Category Archives: General information

Conference notes, ALA goings-on, and other miscellaneous items of interest to LITA members

Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself – Vol. 3

Thank You Robot
Robot by MiKaArt.

The holidays are upon us, LITA Blog readers.  As we all wind down end of year tasks and prepare for our own celebrations, this final installment of Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself for 2014 is my way of saying thanks. Thanksgiving is maybe my favorite holiday- I love the way in which it is casual, hangout-focused, and food-intensive- but I also love the tone of gratitude that colors it. So, let me express how grateful I am for all of you, reading this blog and supporting our efforts. Thank you for being there.

For the uninitiated, Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself (TYBYWY) is a monthly selection of free webinars, classes, and other education opportunities for the aspiring technologist and the total newbie alike.

The Monthly MOOC

If, like so many of us, you’re intrigued by use of gamification in content design and delivery, Coursera’s perennially popular MOOC on the subject is open starting January 26th. Make your New Year’s resolution to educate yourself on this powerful outreach method. It’s particularly interesting from a training/instructional design perspective.

Worthwhile Webinars

OpenCon has posted its 2014 Webcast Round-Up, and the resources there are excellent if you are trying to learn more about Open Access.

I know that I’ve mentioned them in past post, but Library Journal’s Webcast series has been stepping up its game recently. These programs are on my docket, and you should consider attending too:

November 14th (Yes, TODAY) – Data, Assessment, and Participatory Design: Rethinking Information Literacy, Spaces, and Services in Two Academic Libraries

November 18th – Common x 3 (Public, Academic, School): Designing next generation gathering and learning spaces for libraries of every type

November 20th – Library UX: Unique Programs and Services for an Engaged Community | Lead the Change

Two Cool Gigs: 

Interested in in pursuing a career in media archives and social justice? Consider this paid internship in Democracy Now!’s Archives. Application deadline 11/15.

Another option, NPR’s Library Archives has a paid internship. Get on it and apply by 11/21!

Tech On, TYBYWYers-

Happy Thanksgiving! TYBYWY will return 12/12. As always, let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. Leave a message here or catch me on Twitter, @linds_bot.

 

Why Learn Unix? My Two Cents

There’s an conversation shaping up on the Code4Lib email list with the title “Why Learn Unix?”, and this is a wonderful question to ask. A lot of technical library jobs are asking for UNIX experience and as a result a lot of library schools are injecting bits and pieces of it into their courses, but without a proper understanding of the why of Unix, the how might just go in one ear and out the other. When I was learning about Unix in library school, it was in the context of an introductory course to library IT.  I needed no convincing, I fell in love almost immediately and cemented my future as a command line junkie. Others in the course were not so easily impressed, and never received a satisfactory answer to the question of “Why Learn Unix?” other than a terse “Because It’s Required”. Without a solid understanding of a technology’s use, it’s nearly impossible to maintain motivation to learn it. This is especially true of something as archaic and intimidating as the Unix command line interface that looks like something out of an early 90’s hacker movie. Those who don’t know Unix get along just fine, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Unix is the 800 lb. gorilla of the IT world. While desktops and laptops are usually a pretty even split between Windows and Mac, the server world is almost entirely Unix (either Linux or BSD, both of which are UNIX variants). If you work in a reasonably technical position, you have probably had to log in to one of these Unix servers before to do something. If you are in library school and looking to get a tech oriented library job after graduating, this WILL happen to you, maybe even before you graduate (a good 50% of my student worker jobs were the result of knowing Unix). As libraries move away from vendor software and externally hosted systems towards Open Source software, Unix use is only going to increase because pretty much all Open Source software is designed to run on Linux (which is itself Open Source software). The road to an Open Source future for libraries is paved with LIS graduates who know their way around a command line.

So let’s assume that I’ve convinced you to learn Unix. What now? The first step on the journey is deciding how much Unix you want to learn. Unix is deep enough that one can spend a great deal of time getting lost in its complexities (not to say that this wouldn’t be time well spent). The most important initial steps of any foray into the world of Unix should start with how to log in to the system (which can vary a lot depending on whether you are using Windows or Mac, and what Unix system you are trying to log in to). Once you have that under control, learn the basic commands for navigating around the system, copying and deleting files, and checking the built-in manual (University of Illinois has a great cheat sheet).

How to learn Unix as opposed to why is a completely separate conversation with just as many strong opinions, but I will say that learning Unix requires more courage than intelligence. The reason most people actively avoid using Unix is because it is so different from the point-and-click world they are used to, but once you get the basics under your belt you may find that you prefer it. There are a lot of things that are much easier to do via command line (once you know how), and if you get really good at it you can even chain commands together into a script that can automatically perform complex actions that might take hours (or days, or weeks, or years) to do by hand. This scriptability is where Unix systems really shine, but by no means do you have to dive in this deep to find value in learning Unix. If you take the time to learn the basics, there will come a time when that knowledge pays off. Who knows, it might even change the direction of your career path.

Do you have any questions or opinions about the need for librarians to learn Unix? Are you struggling with learning Unix and want to air your grievances? Are you a wizard who wants to point out the inaccurate parts of my post? Let me know in the comments!

IA & UX Meet Library Technology

The class I enjoy the most this semester at Indiana University is Information Architecture. It is a class where theory and practical application are blended so that we can create something tangible, but also understand the approaches – my favorite kind!

As usability.gov defines it, Information Architecture (IA) “focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way.” While the class doesn’t necessarily focus on Library Science since it is offered through the Information Science courses, this concept may sound a bit familiar to those working in a library.

In the class, we have chosen a small website we believe could benefit from restructuring. Some students chose public library websites, and others websites from the private sector. Regardless of each website’s purpose, the process of restructuring is the same. The emphasis is placed on usability and user experience (UX), which the ALA Reference and User Services Association defines as “employing user research and user-centered design methods to holistically craft the structure, context, modes of interaction, and aesthetic and emotional aspects of an experience in order to facilitate satisfaction and ease of use.”

Basically, it means structuring content so that a user can use it to a high level of satisfaction.

Peter Morville and Co. developed this honeycomb to represent User Experience Design.
Peter Morville and Co. developed this honeycomb to represent the multiple facets of User Experience. Check out his explanation here.

Keeping usability and UX at the forefront, much of our semester has been focused on user demographics. We developed personas of specific users by highlighting the tasks they need to carry out and the kind of behaviors they bring to the computer. For example, one of my personas is a working mother who wants to find the best dance studio for her daughter, but doesn’t have a lot of time to spend looking up information and gets frustrated easily with technology (may or may not have been influenced by my own mother).

We also developed a project brief to keep the main benefits of restructuring in mind, and we analyzed parts of the current websites that work for users, and parts that could be improved. We did not (and could not) begin proposing our restructured website until we had a solid understanding of the users and their needs.

While learning about usability, I thought back to my graduate school application essay. I discussed focusing on digital libraries and archives in order to improve accession of materials, which is my goal throughout my career. As I’m learning, I realize that accession doesn’t mean digitizing to digitize, it means digitizing then presenting the materials in an accessible way. Even though the material may be released on the web, that doesn’t always imply that a user will find it and be able to use it.

As technology increasingly evolves, keeping the goals of the library in sync with the skills and needs of the user is crucial. This is where information architecture and user experience meet library technology.

How do you integrate usability and user experience with library technology in your institution? If you are an information architect or usability researcher, what advice do you have for others wishing to integrate these tools?

Game Night at LITA Forum

Are you attending the 2014 LITA Forum in Albuquerque? Like board games? If so, come to the LITA Game Night!

Thursday, November 6, 2014
8:00 – 11:00 pm
Hotel Albuquerque, Room Alvarado C

Games that people are bringing:

  • King of Tokyo
  • Cheaty Mages
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  • Star Fluxx
  • Love Letter
  • Seven Dragons
  • Pandemic
  • Coup
  • Avalon
  • Bang!: The Dice Game
  • Carcassonne
  • Uno
  • Gloom
  • Monty Python Fluxx
  • and probably more…

Hope you can come!

Come Map with Us! LITA Education Webinar Series

Maps images

Join LITA Education and instructors Mita Williams and Cecily Walker in “Re-drawing the Map”–a webinar series! Register for a single webinar or all three at a discounted rate! Can’t make all the dates but still want to join in? Registered participants will have access to the recorded webinars.

Full details

 Web Mapping: moving from maps on the web to maps of the web
Tuesday Nov. 18, 2014
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central Time
Instructor: Mita Williams
Register for this webinar

Get an introduction to web mapping tools and learn about the stories they can help you to tell!

OpenStreetMaps: Trust the map that anyone can change
Tuesday December 9, 2014,
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central Time
Instructor: Mita Williams
Register for this webinar

Ever had a map send you the wrong way and wished you could change it?  Learn how to add your local knowledge to the “Wikipedia of Maps.”

Coding maps with Leaflet.js
Tuesday January 6, 2015,
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central Time
Instructor: Cecily Walker
Register for this webinar

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.

Cost:

Single Webinar:
  • LITA Member: $39
  • Non-Member: $99
  • Group: $190

All three webinars:

  • LITA Member: $99
  • Non-Member: $279
  • Group: $499

Registration Information: 

Register Online page arranged by session date (login required)

OR

Mail or fax form to ALA Registration
OR call 1-800-545-2433 and press 5
OR email registration@ala.org

Questions or Comments?
For all other questions or comments related to the course, contact LITA at (312) 280-4269 or Mark Beatty, mbeatty@ala.org.

 

Free Web Tools for Top-Notch Presentations

One does not simply (Boromir meme)Visually appealing and energizing slideshows are the lifeblood of conference presentations. But using animated PowerPoints or zooming Prezis to dizzy audiences delivers little more appeal than packing slides with text on a low-contrast background. Key to winning hearts and minds are visual flair AND minimalism, humor, and innovative use of technology.

Memes

Delightfully whimsical, memes  are a fantastic ice-breaker and laugh-inducer. My last two library conference presentations used variants of the crowdpleasing “One does not simply…” Boromir meme above, which never fails to generate laughter and praise. Memes.com offers great selections, is free of annoying popup ads, and is less likely than other meme generators to be blocked by your workplace’s Internet filters for being “tasteless.” (Yes, I speak from personal experience…)

Keep Calm and Ask a LibrarianKeep Calm-o-matic 

Do you want your audience to chuckle and identify with you? Everyone who’s ever panicked or worked under a deadline will appreciate the Keep Calm-o-matic. As with memes, variations are almost infinite.

Recite This

Planning to include quotations on some of your slides? Simply copy and paste your text into Recite This, then select an aesthetically pleasing template in which the quote will appear. Save time, add value.

Wordle

This free web tool enables you to paste text or a URL to generate a groovy word cloud. Vary sizes, fonts, and color schemes too. Note that Wordle’s Java applet refuses to function smoothly in Chrome. There are other word cloud generators, but Wordle is still gold.

Dictation

This is the rare dictation tool that doesn’t garble what you say, at least not excessively. It’s free, online, and available as a Chrome app. Often when preparing presentations, I simply start talking and then read over what I said. This is a valuable exercise in prewriting and a way to generate zingers and lead-ins to substantive content.

Poll Everywhere

Conduct live polls of your audience using texting and Twitter! Ask open-ended or multiple-choice questions and then watch the live results appear on your PowerPoint slide or web browser.  Poll Everywhere and equivalents such as EverySlide engage audiences and heighten interest more than a mere show of hands, especially for larger audiences in which many members otherwise would not be able to contribute to the discussion. Use whenever appropriate.

Emaze

This online presentation software offers incredible visual appeal and versatility without inducing either vertigo or snoozes. Create your slides in the browser, customize a range of attractive templates, and access from any device with an Internet connection (major caveat, that). You must pay to go premium to download slideshows, but this reservation aside, the free version is an outstanding product.

DoNotLink

Ever attempted to show a website containing misinformation or hate speech as part of an information literacy session but didn’t want to drive traffic to the site? DoNotLink is your friend! Visit or link to shady sites without increasing their search engine ranking.

Serendip-o-matic

Simply paste some text, and this serendipity search tool will draw on the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Flickr, Europeana, and other open digital repositories to produce related photographs, art, and documents that are visually displayed. Serendip-o-matic reveals unexpected connections between diverse materials and offers good, nerdy fun to boot. “Let your sources surprise you!”

So . . . what free web tools do you use to jazz up your presentations?

Midwinter Workshop Highlight: Meet the Field Research Presenter!

We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Wayne Johnston, who will be presenting the workshop:

Developing mobile apps to support field research
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)

LITA: Can you tell us a little more about you?

Wayne: I am currently Head of Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communication at the University of Guelph Library. Prior to joining the Library I worked for the United Nations in both New York and Geneva. My international experience includes work I’ve done in Ghana, Nepal, Croatia and Canada’s Arctic.

LITA: Who is your target audience for this workshop?

Wayne: I think this workshop will be most relevant to academic librarians who are supporting research activity on their campuses.  It may be of particular interest to those working in research data management.  Beyond that, anyone interested in mobile technology and/or open source software will find the workshop of interest.

LITA: How much experience with programming do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?

Wayne: None whatsoever.  Some experience with examples of field research undertaken by faculty and/or graduate students would be useful.

LITA: If you were a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?

Wayne: How about the Silver Surfer?  By living vicariously through the field research I support I feel that I glide effortlessly to the far corners of the world.

LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.

WayneYou will be equipped to enable researchers on your campus to dispense with paper data collection and discover new efficiencies and data security by using mobile technology.

LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?

WayneNothing required but any mobile devices would be advantageous.  If possible, have an app that enables you to read QR codes.

LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?

WayneA bottle of craft beer.

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:
Registration start page:
LITA Workshops registration descriptions:
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.

Are you an iPad or a laptop?

I’ve never been a big tablet user. This may come as a surprise to some, given that I assist patrons with their tablets every day at the public library. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Nexus 7 tablet. It’s perfect for reading ebooks, using Twitter, and watching Netflix; but the moment I want to respond to an email, edit a photo, or work my way through a Treehouse lesson, I feel helpless. Several library patrons have asked me if our public computers will be replaced by iPads and tablets. It’s hard to say where technology will take us in the coming years, but I strongly believe that a library without computers would leave us severely handicapped.

ipad_laptop-01One of our regular library patrons, let’s call her Jane, is a diehard iPad fan. She is constantly on the hunt for the next great app and enjoys sharing her finds with me and my colleagues. Jane frequently teases me about preferring computers and whenever I’m leading a computer class she’ll ask “Can I do it on my iPad?” She’s not the only person I know who thinks that computers are antiquated and on their way to obsoletion, but I have plenty of hope for computers regardless of the iPad revolution.

In observing how patrons use technology, and reflecting on how I use technology in my personal and professional life, I find that tablets are excellent tools for absorbing and consuming information. However, they are not designed for creation. 9 times out of 10, if you want to make something, you’re better off using a computer. In a recent Wired article about digital literacy, Ari Geshner poses the question “Are you an iPad or are you a laptop? An iPad is designed for consumption.” He explains that literacy “means moving beyond a passive relationship with technology.”

So Jane is an iPad and I am a laptop. We’ve managed to coexist and I think that’s the best approach. Tablets and computers may both fall under the digital literacy umbrella, but they are entirely different tools. I sincerely hope that public libraries will continue to consider computers and tablets separately, encouraging a thirst for knowledge as well as a desire to create.

Midwinter Workshop Highlight: Meet the Programming Presenter!

We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Elizabeth Wickes, who will be presenting the workshop:

Introduction to Practical Programming
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)

LITA: We’ve seen your formal bio but can you tell us a little more about you?

ElizabethI once wrote an entire Python program just so I could have a legitimate reason to say “for skittle in skittles.”  Attendees will meet this program during the workshop.  I can also fix pretty much anything with hot glue. 

LITA: Who is your target audience for this workshop?

Elizabeth: This workshop speaks to the librarian or library student who is curious about programming and wants to explore it within a very library-centric context.  So many of the existing books and resources on programming are for people with extensive math backgrounds. This workshop will present the core concepts and basic workflows with a humanities voice. 

LITA: How much experience with programming do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?

ElizabethAny amount is helpful, but nothing is required.  I’ll be presenting the topics from the ground up, presuming that folks have never seen any code before.

LITA: If your workshop was a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?

ElizabethI would say Snape, if I had to pick a character.  But hear me out! The topic might seem moody and unapproachable, but on the inside just wants to love!  Also, programming is really like potions class, where you are combining lots of little pieces very precisely to somehow produce something shiny and beautiful.  My final argument: Alan Rickman.

LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.

Elizabeth: Attendees will leave the workshop with a greater understanding of assessment strategies for material selection and a solid structure on which to build as a self-taught programmer.

LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?

ElizabethParticipants should bring a laptop (not a tablet) with an operating system they are comfortable using.  Macs are easiest to set up but any current computer will work.

LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?

ElizabethPerhaps I’m singing because the box brought me a singing voice.  But seriously, I’d be super excited to get sunscreen in that situation.

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:
Registration start page:
LITA Workshops registration descriptions:
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.

Midwinter Workshop Highlight: Meet the UX Presenters!

We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Kate Lawrence, Deirdre Costello, and Robert Newell, who will be presenting the workshop:

From Lost to Found: How User Testing Can Improve the User Experience of Your Library Website
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)

LITA: We’ve seen your formal bios but can you tell us a little more about you?

Kate: If I didn’t work as a user researcher, I would be a professional backgammon player or cake decorator (I am a magician with fondant!). Or both.

Deirdre: I’m horse crazy!

Robert: In a past life I was a professional actor. If you pay really really close attention (like, don’t blink), you might spot me in a few episodes of Friday Night Lights or Prison Break.

LITA: User Testing is a big area. Who is your target audience for this workshop?

Presenters: This is a perfect workshop for people who want to learn user testing in a supportive environment. We will teach people how to test their websites in the real world – we understand that time and other resources are limited. This is for anyone who wants to know what it’s like for patrons to try accessing their library’s resources through their website.

LITA: How much experience with UX do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?

Presenters: Experience isn’t required, but an understanding of the general UX field and goals is useful. Attendees are encouraged to come with a potential usability study topic in mind. From Robert: “You just need to be able to put your social scientist hat on and look at user testing as an informal (and fun!) psychology experiment.”

LITA: If your workshop was a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?

Kate: Having just read the Harry Potter series with my two kids, I can say that our workshop will inspire like Dumbledore, give you a chuckle like those naughty Weasley twins, teach you like the astute Minerva McGonagle would, and leave you smiling with satisfaction just like the brilliant Hermione Grainger.

Deirdre: Either Hermione or Jean Grey (pre-Phoenix, obviously). In either case, someone others turn to for advice and guidance, but who truly guide rather than doing it for you.

Robert: I’m gonna say Mystique. Mystique can literally put herself in someone else’s shoes (human or Mutant). When we conduct usability testing, we’re directly observing what it’s like to be in the user’s shoes and we’re seeing things from their perspective.

LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.

Kate: The knowledge about how to conduct a user test on their library site, a coupon for a free test from usertesting.com, and support and encouragement from a team of experienced researchers.

Deirdre: The skills to plan, recruit for and execute small-sample usability tests. The ability to communicate the findings for those tests in a way that will advocate for their users.

Robert: The ability to validate your ideas about your website with direct, reliable user feedback. Whenever you think, “This might work, but would it make sense to our users?” You’ll have the skills and tools to go find out.

LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?

Presenters: Whatever note taking method you prefer; a laptop or mobile device to follow along is recommending but isn’t required. Kate recommends “A laptop. A pen and paper. A positive, can-do attitude!”

LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?

Kate: I’m assuming my family is on the island with me, and in that case – I want that box to contain Hershey’s hugs, the white chocolate kisses with milk chocolate swirls. I’m obsessed!

Deirdre: Hostess Orange Cupcakes.

Robert: A gallon of Coppertone Oil Free Faces SPF 50+ Sunscreen. I’m sorry but I’m fair skinned with a ton of freckles and a desert island scenario just screams melanoma to me.

Thank you to Kate, Deirdre, and Robert for giving us this interview! We’re looking forward to their UX Workshop at Midwinter in Chicago. We’ll hear from our other workshop presenters in the coming weeks!

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:
Registration start page:
LITA Workshops registration descriptions:
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.