Professional Development

In the 'user studies' Category...

Leslie at MLA 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:48 pm

A welcome escape from the usual wintry rigors of traveling to a Music Library Association conference — mid-February this year found us in San Jose, soaking up sun, balmy breezes, and temps in the 70s. (Colleagues battered by the Midwest blizzards were especially appreciative.)

THE FUTURE OF SUBJECT COLLECTIONS
This was the title of a plenary session which yielded a number of high-level insights. For one, it was the first time I had heard the term “disintermediation” to describe the phenomenon of librarians being displaced by Google et al as the first place people go for information.

Henriette Hemmasi of Brown U analogized the MOOCs trend as “Diva to DJ”: that is, the role of the instructor is shifting from lone classroom diva to the collaborative role played by a disc jockey — selecting and presenting material for team-produced courses, working with experts in web development, video, etc. Her conclusion: 21st-century competencies must include not just knowledge, but also synthesizing and systems-thinking skills.

David Fenske, one of the founding developers of Indiana’s Ischool, noted that the rapid evolution of technology has rendered it impossible to make projections more than 5 or 10 years out (his reply to a boss who asked for a 20-year vision statement: “A 20-year vision can’t be done without drugs!”). He also observed that digital preservation is in many ways more difficult than the traditional kind: the scientific community is beginning to lose the ability to replicate experiments, because in many cases the raw data has been lost due to obsolete digital storage media. Fenske envisions the “library as socio-technical system” — a system based on user demographics, designed around “communities of thought leaders” as well as experts. Tech-services people have long mooted the concept of “good-enough” cataloging, in the face of overwhelming publication output; public-services librarians, in Fenske’s view, should start talking about the “good-enough” answer. Fenske wants to look “beyond metadata”: how can we leverage our metadata for analytics? semantic tools? How can we scale our answers and services to compete with Google, Amazon, and others?

PERFORMERS’ NEEDS
Some interesting findings from two studies on the library needs of performing faculty and students (as opposed to musicologists and other researchers in the historical/theoretical branches of the discipline):

One study addressed the pros and cons of e-scores. Performers, always on the go and pressed for time, like e-scores for their instant availability and sharability; the fact that they’re quick and easy to print out; their portability (no more cramming a paper score into an instrument case for travel); easy page turns during performance (a pedal mechanism has been devised for this). Performers also like an e-score that can be annotated (i.e., not a PDF file) so they can insert their notes for performance; and the ability to get a lot of works quickly from one place (as from an online aggregator). On the other hand, academic users, who work with scholarly and critical editions, like the ability of the online versions to seamlessly integrate critical commentary with the musical text (print editions traditionally place the commentary in separate supplementary volumes). Third-party software can also be deployed to manipulate the musical text for analysis. But the limitations of the computer screen continue to pose viewability problems for purposes of analysis. Academic users regard e-scores as a compliment to, not an alternative to, print scores.

Another study interviewed performing faculty to find out how they use their library’s online catalog. Typically, they come to the library wanting to find known items, use an advanced-search mode, and search by author, title, and opus number (the latter not very effectively handled by many discovery layers; VuFind does a reasonably good job). Performing faculty often are also looking for specific editions and/or publishers (aspects that many discovery interfaces don’t offer as search limits/facets). Performing faculty (and students) study a work by using a score to follow along with a sound recording, so come to the library hoping to obtain multiple formats for the same work — icons or other aids for quickly identifying physical format are important to them, as for film users and others. There is also a lot of descriptive detail that performers need to see in a catalog display: contents, duration, performers’ names.

Stuff a lot of music librarians have observed or suspected, but good to see it quantified and confirmed in some formal studies.

COLLABORATIVE COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT
This is a topic that has generated much interest in the library community, and music librarians have also been exploring collaborative options for acquiring the specialized materials of their field. Besides shared approval-plan profiles for books, and shared database subscriptions, music librarians have divvied up the collecting of composers’ collected editions, and contemporary composers whose works they want to collect comprehensively. Because music materials are often acquired and housed in multiple locations on the same campus, internal collaboration is as important as external. One thing that does not seem to lend itself to collaborative collection: media (sound recordings and videos). Many libraries don’t lend these out via ILL, and faculty tend to want specific performances — making on-request firm orders a more suitable solution. One consortium of small Maine colleges (Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin) divided the processing labor of their staffs by setting up rotating shipments for their shared approval plan: one library gets this month’s shipment of books, another library receives the next month’s shipment, and so on.

DDA
There was a good bit of discussion concerning demand-driven e-book acquisitions among colleagues whose institutions had recently implemented DDA services. On two separate occasions, attendees raised the question of DDA’s impact on the humanities, given those disciplines’ traditional reliance on browsing the stacks as a discovery method.

RDA
It was a very busy conference for music catalogers, as over a hundred of us convened to get prepared for RDA. There was a full-day workshop; a cataloging “hot topics” session; a town-hall meeting with the Bibliographic Control Committee, which recently produced a “RDA Best Practices for Cataloging Music” document; and a plenary session on RDA’s impact across library services (the latter reprising a lot of material covered by Steve and others in ZSR presentations — stay tuned for more!)

SIDELIGHTS
A very special experience was a visit to the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies (located on the San Jose State campus), the largest collection of Beethoveniana outside Europe. During a reception there, we got to play pianos dating from Beethoven’s time. Hearing the “Moonlight Sonata” up close on the model of instrument he wrote it for (Dulcken, a Flemish maker) was a true revelation.

Charleston Conference 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 5:53 pm

Seeing Lauren Pressley’s picture and book cover on the screen as an example of unglue.it gave me a moment of great pride during a plenary session at this Charleston Conference. We heard that there were 1500-1600 attendees, the most ever! E-book topics were definitely a theme and “big data” was mentioned in several sessions. A session on weeding, librarywide, was useful since the day will come when our storage facility is filled to capacity. And finally, a session on the Library Journal Patron Profiles gave Sue Polanka an opportunity to share some of her own observations relative to the results.

Regarding big data, I heard the success story of Duke University post-doc Heather Piwowar, who arranged with Elsevier to do text-mining of their whole corpus. (Heather had signed the boycott, but “believes that it is useful to work together.”) The big problems with big data are getting permission (Heather was “lucky” according to other speakers) and getting delivery — large loads of data are literally being shipped around the world. The fact that Heather is a post-doc means that in two years when she moves on, she won’t have the set she worked with at Duke and that is another problem.

Still on big data, I also went to a presentation by Hilary Davis (Associate Head, Collection Management, North Carolina State University Libraries) and Barrie Hayes (Bioinformatics and Translational Science Librarian, UNC Health Sciences Library). They said that storage and discovery, followed by access, are the biggest needs with big data. (Sound familiar?) They also said that being involved outweighs the risk for the libraries. They are working with research administrators, campus IT, and many library departments to tackle those needs. While UNC Chapel Hill uses Fedora with iRods,NSCU uses DSpace, like us. Easy i.d. and ORCA are used for identities (and I hope this means something useful to Thomas). Info sessions on campus have been successful (face-to-face and broadcast, and available for replay online). A data management committee at UNC is training subject librarians in how to talk about this topic with faculty. The last presentation slide has references and they have made good use of California’s DMPTool (data management plan tool) at both institutions. They first want the library to be a “collaborative campus connector” in 5 years and would like to work across the two institutions after that.

Carol and I take a divide-and-conquer tactic at this conference for the most part, but with standing room only in the hallway for one desirable session, we both ended up at the session on the state of the e-book industry. John McDonald (Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Claremont University Consortium) and Jason Price (Interim Library Director, Claremont Colleges Library) presented a lot of data, which should eventually appear on the Charleston Conference website. They also mentioned how hard it is if you have subscription e-books to exclude them from DDA offerings. That is why in our liaison meeting yesterday I was quite interested to hear the satisfaction of having one e-book supplier and one platform mainly. I was thinking we needed to explore subscription databases of e-books again, but as I mentioned, we would have to find out if the technology obstacles we saw in the past are still a problem or not. I’m glad Carol and I both were at the session because we can discuss future directions with common understanding of the current marketplace and the growth of HathiTrust and Google Scholar.

I mentioned that I also went to a session on librarywide weeding. One speaker, Pamela Grudzien (Head, Technical Services, Central Michigan University), was in Michigan and the other, Cheri Duncan (Director of Acquisitions & Cataloging at James Madison University) was in Virginia. Both used Sustainable Collection Services, but the situation in Michigan was a consortium-level project. (You’ve heard me mention SCS and we saw a webinar. You may recall that the idea is to use computer-driven matching to identify weeding candidates — titles of a certain age that are also held by many other libraries or in a trusted repository like HathiTrust.) The consortium added a dimension to this process, because they could agree to keep 3 copies of a title among the 7 members, allowing the others to weed their copies. A little “horsetrading” took place in determining retention commitments. One of the seven members in the Michigan consortium (CMU) was in the unique position of participating without space problems yet because they had 30 miles of compact shelving installed in a major renovation 10 years ago. CMU committed to keeping 204,000 volumes and Wayne State, 86,633. Remember this is just the commitments for unique titles or one of the agreed upon 3 copies, not the numbers of the entire library collection. The Michigan speaker noted that there is as much labor with the retention commitments as with the actual weeding. They used the 583 in the MARC record to document the retention, like we are doing with the ASERL commitments we’re making. The Virginia speaker explained the entire process at JMU, which included working over a period of years, a few subjects at a time. Business was first, followed by Education and Psychology. An aggregate 87% of titles identified by SCS were weeded (with wide variation of percentage at the subject level, naturally). They felt that this method was less disruptive to patrons and avoided an overload in Technical Services.

I’m just going to mention one more session that might appeal to many of you — Sue Polanka (Head, Reference & Instruction, Wright State University Libraries) and Lisa Carlucci Thomas (Director, Design Think Do) spoke about the new Library Journal Patron Profiles. The data from Academic Patron Profiles 2012 showed some of the same types of things that we learned from LibQual, but it seemed to me that there were more granular questions that targeted things we would like to know. And it seemed that it covered more than LibQual. Lisa said that “LJ is listening” and to let them know through her if we want to make the survey instrument available to individual libraries. I noted her email address, so ask me if you want it. Some observations that Sue has made in her own library that caught my ear: the personal librarian arrangement does not work as well as the subject librarian arrangement; make sure your link resolver is built into Google Scholar; put an IM widget not only in databases, but also the 404 error page and other webpages; focus as much on second year students as first year students.

This conference is always good, but this year seemed particularly on-target for our own planning here.

 

 

Leslie at MLA 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:08 pm

Music librarians are inured to battling winter weather to convene every year during February in some northern clime (during a Chicago snowstorm last year). So it was almost surreal to find ourselves, this year, at an island resort in San Diego in March (beautiful weather, if still a bit on the chilly side). Despite the temptations of the venue, I had a very productive meeting this year.

REFERENCE

In the Southeast Chapter session, it was announced that East Carolina’s music library had scored top place among music libraries participating in a national assessment, sponsored by the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program (WOREP), of effectiveness in answering reference queries. Initially, the East Carolina staff had misgivings about how onerous the process might be for users, who were asked to fill out a one-page questionnaire. As it turned out, students, when informed that it was part of a national project, typically responded “Cool!” and readily participated. The only refusals were from users who had to rush to their next class.

INSTRUCTION

A panel presentation titled “Weaving the Web: Best Practices for Online Content” resulted in a case of what might be termed the Wake Forest Syndrome: walking into a conference session only to find that we’re already “doing that” at WFU. It was largely about music librarians implementing LibGuides. One item of interest was a usability study conducted by one school of their LibGuides. Its findings:

Users tend to miss the tabs at the top. One solution that was tried was to replicate the tabs as links in the homepage “welcome” box.

Users prefer concise bulleted lists of resources over lengthy descriptions.

Students tend to feel overwhelmed by long lists of resources; they want the top 3-4 resources to start with, then to see others as needed.

Users were confused by links that put them into other LibGuides without explanation.

Students had trouble identifying relevant subject-specific guides when these were offered in a comprehensive list display.

One attendee voiced concern over an apparent conflict of objectives between LibGuides that aim to transmit research skills (i.e., teaching students how to locate resources on their own) and course-specific LibGuides (listing specific resources). Is the latter spoon-feeding?

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT

A panel presentation on scores approval plans gave me some useful tips, as I’m planning to set one up next fiscal year.

In another panel on collecting ethnic music, Liza Vick of Harvard supplied a gratifying number of acquisition sources that I didn’t know about (in case other liaisons are interested in these, Liza’s presentation, among others, will be posted on the MLA website: http://www.musiclibraryassoc.org). The session also produced an interesting discussion about the objectives of collecting ethnographic materials in the present era. Historically, libraries collected field notes and recordings done by (mostly European) ethnographers of (mostly non-Western) peoples, premised on producing the most “objective” or “authentic” documentation. The spread of technology in recent years has resulted in new situations: “sampler” recordings produced by the former “subjects” with the aim of representing their culture to a general public (once dismissed by academics, these now benefit from a new philosophy that views the ways people choose to represent themselves as worthy of serious attention); in the last twenty years or so, a new genre of “world” music has appeared, fusing elements of historical musical traditions with modern pop styles; and of course the former “subjects” are now documenting their own cultures in venues like YouTube. As a result, there is a movement on the part of ethnographers and librarians away from trying to define authenticity, and towards simply observing the ongoing discourse between traditional and modern communities.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lynn has remarked on the need to reduce the percentage of our collections devoted to print bibliographic tools where the online environment now offers equivalent or superior discovery methods. In an MLA session that seemed to constitute a demonstration of this very principle, musicologist Hugh McDonald talked about his work in progress on a born-digital thematic catalog of the works of Bizet. Thematic catalogs have a long and venerable history in print, as definitive sources for the identification and primary source materials of a given composer’s works. They typically provide a numbering system for the works, with incipits (the musical notation for the principle themes) as an additional aid to identification, and cite manuscript materials and early editions. When freed of the space restrictions of print, McDonald envisions these catalogs as “theoretically” (i.e., when copyright issues have been ironed out) capable of documenting not just early editions but all editions ever published; not just the premiere performance, but all performances to date; not just incipits but full-text access to scores, recordings, reviews, and correspondence – compiled and updated collaboratively by many hands, in contrast to the famous catalogers of Mozart and Beethoven, who labored alone and whose catalogs are now “seriously out of date.” There are already many websites devoted to individual composers, but none, McDonald claims, presently approaches the kind of comprehensive compendium that might be realized based on the thematic catalog concept. One attendee, voicing a concern about the preservation of information in the online environment that is certainly not new and not unique to music, wanted to know if edits would be tracked and archived, noting that many librarians retain older print editions on their shelves for the light they cast on reception history and on the state of scholarship at a given time.

HOT TOPICS

Arriving late for the “Hot Topics” session, I walked into the middle of a lively debate on the comparative benefits of having a separate music library in the music department vs. housing the music collection in the main library. Those who headed departmental music libraries argued passionately for the special needs of performing musicians, and a librarian onsite who speaks their language. Those who work as generalists in main libraries pointed to music’s role in the arts and humanities as a whole, and in the increasingly interdisciplinary milieu of today’s academe. In terms of administrative clout, a sense of isolation has always been endemic to departmental libraries: one attendee who “survived” a move of her music collection from the music department to the main library reported that she now enjoys unprecedented access to administration, more effective communication with circulation and technical services staff regarding music materials, and daily contact with colleagues in other disciplines that has opened opportunities she would not have had otherwise.

Another hot topic was “MLA 2.0″: in response to dwindling travel budgets, a proposal was made to ask conference speakers to replay their presentations in Second Life.

CATALOGING

There were presentations on RDA and FRBR, two new cataloging standards, and I got to see some helpful examples for music materials, and well as a report on “deferred issues” that MLA continues to negotiate with the steering committee of RDA (these involve uniform titles and preferred access points; lack of alternative options for the principle source of information – problematic when you have a CD album without a collective title on the disc, but one on the container; definitions and treatment of arrangements and adaptations; and LC genre/form terms for music – which to use anglicized names for, and when to use the original language).

Indiana U, in their upcoming release of Variations, a program they’ve developed for digitizing scores and recordings collections, is “FRBRizing” their metadata. Unlike other early adopters of FRBR, they plan to make their metadata structure openly accessible, so that the rest of us can actually go in and see how they did it – this promises to be an invaluable aid to music catalogers as they transition to the new standard.

Another presenter observed that both traditional cataloging methods and the new RDA/FRBR schema are centered on the concept of “the work” – an entity with a distinct title and a known creator. Unfortunately, when faced with field recordings (and doubtless other ethnographic or other-than-traditionally-academic materials), a cataloger encounters difficulty proceeding on this premise. Does one take a collection-level approach (as archivists do with collections of papers) and treat the recording as “the work,” with the ethnographer as the creator? Or does one consider “the work” to be each of the often untitled or variously titled, often anonymously or collaboratively created performances captured on the recording? Music materials seem to span both sides of the paradigmatic divide, with Western classical repertoire that requires work-centered descriptors of a very precise and specialized nature (opus numbers, key, etc.) and multi-cultural research that challenges traditional modes of description and access.

Finally, I’ve got to share a witty comment made by Ed Jones of National University, who gave the introductory overview of FRBR. Describing how FRBR is designed to reflect the creative process – the multiple versions of a work from first draft through its publication history, to adaptations by others – he noted how the cataloger’s art, working from the other end, is more analogous to forensics: “We get the body, and have to figure out what happened.”

It’s all about U: The ASERL-Auburn Forum on Library User Studies

Friday, August 1, 2008 1:22 pm

Yesterday I attended the ASERL-Auburn Forum on Library User Services. As usual, I took copious notes and posted them to my blog. If you’re interested in reading more I’ll put the links at the bottom of this post. To keep it interesting, I’m posting the main points here.

this is where we're meeting tomorrow

There were four big take aways for me:

  1. Assessment is very important.
  2. User research will make our services/collection/building/web presence better.
  3. A little bit of time, invested early on, can save time later on.
  4. Successful programs at other places won’t necessarily be successful in every organization. Best to talk with users before implementing new things.

The day was packed (but not too rushed) with great presentations talking about everything from the practical to the more theoretical. We heard about trends in user services, usability testing and user studies on how students do research, we learned about how Rochester did their anthropological studies and how the University of Virginia built a culture of assessment, we heard about the fabulous work done at Georgia Tech that positioned them to win the 2007 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award and how statistics can be useful in evaluating services.

This was particularly good timing for me as I have been thinking more lately about usability and talking with users about their experience on the web side of things.  This forum addressed the same issues in a much wider way. Interestingly, many people come to user studies/experience through web usability or space design. People see how useful studying these issues can be and then begin to apply the principles to a broader spectrum of library work.

It also became clear to me that in order to effectively implement broad scale user studies, a library would need some level of processes in place. User studies appear to happen largely before the prototyping phase, during development, and after implementation. Having clear stages of development makes it easier to incorporate user studies.

Now for the detailed notes:

This is the introduction to the day.

This really interesting talk focused on trends found in a recent study of research libraries.  A fair amount of the talk was on instruction, which was particularly interesting to me in my instructional design role. He echoed much of what the ID world has been saying about blended learning, collaborative student work, facilitator teaching, etc. Good talk!

John Law, of ProQuest, gave this fantastic talk on a study of student research behaviors. It was an excellent study, from recruiting participants to meeting them where they were. He used some really excellent software as well. He had some interesting points about the different roles that Google and databases play in student research.

This talk described the work that Georgia Tech has done in their library and the way they incorporated user studies in their work. He talked about the space, marketing, and studies, and generally set us up for our tours of the space.

This talk was on the fabulous work done at Rochester. They’ve done some amazing work that I suspect would be fairly applicable here based on the similarities between our schools. Interesting stuff!

This panel included Joe Williams of NCSU, Erin Mayhood of University of Virginia, and Brian Mathews of Georgia Tech. Each instituition is doing really excellent work, and I wish we had more time to hear from each of these speakers.

It was a great forum. If you want to talk about user studies and services, just let me know!


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