasia makes this almost absurdly easy: all I had to do was copy and paste my transcript into my project, then Camtasia guided me through time-stamping the caption track to sync with the audio.

Looking Ahead

I plan on working my way through the content on the Toolkit as determined by the needs of the online counseling program. I already have planned an entire series of Zotero tutorials, followed by tutorials for the PsycInfo and PubMed databases. If you have ideas for videos I can add to my queue, or if you have a special project in mind, I’m all ears. I hope you enjoy!

 

A New (Mobile) Home Page

Monday, November 5, 2012 3:16 pm

In a first attempt at creating a more mobile-friendly website*, I have just released a significant update to the home page.

With the help of the web committee (Anna, Chris, Kaeley, Lauren, and Rebecca) to test and discuss changes throughout the process, I have worked to establish a similar user experience across a range of devices. While the home page will look (and function) as it has on laptops, the changes take effect on devices (and screens) with smaller resolutions, e.g. smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. I should mention that no content disappears for any device; it gets shifted or takes another shape depending on the resolution context.

Take a look at the changes in this selection of screenshots (click the image to view larger):

To see these mobile-friendly changes for yourself, visit zsr.wfu.edu on your smartphone.

While the changes apply only to the home page at this point, I hope to push out updates to additional pages over the next few weeks. Larger goals – creating a more mobile-friendly interface to the catalog or the study rooms app – will require more time and testing.

As always, let me know of any problems, concerns, or suggestions.

* Actually, technically, it’s a second attempt. The first attempt was years ago when PDAs and early cell phones were popular and we used a “handheld” designation to target those very limited devices.

Improving the Format Facet in the Catalog

Saturday, July 28, 2012 11:33 am

by Kevin Gilbertson and Carolyn McCallum

Earlier this year, Carolyn and I embarked on an ambitious project to revise VuFind’s format facet. This facet – Book, eBook, DVD, etc. – powers the main search box on the library’s homepage and provides enhanced browsing in the catalog itself. While the immediate reason for the project was a request to identify streaming videos in the catalog, the need for a significant revision and the awareness of its importance had been growing for some time. That is, with the increasing number of electronic materials we were adding to the catalog, it was clear that the then-current format mappings were limited, often inconsistent, and wholly ignorant of the nuances in new format designations.

To resolve VuFind’s format mapping issues, we delved into learning about MARC’s fixed-field elements and the 007 field (physical characteristics of non-print items). The coding of fixed-field elements and of the variable 007 field in a MARC record are critical to how VuFind determines an item’s format. Based on our view of these MARC codings, we adjusted VuFind’s mapping algorithm, re-indexed the catalog several times, and reviewed our changes in a test version of VuFind.

As we worked, we came across many unexpected format assignments. For example, during one of these reviews, we noticed the inclusion of a university press book in the ‘GovDoc’ facet. After inspecting the coding, we discovered that state university press publications are coded as government publications in MARC records (the fixed-field GPub element) and therefore map to the govdoc facet in VuFind. According to OCLC’s Bibliographic Formats and Standards, libraries are to “treat an item published by an academic institution as a government publication if the government created or controls the institution. For example, publications of state university presses in the United States are government publications at the state level.” While our mapping was technically correct, we thought most users would expect to find a book published by a university press under ‘Book’ and not under ‘Government Document’. As we encountered these unexpected results, we reviewed the MARC codings and made adjustments to VuFind’s mapping algorithm.

Another example of what we addressed was the ‘Electronic’ facet. When we began our project, the catalog showed 615,320 items as ‘Electronic’. While this facet may have been accurate given an item’s coding, in use it was problematic because it lacked adequate differentiation and served to hide items, not handled elsewhere in the assignment process, in its indiscriminate muddle. So, while some ebooks were ‘ebooks’, others were simply (and only) ‘electronic’. In our last test version, we had reduced the electronic facet to just 569 items. Where did the other 614,751 items go? The bulk of these items went to the ‘eBook‘ facet – 23,267 ebooks became 487,633 ebooks – and over 2,000 items were added to the ‘Streaming Video‘ facet. The remaining items were distributed in other new electronic format facets, including Streaming Audio, eGovDocs, and eJournals.

We pushed our changes into production in March and have been watching to see how they have performed during the past few months. It was not easy work and you may continue to see items with questionable formats. There are limits to what we can achieve with the format mapping algorithm based on the MARC codings we have.

With the recent OCLC reclamation project and the authority control work, there is a healthy confluence of effort to improve our data and its representation in the catalog and we wanted to share a before-and-after view of our improvements. If you see areas that need further improvement, please let us know.

It’s a TechXploration!

Sunday, April 22, 2012 8:51 pm

Wednesday afternoon was a time of TechXploration on campus. IS hosted a poster session event for people involved with the Summer Technology Grants over 2011 as well as other technology projects on campus.

Kevin, Craig, Rebecca, Kaeley, and I went as part of our involvement with the Summer Technology Group. We made great strides towards completion over the summer, but as you know this year has been hectic, so it’s simmered on the back burner except for intersessions. Luckily, as the semester is wrapping up we have time to focus on it again and we plan to have completed the framework, website, added the text, and created all the various file formats with enough time for people (who wish) to incorporate it into their LIB100 for Fall 2012. Expect to hear more soon!

Oats&Tea @ TechXploration

Our poster was met with a lot of interest. People thought the poster was nicely designed (thanks, Craig!!) and liked the idea of an open access, modular, electronic, format agnostic textbook. We even heard from Brenda Knox that she’d like to incorporate it into the online counseling program. We had a lot of fun talking to people from students to faculty to technical staff and we look forward to having a finished product to share. There was a lot of interest from the crowd about the technical details, so I look forward to our documenting the tools we’re using and creating a model others can follow.

Oats&Tea @ TechXploration

I also was asked to talk about my online class, which I’m always happy to do, so I had a poster on that topic, as well. That poster got far less traffic–perhaps because people are familiar with the class at this point? The day was worth it, though, because of meeting one faculty member who was really really interested in the project and would like to incorporate several of the assignments, organizational structures, and other features into their class going forward.

Lauren Pressley @ TechXploration

All in all, it was a great afternoon! Fun people, good food, and a chance to share with others some of the work we’ve been doing!


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