Intro to Youth Coding Programs, a LITA webinar

ScratchcatAttend this informative and fast paced new LITA webinar:

How Your Public Library Can Inspire the Next Tech Billionaire: an Intro to Youth Coding Programs

Thursday March 3, 2016
noon – 1:00 pm Central Time
Register Online, page arranged by session date
(login required)

Kids, tweens, teens and their parents are increasingly interested in computer programming education, and they are looking to public and school libraries as a host for the informal learning process that is most effective for learning to code. This webinar will share lessons learned through youth coding programs at libraries all over the U.S. We will discuss tools and technologies, strategies for promoting and running the program, and recommendations for additional resources. An excellent webinar for youth and teen services librarians, staff, volunteers and general public with an interest in tween/teen/adult services.


  • Inspire attendees about kids and coding, and convince them that the library is key to the effort.
  • Provide the tools, resources and information necessary for attendees to launch a computer coding program at their library.
  • Cultivate a community of coding program facilitators that can share ideas and experiences in order to improve over time.


Kelly Smith spent hundreds of hours volunteering at the local public library before realizing that kids beyond Mesa, Arizona could benefit from an intro to computer programming. With a fellow volunteer, he founded Prenda – a learning technology company with the vision of millions of kids learning to code at libraries all over the country. By day, he designs products for a California technology company. Kelly has been hooked on computer programming since his days as a graduate student at MIT.

Crystle Martin is a postdoctoral research scholar at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine. She explores youth and connected learning in online and library settings and is currently researching implementation of Scratch in underserved community libraries, to explore new pathways to STEM interests for youth. Her 2014 book, titled “Voyage Across a Constellation of Information: Information Literacy in Interest-Driven Learning Communities,” reveals new models for understanding information literacy in the 21st century through a study of information practices among dedicated players of World of Warcraft. Crystle holds a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction specializing in Digital Media, with a minor in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison; serves on the Board of Directors for the Young Adult Library Services Association; and holds an MLIS from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.

Justin Hoenke is a human being who has worked in youth services all over the United States and is currently the Executive Director of the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Before that, he was Coordinator of Teen Services at the Chattanooga Public Library in Chattanooga, TN where Justin created The 2nd Floor, a 14,000 square foot space for ages 0-18 into a destination that brings together learning, fun, the act of creating and making, and library service. Justin is a member of the 2010 American Library Association Emerging Leaders class and was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2013. His professional interests include public libraries as community centers, working with kids, tweens, and teens, library management, video games, and creative spaces. Follow Justin on Twitter at @justinlibrarian and read his blog at


Register for the Webinar

Full details
Can’t make the date but still want to join in? Registered participants will have access to the recorded webinar.


  • LITA Member: $45
  • Non-Member: $105
  • Group: $196

Registration Information:

Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)
Mail or fax form to ALA Registration
call 1-800-545-2433 and press 5

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to the course, contact LITA at (312) 280-4268 or Mark Beatty,

There’s a Reason There’s a Specialized Degree

I think it can be easy to look around a library — especially a smooth-running one — and forget that the work that gets done there ranges from the merely difficult to the incredibly complex. This isn’t the sort of stuff just anyone can do, no matter how well-meaning and interested they might be, which is why there are specialized degree programs designed to turn out inventive and effective experts.

I’m talking, of course, about the accountants. And computer programmers. And instructional designers. And usability experts.

And, oh, yeah, the librarians.

A double standard?

There’s a temptation among librarians (and programmers too, of course, and an awful lot of professors) to think that the world consists of two types of work:

  1. Stuff only we can do, and
  2. Everything else

If I were to head off to a library school for a semester and take a single course on cataloging, my colleagues would be understandably worried about dropping me next to the ILS with a stack of new books. A single group project looking broadly at research methodologies doesn’t qualify me for … well, for anything, inside the library or not.

But I often see librarians with only half a semester of programming, or a survey course on usability testing (never mind actual UX), or experience in a group project where they got stuck with the title Project Manager take on (or, often, be thrust into) actual professional roles to do those things.

The unspoken, de facto standard seems to be, “We can teach a librarian to do anything, but we can’t or won’t teach anyone else to do Real Librarian work.”

Subject-matter expertise is not overall expertise

I’m lucky enough to work in a ginormous academic library, where we’re not afraid to hire specialists when warranted. And yet, even here, there persists the curious belief that librarians can and often should do just about everything.

This leads me to what I believe is a Truth That Must Be Spoken:

A committee of four interested and well-meaning librarians is not equivalent to a trained expert with actual education and experience.

There’s a reason most disciplines separate out the “subject-matter expert” (SME) from the other work. Instructional Designers are trained to do analysis, study users and measure outcomes, and work with a SME to incorporate their knowledge into a useful instructional product. The world at large differentiates between web design, content management, and quality assurance. And the first time you work with a real project manager, you’ll come to the stark realization that you’ve never before worked with a real project manager, because the experience is transformative.

Knowing the content and culture makes you a necessary part of a complete intervention. It doesn’t make you the only necessary part.

A question of value

“But Bill,” you’re saying after doing a quick check to see what my name is, “we don’t have the money to hire experts in everything, and besides, we’re dedicated to growing those sorts of expertise within the library profession.”

I’m not against that — who could be against that? But I do worry that it exemplifies an attitude that the value the library really offers is essentially embodied in the sorts of things librarians have been doing for a century or more — things that only librarians can do — and everything else that happens in a library adds notable but ultimately marginal value to the patrons.

That’s not true. The website, the instructional and outreach activities, increasingly complicated management, and (the big one these days) contract negotiation with vendors are all hugely important to the library, and arguably have a much bigger impact on the patrons as a group than, say, face-to-face reference work, or original cataloging. I know our digital environment is used orders of magnitude more than our physical plant, up to and including the actual librarians. Not all users are (or should be) valued equally, but when the zeros start stacking up like that, you should at least take a hard look at where your resources are being spent compared to where your patrons are deriving most of the value.

It’s great if you can get a librarian with the skills needed to excel at these “other” things. But when you put a near-novice in charge of something, you’re implicitly saying two things:

  1. This isn’t all that important to do well or quickly, which you can tell because we put you, a novice, in charge of it, and
  2. The work you were doing before isn’t that important, because we’re willing to pay you to try to learn all this stuff on-the-job instead of whatever you were doing before.

If there’s an eyes-wide-open assessment of the needs of the institution and they decide in favor of internal training, then that’s great. What I’m railing against is starting a project/program/whatever with the implicit attitude that the “library part” is specialized and hard, and that we don’t really care if everything else is done well, agilely, and quickly, because it’s essentially window dressing.

What to do?

Unfortunately, librarianship is, as a discipline, constantly under attack by people looking for a simple way to cut costs. I worry this has the unfortunate side effect of causing librarians as a culture to close ranks. One way this manifests itself is by many institutions requiring an MLS for just about any job in the library. I don’t think that’s in anyone’s interest.

Are you better off hiring another librarian, or a programmer? Should you move someone off their duties to do system administration (almost certainly badly), or should you cut something else and outsource it? Do you have any idea at all if your instructional interventions have lasting impact? If not, maybe it’s time to hire someone to help you find out.

The days when the quality of a library’s services depended almost exclusively on the librarians and the collection are behind us. It takes a complex, heterogenous set of knowledge and expertise to provide the best service you can for as many patrons as you can. And maybe, just maybe, the best way to gather those skills is to hire some non-librarians and take advantage of what they know.

Librarians deserve to be valued for their expertise, education, and experience. So does everyone else.

Which Test for Which Data, a new LITA web course

wtwdgraphic2Here’s the first web course in the LITA spring 2016 offerings:
Which Test for Which Data: Statistics at the Reference Desk

Instructor: Rachel Williams, PhD student in the School of Library and Information Studies at UW-Madison

Offered: February 29 – March 31, 2016
A Moodle based web course with asynchronous weekly content lessons, tutorials, assignments, and group discussion.

Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

This web course is designed to help librarians faced with statistical questions at the reference desk. Whether assisting a student reading through papers or guiding them when they brightly ask “Can I run a t-test on this?”, librarians will feel more confident facing statistical questions. This course will be ideal for library professionals who are looking to expand their knowledge of statistical methods in order to provide assistance to students who may use basic statistics in their courses or research. Students taking the course should have a general understanding of mean, median, and mode.


  • Develop knowledge related to statistical concepts, including basic information on what the goals of statistical tests are and which kinds of data scales are associated with each, with a focus on t-tests, correlations, and chi-square tests.
  • Explore different kinds of statistical tests and increase ability to discern between the utility of different types of statistical tests and why one may be more appropriate than another.
  • Increase literacy in evaluating and describing statistical research that uses t-tests, correlations, and chi-square tests.
  • Improve confidence in answering questions about statistical tests in a reference setting, including explaining tests and results and assisting users in determining which statistical tests are appropriate for a dataset. Helping others analyze graphical representations of statistics.

Here’s the Course Page

RachelWilliamsRachel Williams is a PhD student in the School of Library and Information Studies at UW-Madison. Rachel has several years of experience in public and academic libraries and is passionate about research design and methods. She has also taught courses at SLIS on database design, metadata, and social media in information agencies. Rachel’s research explores the constraints and collaborations public libraries operate within to facilitate access to health information and services for the homeless.


February 29 – March 31, 2016


  • LITA Member: $135
  • ALA Member: $195
  • Non-member: $260

Technical Requirements:

Moodle login info will be sent to registrants the week prior to the start date. The Moodle-developed course site will include weekly new content lessons and is composed of self-paced modules with facilitated interaction led by the instructor. Students regularly use the forum and chat room functions to facilitate their class participation. The course web site will be open for 1 week prior to the start date for students to have access to Moodle instructions and set their browser correctly. The course site will remain open for 90 days after the end date for students to refer back to course material.

Registration Information:

Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)
Mail or fax form to ALA Registration
call 1-800-545-2433 and press 5

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to the course, contact LITA at (312) 280-4268 or Mark Beatty,

Jobs in Information Technology: January 20, 2016

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:

Whatcom County Library System, Online Experience Coordinator, Bellingham, WA

California State University, Sacramento, Head of Library Information Systems, Sacramento, CA

Penn State University Libraries, Cataloging and Metadata Services, Special Collections Cataloging Librarian, University Park, PA

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

6 Design Resources for Librarians

handjiveThere’s one little bullet point at the end of my job description that reads: Participate in curation of digital displays, and use social media tools and outlets for promotion of library resources, collections, and services. I love graphic design and take every opportunity to flex my Photoshop muscles, but I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. Whether it’s in your job description or not, at some point you’ll find yourself designing a research poster, slide deck, workshop flyer, social media banner, or book display. When the time comes, here’s a list of resources that are guaranteed to help conquer design anxiety.

Creating a color palette is not my strong suit, so I rely on the web to find inspiration. My favorite site right now is the Swiss Style Color Picker. It’s quality over quantity, so you won’t find a ton of options, but the presentation is flawless and interactive too. Click on your color of choice and it automatically copies the hexadecimal code to your clipboard.Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.37.10 PMICONS
Icons are the new clipart! The Noun Project is a massive collection of graphics that you can use for free if you properly attribute the designer. You can download an image file or vector graphic; which means you can scale it up or down without losing quality.Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.41.54 PM

Do I need to say it? Pinterest is perfect for this kind of thing. Whenever I start a project, the first thing I do is create a Pinterest board to find a general direction for my design. If you simply browse through the Graphic Design category, you’re sure to find plenty of inspiration.Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.42.15 PMFONTS
There are plenty of places to find free fonts online, but I’m partial to DaFont. It’s easy to browse their categories (sans serif, calligraphy, typewriter, etc.) and you can enter your own custom text to preview multiple typefaces at once. Biko and Angelface are my current favorites.Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.37.46 PMSHAPES
Designing with simple shapes can be very effective. Philographics: Big Ideas in Simple Shapes by Genis Carreras is a perfect example of what’s possible when you pair up, duplicate, and overlap shapes. The result can be stronger than an image and easier to manipulate.downloadIMAGES
Just in case you missed all the commotion, the New York Public Library just released a whole heap of public domain images on their Digital Collections site. If you’ve ever tried to play by the rules when using images you find online, you know it’s an uphill battle. Not to worry, there’s plenty of gems here. And just when you think it can’t get any sweeter; they’ve even curated a collection with designers in mind.cropped

And sometimes I use all of these resources in tandem. Case in point, the collage I used to kick off this post was created using “Clark, Madeline” from the NYPL Digital Collections, “MERS#3, Seoul Metropolitan Library” from Flickr user Tai-Jan Huang, and “Book” by David Marioni from the Noun Project.

Where do you find design inspiration?

Express Your Shelf

This won’t be the first time I ever admit this, nor will it be the last, but boy am I out of touch.

I’m more than familiar with the term “selfie”, which is when you take a photo of yourself. Heck, my profile pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and even here on LITA Blog are selfies. As much as I try to put myself above the selfie fray, I find myself smack in the middle of it. (I vehemently refuse to get a selfie stick, though. Just…no.)

But I’d never heard of this “shelfie” phenomenon. Well, I have, but apparently there’s more than one definition. I had to go to Urban Dictionary, that proving ground for my “get off my yard”-ness, to learn it’s a picture of your bookshelf, apparently coined by author Rick Riordan. But I was under the impression that a shelfie is where you take a picture of yourself with a book over your face. Like so:

woman reading with a picture of the cover aligned with her own face
Promo poster for bookstore Mint Vinetu

But apparently that’s called “book face”, so I’m still wrong.

Also, I just found out there’s an app called Shelfie, which lets you take a picture of your bookshelf and matches your books with free or low-cost digital version (an e-ternative, if you will).

All along, you see, I thought a shelfie was when you took a picture of yourself with your favorite book in front of your bookshelf (because selfie + shelf = selfie?), but it’s just of your bookshelf, not you. Apparently I’m vainer than I thought.

Here’s my version of a shelfie:

Blog post author Stephanie posing in front of science fiction bookshelf with a book in front of her face
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Regardless, it’s a cool idea to share our books with our friends, to find out what each other is reading, or just to show off how cool our bookshelves look (and believe me, I’m jealous of a few of you). There are other ways to be social about your books – Goodreads and Library Thing come to mind – but this is a unique way to do it if you don’t use either one.

What does your shelfie look like?

Jobs in Information Technology: January 13, 2016

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:

Princeton University Library, Librarian for Reference & Research Services and Gender & Sexuality Studies – Requisition #160001, Princeton, NJ

Colorado State University Libraries, Data Management Specialist, Fort Collins, CO

Western Washington University, Director of Teaching & Learning and the Learning Commons, Bellingham, WA

City of Phoenix, Library Department, Librarian II, Phoenix, AZ

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

Brave New Workplace: Your Homegrown CRM

A CRM empowers you to find connections between your users/patrons.

What is a CRM? For starters, an excellent starting point for this installment of Brave New Workplace, a multi-part LITA blog series on using tech tools to ease your entry into a new position. A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management database, a record management system comprised of different record levels from individual to organization, with entries and fields for interactions and transactions and notes. CRMs provide essential business intelligence to a company, nonprofit, or even (you guessed it) library.

As a new hire, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you receive at first. A CRM can help you organize information by contact, associating workflows, projects, committee information, research interests and more with the relevant colleague. By categorizing and tagging colleagues, you can identify overlaps of interest and synergies.

CRMs are used for a variety of purposes, including communications automation and e-commerce. For our purposes, I suggest treating it as an repository resource, where your contacts and their research interests, collection needs, important emails and documents, and personal notes can be organized and stored. You can also use it to export reports and gauge your own performance. This is a powerful tool to have when you come on-board at a library, and when you organize your thoughts around your workplace relationships, you may find it easier to identify collaborators in interdepartmental efforts.

Example: When you meet a new librarian from Wake Forest at a conference, you can tie their individual record to that institution, and when they accept a position at UNC, you can record that move in your CRM while still having the history of what came before.

Many CRMs are designed with large-scale enterprise in mind- unless your library or department is looking to adopt a system, you’ll want to steer clear of these solutions which were designed with multiple data entrants and a system administrator in mind. It’s also important to remember that because CRMs are designed for a sales environment, some of the terminology (including customers) may seem at first glance inappropriate. Don’t let the standard terminology deter you from taking advantage of a powerful tool.

Capsule CRM

For myself, and for you, I’d suggest a single-user cloud-based CRM. You have a few options to choose from, many designed with social media integration in mind. I have been using Capsule since I began work at the University of Houston. It’s mobile friendly- always handy in meetings with vendors or when traveling at conferences.

You could also consider Radium, Humin, or ZOHO CRM. Pick what strikes your fancy! Be aware that as with all “free” options on the internet, it may eventually move to a paid model.

Capsule has easy options for importing CSV files of contacts, which I exported from both my Outlook email and my LinkedIn contacts. In addition, individual records can be entered by hand. As a general rule, I’d suggest a big upload of your contacts to start, with individual entry as an ongoing means of managing and cleaning your database.

Contact Search
Search and Find by Any Text Entry

Think of a CRM as a complement to any collaborative organizational project management tools you may use. A CRM can allow you to save important emails, notes, and project information to individual contact records.

calendar and tasks
Tasks in my CRM

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the CRM is the ease with which I can attach vendor contacts to a central vendor account. Essentially, being able to have all my Ebsco contacts in an Ebsco folder, with their titles and my notes, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Ebsco Account Record in my CRM

Another benefit of Capsule is that it is free for up to two “users,” which means that I can share access to my vendor contacts through a general login. This gives others the opportunity benefit from the CRM, and makes the CRM additionally functional as a sort of shared rolodex.

The more time you spend within your CRM, the more you’ll be able to tweak its functions and categories to make them useful. If you let a CRM languish, its information will soon become out-of-date. Remember, your data is only as good as your data management!

Here we are at the end of my Brave New Workplace series, and I hardly know how to end it. It’s been an awesome experience learning and hearing from all of you, LITA Blog readers. As we all continue to grow and learn in our respective workplaces, I hope to update and return to this series with ongoing suggestions. Thank you for your support! Tech on!




Flexing your instructional muscles: using technology to extend your reach beyond the classroom

We’re in the midst of re-thinking our entire Information Literacy curriculum, and I’ve been waxing philosophical on the role technology will play into this new and uncharted land. The new Framework for Information Literacy has thrown the instructional library world into a tizzy. We are all grappling with everything from understanding the threshold concepts themselves to determining how to best teach them. We’ve done this all along of course with the previous Standards for Information Literacy, but there’s something about this new incarnation that seems to perplex and challenge at the same time.

Continue reading Flexing your instructional muscles: using technology to extend your reach beyond the classroom