Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tech Article Discussion: Web Accessibility, Libraries, and the Law

Fulton, C. (2011). Web accessibility, libraries, and the law. Information Technology & Libraries, 30(1), 34-43. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Last semester I took a course, Information Architecture for the Web, in which we spent a significant amount of time working to identify accessibility barriers on various websites and improve the accessibility of those websites we designed. We used a variety of resources to identify potential areas of weakness in our websites, and were able to meet with employees from the IU Adaptive Technology and Accessibility Centers (ATAC). They offer extensive services to those with disabilities as well as to those working with individuals with challenges. For our class, we discussed the obstacles various elements of web design might present as well as how the ATAC can help test and evaluate client websites to improve accessibility.

Fulton's article takes this one step further, examining federal laws and state statutes for web accessibility. She examines three assumptions:
  • Although the federal government has no web accessibility laws in place for the general public, most states legalized web accessibility for their respective agencies.
  • Most state statutes do not mention Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or acknowledge World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards.
  • Most libraries are not included as entities that must comply with state web accessibility statutes.
While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does require schools and colleges to provide access to education resources, it does not require libraries to support this with their web presence. Issues of accessibility will continue to rise as library web services continue to grow and replace "traditional" print resources. It has fallen to individual states to define when and how accessibility standards should be implemented and enforced. Section 504 prevents the exclusion of those with disabilities "from programs or activities that are funded by federal dollars" and notes specific examples; because web accessibility is not addressed, state employees must analyze and interpret the law.

After examining each state's government websites for web accessibility standards (as opposed to building accessibility), Fulton compiled a list and addressed the three assumptions listed above. The first discussed state web accessibility standards; Fulton found 17 states have laws about web accessibility with only four with coverage including institutions receiving state funds. Others have established guidelines another way (except for Alaska and Wyoming, which had no accessibility standards available online). The second assumption was found to be true; Fulton found only seven states which directly address Section 508 or the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (with only Minnesota referencing the more recent W3C WCAG 2.0). The last assumption, regarding libraries not being required to comply to state web accessibility standards, was also found to be true. Only Arkansas, California, Kentucky, and Montana require accessibility compliance in order to receive state funds; university libraries in Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia are required to have their websites at the same level as their state agency websites.

There are many barriers related to the time and finances it takes to make websites accessible; however, by not following accessibility standards approximately 24.5 million people around the United States have difficulties accessing the information they need. Reaching and serving patrons with disabilities should be approached as embracing a new way of thinking, not as a hassle. Accommodating those with special needs is more than just providing accessible physical spaces. The author notes, "Lack of statutes or federal laws should not exempt libraries from providing equivalent access to all; it should drive libraries toward it."

Additional resources:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 13: More LOEX Paper Writing, English 101, and a Fun Surprise!

Though it may not sound jam-packed, this week certainly was. Between juggling LOEX writing, teaching, and assisting patrons at the reference desk, I was definitely kept on my toes! Anne Marie and I have spent several hours fine tuning the LOEX paper, working from a modified outline I used for my presentation at the Iowa Library Association/ACRL conference. Originally we were concerned about being too long-winded, but between the two of us we have been able to be clear and concise (and stay within the required word count limit).

We also continued our work with English 101, finishing up the unit about scholarly research in preparation for their paper deadline. What is unique about this class is that essentially, the entire class writes the "same" paper. They create the same research question, analyze the same resources, take the same notes, and craft their thesis statement together. Even their bibliography is provided from the start. What is left is the writing of the paper. By extracting these elements and doing them together the students really learn the process before jumping in and trying to start from scratch on their own. By giving students this foundation, they are better prepared for assignments later in the semester, and later in their college careers, as they advance to the next level of research writing. In this last class period with the students and librarians together, we explicitly defined the connections between the different articles they dissected before. In making a chart and examining the similar factors and measures of success (factors: student engagement/involvement, metacognitive skills, locus of control, action behaviors, relationships with faculty, relationships with peers; measures of success: degree attainment and the amount of time it takes to earn the degree, cumulative grade point average), students noticed much overlap between the articles. We also worked together to define unfamiliar terms, and crafted a thesis statement together ("Engagement, internal factors, and relationships positively influence college students’ success as measured by cumulative GPA, and timeliness to graduation .").

This week I also received a fun surprise in my email inbox. I was very excited to hear that the American Library Association, New Members Round Table selected Indiana University’s IU ALA-SC as Student Chapter of the Year for our work in 2010. Having served as president in 2010 I was very excited that the efforts and activities of the membership and board were recognized. I, along with the current President, am looking forward to heading to the Annual conference in New Orleans to accept the award and represent Indiana University and the IU School of Library and Information Science!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Week 12: Scholarly Article Dissection, LOEX Preparation, and Reference Work

For the most recent unit in English 101, the students learn to dissect scholarly articles, finding information to answer their research question and guide them in writing their thesis. The process is designed to introduce them to this type of writing and set them up for success in future classes. As this is likely the first time students have had to work with scholarly research, the approach for this unit may feel "backwards" to some. Anne Marie compiled resources that compliment each other. The topic the classes were examining was: student success in college. She compiled three scholarly articles, as well as chapters from their required text, The Naked Roommate, and an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Throughout the week the class examined the articles together, identifying the pieces that helped answer their research question, "How do various factors influence college student success?" Students were to have read each of the articles prior to class (and were to have printed them to bring to class, to annotate as we discussed the important factors and results). The first day, Anne Marie popped in at the end of class to give students an idea of what to expect for the next class. On Wednesday the entire class dissected the first scholarly article all together, extracting factors and measures of success. That Friday I helped facilitate small group discussions (we broke into two groups, each discussing a different article). I was impressed with my students' abilities to see past the "fancy-author-talk" and interpret the article to get to the meat of what we were looking for. The next week we discussed both break-out articles as a class.

In addition to teaching, I assisted patrons at the reference desk, and Anne Marie and I spent quite a bit of time preparing our paper for LOEX--It will be here before we know it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Week 11: Going Abroad (Resources), New Print System, and Added Responsibilities

The week began with a new project. Trina from the Career Services Office was working on a program to assist those thinking of going abroad to work or study. She contacted me about compiling some resources patrons might consult that would help them be successful, whether it is in the application, interview, or moving/living process. Throughout the week I pulled together a list of print resources we have in our collection (as she already had access to the joint Library/Career Services sponsored Career Insider, powered by Vault). Anne Marie was also a bit swamped and was working on an IL session with the LIFE program. She sent an email out asking for suggestions on how to approach helping students with an assignment. I saw she needed a list made of resources, primarily print magazines, with examples of ads the students could use for a project (where they evaluated how the visual aspects conveyed the message of the ad). After wandering the periodicals section of the library I was able to get the list to Anne Marie in time to help her prepare for her IL session.

This week was also the week we began the new print release system. Over spring break, the Office of Technology installed a new program to help both the university and students save paper. Now, after selecting print on their individual computer workstation, students must go to the print release station, select their username, enter their password, select the print jobs they have sent and would like to release, select the printer (they have the option to switch printers if there is a back-up of print jobs at the original station they chose), and click "print." It sounds more complicated than it actually is. The library is trying to "go green" in many areas, particularly paper waste. The library has already seen a significant decrease in print jobs forgotten, and it also helps students keep their print quota points (instead of losing them if they forget to pick up a print job before they leave). Much of my reference desk time, particularly early in the week, was spent orienting students to this new system. As with any new program, there were some bugs to work out (at first documents arranged in a landscape format would not print).

In addition to the new printer system, and the collaborative work with the Career Services Office, we conducted the post-test assessments for students in WV2. Students were given directions as to how to access the TRAILS tests, and submitted them in the first part of their usual class period. Later in the semester we will examine the results.

In preparation for some shifted responsibilities within the library staff, I was offered a part-time, temporary position working as a Reference Assistant, to allow some extra time for others to train for their shifted roles. This week we took care of the paperwork and I began working a few hours as a paid employee at Myers Library. I was excited to have been approached about this opportunity and look forward to gaining added experience. Also, Jenny Parker (the other MLS intern) and I began preparing for an upcoming book discussion of Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach with the UD librarians. The discussion will be held April 29. I'm looking forward to reading more of the book and working with Jenny to facilitate meaningful discussion!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Top Ten List: Number One (LibTech Keynote)

For those who may be just now bumping into my blog, I'll fill you in: my most recent posts have been recapping two conferences I attended in March, the Iowa Library Association/ACRL Conference and the Library Technology Conference (hosted by Macalester College in the Twin Cities). I decided, since I attended ten sessions between the two conferences, to do my own top ten list of Library-Related Conference Sessions (a la The Late Show with David Letterman)! Here's the last post of my list!

From the Library Technology Conference, in reverse chronological order:

1. "The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry)" by Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia
  • What does Google do in our society? Google's mission is to organize information and make it universally accessible; however, inherent in the organization of information is the (unintended or intended) hiding of some information and revelation of others. This can be easily seen in the "Google Bombing" process where an organized campaign to raise the page rank of a website is implemented.
  • Why do we (I) love Google so much (and I really do), if it is hiding information from us? Consumers tend to have blind faith in Google. It provides some pretty amazing services, but are we receiving this speed, power, and convenience at the cost of something greater? At times the question of regulating Google has arisen. What once began with strict regulations (attached to the use of NSF grant funds, copyright, and imposed by the FCC) has shifted, in part due to the increasing size and influence of Google.
  • The first model of content delivery: Google began as a rank-and-link search engine wherein the material lived beyond Google's control, and were not responsible for content. The service they provided was that of connecting two points.
  • The second model of content delivery: Google expanded to host and deliver information providing users with information storage via YouTube, Blogger, Google Buzz, etc. The information is integrated within Google's search results and requires registration to upload content. Consumers are the ones who monitor appropriate use (i.e. reporting copyright violations).
  • The third model is to capture and serve: With advances in Google Maps' street view, Google Earth, and the Books project (all stored on a Google-owned server, and integrated into search results), is there a greater level of responsibility for Google to adhere to copyright and fair use laws? Vaidhyanathan noted that, for the most part, Google uploads whatever content they think is part of their mission to make available, and those not wishing to have their content freely available must "opt out" in order for Google to remove it. (This can also be said for social networking privacy issues, i.e. Facebook, where information must be made private as opposed to choosing to make certain information public.) In this, the third model, Google is no longer a conduit for knowledge, but rather plays a greater role.
  • Going back to the management of information, whenever information is managed, editorial (value) decisions are made by people. According to Vaidhyanathan, Google seems to not care that "Jew Watch News" is employing Google bombing techniques, but in Germany such sites would not be displayed because of strict laws against distributing hate speech. There has to have been a modification in the algorithm. In the instance of Vaidhyanathan's example, "Jew Watch News," he asserted that Google chooses this morn hands-off approach. He continued saying Google states their ranking is determined by their algorithm but don't reflect the "beliefs and practices of those who work at Google. But, the ethical question is not whether they agree with the content, but rather, is that Google's responsibility here in the United States to not only allow this page to be searchable using their site, but also to be promoted as a result of their code? Google recently reworked their algorithm which lowered the rankings of websites considered "low quality" (i.e. and yet the website Martin Luther King Jr. - A True Historical Examination remained in the top five results when I searched "Martin Luther King Junior."
  • Google continues to add personalization, localization, user satisfaction, and speed to their services, but do we as consumers have to hold them to higher standards when it comes to corporate social responsibility? This was one of many ethical questions Vaidhyanathan put forth, questioning not only Google's responsibility, but also our responsibility as consumers. At this point the solution is to remind ourselves of corporate weaknesses (and our own weaknesses as consumers) and diversify our searching in order to diversify our results.

Top Ten List: Number Two

From the Library Technology Conference:

Getting Back into the Library Business: Moving Library IT to the Cloud, Marc Davis, Drake University
  • Marc Davis began by noting there can be a resistance to completely dismantling the server systems we have depended on and invested money in. The goal with cloud computing is to refocus our attention away from the hardware and back onto service. The assumption is that cloud computing is inevitable, at least to some extent, as the "old" server infrastructure is inefficient to sustain in the long run. By sharing on an extremely large-scale resulting electricity costs, network bandwidth, operations, software, and hardware costs were dramatically decreased as compared to providing similar results via local servers. Other benefits include elasticity and transference of risk. Cloud computing is not necessarily web based, rather services outside of the campus firewall. This may include using software and storing data outside of the library.
  • Three terms to know:
    • SAAS: Software as a Service: use of hosted services, i.e. Springshare Libguides; though you have no access to the underlying infrastructure, you are also not responsible for managing the underlying software
    • Infrastructure as a Service: is "Utilizing a provided server environment but retaining responsibility for configuration and operation" i.e. Amazon Web Services
    • PAAS: Platform as a Service is an environment that supports "building, testing, and deploying (Web-based) applications" i.e. Windows Azure, twilio, and Boopsie (discussed in this post)
  • Moving IT infrastructure elsewhere, to vendors or others out-of-house (i.e. centralized campus IT) is one characteristic of Library Cloud migration. Of course, you need to make sure that what your doing meets your needs, both financially and in terms of your goals and priorities). At Drake, they moved the information they supported on their servers from the library to a centralized IT location.
  • An interesting question Marc Davis brought up was: are libraries uniquely positioned to migrate from on-site to cloud IT? While libraries do have expertise with hosted solutions, contracts, and discovery layer services, and are part of a service-rich environment, they may not necessarily be uniquely positioned because such services must be considered with local needs/conditions, sustainability, organizational culture, and other factors specific to the users you serve in mind. If there is extreme resistance based on campus culture, or concerns over information security, cloud computing may be dismissed as an IT possibility for where you are.
  • Benefits of Cloud Migration
    • Experience vs. Hype: cost effectiveness, keeping in mind availability, data integrity (continuous back-up), provisioning, capacity (bandwidth); cloud costs tend to be more predictable, identifiable, and incrementally adjustable (to align with actual usage amounts)
    • Flexibility: quick service without infrastructure costs or system administrator duties, the focus is moved from hardware/operating systems to service
    • Innovation: service effectiveness, budgeting and planning, partnerships develop into collaborations
    • IT Skills: IT professionals develop managerial, project management, and budgeting/contract skills
  • Services:
  • Drake is looking to continuing the transfer of resources from on-site IT to the cloud over the next several years (with a select few pieces remaining on-site for security or licensing reasons). While some of their data is processed through on-campus, centralized servers, other is done off-campus. You may learn more about the details of this transition in the presentation found here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top Ten List: Number Three

From the Library Technology Conference, in reverse chronological order:

3. Go Mobile with Your Library Website, Meghan Weeks, Loyola Marymount University
  • Why go mobile? Many reports indicate the increase in the use of mobile technologies is on the rise and here to stay (the presenter noted studies by the Pew Research Center, Horizon Report 2011, and the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010). Mobile technologies are increasingly becoming a student's first choice.
  • Things to consider: Is your library website ready? What do your users want? Surveys may be an effective way to determine which features you need to include in your mobile website, though the speaker did not mention focus groups (which could be quite helpful, as was the case of the Kent State library).
  • Features to consider:
    • Direct link to call
    • Link to text message ("Ask Me" instant messaging)
    • A customizable mobile environment--What are the tools/resources each individual patron uses most frequently? Can they add that to their customized mobile library page?
    • LibGuides mobile interface
    • Ebsco and other mobile databases
    • The ability to reserve spaces (i.e. group study rooms, computers with specialized software, scanners, etc.)
    • Perhaps a library QR code tour or podcast
    • Encourage interaction with the library's social media presence
    • Easy access to e-books, streaming videos/music on demand
  • Programming considerations from the library's end:
    • Are you willing to write native apps (specific to each type of device: Android, Blackberry, iPhone)? The benefits of this are that it is easier for users to navigate, faster than mobile web, and the app can capitalize on device features (i.e. GPS). Having an internet connection may or may not be necessary (bandwidth), and the apps are usually written in Objective-C or Java. Updates do need to be installed, and the program does need to be marketed in app stores (which means it is up to users to download).
    • Would you rather scale down your website to be accessed using a smaller browser, taking a mobile web approach? Things to keep in mind when using this approach are that the page needs to be optimized for use on a smaller, mobile device. Also, there is the need to connect to the server. Usability tends to be lower because of the many steps it takes to navigate the links and time it may take to connect via a server. Programming is typically HTML, with CSS and Java. While mobile web sites tend to be designed with simplicity in mind, they are not targeted at one specific platform, making the user experience less customizable. The benefits include the ease with which such websites are created and maintained, and that the user does not need to install updates as they might with apps.
    • The hybrid approach (combining apps and mobile web) may work best for some libraries. The app is installed on the mobile device, is platform specific, and can utilize device features, but some of the areas accessed may be mobile web. Some features may need to be periodically updated (app) but some will be instant (and require network access).
  • Names to know when it comes to integrating a mobile version of your website into your offerings:
    • MOPAC: Mobile OPAC is a customized catalog for mobile devices. AirPAC, by Innovative Interfaces, is one example. Another is the Mobile PAC by Polaris Library Systems.
    • BookMyne from Sirsi Dynix offers library users with iPhones the ability to scan bar codes (to see if the item in the store or at a friend's house is available via the library), social recommendations powered by Goodreads, the ability to cross-reference books in the library with the New York Times best sellers, and the ability to view their account information (i.e. fines, fees, current holds, checked out items). Libraries running SirsiDynix Symphony 3.3, Horizon 7.5 or higher may use BookMyne.
    • Discovery services include: Primo by Ex Libris, Serials Solutions Summon, and EBSCOhost Mobile.
    • Third party vendors include Blackboard Mobile Central (an app with a library portion to it, very limited, just one page of information and no access to user library account information), Boopsie for libraries (users can log in, place holds, renew items, and the app utilizes phone model features), Library Anywhere (by Library Thing), and Mobile Bridge (by Quipu Group).
    • Open Source options include the Washington D.C. Public Library iPhone app, Molly (the opens source mobile portal from Oxford University), or librarians may develop their own apps.
  • Usability considerations: Just as we consider those with disabilities in designing standard HTML websites, we must also do so with mobile pages. Issues with typing, viewing, etc. occur. The W3C has released their Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0; their aim "is to improve the user experience of the Web when accessed from such [mobile] devices." Other testing tools include EvalAccess 2.0, and Mobi Ready.
  • Analytic tools: chartbeat, Clicky, Google Analytics for mobile, Piwik, and Sitemeter.
  • App development tools: Appcelerator, Mother App, Netbiscuits, PhoneGap, and Rhomobile.

  • Mobile helper utilities:, Mobile Site Generator, iWebkit, Google App Engine, and JQTouch.

Top Ten List: Number Four

From the Library Technology Conference, in reverse chronological order:

4. Things in a Flash: The Latest Web 2.0 Tools, Amy Springer, St. John's University/College of St. Benedict; Jenny Sippel, Minneapolis Community and Technical College; Martha Hardy, Metropolitan State University; Diana Symons, St. John's University/College of St. Benedict; LeAnn Suchy, Metronet

This session gave an overview of six Web 2.0 technologies that may be used in libraries.

  • Prezi was presented by Amy Springer. While I was glad this technology was included, and some great points did come up when attendees were asking questions, the presentation of Prezi was somewhat lacking. Prezi, like any presentation software, is just a tool. The important message you are trying to convey is that of your lesson content. Some are hesitant to use Prezi because of the "sea sick" factor. When presenters get lost in the excitement of flipping, turning, outlining, and the seemingly infinite zoom, the audience looses the message and is concentrating instead on keeping their lunch down. I think Becky Canovan describes it well--Prezi should tell a story. As I mentioned earlier, there were some good questions that came out of the attendees. Prezi can be embedded into another webpage, downloaded as a flash file (should you need to present somewhere where internet is not accessible, and the flash file is only editable if you purchase Prezi Pro or Edu Pro licenses), and the recent upgrades make embedding a YouTube video a snap!
  • QR Codes, presented by Jenny Sippel, was a great introduction for those unfamiliar with QR codes. QR codes originated in Japan and are the trademarked name for a 2D barcode. The codes are scanned with a device (usually a smart phone with a camera and scanner app). This can be very useful for connecting users with polls (i.e. Google Forms), facilitating library tours, linking to electronic versions of handouts or slides (making information accessible in a variety of formats), instant ask a librarian link, and when you use to create the QR code (by adding ".qr" after the created short link) allows for analytics when you add "+" to the end of the shortened link.
  • Dropbox, presented by Martha Hardy, is a user-friendly cloud storage account that comes with a desktop client. It not only provides cloud storage, but also performs auto back-up and version control for your files. Any file type can be stored, including photos and music, and you can easily share work (it syncs documents through multiple computers for those files in your shared folder). I have been using Dropbox since the conference and LOVE it--especially since now I no longer have to carry around a flash drive (and/or lose said flash drive). Currently storage for the free account is limited to 2 GB, with expansion possible when you invite new users or when you purchase additional storage (up to 100 GB). Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.
  • Diana Symons spoke about Diigo, a bookmarking/annotating tool with social networking possibilities. It allows you to highlight, add sticky note comments, choose whether your content is public or private, download the Diigo toolbar, and tag websites. You can take screenshots of just the content you would like to share. The annotations stay every time you return to the same page. You can upload a snapshot (to make sure you have the information, even if the site disappears in the future) and it is saved as html and as an image. A great tool for those who do a lot of online reading or for those just wanting to keep track of information they find online.
  • Posterous is one of the easiest blogging tools around today, and was presented by LeAnn Suchy. You set up your account (it can be either a group or individual blog), add the email accounts that can update the blog, and ready, set, blog! Just send an email to, or you can use the web interface. If posting via email, the subject line is the post title and the body is the text. If you send an attachment, the file becomes embedded within the blog; you can even attach mp3 files. You can set up your account so you have to click to approve a blog post (particularly helpful when having a class post to a group blog, as it gives you a chance to proof the post to make sure it is appropriate).
  • Last, but not least, is Topicmarks, also presented by LeAnn Suchy. Topicmarks allows you to log in using an existing account (i.e. Yahoo or Google) or you may create an account specific to Topicmarks. New since the end of 2010, this program summarizes documents you upload (i.e. Word documents, PDFs), text you paste into the box for analysis, or web links (and there is a bookmarklet you can use to have Topicmarks analyze the website with one click instead of copying and pasting the link url). Your uploads are automatically visible to "friends" you have added on Topicmarks, but keep in mind when you upload a copyrighted document you have to remember to change the security settings to "private." While this tool is still very much in the beta stage, it can be a helpful tool for analyzing your own writing, and for identifying key words and basic facts (though, keep in mind, just as is the case with citation tools, the final result may be far from perfect so users have to keep in mind this is a tool to help them understand the item they uploaded, not an authority or necessarily accurate interpretation of the work).

More information may be found here:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Article 9: Students' Academic Success and its Association to Student Involvement with Learning and Relationships with Faculty and Peers

Ullah, H., & Wilson, M. A. (2007). Students' academic success and its association to student involvement with learning and relationships with faculty and peers. College Student Journal, 41(4), 1192-1202. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Many factors are associated with student success at the collegiate level. Some the student may be able to control. Ullah and Wilson used the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to examine the academic achievement and level of involvement (student engagement with learning activities and institutional environment that supports learning) of students at a Midwestern public university over a span of three years. Factors noted were: student involvement, student relationships with faculty, student relationships with peers, gender, ACT scores, and age. All were examined in relation to academic achievement as measured by cumulative grade point average (GPA). The student sample was randomly drawn for each of the three years and included students ranging from first-years through seniors. The study found a significant positive correlation between students' relationships with faculty members and GPA, class involvement and GPA, and relationships with peers and GPA. There were also positive correlations between student academic achievement and ACT scores, and GPA and students' age. However, since age and ACT cannot be controlled by students currently enrolled (meaning, those things happened in the past or cannot be changed), their importance is less significant than the other factors mentioned. Female peer relationships had a positive effect on GPA and male peer relationships had a less significant positive effect on GPA. While not the focus of the study, it is something to note. Creating a learning environment in which students are actively engaged and relationships with faculty are developed will help students better succeed at the collegiate level (as measured by cumulative GPA).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Top Ten List: Number Five (LibTech Keynote)

From the Library Technology Conference, in reverse chronological order:

5. TechSoup for Libraries Sarah Washburn, Library Program Manager, TechSoup for Libraries

Simple sharing that makes a big difference.

  • Sarah Washburn began by giving a brief introduction to the services TechSoup for Libraries offers, and the types of institutions they support (public libraries that are listed in the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) database or have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status). Basically, they provide support and training, regular newsletters, their "Cookbooks" for IT maintenance, help connect libraries to donated products (facilitate product partnerships), and promote & assist with advocacy. How are they so successful in helping libraries? Simply put, they listen to the needs of the institutions they serve, and share wisdom from past experiences to help other libraries. Stories are powerful tools that can not only help bring about innovation, but also reach individuals. By sharing these experiences, knowledge is passed, creating a network of experts with experience (particularly with open-source technologies). Washburn also emphasized aspects that make a tech story one they want to share: story/solution is outcome based, solving a problem from the "daily grind." Something that is tricky about finding these stories is that librarians tend to be (too) humble, thinking "what I do is just part of the way things work; others are probably doing the same things elsewhere." This isn't necessarily the case, so share what you are doing--you never know who you is looking for the exact solution you may provide.
Examples of success stories include:
  • Ankeny, Iowa: Created a freeware self-check system, reconfigured existing hardware and only had to purchase a monitor and scanner.
  • Adopt a Computer Program: Library patrons can pledge one dollar per day to support computer purchases. They receive an adoption certificate, quarterly updates (a letter of how the computers are doing, how they are being used), and signage recognizing donors.
  • Radom Hacks of Kindness (RHoK): Hacking for humanity done by Google, NASA, World Bank, Microsoft, and Yahoo! (and a long list of others). Technology companies work together "to make the world a better place by building a community of innovation. RHoK brings software engineers together with disaster relief experts to identify critical global challenges, and develop software to support them."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top Ten List: Number Six

From the Library Technology Conference, in reverse chronological order:

6. E-learning: Tips, Tricks, and Tools of the Trade, Susan Kane, Harvard Office of Information Systems
  • Susan Kane presented a wide range of tools and approaches to online instruction. She began with a brief introduction, asking which tools attendees had used in the past (see list below), to get a sense of our backgrounds/levels of experience. Then she dove into the "why?" questions. While there is nothing wrong with teaching face-to-face, particularly if instruction is an accepted and promoted part of your institution's culture, there are sometimes barriers to instruction delivery. They include scheduling conflicts, poor attendance at sessions when offered independent from a class (particularly when not tied to grades), and users may prefer to have things available online to be viewed and reviewed at their convenience. The benefits of online instruction are the flexibility of when the content is delivered (at user's convenience), reusability of tutorials when applicable, users may go a their own pace (supporting multiple learning styles when well done), instructor consistency (when delivering in-person instruction to multiple sections, some information may be accidentally excluded, creating inconsistency), and ease of standardized scoring, and that these technologies and the way information is presented is becoming more and more native to today's users. Drawbacks include a disconnect between students and librarian, potential for learner distraction (i.e. checking other web pages or doing other things while the instruction session is happening), watching tutorials can be boring, high-speed internet is usually required to successfully run online tutorials, computer proficiency, software updates "fix" or cement content (making it harder to update content). There is a trade-off between face-to-face instruction and online instruction. Face-to-face may require complex scheduling, man power, and cooperation from faculty, etc. Online instruction may be perceived as time-saving; however, production and maintenance is quite costly when examining the staff time it takes. An interesting figure presented was, for every hour of training you are trying to convert to online presentation/format you will spend between 49-127 hours in production. 49-127 production hours/1 hour of product. Making content reusable can help alleviate some of this strain, but then you risk lowering the relevance or context which may make it less valuable to the user. Kane recommends being as specific as possible within your goals for reusability. By determining what does and does not need to be taught in context, you are allowing for the potential of greater reusability.
Planning and Pre-production
  • Determine what you are starting with. Notes from an in-person lecture? PowerPoint slides? A website or other documents? Nothing?
  • Determine your goals. Does everyone agree (what are others' expectations)? What are your limitations on staff time or policy objectives? Service objectives? How much content is presented and how interactive will it be? What are the key objectives (choose one or two).
  • Do you have the tools to accomplish what you want? The hardware, software, staff time (assumption is that this will save time, but people often forget about the behind-the-scenes work in producing the content), expertise, and delivery platform?

Other helpful things to keep in mind when producing online instruction content
  • Will you need to convert the files to another format in order to deliver the content (i.e. post to Moodle, etc.)?
  • Why reinvent the wheel? Will some of your older content work with your new software (i.e. pulling in PowerPoint slides)?
  • How easy is it to add audio, what is the quality like, and how can you edit as necessary?
  • What are the costs associated with what you are using? Several options are free or quite reasonable, but do the free products offer you the flexibility you need? Are the more complex programs too complicated and clunky? Find that balance.
Resources mentioned throughout:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Top Ten List: Number Seven (ILA Keynote)

From the Iowa Library Association/ACRL Conference, in reverse chronological order:

7. Keynote Address: What To Do With the Time That Is Given Us, given by Kenning Arlitsch from University of Utah
  • As we are well aware, library services are in a state of flux. Economic pressures are mounting, and educational organizations are feeling the impact. In addition to financial considerations, library services that were once acceptable are no longer meeting the needs of library users. The shift from print to technological advances (including remote access and online education) is forcing libraries to focus less on the local collection and more on shared digital collections. Redesigning spaces (and librarian attitudes) to facilitate group work (both in person and online) is important, but what do we do with the print assets and other physical collections as they (or their format) becomes irrelevant (particularly special collections)? The move to digitize special collections not only makes a "back-up" copy, but also makes the information found within the item more easily shared and accessible to library users. One concern over digitization is the long-term preservation of the digital data (and how it adapts to upgrades in technology). Another concern, and this is regarding any information, is that data can be overwhelming. Making it understandable and usable through linking and data visualization is key. The question Arlitsch left us with was: what is your response to adversity? It is easy to stay in your comfort zone, particularly if technology is not your strong suit. But, as a public servant, it is your responsibility to adapt to the changing needs of those you serve. That may mean examining and completely redesigning the way you approach information services. 
    Resources mentioned throughout:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top Ten List: Number Eight

From the Iowa Library Association/ACRL Conference, in reverse chronological order:

8. Skillful Scaffolding: Integrating Information Literacy Outcomes into Literature Courses, given by Dan Chibnall and Dr. Amy Getty from Grand View University
  • While one-shot instruction sessions may still be the norm for many classes, the presenters took an integrated IL approach to their American Literature I and Literature for Children and Adolescents courses. They provided a detailed handout to conference attendees highlighting the skills taught, the assignments, and activities associated with those skills. Throughout the semester resource evaluation skills are taught and reinforced, specifically finding quality websites, books, and journals as well as understanding scholarly vs. popular publications. Much of what the presenters were sharing is what I have been observing and actively doing in my internship. The last piece, having both instructor and librarian taking an active part in summative evaluations tied to course grades, is something not yet incorporated at UD. Based on the way the IL program has expanded over the last several years, I could see this as an eventual possibility (however, additional staffing would need to be provided to allow for the time it takes to evaluate learning artifacts).

Top Ten List: Number Nine

From the Iowa Library Association/ACRL Conference, in reverse chronological order:

9. On Being Essential: Making Connections and Facilitating Access, Collection Development as Public Service, given by Kevin Engel, Rebecca Stuhr, and R. Cecilia Knight from Grinnell College
  • The presenters gave a brief background about the structure within the Grinnell College Libraries. One of the points that stood out to me was their patron driven acquisition program (similar to that at UD, but specific policies differed). Their criteria for ILL initiated acquisitions looked at date published, the availability (would it arrive in the same time or less as compared to traditional ILL transactions?), and the purchasing cost (under $100). Usually items could arrive within 2 days, be cataloged the next, and be available to the patrons by the fourth day. The librarians know the items will circulate at least once. For their serials acquisitions, the librarians went through an in-depth serials review in 2008 (initiated partly as a result of strictly restricted budgets). As a result, the library cancelled 145 journals and 309 switched to online-only format. They also switched Elsevier and Wylie to a pay-per-view model. Students request Pay-per-view articles through librarians; faculty are able to access articles without that step. This approach is most appropriate for high-cost, low-use journals, and the downloads can not be used for ILL sharing. Another important thing to note: Rather than pay-per-view, it is really pay-per-day-it-is-accessed, meaning once the library has purchased access to the article, it may be accessed as many times as needed, by a variety of users during that 24-hour period with only one purchase fee being charged.

Top Ten List: Number Ten

From the Iowa Library Association/ACRL Conference, in reverse chronological order:

10. Seeking Wisdom in Community: Shaping a First-Year Research Experience given by Andi Beckendorf, Germano G. Streese, of Luther College
  • This session was particularly interesting to me, partially because I'm a Luther grad, and also because this program targets first-year students and their learning experiences. As a transfer student into Luther, I did not take Paideia. While I had heard stories about the course from my friends, this session allowed me to see the instructor side of the course. Germano and Andi provided a brief history, how they identified the need to modify the program (both the course and library approach). With new needs identified, the library was able to utilize LibGuides to support student learning. This integration led to changes in what was observed at the reference desk; questions shifted from the seemingly simple "how do I," skill-based questions (that can be answered with a set of directions), to more complex, strategy-based questions.
(Go Norse!)

Week Ten: On the Road

Week ten was filled with road trips, random music, librarian chats, conference sessions, and (of course) a Pulitzer Prize winning musical. The week began with the faculty and staff gathering to listen to run-through presentations for those presenting at the Iowa Library Association/ACRL Conference and the Library Technology Conference. The run-throughs allowed presenters to share what they are doing and work out some of the bugs before the "real deal." It was also a good reminder to me about what is expected of presenters (not that I haven't seen my fair share of conference presentations*).

Becky Canovan, Reference and Instruction Librarian at UD, and I then hit the road for the Twin Cities. She was presenting at LibTech and I was planning on going before I even knew that I would be at UD for my internship, and certainly before I knew she'd be presenting. It worked out nicely that we could carpool together. We arrived in the Twin Cities on Wednesday, in time to grab dinner with some awesome folks. Becky and I were staying with her friend from grad school, Amy Commers (Youth Services Librarian at South St. Paul Public Library), and met up with Rachel Slough (E-Learning Librarian at UW La Crosse) and Vicki Gruzynski (Information Services Instructor at South East Missouri State). Rachel was a classmate of mine at Indiana University, and Vicki is another IU alum. I always love spending time with librarians who love their jobs--thanks for being an inspiration, ladies! Throughout the next couple of days we attended sessions, shared ideas, caught up on some of the things happening in each others' lives. After LibTech wrapped up, Becky and I hit the road to Pella, this time for the ILA/ACRL Conference. Stay tuned for my "Top Ten List" of Library-Related Conference Sessions (a la The Late Show with David Letterman)! I wrapped up the weekend by visiting with a former teacher-colleague of mine, spending time with family, and catching Next to Normal with some Dorian Camp counselor friends at the Civic Center in Des Moines. Busy is the best way to be--especially when your time is shared with folks who are so excited about what they do and who they help.

* So far I've attended the following library-related conferences:
ILA/ACRL, Pella, IA, March 2011
LibTech, St. Paul, MN, March 2011
Brick & Click, Maryville, MO, November 2010
ILA, Coralville, IA, October 2010
ILA/ACRL, Cedar Rapids, IA, April 2010

Non-library-related conferences:
Iowa Music Educators Association, Ames, IA, November 2005-2010 (serving as Assistant to the Conference Registration Chair, 2007-2010)
International Society of Bassists Convention, Oklahoma City, OK, June 2009 (assisted with merch and registration)