Report from Computers in Libraries Conference: Knowledge Sharing

Computers in Libraries 2014

A Report by Samuel W. Russell

April 7th-10th, 2014 Washington D.C.


In this report on a recent conference he attended called Computers in Libraries, the author would like to first give credence to the origin of the thoughts that are compiled herein.  This report serves as an abstract of the Computers in Libraries Conference held at the Washington Hilton.  A digital recording of the conference was done for the keynotes and some of the breakout sessions.  Any quotes used in this report, were recorded as the author heard them and were not double checked against a transcript of the event or against the digital recording. Also of note, this report is not presented in a chronological order; instead, it is presented in a way that the author thought best conveyed the ideas presented in the conference, while also picking up and advancing certain themes. For clarification sake: The ideas expressed in this report are not necessarily those of the author.  He has done his best to provide sufficient use of quotations where appropriate, but the ideas that run through here are all paraphrased and wrapped up in a different format than those from their original contributors.


Keynote 1:

Hack Libaries: Platforms? Playgrounds? Prototypes?

David Weinberger – Co-Director Harvard Library Innovation Lab  

In his speech opening the conference, David spoke of three paths to a future with less anticipation. The first path is platform; the library will still have a portal, but it will become one of many applications that the library provides. The library has open data, and by continuing opening up the data the library can incorporate user reviews and notes into their online platform.  The library should enable people to have access to data as if it was theirs. Developers can do stuff with the data that has been made available by the library, and make it available to the community. The hope here is that the libraries cost of providing services will go down. He provided an example of this from his experience at Harvard; they have created a tool calledLibrary Cloud that harnesses the power of APIs to provide access to library data.

Another tool that David spoke of wasStacklife which is currently a prototype being developed by Harvard. Stacklife is an alternative OPAC where the books are highly contextual in their arrangement. All of the books in stacklife are varying shades of blue based on their usage.  Getting back to his point about open data, David said “If you don’t like Stacklife… change it. The data is there, it is an open platform.” Community engagement goes into continuous enhancement which feeds back into community engagement.

The next open source item that he shared was the Awesomebox. The value of this box is that you can easily find out what books your users think are “awesome.” This can then go into the usage statistics.

So what is Linked Open Data? David provided a quick description: “If you have two bunches of data from two sources and a metadata system. A computer can look at the two schemes, but can’t because the two metadata schemes are not identical. Linked data allows you to link to a definition which allows the computers to connect based on definitions.” Linked data allows for creating clouds and communication much quicker. Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard were awarded a grant in 2013 for linked data. There project is called Linked Data for Libraries.

Linked data can help us to build graphs to show relationships. A library graph can expose the dense relationships that libraries know about. Libraries can provide that much needed infrastructure. A graph can take in new information without changing the schema.

“To hack libraries, we need to hack the future.” By hacking the library, a library can do what it has always done- preserve and disseminate knowledge. Libraries have the ability to guide us to sources that we would have trouble finding otherwise.  We are able to feed information into the community, and they in turn can feed information back into our system. With all of this data and information, we need more curation; curation is filtering forward.  Libraries can guide us to sources, and evaluate sources, and show us new sources, and challenge us with sources.

Weathering the Virtual Library: C101

Adriana Edwards

Adriana works in the Pioneer Library System of Oklahoma which opened in 1958 and serves a three county area.  They have eleven branches, seven information stations, one virtual library, and 350 employees. In May of 2013 Oklahoma, and more specifically for the purpose of her discussion the Pioneer Library System,  had three days that changed their response to everything: May 19th, 20th, & 31st.

Numerous tornadoes impacted their service area. On the 20th, the National Weather Service sent out a message that they knew something was coming, but didn’t know when. The  library had to respond internally, for the staff, and externally, for those they serve. In the moment, the library needed to be in a state of mind to get messages to their staff and to public. Adriana was trying to monitor social media; in particular, she was keeping up with hashtags such as #OKWX (Oklahoma weather extreme) but this involved knowing what all of the tags meant.

The number one thing that people want after a national disaster is to get in touch with loved ones. Librarians are in a great spot to help with this, as they already serve in a public institution where people come and gather to find information.

In the aftermath of the storm, there were several challenges. Phone service was not reliable, and so people needed to have a backup plan. With problems to the electrical grid,  the library was left without their web server and email server to send messages to the community; it took four days to restore the internet.  It seemed as if the library voice was  lost in the noise. There were so many people saying that they could help, but what could the library do?

The library could do what they do best: information gathering and access. They decided to vet information about reliable help and utilized google crisis map, taking the  data and putting  it in a text format.  There were plenty of outside “Do-gooders” who all wanted to help, but didn’t know best how.  Another question arose, How do you work out meeting the needs of the  affected community, while also reconciling the needs of the community that was not affected in the storm? Another way of describing the question, she phrased, is “What if the worse case scenario only hits part of the library’s area?”

Other means of assisting during and after the crisis done by the library include: the library director getting a message out to the library user community; developing sources for people to find tornado relief information; the library sharing, retweeting, and responding peoples needs- especially with regards to people’s loved ones; figuring out what to do with all of the material damaged during the tornado; adding power strips throughout the library so that people could recharge their devices (this was not used as much as they were expecting); found all of the obituaries for children and went through library records and got rid of books on their account because the library wanted to take a holistic view of their long term impact (This was done because the return process goes through a collection agency after a certain point.). Adriana stressed that Anything you do now… will have an impact for what people know later on.”

Since May 2013, several things have changed in the Pioneer Library System. They have moved to a remote hosting of their website, EZ proxy, ILS, calendar, and SMS.  They are also developing a master plan for their system and working on developing an off site backup for their virtual servers.

In summation, Adriana left us with many good thoughts. “The work you do now with your social tech will allow you to get your voice out better in the case of an emergency.” Virtual services have a place with on ground response.” Most importantly, “Know that life still goes on.”When a disaster strikes, know where people live so that we can discharge items that most likely will not be returned. Lastly, look at what role your library can play in the physical and virtual space to help people have reliable information in a time of crisis.


Rock your Library’s Content with WordPress: B102

Chad Haefele and Chad Boeninger

The focus of this presentation was on using WordPress on a large scale library website, but, to get there, some basic knowledge needed to be given so that the audience could fully invest in the conversation.  So, What is wordpress?

WordPress is a  content management system which makes creating a web page more like writing a word document. When organizing a wordpress website, there needs to be content management strategy. There are two types of wordpress accounts that can be created: .org and .com. is an open source product, is done with MySQL and with PHp, and allows for much more customization. does everything for you, but has less flexibility.  Wordpress keeps track of revisions of your pages.

One of the interesting things that were done with their library page include creating a “places to study page” which allowed the students to find best places to study based on their particular needs.

WordPress has numerous plugins available for use on their website. It was suggested to use plugins at your peril, but they do offer a much needed functionality.  Some of the plugins that the panelist found beneficial for their site were: Formidable Pro, used to manage contacts and forms; Elegant Themes; Press Permit– it was suggested that everyone should probably have this plugin;  Types, which allows for the creation of groups, taxonomies, and custom post types; shortcodes which create a short code that allows you to update your content once and pull it into all relevant material.

Security is a big issue on wordpress.  “If wordpress tells you that there is an update to their site, take the update.”

Chad Boeninger next went into using wordpress as a research guide.   The first thing we need to think about is how to organize content. WordPress is very flexible, but you need to know what you want it to do.  For the purpose of the content you want to deliver should you create a page, install a  plugins, write a  post, or just add a tag. Some of the suggestions that Chad gave include: Tags reserved for topics; Tag the name of the database; Every category gets a unique ID; Categories are broad, tags are specific.

So, how do we promote and maintain content? We have to make sure that students can find content easily.  To do this he suggested some Plugins: Dynamic Content Gallery allows for easy input of data and for featured vs. unfeatured content; Related Post– a relativity algorithm based on categories, tags, titles, and keywords; Broken Link Checker;  Jetpack maintains stats through site.

This discussion closed with a few remarks.  They suggested reading  Trust Agents by Chris Brogan to further understanding on this subject. One idea that I thought really beneficial from their talk was when answering your emails and research questions, treat them as a blog post so that you can add them to your site. This will help more people than just the intended audience.  Wordpress is extremely flexible, and allows users to experiment for free.

Moving Ideas Forward: C103

John Liehardt and James Stephens

As a profession, we need to learn to experiment. Creative whims are good, but you have to have feedback from your customers. “Creativity is required to create long lasting processes.” They suggested reading Creative Confidenceby David M. Kelley and Tom Kelley.

Three questions for developing a project were encouraged to think about before getting started: Is it technically feasible?; Is it feasible from a business standpoint?; and Does it make people sense (Do people want it)?.

Go to researchers and find out what their needs are? Organizations need to empathize with users and determine pinpoints. Get into interviews and surveys to engage users and what they think about what you are doing. Ask about information as a whole. Try and find out what the patron needs. Patrons are good at telling you what they need in their field, but not necessarily what they need as a whole. “The more patrons you speak to, the more their needs come into focus.”

Get a product in front of people as soon as you can, and get immediate feedback from customers. Don’t worry about failure; the earlier you find out a failure the better.  A minimum viable product should be functional, not perfect, not of high quality, have only critical features, and used to get feedback for what customers think. A smoke test allows you to pre-order a product to get an idea on how popular an idea might be. Get products in people’s hands.

Statistics need to be actionable, audible (before starting project, discuss what statistics you will use), and accessible.

Keynote 2:

Hacking Strategies for Library Innovation

Mary Lee Kennedy – New York Public Library

Mary Lee Kennedy spoke of multiple areas of benefit for hacking strategy in the library. To start with, the library must look at what we bring as an institution to the environment we are a part of.   She focused in on three areas to focus on for library hacking. First, a library needs to identify target areas of opportunity. This involves identifying the things we do best, things others do best with us, be rational in our identification and not focus on our passions only, and realize that the opportunity is the job that needs to be done. Make changes even when we don’t know what the outcome will be. Have some fun. Children are sponges that learn through play, and libraries will gain confidence to move forward as they keep experimenting and playing around. .

She then shared some of her experiences from the New York Public Library. There are around 8.3 million people in New York of which 5.4 million use the public library through the web, social media, or by walking in. New Yorkers speak numerous languages, and are part of a global community.  This provides a huge opportunity for outreach.

What does it mean to be public? Everyone deserves access to information. We are part of a community that is building this as we go. We are hacking and building together to improve.

What is a library? For many people libraries are books, archives, images, and documents. They can also be safe places where people come to learn together; people come to reflect and learn together.  “Libraries are the delivery room for ideas,” Norman Cousins.

They wanted to figure out what their target area and community was? They began by looking at user behavior and realized that there were 47,000 user data points to look through.

One thing that they realized was that libraries need to do a lot with reading. After realizing that only 26% of students grade 6-8 met reading skill standards last year, they realized that there was an opportunity for outreach with story telling sessions. There was also an opportunity to help their patrons by embarking on learning english, new technology, and how to code.

Ms. Kennedy then went to speak of strategies for innovation.  She asked a question: How do we make knowledge accessible? Knowledge requires a conversation this allows the participants to discover things that “you know that I don’t know.” One example of a project for making knowledge accessible was the NYPL Map Warper. Maps have been collected since 1898, and most people are fascinated by the stories associated with the maps. New Yorkers took the project and made it a game. The consequence of this was that library patrons did the work in a few days that would have taken the library staff months to do. Another project was working with NPR to make great finding aids for childrens books.

We should think about turning the library inside out, or taking the library out. Where should the library be going? There are numerous opportunities available. Wikipedia-edit-a-thons present a great opportunity for people who know a lot about information in a world where people go to Wikipedia as a  first source of information. A second opportunity is Hack-a-thons where libraries can address the question of creating communities where we create sense of all of this information. We have deep roots in our neighborhoods, and libraries can help connect those roots. NYPL is also working with Zooniverse to create a transcription engine. Zooniverse asks the question of how different groups look at scientific material: kids, public, students, scholars, and scientists.

Hacking the library inside out doesn’t have to be high tech. Their junior scholars program allows people to come and learn history. The library is part of a larger community. Work with actors, and producers to put material into a story. We need to get inside the life of the people who live in the communities we serve. An example of this is Bit by bit by the Brown Institute for Media Innovation and the Columbia Journalism School.

All of this should spark connections.  We are part of a network ourselves; we are part of a constantly evolving environment. As such, libraries should focus on what we do best and assist with what other people do better with us.

NYPL has even gotten into broadband lending. They realized that 27% of users don’t have access to internet, so they are looking out lending out mi-fi devices. They did this after examining their role in the greater community. The New York Public Library has also partnered with My Library NYC where they collaborate with schools to develop teacher sets and subject sets. The sets are delivered to schools. They are working on how to embed this into packages.

In closing, libraries should “target opportunity with passion and use your head to make sure you are doing the job that you need it to do.”  “Hacking starts with encouraging a culture of innovation.”


App Hacking & Packing Subs in your mobile: A201

Sarah Berg and Rodrigo Calloni –

Sarah Berg began the conversation about packing subscriptions into your mobile library by talking about electronic subscriptions. As we know, electronic subscriptions are very expensive, remain invisible unless you put them in peoples faces, have unlimited 24/7  and user wide access, they also require a lot of promotion, and there are lots and lots of passwords to remember. The target audience for their project is an International Development Bank that has 48 member countries with 26 borrowing members and 26 country offices.  32% of their library’s potential users are in other countries who need timeliness and precise information.

Connecting users  to electronic sources is not that simple. Their challenge was to design something simple with a single account and password. There was a problem convincing vendors about allowing access because of their international needs and a lack of a fixed IP address. The IADB library also encountered bandwidth restrictions that were not very fast and working on building platforms. Lastly, they wanted their apps to work on several devices across several platforms.

Their plan was to use apps to promote electronic subscriptions and promote the apps as apps provided by the library. The plan was simple: build an app using HTML 5 and add an image created using microsoft paint. The last part of the plan was to finish the project with an install apps campaign.

As this discussion was recorded (a link was provided in the title of this discussion), I won’t get into the details of the code they wrote.  I will stress again that it was rather simple, and contained a refresh in the code that took users directly to the page that they wanted. The app had to be simple so that people could access it.

In addition to having the app they need to hardwire it into people’s phones, thus they started a campaign. It is good that bank community knew that the apps were provided, and made by, their library.  Their campaign had four prongs: Mobile stands, webinars, QR code with frame to EZ proxy, and had ads on company TVs highlighting different apps. The mobile stand was a table set up in the cafeteria around lunch time that had a rotating team of people to man it. The team would help bank staff to install apps on their devices. The library used webinars to reach out mostly to their international partners. These webinars allowed for the facilitation of conversations. Since QR codes act as barcodes for websites these could be easily set up everywhere. Lastly, the ads on the company allowed for maximum output with minimal input.

Implementing an Innovation Corner: A202

Stacy Bruss – NIST Library

After providing some background about the NIST library, Stacy provided a definition of innovation as context for the rest of the discussion. Innovation is an act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods. Nothing is done in a vacuum. There are numerous innovation centers in academic libraries, so they wanted to see about getting one at the NIST library. Having a desire for a center allowed us to see what kind of desire there was for usage.  So they started out with a “Library Innovation Corner” in  their reading room

The innovation corner started with 3D printers. They did this because they wanted to support research needs of customers, enable innovative research, and replicate existing parts. All of this supported information access as the library is a known shared use resource.  People don’t need full time use, just part time use of the printer.  Every use of library is a transparent cost to users. The library was looking for sources that users could implement cheaply and easily. They found that their customers preferred ease of use.

Special considerations had to be taken because this was an unknown technology to the library. The first consideration was ongoing maintenance to the machine.  Most of the maintenance they found could be done in house, but they still needed to bear in mind what is needed for deep cleaning. The second consideration was the location because of smell and noise concerns.  Another issue was safety, for the users and the investment, so they provided basic safety equipment. The last issue was that the library wanted to provide 24/7 access to the printer. To make 24/7 access possible, every authorized user has to go through an information class on the manual.

They also placed 3D scanners in their innovation corner. With 3D scanners, they could more easily replicate and modify existing objects. With all of this new technology, they created a 3D Users Group. Everyone can come onto site and share ideas, objects created, and research.

The last item discussed in the talk that was added to the innovation corner was a visualization computer. Data visualization is becoming increasingly important, and it does support their customer needs.  The visualization computer will act as a collaborative zone as people can sit down and play with software, such as Graphic Design Software, that they don’t necessarily want installed on their computer.

Their program was successful. They were able to get the word out about the program on the library’s blog, in digital newspapers, and the newspaper for the agency. Their customer response was good.  They did training and orientation sessions for librarians, summer students,  and new employees. They also created a panel of data visualization power users who could be there to help users at different times.

The NIST library learned several lessons from their implementation of an innovation corner:


  • Librarians need to think like innovators: Think big, start small
  • Continual innovation not instant perfection: Don’t hold back
  • Never fear to fail
  • Consistent Investment of money and labor is important
  • Be agile: Innovation is not done best in committees, rather small teams are better for specific projects
  • Start with physical technologies
  • Create buzz: learn and use technology in public, even when staff is learning how to use it. This will help to get ideas of what questions will be asked when fully implemented. And lastly,
  • Connect to the public



Good Not Perfect: D205

Andrew Shuping – Mercer University Libraries

Alternate title: Perfection is the enemy of Good

When thinking about a project, think about in terms of art.  One more addition can ruin the piece. Perfection is impossible to define, so for most projects in the library it is better to get them done rather than for them to be perfect.

Why do we have a focus on perfection? Because we heard about it growing up, that practice makes perfect? No, practice makes better. Giving 110% does not equal perfection, so what happens when we don’t get the results we want? Do we cry? NO

It often feels like we have something watching over us.  Don’t get hung up on mistakes, most people are more concerned with content than mistakes. Remember that things will get cut in the final product. If perfection is important, think about launching something as a beta.  Gmail was in beta for five years before they finally dropped that label. Put things out there to see if they work like you thought they would.  Even if it is not tech oriented, such as a Learning Commons. Call things a pilot and people are more ok with mistakes.

Think about when your content will be updated again. Cut things that don’t matter to save time and money. Stop saying that perfection is the ideal; completion is the ideal.  Still give 110%. Be willing to fail. “Failure is not a bad thing.  Failure is always an option;” learn from it and explore other possibilities. Let others know what went wrong and why, and find good support. Don’t forget to play along the way, and recognize that errors happen.  When making a team, be aware of what you can’t do and add people to complement your skills.  Have open and honest conversations. Know what you must have for the project. Set clear expectations on what you want and tell people up front.

Keynote 3:

Tactical Urbanism: Lessons for Hacking the Library

Mike Lydon – Street Plans

When we think of changing cities and spaces there are two major components: planning and open streets.  A lot of people don’t want to necessarily go to city hall at 6:30 on a Tuesday night. This tends to disengage people from the planning process.  By repurposing the  streets temporarily for other purposes, we can get a sense of benefit to the community. Often times projects start with people just going out and doing projects that aren’t sanctioned. There can exist a tension between what we have and what we want.

Bring people along in a process. Start small and learn as you go, but be tactical and strategic. There are three aspects of tactical urbanism: municipality and organizational involvement; development; and judging results. All of this can happen through citizen led leadership. Citizen led leadership can be unsanctioned citizen action as was the case in North Carolina where Matt Tomasulo set up signs encouraging the community to walk by showing the distance to different locations throughout the city.  Once you give people a place to hang out and linger, retail sales will increase around the area. Build political will doing the temporary, and go from temporary to permanent.

What does this have to do with libraries? People have a notion of what a library is. In popular consciousness, people don’t understand the role of what libraries can do in their community as third places; people come to collaborate. We can work tactically by bringing planning to people like in the little free library project.

How is information shared openly? Most of Mike’s work takes place in a city. He compared the city to the internet and said in many ways they are alike.  Think about all of the connections that happen in a city. “If the city is the original internet, then the library is it’s server.” All of the information is stored in the library.

Mike closed with several recommendations: Embed Tactical Urbanism into information delivery process; Pilot test public engagement ideas and tools; focus on place making- improve the interface between library, city , and citizen; Use existing initiatives and find people who will help multiply the work; lastly, scale down to scale up.

Suggested Reading: Tactical Urbanism and The Great Inversion

Hackers in the Library: D301

Sarah Shujah & Gabby Resch –


“These libraries have improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in defense of their privileges.” Ben Franklin Autobiography

Hosting a hackathon in the library provides opportunities for discussing and developing new approaches to research, engaging students to explore critical info literacy issues, fostering iterative and collaborative coding practices. Libraries have access to material that is more open than most places in society.

The panel discussed the subject of why libraries should host hackathons by stating that there is an increased need to discuss the political role of technology and the technological mediation of our everyday lives. Libraries can bring attention to this to the public.

“Critical making” in libraries should focus on process of making. This process is a shared collaborative process of making that promotes exercise and use of material. The process brings together collaborative making with process of making, and runs parallel to methods for thinking and doing making. The ideals for critical making are: Critical thinking vs. critical making; Knowledge exchange; Innovation and research; Experiential education; and Open access.

They offered several tips for hacking the library space. Establish dedicated space- but not necessarily a “maker space” such as in the main reading room. Build relationships with faculty and staff by getting them involved with hackathons, collaborating between disciplines, and setting up a mentorship program to make the projects support available for the long term. Build upon history of libraries and the library’s connection to broad social and cultural issues and needs. Create an agenda that fosters critical literacies- not just digital literacy. A projects aim and themes should focus on digital and material engagement, the projects should also engage with collection at hand.

The library and faculty put together a video of their past hackathons to encourage the event in the future, and higthlight the success and fun that participants had. The video can be found at  With critical making, we were looking for process not end results. The critical making agenda  was collaborative focused, encouraged mentorship from the University, and incorporated the collections. More about the event can be found at Suggestions were offered about possible hacking events that could be focused around creating apps or reworking the campus map. Groups were able to get feedback and there was lots of discussion.

Other examples of hacking events included working with ten year olds in their science class. Kids were playing flappy birds with gummy worms in one hand and then closing the loop of conductivity. One of my personal favorites was an adult oriented event designed with a running exhibit on Mesopotamia. 3D print models were installed where people would build objects for a city designed around a grid.

They ended their discussion with several points.  Hackathons are about  more than just skills development, digital literacy, or citizen science; they foster critical thinking and engagement with topical issues. Focus less on products and more on process. Anticipate future process of engagement. There has to be more than just a blinking light.  It has to go beyond STEM education. Stress critical information of digital literacy.

Dealing With Data: From Research to Visualization: E302

Christopher Belter – NOAA

Christopher began with overview of the visualization process which he said has a lot of exploration and ideration, and is not a linear process. The process starts with getting data. Quality of data is absolutely essential; 70-80% of time is spent collecting and cleaning data. The next step is to tell a story. “Visualization is a medium of communication,” so as a visualizer it is essential to figure out what story your data is trying to tell. He noted that the story does not need to be known at the outset. The third step is to select visual cues: Position, Angle, Shape, Color, Categories, and Amounts. “The more cues you add, the less focused your story becomes.” This brings us to the last step: focus on the story. Manipulate how the image is viewed to make it easier for the audience to understand.

Christopher provided numerous examples from his work on what can be done with data in his powerpoint that accompanied the presentation.   He stressed that data visualizers should strip away anything that isn’t essential to telling the story.

Hacking the Library with Augmented Reality!: A304

Ashley Todd-Diaz and Earl Givens, Jr. – Emporia state

Their project started with observations. They observed that there was a lack of familiarity with available resources and technology which included a language barrier in some respects. They also found that text based exhibits can overwhelm students.  As students live in a very visual culture, students do not sit and read all the labels.  It was decided to try and bring more life to the exhibits by allowing students to interact with them on their mobile devices.

A goal was set to provide patrons with the opportunity to better explore and interact with spaces and artifacts. The first thing to do was to expand the functionality of existing technology through Wi-fi networks, tablets, and mobile phones.

Augmented Reality has no universally accepted definition. It enhances the world around us by providing additional information.

There are a couple mobile applications that deal with Augmented Reality: Aurasma and Layar.  Aurasma is open source, requires a membership, and also requires that users “like” your account to view auras. Aurasma has a steep learning curve, limited video size, a lot of steps for users to access content, and only recognizes the overall shape of a picture – not photo details. Layar has a system where you pay per page, no membership is required, and users download the app. There is a cost for Layer depending on which service you would like to get ranging from $0 (with ads) up to $4000 a year.

The process for implementation was rather simple as the majority of the project completed with mobile technology: Pictures taken with iPad, Videos shot with iPad, Video edited with Camtasia, and Files loaded with iPad. They wanted to give students space to work with when librarians weren’t there.  Some of the main problems they encountered still dealt with technology. They decided to help by creating layer app to allow students to learn.  They found that students do not like videos going longer than one and a half minutes.

The special collections and archives department is now using this app to make their exhibits interactive and to learn more about the holdings.  People liked seeing connections to objects.  They also created pages for instructing patrons how to use different technology through instructional videos. As a result of this project, the whole university is using the ap now to market.

Rethinking and Retooling Academic Research: C305

Crystal Renfro and Mary Axford – Georgia Institute of Technology

Crystal and Mary began by researching their users with the goal of focusing on increasing user productivity. What they found was that time was key constraint for researchers, efficiency is a partial solution for time constraints, and that there is a wealth of digital data in many different formats makes managing info more problematic.

Personal knowledge management is an iterative process that involves finding information, making sense of the noise around us, synthesizing information, and clarifying relations by adding our own thoughts. Part of their focus was on supporting graduate students. For many, this was the first time doing research for publication and they needed help managing competing areas of responsibilities. To help with this, Crystal and Mary collaborated with the Graduate Student Association to develop focused classes on Graduate Library User Education. Students were able to get a communication certificate by attending walk in workshops that are an hour to an hour and a half in length. At the end of each workshop, students worked on a capstone project that demonstrated communication skills. Special classes were also developed on useful topics such as productivity skills that had an accompanying libguide.

They also use this opportunity to support the work of faculty and staff. They do this by having a technology exploration committee brown bag lunch where they discuss new tools that might be of interest to library staff. Crystal and Mary also use their blog to reach out to the community.  The blog is used for filtering tools to information on a given topic, mentioning common sources, and keeping students and professors afresh on the latest information in personal knowledge management.

In the productivity survey that was conducted they targeted people following program to see what was working and what wasn’t.  They found that people were doing the exercises which had a positive benefit on changing their workflow. Research management tools help people from idea all the way through publication. They found that by doing blog and classes that there are ways to reach further into campus. “You never know what can be outreach and how you can reach your community.”


Lessons from Law Librarians

I recently had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion with Law Librarians from around the D.C. area.  The event was held at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.  The panelist included: Robin Foltz, Kate Martin, Ellen Santos, Todd Weaver, and Kate Wilko.  After hearing some of their advice, and thoughts, I wanted to share them with you, my friends. As a side not for reading this: anything in quotes is a note that I took and not an exact quote from a panelist. Though I can’t remember who exactly said what, I’ll synthesize all of my notes into as a coherent post as possible.

One of the speakers talked about certain themes that she thought made a good Law Librarian.  I would extend that further into making a good Librarian in general, or, more universally, into a good employee, co-worker, boss, manager, colleague, student, and any other relationship structure where community is built. The five themes she talked about are: 1.) Value Self; 2.) Value Profession; 3.) You have a lot to give; 4.) Everyone has something to teach you; and 5.) Everything you learn will be used.

It was also discussed about staying in a job, or leaving it if you are positive that this is not for you.  What was said, and well received by the audience, was that “if you are in the wrong place, leave after four months. It’s ok. Keep applying the skills you learn and figure out new things to do.”

“Don’t forget all of the other things you know how to do. Don’t forget to develop your other skills. The other things that you do are very important.” Everything you know can, and should when appropriate, be incorporated into your job.  One of the speakers was familiar with website design and photoshop. This added value to her employment because she was able to contribute something to the team outside of the scope she was hired for.

Part of what we do as Librarians is teach people.  As information specialists, we can assist others in learning good research skills. “It is important to teach people how to use tools, whether they be Lexis Nexis, West-Law, Google, or a book.” By teaching our patrons how to do research, we can spend more time on complicated research questions.

“The more you ask questions, the more you understand, the more you are able to help them, and a relationship is established. ” This gets back to the research interview.  During the interview, it is best to keep digging to pinpoint the exact question the patron is asking.  When you can repeat it back to them, and they agree to it, you will have a much clearer understanding of what it is they need help finding.

“Find a mentor.” It is always good have someone that you look up to in your business. This helps you to learn how to function in the community of the firm you are in.  Another thing for building up your career is being involved in a community of fellow Librarians with similar specialties. “It is very important to be professionally active. It helps to gain skills and build confidence.” As was stated in the five themes: “Everything you learn will be used.”

“People want enhanced information and not just a list of articles.  They want to know why what you are giving them is important.” Many of the librarians talked about added value and enhanced information.  There is a common theme in the business aspect of law, Time is money. Every moment spent working on a case is billed to the client, so the less time that can be spent on tangential research, and the more time that can be spent on focused research, is beneficial to the client because it will help their court case as well as save them from unnecessary expenses.

“Manage Up- Make things quantifiable.” Employers want to know that they are getting real tangible value for their money.  We cannot assume that they will inherently see the value in what we are doing; instead we must show them.  It is important to “protect your turf by learning how to do statistics and making them understandable and meaningful to your employer.”

If you have any thoughts in regards to Law Librarianship, or Librarianship in general, please leave a comment below.  Also, if you have any general advice on being a librarian, I would enjoy learning from you as well.