Jobs in Information Technology: July 29, 2015

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:

Digital Services Coordinator, Metropolitan New York Library Council, New York, NY

Senior Library Applications Developer, Brown University, Providence, RI

Associate University Librarian for Digital Technologies, Brown University, Providence, RI

Information Designer for Digital Scholarly Publications, Brown University, Providence, RI

Science and Engineering Librarian, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA

Information Sciences and Business Liaison Librarian, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA

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

Creating campus-wide technology partnerships: Mission impossible?

Libraries have undergone significant changes in the last five years, shifting from repositories to learning spaces, from places to experiences. Much of this is due to our growing relationships with our IT, instructional technology, and research colleagues as the lines between technology and library-related work become continually more blurred.

But it’s not always easy to establish these types of partnerships, especially if there haven’t been any connections to build on. So how can you approach outreach to your IT campus departments and individuals?

There are typically two types of partnerships that you can initiate:

1. There is a program already established, and you would like the library to be involved where it wasn’t involved before

2. You are proposing something completely new

All you have to do is convince the coordinator or director of the project or department that having the library become a part of that initiative is a good thing especially if they don’t think you have anything to offer. Easier said than done, right? But what happens if that person is not responding to your painstakingly crafted email? If the person is a director or chair, chances are they have an assistant who is much more willing to communicate with you and can often make headway where you can’t.

Ask if you can attend a departmental meeting or if they can help you set up a meeting with the person who can help things move forward. Picking up the phone doesn’t hurt either-if someone is in their office, they might, just might, be inclined to talk with you as opposed to ignoring the email you sent them days ago which is by now buried under an avalanche of other emails and will be duly ignored.

Always try to send an agenda ahead of time so they know what you’re thinking-that additional time might just be the thing they need to be able to consider your ideas instead of having to come up with something on the spot. Plus, if you’re nervous, that will serve as your discussion blueprint and can prevent you from rambling or going off into tangents-remember, the person in front of you has many other things to think about, and like it or not, you have to make good use of their time!

After the meeting, along with your thank you, be sure to remind them of the action items that were discussed-that way when you contact others within the department to move forward with your initiative they are not wondering what’s going on and why you’re bugging them. Also asking who might be the best person to help with whatever action items you identify will help you avoid pestering the director later-there’s nothing worse than getting the green light then having to backtrack or delay because you forgot to ask them who to work with! From there on out, creating a system for communicating regularly with all those involved in moving forward is your priority. Make sure everyone who needs to be at the table receives an invitation and understands why they are there. Clarify who is in charge and what the expectations of the work are. Assume that they know nothing and the only thing their supervisor or colleague has said is that they will be working with the library on a project.

You might also have to think outside the proverbial IT box when it comes to building partnerships. For example, creating a new Makerspace might not start with IT, but rather with a department who is interested in incorporating it into their curriculum. Of course IT will become part of the equation at some point, but that unit might not be the best way to approach creating this type of space and an academic department would be willing to help split the cost because their students are getting the benefits.

Finally, IT nowadays comes in many forms and where you once thought the campus supercomputing center has nothing to do with your work, finding out exactly what their mission is and what they do, could come in handy. For example, you might discover that they can provide storage for large data sets and they could use some help to spread the word to faculty about this. Bingo! You’ve just identified an opportunity for those in the library who are involved in this type of work to collaborate on a shared communication plan where you can introduce what the library is doing to help faculty with their data management plans and the center can help store that same data.

Bottom line, technology partnerships are vital if libraries are going to expand their reach and become even more integrated into the academic fabric of their institutions. But making those connections isn’t always easy, especially because some units might not see the immediate benefits of such collaborations. Getting to the table is often the hardest step in the process, but keeping these simple things in mind will (hopefully) smooth the way:

1. Look at all possible partners, not just the obvious IT connections

2. Be willing to try different modes of outreach if your preferred method isn’t having success

3. Be prepared to demonstrate what the library can bring to the table and follow through

Outernet: A Digital Library in the Sky

gps-icon

 

To me, libraries have always represented a concentration of knowledge. Growing up I dreamt about how smart I’d be if I read all of the books in my hometown’s tiny local branch library.  I didn’t yet understand the subtle differences between libraries, archives and repositories, but I knew that the promise of the internet and digital content meant that, someday, I’d be able to access all of that knowledge as if I had a library inside my computer. The idea of aggregating all of humanity’s knowledge in a way that makes it freely accessible to everyone is what led me to library school, programming, and working with digital libraries/repositories, so whenever I find a project working towards that goal I get tingly. Outernet makes me feel very tingly.

In a nutshell, Outernet is a startup that got sponsored by a big nonprofit, and aims to use satellites to broadcast data down to Earth. By using satellites, they can avoid issues of internet connectivity, infrastructure, political censorship and local poverty. The data they plan to provide would be openly licensed educational materials specifically geared towards underprivileged populations such as local news, crop prices, emergency communications, open source applications, literature, textbooks and courseware, open access academic articles, and even the entirety of Wikipedia. Currently the only way to receive Outernet’s broadcasts is with a homemade receiver, but a low cost (~$100) solar-powered, weather-proof receiver with built in storage is in the works which could be mass produced and distributed to impoverished or disaster-stricken areas.

Outernet chooses the content to be added to its core archive with a piece of software called Whiteboard which acts as a kind of Reddit for broadcast content; volunteers submit new URLs pointing to content they believe Outernet should broadcast, and the community can upvote or downvote it with the top-ranking content making it into the core archive, democratizing the process. A separate piece of software called Librarian acts as the interface to locally received content; current receivers act as a Wi-Fi hotspot which users can connect to and use Librarian to explore, copy or delete content as well as configuring the data Librarian harvests. Public access points are being planned for places like schools, hospitals and public libraries where internet connectivity isn’t feasible, with a single person administering the receiver and its content but allowing read-only access to anyone.

While the core work is being done by Outernet Inc., much of the project relies on community members volunteering time to discuss ideas and test the system. You can find more about the community at discuss.outernet.is, but the primary way to participate is to build a receiver yourself and report feedback or to submit/vote on content using Whiteboard. While Outernet is still a long way off from achieving its goals, its still one of the most exciting and fun ideas I’ve heard about in a while and definitely something to keep an eye on.

javjet

Jobs in Information Technology: July 22, 2015

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:

Library Director, Hingham Public Library, Hingham MA

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

Agile Development: Sprint Planning Meeting

800px-BIS-Sprint-Final-24-06-13-05

In my last post, I talked about the sprint review meeting; this month we look into planning a sprint. As I said last time, this meeting should be separate from the review, both to differentiate the two and to avoid meeting fatigue.

Objective

Sprint planning takes into account the overall project plan and the results of the previous sprint (as presented in the sprint review) and sets out a plan for the next week discrete development time period.

Timing

The timing of the sprint planning meeting is the subject of much discussion, and different teams adopt different conventions based on what they feel is the best fit for their particular process. Personally, I prefer to hold the planning meeting on the same day as the review. While this puts pressure on the Product Owner to quickly adjust planning materials based on the outcome of the review, it has several important advantages:

  • The knowledge acquired during the review meeting is fresh on everyone’s mind. Given that sprints typically end on a Friday, waiting until after the weekend to plan the next iteration can lead to loss of organizational memory.
  • During the time between the review and planning meeting, in theory, no work can be performed (because development priorities have not been set), so minimizing that time is crucial to improved productivity.
  • Given that Agile philosophy aims to decrease overhead, having all the necessary meetings in one day helps to contain that part of the development process and focus the team on actual development work.

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My ideal sprint boundary process is as follows: have the sprint review in the morning, then take a break (the sprint retrospective can happen here). After lunch, reconvene and hold the planning meeting.

Participants

The planning meeting should be less open than the review, as it is more concerned with internal team activities rather than disseminating information to as wide an audience as possible. Only team members and the Product Owner should be present, and the Product Owner may be dismissed after requirements have been presented.

Meeting Agenda

Before the meeting begins, the Product Owner should spend some time rearranging the Product Backlog to reflect the current state of the project. This should take into account the results of the review meeting, so if both happen on the same day the PO will need to be quick on her feet (maybe a kind developer can drop by with some takeout for lunch?).

The planning meeting itself can be divided into two major parts. First, the team will move as many user stories from the backlog into the sprint as it thinks it can handle. Initially this will take some guessing in terms of the team’s development velocity, but as sprints come and go the team should acquire a strong sense for how much work it can accomplish in a given time period. Because the PO has updated the backlog priorities, the team should be able to simply take items off the top until capacity is reached. As each item is moved, the team should ask the PO as many questions as necessary to truly understand the scope of the story.

One the sprint bucket is full, the team will move on to the second part of the exercise, which involves taking each item and breaking it down into tasks. The PO should not be needed for this part, as the team should have collected all the information it needs in the first part of the meeting. When an item has been fully dissected and broken down, individual team members should take responsibility for each of the tasks to complete, and dependencies should be identified and documented.

It’s important to remember that sprint planning is not driven by how much work is left in the backlog, but by how much the team can realistically accomplish. If you have 3 sprints left and there are 45 user stories left in the backlog, but the team’s velocity is 10 stories per sprint, you can’t just put 15 stories in the sprint; at that point the team needs to renegotiate scope and priorities, or rethink deadlines. Pushing a team beyond its comfort zone will result in decreased software quality; a better approach is to question scope and differentiate key features from nice-to-haves.

If you want to learn more about sprint planning meetings, you can check out the following resources:

I’ll be back next month to discuss the sprint retrospective.

What are your thoughts on how your organization implements sprint planning? How do you handle the timing of the review/retrospective/planning meeting cycle? What mechanisms do you have in place to handle the tension between what needs to be done and what the team can accomplish?

BIS-Sprint-Final-24-06-13-05” image By Birkenkrahe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

LITA 2015 Scholarships Winners

Rachel Vacek announced at her LITA President’s program at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, the winners of annual scholarships LITA sponsors jointly with three organizations: Baker & Taylor, LSSI and OCLC. These scholarships are for master’s level study, with an emphasis on library technology and/or automation, at a library school program accredited by the American Library Association. LITA, the Library and Information Technology Association, is a division of the American Library Association.

Andrew Meyer
Andrew Meyer

This year’s winner of the LITA/Christian Larew Memorial Scholarship ($3,000) sponsored by Baker & Taylor is Andrew Meyer who will pursue his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The LITA/LSSI Minority Scholarship ($2,500) winner is Jesus Espinoza who will pursue his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Young-In Kim, the winner of the LITA/OCLC Minority Scholarship ($3,000), will pursue her studies at Syracuse University.

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Jesus Espinoza

Criteria for the scholarships include previous academic excellence, evidence of leadership potential and a commitment to a career in library automation and information technology. Two of the scholarships, the LITA/LSSI Minority Scholarship and LITA/OCLC Minority Scholarship, also require U.S Citizenship and membership in one of four minority groups: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, African-American, or Hispanic.

About LITA

Young-In Kim
Young-In Kim

Established in 1966, the Library and Information Technology Association is the leading organization reaching out across types of libraries to provide education and services for a broad membership. The membership includes new professionals, web services librarians, systems librarians, digital initiatives librarians, library administrators, library schools, vendors and anyone else interested in leading edge technology and applications for librarians and information providers.

For more information, visit www.lita.org.

Jobs in Information Technology: July 15, 2015

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

Web Services Librarian, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX

Associate Director for Information Services, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX

eResources & Discovery Specialist, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA

Innovation Collaborator, Texas Christian University – Library, Fort Worth, TX

Electronic Resources Librarian/Assistant Professor (4510), Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID

Digital Initiative Librarian/Assistant Professor (1099), Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID

Head of Service, Application & Digital Services, Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Tri-College Library Applications & Operations Developer, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA

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

Organizing Library Workflows with Asana

As coordinator for non-Roman language cataloging at my library, I have to keep track of several workflows simultaneously without actual fluency in any of the 10+ languages that my section deals with. As a librarian it goes without saying that I’m a big fan of organization and efficiency. So I’ve implemented a free task-based program called Asana in order to keep track of my section’s productivity, statistics, and progress.

Asana was created with the objective of eliminating dependability on email in order to manage projects. Tasks and conversations are all in one place to promote transparency and accessibility, which is extremely valuable when you are on a team of five or more people with multiple established workflows. I’m certain I’m not alone when I say that email can often seem like a void that creates more confusion than clarity when it comes to communicating important work updates. Not everyone that I have to correspond with is well-versed in the proper use and etiquette involved with emailing, which often inspires me to do this:

Ron Swanson, Parks & Recreation.

Continue reading Organizing Library Workflows with Asana

Online Surveys in Libraries: Getting Started

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part guest post on survey use in libraries by Celia Emmelhainz.

Surveys are everywhere. You go to a government website, a vendor’s blog, an organization’s page, or step into a building: “We just want a few minutes of your time.” A scattering of survey requests linger in my email: ACRL, RDA, data librarians, IndieGoGo, four campus programs, the International Librarians’ Network, Thompson Reuters, and Elsevier. And that’s just the past month!

Then, when you try to actually open a survey, there are tiny little buttons: you have a large screen, but you can’t manage to hit any of them. There are pages and pages of Likert scales. Do they want your life’s story, told in rankings of five items and slider bars? They definitely want you to brainstorm for them, but who has time to think of the top 15 libraries in the world, ranked by specialization?

On Using Surveys Well 

If I sound skeptical of surveys, it’s because I am: People are over-surveyed. Organizations repeatedly survey-blast the same users, not caring about the value of each person’s time. Samples aren’t representative; results aren’t analyzed—we just present pie charts and summary graphs as if that’s all we can do. We use them to justify our existence, not to understand the word or improve services. In the hands of the wrong person, surveys can be deceptive tools.

Continue reading Online Surveys in Libraries: Getting Started