Getting Started with GIS

Layout 1Coming for the New Year: Learning Opportunities with LITA

LITA will have multiple learning opportunities available over the upcoming year. Including hot topics to keep your brain warm over the winter. Starting off with:

Getting Started with GIS (Geographic Information Systems)

Instructor: Eva Dodsworth, University of Waterloo

Offered: January 12 – February 9, 2015, with asynchronous weekly lectures, tutorials, assignments, and group discussion. There will be one 80 minute lecture to view each week, along with two tutorials and one assignment that will take 1-3 hours to complete, depending on the student. Moodle login info will be sent to registrants the week prior to the start date.

WebCourse Costs: LITA Member: $135 ALA Member: $195 Non-member: $260

Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

Here’s the Course Page

Getting Started with GIS is a three week course modeled on Eva Dodsworth’s LITA Guide of the same name. The course provides an introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in libraries. Through hands on exercises, discussions and recorded lectures, students will acquire skills in using GIS software programs, social mapping tools, map making, digitizing, and researching for geospatial data. This three week course provides introductory GIS skills that will prove beneficial in any library or information resource position.

No previous mapping or GIS experience is necessary. Some of the mapping applications covered include:

  • Introduction to Cartography and Map Making
  • Online Maps
  • Google Earth
  • KML and GIS files
  • ArcGIS Online and Story Mapping
  • Brief introduction to desktop GIS software

Participants will gain the following GIS skills:

  • Knowledge of popular online mapping resources
  • ability to create an online map
  • an introduction to GIS, GIS software and GIS data
  • an awareness of how other libraries are incorporating GIS technology into their library services and projects

Instructor: Eva Dodsworth is the Geospatial Data Services Librarian at the University of Waterloo Library where she is responsible for the provision of leadership and expertise in developing, delivering, and assessing geospatial data services and programs offered to members of the University of Waterloo community. Eva is also an online part-time GIS instructor at a number of Library School programs in North America.

Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

Re-Drawing the Map Series

Don’t forget the final session in the series is coming up January 6, 2015. You can attend this final single session or register for the series and get the recordings of the previous two sessions on Web Mapping and OpenStreetMaps. Join LITA instructor Cecily Walker for:

Coding maps with Leaflet.js

Tuesday January 6, 2015, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central Time
Instructor: Cecily Walker

Ready to make your own maps and go beyond a directory of locations? Add photos and text to your maps with Cecily as you learn to use the Leaflet JavaScript library.

Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

Webinar Costs: LITA Member $39 for the single session and $99 for the series.

Check out the series web page for all cost options.

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to the course, contact LITA at (312) 280-4268 or Mark Beatty, mbeatty@ala.org.

 

Are QR Codes Dead Yet?

The QR Code Is Alive (Meme)

It’s a meme!

Flipping through a recent issue of a tech-centric trade publication that shall not be named, I was startled to see that ads on the inside flap and the back cover both featured big QR codes. Why was I startled? Because techies, including many librarians, have been proclaiming the death of the QR code for years. Yet QR codes cling to life, insinuating themselves even into magazines on information technology. In short, QR codes are not dead. But they probably ought to be.

Not everywhere or all at once, no. I did once see this one librarian at this one conference poster session use his smartphone to scan a giant QR code. That was the only time in five years I have ever seen anyone take advantage of a QR code.

When reading a print magazine, I just want to roll with the print experience. I don’t want to grab my phone, type the 4-digit passcode, pull up the app, and hold the camera steady. I want to read.

I’d rather snap a photo of the page in question. That way, I can experience the ad holistically. I also can explore the website at leisure rather than being whisked to a non-mobile optimized web page where I must fill out 11 fields of an online registration form to which UX need not apply.

So . . . Should I Use A QR Code?

Jobs in Information Technology: December 17

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Coordinator for Digital Collection Services, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

Register Now for LITA Midwinter Institutes

lita at midwinter 2015Whether you’ll be attending Midwinter or are just looking for a great one day continuing education event in the Chicago/Midwest area, we hope you’ll join us.

When? All workshops will be held on Friday, January 30, 2015, from 8:30-4:00 at McCormick Place in Chicago IL.

Cost for LITA Members: $235 (ALA $350 / Non-ALA $380, see below for details)

Here’s this year’s terrific line up:

Developing mobile apps to support field research
Instructor: Wayne Johnston, University of Guelph Library

Researchers in most disciplines do some form of field research. Too often they collect data on paper which is not only inefficient but vulnerable to date loss. Surveys and other data collection instruments can easily be created as mobile apps with the resulting data stored on the campus server and immediately available for analysis. The apps also enable added functionality like improved data validity through use of authority files and capturing GPS coordinates. This support to field research represents a new way for academic libraries to connect with researchers within the context of a broader research date management strategy.

Introduction to Practical Programming
Instructor: Elizabeth Wickes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This workshop will introduce foundational programming skills using the Python programming language. There will be three sections to this workshop: a brief historical review of computing and programming languages (with a focus on where Python fits in), hands on practice with installation and the basics of the language, followed by a review of information resources essential for computing education and reference. This workshop will prepare participants to write their own programs, jump into programming education materials, and provide essential experience and background for the evaluation of computing reference materials and library program development. Participants from all backgrounds with no programming experience are encouraged to attend.

From Lost to Found: How user Testing Can Improve the User Experience of Your Library Website
Instructors: Kate Lawrence, EBSCO Information Services; Deirdre Costello, EBSCO Information Services; Robert Newell, University of Houston

When two user researchers from EBSCO set out to study the digital lives of college students, they had no idea the surprises in store for them. The online behaviors of “digital natives” were fascinating: from students using Google to find their library’s website, to what research terms and phrases students consider another language altogether: “library-ese.” Attendees of this workshop will learn how to conduct usability testing, and participate in a live testing exercise via usertesting.com. Participants will leave the session with the knowledge and confidence to conduct user testing that will yield actionable and meaningful insights about their audience.

More information about Midwinter Workshops.

Registration Information:
LITA members get one third off the cost of Mid-Winter workshops. Use the discount promotional code: LITA2015 during online registration to automatically receive your member discount. Start the process at the ALA web sites:

Conference web site:
http://alamw15.ala.org/
Registration start page:
http://alamw15.ala.org/rates 
LITA Workshops registration descriptions:
http://alamw15.ala.org/ticketed-events#LITA

When you start the registration process and BEFORE you choose the workshop, you will encounter the Personal Information page. On that page there is a field to enter the discount promotional code: LITA2015
As in the example below. If you do so, then when you get to the workshops choosing page the discount prices, of $235, are automatically displayed and entered. The discounted total will be reflected in the Balance Due line on the payment page.

preconference

Please contact the LITA Office if you have any registration questions.

Essential Tools for the Essentialist Life

stress

Office.com Royalty Free Clip Art

At this time of year, I’m always feeling rushed and a bit worn down. I recently read the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. While some of the essentialist lifestyle seems a bit impossible in this day and age I was challenged to think about the essentialsin my life.

I love technology (I blog for LITA!), but that doesn’t mean I want to be or should be using technology all the time. It is amazing how technology use can creep into all areas of my life, causing me to work weird hours, look at my Twitter account instead of talking to the people I am with, etc. I work hard to create a buffer in my life to allow time for sleep, leisure, and to minimize stress.

To create this buffer, I have discovered that there are tools to assist me in both my professional and personal life. Here are a few of my favorite technology tools (yes, technology tools!) that allow me to stay organized and ultimately, help me to minimize stress to create more time for other things.

Electronic Calendars: I use my work calendar extensively to keep track of meetings and appointments. On my phone and iPad I sync my personal and work calendars for easy referral.

Wunderlist: I recently started using Wunderlist to help me keep track of everything from shopping lists to what I need to bring to a meeting. My favorite thing about this app is that I can share my lists with people! The shared feature makes tag-teaming the shopping so much easier!

Instapaper: This app helps me keep track of all the articles I want to read, but don’t have time to when I see them. I send articles to Instapaper from Twitter and then read them when I have more time.

Feedly: This is my favorite app for keeping up-to-date with all the blogs I follow. It has both a web interface and an app that I use on my iPhone and iPad.

vacation

Office.com Royalty Free Clip Art

The next book I hope to read is The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer.  I want to tackle this one over the holiday break.

 

Making Connections in the New Year

This new year, make a resolution to be more proactive, network and update your professional skills. Resolve to attend a professional conference, discussion or symposium!

Flickr, 2010

Flickr, 2010

GameDevHacker Conference
New York, January 28

The GameDevHacker conference is just around the corner. Combining the wits of three segments of the gaming industry, the gamers, developers and hackers, the conference aims at discussing future developments. The tagline for next year’s conference is “Past Trends and Future Bets.”

 

The Creativity Workshop
New York, February 20 – 23 & April 17 – 20

Do you have writers block, want to create dynamic programming or transform the way you view digital arts? The creativity workshop is geared toward professionals in the sciences, business, arts and humanities. Two 4-day workshops will be held this spring 2015.

 

2015 National STEM Education Conference
Cleveland, April 16-17

The typical STEMcon audience includes educators in the K-12 arena. However, if altering the current landscape of STEM education is important to you, STEMcon may be a great venue to voice those concerns. Participants will, among other topics, discuss using educational technology and bridging gender and ethnic divides in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

 

8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium
Dallas, April 22 – 24

Perhaps you may not be interested in STEM education at the K-12 level, but almost everyone in the information field has either facilitated or participated in online learning technologies. Web-based technology will continue to alter delivery of instruction to students around the world. Network, share and learn about new trends with participants from around the nation.

 

Educause Annual Conference
Indianapolis and Virtual, October 27 – 30

If travel is an issue, Educause will hold a virtual conference in October of next year. The conference is geared toward IT professionals in higher education, but can be useful for students and novice practitioners. More information will be published in the spring of 2015.

 

Have a happy New Year LITAblog readers!

Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself – Vol. 4

TechnoSanta-Friendly-Robot-copy

Art by Jason Garrattley

What a year it’s been, TYBYWYers! Last month, I talked about gratitude. This month, I’m focusing on the future. Let’s put a pretty bow on 2014 and take a peek at all the shiny opportunities 2015 has to offer. I promise I won’t tell your mom you looked at your presents.

If this is your first time stumbling upon this monthly feature of the LITA Blog, Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself is a curated assortment of online education opportunities for aspiring library technologists at all levels of experience. I focus on webinars, MOOCs, and other free/low cost options for learning, growing, and increasing tech proficiency. I’m glad you’re here!

Monthly MOOCs

This coming year, you may have made a few tech education resolutions, and I’m going to help you keep them!

If you want to learn to code, the University of Michigan’s Programming for Everybody is a great place to start. The course This course aims to teach everyone to learn the basics of programming computers using Python. The course “has no pre-requisites and avoids all but the simplest mathematics. Anyone with moderate computer experience should be able to master the materials in this course.”  Get in there and start coding, TYBYWYers! I love avoiding all by the simplest mathematics.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention a slightly less techy MOOC being presented Northwestern University, Content Strategy for Professionals: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization. We are all challenged by the demands of creating and curating compelling content (she wrote as she curated content she hoped was compelling). Go learn from some masters, and tell me what you think.

Worthwhile Webinars

Tech On, TYBYWYers!

Have a wonderful holiday season, and I’ll see you in the new year.

 

Jobs in Information Technology: December 10

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Deputy County Librarian,  County of Santa Clara, San Jose, CA
Digital Access & Discovery Specialist, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN
Librarian, Santa Barbara City College Luria Library, Santa Barbara, CA
System Administrator, University at Albany,  Albany, NY

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

 

Virtual Machines in a Nutshell

https://openclipart.org/detail/190004/virtualization-icon-for-virtual-machines-by-gr8dan-190004

Many of you have probably heard the term “virtual machine“, but might not be familiar with what a VM is or does. Virtualization is a complicated topic, as there are many different kinds and it can be difficult for the novice to tell which is which. Today we’re going to talk specifically about OS virtualization and why you should care about this pretty fabulous piece of tech.

Let’s start with a physical computer. For the sake of having a consistent example, we’ll say it’s a Dell laptop running Windows 7. Dual booting is a popular method of installing an additional operating system onto a physical computer in order to have more options and flexibility with what programs you want to run. Lots of Mac users run Boot Camp so they can have both OS X and Windows side by side. While dual booting is a great choice for many, it has limitations. Installing an OS directly onto the hardware is expensive in terms of time and system resources, and doesn’t scale very well if you want to install LOTS of operating systems as a test. What if we want Mac, Windows, and a few flavors of Linux? Bringing more than two operating systems onto the hardware is asking for trouble. Dual booting is also overkill if you are just experimenting with an OS. If you are like me and you like to install things just to see if you like them and then throw them away when you are done, dual booting just takes too long.

Enter OS virtualization. Using virtualization software like VirtualBox, a user can have any number of operating systems running as virtual machines. Our trusty Dell laptop, henceforth referred to as the “host machine”, running Windows 7, henceforth referred to as the “host OS”, downloads a copy of VirtualBox for Windows and installs it just like any other program. Virtualization software is built to manage VMs (also known as a “guest OS”) just like Microsoft Word manages documents and iTunes manages music. VMs are just files that the virtualization software runs, making it far easier to download, install, backup and destroy any number of operating systems at will. It also allows the host machine to run several operating systems at once; Windows can be running VirtualBox which is running a Mac OS X guest OS and a Linux guest OS. As you could probably guess, having several VMs running at once can be a drain on memory, so just because you can run several at once doesn’t mean you should.

Now let’s talk about why you would want to virtualize operating systems. The first and most obvious reason is that it’s more convenient than installing a new OS straight onto the hardware. Many libraries are starting to leverage OS virtualization as part of their IT strategy. When you have hundreds of computers to manage, it’s a lot easier to install virtualization software on all of them and then deploy a single managed VM file (called an “image”) to all of them instead of installing the exact same set of programs on each one individually. It’s also a great way for regular users to experiment with new environments without fear of turning their computers into expensive paperweights. Since the host OS is never overwritten, there’s never any danger of accidentally deleting your entire system, and you can always go back to the OS you are familiar with when finished.

If you are a coder, VMs are mana from heaven for a many reasons. The first is that it allows you to download whatever you want without mucking up your host machine. I’m constantly downloading new tools and programs to test out, and I don’t keep 95% of them. Testing them out in a virtual machine means that I can just delete the entire VM when I’m done, taking all that junk leftover from the installation and any test files I created along with it. I can also play around with configurations in a VM without fear of doing irreparable damage.

Perhaps one of the most useful aspects of a VM for coders is the ability to mimic target environments. Here at FSU, all of our servers are running a specific kind of Linux called Red Hat v6.5. With OS virtualization, I can download a Red Hat v6.5 image and go hog wild installing, deleting and reconfiguring whatever I want without fear of accidentally trashing the server and taking down our website. If I do inadvertently break something in the VM, I just delete it and spin up another instance. This can be a great tool for teaching newbies how to work on your production server without actually letting them anywhere near your production server.

You can prepackage software on an image as well, which is handy when you and your team want a simple way to play around with some software that might be difficult to install. The Islandora project distributes a virtual machine containing all the necessary parts configured correctly to create a working Islandora instance. This has been a huge boon to the project because it lets newbies who don’t know what they are doing (such as myself) have access to a disposable Islandora to hack on without the pain of setting one up themselves. Catmandu, a bibliographic data processing toolkit, can also be downloaded as a VM for experimentation. Expect to see this trend of software being distributed in a virtual machine continue in the future.

Learning to leverage OS virtualization effectively has changed the way I work. I do almost all of my work inside of disposable VMs now just because it’s so much more clean and convenient; it’s like a quarantined area for when you are working on things that may or may not explode. Even if you aren’t a developer, there are plenty of convenient ways to use virtualization in your everyday work environment. Despite the complicated technology running under the hood, getting started with virtualization has never been easier. Give it a shot today and let me know what you think in the comments!

Building a Small Web Portfolio

Since my undergraduate commencement in May, I have been itching to create my own personal portfolio website. I wanted to curate my own space devoted to my curriculum vitae, projects, and thoughts moving through my education and career. This was for my own organization, but also for colleagues to view my work in an environment I envisioned.

I began looking at sites belonging to mentors, students, and other professionals, noticing that each site fit the person and their accomplishments. Then, I began to wonder, which design fits me? Which platform fits me? If I’m terrible at any sort of creative design, how will I design my own website?

I found clarity when a fellow library student shared some advice: it is never right the first time. Get it functional, get that first iteration out of the way, and improve from there.

Choosing a Platform

With web design becoming increasingly accessible, many services have popped up offering to help users create a website. By no means is this list exhaustive, but here are a few that I discovered and considered, ranging from least coding required to most:

  • Wix Wix is a free platform that offers customizable website templates built on HTML5. Once you choose a template, you can click the boxes to add text and click/drag text boxes and images around to change the layout. This platform was useful as a first step in seeing my content laid out on a webpage without having to write code.
  • WordPress and Squarespace These two platforms triple as portfolios, blogs, and content management systems. Both allow customizable templates, hosting space, and a unique domain name. Since they are content management systems, you must learn to use their interface and coding may be required if you want to customize beyond the readily customizable features.
  • Jekyll (using Git) and Bootstrap Jekyll and Bootstrap are frameworks for developing your own HTML- and CSS-based websites. Instead of placing your content into a text box, you actually dive into the HTML files to write your context. These platforms come with templates to get you started, but do require outside coding and system knowledge, such as Git and Ruby for Jekyll. For two great examples visit the pages of Ryan Randall, an ILS graduate assistant and all around culture scholar at IU, and Cecily Walker, a self-titled rabble-rousing librarian residing in Vancouver, BC.
  • Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Muse using HTML5 These final two require the most HTML coding. You can find some starter templates, but it is up to you to write and design the majority of the content and website. These platforms offer the highest range of customization, but also the highest learning curve. For a dynamic example of a website built with Adobe Dreamweaver, check out Samantha Sickels‘ media and design portfolio page.

Since I have a programming background, I decided that using Wix felt like neglecting my tech skills. Since I have limited experience with HTML5 and CSS, I wasn’t ready to take on an entire portfolio website from scratch. Therefore, I went with WordPress because I could choose a designed template, but customize as needed.

Using WordPress

I used my Information Architecture skills and decided the exact content I wanted to feature. Since then, I have spent countless hours arguing with WordPress. Consistently asking my computer screen, “What do you want from me?”

Image courtesy of pixgood.com.

Image courtesy of pixgood.com.

WordPress turned out to be less intuitive than I imagined (I shrugged off tutorials thinking it couldn’t be that difficult). It took a few tries to understand the interface with pages and menus. I also didn’t realize that different themes come with different customizable features and that they don’t include different page layouts you can choose from a simple drop-down menu. I typically found a perfect combination of clean, minimal, and functional, but with one unsatisfactory aspect. So close.

Image courtesy of imgarcade.com.

Image courtesy of imgarcade.com.

Finally, I chose a theme that worked! With some minor set backs with text fonts, I discovered how to use plug-ins. My social media buttons and accordion-style Projects page were the result of Google, willingness to explore, and my conceptual coding knowledge. Brianna Marshall helped me figure out how to set a menu item as a link. And I breathed a sigh of relief.

Tips

If you are creating a personal portfolio or even a quick WordPress site for a library project or service, I have three tips for you:

  1. Choose a random theme. Insert your content. Then, decide on a more permanent theme from there. Sometimes, seeing your own name in Comic Sans will put that theme on the “absolutely not” list.
  2. Read this article shared with me by the same student who gave me the advice above. It is geared toward IU students, with widely applicable ideas.
  3. Persist. You have a vision of your future site’s look and function, keep learning, Googling and exploring until you find out how to bring it to life. I can’t wait to play with more of the coding-heavy platforms in the future!

Find my portfolio website here, and please comment if you have any questions about web hosting and domain names, important aspects of website creation I didn’t touch on.

Then, respond! I would love to hear your thoughts about using WordPress or other platforms mentioned for different functions! What were your struggles and triumphs? Do you prefer a platform I didn’t mention?