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Updated: 1 hour 14 min ago

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

Organizing Library Workflows with Asana

Mon, 2015-07-13 09:00

As coordinator for non-Roman language cataloging at my library, I have to keep track of several workflows simultaneously without actual fluency in any of the 10+ languages that my section deals with. As a librarian it goes without saying that I’m a big fan of organization and efficiency. So I’ve implemented a free task-based program called Asana in order to keep track of my section’s productivity, statistics, and progress.

Asana was created with the objective of eliminating dependability on email in order to manage projects. Tasks and conversations are all in one place to promote transparency and accessibility, which is extremely valuable when you are on a team of five or more people with multiple established workflows. I’m certain I’m not alone when I say that email can often seem like a void that creates more confusion than clarity when it comes to communicating important work updates. Not everyone that I have to correspond with is well-versed in the proper use and etiquette involved with emailing, which often inspires me to do this:

Ron Swanson, Parks & Recreation.

With Asana, I have the ability as a project manager to create a timeline with due dates, assign particular tasks to people as needed, organize initiatives & meetings, and keep track of progress all in one interface. This also cuts down on the necessity for constant meetings and prevents things from falling by unnoticed in an email thread where there are already twenty-some responses and everyone is using the Reply All button.

I have been primarily using Asana to organize cooperative cataloging projects in my section. My library is a member of several initiatives to connect with other academic institutions (e.g. the CIC) in order to catalog materials on behalf of a fellow library that may not have staff who can create bibliographic records in a particular language or format.

An example of Asana’s interface.

Here, a team member is able to log their progress on tasks assigned to them, keep track of the established timeline, and upload documents like title inventories. Having all this information in one (free!) place makes it easier for a project manager to create reports and to aggregate statistics. I’ve successfully implemented Asana for two cooperative cataloging projects thus far.

Have you used Asana in your library? Do you have a favorite task managing program?


Categories: Library News

Online Surveys in Libraries: Getting Started

Thu, 2015-07-09 09:00

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

Surveys are everywhere. You go to a government website, a vendor’s blog, an organization’s page, or step into a building: “We just want a few minutes of your time.” A scattering of survey requests linger in my email: ACRL, RDA, data librarians, IndieGoGo, four campus programs, the International Librarians’ Network, Thompson Reuters, and Elsevier. And that’s just the past month!

Then, when you try to actually open a survey, there are tiny little buttons: you have a large screen, but you can’t manage to hit any of them. There are pages and pages of Likert scales. Do they want your life’s story, told in rankings of five items and slider bars? They definitely want you to brainstorm for them, but who has time to think of the top 15 libraries in the world, ranked by specialization?

On Using Surveys Well 

If I sound skeptical of surveys, it’s because I am: People are over-surveyed. Organizations repeatedly survey-blast the same users, not caring about the value of each person’s time. Samples aren’t representative; results aren’t analyzed—we just present pie charts and summary graphs as if that’s all we can do. We use them to justify our existence, not to understand the word or improve services. In the hands of the wrong person, surveys can be deceptive tools.

And yet, I find mixed-method surveys to be tremendously useful for librarians, particularly if we’re exploring a new area on which there’s little to no data in the existing LIS literature. As Dwight B. King, Jr. writes for librarians:

Focus groups are effective in drawing out users’ true feelings, but because the group is small, it is difficult to make generalizations… Interviews are good for obtaining in-depth information, but… can be very time-consuming. Survey questionnaires are often the best choice for ‘an economical method to reach a large number of people’ with a large number of questions.”

So, surveys: use them with care. Make sure they’re necessary, and well used. Ideally we should be moving to well-designed national surveys on library issues, at no cost to local libraries, plus occasional targeted surveys at the local level.

But there is still a role for local surveys. And so, I’ll talk here about how I’ve used various survey tools in libraries, and end with some advice for when you create your own survey.

Choosing a Survey Tool

I’ve worked with SurveyMonkey, LibSurveys, SurveyGizmo, Google Forms, and Qualtrics. Most have a free/student option or trials, but institutional accounts offer many more features.

Google Forms: Free to anyone with a google account. It’s easy to create forms in Google Drive. I’d use short Google Forms to gather librarian preferences on an issue, as a pre-survey for library instruction to gauge student interest in various topics, or for thoughts from people who are using our trial databases. You’re not going to be able to do a lot of analysis, so keep it short and sweet, and download a summary report in PDF. You can also send responses to Google Sheets to analyze, and/or download to Excel from there.

SurveyMonkey: I’ve used the free accounts, which allow 100 responses, as well as paid accounts. This is a great tool if you’re starting small, and just learning to design and analyze surveys. I’ve used a paid subscription to survey different sets of students or faculty, and have also used it for pre/post surveys of library instruction. It’s easy to filter results by date and only download the responses you need, so you can e.g. put a feedback form and just select the current day’s batch to download.

LibSurveys: As part of LibApps, Springshare offers LibSurveys, including both simple forms and longer surveys. The interface is meant to be simple, but adding and adjusting fields (questions) is a somewhat buggy process. Once you’ve collected responses, you can view answers by question and download to CSV. Play with it if you’ve got access to it, but let me be honest; it’s not my fave! I’d rather see Springshare integrate with one of the other survey options listed here.

SurveyGizmo: This is easily my favorite. I’ve surveyed students, teachers/faculty, and librarians at school and university libraries, done usability surveys for websites, collected reference data (before I had access to Springshare), and even surveyed 385 young recent MLIS grads about their experiences in the job market last year. I find the interface and layout attractive and easy to use, and the reports and exports also easy to use. For more advanced users, you can clean data, code textual results, and even analyze data online using cross-tab reports.

Qualtrics: The institutional subscription is wonderful but expensive, so you won’t be using it unless your library has access to a university subscription. This is a sophisticated piece of survey software that allows for detailed ‘skip logic’ (adjusting the next questions based on prior responses, to keep all the questions relevant) and survey layout. I’m just getting started in using this, through a Qualtrics working group on our campus.

If you’ve used surveys, I’d love to hear in the comments about which tools or projects have and haven’t worked for you!

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

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: July 8, 2015

Wed, 2015-07-08 14:54

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

Online Learning Librarian, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA

Digital Anthology Encoding Specialist, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC

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

Categories: Library News

Online Surveys in Libraries: Tips and Strategies

Tue, 2015-07-07 09:00

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

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

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

Any other suggestions? Add them to the comments below!

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

Categories: Library News

LITA at ALA Annual, give us your opinions

Mon, 2015-07-06 15:56

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

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

LITA at ALA Annual conference survey now.

LITA programs included:

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

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

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

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

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

Question or Comments?

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

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: July 1, 2015

Wed, 2015-07-01 13:44

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

New This Week

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

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

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

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

Categories: Library News

An Interview With Emerging Leader Isabel Gonzalez-Smith

Wed, 2015-07-01 09:00

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

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

Where do you see yourself going from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Library News

ALA appoints Jenny Levine next LITA Executive Director

Tue, 2015-06-30 11:10

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Library News

2015 LITA Forum, Registration Opens!

Mon, 2015-06-29 13:00

Registration Now Open!

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

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

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

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

This Year’s featured Keynote Sessions

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

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

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

The Preconference Workshops include

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

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

for registration and additional information.

Join us in Minneapolis!

Categories: Library News

3 Tips for Tech Empathy

Mon, 2015-06-29 10:00

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any tips for tech empathy?

Categories: Library News

Letting Theory Influence Practice

Fri, 2015-06-26 10:00

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

Image made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License from

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

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

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

Current reading list:

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

Categories: Library News

Disenfranchising Language in Library Technology

Thu, 2015-06-25 09:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Library News