Rethinking Library Space, How About a Slide? [Revised]

original
(via Home Designing),

So, I thought I would expand more one this subject as part of my Reflections post.  I saw this article on i09 about houses with slides.  How about a library with a slide?  Here’s the LEGO office building in Denmark.

ph_150413_21-940x616-600x393
(via Architizer Blog)

Michael Weidlich asked if there were any libraries with slides now.  I found a blog article about the Panorama House which has a slide/staircase combination for a home library.

boat
(via childrensministryonline.com)

Not exactly a slide but Googling around I found this neat boat for a children’s check in area.

These are some neat ideas especially for public library settings but what about an academic library.  The Information Commons idea has been in the academic library community for some time now.  I remember my work library wanting to create a common’s area for over ten years now.  What has happened?  Why don’t we have one?  Well, the biggest problem is the ability to generate interest within the university administration then to convert that interest into a plan and a funding source.  Our library got the attention of the university president.  We were given the go ahead to consult with an architect to re-envision the library space as a commons.  Together we planned to move the computer area to the entry level rather than the 3rd floor where it is now.   We planned to add study areas with smart boards and technology focused learning areas.  We planned to rethink reference, technical services, serials and basically how all library service are delivered.  We had a good plan.

Then the economy dropped out in 2008 and our plans and funding were put on hold.  Our spirits were broken as we came close to archiving a real change in the library services and everything was put on hold.  After an initial phase of disappointment, our library has been making small changes that ultimately will re-envision the library.  Our heritage/archive room was completely redesigned to be more inviting.  We incorporated opening the heritage room as a new entry into the library as per the original redesign plans.  Our library’s 4th floor is being remolded now with plans to be reopened by the summer.  It will have a fresh look and powered study tables (the 4th floor is designated as a quite study area so no radical changes in the workspace).

k-bigpic
(via lifehacker.com)

Finally, my thoughts drift to MakerSpaces.  I wish there were MakerSpaces at my public library when I was growing up.  That would have been awesome.  But again, I see MakerSpaces being more for public libraries than for academic.  Throw in a school of medical students and there is even less room for technical spaces.  There are already medical simulators on campus and not a need for the library to house their own (plus they are expensive).  The closest thing that I think we can do is to make available to the students for checkout the latest gadgets.  For example, the library can stock the five best eBook readers either for checkout or to create a permanent kiosk to display the eReaders and let patrons touch and feel the technology.  Drexel University has an automatic laptop checkout machine available 24/7 for students that need a laptop at anytime.

20130114_inq_rrxdrexel14z-a1
(via the-digital-reader.com)

Mobile & Geolocation

mobile-chart2
http://gigaom.com/2010/04/12/mary-meeker-mobile-internet-will-soon-overtake-fixed-internet/

I am a little cynical of the impending dominance of the mobile market and the need for everyone, including universities and libraries, to immediately jump on the mobile bandwagon.  It is hard to argue against shift in consumer device usage when PC computer sales are slipping and tablet/phone use is climbing to a point to surpass desktop use in 2014.  Using similar statistics, it still seems that the majority of people prefer to use a computer when purchasing online or, not surprisingly, at work.  Mobile devices dominate in games, social networking and app use but when “real” work needs to get done, it’s still up to the personal computer to accomplish it.   A progressive school like SJSU requires that papers be submitted in Microsoft Word format; a format that has its majority usage with PCs (this is changing with the Microsoft Surface Pro and Office 365 products).

So, to me it comes down to asking how much time and effort should be dedicated to mobilizing the library’s services?   When I look at my university library’s server stats, a monthly report will show approximately 15,000 visits with 50 visits to the mobile optimized site.  That %0.33 of the total!  But to be fair, is an optimized site necessary?  iPads and tablets will display the regular site and present a usable experience.  The Samsung Galaxy S III screen size is 4.8″ diagonal which makes for a good full screen presentation without the need for mobile optimization.

What services need to be mobilized, that will have an impact on students?  For me, I like to access SJSU’s Desire 2 Learn site with my iPad to read articles that are posted.  I would rather search the library’s databases and gather articles on my laptop.  Maybe I am just not getting it.  There are new mobile apps from publishers like Ebsco, for SJSU students, that provide the search interface on the phone.  Where else can the library optimize for mobile?  Mobile alerts for renewals, holds and overdue make the most sense and then to provide a mobile interface for the patron to renew immediately from their phone, that would be a win-win.

I haven’t been a fan of GeoLocation apps like FourSquare.  It comes down to the innate sense of privacy where we think to ourselves, “Do I really want everyone to know where I am at?”   It was evident in the week’s lecture that Professor Stephens had reservations with phrases like “my close friends” and “not everyone.”  That is an issue with GeoLocation check-ins that will be difficult to overcome I think.

layarAn application that I am interested in is called Layar.  However, I just looked at their site after a long absence and it appears that the company is focusing on print to digital presentations.  When I first heard about Layar, they were starting in on the augmented reality (AR) market with an AR browser for mobile apps.  They would present a person walking down the street, holding up their phone and  receiving digital information from their layar browser.  I thought it would be a neat idea to create a layar for my library’s heritage tour.  I imagine the user taking the walking tour, holding up their phones and Layar presenting an AR view of “what-was-there” in the past.  A virtual time machine.  I have just not had the time to sit down and learn the Layar Creator to make my own Layars.  Now, I will have to check if it is still free.  In the meantime, I have used another website called What Was There?  It adds a photo feature to Google Maps Street

googleglassView and is geared more towards historic photos than current although I have seen non-historic photos.  An example I added illustrations this; use the fader bar to bring the present into focus.   Lastly, it will be interesting how Google Glass is received and absorbed into the digital culture.  I think it would be neat to have ready access to information right at “eye-level” but there are others that see the privacy concerns that comes with Google looking through your eyes.

Reaching All Users

Retrieved from: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2012/08/want-to-connect-your-students-this.html

I work in an academic library so this is my experience.  Students in academic libraries are constantly evolving in their use of the library and technology.  When I first started, databases were published on series of multiple CD-ROMs housed in CD towers and our students had to come to the library to access them via a network file share available from computers in the library.   Our library had 7 photocopy machines because students needed to make copies of articles found in journals in the stacks.  Today  the copiers in the library have be reduced to 2 as most journal articles are available electronically (although they still like to print them).  Students are not tied to the library computers anymore.  The databases that they need are accessible over the Internet provided by the library through various subscription agreements with publishers.   So it comes as no surprise that the way students interact with librarians has to change.

Librarians need to go where the students are.  Where are they?  They can be anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection and access to the library resources via authenticated access.  So how do we provide help to students who could be accessing from anywhere?  That is the goal in order to reach all users.

askalibrarianOne of the current solutions is the venerable “Ask-a-Librarian” link.   The link can simply be to a librarian email address or more sophisticatedly to a librarian chat interface.  Having access to a librarian via a chat can be a valuable tool but it does have some drawbacks.  First,  staffing a librarian or group of librarians for 24/7 chat access would typically be cost prohibited for libraries.  Second, the Ask-a-Librarian link is user initiated.  If the student feels as though they shouldn’t need help and are either afraid or to proud to ask, then they will not use the link.  Third, the Ask-a-Librarian link is usually found on the library’s homepage and maybe a few other select locations but not available once the student starts navigating a search and moves onto various publisher sites.  Fourth,  chatting works as long as the student can explain the problem in words.  What if they can not?

So, I think a solution or collection of technologies can be useful here so that the student’s research needs are met if they run into a problems and need help.  The Ask-a-Librarian idea is good but I think it needs to be expanded to reach all users.  First, libraries and librarians will need to pool their resources to create a 24/7 user experience.  From a quick Google search, this appears to be a direction that some libraries have taken.

SearsPartsNext, let’s expand on the Ask-a-Librarian link by providing a librarian’s assistance even if not prompted.  Recently I was looking for a part to my microwave.  As I was searching on Sear’s site and I paused or stayed on the page for a while; a chat popup soon appeared to offer me assistance.  I am sure that you have seen similar non-prompted popup appears on other retail or financial sites.  I think the library could deploy a similar technology for live chat with a librarian.  If the student is struggling on a search and doesn’t feel like they need help or does know how to get help, this could be beneficial.  There are some guidelines to consider.  Don’t be too pesky and prompt repeatedly or too quickly; students will definitely get annoyed quickly.  Don’t be invasive.  No one likes someone looking over their shoulders while searching neither should the online librarian be a virtual hanger-oner.

The library assistant can prompt automatically for help but if it is dismissed and later the student needs help, what will the student do?  There still needs to be a means for the student to contact a librarian without leaving their point of issue.  One solution are various library toolbars as is pointed out in this Library Journal article.  We use LibX  but frankly, we do not prompt its use as much as we could.   Thinking a little more about what most academic libraries do.   Most academic library resources are restricted based on a license.  Libraries develop means to authenticate patrons to these gated resources.  Some librarians use Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions to seamlessly provide access to multiple authenticated resources as the student moves through them.  The next step I think is to capitalize on SSO’s means of tracking authenticated access and through the same technology provide assistance services to the patrons.  In other words, the Ask-a-Librarian link or automatic chat would follow the student as they moved from one library resource to another.  When assistance is needed, the librarian would know which resource the student is currently accessing and how they arrived at that resource.  This information can be valuable when answering research questions and not duplicate searches that have already be done or when tackling technical issues.   The main concern for this type of technology is again a loss of privacy.  Perhaps when assistance is requested, the librarian will need to ask if they can access the patron’s research history.

Lastly, the case of when words fail.  Remote access / viewing / control is already in use.  I think that some libraries already have the means to ask for remote access to a student’s computer using today’s chat technology.  I think that this technology has to continue and grow in the future.  Through the above mentioned, SSO like, session tracking, remote viewing could be initiated in a more direct and concentrated manner.  The technology to view remotely also needs to be easy and clientless; the patron shouldn’t have to go through difficulties to establish a remote session with a librarian.  Thinking more into the future, will there be a means to remotely view a student’s iPad screen or Android smartphone? Reflector seems to be a possibility now to view an iOS device from an Mac.  Or maybe the solution is more low-tech; someone mentioned in a forum using Skype with mirrors.

Transparency Reflections

HomerBrainI noticed in the reading that there seems to be two types of transparency, or is it three (Lincoln, 2009), that effect libraries, or more specifically, my library.  There is the transparency that comes by sharing with the public what is going on in the library.  This is the same type of transparency that is mentioned in the readings such as Ridfin’s CEO exposing the company’s internal issues to better show the public why things were happening at Redfin (Thompson, 2007) or CEO Mark Cuban’s posting on everything that is happening to him (Anderson, 2006).  Libraries, I believe, are doing a pretty good job at this type of transparency.  Public libraries, as their name implies, are publicly accessible; budgets are exposed; choices are questioned.  Public libraries are blogging, tweeting, Facebooking or otherwise engaged in social conversations.  Public libraries are vocal about budget cuts and sometimes gain the attention of politicians.  I think public transparency is an ongoing part of libraries.

What I found more interesting and more provoking was the amount of attention in this week’s literature that enforced internal transparency. This got me thinking about how internal transparency plays out in my own library.  I commonly hear that library staff are family.  People I have known that have transferred to other jobs still come to visit their library family.  But as in any family and in an academic setting, there is an unmistakable hierarchy.  Those with degrees and credentials have an air of respectability.  I think this comes from the academic environment and it is transferred to the university library. Since the administrative positions at the library are filled with librarians or others with advanced degrees, it is not surprising that the literature talks about opening the transparency within the library.

glasscatI hold a unique position right now in my library.  I am a staff member but I have been with the library so long and my position as head of library IT has given me a “loud” voice with the administration.  And now that I am in library school, I have been invited to other faculty meetings as preparation to my future librarian role.  Only this week we were talking about blogging and it was mentioned that some of the circulation staff would be interested in posting to the library’s blog.  The thoughts of the librarians was that the staff should be allowed to submit posts as long as they went through a librarian editor.  Hmmm.  Then I believe in the lecture it was mentioned that blogging should follow the same rules as already set down in policy.  In other words, trust the staff to follow the rules.  Hmmm again.

What does this tell me about transparency and my library?  I feel my library is following the path of a hyperlinked library.  We have been incorporating trends in communications and electronic access for years.  But, there is still some hesitancy by the librarians especially when it comes down to the staff.  I think the holdup is the thought that, “What if someone writes something that is incorrect/opinionated/snarky? How does this reflect on the library?” This fits into the lecture about allowing anonymous comments and the types of comments that come through.  It also fits into the assignment about writing policy.  I think that there is always the possibility that something incorrect might be said, but there is a lot more opportunity for creative ideas to be spread.  It is time to open the blogging to staff and enforce any misbehavior with a blogging policy.  This would be for posts that are on the public web site.

But this has also got me thinking if I should create a blog within our Intranet site and open the postings to anonymous users.  Right now we have an authenticated site where writing posts is a privilege of being signed in.  Would staff members feel free to communicate if the login requirement was removed?  Would there be hesitancy still?  I don’t know.

References

Anderson, C. (2006) In Praise of Radical Transparency: http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2006/11/in_praise_of_ra.html

Lincoln, M. (2009). Transparency: http://marpr23.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/transparency-how-to-develop-a-transparent-plan-to-maximize-value-and-build-a-brand/

Thompson, C. (2007). The See-Through CEO: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.04/wired40_ceo.html

Reflections on Participatory Services – Please DO Feed the Blog Monster

Blog Monster
http://www.saltywaffle.com/social-media-vocabulary-a-splog-isnt-a-type-of-monster-technically/

The first idea that comes to mind when I hear the words Participatory Library is great idea, but you got to participate to make it work.  What?  I have been the administrator that sets up blogs for my university.  The potential blogger will come back from a conference or committee ranting and raving as to how useful and easy blogs are to use.  The blogger will request that a blog be set up for such-and-such purpose.  After approval, I setup the blog in our campus’ WordPress site, explain that they can log in using their Active Directory username and password,  and hand-off the blog stating that they can contact me if they have questions or would like to request a particular theme.  Mostly what happens is that the blogger will have a few inspired posts and then the content stops.

Blogs need one thing to keep them alive: content.  They feed on a constant diet of new ideas but sadly it has been my experience that most blogs starve to death due to a lack of content.  There have been exceptions:  a student blog of their experiences on campus (maybe they are graded on it) and the library’s News blog is going strong.  But this is where participation takes on its two-way definition.  The library’s LibNews blog is one-way communication.  We allow comments and engage serious responses but mostly all we get are spam-bots (over 1,000 / week automatically filtered).

How do we encourage, foster and grow our participatory library?  How do we engage out patrons?  My library has a Facebook page and we allow for tagging in the catalog record.  I think we need to take a more proactive role to be more participatory.  I think we are like other libraries in that we can say that we have a Facebook account, blog, Twitter account or an enhanced catalog but we just enable the said feature, put it out and do not promote it. We forget to feed the blog monster.

There are two difficulties: the staff and the patrons / students.  Both have the same excuses, “We’re too busy to write a blog or comment on blog.”   So, we need to give the staff and patrons reasons to want to be participatory.  Why would they want to create a post or leave a comment?  Staff can be arm-twisted into writing entries; making the processes part of their jobs perhaps. Students cannot be manipulated as such.  We have to give them something positive to comment on.  Ask questions out right to the students, “Do you like the new Mac computers on third floor?”  Create simple surveys or polls.  Post informative information.  From this class and others to follow, I hope to bring fresh ideas like these to my library’s meetings and change the culture from one that sits behind the service desk to one that might not even have a desk at all.

-Gerald Rezes

Reflections on Hyperlinked Libraries

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/Internet_map_1024.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/Internet_map_1024.jpg

The idea of a hyperlinked library is not a new concept for me.  But first, what does that mean?  To me, that hyperlinked library is a library participating in Web 2.0.  Defining that a little more, a library that is participating in the social web.  I have been to many library conferences and this topic of having conversation with patrons has been a theme at many.  My library has tried to get into this mode of operation and slowly we have made progress but we are not fully there yet.  The two things that I see our library lacking are creating content and participation from the community.

Here are some examples. My library has tried setting up library blogs at least times.  They fail because the librarians do not actively post content and they become stale, unimportant. This is not just a librarian issues; the university as a whole has seen more blogs fail then succeed. At first the faculty member or whoever is excited about keeping a blog but then the enthusiasm dies and the blog goes cold.  My observation on blogs, which is also true of Twitter accounts or Facebook pages, is that content MUST be added regularly to be successful.  This can happen if there is a librarian or other blogger that is personally motivated and excited to be the blog author.  Another method is for management to actively assign blogging tasks to authors.  This goes against the ideas presented in the “Library of the Future” video clip in our lectures where staff is motivated to share and top-down management is not heavy handed.  At least for today, a little heavily handedness is necessary to keep the blogs, Twitter and Facebook active.

Another concept I like is the idea that the library needs to go to the people. I have been urging my library to make an effort in this direction. Our participation in Facebook and blogs are a few examples.  Making our collection accessible by Google and other external sites takes the library to the people.  Put information where it can be found is a job for libraries.

In the lecture, I found two other items of personal interest.  The first was the alternatives to iGoogle, the Google personal website that collectively gathers information to one site.  I like it but iGoogle will be discontinued as of November 2013.  I will need to look into Netvibes and Webflakes as possible alternatives.

I am also personally involved in using Drupal.  Drupal has a lot of features to offer and it can be daunting to get started since there are so many ways to use it.  When I tried to use Drupal 6 for our library’s intranet site, I got stuck trying to do too much at the beginning and the project got abandoned. Now, I am using Drupal 7 and I a new philosophy. I started with just converting our library’s intranet site to Drupal and slowly introducing new features. Drupal 7 is also a lot easier to use.  I saw a screenshot in the lecture that has given me some more inspiration.  The screenshot showed a calendar with pay role periods.  I did not think I needed a calendar because I did not want to re-create our Exchange calendars. But, I can use a Drupal calendar to display pay periods, conference dates and other events that don’t need to be in Exchange.   I have also started to transform my astronomy club’s website into a Drupal site.  I am still in the process but it can be viewed at http://www.sbvaa.org/drupal7/.

-Gerald Rezes

Reflections on Core Readings

Buckland, “Redesigning Library Services”

My first thought was that this article was really old, over twenty years.  I understand there are foundational ideas that are fundamental to librarianship but when it comes to technology, three years is considered old.

Reading through Buckland’s work, I am reminded of when I first started at the library.  Buckland mentions the ability to make CDROM data available to the patrons via mounting them for distribution.  Our library had CDROM towers full of MedLine and PsychoInfo discs and automated it so as to be able to distribute them on our network or dial-in modems.  Then Buckland makes another point that is poignant.  He says that CDROMs are transitional technology a fact that has come to pass as our databases are no long supplied via CDROM media but are licensed directly from the publisher and accessed via their Internet websites.

The purpose of Buckland’s paper is to explain the transition from paper, to automated, to electronic libraries.  As of 1992, the transition was just at the automated stage.  I believe we are now transitioning into the electronic library, at least my experience in the academic library world tells me.  Here are some examples:

  • Paper versions are no longer the go-to media; students demand full-text electronic versions of journal articles accessible from anywhere.
  • The catalog is no longer just for books.  Next generation catalogs add a discovery layer that searches databases, patron tags, patron comments as well as books to bring the most desirable results to the searcher.
  • With the exception of archival materials and university documents, libraries are not digitizing their paper collections as Buckland thought.  The publishing companies have found that charging libraries for subscriptions to digital versions of indexes, journals and books is more cost-effective than the library digitizing their materials of their own accord.  Not to mention issues with copyright.

There is much more to talk about Buckland such as his foresight in anticipating the users’ desire to access information remotely (although never mentioning the Internet) but I have to reflect on the other readings.

curelylines

Lankes, “The Library As Conversation”

I agree with much that Lankes and company have to say about moving the library more into a participatory entity rather than a resource only.  This philosophy has been influencing my library as well as others for some time now.  To be more, “in the conversation,” is desirable on many levels.  Libraries have to compete with other information resources like Google, so adding a personal touch helps the library to compete with a “cold, uncaring corporation.”  The more attention that the library receives by being in the conversation, the more attention that administration will pay to the library; and by paying meaning more budget given to the library.  Today’s patrons are used to being in an online world that is filled with social participation.  As the article says, bringing the library to the conversation is important.  Today that means that the library should have an active Facebook presence.  Bringing information to people when they need it is an important goal for library services to strive towards. But as I was reminded of this weekend, not everyone, even those that I would expect, have Facebook accounts.  Therefore, the participatory library cannot rely on just one form of social conversation like Facebook.  It needs to offer alternatives.

curelylines

Casey, “Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service”

Like the Buckland book, there is a lot of information contained in this book that will be skipped over to write a short reflection on its contents.  My first impression is that Library 2.0 is not a new concept.  All the library conferences that I have been to lately have incorporated Library 2.0 ideas, mainly participating in conversations with patrons, engaging patrons and adapting new technology to continue with library participation.  But knowing about the Library 2.0 does not mean that every library, including my own, has implemented its features.

The most stand out feature I see in Library 2.0 is making it easier for patrons to give feedback.  The idea of placing this feedback area in plain sight on the main web page is something that I plan to implement.  Another key feature is to evaluate services on a regular basis.  I know my library has fallen victim to the “Plan, Implement, and Forget” strategy but not following up on a project to see if it was useful for either the staff or patrons.  One of my librarians says that she does not want to go to the next conference because even if she learns about a new process, she will not be able to follow up and integrate it into her daily workflow.  Using the: investigate, plan and review teams seems like a good idea but I think the idea would have to be modified based on the library’s size and structure.

The last tidbit that I found interesting was the devotion of content dedicated to the revolution that MySpace was having in social media and barely a sentence on Facebook.  Oh how things have changed since 2006.  Does anyone use MySpace?  It goes to show that technology, services, products and mindsets change regularly.  Change is constant and consistent.  Change is here to stay.  Library 2.0 tells us to embrace change, change regularly and with a purpose.  Convincing staff to change established processes is a difficult matter.

-Gerald Rezes