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LITA Forum: Online Registration Ends Oct. 27

Wed, 2014-10-22 15:59

Don’t miss your chance to register online for the 2014 LITA Forum “From Node to Network” to be held Nov. 5-8, 2014 at the Hotel Albuquerque in Albuquerque N.M. Online registration closes October 27, 2014. You can register on site, but it’s so much easier to have it all taken care of before you arrive in Albuquerque.

Book your room at the Hotel Albuquerque. The guaranteed LITA room rate date has passed, but when you call at: 505-843-6300 ask for the LITA room rate, there might be a few rooms left in our block.

Three keynote speakers will be featured at this year’s forum:

  • AnnMarie Thomas, Engineering Professor, University of St. Thomas
  • Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President, OCLC Research and Chief Strategist
  • Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Founder Trans*h4ck.

More than 30 concurrent colleague inspired sessions and a dozen poster sessions will provide a wealth of practical information on a wide range of topics.

Two preconference workshops will also be offered;

  • Dean B. Krafft and Jon Corson-Rikert of Cornell University Library will present
    “Linked Data for Libraries: How libraries can make use of Linked Open Data to share information about library resources and to improve discovery, access, and understanding for library users”
  • Francis Kayiwa of Kayiwa Consulting will present
    “Learn Python by Playing with Library Data”

Networking opportunities, a major advantage of a smaller conference, are an important part of the Forum. Take advantage of the Thursday evening reception and sponsor showcase, the Thursday game night, the Friday networking dinners or Kitchen Table Conversations, plus meals and breaks throughout the Forum to get to know LITA leaders, Forum speakers, sponsors, and peers.

2014 LITA Forums sponsors include EBSCO, Springshare, @mire, Innovative and OCLC.

Visit the LITA website for more information.

Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) members are information technology professionals dedicated to educating, serving, and reaching out to the entire library and information community. LITA is a division of the American Library Association.

LITA and the LITA Forum fully support the Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: October 22

Wed, 2014-10-22 13:20

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

Head of Technology, Saline County Library,  Benton,  AR

Science Data Librarian,  Penn State University Libraries, University Park,  PA

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

Categories: Library News

Women Learning to Code

Wed, 2014-10-22 09:00

I am a user of technology much more than a creator.   After I completed a masters in educational technology I knew to better use the skills I had learned it would benefit me to gain a better understanding of computer coding. My HTML skills were adequate but rusty, and I didn’t have any experience with other languages. To increase these skills I really did not want to have to take another for-credit course, but I also knew that I would have a better learning experience if I had someone of whom I could ask questions. Around this time, I was made aware of Girl Develop It. I have attended a few meetings and truly appreciate the instruction and the opportunity to learn new skills. As a way to introduce the readers of the LITA blog who might be interested in adding to their skill-set I interviewed Michelle Brush and Denisse Osorio de Large, the leaders of my local Girl Develop It group.

What is Girl Develop It?

MB: Girl Develop It is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing more women into technology by offering educational and network-building opportunities.

DL: Girl Develop It is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn web and software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction.

What sparked your interest in leading a Girl Develop It group?

MB: I attended Strange Loop where Jen Myers spoke and mentioned her involvement in Girl Develop It.   Then several friends reached out to me about wanting to do more for women in tech in Kansas City, so we decided to propose a chapter in Kansas City.

DL: Growing up my mom told me my inheritance was my education, and that my education was something no one would ever be able to take away from me.  My education has allowed me to have a plentiful life, I wanted to pay it forward and this organization allowed to do just that. I’m also the proud mom of two little girls and I want to be a good example for them.

What is your favorite thing about working in the technology industry?

MB: Software can be like magic.  You can build very useful and sometimes beautiful things from a pile of keywords and numbers.  It’s also very challenging, so you get the same joy when your code works that you do when solving a really hard math problem.

DL: I love the idea of helping to create things that don’t exist and solving problems that no one else has solved. The thought of making things better, drives me.

Why do you believe more women should be working in information technology?

MB: If we can get women involved at the same percentages as we have men, we would solve our skills gap.  It also helps that women bring a different perspective to the work.

DL: The industry as a whole will benefit from the perspective of a more diverse workforce. Also, this industry has the ability to provide a safe and stable environment where females can thrive and make a good living.

Are there other ways communities can be supportive of women entering the information technology industry?

MB: We need more visibility to the women already in the industry as that will make other women recognize they can be successful in the community as well.  Partly it’s on women like me to seek out opportunities to be more visible, but it’s also on the community to remember to look outside of the usual suspects when looking for speakers, mentors, etc.  It’s too easy to keep returning to the names you already know. Conferences like Strange Loop and Midwest.io are making strides in this area.

DL: I believe it starts with young girls and encouraging and nurturing their interest in STEM. It is very important that members of the community provide opportunities for girls to find their passion in the field of their choice.

Are any of you reading the LITA blog involved with Girl Develop It? I’d love to hear your stories!

Categories: Library News

Midwinter Workshop Highlight: Meet the Programming Presenter!

Tue, 2014-10-21 11:25

We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Elizabeth Wickes, who will be presenting the workshop:

Introduction to Practical Programming
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)

LITA: We’ve seen your formal bio but can you tell us a little more about you?

ElizabethI once wrote an entire Python program just so I could have a legitimate reason to say “for skittle in skittles.”  Attendees will meet this program during the workshop.  I can also fix pretty much anything with hot glue. 

LITA: Who is your target audience for this workshop?

Elizabeth: This workshop speaks to the librarian or library student who is curious about programming and wants to explore it within a very library-centric context.  So many of the existing books and resources on programming are for people with extensive math backgrounds. This workshop will present the core concepts and basic workflows with a humanities voice. 

LITA: How much experience with programming do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?

ElizabethAny amount is helpful, but nothing is required.  I’ll be presenting the topics from the ground up, presuming that folks have never seen any code before.

LITA: If your workshop was a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?

ElizabethI would say Snape, if I had to pick a character.  But hear me out! The topic might seem moody and unapproachable, but on the inside just wants to love!  Also, programming is really like potions class, where you are combining lots of little pieces very precisely to somehow produce something shiny and beautiful.  My final argument: Alan Rickman.

LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.

Elizabeth: Attendees will leave the workshop with a greater understanding of assessment strategies for material selection and a solid structure on which to build as a self-taught programmer.

LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?

ElizabethParticipants should bring a laptop (not a tablet) with an operating system they are comfortable using.  Macs are easiest to set up but any current computer will work.

LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?

ElizabethPerhaps I’m singing because the box brought me a singing voice.  But seriously, I’d be super excited to get sunscreen in that situation.

More information about Midwinter Workshops. 

Registration Information: LITA members get one third off the cost of Mid-Winter workshops. Use the discount promotional code:  LITA2015 during online registration to automatically receive your member discount.  Start the process at the ALA web sites: Conference web site: http://alamw15.ala.org/ Registration start page: http://alamw15.ala.org/rates LITA Workshops registration descriptions: http://alamw15.ala.org/ticketed-events#LITA When you start the registration process and BEFORE you choose the workshop, you will encounter the Personal Information page.  On that page there is a field to enter the discount promotional code:  LITA2015 As in the example below.  If you do so, then when you get to the workshops choosing page the discount prices, of $235, are automatically displayed and entered.  The discounted total will be reflected in the Balance Due line on the payment page. Please contact the LITA Office if you have any registration questions.
Categories: Library News

E-Learning in the Library

Mon, 2014-10-20 08:00
Pixabay, 2008

Online education has extended its presence to public libraries. Online learning and career training, by services such as Ed2Go and Lynda, are usually offered complimentary to college and university students. Similar services such as Gale Courses, Universal Class and Treehouse are geared toward public library use.
Gale Courses is a subscription service of Cengage Learning. It is a hybrid of Ed2Go, offering courses that range from GED preparation to PC Security. Courses are six weeks in length and are instructor led.
Universal Class offers hundreds of courses on a variety of topics, including dog obedience training, to patrons of diverse interests. Courses are self-paced and users can begin a course at anytime.
Treehouse is uniquely geared toward web design, development and programming for personal computers and mobile device applications. Users can select self-paced educational Tracks that are focused on a specific development area.

An alternative to MOOCs
A considerable population of the general public cannot afford to pursue a formal education. Extending the services of the library into web-based learning, online courses provide access to continuing education for the general public. The mention of free online education is not complete without a nod to massive open online courses (MOOC). MOOCs can be non-profit or commercial. They offer free or affordable online education, of varying course structure, to students around the world. Though MOOCs and open courseware are comparable alternatives, library-hosted continuing education offers additional incentives from those of most freely available online courses.

Education as a service
One advantage to using a service provided by the public library is that patrons can use the computers available on site. For patrons lacking home computer access, they can incorporate another library service into their education. Continuing education courses are free to library card holders at participating libraries. If your regional library does not offer the service, you can always purchase a library card from a participating library. Considering that each course can range from $50 to the mid $100s, the benefit of access to hundreds of courses outweighs the cost of purchasing a library card. Patrons will receive a certificate of completion for each completed course and in the case of Universal Class they will receive continuing education units that are approved by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). Treehouse opts for using a point-based system and Badges, digital awards, which signify a user’s progress. Online education also helps to highlight the public library as an evolving source of public information.
All three continuing education providers, offer free trials and demo courses for anyone interested in their services.

Categories: Library News

Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself – Vol. 2

Fri, 2014-10-17 08:15
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852)

Happy Belated Ada Lovelace Day, LITA Blog Readers! In honor of Ada Lovelace, the forward-thinking mother of scientific computing, I’m highlighting opportunities to really get to know your data (and users) in this Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself installment.

Once again, Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself (TYBYWY) is a curated selection of upcoming free webinars, classes, and other opportunities designed to help you learn and master new technologies and stay ahead of tech trends.

Your Monthly MOOC  -

This edition of TYBYWY, I am recommending a Coursera MOOC helmed by faculty from UC San Diego. Human-Computer Interaction Design may sound like a dry topic- but I know that you know that we all need to get better at designing online experiences that please and engage our patrons, constituents or students. The course promises to,  help “you build human-centered design skills, so that you have the principles and methods to create excellent interfaces with any technology.” This five week course sounds like an excellent and immersive opportunity for next gen librarians to get their sea legs in designing for better user experiences.

Worthwhile Webinars –

ProQuest and Library Journal are teaming up for a three-part webcast series on Data-Driven Academic Libraries, developed in partnership with ER&L. Excited yet? What if I mentioned that speakers include librarians from Yale, Harvard, and University of Southern California? Now you’re in.

This series includes the following sessions:

A Little Something Different –

Classes and webinars are helpful learning opportunities, and I encourage you to take them, but you can also learn a lot through involvement and discourse. And there’s no better place for that kind of interaction than on Twitter. To commemorate Ada Lovelace, and to get you immersed in the Technology TwitterCom, here some excellent twitter accounts to help TYBYWY.

The Ada Initative – Named in honor of the Countess herself, The Ada Initiative is a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase women’s participation in the free culture movement, open source technology and open culture.

Digital Public Library of America – The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to all. They post pretty pictures and useful information.

The Open Source Initiative – The OSI, a non-profit corporation with global scope, supports education in & advocacy for the benefits of open source software & communities.

LITA – Shameless self-promotion, I realize, but are you following us yet?

Tech On, TYBYWYers-

TYBYWY will return 11/14. Let me know if you have any specific requests!

 

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: October 15

Wed, 2014-10-15 13:55

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

Assistant Coordinator, Stacks and Circulation,  Colorado State University,  Fort Collins, CO

Digital Archivist, University of Georgia Libraries,  Athens,  GA

Metadata Systems Specialist, NYU, Division of Libraries, New York City,  NY

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

Categories: Library News

Google like a Pro with Search Operators

Wed, 2014-10-15 08:00

Love it or hate it, the sparse white Google search page has become the primary interface to the web for most users. Google helps you cut through the junk to find the needle you were looking for amidst an almost infinite digital haystack. Considering how important the internet is and how difficult it can be to find what you need, Google’s advanced search features are something everyone can benefit from knowing a little bit more about.

The Google Advanced Search page is awesome, but it is rarely used. Most people don’t even know it exists because they have never seen it; there’s no link to it from the main Google page (at least none that are obvious) which makes it harder to reach than the standard single search field of the main Google page. Furthermore, many browsers are now allowing searches to be performed from the URL bar, and most are set to Google by default. How can we combine the power of Google’s advanced search with the convenience of the single field search? The answer is search operators. In a nutshell, search operators are miniature commands you can stuff into a Google single field search to add advanced features and filters to your query.

As librarians, we should all be familiar with Booleans. Google adds an AND between every search term by default for obvious reasons, but if you would be happy with only one of the terms in your query you can connect them with an OR statement (you can also use the pipe symbol, | to mean the same thing). To filter out certain results, use the NOT operator (implemented as a minus symbol in front of the word you want to remove), as in “peanut butter sandwich -jelly” to get results about various types of peanut butter sandwiches (mmm, banana) without the tried-and-true PB&J. Wildcards are another classic librarian move in Google searches. An asterisk (*) can stand in for any word in a quoted search. “Jimmy * is the best” could return results about fans of Jimmy Page, Jimmy Buffet or even Jimmy Carter. An ellipses between two numbers represents the range operator, and searches for every number in between those two as well as the ones named. “years best science fiction 2011…2013″ would return results for 2012 as well as 2011 and 2013.

And now, for something librarians probably won’t be familiar with, I present the humble prefix operator. Prefix operators are words followed by a colon that activate certain search features on the word or words immediately after it (with no space in between). For instance, a search for “classic pb&j” would return any site that has any of those words in the title or the full text of the site, but “pb&j intitle:classic” only returns those that have “classic” in the title. If you want all of the words to be in the title, use “allintitle:classic pb&j”. You can do the opposite with “intext:” and “allintext:” to find those words specifically in the full text of sites. One of the most useful prefix operators is the “filetype:” operator, which uses your search query to find file names with the file extension you define in “filetype:”. For instance, a search for “metadata pdf” is tricky because it not only returns PDF files about metadata, but sites talking about metadata in PDF files:

A search for “metadata filetype:pdf” will only bring up results that are actual PDF files:

There are a lot more search operators, but these are the ones I find myself using the most to cut out extraneous results. The sheer amount of operators may seem intimidating, but you don’t need to learn them all. Pick out a few that seem like they would be useful, and try to incorporate them into your daily searches and see if they help or not.

Do you have favorite tips or strategies for searching? Share them in the comments!

Categories: Library News

Midwinter Workshop Highlight: Meet the UX Presenters!

Tue, 2014-10-14 16:08

We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Kate Lawrence, Deirdre Costello, and Robert Newell, who will be presenting the workshop:

From Lost to Found: How User Testing Can Improve the User Experience of Your Library Website
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)

LITA: We’ve seen your formal bios but can you tell us a little more about you?

Kate: If I didn’t work as a user researcher, I would be a professional backgammon player or cake decorator (I am a magician with fondant!). Or both.

Deirdre: I’m horse crazy!

Robert: In a past life I was a professional actor. If you pay really really close attention (like, don’t blink), you might spot me in a few episodes of Friday Night Lights or Prison Break.

LITA: User Testing is a big area. Who is your target audience for this workshop?

Presenters: This is a perfect workshop for people who want to learn user testing in a supportive environment. We will teach people how to test their websites in the real world – we understand that time and other resources are limited. This is for anyone who wants to know what it’s like for patrons to try accessing their library’s resources through their website.

LITA: How much experience with UX do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?

Presenters: Experience isn’t required, but an understanding of the general UX field and goals is useful. Attendees are encouraged to come with a potential usability study topic in mind. From Robert: “You just need to be able to put your social scientist hat on and look at user testing as an informal (and fun!) psychology experiment.”

LITA: If your workshop was a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?

Kate: Having just read the Harry Potter series with my two kids, I can say that our workshop will inspire like Dumbledore, give you a chuckle like those naughty Weasley twins, teach you like the astute Minerva McGonagle would, and leave you smiling with satisfaction just like the brilliant Hermione Grainger.

Deirdre: Marvel: definitely Wolverine. Tough and sassy with a heart of gold, calls everyone “bub.” Harry Potter: 100% Hermione. I’m an avid reader, rule-follower and overachiever. (LITA note, I think those are of Dierdre, maybe not the workshop ? )

Robert: I’m gonna say Mystique. Mystique can literally put herself in someone else’s shoes (human or Mutant). When we conduct usability testing, we’re directly observing what it’s like to be in the user’s shoes and we’re seeing things from their perspective.

LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.

Kate: The knowledge about how to conduct a user test on their library site, a coupon for a free test from usertesting.com, and support and encouragement from a team of experienced researchers.

Deirdre: The skills to plan, recruit for and execute small-sample usability tests. The ability to communicate the findings for those tests in a way that will advocate for their users.

Robert: The ability to validate your ideas about your website with direct, reliable user feedback. Whenever you think, “This might work, but would it make sense to our users?” You’ll have the skills and tools to go find out.

LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?

Presenters: Whatever note taking method you prefer; a laptop or mobile device to follow along is recommending but isn’t required. Kate recommends “A laptop. A pen and paper. A positive, can-do attitude!”

LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?

Kate: I’m assuming my family is on the island with me, and in that case – I want that box to contain Hershey’s hugs, the white chocolate kisses with milk chocolate swirls. I’m obsessed!

Deirdre: Hostess Orange Cupcakes.

Robert: A gallon of Coppertone Oil Free Faces SPF 50+ Sunscreen. I’m sorry but I’m fair skinned with a ton of freckles and a desert island scenario just screams melanoma to me.

Thank you to Kate, Deirdre, and Robert for giving us this interview! We’re looking forward to their UX Workshop at Midwinter in Chicago. We’ll hear from our other workshop presenters in the coming weeks!

More information about Midwinter Workshops. 

Registration Information: LITA members get one third off the cost of Mid-Winter workshops. Use the discount promotional code:  LITA2015 during online registration to automatically receive your member discount.  Start the process at the ALA web sites: Conference web site: http://alamw15.ala.org/ Registration start page: http://alamw15.ala.org/rates LITA Workshops registration descriptions: http://alamw15.ala.org/ticketed-events#LITA When you start the registration process and BEFORE you choose the workshop, you will encounter the Personal Information page.  On that page there is a field to enter the discount promotional code:  LITA2015 As in the example below.  If you do so, then when you get to the workshops choosing page the discount prices, of $235, are automatically displayed and entered.  The discounted total will be reflected in the Balance Due line on the payment page. Please contact the LITA Office if you have any registration questions.
Categories: Library News

ADE in the Library eBook Data Lifecycle

Mon, 2014-10-13 09:53

Reader: “Hey, I heard there is some sort of problem with those ebooks I checked out from the library?”

Librarian: “There are technical problems, potential legal problems, and philosophical problems – but not with the book itself nor your choice to read it.”

As mentioned, there are (at least) three sides to the problem. Nate Hoffelder* discovered the technical problem with the way the current version (4) of Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) manages the ebook experience, which was confirmed by security researcher Benjamin Daniel Mussler, and later reviewed by Eric Hellman. The technical problem, that arguably private data is sent in plain text from a reader’s device to a central data-store, seems pretty obvious once it was discovered. The potential legal problem stems from laws in every state which protect reader privacy which set expectations for data security, plus other laws which may apply. The philosophical problem has several facets, which could be simplified down to the tension between privacy and convenience.

When a widely-used software platform is found to be logging data unexpectedly and transmitting it for some unknown use it causes great unease among users. When that transmission is happening in plain text over easily-intercepted channels, it causes anger among technologists who think a leading software developer should know better. When this is all happening in the context of the library world where privacy is highly valued, there is outrage as expressed by LITA Board member Andromeda Yelton.

Here are the library profession’s basic positions:

  1. Each individual’s reading choices and behavior should be private (i.e. anonymized or, better, not tracked)
  2. Data gathered for user-desired functionality across devices should be private (i.e. anonymized)
  3. Insofar as there is any tracking of reading choices and behavior, there should be an opt-out option readily available to individuals (i.e, not buried in the fine print)

In his October 9th post from The Digital Shift, Matt Enis reports that Adobe is working to correct the problem of data being transmitted in clear text but “maintains that its collection of this data is covered under its user agreement.” The data that corporations transmit should be limited to the data and data elements necessary to provide desired functionality yet also restricted enough for an individual’s activity to remain private.

To join the conversation, begin to educate yourself using our ADE Primer, below, plus the following resources:

A Primer on how Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) works with library ebooks

I’m a reader and I go to use a library ebook
(via Overdrive or other downloading service offered):

  1. what will I need to install on my device(s)?
    (laptop, tablet, phone, & iPod let’s assume)

    • laptop/computer: Adobe Digital Editions (ADE), activated with an Adobe ID
    • tablet, phone, iPod, etc.: Bluefire Reader (or compatible) app, activated with an Adobe ID
  2. how do the various devices know which page to show me next when I switch between them?
    • access and synchronization across devices are managed using the Adobe ID and the information associated with the ebook and by data tracked with ADE
  3. what technologies are behind the scenes?
    • the ADE managed digital rights management (DRM) required by the ebook publisher
    • the ebook reader software/app
    • the internet
  4. what data is needed to be able to do the sync?
    • the minimum required data is arguably the UserID, BookID, and a page-accessed timestamp
    • the current ADE version, ADE4, tracks significantly more data than the minimums above
  5. how is that data shared between devices?
    • Users can access their ADE account from up to 6 different devices. When accessing the ID/account from a new device the user must “activate” the device by logging into the Adobe ID/Account to prove that the user is the legitimate account holder.
    • ADE4 shares all ebook data it tracks in plain-text in an unsecured channel over the internet
  6. what functionality would not work if this were suddenly not provided?
    • if ADE did not provide reader tracking data, each time a reader opened an ebook on a different device the reader would have to remember the page s/he was on and then navigate to that page to continue reading from where they left off
    • A computer can be anonymously activated using ADE, however this will prevent the items from being accessible from more than one computer/device. The ebooks would then be considered to be “owned” by that computer and would not be available to be accessed from other devices.
    • if ADE were completely withdrawn from availability, ebook DRM would prevent use of ADE-managed DRM-protected ebooks

From a technology point of view, the clear-text data transmitted suggests the data may be for synchronization, but it seems, first and foremost, to support various licensing business models. Because Adobe might in the future have customers who want to use Adobe DRM to expire a book after a certain number of hours or pages read, they may feel the need to collect that data. Adobe’s data collection seems to be working as intended here. Clear-text transmission is clearly a bug, but that this data about patron reading habits is being transmitted to Adobe is a feature of the software.

The philosophical discussion which needs to happen around ebooks and DRM should include:

  • what data elements enable user-desired functionality
  • what data elements enable digital rights management
  • what data elements above are/are not within ALA’s stated professional ethics
  • whether tracking ebook user behavior is acceptable *at all*

From libraryland conversations around the issue so far, opinions have ranged from ‘tracking is not the problem, the clear-text transmission is‘ to ‘tracking is very much a problem, it’s unacceptable.’

Issues like this highlight the need to revisit stated positions and evaluate where the balance point is between accomodating user functionality and protecting against collection of personally identifiable data, or metadata.

*Post updated to correctly credit Nate Hoffelder as the original discoverer (my apologies!)

Categories: Library News

Shifting & Merging

Fri, 2014-10-10 20:39
McKenzie Pass, Ore. Courtesy of Ryan Shattuck. Task Easy Blog 2013.

It has been exactly seven weeks since I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, yet I finally feel like I have arrived. Let me rewind, quick, and tell you a little about my background. During my last two years of undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), I spent my time working on as many Digital Humanities (DH) projects and jobs as I possibly could in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.

[DH is a difficult concept to define because everyone does it through various means, for various reasons. To me, it means using computational tools to analyze or build humanities projects. This way, we can find patterns we wouldn't see through the naked eye, or display physical objects digitally for greater access.]

By day, I studied English and Computer Science, and by night, my fingers scurried over my keyboard encoding poems, letters, and aphorisms. I worked at the Walt Whitman Archive, on an image analysis project with two brilliant professors, on text analysis and digital archives projects with leading professors in the fields, and on my own little project analyzing a historical newspaper. My classmates and I, both undergraduate and graduate, constantly talked about DH, what it is, who does it, how it is done, the technologies we use do it and how that differs from others.

Discovering an existing group of people already doing the same work you do is like merging onto a packed interstate where everyone is travelling at 80 miles per hour in the same direction. The thrill, the overwhelming “I know I am in the right place” feeling.

I chose Indiana University (IU) for my Library and Information Science degrees because I knew it was a hub for DH projects. I have an unparalleled opportunity working with Dr. John Walsh and Dr. Noriko Hara, both prominent DH and Information Science scholars.

However, I am impatient. After travelling on the DH interstate, I expected every classmate I met at IU to wear a button proclaiming, “I heart DH, let’s collaborate.” I half expected my courses to start from where I left off in my previous education. The beginning of the semester forced me to take a step back, to realize that I was shifting to a new discipline, and that I needed the basics first. My classes are satisfying my library love, but I was still missing that extra-curricular technology aspect, outside of my work for Dr. Walsh.

Then, one random, serendipitous meeting in the library and I was “zero to eighty” instantly. I met those DH students and learned about projects, initiatives, and IU networking. They reaffirmed that the community for which I was searching existed.

Since then, I have found others in the community and continue those same DH who, what, how, why conversations. While individual research is important, we can reach a higher potential through collaboration, especially in the digital disciplines. I am continuing to learn the importance of reaching out and learning from others, which I don’t believe will cease once I graduate. (Will it?)

I assure you that my future posts will be more closely related to library technology and digital humanities tools, but frankly, I’m new here. While I could talk about the library and information theory I’m learning, I will spare you those library school memories, and keep you updated on new technologies as I learn them.

In the meantime, I’ll ask you to reflect and share your experience transitioning to library school or into a library career. How were you first introduced to library technology or digital humanities? Any nuggets of advice for us beginners?

Categories: Library News

2014 LITA Forum: 3 Amazing Keynotes

Fri, 2014-10-10 13:10

Join your LITA colleagues in Albuquerque, Nov 5-8, 2041 for the 2014 LITA Forum.

This year’s Forum has three amazing keynotes you won’t want to miss:

AnnMarie Thomas, Engineering Professor, University of St. Thomas

AnnMarie is an engineering professor who spends her time trying to encourage the next generation of makers and engineers. Among a host of other activities she is the director of the Playful Learning Lab and leads a team of students looking at both the playful side of engineering (squishy circuits for students, the science of circus, toy design) and ways to use engineering design to help others. AnnMarie and her students developed Squishy Circuits.

Check out AnnMarie’s fun Ted Talk on Play-Doh based squishy circuits.

Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President, OCLC Research and Chief Strategist

Lorcan Dempsey oversees the research division and participates in planning at OCLC. He is a librarian who has worked for library and educational organizations in Ireland, England and the US.

Lorcan has policy, research and service development experience, mostly in the area of networked information and digital libraries. He writes and speaks extensively, and can be followed on the web at Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog and on twitter.

Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Founder Trans*h4ck

Kortney Ryan Ziegler is an Oakland based award winning artist, writer, and the first person to hold the Ph.D. of African American Studies from Northwestern University.

He is the director of the multiple award winning documentary, STILL BLACK: a portrait of black transmen, runs the GLAAD Media Award nominated blog, blac (k) ademic, and was recently named one of the Top 40 Under 40 LGBT activists by The Advocate Magazine and one of the most influential African Americans by TheRoot100.

Dr. Ziegler is also the founder of Trans*H4CK–the only tech event of its kind that spotlights trans* created technology, trans* entrepreneurs and trans* led startups.

See all the keynoters full bios at the LITA Forum Keynote Sessions web page

More than 30 concurrent colleague inspired sessions and a dozen poster sessions will provide a wealth of practical information on a wide range of topics. Networking opportunities, a major advantage of a smaller conference, are an important part of the Forum. Take advantage of the Thursday evening reception and sponsor showcase, the Friday networking dinners or Kitchen Table Conversations, plus meals and breaks throughout the Forum to get to know LITA leaders, Forum speakers, sponsors, and peers.

This year two preconference workshops will also be offered.

Linked Data for Libraries: How libraries can make use of Linked Open Data to share information about library resources and to improve discovery, access, and understanding for library users
Led by: Dean B. Krafft and Jon Corson-Rikert, Cornell University Library

Learn Python by Playing with Library Data
Led by: Francis Kayiwa, Kayiwa Consulting

2014 LITA Forums sponsors include EBSCO, Springshare, @mire, Innovative and OCLC.

Visit the LITA website for more information.

Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) members are information technology professionals dedicated to educating, serving, and reaching out to the entire library and information community.   LITA is a division of the American Library Association.

LITA and the LITA Forum fully support the Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: October 8

Wed, 2014-10-08 13:20

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

IT Assistant Coordinator, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

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

Categories: Library News

Managing Library Projects: General Tips

Wed, 2014-10-08 09:00
Image courtesy of Joel Dueck. Flickr 2007.

During my professional career, both before and after becoming a Librarian, I’ve spent a lot of time managing projects, even when that wasn’t necessarily my specific role. I’ve experienced the joys of Project Management in a variety of settings and industries, from tiny software startups to large, established organizations. Along the way, I’ve learned that, while there are general concepts that are useful in any project setting, the specific processes and tools used needed to complete a specific project depend on the nature of the task at hand and the organization’s profile. Here are some general strategies to keep in mind when tackling a complex project:

Pay special attention to connection points

Unless your project is entirely contained within one department, there will be places in your workflow where interaction between two or more disparate units will take place. Each unit has its own processes and goals, which may or may not serve your project’s purposes, so it’s important that you as PM keep the overall goals of the project in mind and ensure that work is being done efficiently in terms of the project’s needs, not just the department’s usual workflow. Each unit will likely also have its own jargon, so you need to make sure that information is communicated accurately between parties. It’s at these connection points that the project is most likely to fail, so keep your eye on what happens here.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

While a cross-functional project will potentially require the creation of new workflows and processes, it’s not a good idea to force project participants to go about their work in a way that is fundamentally different from what they usually do. First, it will steepen the learning curve and reduce efficiency, and second, because these staff members are likely to be involved in multiple projects simultaneously, it will increase confusion and make it more difficult for them to correctly follow your guidelines for what needs to be done. Try to design your workflows so that they take advantage of existing processes within departments as much as possible, and increase efficiency by modifying the way departments interact with one another to maximize results.

Choose efficient tools, not shiny ones

Even in the wealthiest organizations, resources are always at a premium, so when picking tools to use in managing your project don’t fall for the beautiful picture on the front of the box. Consider the cost of a particular tool, both in terms of price and the learning curve involved in bringing everyone attached to the project up to speed on how to use it. Sometimes the investment will be worth it; often you will be better off with something simpler that project staff already know. You can create complex project plans with MS Project or Abak 360, but for most projects I find that a rudimentary scheduling spreadsheet and a couple of quick and dirty projection models, all created with MS Excel, will do just as well. Free web-based tools can also be useful: one of my favorites is Lucid Chart, a workflow diagram creation tool that can replace Visio for many applications (and offers pretty good deals for educational institutions). The main concerns with this type of approach are whether having your project plans stored in the cloud makes sense from a security point of view, and the potential for a particular tool to disappear unexpectedly (anyone remember Astrid?).

 

Those are a few of the strategies that I have found useful in managing projects. What’s your favorite project management tip?

Categories: Library News

A Tested* Approach to Leveling Up

Fri, 2014-10-03 20:04

*Unscientifically, by a person from the internet.

If you’re a LITA member, then you’re probably very skilled in a few technical areas, and know just enough to be dangerous in several other areas. The later can be a liability if you’ve just been volunteered to implement the Great New Tech Thing at your library. Do it right, and you just might be recognized for your ingenuity and hard work (finally!). Do it wrong, and you’ll end up in the pillory (again!).

Maybe the Great New Tech Thing requires you to learn a new programming or markup language. Perhaps you’re looking to expand on your skills–and resume–by adding a language. For many years, the library associations and schools have emphasized tech skills as an essential component of librarianship. The reasons are plentiful, and the means are easier that you might think. With a library card, a few free, open source software tools, and some time, you can level up your tech skills by learning a new language.

I humbly suggest the following approach to leveling up, which has worked for me.

What you’ll need

A computer. A Windows, OS X, or Linux laptop or desktop computer will suffice.

Resources. Online programming “schools”, such as Codeacademy and Code School are a great concept and work for some people, but I’ve personally found them to provide an incomplete education. The UI demands brevity, and therefore many of the explanations and instructions require a certain level of knowledge about coding in general that most beginners lack. I have found good ol’ fashioned books to be a better resource. Find titles that have exercises, and you’ll learn by doing. Actually building something practical makes the process enjoyable. The Visual Quickstart Guide series by Peachpit Press and the Head First series by O’Reilly usually teach through practical examples.

Books are a great source of knowledge, but so are your fellow coders. Most languages have a community with an online presence, and it would be a good idea to find those forums and bookmark them. But if you were to bookmark only one forum, it should be the Stack Overflow forum for the language you’re learning.

Some languages also have official documentation online, for example, php.net and python.org.

Time. Carve out time wherever you can. If you take public transportation to work, use that time (if you can find a seat). Learn during your lunch break. Give up a season of your favorite TV show (you can always catch up later in a weekend binge-watch when the DVDs hit your library shelves).

Where to start

Here and now. Maybe you’re reading this because you’ve just been tapped to implement the Great New Tech Thing at your library. Or maybe you’re considering adding a skill to your resume. Whatever the reason, there’s no time like the present.

Leveling up for professional development affords you greater flexibility. Start with a language your friends know–they will be an invaluable resource if you get stuck along the way. Also, consider starting with a simple language that you can build upon. If you already know HTML, then PHP and JavaScript are natural progressions, and they open the door to object-oriented languages like C++, Java, or Python. Finally, make sure there’s a viable–if not growing–community around the language you want to learn. Not only does this give a sense of the language’s future and staying-power, the community can also provide support through online forums, conferences and meetups, etc.

If you’re new to programming languages, I hope this approach helps. If you’re a veteran coder, please share your learning approach in the comments.

Categories: Library News

Doing Web Accessibility

Fri, 2014-10-03 10:40

Physical library spaces are designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), hence the wide aisles, low checkout stations, and ramps. In contrast, alt tag awareness is low and web accessibility not a priority for most librarians. Yet for visually or otherwise impaired users, an improperly coded website can be like wandering into a maze and hitting a brick wall of frustration.

With accessibility in mind, I’ve been teaching myself to assess and retrofit webpages, aligning my library’s website with the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the U.S. Rehabilitation Act’s Section 508, and this WebAIM Infographic aimed at accessible design as well as code. For best practices, these are your first stops.

Design for Users

Crucially, designing with accessibility in mind makes for websites that are more usable for everyone, not just for disabled users. Questioning trendy design elements can pay off too. Do image-heavy carousels and page-spanning images really enhance UX enough to justify the space they fill and the accessibility problems they may engender?

Out-of-the-box products may come with their own access problems. WordPress themes often provide low contrast. LibGuides omits the HTML lang attribute on some templates. Developers forget alt tags and form labels. Sometimes it’s easier just to fix stuff yourself.

And I use the word “easier” advisedly.

W3C Markup Validator

First, copy and paste your webpage’s URL into the free W3C Markup Validation Service to check the HTML for conformance to W3C web standards. Optimally, your code would be up to HTML5 (and CSS3) standards. This makes for cleaner aesthetics, no deprecated elements, and fewer errors when you run accessibility evaluation tools in the next stages of this process. The Validator will tell you which lines of code need correcting, and lead you to relevant documentation. Once your code is sound (imperfections are ok), break out the WAVE tool.

WAVE Tool

Plug in a URL, and the WAVE web accessibility evaluation tool from WebAIM will scan your code, flagging errors, marking structural elements, and alerting you to potential issues. WAVE will flag link texts that say “Click here” or “More,” redundant or empty links, PDFs that may or may not be optimized for accessibility, missing alternative text and form elements, and other problems. WAVE also says what the page does right (for example, WAI-ARIA features, helpful alternative text, and the like).

As a coding newbie, I love WAVE’s unique color-coded icons, which you can click to see thorough explanations of each concern. Better yet, WAVE also comes as a Firefox toolbar that lets you evaluate pages on the fly–and it tests for JavaScript too!

Browser Developer Tools

To dig deeper into your code, I suggest using a browser developer tool (Bryan Brown wrote an excellent LITA Blog post on such tools). Google Chrome’s Accessibility Developer Tools are particularly good at auditing for color contrast and recognizable links. Add these to your browser and you can test any page for accessibility and discover exactly what could be improved. Note that these tools can be really nitpicky, and again, functionality rather than perfection is our goal.

Manual Checks

Can you turn off the CSS and still make sense of the page design? Did nothing disappear? Can you manually resize the font to at least 150% without spectacularly messing up the design? Can you navigate using only the keyboard? Are any videos close captioned and any audio files accompanied by transcripts? Can you run pages or sections of pages through a screen reader and still make sense of the content? Try it, and congratulations! You just became a web accessibility guru.

Conclusion 

You’re not a web developer, you say? Neither am I. But even if your job has nothing to do with digital services, librarians need to know about these technical matters so as to make the case for prioritizing web accessibility and to be able to speak the language of colleagues (often the IT department) who do engage in web development. Web accessibility builds equal access and diverse communities. These are enduring values for librarians, and why I joined the profession.

What about you? How do you “do” web accessibility?

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: Oct 1

Wed, 2014-10-01 13:23

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

Dean of the Library, California Maritime Academy, Vallejo, CA

Library Systems and  Applications Specialist, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, OH

Manager, Digital Services, Florida Virtual Campus, Gainesville, FL

Senior Software Developer, University of Maryland, College Park – Libraries, College Park, MD

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

Categories: Library News

Cataloging a world of languages

Wed, 2014-10-01 08:00

My university has a mandate to increase our international reach through research collaborations, courses offered, and support for international students.

From the technical services side, this means our catalogers must provide metadata for resources in unfamiliar languages, including some that don’t use the Roman alphabet. A few of the challenges we face include:

  • Identifying the language of an item (is that Spanish or Catalan?)
  • Cataloging an item in a language you don’t speak or read (what is this book even about?)
  • Transliterating from non-Roman alphabets (e.g. Cyrillic, Chinese, Thai)
  • Diacritic codes in copy cataloging that don’t match your system’s encoding scheme

I’d like to share a few free tools that our catalogers have found helpful. I’ve used some of these in other areas of librarianship as well, including acquisitions and reference.

Language identifiers

Sometimes I open a book or article and have no idea where to start, because the language isn’t anything I’ve seen before.

I turn to the Open Xerox Language Identifier, which covers over 80 different languages. Type or paste in text of the mysterious language, and give it a try. The more text you provide, the more accurate it is.

Language translators

Web translation tools aren’t perfect, but they’re a great way to get the gist of a piece of writing (don’t use them for sending sensitive emails to bilingual coworkers, however).

Google Translate includes over 75 languages, and also a language identification tool. Enter the title, a few chapter names, or back cover blurb, and you’ll get the general idea of the content.

Transliteration tables

If you catalog in Roman script, and you wind up with a resource in Cyrillic or Chinese, how do you translate that so the record is searchable in your ILS? Transliteration tables match up characters between scripts.

The ALA-LC Romanization Tables for non-Roman scripts are approved by the American Library Association and the Library of Congress. They cover over 70 different scripts.

Bibliographic dictionaries

We’re fortunate that librarians love to share: there are quite a few sites produced by libraries that look at common bibliographic terms you’d find on title pages: numbers, dates, editions, statements of responsibility, price, etc.

To share two Canadian examples, Memorial University maintains a Glossary of Bibliographic Information by Language and Queen’s University has a page of Foreign Language Equivalents for Bibliographic Terms.

If you’ve ever seen the phrase “bibliographic knowledge of [language]” in a job posting, this is what it’s referring to—when you’ve cataloged enough material in a language to know these terms, but can’t carry on a conversation about daily life. I have bibliographic knowledge of Spanish, Italian, and Germany, but don’t ask me to go to a restaurant in Hamburg and order a hamburger.

Subject-specific glossaries

Similar to bibliographic dictionaries, these are for terms common to specific subjects.

My university has significant music and map collections, so I often consult the language tools at Music Cataloging at Yale (…and I once  thought music was the universal language) and the European Environment Agency’s Terminology and Discovery Service.

Diacritic charts

In order to ensure that accented characters and special symbols display properly in the catalog, it’s important to have the correct diacritic code.

Our system uses Unicode, and we often rely on the Unicode Character Code Chart or Unicode Character Table.  Which interface you use is personal preference.

It may also be worth coming up with a cheat sheet of the codes you use most frequently – for example, common French accents if you’re cataloging Canadian government documents, which are bilingual.

Many Integrated Library Systems also have diacritic charts built in, where you can select the symbol you need and click it to place it in the record.

Diacritic guessers

Diacritic charts can be long and involved (the Unicode example above is a bit of a nightmare), so if you’re working with a new language, browsing through them searching for a specific code can be time-consuming. You can see the symbol in front of you, but have no idea what it’s called.

This is where Shapecatcher comes in.  This utility allows you to draw a character using your mouse or tablet. It identifies possible matches for the symbol and gives you the symbol’s name and Unicode number.

Have you encountered issues handling different languages when cataloguing? Is there a free language tool you’d like to share? Tell us about it in the comments!

__

Credits: Image of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Tower of Babel courtesy of the Google Art Project. Many thanks also to my colleagues Judy Harris and Vivian Zhang for sharing their language challenges and tools.

Categories: Library News

2014 LITA Forum Student Registration Rate Deadline Extended

Mon, 2014-09-29 13:57

The special student registration rate to the 2014 LITA National Forum has been extended through Monday October 6th, 2014.  The Forum will be held November 5-8, 2014 at the Hotel Albuquerque in Albuquerque, NM. Learn more about the Forum here.

This special rate is intended for a limited number of graduate students enrolled in ALA accredited programs. In exchange for a discounted registration, students will assist the LITA organizers and the Forum presenters with on-site operations. This year’s theme is “Transformation: From Node to Network.” We are anticipating an attendance of 300 decision makers and implementers of new information technologies in libraries.

The selected students will be expected to attend the full LITA National Forum, Thursday noon through Saturday noon. This does not include the pre-conferences on Thursday and Friday. You will be assigned a variety of duties, but you will be able to attend the Forum programs, which include 3 keynote sessions, 30 concurrent sessions, and a dozen poster presentations.

The special student rate is $180 – half the regular registration rate for LITA members. This rate includes a Friday night reception at the hotel, continental breakfasts, and Saturday lunch. To get this rate you must apply and be accepted per below.

To apply for the student registration rate, please provide the following information:

  • Complete contact information including email address,
  • The name of the school you are attending, and
  • 150 word (or less) statement on why you want to attend the 2014 LITA Forum

Please send this information no later than October 6, 2014 to lita@ala.org, with “2014 LITA Forum Student Registration Request” in the subject line.

Those selected for the student rate will be notified no later than October 10, 2014.

Categories: Library News

The Password Dilemma

Mon, 2014-09-29 07:00
Elizabeth Montgomery on the game show Password, 1971

One-on-one technology help is one of the greatest services offered by the modern public library. Our ability to provide free assistance without an underlying agenda to sell a product puts us in a unique and valuable position in our communities. While one-on-one sessions are one of my favorite job duties, I must admit that they can also be the most frustrating, primarily because of passwords. It is rare that I assist a patron and we don’t encounter a forgotten password, if not several. Trying to guess the password or resetting it usually eats up most of our time. I wish that I were writing this post as an authority on how to conquer the war on passwords, but I fear that we’re losing the battle. One day we’ll look back and laugh at the time we wasted trying to guess our passwords; resetting them again and again, but it’s been 10 years since Bill Gates predicted the death of the password, so I’m not holding my breath.

The latest answer to this dilemma is password managers like Dashlane and Last Pass. These are viable solutions for some, but the majority of the patrons I work with have little experience with technology and a password manager is simply too overwhelming.

I’ve been thinking a lot about passwords lately; I’ve read countless articles about how to manage passwords, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer. That said, I think that the best thing librarians can do is change our attitude about passwords in general. Instead of considering them to be annoyances we should view them as tools. Passwords should empower us, not annoy us. Passwords are our first line of defense against hackers. If we want to protect the content we create, it’s our responsibility to create and manage strong passwords. This is exactly the perspective we should share with our patrons. Instead of griping about patrons who don’t know their email passwords, we should take this opportunity to educate our patrons. We should view this encounter as a chance to stop patrons from using one password across all of their accounts or God forbid, using 123456 as their password.

If a patron walks away from a one-on-one help session with nothing more than a stronger account password and a slightly better understanding of online security, then that is a victory for the librarian.

What’s your take on the password dilemma? Do you have any suggestions for working with patrons in one-on-one situations? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Categories: Library News