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Updated: 29 min 49 sec ago

LITA Webinar: Beyond Web Page Analytics

4 hours 59 min ago

Or how to use Google tools to assess user behavior across web properties.

Tuesday March 31, 2015
11:00 am – 12:30 pm Central Time
Register now for this webinar

This brand new LITA Webinar shows how Marquette University Libraries have installed custom tracking code and meta tags on most of their web interfaces including:

  • CONTENTdm
  • Digital Commons
  • Ebsco EDS
  • ILLiad
  • LibCal
  • LibGuides
  • WebPac, and the
  • General Library Website

The data retrieved from these interfaces is gathered into Google’s

  • Universal Analytics
  • Tag Manager, and
  • Webmaster Tools

When used in combination these tools create an in-depth view of user behavior across all these web properties.

For example Google Tag Manager can grab search terms which can be related to a specific collection within Universal Analytics and related to a particular demographic. The current versions of these tools make systems setup an easy process with little or no programming experience required. Making sense of the volume of data retrieved, however, is more difficult.

  • How does Google data compare to vendor stats?
  • How can the data be normalized using Tag Manager?
  • Can this data help your organization make better decisions?

Join

  • Ed Sanchez, Head, Library Information Technology, Marquette University Libraries
  • Rob Nunez, Emerging Technologies Librarian, Marquette University Libraries and
  • Keven Riggle, Systems Librarian & Webmaster, Marquette University Libraries

In this webinar as they explain their new processes and explore these questions. Check out their program outline: http://libguides.marquette.edu/ga-training/outline

Then register for the webinar

Full details
Can’t make the date but still want to join in? Registered participants will have access to the recorded webinar.
Cost:

  • LITA Member: $39
  • Non-Member: $99
  • Group: $190

Registration Information

Register Online page arranged by session date (login required)
OR
Mail or fax form to ALA Registration
OR
Call 1-800-545-2433 and press 5
OR
email registration@ala.org

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to the course, contact LITA at (312) 280-4269 or Mark Beatty, mbeatty@ala.org.

Categories: Library News

Agile Development: Estimation and Scheduling

8 hours 37 min ago

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

In my last post, I discussed the creation of Agile user stories. This time I’m going to talk about what to do with them once you have them. There are two big steps that need to be completed in order to move from user story creation to development: effort estimation and prioritization. Each poses its own problems.

Estimating Effort

Because Agile development relies on flexibility and adaptation, creating a bottom-up effort estimation analysis is both difficult and impractical. You don’t want to spend valuable time analyzing a piece of functionality up front only to have the implementation details change because of something that happens earlier in the development process, be it a change in another story, customer feedback, etc. Instead, it’s better to rely on your development team’s expertise and come up with top-down estimates that are accurate enough to get the development process started. This may at times make you feel uncomfortable, as if you’re looking for groundwater with a stick (it’s called dowsing, by the way), but in reality it’s about doing the minimum work necessary to come up with a reasonably accurate projection.

Estimation methods vary, but the key is to discuss story size in relative terms rather than assigning a number of hours of development time. Some teams find a story that is easy to estimate and calibrate all other stories relative to it, using some sort of relative “story points” scale (powers of 2, the Fibonacci sequence, etc.). Others create a relative scale and tag each story with a value from it: this can be anything from vehicles (this story is a car, this one is an aircraft carrier, etc.), to t-shirt sizes, to anything that is intuitive to the team. Another method is planning poker: the team picks a set of sizing values, and each member of the team assigns one of those values to each story by holding up a card with the value on it; if there’s significant variation, the team discusses the estimates and comes up with a compromise.  What matters is not the method, but that the entire team participate in the estimation discussion for each story.

Learn more about Agile estimation here and here.

Prioritizing User Stories

The other piece of information we need in order to begin scheduling is the importance of each story, and for that we must turn to the business side of the organization. Prioritization in Agile is an ongoing process (as opposed to a one-time ranking) that allows the team to understand which user stories carry the biggest payoff at any point in the process. Once they are created, all user stories go into a the product backlog, and each time the team plans a new sprint it picks stories off the top of the list until their capacity is exhausted, so it is very important that the Product Owner maintain a properly ordered backlog.

As with estimation, methods vary, but the key is to follow a process that evaluates each story on the value it adds to the product at any point. If I just rank the stories numerically, that does not provide any clarity as to why that is, which will be confusing to the team (and to me as well as the backlog grows). Most teams adopt a ranking system that scores each story individually; here’s a good example. This method uses two separate criteria: urgency and business value. Business value measures the positive impact of a given story on users. Urgency provides information about how important it is to complete a story earlier rather than later in the development process, taking into account dependencies between user stories, contractual obligations, complexity, etc. Basically, Business Value represents the importance of including a story in the finished product, and Urgency tells us how much it matters when that story is developed (understanding that a story’s likelihood of being completed decreases the later in the process it is slotted). Once the stories have been evaluated along the two axes (a simple 1-5 scale can be used for each) an overall priority number is obtained by multiplying the two values, which gives us the final priority score. The backlog is then ordered using this value.

As the example in the link shows, a Product Owner can also create priority bands that describe stories at a high level: must-have, nice to have, won’t develop, etc. This provides context for the priority score and gives the team information about the PO’s expectations for each story.

I’ll be back next month to talk about building an Agile culture. In the meantime, what methods does your team use to estimate and prioritize user stories?

Categories: Library News

Join LITA’s Imagineering IG at ALA Annual

Tue, 2015-03-03 08:00

Editor’s note: This is guest post by Breanne Kirsch.

During the upcoming 2015 ALA Annual Conference, LITA’s Imagineering Interest Group will host the program “Unknown Knowns and Known Unknowns: How Speculative Fiction Gets Technological Innovation Right and Wrong.” A panel of science fiction and fantasy authors will discuss their work and how it connects with technological developments that were never invented and those that came about in unimagined ways. Tor is sponsoring the program and bringing authors John Scalzi, Vernor Vinge, Greg Bear, and Marie Brennan. Baen Books is also sponsoring the program by bringing Larry Correia to the author panel.

John Scalzi wrote the Old Man’s War series and more recently, Redshirts, which won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Vernor Vinge is known for his Realtime/Bobble and Zones of Thought Series and a number of short fiction stories. Greg Bear has written a number of series, including Darwin, The Forge of God, Songs of Earth and Power, Quantum Logic, and The Way. He has also written books for the Halo series, short fiction, and standalone books, most recently, War Dogs as well as the upcoming novels Eternity and Eon. Marie Brennan has written the Onyx Court series, a number of short stories, and more recently the Lady Trent series, including the upcoming Voyage of the Basilisk. Larry Correia has written the Monster Hunter series, Grimnoir Chronicles, Dead Six series, and Iron Kingdoms series. These authors will consider the role speculative fiction plays in fostering innovation and bringing about new ideas.

Please plan to attend the upcoming ALA Annual 2015 Conference and add the Imagineering Interest Group program to your schedule! We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.

Breanne A. Kirsch is the current Chair of the Imagineering Interest Group as well as the Game Making Interest Group within LITA. She works as a Public Services Librarian at the University of South Carolina Upstate and is the Coordinator of Emerging Technologies. She can be contacted at bkirsch@uscupstate.edu or @breezyalli.

Categories: Library News

Librarians: We Open Access

Fri, 2015-02-27 07:00

Open Access (storefront). Credit: Flickr user Gideon Burton

In his February 11 post, my fellow LITA blogger Bryan Brown interrogated the definitions of librarianship. He concluded that librarianship amounts to a “set of shared values and duties to our communities,” nicely summarized in the ALA’s Core Values of Librarianship. These core values are access, confidentiality / privacy, democracy, diversity, education and lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, preservation, the public good, professionalism, service, and social responsibility. But the greatest of these is access, without which we would revert to our roots as monastic scriptoriums and subscription libraries for the literate elite.

Bryan experienced some existential angst given that he is a web developer and not a “librarian” in the sense of job title or traditional responsibilities–the ancient triad of collection development, cataloging, and reference. In contrast, I never felt troubled about my job, as my title is e-learning librarian (got that buzzword going for me, which is nice) and as I do a lot of mainstream librarian-esque things, especially camping up front doing reference or visiting classes doing information literacy instruction.

Meme by Michael Rodriguez using Imgflip

However, I never expected to become manager of electronic resources, systems, web redesign, invoicing and vendor negotiations, and hopefully a new institutional repository fresh out of library school. I did not expect to spend my mornings troubleshooting LDAP authentication errors, walking students through login issues, running cost-benefit analyses on databases, and training users on screencasting and BlackBoard.

But digital librarians like Bryan and myself are the new faces of librarianship. I deliver and facilitate electronic information access in the library context; therefore, I am a librarian. A web developer facilitates access to digital scholarship and library resources. A reference librarian points folks to information they need. An instruction librarian teaches people how to find and evaluate information. A cataloger organizes information so that people can access it efficiently. A collection developer selects materials that users will most likely desire to access. All of these job descriptions–and any others that you can produce–are predicated on the fundamental tenet of access, preferably open, necessarily free.

Democracy, diversity, and the public good is our vision. Our active mission is to open access to users freely and equitably. Within that mission lie intellectual freedom (open access to information regardless of moralistic or political beliefs), privacy (fear of publicity can discourage people from openly accessing information), preservation (enabling future users to access the information), and other values that grow from the opening of access to books, articles, artifacts, the web, and more.

The Librarians (Fair use – parody)

By now you will have picked up on my wordplay. The phrase “open access” (OA) typically refers to scholarly literature that is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions” (Peter Suber). But when used as a verb rather than an adjective, “open” means not simply the state of being unrestricted but also the action of removing barriers to access. We librarians must not only cultivate the open fields–the commons–but also strive to dismantle paywalls and other obstacles to access. Recall Robert Frost’s Mending Wall:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him…

Or librarians, good sir. Or librarians.

Categories: Library News

2015 Election Slate

Wed, 2015-02-25 11:10

The LITA Board is pleased to announce the following slate of candidates for the 2015 spring election as follows:

Candidates for Vice-President/President-elect

  • Nancy Coylar
  • Aimee Fifarek

Candidates for Directors at Large, 2 elected for 3 year terms

  • Frank Cervone
  • Martin Kalfatovic
  • Susan Sharpless Smith
  • Ken Varnum

See candidate bios and statements for more information; voting in the 2015 ALA election will begin at 9 a.m. Central Time on March 24, 2015. Ballots will close at 11:59 p.m. Central Time on May 1. Election results will be announced on May 8. Check here for information about the general ALA election

The slate was recommended by the Nominating Committee. Karen G. Schneider is chair of the committee and Pat Ensor, Adriene Lim, and Chris Evjy are the committee members. The Board thanks the Nominating Committee for all their work. Be sure to thank these candidates for agreeing to serve, and the Nominating Committee for developing the slate. Best wishes to all.

Categories: Library News

2015 LITA Forum – Call for Proposals, Deadline Extended

Tue, 2015-02-24 12:18

The LITA Forum is a highly regarded annual event for those involved in new and leading edge technologies in the library and information technology field. Please send your proposal submissions here by March 13, 2015, and join your colleagues in Minneapolis .

The 2015 LITA Forum Committee seeks proposals for excellent pre-conferences, concurrent sessions, and poster sessions for the 18th annual Forum of the Library Information and Technology Association, to be held in Minneapolis Minnesota, November 12-15, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. This year will feature additional programming in collaboration with LLAMA, the Library Leadership & Management Association.

The Forum Committee welcomes creative program proposals related to all types of libraries: public, school, academic, government, special, and corporate.

Proposals could relate to any of the following topics:

• Cooperation & collaboration
• Scalability and sustainability of library services and tools
• Researcher information networks
• Practical applications of linked data
• Large- and small-scale resource sharing
• User experience & users
• Library spaces (virtual or physical)
• “Big Data” — work in discovery, preservation, or documentation
• Data driven libraries or related assessment projects
• Management of technology in libraries
• Anything else that relates to library information technology

Proposals may cover projects, plans, ideas, or recent discoveries. We accept proposals on any aspect of library and information technology, even if not covered by the above list. The committee particularly invites submissions from first time presenters, library school students, and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Submit your proposal through http://bit.ly/lita-2015-proposal by March 13, 2015.

Presentations must have a technological focus and pertain to libraries. Presentations that incorporate audience participation are encouraged. The format of the presentations may include single- or multi-speaker formats, panel discussions, moderated discussions, case studies and/or demonstrations of projects.

Vendors wishing to submit a proposal should partner with a library representative who is testing/using the product.

Presenters will submit draft presentation slides and/or handouts on ALA Connect in advance of the Forum and will submit final presentation slides or electronic content (video, audio, etc.) to be made available on the web site following the event. Presenters are expected to register and participate in the Forum as attendees; discounted registration will be offered.

Please submit your proposal through http://bit.ly/lita-2015-proposal, by the deadline of March 13, 2015

More information about LITA is available from the LITA website, Facebook and Twitter. Or contact Mark Beatty, LITA Programs and Marketing Specialist at mbeatty@ala.org

Categories: Library News

Tools for Creating & Sharing Slide Decks

Thu, 2015-02-19 08:00

Lately I’ve taken to peppering my Twitter network with random questions. Sometimes my questions go unanswered but other times I get lively and helpful responses. Such was the case when I asked how my colleagues share their slide decks.

Figuring out how to share my slide decks has been one of those things that consistently falls to the bottom of my to-do list. It’s important to me to do so because it means I can share my ideas beyond the very brief moment in time that I’m presenting them, allowing people to reuse and adapt my content. Now that I’m hooked on the GTD system using Trello, though, I said to myself, “hey girl, why don’t you move this from the someday/maybe list and actually make it actionable.” So I did.

Here’s my dilemma. When I was a library school student I began using SlideShare. There are a lot of great things about it – it’s free, it’s popular, and there are a lot of integrations. However… I’m just not feeling the look of it anymore. I don’t think it has been updated in years, resulting in a cluttered, outdated design. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m snobby when it comes to this sort of thing. I also hate that I can’t reorder slide decks once they’re uploaded. I would like to make sure my decks are listed in some semblance of chronological order but in order to do so I have to upload them in backwards order. It’s just crazy annoying how little control you have over the final arrangement and look of the slides.

So now that you’ve got the backstory, this is where the Twitter wisdom comes in. As it turns out, I learned about more than slide sharing platforms – I also found out about some nifty ways to create slide decks that made me feel like I’ve been living under a rock for the past few years. Here are some thoughts on HaikuDeck, HTMLDecks, and SpeakerDeck.

HaikuDeck

screenshot: plenty of styling options + formats

This is really sleek and fun. You can create an account for free (beta version) and pull something together quickly. Based on the slide types HaikuDeck provides you with, you’re shepherded down a delightfully minimalistic path – you can of course create densely overloaded slides but it’s a little harder than normal. Because this is something I’m constantly working on, I am appreciative.

I haven’t yet created and presented using a slide deck from HaikuDeck but I’m going to make that a goal for this spring. However, you can see a quick little test slide deck here. I made it in about two minutes and it has absolutely no meaningful content, it’s just meant to give you an easy visual of one of their templates. (Incentive: make it through all three slides and you’ll find a picture of a giant cat.)

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to do all of your editing within HaikuDeck. If you export to Powerpoint, nothing will be editable because each slide exports as an image. This could be problematic if you needed to do last minute edits and didn’t have an internet connection. Also, beware: at least one user has shared that it ate her slides.

HTMLDecks

screenshot: handy syntax chart + space to build, side-by-side

This is a simple way to build a basic slide deck using HTML. I don’t think it could get any simpler and I’m actually struggling with what to write that would be helpful for you to know about it. To expand what you can do, learn more about Markdown.

From what I can tell, there is no export feature – you do need to pull up your slide deck in a browser and present from there. Again, this makes me a little nervous given the unreliable nature of some internet connections.

I see the appeal of HTMLDecks, though I’m not sure it’s for me. (Anyone want to change my mind by pointing to your awesome slide deck? Show me in the comments!)

SpeakerDeck

screenshot: clean + simple interface for uploading your slides

I was so dejected when I looked at my sad SlideShare account. SpeakerDeck renewed my faith. This is the one for me!

What’s not to love? SpeakerDeck has the clean look I’ve craved and it automatically orders your slides based on the date you gave your presentation, most recent slides listed toward the top. Check out my profile here to see all of this in action.

One drawback is that by making the jump to SpeakerDeck I lost the number of views that I had accumulated over the years. On the same note, SpeakerDeck doesn’t integrate with my ImpactStory profile in the same way that SlideShare does. I haven’t published much so my main stats come from my slide decks. Not sure what I’m going to do about that yet, beyond lobby the lovely folks at ImpactStory to add SpeakerDeck integration.

One thing I would like to see a slide sharing platform implement is shared ownership of slides. I asked SpeakerDeck about whether they offered this functionality; they don’t at this time. You see, I give a lot of presentations on behalf of a group I lead, Research Data Services (RDS). Late last year I created a SlideShare account for RDS. I would love nothing more than to be able to link my RDS slide decks to my personal account so that they show up in both accounts.

Lastly, I would be remiss as a data management evangelizer if I didn’t note that placing the sole copies of your slides (or any files) on a web service is an incredibly bad idea. It’s akin to teenagers now keeping their photos on Facebook or Instagram and deleting the originals, a tale so sad it could keep me up at night. A better idea is to keep two copies of your final slide deck: one saved as an editable file and the other saved as a PDF. Then upload a copy of the PDF to your slide sharing platform. (Sidenote: I haven’t always been as diligent about keeping track of these files. They’ve lived in various versions of google drive, hard drives, and been saved as email attachments… basically all the bad things that I am employed to caution against. Lesson? We are all vulnerable to the slow creep of many versions in many places but it’s never too late to stop the digital hoarding.)

How do you share your slide decks? Do you have any other platforms, tools, or tips to share with me? Do tell.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: February 18

Wed, 2015-02-18 15:53

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Library Technology Professional 2, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

 

Categories: Library News

The Internet of Things

Wed, 2015-02-18 08:00

 

Internet Access Here Sign by Steve Rhode. Published on Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Intel announced in January that they are developing a new chip called Curie that will be the size of a button and it is bound to push The Internet of Things (IoT) forward quickly. The IoT is a concept where everyday items (refrigerators, clothes, cars, kitchen devices, etc.) will be connected to the internet.

The first time I heard of IoT was in the 2014 Horizon Report for K-12. Yes, I’m a little slow sometimes… There is also a new book out that was shared with me by one of the fellow LITA Bloggers, Erik Sandall, by David Rose titled Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things. If you want an interesting read on this topic I recommend checking it out (a little library humor).

When I first heard of IoT, I thought it was really interesting, but wasn’t sure how quickly it would fully arrive. With Intel’s new chip I can imagine it arriving sooner than I thought. Last month, I blogged about Amazon Echo, and Echo fits in nicely with IoT.  I have to say that I’d really like to see more librarians jump on IoT and start a conversation on how information will be disseminated when our everyday items are connected to the internet.

According to the author of an article in Fast Company, IoT is going to make libraries even better! There was an article written in American Libraries by Mariam Pera on IoT, Lee Rainie did a presentation at Internet Librarian, and Ned Potter wrote about it on his blog.   But there is room for more conversation.

If anyone is interested in this conversation, please reach out!

AND

If you could have one device always connected to the internet what would it be? You can’t say your phone.

Categories: Library News

Diagrams Made Easy with LucidChart

Tue, 2015-02-17 08:00

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Marlon Hernandez 

For the past year, across four different classes and countless bars, I have worked on an idea that is quickly becoming my go-to project for any Master of Information Science assignment; the Archivist Beer Vault (ABV) database. At first it was easy to explain the contents: BEER! After incorporating more than one entity the explanation grew a bit murky:

ME: So remember my beer database? Well now it includes information on the brewery, style AND contains fictional store transactions
WIFE: Good for you honey.
ME: Yeah unfortunately that means I need to add a few transitive prop… I lost your attention after beer, didn’t I?

Which is a fair reaction since trying to describe the intricacies of abstract ideas such as entity relationship diagrams require clear-cut visuals. However, drawing these diagrams usually requires either expensive programs like Microsoft Visio (student rate $269) or underwhelming experiences of freeware. Enter Lucidchart, an easy to use and relatively inexpensive diagram solution.

The website starts off users with a few templates to modify from 16 categories, such as Flowchart and Entity Relationship (ERD),  or you can opt for a blank canvas. I prefer selecting the Blank (Name of Diagram) option as it clears the field of any unneeded shapes and preselects useful shapes.

Preselected shapes for a Blank Flowchart document

While these shapes should be more than enough for standard diagrams, you are also free to mix and match shapes, such as using flowchart shapes for your wireframe diagram. This is especially helpful when creating high fidelity wireframes that require end product level of detail.

Once you have selected your template it is easy to begin your drawing by dragging the desired shapes onto the canvas. Manipulating shapes and adding text overlays is straightforward, you merely click the edge of the boxes of the shape you want and adjust the size of it, which can either be done manually or set to a specific pixel size. Using the program is akin to having access to Photoshop’s powerful image manipulation tools but in a streamlined user-friendly UI. Most users can get by with just the basic options but for advanced users there are settings to adjust your page size and orientation, add layers, revision history, theme colors, adjust image size, and advanced text options. The frequently updated UI adds user requested features and contains tutorials within the diagram menu.

Adjust shapes by clicking on corners or select Metrics to adjust to specific size.

It also contains intuitive features such as converting lines that connect entities into cardinality notations with pulldown options to switch to  the desired notation style. This feature is not only practical but can also help with development. Getting back to the ABV, as I drew the entity structures and their cardinalities I realized I needed to add a few more transitive entities and normalize some of the relationships as I had a highly undesirable many-to-many relationship between my purchase table and items. As you can see below, the ABV’s ERD makes the complex relationships much more accessible to new users.

BEHOLD! BEER!

It was easy to move tables around as LucidChart kept the connections on a nice grid pattern, which I could also easily override if need be. This powerful flexibility lead to a clean deliverable for my term project. The positive experience I had creating this ERD lead me to try out the program for a more complex task, creating wireframes for a website redesign project in my Information Architecture class.

Tasked with redesigning a website that uses dated menu and page structures, our project required the creation of low, medium, and high fidelity wireframes. These wireframes present a vision for the website redesign with each type adding another layer of detail. In low fidelity wireframes, image placeholders are used and the only visible text are high level menu items while dummy text fills the rest. Thankfully LucidChart’s wireframe shapes contained the exact shapes we needed. Text options are limited but it did contain one of the fonts from our CSS font family property. Once we reached the high fidelity phase it was easy to import our custom images and seamlessly add them to our diagram.

Low, Medium, and High fidelity wireframes of a redesign project.

Once again LucidChart provided a high quality deliverable that impressed my peers and professor. With these wireframes I was able to design the finished product. With LucidChart’s focus on IT/engineering, product management & design, and business, you can find a vast amount of shapes and templates for most of your diagram needs such as Android mockups, flowcharts,  Venn diagrams and even circuit diagrams. There are a few more perks about LucidChart and a few lows.

PERKS
  • Free… sort of: For single users there are three levels of pricing; Free, Basic $3.33/month (paid annually), and Pro $8.33/month (paid annually). Each level adds just a bit more functionality than the last. The free account will get you up and running with basic shapes but limited to 60 per document. Not too bad if are you creating simple ERDs. Require more than 60 objects or an active line to their support? Consider upgrading to Basic. Need to create wireframes? Well you’ll need a Pro account for that. Thankfully, they are actively seeking to convert Visio users by offering promotional pricing for certain users. For instance, university students and faculty can follow the instructions on this page  to request a free upgrade to a Pro account. Other promotions include 50% off for nonprofits and free upgrades for teachers. Check out this page to see if you qualify for a free or discounted Pro account. I can only speak for the Education account that adds not only the Pro features but also the Google Apps integration normally found under Team accounts.
  • Easy collaboration… for a price: As seen in the figure below, users can reply, resolve or reassign comments on any aspect of the diagram.

    Comments example

    All account levels include these basic functions. However, a revision history that tracks edits made by collaborators requires a Pro account. Moreover, sharing custom templates and shapes are functions reserved for Team account users, which starts at $21/month for 5 users.
    One final note: each collaborator is tied to their own account limitations which means free account users may only use 60 shapes even if they are working on a diagram created by a Pro account.

  • Chrome app: The Chrome app converts the website into a nice desktop application that is available offline. Once you are back online the application instantly syncs to their cloud servers. The app is fully featured and responds quicker than working on the website. Using the app is a much more immersive experience than the website.
LOWS
  • Pricing for non-students: As you can see by now LucidChart has an aggressive pricing plan. The Free account is enough for most users to decide if they want to create diagrams that involve more than 60 shapes. It is a bit disappointing to see that the Basic account only adds unlimited shapes and email support. Furthermore, wireframes and mockups are locked up behind the Pro level. Most of these Pro features should really fall under Basic. Finally, why is Google Apps integration only for Team accounts? While I understand the Team accounts are collaboration focused it seems odd that a feature that currently only backs up copies to Google Drive is not found in the Pro level. Still, the $99 annual price for a LucidChart Pro account is far less than Visio, which starts at $299 for non-students.
  • Chrome app stability: For the most part the website has been a flawless experience, the same cannot be said for their Chrome app. There have been times where the application crashes to desktop, the constant syncing did save all of my work, or some shapes becoming unresponsive. There is also an ongoing bug that keeps showing me deleted documents, which do not appear on the website.

    Icons in grey were deleted months ago but still show up in the Chrome App

    None of these knocks against the app have prevented me from using it but it is worth mentioning that the app is a work in progress and can feel like a lower priority for the company.

Don’t just take my word for it, you can try out a demo on their website that contains most of the Pro features. Are there any projects you can see yourself using LucidChart? Have a Visio alternative to share? I’d love to hear about any experiences other users have had.

Marlon Hernandez is an Information Science Technician at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library where he helps run the single-service desk, updates websites and deals with the temperamental 3D printer. He is currently in the final year of the MS-IS program at the University of North Texas.  You can find him posting running reviews, library projects and beer pictures on his website: mr-hernandez.com.

Categories: Library News

Let’s Talk About E-rate

Fri, 2015-02-13 13:28

E-rate isn’t new news. Established almost 20 years ago (I feel old, and you’re about to too) by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, E-rate provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access.

What is new news is the ALA initiative Got E-rate? and more importantly the overhaul of E-rate which prompted the initiative- and it’s good news. The best part might well be 1.5 billion dollars added to annual available funding. What that means, in the simplest terms, is new opportunities for libraries to offer better, faster internet. It’s the chance for public libraries of every size to rethink their broadband networks and  make gains toward the broadband speeds necessary for library services.

But beyond the bottom line, this incarnation of E-rate has been deeply influenced by ALA input. The Association worked with the FCC to insure that the reform efforts would benefit libraries. So while we can all jump and cheer about more money/better internet, we can also get excited because there are more options for libraries who lack sufficient broadband capacity to design and maintain broadband networks that meet their community’s growing needs.

The application process has been improved and simplified, and if you need to upgrade your library’s wireless network, there are funds earmarked for that purpose specifically.

Other key victories in this reform include:

  • Adopting a building square footage formula for Category 2 (i.e., internal connections) funding that will ensure libraries of all sizes get a piece of the C2 pie.
  • Suspending the amortization requirement for new fiber construction.
  • Adopting 5 years as the maximum length for contracts using the expedited application review process.
  • Equalizing the program’s treatment of lit and dark fiber.
  • Allowing applicants that use the retroactive reimbursement process (i.e., BEAR form) to receive direct reimbursement from USAC.
  • Allowing for self-construction of fiber under certain circumstances.
  • Providing incentives for consortia and bulk purchasing.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’d suggest going to the source. But it’s a great Friday when you get to celebrate a victory for libraries everywhere.

To receive alerts on ALA’s involvement in E-rate, follow the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) on Twitter at @OITP. Use the Twitter hashtag #libraryerate

 

Categories: Library News

ALA Midwinter 2015 LITA Preconference Review: How User Testing Can Improve the User Experience of Your Library Website

Thu, 2015-02-12 08:00

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Tammi Owens

Last July, Winona State University’s Darrell W. Krueger Library rolled out a completely new website. This January we added to that new user experience by upgrading to LibGuides and LibAnswers v2. Now, we’re looking for continuous improvement through continuous user experience (UX) testing. Although I have some knowledge of the history and general tenets of user experience and website design, I signed up for this LITA pre-conference to dive into some case studies and ask specific questions of UX specialists. I hoped to come away with a concrete plan or framework for UX testing at our library. Specifically, I wanted to know how to implement the results of UX testing on our website.

The instructors

Kate Lawrence is the Vice President of User Research at EBSCO. Deirdre Costello is the Senior User Experience Researcher at EBSCO. I was a little nervous this seminar was going to be surreptitious vendor marketing, but there was no EBSCO marketing at all. Kate brought decades of experience in the user research sector to our conversations, and Dierdre, as a recent MLIS with library experience, was able to connect the dots between research and practice.

The session

There were six participants in our session, with a mix of public and university libraries represented. Participants who attended the session are at all stages of website redesign and have different levels of control over our institutional websites. Some of us report to committees, while others have complete ownership of their library’s site. As in the Python pre-conference, participant experience levels were mixed.

The session was divided into four main sections: “Why usability matters,” “Website best practices,” “Usability: Process,” and an overview of UserTesting.com, a company EBSCO uses during their research. Kate and Deirdre presented each section with a slide deck, but interspersed videos and discussion into their formal presentation.

The introductions to usability and website best practices were review for me, but offered enough additional information and examples that I continued to be engaged throughout the morning. Some memorable moments for me were watching and discussing Steve Krug’s usability demo, and visiting two websites: readability-score.com and voiceandtone.com.

After lunch, Kate went step-by-step through a typical usability testing process in her department. She has nine steps in her process (yes, nine!), but after she explained each step it somehow went from overwhelming and scary to doable and exciting.

After another break, Kate and Deirdre invited Sadaf Ahmed in to speak about the company UserTesting.com. Unfortunately, this was less hands-on than I expected it to be, but I was gobsmacked by the information that could be gleaned quickly using the tool. (In short: students use Google a lot more than I ever imagined.)

At the end of the day, Kate and Deirdre set aside time for us to create research questions with which to begin our UX testing. By that time, though, everyone was overloaded with new information and we all agreed we’d rather go home, apply our knowledge, and contact Kate and Deirdre directly for feedback.

Further study

To make sure we could implement user testing at our own institutions, Kate and Deirdre distributed USB drives filled with research plans, presentations, and reports. If they referenced it during the day, it went on our USB drives. This is proving to be beneficial as I make sense of my own notes from the session and begin the research plan for our first major UX test. Additionally, Kate ordered several books for all attendees to read in the coming weeks. These items alone, along with the new network we created among attendees during the day, may be the most valuable part of the session going forward.

Review in a nutshell

This pre-conference was, for me, well worth the time and money to attend. The case studies we discussed contributed to my understanding of how to ask small questions about our website in order to make a big impact on user experience. I left with exactly the tools I desired: a framework for user testing implementation, and connections to colleagues who are willing to help us make it happen at Winona State.

Tammi Owens is the Emerging Services and Liaison Librarian at Winona State University in Winona, MN. Along with being a liaison to three academic departments, her position at the library means she often coordinates technical projects and gets to play with cool toys. Find her on Twitter (@tammi_owens) during conferences and over email (towens@winona.edu) otherwise.

Categories: Library News

What is a Librarian?

Wed, 2015-02-11 22:09

 

When people ask me what I do, I have to admit I feel a bit of angst. I could just say I’m a librarian. After all I’ve been in the library game for nearly 10 years now. I went to library school, got a library degree, and I now work at FSU’s Strozier library with a bunch of librarians on library projects. It feels a bit disingenuous to call myself a librarian though because the word “librarian” is not in my job title. Our library, like all others, draws a sharp distinction between librarians and staff. Calling myself a librarian may feel right, but it is a total lie in the eyes of Human Resources. If I take the HR stance on my job, “what I do” becomes  a lot harder to explain. The average friend or family member has a vague understanding of what a librarian is, but phrases like “web programming” and “digital scholarship” invite more questions than they answer (assuming their eyes don’t glaze over immediately and they change the subject). The true answer about “what I do” lies somewhere in the middle of all this, not quite librarianship and not just programming. When I first got this job, I spent quite a bit of time wrestling with labels, and all of this philosophical judo kept returning to the same questions: What is a librarian, really? And what’s a library? What is librarianship? These are probably questions that people in less amorphous positions don’t have to think about. If you work at a reference desk or edit MARC records in the catalog, you probably have a pretty stable answer to these questions.

At a place like Strozier library, where we have a cadre of programmers with LIS degrees and job titles like Digital Scholarship Coordinator and Data Research Librarian, the answer gets really fuzzy. I’ve discussed this topic with a few coworkers, and there seems to be a recurring theme: “Traditional Librarianship” vs. “What We Do”. “Traditional Librarianship” is the classic cardigan-and-cats view we all learned in library school, usually focusing on the holy trinity of reference, collection development and cataloging. These are jobs that EVERY library has to engage in to some degree, so it’s fair to think of these activities as a potential core for librarianship and libraries. The “What We Do” part of the equation encapsulates everything else: digital humanities, data management, scholarly communication, emerging technologies, web programming, etc. These activities have become a canonical part of the library landscape in recent years, and reflect the changing role libraries are playing in our communities. Libraries aren’t just places to ask questions and find books anymore.

The issue as I see it now becomes how we can reconcile the “What We Do” with the “Traditional” to find some common ground in defining librarianship; if we can do that then we might have an answer to our question. An underlying characteristic of almost all library jobs is that, even if they don’t fall squarely under one of the domains of this so-called “Traditional Librarianship”, they still probably include some aspects of it. Scholarly communication positions could be seen as a hybrid collection development/reference position due to the liaison work, faculty consultation and the quest to obtain Open Access faculty scholarship for the institutional repository. My programming work on the FSU Digital Library could be seen as a mix of collection development and cataloging since it involves getting new objects and metadata into our digital collections. The deeper I pursue this line of thinking, the less satisfying it gets. I’m sure you could make the argument that any job is librarianship if you repackage its core duties in just the right way. I don’t feel like I’m a librarian because I kinda sorta do collection development and cataloging.

I feel like a librarian because I care about the same things as other librarians. The same passion that motivates a “traditional” librarian to help their community by purchasing more books or helping a student make sense of a database is the same passion that motivates me to migrate things into our institutional repository or make a web interface more intuitive. Good librarians all want to make the world a better place in their own way (none of us chose librarianship because of the fabulous pay). In this sense, I suppose I see librarianship less as a set of activities and more as a set of shared values and duties to our communities. The ALA’s Core Values of Librarianship does a pretty good job of summing things up, and this has finally satisfied my philosophical quest for the Platonic ideal of a librarian. I no longer see place of work, job title, duties or education as having much bearing on whether or not you are truly a librarian. If you care about information and want to do good with it, that’s enough for me. Others are free to put more rigorous constraints on the profession if they want, but in order for libraries to survive I think we should be more focused on letting people in than on keeping people out.

What does librarianship mean to you? Following along with other LITA bloggers as we explore this topic from different writers’ perspectives. Keep the conversation going in the comments!

Categories: Library News

2015 LITA Forum – Call for Proposals

Wed, 2015-02-11 15:11

The 2015 LITA Forum Committee seeks proposals for excellent pre-conferences, concurrent sessions, and poster sessions for the 18th annual Forum of the Library Information and Technology Association, to be held in Minneapolis Minnesota, November. 12-15, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. This year will feature additional programming in collaboration with LLAMA, the Library Leadership & Management Association.

The Forum Committee welcomes creative program proposals related to all types of libraries: public, school, academic, government, special, and corporate.

Proposals could relate to any of the following topics:

• Cooperation & collaboration
• Scalability and sustainability of library services and tools
• Researcher information networks
• Practical applications of linked data
• Large- and small-scale resource sharing
• User experience & users
• Library spaces (virtual or physical)
• “Big Data” — work in discovery, preservation, or documentation
• Data driven libraries or related assessment projects
• Management of technology in libraries
• Anything else that relates to library information technology

Proposals may cover projects, plans, ideas, or recent discoveries. We accept proposals on any aspect of library and information technology, even if not covered by the above list. The committee particularly invites submissions from first time presenters, library school students, and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Submit your proposal through http://bit.ly/lita-2015-proposal by February 28, 2015.

Presentations must have a technological focus and pertain to libraries. Presentations that incorporate audience participation are encouraged. The format of the presentations may include single- or multi-speaker formats, panel discussions, moderated discussions, case studies and/or demonstrations of projects.

Vendors wishing to submit a proposal should partner with a library representative who is testing/using the product.

Presenters will submit draft presentation slides and/or handouts on ALA Connect in advance of the Forum and will submit final presentation slides or electronic content (video, audio, etc.) to be made available on the web site following the event. Presenters are expected to register and participate in the Forum as attendees; discounted registration will be offered.

Please submit your proposal through http://bit.ly/lita-2015-proposal

More information about LITA is available from the LITA website, Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: February 11

Wed, 2015-02-11 13:43

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Digital Curation Librarian, Fort Hays State University-Forsyth Library, Hays, KS

Emerging Technologies Coordinator, Science and Engineering Division, Columbia University Libraries/Information Services, New York, NY

Librarian – Systems and Technologies, Santa Barbara City College Luria Library, Santa Barbara, CA

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

Categories: Library News

ALA Midwinter 2015 LITA Preconference Review: Introduction to Practical Programming

Tue, 2015-02-10 10:31

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Anthony Wright de Hernandez

The Friday before Midwinter officially started, I attended the LITA preconference session Introduction to Practical Programming. As a first-time conference attendee with SQL, XML, PHP, HTML, and Visual Basic experience, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a session that encouraged attendance by participants with no programming background. I chose to attend because I want to learn Python and thought this session would provide a good introduction to the language.

The Instructor

Elizabeth Wickes, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, clearly knows programming in general and Python in particular. Her instructional style for this session was conversational and informative. Her passion and knowledge kept the daylong session engaging. The mix of basic programming information with Python-specific information ensured that no part of the day was wasted for anyone.

The Session

The session began with a brief overview of computing and programming languages. This was a great place to start for a class with a mixed level of experience. As someone familiar with programming, this provided a background for where Python fits in relation to other languages, why it was created, and how its general mechanics differ from other languages. For those with no programming experience, this overview gave a brief history of programming and included a fun introduction to the type of logical and literal thinking required when programming.

After the overview, we dove right in with an explanation of Python’s core data types. Again, the content was presented for mixed consumption. The data type explanations were basic and clear enough for beginners while those with more experience could remain engaged learning the mechanics of how Python interacts with each of the data types.

We had some hands on fun with Python by creating Mad Libs involving Q, from Star Trek, a list of colors, and some randomizing functions. Those of us who brought computers were able to try the code ourselves while Elizabeth demoed it on a screen for the rest of the attendees. Our quick coding exercise resulted in fun outputs like:

  • Q asked me, “So what kind of pythons do you want?”
  • I don’t know what kind of pythons I want!  Who wants 4 pink pythons?
  • So I just said, “Give me whatever kind of pink pythons you have in stock, Q”

One great thing about the session was that Elizabeth took on our specific challenges. We all had an opportunity to present the challenges we are facing at work and then get specific feedback on how to create a solution using Python. For example, one of the attendees needed a way to compare two lists of 40,000+ items and identify any items in one list that aren’t in the other. Elizabeth walked us through how to develop a Python script capable of doing the comparison and returning the desired results. There was some great practical demonstration during this part of the session but, sadly, there were only a few of us in attendance so we didn’t get to see the variety of applications that a larger pool of challenges would have provided.

Further Study

Of course, a single day session isn’t enough to become a master. At the end of the session, Elizabeth provided us with recommendations for further study, including:

Overall (for beginning programmers)

The session was well structured for beginners. There was no assumption of prior programming experience. Basic concepts were introduced smoothly and then built upon to bring beginners to a point where they could create something of practical use. Strategies were provided for researching answers to programming questions and specific recommendations for further learning were given.

Overall (for experienced programmers)

The session was a great introduction to Python. It was definitely designed for all experience levels but, as an experienced programmer, I didn’t find any section a waste. As a way to start learning Python, this session was great value. I got a basic foundation for the language and expert guidance on where to look as I continue my learning.

Anthony Wright de Hernandez is a recent graduate from the University of Washington iSchool. He is the appointed librarian for his local church and is currently seeking employment in academic libraries. You can learn more at his website: anthonywright.me.

Categories: Library News

Learning to Master XSLT

Fri, 2015-02-06 07:00

This semester, I have the exciting opportunity to work as an intern among the hum of computers and maze of cubicles at Indiana University’s Digital Library Program! My main projects include migrating two existing digital collections from TEI P4 to TEI P5 using XSLT. If you are familiar with XML and TEI, feel free to skim a bit! Otherwise, I’ve included short explanations of each and links to follow for more information.

XML

Texts for digital archives and libraries are frequently marked up in a language called eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which looks and acts similarly to HTML. Marking up the texts allow them to be human- and machine-readable, displayed, and searched in different ways than if they were simply plain text.

TEI

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium “develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form” (i.e. guidelines). Basically, if you wanted to encode a poem in XML, you would follow the TEI guidelines to markup each line, stanza, etc. in order to make it machine-readable and cohesive with the collection and standard. In 2007, the TEI consortium unveiled an updated form of TEI called TEI P5, to replace the older P4 version.

However, many digital collections still operate under the TEI P4 guidelines and must be migrated over to P5 moving forward. Here is where XSLT and I come in.

XSLT

eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Transformations are used to convert an XML document to another text document, such as (new) XML, HTML or text. In my case, I’m migrating from one type of XML document to another type of XML document, and the tool in between, making it happen, is XSLT.

Many utilize custom XSLT to transform an XML representation of a text into HTML to be displayed on a webpage. The process is similar to using CSS to transform basic HTML into a stylized webpage. When working with digital collections, or even moving from XML to PDF, XSLT is an invaluable tool to have handy. Learning it can be a bit of an undertaking, though, especially adding to an already full work week.

I have free time, sign me up!

Here are some helpful tips I have been given (and discovered) in the month I’ve been learning XSLT to get you started:

  1. Register for a tutorial.

Lynda.com, YouTube, and Oracle provide tutorials to get your feet wet and see what XSLT actually looks like. Before registering for anything with a price, first see if your institution offers free tutorials. Indiana University offers an IT Training Workshop on XSLT each semester.

  1. Keep W3Schools bookmarked.

Their XSLT page acts as a self-guided tutorial, providing examples, function lists, and function implementations. I access it nearly every day because it is clear and concise, especially for beginners.

  1. Google is your best friend.

If you don’t know how to do something, Google it! Odds are someone before you didn’t have your exact problem, but they did have one like it. Looking over another’s code on StackOverflow can give you hints to new functions and expose you to more use possibilities. **This goes for learning every coding and markup language!!

  1. Create or obtain a set of XML documents and practice!

A helpful aspect of using Oxygen Editor (the most common software used to encode in XML) for your transformations is that you can see the results instantly, or at least see your errors. If you have one or more XML documents, figure out how to transform them to HTML and view them in your browser. If you need to go from XML to XML, create a document with recipes and simply change the tags. The more you work with XSLT, the simpler it becomes, and you will feel confident moving on to larger projects.

  1. Find a guru at your institution.

Nick Homenda, Digital Projects Librarian, is mine at IU. For my internship, he has built a series of increasingly difficult exercises, where I can dabble in and get accustomed to XSLT before creating the migration documents. When I feel like I’m spinning in circles, he usually explains a simpler way to get the desired result. Google is an unmatched resource for lines of code, but sometimes talking it out can make learning less intimidating.

Note : If textbooks are more your style, Mastering XSLT by Chuck White lays a solid foundation for the language. This is a great resource for users who already know how to program, especially in Java and the C varieties. White makes many comparisons between them, which can help strengthen understanding.

 

If you have found another helpful resource for learning and applying XSLT, especially an online practice site, please share it! Tell us about projects you have done utilizing XSLT at your institution!

Categories: Library News

Share Your Committee and IG Activities on the LITA Blog!

Thu, 2015-02-05 08:00

The LITA Blog features original content by LITA members on technologies and trends relevant to librarians. The writers represent a variety of perspectives, from library students to public, academic, and special librarians.

The blog also delivers announcements about LITA programming, conferences, and other events, and serves as a place for LITA committees to share information back with the community if they so choose.

Sharing on the LITA blog ensures a broad audience for your content. Five recent LITA blog posts (authored by Brianna Marshall, Michael Rodriguez, Leanne Olson, Bryan Brown, and John Klima) have been picked up by American Libraries Direct – and most posts have been viewed hundreds of times and shared dozens of times on social media. John Klima’s post on 3D printers has been shared 40 times from the LITA Twitter account and another 40 times directly from the blog (a cumulative record), Bryan Brown’s post on MOOCs has been viewed over 800 times (also a record as of this writing), and Michael Rodriguez’s post on web accessibility was shared over 60 times direct from the blog (another record).

Anyone can write a guest post for the LITA Blog, even non-LITA members, as long as the topic is relevant. Would you like to write a guest post or share posts reflecting the interests of your committee or interest group? Contact blog editor Brianna Marshall at briannahmarshall(at)gmail(dot)com or Mark Beatty at mbeatty(at)ala(dot)org.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: February 4

Wed, 2015-02-04 12:58

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Digital Initiatives Librarian, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

Director of Library Services, Marymount California University, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Project Coordinator I, Library System Migration Expert, Contra Costa Community College District Libraries, Pittsburg, CA

Sr. UNIX Systems Administrator, University Libraries, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

Technology Projects Coordinator, Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IL

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

 

Categories: Library News

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