December 30, 2009

Mash it up

The previous post was intended to be my final blog update for 2009, but while listening to a Library 2.0 Gang podcast during my run this evening, I was inspired to add one more before the year ends tomorrow.

I discovered the Library 2.0 Gang podcast series a couple of weeks ago, which is delivered in a host/moderator + panel discussion format. The most recent podcast on social software was great, so I decided to listen to previous recordings. I suppose I'm a little late to the party because it's been going on since 2008, I believe.

The episode I listened to today was about mashups. For anyone unfamiliar, Webopedia explains that
the term mashup refers to a new breed of Web-based applications... mix[ing] at least two different services from disparate, and even competing, Web sites. A mash-up, for example, could overlay traffic data from one source on the Internet over maps from Yahoo, Microsoft, Google or any content provider. The term mash-up comes from the hip-hop music practice of mixing two or more songs.

On this particular panel was Frances Haugen, who made some really interesting contributions to the discussion about what mashups could be and how libraries could benefit. For example, a forgotten book from the 60's might be essentially "dead," but with a recommendation mashup (similar to Amazon's), people might start interacting with the resource again, revitalizing its use. Another example she explained was regarding smart phones being used to help direct patrons to resources by showing them how to locate resources: the librarian would help them figure out how to find the information, and the smart phone would guide them to the materials, physically.

While being enrolled in the LIS program here and using the library heavily, I had sort of daydreamed about there being a map feature for *within* the library. I don't have a smart phone, but if I did, I could have my position listed as "you are here" with specific directions to get to the section of the library I would want to go to. I especially thought this would be useful when the UA Main Library was moving materials around, or even just when I was new to the library as a new student. Western Illinois University's Text Me! service is such an innovative idea and could potentially be the start to a mashup of this sort. While searching the catalog, you can elect to have a call number texted to your phone so you don't have to write it down and could more easily find it while in the library. If that information could be mashed up with directions inside the library, it would be so easy to find materials.

**Edit (1/3/2010):
After now finishing the most recent issue of American Libraries, I just read that my daydream has essentially come true in Bozeman, MT at Montana State University. Joseph Janes (p.34) talks about a new Flash tool in use to "mouse over stack locations on a map, the LC call number ranges and subject areas appear on the side." Pretty excellent!**

An example of a great mashup I recently found is Rent Sleuth, combining information on available apartments in NYC, nearby public transportation, crime rates, and incidents of bedbug infestations all on one map. For my job I also recently created a mashup to show students all the buildings they would need to know of for a summer science internship program on campus, as well as which researchers and mentors are in those buildings plus their websites.

As the panel pointed out, not all mashups are or should be maps (but those just happened to be some examples I had to share). Nicole Engard, also on the panel, shows further examples of library mashups in her book, Library mashups: Exploring new ways to deliver library data, and that link also has further online resources listed.

Anyhow, I think mashups are very exciting and it's so interesting to think of all the ways libraries could combine various data to make collections and services more accessible to users, as well as provide better tools for assessment. I look forward to seeing what the new year will bring in these technologies.

On that note, this is definitely my last post for the year, goodbye 2009, and happy new year!

December 27, 2009

Wrapping up 2009

I have no complaints with 2009 -- in fact, I have some good news.

My temporary/part-time position at work was supposed to end earlier this month, but my supervisor was able to re-hire me at least until March! I will have at least a few more hours per week, more projects, and a somewhat promotion on a specific project. The specific project I'm referring to is that I will get to subsume my supervisor's position in a health literacy collaborative, where I will take the work as a staff employee, rather than the lower-level internship-intended-position it was originally conceived as. As I get more into the project, I'll share more details, but it's a very exciting collaboration to improve health literacy in Arizona.

I had some really great job interviews recently, but decided a couple options I was getting close to were not a good fit for myself and my partner. It's always kind of scary to make decisions like that where you wonder if you're making a good choice, but as friends and colleagues have told me -- you just know it in your gut.

Other great news, I was presented with The Margaret Maxwell Beta Phi Mu Award by the University of Arizona SIRLS faculty as the 2009 recipient at the December graduation ceremony! I am so honored, and of course won't deny the award grant will be extremely helpful for renewing those somewhat expensive professional memberships and such.

So this post isn't entirely about what's been going on with me, here are some good year-end best-of lists:

Happy holidays!

December 19, 2009

Teachable moment: for here or to go?

I have to say, I'm often a bit disappointed with the SLA magazine, Information Outlook, but this time, I found a few articles very useful. In the current December 2009 issue, Derek Law discusses the coming of age of digital natives and how librarians need to consider this group when providing library services and content in Waiting for the (digital) barbarians.

After giving a brief overview of the interests and technology activity of Gen-Y, he points out what librarians should consider upcoming challenges.
It is very depressing to review the results of the OCLC user survey (2006) showing that user satisfaction decreases when librarians try to help. Online users are in a hurry to find the answer (or a shortcut to it), but what we offer is a choice between showing them how to conduct a proper search or not helping them at all. This has been described as the "Eat Spinach Syndrome" (eat your spinach, it's good for you).
When providing reference and instruction for high school students during a summer science internship program, myself and my colleague were sure to stress that if they asked for help, we would work to make their research easier for them; I really think this is key especially with this age group, being a Gen-Y-er myself. Teachable moments are very important, but I think we need to provide both -- give them what they're looking for and tell them how to find it themselves next time, not necessarily simultaneously. The reference I provided was virtual, so what I did was provide resources the student was looking for because I knew he was stressed out and at that point in time just wanted the information, but in the second half of the message, I explained how I found the information, including which terms I searched for. If he didn't want to read that second half, then that's his prerogative, but at least he had the choice of how much time he would spend on that while trying to complete his research.

Instead of appearing as a barrier to information by being perceived as imposing a mandatory training session on how to find resources, I think it is valuable to provide both, and as takeaways. For example, with an in-person reference interview, help the student find what is needed, and then pass out a subject-specific handout on how to find that information next time. If he or she needs something more detailed or has more niche needs, then collect an email address and email the information. If the student seems in a rush or not interested, it doesn't have to be one or the other, as far as provide the teachable moment or only give them the resources without instruction; the information might be wanted for later, but not at that instant.

This was how I felt about the library while earning my undergraduate degree: I did not really want to ask the librarian for help because I didn't have much time and I did not want to have to sit through a possibly intimidating and lengthy lesson on how to use the library when I had a paper due in a couple days. Of course my opinion has changed over time, but I definitely can relate to other Gen-Y students.

Law wraps up his article soundly with,
We need to determine that we can make users' lives easier, not force them to learn something extra before they get to what they need.
So succinct and so suitable.

Law, D. (2009). Waiting for the (digital) barbarians. Information Outlook, 13(08), 15-18.

December 9, 2009

Discovery and user control

I was reading The Joy of Discovery in Web Design in the Inspect Element Web & Design Blog and it made me think of designing user experiences online and in the library. The post talks about taking that extra step to make the experience memorable for users by providing opportunities for discovery.

From an in-person library experience, I think an intuitive understanding of this would be related to browsing. Libraries that go all-digital can really hinder this important experience for users by making browsing and discovery more difficult. I remember this being one of the most exciting aspects of the library for me: searching for something in particular, and then browsing around related shelving; the best part about it was being able to discover something new myself.

Now, this blog is pertaining to web design, and the post can be directly related to library websites too. Creating alternative search features, and even going as far as to hide some fun features within pages that are more interactive could certainly improve a user's experience visiting the site. Even creating more resources for users that they might not even think would be provided through the library, for example, feed listings for interesting subjects to outside blogs or recommended Twitter feeds for research topics, or maybe tutorials for concepts related to but not directly involving just how to use the library or search a database. Maybe even including more library polls for users to contribute their feedback so they feel more involved with the library and are able to say something when they come visit the library virtually.

As Inspect Element says, "Subtlety can play a large role in discovery too even if the visitor doesn’t feel as though they have discovered anything, subconsciously giving them a feeling of greater control." I think that's an important idea to think about with libraries -- giving the user a feeling of greater control; greater control in manipulating library information and resources online, as well as navigating the library in person.

November 21, 2009

Event planning & promotions presentation for PLG-UA LIS Skillshare

I presented this on Tuesday, November 17th at the Progressive Librarians Guild - UA Chapter LIS Skillshare.

I have about 8 years or maybe a little more of event planning experience (including outreach/promo/marketing/pr), so I thought I would share my accumulation of skills. Since I've done educational events, festivals, music shows, library student group workshops and a symposium, community social events, and fundraiser events, I wanted to capture all event types for the attendees, but of course all the information could be relatable to libraries (public, academic, or otherwise).

September 4, 2009

From one stereotype to another

I'm a little torn. On one hand, I think it's great that the librarian stereotype is being re-vamped; instead of shushers with buns, we are now considered techie hipsters with tats. But that's also the problem: librarians are still being stereotyped.

One of the reasons I was so enamored with the profession when I began library school was that there were so many different kinds of people with many different interests. It's part of what makes the LIS discourse so varied and interesting.

Two recent articles prompting me to write this are today's CNN article, The future of libraries, with or without books, and the write up about the roller derby librarian, Tiny librarian is hell on wheels, also from CNN. Of course, the NYT article about the Williamsburg hipster librarians can also be credited for being in the back of my mind, but that came out right when I started my program.

I've been thinking about if this is really a good thing to be thought of as being mostly urban, young, technologically inclined, and pushing out the "old-school librarians" (CNN). What kind of impression does this give a younger patron (at any kind of library)? That they might only want to ask for help from a librarian who fits this description or they won't get as good of service? What kind of impression does this give an older patron? That if they aren't up on technology they might feel intimidated?

Another problem with this stereotype is it falls heavily on those who are white and middle-class. Granted, that seems to be who makes up the majority of the profession (myself included), but pushing this image discredits the diversity we do have and the diversity the profession is trying to acquire.

To depict LIS professionals as being varied in appearance, age, class, race/ethnicity, and areas of specialty would probably benefit the profession more than jumping from one narrow stereotype to another.

July 7, 2009

New PLG-UA newsletter out

Although I haven't had much time to write any new posts lately (I have been so busy!), I did want to share the new Progressive Librarians Guild - UA Chapter newsletter. I contributed two articles, and there are recaps of events, book reviews, and more. If you haven't tried Scribd before, it's a social publishing platform, allowing tagging of uploaded documents. It uses its iPaper document reader to make text documents like PDFs more readable on the web. As the site says, "[it] transforms 'print' files like PDF, Word or PowerPoint into web document[s] — with all the fonts, layout and artwork that makes your document unique."

Chris Anderson's new book is also available for free on Scribd -- pretty cool! But anyhow, without further adieu...

PLG Newsletter 2(1)

July 2, 2009

Finished products

To make the tutorial I created with Wink viable for subsequent KEYS internship sessions, so my supervisor would not need to have the item re-created, I edited my work so student names were blocked out and the tutorial is more clear as to what the objectives are (since they were originally just stated during the presentation).

You can view what a final product created with Wink looks like here, and the PDF version for printing is here. As you can see, the quality of the PDF image is not very good for the web.

Some more things I learned about Wink while re-editing:
  • you cannot bold or italicize individual words or phrases in a text box - it is either all or none
  • rendering the flash component is unnecessary with static tutorials, although the instructions in the user manual made it seem like it was required either way
  • the numbering order for the PNG files seems odd (and gets even more strange when saving more frames) and it is necessary to take care when matching them up with the different sections in the HTML file

June 25, 2009

Static vs. dynamic tutorials

Recently, I created a tutorial for work to teach high school students completing undergraduate-level internships how to use the communicative features of the University of Arizona's course management software, D2L. It was quickly decided it would be necessary to show them these features earlier in the week, so my task was to have the tutorial published a day or so later, with me only working 5 hrs per day. I was definitely up for the challenge and excited to learn some new software, but first, I had to choose what to use. There seems to be a lot of talk about Camtasia and Captivate, and although I did want to base my choice on positive reviews of colleagues, I also did not want the tutorial to be a video. I could be wrong in assuming from skimming that both of those programs work in that way (remember, I had limited time), but nonetheless, I went on a search for something different that allowed for creating a static tutorial. Instead of just taking screen shots and then painting on, I opted to download and give Wink a try.

Before I explain why I both liked and did not like Wink, I do want to mention why I wanted a static tutorial instead of a dynamic one. I realize a video or changing features can be more interactive and maybe more exciting, but for people to learn something with a defined set of steps that don't have room for interpretation or creativity (how to send a classmate a page or how to get to your student profile), versus a lot of options for experimentation (searching databases or using Dreamweaver, for example), I think a static presentation is the best. People of course learn in different styles, but following a step by step set of instructions accompanied by non-changing visuals seems to be the easiest to follow, especially if the students would be copying the activities exactly as they go. Rather than pausing and rewinding a video to see where was clicked a few times, it would be more cognitively efficient to look at a screen with things pointed at or circled and the steps taken listed.

So, my opinion of Wink. First it's only for Windows and Linux, just to mention, and it took a couple tries to get the hang of it. The instructions aren't the greatest, and I had to watch the video tutorial more than once before I had a flow going. As mentioned, I opted to create a static tutorial, so how it worked was really just me navigating and then pressing the designated screen capture button. What made Wink stand out from the default screen capture/mark up program on the computer I was using, however, was how clean the add-ons looked and how simple they were to tack onto the shots once learning how all the features worked. It was then easy to export it to HTML or PDF.
But, where it got tricky was figuring out how to make the file accessible. The PDF was nowhere near as good of quality as the HTML (it looked great printed, though), so I wanted to make sure to only post the HTML. From reading the instructions that come with Wink, I was under the impression that once you export to HTML, it is a standalone file that does not need to be uploaded to a web site to work, that it could just be opened directly into a browser. How wrong I was. After searching the Wink discussion boards, I realized I did in fact need to upload the file to the server, as well as the flash file and accompanying PNG images. Then, I had to go through the HTML and make sure each page of the tutorial was appropriately linked with the designated image. This took a bit of time since some were not connected and I had to double check the order.

Other problems were that the forward/backward buttons somehow moved away from the overlaying hyperlinks, so they stopped advancing to the next page when clicked. I had to go back to Dreamweaver and slide those back over. Also, even after being positive (triple checking) everything was linked and working, one of the pages just stopped working.

I don't know if I'd use Wink again -- now that I understand it better, it might be easier, but it was not the most efficient because I think I spent more time dealing with the software and it's problems than making the actual tutorial. I'm mostly pleased with the final product and would like to post it but don't feel comfortable since student names are captured in screen shots, but if I am able to make a version with fixes for privacy, I hope to share that in the near future.

June 15, 2009

Organizing a local collective's library

I wrote this for the new PLG-UA Chapter newsletter, which will be coming out sometime over the summer. We put a lot of time and effort into this project, so I wanted to share an overview, our bibliography, and the embedded SlideShare presentation. As the project wraps up, I hope to also soon post the selected subject headings and any last minute changes made in the near future. Article and resources follow...

Volunteers from our chapter worked together this semester to partner with Tucson’s Dry River Collective[1] to organize their small lending library. The group maintains their library containing books and zines[2] themselves, which is located within their infoshop[3]. Their library had been organized as an aesthetic rainbow, forcing browsing, which served as an impetus for asking us for help in creating a simple, yet more orderly system for organizing and finding materials.

Because Dry River collective members are not librarians, and are the ones who would be working with the library, our group wanted them to do the decision-making. We served more so as consultants, offering suggestions, and based on consensus of Dry River, creating a plan for organization. What follows is a brief run down of what has been in the works for the past few months; we hope to have an opening day celebration reception as soon as all the cataloging and physical reorganization is complete, and we hope you will join us!


We researched a number of options for what could be used as a catalog: a simple relational database from an open source program, Drupal, Koha, Joomla, a spreadsheet, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and probably a few more. Considering Dry River only has a few computers, volunteers might come and go, and not everyone has extensive technological training, we therefore chose the simplest interface with the easiest access, also making it very easy for library users to wield, as well as share their input: we went with LibraryThing. Although Goodreads and LibraryThing have similar purposes, through our exploration, we realized Goodreads was better suited for an individual booklist, whereas LibraryThing would work well for a group and allows for more sophisticated cataloging.


As stated, Dry River, previously invoked an aesthetic rainbow for their classification system, which forced browsing. This system was visually based on the color of the book, going in rainbow-order. Although this method was certainly attractive, it made it very difficult to easily find specific items. Likewise, because there was no catalog, the only way to find anything was to look through every single book (or zine), and one would be very fortunate to have previous knowledge of the spine color. To meet this plan in the middle, we found consensus in a visual classification scheme based on main subject heading; in other words, a colored sticker would correspond with a specific subject, and this sticker would be placed on the spine of the book.

Again, because this is Dry River’s library and Dry River collective members and friends would be using and maintaining it, we felt it was very important for them to choose their main subject headings for classification of the books. We decided against pre-existing schemes and subject headings, such as Dewey, LCC/LCSH, or similar since the majority of items in the Dry River library are of a radical nature, and these subject headings are still in the process of becoming more accepting and supportive of alternative lifestyles and beliefs. An example would be that a zine created by rape survivors for rape survivors, if using LCSH, would receive the subject heading “rape victims;” another example is that “infoshop” is not even an existing subject heading in LCSH! As Sandy Berman has been arguing for many years, LCSH can be offensive, exclusive, and just plain ignorant; our chapter participated in the Radical Reference LCSH Blogging Party last year (Spring 2008), based on Sandy Berman and Jenna Freedman’s suggestions for new headings or revisions to existing ones[4]. However, I digress. Dry River chose their own headings based on their collection, their needs, and plans for the future, combined with consideration of our suggestions as PLG-UA. Within LibraryThing, items can receive numerous tags (yet authoritative ones if tagged by Dry River), but on the shelf, as is the only option for tangible items, only one, main subject heading would apply, as correlated with a color-coded sticker. This would be more of a dilemma for the zines, as zines can encompass many subject headings all in one, change subjects capriciously from issue to issue, or be so sporadic and/or ephemeral that it is difficult to have any idea what to do with them. For this, main options can be organizing alphabetically on the shelf and assigning an exorbitant number of tags in the catalog (or filling out the description section – 520 in MARC fields), or to organize by a main subject heading, trying to be as consistent as possible. At this point in time, Dry River has decided to assign main subject headings on the shelf, independent of the books, and will not be cataloging the zines in LibraryThing because their collection rotates so much, and they oft do not expect materials to return.


Which brings up circulation. Dry River had been using an openly visible sign out sheet for borrowers to write their name, contact information, the item(s) they were borrowing, and the date. Because they are a non-hierarchical collective, they wanted all volunteers to have the same access to the same information (not just library volunteers having access to what has been checked out and by whom). Considering their circulation system, individual privacy would conflict with group transparency. Having all information out in the open could not only create a potential chilling effect for library users (especially because materials are of a radical nature), but could also be a personal danger with the recent wave and always-present possibility of FBI raids of infoshops[5]. With user information out in the open, it would be even easier for federal agents to just take it or even come in unannounced and scan the list. These considerations, although Dry River collective members did not seem too worried about the potentiality, prompted us to suggest a discreet circulation system that would be easy to destroy in a moment’s notice. This also would mean not including user information in the catalog. Therefore, when an item is checked out, it will receive a tag in LibraryThing noting it is checked out and the date it was borrowed, but there will be no corresponding user information anywhere on the Dry River computers. Instead, a concealed box with check out slips or a more discreet, easily destroyable checkout list will be employed for only Dry River library volunteers to monitor.

Acquisitions, Collection Development, & Preservation

Dry River receives numerous donations, finds materials for free, and has a synergistic relationship with Read Between the Bars, a local books-to-prisoners group here in Tucson. These reasons mean acquisitions and collection development are not a major hurdle for this library. In fact, Dry River recently needed to weed through their collection to pare it down to only materials that would fit with their mission and goals.

Dry River Library’s mission statement:

Dry River, functioning as a radical resource center, hosts a library in order to provide an array of radical books in an attempt to educate and inspire. We believe in an anti-authoritarian, autonomous, hate-free future and we believe that education is one of the many vessels through which to get there. We are here for you to find useful information, good reads, and inspiring, dangerous ideas.

This is one of the best library mission statements I have ever seen. Since they clearly know what they are setting out to accomplish with the library in general, we suggested they construct a collection development policy to make weeding and collecting easier. They are currently working on this policy.

Although all materials in the library can be borrowed, they have low circulation, so on one hand they might want to consider preservation (especially for the zines), but at the same time, it might not be an issue. Because of this, at this point in time, preservation is not factoring in to the library plan.


Dry River Collective Members are currently cataloging materials and then will be color-coding them and adding items to the shelves. They are also working on a collection development policy. We are answering questions as they come up and have offered to assist with more cataloging if they would like our help.

From conducting a great deal of research on the topic of infoshops, radical libraries, and zines, Kristen Cure (incoming PLG-UA President) and I (outgoing PLG-UA President) put together a presentation on this project for the 4th Annual SIRLS Graduate Student Symposium, and shared our information on Saturday, March 7, 2009. We include more details about the options we had and why we chose what we did; a more extensive background on zines; why infoshops and zines are important; and why librarians and traditional libraries should be interested in them. We re-recorded our presentation and will have it synchronized in SlideShare, available to view in the near future (although, our original presentation was much better!). We also provided a handout of all of our resources and references. Please check [] for some or all of these items when they are posted.

If you would like more information, you can contact me ( or Kristen (, and we can also send you any of those materials mentioned directly.

[1] See our write up on Dry River in the inaugural issue of the PLG-UA newsletter, volume 1, issue 1, published for fall semester 2008. Dry River site:

[2] Do-It-Yourself, self-published periodicals, typically of low print runs, and not created for money. See:

[3] A community space often serving more marginalized populations, used for meetings, entertainment, education, and often containing a small library. See:

[4] See Inaugural Issue of the PLG-UA newsletter for write up about this. You can also visit our blog:

[5] See Long Haul Infoshop, California, where the FBI stormed in, broke locks, took computers with library information, and presented the warrant well after doing so:

Our full bibliography is here
, which we originally passed out, along with free zines, at the Symposium presentation. If you're at all interested in zine libraries or infoshops, we have some excellent resources listed.

Our re-recorded presentation synchronized with SlideShare follows (of course though, it was much better three months ago in March when we originally presented!).

June 12, 2009

Jumping right in

Prior to and shortly after beginning library school, I worked at a natural health food/supplement store doing sales/customer service, which entailed, well, sales and customer service, but also a great deal of reference on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). We had to pass a series of tests based on CAM and basic nutrition knowledge before we could survive the probationary period. This coupled with frequent training sessions really helped familiarize me with the resources we had and memorizing why certain supplements fit into specific sections. Gaining greater knowledge in this area and meeting customers with positive experiences with CAM definitely has encouraged me to believe that it's important for people to at least be aware of CAM as an option, especially with the USA health insurance situation -- I would say most of the customers visiting the store were either too poor to afford health care and health insurance or mistrustful of allopathic medicine. Doing the proper research to find safe and appropriate CAM methods for treatment can be fantastic, it's just a matter of where to start, avoiding information overload, because there are a lot of options! Too often, customers would come in wanting us to just tell them what to do without looking into it at all themselves because they would be overwhelmed by the choices. Obviously not being permitted to do this, it was helpful for them to have us at least narrow down what they were looking at.

Last year at ALA (2008), Kelli Ham gave a great presentation: Health Information Naturally: Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Challenge for Librarians (scroll down to the Mon. 4pm start time), which covers this topic well. She has her handout posted along with her presentation slides, offering some excellent resources for CAM reference.

While earning my Masters, I focused a number of projects on librarianship for CAM, including:
a Code of Ethics for CAM Information Professionals, an Opening Day Collection Project for Homeopathy (collection development), and not really related to CAM, but to medical librarianship and open access, I wrote a paper about the NIH Public Access Policy.

It's certainly an interesting subject (to me, at least)!