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LITA Board Meeting One – ALA Midwinter 2015

Sat, 2015-01-31 14:50

If you would like to listen in to the LITA Board meeting at ALA Midwinter 2015, it is streaming (in audio) below:

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: January 28

Wed, 2015-01-28 13:01

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 Content Strategist, Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IL

Executive Director, Metropolitan New York Library Council(METRO), Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) New York, NY

Systems and Technology Librarian, Catawba College Library, Salisbury, NC

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

 

Categories: Library News

Why We Need to Encrypt The Whole Web… Library Websites, Too

Tue, 2015-01-27 08:30

The Patron Privacy Technologies Interest Group was formed in the fall of 2014 to help library technologists improve how well our tools protect patron privacy.  As the first in a series of posts on technical matters concerning patron privacy, please enjoy this guest post by Alison Macrina.

When using the web for activities like banking or shopping, you’ve likely seen a small lock symbol appear at the beginning of the URL and noticed the “HTTP” in the site’s address switch to “HTTPS”. You might even know that the “s” in HTTPS stands for “secure”, and that all of this means that the website you’ve accessed is using the TLS/SSL protocol. But what you might not know is that TLS/SSL is one of the most important yet most underutilized internet protocols, and that all websites, not just those transmitting “sensitive” information, should be using HTTPS by default.

To understand why TLS/SSL is so important for secure web browsing, a little background is necessary. TLS/SSL is the colloquial way of referring to this protocol, but the term is slightly misleading – TLS and SSL are essentially different versions of a similar protocol. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) was the first protocol used to secure applications over the web, and Transport Layer Security (TLS) was built from SSL as a standardized version of the earlier protocol. The convention of TLS/SSL is used pretty often, though you might see TLS or SSL alone. However written, it all refers to the layer of security that sits on top of HTTP. HTTP, or HyperText Transfer Protocol, is the protocol that governs how websites send and receive data, and how that data is formatted. TLS/SSL adds three things to HTTP: authentication, encryption, and data integrity. Let’s break down those three components:

Authentication: When you visit a website, your computer asks the server on the other end for the information you want to access, and the server responds with the requested information. With TLS/SSL enabled, your computer also reviews a security certificate that guarantees the authenticity of that server. Without TLS/SSL, you have no way of knowing if the website you’re visiting is the real website you want, and that puts you at risk of something called a man-in-the-middle attack, which means data going to and from your computer can be intercepted by an entity masquerading as the site you intended to visit.

Fig. 1: Clicking the lock icon next to a site with TLS/SSL enabled will bring up a window that looks like one above. You can see here that Twitter is running on HTTPS, signed by the certificate authority Symantec. [Image courtesy Alison Macrina]

Fig. 2: Clicking “more information” in the first window will bring up this window. In the security tab, you can see the owner of the site, the certificate authority that verified the site, and the encryption details. [Image courtesy Alison Macrina]

Fig. 3: Lastly, clicking the “view certificate” option in the previous window will bring up even more technical details, including the site’s fingerprints and the certificate expiration date. [Image courtesy Alison Macrina]

Data encryption: Encryption is the process of scrambling messages into a secret code so they can only be read by the intended recipient. When a website uses TLS/SSL, the traffic between you and the server hosting that website is encrypted, providing you with a measure of privacy and protection against eavesdropping by third parties.

Data integrity: Finally, TLS/SSL uses an algorithm that includes a value to check on the integrity of the data in transit, meaning the data sent between you and a TLS/SSL secured website cannot be tampered with or altered to add malicious code.

Authentication, encryption, and integrity work in concert to protect the data you send out over TLS/SSL enabled websites. In this age of widespread criminal computer hacking and overbroad surveillance from government entities like the NSA, encrypting the web against interception and tampering is a social necessity. Unfortunately, most of the web is still unencrypted, because enabling TLS/SSL can be confusing, and often some critical steps are left out. But the digital privacy rights advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation are aiming to change that with Let’s Encrypt, a free and automated way to deploy TLS/SSL on all websites, launching in Summer 2015. EFF has also built a plugin called HTTPS Everywhere which forces TLS/SSL encryption on websites where this protocol is supported, but not fully set up (a frequent occurrence).

As stewards of information and providers of public internet access, librarians have a special duty to protect the privacy of our patrons and honor the public trust we’ve worked hard to earn. Just as we continue to protect patron checkout histories from unlawful snooping, we should be actively protecting the privacy of patrons using our website, catalog, and public internet terminals:

  • Start by enabling TLS/SSL on our library websites and catalog (some instructions are here and here, and if those are too confusing, Let’s Encrypt goes live this summer. If your website is hosted on a server that is managed externally, ask your administrator to set up TLS/SSL for you).
  • Install the HTTPS Everywhere add-on on all library computers. Tell your patrons what it is and why it’s important for their digital privacy.
  • Urge vendors, database providers, and other libraries to take a stand for privacy and start using TLS/SSL.

Privacy is essential to democratic institutions like libraries; let’s show our patrons that we take that seriously.

Alison Macrina is an IT librarian in Massachusetts and the founder of the Library Freedom Project, an initiative aimed at bringing privacy education and tools into libraries across the country. Her website doesn’t have any content on it right now, but hey, at least it’s using HTTPS! 

The inaugural in-person meeting of the LITA Patron Privacy Interest Technologies Group is at Midwinter 2015 on Saturday, January 31st, at 8:30 a.m. Everybody interested in learning about patron privacy and data security in libraries is welcome to attend! You can also subscribe to the interest group’s mailing list.

Categories: Library News

Out of Control

Mon, 2015-01-26 11:06

Image courtesy of Flickr user Eric Peacock

Last week I found myself in a grey area. I set up a one-on-one tech appointment with a patron to go over the basics of her new Android tablet. Once we met in person I learned that what she really wanted was to monitor her daughter’s every move online. It felt like a typical help session as I showed her how to check the browsing history and set up parental controls. She had all the necessary passwords for her daughter’s email and Facebook accounts, which made it even easier. It wasn’t until she left that I realized I had committed a library crime: I completely ignored the issue of privacy.

I’m still mulling this over in my head, trying to decide how I should have acted. I’m not a parent, so I can’t speak to the desire to protect children from the dangers of the Internet. Chances are her daughter can work around her mom’s snooping anyhow. But as a librarian, a champion of privacy, how could I have disregarded the issue?

A friend of mine put it best when he said that situations like this devalue what we do. We’re here to help people access information, not create barriers. Being a parent in the age of the Internet must be a scary thing, but that doesn’t mean that any regard for privacy goes out the window. At the same time, it’s not our job to judge. If the same patron came in and said she wanted to learn about parental controls for a research paper, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. You can see how the issue gets cloudy.

Ultimately, I keep going back to a phrase I learned from Cen Campbell, founder of Little eLit at ALA last year: “We are media mentors.” We are not parents, and we’re not teachers, rather we are media mentors. It’s our job to work with parents, educators, and kids to foster a healthy relationship with technology. Regardless of right or wrong, I was too quick to jump in and give her the answers, without going through a proper reference interview. I suspect that she was afraid of all the things she doesn’t know about technology; the great unknown that her daughter is entering when she opens her web browser. That was an opportunity for me to answer questions about things like Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, instead of blindly leading her to the parental controls. After all this, one thing I know for certain is that the next time I find myself in this situation, I’ll be slow to act and quick to listen.

I would love to hear back from other librarians. How would you act in this situation? What’s the best way to work with parents when it comes to parental controls and privacy?

Categories: Library News

LITA Interest Group Events at ALA Midwinter

Mon, 2015-01-26 11:02

Are you headed to ALA Midwinter this weekend and curious about what the LITA interest groups will be up to? See below for a current listing of LITA IG events!

Saturday, January 31, 2015 10:30am to 11:30am

Imagineering Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick Adler/CC 24C

The Imagineering Interest Group will meet to plan for future ALA Annual programs and meetings. We will also talk about future group endeavors, such as creating online resources. Please attend if you are interested in working with the group.  Additional Information: Librarianship, Adult Services, Collection Development, Popular Culture, Reader’s Advisory

Open Source Systems Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick Burnham/CC 23C

Meeting to discuss future projects for the Open Source Systems Interest Group.

Search Engine Optimization, Hyatt Regency McCormick Jackson Park/CC 10D

Attendees will have an opportunity to share their experiences with search engine optimization. We will also discuss the SEO Best Practices Wiki entry in Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki as well as the latest SEO tools.

ALCTS/LITA ERM Interest Group, MCP W194a

The ALCTS/LITA ERM Interest Group will host a panel entitled “Data-Driven Decision Making in E-Resources Management: Beyond Cost per Use.”

1:00pm to 2:30pm

Library Code year – Saturday 1/31, 1-2:30pm, MCP W175c

Are you ever in a meeting where people throw around terms like front-end,back-end, Bootstrap, git, JavaScript, agile, XML, PHP, Python, WordPress, and Drupal, but you are not sure what they mean in the library context (even after you looked the terms up on your phone covertly under the table)? If so, please join us for an informal and lively discussion about decoding technology jargon.

Sunday, February 1, 2015 8:30am to 10:00am

LITA/ALCTS Linked Library Data Interest Group, MCP W192b

The ALCTS/LITA Linked Library Data Interest Group is hosting three presentations during its meeting at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Chicago. The meeting will be held on Sunday, February 1, from 8:30-10:00, in McCormick Place West, room W192b. To read the speaker abstracts, go here.

Nancy Lorimer, Interim Head of Metadata Department at Stanford University Libraries will speak about the Linked Data for Libraries project: The Linked Data for Libraries project: An Update

Kristi Holmes, the Director of Galter Health Sciences Library at Northwestern University and a VIVO Project Engagement Lead will speak about VIVO: Opening up science with VIVO

Victoria Mueller, Senior Information Architect and System Librarian, Zepheira: BIBFRAME: A Way Forward. Moving Libraries into a linked data world!

10:30am to 11:30am

Drupal4Lib Interest Group, MCP W186c

The Drupal4Lib Interest Group was established to promote the use and understanding of the Drupal content management system by libraries and librarians. Join members of the group for a lively discussion of current issues facing librarians working with Drupal at any skill level. Bring your questions and meet your colleagues!

Game Making Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick, DuSable/CC 21AB

The Game Making Interest Group will meet to discuss how we use games in libraries and to plan for our meeting and informal presentations at ALA Annual and future plans for the group. Please join us if you are interested in using games in libraries.

Library Consortia Automated Systems Interest Group, Hyatt Regency McCormick, Jackson Park/CC 10C

Managing IT services in a consortium has its own particular challenges and opportunities. The Library Consortia Automated Systems Interest Group provides an informal forum where people working in a consortium environment can share ideas and seek advice.

Public Library Technology Interest Group, MCP W194a

Will meet to discuss trends in technology that are applicable to public libraries.

User Experience Interest Group Meeting, MCP W176b

The LITA User Experience IG seeks 2-3 short presentations (10-15 minutes) on UX and Web usability for the upcoming 2015 ALA Midwinter Conference. This will be a physical meeting, and so the physical attendance for the ALA Midwinter is required for the presentation and/or attendance for this meeting. The LITA UX IG is also seeking the suggestions for discussion topics, things you have been working on, plan to work, or want to work on in terms of UX/Usability. All suggestions and presentation topics are welcome and will be given consideration for presentation and discussion. Please submit your topic in the comments section in ALA Connect (http://connect.ala.org/node/231586). You may also e-mail us off-the-list. Bohyun Kim, LITA UX IG chair bkim@hshsl.umaryland.edu? and Rachel Clark, LITA UX IG vice-chair rachael.clark@wayne.edu

1:00pm to 2:30pm

Head of Technology Interest Group , MCP W176b

HoLT IG provides a forum and support network for those individuals with administrative responsibility for computing and technology in  library settings. It is open for anyone to give short presentations on a library technology project you might be working on to explore  issues of planning and implementation, technology management, support, leadership and other areas of interests library technology.

LITA/ALCTS Authority Control Interest Group – until 5:30pm, MCP W474b

The joint LITA/ALCTS Authority Control Interest Group provides a forum for discussion of a variety of issues related to authority control for online catalogs and for international sharing of authority of data.

Categories: Library News

What Do You Do With a 3D Printer?

Fri, 2015-01-23 08:00

“Big mac, 3D printer, 3D scanner” by John Klima is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the first in a series of posts about some technology I’ve introduced or will be introducing to my library. In my mind, the library is a place where the public can learn about new and emerging technologies without needing to invest in them. To that end, I’ve formed a technology committee at our library that will meet quarterly to talk about how we’re using the existing technology in the building and what type of technology we could introduce to the building.

This next two paragraphs have some demographic information so that you have an idea of whom I’m trying to serve (i.e., you can skip them if you want to get to the meat of the technology discussion).

I work at the Waukesha Public Library in the city of Waukesha, the 7th largest municipality in WI at around 72,000 people. We have a a service population of almost 100,000. The building itself is about 73,000 square feet with a collection of around 350,000 items.

Waukesha has a Hispanic population of about 10% with the remainder of our population being predominantly Caucasian. Our public is a pretty even mix across age groups and incomes. Technological interest also runs pretty evenly from early adopters to neophytes.

I’ve wanted a 3D printer forever. OK, only a few years, but in the world of technology a few years is almost forever. I didn’t bring up the idea to our executive director initially because I wasn’t sure I could justify the expense.

As assistant director in charge of technology at the library, I can justify spending up to a few hundred dollars on new technology. Try out a Raspberry Pi? Sure. Pick up a Surface? Go ahead. But spending a few thousand dollars? That felt like it needed more than my whim.

But after those few years went by and 3D printers were still a topic of discussion and I didn’t have one yet, I approached the executive director and our Friends group and got the money to buy a MakerBot Replicator 2 and a MakerBot Digitizer (it was the Digitizer that finally pushed me over the precipice to buy 3D equipment; more on that later).

So we bought the machine, set it up, and started printing a bunch of objects. At first it was just things on a SD card in the printer: a nut-and-bolt set, a shark, chain links, a comb, and a bracelet.

People loved watching the machine work. Particularly when it was making the chain links. They couldn’t understand how it could print interconnected chain links. I tried to explain that it printed in 100 micron thick layers (slightly thinner than a sheet a paper) and it built the objects up one layer at a time which let it make interconnected objects.

It made more sense if you could watch it.

Our young adult librarian starting making plans for her teen patrons. This past October we read Edgar Allan Poe as a community read and she had her teens make story jars of different Edgar Allan Poe stories using objects we printed: hearts, ravens, bones, coffins, etc.

One of our children’s librarians used the printer to enhance a board-game design program he ran. He printed out dice, figures, and markers that the kids could use when designing a game. Then they got to take their game home when they finished it. More recently he printed out a chess set that assembles into a robot for the winner of our upcoming chess tournament.

I printed out hollow jack o’ lanterns that showed a spooky face when you placed a small electric light inside them. When I realized I needed a desk organizer for the 3D printer I printed one instead of buying one.

“Mushroom candy tin and friend” by John Klima is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Now, as for the Digitizer. We’ve tried digitizing objects. To me that was the coolest thing we could do: make copies of physical objects. Unfortunately, the digitizer has worked poorly at best. It cannot handle small objects—things larger than a egg work best—and it cannot scan complicated or dull objects very well.

Our failures include a kaiju wind-up toy, a LEGO Eiffel Tower, and a squishy stressball brain. Our only success was a Mario Bros. mushroom candy tin. That scanned perfectly, but it’s round, shiny, and the perfect size. If you’re considering buying a digitizer, I would think twice about it (honestly, I’d recommend not getting one at this time).

Now the question I ask is: what’s next? The Replicator 2 isn’t the best machine to put out for public use as it would require quite a bit of staff oversight. There are some 3D printers—the Cube printer from 3D Systems for example—that are better suited for public use in my opinion. It’s currently a moot point as we don’t have space in our public area for one at this time, but I think offering one for public use is in our future plans somewhere down the line.

I’d like to use it more for programming in the library. I want to showcase it to the public more. Our technology committee will make plans so that we can do both of those things.

More importantly, what about the rest of you? Who has a 3D printer in their building? Do you use it for staff or public? Do you want to get a 3D printer for your library? What sorts of questions to have about them?

Categories: Library News

LITA at ALA Midwinter 2015

Wed, 2015-01-21 15:31

If you’re making the hop to Chicago for ALA Midwinter 2015 then check out all the great LITA events.

Get full details at the LITA Highlights at 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting web page.

Friday, January 30, 2015

There will be 2 Pre-conference Workshops from 8:30-4:00 at McCormick Place in Chicago IL.

  • Introduction to Practical Programming with Elizabeth Wickes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • From Lost to Found: How user Testing Can Improve the User Experience of Your Library Website with Kate Lawrence and Deirdre Costello, sponsored by EBSCO Information Services

Costs for LITA Members start at $235 and you can still register at LITA’s Midwinter Workshops.

Throughout the Conference

LITA Committees and Interest Groups will be holding timely and vibrant discussions on topics such as linked data, drupal, games, coding, data-driven decision making, open source projects, user experience, library technology projects and more. Check out the Sessions web page as well as the LITA specific Conference Scheduler for more details.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Don’t miss the Top Technology Trends Discussion Session 10:30 am – 11:30 am McCormick Place West, W183a. The conference panelists and their suggested trends will include:

  • Moderator: Karen Schneider
  • Marshall Breeding, Independent Consultant – Empowering underserved libraries through technology; discovery beyond the library.
  • Todd Carpenter, Executive Director of NISO – Infrastructure demands of a growing or majority OA ecosystem; balancing patron privacy and using data to improve services.
  • Casey McCoy, Program Coordinator at Lincolnwood Public Library District – Tech programming for youth, esp. girls; app-based home technology.
  • Willie Miller, Librarian at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis – Gamification; e-course packs.
  • Carli Spina, Emerging Technologies and Research Librarian at Harvard Law School Library – Universal design; beacons.

More information about the program is available at the Top Tech Trends web site.

The LITA Open House from 4:30-5:30 pm McCormick Place West, W470b is an opportunity for current and prospective members to talk with Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) leaders, committee chairs, and interest group participants.

LITA Happy Hour will be 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub 400 N McClurg Court Chicago, IL 60611. Located 1 block east of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers 301 East North Water Street, Chicago, IL. Join LITA members from around the country for networking, good cheer, and great fun! Expect lively conversation and excellent drinks. Cash Bar. Bring your ALAMW conference badge to receive a 25% discount.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Attend the LITA Town Meeting from 8:30 am – 10:00 am McCormick Place West, W180 and join your fellow LITA members for breakfast and a discussion about LITA’s strategic path. The meeting will focus on how LITA’s goals–collaboration and networking; education and sharing of expertise; advocacy; and infrastructure–help our organization serve you and the broader library community. This Town Meeting will help us turn those goals into plans that will guide LITA going forward.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: January 21

Wed, 2015-01-21 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

Collection Strategist Librarian,  University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

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

 

Categories: Library News

Amazon Echo

Wed, 2015-01-21 08:00

Have you read about Amazon Echo? It is a new consumer product from Amazon that users can ask it questions and receive answers, tell it to play music, request it to add items to your shopping/to do list, etc.

I first saw a video about it in October and quickly signed up to receive an invitation to purchase the product. I received my invitation this month and Echo should arrive at my house in May.

I’m pretty excited about it for a few reasons. First, Amazon is letting people develop for it. I’m already brainstorming ways the product can be used in both my home and office.

Second, I can’t wait to be able to talk to a device without having to push a button. The reviews for the voice recognition aren’t perfect, but they seem really good for a first launch.

Finally, I’m also really interested in it as an information retrieval tool. I don’t claim to be able to predict the future, but I think devices like Echo will be a new way that people access information. It seems like a logical next step.

This only emphasizes the importance for people to understand their information need, to understand biases associated with information retrieval tools (to find answers to questions Echo will conduct a Bing search), and the amazing role that algorithms are going to play in the future. Algorithms already play such a big role in how people retrieve information. With tools that tell people answers to their questions users won’t even see other options. They will only be told one answer.

Image Courtesy of Flickr user jm_escalante CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I’d love to chat about Echo. Do you have ideas for how to use it?

Categories: Library News

LITA Updates, January 2015

Tue, 2015-01-20 15:06

This is one of our periodic messages sent to all LITA members. This update includes items as follows:

  • Call for Volunteers
  • LITA at Midwinter in Chicago

Call for Volunteers, LITA needs you!

The division has a variety of volunteer opportunities available for its members through LITA Committees and liaisons. Committee members have the opportunity to:

  • Gain valuable leadership experience while helping to shape the future of LITA,
  • Honor outstanding colleagues for their contributions as part of an achievement award committee,
  • Encourage the development of future library leaders by serving on a student scholarship award committee,
  • Participate in planning professional educational opportunities, including program planning and managed discussions, and online learning,
  • Participate in planning publications including the LITA Guides, ITAL (the division journal), and multiple LITA web sites,
  • Develop in-person and virtual networking opportunities through membership development activities,
  • …and much more!

Please consider volunteering for a committee to help us meet our objectives and move LITA forward in new and exciting ways. For most committees, service does not require travel. I encourage you to explore the possibilities for yourself.

In addition to committees, I will be appointing LITA representatives to ALA and other organizations. Here is a complete list of representatives. The list of open positions is included in the committee volunteer form.

Volunteering can be easily done by visiting the ALA online volunteer form (login with your ALA membership ID is required). You must be a LITA member in order to volunteer for committee and representative positions.

To find out more about what committees LITA has to offer, please visit the Committee page on the LITA website. Don’t forget to indicate what committee(s) you are interested in when you complete the volunteer form!

Please feel free to contact either myself or the LITA Office. if you have questions about volunteering. There are still openings available on most committees and appointments will take effect in July 2015.

Thomas Dowling
LITA Vice President/President-Elect

LITA at Midwinter in Chicago

Start with a full day workshop on Friday, January 30, 2015. There are two of them and one is sure to serve your purpose:

  • Introduction to practical programming with Elizabeth Wickes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This workshop will prepare participants to write their own programs and provide essential experience and background for the evaluation of computing reference materials and workshop development.
  • From Lost to Found: How user testing can improve the user experience of your library website with Kate Lawrence and Deirdre Costello, EBSCO. This workshop will prepare participants to write their own programs and provide essential experience and background for the evaluation of computing reference materials and workshop development.

Registration is handled through the ALA Midwinter registration process. Please note: you do not have to register for the Midwinter Conference in order to register for one of these workshops. If you are registered for Midwinter, you can simply add a workshop to your registration. Registrations will be accepted on site as well.

If you are attending Midwinter, be sure to review the LITA schedule. On Saturday, in addition to the all committees meeting in the morning, a number of IGs are holding discussions both in the morning and during the afternoon. The IG sessions continue through Sunday. Sunday morning the Top Technology Trends discussion is scheduled, and, the LITA Open House happens Sunday afternoon. The Open House is followed by the Happy Hour at Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub. Monday morning the LITA Town Meeting is scheduled. Check here for details on all things LITA at Midwinter.

I encourage you to connect with LITA by:

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

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

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

All the best,

Mary

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

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

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: January 14

Wed, 2015-01-14 13:07

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

New This Week

Assistant/Associate Librarian (Data Curation Librarian), Lousiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

Business Librarian, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Library Director, Niles Public Library District, Niles, IL

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

 

Categories: Library News

Leveraging MOOCs for Fun and Profit

Wed, 2015-01-14 07:00

 

Let’s Talk about MOOCs

If you are a current or recent graduate student or work in higher ed, you have heard of the disruptive tech du jour, Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs). While MOOCs are in their infancy, they are being scrutinized pretty heavily because of their potential to drink academia’s milkshake. While the course structure of a MOOC and a university course are fairly similar (a domain expert organizes a field and puts together a linear curriculum of lectures, readings and quizzes), the primary differences lie in the method of interaction (synchronous and personal vs. asynchronous and impersonal) and their perception of credibility (though certain platforms are experimenting with offering credentials, they don’t carry as much weight as a traditional university degree).

While it will probably be a while before MOOCs start poaching would-be university students, we can still enjoy and make use of MOOCs as they are. Classes, in person or virtual, are never meant to make the student a domain expert immediately. Classes give the student a high level overview of a subject and it is up to the student to move forward with the parts they find interesting, whether that’s with further courses or personal research. When I was in library school we had a kind of “Libraries 101″ class. Aside from gaining a general understanding of how a complete library system works, I learned that I find cataloging topics the most interesting. I took a cataloging class and learned that I like MODS/RDF metadata the most. I then did a lot of MODS/RDF research on my own which led to further interesting topics, ad infinitum. When viewed in terms of the progress and personal growth one can achieve, MOOCs and university courses aren’t so different.

 

For Profit

Professional development is a terrific reason to start taking MOOCs. No matter what your job is, there is a MOOC out there that will help you do it better. There are an incredible amount of MOOCs on technical topics like programming available from sites like edX and Coursera, so if you’d like to add a bit of programming chops to your professional skill set there has never been a better time. If you aren’t a tech person, there are still great classes (and even entire specializations!) to check out on topics like library advocacy, project management, marketing, business, and teaching. Growing your understanding in these areas could allow you to do your job better, net you better performance reviews, and possibly even a raise (hence the “For Profit” header).

While you can take these MOOCs by yourself, they work even better when you participate with a group. My first MOOC was “Copyright for Educators and Librarians” which I took as part of a copyright study group of librarians at FSU, and I gained a lot from our weekly get-togethers where we discussed how the course applies to our own work. I’m also currently taking an entire of run of data science courses with the Data Science Study Group, an open Google group for librarians to discuss the implications for data science in libraries. If you find a class that you think your coworkers might be interested in, I encourage you to set up a study group where you can discuss what you are learning in an open setting. You may be surprised how much more you get out of the experience.

MOOC study groups managed by libraries also have a lot of potential as programs for patrons or students. edX has lots of courses aimed at supporting high school students engaged in AP coursework. Public libraries might also be interested in offering study groups for those interested in health, nutrition, finance, or even happiness. Browse the course catalogs and see if you find anything you think your patrons would be interested in.

 

For Fun

Learning doesn’t always have to be about getting ahead in the workplace, though. There are plenty of MOOCs on topics one may take purely out of curiosity or as a hobby. For instance, I have enrolled in some upcoming classes on meditation, classical music and the poetry of Walt Whitman. If you are a sports nut maybe you’d like to learn about sabermetrics (the art of baseball analytics). Maybe you like Emily Dickenson more than Whitman. Whatever you’re into, there’s probably a MOOC about it that will deepen your knowledge. Learning (for free!) from an expert on a topic you are passionate about is a rare treat, so take advantage of these learning opportunities and see what all the hype is about!

Do you have a recommendation for MOOCs of particular value to librarians? Do you have a strong opinion about MOOCs that needs to be heard? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Library News

Forum 2015 Call for Proposals

Mon, 2015-01-12 11:01

The Call for Proposals for the 2015 LITA Forum is out and proposals are due February 28, 2015. The 18th annual Forum of the Library Information and Technology Association will be held in Minneapolis Minnesota, November 12-15, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis.

The Forum Committee welcomes proposals for full-day pre-conferences, 50-minute concurrent sessions, or poster sessions related to all types of libraries: public, school, academic, government, special, and corporate.

Proposals could relate to any of the following topics:

  • Cooperation & collaboration
  • Scalability and sustainability of library services and tools
  • Researcher information networks
  • Practical applications of linked data
  • Large- and small-scale resource sharing
  • User experience & users
  • Library spaces (virtual or physical)
  • “Big Data” — work in discovery, preservation, or documentation
  • Data driven libraries or related assessment projects
  • Anything else that relates to library information technology

Proposals may cover projects, plans, ideas, or recent discoveries. We accept proposals on any aspect of library and information technology, even if not covered by the above list. The committee particularly invites submissions from first time presenters, library school students, and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Submit your proposal through this link by February 28, 2015.

Presentations must have a technological focus and pertain to libraries. Presentations that incorporate audience participation are encouraged. The format of the presentations may include single- or multi-speaker formats, panel discussions, moderated discussions, case studies and/or demonstrations of projects.

Vendors wishing to submit a proposal should partner with a library representative who is testing/using the product.

Presenters will submit draft presentation slides and/or handouts on ALA Connect in advance of the Forum and will submit final presentation slides or electronic content (video, audio, etc.) to be made available on the web site following the event. Presenters are expected to register and participate in the Forum as attendees; discounted registration will be offered.

Please submit your proposal through http://bit.ly/lita-2015-proposal

More information about LITA is available from the LITA website, Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: Library News

Tech Tools in Traditional Positions

Fri, 2015-01-09 07:00

During this winter break, I’ve had a slight lull in library work and time to reflect on my first semester of library school, aside from reading for pleasure and beginning Black Mirror on Netflix (anybody?). Overall, I’m ready to dive in to the new semester, but one tidbit from fall semester keeps floating in my thoughts, and I’m curious what LITA Blog readers have to say.

Throughout my undergraduate education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I was mainly exposed to two different sets of digital humanities practices: encoding and digital archive practices, and text analysis for literature. With my decision to attend library school, I assumed I would focus on the former for the next two to three years.

Last semester, in my User Services and Tools course, we had a guest speaker from User Needs Assessment in the Indiana University Libraries. As the title suggests, he spoke about developing physical user spaces in the libraries and facilitating assessments of current spaces.

For one portion of his assessments, he used text analysis, more specifically topic modeling with MALLET, a Java-based, natural language processing toolkit, to gain a better understanding of written survey results. This post by Shawn Graham, Scott Weingart, and Ian Milligan explains topic modeling, when/how/why to use it, and various tools to make it happen, focusing on MALLET.

If you didn’t follow the links, topic modeling works by aggregating many texts a user feeds into the algorithm and returns sets of related words from the texts. The user then attempts to understand the theme presented by each set of words and give reason to why it appears. Many times, this practice can reveal themes the user may not have noticed through traditional reading across multiple texts.

Image courtesy of Library Technology Consultants.

From a digital humanities perspective, we love it when computers show us things we missed or help make a task more efficient. Thus, using topic modeling seems an intuitive step for analyzing survey results, as the guest speaker presented. Yet, was also unexpected considering his more traditional position.

I’m curious where you have used some sort of technology, coding, or digital tool to solve a problem or expedite a process in a more traditional library position. Librarians working with digital objects use these technologies and practices daily, but as digital processes, such as topic modeling and text analysis, become more widely used, I’m interested to see where else they crop up and for which reasons.

Feel free to respond with an example of when you unexpectedly used text analysis or another tech tool in your library to complete a task that didn’t necessarily involve digital objects! How did you discover the tool? How did you learn it? Would you use it again?

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: January 8

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:09

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

Associate Dean for Technology and Digital Strategies, The Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA

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

 

Categories: Library News

Agile Development: Core Values

Tue, 2015-01-06 08:00

Image courtesy of Planbox via Wikimedia Commons

In my last post, I talked about some of the advantages of and potential problems with using Agile as your development philosophy. Today I’d like to build on that topic by talking about the fundamental principles that guide Agile development. There are four, each seemingly described as a choice between two competing priorities:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

In reality, the core values should not be taken as “do this, NOT that” statements, but rather as reminders that help the team prioritize the activities and attitudes that create the most value.

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

The first core value is my favorite one: start with the right people, then build your processes and select your tools to best fit them, rather than the other way around. A good development team will build good software; how they build it is a secondary concern, albeit still a valid one: just because your star engineer likes to code in original Fortran, it doesn’t mean you should fill a couple of rooms with IBM-704s. Choosing the right tool is important, and will improve your team’s ability to produce quality software, as well as team recruitment.

Still, it’s the people that matter, and in particular their interactions with each other and with other parts of the organization. The key to building great software is teamwork. Individual skill plays a role, but without open communication and commitment to the team’s goals, the end product may look great, but it will likely not fulfill the original customer need, or it will do so in an inefficient manner. Agile’s daily standup meetings and end-of-iteration evaluations are a way to encourage the team to communicate freely and check egos at the door.

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

This is the one that often makes developers jump for joy! An Agile team’s focus should be on finding the most efficient way to build software that solves an identified need, and therefore should not spend a lot of time on paperwork. Agile documentation should answer two basic questions: what are we going to build (project requirements and user stories) and how did we build it (technical specifications). The former is crucial for keeping the team focused on the ultimate goal during the fast and furious development sprints, and the latter is needed later on for the purpose of revisiting a certain project, be it to make enhancements or corrections or to reuse a particular feature. Anything else is typically overkill.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

The best way I can think of to explain this core value is: the development team needs to think of the customer as another member of the team. The customer-team relationship should not be managed by a signed piece of paper, but rather by the ongoing needs of the project. Contract negotiations (you can  calm your legal department down at this point; yes, there will be a contract) should be focused on identifying the problem that needs to be solved and a clear set of success criteria that will tell us we’ve solved it, rather than the tool or process to be delivered. Provisions should be made for regular customer-team interactions (say, by involving customer representatives in sprint planning and review meetings) and a clearly defined change management process: software development is a journey, and the team should have the flexibility to change course midstream if doing so will make the end product a better fit for the customer’s need.

4. Responding to change over following a plan

I talked about requirements documentation earlier, so there is, in fact, an overall plan. What this core value means is that those requirements are a suggested path to solving a customer need, and they can be modified throughout the project if prior development work uncovers a different, better path to the solution, or even a better solution altogether. And in this case, better means more efficient. In fact, everything I’ve described can be summarized in one, overarching principle: identify the problem to be solved or that needs to be fulfilled, and find the least costly way to get to that end point; do this at the beginning of the project, and keep doing it over, and over, and over again until everyone agrees that a solution has been reached. Everything else (processes, tools, plans, documentation) either makes it easier for the team to find that solution, or is superfluous and should be eliminated.

Categories: Library News

Do You Really Need a CMS?

Mon, 2015-01-05 18:58

By Thecodeintellects (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

No, this post isn’t about another license, credential, or degree to put after your name. CMS stands for content management system, and in this case I’m referring to any of the applications that allow for publishing, editing, and organizing of content on web pages. Content management systems are powerful tools that make it easy to create, manage, and update websites and web content.

But do you really need a content management system for your website? Due to their wide range of capabilities, these systems can be very large and slow, which might not be a suitable trade-off if you’re trying to build a very simple website. Below, I outline some* considerations you should make before deciding whether to use a CMS.

Content

How much content will be posted, and how often? If you only have a fixed amount of content to post — maybe you just need the basics, like library hours, location, contact information, etc. — then you can get away with coding the pages yourself. However, if you’re planning on a lot of publishing activity, a CMS can be a time-saver in several ways. For one, most content management systems will provide you with a way to view a list of all the content you created, and let you perform batch actions such as publishing/unpublishing and deleting content. Furthermore, a CMS will provide a simple, familiar interface to input your content — whether it’s text, images, PDFs, video, etc. — which means your users won’t need any HTML expertise in order to make contributions to the website.

There are other benefits of a CMS’s graphical user interface (GUI). It allows greater control over content by enabling you to make certain fields mandatory, like a title and author name. Additionally, the CMS will automagically tag those fields in the rendered HTML, so you can customize the look of each field through the CSS stylesheet.

Another content consideration to ask is, Will you embed dynamic content from other sources, such as social media? Most popular content management systems have extensions (a.k.a. modules or plugins) that will display the content from your social media accounts directly on your website. However, if you will you do little more than post the occasional Flickr photo and YouTube video, then a CMS will be overkill if you already know how to embed externally-hosted photos and videos in HTML pages.

Users

How many users will post content? A CMS does more than content management — it also does user management. This is especially useful if you have several types of content and you need to assign user permissions based on content type. For example, you may want to give your reference librarians permission to publish blog posts, but you might not want them editing the page on computer use policy.

Resources

What are the web development and design skill levels of you/your staff? The benefit of using a CMS is that a relatively simple installation process lets you skip the development phase, and the theme marketplace lets you skip the design phase. You can have an attractive, functioning (if only basic) website up and running in less than a day’s work.

If you and your staff lack the technical skills, but have sufficient monetary resources to hire someone to develop and design a website, then you’ll also have to factor in the cost of maintaining the site once it’s live.

Another consideration is your users’ technical abilities. You may have some users who are very comfortable with embedding images, and you may have other users who have a difficult time even with a simple web form. If you care at all about accessibility — and you do, right?! — then you should also consider technical/web ability as an accessibility concern. Whether you decide to go with a CMS or not, cater to your users.

Alternatives

If you decide to use a content management system, there is no shortage of options, and the most popular today are Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress. But I wanted to close this post with some alternative options.

The intrepid web developer may want to roll her own CMS, perhaps with the help of a web application framework such as Yii or Zend. For organizations that lack the technical skills or time and money, there are website builder services such as Weebly and Squarespace that will help you get a slick-looking website up with minimal time and effort.

If you really don’t have much content to post, and your discovery vendor allows access, why not piggy-back on your online catalog and add your custom pages there?

*This isn’t a complete list of considerations. Let us know in the comments what I’ve missed!

Categories: Library News

We Want YOU to Write a Guest Post!

Fri, 2015-01-02 15:21

Yes, you!

Are you looking for a platform to share your ideas with the library tech community? We’re a pretty friendly bunch in LITA and we hope you’ll consider sharing your intriguing library tech-related stories, plans, failures, hacks, code snippets – whatever! – here on the blog this year. There is a lot of room for contributor creativity, so get excited. You do not need to be a LITA member in order to write a guest post, though it’s great if you are!

To submit an idea for consideration, please email LITA blog editor Brianna Marshall at briannahmarshall(at)gmail(dot)com sharing a bit about yourself and a brief summary of your post topic.

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: December 23

Tue, 2014-12-23 14:33

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

User Experience Librarian, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

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

Categories: Library News

Long Live Firefox!

Mon, 2014-12-22 06:00


Until I became a librarian, I never gave much thought to web browsers. In the past I used Safari when working on a Mac, Chrome on my Android tablet, and showed the typical disdain for Internet Explorer. If I ever used Firefox it was purely coincidental, but now it’s my first choice and here’s why.

This month Mozilla launched Firefox 34 and announced a deal to make Yahoo their default search engine. I wasn’t alone in wondering if that move would be bad for business (if you’re like me, you avoid Yahoo like the plague). Mozilla also raised some eyebrows by asking for donations on their home page this year.

I switched to Firefox a few months ago, prior to all the commotion, when I came across Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles, an add-on that allows you to view how a webpage is constructed (the Denver Public Library has a great project tutorial using X-Ray Goggles that I highly recommend). I was pleasantly surprised to find a slew of other resources for teaching the web and after doing a little more digging, I was taken by Mozilla’s support of an open web and intrigued by their non-profit status.

At the library I frequently encounter patrons who have pledged their allegiance to Google or Apple or Microsoft and I’m the same way. I was excited to update to Lollipop on my tablet and I’m saving up for an iMac, but I cringe when I think about Google’s privacy policies or Apple’s sweatshops. Are these companies that I really want to support?

I was teaching an Android class the other day and a patron asked me which browser is the best. I told her that I use Firefox because I support Mozilla and what they stand for. She chuckled at my response. Maybe it’s silly to stand up for any corporation, but given the choice I want to support the one that does the most good (or the least evil).

Mozilla’s values and goals are very much in line with the modern library. If you’re on the fence about Firefox, take a look at their Privacy Policy, Add-Ons, and see how easy it is to switch your default search engine back to Google. You just might change your mind.

Categories: Library News