Computers In Libraries Conference

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

As you can see from the pictures, I attended this years Computers in Libraries conference, which was held in Arlington, VA.  I’ve never been to CiL before, but I’ve always asked to go at the beginning of the year when we submit our “wish list” of conferences that we’d like to attend.  Still, I was quite surprised when I got the word that my request had gone through.  Not only that, but one of my colleagues, Sam Anderson, got the green light to go as well.  So we packed our bags and headed off to Virginia for three days of presentations, networking, and all of the other stuff one does at a conference.

One of my main goals was to take in as much as I could from the “Literacies and Fluencies” and “Teaching” tracks.  More specifically, I was hoping to gather as many ideas, programs, etc. as I could and use them to enhance our own information literacy initiative at Springfield College.  I certainly saw some great presentations.  Chad Mairn from St. Petersburg College gave an excellent talk about information fluency, which he argues is at the intersection of information literacy, computer literacy, and critical thinking.  I also learned more about transliteracy.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole transliteracy idea before the conference and I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about it now.  Some of my co-workers argue that it’s just the old wine of information literacy in a new bottle.  I’m not so sure, though.  To me, it seems like a marriage of information literacy and educational technology, which I see as a positive thing.  It’s definitely something that I’m following.

Of course, I did sneak out to see some presentations from other tracks.  Roy Tennant gave a great talk built around his Top Ten Things Library Administrators Should Know About Technology.  I also saw a really great talk by Joe Murphy on mobile literacy and the connection between libraries and mobile devices.  I wasn’t the only one.  This presentation was packed, which I thought was funny for 2 reasons.  One, all we heard about in the previous 2 days was about how mobile was the next big thing for libraries.  If that’s the case, why did they stick the mobile presentation into one of the smaller conference rooms?  There were so many people that they had to stream it into an adjoining room.  Two, it was very difficult to get cell reception in that room or at least it was for my friend who had 0 bars on his iPhone.

No conference is perfect, however, and this one was no exception.  I was specifically disappointed by the presentations that essentially were nothing more than link sharing fests.  It’s not because the sites being suggested were terrible or that the presenters were boring.  In fact, they were all pretty good.  I guess I just didn’t expect to see that kind of presentation at a national conference.  In almost every case, all the links were up on a wiki anyway.  I could have just looked at that on my own.

I was also a little put off by the Apple bashing.  Not because I think Apple is a perfect company.  Far from it.  However, when someone stands there and rails against Apple’s closed systems and secret app approval process, but then proudly proclaims that they bought their iPad, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.  At least Sarah Houghton-Jan had the guts to back up her words with action.  I still don’t agree with her or the rest of them.  Apple is a for profit business.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to  make money for their shareholders.  If you don’t like the way they do it, don’t buy their products.

As I said, however, no conference is perfect and I didn’t expect this one to be.  I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of presentations that I went to and the Hyatt did a great job of putting on the conference in spite of the iffy wi-fi.  Congratulations to everyone who put CiL 2010 on this year.

Technical Difficulties (And How)

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The new year has arrived and with it, I hope, is an end to some of the technical problems I’ve experienced over the last few months.  First, the hard drive in my Mac died.  The drive itself was easy enough to replace, but the data was a different story.  I certainly planned to back up my data at some point, but naturally I didn’t do it in time so I was out of luck.  No quick reinstall to save the day.

Fortunately, I had all of my web site and blog info saved into my MobileMe account.  The only problem was that when my Mac died, it broke the link to my MobileMe account.  I was able to grab all of my pictures, videos, etc., but I could not connect to my web site and save that data.  So, it was back to square one.  I created a new MobileMe account and rebuilt my site from scratch, which was fairly easy, but a little time consuming.

At first, I thought I would be back up and running in no time, but Christmas, a family health problem, and all of the other stuff that life throws at you got in the way.  Now, however, I’m glad to say that everything is back up and running.  As they say, better late than never.

Categories: Uncategorized

Is Your Web Site Phoning It In?

September 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Cell phones are the next frontier for libraries in terms of providing access to resources and services.  They present unique challenges, however.  Is your web site ready for the web?

One of the things that I’ve been reading up on lately is the increase in using cell phones to surf the web.  If you’ve done it before, you know that some sites show up really well while others, well let’s just say that they don’t quite measure up.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re using something that has a full blown web browser, like an iPhone, or something with a really basic screen – web sites look better if they’ve been designed for a cell phone.  Fortunately, there are all kinds of resources available to help those of us who are just learning about designing sites for the mobile web.  Here are a few that I recommend to get started.

An Introduction to the Mobile Web

This very brief guide from UKOLN offers a quick overview of what the mobile web is as well as the challenges and opportunities it presents.  A great introduction to the subject.

Creating a Site for the Mobile Web

This is another guide from UKOLN that does just what the title suggests.  It gives you bulleted lists of best practices for all aspects of mobile web design.

W3C | Mobile Web Initiative

You can’t discuss web best practices without referring to the W3C.  This site focuses on best practices for mobile web sites, breaking news, and even offers a few tools that you can use when designing your site.  You can even run a test of a web site to see how it measures up.  Unfortunately, my library’s web site didn’t do so well.  We’re going to have to change that!

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox | Mobile Usability

Love him or hate him, Jakob Nielsen always has something interesting to say about web usability.  This page talks about recommended practices for mobile web site designers.

There are, of course, many more that I could include, but this list will get you started.  As a recent Pew Internet survey found, approximately 85% of adults have cell phones and the figure is still growing so it’s a topic that’s not going to go away.  That means we have to build for the future or, as one person commented in a blog post, “the ‘no cell phones in the library’ sign needs to be replaced with [one that says] ‘put your library in the cell phone’”.

Disclaimer: The photo I used for this post was made available under a Creative Commons license.  You can find the original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/edans/2893223588/ as well as the license details.  I’m going to assume that the photographer did not have permission from RIM for use of the Blackberry logo, however.

Categories: Technology

Faculty Newsletter 2.0

August 25, 2009 Leave a comment


Like many liaison Librarians, I prepare a welcome back newsletter for my faculty.  In it, I tell them what has changed over the summer and remind them about the resources and services that we provide.

Well, it might be a stretch to claim that my faculty newsletter falls under the heading of “web 2.0,” but it’s certainly different from anything I’ve ever done before.  In past years, I’ve written and done the layout for my newsletter using Microsoft Publisher and, thanks to the templates available, they’ve come out OK.  This year, however, I wanted to do something different; something that might catch their attention a little more.  It didn’t take me long to decide – this year, instead of writing a print document, I’d create a video newsletter.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.  At first I was all set to use a piece of software called Jing Pro, which would allow me to record video of myself talking as well as screen shots from my computer.  It was very simple to record all the material I needed.  The only problem was that the sound of my voice and the video of my lips moving were not in sync – disconcerting to say the least and very distracting.  Plan B was to use Jing to record the screen casts of the online resources that I wanted to demo and QuickTime Pro to record the video of me talking.  After many, many, takes, I got all the material I needed and threw it, along with a few photos, into iMovie.  Several edits later, I had my video newsletter.  You can see it for yourself by clicking here (Here’s an alternative version that runs using QuickTime).  It runs about 13 minutes.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not perfect.  There are production problems, such as the volume changing from one clip to another.  I’m also not the most lively narrator there is and I could have been much more precise in terms of my message.  Still, I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  I’ve shot video before, but I’ve never really put something together from so many different sources, which was a great learning experience.  I also learned a great deal about the amount of time it takes to make even a halfway decent video.  Of course, I also hope that my faculty learn a thing or two about all the changes that have taken place in the library this summer.  After all, that was the whole reason for doing this in the first place.

Presentation Day @ MLA

As you can see, I was an official speaker at the 2009 Massachusetts Library Association Conference.  The people on the conference committee did a fantastic job of making sure everything was all set up for us and that we had everything we needed.  Thanks MLA!

I was fortunate enough to speak at this year’s Massachusetts Library Association conference on May 7th.  I actually co-presented with Kelcy Shepherd the Digital Interfaces Librarian at the University of Massachusetts, which was a first for me.  Our talk, “Avoiding Deju Vu All Over Again” [slides] focused on the best practices involved in managing an academic library web site.  While we were planning our talk, we realized that there were endless topics that we could have covered, but we decided to narrow it down to some key elements that would apply to just about any library.

. 1.Who is responsible for running your site? – Our point here was to emphasize that it’s critical to establish who is in charge of the site and, most importantly, what their authority is.

. 2.What is the purpose of your web site? – The goal here is to figure out what your web site’s primary purpose is and build from there.  Articulate this purpose in a mission statement so that everyone knows what you are trying to accomplish.

. 3.What policies do you need to support web site maintenance? – Web teams easily get bogged down in the details of running a web site.  Establish clear policies about key issues, such as who can create new pages, and post them so that everyone is aware of them.

. 4.How does your web site relate to your parent institution’s web site? – Just about all library sites are sub sections of an overall institutional site.  Know what their mission is and establish a good working relationship with the people running the institution’s site.

. 5.What workflows and software do you use to maintain your web site? – If you have the ability, pick something that is easy to use, flexible, and capable of growing if you need it.

As you can see, our talk was framed around a series of questions about the key points that we wanted to discuss.  In an effort to encourage audience participation, we created a survey for everyone to fill out as they were waiting for the session to begin.  The questions on that survey were tied directly into our talking points and the goal was to get them thinking about each subject before we brought it up.  It either worked or we were lucky enough to have a very vocal audience (probably a little of both), because a lot of people shared their experiences, frustrations, and what worked for them.  Their comments really enhanced our presentation and I feel that everyone came away with something new to take back to their own libraries.  I know that I did.

Before I wrap up, I’d like to thank a couple of people.  First, the conference organizers who did a fantastic job of taking care of us.  The facilities were great and we had everything we needed.  Most importantly, I’d like to publicly thank Kelcy for inviting me to join her for this presentation.  She was a great person to work with and made the whole process seem effortless.

Categories: Technology

Success at FitFest

February 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Here I am showing our research guides to one of our students at Fit Fest 2009.  We met a lot of students who were familiar with the library and our resources, but we met even more who were not.  We’re hoping to hear back from them again soon!

At Springfield College, our mission is to educate people “in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to humanity.”  That philosophy was in full force at this year’s Fit Fest.  Fit Fest is an annual exhibition that focuses on how individuals can achieve personal wellness.  Visitors could choose from more then 2 dozens exhibits and activities such as blood glucose testing, alcohol education, advice for setting up a home gym, kidney disease screening, and a demonstration of gluten free foods.  All of these topics were chosen because they addressed this year’s theme – “Healthy Living, Healthy People, Healthy Pride” – which was based on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 campaign.

Understanding how to find reliable health related information is, of course, a key component to personal wellness.  That’s why the Reference Librarians from Babson Library were there at Fit Fest in full force.  Visitors to our booth had a chance to take a quick quiz to test their web searching savvy and to talk with the Reference Librarians about what health related resources the library provides.  We also got a chance just to connect with students and explain to them just what the library can do for them.  Some were surprised to hear what we had to offer, but we were also pleased to hear others say that they use the library a lot or that a librarian had visited one of their classes.

Maybe it was because of our great booth.  Maybe it was because we were placed between the Wii demonstration and the alcohol awareness booth (where visitors got to put on “beer goggles” to test their ability to do certain tasks while “impaired” – I didn’t do so well!) Whatever the reason, we had a great turnout and talked to a lot of students, faculty, and staff that we might not have reached otherwise.  Fit Fest 2009 was an unqualified success and we’re looking forward to 2010.  See you there!

2nd Annual GSLIS Tech Summit

January 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Stephanie Brown gives an overview of the presentations for the GSLIS Tech Summit.  Ten people from school, public, and academic libraries gave quick demos of their favorite online apps.

On December 13th, I participated in the 2nd Annual GSLIS Tech Summit, sponsored by the Simmons Graduate School of Library Science.  Spearheaded by Stephanie Brown, the Tech Summit is an opportunity for current and former GSLIS students, staff, and faculty members to catch up with each other and to present their favorite online apps.  This year, there were school librarians who talked about building information literacy skills in their students; public librarians who showed how they reach out to teens; and academic librarians/GSLIS faculty who focused on pushing out information and connecting with patrons.

I demonstrated a wonderful new tool that I found called Sprout Builder.  Using a drag and drop interface, Sprout Builder allows you to build Flash based widgets that you can then embed in other web pages.  In other words, it works very much like YouTube and other sites that give you the embed code that you can paste into your web site.  Not every information source gives you that embed code, however, which is where Sprout Builder comes in.  With it, you can generate your own code and create attractive widgets for your patrons.  It’s like a dream come true!

Categories: Technology