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Save the Date: LITA AdaCamp

Fri, 2017-01-20 08:00

Save the date for this exciting LITA preconference at the upcoming ALA Annual conference in Chicago, IL.

LITA AdaCamp
Friday June 23, 2017, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Northwestern University campus in Evanston, IL

Women in library technology face numerous challenges in their day-to-day work. If you would like to join other women in the field to discuss topics related to those challenges, AdaCamp is for you. This one-day LITA preconference at ALA Annual in Chicago will allow women employed in various technological industries an opportunity to network with others in the field and to collectively examine common barriers faced. This day will follow the unconference model allowing attendees the power to choose topics most relevant to their work and their lives. Watch for more program details and registration information following ALA Midwinter!

Find out more about AdaCamp.

Categories: Library News

#LITAchat “What is IoT”

Thu, 2017-01-19 15:52

What is IoT, the Internet of Things, and how can you leverage these new “things” for your library?  From sensors to AI, IoT devices are springing up everywhere.  Join a conversation with Lauren Di Monte from North Carolina State to hear how they have leveraged IoT technologies in their makerspace and discuss general issues related to IoT and cyber-physical systems.  

LITA’s Membership Development Committee invites you to join in the Friday February 24, 2017 #LITAchat at 12pm (CDT)

What: February #LITAchat – “What is IoT”

When: Friday, February 24th, 12pm-1pm (Central)

Where: Twitter

To participate, fire up your favorite Twitter client and check out the #LITAchat hashtag. On the web client, just search for #LITAchat and then click “LIVE” to follow along. Ask questions using the hashtag #LITAchat, add your own comments, and even answer questions posed by other participants. Hope to see you there!

Categories: Library News

LITA Highlights at ALA Midwinter

Thu, 2017-01-19 10:00

ALA and LITA are heading to Atlanta for ALA Midwinter 2017. Whether or not you will be attending the conference, there are plenty of opportunities to check out what’s happening at the conference. All the LITA highlights are on the LITA at Midwinter webpage.

You can find the whole LITA schedule at the Midwinter Scheduler. Most committee meetings are open to anyone whether or not you’re on the committee, so feel free to stop by and check out what’s going on. There’s even a page showcasing the LITA Interest groups managed discussions.

Make sure you don’t miss the following:

LITA Diversity and Inclusion Committee – Kitchen Table Conversation
Saturday, January 21 from 4:30 to 5:30 PM

LITA’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee is thrilled to provide ALA and LITA members with an opportunity to provide substantial feedback on developing inclusive programming and member services, as well as meaningful membership outreach efforts over the coming years. LITA is dedicated to offering an inclusive community for our members and others attending our programs. This conversation series will be anchored by questions that will help us gauge how to improve in each of these areas: Where are our problems? What opportunities are we missing? How can we better support all of our members and attract and retain a more diverse membership?

LITA Open House
Sunday, January 22, 4:30-5:30 pm

All are welcome to meet LITA leaders, committee chairs, and interest group participants. We will share information about our recent and upcoming activities, build professional connections, and discuss issues in library and information technology. Whether you are considering LITA membership for the first time, a long-time member looking to engage with others in your area, or anywhere in between, take part in great conversation and learn more about volunteer and networking opportunities at this meeting.

LITA Happy Hour
Sunday, January 22, 6:00 to 8:00 PM

Please join the LITA Membership Development Committee and LITA members and friends from around the country for networking, good cheer, and great fun! We’re celebrating our 50th Anniversary as a division – don’t miss it. You can “Buy LITA a Drink” by filling up the LITA tip jar at the bar. Location: Gordon Biersch at 848 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308 (404-870-0805).

LITA Top Technology Trends
Sunday, January 22, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

LITA’s premier program on changes and advances in technology. Top Technology Trends features our ongoing roundtable discussion about trends and advances in library technology by a panel of LITA technology experts and thought leaders. The panelists will describe changes and advances in technology that they see having an impact on the library world, and suggest what libraries might do to take advantage of these trends. This conference panelists and their suggested trends include:

  • Ken Varnum, Session Moderator, Senior Program Manager for Discovery, Delivery, and Learning Analytics, University of Michigan
  • Cynthia Hart, Emerging Technologies Librarian, Virginia Beach Public Library
  • Bill Jones, Creative Technologist, IDS Project
  • Gena Marker, Teacher-Librarian, Centennial High School Library (Boise, ID)
  • Meredith Powers, Senior Reference Librarian, Brooklyn Public Library

LITA Town Meeting
Monday, January 23, 8:30 to 10:00 AM

Even if you’re not going to be in Atlanta for ALA Midwinter you can still participate in the LITA Town Hall on Monday, January 23.  Tune in at 8:50am EST and catch LITA VP Andromeda Yelton reviewing the results of the Personas Task Force study and brainstorm how LITA can effectively serve our different types of members. This event will be streamed on Facebook Live. Make sure to like the LITA Facebook page to get a notification when streaming begins.

Join your fellow LITA members for breakfast and a discussion about LITA’s strategic path. We 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.

We hope you’ll join us at some of these events in Atlanta, or follow #alamw17 on social media to join the conversation online.

Categories: Library News

Getting Rid of Distractions

Thu, 2017-01-19 10:00

<Photo copyright 2006 by Jon Bell; used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)>

Distractions

So you’ve finally finished all your meetings, answered all your phone messages, helped the line of people outside your office, and wrangled your inbox under control. Now you can focus on some actual work.

Except, your friend just shared a new meme on Facebook. Instagram and Snapchat pinged a few updates so it wouldn’t hurt to just take a quick peek. And maybe you should check and see if you can still reach that Pokestop from your office. Hours later you haven’t done any work but you have read a bunch of interesting Wikipedia articles.

Pomodoro Technique

Let’s investigate ways you can avoid distractions. The first line of defense is self-control. That works most of the time. If your day is like mine there’s too much to do. I’ve used the Pomodoro Technique in the past to help break up larger tasks while keeping up with ongoing smaller tasks—e.g., email—and at the same time providing time for breaks.

The technique’s name is derived from a tomato-shaped kitchen timer the developer used when he came up with the idea. It works like this: you set the timer for 25 minutes and work; take at least a five-minute break when the timer goes off; after four cycles of this take a longer break. This is a great way to train your brain to focus on tasks and keep deadlines.

Browser Extensions

Occasionally you need a little support in avoiding distractions. There are three browser extensions—one each for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari; sorry IE—that all do essentially the same thing: they let you block websites either completely or after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

I used LeechBlock for Firefox to great success in the past. For example, I created a group called ‘social media’ and put in URLs for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Youtube and then configured the extension to allow me fifteen minutes of access to those websites every four hours. If I used up my time those sites became blocked. There are more options including which days or time of day the block comes into effect, whitelisting sites that are allowed, and so on.

If you’re a Chrome user, StayFocusd is an extension that does essentially the same thing as LeechBlock. WasteNoTime is available for both Chrome and Safari. All three of these extensions are great ways to avoid the siren call of the Internet when you need to focus.

Freedom

Need something more serious that you can run across devices and platforms? Freedom is a piece of software that does the same thing the three extensions do but it will run on all your computers and devices. It can also be set up to block the entire Internet, including email, which is great if you really need to focus.

The one drawback to Freedom is that it’s not free. Prices run from $6.99 for a single month of access, $2.42/month for a year of access, or $119.99 for access to Freedom forever. They often run sales at up to 50% off the price of the forever option.

Freedom might be a better option for personal use but it’s something you can look into for work, too. Of course, you could accomplish the same thing by turning off your WiFi/Internet but Freedom lets you automate turning things off and on. I’ve used Freedom at home for writing projects when I don’t want anything to disturb me.

The Hosts File

Finally, if you keep circumventing the extensions by turning them off and the price of Freedom is too high, you can modify your computer’s hosts file. The hosts file predates TCP/IP and DNS and was used to map hostnames to IP addresses. When I worked as a computer programmer we used the hosts file to connect to our clients’ servers.

To block a site, you would set the hostname to the IP address of 127.0.0.1 (the localhost). When you try to go to the website you added to the hosts file your computer tries to find it on your computer and fails. That is, assuming your computer doesn’t actually host the website.

Obviously this last option is extreme and should be used with caution. The hosts file is a common target for computer viruses as it effects how the machine works with regards to the Internet. This is an instance where I’d recommend disconnecting from the Internet before modifying the hosts file but there could be reasons to use this option.

What are some things you’ve tried to avoid distractions?

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: January 18, 2017

Wed, 2017-01-18 15:33

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

Sonoma County Library, LIBRARIAN I or II – ROSELAND COMMUNITY LIBRARY, Santa Rosa, CA

Sonoma County Library, SUPERVISING LIBRARIAN (LIBRARIAN III) – CENTRAL LIBRARY FULL-TIME, Santa Rosa, CA

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

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: January 11, 2017

Wed, 2017-01-11 14:43

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

Mid-Hudson Library System, Technology Operations Manager, Poughkeepsie, NY

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

Categories: Library News

#NoFilter: Social Media Content Ideas for Libraries

Tue, 2017-01-10 10:00

In my previous blog entry, I introduced the #NoFilter series which will explore some of the challenges and concerns pertaining to social media and its use in the library. For this post, let’s consider a topic that can be simultaneously fun and perplexing: generating quality content for social media! Thoughtful, consistent, and varied content is one of the keys to cultivating a meaningful social media presence for a library i.e., opening up channels of communication with patrons and encouraging enthusiasm for the library’s materials, services, and staff.  Where does one look for social media content ideas? Keeping in mind that the intricacies of each platform necessitate different presentations in content, below are three suggestions for where those in charge of a library’s social media may find some inspiration.

Image accompanying a Tumblr post about the behind-the-scenes process of evaluating donations at the Othmer Library.

  • Behind-the-scenes – The day-to-day operations in a library may not seem like the most riveting subject matter for a social media post. However, in my experience, posts that feature behind-the-scenes work at the library often do very well. Think of it this way: isn’t it exciting when you get a sneak peek of what is to come or a look into processes with which you are not familiar? In terms of social media content, this could mean providing patrons with a photo of the library preparing to open, new acquisitions being processed, a book being repaired, a recent donation to the library still in boxes, a new addition being built, a new technology being installed, or a new fish tank being set up. For this type of content, consider consulting staff throughout the library such as those in technical services, collection development, or interlibrary loan. Not sure how a post about an ILL would look? Check out this great Instagram post from The Frick Collection.
  • Reference Questions – What questions have the library staff recently answered for patrons or for one another? What information was unearthed? What resources were consulted? What steps were taken to track down an answer? You may want to consider working with reference staff to compose social media posts that not only share the findings of research, but also the research process. Chances are that such information will be of interest to others. Additionally, this type of post highlights the expertise and talents of library staff. Individuals who may never have thought to consult your library before on such topics may find themselves reconsidering after seeing your post. One example is this “From the Othmer Library Reference Desk” post on my library’s Tumblr.
  • Events – Event-driven content is one of the most commonly employed on institutional social media outlets. There is an event coming up (e.g., an open house, a movie night, a special guest lecturer, edible book festival) and the library wants to get the word out about it. It’s not a guarantee of higher attendance at the actual event, but such a post, when written in a personable tone, does alert patrons to the fact that the library is a dynamic place, not just a repository of materials in varying formats. Taking this type of post one step further, a library’s social media manager may want to consider sharing stories that come about from the event. Did the library debut a new gadget at the event? Did a quote from the lecturer stand out? Did the cake you ordered for your National Library Week celebration arrive with the library’s name misspelled – e.g., the “Othmer Library of Chemical History” became the “Other Library of Chemical History”? The fun moments, the serious moments, the quirky moments – all can have a place on social media, all are demonstrations of what patrons can take away from participating in a library event.

    The History of Four Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658) on display at the 2015 Othmer Library Open House. An iPad next to the book displays a GIF made from one of the book’s illustrations.

Whether you are new to social media or an established presence on a platform(s), I hope the above suggestions have provided some creative inspiration for your library’s future content.

Where do you look for social media content ideas? What types of content seem to do the best on your library’s social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: January 4, 2017

Wed, 2017-01-04 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

State of Oregon Law Library, Communications Librarian, Salem, OR

Northwest Area Education Agency, Administrator, Media/Technology and Educational Services, Sioux City, IA

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

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: December 28, 2016

Wed, 2016-12-28 17:24

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

University at Albany, State University of New York, Director of Technical Services and Library Systems, Albany, NY

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

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: December 22, 2016

Thu, 2016-12-22 10:11

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

Brandeis University Library, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Boston, MA

UC Riverside, University Library, Business Systems Analyst, Riverside, CA

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 Catie Sahadath

Mon, 2016-12-19 10:34

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

Catie Sahadath

I am the Social Sciences Data Librarian at the University of Ottawa Library. My primary role is providing support for data resources to faculty and students whose research requires secondary resources. This includes helping them with finding, interpreting, manipulating, and analyzing data resources. I work in a small branch that is situated right in the Faculty of Social Sciences building, though I am part of a larger data/GIS/government information team that is based at our main library. I am also the liaison librarian for Feminist and Gender Studies, and Social Work.

Sometimes I’m overcome with excitement when I think about how much I enjoy my work. I get to interact with students and faculty, and helping them out brings me a lot of satisfaction. I work in a supportive team environment, which allows me to explore new and innovative ideas, while helping out my colleagues with theirs. It also helps that I really like data. I’m very task- and process-oriented, and working with data allows me to leverage that trait.

Where do you see yourself going from here, career-wise?

At the end of my career I want to be able to look back on it all and know unequivocally that I embraced positive change, lifted up my colleagues, and left the profession in a better state than it was in when I started. I want to know that I did this to the best of my ability, making the most positive impact that I possibly could have.

I hesitate to select one ideal job path, because I know that any number of directions could help me reach my end goal. But I do know that I’m an ambitious lady, and that my skills and talents are suited to leadership. Because of this, I believe that the most effective way for me to encourage positive change, lift up my colleagues, and ameliorate the profession is by seeking out leadership opportunities, so that’s the general direction that I’m pointing my career in.

Why did you apply to be an Emerging Leader? What are you most excited about?

I found out about the Emerging Leader program from a former colleague of mine whom I respect a lot, who was a participant last year. She loved the program, and that was the reason I initially looked into it. Once I learned more about the Emerging Leaders program, I began to discover that the program objectives of developing leadership for professional service were in line with my own goals.

I’m most excited about being part of a support network with other Emerging Leaders from outside of Canada, as well as with LITA members. I’ve participated in some leadership programs with a Canadian focus, and I really value my program peers north of the 49th parallel. I’m happy to begin developing a similar network south of the border!

What are your favorite things to do when you’re not working?

I paddle! Since high school I have been involved with Dragon Boat paddling. I’m on a competitive women’s team called the Ottawa Galley Girls, and we’re currently training to qualify for the Club Crew World Championships. In the summer this means lots of time on the water, and in the winter it means lots of time at the gym.

Save

Save

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: December 15, 2016

Thu, 2016-12-15 12:28

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

EBSCO Information Services, Library Services Engineer, Ipswich, MA

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

Categories: Library News

#NoFilter: Social Media and Its Use in the Library

Tue, 2016-12-13 10:00

Time and again we hear how useful social media is for library outreach. Use social media for advertising events in the library! Use social media to provide book recommendations! Use social media to alert patrons to library hours and services! Use social media to highlight collections!

And yet for many libraries (academic, research, public, corporate, school, etc.), social media success remains elusive. We sit and grumble to our colleagues about how few followers we have on x or y platform or the lack of likes and shares our posts receive. We question whether the library is cool or hip enough with new generations of patrons. Then eventually we throw up our hands, stand on our desks, and boldly proclaim “I’m done with social media! I’m going back to papering the walls with flyers!”

Dramatics aside, many of us have been in this predicament at some point. We question why we’re doing social media for our institutions. We wonder what its value is, what are its long-term benefits. We wonder if our content is exciting and intriguing, if we post too much or too little, if we should plan in advance or work more spontaneously, if we should have a social media team in place or leave all social media duties to one person, if we are using the right metrics to gauge effectiveness. The list goes on.

Sharing my library’s collections on Tumblr with Oloch, our woolly mammoth book cart.

It’s my intention over the next several months to explore some of these challenges and concerns pertaining to social media and its use in the library. As a social media contributor/administrator at my library, I have grappled with these issues firsthand. My colleagues and I set up a Tumblr blog (Othmeralia) for our library in January 2014 and a Pinterest page in March 2016. They weren’t instant successes by a long shot. Success was brought about through time as well as trial and error – and accompanied by countless conversations about content, best practices, management styles, promotion techniques, and metrics.

The tips I’ve gleaned from my library’s social media experience and from my own reading will serve as the basis for this series which will hopefully inform you about how to cultivate meaningful social media presences.

Embracing the spirit of sharing that envelops the vast world of social media, I invite you to take part in the conversation as well. Share your institutional social media challenges, share your success stories, share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

What social media are you using at your library? What types of content are you sharing? What’s your biggest challenge at present?

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: December 7, 2016

Wed, 2016-12-07 14:37

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

Yale University, Data and Database Administrator, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

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

Categories: Library News

LITA Conference Buddy Program

Tue, 2016-12-06 14:45

Apply now for the LITA Conference Buddy Program for the 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting

LITA is excited to announce a new program designed to make conference attendance more approachable, foster inclusion, and build connections. Inspired by the GLBTRT Buddy Program, we hope that this program will help us to foster stronger relationships among LITA members who attend conferences and also make attendance more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone who participates. We will be offering this program for the first time at Midwinter 2017.

For more information or to apply, see the Conference Buddy website:

http://www.ala.org/lita/buddyprogram

The deadline to apply will be January 1, 2017.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at:

LITAConferenceBuddy@gmail.com

Categories: Library News

Submit Your Nomination for a LITA Award

Thu, 2016-12-01 12:00

Did you know that LITA co-sponsors three different awards, all of which recognize achievements in the field of library technology? We’re currently accepting nominations for all of them, so nominate yourself or a colleague today!

LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award

The LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award is given for the best unpublished manuscript on a topic in the area of libraries and information technology written by a student or students enrolled in an ALA-accredited library and information studies graduate program. The winning article is published in LITA’s refereed journal, Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL). $1,000  award and a certificate.
Nomination form (PDF); February 28, 2017 deadline

LITA/Library Hi Tech Award For Outstanding Communication for Continuing Education

This Award recognizes outstanding achievement in educating the profession about cutting edge technology through communication in continuing education within the field of library and information technology. It is given to an individual or institution for a single seminal work, or a body of work, taking place within (or continuing into) the preceding five years. $1,000 award and a plaque.
Nomination form; January 5, 2017 deadline

LITA/OCLC Frederick G. Kilgour Award for Research in Library and Information Technology

This award recognizes research relevant to the development of information technologies, in particular research showing promise of having a positive and substantive impact on any aspect of the publication, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information or how information and data are manipulated and managed. $2,000 award, an expense paid trip to the ALA Annual Conference (airfare and two nights lodging), and a plaque.
Nomination instructions; December 31, 2016 deadline

Categories: Library News

Jobs in Information Technology: November 30, 2016

Wed, 2016-11-30 14:26

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

Yale University, Software Engineer, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT

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

Categories: Library News

PLA Awards in Library Technology

Tue, 2016-11-22 17:05

PLA’s service awards and grants highlight the best in public library service and honor those bringing innovation, creativity, and dedication to public libraries. The deadline to apply for PLA 2017 Service Awards and Grants is December 5, 2016 at 11:59 PM Central.

The Baker & Taylor Entertainment Audio Music / Video Product Award is designed to provide a public library the opportunity to build or expand a collection of either or both formats in whatever proportion the library chooses. The grant consists of $2,500 of Audio Music or Video Products. Sponsored by Baker & Taylor.

The John Iliff Award honors the life and accomplishments of John Iliff, early adopter and champion of technology in public libraries, and recognizes the contributions of a library worker, librarian, or library that has used technology and innovative thinking as a tool to improve services to public library users. The award provides a $1,000 honorarium, a plaque and a bouquet of roses for the workplace. Sponsored by Innovative.

Nominate yourself, a colleague, or your library today!

For more information, or to submit an application or nomination, please visit

http://www.ala.org/pla/awards.

Categories: Library News

Humanities & Technology at the Crossroads: Launching an Online Book Group

Fri, 2016-11-18 10:00

My library hosts several book groups; last year, I facilitated 10 groups, with members reading everything from graphic novels to Iranian literature, at an average attendance of 7 members per group meeting. I arrange reading groups with an eye to what might appeal to a wide range of patrons, whether groups are led by experts in their fields, librarians, or patron volunteers.

Last year, I conducted a book group survey, and the respondents indicated that the main barriers to attending book groups at our library included the inability to attend at the dates or times of the scheduled meetings, as well as significant geographical distance from the library. I’m always thinking about how tech tools might assist in improving public services, so I decided to try something I hadn’t seen in libraries: an online book group.

The first decision to make was the reading focus. I chose non-fiction because several survey respondents had requested a non-fiction group, and there was an intersection of those people with those who were geographically distant or couldn’t make it to the library due to scheduling.

The second decision was where to host the book group site. I scoured the web to find examples of library online book groups; the few I found operated via goodreads. Since our library is a public subscription library, we needed to limit participation to our membership. We also needed to ensure standards of communication among members that met our library’s anti-harassment policy, which meant that I would need to be able to block members who violated the policy. The Electronic Services Librarian, who is also our Webmaster, created a page on the library’s website for me, and I learned the basics of Drupal to kit it out.

I penned an etiquette and conduct policy to link at the landing page where members would log in to the site or find instructions on how to obtain a login and starter password if they didn’t yet have one. Interested members contacted me and I manually added them to the site’s user list; this was feasible for my library because we have 4500 members, which in San Francisco is a relatively small service community; about 125 members (3%) use library services on a given day, with an average of 70 members attending at least one book group during the month. Depending on the size of your library, you might prefer to run login through your ILS and let any library member sign in using their card number.

My idea about design was that basic is better; a simple UI would foster a focus on the material, so members wouldn’t have to learn how to use too many bells & whistles in order to contribute. Once members logged in, they’d see three tabs: This Month’s Book, Discussion, and Past Book Selections.

  • This Month’s Book mirrored the introductory material leaders begin with in an in-person book group: a brief author bio, a bit of background on the book, reviewer quotes, and any other relevant material.
  • Discussion encompassed two major categories: Group Info and Book Talk.
    • Group Info was where we’d discuss book group “business”, e.g., choosing next books, discussing any in-person meetups, or posting optional reader bios.
    • In the Book Talk area of the discussion board, I’d post four or five starter questions each month to get the conversational ball rolling.
  • Past Book Selections collected all of the previous This Month’s Book entries as a linked list. In the spirit of an in-person book group, and in service to library privacy standards, i.e., non-retention of patron records, I wanted to keep the discussion portion ephemeral. I didn’t preserve past discussions, clearing everything when a new book was posted. The reading list was the only material that persisted on the site after a discussion month had ended.

I tested the design with librarians who were familiar with discussion forum interaction, as well as those who were not; I used their feedback to tweak the particulars of the site, trying to strike a balance between “too complicated for beginning users” and “not functional enough for experienced users”; the launch was publicized in the library’s book group brochure, the monthly newsletter, on our website, and by creating a special poster for each of the first six books on the reading list. I also hosted two “introduction to the online book group” hands-on tutorial classes.

As you may have intuited from my past tense verbs, this book group has now folded. In the launch month of the online book group, 13 members requested login credentials, but many of them failed to discuss the book in the forum. By the ninth month, when we decided to fold, discussion had dwindled from 5 active members to 1; my book group policy for librarian-led groups is a minimum of 4 average attendees in months 6 – 9 to continue after the incubation period. This group discontinued after the September 2016 meeting.

Since then, I’ve been gathering feedback from members who participated in discussion at least once, and have found that book selection and site design matter a lot. Some members found one of the early books too dense, and gave up on the group altogether. Other members said that after the first month, they forgot they’d signed up and the login page was a deterrent because they couldn’t remember their login credentials. I’ve also touched base with a couple of members who signed up but never got around to participating in discussion. A majority of them said that they were confused about how to post, or felt anxious because what they had to say wasn’t “important” enough.

Although this group didn’t resonate with my library’s membership in its first iteration, I think it’s important to reach library members where they are — and where they are may be online. When planning library services, it’s worth remembering this contingent of library patrons: those who are homebound, distant, or have work schedules or life responsibilities that make a midnight book group their ideal time, and the internet their ideal meeting place.

Have you tried anything like this at your library? How did it go? Any tips you’d like to share with librarians who may be interested in starting an online book group for their service communities? Share in the comments!

Categories: Library News

Drag-and-Drop Outlook Calendar Hack

Thu, 2016-11-17 10:00

That image is the insanity that is my Outlook calendar. There’s a lot of stuff going on in it. We’ve talked about hacking Outlook before here at LITA blog, but there’s a ton you can do with Outlook to help organize yourself and become more productive. While Whtini talked about using the calendar to track projects which helps greatly for year-end reviews, monthly reports, and project management, I’ve got a simple ‘hack’ that I learned accidentally that helps me keep on top of all the things I need to do:

You can drag emails out of your inbox to your calendar or your to-do list

This works slightly differently depending on the version of Office you’re running but in every version you can drag the email to the calendar or to-do list icon in the lower left of you screen and then create a new item from there.

For example, let’s say I’ve had a back and forth email discussion about our public fax service with the vendor. I want to look into the problem before we open. I drag the latest email to the calendar icon and create an appointment for myself for the next morning using that email. The entire email discussion is part of that appointment and I can set reminders, categories, etc. just like creating an appointment from scratch without losing the thread of the discussion.

It’s not just appointments either. Recently several staff and I talked about the need for RFID check-out/check-in training. I dragged that email to the calendar, invited attendees, and created a meeting so that we could sit down and do the training. All the discussion we had was in the meeting request so that everyone had that available to them.

My library uses email reminders for almost-due books, so I drag those emails to my to-do list, create a reminder date and time, and then I get a nice pop-up so that I can renew or return my books as needed.

If you use Gmail and Google Calendar, you can do a similar thing except you don’t drag and drop, you use the ‘more’ drop-down menu when you either select an email or open it. Under that drop-down you’ll see Add to Tasks or Create event. You can add tasks to your default list or create new lists for projects or categories. Similarly, you can create events from emails and put them into your own calendar, a shared calendar, add guests, etc.

I love being able to take an email thread and move it into a meeting or a to-do list without having to recreate the conversation. It’s so easy to do and makes it do that I don’t lose track of what I have to do.

How are you using Outlook or your mail client to increase your productivity?

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