This week we looked at the various modes our users find information and we listened to discussions regarding the technical literacy of staff in an effort to better serve patrons. As more and more libraries move away from print sources and become the technological hub of information and skills how do we prepare staff for these moves? The video discussion was pretty intense as the maker of a core competencies test fires staff who cannot reach 80% of the core competencies. Training and professional development are key in getting every staff person on the same page in the library. I know many staff at my university who would be unable to answer some of the core competencies and myself I feel like the basics of technology and trouble shooting I understand, but some of the workflows and technologies for systems and digital collections I am not competent in. It is something that I am working on and would like to discover how our electronic subscriptions and access works on the back end of development. One faculty member suggested we hold an open house for each department and talk about what our goals are and what we do. I love this idea, getting a large organization together and fully understanding the general workflow of each department is important to understand how one fits into the greater strategic goals. Our main library is 300,000 square feet and houses 200+ staff members, I would like to better understand how each workflow effects one another.
Electronic sources have taken over our resources and we moved all of our print periodicals into LASR (on site, robotic storage) which means these resources can be accessed easily, but not browsed.
The majority of the physical periodicals are available online and students prefer to browse them online so it makes sense financially to stop ordering the physical and electronic copy of a periodical. This has changed the space in the library quite dramatically as we now have one floor out of five that is now open space for soon to be collaborate space and technology charging stations where ranges of thousands of bound periodicals once were. The textbook discusses the pros and cons of discontinuing physical periodical collections, in case a database stops carrying a collection or title you may get a “gap” in the collection. I have seen this happen with some of our business titles. All of a sudden we no longer have full text access and the liaison librarian is left scrambling for access through other means for patrons’ assignments and research.
The way we search for information will continue to evolve and dramatically change the landscape of information retrieval. In his slippery slope article Coffman discusses what it would be like to go completely digital. If libraries carried no books, no circulation and staff and hey! no building either. The hybrid style library is a good choice for academic libraries as faculty and students still like reading academic and textbooks on paper. Electronic textbooks are hard to browse and the interface has not yet caught up to the needs of users. I could easily see public libraries going mostly digital, but I do not see a no building library in our future. Many public libraries serve as the main point of technology and contact for communities with limited access to new technologies and Internet. In my city the cheapest Internet you can find is $50 a month. That is a huge chunk of change for many families. Serving as an access point for laptops, computers, cameras, e-readers, tablets and other costly technology will keep libraries relevant well into the future. Just because the mode of communication of information is changing doesn’t mean we cannot keep up with the needs of our community of users.
Providing professional development and basic technology training to all staff will help keep libraries relevant and moving towards an evolved set of services that meet the needs of users and provide a place for advanced technology to help bridge the gap many communities are facing. Trained staff who offer assistance and instruction of common technology to the public is a great service that can be used to market other library services and collections.
Coffman, S. (2013). So now what? The future of libraries. Online Searcher, 37(1), 41-57.
This week we tested the lengths my poor old computer could go! Loop.com proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated, but I was able to work through any issues after reading through the string of emails from the class. I like the Loop interface and the way it allows you to ask a variety of questions. I wanted to create a more customizable look, but it seems like they only give you one theme: the Loop11 theme. Creating remote testing scenarios is much more tricky than creating in person tests. You have to be very detailed with instructions as the user only has your descriptions of tasks to go on.
I am curious to see how easy (or not so easy) data extraction and analysis will be for next week. I liked this hands on project and found it simple to create a test once I figured out the correct option to choose from. Students created some interesting screeners and tasks, but for some reason Chrome does not treat all tasks equally. I had to attempt 6 or 7 tests to actually get through 3 of them. Hopefully the results help other students easily compile their data. I am not sure what an un-completed study looks like on the administrative side of the website. It would be interesting to see if people were unable to complete the entire study.
This week we looked at the pros and cons of remote usability testing. Many of the pros considered were financial incentives for companies to use usability testing because it has become a lot cheaper with tools like Skype and Go to Meeting. Just don’t leave the recorder on for 12 hours after the participant is done. Hehe!
Looking at the ways to recruit participants seems like an uphill battle. If I used Ethnio how many people would actually follow through with testing and participation? I think an important aspect to consider which the textbook brought up is the protection of participants’ privacy and information. For certain fields this is very important, in academic libraries we are bound to FERPA and must be very careful what information we release and use.
Another consideration is the lack of body language from remote research testing. These cons could be outweighed by the ability to actually perform usability testing if the company really can’t afford specialty software and technology to complete in person lab type testing that requires travel and other expenses.
This week we looked at a variety of ways libraries use technology to retrieve and store the vast amounts of materials owned and accessible by each organization. The textbook and videos gave insight in the past, present and future of material retrieval and library automation. Allowing staff to focus on patrons and research library technology can be seen as very beneficial for forward thinking libraries who must battle funding shortages and offering more services with less staff time.
The textbook reading was very informative for me because the terminology I hear everyday has roots in historical library technology. For example OPAC, I had no idea what it stood for and that its roots stemmed from the patron side of the catalog, I thought it was exactly the opposite in that staff referring to the OPAC meant the staff side of the catalog. Another term that I thought little about before is “integrated” as in Integrated Library System, currently my institution is running a hybrid like system where many workflows are completed in III Millennium while others have not yet integrated. This simple term has me thinking about our current review of the ILS and our proposal for purchase of another, more updated (really more integrated) ILS. This proposal looks at the current workflows and what we could do to provide a seamless user experience for our patrons. Integration within the software means integration and ease of use for our patrons. This reading is timely, as I have to give a presentation on the circulation module for our town hall meeting regarding process of updating the ILS and our vendor review. I wanted to talk about how an updated ILS would help both staff and patrons and what our needs are, this gave me a good deal of background information into how the ILS has evolved to be integrated and where we could be in the future of an updated software package.
The text offers several pertinent questions to look at when reviewing the ILS and what to investigate prior to a transition. One type of vendor we did not look at was an open source software provider. The institution I work at is quite large and many staff were concerned we would be a “guinea pig” for an open source or emerging ILS vendor. OCLC has excellent ideas, but many are still in the design stage. When we do decide to transition to a new vendor or updated package from Innovative will they have what we need when we need it? This is where the group focused on software technologies that are already built and being used in similarly situated organizations. With millions of volumes to keep track of the group was worried using a newer or more recently designed software would keep us from getting up and running quickly after the transition. Thankfully many are open to new workflows and we looked at what our ideal ILS would like and worked backwards from there. Rather than fitting the ILS to our workflows we want to update and integrate with a new technology that could help us with more seamless service for our patrons.
One challenge I see with overall integration is the lack of seamlessness for discovery layers. We currently use Summon and I get very annoyed when people compare these discovery layers to Google. None of these act anything like Google. Summon is more like the shopping experience I have with Amazon. I can refine and reduce the plethora of search results that may or may not be relevant to my initial search. Will we ever be able to rid ourselves of the local catalog? Maybe. Probably. It is a possibility. If Summon could find a known title like the local catalog then sure, I’m all in. Summon instead brings back hundreds of books reviews and confuses the heck out of patrons, “well the search said you have this book”, when in the catalog we actually don’t. My worry with discovery layers is the shear amount of materials a simple search yields. An undergraduate student searching for research materials on abortion, healthcare or any other popular topic does not need thousands of things to sort through. The only way to get the technology to meet the needs of our users is to use it, review it and update it. Summon has greatly improved in the past couple of years that I have been using it at the reference desk and the questions about how to use it have been decreasing. We have been putting more time into showing the service off in instruction sessions and I hope one day the discovery layer will be useful for finding specific items.
Growing with changing technology and advancing our services to meet the needs of patrons will continue to be a challenge, but I like the idea of not know what my job or workflow will look like in the next 20 years.
This week we looked at the variety of networking and communication that libraries use to perform services. The three types of services libraries rely on are software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service. The ways each of these talk to network systems and hardware within the library depends on the service required and how the department has structured the technology. At my institution we have a combination of cloud computing and local network computing. I feel like we are a bit behind in the cloud game because many of our services are only available in person or on staff desktop computers. This class is very timely for me as I am on two committees working towards more WAN style computing for staff. The first group is working on choosing an updated ILS and the other group is working on the way we store documents, communicate and collaborate across the library. From the readings and videos I watched it seems like there is no right answer for libraries technology needs. Allowing access for staff and patrons is the ultimate goal for most institutions and there is a variety of ways to meet those needs.
As far as my particular institution is concerned we want access remotely to things like the staff wiki, documents, the ILS and collaboration and workflow tools. Currently all of these things must be done in-house on a desktop computer. This is very frustrating because it means you have to either prep materials (eg. print tons of paper documents) or go without in a meeting or while working from home or while traveling at conferences. We recently switched from a LAN email server to Gmail. This is a huge improvement for staff because we are now able to fully access our email accounts from another computer, our company issued tablet, or a home computer. I always found being tethered to a local server for email very frustrating because I work from my office computer about 20% of the day. The rest of my time is spent on a service desk with a desktop computer (circulation or reference) or in meetings on my iPad or laptop. The next goal for us is to be able to access our ILS from anywhere. This would be incredible because to assist patrons currently if I am at home or traveling for work I have to call or email the information to staff who are physically in the library to update an account, check fine information or to give remote access to our online databases. This sometimes means I do not respond to patron requests as quickly as I would like because of my lack of access to the ILS when away from my desktop computer. A cloud based ILS or as the reading by Breeding suggests “library services platform” would be beneficial for services since we can outsource the storage and updates of the software to the vendor. We could provide real-time service throughout the 300,000 square foot building meaning student staff could be in the stacks checking books out to patrons or updating their library cards instead of asking the patrons to come all the way down to the first floor where the service desks are located. Paging lists could be scanned and updated as the books are pulled off the shelves. Inventory of the stacks would be done in real-time and help find missing items or holes in the collection. The possibilities are really endless and would ease staff frustrations as well as timeliness of services offered to our patrons.
The videos this week discussed the implications of cloud computing on collections and the digitization of works to be accessed 24/7. Our special collections department has teamed with the digital collections department to digitize thousands of photographs and other collections suitable for online access. Previously these collections could only be accessed by physically visiting our special collections department Monday through Friday 9am-5pm. This is very frustrating for staff who work weekends because we often have tourists visiting Las Vegas wanting to see more photographs and historical documents regarding casinos, restaurants, tourism and even prostitution. Being able to access these materials 24/7 is important as visitors stopped by for research purposes and it is nice to be able to access the items for them without special collection staff intervention. This type of technology intervention and storage allows us to collaborate with the community and our history. Creating repositories that can be digitized ensures the institutional knowledge is saved in a way future generations can easily find and access.
The use of mobile technology is increasing and many times is the way our patrons access the library webpage on the run. I browsed the website “Boopsie” and discovered none of my local academic or public libraries are utilizing the service. The university I work at has a mobile compatible website, but we don’t have a mobile only website. Some functionality is decreased with this because the screen size and the amount of graphics our web developers use on the website. My local public library actually has a great mobile website and allows me to easily access my account information, request books and download Kindle compatible books to my iPhone. I love having access to my books anywhere because the only time I usually have to sit down and read for pleasure is when I am waiting at the doctor’s office or in line for something. I also have a rule about loaning library books; I only borrow physical books that I can waive the fines for (haha) since I am terrible about remembering to bring them back on time!
The implications for cloud based computing and easing access through WAN networks is a great topic to explore for libraries. Each library has many things to consider when looking at this type of technology. One huge implication that comes to mind for my institution is FERPA, I do not feel comfortable storing any patron or student information in any cloud based storage. Google has tried to work with governmental agencies who have implemented Google apps and email, but many have rejected even the government apps Google has put in place for fear of privacy and storage issues. The readings discussed possible oversight in this arena and the need for more research and development in the areas of privacy and safety of data storage within the cloud.
This week we looked at some emerging technology and unique ways libraries are using popular technology to assist patrons and staff. The thing that most resonated with me in the text reading was the fact that libraries have to be careful to purchase and utilize technology for the right reasons. Buying for “technolust” is a good way to blow an already small library budget. Completing surveys and collecting qualitative observations about users is a good way to determine if the potential technology purchase is a want or a legitimate user need. A small local college, who shall remain nameless, decided to buy 30 iPads before completing any sort of data research on user needs, long story short the iPads went un-used because students could not use them to complete assignments or print as the printers were not able to print wirelessly. The 30 iPads were eventually sent to instructors to be used for remote work and checking emails. For this small college 30 iPads ate up the entire technology budget for a year. Determining wants from needs can be tricky, but it is worth the time spent to ensure budgets are being spent wisely.
In the video Sauers discusses many types of newer technologies that are currently on the market. I was most intrigued by librarians using crowd funding to help pay for projects and technology. This is a great way to market services while obtaining funding when you have limited means to play with. Another technology that would be beneficial is a 3D printer, our Architecture Studies Library has one, but as Sauers was discussing the ways medical libraries have used the printers to recreate body parts I thought of a way our main library could utilize the technology. We loan anatomical models for nursing and biology majors to use to study before tests, these models are very expensive and are easily broken. Using the 3D printer we could potentially recreate broken pieces or students could print their own miniature models for study at home. One thing I am curious about is personal monitors and if libraries are using them for anything. Like Sauers I wear a FitBit Flex because my health insurance gives me a $50 discount per month. I completed a quick Google search of FitBit and library and another personal fitness tracker and library, nothing relevant popped up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if public libraries circulate these types of items. My local library circulates all sorts of weird items including paintings and kitchen gear.
Other libraries offer “technology petting zoos” for patrons and staff to explore technology before committing to a large purchase. This is a nice option because patrons don’t have to feel pressure from sales people if they are trying to explore at a traditional store. This is also a great way for staff to promote current library services and technology while providing one on one training and support.
The text discusses training with implementation and request for purchase of new technology. The process for implementing and choosing large budget items at my university is pretty intense. For the past two years the Integrated Library Systems Task Force has been investigating moving from our current ILS to an updated one. We formed hundred of pages of needs and wants and sat down with several vendors for daylong presentations and hands on demonstrations. We are now at the RFP process where campus looks at the work we have done and decides which vendor (if any) is suitable and meets our laundry list of qualifications. After this is decided the contract negotiation begins and the budget is set. Then comes implementation and training for all 200+ student assistants and staff. These major technology changes brings stress, but also the opportunity to better serve our patrons and update our workflows to match the work being done rather than working around a system.
The overall theme of the readings from the text and the article by Breeding is that technology is constantly changing, but you don’t need to worry about learning everything just focus on what your users want, what betters your library and to roll with the punches. Technology can be very frustrating because staff often have little to no training on it and when it breaks is always when IT staff are off or unavailable. Learning to be flexible and try and troubleshoot to the best of my abilities has got me out of some tricky situations. Professional development on key library technologies is essential and having staff on hand who are comfortable training others and assisting with the use of key technologies is important. Not everyone has the same comfort level or background experience, but to have at least one person in each department who could help with informal training would be ideal.
This weeks assignment was a great portfolio starter, we compiled the past five weeks lessons into one report analyzing the data from our previous weeks moderated videos. I chose to look at participants who had never ordered pizza online because the person I moderated for had the same experience so I felt I had more insight into these participants as I had seen one live. I took copious observational notes and compiled the data into a spreadsheet as suggested by our reading. This made things a lot easier to see as I could more easily spot trends and errors made by each person.
The difficult thing about writing the report was finding my voice and tone, did I want to be harsh or helpful, nagging or suggestive? Also I had some difficulty choosing the tense to write in when describing the studies. I referred to professional studies written in periodicals and tried to follow that model. I enjoyed this project as it is a good deliverable for a workplace, I have had to compile data in small forms for the library I work at using graphs and charts, but nothing with so much background information. This tool will certainly come in handy. I enjoyed this course and like the projects, they don’t feel like busy work, rather real life scenarios that help me in my current job and will help me in the future as a (hopefully) faculty librarian.