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.

Shifting & Merging

McKenzie Pass, Ore. Courtesy of Ryan Shattuck. Task Easy Blog 2013.

McKenzie Pass, Ore. Courtesy of Ryan Shattuck. Task Easy Blog 2013.

It has been exactly seven weeks since I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, yet I finally feel like I have arrived. Let me rewind, quick, and tell you a little about my background. During my last two years of undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), I spent my time working on as many Digital Humanities (DH) projects and jobs as I possibly could in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.

[DH is a difficult concept to define because everyone does it through various means, for various reasons. To me, it means using computational tools to analyze or build humanities projects. This way, we can find patterns we wouldn’t see through the naked eye, or display physical objects digitally for greater access.]

By day, I studied English and Computer Science, and by night, my fingers scurried over my keyboard encoding poems, letters, and aphorisms. I worked at the Walt Whitman Archive, on an image analysis project with two brilliant professors, on text analysis and digital archives projects with leading professors in the fields, and on my own little project analyzing a historical newspaper. My classmates and I, both undergraduate and graduate, constantly talked about DH, what it is, who does it, how it is done, the technologies we use do it and how that differs from others.

Discovering an existing group of people already doing the same work you do is like merging onto a packed interstate where everyone is travelling at 80 miles per hour in the same direction. The thrill, the overwhelming “I know I am in the right place” feeling.

I chose Indiana University (IU) for my Library and Information Science degrees because I knew it was a hub for DH projects. I have an unparalleled opportunity working with Dr. John Walsh and Dr. Noriko Hara, both prominent DH and Information Science scholars.

However, I am impatient. After travelling on the DH interstate, I expected every classmate I met at IU to wear a button proclaiming, “I heart DH, let’s collaborate.” I half expected my courses to start from where I left off in my previous education. The beginning of the semester forced me to take a step back, to realize that I was shifting to a new discipline, and that I needed the basics first. My classes are satisfying my library love, but I was still missing that extra-curricular technology aspect, outside of my work for Dr. Walsh.

Then, one random, serendipitous meeting in the library and I was “zero to eighty” instantly. I met those DH students and learned about projects, initiatives, and IU networking. They reaffirmed that the community for which I was searching existed.

Since then, I have found others in the community and continue those same DH who, what, how, why conversations. While individual research is important, we can reach a higher potential through collaboration, especially in the digital disciplines. I am continuing to learn the importance of reaching out and learning from others, which I don’t believe will cease once I graduate. (Will it?)

I assure you that my future posts will be more closely related to library technology and digital humanities tools, but frankly, I’m new here. While I could talk about the library and information theory I’m learning, I will spare you those library school memories, and keep you updated on new technologies as I learn them.

In the meantime, I’ll ask you to reflect and share your experience transitioning to library school or into a library career. How were you first introduced to library technology or digital humanities? Any nuggets of advice for us beginners?

A Tested* Approach to Leveling Up

*Unscientifically, by a person from the internet.

If you’re a LITA member, then you’re probably very skilled in a few technical areas, and know just enough to be dangerous in several other areas. The later can be a liability if you’ve just been volunteered to implement the Great New Tech Thing at your library. Do it right, and you just might be recognized for your ingenuity and hard work (finally!). Do it wrong, and you’ll end up in the pillory (again!).

pilloryMaybe the Great New Tech Thing requires you to learn a new programming or markup language. Perhaps you’re looking to expand on your skills–and resume–by adding a language. For many years, the library associations and schools have emphasized tech skills as an essential component of librarianship. The reasons are plentiful, and the means are easier that you might think. With a library card, a few free, open source software tools, and some time, you can level up your tech skills by learning a new language.

I humbly suggest the following approach to leveling up, which has worked for me.

What you’ll need

A computer. A Windows, OS X, or Linux laptop or desktop computer will suffice.

Resources. Online programming “schools”, such as Codeacademy and Code School are a great concept and work for some people, but I’ve personally found them to provide an incomplete education. The UI demands brevity, and therefore many of the explanations and instructions require a certain level of knowledge about coding in general that most beginners lack. I have found good ol’ fashioned books to be a better resource. Find titles that have exercises, and you’ll learn by doing. Actually building something practical makes the process enjoyable. The Visual Quickstart Guide series by Peachpit Press and the Head First series by O’Reilly usually teach through practical examples.

Books are a great source of knowledge, but so are your fellow coders. Most languages have a community with an online presence, and it would be a good idea to find those forums and bookmark them. But if you were to bookmark only one forum, it should be the Stack Overflow forum for the language you’re learning.

Some languages also have official documentation online, for example, php.net and python.org.

Time. Carve out time wherever you can. If you take public transportation to work, use that time (if you can find a seat). Learn during your lunch break. Give up a season of your favorite TV show (you can always catch up later in a weekend binge-watch when the DVDs hit your library shelves).

Where to start

Here and now. Maybe you’re reading this because you’ve just been tapped to implement the Great New Tech Thing at your library. Or maybe you’re considering adding a skill to your resume. Whatever the reason, there’s no time like the present.

Leveling up for professional development affords you greater flexibility. Start with a language your friends know–they will be an invaluable resource if you get stuck along the way. Also, consider starting with a simple language that you can build upon. If you already know HTML, then PHP and JavaScript are natural progressions, and they open the door to object-oriented languages like C++, Java, or Python. Finally, make sure there’s a viable–if not growing–community around the language you want to learn. Not only does this give a sense of the language’s future and staying-power, the community can also provide support through online forums, conferences and meetups, etc.

If you’re new to programming languages, I hope this approach helps. If you’re a veteran coder, please share your learning approach in the comments.

The Password Dilemma

366px-Elizabeth_Montgomery_Allen_Ludden_Password_1971

Elizabeth Montgomery on the game show Password, 1971

One-on-one technology help is one of the greatest services offered by the modern public library. Our ability to provide free assistance without an underlying agenda to sell a product puts us in a unique and valuable position in our communities. While one-on-one sessions are one of my favorite job duties, I must admit that they can also be the most frustrating, primarily because of passwords. It is rare that I assist a patron and we don’t encounter a forgotten password, if not several. Trying to guess the password or resetting it usually eats up most of our time. I wish that I were writing this post as an authority on how to conquer the war on passwords, but I fear that we’re losing the battle. One day we’ll look back and laugh at the time we wasted trying to guess our passwords; resetting them again and again, but it’s been 10 years since Bill Gates predicted the death of the password, so I’m not holding my breath.

The latest answer to this dilemma is password managers like Dashlane and Last Pass. These are viable solutions for some, but the majority of the patrons I work with have little experience with technology and a password manager is simply too overwhelming.

I’ve been thinking a lot about passwords lately; I’ve read countless articles about how to manage passwords, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer. That said, I think that the best thing librarians can do is change our attitude about passwords in general. Instead of considering them to be annoyances we should view them as tools. Passwords should empower us, not annoy us. Passwords are our first line of defense against hackers. If we want to protect the content we create, it’s our responsibility to create and manage strong passwords. This is exactly the perspective we should share with our patrons. Instead of griping about patrons who don’t know their email passwords, we should take this opportunity to educate our patrons. We should view this encounter as a chance to stop patrons from using one password across all of their accounts or God forbid, using 123456 as their password.

If a patron walks away from a one-on-one help session with nothing more than a stronger account password and a slightly better understanding of online security, then that is a victory for the librarian.

What’s your take on the password dilemma? Do you have any suggestions for working with patrons in one-on-one situations? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

An Interview with LITA Emerging Leader Annie Gaines

Annie Gaines1. Tell us about your library job.  What do you love most about it?

I am the Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Idaho. This is a brand new position within the library and also my first ‘real’ librarian job, so it’s been a constant learning experience. I work along with the Digital Initiatives Librarian on the various digital projects happening at the library, including building an institutional repository, creating digital collections, redesigning the library website, creating and managing open access journals, and working on VIVO (a semantic-web application we are using as a front-end to our IR). I also do some education and advocacy around copyright, author’s rights, open access, etc.

The thing I love most about this job (aside from being able to design websites in crayon – image attached) is taking an idea and bringing it into fruition. Whether it’s a digital collection of postcards with custom navigation or a new journal or database, being able to make an idea a functional, beautiful reality is really rewarding. Also I’m just really excited about increasing access to information, and designing new ways to make that information accessible to a broader audience.

2. Where do you see yourself going from here?

Having just started this career, I’m not completely sure what’s next for me. I’m very happy in my current position, and I love all of the people I work with at the University of Idaho. I think my next step will probably be to start pursing another degree to help expand my knowledge in this field, or to fulfil my dream to become a professional comic artist/graphic novelist on the side.

3. Why did you apply to be an Emerging Leader?  What are your big takeaways from the ALA-level activities so far?

I was encouraged by my mentor, a previous Emerging Leader, to apply. I am actually the fourth Emerging Leader in a row to be selected from the University of Idaho Library, so there is a lot of administrative support and encouragement for this kind of activity. The big thing I’ve learned through working with ALA is that although the organization and the sub-organizations have a massive population, it is a handful of active participants who make nearly everything happen. My goal is to become one of those change-agents at the ALA level, eventually.

4. What have you learned about LITA governance and activities so far?

I’ve learned that LITA is inclusive and active with its membership. This is a very fun organization, and I’m impressed with the discussion and activities that come out of LITA and its membership.

5. What’s your favorite LITA moment?  What would you like to do next in the organization?

My favorite LITA moment was working with Rachel Vacek and Kyle Denlinger on the Town Meeting activities at Midwinter. My favorite kind of brainstorming involves large sheets of paper and crayons (see above) and being able to do that with other LITA members was really fun.

An Interview with LITA Emerging Leader Kyle Denlinger

Kyle Denlinger1. Tell us about your library job.  What do you love most about it?

My job as eLearning Librarian is equal parts project manager, instructional designer, information literacy teacher, and instructional technologist, with some multimedia producer and reference librarian thrown in to keep things interesting. My main initiative right now is the continuing development of ZSRx, my library’s series of open online courses for Wake Forest alumni and parents. What I love most about my job is that I’m empowered to act on big ideas, I get to do a bunch of creative work, and I get to do it all alongside some of the best coworkers and faculty colleagues you could find anywhere.

2. Where do you see yourself going from here?

I would *love* to eventually head up a team that serves as a resource for faculty who want to better integrate technology and library resources into their teaching in effective and creative ways. This team would handle everything from software training to multimedia production to instructional design for online, blended, and face-to-face courses.

3. Why did you apply to be an Emerging Leader?  What are your big takeaways from the ALA-level activities so far?

I applied to the EL program because so many of the people I look up to in libraries went through the program at some point in their career, and their experiences seem to have served them well. I can see why–I’ve already made some excellent ALA buddies through EL and have had a few doors open to me since being accepted to the program. My biggest takeaway so far is that decisions are made by those that show up. Big as they are, ALA, and LITA in particular, are really accessible organizations for those that wish to get involved at any level–you just have to show up and be willing to do the work.

4. What have you learned about LITA governance and activities so far?

It was great to be able to sit in on a LITA board meeting and to help plan the #becauseLITA stuff surrounding the Town Meeting at Midwinter. LITA’s emphasis on openness and camaraderie, and the fun-by-default nature of most LITA activities makes me happy that it’s my professional home. I can’t say I’m an expert on LITA governance (yet), but I do know that I’m able to be involved at even the highest levels if I so choose.

5. What’s your favorite LITA moment?  What would you like to do next in the organization?

My favorite LITA moment comes from my least-favorite LITA moment (or, rather, a LITA non-moment). At the Top Tech Trends panel at Annual in Chicago, Char Booth gave me and a project I’d been working on a very prominent shout-out in front of a full room. This was great, but it would have been even better if I’d, you know, ATTENDED THE PANEL. I’d decided to skip it to get an early dinner with a friend. I found out through a small flood of excited texts from friends who were there, and at the LITA Happy Hour that evening, almost everyone I knew was super excited for me. I think someone bought me a beer. Such is LITA.

The thing I’m excited about is getting involved in next is the shiny new User Experience IG, which everyone should join. Shameless plug: http://connect.ala.org/node/222849

LITA Members: take the LITA Education Survey

LITA members, please participate in the LITA Education Survey. The survey was first sent out 2 weeks ago to all current LITA members.  Another reminder will appear in LITA members email boxes soon, or you can click the links in this posting. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes of your time and will help your LITA colleagues developing continuing education programs to meet your needs.

LITA Education Survey 2014

In our continuing efforts to make LITA education offerings meet the needs and wishes of our membership, we ask that you, the LITA members, take a few minutes to fill out the linked survey. We are looking for information on education offerings you have participated in recently and would like to know what topics, methods and calendar times work best for you.

The more responses we get the better chances we have to create education offerings that provide excellent value to you the LITA membership. We appreciate you taking 10 minutes of your time to complete the LITA Education Survey 2014.

Thank you for your time and input.

LITA Education Committee