Desk Set – A Critical Response

Desk Set Title

A Provocative Documentary

At the LITA Blog, we know you look to us as a source for what’s going on in technology and librarianship. When we discovered Desk Set, a recent documentary that takes the viewer through the process of one library’s struggle to integrate a new technology, we knew you would want to know our responses. Never fear: the LITA bloggers are here with the kind of hard-hitting commentary you’ve come to expect from us.


A Startling Lack of Diversity

Not a Bunny Watson

Lauren H.

Office romance, machines, corporate mergers, and job security, what tiresome topics for a documentary. Desk Set should represent the good work librarians do every day, but instead the writers and directors choose to represent a view of librarianship that no longer exists in the modern world. Librarians are smart, intelligent workers who deserve respect and for a documentary to show them conducting intellectual work.

Furthermore, why are the librarians only women? Men should have equal representation. Those working on the film might have thought they were helping raise the view of women by having a single working women run the library, but instead they succumbed to stereotypes. There is certainly a troubling lack of interaction in this workplace.

Misused Space and Resources

Shame on the Federal Broadcasting Network

Lindsay C.

In addition to the many other troubling questions raised in this odd documentary, Desk Set, as a librarian, I find the work site conditions and management particularly unsettling. What sort of workplace implements technology like the EMERAC without an advance audit and training? I can only suggest that FBN stakeholders be engaged in the process of reassessing such reckless deployments and untested software patches. Perhaps a staff member could be sent to an assessment training session- I would suggest the obviously under appreciated Peg Costello, so that an appropriate implementation plan could be developed.

The erroneous pink slip incident is particularly telling. Had library and other staff been properly trained in the automation process, panic and morale issues could have been completely avoided.

Beyond these gentle suggestions though, I must insist that Richard Sumner review his own product design, as a self-destruct button seems like a dangerous liability for any computer.

Mike Cutler uses his influence as boss to control Bunny et al

Mike Cutler uses his influence as boss to control Bunny et al

Mike Cutler, a Harassment Suit in Waiting

John K.

If the problems in the office were only limited to EMERAC. The man, and of course it’s a man, who oversees the reference department at FBN has Bunny Watson wrapped around his finger. Mike Cutler is reprehensible as a boss. He rarely shows himself in the reference department and when he does it’s only to press advances on Ms. Watson or give her his work to finish. Ms. Watson is very clear that she does not want Mr. Cutler touching her in the office and yet he pays no heed to her wishes, only serving to fulfill his base desires.

Not only does Mr. Cutler harass Ms. Watson at work, but the documentary shows that he’s stalking her. Mr. Cutler shows up at Ms. Watson’s house, unannounced, barges through the front door, and makes advances on her, even going so far as to demand food and drink. Thank goodness Mr. Sumner was there—for an evening of intellectual discussion it seems—to keep things from getting out of hand. As if Ms. Watson didn’t have enough to worry about!

If he hadn’t gotten transferred to FBN’s West Coast offices, I would have expected Ms. Watson to file a harassment suit against her boss. Only in today’s office environment’s could a cad like Mr. Cutler get a promotion after the unprofessional way in which he acted.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 6.04.47 PM


Are you looking for an adorable, classic, and entirely charming (and entirely fictional) film with librarians and super computers? Desk Set is the perfect option for you this April Fool’s Day. We hope you’ll post your own responses below, and know that you can always count on us to know when to take a topic seriously.

Making LibGuides Into Library Websites

Welcome to Part 2 of my two-part series introducing LibGuides CMS for use as a website. Read Part 1 (with comments from Springshare!). This companion piece was released March 27.

Why LibGuides?

LibGuides logo

LibGuides logo (© Springshare)

We can design surprisingly good websites with LibGuides 2.0 CMS. WordPress and Drupal are free and open source, but Springshare, the maker of LibGuides, also delivers reliable hosting and support for two grand a year. Moreover, even folks clueless about coding can quickly learn to maintain a LibGuides-based website because (1) the interface is drop-and-drag, fill-in-the-box intuitive, and (2) many academic librarians create research guides as part of their liaison duties and are already familiar with the system. Most importantly, libraries can customize LibGuides-based websites as extensively or minimally as available talent and time permits, without sacrificing visual appeal or usability–or control of the library’s own site.

LibGuides-Based Websites

There are some great LibGuides-based websites out there. Springshare has compiled exemplars across various library sectors here and here. Below are screenshots showing what you can do.

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County (ABC) Library homepage

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County (ABC) Library homepage

The Albuquerque and Bernalillo County (ABC) Library is that rare public library that uses LibGuides. The homepage is beautifully laid out, with tons of neat customizations and a carousel that actually enhances UX, despite the load time. One of my favorite LibGuides sites!

World Maritime University Library homepage

World Maritime University Library homepage

The World Maritime University Library, run by the United Nations, has a beautifully minimalist blue-and-white look – classic Scandinavian. Like Google, the logo and search box are front and center; everything else is placed discreetly in tabs at the top and bottom of the homepage.

John S. Bailey Library homepage

John S. Bailey Library, American College of Greece

The American College of Greece’s John S. Bailey Library is text-heavy, but its navigation is as clear as the Aegean Sea. Note the absence of a federated search box, which, unless the algorithms are of search-engine caliber, tends to produce results that undergraduates find bewildering.

Even you have other priorities or skills, you can still create a quality LibGuides-based website without major customizations to the stylesheets. Hillsborough Community College Library and Harrison College both do nice jobs, albeit with LibGuides 1.0. Walters State Community College did hardly any deep customizing of LibGuides 2.0, but its site is perfectly functional.

Walters State Community College Library homepage

Walters State Community College Library homepage

My Library’s Website

Moving the Hodges University Library to LibGuides has followed a three-stage agile process.

1. September 2014. We upgraded the existing LibGuides CMS to LibGuides 2.0 and reorganized and enhanced existing content. Review my February 27 post for more on this first stage.

Faculty Support Tools

Hodges University Library’s faculty support page

2. January 2015. We rolled out the new library homepage and associated pages, which unified the library’s entire web presence under LibGuides. Previously our homepage was designed and run by the university’s IT department using Microsoft SharePoint (ugh), so students could only access the homepage by signing into the university intranet–dreadful for accessibility. We also shuffled DNS records and redirects so that the homepage has a much cleaner URL ( than previously ( The new site can be accessed by anyone from anywhere without logging into anything. #librarianwin

3. June 2015. We will roll out the next major iteration of our website, integrating OCLC’s new and improved WorldCat discovery layer, our new LibAnswers virtual reference service, and our revamped website to build better UX. The page header and federated search box will be optimized for mobile devices, as the rest of the site already is. Our motto? Continual improvement!

Have you used LibGuides as a website? What is your experience?

Jobs in Information Technology: March 25

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

Business Librarian, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Library Discovery and Integrated System Coordinator, Princeton University Library, Princeton, NJ

Specialized Executive Librarian, BarnAllen Technologies, Inc., Alexandria, MDsarch

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

Creating Better Tutorials Through User-Centered Instructional Design

guidanceA 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

Have you wanted to involve users as you design interactive e-learning, but aren’t sure where to start? In this unique, hands-on workshop, you will learn the core and emerging principles of instructional and user experience design and apply what you have learned to design, develop, and test a tutorial you create. The three dynamic and experienced workshop facilitators will cover topics including design thinking, user-centered pedagogy, user interface prototyping, and intercept usability testing while providing hands-on practice in each area.

Check out these 3 tutorials examples:

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources
Academic Search Complete
Locating Manuscripts in Special Collections


meryYvonne Mery, Instructional Design Librarian, University of Arizona

Yvonne co-authored the book, Online by Design: the Essentials of Creating Information Literacy Courses. She has co-authored several papers on the integration of information literacy in online classes and presented at numerous national conferences on best practices for online information literacy instruction.

blakistonrRebecca Blakiston, User Experience Librarian, University of Arizona Libraries

Rebecca has been at the University of Arizona Libraries since 2008, and the website product manager since 2010. She provides oversight, management, and strategic planning for the library website, specializing in guerilla usability testing, writing for the web, and content strategy. She developed a process for in-house usability testing, which has been implemented successfully both within website projects and in an ongoing, systematic way. She has authored, Usability Testing: a Practical Guide for Librarians.

sultLeslie Sult, Associate Librarian, University of Arizona

Leslie is in the Research and Learning department. Her work is focused on developing and improving scalable teaching models that enable the library to reach and support many more students than was possible earlier through traditional one-shot instructional sessions. With Gregory Hagedon, Leslie won the ACRL Instruction Section Innovation Award in 2013 for their work on the software Guide on the Side, which helps instruction librarians create tutorials for database instruction.

Guide on the Side

“Understanding that many librarians are feeling the pressure to find methods to support student learning that do not require direct, librarian-led instruction, the University of Arizona Library’s Guide on the Side provides an excellent tutorial grounded in sound pedagogy that could significantly change the way libraries teach students how to use databases,” said award committee co-chairs, Erin L. Ellis of the University of Kansas and Robin Kear of the University of Pittsburgh. “The creators have made a version of the software open access and freely available to librarians to quickly create online, interactive tutorials for database instruction. This allows librarians to easily create tutorials that are both engaging to students and pedagogically sound. Guide on the Side serves as a model of the future of library instruction.”



  • LITA Member $235
  • ALA Member $350
  • Non-Member $380


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 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,

Jobs in Information Technology: March 19

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

Collection Access & Support Services Librarian, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, Hershey Campus, Hershey, PA

Collection Assessment Librarian, Rice University, Fondren Library, Houston, TX

Digital Studio Technology Specialist, New York University, New York, NY

Head of Instruction and Liaison Services, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Online Learning Librarian, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA

Special Collections and Digital Curation Librarian, California State University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), Pomona, CA

Technology Director, Oregon Health & Science University Library, Portland  ,OR

Web Services Senior Developer, New York University, Division of Libraries, New York, NY

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

LITA Updates, March 2015

This is one of our periodic messages sent to all LITA members. This update provides

  • Election details
  • An urgent call to action from the Washington Office
  • Current Online Learning Opportunities

Election details

ALA Candidates who are LITA members include:

  • Presidential candidate:electionshighlight
    • Joseph Janes
  • Council candidates:
    • Brett Bonfield
    • Megan Drake
    • Henry Mensch
    • Colby Mariva Riggs
    • Jules Shore
    • Eric Suess
    • Joan Weeks

LITA Division Candidates include

  • President Candidates:
    • Aimee Fifarek
    • Nancy Colyar
  • Director-at-large candidates:
    • Ken Varnum
    • Susan Sharpless Smith
    • Martin Kalfatovic
    • Frank Cervone

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Plan Before You Code a Website


Plan I report Licensed under a Creative Commons License from

When working on a new website it is so easy to want to jump right in and start coding, or at least start storyboarding. I have been working on a new website with the marketing department at my university, and before we could start any work they asked me to first define my audience.

Once I clearly articulated who I was trying to reach I was asked to provide information for specific pages. As a team we decided to include the following pages:

  • Landing Page
  • Supplemental Pages
    • About
    • Resources
    • Events
    • Contact us
    • Event Slider
    • Calendar

Then, I was asked to identify the sub-groups of my broadly defined audience that each page should target. We only started writing once each page had a specified population. The words used for each page needed to align with both the broad audience and the targeted sub-group.

The process of planning a website before creating the website has been a great learning experience. I have been forced to articulate my goals and specify end users. I’ve been more thoughtful about this project than I have been in previous instances when many decisions were left up to me. Our marketing team has been an amazing resource and I hope to apply their thinking to future projects.

Does anyone else ever feel like they need a public relations training to be a librarian?

Also, I’d love to hear any advice you have for me as I plan websites.

LITA President’s Program with Lou Rosenfeld

Lou mug shot tallThe Library User Experience Crossroads:
a dialogue with Lou Rosenfeld

Join us in San Francisco during the ALA Annual Conference at the LITA Awards Presentation & LITA President’s Program, when LITA President Rachel Vacek welcomes Lou Rosenfeld to present on the latest cutting edge issues of concern to technology librarians.

Sunday, June 28, 2015, 3:00 – 4:00pm
Location to be announced on the ALA Schedule soon

You’ve heard a lot about—and maybe even tried to do something—about user experience. And naturally, you have questions. Do librarians have an edge when it comes to UX, or are we behind UX’s other feeder disciplines? Why is UX research so important for libraries? Can libraries even afford to provide good experiences these days? Lou Rosenfeld sits squarely at the intersection of UX and librarianship (and hopes not to get run over). He is a former librarian who many consider one of the “fathers of information architecture” and who now publishes books on user experience. He’ll tackle your questions with moderation from LITA President Rachel Vacek—and may even answer some.

Lou Rosenfeld has been instrumental in helping establish the fields of information architecture and user experience, and in articulating the role and value of librarianship within those fields. Lou is co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (O’Reilly; 4th edition to be published in 2015) and Search Analytics for Your Site (Rosenfeld Media, 2011), co-founder of the Information Architecture Institute and the Information Architecture Summit and Enterprise UX conferences, and a former columnist for Internet World, CIO, and Web Review magazines.

AC15sfPod238x120Lou founded the ground-breaking information architecture consultancy Argus Associates in the early 1990s. As an independent consultant, he has helped a variety of large and highly-political enterprises make their information more findable, including Caterpillar, PayPal, Ford, AT&T, the Centers for Disease Control, Accenture, and the NCAA. Lou now manages Rosenfeld Media, which publishes some of the best-loved books in user experience, produces UX events, and equips UX teams with coaching and training.

Follow Lou @louisrosenfeld

2015 LITA/Library Hi Tech Award goes to David Walker

Walker-Photo2David Walker has been named the winner of the 2015 LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Outstanding Communication in Library and Information Technology.

Emerald Group Publishing, and, the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) sponsor the award that recognizes outstanding individuals or institutions for their long-term contributions in the area of Library and Information Science technology and its application.

Walker is being recognized for his dedication and commitment in developing open source library portal application Xerxes over the past decade. Originally designed as an improved interface to the Ex Libris Metalib federated search system in 2004, Xerxes now supports a variety of back-end search engines, including commercial library discovery systems, such as Primo, EDS, Summon, non-cost web service (EBSCO Integration Toolkit, Worldcat API), and other search engines (Solr, Google Appliance). Through this effort, Walker has worked with a variety of vendors to develop and test their application programming interfaces, and has been recognized by OCLC and Ex Libris for innovative uses of their services. In 2007 Walker released the system under an open source license, and today, Xerxes platform is implemented by over 40 institutions around the globe, with some also contributing code back to the project.

Walker says, “These days, academic libraries are increasingly opting for hosted discovery systems and library services platforms. It’s still vitally important that libraries retain responsibility for the interfaces we present users, and explore new and creative ways to integrate library content and services into learning management systems and other online spaces, which cannot be easily achieved by vendor discovery systems or services platforms. Xerxes continues to provide a flexible and open source platform to explore such projects, regardless of the underlying discovery system or library services platform.”

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