ALAO Diversity Scholarship Reflection

Reflecting on my membership of the Academic Library Association of Ohio and being the recipient of the Diversity Scholarship. I can’t say enough good about this organization and look forward to my time a newly elected board member.

ALAO Newsletter

Carissa Thatcher, MLIS, Kent State University
Recipient of the 2012-2013 ALAO Diversity Scholarship

Thatcher
I have just completed my course work at Kent State University for the Library and Information Science program, due in large part to the ALAO Diversity Scholarship. This award is not just a financial aid for your education, but a catalyst of self-confidence which provides the recipient with support and encouragement through the process of attaining your degree. After I was honored with this award, I found myself being approached by professionals with vast experience and knowledge in the field of LIS and was happily surprised by the advice and guidance they shared with me. I felt that I had found a cheering section that really and truly wanted to see me succeed in whatever I choose to do, which is very inspiring during a rough semester.

The ALAO conference has continually been a place where I…

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So it ends as it began

My very first course for the MLIS degree program at Kent State University, discussed the Five Laws of Library Science by Dr. S.R. Ranganathan.190px-Ranganathan

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader [and library staff].
  5. A library is a growing organism.

These five short statements have guided my education at Kent and has afforded me the opportunity to apply them in modern library setting.   So it is ironic and fitting that the last module of my last course of this program pertain to Ranganathan’s laws and their longevity and application in the modern day information technology field.

1. Then – Books are for use.  Now – Information is for use.  Information should be made available for everyone in a format that is fitting for the circumstances in which they currently occupy in a media that is obtainable through current technology.  Generations ago, when there was no alternative to printed material, libraries led the way in freely accessible information.  Times have changed and we see the technology industry, giants such as Google, Amazon and Apple, continuing this legacy not just with information, but with the technology to make information readily available when and where it was needed or wanted.  It is not just libraries distributing information, but a collaborative effort (though certainly not organized or official) of making information obtainable.

2.  Then – Every reader his[or her] own book.  Now – Every user his[or her] own information system.  Information systems at first were not designed with the user in mind, they were clunky, complicated full of nomenclature that could not be understood, let alone used by an untrained person.  Today’s information systems were designed around user experience, to help people find the information they need quickly and efficiently.  Information systems have evolved in such a way that we have become reliant on them as a source of accuracy among the chaos.

3.  Then – Every book its reader.  Now – Every information system its user.  Information systems have become more readily available and easily accessible.  What once was a guarded secret that only tenured faculty were privy to has become a mainstream facet of everyday life.  I find myself performing multiple searches on a daily basis utilizing tools from research databases to Google, and not just because I work in a library or the fact that I am a graduate student.  I use them to look for information for questions my children ask, to find information I’m curious about, or to resolve an issue that has manifested.

4. Then –  Save the time of the reader [and library staff].  Now – Save the time of the user [and the library staff].  Not much has changed in this law over the years; time is always of the essence.  I have found in my experience that when a person is in need of information, they are usually in a hurry.  Thank goodness for technology that can alleviate some of the anxieties about getting information quickly and usually obtain that information directly at the point of need.

5.  Then – A library is a growing organism.  Now – Information is a growing organism.  Information isn’t just about relating facts or connecting the dots; it’s about people obtaining the information, adding to that information (tagging, comments), and sharing the information (social media, e-mail).  It’s about people taking information and making it their own; tweaking, molding, shaping; applying their experiences to new ideas and making them part of the realm of knowledge that has become a vast hive of ideas and opinions.

Class-of-2014My experience at Kent has come full circle, I am off to new experiences and continue to see how Ranganathan’s Five Laws will continue to shape and define libraries for at least the next 30 years.  Then I can retire.

retirement

Failing to prepare is preparation for failure

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~Benjamin Franklin

WebJunction’s Technology Planning site recommends that all libraries create a technology plan as part of the strategic planning process to ensure the library’s ability to effectively meet technology needs of both patrons and staff alike.  Some libraries are required to keep a technology plan to meet requirements for E-rate program, a service that provides discounted broadband Internet connections in low income communities, whereas some libraries keep a technology plan for their benefit alone, while others have no technology plan at all.  Personally, I feel that it is wise to play it safe rather than to be sorry later; keeping a technology plan can help to identify troubled areas, provide justification of services by highlighting strong technology aspects and help plan for overall future growth and development.

In 2002, Robert Dugan wrote that technology plans should be given the importance of other plans produced by libraries, such as collection development plans and staff development plans, citing that far too little thought has been given to how technology is changing libraries.  Dugan recognizes that technology is one of the four infrastructure pillars of the library, and as such, should have a sound plan to maintain the overall strength of the organization.HiRes

Technology plans not only help libraries with future endeavors and goals; they are an opportunity to identify current weaknesses in the system, determine the library’s vision and direction, prioritize needed technologies, a way to communicate the library’s intentions with stakeholders, help manage budgets, and lastly, measure, evaluate and assess progress for purposes of accountability and relevancy.  The lack of a technology plan could be the difference between hiring and training staff for new equipment or processes and doing without either, if stakeholders fail to see the impact library technology has on their organization as whole there tends to hesitation for additional or stable funding.

Another benefit of technology plans is to align with the mission, goals and objectives of the parent organization (Norton, 2013), which reflects a consolidated effort to promote the success of the organization as a whole.  As library professionals we are knowledgeable about best practices in our field for success, but are we effectively communicating this to those that don’t understand and need to understand to help the library help the organization?  Norton states that “[t]he process of creating an effective plan for using technology in your school library fosters understanding and goals through a comprehensive approach that includes stakeholders.”  As library professionals we’re already convinced of our value, but what about those outside of our world?  More than likely they feel like they have entered Babble and can’t make sense of anything.

I think we need to look at technology plans not as another document that has to be produced and maintained, but a script that allows us to communicate in a common language the needs of an intricate information resource.

References
Dugan, R. E. (2002). Information Technology Plans. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 28(3), 152.
NORTON, S. (2013). TECHNOLOGY PLANNING: DESIGNING THE DIRECTION TO GET THERE. Knowledge Quest, 42(1), 64-69.

Technology is great!…when it’s working

computer-virus-rev-1I hear this over and over, ‘technology is great…when it’s working’ and a lot of the time I think to myself, ‘Is it not working or do you not know how technology works?’  I will admit and be the first to tell you that I’m no super, techno-savvy, code-hound, computer scientist; I will, however, tell you that I’m not afraid to push buttons or click on things to see what they do.  Another thing I’m not afraid of, researching issues to learn what might cause a problem as well as any possible solutions.  When I find myself with an error message, the first thing I do is Google the message verbatim and troll the message boards and various manufacturer web sites to track down what’s happening to the hardware or application and explore the possibility of fixing the situation myself.  I think that if more people would do this they would find that technology isn’t that mysterious and most of the time turning the computer off, then back on again will solve the majority of their issues.

In this week’s reading Burke (2013) has compiled a list of common sense troubleshooting guidelines [p.183-186] highlighting suggestions such as; check the obvious, read the manual, look for clues and check the web.  This is not rocket science, just simple steps an individual can take to gain the best user experience from their machine.  If we think about it, you don’t have to be a mechanic to operate or perform simple maintenance on a vehicle and normally even the most mechanically deficient person is able to check fluids and read through the manual to find out why a light on the dashboard suddenly illuminated.  I don’t quite understand why then when we receive an error message from our computers our first reaction is to assume an apocalyptic catastrophe.  I realize that there are situations that call for an expert in  the field, however, a little effort can go a long way.

Another topic that was examined this week was malware, spyware, worms and viruses.  I PCbugscringe at the thought of using a public computer, especially if I know that the computer does not perform a clean reset after each person logs off because if I use a machine that was infected, then my flash drive could become infected and thus any machine I use the flash drive with could become infected.  People just don’t pay attention, or don’t care, which ever the case may be; they just skip through cyberspace in a state of blissful oblivion completely unaware of their surroundings; opening up e-mails and attachments from people or addresses they don’t know, clicking on links that might be a little off and to top it off now those that produce malicious code are so well organized they are able to attack flaws in the coding of reputable web sites.  I think the best thing a person can do is to invest in a highly reputable virus protection program and run thorough and consistent checks on your system; keep, update and run a program to detect malware and spyware; last be mindful of your system and any sudden changes in performance or speed.

The new classroom

The section this week really spoke to me, as I am a distant learning student (DLS) and have been for the past nine years.  I have not set foot on the campus of any university that I have been enrolled.  I’ve heard my instructors’ and adviser’s voice and have seen their picture, but have never met them in person (although they all seem like very nice people).  I am not a Millennial or even a Gen X, I did not grow up with computers from a very young age, in fact, the first time I was introduced to the Internet, I was 24 years old.

What I have found with distance learning, is freedom to further my education in a way that accommodates my life, my work, and my family and me in general.  I wish this had been an

My classroom
My classroom

option when I was in middle and high school; not because I an introvert or dislike people, but because I have found this is the best way for me to learn; I cannot and never have been able to retain an immeasurable amount of facts in the amount of time that classroom instruction involves.  I learn at a pace and in a style that is different from standard instruction and distance learning has been a God-send.

This passage “…focus on cognitive variables affecting learning – what goes on in people’s minds before, during, and after learning.  Instructional tools that address these cognitive variables, accordingly, should result in improved learning by the student[.]” [Scales, Nicol, & Johnson, 2014] is the summation of why online learning is able to effectively communicate instruction to such a diverse population; the content of Learning Management Systems is inclusive to visual learners, hands-on learners and those that thrive, or not, in the traditional classroom setting.

The tools that Scales, Nicol and Johnson are eluding to, are short (less than five minutes) screencast tutorials that introduce patrons to library services.  These tutorials are accompanied by a brief activity designed to reinforce the instruction from the screencast.  These “chunks” of information are structured utilizing elements as defined by Herbert Carlson; attention (arousing curiosity), relevance (connecting to a need), confidence (make patrons aware of performance requirements), and satisfaction (opportunity to use new skills) which is a solid and proven methodology for distance learning.

It’s important for libraries to play an active part in the scholarly life of the DLS, as they do not have physical access to the resources offered by the institutions academic library and the ALA has drafted guidelines to assist libraries to assure that students’ needs are addressed when and where the point of service may take place.  This document outlines a ‘Bill of Rights for the Distance Learning Community”; highlighting areas of access for achievement of superior academic skills, technical linkages and meeting needs.  Furthermore, the document outlines requirements or responsibilities that the library commits to when participating in distance learning; addressing matters of financial, staffing, equipment and resources; all of which will help a library considering this undertaking exactly what they are agreeing to provide.  Correspondingly, there is a section which states that it is the library’s responsibility to provide documentation for the DLS to be an active participant in their education and effectively utilize the resources provided by the library.

American Library Association. (2014, April 06). Retrieved from Standards for Distance Learning Library Services: http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/guidelinesdistancelearning

Scales, B. J., Nicol, E., & Johnson, C. M. (2014). Redesigning Comprehensive Library Tuturials. References & User Services Quarterly, 242-52.

 

Infinity and beyond

imagesBYUSEELRI think that in this stage of the game we are well past Web / Library 2.0 and are starting to bud into the age Web / Library 3.0.  Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, has had his vision of  ‘a collaborative medium, a place where we [could] all meet and read and write,’ [Wikipedia, 2014] come to fruition as users are not only the consumers of information, but the producers and contributors as well.  We are able to interact with information in such a way that with a tag, a ‘#’ (hashtag), comment we can distribute information among our own connections with the implication that the sharing and additions to that information will grow from user to user, thereby, adding to the knowledge originally contained within that information.

3.0 is an idea that machines can basically talk with each other and perform the tedious task of collecting and combining information, however, I don’t feel that 3.0 is an idea where machines become more intelligent, but people are utilizing machines in a more intelligent manner, improving efficiencies and results.  With the inclusion of languages such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Web Ontology Language (OWL) becoming mainstream in todays web applications, we are coming closer to more intuitive applications to better serve the population.   There are still issues and obstacles to overcome, but progress is being made.

In February of 2014 OCLC announced 194 million Linked Open Data bibliographic work descriptions, which will allow for libraries to shift data to where users are and where they feel comfortable gathering information.  These 194 million works will expose library collections through web applications that users frequent; this is a response to the fact that users are not using online catalogs due in part to their poor usability.  To learn more about this initiative at OCLC you can view this video

What they are essentially doing is taking library collections to the users in a way that users are familiar with and comfortable using.  OCLC is using the library as a platform for exposing information where and when it is needed in a format that is useable at the point of need.  To me this is the essence of Web 3.0, be the information when the information is needed and in the format the information is desired.

“To infinity and beyond!” is no longer a statement by the popular toy, Buzz Lightyear, its buzzthe mantra of libraries and librarians around the world.  They are recognizing the challenges of working for today’s users (or potential users) and finding a way to not just meet them halfway, but meet them all the way.  I would imagine that not only have libraries begun their conquest of Web 3.0, but have already started thinking about Web 4.0 and what lies ahead from there.

 

 

Trans what? Transliteracy

Libraries are usually known for being on the cutting edge of technology and technology know-how because it is part of the commitment to excellent customer service as an information resource.  It is normal for patrons seek the expertise of library personnel when faced with the challenge of learning how to use software, applications and devices; either in general or for a specific purpose, because information is more than words printed in books and literacy means so much more than being able to read and write.

opportunityforallToday information is knowledge shared in any number of formats in any number of mediums; throw the rules out the windows, if a meaning can be conveyed from the presentation, it is information.  Just the same, literacy today has a more complex meaning; the ability to communicate across a range of platforms, tools and media; which has been termed “Transliteracy”.  Transliteracy describes literacy in the 21st century; being able to utilize technology to communicate and understand information through the medium in which it is presented to the user and being able to interact with that information.

Reflecting on this week’s lessons in technological competencies, I find that while I stress to my staff of the importance of keeping up with technology skills, I have let myself fall behind.  I think it’s important as frontline services to be aware and knowledgeable of all applications used in the organization (for me that is academic), while I can work Refworks in my sleep, manage our OPAC inside and out, and search effectively in any of Ebsco’s databases with one hand tied behind my back, it is the applications such as Blackboard and the hardware such as our new HD video camera that I lack skill.  Just as it is important for our staff members to continue their education and practice basic computer tasks, it is important for management to practice what they preach, sadly, I am guilty of not keeping up with the services we are offering to our students.

This week has been a very opportune wake-up call for me, by not knowing how to work with equipment and applications I not only let patrons down, I’m letting staff down as well.  I get so busy in the day-to-day operations such as, juggling schedules, putting out fires in Millennium, filling out forms, attending meetings, coordinating events, and all the other tasks that find a spot on my desk or in my calendar; that I tend to forget the basics of service to my patrons and my staff.  In the future I am resolved to add to my calendar one hour a week for refreshers on the technologies that I have fallen behind in; to become transliterate for the sake of my patrons and my library, not just in what one might consider advanced applications, but the basic applications as well.  I can’t know it all, but I have a responsibility to my library to know the services we offer and know how to teach patrons how to use them effectively and efficiently.

To Open Source or Not to Open Source

Open source software (OSS), on the surface seems to be a realistic option for libraries to save money, increase security,  customize applications, and create a flexible system to treegrow with the organization.  On the other side of the coin when compared to commercial counterparts, there is no formal technical support (i.e. a dedicated system one can contact with issues or training needs), there is a learning curve in the sense that to operate the application successfully high-grade technical skill is involved in installation and maintenance of the application, and OSS is not known for ease of use.  [Barve & Dahibhate, 2012]

My personal experience with OSS does not stray much beyond Mozilla, Chrome, and WordPress; and the widgets that are already developed for these applications.  I find them to be user-friendly and not quite as problematic as their proprietary constituents, however, I am using the developed version of the applications and merely adding little gadgets to customize to my personal preferences, not building a system from the base application and certainly not tweaking a system that will be utilized by patrons and staff across an entire organization or having to take into consideration the vast number of technical abilities of those using these applications.

There is also the library’s consortium involvement to be considered, will migrating to an OSS negate the ability to participate in an already established system to which the library belongs?  And, is losing the network of a consortium worth it?  For instance, OhioLINK libraries; would a library that participate in the largest cooperative consortium in the world be able to configure an OSS ILS to work in tandem with vendor produced system already in place?  With all the resources OhioLINK provides member libraries access to, at this point I don’t think, especially in an academic situation, it would be wise choice for a library to dissolve the relationship or be portrayed as a weak link in very strong representation of the united front.

I believe as a consortium it is worth investigating, because of pooled resources.  I would imagine that if every library had the luxury of a dedicated IT staff or a staff member with strong coding and programming experience, we would all be utilizing OSS with in our libraries.  Unfortunately, this a luxury a select few have obtained and not the standard throughout, which is why pooling resources through consortia situations are important to most libraries and why more libraries tend not to stray from the consortia agreement and rules.

When it comes right down to the decision to convert from proprietary software to OSS; I feel that most libraries basically have a double edge sword to their throat.  Even though there is no initial cost associated with OSS, there is a long-term cost to customize and maintain that software, a very expensive long-term cost in the human form.  If every library had a dedicated IT staff, we would probably drive the software vendors out of business, but the reality is, no matter how unsatisfactory or insufficient a vendor’s technical support may be, we need it.  We need that safety net to ensure that our systems run smoothly and consistently for the patrons we serve, if our system projects the façade of instability because staff lack the skill, knowledge or expertise to successfully administer these applications, we lose our life blood, our patrons.

Barve, S., & Dahibhate, N. (2012, September). Open Source Software for Libraries. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 32(5), 401-408.

Locchhaas, S., & Moore, M. (2010, October). Open Source Software Libraries. University of Iowa SLIS Journal, 24 p. Retrieved March 2014, from http://ir.uiowa.edu/bsides/17

Head in the cloud

Reading through this week’s material, I find myself wondering if in the future libraries will  exist completely in the cloud, with merely a cubical farm in some faceless office building where librarians work the administrative aspect of software; managing holdings of electronic books, journals, streaming video and audio, databases, digital archives and other information services.  Are we destined to lose personal attributes that endear libraries to patrons as more than just a building?

dnsOne component that may play a part in this transition from public building to closed door offices, is the newer generation of librarians.  In the article Digital native librarians, technology skills, and their relationship with technology [Emanuel, 2013] the discussion revolves around the upcoming generation of librarians that have used technology as part of their daily lives from a very young age.  This generation, born between 1982 and 1990, are very comfortable with a variety of technology and using it to go about daily interactions, work related tasks, and personal activities.  As comfortable as these digital natives are with technology and it’s uses, it is not made clear that they have a grasp as to the inner workings behind the technology, for instance none of the respondents knew how to program or had worked with servers, indicating that there is a gap in knowledge of the science of technology.  It is one thing to understand how to use technology, but another to understand the science of technology, and understanding the science of technology gives one a better foundation for exploiting technology and receive the most efficient and effective results from that technology.  That being said, digital natives do have a knack with accepting newer technologies and instructing other how to utilize that technology; they add a personal touch that is often lost in the everyday use of technology for those that might not feel as comfortable.

According to a Techsoup blog post cloud computing is beginning to make a mark in libraries with cloud-hosted versions of ILS tools which offer a flexibility and cost savings in managing collections [Peters, 2010].  It is also pointed out that though there is no physical management of servers, on-site or remote, to oversee; there is still a substantial amount of specialized IT skills that allow for the evaluation and administration of these infrastructures in order to maintain the integrity of the system.  Other systems are moving to a cloud-hosted environment and over the next few years there will be more, adding to the possibility of libraries becoming more space than place.  Will the upcoming digital natives have the skills to competently orchestrate these complex systems when they become a more “mission-critical” application?

I think that the digital natives, once the proper training is received, can and will manage cloud-based and other technologies.  We may also see these technologies become more dynamic as this group of people find more social and interactive features to integrate within the applications.  I don’t however, see the library as ever becoming a cloud itself, as libraries are a cultural place as well as an informational place.  As cloud applications become more secure for organizations to integrate into their daily business, we will see them become more mainstream, as we have many technologies, and I believe the digital natives will possibly play the role of implementers and innovators.

Emanuel, J. (2013). Digital Native Librarians, Technology Skills, and Their Relationship with Technology. Information Technology and Libraries, 20-33.

Peters, C. (2010, March 6). What is Cloud Computing and How will it Affect Libraries? Retrieved from Techsoup: http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/blog/what-is-cloud-computing-and-how-will-it-affect-libraries

Deep thoughts…

thinkingI had a thought in the shower this morning, because isn’t that where all genius happens?  Personally, I don’t know how the philosophers managed before regular bathing came into fashion…but I digress.

This week in class we were looking at trends in technologies by exploring various resources that examines and reports on trends and topics related to technology in libraries; and we viewed a stream from the LITA panel at the ALA Midwinter 2014.

  (There is also an article summarizing the panel http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2014/01/ala/top-tech-trends-ala-midwinter-2014/)  This panel discussed several topics that they identified as “trends”, such as, hashtags coming into their own as a tool that spans across platforms to connect on a spatial level in many forms, codes of conduct (which to me is sad that this is considered a ‘trend’ in this day and age: act like a grown up, be a gentleman, be a lady, be a professional and don’t do anything that you don’t want the neighbors knowing about), management of collections stored on obsolete technology, and openness.

This brings me back to the shower;  libraries by design are the definition of open, always opening access to resources, information, data, content, etc.  I don’t see this happening so much in the library where I’m employed, however, through my practicum in a public library I’m seeing the power of openness.  My perception of openness in my organization is that information should be shared, but guardedly, the particulars of who has access to what content is driven by an administration that thinks you can (and I quote) “find it all on the Internet”; while at the same time keeping the doors heavily fortified against the idea of exploring and experimenting in new territories with new technologies.

What I am seeing in the public library, is a transparent body that forges new connections with their patrons by investing in trending technologies; lending materials such as music, books, and movies at the time and place of need or want.  They offer their patrons connections within and beyond the physical space of the library; no longer is the library a building, it’s a virtual community found where ever their patrons find themselves.  The openness that Gore speaks of in the LITA video is really just the beginning of limitless offerings; the open educational resources and digital images of today are the starting point for tomorrow’s cloud based ILS that Marshall Breeding speaks of in his article Library Technology : The Next Generation [Computers in Libraries; October, 2013; p. 16-18] which allow library staff to perform behind-the-scenes functions that can seamlessly support a library collection made up of a variety of formats.4d70bb6c848b75e758c21a1c24c48d15

So the point of all this and the revelation that came to me during the shower; the return on investment for an open library can not only be measured by usage, but by patronage.  By being an open institution with materials in all sorts of formats the organization becomes an significant part of their patrons lives and in turn the patrons become fervent supporters of the library, which serves well for the longevity of the library within the community, in both a fiscal sense and a physical sense.