Category Archives: ALA TechSource Blog

Help Build a New School Library

From ALA TechSource:

Ask and ye shall receive. Not 24 hours after I lamented our challenges in covering school libraries, I received an e-mail from an employee at a private, K-12 school in New Jersey:

I am running a non-profit private school and I need some help in setting up my library. The main help that I need is to find out what kind of software I should be buying to launch the library. What initial things do I need? We have at least 1,500 Books and we want them to circulate to the students.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how this question ended up being sent to us. I felt unqualified to answer and wanted to refer the question to someone else…to an “expert”. Then something occurred to me–I can ask the several thousand experts who read this blog! If you have questions about setting up a library like this school administrator does, who better to ask than an open forum of librarians?

A bit more information about the situation: the school is equipped with a high-speed Internet connection, and has already ordered furniture for the library. They are working on a small budget (who isn’t these days), and want to put most of it towards an ILS and barcode-scanning technology.

TechSource readers, I put to it you–please help build this library! Please send your suggestions via blog comments or Twitter and we will  keep you updated on how things unfold. As the comments pile up, the school administrator in question will be weighing in herself with questions.

We’re looking forward to hearing your suggestions and engaging in this Library-building 2.0 project!

If you can help with insights and suggestions, please chime in!

Podcasting Roundup @ TechSource

Don’t miss this outstanding post by Jason Griffey highlighting how easily librarians can contribute to the conversation via these tools. This is a roadmap for creating programming for users – teaching them how to do it as well as a cost-effective plan for those librarians interested in audio:

The Core
Nothing really happens without my Black Macbook 13″, running OS X 10.5.6. For actual audio capture, I love the simplicity of 
Audacity. I’ve done some capture in Garageband before, and if its my own presentation I’m trying to record, I actually use the built-in record feature of Keynote. But for the basic “I need this audio”, I almost always swap back to Audacity. It’s free, and open source for all major platforms.

The Inputs
You can’t get good audio without a good microphone. When I’m capturing ambient audio, I use a 
Blue Snowball USB microphone. It is a little bulky, but does a great job capturing good audio, even in a huge room and with omnidirectional sources. It just plugs directly into the Macbook, doesn’t need any external power, and does a great job. 

If I’m capturing just myself, I often use another product from Blue, the Snowflake. It’s a portable version of the Snowball, but is more directional. Works amazingly for interviews or voiceovers, though.

Laptops, Council & Students: ALA TechSource Post

The flurry of excited “Yes I used my laptop for council business and so much more” messages like these has been encouraging. It reminded me that I also need to encourage laptop use in all of my classes for many of the same reasons – especially Saturday/Sunday classes. We’ve seen an increase in student laptop use in our program. This weekend in LIS768, I had 5 Macs and at least that many PCs that students brought in to class. We actually ran out of outlets in the room! Using the tools of the trade if you will – for access to our WordPress MU site, for access to Twitter, which the class LOVED and for access to any number of links I shared during my lectures – not only grants access but gets students ready for their work. I’ve long advocated for libraries to give their librarians a laptop as standard issue. 

Chatting with Gina while I prepped this post made this even more clear. “If we stand by the idea that these are just tools and some tools make some tasks more efficient, then it would behoove us all to at least learn about the tools available to us.”

But what if someone found a brief distraction while at that meeting or in the classroom? Oh My!

In my mind, the benefits of students being able to take notes and explore during class and to be connected to the Web and the World certainly far exceed the chance they might peek at the score of the big game or check the Facebook! (Heck, I did the same thing this weekend too!) I don’t give exams, but if I did, I’d probably still encourage the use of various technologies. It’s so ingrained in our work in libraries, my students should have as much access as possible.

Read the whole post here.

Five Hopes for the New Year

I get very excited at the power and promise of what we’re doing: innovative services, new buildings, the harnessing of new technologies to extend our services in surprising ways, and much, much more. With that in mind, I offer  a few simple hopes for this shiny new year. Many libraries are doing these things already while others are testing the waters. Wherever your institution is going, these are things I hope for:

I hope that we tell our story well.

I hope that we guide our users into the digital landscape.

I hope that we make good decisions.

I hope that we open our doors to everyone.

I hope that we encourage the heart.

Read the whole post here.

Planning & Pitfalls: Using Pageflakes for a Public Library Portal


An interview with Edward Byrne, Senior Librarian Web Services, Dublin City Libraries:

EB: The end product was rolled out to all branch libraries in January 2008, and can be deemed a success in that it successfully meets the need to provide a single point of access to diverse resources for our users, and it does so in a time- and labor-saving fashion. Cost can be calculated in terms of staff time only (which after the initial delivery can be calculated in terms of minutes rather than hours per week), as there is no other financial outlay involved. Intervention by IT staff is no longer required, the Libraries Web Unit being able to manage the desktop centrally and apply edits and new content as and when required. Indeed the solution has proved a joy to work with, often the type of content that can be presented being limited only by one’s imagination.

MS: And what about the pitfalls. I don’t want to paint to perfect of a picture about this or any of the social tools.

EB: The only real downside raised its ugly head in November 2008, when Pageflakes became inaccessible on all our public access Internet PCs from around the 6th November. Efforts to contact Pageflakes over the following week met with no response and no improvement; however a mail sent on Friday 14th on foot of enquiries carried out via Facebook (hurrah for Facebook!) may have been what triggered Pageflakes re-appearance later that day, albeit in a buggy fashion. At this point it is too early to say if the situation is going to stabilize. Pending the situation stabilizing and a satisfactory response from Pageflakes, we have replaced the Pageflakes page with a Netvibes-based equivalent. Insofar as can be ascertained, the problem arose as a consequence of a dispute between two ISPs, namely Sprint and Cogent, where Sprint ‘depeered’ Cogent, this having a knock-on effect on sites hosted on one or other ISP and Internet users. My understanding is that Pageflakes is hosted on Sprint. So depending on your own particular ISP, or rather on how the web is weaved, you may, or may not, have been able to access Pageflakes in recent weeks!


Read the whole interview here.

Five Benefits of the Information Commons

I have a new post up at ALA TechSource:

The Commons puts students at the center. The idea of student-centered innovation was a theme woven throughout the commons field trips. The commons did not make it any easier for the librarians or to enforce library policies. In fact, Stacy Greenwell of the University was happy to tell me that they made it easier for students to use their cell phones in “the Hub.” “Yes, that’s right—at the Hub we actually installed infrastructure to make it easier for students to use cell phones. We actually encourage cell phone use. Truly the Hub is a No Shushing Zone.”

The Commons is built with student involvement. Stacy Greenwell of “the Hub” told me that along with the innovations the librarians wanted at UK,  “we sought student input throughout the planning process”.  Bob Seal highlighted the ways his librarians discovered students needed: space, access to technology, and ease of use.

The Commons is a welcoming, useful gathering place. The folks at Indiana University South Bend started with a specific goal: to be a welcoming center on campus. Michele Russo detailed this idea when it came to the desk: “The new service desk was also designed to send a welcoming message.  It allows space for librarians, IT consultants, and multimedia specialists to work at one of two levels.” The Zones at Georgia Tech included flexible “anything and everything” spaces. Faculty might give a lecture in the morning, folowed by a DDR tournament in the afternoon and video creation in the evening.

The Commons makes connections. These connections might be between students, betweeen students and library staff, or between students and the various faculty and staff that may use the space as well. Dean of Library Services Michele Russo at IUSB said: “We envisioned making the Library a true teaching-learning-research center by creating an Information Commons where content, technology, and services provided by reference librarians, technology assistants, and multimedia specialists were available to students and faculty in one place.”

The Commons is a relevant, required space on campus. At Georgia Tech, we ooh’ed and ahh’ed all over Zones 1, 2 and 3 as though on a tour at Disneyland, but Associate Director Bob Fox’s message was loud and clear: “We don’t build walls here.” The spaces, created by innovative library staff and student focus groups, are that central, all purpose place (with access to needed resources and technology) that Rose addressed in her article. The larger the investment of planning, input and participants, the higher the return on use and support. How could spaces like those in my 2008 Information/Learning Commons Field trips not be considered required and relevant spaces for the university setting?

Read the whole post at ALA TS.

SOPAC for the Smaller Set

Don’t miss:

KJS: How about the staff’s relationship with the web? Has that changed?

GH: When the blogs were a separate function of the old site, they were disconnected from our online presence. Blogging was doled out as a staff responsibility to one or two people. When we first started working in the staging site, I encouraged everyone to participate, which took some adjusting to for most of the department. There are a couple of staff members who discovered with the new website that they had a great voice and lots of really interesting things to share. Part of what makes any library staff strong is having varied experiences and bringing a wide range of voices to the table and sharing that range is a way to reach out to the community. Many of the staff are feeling invigorated with this new aspect of their jobs, especially part time staffers. I’m really happy to encourage it because it’s so wonderful. This is just like when you are learning to play the piano and you have to practice. The more you do it, the better it gets. In the two weeks since we’ve been live, they’re posting more and more and their posts are getting better and better.

KJS: I’ve been surprised by the difference between blogs and a Drupal-driven site. Even though it seems like they’d be similar for the staff–log in, write something, click publish–it’s very different.

GH: Yes, we can respond immediately to things that are happening in our community. With any challenge we’re facing–even a parent who can’t find a certain type of book or something ordinary like that–we can respond immediately to help that person. Since we’re posting online, we’re helping those who aren’t stopping to ask us about books they can’t find or for homework help. The bonus of being able to respond immediately has a flip side: children’s librarians are ALWAYS BUSY. This creates another obligation for us, but if we think about it in the right way- as another service point- it moves up the priority list.

Keeping the Library Relevant: A Visit to Georgia Tech Library

Bob also outlined some organizational changes–staff across the library were “repurposed” as 8 service points were reduced to 3.

Fox, Mathews and the other folks at Tech took the important step of convening a focus group to ask students what they wanted in the library. The list Bob shared was fascinating:

  • Students want a comfortable, attractive space
  • Students want refreshments
  • Students want access to all types of  information technology in library space
  • Students want flexible space for use in the library
  • Want to feel ownership of the library

These results lead to the creation of spaces in the Learning Commons East and West that were inspiring, useful and flexible. We talked about creating an experience for students, making the library a memorable place. Bob said one goal would always be to “engage students from the beginning.” I was reminded of the Welcome event Brian write about: poker, DDR, speed dating and more welcomed freshman to the library!

One thing Bob kept emphasizing: 

“We don’t build walls here.”

Read the whole post here.

Twitter: Love it or Hate It?

I have a new post up at ALA TechSource:

And, I must confess: I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the ALA Annual 2008 Twitterverse that sprang up for those few days in late June. It fascinated me to see the power of such a simple and, yes, overburdened, tool. Micro-blogging has found a place amongst LIS workers and even through outages and downtime, the tweets from ALA marched on. “I credit Twitter for helping make this my best ALA yet. More connected. Too many people to see, places to be, but I read tweets,” responded Brenda Hough to my tweeted requests for “interviews” for this post. The call via Twitter and at TTW prompted many useful, hilarious and telling responses. Others helped out via comments at TTW and in personal email.

Looking at the tweets and responses, patterns emerge of how the tool was used and how people responded to it.  The functions of Twitter at a conference such as ALA include:

  • Reporting On Sessions
  • Meeting Up & Making Plans
  • Commentary & Transparency
  • Finding New Ideas
  • Simply Fun Observations & Connections
I concluded with:  I will certainly advocate for more reporting, more wry observation, playing nice and much more fun for sure.

Read the whole post for an examination of each of those functions. But, also give some attention to some other functions of Twitter: too much noise and the potential to do harm – that’s the “playing nice” part. I think for TechSource I took the happy road, because I was very “up” on how folks were using the tool at ALA. Maybe I should have included a bit about what a colleague calls “the dark side.” I would hate to see people get hurt because of snarky tweets during conference presentations or in general. I always remember something Jessamyn West blogged: Use your powers for good. I hope we use our Twitter powers for good.

Will Richardson read my mind:

Whether it’s some people getting a little snippy from time to time and then other people making a way-too-huge-a-deal about it, or whether it’s two very smart people like Gary and Sheryl blowing out a Tweet-a-minute micro debate about the state of education in this country, or whether it’s people trying to live Tweet hour-long presentations that turn into like 347 updates, I’m finding anything that hints of substance just too scattered, too disjointed to read, even with the wonders ofTweetdeck. It’s like trying to eavesdrop on the conversation of a bunch of people with really bad cell phone reception, hearing a part of one response ’til it cuts out into the other. Frustrating.

And I can’t help feeling like it’s just making all of us, myself included, lazy. We’ve lamented this before, this “fact” that the whole community is blogging less since Twitter, engaging less deeply, it seems. Reading less. Maybe it’s just me (again) or maybe it’s my long term attachment to this blogging thing and my not so major attachment to texting, but it feels like the “conversation” is evolving (or would that be devlolving) into pieces instead of wholes, that the connections and the threads are unraveling, almost literally. That while, on some level, the Twitterverse feels even more connected, in reality it’s breaking some of the connectedness.

Read his whole post here:

As a response to Will, I think a few things are happening. Lots of folks are using Twitter and talking about how they are using it (guilty here). It’s the tool du jour (or maybe FriendFeed is?). But I also see that many of us have slowed down blogging. Could be summer. Could be other newer tools. it could also be that there are hundreds if not thousands of biblioblogs out there, making the conversation broad and deep but also HUGE to try to follow.

What do you think?

Cindi Trainor on BIGWIG

Cindi Trainor writes:

I wanted to highlight this program, which got a good writeup on Library Journal‘s LJ Insider blog recently, because it’s done a bit differently, and it’s not about the shiny bits, it’s about people, and it’s about change. Can you feel it? If you attended the BIGWIG session, what did you get out of it? Would you attend other library conference sessions set up this way? What about an entire (un-)conference, where the topics discussed are chosen after the participants show up?

Read the whole post here: