Professional Development

During April 2008...

ACRL/LAMA Joint Virtual Institute

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 4:26 pm

For the past two days (whenever I can!) I’ve been participating in the ACRL/LAMA Joint Virtual Institute. The theme of the institute is Leading from the Middle: Managing in All Directions.

I participated in this because I gave a poster session on the student supervision model I developed in Microtext (this didn’t embed as nicely as it looks for the real presentation):

And I gave a live session on communication strategies for a library 2.0 environment:

If you’re interested in the session that I live-blogged, you can read about predictors for success in librarians, Made to Stick for libraries, appreciative inquiry, and inspiring change from within on my blog. :)

Cultivating Collaboration Across Learning Communities

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 2:12 pm

LAUNC-CH Conference
Cultivating Collaboration Across Learning Communities

Ellen Daugman and Mary Scanlon attended the recent LAUNC-CH conference in Chapel Hill. Here’s our report:

Keynote speaker: Abby Blachly from LibraryThing
Ellen and I attended this year’s LAUNC-CH conference in Chapel Hill; the focus was on collaboration across learning communities and the sessions were designed to present examples of groups that have accomplished this. The keynote speaker was Abby Blachly from the social cataloging site Library Thing. She provided the audience with a brief history of the site, describing how it began as a Classicist’s desire to catalog the Loeb volumes in his personal library. He put it on the web, invited his friends to add their books to it and it took off from there. The site was strongly influenced by librarians and it gathers much of the traditional data that library catalogs do, but with a twist. In a very Web2.0 fashion, it allows users to add new items to the catalog, to modify records, and to add social data such as tags, reviews and even message board conversations to the site. Several times she illustrated the aptness and currency of user-generated content such as tags, which unlike LCSH, reflect the books’ content much more accurately (it took a while, for instance, for “chick lit” to attain the exalted status of subject heading). Tags can also convey the subjective experience of a book, perhaps none more so than “Boring,” or “Unread.” LibraryThing has so many contributors that tag clouds at this site provide a much richer experience than one would find on even Amazon.com. In addition, LibraryThing serves as a social network, offering users a chance to connect with anything from favorite books and shared tags, to nearby libraries, bookstores, programs, and “friends.” Blachly emphasized the “unintentionality” of such Web 2.0 projects, where groups can form purely by happenstance, collaborate without meaning to, and organize without intent. These projects exist by tapping into the “uncredentialed masses” who are inspired to share their knowledge of obscure topics and to serve as ever-vigilant communities. LibraryThing now boasts more than 330,000 members, 800,000 book covers, and 32 million tags; it offers the opportunity to connect with other people based on the books one shares–other people who are, in short, book soulmates. Coincidentally, shortly after the conference, NPR aired a piece on these web sites that permit bibliophiles to indulge in virtual booksharing: in addition to LibraryThing, other options include Goodreads, Shelfari, aNobii and BookJetty.

Collaboration between UNC-CH SLS School and the surrounding county public libraries for teaching computer skills
The second session focused on an interesting collaboration, initiated in 2005, between the UNC School for Library Science and the surrounding county’s public library systems. SLS students are teaching classes in basic computer skills and information literacy in the public libraries. The public libraries identify their patrons’ learning needs and place requests with the Library School, which is then responsible for recruiting, training, and scheduling instructors. The PLs are responsible for promoting the classes and registering students, while the instructor/students prepare all instruction plans and materials. Since classes are offered during the libraries’ closed hours, the participants range from high school students, to senior citizens pressed for email skills to keep in touch with grandchildren–with a broad range of working citizenry in between. Interestingly, these classes are also being used for professional development purposes, to acquire computer skills; for example, the town of Chapel Hill has sent employees to attend relevant sessions. It has also enabled people to apply for jobs online and even to obtain W2s that Walmart and Costco employees could only obtain via the Internet. It’s a completely symbiotic relationship: the PLs are able to offer numerous classes that would otherwise be unavailable due to staffing demands and costs, and the SLS students get valuable teaching experience (not to mention subject matter for numerous MA theses). It works for the simplest of reasons: everyone benefits, and no budget is required. The program has received due recognition: in 2007, the ACRL Instruction Section gave its innovation award to the Community Workshop Program. Now it has targeted a new specific audience, promoting and marketing the classes to the Latino community.

Multi-librarian collaboration to create consumer health website
In this collaborative project, librarians and health educators came together and developed a website, NC Health Info, to provide consumers with health information. It is a local response to an era of truncated 12-minute long doctor visits and statistics indicating that approximately 50% of American adults have searched the Internet for health information. With a grant from the National Institutes of Health, they selected and approved web sites for each of a select group of illnesses and conditions. They also created a provider identification tool whereby consumers could choose a condition or disease and a city and receive a list of specialists that met the criteria. All content is approved by the committee before it’s put on the website. Broad categories include Diseases & Conditions, Mental Health, Treatments & Procedures, Medications, Healthy Living, and Health Care; in addition, there is a Reference section containing links to a handful of health-related websites. In the wake of the LibraryThing presentation, the website looked very rigid and old-fashioned, and the reference tools are a rather paltry lot. Vetting is done by sub-committees which make decisions and approve website content, design, and outreach efforts. There are no opportunities on this site for user-generated content or discussions.

UNC-CH – creating a mini-CH campus in Second Life
UNC-CH has created a miniature version of its campus in SecondLife, the virtual world, in an initiative to co-opt gaming for instructional purposes. It is a fascinating attempt to create an educational space in a virtual environment, and the session was a rapidly paced demonstration of the ongoing efforts to leverage the capabilities of SL in order to create educational surrogates. Inevitably, replicas of iconic structures like the well are there. After spending $800 to purchase an island, it took many, many hours to create the virtual campus. Its uses vary: there’s an exhibit of a digitized photo collection hanging in the virtual version of an original university building; there are virtual classrooms where online classes meet; and library students staff the virtual reference desk. However, since SecondLife is such a text-poor environment the reference librarians mostly answer questions about using SL. While the craftsmanship of the virtual campus was impressive, the efficacity of the virtual reference desk in the current SL environment seems dubious for now.

Role-play games as teaching tools; virtual environments as teaching spaces
The speakers reviewed the history of MMORGs – massively multi-player online role-playing games and their phenomenal growth; one example include World of Warcraft. The speaker discussed his research into the benefits of online games, including: learning in context, improving reading skills ( most of these games have backstories that drive the characters) problem-solving and developing teamwork.

Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology Symposium

Thursday, April 24, 2008 3:07 pm

Earlier this month Susan had sent an email to Lib-L about the Duke Center for Instructional Technology showcase.  I’m always interested to hear what is now and interesting in instructional technology, and it’s hard to pass up a free opportunity to see what’s going on at another local institution.  It was a wonderful one-day workshop.  I did the heavy duty blogging on my blog, so if you want to know more specifics, just follow the links!

I started the day in Sarah Robbin’s Tips and Tricks for Incorporating Web 2.0 in Your Class.  This session was amazing.  She kept saying the things I hear myself saying all the time. It was refreshing to hear someone talking about classroom issues and potential technology enhanced solutions. The audience was fairly receptive and surprised to hear that she is not a fan of Blackboard. It was one of the most rejuvenating sessions I’ve been in for some time.

There was a timely discussion of learning space in the library in Duke’s New Teaching and Learning Spaces by Edward Gomes, Kevin Davis, and Yvonne Belanger. They are adding some really nice classroom and group study space to the library, and it sounds like it is jointly owned. They also are having a multi-service single-point-of-access desk that can help with all technology issues.

The last break-out session I attended was New Tools for Library Research and Teaching.  This session discussed a library toolbar, Google Gadgets, Connotea, and embedded librarians in Blackboard.

The main keynote was just before lunch and it was a second talk by Sarah Robbins.  I was really impressed with her talks and ideas, and I’m right there with her.

All in all it was a great day!  It was a rejuvenating (inexpensive & local) symposium and I hope to be able to attend again!

Steve at 2008 North Carolina Serials Conference

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 4:41 pm

Sorry for the delay in posting this, but two weeks ago on April 10 and 11, I attended the North Carolina Serials Conference in Chapel Hill.  The focus of the conference was primarily on personnel and employment issues.

The Opening Keynote was delivered by Pamela Bluh of the University of Maryland, President of ALCTS (Association for Library Collections & Technical Services).  She discussed how the Serials Section of ALCTS changed its name to the Continuing Resource Section, because some materials don’t strictly fit the serial or monograph categories, like looseleafs and, more crucially, websites.  According to Bluh, the name change reflects a “permanent shift in the bibliographic universe,” and that librarians need to adapt to new materials and develop new methods for handling them.  Bluh argued that this change is a microcosm of the changes facing ALCTS, which needs to develop procedures and products to face the challenges of the present and future, including breaking down the barriers between sections as separate silos.  This type of thinking informed the new ALCTS strategic plan, which is now available on their website.

Later that afternoon, Tamika Barnes McCullough of the Triangle EPA Library spoke on “The Cocktail Speech: How to Market Your Services.”  She emphasized that librarians are constantly marketing their services, whether they know it or not, and that how we present ourselves is important in our careers as well as in attracting new people to the profession.  Basically, she suggested being positive.

The next morning, there was a panel discussion called “Turnabout Is Fair Play: Recruiting Outside the Box,” which, in my opinion, was pretty safely inside the box.  Nothing much interesting or original came from it.

I then attended a concurrent session called “Who Care About Catalogs Anyhow?” conducted by Sandy Hurd of Innovative Interfaces.    Hurd argued that as long as libraries buy and manage resources, we will need to describe them and display what we own and offer.  Despite enormous changes in technology and information sources, stuff still needs to be organized and accessed, and that’s where the catalog comes in.  She discussed various things that are being done to make catalogs more useful, such as companies that sell book data (cover pictures, tables of contents, reviews, summaries), like Syndetics, which we use.  She described how the University of Nebraska at Lincoln is working to link out to academic departments from the catalog, such as adding slide photos with metadata to the catalog, or links to special departmental collections.  Other enhancements include adding scoped searches, link resolvers, real-time updates, personalized RSS feeds, ratings, reviews, and reading histories.  The more collections are exposed in the catalog, the more collections are expanded and the more usage increases.  One potential problem for the future of the catalog is that catalogers at the Library of Congress (a major source of all cataloging copy) are aging and will be retiring in the near future.  With fewer catalogers, how will stuff get cataloged?  One potential solution is selective enrichment, using embryonic metadata that is enhanced by users adding information to entries.  It will need some kind of bibliographic control, but it might be used well with non-academic genre fiction.  A more useful application might be asking for tags for photos, like we have done here with some of our Digital Forsyth photos.

The next concurrent session I attended was “MARC Record Services:A Comparative Study of Library Practices” by Rebecca Kemp of UNC-Wilmington.  The presentation was based on an article she published in “The Serials Librarian.”  Because you can look up the article if you’re interested, I won’t go into much detail here.  The presentation discussed Kemp’s survey of libraries that use MARC record services (Serials Solutions, Ex Libris, EBSCO, or IDNet) to provide bibliographic records for electronic journals.  The results fit very closely with our experience here.  Most libraries were happy with the services, appreciated the greater accessibility to their e-journals, but were occasionally displeased with the lack of detail in some of the bib records provided, and sometimes found the record-load process rather difficult.

The Closing Keynote was “Recruiting for the Next Generation,” presented by Rick Block of Columbia University, Long Island University and the Pratt Institute.  In a highly entertaining talk, Block discussed the cycles of job openings for librarians from the early 20th century on, defining the periods of  librarian shortages and periods of oversupply.  He said that we are currently in a shortage phase, but that this is the first shortage where age is a factor.  Block pointed out that libraries are exacerbating the shortage problem by not offering enough entry-level jobs, what he calls the entry-level gap.  If graduates from library school can’t find jobs as librarians, they may leave the field.  He argued that libraries should offer more entry-level jobs, so we can bring in new people, new ideas and increase diversity.  Block also argued that we should recruit new librarians by actively promoting the profession, by marketing librarianship as a good mid-life career, and by recruiting among undergraduates, paraprofessionals and interns.

Leonard Kniffel at Salem College

Friday, April 11, 2008 8:55 am

As you might guess I spend the evening in the back of the room, live-blogging the talk. Kniffel was addressing a number of audiences: writers, librarians, and students, so he spoke on a wide array of topics. My notes focus on things that seemed relevant from the academic library perspective. Here’s the post.

ZSR Staff Development Tour of the ASU Library and Information Commons

Friday, April 4, 2008 1:41 pm

On Wednesday, March 25th, 7 members of the ZSR Staff, Rosalind Tedford, Mary Beth Lock, Lauren Pressley, Kaeley McMahon, Sarah Jeong, Christian Burris and myself loaded up in the WFU Student Life van and headed up 421 to visit the ASU Library and Information Commons in Boone. We arrived and started a tour around 10:30am. Four members of the ASU staff (see list below) who were members of the”Library Internal Building Group” led us all over the building. After an amazing tour (see highlights listed below) we were treated to lunch by our host and had a discussion about the lessons they learned in this building process. After lunch and discussion we resumed our tour and by 3:30pm were back on 421 to WFU! Our ASU hosts were just amazing as was their facility. To see pictures of the ASU Library and Information Commons, check out the library’s photo set from this trip!

Below is a list of tour highlights, positives outcomes from the building experience and lessons learned. The seven staff who attended collected these items together in a Google Doc to make this a truly collaborative report!

Present from ASU

  • Ann Viles- Associate University Librarian
  • Lynne Lysiak- Head of Systems
  • Pat Sweet-Facility Manager
  • Lori Davis- Position in Technical Services

(All Four were on the “Library Internal Building Group”)

Library and Building History Highlights

  • 1996-Planning began
  • Funding received in 2000/2001
  • Funding included building and Parking Deck
  • Building completed in 2005, deck in 2006 (Architect-Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott)
  • ASU uses the Innovative Library System

Tour Highlights

  • Aluminum table in the conference room made for a very nice light movable piece of furniture, but makes the wireless mouse and keyboard unusable.
  • They had 26 study rooms. Booked study rooms with III Millennium client with an opac interface
  • Chairs in the conference room were stackable and colorful, light and wheeled.
  • Floors had outlet junction boxes built in with covers that were flush with the floor when not opened. Made for flexible use.
  • They shared students from circulation to reference desk and back.
  • Had “stacks workrooms” on each floor where books that were picked up from study tables were scanned in to have a record of “in building use.”
  • Movable shelves for microform cabinets!
  • DVD collection was in open stacks, retrievable by patrons. Shelved in assession number order.
  • DVDs, microfiche, children’s books collection, periodicals, all together on the lower level. All periodicals, both current and bound, were shelved together using compact shelving.
  • Computing stations were facing each other but off set in a herringbone fashion. Made great use of space and students weren’t looking directly at each other.
  • Computer lab tables had great cord management, and the chairs were light, comfortable, wheeled and cheap. Flooring in labs/classrooms was also raised to allow for flexible room configurations.

Positives Outcomes

  • Lots of light, lots of study space
  • carpet squares
  • Ref collection shrunk by 50%
  • The atrium was glassed in. This really cut down on noise but still allowed for beautiful and open views.
  • The shelving in reference was half regular stacks height. This gave users plenty of flat surfaces to spread out or to write on. This also meant that everyone had a clear view of the area. Library staff could see anywhere if there was a problem, and students could see the desk (to know if the librarian was available, etc) from anywhere in the room.
  • They have a building manager and really recommend this role.
  • The library houses a large lecture hall that can be used by other campus groups during specific times. There are 120 theater-styled seats that are ADA compliant and each has an outlet.
  • Sign displays are all easily changeable. (They really recommend temporary signage for the first few years as it takes a while to determine the best location for things.)
  • The reference desk was designed for students to come around to the back to work side-by-side with the library staff member.
  • Student employees are cross trained and have periodic group training sessions on specific skills (a database, a new technology, etc). These sessions are held three or four times in one week so that there are several chances to attend.
  • There are 29 active group study rooms with various levels of technology. A few have international satellite for foreign language programming. A few have smartboards, but they have taken a beating as some used them as whiteboards.
  • One computer classroom has 34 computers set up so that the front of the classroom is to the side (rather than in front of behind the monitors). There are two projectors so that everything is visible from any point in the room. There are two smartboards. The computers run software to allow instructors to restrict what students can do or to push screens to all computers.
  • There is a server room in the library that runs things like the clocks (set by GPS) and security cameras. (The ILS server is housed elsewhere.)

Lessons Learned

  • Be Wary of Value Engineering (cost-cutting)
  • Getting lots of pressure to be open 24hours. The atrium was designed for that, but not the rest of the building. (going 24 with 4 security guards and 1 library staff.)
  • Management support of campus using library classrooms created more than expected amount of work, training faculty, management, scheduling.
  • Volume of patrons, 600,000 when opened, now 860,000
  • Would run fewer Ethernet jacks (900 wired jacks)
  • Some critical folks did not get to review particular designs
  • Follow behind the engineers (what standards are they using?)
  • They recommended to us to look into the Brooklyn College Library. It’s in a Carnegie library building and has some similar renovation interests.

If you have any questions about our visit, just ask one of us who attended!

Day 2 at NISO Forum

Friday, April 4, 2008 10:12 am

Here are some highlights from day two of the NISO conference.

Day two began with a talk by OhioLINK’s Assistant Director for New Service Development, Peter Murray on Discovery Tools and the OPAC. In describing next generation functions/features of online catalogs, Murray referenced Marshall Breeding’s article on next generation library catalogs which appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Library Technology Reports. These next generation functions/features include:

  1. Suggested search modifications (ex. Google’s “Did you mean..?”)
  2. Faceted browsing—Post-search limiting possibilities on the screen for users. One can limit or broaden their initial search without having to start the search over from scratch.
  3. Persistent URLs/Permalinks—Wouldn’t it be nice if URLs lasted a long time to items in the catalog, even to searches.
  4. Syndication feeds (RSS)—What’s out there that is new about this search? Are there comments from others?
  5. User-supplied tagging—Users apply their own vocabulary so they can get back to an item later.
  6. User-supplied annotations—Comments, reviews, edits to underlying bibliographic record. Allows users to make changes in wiki-like fashion.
  7. Book covers—Makes catalog screen look pretty.
  8. Recommendation engines—”If you like this item…” “Users who checked out this item looked at these titles as well.”
  9. Social networking tools—Users want to reflect categorization and interests post URL to get back.

He then showed several libraries’ catalogs who are utilizing next generation OPAC tools (ex. AquaBrowser, Innovative’s Encore, Ex Libris’ Primo, WorldCat Local, Blacklight, fac-back-opac, Scriblio, VuFind).

Murray is also a blogger known as the Disruptive Library Technology Jester. The catalog examples that he used in his presentation utilizing next generation OPAC tools can be seen in an entry on his blog.

After his presentation, several people were concerned with how libraries would deal with spam or objectionable comments. In opening up our catalogs, libraries are opening themselves to possible negative consequences. This adds on the responsibility of policing our system but, there are tools for underlying blog technology systems such as Akismet and Big Brother which can be applied. Dinah Sanders, a Senior Product Manager with Encore, Innovative Interfaces, commented that libraries who utilize Encore, their patrons who wish to leave comments or ratings must login into their patron record; this eliminates much of the problem because the library knows who you are.

Dinah Sanders presented on Changing Patron Expectations and the Discovery Landscape. She spoke about iterative searching (i.e. berry picking model) in catalogs. Specifically, on how catalogs should be able to remove dead ends and provide alternative paths to the precise items to which a user is interested; people come to the library to find, not to search. By utilizing features such as relevance ranking, faceted searching, tags, and regional borrowing options, catalogs can take users from discovery to delivery plus. Users have high expectations, and they want libraries to provide the same level of search success without the resources of Google. They want rich content like Amazon, faceted browsing, Web 2.0 capabilities, and the ability for community participation. She felt that community tagging of library resources in catalogs will become popular with the academic community and take off. By libraries collecting tags in their catalogs, it in essence is capturing part of the dialogue of an academic community and demonstrates the knowledge and utilization of community users. We can enrich our collections by embracing community reviews and ratings as well. As an example she indicated that for a specific title that a faculty member has on reserve, the library could request him or her to contribute a brief explanation on why this work is critical to the discipline being studied. Because these reviews are not coming from strangers on Amazon, they may be more meaningful to the community.

Ms. Sanders also commented on her recent experience at SXSW Interactive, a web technology conference. SXSW is where one goes to find out what’s happening on the leading edge of technology; its focus is not just on the how, but the why. At this year’s conference, she said strong themes emerged that were indicative of change in libraries and standards. A few of them are listed below:

  1. We are all publishers—Roll over Gutenberg, tell McLuhan the news (the name of an actual presentation at this year’s SXSW conference according to Ms. Sanders).
  2. The social web—Work and play are done collaboratively. We build networks of trust.
  3. The back channel—“The web doesn’t shut up just because you have”—a quote from Jason Fried. There is a profound culture of mentorship people look to for information (ex. Meebo, Twitter, getsatisfaction.com). Traditional hierarchal authority is not trusted, and authenticity and time are playing roles where people are putting their trust.
  4. Cultivating emotional engagement—Tools should make me happy.
  5. Pace of change—Last Web 2.0 conference is nearing.

Michael Winkler, Director of Information Technologies & Digital Development at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed the development of PennTags, a community tagging application. He spoke about educational applications being built around the masses; people are contributing, not just passively consuming. PennTags allow users to not only tag items in the online catalog but to annotate resources as well.

ResearchBlogging.org, another interesting discovery tool presented, began as a means to identify individual blogspots that are valuable sources of information to researchers in the social and hard sciences. It’s a way for bloggers to find and showcase their serious posts about peer-reviewed research. The categories of psychology and biology have the most posts. All users must create an account, and when posting to the blog they must create a formal citation either manually or enter a DOI about the research to which they are referencing.

I learned much at this conference, but the one thing that stands out most in my mind is that library catalogs can be so much more than what they are. If we want to be the first place of discovery for our users, then we need to build a better catalog utilizing the new tools that are available. In “Googlizing” and “Amazoning” our catalogs, standards will need to be developed for tagging and reviewing/rating resources (i.e. What does a 1 or a 5 mean on a 1-5 scale?). In conclusion, library catalogs can be a means to enrich an academic community’s dialogue and at the same time make discovery for our users less challenging and information delivery more rewarding.


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