Jobs in Information Technology: February 18

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

New This Week

Library Technology Professional 2, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM

Systems & Information Technology Librarian (Assistant Professor), NYC College of Technology,  New York City,  NY

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

 

The Internet of Things

 

Internet

Internet Access Here Sign by Steve Rhode. Published on Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Intel announced in January that they are developing a new chip called Curie that will be the size of a button and it is bound to push The Internet of Things (IoT) forward quickly. The IoT is a concept where everyday items (refrigerators, clothes, cars, kitchen devices, etc.) will be connected to the internet.

The first time I heard of IoT was in the 2014 Horizon Report for K-12. Yes, I’m a little slow sometimes… There is also a new book out that was shared with me by one of the fellow LITA Bloggers, Erik Sandall, by David Rose titled Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things. If you want an interesting read on this topic I recommend checking it out (a little library humor).

When I first heard of IoT, I thought it was really interesting, but wasn’t sure how quickly it would fully arrive. With Intel’s new chip I can imagine it arriving sooner than I thought. Last month, I blogged about Amazon Echo, and Echo fits in nicely with IoT.  I have to say that I’d really like to see more librarians jump on IoT and start a conversation on how information will be disseminated when our everyday items are connected to the internet.

According to the author of an article in Fast Company, IoT is going to make libraries even better! There was an article written in American Libraries by Mariam Pera on IoT, Lee Rainie did a presentation at Internet Librarian, and Ned Potter wrote about it on his blog.   But there is room for more conversation.

If anyone is interested in this conversation, please reach out!

AND

If you could have one device always connected to the internet what would it be? You can’t say your phone.

Diagrams Made Easy with LucidChart

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Marlon Hernandez 

For the past year, across four different classes and countless bars, I have worked on an idea that is quickly becoming my go-to project for any Master of Information Science assignment; the Archivist Beer Vault (ABV) database. At first it was easy to explain the contents: BEER! After incorporating more than one entity the explanation grew a bit murky:

ME: So remember my beer database? Well now it includes information on the brewery, style AND contains fictional store transactions
WIFE: Good for you honey.
ME: Yeah unfortunately that means I need to add a few transitive prop… I lost your attention after beer, didn’t I?

Which is a fair reaction since trying to describe the intricacies of abstract ideas such as entity relationship diagrams require clear-cut visuals. However, drawing these diagrams usually requires either expensive programs like Microsoft Visio (student rate $269) or underwhelming experiences of freeware. Enter Lucidchart, an easy to use and relatively inexpensive diagram solution.

Continue reading

Let’s Talk About E-rate

E-rate isn’t new news. Established almost 20 years ago (I feel old, and you’re about to too) by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, E-rate provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access.

What is new news is the ALA initiative Got E-rate-rate_logoe? and more importantly the overhaul of E-rate which prompted the initiative- and it’s good news. The best part might well be 1.5 billion dollars added to annual available funding. What that means, in the simplest terms, is new opportunities for libraries to offer better, faster internet. It’s the chance for public libraries of every size to rethink their broadband networks and  make gains toward the broadband speeds necessary for library services.

But beyond the bottom line, this incarnation of E-rate has been deeply influenced by ALA input. The Association worked with the FCC to insure that the reform efforts would benefit libraries. So while we can all jump and cheer about more money/better internet, we can also get excited because there are more options for libraries who lack sufficient broadband capacity to design and maintain broadband networks that meet their community’s growing needs.

The application process has been improved and simplified, and if you need to upgrade your library’s wireless network, there are funds earmarked for that purpose specifically.

Other key victories in this reform include:

  • Adopting a building square footage formula for Category 2 (i.e., internal connections) funding that will ensure libraries of all sizes get a piece of the C2 pie.
  • Suspending the amortization requirement for new fiber construction.
  • Adopting 5 years as the maximum length for contracts using the expedited application review process.
  • Equalizing the program’s treatment of lit and dark fiber.
  • Allowing applicants that use the retroactive reimbursement process (i.e., BEAR form) to receive direct reimbursement from USAC.
  • Allowing for self-construction of fiber under certain circumstances.
  • Providing incentives for consortia and bulk purchasing.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’d suggest going to the source. But it’s a great Friday when you get to celebrate a victory for libraries everywhere.

To receive alerts on ALA’s involvement in E-rate, follow the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) on Twitter at @OITP. Use the Twitter hashtag #libraryerate

 

ALA Midwinter 2015 LITA Preconference Review: How User Testing Can Improve the User Experience of Your Library Website

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Tammi Owens

Last July, Winona State University’s Darrell W. Krueger Library rolled out a completely new website. This January we added to that new user experience by upgrading to LibGuides and LibAnswers v2. Now, we’re looking for continuous improvement through continuous user experience (UX) testing. Although I have some knowledge of the history and general tenets of user experience and website design, I signed up for this LITA pre-conference to dive into some case studies and ask specific questions of UX specialists. I hoped to come away with a concrete plan or framework for UX testing at our library. Specifically, I wanted to know how to implement the results of UX testing on our website.

The instructors

Kate Lawrence is the Vice President of User Research at EBSCO. Deirdre Costello is the Senior User Experience Researcher at EBSCO. I was a little nervous this seminar was going to be surreptitious vendor marketing, but there was no EBSCO marketing at all. Kate brought decades of experience in the user research sector to our conversations, and Dierdre, as a recent MLIS with library experience, was able to connect the dots between research and practice.

The session

There were six participants in our session, with a mix of public and university libraries represented. Participants who attended the session are at all stages of website redesign and have different levels of control over our institutional websites. Some of us report to committees, while others have complete ownership of their library’s site. As in the Python pre-conference, participant experience levels were mixed.

The session was divided into four main sections: “Why usability matters,” “Website best practices,” “Usability: Process,” and an overview of UserTesting.com, a company EBSCO uses during their research. Kate and Deirdre presented each section with a slide deck, but interspersed videos and discussion into their formal presentation.

The introductions to usability and website best practices were review for me, but offered enough additional information and examples that I continued to be engaged throughout the morning. Some memorable moments for me were watching and discussing Steve Krug’s usability demo, and visiting two websites: readability-score.com and voiceandtone.com.

After lunch, Kate went step-by-step through a typical usability testing process in her department. She has nine steps in her process (yes, nine!), but after she explained each step it somehow went from overwhelming and scary to doable and exciting.

After another break, Kate and Deirdre invited Sadaf Ahmed in to speak about the company UserTesting.com. Unfortunately, this was less hands-on than I expected it to be, but I was gobsmacked by the information that could be gleaned quickly using the tool. (In short: students use Google a lot more than I ever imagined.)

At the end of the day, Kate and Deirdre set aside time for us to create research questions with which to begin our UX testing. By that time, though, everyone was overloaded with new information and we all agreed we’d rather go home, apply our knowledge, and contact Kate and Deirdre directly for feedback.

Further study

To make sure we could implement user testing at our own institutions, Kate and Deirdre distributed USB drives filled with research plans, presentations, and reports. If they referenced it during the day, it went on our USB drives. This is proving to be beneficial as I make sense of my own notes from the session and begin the research plan for our first major UX test. Additionally, Kate ordered several books for all attendees to read in the coming weeks. These items alone, along with the new network we created among attendees during the day, may be the most valuable part of the session going forward.

Review in a nutshell

This pre-conference was, for me, well worth the time and money to attend. The case studies we discussed contributed to my understanding of how to ask small questions about our website in order to make a big impact on user experience. I left with exactly the tools I desired: a framework for user testing implementation, and connections to colleagues who are willing to help us make it happen at Winona State.

Tammi Owens is the Emerging Services and Liaison Librarian at Winona State University in Winona, MN. Along with being a liaison to three academic departments, her position at the library means she often coordinates technical projects and gets to play with cool toys. Find her on Twitter (@tammi_owens) during conferences and over email (towens@winona.edu) otherwise.

What is a Librarian?

 

steamman-black

When people ask me what I do, I have to admit I feel a bit of angst. I could just say I’m a librarian. After all I’ve been in the library game for nearly 10 years now. I went to library school, got a library degree, and I now work at FSU’s Strozier library with a bunch of librarians on library projects. It feels a bit disingenuous to call myself a librarian though because the word “librarian” is not in my job title. Our library, like all others, draws a sharp distinction between librarians and staff. Calling myself a librarian may feel right, but it is a total lie in the eyes of Human Resources. If I take the HR stance on my job, “what I do” becomes  a lot harder to explain. The average friend or family member has a vague understanding of what a librarian is, but phrases like “web programming” and “digital scholarship” invite more questions than they answer (assuming their eyes don’t glaze over immediately and they change the subject). The true answer about “what I do” lies somewhere in the middle of all this, not quite librarianship and not just programming. When I first got this job, I spent quite a bit of time wrestling with labels, and all of this philosophical judo kept returning to the same questions: What is a librarian, really? And what’s a library? What is librarianship? These are probably questions that people in less amorphous positions don’t have to think about. If you work at a reference desk or edit MARC records in the catalog, you probably have a pretty stable answer to these questions.

At a place like Strozier library, where we have a cadre of programmers with LIS degrees and job titles like Digital Scholarship Coordinator and Data Research Librarian, the answer gets really fuzzy. I’ve discussed this topic with a few coworkers, and there seems to be a recurring theme: “Traditional Librarianship” vs. “What We Do”. “Traditional Librarianship” is the classic cardigan-and-cats view we all learned in library school, usually focusing on the holy trinity of reference, collection development and cataloging. These are jobs that EVERY library has to engage in to some degree, so it’s fair to think of these activities as a potential core for librarianship and libraries. The “What We Do” part of the equation encapsulates everything else: digital humanities, data management, scholarly communication, emerging technologies, web programming, etc. These activities have become a canonical part of the library landscape in recent years, and reflect the changing role libraries are playing in our communities. Libraries aren’t just places to ask questions and find books anymore.

The issue as I see it now becomes how we can reconcile the “What We Do” with the “Traditional” to find some common ground in defining librarianship; if we can do that then we might have an answer to our question. An underlying characteristic of almost all library jobs is that, even if they don’t fall squarely under one of the domains of this so-called “Traditional Librarianship”, they still probably include some aspects of it. Scholarly communication positions could be seen as a hybrid collection development/reference position due to the liaison work, faculty consultation and the quest to obtain Open Access faculty scholarship for the institutional repository. My programming work on the FSU Digital Library could be seen as a mix of collection development and cataloging since it involves getting new objects and metadata into our digital collections. The deeper I pursue this line of thinking, the less satisfying it gets. I’m sure you could make the argument that any job is librarianship if you repackage its core duties in just the right way. I don’t feel like I’m a librarian because I kinda sorta do collection development and cataloging.

I feel like a librarian because I care about the same things as other librarians. The same passion that motivates a “traditional” librarian to help their community by purchasing more books or helping a student make sense of a database is the same passion that motivates me to migrate things into our institutional repository or make a web interface more intuitive. Good librarians all want to make the world a better place in their own way (none of us chose librarianship because of the fabulous pay). In this sense, I suppose I see librarianship less as a set of activities and more as a set of shared values and duties to our communities. The ALA’s Core Values of Librarianship does a pretty good job of summing things up, and this has finally satisfied my philosophical quest for the Platonic ideal of a librarian. I no longer see place of work, job title, duties or education as having much bearing on whether or not you are truly a librarian. If you care about information and want to do good with it, that’s enough for me. Others are free to put more rigorous constraints on the profession if they want, but in order for libraries to survive I think we should be more focused on letting people in than on keeping people out.

What does librarianship mean to you? Following along with other LITA bloggers as we explore this topic from different writers’ perspectives. Keep the conversation going in the comments!

2015 LITA Forum – Call for Proposals

litaforumplainThe 2015 LITA Forum Committee seeks proposals for excellent pre-conferences, concurrent sessions, and poster sessions for the 18th annual Forum of the Library Information and Technology Association, to be held in Minneapolis Minnesota, November. 12-15, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. This year will feature additional programming in collaboration with LLAMA, the Library Leadership & Management Association.

The Forum Committee welcomes creative program proposals related to all types of libraries: public, school, academic, government, special, and corporate.

Proposals could relate to any of the following topics:

• Cooperation & collaboration
• Scalability and sustainability of library services and tools
• Researcher information networks
• Practical applications of linked data
• Large- and small-scale resource sharing
• User experience & users
• Library spaces (virtual or physical)
• “Big Data” — work in discovery, preservation, or documentation
• Data driven libraries or related assessment projects
• Management of technology in libraries
• Anything else that relates to library information technology

Proposals may cover projects, plans, ideas, or recent discoveries. We accept proposals on any aspect of library and information technology, even if not covered by the above list. The committee particularly invites submissions from first time presenters, library school students, and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Submit your proposal through http://bit.ly/lita-2015-proposal by March 13, 2015.

Presentations must have a technological focus and pertain to libraries. Presentations that incorporate audience participation are encouraged. The format of the presentations may include single- or multi-speaker formats, panel discussions, moderated discussions, case studies and/or demonstrations of projects.

Vendors wishing to submit a proposal should partner with a library representative who is testing/using the product.

Presenters will submit draft presentation slides and/or handouts on ALA Connect in advance of the Forum and will submit final presentation slides or electronic content (video, audio, etc.) to be made available on the web site following the event. Presenters are expected to register and participate in the Forum as attendees; discounted registration will be offered.

Please submit your proposal through http://bit.ly/lita-2015-proposal

More information about LITA is available from the LITA website, Facebook and Twitter.

Jobs in Information Technology: February 11

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

New This Week

Digital Curation Librarian, Fort Hays State University-Forsyth Library, Hays, KS

Emerging Technologies Coordinator, Science and Engineering Division, Columbia University Libraries/Information Services, New York, NY

Librarian – Systems and Technologies, Santa Barbara City College Luria Library, Santa Barbara, CA

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

ALA Midwinter 2015 LITA Preconference Review: Introduction to Practical Programming

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Anthony Wright de Hernandez

The Friday before Midwinter officially started, I attended the LITA preconference session Introduction to Practical Programming. As a first-time conference attendee with SQL, XML, PHP, HTML, and Visual Basic experience, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a session that encouraged attendance by participants with no programming background. I chose to attend because I want to learn Python and thought this session would provide a good introduction to the language.

The Instructor

Elizabeth Wickes, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, clearly knows programming in general and Python in particular. Her instructional style for this session was conversational and informative. Her passion and knowledge kept the daylong session engaging. The mix of basic programming information with Python-specific information ensured that no part of the day was wasted for anyone.

The Session

The session began with a brief overview of computing and programming languages. This was a great place to start for a class with a mixed level of experience. As someone familiar with programming, this provided a background for where Python fits in relation to other languages, why it was created, and how its general mechanics differ from other languages. For those with no programming experience, this overview gave a brief history of programming and included a fun introduction to the type of logical and literal thinking required when programming.

After the overview, we dove right in with an explanation of Python’s core data types. Again, the content was presented for mixed consumption. The data type explanations were basic and clear enough for beginners while those with more experience could remain engaged learning the mechanics of how Python interacts with each of the data types.

We had some hands on fun with Python by creating Mad Libs involving Q, from Star Trek, a list of colors, and some randomizing functions. Those of us who brought computers were able to try the code ourselves while Elizabeth demoed it on a screen for the rest of the attendees. Our quick coding exercise resulted in fun outputs like:

  • Q asked me, “So what kind of pythons do you want?”
  • I don’t know what kind of pythons I want!  Who wants 4 pink pythons?
  • So I just said, “Give me whatever kind of pink pythons you have in stock, Q”

One great thing about the session was that Elizabeth took on our specific challenges. We all had an opportunity to present the challenges we are facing at work and then get specific feedback on how to create a solution using Python. For example, one of the attendees needed a way to compare two lists of 40,000+ items and identify any items in one list that aren’t in the other. Elizabeth walked us through how to develop a Python script capable of doing the comparison and returning the desired results. There was some great practical demonstration during this part of the session but, sadly, there were only a few of us in attendance so we didn’t get to see the variety of applications that a larger pool of challenges would have provided.

Further Study

Of course, a single day session isn’t enough to become a master. At the end of the session, Elizabeth provided us with recommendations for further study, including:

Overall (for beginning programmers)

The session was well structured for beginners. There was no assumption of prior programming experience. Basic concepts were introduced smoothly and then built upon to bring beginners to a point where they could create something of practical use. Strategies were provided for researching answers to programming questions and specific recommendations for further learning were given.

Overall (for experienced programmers)

The session was a great introduction to Python. It was definitely designed for all experience levels but, as an experienced programmer, I didn’t find any section a waste. As a way to start learning Python, this session was great value. I got a basic foundation for the language and expert guidance on where to look as I continue my learning.

Anthony Wright de Hernandez is a recent graduate from the University of Washington iSchool. He is the appointed librarian for his local church and is currently seeking employment in academic libraries. You can learn more at his website: anthonywright.me.

Learning to Master XSLT

This semester, I have the exciting opportunity to work as an intern among the hum of computers and maze of cubicles at Indiana University’s Digital Library Program! My main projects include migrating two existing digital collections from TEI P4 to TEI P5 using XSLT. If you are familiar with XML and TEI, feel free to skim a bit! Otherwise, I’ve included short explanations of each and links to follow for more information.

XML

Texts for digital archives and libraries are frequently marked up in a language called eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which looks and acts similarly to HTML. Marking up the texts allow them to be human- and machine-readable, displayed, and searched in different ways than if they were simply plain text.

TEI

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium “develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form” (i.e. guidelines). Basically, if you wanted to encode a poem in XML, you would follow the TEI guidelines to markup each line, stanza, etc. in order to make it machine-readable and cohesive with the collection and standard. In 2007, the TEI consortium unveiled an updated form of TEI called TEI P5, to replace the older P4 version.

However, many digital collections still operate under the TEI P4 guidelines and must be migrated over to P5 moving forward. Here is where XSLT and I come in.

XSLT

eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Transformations are used to convert an XML document to another text document, such as (new) XML, HTML or text. In my case, I’m migrating from one type of XML document to another type of XML document, and the tool in between, making it happen, is XSLT.

Many utilize custom XSLT to transform an XML representation of a text into HTML to be displayed on a webpage. The process is similar to using CSS to transform basic HTML into a stylized webpage. When working with digital collections, or even moving from XML to PDF, XSLT is an invaluable tool to have handy. Learning it can be a bit of an undertaking, though, especially adding to an already full work week.

I have free time, sign me up!

Here are some helpful tips I have been given (and discovered) in the month I’ve been learning XSLT to get you started:

  1. Register for a tutorial.

Lynda.com, YouTube, and Oracle provide tutorials to get your feet wet and see what XSLT actually looks like. Before registering for anything with a price, first see if your institution offers free tutorials. Indiana University offers an IT Training Workshop on XSLT each semester.

  1. Keep W3Schools bookmarked.

Their XSLT page acts as a self-guided tutorial, providing examples, function lists, and function implementations. I access it nearly every day because it is clear and concise, especially for beginners.

  1. Google is your best friend.

If you don’t know how to do something, Google it! Odds are someone before you didn’t have your exact problem, but they did have one like it. Looking over another’s code on StackOverflow can give you hints to new functions and expose you to more use possibilities. **This goes for learning every coding and markup language!!

  1. Create or obtain a set of XML documents and practice!

A helpful aspect of using Oxygen Editor (the most common software used to encode in XML) for your transformations is that you can see the results instantly, or at least see your errors. If you have one or more XML documents, figure out how to transform them to HTML and view them in your browser. If you need to go from XML to XML, create a document with recipes and simply change the tags. The more you work with XSLT, the simpler it becomes, and you will feel confident moving on to larger projects.

  1. Find a guru at your institution.

Nick Homenda, Digital Projects Librarian, is mine at IU. For my internship, he has built a series of increasingly difficult exercises, where I can dabble in and get accustomed to XSLT before creating the migration documents. When I feel like I’m spinning in circles, he usually explains a simpler way to get the desired result. Google is an unmatched resource for lines of code, but sometimes talking it out can make learning less intimidating.

Note : If textbooks are more your style, Mastering XSLT by Chuck White lays a solid foundation for the language. This is a great resource for users who already know how to program, especially in Java and the C varieties. White makes many comparisons between them, which can help strengthen understanding.

 

If you have found another helpful resource for learning and applying XSLT, especially an online practice site, please share it! Tell us about projects you have done utilizing XSLT at your institution!