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Online Surveys in Libraries: Tips and Strategies

Tue, 2015-07-07 09:00

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part guest post on survey use in libraries by Celia Emmelhainz.

Learning the Craft of Surveys
  • Learn the craft. Survey-building is a craft, so study up on survey design. Luckily for you, there’s a free Coursera course on Questionnaire Design that started on June 1, 2015. I can attest that the lectures are useful.
  • Don’t be afraid to start small and develop more nuanced surveys over time. You’ll learn what sorts of questions and approaches actually work for you.
  • Consider representative, quota, or cluster sampling rather than trying to get responses from everyone. Don’t know what that is? Take Solid Science: Research Methods for free on Coursera, starting this August 31, 2015. It’s well worth it for library research.

Getting Responses
  • Why do this? Nobody wants to take surveys, unless they’re underemployed; is there a compelling reason they should take yours? Is the benefit really worth the collective time?
  • Keep it short. 
  • Seriously, the best way to get responses is to keep it to 4-5 focused questions.
  • A 20-30% response rate is good, especially if you don’t offer prizes. The more focused you can make the invitation look, the better your results may be.
Keep it Useful
  • Mix it Up. Don’t just ask the same questions over and over in a yearly survey. Unless your survey is well-designed by a social scientist, in line with the library’s strategic plan, and you have the tools to analyze longitudinal data, you’re not going to make good use of the data.
  • Don’t duplicate. Don’t collect data you could collect elsewhere (usage stats, gate counts). If you see that some questions don’t change much year to year, consider rotating questions in and out so that the survey stays both short and informative.
  • Always run a pilot: check your question wording with a few trial respondents before sending the whole thing out. Feel free to change or eliminate questions that aren’t returning useful answers.
  • Surveys get stronger if multiple institutions or social scientists do them together.
Good Survey Design
  • Important stuff first. Put demographic questions on the last page; getting topical the topic is usually more important.
  • Get partial data. Even when you put the important things first, unfinished surveys are normal. Choose a survey program that captures partially-completed pages. SurveyMonkey doesn’t return page results until respondents click ‘next’, while SurveyGizmo seems to capture even partial pages.
  • Consider your pages. The fewer pages you have, the more likely people will complete the survey. But if one page has too many questions, they may also stop. It’s a balancing act!
  • Stay phone-savvy. Check how easy the survey is for smartphone users. I learned the hard way that a long survey may scare mobile users away.
Survey Ethics
  • Get IRB Review. If you plan to publish or present results as ‘scientific research,’ submit the survey to your campus IRB board. An anonymous survey may be judged as ‘exempt’ from further review, but at least you’ve had the IRB take a look.
  • And/or, respect ethical principles. Often customer surveys, usability studies, educational surveys, or personal surveys of friends online don’t require an ethics review. But it’s good to live by the Belmont Principles anyway: design surveys that respect individuals, are just, do no harm, and benefit others.
  • Even if there is no ethics review required, maximize the benefit and minimize the harm.
  • Don’t collect identifying data. Google Apps and Qualtrics let you extract usernames or demographic data from campus accounts—but that’s likely a violation of privacy. Don’t collect data that could be leaked, and safeguard the data you do collect.
Survey Analysis and Results
  • Have a goal. As my colleague Amanda Rinehart has recommended: a library survey is strongest if you can map each question to a specific hypothesis. Don’t just throw questions into the dark; instead, make sure you can act on the answers to each question you ask.
  • Think before questioning. If analyzing by gender, race, or age isn’t useful, don’t ask those questions. Keep questions closely tied to your hypothesis or survey goal, as you can always survey a different subset of users later.
  • Show the value. Value the time others put into your surveys; make sure you do something for users with the results, and make the link clear!

Any other suggestions? Add them to the comments below!

Celia Emmelhainz is the social sciences data librarian at the Colby College, and leads a collaborative blog for data librarians at She has worked on library ethnography and survey projects, and currently studies qualitative data archiving, data literacy, and global information research. Find her at @celiemme on twitter, or in the Facebook databrarians group.

Categories: Library News

LITA at ALA Annual, give us your opinions

Mon, 2015-07-06 15:56

Did you attend the 2015 ALA Annual conference in San Francisco?

Thank you. There were loads of dynamic, useful and fun LITA programming at the conference. Now we want your opinions. Please complete our

LITA at ALA Annual conference survey now.

LITA programs included:

  • 3 preconferences
  • Sunday afternoon with LITA inlcuding the Top Technology Trends panel
  • Rachel Vacek’s presidents program with Lou Rosenfeld
  • A total of 20 programs
  • LITA Interest Groups discussions and meetings

You can review the LITA Highlights page for information on LITA programs and activities at Annual Conference, with the link to the full conference scheduler, and check out the LITA Interest Groups special managed discussions list too.

We’re trying very hard to make sure LITA programming meets your needs. To help us we have an

Evaluation Survey for all the LITA Programs at 2015 ALA Annual conference.

Now that you attended Annual we hope you’ll take the few minutes to complete the survey. The results can have a direct effect on future programming from LITA.

Question or Comments?

For questions or comments contact Mark Beatty, LITA Programs and Marketing Specialist at or (312) 280-4268.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: July 1, 2015

Wed, 2015-07-01 13:44

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 Systems, Training, and Support Coordinator, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR

Systems and Digital Services Librarian, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR

Digital Library Data Curation Developer, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN

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

Categories: Library News

An Interview With Emerging Leader Isabel Gonzalez-Smith

Wed, 2015-07-01 09:00

Tell us about your library job.  What do you love most about it?

I am an Undergraduate Experience Librarian at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Richard J. Daley Library where I focus on how the library can support the academic success of our undergraduates. It’s hard to pick a single thing I love about my job because it is really personal to me. As an alumna, serving UIC undergrads is like stepping back into my own undergraduate experience and constantly thinking about ways I can improve that of our current students. Collaboration is key to many of our library efforts and my current role at UIC Library allows me to meet campus partners with the same mission. It doesn’t hurt that I work with an inspiring team of librarians that constantly push me to be the best professional I can be.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

My greatest motivator is improving the experience of the communities we serve as librarians. It might be nerdy but I geek out about data-driven decision making, the iterative process of refinement, and holistic problem solving when it comes to both virtual and physical services. I’m hoping my next career move is in user experience and assessment.

Why did you apply to be an Emerging Leader? What are your big takeaways from the ALA-level activities so far?

It’s funny – I applied to the program several years ago when a previous EL and friend of mine encouraged me to but I wasn’t accepted. I remember feeling really bummed about it! Years later, I had other friends who became Emerging Leaders bring it up and motivate me to try again. I’m so glad I did! I have found the Emerging Leaders and ALA community very welcoming – people want to see you succeed. Being an Emerging Leader means having the tools and the encouragement to engage more directly with ALA – developing a true appreciation and understanding that it is YOUR organization.

What have you learned about LITA governance and activities so far?

LITA is such an awesome division. I am very grateful I was selected as the LITA sponsored Emerging Leader because it has allowed me to get to know the members who make LITA happen. Members work so hard for each other and they’re truly an innovative bunch. I had no idea how many groups of people worked towards different initiatives in committees, task forces, interest groups and I’m still learning about each of them. Governance takes a lot of people and it is much clearer to me now that I have been more involved.

What was your favorite LITA moment? What would you like to do next in the organization?

Hands down – working with the search committee in selecting LITA’s next Executive Director. Special thanks to the LITA Board for inviting me to have a voice on the committee. It speaks volumes that LITA Board members embraced an early career librarian and allowed me the opportunity to have a say in LITA’s future. Very exciting moment!

Categories: Library News

ALA appoints Jenny Levine next LITA Executive Director

Tue, 2015-06-30 11:10

The American Library Association is pleased to announce the appointment of Jenny Levine as the Executive Director of the Library and Information Technology Association, a division of the ALA, effective August 3, 2015. Ms. Levine has been at the American Library Association since 2006 as the Strategy Guide in ALA’s Information Technology and Telecommunications Services area, charged with providing vision and leadership regarding emerging technologies, development of services, and integration of those services into association and library environments. In that role she coordinated development of ALA’s collaborative workspace, ALA Connect, and provided ongoing support and documentation. She convened the staff Social Media Working Group and coordinated a team-based approach for strategic posting to ALA’s social media channels. In addition, she has been the staff liaison to ALA’s Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) and coordinated a range of activities, including the 2007 & 2008 Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposia and International Games Day @ your library. She developed the concept for and manages the Networking Uncommons gathering space at ALA conferences.

Prior to joining the ALA staff, Jenny Levine held positions as Internet Development Specialist and Strategy Guide at the Metropolitan Library System in Burr Ridge (IL), Technology Coordinator at the Grande Prairie Public Library District in Hazel Crest (IL), and Reference Librarian at the Calumet City Public Library in Calumet City (IL). She received the 2004 Illinois Library Association Technical Services Award and a 1999 Illinois Secretary of State Award of Recognition.

Jenny has an M.L.S. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a B.S. in Journalism/Broadcast News from the University of Kansas, Lawrence. Within ALA, she is a member of LITA, GameRT, the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT), and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT). She is also active outside ALA and belongs to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the ALA-tied Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Illinois Library Association (ILA).

Jenny Levine has been an active presenter and writer, including three issues of Library Technology Reports on Gaming & Libraries. Among the early explorers of Library 2.0 technologies, from the Librarians’ Site du Jour (the first librarian blog) to the ongoing The Shifted Librarian, she is active in a wide variety of social media.

Ms. Levine becomes executive director of LITA on the retirement of Mary Taylor, LITA executive director since 2001. Thanks go to the search committee for a thoughtful and successful process: Rachel Vacek, Thomas Dowling, Andromeda Yelton, Isabel Gonzalez-Smith, Keri Cascio, Dan Hoppe and Mary Ghikas.

Categories: Library News

2015 LITA Forum, Registration Opens!

Mon, 2015-06-29 13:00

Registration Now Open!

2015 LITA Forum
Minneapolis, MN
November 12-15, 2015

Plan now to join us in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis for the 2015 LITA Forum, a three-day educational event that includes 2 preconferences, 3 keynote sessions, more than 55 concurrent sessions and 15 plus poster presentations.

2015 LITA Forum is the 18th annual gathering of technology-minded information professionals and is a highly regarded annual event for those involved in new and leading edge technologies in the library and information technology field. Registration is limited in order to preserve the important networking advantages of a smaller conference. Attendees take advantage of the informal Friday evening reception, networking dinners and other social opportunities to get to know colleagues and speakers. Comments from past attendees:

  • “Best conference I’ve been to in terms of practical, usable ideas that I can implement at my library.”
  • “I get so inspired by the presentations and conversations with colleagues who are dealing with the same sorts of issues that I am.”
  • “After LITA I return to my institution excited to implement solutions I find here.”
  • “This is always the most informative conference! It inspires me to develop new programs and plan initiatives.”

This Year’s featured Keynote Sessions

Mx A. Matienzo
Director of Technology for the Digital Public Library of America, he focuses on promoting and establishing digital library interoperability at an international scale. Prior to joining DPLA, Matienzo worked as an archivist and technologist specializing in born-digital materials and metadata management, at institutions including the Yale University Library, The New York Public Library, and the American Institute of Physics.

Carson Block
Carson Block Consulting Inc. has led, managed, and supported library technology efforts for more than 20 years. He has been called “a geek who speaks English” and enjoys acting as a bridge between the worlds of librarians and hard-core technologists.

Lisa Welchman
President of Digital Governance Solutions at ActiveStandards. In a 20-year career, Lisa Welchman has paved the way in the discipline of digital governance, helping organizations stabilize their complex, multi-stakeholder digital operations. Her book Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design was published in February of 2015 by Rosenfeld Media.

The Preconference Workshops include

So You Want to Make a Makerspace: Strategic Leadership to support the Integration of new and disruptive technologies into Libraries: Practical Tips, Tricks, Strategies, and Solutions for bringing making, fabrication and content creation to your library.
Leah Kraus is the Director of Community Engagement and Experience at the Fayetteville Free Library.
Michael Cimino is the Technology Innovation and Integration Specialist at the Fayetteville Free Library.

Beyond Web Page Analytics: Using Google tools to assess searcher behavior across web properties
Rob Nunez, Robert L Nunez, Head of Collection Services, Kenosha Public Library, Kenosha, WI
Keven Riggle, Systems Librarian & Webmaster, Marquette University Libraries

for registration and additional information.

Join us in Minneapolis!

Categories: Library News

3 Tips for Tech Empathy

Mon, 2015-06-29 10:00

I recently participated in a training session about empathy, led by our wonderful Staff Development Specialist here at the Martin County Library System. The goal of this session was to define empathy and discuss how to show empathy for our patrons and co-workers. It got me thinking about empathy in regards to teaching technology. I frequently work with library patrons who are frustrated with technology. Many of these patrons are older adults who feel handicapped because they were not raised in the digital age.

I, on the other hand, was born born in the digital age. I learned how to use a computer in elementary school and technology has been present in my life ever since. It’s easy to forget this advantage and lose patience when you are teaching someone with a different background. In teaching classes and offering one-on-one technology help, I’ve picked up a few tips about how to empathize with your students.

If you find your patience wearing thin, think of a time when you struggled to learn something. For me, it’s learning to drive stick. I’ve tried several times and each attempt was more frustrating than the last. When I think about how nerve-wracking it is to be behind the wheel with my hand on the stick shift, I remember how scary it can be to learn something new. I often help patrons who have purchased a new device (iPad, smartphone, etc.) and they are terrified to do the wrong thing. Returning to my adventures with manual transmissions helps me understand where they’re coming from.

I was teaching a class a few weeks back and one patron was really struggling to keep up with the group. I started to get irritated by her constant questions, until halfway through when I realized that she looked exactly like my aunt. This immediately snapped me back to reality. If my aunt walked into a library I would want her to receive the best customer service possible and be treated with the utmost respect. My patience was instantly renewed, and I’ve used this trick successfully several times since by comparing patrons to my grandparents, parents, etc. Empathy is often defined as putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, but putting a loved one in the other person’s shoes can also do the trick.

I often hear the same complaints from patrons who are frustrated, confused, or overwhelmed by technology. I’ll admit it can be trying to listen to the same thing again and again, but I also recognize that listening to these grievances is very important. Sometimes it’s best to get those frustrations out right off the bat in order to set them aside and focus on learning. Listening is one of our best tools, and acknowledging that someone’s problem is valid can also be extremely helpful.

Do you have any tips for tech empathy?

Categories: Library News

Letting Theory Influence Practice

Fri, 2015-06-26 10:00

This spring, I taught a technology course for pre-service teachers. In addition to my MLS, I have a master’s degree in educational technology, a graduated certificate in online teaching and learning, and an undergraduate degree in education. My own schooling had taught me the importance of making pedagogically sound decisions and never using technology for only the sake of using technology. I quickly learned though that making those pedagogically sound decisions when looking into the eyes of students was a bit more challenging than I had originally thought.

Image made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License from

As I reflected on my teaching after every class, I asked myself many questions including: How do we learn? How can I incorporate technology in a way that is beneficial for my students? How can I use technology in a seamless manner where the learning is not interrupted by inclusion of technology?

Once the spring semester ended and I was able to breathe, I started to think about how what I learned teaching a technology course could (and should) influence my work as a librarian. Overall, I think librarians do a pretty great job using technology, but I realized for me that many of the technology decisions I make in my day job as an academic librarian are not nearly as grounded in learning theory as I think they should be. When I was teaching a full course it was easier to think about theory and wrestle with these questions, but when I create libguides, build tutorials, make suggestions for the library website, and recommend new technology for the learning commons, how often do I first think about how we learn?

So here is my goal (I’m admitting it online and hoping the LITA community will support me in it), I want to start reading more books on learning theory and start using that knowledge to influence all aspects of my work, and specifically with the technology that I use since almost everything that I do is somehow connected to technology.

Current reading list:

What do you recommend that I read?  Do you have any tips for connecting learning theory to non-teaching library technology responsibilities?

Categories: Library News

Disenfranchising Language in Library Technology

Thu, 2015-06-25 09:00

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Justin M. White.

A post by the net librarian was making the rounds on Tumblr a while back and caught my eye. It was short, so I’ll quote most of it here:

As a public librarian, a lot of my job is writing. Copy for websites, computer class handouts, signage, etc. It’s critical that librarians know what language patrons understand. Unfortunately a lot of tech stuff doesn’t use accessible language.

There’s a copier in one of the libraries I work at which has an error message that pops up often which says “insert key counter”. I’m sure this is precise and accurate language to the programmer who wrote the error message, but it really doesn’t mean anything. After trial and error it means you forgot to put money in, so the copier won’t work. But how is the average patron supposed to figure that out?

I subsequently discovered that there’s a surprising lack of discussion about this in the library literature, but what does exist is very promising. Adriene Lim wrote “The Readability of Information Literacy Content on Academic Library Web Sites” back in 2010, which analyzed the readability of library website content that was designed to provide basic research instruction. While most of the libraries surveyed scored well in accessibility of language, some were far more complicated. This is of particular concern for librarians like myself who are working with large populations of ESL and first-generation students.

Here is an actual example of an error message an ESL student in my library had trouble with:

Note that there isn’t a field called “Help Explanation”, but rather a “Describe the kind of help” section. The error message was generated, in this instance, by a space being the first character in the field. As far as the student knew, there was some other field called Help Explanation that wasn’t being filled out, leading them to frantically search the page in vain.

The LibPunk podcast addressed the issues of communication between librarians and IT staff in its final episode. One important point brought up was the difference in focus: a fix from IT might be well done, but does it have the user in mind? Librarians can have the same blindsides: the example brought up was catalogers who make records without the user in mind.

Another article, “ESL Library Skills: An Information Literacy Program for Adults with Low Levels of English Literacy”, focused on the range of information literacy programs for ESL populations. Libraries are overwhelmingly in the ESL education business, and those users are going to require dependable and accessible technology as their English language skills grow.

Take note of the messages your library technology gives you. Are they indecipherable? Would they be accessible to an ESL student, or a student with below-average reading levels? Take a look at the messages you create for your library: the sticky note on the copier that explains some workaround. Is your note actually making things worse by putting a wall of text in front of the interface? Do you utilize non-text instructional materials in your LibGuides, or do the words tower over anxious ESL readers? Is your website content intuitive and clearly written out?

As librarians we push access as part of our professional goals. No librarian should be making their content and technology less accessible on purpose, but keeping the effect of the language we use in our minds as we go throughout our careers can lead to some very simple yet effective solutions.

Justin is an accidental technical services librarian at Hodges University in Florida. His interests usually revolve around library/archival technology, history, and information literacy, and reblogging photos of bunnies on all known social media outlets.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: June 24, 2015

Wed, 2015-06-24 14:42

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

Associate Vice President for Technology and Library Services – AVPTLS, Wilson College, Chambersburg, PA

Library Systems and Emerging Technologies Librarian, Chattanooga State Community College — Kolwyck Library & Information Commons, Chattanooga, TN

Librarian III (Support Services Manager), Suffolk Public Library, Suffolk, VA

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

Categories: Library News

Sunday Routines: Aimee Fifarek

Tue, 2015-06-23 09:00

In this series, inspired by the New York Times’ Sunday Routines, we gain a glimpse into the lives of the people behind LITA. This post focuses on Aimee Fifarek, who was recently elected Vice-President/President-Elect.

Aimee is the Customer Service, Technology and Digital Initiatives Deputy Director for Phoenix Public Library in Arizona. She made the move to PPL in April 2013 from Scottsdale Public Library, where she’d worked for 10 years, first as the IT Manager and then later as Senior Manager over IT, Technical Services and Collection Development. Aimee’s typical work week can include everything from contract negotiations to planning technology projects to addressing customer concerns.

WORKING OUT AND CLEANING UP Sundays are days for sleeping in at South Scottsdale home that Aimee shares with her fiancée Jason Boland. A Senior Trainer for Innovative Interfaces, Jason is often away during the work week for training trips, so the weekends are when most of the chores get done. Laundry gets started before a trip to the gym for Yoga or Step Class, and cleanup of the remnants of a crazy week get done after – but all that doesn’t start until 7 or 8am.

GREEN THUMB In addition to the inside chores, Aimee and Jason enjoy spending time in the back yard vegetable garden. They built large planter boxes this past year in order to keep the weeds out and give the veggies a chance during the year-round growing season. Squash, carrots, peppers and herbs are frequent thrivers.

BATTER UP! Living as they do in the heart of Spring Training activates, Sundays in March and April are frequently involve trips to the many baseball stadiums in the area. Jason is a California native and a devoted Oakland A’s fan. In addition to the A’s, Aimee and Jason try to find time to take in a Milwaukee Brewers game (Wisconsin is Aimee’s home state) or the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks.

WHERE TO? The two spend many weekends traveling. Despite his intense schedule, Jason loves to travel and will happily fly off for a weekend just after returning from a week away for work. Sometimes Aimee is able meet up with Jason at the end of one of his business trips, like recent trips to Minneapolis and Toronto. She enjoys being able to take advantage of Jason’s frequent flier miles and A-List status.

KP Aimee is just as happy at home, however, especially when spending time in the kitchen. Although they take full advantage of the fabulous restaurants and craft cocktail venues that Scottsdale has to offer, Sundays afford the extra time needed for shopping for and preparing a really good meal. Eating healthy in the Boland-Fifarek household is more about avoiding processed foods and cooking from scratch than counting calories – not to mention using lots of fun gadgets like the sous vide or the garlic chopper. Regardless of what they are preparing there is a 99% chance it will contain garlic.

WORDS AND PLAY Evening calls for a little “couch time.” Jason and Aimee are big fans of Sci-Fi and mystery series and routinely give their DVR a workout. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Orphan Black, and Elementary are particular favorites. This is also a good time to finish the New York Times Sunday Crossword and KenKen before heading off to bed at 9pm or 10pm.

Categories: Library News

Tips for improving onsite workshops

Mon, 2015-06-22 10:00

The catchy all-encompassing title

Courtesy of Jirka Matousek (2012). Flickr

The title of the program is the catch. It serves as a brief description and hooks the interested party into reading the scope and objectives of the program. When a potential participant is browsing through a list of upcoming workshops from an e-mail, website or course catalog, certain terms/phrases will be the only reason for them to read the course description. “Building a Successful Website” is not as provocative as “Website Management with Google Analytics.” Usually the length of the ;8course name does not make a difference unless it requires two lines. Keep in mind your audience. Busy people are inundated with information. When you’re a member of multiple Listservs, you’ll receive an excessive amount of emails a day. I personally scan my list of new e-mails for subject lines that interest me, reading them and delete the rest. The title can function as a minor descriptor of what the course entails. It is also a summary of the main objectives of the course. If you’re only going to refer to Google Analytics for fifteen minutes during a two-hour workshop, then don’t put it in the title. Workshop participants will feel that you have wasted their time if you create a misleading description of your course.


Set objectives and goals upfront

The list of objectives can be a deciding factor. Providing a course outline ahead of time is an often overlooked concept. I personally like to pace myself by being aware of which topics will be included and for what length of time. There have been many times when, after receiving the course outline in class, I realize that the topic I was interested in is not being covered or is a small component of the lecture. I feel that workshop coordinator’s are either still revising their outline or guarding it like a trade secret. A lecture outline, with timetables, is a great resource for the attendee to have upfront and it also works as a time management tool for lecturers to prepare from. It’s a great organization tool for everyone involved.


Make time for questions

For short-term workshops answer questions after the workshop. Believe it or not, you can easily get off track and end up answering questions instead of meeting your objectives. If you are taking questions during a lecture, don’t hesitate to interrupt in order to get back on track. Also, asking participants to write down questions that come up, on a sheet of paper, for later is a great idea. As a presenter you should be prepared for a cold crowd. Sometimes participants don’t have immediate questions. Ahead of time, make a list of common questions that are asked about the topic. At the end of the workshop, if no one responds to your prompt for questions, be prepared to present those frequently asked questions. Provide your contact information so that they may contact you if they have follow-up questions after the workshop has ended.


The phrase “refreshments will be served” goes a long way

Food…and snacks. Everyone loves free food. Feeding a group of 30 can be pricey. If you charge a nominal fee for attendance it can be like crowd funding for group catering. Most workshops can cost upwards of $200 or more for attendance. If you charge everyone $10, it will be more inviting to attend and the payment easily covers the cost of catering for a sizable group. Refreshments go a long way and are highly appreciated during workshop breaks. One of the things about serving heavier food at workshops is that participants will be so busy trying to eat their meal that they won’t have time to mingle. Keep it light and simple. Additionally when serving food, consider food allergies, vegetarians, vegans and other special diets. In other words, don’t place peanut butter cookies next to the fresh fruit bowl.


There is always room for improvement

Conducting a user survey is one way to gauge the user experience of your attendees. You will want to know if any improvements are needed in terms of the presenter, handouts/materials, technology, seating arrangement, number of breaks, disability/accessibility accommodations, etc. You should also include an option to suggest other course topics they are interested in for the next class.
Rating systems are great, but don’t make them complicated. The goal is improvement, but you don’t want to make the process difficult or you will not receive thorough and complete responses. This would defeat the purpose and effort of conducting surveys. You may want to consider making them anonymous. Getting someone to participate in a survey that will be somehow associated with them may not be an easy task. Anonymity allows everyone to respond honestly without fear of the instructor/ coordinators knowing who they are. Consider if the format of the survey should be web or paper based. Web-based in easy and convenient. They are available for as long as your survey service will allow and can be fast and convenient for people to complete when they have time. Paper-based surveys are also effective and can be done in class. The workshop will be the best time to have their undivided attention. Scheduling time at the end of the workshop to conduct the survey is a beneficial option because participants will better recall their experience. Give the participants a reasonable amount of time to complete the survey. If deciding on paper, digitization for long term review is an option, but consider recycling. Years of using paper based survey’s can leave a hefty carbon footprint. The survey should focus on the class and not the instructor. A participant’s experience in the class will automatically be a reflection of their review of the class and the instructor. You can include a few questions about the instructor, but you want a survey that is evaluating the worth of the class.


If you build it, they will come. Do you have unique tips for creating a successful onsite workshop? Please share them in the comments section.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: June 17, 2015

Wed, 2015-06-17 16:17

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

Special Collections Audiovisual Archivist, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Systems and Technology Librarian, Catawba College, Salisbury, NC

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

Categories: Library News

Introducing the Newest LITA Blog Writers

Tue, 2015-06-16 09:00

We are very excited to welcome nine new regular writers to the LITA blog!

Learn more about the LITA blog writers here.

Categories: Library News

Embracing Modularity with the Unix Philosophy

Mon, 2015-06-15 08:00
Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, creators of UNIX (image from Peter Hamer, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)Unix, the ancient operating system that powered mainframe computers in the 1970’s, couldn’t have been easy to design. Computers of that era were unbelievably expensive and slow compared to what we have today, and this put extreme limitations on the software that they could run. Programs had to take up as little disk space and system memory as possible because there just wasn’t much to go around. With that in mind, the original Unix programmers focused on writing tiny programs that 1) had one functional focus, and 2) played nicely with other programs. The reasoning behind this was that small, simple, single-purpose programs would be easier to improve than large, complex, multi-purpose ones, and if a user didn’t like the way one program worked they could swap it out for a different one (as opposed to being stuck with one mediocre way to do things). In practice, programs would be linked together in pipes, where the output of one program becomes the input to another. The user chooses what programs they use in the pipe, and those programs can be replaced at will if the user finds something they like better. This design principle of making tiny but highly-specialized programs that work together instead of “monolithic” swiss-army knife style programs has been dubbed “The Unix Philosophy“, and it has had a huge effect on the software development community because its just such a gosh dang great idea. Really.

The Unix philosophy as a design heuristic has taken on a life of its own outside of Unix and its descendents, and it seems to be taking root in the community of library-focused open source software. The repository software community in particular seem to be moving away from monolithic all-in-one solutions to modular systems where many different pieces of software all talk to each other and work together to achieve a common goal. Developers are taking successful non-library-focused open source software and co-opting it into their stack. This “don’t reinvent the wheel” approach increases the overall quality of the system AND reduces developer time spent since the chosen software already exists, works well and has its own development community. Consider the use of the Solr search server and the Fuseki triplestore used by the Fedora Commons community. If they had tried to implement their own built-in search and triplestore capabilities it would have required far more developer time to reimplement something that already exists. By using externally developed software like Solr, the Fedora community can rely on a mature project that has its own development trajectory and community of bug squashers.

The Unix philosophy need not be tied just to software, either. I’ve found myself applying it in a managerial sense lately while working on certain projects by creating small, focused teams that do one thing well and pass the work amongst themselves (as opposed to everyone just doing whatever). Another way of looking at it is understanding and capitalizing on the strengths of your coworkers: I’m okay at managing projects but our project manager is much better, and our project manager is okay at coding but I’m much better. It doesn’t make much sense for our project manager to spend time learning to code when he has me, just like it doesn’t make sense for me to focus on project management when I have him (of course there are benefits to this, but in practice its a much smaller return on investment). We both serve the organization better by focusing on and developing our strengths, and leaning on others’ expertise for our weaknesses. This lets us work faster and increases the quality of our output, and in this day and age time and effort are as valuable and limited as the system memory and disk space of a 1970’s mainframe.

Categories: Library News

LITA Updates, June 2015

Fri, 2015-06-12 14:23

This is one of our periodic messages sent to all LITA members. This update includes information about the following:

  • Election Results
  • Learning Opportunities at Annual Conference
  • Annual Conference Highlights
  • LITA Executive Director Plans to Retire

Election Results

Please join in congratulating the newly elected LITA Board Members:

Aimee Fifarek, Vice-President/President-Elect,
Ken Varnum and Susan Sharpless Smith, Directors-at-Large for three-year terms.

Thanks go to the Nominating Committee which included Karen G. Schneider, chair, Pat Ensor, Adriene Lim, and, Chris Evjy, members.

LITA members elected to the ALA Council include: Eric Suess and Joan Weeks, Councilors-at-Large.

Congratulations to all, and, thank you to every candidate who was willing to stand for office.

Learning Opportunities at Annual Conference

Three full day workshops are being offered in San Francisco on Friday, June 26th. Two of the sessions are in the Moscone Convention Center; the third preconference is off site in a maker/hacker space. These are your choices:

  1. Creating Better Tutorials Through User-Centered Instructional Design. Hands-on workshop with experts from the University of Arizona. Moscone Convention Center 2008 (W)
  2. Learn to Teach Coding and Mentor Technology Newbies – in Your Library or Anywhere! Work with experts from the Black Girls CODE to become master technology teachers. Moscone Convention Center 2010 (W)
  3. Build a Circuit & Learn to Program an Arduino in a Silicon Valley Hackerspace. This workshop will convene at Noisebridge, 2169 Mission Street, a hacker space in San Francisco. Clearly, it will be hands on.

To register for one of these three LITA workshops simply go to the ALA Annual Conference registration and sign up. If you are already registered for conference, the workshop will be added to your registration. If you can’t attend the Annual Conference but a full day workshop on Friday, June 26th from 8:30 – 4:00 pm would be perfect for you, please go to the ALA Annual Conference registration site and sign up. Although you register for these full day workshops through the Annual Conference registration site, please note: you do not have to register for the entire conference in order to register for a workshop. Registration will be accepted on site outside the classrooms for the two workshops in the Moscone Center.

  • Register online through June 19
  • Call ALA Registration at 1-800-974-3084
  • Onsite registration will also be accepted in San Francisco.

Be sure to watch the LITA web sites for announcements about online learning opportunities that are being developed for July and August.

Annual Conference Highlights

The Open House on Friday, June 26, from 3:00 to 4:00pm, MCC-2005 (W), provides members and non-members alike an opportunity to explore with the LITA leadership the many opportunities within LITA. If there is a Committee or an Interest Group that might provide you with the leadership experience you are seeking, this is the perfect time to get some f2f advice. If you have ideas about how LITA might serve you better, this is the perfect time to share those ideas. If you are interested in programming or publications, if you are looking for people who share your interests in various aspects of technology, and/or if you are seeking a good conversation with engaged members, then you will want to attend the Open House.

“Sunday Afternoon with LITA” is scheduled for the Moscone Convention Center, 3014-3016 (W). The Afternoon starts with the popular Top Technology Trends program on June 28th from 1:00 to 2:00pm. This program features our ongoing roundtable discussion about trends and advances in library technology. The panel of experts includes: Carson Block, Andrea Davis, Grace Dunbar, Bonnie Tijerina, and Sarah Houghton, moderator.

A brief awards program at 3:00 will be followed by the LITA President’s Program. The award winners include:

  • Ed Summers, Frederick G. Kilgour Award for Research in Library and Information Technology,
  • David Walker, LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Outstanding Communication in Library and Information Technology,
  • Heather Terrell, LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award for her paper “Reference is dead, long live reference: electronic collections in the digital age.”

Following the awards ceremony, you will want to stay for Rachel Vacek’s President’s Program with Lou Rosenfeld, Rosenfeld Media, which publishes some of the best-loved books in user experience, produces UX events, and equips UX teams with coaching and training.

The Top Technology Trends program, LITA awards ceremony, and LITA President’s Program are all in the same room.

At 5:30, we transition from afternoon to evening at the LITA Happy Hour at DaDa Bar, 86 2nd Street.

LITA provides 20 programs at Annual Conference. Be sure to review the LITA Highlights page for detailed information on all LITA programs and activities planned for Annual Conference.

LITA Executive Director plans to retire

I have good news to share. After 24 years with ALA (14 of those with LITA), over 10 years with OCLC, and various other employment, I plan to retire. My last day will be July 31, 2015. I’m very excited. I’ve had a number of recommendations on what to do including: “spend the first day in your PJs”, and, “really enjoy not working”. I do plan to enjoy not working. I have a number of projects and plans I’ll be exploring, plus, people and places I hope to visit.

If you are in the San Francisco area on Sunday, June 28th, please come to the LITA Happy Hour to celebrate with me and the Membership Development Committee and other LITA leaders and members. The Happy Hour/Party is at the DaDa Bar, 86 2nd Street.

Hope to see you in San Francisco.

I encourage you to connect with LITA by:

  1. Exploring our web site.
  2. Subscribing to LITA-L email discussion list.
  3. Visiting the LITA blog and LITA Division page on ALA Connect.
  4. Connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Reaching out to the LITA leadership at any time.

Please note: the Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) journal is available to you and to the entire profession. ITAL features high-quality articles that undergo rigorous peer-review as well as case studies, commentary, and information about topics and trends of interest to the LITA community and beyond. Be sure to sign up for notifications when new issues are posted (March, June, September, and December).

If you have any questions or wish to discuss any of these items, please do let me know.

All the best,


Mary Taylor, Executive Director
Library and Information Technology Association (LITA)
50 E. Huron, Chicago, IL 60611
800-545-2433 x4267
312-280-4267 (direct line)
312-280-3257 (fax)
mtaylor (at)

Join us in Minneapolis, November 12-15, 2015 for the LITA Forum.

Categories: Library News

Congratulations to the LITA UX Contest Winners

Thu, 2015-06-11 10:55

The results are in for LITA’s Contest: Great Library UX Ideas Under $100. Congratulations to winner Conny Liegl, Designer for Web, Graphics and UX at the Robert E. Kennedy Library at California Polytechnic State University for her submission entitled Guerilla Sketch-A-Thon. The LITA President’s Program Planning Team who ran the contest and reviewed the submissions loved how creative the project was and how it engaged users. From the sketches that accompanied the submission, and from looking at the before and after screenshots of the library website, it was clear the designers incorporated ideas from the student sketches.

Conny won a personal one-year, online subscription to Library Technology Reports, generously donated by ALA Tech Source. She gets to have lunch with LITA President Rachel Vacek and the LITA President’s Program speaker and UX expert Lou Rosenfeld at ALA in San Francisco. She gets a free book generously donated from Rosenfeld Media. And finally, her winning submission will be published in in Weave, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal for Library User Experience professionals published by Michigan Publishing.

There were so many entries submitted for the contest, picking a single winner was difficult. The Planning Team unanimously agreed to recognize first and second runner-up entries.

The First Runner-Up was the team at the University of Arizona Libraries who submitted their project Wayfinding in the Library. The team included people from multiple departments in their library including the User Experience department, Access & Information Services, and Library Communications. Congrats to Rebecca Blakiston, User Experience Librarian, Shoshana Mayden, Content Strategist, Nattawan Wood, Administrative Associate, Aungelique Rodriguez, Library Communications Student Assistant, and Beau Smith, Usability Testing Student Assistant. Each team member gets a book from Rosenfeld Media.

The Second Runner-Up was the team from Purdue University Libraries who submitted their project Applying Hierarchal Task Analysis Method to Discovery Tool Evaluation. The team consisted of Tao Zhang, Digital User Experiences Specialist and Marlen Promann, Graduate Research Assistant. Each team member gets a book from Rosenfeld Media.

In the coming months, interviews with the winners from each institution will be posted to the blog.

Categories: Library News

Sunday Routines: Susan Sharpless Smith

Wed, 2015-06-10 10:58

In this series, inspired by the New York Times’ Sunday Routines, we gain a glimpse into the lives of the people behind LITA. This post focuses on Susan Sharpless Smith, who was recently elected 2015-2018 Director-at-Large.

Susan Sharpless Smith is an Associate Dean at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library. She’s been in that role since 2011, but has worked in a range of positions at that library since 1996. Her current job provides a wide variety of responsibilities and opportunities, and fills her week with interesting, meaningful professional work.

Sunday is the day Susan reserves to enjoy her family and her interests. It normally unfolds slowly. Susan is an early riser, often heading for the first cup of coffee and the Sunday newspaper before 6 am. In the summer, the first hour of the day is spent watching the day emerge from her screen porch in Winston-Salem, NC. She is not a big TV watcher but always tunes into the Today Show on Sunday mornings.

Bicycling is one of Susan’s passions, so a typical Sunday will include a 15-40 mile bike ride, either around town or out into the surrounding countryside. It’s her belief that bicycling is good for the soul. It also is one of the best ways to get acquainted with new places, so a bike ride is always on her agenda when traveling. Plans are already underway for a San Francisco bike excursion during ALA!

Susan’s second passion is photography, so whatever she is up to on any given Sunday, a camera accompanies her. (The best camera is the one you have with you!). She has been archiving her photographs on Flickr since 2006 and has almost 10,500 of them. Her most relaxing Sunday evening activity is settling in on her MacBook Air to process photos from that day in Photoshop.

Her son and daughter are grown, so often the day is planned around a family gathering of some sort. This can involve a road trip to Durham, an in-town Sunday brunch, a drive to North Carolina wine country or an hike at nearby Hanging Rock.

Her best Sunday would be spent in her favorite place in the world, at her family’s beach house in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Susan’s family has been going there for vacations since she was a child. It’s where she heads whenever she has a long weekend and wants to recharge. Her perfect Sunday is spent there (either for real, or in her imagination when she can’t get away). This day includes a sunrise walk on the beach, a morning bike ride on the boardwalk stopping for a breakfast while people-watching, reading a book on the beach, eating crab cakes for every meal (there’s no good ones in Piedmont North Carolina), a photo-shoot at the state park, a kayak trip on the bay and an evening at Funland riding bumper cars and playing skeeball. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Categories: Library News

LITA Annual Report, 2014-2015

Tue, 2015-06-09 12:41

As we reflect on 2014-2015, it’s fair to say that LITA, despite some financial challenges, has had numerous successes and remains a thriving organization. Three areas – membership, education, and publications – bring in the most revenue for LITA. Of those, membership is the largest money generator. However, membership has been on a decline, a trend that’s been seen across the American Library Association (ALA) for the past decade. In response, the Board, committees, interest groups, and many and individuals have been focused on improving the member experience to retain current members and attract potential ones. With all the changes to the organization and leadership, LITA is on the road to becoming profitable again and will remain one of ALA’s most impactful divisions.

Read more in the LITA Annual Report.

Categories: Library News