Sunday Routines: Aimee Fifarek

In this series, inspired by the New York Times’ Sunday Routines, we gain a glimpse into the lives of the people behind LITA. This post focuses on Aimee Fifarek, who was recently elected Vice-President/President-Elect.

AAimeeAndBobTheBearimee is the Customer Service, Technology and Digital Initiatives Deputy Director for Phoenix Public Library in Arizona. She made the move to PPL in April 2013 from Scottsdale Public Library, where she’d worked for 10 years, first as the IT Manager and then later as Senior Manager over IT, Technical Services and Collection Development. Aimee’s typical work week can include everything from contract negotiations to planning technology projects to addressing customer concerns.

WORKING OUT AND CLEANING UP Sundays are days for sleeping in at South Scottsdale home that Aimee shares with her fiancée Jason Boland. A Senior Trainer for Innovative Interfaces, Jason is often away during the work week for training trips, so the weekends are when most of the chores get done. Laundry gets started before a trip to the gym for Yoga or Step Class, and cleanup of the remnants of a crazy week get done after – but all that doesn’t start until 7 or 8am.

AFJB_GardenGREEN THUMB In addition to the inside chores, Aimee and Jason enjoy spending time in the back yard vegetable garden. They built large planter boxes this past year in order to keep the weeds out and give the veggies a chance during the year-round growing season. Squash, carrots, peppers and herbs are frequent thrivers.

BATTER UP! Living as they do in the heart of Spring Training activates, Sundays in March and April are frequently involve trips to the many baseball stadiums in the area. Jason is a California native and a devoted Oakland A’s fan. In addition to the A’s, Aimee and Jason try to find time to take in a Milwaukee Brewers game (Wisconsin is Aimee’s home state) or the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks.

WHERE TO? The two spend many weekends traveling. Despite his intense schedule, Jason loves to travel and will happily fly off for a weekend just after returning from a weekAimeeJasonBaseball away for work. Sometimes Aimee is able meet up with Jason at the end of one of his business trips, like recent trips to Minneapolis and Toronto. She enjoys being able to take advantage of Jason’s frequent flier miles and A-List status.

KP Aimee is just as happy at home, however, especially when spending time in the kitchen. Although they take full advantage of the fabulous restaurants and craft cocktail venues that Scottsdale has to offer, Sundays afford the extra time needed for shopping for and preparing a really good meal. Eating healthy in the Boland-Fifarek household is more about avoiding processed foods and cooking from scratch than counting calories – not to mention using lots of fun gadgets like the sous vide or the garlic chopper. Regardless of what they are preparing there is a 99% chance it will contain garlic.

WORDS AND PLAY Evening calls for a little “couch time.” Jason and Aimee are big fans of Sci-Fi and mystery series and routinely give their DVR a workout. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Orphan Black, and Elementary are particular favorites. This is also a good time to finish the New York Times Sunday Crossword and KenKen before heading off to bed at 9pm or 10pm.

Tips for Improving Onsite Workshops

The catchy all-encompassing title

Courtesy of  Jirka Matousek (2012). Flickr
Courtesy of Jirka Matousek (2012). Flickr

The title of the program is the catch. It serves as a brief description and hooks the interested party into reading the scope and objectives of the program. When a potential participant is browsing through a list of upcoming workshops from an e-mail, website or course catalog, certain terms/phrases will be the only reason for them to read the course description. “Building a Successful Website” is not as provocative as “Website Management with Google Analytics.” Usually the length of the ;8course name does not make a difference unless it requires two lines. Keep in mind your audience. Busy people are inundated with information. When you’re a member of multiple Listservs, you’ll receive an excessive amount of emails a day. I personally scan my list of new e-mails for subject lines that interest me, reading them and delete the rest. The title can function as a minor descriptor of what the course entails. It is also a summary of the main objectives of the course. If you’re only going to refer to Google Analytics for fifteen minutes during a two-hour workshop, then don’t put it in the title. Workshop participants will feel that you have wasted their time if you create a misleading description of your course.

Set objectives and goals upfront

The list of objectives can be a deciding factor. Providing a course outline ahead of time is an often overlooked concept. I personally like to pace myself by being aware of which topics will be included and for what length of time. There have been many times when, after receiving the course outline in class, I realize that the topic I was interested in is not being covered or is a small component of the lecture. I feel that workshop coordinator’s are either still revising their outline or guarding it like a trade secret. A lecture outline, with timetables, is a great resource for the attendee to have upfront and it also works as a time management tool for lecturers to prepare from. It’s a great organization tool for everyone involved.

Make time for questions

For short-term workshops answer questions after the workshop. Believe it or not, you can easily get off track and end up answering questions instead of meeting your objectives. If you are taking questions during a lecture, don’t hesitate to interrupt in order to get back on track. Also, asking participants to write down questions that come up, on a sheet of paper, for later is a great idea. As a presenter you should be prepared for a cold crowd. Sometimes participants don’t have immediate questions. Ahead of time, make a list of common questions that are asked about the topic. At the end of the workshop, if no one responds to your prompt for questions, be prepared to present those frequently asked questions. Provide your contact information so that they may contact you if they have follow-up questions after the workshop has ended.

The phrase “refreshments will be served” goes a long way

Food…and snacks. Everyone loves free food. Feeding a group of 30 can be pricey. If you charge a nominal fee for attendance it can be like crowd funding for group catering. Most workshops can cost upwards of $200 or more for attendance. If you charge everyone $10, it will be more inviting to attend and the payment easily covers the cost of catering for a sizable group. Refreshments go a long way and are highly appreciated during workshop breaks. One of the things about serving heavier food at workshops is that participants will be so busy trying to eat their meal that they won’t have time to mingle. Keep it light and simple. Additionally when serving food, consider food allergies, vegetarians, vegans and other special diets. In other words, don’t place peanut butter cookies next to the fresh fruit bowl.

There is always room for improvement

Conducting a user survey is one way to gauge the user experience of your attendees. You will want to know if any improvements are needed in terms of the presenter, handouts/materials, technology, seating arrangement, number of breaks, disability/accessibility accommodations, etc. You should also include an option to suggest other course topics they are interested in for the next class.
Rating systems are great, but don’t make them complicated. The goal is improvement, but you don’t want to make the process difficult or you will not receive thorough and complete responses. This would defeat the purpose and effort of conducting surveys. You may want to consider making them anonymous. Getting someone to participate in a survey that will be somehow associated with them may not be an easy task. Anonymity allows everyone to respond honestly without fear of the instructor/ coordinators knowing who they are. Consider if the format of the survey should be web or paper based. Web-based in easy and convenient. They are available for as long as your survey service will allow and can be fast and convenient for people to complete when they have time. Paper-based surveys are also effective and can be done in class. The workshop will be the best time to have their undivided attention. Scheduling time at the end of the workshop to conduct the survey is a beneficial option because participants will better recall their experience. Give the participants a reasonable amount of time to complete the survey. If deciding on paper, digitization for long term review is an option, but consider recycling. Years of using paper based survey’s can leave a hefty carbon footprint. The survey should focus on the class and not the instructor. A participant’s experience in the class will automatically be a reflection of their review of the class and the instructor. You can include a few questions about the instructor, but you want a survey that is evaluating the worth of the class.

If you build it, they will come. Do you have unique tips for creating a successful onsite workshop? Please share them in the comments section.

Jobs in Information Technology: June 17, 2015

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

Special Collections Audiovisual Archivist, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Systems and Technology Librarian, Catawba College, Salisbury, NC

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

Embracing Modularity with the Unix Philosophy

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, creators of UNIX. CC BY-SA 2.0 from
Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, creators of UNIX (image from Peter Hamer, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Unix, the ancient operating system that powered mainframe computers in the 1970’s, couldn’t have been easy to design. Computers of that era were unbelievably expensive and slow compared to what we have today, and this put extreme limitations on the software that they could run. Programs had to take up as little disk space and system memory as possible because there just wasn’t much to go around. With that in mind, the original Unix programmers focused on writing tiny programs that 1) had one functional focus, and 2) played nicely with other programs. The reasoning behind this was that small, simple, single-purpose programs would be easier to improve than large, complex, multi-purpose ones, and if a user didn’t like the way one program worked they could swap it out for a different one (as opposed to being stuck with one mediocre way to do things). In practice, programs would be linked together in pipes, where the output of one program becomes the input to another. The user chooses what programs they use in the pipe, and those programs can be replaced at will if the user finds something they like better. This design principle of making tiny but highly-specialized programs that work together instead of “monolithic” swiss-army knife style programs has been dubbed “The Unix Philosophy“, and it has had a huge effect on the software development community because its just such a gosh dang great idea. Really.

The Unix philosophy as a design heuristic has taken on a life of its own outside of Unix and its descendents, and it seems to be taking root in the community of library-focused open source software. The repository software community in particular seem to be moving away from monolithic all-in-one solutions to modular systems where many different pieces of software all talk to each other and work together to achieve a common goal. Developers are taking successful non-library-focused open source software and co-opting it into their stack. This “don’t reinvent the wheel” approach increases the overall quality of the system AND reduces developer time spent since the chosen software already exists, works well and has its own development community. Consider the use of the Solr search server and the Fuseki triplestore used by the Fedora Commons community. If they had tried to implement their own built-in search and triplestore capabilities it would have required far more developer time to reimplement something that already exists. By using externally developed software like Solr, the Fedora community can rely on a mature project that has its own development trajectory and community of bug squashers.

The Unix philosophy need not be tied just to software, either. I’ve found myself applying it in a managerial sense lately while working on certain projects by creating small, focused teams that do one thing well and pass the work amongst themselves (as opposed to everyone just doing whatever). Another way of looking at it is understanding and capitalizing on the strengths of your coworkers: I’m okay at managing projects but our project manager is much better, and our project manager is okay at coding but I’m much better. It doesn’t make much sense for our project manager to spend time learning to code when he has me, just like it doesn’t make sense for me to focus on project management when I have him (of course there are benefits to this, but in practice its a much smaller return on investment). We both serve the organization better by focusing on and developing our strengths, and leaning on others’ expertise for our weaknesses. This lets us work faster and increases the quality of our output, and in this day and age time and effort are as valuable and limited as the system memory and disk space of a 1970’s mainframe.

LITA Updates, June 2015

This is one of our periodic messages sent to all LITA members. This update includes information about the following:

  • Election Results
  • Learning Opportunities at Annual Conference
  • Annual Conference Highlights
  • LITA Executive Director Plans to Retire

Election Results

Please join in congratulating the newly elected LITA Board Members:

Aimee Fifarek, Vice-President/President-Elect,
Ken Varnum and Susan Sharpless Smith, Directors-at-Large for three-year terms.

Thanks go to the Nominating Committee which included Karen G. Schneider, chair, Pat Ensor, Adriene Lim, and, Chris Evjy, members.

LITA members elected to the ALA Council include: Eric Suess and Joan Weeks, Councilors-at-Large.

Congratulations to all, and, thank you to every candidate who was willing to stand for office.

AC15_logo_FINAL_150px_revLearning Opportunities at Annual Conference

Three full day workshops are being offered in San Francisco on Friday, June 26th. Two of the sessions are in the Moscone Convention Center; the third preconference is off site in a maker/hacker space. These are your choices:

  1. Creating Better Tutorials Through User-Centered Instructional Design. Hands-on workshop with experts from the University of Arizona. Moscone Convention Center 2008 (W)
  2. Learn to Teach Coding and Mentor Technology Newbies – in Your Library or Anywhere! Work with experts from the Black Girls CODE to become master technology teachers. Moscone Convention Center 2010 (W)
  3. Build a Circuit & Learn to Program an Arduino in a Silicon Valley Hackerspace. This workshop will convene at Noisebridge, 2169 Mission Street, a hacker space in San Francisco. Clearly, it will be hands on.

To register for one of these three LITA workshops simply go to the ALA Annual Conference registration and sign up. If you are already registered for conference, the workshop will be added to your registration. If you can’t attend the Annual Conference but a full day workshop on Friday, June 26th from 8:30 – 4:00 pm would be perfect for you, please go to the ALA Annual Conference registration site and sign up. Although you register for these full day workshops through the Annual Conference registration site, please note: you do not have to register for the entire conference in order to register for a workshop. Registration will be accepted on site outside the classrooms for the two workshops in the Moscone Center.

  • Register online through June 19
  • Call ALA Registration at 1-800-974-3084
  • Onsite registration will also be accepted in San Francisco.

Be sure to watch the LITA web sites for announcements about online learning opportunities that are being developed for July and August.

Annual Conference Highlights

The Open House on Friday, June 26, from 3:00 to 4:00pm, MCC-2005 (W), provides members and non-members alike an opportunity to explore with the LITA leadership the many opportunities within LITA. If there is a Committee or an Interest Group that might provide you with the leadership experience you are seeking, this is the perfect time to get some f2f advice. If you have ideas about how LITA might serve you better, this is the perfect time to share those ideas. If you are interested in programming or publications, if you are looking for people who share your interests in various aspects of technology, and/or if you are seeking a good conversation with engaged members, then you will want to attend the Open House.

“Sunday Afternoon with LITA” is scheduled for the Moscone Convention Center, 3014-3016 (W). The Afternoon starts with the popular Top Technology Trends program on June 28th from 1:00 to 2:00pm. This program features our ongoing roundtable discussion about trends and advances in library technology. The panel of experts includes: Carson Block, Andrea Davis, Grace Dunbar, Bonnie Tijerina, and Sarah Houghton, moderator.

A brief awards program at 3:00 will be followed by the LITA President’s Program. The award winners include:

  • Ed Summers, Frederick G. Kilgour Award for Research in Library and Information Technology,
  • David Walker, LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Outstanding Communication in Library and Information Technology,
  • Heather Terrell, LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award for her paper “Reference is dead, long live reference: electronic collections in the digital age.”

Following the awards ceremony, you will want to stay for Rachel Vacek’s President’s Program with Lou Rosenfeld, Rosenfeld Media, which publishes some of the best-loved books in user experience, produces UX events, and equips UX teams with coaching and training.

The Top Technology Trends program, LITA awards ceremony, and LITA President’s Program are all in the same room.

At 5:30, we transition from afternoon to evening at the LITA Happy Hour at DaDa Bar, 86 2nd Street.

LITA provides 20 programs at Annual Conference. Be sure to review the LITA Highlights page for detailed information on all LITA programs and activities planned for Annual Conference.

LITA Executive Director plans to retire

I have good news to share. After 24 years with ALA (14 of those with LITA), over 10 years with OCLC, and various other employment, I plan to retire. My last day will be July 31, 2015. I’m very excited. I’ve had a number of recommendations on what to do including: “spend the first day in your PJs”, and, “really enjoy not working”. I do plan to enjoy not working. I have a number of projects and plans I’ll be exploring, plus, people and places I hope to visit.

If you are in the San Francisco area on Sunday, June 28th, please come to the LITA Happy Hour to celebrate with me and the Membership Development Committee and other LITA leaders and members. The Happy Hour/Party is at the DaDa Bar, 86 2nd Street.

Hope to see you in San Francisco.

I encourage you to connect with LITA by:

  1. Exploring our web site.
  2. Subscribing to LITA-L email discussion list.
  3. Visiting the LITA blog and LITA Division page on ALA Connect.
  4. Connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Reaching out to the LITA leadership at any time.

Please note: the Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) journal is available to you and to the entire profession. ITAL features high-quality articles that undergo rigorous peer-review as well as case studies, commentary, and information about topics and trends of interest to the LITA community and beyond. Be sure to sign up for notifications when new issues are posted (March, June, September, and December).

If you have any questions or wish to discuss any of these items, please do let me know.

All the best,


Mary Taylor, Executive Director
Library and Information Technology Association (LITA)
50 E. Huron, Chicago, IL 60611
800-545-2433 x4267
312-280-4267 (direct line)
312-280-3257 (fax)
mtaylor (at)

Join us in Minneapolis, November 12-15, 2015 for the LITA Forum.

Congratulations to the LITA UX Contest Winners

The results are in for LITA’s Contest: Great Library UX Ideas Under $100. Congratulations to winner Conny Liegl, Designer for Web, Graphics and UX at the Robert E. Kennedy Library at California Polytechnic State University for her submission entitled Guerilla Sketch-A-Thon. The LITA President’s Program Planning Team who ran the contest and reviewed the submissions loved how creative the project was and how it engaged users. From the sketches that accompanied the submission, and from looking at the before and after screenshots of the library website, it was clear the designers incorporated ideas from the student sketches.

Conny won a personal one-year, online subscription to Library Technology Reports, generously donated by ALA Tech Source. She gets to have lunch with LITA President Rachel Vacek and the LITA President’s Program speaker and UX expert Lou Rosenfeld at ALA in San Francisco. She gets a free book generously donated from Rosenfeld Media. And finally, her winning submission will be published in in Weave, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal for Library User Experience professionals published by Michigan Publishing.

There were so many entries submitted for the contest, picking a single winner was difficult. The Planning Team unanimously agreed to recognize first and second runner-up entries.

The First Runner-Up was the team at the University of Arizona Libraries who submitted their project Wayfinding in the Library. The team included people from multiple departments in their library including the User Experience department, Access & Information Services, and Library Communications. Congrats to Rebecca Blakiston, User Experience Librarian, Shoshana Mayden, Content Strategist, Nattawan Wood, Administrative Associate, Aungelique Rodriguez, Library Communications Student Assistant, and Beau Smith, Usability Testing Student Assistant. Each team member gets a book from Rosenfeld Media.

The Second Runner-Up was the team from Purdue University Libraries who submitted their project Applying Hierarchal Task Analysis Method to Discovery Tool Evaluation. The team consisted of Tao Zhang, Digital User Experiences Specialist and Marlen Promann, Graduate Research Assistant. Each team member gets a book from Rosenfeld Media.

In the coming months, interviews with the winners from each institution will be posted to the blog.

Jobs in Information Technology: June 10, 2015

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

Electronic Resources Librarian, Samuel Merritt University, John A. Graziano Memorial Library, Oakland, CA

Public Services Manager – Digital Experience, Jefferson County Public Library, Lakewood, CO

Programmer Analyst, Information Services, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO

Digital Infrastructure Developer, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Head of Library Assessment, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA

Reference and Instruction Librarian, York Campus, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, York, PA

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

Sunday Routines: Susan Sharpless Smith

In this series, inspired by the New York Times’ Sunday Routines, we gain a glimpse into the lives of the people behind LITA. This post focuses on Susan Sharpless Smith, who was recently elected 2015-2018 Director-at-Large.

smith-headshotSusan Sharpless Smith is an Associate Dean at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library. She’s been in that role since 2011, but has worked in a range of positions at that library since 1996. Her current job provides a wide variety of responsibilities and opportunities, and fills her week with interesting, meaningful professional work.

Sunday is the day Susan reserves to enjoy her family and her interests. It normally unfolds slowly. Susan is an early riser, often heading for the first cup of coffee and the Sunday newspaper before 6 am. In the summer, the first hour of the day is spent watching the day emerge from her screen porch in Winston-Salem, NC. She is not a big TV watcher but always tunes into the Today Show on Sunday mornings.

Bicycling is one of Susan’s passions, so a typical Sunday will include a 15-40 mile bike ride, either around town or out into the surrounding countryside. It’s her belief that bicycling is good for the soul. It also is one of the best ways to get acquainted with new places, so a bike ride is always on her agenda when traveling. Plans are already underway for a San Francisco bike excursion during ALA!

Susan’s second passion is photography, so whatever she is up to on any given Sunday, a camera accompanies her. (The best camera is the one you have with you!). She has been archiving her photographs on Flickr since 2006 and has almost 10,500 of them. Her most relaxing Sunday evening activity is settling in on her MacBook Air to process photos from that day in Photoshop.


Her son and daughter are grown, so often the day is planned around a family gathering of some sort. This can involve a road trip to Durham, an in-town Sunday brunch, a drive to North Carolina wine country or an hike at nearby Hanging Rock.


Her best Sunday would be spent in her favorite place in the world, at her family’s beach house in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Susan’s family has been going there for vacations since she was a child. It’s where she heads whenever she has a long weekend and wants to recharge. Her perfect Sunday is spent there (either for real, or in her imagination when she can’t get away). This day includes a sunrise walk on the beach, a morning bike ride on the boardwalk stopping for a breakfast while people-watching, reading a book on the beach, eating crab cakes for every meal (there’s no good ones in Piedmont North Carolina), a photo-shoot at the state park, a kayak trip on the bay and an evening at Funland riding bumper cars and playing skeeball. It doesn’t get any better than that!


LITA Annual Report, 2014-2015

statswinnersmembershipAs we reflect on 2014-2015, it’s fair to say that LITA, despite some financial challenges, has had numerous successes and remains a thriving organization. Three areas – membership, education, and publications – bring in the most revenue for LITA. Of those, membership is the largest money generator. However, membership has been on a decline, a trend that’s been seen across the American Library Association (ALA) for the past decade. In response, the Board, committees, interest groups, and many and individuals have been focused on improving the member experience to retain current members and attract potential ones. With all the changes to the organization and leadership, LITA is on the road to becoming profitable again and will remain one of ALA’s most impactful divisions.

Read more in the LITA Annual Report.