Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself – Volume 5

Credit to www.aireidt.com

Credit to www.aireidt.com

To paraphrase Outkast, it’s the return of the Wreckster, LITA Blog readers. It’s been months since last I typed an installment, but not for lack of enthusiasm or material.

If this is your first Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, let me explain. TYBYWY is a curated assortment of tools and resources for aspiring library technologists at all levels of experience. I focus on webinars, MOOCs, and other free/low-cost options for learning, growing, and increasing tech proficiency. Thank you for reading!

Project Management Tools

Through the course of a recent group project, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a number or project management tools, applications, and methods. This TYBYWY is for my fellow compulsive to-do list writers. Consider it a love letter.

Level Up

I recently converted to Habit RPG. As you know, gamification is an ongoing interest of mine. Habit RPG literally gamifies your life, giving game mechanics (leveling up/hit points/rewards) to motivate you towards more productive and healthy behavior. You can build the structure of your app experience, creating your own set of dailies (daily tasks) and habits (good or bad which add or subtract points). The social element of this app can add friendly competition to a group endeavor. In terms of project management, the added incentive of creating and leveling up your character can really help you push over hurdles. You can also access and manage your Habit RPG from your mobile device and PC.

I like Habit RPG because I can integrate both my professional and personal checklists. I can remind myself that I need to get myself to yoga class even as I tackle programming logistics.

I cannot recommend this slightly unorthodox tool enough.

Image courtesy of http://leohartas.com/

Image courtesy of http://leohartas.com/

Collaborate

There’s a wide world of options for project collaboration out there now, with free and paid options galore. Whether you’re working with faculty on collection management or developing programming across departments, these tools which offer collaborative documents, calendars, and tasks lists can be a huge time saver. Bonus – your poor old PC won’t collapse under the weight of excessive open programs. I am working to move from a Skype + Google Docs + Outlook Calendar + SharePoint framework to a single online program.

Tool Pricing Pro Con
GitHub Free/$7 for Private Repository Active Community, simple set-up Designed/intended for developers, awkward for other projects
BaseCamp Two MonthsFree Trial/$20 a Month Intuitive as it is gorgeous Limited Features for Super Users
Trello Free Flexibility of format/visuals to represent projects and tasks Learning Curve for New Users
Apollo One Month Free/$23 a month Complete integration with outside programs (mail client/CRM/etc) Overwhelming to New Users

Of course the key to integrating any of these options is buy-in, and any technologist can tell you it’s easier said than done. However, the price is right and you’re probably ready for a consolidated online collaboration tool. Your library is too.

Tech On, TYBYWYers!

I’ll be back on May 13th with a slew of new free resources and tools. Let me know if you have any particular area, topic, or focus you would like me to explore.

 

“Why won’t my document print?!” — Two Librarians in Training

For this post, I am joined by a fellow student in Indiana University’s Information and Library Science Department, Sam Ott! Sam is a first year student, also working toward a dual-degree Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science, who has over three years of experience working in paraprofessional positions in multiple public libraries. Sam and I are taking the same core classes, but he is focusing his studies on public libraries instead of my own focus on academic and research libraries. With these distinct end goals in mind, we wanted to write about how the technologies we are learning in library school are helping cultivate our skills in preparation for future jobs.

Grace

DH2014

On the academic library track, much of the technology training seems to be abstract and theory based, paired with practical training. There is a push for students to learn digital encoding practices, such as TEI/XML, and to understand how these concepts function within a digital library/archive. Website architecture and development also appear as core classes and electives as ways to complement theoretical classes.

Specializations offer a chance to delve deeper into the theory and practice of one of these aspects, for example, Digital Libraries, Information Architecture, and Data Science. The student chapter of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) offers workshops through UITS, in addition to the courses offered, to introduce and hone UNIX, XML/XSLT, and web portfolio development skills.

Sam

Sam Ott, ALA Midwinter Meeting, 2015.

ALA Midwinter Meeting, 2015.

On the public library track, the technology training is limited to two core courses (Representation and Organization, plus one chosen technology requirement) and electives. While most of the coursework for public libraries is geared toward learning how to serve multiple demographics, studying Information Architecture can allow for greater exposure to relevant technologies. However, the student’s schedule is filled by the former, with less time for technological courses.

One reason I chose to pursue the Master of Information Science, was to bridge what I saw as a gap in technology preparation for public library careers. The MIS has been extremely helpful in allowing me to learn best practices for system design and how people interact with websites and computers. However, these classes are still geared toward the skills needed for an academic librarian or industry employee, and lack the everyday technology skills a public librarian may need, especially if there isn’t an IT department available.

Ideas

We’ve considered a few options of courses and workshops which could provide a hands-on approach to daily technology use in any library. Since many academic librarians focused in digital tools still staff the reference desk and interact with patrons, this information is vital for library students moving on to jobs. We imagine a course or workshop series that introduces students to common issues staff and patrons face with library technologies. The topics of this course could include: learning how to reboot and defragment computers, hook up and use various audio visual technologies such as projectors, and troubleshooting the dreaded printer problems.

Image courtesy of imgarcade.com.

The troubleshooting method we want to avoid. Image courtesy of imgarcade.com.

As public and academic libraries embrace the evolving digital trends, staff will need to understand how to use and troubleshoot ranges of platforms, makerspaces, and digital creativity centers. Where better to learn these skills than in school!

But we aren’t quite finished. An additional aspect to the course or workshop would be allowing the students to shadow, observe, and learn from University Information Technology Services as they troubleshoot common problems across all platforms. This practical experience both observing and learning how to fix frequent and repeated issues would give students a well-rounded experiential foundation while in library school.

If you are a LITA blog reader working in a public library, which skills would you recommend students learn before taking the job? What kinds of technology-related questions are frequently asked at your institution?

Job Opening: LITA Executive Director

Large Blog ImageThe Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), a division of the American Library Association, seeks a dynamic, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking Executive Director.

This is a fulfilling and challenging job that affords national impact on library technologists. As the successful candidate, you will be not only organized, financially savvy, and responsive, but also comfortable with technological change, project management, community management, and organizational change.

Interested in applying? For a full description and requirements, visit http://bit.ly/LITA_ED

ALA logoSearch Timeline

We will advertise for the position in April, conduct phone interviews in early May, and conduct in-person interviews with the top candidates at ALA Headquarters in Chicago, mid to late May.

Ideally, the candidate would start in June (perhaps just before ALA Annual Conference), and there would be a one-month overlap with current Executive Director Mary Taylor, who retires July 31.

Search Committee

  • Mary Ghikas, ALA Senior Associate Executive Director
  • Dan Hoppe, ALA Director of Human Resources
  • Keri Cascio, ALCTS Executive Director
  • Rachel Vacek, LITA President
  • Thomas Dowling, LITA Vice-President
  • Andromeda Yelton, LITA Director-at-Large
  • Isabel Gonzalez-Smith, LITA Emerging Leader

LITA Lightning Rounds at 2015 ALA Annual

litaLT15Will you be at the American Library Association Conference in San Francisco this June? Do you have a great new technology idea that you’d like to share informally with colleagues? How about a story related to a clever tech project that you just pulled off at your institution, successfully, or less-than-successfully?

The LITA Program Planning Committee (PPC) is now accepting proposals for a round of Lightning Talks to be given at ALA.

To submit your idea please fill out this form: http://goo.gl/4NbBY2

The lightning rounds will be Saturday June 27, 10:30 – 11:30

All presenters will be given 5 minutes to speak.

Proposals are due Monday, May 4 at midnight. Questions? Please contact PPC chair, Debra Shapiro, dsshapiro@wisc.edu

Thanks!

Jobs in Information Technology: April 8

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

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

Head of Library Learning Services, University Park, Pennsylvania State University Libraries,  University Park, PA

Project Manager Fresh Air CLIR Project, WHYY, inc., Philadelphia, PA

Reference and Instruction Librarian, Abington Campus, Pennsylvania State University Libraries,  Philadelphia, PA

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

2015 LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award Winner Heather Terrell

HeatherTerrellHeather Terrell, MLIS degree candidate at San Jose State University, has been named the winner of the 2015 LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award, sponsored by Ex Libris Group and the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

Terrell’s paper, titled “Reference is dead, long live reference: electronic collections in the digital age,” describes the changing landscape of electronic reference sources and explores the possibilities inherent in building hybrid library collections.

“The members of the LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award Committee are pleased to acknowledge and honor with this award Heather Terrell’s manuscript, which addresses the benefits and challenges of electronic reference materials to libraries and library users,” said Sandra Barclay, chair of the committee.

The LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award recognizes outstanding writing on a topic in the area of libraries and information technology by a student or students enrolled in an ALA-accredited library and information studies graduate program. The winning manuscript will be published in Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL), and the winner will receive $1,000 and a certificate of merit.

Continue reading

Teamwork and Jazz

Jazz is a pretty unique genre that demands a lot from musicians; a skilled jazz artist must not only be adept at their instrument, they must be highly skilled improvisors and communicators as well. Where other styles of music may only require that a musician remember how to play a piece and run through it the same way every time, good jazz artists can play the same song in an infinite number of ways. Furthermore, they must also be able to collaborate with other jazz artists who can also play the same song an infinite number of ways. This makes jazz an inherently human art form because a listener never knows what to expect; when a jazz group performs, the outcome is the unpredictable result of each musician’s personal taste and style merging into a group effort.

In a lot of ways, team projects are kind of like a jazz performance: you have several people with different skill sets coming together to work toward a common goal, and the outcome is dependent on the people involved. While there are obvious limits to how far we can stretch this metaphor, I think we can learn a lot about being an effective team member from some of the traits all jazz greats have in common.

 

Trust your bandmates

Many hands make light work. Sometimes we may feel like we could get more done if we simply work alone, but this puts an artificial limit on how effective you can be. Learn to get over the impulse to do it all yourself and trust in your colleagues enough to delegate some of your work. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and great teams know how to balance these differences. Even though Miles Davis was a great trumpeter, his greatest performances were always collaborations with other greats, or at least with a backing band. Great musicians inspire each other to do their best and try to remove all creative hindrances. This hyper-creative environment just isn’t possible to replicate in isolation.

When we got a new metadata librarian here at FSU, I had been making my own MODS records for a few months and was uncomfortable with giving up control over this aspect of my workflow. I’ve since learned that this is his specialty and not mine, and I trust in his expertise. As a result, our projects now have better metadata, I have more time to work on other things that I do have expertise in, and I have learned a lot more about metadata than I ever could have working alone.

 

Learn to play backup

Everyone wants to play the solo. It’s the fun part, and all the attention is on you. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to shine, but if everyone solos at the same time it defeats the purpose and devolves into noise. Good jazz musicians may be known for their solos, but the greats know how to play in a way that supports others when it’s their turn to solo, too. They are more concerned with the sound of the band as a whole instead of selfishly focusing on their own sound.

A big part of trusting your “bandmates” is staying out of their way when it’s their turn to “solo”. Can you imagine trying play music on stage with someone who doesn’t even play your instrument yelling instructions at you about how you should be playing? That would be pretty distracting, but the office equivalent happens all the time. Micromanaging teammates can kill project morale quickly without even being aware of it. Sometimes projects have bottlenecks where no one can move forward until a specific thing gets done, and this is just a fact of life. If you are waiting for a team member to get something done so you can start on your part of the project, politely let them know that you are available if they need help or advice, and only provide help and advice if they ask. If they don’t need help, then politely stay out of their way.

 

Communication is key

Jazz musicians aren’t mind readers, but you might think they were after a great performance. It’s unbelievable how some bands can improvise in the midst of such complex patterns without getting lost. This is because improvisation requires a great deal of communication. Musicians communicate to each other using a variety of cues, either musical (one might drop in volume to signal the end of a solo), physical (one might step towards the center of the group to signal the start of a solo and then step away to signal the end), or visual (one might nod, wink or shift their foot as a signal to the rest of the group). These cue systems are all specific to the context of people performing on stage, but we can imagine a different set of cues for a team project that work just as well.

Like jazz musicians, team projects can be incredibly complex and a successful project requires all team members to be aware of their context. It is essential that everyone knows exactly where a project is at on a timeline so that they can act accordingly, and this information can be expressed in a variety of ways. Email is a popular choice, as it leaves a written record of who said what that can be consulted later. Email is great at communicating small, specific bits of information, but it is always helpful to have a “30,000 foot view” of the project as well so the team can see the big picture. Fellow LITA blogger Leo Stezano wrote a post about different ways to keep track of a project’s high-level progress, covering the use of software, spreadsheets, and the classic “post-it notes on a whiteboard” approach. I prefer to use Trello since it combines the simplicity of post-it notes on a wall with the flexibility of software, but there are a lot of options. The best option is whatever works for your team.

Equally important to finding good ways to communicate and sticking with them is uncovering harmful methods of communication and stopping them. Don’t send emails about a project to the rest of your team outside of working hours, it sends the wrong message about work-life balance. Try to eliminate unnecessary meetings and replace them with emails if you can. Emails are asynchronous and team members can respond when it is convenient for them, but meetings pollute our schedules and are productivity kryptonite. Finally, don’t drop into someone’s office unannounced (I do this all the time). Send an email or schedule a short meeting instead. Random office drop-ins derail the victim’s train of thought and sends the signal that whatever they were working on isn’t as important as you are. Can you imagine Miles Davis tapping John Coltrane on the shoulder during a solo to ask what song they should play next? I didn’t think so. Being considerate with your communication is an underrated skill that may be the secret sauce that makes your project run more smoothly.

Agile Development: Tracking Progress

Image courtesy of Wikipedia (Jeff Iasovski)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia (Jeff Iasovski)

In my last post, I discussed effort estimation and scheduling, which leads into the beginning of actual development. But first, you need to decide how you’re going to track progress. Here are some commonly used methods:

The Big Board

In keeping with Agile philosophy, you should choose the simplest tool that gives you the functionality you need. If your team does all of its development work in the same physical space, you could get by with post-it notes on a big white board. There’s a lot to be said for a tangible object: it communicates the independent nature of each task or story in a way that software may not. It provides the team with a ready-made meeting point: if you want to see how the project is going, you have to go stand in front of the big board. A board can also help to keep projects lean and simple, because there’s only so much available space on it. There are no multiple screens or pages to hide complexity.

Sticky notes, however, are ephemeral in nature. You can lose your entire project plan to an overzealous janitor; more importantly, unless you periodically take pictures of your board, there’s no way to trace user story evolution. Personally, I like to use this method in the initial stages of planning; the board is a very useful anchor for user story definition and prioritization. Once we move into the development process, I find that moving into the virtual realm adds crucial flexibility and tracking functionality.

Spreadsheets

If the scope of the project is limited, it may be possible to track it using a basic office productivity suite like MS Office. MS Excel and similar spreadsheet tools are fairly easy to use, and they’re ubiquitous, which means your team will likely face a lower learning curve. Remember that in Agile the business side of the organization is an integral part of the development effort, and it may not make sense to spend time and effort to train sales and management staff on a complex tracking tool.

If you choose to go the spreadsheet route, however, you are giving up some functionality: it’s easy enough to create and maintain spreadsheets that give you project snapshots and track current progress, but this type of software is not designed to accurately measure long term progress and productivity, which helps you upgrade your processes and increase your team’s efficiency. There are ways to track Agile metrics using Excel, but if you find that you need to do that you may just want to switch to dedicated software anyway.

Tracking Software

There are several tracking tools out there that can help manage Agile projects, although my personal experience so far has been limited to to JIRA and its companion GreenHopper. JIRA is a fairly simple issue-tracking tool: you can create issues (manually or directly from a reporting form), add a description, estimate effort, prioritize, and assign to a team member for completion. You can also track it through the various stages of development, adding comments at each step of the way and preserving meaningful conversations about its progress and evolution. As you can see in this article comparing similar tools, JIRA’s main advantage is the lack of unnecessary UI complexity, which makes it easier to master. Its main shortcoming is the lack of sprint management functionality, which is what GreenHopper provides. With the add-on, users can create sprints, assign tickets to them, and track sprint progress.

Can all of this functionality be replicated using spreadsheets? Yes, although maintenance and authentication can becomes problematic as the complexity of the project increases. At some point a tool like JIRA starts to pay for itself in terms of increased efficiency, and most if not all of these products are web-based and offer some sort of free trial or small enterprise pricing. My advice is to do analyze your operations to determine if you need to go the tracking tool route, and then some basic research to identify popular options and their pros and cons. Once you’ve identified one or two options that seem to fit your needs, give then a try to see if they’re what you’re looking for.

Again, which method you go with will depend on how much effort you will need to spend up front (in training and adapting new software) versus later on (added maintenance and decreased efficiency).

How do you track user story progress? What are the big advantages/disadvantages of your chosen method? JIRA in particular seems to elicit strong feelings in users, positive or negative; what are your thoughts on it?

Let’s Hack a Collaborative Library Website!

A LITA Preconference at 2015 ALA Annual

Register online for the ALA Annual Conference and add a LITA Preconference

Friday, June 26, 2015, 8:30am – 4:00pm

In this hackathon attendees will learn to use the Bootstrap front-end framework and the Git version control system to create, modify and share code for a new library website. Expect a friendly atmosphere and a creative hands-on experience that will introduce you to web literacy for the 21st century librarian. The morning will consist of in-depth introductions to the tools, while the afternoon will see participants split into working groups to build a single collaborative library website.

bootstraplogoWhat is Bootstrap

Bootstrap is an open-source, responsive designed, and front-end web framework that can be used to create complete website redesigns to rapid prototyping. It is useful for many library web applications, such as customizing LibGuides (version 2) or creating responsive sites. This workshop will give attendees a crash-course into the basics of what Bootstrap can do and how to code it. Attendees can work individually or in teams.

gitlogoWhat is Git

Git is an open-source software tool that allows you to manage drafts and collaboratively work on projects – whether you’re building a library app, writing a paper, or organizing a talk. We will also talk about GitHub, a massively popular website that hosts git projects and has built-in features like issue tracking and simple web page hosting.

Additional resources

Bootstrap, LibGuides, & Potential Web Domination  – Discussion of the use of Bootstrap at the Van Library, University of St. Francis

Libraries using Bootstrap example:
Bradford County Public Library

Library Code Year Interest Group

This program was put together by the ALCTS/LITA Library Code Year Interest Group which is devoted to supporting members who want to improve their computer programming skills. Find out more here.

bronstadPresenters

Kate Bronstad, Web Developer, Tisch Library, Tufts University
Kate is a librarian-turned-web developer for Tufts University’s Tisch Library. She works with git on a daily basis and teaches classes on git for the Boston chapter of Girl Develop It. Kate is originally from Austin, TX and has a MSIS from UT-Austin.

klishHeather J Klish, Systems Librarian, Tufts University
Heather is the Systems Librarian in University Library Technology at Tufts University. Heather has an MLS from Simmons College.

 

Junior Tidal, New York City College of Technology
juniorTidalJunior is the Multimedia and Web Services Librarian and Assistant Professor for the Ursula C. Schwerin Library at the New York City College of Technology, City University of New York. His research interests include mobile web development, usability, web metrics, and information architecture. He has published in the Journal of Web Librarianship, OCLC Systems & Services, Computers in Libraries, and code4Lib Journal. He has written a LITA guide entitled Usability and the Mobile Web published by ALA TechSource. Originally from Whitesburg, Kentucky, he has earned a MLS and a Master’s in Information Science from Indiana University.

AC15sfPod238x120Registration:

Cost

  • LITA Member $235 (coupon code: LITA2015)
  • ALA Member $350
  • Non-Member $380

How-to

To register for any of these events, you can include them with your initial conference registration or add them later using the unique link in your email confirmation. If you don’t have your registration confirmation handy, you can request a copy by emailing alaannual@compusystems.com. You also have the option of registering for a preconference only. To receive the LITA member pricing during the registration process on the Personal Information page enter the discount promotional code: LITA2015

Register online for the ALA Annual Conference and add a LITA Preconference
Call ALA Registration at 1-800-974-3084
Onsite registration will also be accepted in San Francisco.

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

Jobs in Information Technology: April 1

New This Week

Data & Visualization Librarian, Dartmouth College Library, Hanover, NH

Director of Knowledge Management, Nossaman LLP, Los Angeles, CA

Head Librarian, Public Services & Instructional Outreach, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

Health Sciences Librarian, Northern Arizona University, Phoenix, AZ

Information Literacy Librarian, Rice University, Fondren Library, Houston, TX

Principal Librarian –  Information Management, City of Santa Monica/Santa Monica Public Library, Santa Monica, CA

Vice President for Information & Library Services and Librarian, Bates College, Lewiston, ME

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