LITA National Forum ’08: Portals to Learning: What librarians can learn from video game design

Presented by Nicholas Schiller, Washington State University and Carole L. Svensson, University of Washington

Session description from the conference program: “If they are not already, video games are becoming as ubiquitous a media as television. Librarians will be better equipped to engage students in the practice of scholarly research if we understand the culture of gaming and what it means to say that our students are gamers. What should we make of this new and rapidly evolving media? What can we learn from the best examples of game design and development? What do players learn from games? What forms does this learning take? Are there useful pedagogies librarians can borrow from game designers? This presentation will focus on the instructional character of video games and how librarians can learn from the teaching that video game designers build into their craft. The conversation will focus on the video and computer game Portal, a 2007 release from Valve Software. Gaming culture is a rich and largely untapped source of insight for librarians. This presentation will present attendees with a context for understanding the gaming culture many of our patrons share. It will analyze a particular game and show how game designers integrate teaching and learning into their craft. Finally, we will discuss how games use instruction techniques familiar to librarians and how they are innovating in ways librarians would do well to emulate. Practical instruction techniques will be identified and the group will discuss possible ways to integrate them into our teaching practices.”

Useful links:
Portal (for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 from Valve Software)
Portal: Still Alive (for Xbox 360 Live Marketplace)
What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy James Paul Gee
Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers New York Times – Nicholas Schiller’s blog

We’re not getting any younger, but our students are. We are tied to our old ways; we think of new technologies as methods to deliver old ideas. It’s time to mix it up. We don’t necessarily have to live in their world, but we should try to speak the language.

What is gaming literacy? Recent NYT article on video games was decent, but comments were _very_ interesting, seemed to indicate concern on the part of some readers that gaming was antithetical to traditional literacy.

Games are here, they are not “tomorrow.” Games are mainstream media. Much more significant for students than they were for us.
GTAIV and Halo 3 each set records for opening day revenue (more than Spiderman 2). 65% of college students are regular or occasional gamers (Pew IAL, 2003). 97% of all teens (12-17) play computer, web, portable, or console games (Pew IAL, 2008).

Like McLuhan & Postman, we don’t need to be fans of new media in order to understand them. We do need to be literate in new media in order to connect with those who are fans.

Key terms:
Console – standalone computer hooked up to the television, i.e. Nintendo Wii
MMO/MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online (Role-Playing) Game

How do we think intelligently about “childish” things? Separate content from format. Use the tools we already use.

Use the tools you know –

Deb Gilchrist’s 5 questions for outcomes assessment in instructional design
1. What do you want the student to be able to do? (Outcome)
2. What does the student need to know in order to do this well? (Curriculum)
3. What activity will facilitate the learning? (Pedagogy)
4. How will the student demonstrate the learning? (Assessment)
5. How will I know if the student has done this? (Criteria)

How to Read a Book – Adler & VanDorn
Multiple readings for multiple purposes – not all reading is created equal
1st reading: unified perspective of the whole document
2nd reading: close analysis and outlining of specific arguments and evidence

The point of studying gaming behavior is rarely the content of the games. Games are complex information systems. They must teach players to evaluate information and make informed choices. Games that fail to do this well do not succeed.

Instruction applications from World of Warcraft – Carol

Collaboration and apprenticeship: You’re never alone. It’s a team exercise, just like in our workshops. Establish common goals (quests).

Deemphasis of authority, emphasis on peer knowledge: Average time for a response from a peer in WOW – 32 seconds. Users build reputation by demonstrating knowledge to peers. More like a wiki than an LMS.

Parsing out learning, using the “level” concept: scaffolding : instruction :: levels : games
Video games don’t give you access to more of the world than you can handle at your current level. In instruction, she would focus solely on the few aspects of a given database that were appropriate to the level of her audience.

“The real takeaway from a good swordfight session in World of Warcraft is its masterful community building.”
Players build the resources, they _are_ the resources. How can we build community through collaboration?

Intrinsic Motivation & Rewards
Players choose to play the game – Their activities are rewarded in tangible and measurable ways
Students are accustomed to having choices – Choice can be worked into classroom instruction – choice of partners, choice of “quests”

Persistence through failure:
Failing is normal, useful. Rare is the game in which you don’t die. It doesn’t take away from enjoyment.
When you fail in WOW, you know what to do – level up, read FAQs
When students fail, do they know what to do? Building expertise and community allows students to succeed.

Other gaming examples:

Gating: Software design term. The problem: button mashing, problem solving by random input. Gating is the solution, a mandatory pause in the action that requires a demonstration of skill acquisition.
Classroom application: Design research assignments to require identification of and reflection on research choices. (annotated bibliographies)

Why doesn’t Lara Croft obey Professor Van Croy?
Telling vs. Doing: which is the surer path to student learning?
Discovery-based learning: Nicholas stopped giving instructions on use of databases, rather, encourages students to explore the tool.

New ideas as I’ve leveled up:
The higher your level, the more you require the community.
The jargon gets confusing again at each level.

Gaming literacy can increase information literacy
If we can help our students see that when they’re playing games, they are functioning on a high level on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Then we can help them see that their complex and involved academic research is not only something they are capable of doing, but it’s something that they have already done while playing games.

As long as we keep our focus on the research process, and not on zombies, aliens, etc.

2008 National Forum: IT Management: There is Too Much Stuff

This past Spring, our library ‘completed’ what was a fairly significant reorganization. The library formalized relationships with several strategic partners which had been residing in our building. One of the outcomes included bringing together three independent IT departments, which I have been responsible for pulling together.

Needless to say, the 2008 LITA Forum session entitled “Re-swizzling the IT Enterprise for the Next Generation: Creating a Strategic and Organizational Model for Effective IT Management,” presented by Maurice York, Head, Information Technology North Carolina State University Libraries, caught my attention.

Maurice described the evolution of IT services at NCSU Libraries, which, by the audience reaction, was one which many other libraries experienced (Maurice: everything does go on the home page, doesn’t it?….) In summary, the current state of IT management is that ”there is too much stuff.”

He outlined the various IT Business Models that his organization has used at one time or another. One or all of them should sound familiar:

  • The Fire Brigade. This is where the IT staff runs around with the lastest service request being the top priority.
  • Batten the Hatches. This approach is usually the result of virus or denial of service attack. All systems are lock down tight.
  • Don’t call us, will call you. This is the model used after a ticketing system is deployed. Staff send in their service request to the ticketing system and then trust that IT will get back to them.
  • Maytag repairman. In an effort to be proactive IT staff wanders around. The result is that everyone wants the staff member to do something. In reaction, the staff member simply stays in their office so as to not let anyone see them so they can get their work done.

He also discussed the various forces which impact how an IT department can be managed:

  • Organizational: Everyone is an IT customer. There are high expectations for service plus the desire for personalized and customized services. The challenge is that everyone within an organization can only understands their individual needs while IT sits in the middle and can see all the needs.
  • Technological: The proliferation of technology results in it being layering upon itself. Trying to learn all the new stuff, keeping up with training, and all the associated costs is an additional challenge.
  • Strategic: The IT department has to compete for organizational resources, including staffing. It is difficult to manage both long term goals and daily needs. However, there is a need to protect time to work on long term
  • User expectations: People expect that library systems to resemble Google, Facebook, and LibraryThing.

The presentation slides do provide some additional information, although it is hard to understand their context by themselves.

Do They Really Know What They Need?

User-Centered Design for Humanities Collections within a Digital Library – LITA Forum 2008

Mark Phillips and Kathleen Murray, University of North Texas presented jointly on the challenges, goals and outcomes of user-centered design for humanities collections within a digital library. A link to their presentation is here.

Mark is the Head of the Digital Projects Unit and has been involved with software development and digital content creation for the Portal to Texas History. Kathleen is a postdoctoral research associate working in the Digital Projects Unit at the University of North Texas Libraries. She has been involved in
state-wide and national digital library projects and has presented at major library
and information science conferences in the areas of needs assessment, digital
libraries, and web archiving.

Mark and Kathleen took turns presenting the challenges. Mark started by giving the technical background of the IOGENE project.

They had to take this in three steps:

1.    Evaluate the DPU Infrastructure – and plan for creating a new infrastructure

2.    Consult with the IOGENE User Studies – What are the challenges that they bring to the table? What challenges do their needs bring?

3.    Process Model

Their 2004 infrastructure was built on the Keystone digital library system.

Advantages: open source and highly customizable. They were able to really tweak the system to suit their needs. There are automatic metadata entry forms, and it saves the files as XML on a file system.

Disadvantages: Very limited Keystone user group. If there was a problem, they had to solve it themselves.
Often tied to very outdated software. Made it difficult to more forward and advance. And since the model was so customizable, they were not able to share their code with any other users. Scaling the systems was also difficult. As they grew – they had problems with management. The technologies were difficult to work with going forward. Worked against the developers.

Their 2008 infrastructure:
Using Solr for indexing and Django.
Advantages: Uses open source technologies, highly customizable and highly scalable, it is standards based (ARK, METS, DC, MODS, SRU), designed around their specific requirements, XML files on a file system.

Disadvantages: in-house development takes time and money!

Components: Python, Django, Subversion, Trac, JQuery, Solr, Open Layers, Apache, Ubuntu/Suse, MySQL, memcached
This was a great way to look at software development at the University of Northern Texas.  Standards and specifications: METS, ARK, MODS; Dublin Core, Grabit, Bagit, PairTree, SRU, ARC/WARC

Background on the IOGENE project – they have seen a great deal of growth. But why genealogy? It would be fun, there is an increased interest in the amount of people wanting to do genealogical research, increasing number of seniors that are doing the research, and an increasing use of internet resources to do the research.

In setting up this project – they first decided upon an information retrieval framework for genealogists. Kathleen gave a brief demonstration of how the following genealogical sites worked for background data: Familysearch, Heritage Quest, and Each of these sites has multiple ways for the searcher to approach their search.

The Portal to Texas History only has one field within their basic search, but they also have an advanced search. But how to change their interface to best suit their users needs?

When assessing their portal – they used focus groups, usability testing and comment log analysis. The participants were members of geological societies and portal users.

The key findings were that the genealogists are primarily interested in names (first name and surname), locations (county, city, state, community) and time period. Their digital library places and emphasis on title, author/creator and subject.

They decided that they needed to rethink theirs operations and planned direction in order to better serve their genealogical users to enable the discovery of their collections and content.
While their digital library is very standards driven, the genealogical portals are more content driven.

1.    Name searches – really needed and requested by user groups. Priority needed for “exact phrase” search. Wanted visibility and guidance for “name” searches. By basing their model on Dublin core, this creates real problems. The data model gets “mushy” as you add in the creator, subject names, etc.
2.    For the advanced search, they wanted county name, subject, era, Soundex code, -‘names begin with’ and wanted to identify the familiar object “types”. Also wanted to select the number of search results, including “all.”
3.    Relevance: this is a problem. Everyone defines this differently. The order now is:
Surname, Location and Date together. Then display the results be relevance in this order: exact phrase (s), adjacent terms, terms proximally located, then single terms. Luckily they are able to modify their code fairly easily to accommodate most of these requests.
4.    Search Results – Serials – wanted to see the title as well as the table of contents. For objects that are part of the same series – they wanted one listing with all volumes listed. “hits in text” – wanted the number of the hits within the text.
Wanted to know the size and if it was available to download. Wanted it automatically! Open selected object sin new windows or tabs. Wanted to limit them by first name or date range, grid display that has limited metadata – limited the number of fields displayed.

They were not able to give the users everything that they wanted! This is where to bring the “education” side of librarian ship into the process.

5.    Metadata: include location information and link to maps, include place names not commonly known or used, limit to one page formatting for printing, simple text format vs. tabular format, open linked content in new window or tab.

In conclusion, they have their developers, their user design group, and their user studies. How to best utilize their assets to create the best process model? It’s a complex process, and one that involves all parties and much discussion. Unfortunately, in order to make the best use of time, money, and resources – not all of the users requests will be input into the final product.

LITA National Forum 2008: Tim Spalding: “Library 2.0 is in Danger”

The 2008 LITA National Forum opened Friday afternoon with a general opening session remarks by Tim Spalding, founder and developer, of Tim presented What is Social Cataloging and Why Should You Care?

(Blogging relatively ‘Live’ thanks to spotty ‘free’ wireless, a wired connection in my room, and a charged battery.)

I have to admit that I played around with LibraryThing a bit when it first went online, but not much since. My take is that for individuals it is essentially Facebook for book readers. For libraries, however, it can provide a fresh discovery layer for legacy catalog systems. There are seven libraries using LibraryThing for Libraries, including the High Plains Library District.

Tim started out with some updated statistics. LibraryThing now catalogs over 32 million books and is larger than the Library of Congress. Users can search for books using Amazon and 690 libraries. While at it’s core LibraryThing remains a personal cataloging system, there is a very significant social networking component. The largest active social group remains Librarians who LibraryThing.

Tim then provided a nice tour of the major features of LibraryThing using a ‘social cataloging ladder’ to highlight them. The one I found to be the most unique was the “UnSuggester” which displays books that you will not like if you like a specific book.

The comment that caught my ear during this comments was when he said “Library 2.0 is in danger.” After the presentation, I waited around and talked to Tim about this comment, and apparently I wasn’t alone. He appeared surprised that people though it was controversial. I didn’t think it was so much controversial as it was spot on.

As I interpreted Tim’s comments, his concern is two fold. First, Libraries are concentrating on what they can do with the 2.0 tools, but not what they can do best with them. Libraries are using wikis, blogs, and even Facebook pages simply because they can. They may not be using the tools in the best possible ways. Second, vendors are selling libraries on 2.0 features because libraries are asking for and licensing them. Libraries are telling vendors they want 2.0 features but they may not really know what they want to do with them.

The reason Library 2.0 may be in danger is that a library’s experience with what are essentially first generation Web 2.0 tools (My words. Do they even make sense?). I believe Tim is concerned that if libraries do not have positive experiences with the current generation tools, or how they are being used, libraries may simply bypass the next generation tools and, as Tim phrased it, “throw the baby out with the bath water.” (Tim, if you are out there, please expand, correct, or clarify via a comment!)

(NOTE: the audience was encouraged to submit to Tim one idea that you would like to see in LibraryThing. So, feel free to overwhelm him and email one of yours. His email address is not hard to find.)

2008 National Forum: Civil Rights Digital Library

P. Toby Graham presented an overview of the structure and holdings of the Civil Rights Digital Library, the most comprehensive effort so far to provide digitized material on the civil rights movement. There is a video archive, a learning objects component that provides curricular support, and the portal. The library is based in the University of Georgia Libraries and was launched in the spring of 2008.

Graham began by showing some video from the digital library, specifically from the Albany movement. This montage of video contained such material as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. exhorti ng the African-American community to remain nonviolent after the brutal beating of a pregnant young woman holding a child. Graham interspersed the clip montage with explanation of what was happening. The video is impressively clear, and the sound is quite good, allowing users to not only learn about but feel the singing and prayers in many of the videos.

The Civil Rights Digital Library began when professor Barbara McCaskill discovered the WSBN television archive, and wished to share it with her students in an accessible and interesting way. She approached the libraries of the University of Georgia with the idea of building a shared, interdisciplinary infrastructure. This collaboration yielded the Digital Library of Georgia, which holds 500,000 digital objects in 105 collections from 180 libraries and government institutions. The New Georgia Encyclopedia acted as an inspiration, with its fun and interactive approach to providing digital content.

The CRDL partners with several university and special libraries, as well as several content providers, to provide the archives of WSBN (Atlanta) and WALB (Albany), as well as the Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at The video archive contains 30 hours of civil rights footage with an emphasis on Georgia, and especially of Atlanta and University of Georgia integration. 2 hours of this footage are Martin Luther King, Jr. related. Anything else that dealt with key themes or events, needed to be digitally preserved, or were selected by students was also included. Teachers also had a say in selection, identifying items that would support their curricula.

The library uses both outsourced and in-house archiving. The video clips are in uncompressed .avi format at a massive resolution of 1440×1080. Comprehensive metadata is included with each clip. Graham showed some of the machinery involved, including the machine that converts rolls of film to digital formats. Converting was ruinously expensive at first, costing nearly $40,000 for the first ten hours of video, so the CRDL had to come up with a less expensive, in-house solution. What they use now is a Telesync, originally used to broadcast film, but now rigged to broadcast it to a video-capture program on a Mac.

Videos are delivered via RealPlayer, Windows Media Player, or Flash, which the user can choose upon entering the site. A cookie is set so that the user doesn’t have to keep choosing a format. The viewer is integrated into the metadata display, and can work with almost any bandwidth.

The CRDL portal draws it all together. Users can search, or browse in a number of ways: by events, locations, topics, etc. There is also a suggestion feature on the search box to help users who may not be quite sure what they’re looking for. Geographic access is supported with the help of the Google Maps API. Items are pegged to locations on the map. The most often used browse feature is browsing by people. To demonstrate, Graham browsed to Stokely Carmichael and displayed his FBI file, a 40-page .pdf document. Each person has a page describing who they were and what part they played in the Movement.

There are many educator resources, including lesson plans and annotated bibliographies.

Each institution that contributes material to the CRDL is recognized, and special search pages are available for items from each institution.

The CRDL runs on Voci, an open-source program available on SourceForge. Graham showed the admin side of the program, giving a brief tour of what Voci can do and how CRDL uses it. Interestingly, the Events browse is basically run as a different project in Voci.

The library took 2 years to build. Graham even showed the programmers who made it all work. GALILEO, Georgia’s digital library, helped program the CRDL system and public interface, administers the servers, offers network support, designs the interfaces, tests for usability, and offers customer support.

Note that this is not a repository—the library doesn’t hold digital objects. It is a tool to manage objects from many sources.

An audience member asked about copyright issues with the film…Turns out that the news networks signed a deed of gift, so copyright is a nonissue when it comes to the film.

The Civil Rights Digital Library is located at

LibX – Enhancing User Access to Library Resources

LibX – Enhancing User Access to Library Resources
Annette Bailey, Virginia Tech
LibX – A Browser Plugin for Libraries

Annette reviewed the history of LibX and the initial motivation behind creating this tool: users were increasingly bypassing the library and using search engines and other online search tools. LibX, as a browser plugin, puts the library back into the research process by guiding the user to library resources no matter where they are online.

Edition Builder Study
The LibX team conducted a study of Edition Builder, a LibX feature that allows libraries to create LibX editions for their particular library. Through analyzying their user logs, and a user survey that included 139 participants, they asked three questions about Edition Builder:

  1. Is the interaface easy to learn and use? (yes)
  2. How successful are edition maintainers in creating LibX editions? (successful)
  3. Is the auto-discovery feature effective? (yes)

According to self-reports, the majority of Edition Builder users creators found it easy or very easy to learn and use and preferred its single-page application interface. Logs showed that 50% of users built their edition in 72 minutes or less, and 80% in 190 minutes or less. Auto-discovery of the library catalog, databases, and Open URL Resolver generally worked well, and most of the users who needed to do manual configuration were able to do so easily.

LibX 2.0: the next stage for LibX

Libraries are creating service-oriented architectures, support mashups and widgets, and reate online tutorials, guides, and visualizations. The LibX team returned to their initial motivation: how can libraries provide these services and resources at the user’s point of need? Adding features to the library catalog or web site isn’t helpful if people aren’t visiting the library catalog or web site.

Annette gave a demo of sample features they have developed, “LibX 1.5”

  • On an Amazon book page, instead of just a little cue (LibX logo), adding direct information of availability in the user’s library.
  • Adding a LibX link at the top of Google search results; clicking on the link brings results from the library catalog to the top of the results list.

With funding from IMLS, LibX 2.0 will allow librarians to create LibApps for our users from reuable, sharable components, and our users will be able to describe which services they want to subscribe to.

LibApps will be applications that consist of modules, allowing the modules to be customized or reused.

The LibX community will include 3 target audiences:

  • Developers: will write LibApps and modules. (The LibX team will also create some fundamental modules.)
  • Adapters: adapt, combine, reuse and share the LibApps.
  • Users: decide what to use.

The IMLS grant includes funding for developing marketing kits for users. Users need to see the benefits in order to decide to use. Word of mouth has seemed to be the most effective method of increasing use.


How can we drive the LibX user base?
Along with creating the marketing kits, the grant will allow them to do a user study. The institution needs to actively support and promote the tool: demonstrating in instruction sessions, including as default on browsers on campus.

Is LibX primarily for academic libraries?
It is for all types of libraries.

What about International use – is it feasible to use in Africa?
Yes; and there is an interest in the library community in making LibX available in additional languages, not just English.

Don’t miss out on the LITA National Forum

Online registration is still available for the LITA National Forum, October 16 – 19, 2008 at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati, OH.

Keynote sessions will feature Tim Spalding, founder and developer of, Michael Porter of WebJunction (be sure to check out for details on his presentation), and R. David Lankes of the Information Institute of Syracuse University.

New this Year: Open Gaming Night on Saturday
LITA’s Opening Gaming Night is your chance to experience the thrills, chills, and occasional spills that are part of gaming @ the library. If video games intrigue you, try your hand at tennis, learn to sing and dance like a rock star, or drive a high octane race car. Board games are your chance to show off your strategy skills, demonstrate your dexterity, and finally to outwit your colleagues.

Visit for more information on sessions, preconferences, and hotel accommodations.

Official Call for Volunteer Bloggers at Forum 2008

The LITA National Forum will be held October 16 – 19, 2008 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The LITA Blog will, of course, be there to report on the happenings — sharing as much of the fun and learning as possible with those who cannot attend this year.

But, as always, we need your help!

Do you like to write? Looking for new ways to get involved? Take this opportunity to become a LITA Blogger!

The blog schedule for Forum has been posted and will be updated as we receive volunteers. There are many sessions to be covered on a variety of topics, so your help is needed more than ever.

If you are interested, please email Michele Mizejewski and let her know what session(s) you would like to cover and if you are new to LITA Blog.

We will be taking volunteers up to and during the conference.

Still time to register for the National Forum

Online registration will be available until September 30; if you have already registered, consider adding a preconference to your existing registration by faxing the printable form to the LITA Office.

The 2008 LITA National Forum will be held October 16 – 19, 2008 at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati, OH.

In addition to keynote sessions, there are over 30 concurrent sessions, poster sessions, and networking opportunities planned where you’re sure to find practical advice, new ideas, and tested solutions to technological issues you encounter every day.

Hope to see you in Cincinnati!

hi-fi sci-fi library at the LITA National Forum

Michael Porter has posted the music video and story “behind the music” of Hi-Fi Sci-Fi Library on his blog, Libraryman. Porter will be presenting his keynote session of the same name at the 2008 LITA National Forum in Cincinnati, October 16-19.

There is still time to register for the Forum; don’t miss out on Michael Porter’s session or the other keynotes, concurrent sessions, poster sessions, and networking opportunities planned.

Be sure to check out the Forum Wiki to network with attendees and get local information on Cincinnati.