Category Archives: University Tech

Highlights case studies and forward thinking campus-based technology.

Blended Librarian Webcast: Opening New Windows of Opportunity: Creating Breakthrough Instructional Experiences

“Opening New Windows of Opportunity: Creating Breakthrough Instructional Experiences” On Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 3 pm. EST.

Brian Mathews will speak on “breakthrough opportunities” as he shares his latest ideas on creating interactive library experiences for students. This session will feature tactics for engaging students in both the classroom as well as in digital environments. Brian will also discuss possibilities for the library and librarians to become a more integrated part of campus and will highlight his ubiquitous “push-out” philosophy.

Guest Speaker Bio:

Brian Mathewsis the User Experience Librarian at Georgia Tech. He frequency writes and speaks on the topics of marketing, assessment, and user interactions. His blog, The Ubiquitous Librarian, frequently describes many of his on-going projects aimed at making the library a more user-centered experience.

Although this event is free, advance registration is required.

Edited to add the link to registration –

The promise of Google Apps includes a shrinking IT staff

A local example of the move to using Google mail and apps in the university setting:

Notre Dame’s Office of Information Technologies has teamed up with Student Government to provide current students with a new e-mail system though Google Apps.

“We are hoping the system will be up and ready for students to migrate in the middle of the summer, so we can e-mail students and get them to migrate their accounts before they get back this fall,” said Katie Rose, project manager of the OIT’s latest initiative.

Graduating students will also be allowed to migrate to the new system and OIT will eventually open Google Apps at Notre Dame to all alumni. Rose said that the timeline for allowing alumni to use the service is uncertain at this point.

“Right now we are working to create incoming first year student accounts within the Google system, and after we are done with that, we will be working to integrate existing accounts into the new system,” Rose said.

According to Rose there is currently a team of about seven OIT professionals who are working to implement the new e-mail system.

“We know that students have not been satisfied with the existing system and have been asking for systems more like Google,” Rose said. “Student Government has been voicing the same concerns.”

More from ArsTechnica:

The transition is happening quickly. Notre Dame announced this last week that it would shift to Google Apps over the summer while maintaining current student e-mail addresses. Other schools like Clemson, Arkansas State, and UNC Greensboro have already made the switch, as have international institutions like Hebrew University, Universidad Panamericana, and Nihon University.

Google’s services, built on its worldwide network of data centers, can scale with little marginal cost, and as such represent a far cheaper alternative to having every school in the world host its own e-mail servers and hire the technical help needed to keep them operating. But, as the University of Washington announcement reminds us, those decisions can have a human cost, just as car-building robots affected the auto industry. Critics also wonder about the possible dangers of outsourcing so much information to one company and about potential liability surrounding education records, but such concerns aren’t in danger of derailing the Google Apps express.

From a student perspective, the move makes sense, at least if campus IT operates with the same sort of “efficiency” and “uptime” that characterized my own school’s in-house efforts. With another collegiate year behind us now, are those of you in campus IT worried about the impact that hosted apps could have on your jobs? Or is this a necessary shift that will simply eliminated IT grunt work and free people up for more interesting work?

Spring 2008 “snapshot” of Second Life use in UK HE/FE

Via John Kirriemuir

Academics who have successfully developed in SL report that their host institution and technical services are largely supportive, though with the latter there are often problems with firewalls, PC capability and enabling voice functionality. Academics report varied reactions to SL from colleagues, ranging from interest and curiosity to suspicion and “hatred”. Unlike their US counterparts, UK academic libraries are not significantly involved in SL activities.

Academics described a very wide range of SL activities spanning teaching, learning, research, performance, construction and demonstration. The key advantage of SL in teaching and learning is that there are many activities in which the student must be more than a passive learner in order to progress. The student has to develop “stuff”, collaborate and participate. Before these can occur, he or she has to master a new and transferable skill set, meaning that, in SL, learning is done more by participating and doing than by listening and absorbing.

14 Days to Have Your Say

Frank Haulgren, Collection Services Manager, ILL & Document Delivery – Media – Microforms for Wilson Library at Western Washington University, writes:



I checkout your blog regularly and always find some interesting stuff posted.  Always fun to share the ideas there with colleagues.  You may find our library’s current blogging project of interest.  We’ve put up a heavily promoted, limited life blog as the academic year ends to gather ideas about what the library should be doing differently.  There is a short video at the top that explains to users what the intent is.

14 Days To Have Your Say   May 7 – 21

The Libraries want to hear from you.  Be part of the discussion!

Take a look at the responses – especially those noted as “Ideas most commented on..”  You’ll find discussion ranging from:

I love the social nature of our library. There are a lot of comments about having a quieter library, but I think there should just be some quieter areas if anything.I’ve never been in such a friendly library, and I like there are a lot of different people who hang out there. I think a cafe could make it even homier.


I agree with many of the other comments, and think the library is turning into into a badly marketed, noisy computer lab. I want a nice quiet place to study that I actually enjoy being in. I would like more comfotable seating such as more couches (not the old nasty orange ones), larger and more desks to study at, and most importantly a quiet area to study in. There are already plenty of computer labs on campus, we don’t need to turn the library into one, nor do I want concerts in the library. I would like a place to read quietly. I like the idea of getting the reading room back, and keeping the skybridge and group study rooms for the noisy areas.

I applaud WWU for soliciting this feedback. From just spending a few minutes reading responses, I can see that a blending of quiet/no talking spaces, technology commons spaces, and comfortable, relaxation spaces may be included as the library moves forward. Frank, please let us know how the 14 Days goes. Academic library folk, explore these ideas as well for insight into what your students might want.



Using Firefox on Public Computers

Brian Herzog writes a perfect post on why Firefox could and should be used on public computers (emphasis mine):

My library is in the process of re-doing all of our public computers. One major change we’re making is to switch to Firefox for our web browser, instead of the Internet Explorer/Public Web Browser combo we’ve always used.

The reason we’re switching is a simple one – Firefox is just cooler. It lets us have more control over how the browser functions, and lets us offer more tools integrated right into the browser. Better for us, better for patrons.

Here’s a list of the customizations we’re making:


  • Public Fox – this is designed to make Firefox a public web browser, as opposed to being used and customized by a single, private person. We’re using it to lock down add-ons, preference, about:config, and a few other things, as well as control what file types can be downloaded
  • Menu Editor – also for the control freak in us, this one lets us remove menus from the tool bar (we’re getting rid of bookmarks, help and history)
  • Greasemonkey – one of my favorites, this lets us embed custom coding on webpages, such as a link from Amazon to our catalog, and helpful links on our catalog’s “no search results” page (more info on those on our Tech Tools page)
  • Add To Search Bar – this fun one lets us easily add our library catalog right to Firefox’s search bar. The other searches we chose to include are Google, Yahoo, Amazon, the Internet Movie Database,, Wikipedia, and Merriam-Webster
  • IE Tab – For all of those “Best viewed in Internet Explorer” websites, this one lets you toggle back and forth between the Firefox and IE rendering engines, so IE-only pages and scripts will load in Firefox
  • Image Zoom – just like what it sounds, this adds zoom controls to the right-click menu, to make images bigger and smaller. This one is most useful to patrons who get emailed digital photos at 1024 x 768 resolution, which is too big for our screens. This lets them zoom out so they can see all of their grandchild’s face at the same time

Options Settings

  • Turn off all automatic updates – we use Deep Freeze, so we do our own updates
  • Turn on smooth scrolling
  • Turn on check spelling
  • Set homepage to our Reference start page
  • Always save downloads to My Documents
  • Always show tab bar
  • Turn off all warnings, except when redirecting from secure to an unsecure page
  • Don’t remember anything, delete cookies and clear private data when Firefox closes

LOEX: Web 2.0 & Students

Don’t miss:

Their own Web 2.0 Awareness Survey

74 students

Awarness of Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Blogs, Podcasts, Social tagging, Wikipedia, Other Wikis, RSS

  • RSS had not heard of 92%, 0% had ever used
  • Social Bookmarking 68% had not heard of
  • Other Wikis 45% had not heard of
  • Podcasts 51% had heard of but had not used
  • 5% had blogs
  • 8% had uploaded videos

Audience discussed how their students compare – similar experiences — students are not seeing new technologies as ‘exciting’ the way librarians do….for them it’s like a new feature on a car — or a refrigerator…..

Librarians respond to Web 2.0 — we see it as a way to connect, market, facilitate — but do students want us there?

Read the whole post. Libraries may be extending presence and service via the tools but are we also tapping into how our students are using them?

Why ‘no Macs’ is no longer a defensible IT strategy

“We’re seeing more requests outside of creative services to switch to Macs from PCs,” notes David Plavin, operations manager for Mac systems engineering at the U.S. IT division of Publicis Groupe, a global advertising conglomerate. There are so many requests that Plavin now supports 2,500 Macs across the U.S. — nearly a quarter of all Publicis’ U.S. PCs.

Dominican now supports faculty requesting either a Mac or PC for their offices. And anecdotally I heard that 40% of our incoming students university wide have Macs. :-)

I want a 2.0 Toolbox!

Once again, McMaster University sets a high bar! Amanda Etches-Johnson announces:

Wee announcement at MPOW today about a new service we’re rolling out called the 2.0 Toolbox. It’s a suite of 2.0 tools we’re hosting for faculty which, at the moment, consists of installed blogs (usingWordPress MU) and wikis (using PmWiki).

As you probably know, WordPress MU is a multi-user blogging environment (hence the “MU”) that allows users to set up their own blogs with a couple of clicks. It’s pretty sweet overall, but we’ve had our fair share of tussles over getting the admin end to work over SSL (thanks to Kevin Gilbertson at Wake Forest and Karen Coombs for putting up with my numerous questions and sharing their code! And to my super-patient colleague, John Fink, for being a troubleshooting superhero). PmWiki, on the other hand, has been nothing but golden, from an administrative perspective. Installation took all of 6 minutes and configuring the installation as a “wiki farm” took another 3 minutes.

Most cool…and as a faculty member, I’d be all over this. Every semester I have 50 or so students get blogs. Maybe I need a WordPress MU installation too…

Anatomy of an All-Nighter from TUL


Brian Matthews shares a fascinating conversation:

The transparent technologies of flickr and twitter offer tremendous assessment possibilities. We hear about students pulling all-nighters, but this is documented evidence.

4:56 PM
paper + pres due in 22 hours. tick tock. group members unite

6:51 PM 
if I have to pull an allnighter to finish this proj I’ll likely have to skip the gatech awards banquet luncheon thing and get my award later

7:55 PM 
I just talked about epistemological connections in this CS paper. Do I get my cookie now or later?

09:23 PM 
trying to explain color wars in this paper as a way of community-driven convention for subgroups. prof is going to think twitter is crazy.

10:17 PM 
GT Parking is heartless.. giving parking tickets to students parked at the library this late. @flashmob needs to do something about it

11:15 PM 
cramped between @jarryd and @hd_phones in the library near the collaborative computing section.

Read the whole thing. How could this influence your planning in the academic library? How might it change services?

Loyola University Information Commons

Loyola University Information Commons

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting and speaking at the new Loyola University Information Commons on the campus of Loyola University just north of Chicago. It was a blustery, rainy cold day along the lake, but the space and the library folk were warm and inviting. Before the visit, I checked out the Web site for the Commons, eager to read about the project. 

Read the rest here: