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How to Talk About User Experience – a new LITA webinar

12 hours 35 min ago

How to Talk About User Experience

Presenter: Michael Schofield
Wednesday September 7, 2016
Noon – 1:30 pm Central Time

Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

The explosion of new library user experience roles, named and unnamed, the community growing around it, the talks, conferences, and corresponding literature signal a major shift. But the status of library user experience design as a professional field is impacted by the absence of a single consistent definition of the area. While we can workshop card sorts and pick apart library redesigns, even user experience librarians can barely agree about what it is they do – let alone why it’s important. How we talk about the user experience matters. So, in this 90 minute talk, we’ll fix that.

Details here and Registration here

Webinar takeaways will include:

  • Practically talk about and prioritize different aspects impacting the user experience
  • Learn about various UX models, why they’re useful, and when to use them
  • Understand the impact of poor or positive user experiences on the success of the library’s business or mission goals

Michael Schofield is a front-end developer and librarian in higher-ed responsible for the design and development of sites and apps responsible for doing neat things (and winning 2015 ACRL Innovation Awards). He has taught courses on User Experience for Libraries and Advanced WordPress. He started LibUX with Amanda L. Goodman, aspiring to push the #libweb forward by speaking and writing and daydreaming a lot.

And don’t miss other upcoming LITA fall continuing education offerings:

Social Media For My Institution; from “mine” to “ours”
Instructor: Plamen Miltenoff
Starting Wednesday September 21, 2016, running for 4 weeks
Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

Online Productivity Tools: Smart Shortcuts and Clever Tricks
Presenter: Jaclyn McKewan
Tuesday September 20, 2016
11:00 am – 12:30 pm Central Time
Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

Questions or Comments?

For questions or comments, contact LITA at (312) 280-4268 or Mark Beatty,

Categories: Library News

Transmission #8 – Return to Regularly Scheduled Programming

Mon, 2016-08-29 11:00

Thank you to everyone who participated in my feedback survey! I have parsed the results (a little less than 100 responses) and I’m currently thinking through format changes.

I’ll give a full update on the changes to come and more after we conclude our initial ten interviews in October. Stay tuned, faithful viewers.

In today’s webisode, I am joined by one of my personal all-time favorite librarians and colleagues, Michael Rodriguez. Michael is Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Connecticut. Enjoy his perspectives on one of my favorite topics, librarianship in the intersection of collections, technology, and discovery.

Begin Transmission will return September 12th.

Categories: Library News

New Titles in the LITA Guide Series

Thu, 2016-08-25 13:55

A new relationship between LITA and Rowman and Littlefield publishers kicks off with the announcement of 7 recent and upcoming exciting titles on library technology. The LITA Guide Series books from Rowman and Littlefield publishers, contain practical, up to date, how-to information, and are usually under 100 pages. Proposals can be submitted to the Acquisitions editor using this link.

LITA members receive a 20% discount on all the titles. To get that discount, use promotion code RLLITA20 when ordering from the Rowman and Littlefield LITA Guide Series web site.


Here are the current new LITA Guide Series titles:

Integrating LibGuides into Library Websites
Edited by Aaron W. Dobbs and Ryan L. Sittler (October 2016)

Innovative LibGuides Application: Real World Examples
Edited by Aaron W. Dobbs and Ryan L. Sittler (October 2016)

Data Visualization: A Guide to Visual Storytelling for Libraries
Edited by Lauren Magnuson (September 2016)

Mobile Technologies in Libraries
Ben Rawlins (September 2016)

Library Service Design: A LITA Guide to Holistic Assessment, Insight, and Improvement
Joe J. Marquez and Annie Downey (July 2016)

The Librarian’s Introduction to Programming Languages
Edited by Beth Thomsett-Scott (June 2016)

Digitizing Flat Media: Principles and Practices
Joy M. Perrin (December 2015)

LITA publications help to fulfill its mission to educate, serve and reach out to its members, other ALA members and divisions, and the entire library and information community through its publications, programs and other activities designed to promote, develop, and aid in the implementation of library and information technology.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: August 24, 2016

Wed, 2016-08-24 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

American Institute for Radiologic Pathology, Medical Archivist / Case manager, Silver Spring, MD

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

Categories: Library News

Librarians in the Wild: Selling Librarian Skills Outside of Libraries

Fri, 2016-08-19 11:00


When I decided to pursue the MLIS seven years ago, it wasn’t so that I could tap into a vast supply of readily available Librarian positions. I did it because I was drawn to the profession and intrigued about how technology was changing it. My first job search as a degree-toting Librarian was a lucky one: I happened to find a place who needed someone with a strong foundation in project management and web development as well as an interest in librarianship, and that is as good a description of my professional self as you will find. That’s how I ended up at Avery Library.

Then life happened. As the project I was working on was ending, my wife and I decided to leave New York and return to San Diego. I’m not going to go into our reasons for moving, because they’re not relevant here; suffice it to say, my professional goals took a backseat to other considerations. The point is, I was back on the job market. This time, however, I wasn’t so fortunate: it took a while for me to find work, and when I did it was related to my pre-MLIS career. I’m still working in academia, but my current position is as a business analyst/project manager type person. Hey, sometimes you just have to pay the bills.

This recent experience got me thinking (again) about what being a librarian means in terms of everyday work and marketable skills. I’m not going to link to a bunch of depressing articles about the library job market, or the tenuous nature of the profession’s future; suffice it to say, there’s a lot of people with MLIS degrees out there, and, depending on where you live, not too many jobs in traditional Librarian positions.

Over the course of the next few months, I plan to highlight several different types of opportunities that provide a good fit for librarians looking to branch out, and in doing so answer three basic questions:

  1. What makes you (a librarian-type person) a good candidate for that job/field/organization type?
  2. How do you market your skills and experience to compete in that market?
  3. Why would you want to work there? What makes it a good fit not just for a librarian’s skills, but also her professional needs?

This is not a critique of the MLIS degree or the reasons people choose to pursue one. My goal is to provide information that is useful to you if you are trying to broaden your job search when finding a job in a traditional library is proving difficult, or if you just want to take your hard-earned skills and use them to try something new. I hope to highlight opportunities where librarians can not only get hired, but that also make meaningful use of librarianship skills and fulfill the needs of someone with a librarianship background. If you have suggestions for topics or any other feedback, please submit them it in the comments below.

Public Domain image courtesy of user Shyamal, Wikimedia Commons. Originally published in The Literary Digest.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: August 17, 2016

Wed, 2016-08-17 15:35

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

Oak Park Public Library, Web Services Specialist, Oak Park, IL

Denver Public Library, Digital Project Manager, Denver, CO

Denver Public Library, Technology Access and Training Manager, Denver, CO

The Folger Shakespeare Library, Digital Strategist, Washington, DC

Darien Library, Senior Technology Assistant, Norwalk, CT

Champlain College, Technology Librarian, Burlington, VT

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

Categories: Library News

Using Text Editors in Everyday Work

Fri, 2016-08-12 10:35

In the LITA Blog Transmission featuring yours truly I fumbled in trying to explain a time logging feature in the Windows native program Notepad. You can see in the screenshot above that the syntax is .LOG and you put it at the top of the file. Then every time you open the file it adds a time stamp at the end of the file and places the cursor there so you can begin writing. This specific file is where I keep track of my continuing education work. Every time I finish a webinar or class I open this file and write it down (I’ll be honest, I’ve missed a few). At the end of the year I’ll have a nice document with dates and times that I can use to write my annual report.

I use Microsoft Notepad several times a day. In addition to its cool logging function I find it a dependable, simple text editor. Notepad is great for distraction-free, no-frills writing. If I have to copy and paste something from the web into a document—or from one document to another—and I don’t want to drag in all the formatting from the source I put the text in Notepad first. It cleans all the formatting off the text and lets me use it as I need. I use it as a quick way to create to-do lists or jot down notes while working on something else. It launches quickly and lets me get to work right away. Plus, if you delete all the text you’ve written—after you’re done working of course—you can close Notepad and there’s no dialog box asking if you want to save the file.

Prior to becoming a librarian I worked as a programmer writing code. Every single coder I worked with used Notepad to create, revise, and edit code. Sure, you can work in the program you’re writing and your office’s text editor—and you often do; we used something like the vi text editor—but sometimes you need to think through your code and you can’t do that in an executable. I used to have several Notepad files of handy code so that I could reference it quickly without needing to search through source code for it.

I’ve been thinking about Notepad more and more as I prepare for a coding program at my library. A good text editor is essential to writing code. Once you start using one you’ll find yourself reaching for it all the time. But it isn’t all Notepad all the time. If I actually have to troubleshoot code—which these days is mostly things in WordPress—I use Notepad++:

You can see the color highlighting that Notepad++ uses which is a great visual way to see if there are problems in your code without even reading it. It also features a document map which is a high-level view of your entire document on the right-hand side of the screen that highlights where you are in the code. There’s a function list that lists all the functions called in the file. Notepad++ has some other cool text editor functions like multi-editing (editing in several places in the file at the same time), and column mode editing (where you can select a column of text to edit instead of entire lines of code). It’s a very handy tool when you’re working on code.

These are not the only text editors out there. A quick search for lists of text editors gives you more choices than you need. Notepad++ is at the top of several lists and I have to say that I like it better than others I’ve tried. The best thing is most of these text editors are free so they’re easy to try out and see what works for you. They all have very similar feature sets so it often comes down to the user interface. While these two options are Windows operating system only, there are plenty of good text editors for Mac users, too.

Text editors won’t be the starting point for my coding program. We’ll focus on some non-tech coding exercises and some online tools like Scratch or Tynker and some physical items like Sphero or LEGO Mindstorm. While these are geared towards children they are great for adults who have never interacted with code. (Sphero and Mindstorm do have a cost associated with them) When I get to the point in our coding program where I want to talk about text editors I’ll focus on Notepad and Notepad++ but let people know there are other options. If I know my patrons, they’ll have suggestions for me.

Do you have any cool tips for your favorite text editor or perhaps just a recommendation?

Categories: Library News

LITA online continuing education for September 2016

Thu, 2016-08-11 13:40

Start out the fall with these all new sessions, including a web course and two webinars:

Web Course:

Social Media For My Institution; from “mine” to “ours”
Instructor: Plamen Miltenoff
Starting Wednesday September 21, 2016, running for 4 weeks
Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

A course for librarians who want to explore the institutional application of social media. Based on an established academic course at St. Cloud State University “Social Media in Global Context” (more information at ). A theoretical introduction will assist participants to detect and differentiate the private use of social media from the structured approach to social media for an educational institution. Legal and ethical issues will be discussed, including future trends and management issues. The course will include hands-on exercises on creation and dissemination of textual and multimedia content and patrons’ engagement. Brainstorming on suitable for the institution strategies regarding resources, human and technological, workload share, storytelling, and branding.

This is a blended format web course:

The course will be delivered as 4 separate live webinar lectures, one per week on:

Wednesdays, September 21, 28, October 5 and 12
2:00 – 3:00 pm Central

You do not have to attend the live lectures in order to participate. The webinars will be recorded and distributed through the web course platform, Moodle for asynchronous participation. The web course space will also contain the exercises and discussions for the course.

Details here and Registration here


How to Talk About User Experience
Presenter: Michael Schofield
Wednesday September 7, 2016
Noon – 1:30 pm Central Time
Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

The explosion of new library user experience roles, named and unnamed, the community growing around it, the talks, conferences, and corresponding literature signal a major shift. But the status of library user experience design as a professional field is impacted by the absence of a single consistent definition of the area. While we can workshop card sorts and pick apart library redesigns, even user experience librarians can barely agree about what it is they do – let alone why it’s important. How we talk about the user experience matters. So, in this 90 minute talk, we’ll fix that.

Details here and Registration here

Online Productivity Tools: Smart Shortcuts and Clever Tricks
Presenter: Jaclyn McKewan
Tuesday September 20, 2016
11:00 am – 12:30 pm Central Time
Register Online, page arranged by session date (login required)

Become a lean, mean productivity machine! In this 90 minute webinar we’ll discuss free online tools that can improve your organization and productivity, both at work and home. We’ll look at to-do lists, calendars, and other programs. We’ll also explore ways these tools can be connected, as well as the use of widgets on your desktop and mobile device to keep information at your fingertips.

Details here and Registration here

And don’t miss the other upcoming LITA fall continuing education offerings:


Beyond Usage Statistics: How to use Google Analytics to Improve your Repository, with Hui Zhang
Offered: Tuesday October 11, 2016, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Web courses:

Project Management for Success, with Gina Minks
Offered: October 2016, runs for 4 weeks

Contextual Inquiry: Using Ethnographic Research to Impact your Library UW, with Rachel Vacek and Deirdre Costello
Offered: October 2016, running for 6 weeks.

Check the Online Learning web page for more details as they become available.

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to the course, contact LITA at (312) 280-4268 or Mark Beatty,

Categories: Library News

6 Tips for Creating Your Personal Website

Mon, 2016-08-08 08:00

After a tumultuous two-year relationship, I’m finally at peace with my website. Creating a web portfolio can be a big commitment, but it’s also a great way to take control of your online identity. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…

During my last semester of library school I started a blog as a course requirement. I wasted hours working with Wix, WordPress, and Tumblr-trying to get the right look and feel. I finally landed on Squarespace and can’t say enough good things about it. Squarespace is ridiculously easy to use and it’s tough to make an ugly website. The options for templates, fonts, and images are streamlined and curated, unlike many other platforms that overwhelm you with hundreds of options. The only downside is the cost. $12/month is a little steep-especially when you’re a student, but I’ve found that it’s worth it to have a low-maintenance platform.

When I started creating imagery for my site, I made an executive decision to use a color palette of yellow, black, and white only. Sounds limiting, but it’s saved me from my indecision. I make a lot of my own graphics and I’ve been known to get lost in a Photoshop vortex. Choose your color palette, fonts, and a couple images before you even set foot in a website builder.

There’s no hard and fast rule for what to include in your personal website. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable sharing with the world. I’ve opted out in a lot of ways. For instance, I don’t have my CV or even a real picture of myself on my site. Instead I created an illustration of myself and have included examples of my work and a Google map of libraries where I’ve worked. I like keeping some things off the web, but I also admire people who put it all out there. Case in point, fellow LITA member Brianna Marshall has an incredible website with slide decks, her Twitter feed, blog posts, and lists of projects and publications. Start thinking about where you fall on the spectrum before you start building.

Don’t forget to backup any content you create for your website. I save everything in Google Drive and on my computer so that if I decide to switch platforms I can easily access all of my materials.

Once I got a real library job I decided to spend a little more money and purchase a domain without “” at the end. I like the clean look of my new URL (it looks great on my resume), but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, especially if you’re on a tight budget. If you’re on the job hunt, chances are your potential employer is going to Google you before they take the time to type in your URL. Instead of spending the extra dough on a custom domain, consider working with a free domain and driving traffic to your site through Twitter or Facebook.

The tone of my website is very playful (ahem, not academic). When I made the move from public to academic libraries, I started to wonder if my site was inappropriate. Certainly an argument could be made either way, but the whimsy of my site is an honest representation of me. If I were to apply for a position in the future that found my website too playful, I suspect that wouldn’t be a good place for me anyhow. If your site reflects your personality while still looking professional, then don’t be afraid to own it.

Have you designed your own personal website? What have you learned along the way?

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: August 3, 2016

Wed, 2016-08-03 14:58

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

New This Week

MIT Libraries, Project Manager/Business Analyst, Cambridge, MA

Saint Mary’s College of California, Head, Collection Management, Library, Moraga, CA

Marquette University Libraries, Coordinator of Digital Collections and Projects, Milwaukee, WI

Marquette University Libraries, Discovery and Metadata Librarian, Milwaukee, WI

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

Categories: Library News

Are You For Real? Exploring Virtual Reality Within The Academic Setting

Wed, 2016-08-03 13:38

Virtual reality is all the rage these days, with options ranging from complete virtual worlds real or imagined, to new programs that allow users to conduct surgery on digital patients. According to Educause, VR “uses visual, auditory, and sometimes other sensory inputs to create an immersive, computer-generated environment. VR headsets fully cover users’ eyes and often ears, immersing the user in the digital experience” (Please see Educause article #1 below).

It’s one thing to think about the technology itself, which mostly comprises of a gaming quality computer equipped with an operating system of Windows 7 or higher, a minimum of 32 gigabytes of memory, a 5 or 7-core processor, and a high-end graphics card such as Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 as well as an accompanying set of peripherals which offer options from the very cheap and low-tech such as Google Cardboard, to some higher-end headsets such as HTC Vive:

But it’s harder to imagine how we can work with students and faculty in a pedagogical context in order to create a (virtual) learning environment. Here are some ideas:

  • Design: This technology would not only enable the creation of 3D objects and buildings, but would allow artists to jointly design something in a collaborative setting.
  • Gaming: Gamers will now be able to touch and explore the world around them in ways never possible before. Don’t just kill a zombie, become one!
  • Models: Can’t make it to Egypt to see the pyramids with an archaeology class? Now you can explore them both inside and out in a VR world of your choosing.
  • Simulations: As mentioned before, you could simulate anything from open heart surgery to a trip in outer space.

Ok, ok. Some of these applications do require programming knowledge, testing time, and additional software. So what can you do as a first step?

  1. Start small. Can’t afford an HTC Vive headset? Try Google Cardboard instead which comes with pre-made games and applications as a way to start learning about VR and the opportunities it presents. Use what’s already available before branching out into designing something from scratch.
  2. Partner with others on campus. Chances are there are faculty and students who are already experimenting with this technology either because they are interested in it on a personal level, or because they would like to integrate it into their curriculum. Even working with one other person is better than trying to figure everything out by yourself.
  3. Think about how these experiences can enhance learning rather than focusing on the technology itself. In other words, what is it that these tools will enable students to learn that they could not have before or perhaps how might learning differ in this type of environment? Conducting some comparative assessment might yield some interesting results in terms of the quality of learning that occurs in a VR environment versus a “normal” one.
  4. We are still grappling with digital literacy, metaliteracy, and other similar outcomes to measure learning in a virtual environment, but it would be interesting to develop outcomes for virtual reality as a way to quantify not just how but what type of learning takes place. VR framework anyone?

Here are some additional resources:

  1. 7 Things to Know about VR Headsets:
  2. Promise of VR in Higher Education:
  3. Stanford Teaching Commons:


Categories: Library News

Providing Access through GIS Data at Avery Library

Fri, 2016-07-29 10:00

Technological advances can have a variety of effects on access to information. New technologies can change the breadth, depth, and sheer amount of information we can readily consume. They can also fundamentally change the way in which we organize and access that information. One example is the way in which the use geolocation coordinates (also knows as GIS data) as an access tool has changed in the last decade or so.

While I was working at the Avery Library of Architectural and Fine Arts I was part of a concerted effort to explore the possibilities that GIS data offers for providing access to and context for collections. This is a brief look at three different projects that highlight different ways in which the same basic data can be used to change the way in which a library user interacts with a collection.


The New York Real Estate Brochures (NYRE) Collection

The NYRE project is a look at a collection of over 9,200 individual pieces of real estate promotional materials from the greater NYC area, starting in the 1920s and ending in the 1970s. It was launched in 2010 and is a valuable resource for researchers interested in trends in NYC real estate development, and the first project at Avery to include geolocation as an active component of the discovery process.

The collection consists of over 9,200 advertising brochures, floor plans, price lists, and related materials that document residential and commercial real estate development in the five boroughs of New York and outlying vicinities from the 1920s to the 1970s.

For this project, GIS coordinate information was added to the bibliographic record and then used to tag each object as being part of a neighborhood. Researchers then have the option to filter the collection by neighborhood, and the interface plots all of the materials tagged to a particular neighborhood on a map. The data is being used to section the collection into areas of potential research interest, and then to show how items of a specific designation interact geographically with one another.


Built Works Registry

The Built Works Registry was launched in 2014 as an attempt to create a geolocation authority control resource for works of architecture around the world. The project brings together data from forty-two different sources to form a single data entity that provides a point of reference for a building’s geographical location, similar to the function provides by the ISBN/ISSN standards. If you are interested in learning more about how the project came together feel free to check out the project blog.

Wy is this resource important? Building names and associations can and do change (for example, did you know that the New York Waldorf Astoria Hotel changed locations in the late 1920s?). I was briefly involved in the data validation effort for this project, and I can tell you from first hand experience that identifying a structure from its name or other descriptive information can be a difficult task. However, including the BWR identifier in your dataset lets users know exactly what building is being described.


Seymour B. Durst Old York Library 

The Old York Library project was what I worked on for most of my tenure at Avery, a collection of over 40,000 objects related in one way or another to New York City. Collection materials span over 200 years (from the late 16th century into the late 20th), and cover a variety of topics and subject matter, including politics, economics, art, special events, and real estate development and the built environment. The only thread joining all of these items together is their relationship to NYC.

Because the collection focus was geographic in nature, we decided to include geographic information (neighborhood, street address, GIS coordinates) about an item’s subject matter, and to use that data to develop a map-based discovery tool, giving users of the site a spatial discovery tool to go along with more traditional text-based searches. This approach puts special emphasis on where something took place, and gives users an intuitive, “physical” interface to relate that something to other collection materials based on their location.


The main lesson I learned while working on these projects was about the versatility of tools. All of these projects basically use the same GIS data; what varies is the purpose to which the data is put, based on the different perceived needs of each project’s target audience. There is no single way of providing access to a collection, just a set of tools that librarians can use in whatever way they believe best fits the user’s information needs.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: July 27, 2016

Wed, 2016-07-27 15:09

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

Cooperative Computer Services, Executive Director, Arlington Heights, IL

New York University Division of Libraries, Digital Production Editor, New York, NY

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

Categories: Library News

Stop Helping! How to Resist All of Your Librarian Urges and Strategically Moderate a Pain Point in Computer-Based Usability Testing

Tue, 2016-07-26 10:00

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jaci Paige Wilkinson.

Librarians are consummate teachers, helpers, and cheerleaders.  We might glow at the reference desk when a patron walks away with that perfect article or a new search strategy.  Or we fist pump when a student e-mails us at 7pm on a Friday to ask for help identifying the composition date of J.S. Bach’s BWV 433.  But when we lead usability testing that urge to be helpful must be resisted for the sake of recording accurate user behavior (Krug, 2000). We won’t be there, after all, to help the user when they’re using our website for their own purposes.

What about when a participant gets something wrong or gets stuck?  What about a nudge? What about a hint?  No matter how much the participant struggles, it’s crucial for both the testing process and the resulting data that we navigate these “pain points” with care and restraint.  This is  particularly tricky in non-lab, lightweight testing scenarios.  If you have only 10-30 minutes with a participant or you’re in an informal setting, you, as the facilitator, are less likely to have the tools or the time to probe an unusual behavior or a pain point (Travis, 2014).  However, pain points, even the non-completion of a task, provide insight.  Librarians moderating usability testing must carefully navigate these moments to maximize the useful data they provide.  

How should we move the test forward without helping but also without hindering a participant’s natural process?  If the test in question is a concurrent think-aloud protocol, you, as the test moderator, are probably used to reminding participants to think out loud while they complete the test.  Those reminders sound like “What are you doing now?”, “What was that you just did?”, or “Why did you do that?”.  Drawing from moderator cues used in think aloud protocols, this article explains four tips to optimize computer-based usability testing in those moments when a participant’s activity slows, or slams, to a halt.

There are two main ways for the tips described below to come into play.  Either the participant specifically asks for help or you intervene because of a lack of progress.  The first case is easy because a participant self-identified as experiencing a pain point.  In the second case, identify indicators that this participant is not moving forward or they are stalling: they stay on one page for a period of time or they keep pressing the back button.  One frequently observed behavior that I never interfere with is when a participant repeats a step or click-path even when it didn’t work the first time.  This is a very important observation for two reasons: first, does the participant realize that they have already done this?  If so, why does the participant think this will work the second time?  Observe as many useful behaviors as possible before stepping in.  When you do step in, use these tips in this order:  

ASK a participant to reflect on what they’ve done so far!

Get your participant talking about where they started and how they got here.  You can be as blunt as: “OK, tell me what you’re looking at and why you think it is wrong”.  This particular tip has the potential to yield valuable insights.  What did the participant THINK they were going to see on the page and now what do they think this page is?  When you look at this data later, consider what it says about the architecture and language of the pages this participant used.  For instance, why did she think the library hours would be on “About” page?

Notice that nowhere have I mentioned using the back button or returning to the start page of the task.  This is usually the ideal course of action; once a user goes backwards through his/her clickpath he/she can make some new decisions.  But this idea should come from the user, not from you.  Avoid using language that hints at a specific direction such as “Why don’t you back up a couple of steps?”  This sort of comment is more of a prompt for action than reflection.         

Read the question or prompt again! Then ask the participant to pick out key words in what you read that might help them think of different ways to conquer the task at hand.

“I see you’re having some trouble thinking of where to go next.  Stop for one moment and listen to me read the question again”.  An immediate diagnosis of this problem is that there was jargon in the script that misdirected the participant.  Could the participant’s confusion about where to find the “religion department library liaison” be partially due to that fact that he had never heard of a “department library liaison” before?  Letting the participant hear the prompt for a second or third time might allow him to connect language on the website with language in the prompt.  If repetition doesn’t help, you can even ask the participant to name some of the important words in the prompt.   

Another way to assist a participant with the prompt is to provide him with his own script.  You can also ask him to read each task or question out loud: in usability testing, it has been observed that this direction “actually encouraged the “think aloud” process” that is frequently used” (Battleson et al., 2001). The think aloud process and its “additional cognitive activity changes the sequence of mediating thoughts.  Instructions to explain and describe the content of thought are reliably associated with changes in ability to solve problems correctly” (Ericsson & Simon, 1993).  Reading the prompt on a piece of paper with his own eyes, especially in combination with hearing you speak the prompt out loud, gives the participant multiple ways to process the information.

Choose a Point of No Return and don’t treat it as a failure.

Don’t let an uncompleted or unsuccessful task tank your overall test.  Wandering off with the participant will turn the pace sluggish and reduce the participant’s morale. Choose a point of no return.  Have an encouraging phrase at ready: “Great!  We can stop here, that was really helpful.  Now let’s move on to the next question”.  There is an honesty to that phrasing: you demonstrate to your participant that what he is doing, even if he doesn’t think it is “right” is still helpful.  It is an unproductive use of your time, and his, to let him continue if you aren’t collecting any more valuable data in the process.   The attitude cultivated at a non-completed task or pain point will definitely impact performance and morale for subsequent tasks.  

Include a question at the end to allow the participant to share comments or feelings felt throughout the test.

This is a tricky and potentially controversial suggestion.  In usability testing and user experience, the distinction between studying use instead of opinion is crucial.  We seek to observe user behavior, not collect their feedback.  That’s why we scoff at market research and regard focus groups suspiciously (Nielsen, 1999).  However, I still recommend ending a usability test with a question like “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience today?” or “Do you have any questions or further comments or observations about the tasks you just completed?”  I ask it specifically because if there was one or more pain points in the course of a test, a participant will likely remember it.  This gives her the space to give you more interesting data and, like with tip number three, this final question cultivates positive morale between you and the participant.  She will leave your testing location feeling valued and listened to.

As a librarian, I know you were trained to help, empathize, and cultivate knowledge in library users.  But usability testing is not the same as a shift at the research help desk!  Steel your heart for the sake of collecting wonderfully useful data that will improve your library’s resources and services.  Those pain points and unfinished tasks are solid gold.  Remember, too, that you aren’t asking a participant to “go negative” on the interface (Wilson, 2010) or manufacture failure, you are interested in recording the most accurate user experience possible and understanding the behavior behind it.  Use these tips, if not word for word, then at least to meditate on the environment you curate when conducting usability testing and how to optimize data collection.    



Battleson, B., Booth, A., & Weintrop, J. (2001). Usability testing of an academic library web site: a case study. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 27(3), 188-198.

Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A. (1993). Protocol analysis.

Travis, David “5 Provocative Views on Usability Testing” User Focus 12 October 2014. <>

Nielsen, Jakob. “Voodoo Usability” Nielsen Norman Group 12 December 1999. <>
Wilson, Michael. “Encouraging Negative Feedback During User Testing” UX Booth 25 May 2010. <>

Categories: Library News

Call for Nominations: LITA Top Tech Trends Panel at ALA Midwinter 2017

Mon, 2016-07-25 16:08

It’s that time of year again! We’re asking for you to either nominate yourself or someone you know who would be a great addition to the panel of speakers for the 2017 Midwinter Top Tech Trends program in Atlanta, GA.

LITA’s Top Trends Program has traditionally been one of the most popular programs at ALA. Each panelist discusses two trends in technology impacting libraries and engages in a moderated discussion with each other and the audience.

Submit a nomination at:  Deadline is Sunday, August 28th.

The LITA Top Tech Trends Committee will review each submission and select panelist based on their proposed trends, experience, and overall balance to the panel.

For more information about past programs, please visit

Categories: Library News

Call for Proposals, LITA @ ALA Annual 2017

Mon, 2016-07-25 13:02

Call for Proposals for the 2017 Annual Conference Programs and Preconferences!

The LITA Program Planning Committee (PPC) is now accepting innovative and creative proposals for the 2017 Annual American Library Association Conference.  We’re looking for full or half day pre-conference ideas as well as 60- and 90-minute conference presentations. The focus should be on technology in libraries, whether that’s use of, new ideas for, trends in, or interesting/innovative projects being explored – it’s all for you to propose.

When and Where is the Conference?

The 2017 Annual ALA Conference will be held  in Chicago, IL, from June 22nd through 27th.

What kind of topics are we looking for?

We’re looking for programs of interest to all library/information agency types, that inspire technological change and adoption, or/and generally go above and beyond the everyday.

We regularly receive many more proposals than we can program into the 20 slots available to LITA at the ALA Annual Conference. These great ideas and programs all come from contributions like yours. We look forward to hearing the great ideas you will share with us this year.

This link from the 2016 ALA Annual conference scheduler shows the great LITA programs from this past year.

When are proposals due?

September 9, 2017

How I do submit a proposal?

Fill out this form

Program descriptions should be 150 words or less.

When will I have an answer?

The committee will begin reviewing proposals after the submission deadline; notifications will be sent out on October 3, 2017

Do I have to be a member of ALA/LITA? or a LITA Interest Group (IG) or a committee?

No! We welcome proposals from anyone who feels they have something to offer regarding library technology. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide financial support for speakers. Because of the limited number of programs, LITA IGs and Committees will receive preference where two equally well written programs are submitted. Presenters may be asked to combine programs or work with an IG/Committee where similar topics have been proposed.

Got another question?

Please feel free to email Nicole Sump-Crethar (PPC chair) (

Categories: Library News


Mon, 2016-07-25 10:23

Beginning in August 2016, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) discontinued its traditional discussion-based listserv in favor of a new service: SLA Connect. If you click through to the post on Information Today, Inc. you can see the host of services and tools and enhancements moving to SLA Connect provides for SLA members. However, change is difficult and this change caught a number of members by surprise. We all know how difficult it is to communicate change to patrons. It’s no easier with fellow professionals.

The rollout was going to start July 1, 2016 but got pushed back a month because of member feedback. Since this is technology, of course there were compliant issues with the new server so some services that were scheduled for a slower transition got moved more quickly and old platforms were shut down. The whole enterprise is a complete change to how people were used to communicating with fellow SLA professionals. Small changes are hard, wholesale changes even more so. It looks like the leaders of SLA have a good plan in mind and are listening to member feedback which is great.

We recently went through a transition here in WI where the state-wide public library listserv was transitioned to Google+. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) did a good job in getting the message out to people but the decision was not popular. I came to the discussion late because historically I would check in with broader reach listservs (CODE4LIB, LITA, WISPUBLIB, Polaris, etc.) about once a month. Sometimes even less frequently. We have local listservs that I check on a daily basis, but those impact my job directly.

I wasn’t thrilled about the move to Google+ for a few reasons. First, while I had a Google account, I try to keep my personal and work lives separated. This would mean creating a new Google account to use with work. Which meant all the work needed with setting up a new account and making sure that I’m checking it on a regular basis. Second, the thing I like about an email listserv is that I can create a rule to move all the messages into a folder and then when I scan the folder I can see which subjects had the most discussion. That disappears using Google+. I can get the initial post sent to my inbox but any follow-up posts/discussion doesn’t show up there.

This was a problem since instead of seeing twenty messages on a subject I’d now see one. I’d have to launch that message in Google+ to see whether or not people were talking about it. It’s also a problem as the new platform was not getting the traffic the traditional email listserv got so a lot of the state-wide community knowledge was not being shared. It’s getting better and DPI is doing a great job in leading the initiative for discussions. It doesn’t have the volume it used to, but it’s improving.

I needed to figure out a way to make myself check the Google+ discussions with more regularity. In comes Habitica. Our own inestimable Lindsay Cronk wrote about Habitica back in February. Habitica gamifies your to-do list. You create a small avatar and work your way through leveling him/her up to become a more powerful character. There are three basic categories: habits, dailies, and to-dos. Habits are things to improve yourself. For me it’s things like hitting my step count for the day or not drinking soda. There can be a positive and/or negative effect for your habits. You can lose health. Your little character can die. To-dos are traditional to-do list things. You can add due dates, checklists, all sorts of things. Dailies are things you have to do on a regular basis.

This is where Habitica helps me most. I have weekly reminders to check my big listservs including DPI’s Google+ feed. I have daily reminders to check in with the new supervisors who report to me. These are all things that I should be doing anyway but it’s a nice little reminder when I got bogged down in a task to take a break and get something checked off my list. I’ve set these simple dailies at the ‘trivial’ difficulty level so I’m not leveling up my character too quickly. I’m currently a 19th level fighter on Habitica but there are still times when my health gets really low. More importantly its kept me on top of my listservs and communication with fellow professionals in a way that I was not doing of my own volition.

What’s your favorite way to keep on top of communication with fellow professionals?

Categories: Library News

Digital Displays on a Budget: Hardware

Mon, 2016-07-25 08:00



At the JPL Library we recently remodeled our collaborative workspace. This process allowed us to repurpose underutilized televisions into digital displays. Digital displays can be an effective way to communicate key events and information to our patrons. However, running displays has usually required either expensive hardware (installing new cables to tap into local media hosts) or software (Movie Maker, 3rd Party software), sometimes both. We had the displays ready but needed cost effective solutions for hosting and creating the content. Enter Raspberry Pi and a movie creator that can be found in any Microsoft Office Suite purchased since 2010… Microsoft PowerPoint.

In this post I will cover how to select, setup, and install the hardware. The follow up post will go over the content creation aspect.

Hardware Requirements Displays

Luckily for us, this part took care of itself. If you need to obtain a display, I have two recommendations:

  • Verify the display has a convenient HDMI port. You are looking for a port that allows you to discreetly tuck the Raspberry Pi behind the display. Additionally, the port should be easily accessible if the need arises to swap out HDMI cables.
  • Opt for a display that is widescreen capable (16:9 aspect ratio). This will provide you with a greater canvas for your content. Whatever aspect ratio you decide upon, make sure your content settings match. This graphic sums up the difference between the aspect ratios of widescreen and standard (4:3 aspect ratio).
Raspberry Pi Description

There are plenty of blog posts and documentation that cover the basics of what Raspberry Pi is and what is fully capable of. In short, you can think of it as a mini and price effective computer. For this project are interested in its price point, native movie player, and operating system customization prowess.

Selection Devices

There are three main iterations available for purchase:

Obviously I would recommend the Pi 3, which was just released in late February, over the rest. All three are capable of running HD quality videos, but the Pi 3 will definitely run smoother. Also, the Pi 3 has on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, on previous versions this required purchasing add-ons and used up USB slots.

However, these prices are only for the computer itself. You would still need, at the minimum, an SD card to store the operating system and files, power adaptor, keyboard and mouse, and an HDMI cable. The only advantage of selecting the 2 is that there are several pre-selected bundles created by 3rd party sellers that can lower the costs. Make sure to check the bundle details to confirm it contains the Raspberry Pi iteration that you want.


Here are some recommended bundles that contain all you need (minus keyboard and mouse) for this project:

Keyboard & Mouse

Most USB keyboards and mice will work with a Pi but opt for simple ones to avoid drawing too much power from it. If you do not have a spare one consider this Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse Touchpad. The touchpad is a bit wonky but it’ll get the job done and the portability is worth it.

Physical Setup

Getting the Raspberry Pi ready to boot is fairly easy. We just need to plug in the power supply, insert Micro SD Card with the operating system, and attach a display. Granted this all just gets to you a basic screen with the Pi awaiting instructions. A mouse, keyboard, and network connection are pretty much required for setting up the Pi software in order to get the device into a usable state.

Software Setup

The program we use is the Raspberry Pi Video Looper. This setup works exactly how it sounds: the Raspberry Pi plays and loops videos. However, before we can install that we need to get the Raspberry Pi up and running with the latest Raspbian operating system.

Installing Raspbian Using personal SD

If you decided to use your own SD card, see this guide on how to get up and running.


If you bought a bundle, chances are that it came with a Micro SD Card pre-loaded with NOOBS (New Out of Box Software). With NOOBS we can just boot up the Pi and select Raspbian from the first menu. Make sure to also change the Language and Keyboard to your preferred settings, such as English (US) and us.

Once you hit Install, the NOOBS software will do its thing. Grab a cup of coffee or walk the dog as it will take a bit to complete the install. After installation the Pi will reboot and load up Raspi-config to let you adjust settings. There is a wide range of options but the two that should be adjusted right now are:

  1. Change User Password
  2. SSH – If you want remote access, you will need to Enable to SSH. For more information on this option see the Raspberry Pi Documentation.

After adjusting the settings, the Pi will boot the desktop environment. Because the NOOBS version loaded onto the card might be dated, the next step is to update the firmware and packages. To do this, click on the start menu and select the terminal and type in the following commands:

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade
  • sudo rpi-update
  • sudo reboot

Once the Pi reboots we can continue to the next phase, installing the video looper.

Installing Video Looper

For a complete guide on installing and adjusting the Video Looper, see Adafruit’s Raspberry Pi Video Looper documentation. In short, the installation process is all but three terminal commands:

After a few minutes the install is complete and the Video Looper is good to go! If you do not have any movies loaded your PI will now display “Insert USB drive with compatible movies”. Inserting a USB drive into the Pi will initiate a countdown followed by video playback.

Using Video Looper

Now that the Pi is all set you can load your videos onto an USB stick and the Looper will take care of the rest.  The Video Looper is quite versatile and can display movies in the following formats:

  • AVI
  • MOV
  • MKV
  • MP3
  • M4V

If your Pi fails to read the files on the USB drive, try loading them on another. I had several USB sticks that I went through before it read the files. Sadly, most of the vendor USB stick freebies were incompatible.

Lastly, the Video Looper has a few configuration options that you adjust to best fit your needs. Of those listed in the documentation I would recommend adjusting the file locations (USB stick vs on the Pi itself) and video player. The last one only being relevant if you cannot live with the loop delay between movies.

Unit Install

               After the Video Looper Steup we can now install the unit behind the display. We opted to attach the device using Velcro tape and a 0.3m Flat HDMI cable. Thanks toe the Velcro I can remove and reattach the Pi as needed. The flat HDMI cable reduces the need for cable management . The biggest issue we had was tucking away the extra cable from the power supply, a few well placed Velcro ties. Velcro, is there anything it can’t solve?

Wrap Up

Well if you’ve made it this far I hope you are on your way to creating a digital display for your institution. In my next post I will cover how we used Microsoft PowerPoint to create our videos in a quick and efficient manner.

The Raspberry Pi is a wonderful device so even if it the Video Looper setup fails to live up to your needs, you can easily find another project for it to handle. May I suggest the Game Boy Emulator?

Categories: Library News