Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Computers in Libraries: March 23

Conference: last day
I could only attend one session on Friday, but it was so well worth it! The presenters are doing some pretty cool stuff! It also doesn't hurt that I don't really like reference shifts....

Redesigning Reference Models
This was one of my favorite sessions! The tag for the session was #undesk. The Millersville University librarians who presented this session had to find new ways to reach students. Their library building is undergoing renovations, and the new, smaller space the library was moved to does not have offices or room for a reference desk. There solutions were innovative. Most of the librarians are now physically embedded in their academic subject building, and they hold office hours. They make use of chat, phone/SMS (Google Voice), Jing (screen captures answer reference questions), digital signs, iPads, and being a visible presence at campus events and organization meetings. The librarians realized that forming relationships with faculty and students inside and outside the library is essential. Questions they feel they’ve had to address:
  • How do we connect with students?
  • How do we encourage and support experimentation?
  • What does it mean to be a librarian?
They’ve had to really rethink their definition of librarians though, and I liked their summation: “We provide the building, but the building does not provide us.”

Computers in Libraries: March 22

Conference: Second Day

Ebook Publishers and Libraries: Win-Win Solutions
Led by Canadian librarians, this session was informative but not particularly applicable to me. Canadian libraries have been able to personalize license agreements with ebook publishers due to the Canadian book market, Canadian laws governing book purchasing rules, and the unity of the Canadian libraries. I didn’t get as much from this session because I don’t think American libraries have the unity needed to demand the same terms as the Canadian libraries.
They are doing some really neat stuff up north with ebooks, and I wish American libraries could copy some of their model.

Tinkerers: Maker Culture and Libraries
Maker culture was something that I have never heard of before this conference, so it was particularly interesting. Maker culture is essentially hacker culture: taking existing devices and software and re-appropriating them to meet a specific need. Most of maker culture happens in hacker spaces; maker culture can also be seen as a way to informally learn about technology. The speaker stated that although maker culture started as activists and continues to believe they work against “the man,” many of the hackers are white males, between the ages of 20-40 who make over $100,000 a year. Many of the products that they make can’t be used by the general public and actually have no economic value for their communities. The speaker argued that if libraries got involved, makers/hackers from different communities would be able to work together in their communities in a free access space. By bringing in librarians and libraries, the end products would be better tied to the local communities because it would be the local community members who made them. This talk was so insightful. I’m not sure that it would be something that worked at King, especially due to limitations from other departments, the administration, and space considerations, but it would be cool if it could!
Examples: FabLab (Fayetteville Free Library, MIT), HackDC

Open Source Trends & Migration
I had certain expectations about the session because my library will be migrating to an open source ILS is the next year or two. The first presenter simply read the results of his survey about what library perceptions of open source are. I would have been more interested if he discussed why libraries make the decision to move to open source or stay with a proprietary ILS, but he didn’t cover those topics. One interesting fact that he did share was the number of libraries adopting cloud-based ILSs, like Sierra. I wasn’t aware that this was a trend, or that libraries were considering it.

Integrating Tablets and Apps Into the Library
Hosted by two public children’s librarians and two academic librarians, this session gave me more insight into integrating tablets. At my library, we are interested in purchasing tablets for reference and instruction. Most of the information provided by the public librarians wasn’t especially relevant; they did mention considerations that had not even occurred to me: data privacy and restricting access to features. The academic librarians talked about their decision to get a droid based tablet v. iPads, using the tablets in instruction, and student reactions to the tablets in instruction. Droid was cheaper and open source. The student reaction was actually not overwhelmingly positive; the students were frustrated by the technology and having to learn a new technology on top of learning research skills, and they worried about damaging the tablet. The librarians ran into their own problems: compatibility of browsers, weak wifi, printing considerations, and wiping devices of data. Another big consideration is the importance of staff training on the devices so that they can assist students and other users.

Computers in Libraries: March 21

In the following three posts, I will provide a brief synopsis of sessions I attended at the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, D.C. this past week. It was a pretty awesome conference, and I would recommend any e-resources or web librarians attend. I also enjoyed that it was a conference full of technology librarians, so none of us really wanted to meet new people.

I went to 4 sessions the first day.

Strategic Approaches to Mobile:
Presented by a reference librarian, a systems librarian, and a vendor, this session focused on doing environment scans of existing mobile interfaces, library user analysis for smartphones / tablets, what libraries can learn from business created mobile interfaces, and three ways to make a mobile site (stylesheet, mobile website, and native app). I learned so much in this session. I think mobile website development is key. I hope to use what I learned here to create a mobile website or stylesheet redirect for my library website this summer.

Getting Ready for the Semantic Web
This session taught listeners about the basic differences between the existing web and the semantic web, how RDA as a standard would enable library information to work on the semantic web, and current projects in libraries to work with the semantic web. I knew the least about semantic web and programming, so I learned the most at this session. I enjoyed learning about the cataloging standards, and how the semantic web will change searching.
  • RDA: uses FRBR and FRAD standards
  • Open Metadata Project (OMR): RDA vocab is published on the OMR
  • MulDiCat: Authoritative IFLA standards translated into different languages
  • OCLC’s Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST)
  • OCLC’s Virtual International Authority File (VIAF)
Getting to Know HTML5 and CSS3
An introduction to changes in markup languages hosted by a head of technical services at a Montana university. This session covered changes in tags, how HTML5 will work with the semantic web, HTML5 and microdata, HTML5 and media formats, Javascript API (application programming interface) compatibility, CSS3 response to web design trend changes, and tools to play with the changes. This session as really interesting, and it answered many of my questions about HTML5. I don’t do much of the website backend programming at my library, but it will help me understand what our IT staff does. I belive it will also enable to me code my own mobile website or mobile redirect stylesheet, which is something I hope to implement soon.
  • Marcotte, E. (2010, May 25). Responsive web design. A List Apart, 306. Retrieved March 28, 2012, from
  • Ronallo, J. (2012, February 2). HTML5 microdata and code4lib. Retrieved March 28, 2012, from
Quick Quantifiable QR Codes
This session had too many presenters, in my opinion. The presenters (all academic librarians) discussed how to make QR codes, the importance of shortening the URL, using Google URL shortener to track analytics, and ways to use the QR code. Some of the ideas I liked were a QR code in the stacks that leads to LibGuides to help the student research, a QR code in the stacks that leads to a list of comparable ebooks (merging print and electronic), and using QR codes in place of print maps.

I do have more detailed notes, if anyone is interested!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

investing in ourselves

A story from the iSchool flickered into my Twitter feed today: Is a Master's Degree in Library Science a Poor Investment? A Counter Perspective to Forbes Magazine.

(The Forbes story in question was pretty ignorable; coming from Forbes, of course it's going to focus on the financial benefits of your master's, and of course our degrees aren't going to make us rich. We knew this wasn't a good investment in the traditional meaning of the word "investment," so blah blah whatever, Forbes.)

But then the iSchool student winds up making the exact same point as the Forbes story.

"[I]f your desired profession requires a master’s degree, that’s a good reason to pursue it.”
"An MLIS is often required when applying for professional librarian jobs, especially in regards to the more advanced positions such as director or manager. This is why I am pursuing my Master’s degree: In looking at job postings and talking with people in the field, I quickly discovered that a lack of educational credentials would quickly eliminate me for consideration for the director or manager positions I was seeking."

That's not a real reason.

It's a valid short-term explanation, but it's not a reason. "Because they said so" isn't good enough for toddlers and teenagers, and it shouldn't be good enough for our profession, either.

Why are we all so afraid to ask the real question: What, exactly, do we learn in library school, and do we need it to be librarians? 

I've questioned my Syracuse degree -- and its $40K price tag -- loudly and often, but the further out I get from library school, the more certain I am that I did, in fact, need to go to library school. It wasn't because of anything I learned in classes or from readings or from professors; some of that was helpful and important, and some of it wasn't.

The reason I needed to go to library school was that I needed to meet other people in the same stage of their careers as I am. 

I needed to have daily contact with people who were navigating the same things, figuring out where and how to work in this field -- and, now, having jobs that are similar to what I'm doing or am going to do or might want to do someday. Just in Klub Kat, we have public librarians; academic librarians at schools of all sizes and stripes; archivists; early-career administrators; people working at vendors; people working at "special" libraries; people working in non-MLS staff positions.

All of you push me to think about things way outside my comfort zone (proper spit-cup signage, say, and bugs and rodents in public spaces) and how we're shaping this profession. Our generation isn't shaping it enough yet, but we have to start somewhere. And we're doing things together, too -- brainstorming, venting, helping each other find job posting, presenting together, co-authoring academic papers.

That is what I needed, what I couldn't get on my own. Were there other ways to find these people, ways that didn't take two years and cost every cent that some people make in an entire year? Maybe, but I don't know them, and the more graduation recedes in the distance, the more I value what I did get out of library school: you guys.

P.S. That said, people shaping MLIS curricula? Please keep asking that Big Scary Question: What, exactly do we learn in library school, and do we need it to be librarians? If the answer is no -- and it is, too often -- get rid of it, please, for the sake of our future and our sanity.