Professional Development

Author Archive

Susan at ALA 2015 in San Francisco

Thursday, July 2, 2015 10:58 am

Moscone Center

Moscone Center, site of ALA Annual 2015

This year’s ALA Annual conference took place in a popular destination location, on the weekend following the historic decision from the Supreme Court on the right for same-sex marriage. Add to this that it was the annual Pride parade weekend and there were close to 20,000 librarians in town and you can imagine how high the energy level was in San Francisco! I felt so fortunate that I was able to witness the thousands who came out to celebrate “Love is Love” at Sunday’s parade.

San Francisco Pride Parade

“Love Won” newspaper headline from the San Francisco Chronicle during the Pride Parade

The parade was a highlight, but the conference itself provided plenty of interesting moments as well. This past spring I was elected to a 3-year term as a Director-at-Large for LITA (Library Information and Technology Association). Although I’ve been involved with LITA for many years in a variety of roles, I will be serving on the Board for the next 3 years. So my LITA education began at this conference. I attended the board meetings as a guest and took part in an orientation session to help us new board members get up to speed. I discovered there is quite a bit of background reading to help me learn about the organization, including a manual and the bylaws. I attended LITA’s main program day on Sunday that includes the popular Top Tech Trends panel discussion and the President’s Program, which featured a conversation with Lou Rosenfeld,co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web.

The top trends highlighted by the panel included

  • scalable internal connectivity (think about all those mobile devices connecting simultaneously)
  • interesting applications for RFID (example – Art Library in Switzerland that uses it for a daily inventory)
  • open source software
  • free, ubiquitous internet access in cities
  • cross-sector collaboration with purpose to improve services
  • ILS bloat
  • renaissance of podcasting
  • innovation communities founded around the library

Rosenfeld discussed his work with UX (user experience) and one of the interesting concepts that I learned about was the “short head.” We all know about the “long tail” but not so much about the short head attached to it! This term refers to the figure that is shown on the Zipf curve pictured below (comes from Zipf’s Law). The figure shows the most frequently searched terms on the left, and these make up the “short head.” Rosenfeld uses this curve to demonstrate how to use the law when tuning your website.

Zipf Curve from Louis Rosenfeld

Zipf Curve from Louis Rosenfeld

With my increased committee involvement, I didn’t have as much time to attend a variety of program sessions, but I managed to select at least one from most of my main areas of responsibility:

Digital Scholarship IG Discussion. I’m certain that Chelcie will give a more granular report for this session, but it was a good program that featured Joan Lippincott from CNI who presented Trends in digital scholarship centers: a view from CNI. She described findings from CNI’s work on trends in digital scholarship centers and her own observations from interviews and on-site visits. One of the main sources of data came from a workshop CNI conducted in April 2014 that involved 35 participants from 24 institutions and resulted in a report published in December. Also presenting were two people from NYU’s Digital Scholarship Services, which has some resemblance to what we are doing at ZSR. They don’t have a specific physical space and pull people in as needed to provide their services.

Creating Impactful Assessment Reports. This program, sponsored by LLAMA, was a panel discussion. The new dean for UNCC, Anne Cooper Moore, was joined by two librarians from Florida State University (Julia Zimmerman, Dean and University Librarian and Kirsten Kinsley, Assessment Librarian). The format of the session was for the panel to field questions relating to leveraging assessment reports to be effective tools to present to stakeholders. Julia noted that most stakeholders are busy people and long reports don’t get read, so she recommended executive summaries as key. Here are some other recommendations:

  • Use both qualitative and quantitative data to tell the narrative.
  • Individual quotes from people have impact.
  • There is a tie between assessment and marketing.
  • Data visualizations should be clear, colorful and should stand apart from the text.

An interesting discussion took place about what sort of assessment personnel different libraries have. Many have a single assessment librarian but who that person reports to is all over the map. There was an opinion from the panel that the most effective reporting line is to the library dean. There was also a consensus that having a committee in place either as a stand alone (if there isn’t a designated assessment position) or to supplement the assessment librarian is a good idea. It helps to have more eyes on the data and to get different perspectives.

Library of the Future: the Learning Optimized Library. This presentation was given by Steelcase. The speaker, Mark Walters, gave an overview on the company’s research on human behavior in libraries and provided examples of how to design for the tensions that have emerged between learning activities and space design (of course, using their furniture as the examples of solutions! Two new products that caught my interest are the Brody and the Thread). Mark is with the Education division at Steelcase, which launched in 2008. More than once he referenced an article by Scott Bennett on the changing roles of libraries that was published in 2009 (Muse title, restricted to subscribers). He described the methodology of their observational study which included time spent at 20 libraries. They have a living lab at Grand Valley State and this video shows what they’ve done there. The main thrust of their recommendations is to plan in zones with realistic adjacencies that take into account the concept of “alone together” and spanning from private to public:

Informal Learning Matrix

Informal Learning Matrix

Findings include:

  • Learning is social, but it takes many forms
  • Deep thinking requires blocking out distractions (both visual and sound)
  • Technology is ubiquitous so there are issues of infrastructure (the whole outlet thing) and ergonomics
  • Spaces have different rhythms of behavior

If any of these short narratives have caught your interest, I have more detailed notes I’ll be glad to share. As usual, I’ll close with a link to all the photos I took while I was out and about in San Francisco.

Heading to Coit Tower

View of Bay Near Coit Tower

ACRL 2015 Portland – Susan’s Report

Thursday, April 2, 2015 12:24 pm

Waterfront Park View of the Convention Center

View of the twin spires of the Oregon Convention Center
from Waterfront Park, across the Williamette River

Selecting Portland as the site for ACRL 2015 seems to have been a wise choice. There was a record attendance (registrations) of nearly 3400. I think it was a combination of Portland attracting first-time visitors (like me) and the rich programming offered (over 330 sessions). For me, Portland was a perfect conference city. It has a unique personality coupled with excellent public transportation, good food AND it is most bicycle friendly! I arrived in town in time to jump on the light rail at the airport, and jump off (suitcase in hand) at the conference center in time for the opening keynote and exhibit hall opening reception. The keynote speaker was G. Willow Wilson, creator of the Ms. Marvel comic series starring a Muslim superhero named Kamala Khan. Having been raised in a household where comic books were not allowed (a story for another day), I am not a comic book aficionado and was not familiar with her work. So I really enjoyed hearing how the series came about and how it is now so well received that the character is going to be an Avenger! She also spoke about her multicultural background and the importance of listening to the narratives of native populations that are not the ones most of us learned in school.

I attended the Thursday vendor-sponsored breakfast where Bill Badke spoke (See Roz’s report for more information). Most of his talk was a self-proclaimed rant with these three themes – 1. Too much data, not enough metadata (the Web is anarchy under the control of a cheap dog, the search engine), 2. Epistemology – Students lack understanding about where information comes from, and 3. Students are challenged to articulate their information need. His recommendation for librarians – don’t fade away, seize the day!

People often think of ACRL as more useful for those librarians involved with instruction and reference. However, I was able to find a broad range of topics so I was able to attend concurrent sessions on data sharing/stewardship, well-being, instruction collaboration between research & instruction and special collections, and weeding (our own Carol Cramer). I particularly enjoyed a presentation by our former colleague Elisabeth Leonard (Executive Market Research Manager, SAGE) about research she conducted on students and their use of videos in higher education. Her white paper provides the details of the research findings. As you might imagine, there were too many choices during each time-slot, but one nice side benefit of attending is that registrants can access the ACRL Virtual Conference content and every contributed paper, invited paper, panel session, and TechConnect presentation offered at ACRL 2015 (which were recorded) for the next year.

This year was the 75th anniversary of ACRL and this was celebrated in a number of ways. Most impressive were the scores (it seemed) of cakes that placed throughout the exhibit hall on Thursday afternoon. On a more serious note, I attended an invited panel session by the authors of the ACRL 75th anniversary publication New Roles for the Road Ahead. Stephen Bell, Lorcan Demsey and Barbara Fister each led a discussion on their particular assignments in the report (Bell -higher ed, Dempsey – technology, Fister – information literacy).

Often the closing keynote is underwhelming because people start to leave to catch flights home and sometimes this results in a waning level of energy for the speaker. I was curious if this would be the case for no other reason than the choices for getting home were to leave first thing Saturday morning or late Saturday evening on the red eye. However, ACRL offered up Lawrence Lessig as the closing speaker, so it became a no-brainer for me to book the red eye home! And that seemed to be the consensus of most of the conference attendees because the room was full. He discussed three projects that he said are really one idea – the value of equality. His current project is Corruption in America. He described what is happening in America’s elections is Tweedism (Boss Tweed was a politician who said “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”). Lessig explained how the funding bias present in the US primary selection results in a lack of democratic process. (TED Talk by Lessig). The second project he discussed was net neutrality and how recent rulings as the Internet as a utility will preserve equality. The third project was Open Access. He talked movingly about Aaron Swartz (developed RSS and Creative Commons and committed suicide at age 26 after he was prosecuted for downloading JSTOR articles and making them freely accessible). Swartz’s viewpoint on copyright was that current use of it doesn’t serve its purpose. It restricts access to knowledge elites, and the rest of the world is not included. He wanted equal access to knowledge. Withholding that knowledge makes it impossible for most to build on that knowledge to create new knowledge.

One last tidbit about Portland and the conference. I discovered that in Portland, food trucks are a big deal, there are over 500 of them scattered throughout the city. So the main lunch venue provided to all the ACRL attendees was a parking lot lined with food trucks. You all know how librarians are at meal time, and the picture below shows the long lines where everyone patiently queued to wait for their favorite cuisine.

Crowded at the Lunch Trucks

ACRL Librarians at Food Truck City

Susan @ ALAMW 2015, or ‘A Little Blizzard, So What?’

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 4:58 pm

ALA Welcome Banner in the Snow
Chicago has always been one of my favorite conference destinations, but this was my first wintertime visit to the Windy City. My introduction to Chicago in the winter turned out to be an epic one. Declared one of the top 5 Chicago storms since records have been kept, Linus provided all of us with a primer on how the midwest handles a weather emergency. And it was fairly impressive! The whole city kept on going even as snow was blowing sideways and piling up to 19″. The conference shuttle buses ran throughout, sessions were held as planned and spirits were upbeat (although I think southerners developed a few worry lines along the way). If I would fault one thing it would be the absence of any communication from ALA proper to the conference attendees. It was word of mouth as to whether to expect the buses to continue, and whether sessions would or wouldn’t be held. I know they are a big organization, but they manage to give our emails out to every vendor so we receive a barrage of communication hawking products. Would it have been too hard to use those email lists to let conference-goers know what to expect in a major storm? Enough about the weather, although it did offer good competition to the Super Bowl as a major non-library topic for conference attendees…..

Friday afternoon, I joined in at an ARL assessment coordinators meeting. Wanda, Lauren Corbett and Mary Beth all attended at least part of this afternoon-long program. Wanda and Lauren were interested in hearing about the new IPEDS data collection, which has caused confusion to most. I went because I was interested in the session on learning space data and assessment. ARL has added a facilities inventory to its survey list and there was discussion about the parameters for doing it correctly. I got the most out of the presentation by Joan Lippincott (CNI) who showed some tools that can be helpful in assessment of learning spaces. FlexSpace is an open access repository populated with examples of learning spaces.It contains high resolution images and related information that describes detailed attributes learning spaces from from 336 institutions with data in the system. I applied for a free account and look forward to exploring further. The Educause Space Rating System provides a set of measurable criteria to assess how well the design of classrooms support and enable active learning activities. It works best with formal learning spaces but there is interest in developing profiles for informal spaces that might be more aligned with the types of spaces a library offers. The Learning Space Toolkit is meant to help design and sustain technology-rich informal learning spaces. Our colleagues at NCSU Libraries are involved in this project. The session was worthwhile just for introducing me to these potential tools, although I did feel like a bit of an interloper sitting in with the Big Dog ARL Assessment groups!

Most of my weekend was focused on LITA activities. I’ve been asked to run for LITA Board Director (again) and so my time was spent going to a Joint Chairs meeting, Top Tech Trends and working with LITA leadership (Thomas was at this table) to learn my charge as next year’s Chair of the Financial Advisory Committee. Along the way I did some networking with LITA members who I want to get to know better and caught up with some old colleagues as well. Even though the weather put a damper on my after-hours networking (Sorry to have missed the LITA Happy Hour, but the blizzard was in full force by then), I was glad for some day-time chances to strengthen relationships with LITA folks.

The ZSR group that had booked the direct afternoon United flight to Greensboro on Monday may have been the luckiest librarians in the whole conference. We all managed to get to the airport, fly out only an hour late, and get home in time for dinner! It was a good ALA adventure this weekend, but I think we all were happy to touch down in non-snowy North Carolina!

The Day After Along Michigan Avenue

The Day After Along Michigan Avenue

 

SACS-COC in Nashville

Thursday, December 18, 2014 4:14 pm

Sunrise Reflections

Nashville skyline at sunrise

Earlier this month, I traveled to Nashville with a group of Wake Forest colleagues to attend the annual meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC). All of us have a role in writing the narratives for Wake Forest’s 2016 SACS-COC reaffirmation . The entire meeting (conference) is devoted to content that is aimed at helping schools navigate the accreditation process, as evidenced by the 164 concurrent sessions scheduled over 2 days.. The accreditation process is a complex and lengthy one that spans 2 years. First we submit a compliance certification that demonstrates we are in compliance with core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal requirements. This is submitted 15 months in advance of the scheduled reaffirmation. After it is submitted, the documentation is reviewed by an Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee and its findings on the status of compliance go to the On-Site Reaffirmation Committee. We submit a Quality Enhancement Plan (which Lauren Corbett is involved with) 4-6 weeks in advance of the on-site review. The final decision for reaffirmation comes from the Commission’s Board of Trustees. For Wake Forest, we will find out whether we are reaffirmed in December 2016. Since we are at the beginning of this long process, attending this annual meeting provided a good opportunity to hear perspectives from

  • other schools who are undergoing reaffirmation or have recently completed the process,
  • off-site reviewers
  • on-site reviewers
  • Commission staff

Of all the standards that must be complied with, Library Services are a small but important component. There are 4 standards: 2.9 (a core requirement that focuses on collections) and 3 comprehensive standards (3.8.1 (facilities), 3.8.2 (instruction), 3.8.3 (qualified staff)). In the entire lineup of sessions, only one concurrent session was devoted to these standards. Additionally, there was a group discussion on them. I went to both, confident that I would get concrete answers to any questions posed. However, I found that this was not to be. At all the sessions I attended, the theme was that standards are written broadly because every institution is unique. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. The standards have to serve to work for public/private, community colleges/undergraduate schools/universities with graduate programs. So, as one presenter asked, “Does the glove fit?” Writing a narrative about compliance for your institution is all about rightness of fit. To muddy the waters even more, the perspectives offered by the two library standards presenters did not align with each other. One, an off-site reviewer, gave advice that was different from the other presenter (who is a SACS-COC Vice President).My take away from this experience was that our narratives should reflect what feels right for us. Not necessarily the kind of specificity a librarian prefers, but it’s what we have to work with!

Lest anyone who has made it this far in this posting think that I spent 2 days in Nashville and only had to attend 2 sessions, rest assured that I took advantage of other programs, many of which were assessment-focused. I went to one that talked about assessing teaching in an online environment. Often assessment takes place on the design of the course while not addressing the effectiveness of the teaching that takes place. Another presentation by an art professor described the process his department undertook to overhaul their assessment program. I liked the term he used – stealth assessment – the process faculty do from semester to semester to tweak curriculum from lessons learned the previous semester. It may not be formal, but it’s a common informal assessment activity.

Also worth mentioning (with a link) came from one of the keynoters, Cameron Evans of Microsoft. He talked about the trend of trying to personalize learning experiences and showed a Microsoft vision video to illustrate. A final recommendation comes from a session I attended by Dr. John R. Dew, Back to the Future, where he updated the audience on 16 higher education trends he had presented at SACS-COC the previous year. The original article was in The World Future Review, Winter 2012, p.7-13 (restricted access to WFU).

I’ll close with a nod to the Music City honky-tonk vibes that permeated all around the downtown Nashville area:

"Honky-Tonk Heroes" Guitar Sculpture (?) on a Corner of Broadway

Susan at the Library Assessment Conference

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 5:30 pm


The University of Washington campus with Mt. Rainier in the distance

The Library Assessment Conference is held biennially and is the largest conference of its kind (with over 600 registrants). This year it is being held in Seattle at the University of Washington. This is my first time attending this particular conference and although I know that Assessment (with a capital A) is an enormous trend in academic libraries these days, it still was surprising to me to find that you could fill a three day conference with 27 “sessions” – each with 3 or more presentations, totalling over 100! And all about assessment! The sessions are divided into tracks (papers, panels and lightning talks) and each of these is themed (collections, methods, collaboration, space, teaching/learning, etc.). The Monday afternoon poster session contained 45 posters in 4 tracks. So it’s been a challenge to pick and choose what would be most valuable to bring back to ZSR (especially when the weather is unseasonably warm and some of the meeting rooms are not air conditioned). I have found the lightning rounds to be particularly useful since those have been typically case studies which give practical how-to’s on their projects. It didn’t take long to settle into the jargon: impact, value, metrics, data visualization, response rate, methodology, analytics, evidence-based decision making… well, you get the idea.

Rather than give a blow by blow, I’d like to highlight some things that caught my attention, link to some tools and articles that might be useful and show a few images from my tour of the library spaces (Research Commons and the newly renovated Odergaard Undergraduate Library). So many things were put out over the three days that I’ll need time to wrap my head around some of them, and this will help me! I have pages of notes so am glad to dig in more deeply if any of the concepts catch your fancy!

Keynote speeches were themed “Change” and here are a few excerpts (Three keynoters – Margie Jantti, Debra Gilcrist, and David Kay)

Jantti

  • Be an indispensable partner: demonstrable benefit to the university’s current and aspirational state.
  • What data is missing? What don’t we know, even with what data is put before us?
  • Active listening is key. We are guilty of pushing forward what WE think is important.
  • Students are the lifeblood of university budgets. We need data to better understand library’s impact on student risk and success.

Gilcrist

  • Creating a culture of inquiry is a philosophical viewpoint.
  • Contextualize everything we do within institutional priorities.

Kay

  • Do we use data to get to things that are self-evident?
  • Why is data king? Attitude, technology and necessity
  • Breakthrough areas: student success (learning analytics/student retention) and research metrics (altmetrics) have seized the moment -their communities have been eloquent in spinning their vision
  • Library analytics have remained fuelled by library and library community data, focused on processes (such as collection management) and constrained by application silos (such as ILS or the gate system)
  • Question: should we: 1. get whatever data we can and let it tell its story even if we don’t know what that might yet be or 2. collect only data specific to areas of interest or known to be useful?
  • Where will external data come from and how can it be woven with library data to tell the story?
  • Predicitve analytics will be part of the future of higher ed and libraries need to be involved in the design

Students

One theme I keep hearing about concerns involving students in assessment activities. Several schools have student advisory boards who are active, while other employ student assistants to carry out assessment projects. One example is Virginia Tech which has peer roving assistants who take photos (to document space use), conduct peer interviews, and do weekly seat counts. As one speaker said “If you really want to know how to fix it, talk to the people who are using it.” Peers can be useful for this (our Library Ambassadors?)

Nuggets from various sessions:

  • Information literacy takes place outside the library; this means collaboration is required.
  • Assessment can be part of daily work, can be integrated, but staff need to feel that additional data collection has meaning and purpose
  • Learn to use the same data source to answer short, mid and long term questions
  • Don’t wait for perfect data
  • Special Collections have metrics mayhem: a lack of standardization of definitions (what constitutes a use (item level, folder level, visit)?
  • Everyone presenting on space reports that students rate the biggest need (beyond more outlets) as more quiet study (and at one school, they wanted more tables)
  • Move away from assessing things and towards making decisions about things

Tours

Odegaard Undergraduate Library | 2012-2013 Renovation


Main Floor of the Odegaard Library


Active Learning Classroom (Check out the Setu chairs, just like ours)


Collaborative Writing Center/Research Center (saw 16,000 students in first year!)


Railing Detail (now this is a word cloud)

Research Commons


UW Research Commons


Dawg Prints


Snacks but No Deliveries

My favorite sighting during the tour of the Research Commons was how they handled the need for more outlets when they were unable to drill the floors (Special Collections is housed on the floor below):

Tools mentioned by presenters

Interesting Concepts/Links/Readings

I can’t sign off without mentioning the whole issue of recycling, which Seattle has taken to a new level (It was referred to by the Dean of Libraries as the “Land of Obsessive Recycling”). I actually had to study the charts to figure out how to dispose of my lunch leavings. And I wonder who is the poor soul who has to police the choices uninformed visitors make?

ARL New Assessment Professionals Seminar

Monday, March 24, 2014 8:54 pm

“Report Out” from the Space Group

I’ve worn many hats during my years at ZSR, but I was handed a new one this academic year – assessment. Yes, of course I’ve done some assessment in my day, I think we all have done it in some fashion or another. But until this year, I was never given the responsibility for an overall assessment strategy; my experience with it was more on an ad hoc basis, project by project and done formally only when required. So when I was appointed (not elected) as chair of the ZSR Library Assessment Committee last July, I knew the first order of business was to get myself up to speed. If you stay on top of your professional reading, you’ll know that “Assessment” has become one of the Big Topics in recent years as academic (and other) libraries are pressed to demonstrate their value in the changing information landscape.

For some time, ARL has been a leader in the assessment arena, so when I saw they had developed a brand new seminar, “Leading a Strategic Assessment Program in a Research Library: An ARL Seminar for Recently Appointed Assessment Professionals,” I didn’t hesitate to sign up. This was a good move because they capped the in-person seminar at 30 and already have a second one in November filled and a waiting list for future ones….. The seminar was an intensive two day program which was preceded by 3 preparatory assignments and a pre-session webinar. The assignments helped acquaint the seminar faculty (Martha Kyrillidou, Steve Hiller and Raynna Bowlby) with each participant’s current assessment level and with our key assessment issues. By the time we arrived in Washington, DC, they were ready to group the participants by themes that had emerged from everyone’s key issues. Not surprisingly, I was assigned to the “Space” group. The other groups were Collections, Engagement with Faculty Research, Strategic Data and Student Learning. The design of this arrangement allowed each group to discuss frame the various assessment topic around the issues most important to each of us.

They got things off to a good start with a “fireside chat” by three senior administrators (Liz Mengel, Johns Hopkins; Anne Moore, SIU; Gary White, U of Md). They each gave their perspectives on what they considered important to understand when discussing assessment. My takeaways from this include:

  • Assessment needs to be aligned with strategic plans/priorities of the institution
  • Assessment can’t be accomplished by a single person (our committee models spreads the support structure nicely!)
  • Data gathering is not assessment (which requires analysis and evaluation)
  • Organizational culture drives everything

Over the course of the first day, we reviewed basics ranging from sources of traditional library data (think IPEDS, NCES, ASERL), tools (LibPas is an example and is used by ASERL), to different associations and higher ed data collection efforts. Just when I was getting a bit overwhelmed we were told about useful assumptions:

  • your problem/issue is not as unique as you think
  • you have more data/information than you think
  • you need less data/information than you think
  • there are useful methods that are much more simple than you think

Being a fan of qualitative over quantitative, I was glad to hear that there is a move in assessment from inputs (focus on how big/how much) and outputs (focus on use) to outcomes (impact and value). It’s about time to move away from the idea of size as an indicator of excellence or usage statistics (of things like collections, facilities) as a meaningful measure. These don’t tell the story of what people did with them. They don’t tell you the “why.”

Another concept I want to think about is the idea of the preferability of using trend data over a snapshot because data over time has more of an impact in telling the real story of what’s going on.

We spent a great deal of time discussing methods and the importance of asking the right questions before you select an assessment method. A big question is asking what do you want to know? That will inform the method. For assessing space, some methods that are effective are observation, heat mapping, ethnographic, interviews and focus groups.

One of the things they recommended tackling early-on that we actually have started to do is to do a data inventory to find out what data is being collected and whether it is being used. That is a first step before you can talk about using data to drive decision-making.

There was so much more covered during the two days than I can cover here but if you are an assessment aficionado, let me know and I’ll buy you a Starbucks and fill you in on all the details. (Added 3/24: There are some interesting articles in a special issue of Library Quarterly by the keynote speakers at the 2010 Assessment Conference that give a great overview of some of the big topics)

At the end of the seminar we were given a final assignment – to develop a plan to strengthen library assessment in our organization. You may be hearing from me in the next few weeks as I work to accomplish this!

I’ll leave you with my favorite image from my DC visit (you have to know I would take an evening photo walk to the Mall to capture the sights!)

Vietnam Wall
Evening Reflections on the Vietnam Wall

Surveys in Libraries: ACRL-ULS Webinar

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 11:24 am

Yesterday a group of us (Lauren C., Lauren S., Thomas, Roz, Mary Beth and Susan) participated in the Surveys in Libraries webinar presented by the ACRL-ULS Evidence Based Practices Discussion Group. One of the goals for this year’s Assessment Committee is to take advantage of any educational opportunities that might help guide our assessment efforts to be more effective.

This webinar focused on using surveys to learn about patron perceptions about whether their needs are being met by services. Well-designed surveys can be useful to gather this type of information. Poorly designed surveys are a waste of everyone’s time.

Here are a few helpful insights I gained from the session:

  • Actionable surveys are those that ask the right questions, are focused and are designed to gather data that can lead to action to improve processes.
  • An Action Gap Survey might be a useful tool for us. In this type of survey you might select 10 services that we offer. Then you ask the participants to choose the 3 services they think we do well, the 3 that they think need to be improved and finally, ask which 3 are the most important. This can show if what we do well is important to them, and whether our efforts need to be directed at improvement if the service in question isn’t important.
  • Surveys should be simple and focused. There was no *real* ideal number of questions, but the speakers agreed that less is better.
  • Longer surveys tend to have a higher drop rate (think the long version of LibQual+). People get frustrated and/or bored when there are too many questions.
  • There was agreement that when using the Likert scale (is that pronounced Like-ert or Lik-ert?, look it up in OED), the ideal number of values is 5 (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree).

One speaker addressed the use of commercial survey products (Counting Opinions and LibQual), another talked about adding library questions into campus-wide surveys (which we have had a little success with to date). My take away on commercial versus home grown surveys is that they both have a place in our assessment efforts. The commercial ones allow us to compare our services against other academic library peers/aspirationals, while locally developed surveys can help us dig down to the actionable level.

If you are interested in viewing the webinar, it is available here.

Susan’s NCLA Conference Experience

Sunday, October 20, 2013 7:47 pm
Wanda Brown Opens the NCLA Biennial Conference

Wanda Brown Opens the NCLA Biennial Conference

The return of the NCLA Biennial Conference to Winston-Salem provided the perfect chance to become reacquainted with the organization and all the dedicated library professionals from across the state that work hard to plan and put on the conference. As we are all aware, Associate Dean Wanda Brown has been the NCLA President for the past two years. Working in the ZSR Administrative offices some 20 feet from Wanda guaranteed that I would be encouraged to participate in some fashion! I was delighted when Wanda asked me serve as the conference photographer. Armed with a photo schedule covering Tuesday’s pre-conferences through the closing session on Friday, I was off and running. Between the photo assignment, the two concurrent session presentations I gave and a stint on the local information booth, by Friday afternoon, I had a full immersion conference experience.

Lessons Learned: Through a Librarian's Lens from Susan Smith

What ZSR Library Does to Build Value/Sage Value Research from Susan Smith

Networking is always a highlight of conferences and I enjoyed reconnecting with many colleagues from around the state (and many locals who I don’t get to catch up with as often as I would like). It was gratifying to see the large number of young librarians who attended and overall the quantity of people who came (over 900).

Here is the slideshow of my photos that played during the first part of the closing session on Friday:

Designing Libraries II Conference

Thursday, October 10, 2013 6:59 am

View Toward the Rain Garden Reading Room
View Toward the Rain Garden Reading Room, Hunt Library

I joined Lynn at the Designing Libraries II for the main conference on Monday and Tuesday. It was my first chance to see Hunt Library and all the buzz I’ve been hearing for months was not exaggerated. As Lynn said, it wouldn’t be right for our campus and our students, but it is one impressive space! They have so much interest in the building and so many tour requests that they have a visitor experience librarian! She gave us a fantastic, in-depth tour of all the spaces and services and both Lynn and I have mental lists (probably different ones) of the things we would love to try out here someday.

The conference was excellent. It lasted for a full (read 12 hours) day and a half and we listened to speakers talk on topics ranging from vision to planning to assessment to design to building to operation. We heard from deans/vice provosts, architects, designers, facilities, and faculty. It was very invigorating particularly because we are ready to embark on the capital campaign and have big plans for transforming ZSR Library. The timing was perfect because we are returning with much food for thought and big wish lists! I took plenty of notes and just am going to touch on a few things in this post but would love to share more to those who are interested more details.

The tone of the conference was set by Susan Nutter, Vice Provost and Director of NCSU Libraries. Since she first arrived at NCSU 25 years ago, she had planned for a new library, and developed a grand vision. Now she has results that are wildly successful. Some of the big points I took away from her talk:

  • They have a “just do it” environment rather than one where things are studied for years. Staff are encouraged to take initiative and do things. She referred to operating in “student time” meaning a quick turnaround time on implementation.
  • Staff was key and this was done by changing the kinds of people they hired – position by position. They sought people who brought skills from other advanced degrees instead of library degrees. They looked for digital library skills, sci-tech backgrounds and people interested in management and leadership. They hired an in-house architect and interior designer.
  • Their fellows program helped recruit and became a game changer.
  • Their faculty and students own the library.
  • They used a design contest to select their architectural firm.
  • They reached for the stars on their technology plan.

Hunt Library Game Lab
The Game Lab at Hunt Library

Joan Lippincott from CNI (Coalition for Networked Information) provided some challenges and opportunities for planning new learning spaces.

Challenges:

  • It’s not just about the spaces. You have to bring together spaces, technologies, services and content.
  • Many staff need new skills to provide services in learning spaces
  • Staff need to break out of silos and work in teams
  • Outreach and promotion is important

Opportunities

  • You will be creating something that will engage students in deeper learning and preparing them for the work of research, business, public service and the arts
  • You will be celebrating the innovation and creativity of your academic community
  • You will realize the potential of collaborations and partnerships

She also recommended actions to take when planning

  • Involve newly tenured faculty in the planning process. They are closer to today’s academic environment and have the pressure of tenure track behind them.
  • Develop use cases for specific areas of the facility
  • Think about how new library spaces can enable curricular change

I was introduced to the Learning Space Toolkit and want to explore it more thoroughly to see how we might use it as we move forward.

I’ll end back on one of the big themes of the conference and that is the importance of vision in the process. It should be bold, it should be formulated early in the process and the leadership needs to believe it, explain it, defend it and get it right! We have been working on developing a vision for ZSR Library over the past two years. The WFU community will see our vision shortly as it is unveiled in the next few weeks. What we have at this very early stage is this core concept that we believe is right for our community’s future needs from a 21st century library. This conference was timed perfectly as we launch into the process to turn this vision into reality. It’s an exciting time!

Lynn and Susan Trying out the Furniture

Lynn and Susan at Hunt Library (photo by Lauren Pressley!)

 

Report from Susan’s Favorite ALA Annual Conference Site

Monday, July 1, 2013 7:27 am

ALA Annual Conference at McCormick Place

ALA Annual Conference 2013 @ McCormick Place, Chicago

I always prided myself (not sure why, but that’s probably just another of my issues) on staying on top of daily conference posts on this professional development blog. I find that I am better able to relay information in short spurts (hmm, maybe it’s my newspaper background in play?). And, I will admit to all of you who know me well, that I experienced some small sense of failure when I saw Hu’s Saturday conference post and read Lynn’s comment “you win the prize for the first ALA post”! I think I have fallen victim to the pervasiveness of social media that makes it so simple to snap a photo while sitting in a session or visiting the exhibit hall and then posting it immediately to Facebook with a very short explanation. I have been much more active on Facebook this weekend in capturing what I’ve been up to.

As you know from Hu’s and Thomas’ posts, we jumped right into action Friday afternoon by attending the LITA 101 program. Even though I’ve been active in LITA for many years, this was my first time at this session which is designed to introduce people to LITA. Usually, my plane doesn’t arrive in time to attend, but we had an early direct flight on Friday so were able to be there. It was very well attended and lots of good information was provided to new attendees.

If I had to pick my “themes” for this conference, they would be renovating spaces and assessment. I focused on these types of programs because we are trying to hone in on how to make our 5 year building plan a reality. Part of this has to do with learning as much as possible about how our spaces might be imagined. Another important component of enhancing the probability of making progress on this plan comes with assessment. We need to figure out what data will best support our plan and then how to use that data the most effective way. Since I will be on the ZSR Assessment Committee this coming year, it was useful to sit in on sessions that dealt with that.

Renovating Spaces: I attended an session with the interesting title “The Culture House.” This is a term used to describe the expansion of libraries beyond their original purpose: “in response to a world that is increasingly interconnected, and at the same time, limited in its resources, libraries are being combined with complementary, or even seemingly disparate, functions.” The speakers talked about their particular projects/libraries. My favorite project was the Bozeman Pubic Library and Scupture Garden that was a superfund site because the building renovated was an old asbestos filled train depot. It was the first LEED building in Montana and it was designed to be very integrated with the community through its exterior space that includes a sculpture garden and an outdoor plaza that is used for community events. They also have an active art collection that has 112 museum quality pieces that rotate. Their website has a great interactive map that shows their artwork locations. Another interesting project came from the Pike’s Peak Library System that is located in a 100,000 square foot building. The library only needed 30,000 SF so they found innovative ways to fill the space including creation labs (maker spaces), performance spaces and business incubation spaces.

I attended two LLAMA/BES sessions: the first was a panel discuss by previous winners of the biennial ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Award that recognizes projects that “demonstrate excellence in aesthetics, design, creativity, function, and satisfaction of the client’s objective.” The libraries in this program were Fleet Library at RISD (the 2008 winner for historical renovation; Office dA, Inc.),the Robert Woodruff Library at Atlanta University Center (2012 winner of single space, here a learning commons; Shepley Bulfinch) and the Anacostia Public Library (Public Libraries under 30,000 sf). This project was done by Freelon, the architectural group that is working with us on our new atrium floor.

The second session was about planning digital collaborative spaces. I particularly liked Jeff Vredevoogd’s (Director, Herman Miller Education) presentation. He talked about an interesting term that is used by Herman Miller – hub zones. These are what they call collaborative spaces and they do research to determine what makes a space “hubbable.” In research to determine what types of learning, working and socializing needs are driving the need for hub zones, they found this breakdown:

  • 72% collaboration group work
  • 36% individual work
  • 36% interactions /socializing
  • 33% computer/technology access
  • 26% meeting space

They also do an annual student video contest and last year’s question for the contest was “where’s your hub?” This year’s question is a really interesting one: “What makes a great learning space? You have 5 minutes with the president. What would you tell him?” (No comment on the fact the speaker used “he” when referencing the president…). He closed by offering the audience his insights on planning for collaborative spaces:

  • One size does not fit all
  • Focus on the user
  • Test small, think big
  • Right mix of technology and furniture
  • Learn from others
  • Next big thing may not be for you.
  • Blurring lines with corporate spaces
  • Think differently about specialty spaces
  • When you can…future proof.

Assessment: I am already way beyond my self imposed posting length limit, so I am going to skip discussing my assessment theme. I’ll save all that information (which would make some eyes glaze over anyway) and share it with this year’s Assessment Committee. I got several good ideas for approaches we might want to take. OK I’ll just mention one, which was a methodology that was new to me: VOC (Voice of the Customer). A group at Emory used this method to ‘deep dive’, in other words to get in-depth information more than you might get from some other methods. They also found that these individual interviews were easier to schedule than trying to form a focus group.

Finally, as usual, I also carved out a bit of time to check out the exhibit hall (which continues to inhibit me with its very vastness).

Riding the Escalators at McCormick Place

Conference attendees at McCormick Place with Exhibit Hall in the background

 


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