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August Library Tech Roundup

Thu, 2015-08-27 09:00
image courtesy of Flickr user cdevers (CC BY NC ND)

Each month, the LITA bloggers will share selected library tech links, resources, and ideas that resonated with us. Enjoy – and don’t hesitate to tell us what piqued your interest recently in the comments section!

Brianna M.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye this month, mostly related to digital scholarship.

John K.

Jacob S.

  • I’m thankful for Shawn Averkamp’s Python library for interacting with ContentDM (CDM), including a Python class for editing CDM metadata via their Catcher, making it much less of a pain batch editing CDM metadata records.
  • I recently watched an ALA webinar where Allison Jai O’Dell presented on TemaTres, a platform for publishing linked data controlled vocabularies.

Nimisha B.

There have been a lot of great publications and discussions in the realm of Critlib lately concerning cataloging and library discovery. Here are some, and a few other things of note:

Michael R.

  • Adobe Flash’s days seem numbered as Google Chrome will stop displaying Flash adverts by default, following Firefox’s lead. With any luck, Java will soon follow Flash into the dustbin of history.
  • NPR picked up the story of DIY tractor repairs running afoul of the DMCA. The U.S. Copyright Office is considering a DMCA exemption for vehicle repair; a decision is scheduled for October.
  • Media autoplay violates user control and choice. Video of a fatal, tragic Virginia shooting has been playing automatically in people’s feeds. Ads on autoplay are annoying, but this…!

Cinthya I.

These are a bit all over the map, but interesting nonetheless!

Bill D.

I’m all about using data in libraries, and a few things really caught my eye this month.

David K.

Whitni W.

Marlon H.

  • Ever since I read an ACRL piece about library adventures with Raspberry Pi, I’ve wanted to build my own as a terminal for catalog searches and as an self checkout machine. Adafruit user Ruizbrothers‘ example of how to Build an All-In-One Desktop using the latest version of Raspberry Pi might just what I need to finally get that project rolling.
  • With summer session over (and with it my MSIS, yay!) I am finally getting around to planning my upgrade from Windows 8.1 to 10. Lifehacker’s Alan Henry, provides quite a few good reasons to opt for a Clean Install over the standard upgrade option. With more and more of my programs conveniently located just a quick download away and a wide array of cloud solutions safeguarding my data, I think I found my weekend project.

Share the most interesting library tech resource you found this August in the comments!

Categories: Library News

iPads in the Library

Tue, 2015-08-25 13:00

Getting Started/Setting Things Up

Several years ago we added twenty iPad 2s to use in our children’s and teen programming. They have a variety of apps on them ranging from early literacy and math apps to Garage Band and iMovie to Minecraft and Clash of Clans*. Ten of the iPads are geared towards younger kids and ten are slanted towards teen interests.

Not surprisingly, the iPads were very popular when we first acquired them. We treated app selection as an extension of our collection development policy. Both the Children’s and Adult Services departments have a staff iPad they can use to try out apps before adding them to the programming iPads.

We bought a cart from Spectrum Industries (a WI-based company; we also have several laptop carts from them) so that we had a place to house and charge the devices. The cart has space for forty iPads/tablets total. We use an Apple MacBook and the Configurator app to handle updating the iPads and adding content to them. We created a Volume Purchase Program account in order to buy multiple copies of apps and then get reimbursed for taxes after the fact. The VPP does not allow for tax exempt status but the process of receiving refunds is pretty seamless.

The only ‘bothersome’ part of updating the iPads is switching the cable from the power plug to the USB ports (see above) and then making sure that all the iPads have their power cables plugged firmly into them to make a solid connection. Once I’d done it a few times it became less awkward. The MacBook needs to be plugged into the wall or it won’t have enough power for the iPads. It also works best running on an ethernet connection versus WiFi for downloading content.

It takes a little effort to set up the Conifgurator** but once you have it done, all you need to do is plug the USB into the MacBook, launch the Configurator, and the iPads get updated in about ten to fifteen minutes even if there’s an iOS update.

Maintaining the Service/Adjusting to Our Changing Environment

Everything was great. Patrons loved the iPads. They were easy to maintain. They were getting used.

Then the school district got a grant and gave every student, K-12, their own iPad.

They rolled them out starting with the high school students and eventually down through the Kindergartners. The iPads are the students’ responsibility. They use them for homework and note-taking. Starting in third grade they get to take them home over the summer.

Suddenly our iPads weren’t so interesting any more. Not only that, but our computer usage plummeted. Now that our students had their own Internet-capable device they didn’t need our computers any more. They do need our WiFi and not surprisingly those numbers went up.

There are restrictions for the students. For example, younger students can’t put games on their iPads. And while older students have fewer restrictions, they don’t tend to put pay apps on their iPads. That means we have things on our iPads that the students couldn’t or didn’t have.

I started meeting with the person at the school district in charge of the program a couple times a year. We talk about technology we’re implementing at our respective workplaces and figure out what we can do to supplement and help each other. I’ll unpack this in a future post and talk about creating local technology partnerships.

Recently I formed a technology committee consisting of staff from every department in the library. One of the things we’ll be addressing is the iPads. We want to make sure that they’re being used. Also, it won’t be too long and they will be out-of-date and we’ll have to decide if we’re replacing them and whether we’d just recycle the old devices or repurpose them (as OPACs potentially?).

We don’t circulate iPads but I’d certainly be open to that idea. How many of you have iPads/tablets in your library? What hurdles have you faced?

* This is a list of what apps are on the iPads as of August 2015. Pay apps are marked with a $:

  • Children’s iPads (10): ABC Alphabet Phonics, Air Hockey Gold, Bub – Wider, Bunny Fun $, Cliffed: Norm’s World XL, Dizzypad HD, Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! $, Easy-Bake Treats, eliasMATCH $, Escape – Norm’s World XL, Fairway Solitaire HD, Fashion Math, Go Away, Big Green Monster! $, Hickory Dickory Dock, Jetpack Joyride, Make It Pop $, Mango Languages, Minecraft – Pocket Edition $, Moo, Baa, La La La! $, My Little Pony: Twilight Sparkle, Teacher for a Day $, NFL Kicker 13, Offroad Legends Sahara, OverDrive, PewPew, PITFALL!, PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit! $, Punch Quest, Skee-Ball HD Free, Sound Shaker $, Spot the Dot $, The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss $, Waterslide Express
  • Teen iPads (10): Air Hockey Gold, Bad Flapping Dragon, Bub – Wider, Can You Escape, Clash of Clans, Cliffed: Norm’s World XL, Codea $, Cut the Rope Free, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Dizzypad HD, Easy-Bake Treats, Escape – Norm’s World XL, Fairway Solitaire HD, Fashion Math, Fruit Ninja Free, GarageBand $, iMovie $, Jetpack Joyride, Mango Languages, Minecraft – Pocket Edition $, NFL Kicker 13, Ninja Saga, Offroad Legends Sahara, OverDrive, PewPew, PITFALL!, Punch Quest, Restaurant Town, Skee-Ball HD Free, Stupid Zombies Free, Temple Run, Waterslide Express, Zombies vs. Ninja

** It’s complicated but worth spelling out so I’m working on a follow-up post to explain the process of creating a VPP account and getting the Configurator set up the way you want it.

Categories: Library News

Attend the 2015 LITA Forum

Wed, 2015-08-19 08:00

Don’t Miss the 2015 LITA Forum
Minneapolis, MN
November 12-15, 2015

Registration is Now Open!

Join us in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis for the 2015 LITA Forum, a three-day education and networking event featuring 2 preconferences, 3 keynote sessions, more than 55 concurrent sessions and 15 poster presentations. This year including content and planning collaboration with LLAMA. It’s the 18th annual gathering of the highly regarded LITA Forum for technology-minded information professionals. Meet with your colleagues 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.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Mx A. Matienzo, Director of Technology for the Digital Public Library of America
  • Carson Block, Carson Block Consulting Inc.
  • Lisa Welchman, President of Digital Governance Solutions at ActiveStandards.

The Preconference Workshops:

  • 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.
  • Beyond Web Page Analytics: Using Google tools to assess searcher behavior across web properties.

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.”

Forum Sponsors:

EBSCO, Ex Libris, Optimal Workshop, OCLC, Innovative, BiblioCommons, Springshare, A Book Apart and Rosenfeld Media.

Get all the details, register and book a hotel room at the 2015 Forum Web site.

See you in Minneapolis.

Categories: Library News

Interacting with patrons through their mobile devices

Tue, 2015-08-18 09:00

Mobile technologies, specifically smartphones, have become a peripheral appendage to our everyday experience. We often see individuals oblivious to current surroundings exhibiting dedicated attention to their mobile devices. This behavior is often viewed in a negative light; however, with the level of global media engagement people are able to achieve with these devices, it can be hard to blame them. The ability to participate in social media, sending quick messages to friends, listen to music, watch videos, surfing the web, fact check information, or even read a great book, is all right in your hand.

When attempting to interact with patrons through technology, utilizing their familiarity with their mobile device can help to achieve a more positive experience. This is when “Let’s build an app” is often reverberated. Although that is a great idea, it is a complex development process and there are a number of ways to achieve interactive experiences without the development of a new mobile application.

Over the course of the next several blog posts, I will be discussing various methods of interacting with patrons mobile devices to enhance their experiences through the use of QR codes, NFC (Near Field Communication) tags, and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) Beacons. Each of these technologies allow for a different experience, and have areas where they excel and falter, but when incorporating each technology appropriately they can create a comprehensive interactive experience to enhance information seeking.

Categories: Library News

A couple of not totally useless things you can do on the command line [written for beginners]

Mon, 2015-08-17 11:00

As a librarian who has been very engaged in the movement to demystify programming, I’ve really focused on teaching and sharing tools that users can use in daily life, as that has been the most common question I get when teaching, “When will I use this?” This post has been heavily influenced by my work in teaching programming to the non-programmer and teaching something that can be applied beyond the classroom.

With the start of school on the cusp (and for some already come and gone) I wanted to throw something not totally useless out there for you to tuck away to use on a rainy day or now if you’d like.

These have been written in mind that you may have some, experience with the command line but very little. I apologize for those more experience users if this is a bit dense in explanation.

I’ve ran these successfully on both MacOS X Yosemite and Linux-Ubuntu. This is my first attempt at providing documentation on something like this, so please feel free to critique it.

If you are a Windows user, I recommend downloading Console2 [], which is a terminal-emulator that will allow you similar access to the commands used in Linux and MacOS X

For this documentation anything following the $ is what you will type into your command prompt. The $ denotes a new command to be entered on a new line, some commands wrap, but do not hit enter until you’ve type the entire command. For the most part, you can copy and paste the command directly into the terminal, but make sure you make the necessary changes.

Use Find and Exiftool to gather & organize all of your pictures by creation date into folders by year and month

This will walk you through full install of Perl, Exiftool, directory creation and processing of files. Exiftool is a really handy tool for reading, writing and editing metadata in a significant range of file types, so it is a really great tool to have in general.

First you’ll need to install Perl and exiftool. There is a high possibility that your computer will already have Perl installed, but in the case that it doesn’t you will need to install it.

To check to see if you have Perl installed use this command:

$ perl –v

If it is installed, you will get information on the version of Perl you have installed and you can skip the next command.

If it is not installed you will need to install it.

$ curl –L | bash

Installing exiftool For full Perl distribution, download the Image-ExifTool distribution from to your desktop (if you do not specify where to download it, then cut & paste the download from the downloads folder to your Desktop) and then in your terminal run the following.  **You will be using sudo on one command, please be VERY careful with this as it can do some major damage if not used properly.**

$ cd ~/Desktop
$ tar -xzf Image-ExifTool-9.99.tar.gz
$ cd Image-ExifTool-9.99
$ sudo cp -r exiftool lib /usr/local/bin

Don’t want to use the terminal to install this? Go to and download the version you need and install it as a normal package.

Anytime you want to run exiftool, you call it up by typing exiftool into the command line.

Now we need to make the folder to compile all the images we want to sort into one place.

$ cd Documents
$ mkdir “newfoldername”
$ pwd
$ cd ~

Replace “newfoldername” with the name of the folder you want to create and use.

pwd will give you the directory pathway for Documents/newfoldername you will need in the next few commands so make note of it, copy it or write it down.

We are going to find all of the JPG files on your computer and put them into that folder you just created. The tilde (~) denotes home directory which will search your entire computer; if you have all of your photos in another directory you can use the pathway for that instead.

This command will find in your computer all files with extensions .JPG and .jpg and copy them to the new specified folder retaining the original files & their modification information. It is important to compile them in one folder so you can run exiftool much more quickly.

$ cd ~
$ find ~ -iname ‘*.jpg’ -print -exec cp –pr ‘{}’ Documents/newfoldername \;

If you want to search other file types like .png, then replace the JPG with png.

If you need to be case sensitive on the extension, remove the i from –iname.

Replace “Documents/newfoldername” with the pathway to directory you just created (noted from pwd command)

Using Exiftool to organize all the files into folders by year and month using this line of command.

$ exiftool ‘-Directory<CreateDate’ –d
$ Documents/newfoldername/%y/%y%m –r Documents/newfoldername

Replace both instances of Documents/newfoldername directory with the directory you created.

Use Exiftool to sort all of your files by create date and then into folders by year and month

If you just want to copy and sort all of your files into folders, not specifying file types run this command instead.

$ Exiftool –o . ‘-Directory<CreateDate’ –d Documents/createfolder/%y/%y%m –r ~

This will search the entire root directory, and any file types that can be copied will be copied and organized by creation date in the folder you specify.

Keep in mind that Exiftool is not limited to moving only image files so you can play around with this as you want.

Send a text message from your command line with this script:

$ curl -d number=########## -d “message= your text message goes here”

Where the ########## is your 10 digit number and your message goes after the message= and closed with a “

If you are going to send notifications to your phone often you can add it as a quick command:

$ SendText () { curl -d number=########## -d “message=$*”;echo message sent; }

Now anytime you want to send a text to that number input into the command line:

$ SendText your message goes here

You can also run this as a module or a standalone server, see GitHub source here:

This can be used to send notifications to your phone when running a program. Currently, I just use it to send the grocery list to myself, cause you know there is an app for that.

Here is a write up of an example of something you might want to receive text notifications on:

Categories: Library News

Taming the beast: a case for task-driven projects

Fri, 2015-08-14 09:00

Have you ever been assigned to a project? If so, you know that they can be daunting, sometimes overwhelming creatures that seem challenging to overcome. Where do you begin? What next? Before you know it you’re lost in the jungle with no clear way out. So, how do you tame the beast? How do you get through a project without getting lost along the way? In this post I’ll be making a case for tasks.

Paving the way through the jungle

Tasks are the real, tangible steps taken to accomplish a goal, in this case, a project. Together, they build the roadmap that helps you get from point A to point Z. So, how do you come up with tasks for a large, sometimes abstract project? First, you need to understand what the end goal is. Second, you need to understand where you are currently at. Then you start plotting the tasks. Begin with high-level, somewhat tangible tasks (I sometimes call these objectives). From there, break down each of those tasks into smaller, more refined tasks. Continue that process until you feel you have a solid map to begin with.

Many times tasks are evolutionary. You come across something you didn’t expect, or one of your tasks falls through. Just keep plotting forward towards the end goal. Below is a real-world example from a project I’m currently working on.

The real-world example

I began employment at Iowa State University (ISU) back in June. A month into the job I met with my fellow amazing metadata librarian, Kelly Thompson, to be assigned my first legit metadata project. She tells me that she’d like for me to analyze ISU’s digital collection metadata for data cleanup purposes and to come up with a core set of metadata fields to use for all of the digital collections with the end goal of contributing to consortia like the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

So there I was with my first big-boy project. How was I supposed to tackle this project when I had very limited knowledge of ISU’s digital asset management system (an OCLC-hosted ContentDM instance), in addition to the fact that I had no in-depth understanding of their metadata model? Luckily, my task-driven instincts kicked in. First, I needed to figure out the end goal: prepare ISU’s digital collection metadata for outside sharing through OAI and DPLA. Then, I needed to understand my current standing: ground zero. From there, I began paving the way.

The initial tasks I came up with, seen on the sticky note above, gave me enough fuel to get the engine running. Eventually some of these tasks fizzled, while others have exploded into multi-step mini-projects. I’m almost two months in now, and the project has grown exponentially. But I am not stressed out, because I have tasks to keep me grounded.

Concluding thoughts

Reflecting on the project thus far, I do have a couple of thoughts and tips. I have the files for this project organized in a hierarchical folder structure, which helps me keep related files neatly together. They are divided into categories like “Data dictionary”, “Metadata fields to be cleaned”, and “Data cleanup workflows”.  As you can see from my sticky note, my tasks are not as organized. For future projects I would like to arrange my tasks to reflect how I’ve organized my folders/files to better pair the two. This would make the tasks easier for me to keep track of. It would also increase clarity when I meet with colleagues to discuss a project.

One recommendation I would make is to flesh out your tasks and plan ahead as much as you can before the project begins. The more you can prepare beforehand the easier it will be to keep the beast tamed. I have been on past projects where the group did very little preparation beforehand, and it showed. It was very difficult to get the project going and to keep everybody on the same page.

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Categories: Library News

Required Reading

Wed, 2015-08-12 09:00

Stop what you’re doing and pick up a copy of Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. Douglas Rushkoff’s 21st century call to arms ought to be required reading for librarians (not just those with the word digital in their job title). This is a quick read with big impact and it deserves more than a skim.

Gear Eyes Girl by Anna Sher from the Noun Project

This book caught me at the perfect moment as I’ve just taken on a new role as Scholarly Technologies Librarian for Indiana University, where one of my main job duties will be technology training for staff. I’m in the brainstorming stages now, but I think I’ve already zeroed in on the real challenge. Learning styles and technical abilities aside, one of the biggest obstacles to teaching technology is our attitude toward the technology itself. In terms of programming in particular, Rushkoff writes, “We are intimidated by the whole notion of programming, seeing it as a chore for mathematically inclined menials than a language through which we can re-create the world on our own terms.”

I’ve witnessed this first hand and been guilty of it myself. For starters, no matter how many times I use Codeacademy or Treehouse, learning a programming language is an incredibly daunting task. It’s a whole new world that can be slightly terrifying. And shouldn’t these things be left to the elite group of nerds who already know how to program anyway? But this is a dangerous and defeatist way of thinking, for as Rushkoff points out, “The irony here is that computers are frightfully easy to learn. Programming is immensely powerful but it is really no big deal to learn.” The issue isn’t that programming is impossible, intimidation and reluctance are the real hurdles.

Computer Programmer by Thinkful from the Noun Project

Teaching technology in the library becomes less about the tool itself, than about our attitude and willingness to learn something that isn’t spelled out in our job descriptions. So how do we overcome this mindset? I can’t say for certain, but I suspect there has to be an element of excitement, an understanding that interacting with technology on a deeper level empowers us. Instead of starting with how things work, we can’t move on until we’ve answered the question, “why bother?”

Reading Program or Be Programmed has motivated me and reminded me that books and ideas can be great motivators for librarians. Seems pretty obvious, but somehow we overlook this. I look forward to incorporating big picture ideas like those presented by Rushkoff into training. Until we’re excited or curious, we’re not ready to learn. So before we start teaching, let’s start there.

Categories: Library News

If You Build It They Might Not Come

Fri, 2015-08-07 09:00

I’ve felt lately that I am trying to row upstream when getting faculty and students to use our research guides. They have great content, we discuss them in instruction sessions, and we prominently feature them on our webpage. In spite of this though they are not used nearly as much as I think they should be.

Licensed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 by Side Wages

This summer, I spent time brainstorming ways to market the guides to increase usage and it hit me that maybe I’m going about the process all wrong. I’m trying to promote a resource to students that is outside the typical resources they use. Our students use the university’s learning management system, Moodle, extensively. It is the way they access courses and communicate with their professors and fellow classmates.

We have integrated links in Moodle directly to the library, but based on our Google Analytics students go directly from the library homepage to the databases. They don’t frequently traffic other parts of the website. So instead of rowing upstream, what if we start using Moodle? I’m still brainstorming what this could look like but here are a few ideas:

  • Enroll students in a library course (I’ve seen this done, but I’m not sure it is the best fit for my institution)
  • Create lessons and pages in Moodle that faculty can import into their own courses
  • Work more closely with the instructional design team to include library resources in the courses

How do you use the LMS to encourage student use of the library?



Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: August 5, 2015

Wed, 2015-08-05 14:51

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:

Manager, Information Technology, Timberland Regional Library, Olympia, WA

Vice President – Digital Services, Backstage Library Works, Bethlehem, PA

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

Categories: Library News

Learning through WordClouds: Visualizing LITA Jobs Data

Wed, 2015-08-05 09:11

I am in no way attempting to create an evidenced-based scholarly study on employment movements.  This is an attempt to satisfy my recent fascination with data visualization and curiosity to use them to inspire discussion.  On August 4, 2015, sometime in the morning, I took data from the employment opportunities advertised on the LITA Job site in order to see some trends.  The jobs are posted under the regions Northeastern, Southern, Midwestern, and Western Regions; none posted outside of the United States at the time of my mini-experiment.  This information may be helpful to current job seekers or folks currently employed who may be interested in areas to venture out or compliment their current repertoire. I hope these visualizations will conjure some discussion or ideas.  Out of the sixty-seven total ads listed, 34 were from universities, 14 from colleges, 9 from public libraries, and 10 from other libraries such as vendors or special libraries.

Organization/Library-type employment post percentage – university, college, public, and other

Job Titles
As librarians, we master the art of keyword searching but sometimes we may struggle with finding those specific words that can bring back that needed information.  This may happen with job searching.  Library, librarian and technology as keywords can only take you so far.  In the past, when looking for employment, I felt I may be unaware of exciting jobs out there due to not knowing the magic terms.

wordcloud of advertised job titles minus the word librarian, library, and university

After visualizing the job titles on the list, I discovered I like reading the more obscure words rarely used.  These terms are a helpful way to understand duties, but also motivate you.  Take for instance the enticing words included on some; emerging, collaborator, integrated, initiative, or innovation. I especially love the job title Data and Visualization Librarian, posted by Dartmouth College Library.

Duties and Required/ Preferred Qualifications
Out of the 67 current posts, 44 positions had this information readily available, 23 were filled, a broken link, or the link provided lead to the homepage or job search page of the organization.

Wordcloud of duties, and required/preferred qualifications

After you get passed the usual words that pop out, there may be knowledge from the smaller, more obscure words.  For programmers, the usual contenders were CSS (cascading style sheets), Java, XSL (EXtensible Stylesheet Language), APIs (Application programming interface), and RDF (Resource Description Framework).  I was not aware of MVC.  It seems that ASP.NET MVC is a Microsoft web and app creation tool.  Microsoft has wonderful tutorials at .    Another learning experience came from a somewhat prominent acronym – RIS. RIS is a standardized tagging system used to effectively interchange citation information between platforms.  XML’s XPath and D3 were also new to me. Some areas to possibly develop your skills are in RDA (Resource Description & Access) and 3D software and printing.

This small exercise gave me, not only a small snippet of employment information to be aware of, but gave me more respect towards the use of word clouds.

Word Cloud Web Tools:
Word Cloud Generator:

Categories: Library News

Creating campus-wide technology partnerships: Mission impossible?

Mon, 2015-07-27 09:00

Libraries have undergone significant changes in the last five years, shifting from repositories to learning spaces, from places to experiences. Much of this is due to our growing relationships with our IT, instructional technology, and research colleagues as the lines between technology and library-related work become continually more blurred.

But it’s not always easy to establish these types of partnerships, especially if there haven’t been any connections to build on. So how can you approach outreach to your IT campus departments and individuals?

There are typically two types of partnerships that you can initiate:

1. There is a program already established, and you would like the library to be involved where it wasn’t involved before

2. You are proposing something completely new

All you have to do is convince the coordinator or director of the project or department that having the library become a part of that initiative is a good thing especially if they don’t think you have anything to offer. Easier said than done, right? But what happens if that person is not responding to your painstakingly crafted email? If the person is a director or chair, chances are they have an assistant who is much more willing to communicate with you and can often make headway where you can’t.

Ask if you can attend a departmental meeting or if they can help you set up a meeting with the person who can help things move forward. Picking up the phone doesn’t hurt either-if someone is in their office, they might, just might, be inclined to talk with you as opposed to ignoring the email you sent them days ago which is by now buried under an avalanche of other emails and will be duly ignored.

Always try to send an agenda ahead of time so they know what you’re thinking-that additional time might just be the thing they need to be able to consider your ideas instead of having to come up with something on the spot. Plus, if you’re nervous, that will serve as your discussion blueprint and can prevent you from rambling or going off into tangents-remember, the person in front of you has many other things to think about, and like it or not, you have to make good use of their time!

After the meeting, along with your thank you, be sure to remind them of the action items that were discussed-that way when you contact others within the department to move forward with your initiative they are not wondering what’s going on and why you’re bugging them. Also asking who might be the best person to help with whatever action items you identify will help you avoid pestering the director later-there’s nothing worse than getting the green light then having to backtrack or delay because you forgot to ask them who to work with! From there on out, creating a system for communicating regularly with all those involved in moving forward is your priority. Make sure everyone who needs to be at the table receives an invitation and understands why they are there. Clarify who is in charge and what the expectations of the work are. Assume that they know nothing and the only thing their supervisor or colleague has said is that they will be working with the library on a project.

You might also have to think outside the proverbial IT box when it comes to building partnerships. For example, creating a new Makerspace might not start with IT, but rather with a department who is interested in incorporating it into their curriculum. Of course IT will become part of the equation at some point, but that unit might not be the best way to approach creating this type of space and an academic department would be willing to help split the cost because their students are getting the benefits.

Finally, IT nowadays comes in many forms and where you once thought the campus supercomputing center has nothing to do with your work, finding out exactly what their mission is and what they do, could come in handy. For example, you might discover that they can provide storage for large data sets and they could use some help to spread the word to faculty about this. Bingo! You’ve just identified an opportunity for those in the library who are involved in this type of work to collaborate on a shared communication plan where you can introduce what the library is doing to help faculty with their data management plans and the center can help store that same data.

Bottom line, technology partnerships are vital if libraries are going to expand their reach and become even more integrated into the academic fabric of their institutions. But making those connections isn’t always easy, especially because some units might not see the immediate benefits of such collaborations. Getting to the table is often the hardest step in the process, but keeping these simple things in mind will (hopefully) smooth the way:

1. Look at all possible partners, not just the obvious IT connections

2. Be willing to try different modes of outreach if your preferred method isn’t having success

3. Be prepared to demonstrate what the library can bring to the table and follow through

Categories: Library News

Outernet: A Digital Library in the Sky

Fri, 2015-07-24 09:00


To me, libraries have always represented a concentration of knowledge. Growing up I dreamt about how smart I’d be if I read all of the books in my hometown’s tiny local branch library.  I didn’t yet understand the subtle differences between libraries, archives and repositories, but I knew that the promise of the internet and digital content meant that, someday, I’d be able to access all of that knowledge as if I had a library inside my computer. The idea of aggregating all of humanity’s knowledge in a way that makes it freely accessible to everyone is what led me to library school, programming, and working with digital libraries/repositories, so whenever I find a project working towards that goal I get tingly. Outernet makes me feel very tingly.

In a nutshell, Outernet is a startup that got sponsored by a big nonprofit, and aims to use satellites to broadcast data down to Earth. By using satellites, they can avoid issues of internet connectivity, infrastructure, political censorship and local poverty. The data they plan to provide would be openly licensed educational materials specifically geared towards underprivileged populations such as local news, crop prices, emergency communications, open source applications, literature, textbooks and courseware, open access academic articles, and even the entirety of Wikipedia. Currently the only way to receive Outernet’s broadcasts is with a homemade receiver, but a low cost (~$100) solar-powered, weather-proof receiver with built in storage is in the works which could be mass produced and distributed to impoverished or disaster-stricken areas.

Outernet chooses the content to be added to its core archive with a piece of software called Whiteboard which acts as a kind of Reddit for broadcast content; volunteers submit new URLs pointing to content they believe Outernet should broadcast, and the community can upvote or downvote it with the top-ranking content making it into the core archive, democratizing the process. A separate piece of software called Librarian acts as the interface to locally received content; current receivers act as a Wi-Fi hotspot which users can connect to and use Librarian to explore, copy or delete content as well as configuring the data Librarian harvests. Public access points are being planned for places like schools, hospitals and public libraries where internet connectivity isn’t feasible, with a single person administering the receiver and its content but allowing read-only access to anyone.

While the core work is being done by Outernet Inc., much of the project relies on community members volunteering time to discuss ideas and test the system. You can find more about the community at, but the primary way to participate is to build a receiver yourself and report feedback or to submit/vote on content using Whiteboard. While Outernet is still a long way off from achieving its goals, its still one of the most exciting and fun ideas I’ve heard about in a while and definitely something to keep an eye on.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: July 22, 2015

Wed, 2015-07-22 15:02

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

New This Week:

Library Director, Hingham Public Library, Hingham MA

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

Categories: Library News

Agile Development: Sprint Planning Meeting

Mon, 2015-07-20 09:00

In my last post, I talked about the sprint review meeting; this month we look into planning a sprint. As I said last time, this meeting should be separate from the review, both to differentiate the two and to avoid meeting fatigue.


Sprint planning takes into account the overall project plan and the results of the previous sprint (as presented in the sprint review) and sets out a plan for the next week discrete development time period.


The timing of the sprint planning meeting is the subject of much discussion, and different teams adopt different conventions based on what they feel is the best fit for their particular process. Personally, I prefer to hold the planning meeting on the same day as the review. While this puts pressure on the Product Owner to quickly adjust planning materials based on the outcome of the review, it has several important advantages:

  • The knowledge acquired during the review meeting is fresh on everyone’s mind. Given that sprints typically end on a Friday, waiting until after the weekend to plan the next iteration can lead to loss of organizational memory.
  • During the time between the review and planning meeting, in theory, no work can be performed (because development priorities have not been set), so minimizing that time is crucial to improved productivity.
  • Given that Agile philosophy aims to decrease overhead, having all the necessary meetings in one day helps to contain that part of the development process and focus the team on actual development work.

My ideal sprint boundary process is as follows: have the sprint review in the morning, then take a break (the sprint retrospective can happen here). After lunch, reconvene and hold the planning meeting.


The planning meeting should be less open than the review, as it is more concerned with internal team activities rather than disseminating information to as wide an audience as possible. Only team members and the Product Owner should be present, and the Product Owner may be dismissed after requirements have been presented.

Meeting Agenda

Before the meeting begins, the Product Owner should spend some time rearranging the Product Backlog to reflect the current state of the project. This should take into account the results of the review meeting, so if both happen on the same day the PO will need to be quick on her feet (maybe a kind developer can drop by with some takeout for lunch?).

The planning meeting itself can be divided into two major parts. First, the team will move as many user stories from the backlog into the sprint as it thinks it can handle. Initially this will take some guessing in terms of the team’s development velocity, but as sprints come and go the team should acquire a strong sense for how much work it can accomplish in a given time period. Because the PO has updated the backlog priorities, the team should be able to simply take items off the top until capacity is reached. As each item is moved, the team should ask the PO as many questions as necessary to truly understand the scope of the story.

One the sprint bucket is full, the team will move on to the second part of the exercise, which involves taking each item and breaking it down into tasks. The PO should not be needed for this part, as the team should have collected all the information it needs in the first part of the meeting. When an item has been fully dissected and broken down, individual team members should take responsibility for each of the tasks to complete, and dependencies should be identified and documented.

It’s important to remember that sprint planning is not driven by how much work is left in the backlog, but by how much the team can realistically accomplish. If you have 3 sprints left and there are 45 user stories left in the backlog, but the team’s velocity is 10 stories per sprint, you can’t just put 15 stories in the sprint; at that point the team needs to renegotiate scope and priorities, or rethink deadlines. Pushing a team beyond its comfort zone will result in decreased software quality; a better approach is to question scope and differentiate key features from nice-to-haves.

If you want to learn more about sprint planning meetings, you can check out the following resources:

I’ll be back next month to discuss the sprint retrospective.

What are your thoughts on how your organization implements sprint planning? How do you handle the timing of the review/retrospective/planning meeting cycle? What mechanisms do you have in place to handle the tension between what needs to be done and what the team can accomplish?

BIS-Sprint-Final-24-06-13-05” image By Birkenkrahe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Categories: Library News

Dates: or, the continuing frustration of unnecessarily ambiguous metadata

Fri, 2015-07-17 09:00


The MARC data structure, and the AACR2 rules that usually accompany it, are strange beasts. Every once in a while I’m asked why I get so frustrated with them, and I explain that there are things — strange things — that I have to deal with by writing lots of code when I could be spending my time trying to improve relevancy ranking or extending the reporting tools my librarians use to make decisions that affect patrons and their access.

This is one of those tales.

I’m a systems librarian, which in my case means that I deal with MARC metadata pretty much all day, every day. Coming from outside the library world, it took me a while to appreciate the MARC format and how we store data in it, where appreciate can be read as hate hate hate hate hate.

I find it frustrating to deal with data typed into free-text fields all willy-nilly with never a thought for machine readability, where a question like what is the title is considered a complicated trap, and where the word unique, when applied to identifiers, has to have air quotes squeezing it so hard that the sarcasm drips out of the bottom of the ‘q’ in a sad little stream of liquid defeat.

One of the most frustrating things, though, is when a cataloger has clearly worked hard to determine useful information about a work and then has nowhere to put those data. To wit: date of publication.

Many programmers have to deal with timestamps, with all the vagaries of time zones, leap years, leap seconds, etc. In contrast, you’d think that the year in which something was published wouldn’t be fraught with ambiguity and intrigue, but you’d be wrong. Dates are spread out over MARC records in several places, often in unparsable free-text minefields (I’m looking at you, enumeration/chronology) and occasionally in different calendars.

The most “reliable” dates (see? there are those air-quotes again!) live in the 008 fixed field. Of course, they mean different things depending on format determination and so on, but generally you get four bytes to put down four ASCII characters representing the year. When you don’t know the all the digits of the year exactly, you substitute a u for the unknown numbers.

  • 1982 — published in 1982
  • 198u — published sometime in in the 1980s
  • 19uu — published between 1900 and 1999

So, that’s fine. Except that it isn’t. It’s dumb. It made sense to someone at the time to only allow four bytes, because bytes were expensive. But those days have been gone for decades, and we still encode dates like this, despite the fact that having actual start and endpoints for a known range would be better in every way.

Look at what we lose!

  • 1982 or 1983 — 198u (ten years vs. two)
  • Between 1978 and 1982 — 19uu (one-hundred years vs. five)
  • Between the Civil War and WWI — 1uuu (one-thousand years vs about fifty)

The other day, in fact, I came across this date:

  • 20uu

Yup. The work was published sometime between 2000 and 2099. My guess is that it was narrowed down to, say, 2009-2011 and this is what we were stuck with. I’d bet big money that its date of publication isn’t, say, after 2016, unless time travel gets invented in the next few years.

But the MARC format works against us, and once again we throw data away because we don’t have a good place to store it, and I’m spending my time trying to figure out a reasonable maximum based on the current date or the date of cataloging or whatnot when it could have just been entered at the time.

As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, no one is ever going to go back and re-catalog everything. I can almost stomach the idea that we did this thirty years ago. It drives me crazy that we’re still doing it today.

How about it, library-nerd-types? What do you spend your time dealing with that should have been dealt with at another place in the workflow?

? [Image: Calendary Calculator from Nuremberg, 1588; Germanic National Museum in NurembergBy Anagoria (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.]
Categories: Library News

LITA 2015 Scholarships Winners

Thu, 2015-07-16 12:22

Rachel Vacek announced at her LITA President’s program at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, the winners of annual scholarships LITA sponsors jointly with three organizations: Baker & Taylor, LSSI and OCLC. These scholarships are for master’s level study, with an emphasis on library technology and/or automation, at a library school program accredited by the American Library Association. LITA, the Library and Information Technology Association, is a division of the American Library Association.

Andrew Meyer

This year’s winner of the LITA/Christian Larew Memorial Scholarship ($3,000) sponsored by Baker & Taylor is Andrew Meyer who will pursue his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The LITA/LSSI Minority Scholarship ($2,500) winner is Jesus Espinoza who will pursue his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Young-In Kim, the winner of the LITA/OCLC Minority Scholarship ($3,000), will pursue her studies at Syracuse University.

Jesus Espinoza

Criteria for the scholarships include previous academic excellence, evidence of leadership potential and a commitment to a career in library automation and information technology. Two of the scholarships, the LITA/LSSI Minority Scholarship and LITA/OCLC Minority Scholarship, also require U.S Citizenship and membership in one of four minority groups: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, African-American, or Hispanic.

About LITA

Young-In Kim

Established in 1966, the Library and Information Technology Association is the leading organization reaching out across types of libraries to provide education and services for a broad membership. The membership includes new professionals, web services librarians, systems librarians, digital initiatives librarians, library administrators, library schools, vendors and anyone else interested in leading edge technology and applications for librarians and information providers.

For more information, visit

Categories: Library News