Monday, August 04, 2014

ALA 2014, Part One

My time at ALA was spent largely exploring two rather disparate interests; service to the homeless, which had its own Preconference on the day before ALA actually began, and Readers Advisory sessions. The most enjoyable national speaker I made time for this year was Stan Lee, and he did not disappoint! He was great fun, and obviously amazed by the adulation that follows him around. See an excerpt here: I did stop in to listen to Ilyassah Shabazz  (part of an interview here):

The President’s Program with  Lois Lowry and Jeff Bridges, which started out promising, ended up being a rambling mess which I walked out of.  It seems as though they were both under strict instructions to talk only about the new movie of The Giver, which is coming out this summer. Had they been allowed to follow their own paths, it might have been a real highlight of ALA this year. As it was, it was pretty sad. No excerpt appears to be  available of their talk but here’s Lois Lowry talking about her library experiences as a child:
On the plus side, the preconference was an eye opener and the sessions on RA were mostly excellent. Here’s a (not so short) short course on what I found noteworthy:

Serving People Experiencing Homelessness in Academic and Public Libraries Preconference :
Halfway through the conference, we changed the name of the conference from Serving the Homeless to Serving People Experiencing Homelessness. This was done after we were challenged by the representative from the National Coalition for the Homeless, David Pirtle, who pointed out that Homeless is WHAT “they” are, not WHO.  An important distinction, which deserved to be considered. Even as we began to try out this new way of referring to the homeless, we found ourselves reacting differently, even to the information being presented. Semantics  do matter, people! Try it yourself and see. His reminder that they, too, would rather be at home did not fall on deaf ears. The organization NCH,,  whose main work is to work for useful legislation and to educate the public, does work with libraries to create programs which help both staff and the public to better understand the truth behind homelessness, rather than the myths that seem to rule both our policy decisions and our sometimes inexplicable lack of empathy for people living in day to day survival mode.  David had several suggestions, including having programs and events designed to interest people experience homelessness, having providers come into the library, and providing a secure space for their baggage and possibly hiring one of them to secure and watch over excess baggage that we don’t want coming into the library.

Especially interesting was the Winston-Salem Public Library, who got a grant which they used to hire a Peer Support Specialist. A PSS is someone who was at one time homeless, and is therefore able to speak to (and probably does in fact know) many  of the people experiencing homelessness in the area.  The person chosen makes all the difference, of course. In their case, their PSS, David, was an amazing young man. His ability to connect with people at the library was so pronounced, they are now working very hard to maintain his position.  We hope to get a look at the training that he and other providers created to help develop heightened sensitivity among both the staff and the public. They invited providers to use their meeting rooms, created specific programming, including classes on how to expunge debt, which I thought would be worth trying here.  Other ideas that were tried in Winston-Salem include a Second Run Cinema (relatively current movies that would be shown on a regular basis), art/writing classes (as a therapeutic activity, they have been shown to be very valuable in a variety of settings) and  bringing providers of services to this group to the library, both to dispense services and to help create sensitivity training for both staff and the public.
Other speakers included Scott Muir, an academic librarian in Arizona, Sydney McCoy from Frederick County Public Library System in the DC area, David Singleton, the director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Jean Bosch from Ft Collins, Colorado’s Old Town Library and Julie Ann Winkelstein, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of TN, Knoxville. Julie Ann, whose doctorate was on GLBTQ teens reminded us that current statistics are alarming. It is estimated that 40% of those currently experiencing homelessness in America are youth under the age of 18.  
She asked for one specific thing that could be done tomorrow at many libraries around the country. Can’t we provide at least one gender free bathroom on our premises? Any bathroom which is single use and lockable could be considered gender free, we just need to change the signage.

But I think the biggest takeaway from the entire day of discussion and lecture was this: Libraries need to stop wringing their hands and hoping that this “problem” will just go away.  We will not end homelessness ourselves, but we can do the same things we do for other constituencies. Programming, collaboration with outside agencies and considering the issue as worthy of discussion, education and respect seems like a good start.

--Doris @Central

ALA 2014, Part Two

Cleveland Heights Library Computer Lab

There were several sessions that dealt with Readers Advisory Services and the future. The first one that was of interest to me was “My Librarian: Personalization and the future of RA” with
Terrylin Chen and  Alison Kastner (and special guest Laural W, one of the brave souls who is  a “My Librarian”) of Multnomah County Public Library.
Multnomah is at it again! Now they’re transforming relationships into online RA. As they see it, sharing=vulnerability, which is the key to interaction with their customers. So, they have taken online RA to its next logical place -- introducing their customers to individual librarians, letting them get to know what’s of interest to those librarians, and letting the public request reading suggestions from whichever individual appeals to them, rather than the computer. Munltnomah does still maintain their personalized reading list option, but it pales in comparison to the reaction they have had to My Librarian. They had several reasons to head in this direction, including the fact that privacy rules tend to hamper our ability to retain information for our customers (likening it to the public having to deal with librarians who are apparently memory impaired, since they have to be told everything over and over again). Another reason was that they did some focus groups, which pointed out a dismaying fact; for their customers, librarians came in dead last as a source of suggestions for reading. Even the bookseller’s clerks beat us! It’s not that they don’t respect us, it’s that they “don’t want to waste our time”. Sigh. So, they secured grant funding (the librarian’s best friend) and began to transform their readers advisory services. They have always done basic RA training with all staff, but those who volunteered received more specialized training. These staff members also participated in what they referred to as training on “zesty blogging”, since each librarian maintains their own blog of what they are reading/doing.  Multnomah hired a professional photographer to take pictures of these librarians for the website and these pictures were meant to mirror what that particular librarian was passionate about, be it cooking, crafts, cinema or whatever. And then they brought up the page in January 2013. Since the inception of this service, they have had 800,000 clickthroughs on their homepage to the My Librarian site. Pretty amazing.

I also had the privilege of listening to Duncan Smith from Novelist and Tina Thomas, Director of Marketing for the Edmonton Public Library at the session: Turning Books into a Cool New Tool: RA Marketing in the age of Maker Spaces. Duncan Smith began with an extremely apt quote from Marshall McLuhan, “A new medium does not extinguish the old, it transforms it”. It is Duncan’s contention that books are the original “Maker Space”, since that is where most of us find the inspiration, know-how and ideas to further our reach. His use of simile was exemplary -- he decried thinking of our brains while reading as mere photocopiers and reminded us that the brain, while reading, more closely resembles a 3D printer. We create worlds, scenario and characters out of everything we read. No two people have ever read exactly the same book. You bring yourself to what you read, and by doing so, transform it. This led him to remind us that although books are the “brand” of most libraries, our business is reading. However our customers access our materials, whether they read, e-read, listen, watch, they are sharing the author/creators work and transforming it according to their own understanding. We need to get out from behind the desk and engage more than just the passionate and engaged reader, and to help all of our customers make the connection between reading and their own lives.
Tina Thomas went beyond Duncan’s cerebral approach and talked about how Edmonton Public Library markets their RA services. By the way, she began her talk by telling us that EPL’s mission statement consists of 2 words; “WE SHARE”. How utterly simple and lovely. She began by reminding us that the narrowing of choice is more powerful than overabundance. Too many choices can paralyze a customer. She also described the difference between reference and RA, using the new term for RA -  discover - by explaining that in reference, you are looking for a specific bit of information, while Readers Advisory is actually a form of discovery, because it is a chance to be delighted by something you didn’t even know you were looking for. In the minds of our users, end-caps are recommendations straight from the library to the reader. Figure out a way to standardize staff picks, either through shelf talkers, bookmarks or displays so people know where these picks are coming from. Find ways to converse with people individually. Tag your experts in the community for reading lists, but remember that while personality is important, content is king. You may have a terrific and colorful expert, but if they don’t choose relatable material, don’t use it.  RA may be everyone’s job, but specific responsibilities are necessary, to ensure that it is done at all. As for staff, it’s best to have generalists with some specific areas of interest or passion. And finally, set expectations accurately and up front. If you falter, get up and keep it going. Her personal mantra seems to be: INCUBATE, CREATE, MEASURE, REPEAT.


Environments by Design:  was a chance to see several interesting redesigns of both interiors and exterior additions to various libraries. Four separate buildings were looked at from the perspective of restoration, refurbishing and reuse. The building from the 1940’s (Cleveland Heights in OH) bought an old YMCA gym which was situated across the street from their Central Library. The gym was re-purposed into a computer lab, a quiet space and a collaborative space over a period of 18 months and with a budget of $800,000. Pretty amazing transformation, actually. Big takeaway: Don’t force something to be what it’s not. Less is more sometimes.
The 1960’s building was at the Cleveland University, and was in need of space for a Math Emporium. They weathered the loss of around 300,000 old periodicals (which were largely available online) in order to accommodate the change. Timeline: 8 months. Budget:  $789,000. Takeaways: Focus on the big picture, don’t get bogged down in the process. Be prepared to make sacrifices to get it done.  Be prepared for unintended consequences.
The 1990’s were covered by Arnold Hirshon of Case Western Reserve University. By applying what he referred to as experimental method to space planning he was able to transform a classical library into a tech wonderland. Once he had the trust of the students and faculty, and proved that if an experiment did not go well that it would be changed, the ideas came thick and fast.  He created an in-house art gallery using the frames of unused shelving units, among other eye openers. Timeline: 3 years, Budget: $1,000,000.00 spaced out over several projects. Takeaways: Involve the community. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change again (or even back to the original) if necessary. Create a plan for continuous change.
And, last but not least, Adrianne Ralph of King County WA talked about several of their new buildings, and some of their more appealing virtues.

Other sessions that were useful and quite well done will be noted in brief here with links to their Powerpoints or other notes:

Finding Dead People: Highly recommended for anyone doing geneaology:

 --Doris @Central

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Using HathiTrust to Locate Government Information


Hathitrust is a digital repository of over 11 million volumes from 90 partner libraries that is full-text searchable. “Hathi” (pronounced hah-tee) is the Hindi word for elephant, symbolizing memory, wisdom, and strength.

Out of the 11 volumes,  over 500,000 are United States government documents. Over half of these government documents have been viewed at least once since 2010.

Hathitrust has a government documents planning and advisory group whose goal is to expand and enhance access to government documents.

Cool features of Hathitrust::

  • Allows access to old government documents that are fragile and need to be preserved - now they can “circulate” on the Internet.
  • Can use during government shutdowns or any time government web sites are unavailable.
  • Patrons can search for themselves.
  • Can find references within a document without searching the whole text.
  • Can read on mobile devices.
  • Accessible to the visually impaired and those with learning disabilities.
  • Patrons don’t have to understand SUDOC numbers.
  • More government documents available than an individual library can offer.
  • Improved metadata making for more and better ILL requests. Some documents were not cataloged until they were entered into Hathitrust.
  • With the addition of an Espresso Book Machine, partner libraries can offer print on demand.

Hathitrust can be searched either as a library catalog, or as full-text. If you want to limit to public domain items only, check the “full view only” box.

if you find issues with a documents scan or bibliographic record (or it should be public domain, but isn't),  you can give feedback. There is an easy-to-fill-out form, and Hathitrust usually responds in a day or two.

Even non-partner libraries can use Hathitrust to build their government document collections. After creating a University of Michigan friend account, anyone can create a collection of documents on a particular topic. Hathitrust documents can be embedded on a web page and there is a search box widget that libraries could add to their government documents page to offer patrons more access to government documents with no cataloging required.

Currently, downloading is not available  with a guest account, even for public domain items. Downloading is allowed in the building of a partner institution, such as the University of Minnesota.

There is overlap with Google books, but also different items. Unlike Hathitrust, Google makes everything post-1923 unavailable as full-text, even government documents, which are all public domain by law.

Hathitrust content is available in the Digital Public Library of America.

What’s next for Hathitrust?

Presentation slides are available here.

--Andrea @Central

Monday, May 05, 2014


Hidden deep within our staff and public Internet computers is a little program called Paint.

paint 1.jpg

It’s great for patrons looking to make small changes to their photos before uploading them to Facebook or using them as a social media avatar.
paint 2.jpg

You can resize photos:
paint 3.jpg
You can rotate photos:

paint 4.jpg

You can crop photos:

paint 5.jpg
Staff can also use it to edit picture for use in flyers and presentations. See how I used drawing to highlight important information in the above photos? I find it much easier to work with than Word.

You can even do freehand drawing, though I don’t recommend it:


If a patron wants more advanced drawing and photo options while using the Internet, I recommend the free webapp . Photo Editor by Aviary (iOS, Android) and Brushes 3 (iOS) are good free mobile apps.

--Andrea @Central

Monday, March 24, 2014


Digital Libraries

Bibliotech in San Antonio TX is the first all-digital public library. It has a staff of 6- only one is an MLIS librarian. The children’s area has iPad stations, an XBox, and Microsoft PixelSense tables, which are multitouch tables that can be used by several people at once, like in the movie Minority Report. Because of the electronic screens, they have dim lighting in the room.

For checkout, there are 800 e-readers. 600 are 3M Cloud readers and 200 are Nooks with pre-loaded content for children. They use plastic RFID tags so they don’t interfere with the devices.

In addition to e-books and the usual library databases, they have Zinio for magazines, OneClick Digital for audiobooks, Treehouse for learning, ComicsPlus Library Edition for graphic novels, and Hoopla for streaming movies.

One innovative program they offer are e-readers for parents in prison pre-loaded with parenting materials and childrens' books they can read to their children when they visit.

Future predictions:

  • Digital libraries will exist alongside traditional libraries, not instead of.
  • More patrons will have their own devices instead of checking out devices.
  • There will be one login instead of several  (Overdrive, Zinio, OneClick Digital, Treehouse each have their own login currently).

Bibliotech is still very new, but they will be documenting their process and making it public for other libraries to learn from.

Social Georeferencing – A Model for Libraries

Social georeferencing is booming on the web, but not always by that name. For example. Historypin allows people and organizations to add photos and other information to locations on a map. Computers have trouble deciding what information is meaningful or understanding ambiguity, e.g. which town named Springfield is being referred to, what is the “Big Apple”, where is downtown.

That is where crowd-sourcing can help. For example, the British Library asked people on the Internet to contribute to their online map collection. Glen Farrelly worked on the Our Ontario local history site, which used patrons to identify photos and encouraged them to comment. It is a way to bring the community into the collection.

One idea for a library would be to have a "Local History Day" and encourage patrons to bring in photos and letters and talk about memories. Items could be digitized and uploaded to the library web site. Flickr is a free photo-sharing site that offers mapping of photos. Prizes and other incentives could be offered to make it like a game.

Using Augmented Reality in Information Retrieval

The library at Prairie View A & M University received a grant from IMLS to create an augmented reality app for information retrieval. Augmented reality allows anyone with a camera and an Internet connection to gain additional information when they point their device at a location or object, including text, photos, or video. Prairie View’s patrons have the devices already, so why not take advantage?

The app was designed to take advantage of user behavior - many users prefer to browse the shelves rather than use the catalog. If the patron scans a book with augmented reality, they can see related photos and videos. For example, a biography of Ethel Waters links to a music video of her singing “Heat Wave”. A book on kidney disease might have a link to a video about dialysis. So far, only 50 books have augmented reality, but they intend to keep on adding books. Staff has to find the related materials to add, so it takes a little time. The app is available for iOS and Android and also includes links to the catalog, databases, and library hours and locations. It was designed by a third party, although the library staff adds the AR material.

I think it could be a good way to publicize databases. You could either scan a book, or maybe the endcaps of the shelves.

Creating An Infographic Contest at Your Library

Infographics are a hot new trend. The visual format helps people understand complex information, and they are easy to create without knowing HTML.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor library had an infographics contest for their students during National Library Week. They used the Piktochart webapp and requested submissions via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The judges were sent the entries using Google Forms. The students could choose any topic.

It was their most successful contest in years. They did have a little trouble with Pinterest, as it keeps identifying information with the pictures (not so good for privacy), so they won’t use it next time.

An infographic contest could be a fun yet educational activity for teens.

--Andrea @Central


Libraries have always been a place to learn, but now they are changing from a grocery store to a kitchen model. Making is the new collection development. Patrons want to learn hard (STEM) and soft (Arts) skills for an ever-changing workplace. If children are interested and engaged they will be more likely to pursue related learning. Early engagement is needed for success in STEM fields.

The Idaho Commission for Libraries received a grant for a statewide maker program. Five libraries were included in the first year. It is run by the Commission with member input. The focus was programs for tweens and teens.

Some programs they offered:

  • Robotics
  • Electronics kits
  • E-textiles
  • “All About Wool” - brought sheep into parking lot and learned about making wool - kids helped to shear & wash wool.
  • Boat Race challenge - used recyclable materials - cost hardly anything
  • Gardening
  • Origami
  • Yarn bombing - decorating the outside of the library with yarn in a way reminiscent of graffiti.

The local Maker group built 3-D printers and maintained them for one year. They also partnered with PCS Edventures, which provided robotics and electronics knowledge.

The pilot  libraries found that a dedicated space was not needed for making. It can even be done in a one-room library if you dedicate a certain time to it. Programs don’t have to be at a particular time or place- they can be “stealth” or “passive” programming. Staff can set daily or weekly challenges or just leave the materials out and glance over now and then.

Tips for libraries planning maker programs:

  • Training is key.
  • Activities should be hands-on.
  • Have“Make-it Days” where parents and others can see what kids made.
  • Have programs for homeschoolers.
  • Partner with schools
  • Get feedback from participants - can be as simple as a poster board where teens put a sticker under "I learned something" or "I had fun".
  • Each branch decides what direction they want to go - More sewing? More technology? More gardening?
  • Tie making into summer reading

Every benchmark for the pilot was met and exceeded. The libraries have had an increase in teen usage. Staff gained confidence after being scared at first. The amount of programs libraries offered were way beyond expectations. It has even affected how libraries look at their space - weeding, re-design to provide more space for making. The community wants making to expand. The focus has shifted from creating maker spaces to creating makers. Making can happen anywhere!

I was especially intrigued by the Make It Take It Kits the Meridian Library offers for checkout, with everything from robots to crocheting to ukuleles. They can't keep them on the shelf. 

--Andrea @Central