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.


April 27, 2015

Keynote 1: Continuous Innovation & Transformation

Steve DenningAuthor, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management, The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, & others

The focus of Denning’s talk was on the need to transform how we, as librarians, approach the library and think about our working environment. He pointed out that the computer age has seen all kinds of innovation in businesses, with new styles replacing earlier versions (i.e. taxis with Uber and video stores with Netflix). As he said, “The computer age is not primarily about computerization; the computer age is about the change in mindset.” With the change from computer technology has come a change in managerial approaches. Denning contrasted the traditional model with what he referred to as a “creative economy.” Traditional management required individuals to report to bosses, reflected a vertical ideology, and had trouble coping with rapid change. In contrast, the creative economy, as Denning envisions it, is made up of self organizing teams that engage with customers, reflect a horizontal ideology, add value to the roles of customer, and give everyone in the organization a direct role with the customer. The internet created a huge shift in the marketplace which is necessitating this change; this can be reflected in changing economics as well. The old and new models have trouble fitting together and you cannot incorporate the new model into the old. Denning listed four reasons that the change will not be easy: 1.) shift in goal- having to delight users and customers; 2.) paradigm shift in management; 3.) partial fixes don’t work- “hierarchical bureaucracy is like a morphing virus”; and 4.) many elements reinforce the status quo (e.g. business schools training new leaders according to the old model). So the question to keep in mind is “What is the future of libraries?” To address this question Denning provided three wrong answers and five right approaches, with the hint to ask the right questions. The three wrong answers to what is the future of libraries are: to computerize existing library services, use computers to save money, and build apps. He included apps because they are a waste of money since they generally fail to add value to library customers. The five right approaches to the question are: How can we delight our users/customers?, How can we manage our library?, What will make things better, faster, cheaper, more mobile, more convenient, or more personalized for our users?, What needs could librarians meet that users haven’t thought of?, and What sorts of things do users already love that we can do more of sooner, better, and faster?. Denning concluded his speech with two quotes: “The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.”- William Gibson and “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”- Marcel Proust

Super Searcher Tips & Tools:

Mary Ellen Bates, Principal, Bates Information Services, Inc.

Bates provided us with numerous tips for searching the internet, but covered social media in particular, as a way to expand our research services. She began by discussing “the most dangerous thing in your pocket or purse,” aka your phone. The phone allows you to speak directly into it (assuming you have Apple’s Siri, Android’s Google Now, or Windows’ Cortana) which has greatly increased the use of natural language queries. Bates said that we should keep in mind that google optimizes search results for the average search, and as our search behavior changes by speaking into our devices this will change the way Google, Bing, and other search engines respond. Another aspect of this technological shift has come with Google revamping it’s search algorithm to favor mobile optimization, or what Bates referred to as “Mobilegeddon.”

Here is a list of tools that Bates  suggested for optimizing searches:

  • Microsoft Academic: Great for insight, key conferences, Key journals, keywords (find other relevant words, see who is saying what, and data mine for free).
  • instya: pre-selects search tools for web, video, news images, social sites, etc.  Good reminder for us to look in multiple sources.
  • Search social media on Google: Ex: site: name; use an * to catch middle initials; add other common info to find persons
  • MentionMapp: A twitter app that allows users to discover more about a person by creating a dynamic network map. Allows you to explore connections.
  • Twitter allows users to:
    • Monitor drug side effects: See what people are saying about a particular drug (i.e.  #accutaneprobz) or about a particular medication or pharmaceutical company  (i.e. #zoloft or #pfizer). This strategy also enables healthcare workers to monitor and track food poisoning. This goes to show how organizations are using twitter for intelligence.
    • Hack searches by searching for topics that have been retweeted a certain number of times (min_retweets:n) or favorited a certain number of times (min_faves:n).
    • Search for a url, even if it is shortened. This can be good for keeping track of a press release.
  • Google Hacks:
    • Google Trends: ID search terms that indicate ideas or explore regional interests.
    • Look for databases by using: {topic} database or {topic} “data set”
  • BING only:
    • ID outgoing links from a site or domain: use “linkfromdomain:
    • Find pages that link to a file type and contain a topic: (e.g.  filetype: pdf CUA philosophy)
    • Image Match: located at the bottom of an image search, this allows you to find similar images without having to scroll back through an endless list.
  • Biznar: a deep web search that allows users to see what people are talking about and get a vision for what is out there.

Web Redesign for Better UX 

Elaine Myer– User experience librarian, MCLS- Midwest Collaborative for Library Services

“User Experience’ encompases all aspects of the patrons interactions with the library, its services and its products.”- Jakob Nielsen & Don Norman

One way that we can look at our websites is like our “online branch,” which in many ways can be more important than the physical branch and still needs staff to be maintained. When doing a website redesign, Myer broke it down into six sections: discovery, definition, site structure and content, visual design, site development, testing and site review, and the launch. It is important to find out what people want and what they don’t want in your site, and what will be most used and least used. Before beginning take an evaluation of your skills by thinking about what you need to know, what you would like to learn, and what you will need help from consultants on. Do an heuristic review of the site before it goes live and seek feedback from your users. Go into the community to see what people want. This can be done by an online survey, or by going out to a local grocery store to meet people and seek suggestions. Gather statistics on what patrons are using most and least. During the usability testing test various groups of users, make sure users can operate the whole website, and ask for satisfaction ratings with their experience. During the research and planning stage, it is important to define the following for the website: purpose/ goals of site, branding/perception, website specifications, social media/ SEO strategy, project brief/RFI/RFP, content editing, and the project plan. When constructing the site, and doing the information architecture, develop a wireframe that can be improved on as the project moves along. You can also do graphic design mockups to see what user think about comparative concepts. When developing your website, make it responsive, do quality assurance testing, get feedback, look at the technical foundation for other websites, do prototypes. One place to develop strategies is on


Computer Science and Coding in the classroom and library

Gretchen LeGrand and Maya Bery

Gretchen LeGrand Code in the Schools-

Computer science is an important skill in today’s world, and we need to get kids experience in coding from an early age. Where do libraries fit in? Libraries are a place where kids can have access to these skills and provide them with opportunities to learn. LeGrand highlighted several tools/programs that libraries can provide access to for children. They are:

  • Squishy Circuits: teaches electrical engineering; developed by the University of St. Thomas; good for small hands; teaches simple concepts like series and parallel.
  • Paper Circuits: What you need-  paper, copper foil tape, LEDs, phtoresistors, push/switch button, coin cell batteries, and glue.
  • Soft Circuits: What you need- conductive thread, LEDs, coinc cell batteries, needles, & felt. One place to purchase this is sparkfun. One thing that can be done easily is a light up bookmark.
  • Snap Circuits: easy to use toy to teach children circuits
  • Soldering: Elenco sells learn to solder and practice kits. Soldering irons are inexpensive.
  • Programmable circuits: One place to purchase is Makey Makey. They are fun and plug directly into a computer.
  • Arduino: development board for microcomputer, uses C based language, endless tinkering and coding, Ardusat can program satellite to run experiments.
  • Lilypad Arduino: make wearable eTextiles, programmable  soft circuits. Sew Electric is a book that has many great ideas for projects.
  • Raspberry Pi: build a basic computer using raspberry OS.

Maya Bery: Coding in the Classroom

“Coding is a new form of literacy.” – NPR’s Marketplace, Feb 20, 2015

The power lies in knowing how they work, and knowing how to create them. We should care about coding in the classroom because it pushes students into the zone of proximal development and allows students to interact with one another.  We hosted an Hour of Code in order to provide access for and to teach kids how to code. Hour of Code uses block based coding to represent java based commands and is more like an interactive game where you drag and drop blocks. It is something that kids get excited about and provides them with immediate feedback. Learning how to do this can give kids confidence. Other tools that Bery suggested for teaching young students include:

  • Scratch: a website from MIT that lets users see inside projects, allows kids to play, and is great for supplementing instruction.
  • Lightbot by Hour of Code: uses symbols to teach coding, is really easy to figure out, and allows users to test themselves.
  • Tynker: There is a paid or a free version of this, but it is another fun and easy way for kids to learn programming. There are free android and iPad tablet apps with structured activities, defined skill sets. For teachers, it also has student management ability and a gradebook.
  • Mozilla webmaker: is a new experiment from Mozilla that lets users explore, learn, and create code.
  • Other online coding resources include: KHAN academy, #yeswecode, and Intel Computer Clubhouse Networks.


Drupal People: Using Drupal 7 to serve the mission of the Maryland People’s Law Library

Dave Pantze, Pat Pathade, & Tim Young

This session provided insight on how the Maryland People’s Law Library (MPLL)used Drupal to provide access to Marylanders on their legal system. Though the MPLL is not a physicaL library, Pantze wanted us to realize that a website can be a library if you think of it as a place for storing information. The MPLL is a way to provide access to information in a plain english version of the law. Their mission is to educate Marylanders about the Civil and Legal issues for self representation. The purpose of the site is to  connect people with an attorney and provide an overview of how the law works in plain english on an encyclopedia of legal topics. They also have links to the statutes to provide access to what the law actually states. Google analytics in installed on the site. There is a need to move to a mobile friendly version. The site is available offline for persons already incarcerated. The project partners with legal communities, librarians, and educators and are helped by Fantail, Pat Pathade, which has enabled them with full tracking. They approached the design by wanting to get the end user to the best, most up to date, information in the most user friendly form possible. The project developers wanted to have as little walls of text as possible because people tend not to look at it. Having a little legal knowledge can be dangerous, that is where the Maryland People’s Law Library can help. The original design of the project was already on Drupal, but it needed to be updated to Drupal 7, and not custom code was used for the updates. They used Adaptive Theme to create a custom responsive design. They utilize the National Subject Matter Index for cataloging purposes and to tag articles.  Security patches are applied routinely. Search functionality is important, and to aid their users the developers incorporated Apache Solr Search. Drupal provides support for multilingual content with the aid of Lingotek Translation.

April 28, 2015

Keynote 2: Creating a New Nostalgia

Dialogue with:David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, &  John Palfrey,Head of School, Phillips Academy Author of BiblioTech; President of the Board, Digital Public Library of America

“Even though there are other ways to get information…we still need libraries.” They are more important than ever. As U.S. citizens, we have a literal and moral obligation to support libraries. In lots of communities there is a sense that libraries served a purpose… there is a bigger purpose for libraries than people tend to see. There is an expectation for libraries to do more than ever. The internet has not made everything digital, but it has made libraries more potent. We have to keep building an infrastructure. A new nostalgia is developing that will help libraries persist in the future by combining the virtual and the physical. Libraries have always been in the business of meeting the needs of our customers. Tools are successful when we have humans test them. Libraries also need to continue developing their workforce in the digital age. Many of the people needed to meet this transition are already here. Library schools can be a part of that. Librarians can think of themselves as network actors. Libraries, and librarians, should think about the public interest and what it is they want to build. Think about what the library can be in the digital era.

There is a growing digital divide in societies that can be summarized as a digital literacy and and information literacy gap. There is a difference between having access to technology and having skills to use it. The divide is more subtle than it once was with the pervasive nature of mobile technology, particularly smartphones. It is hard to do homework on a mobile phone. Palfrey, who is head of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Board of Directors,  believes that as we digitize materials we will all come up into a system that will be open access. His hope is that the DPLA will serve as a rising tide that lifts all boats. Libraries engage, inform, and delight in a democratic system, and “our flavor of participatory democracy relies on libraries.” In schools, teachers are not well prepared for teaching digital literacy, and there is a correlation between having a good library and good performance. School librarians are just as important as teachers.  There are opportunities for collaboration between public and school libraries. Palfrey fears “for libraries getting outpaced,” and believes that they need to get an app.

The public library is where many people are getting their internet. With respect to the physical space, we can expand the audience for libraries. There are other ways to see the environment such as by having after school programs or by meeting the needs of the community with needs outside of the library. Libraries can be a huge asset as a natural partner for businesses. They are also a great place to study for kids by creating knowledge together. We give children something wonderful when we give them libraries. The spatial model for libraries in the digital era should be closer to community centers. Libraries are more than a community center. Gradually, there will be a reduction in physical space and the digital space will take more creativity. We will need to get information architects into the design process. Libraries will also need to think about physical space for their digital library. The law can also be a stumbling block for libraries, particularly with respect to copyright. There is a need for copyright reform. For example, once a library pays for a physical book they own that book; this is not the case for ebooks because libraries rent them instead of purchasing them outright. There is an effort to revise section 108 of copyright law for libraries and archives.


Analytics & Big Data: Terms & Tools for Info Pros

Dr. Frank Cervone School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

What is analytics and big data about and how is it implemented? There is a lot of confusion. When talking about big data, we are referencing an incomprehensible amount of data. There isn’t consistency in the amount of big data or what it means. There are huge amounts of real time data that need to be analyzed. Big data changes some of our fundamental conceptions about how we know things, and analytics is different than statistics. Analytics tells us what is happening, it does not tell us why. Big data can help us to understand patterns by revealing hidden correlations. With big data, we can visualize what this looks like (i.e. google flu trends). The whole concept of big data started with research done at google through the collection of real time data that needed to be processed and visualized.

Hadoop is one program that allows users to comprehend big data.  It is a series of open source products that process big data; it is not a traditional open source management system. It has a very complicated ecosystem where information goes into a central cluster and lower level servers do the processing. The core of big data is the reducing process, and computers need to work in tandem to process data. The map reducing process takes data distributed throughout the cluster and figures out how it should be organized and then read the results from key of data. Analytics help us understand what is happening. Dr. Cervone then went into explaining various Hadoop tools:

  • Zookeeper: distributes the work that happens throughout.
  • Yarn Mapreduce: a resource negotiator
  • Flume: ingests real time data; holds the data to be sent out; as real time data comes in, it is batched up
  • Scoop: Collects data in a batched process; not real time data; collected periodically; uses structured data
  • Hive: provides SQL like language to send unstructured data into a relational database
  • Pig: data processing language for unstructured data; groups data by variables; a basic language; used for loading and distributing data
  • Oozie: allows for the setup of workflow; similar to data mining
  • Mahout: the learning process of a statistical ecosystem; develops classification system
  • Ambari: a control panel

Kiosks & Interactive Displays: Patron Interaction

Amanda Goodman

Libraries refer to a lot of different things as Kiosks so it is important to know the purpose of the kiosk before purchasing one. There are three broad purposes for kiosks in a library: directional, informational, and functional. Directional can include floor maps or other non dynamic pieces of information on where to find things. Informational can help users find live things. Lastly, functional kiosks can showcase events, show users how to do something, or even serve as a video reference desk. With respect to content: events need to be kept up to date, librarians should know who is responsible for content, it should be known who is responsible for pushing out the content onto the displays, and how long the content will stay up. Information can be made hyperlocal to people coming to particular programs and events. The features that will be added to the kiosk will depend on budget, interest, and ability to update. One way to break down content is by 30% general and 70% site specific content. When designing anything it is imperative to bear in mind accessibility. Throughout the design process, have users come in to test the design and provide feedback. When doing user tests, stress that the testing is of the system and not the user. Other advice for user testing includes: sticking to a script, make sure tests are the same as possible, work in teams of two, encourage thinking out loud, ask to film hands, and offer compensation. Common resources for kiosks include: hardware (tvs, monitors, tablets, mac minis), paid software (coolsign, firesign, visix, and screenly), free software (signage studio, concerto,xibo, html templates, and intiutface), other software (wayfinding by UC Davis, Mapplic, and wordpress digital signage).  Other advice for libraries thinking about installing kiosks included not putting the kiosks in direct sunlight, making sure that maps are oriented towards the building, and enable sms feature to phone or email.

Goodman also shared with us some unique Kiosks that she had come across:


April 29

Keynote 3: Technology & Libraries: Now & Into the Future

Mary Augusta Thomas: Deputy Director Smithsonian Institution Libraries

We can look back and manage the past- know what it is and we can know the future. Her personal thoughts on the future are that we must discuss technology and change, we need to keep the libraries, that practices have changed and people are working differently, new fields emerge rapidly, and that one of the reasons we keep “the stuff” is because we don’t know what we will find. Knowing our history is important, and knowledge management need to include history. The history of the Smithsonian includes over 170 years of scientific exploration and maintaining a wide body of objects. Their founding mission for the institution was “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” Librarians must be willing to find out what works now, and what worked in the past, to find out what will work in the future. Smithsonian Research Online supports the research of the institution and helps with grants. The libraries are offering to maintain the records of the researchers. Smithsonian libraries are publicly available. The libraries serve as a partner in communities. “Future librarians will have highly developed skills to collaborate and cooperate.” Libraries need to learn how to tap into the user community as it is learning. We need to manage the knowledge of community and it’s history. We can develop vocabularies  based in people’s experience and culture. Library print collections are moving from books and shelves to special collections. The United States government has, since it’s inception, received gifts from all over the world, and many of them are stored in the Smithsonian Institution. In the library of the future, the way we look at books will change. Images are a challenge, but technology will help us. Illustrated books are often the only records of early images. We don’t know how people will approach our material. “Technology will be important as libraries move into the future, as it has always been.” We need to ask people what it is they really want to know (e.g. scientists really want linked data, but is that how they are asking for it?) We may want to  be slightly disorganized for multiple access points. “Our strong public face is our website,” and we need to give up ownership in favor of access. The library can become an “information commons” area or even an office space. Fullfilling our mission as librarians makes us want to be better.


Creativity & Innovation for Libraries

Matthew Hamilton

Makerspaces and maker movements are important for libraries; Hamilton recommended reading Makers by Chris Anderson. It is important to begin by doing research and identifying the needs of the community. One thing Hamilton’s library did before opening their makerspace was to design a staff development day where they broke the library into groups and modeled experiences, though it is ok to learn alongside the customers. Libraries could allow for curricular programming and development or searching out for community volunteers to work on projects. He recommended the article Is it time to rebuild and retool public libraries and make techshops?  and suggested that the key role of libraries is to fill gap.  When designing policies, libraries should be flexible and think about if their projects will require waivers. The Chicago Public Library has a report on their process of designing a makerspace and implementing programs entitled Making to Learn: What the Chicago Public Library and it’s patrons are learning as new members of the maker movement. Hamilton’s library opened up their makerspace to intergenerational programming. The community built relationships with the staff. He spoke of a spiral of learning that included imagine, create, play, share, reflect, and then repeating the steps. Connected learning is at the center of friendships in the community and is part of the academic and learning environment. Hamilton’s library is building the space, and hoping that they will come. Libraries have the opportunity to become informal learning spaces, and, since librarians are professional learners and professional researchers, libraries have a rich base of content to facilitate self education with librarian’s help. Libraries hold a trusted place in the community because they make people feel comfortable since they are welcome, and accessible, to all. Anyone is free to come and learn.

Some of the challenges with makerspaces in libraries include the amount of staff time it takes to develop skills, understanding what we are doing (the scope of the makerspace), and connecting to the community. The last challenge can be mediated by reaching out to other organizations in the community that are doing similar things. He recommended searching The Connectory for ideas on STEM related programs, sharing projects on, and advertising library maker programs on Another great place to check for ideas is on and Libraries and Maker Culture: A Resource Guide. As with anything, there is a cost involved in building makerspaces and designing programs. Hamilton recommended finding grant funding, seeing if citizens will help establish spaces, finding the needs of the business community to see if they will pay for community training, or trying crowdfunding. Crowdfunding can be more trouble than it is worth, and it may not be advantageous to pursue this route.   Doing a demonstration is not learning, but it can drum up media buzz. It is a good idea to do large projects over many weeks. After the maker program is complete, libraries should undertake the arduous task of doing assessments and evaluations to see how they measured.


Social Media & Mobile apps: Tips & Tools for Innovative Services

Cheryl Peltier-Davis

The benefits of doing social media for libraries include delivering highly customized value added services, instant implementation, and performing specific tasks without downloading any software. Peltier-Davis listed the following as areas of concern for libraries doing social media: accuracy of information, privacy and security issues, ability of current iteration/versions, and evaluation before implementation. To work your way to social media success, it is important to know why the library is doing it, what value will the library be adding to their users, how they want to interact and network, and how will the library stay informed and inform their users. She then described various tools that libraries and librarians could utilize:


Tech Gadget Goodness:Learning from CES

Brian Pichman

Brian Pichman had the opportunity to visit the Consumer Electronics Show this year in Las Vegas in which he used the opportunity to advocate for libraries and their participation with technology. He encouraged us to attend because it is a great chance to experience the technology that is available in the market and to encourage technology in libraries. Most people think that libraries are important. While there, ask questions such as: Have you considered working with libraries?, Do you value libraries?, Would you consider letting a library beta test your product?, and  Can you see your product in a library?.  He encouraged us to see if companies would be willing to allow libraries to showcase their products as a benefit to them of free advertising and a benefit to the community with learning new technologies. Pichman then shared with us some of the great technology that he was able to see and play around with including:


Innovative Funding Alternatives

Brian Pichman

There is an art of asking for funding help, but you must begin with a clear project in mind and should also have a developed business plan. Things to have ready include a completed website, a network of people to support you, and a brand. Crowdfunding is not free. He recommended checking out Dan Shapiro’s blog for entrepreneurial advice.  When doing crowdfunding know the amount that needs to be raised, keep rewards simple, have a short (less than five minutes) video, and ask clearly for what is needed. After everything is set up and launched use social media to drive traffic to your campaign. This is where the large network of support becomes crucial. Remember, people are trusting you with their money so you must be able to explain everything. Know the difference between people who want your product and people who believe in your idea, and target your campaign to each. Keep your backers informed of any updates, and stay engaged with them. For branding purposes things to keep in mind include: knowing your style, knowing your skills, knowing what you do better than anyone else, knowing what value add to your customers, and knowing how to get people to research you.

Social media is about networking, and to do innovative funding you will need a strong network. Make sure people know who you are and support you. Identify your users and consumers. Social media is a lot of work. Link your brand to your website. Do analytics to measure impact. One great idea is to schedule posts. People are more engaged with photos generally speaking, so if you can have a photo, it will take your campaign further. Share, recommend, and endorse others. Continue building your image by reaching out to companies that you don’t know. If you want to know something, ask! Reach out to vendors, and don’t be afraid to work up their organizational chart. Build relationships with them, and talk about the things you are doing. Share your ideas and visions to see how they can help. There are two ways to ask questions: directly and indirectly. Never take the first price offered from a company, and, if you need to,  regroup with them at a later time.


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