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

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.


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.

Dugan, R. E. (2002). Information Technology Plans. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 28(3), 152.

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:

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.