Tuesday, November 23, 2010

fivebooks.com - great collection development / RA resource

Five Books compiles expert recommendations for the best five books in all kinds of fields: Nordic crime fiction, cookbooks, Chinese politics. I checked out the areas I know well, and the contributors are really quite eminent. It's a great way to get started with a topic.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On-the-fly web guides

bit.ly bundles

Lifehacker featured a new service offered by the URL shortening service bit.ly. You can assemble a list of URLs, rearrange and rename them, and sent them on as a single, simple URL. It sounds perfect for on-the-fly creation of custom research guides
  • during instruction sessions,
  • to summarize a virtual reference session, or
  • for patrons who rely on their phones for web access.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Old issues of National Geographic, that bane of collection development, can actually have a use after all - as shelves.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Diversity in YA Cover Art

The blogosphere has had an ongoing controversy over the cover images chosen to represent characters of color in young adult novels - most recently at Feministe, but also, and extensively, at Alas, A Blog. At issue is not just the fact that not only are people of color rarely represented in the text of young adult fiction. On top of that, when non-white protagonists do appear, they are too often "whitewashed" - depicted as white in the cover art.

How can librarians develop a collection that speaks to and about young people of color - without accepting whitewashing?

One possibility is to buy alternate editions of the books with more accurate cover images. In the Feministe post linked above, blogger Chally shows the UK and Australian editions of affected books. Neither of the alternate editions clearly shows characters of color, but at least they don't replace those characters with white people. However, foreign editions are more expensive, and may not always be an option.

I'm not sure I have an answer, but readers do judge books by their covers, and inclusive, accurate covers are an issue in developing an inclusive collection.

Friday, February 5, 2010

#onw2010 Using Technology to Reach More Students in Tough Times

An Analysis on Five Semesters of Data Connecting Students with the Information Literacy Skills They Need to Complete their Assignments
Steve Borrelli & Alex Merrill, Washington State University

How do we respond to enrollment increases with steady staff levels?

Students' main points of contact with the library are the reference desk and the one-shot instruction sessions. The one-shot session is inadequate.
  • Too much info to absorb
  • Not enough time to cover everything
  • No assessment (without cooperation from faculty)
  • Often poorly timed related to assignment schedule
  • Students are absent from session and miss their one chance
  • No opportunity to develop rapport
  • Difficult for students to apply what they learned (often not enough time inside the session)
  • Unrealistic expectations from instructors
  • Widely varying levels of student experience in any one session
  • Students' inaccurate assumptions of their own competence
"The one shot is not information literacy. It's a familiarization exercise that can serve as a doorway into information literacy."

WSU set 6 goals for the BA, 1 of which was information literacy. Faculty actually targeted specific courses in majors as the place of intervention for IL instruction. This was supported by President Obama, and complemented by a CMS (Angel) for every course, making hybrid learning the norm.

For librarians, hybrid learning means
  • Multiple opportunities to reach students
  • Creation of content & assignments for courses
  • Providing online resources that allow to reach more classes
WSU increased the number of students receiving library instruction by 62% from 2006 to 2008, mostly through online interactions.

WSU uses ILE - Information Literacy Education Learning Environment. This was developed in-house, by a librarian, student employee, and IT staff member. It's a flexible tool for collaborative assignment design, that is not itself a tutorial but draws on tutorials available on the free web. This allows it cover a much wider range of topics than a single house-made tutorial.

The classes are designed to inform students what they need to do, educate them with tutorials, assess their learning with multiple choice quizzes, and asses their ability to transfer the information with short answer questions.

As a librarian adds tutorials, they also add quiz questions. Each class in ILE defaults to 4 modules, corresponding to the required proficiencies.
Each tutorial has associated quiz question banks, which the system draws out to create a single unified quiz for the class. Which questions are used is randomized. The quiz bank also shows how students did on the question in the past, giving a benchmark to compare a single class's performance to. You can also create custom questions for a specific class. Custom settings include how many attempts the students can make, due dates, etc.
When students log in, they can register for the class. Then they see the list of assignments (including pre-tests). They work through the modules of tutorials - instructions and learning objects. The essay portion has a WYSIWYG editor and autosaves.

The advantages of this approach is that it allows for rapid customization, using the best available learning objects, and builds in assessment data that the library can examine and respond to.

The library having an in-house system provides stability when the entire campus shifts CMSs. The tight focus on just a few features allows it to be easier to use at those specific tasks. But the general idea could be implemented in any LMS.

Total cost was approximately $24,000, grant funded. Early drafts of the tool encouraged large later donations.

In the courses that used the system, 82% of the students used ILE. As of this week, 1401 students participated just this semester.

In some classes, particularly huge large lectures, ILE is the only method of instruction. For other classes, like 300-level history or English composition, librarians grade assignments and/or provide in-person instruction. For basic composition, the tutorial covers the basics of library services, so that the librarian knows going in what the strengths and needs are. Another customized possibility is to customize the tutorials offered depending on which questions the student got wrong in a pre-test.

Students did the best at questions related to evaluating information, and the worst at accessing information (a statistically significant different). This suggests that the reason sources like Wikipedia show up in Works Cited are not that the students inaccurately evaluate them, but because they don't know how to find anything better.

Within the question categories: In evaluation, the students did best at distinguishing between primary and secondary sources, and worst at identifying services by name. The implication is that we shouldn't be cute in naming catalogs or IRs. [LCC is doing well at this - our catalog is just the catalog; LibGuides are labeled as Research Guides.] In ethics, the students did best at fair use, and again worst at name recognition and local knowledge.

In sum, the contributions of ILE are to reach more students in more classes, and providing better assessment data to understand the students.


Part of what this custom interface provides is stability in the face of shifts between WebCt, Blackboard, Angel, etc. Lane CC seems to be stable with Moodle, so the custom interface probably isn't as useful to us. How can we take advantage of this concept without reinventing our interfaces?

#onw2010 Web Traffic & Campus Trends: A Multi-Institutional Analysis

Jon Jablonski, University of Oregon (soon to be UC Santa Barbara)
Robin Paynter, Portland State University
Laura Zeigen, Oregon Health & Science University

The project evolved from the Orbis Cascade Alliance Research Interest Group. All three universities had web traffic data, which raised the question of whether different university types would have different traffic patterns. The existing library literature didn't establish comparisons or benchmarks, and Google Analytics's library benchmarks doesn't indicate which or what type of libraries.

Many different methods can be used to analysis web logs. Most existing research uses conceptual frameworks, an inductive method so far mostly used on OPAC searches.

This project is a transaction log analysis (not a search log analysis). Common measures include number of hits, unique visitors, page views, etc. Remember that hits includes each different component of a page (images, etc.), and so has been discredited. Also remember that page views includes refreshing, but that pages from Back and Forward aren't counted because they're loaded from cache. Dynamic IP addresses and computers with multiple users complicate the measure of "unique" visitors.

The good part of web log data is that it is a direct behavioral measure - users can't idealize their own behavior. The bad part is that it doesn't tell you about intention or satisfaction.

Cookies are a good source of data, but users often delete them. Flash cookies are more durable.

RSS feeds aren't counted in web logs unless the user clicks through; campus portals and mobile device versions may or may not be counted. And different analysis packages give different results, because they handle corrupted data in the log files differently.

Public library computers with the library page as the home site inflate the page views count.

What are the key performance indicators for library websites? Most current benchmarks are focused on commercial sites, which isn't accurate. For example, is a short time on the site good, because that means that people found what they needed, or is a long time good because they're more engaged. More unique visitors might be better for September, and more return visitors in April. Different library staff have different interests: designers might want to know which browser is being used, but librarians are more likely to want to know paths.

OHSU logs show that the number of new users per month increased steadily from 2005-2008, peaking each year in February and May.

This project's data only includes basic web traffic - not the OPAC, digital collections, databases, or institutional repositories. This highlights that library websites are portals to other types of sites. For example, the UO Library homepage has 42-47 links, and 6 link off the site (catalog, main UO page, etc.)

Comparisons Across Institutions (2008-2009 academic year)
The 3 have very different calendars of traffic. UO and PSU have almost the same enrollment, but UO has much more traffic (nearly 2 million a month versus around 325,000 a month). UO's traditional students show more extreme peaks and valleys for spring and winter break. OHSU is more steady around the year.
Comparing this data to research on journal use shows similar patterns in time and across institution type.
Comparing on visits per days of the week shows more similarity - peaks on Monday and Tuesday, declining steadily to a nadir on Saturday with an uptick on Sunday.
At PSU, 79% of traffic was to top-level pages (home, "About", etc); at UO, it was 57%; at OHSU it was only 14%. OHSU has a very long tail of content - the pages deep inside their website get much more of the traffic. PSU's pattern is due to an active attempt to take no more than 3 clicks to get to needed information. This difference could be due the number of public terminals with the library's page as home: there are many more of these at PSU and UO.
Over the quarter, PSU has high use early in the quarter, drops to nearly nothing at mid quarter, and peaks at the end of the quarter. OHSU is very consistent across the quarter. UO shows consistent use across the quarter, except for graduation week and the week after.
Some of the difference may be due to different software analyzing the raw log data.

This can point to needed services. For example, PSU had a lot of hits on its map finding aid, but has no map librarian.
UO showed a lot of use of its electronic Asian books. Are there similar hidden gems?
This could also be a guide to service provision - for example, mid-quarter might be a fine time for PSU librarians to take a vacation.

#onw2010 Embracing Your Inner Rachel Ray: What TV Chefs can Teach Librarians about Presentation Style

Anna Johnson, Mt. Hood Community College

This session will include clips from FoodTV!

When, how, and from whom did librarians learn public speaking skills?
Nearly all of us facilitate trainings, demonstrate resources, and teach to groups, but almost none of us took public speaking or acting classes.
How would you feel if you needed to demonstrate a new database in 30 minutes? A few would be enthusiastic, but most would be hesitant. Public speaking as one's self (not acting a character) is an emotional experience.

Most librarians are closer to Ben Stein than Rachel Ray, although instruction librarians get closer. Personality can shape our career focus, but all of us can improve our public speaking.

Television cooking shows rely on both personality and structure - the shows are demonstrations. Typical library presentations also last about 30 minutes. Both chefs and librarians have years of experience and are experts on their subjects, and we're also able to teach other people what we know, step-by-step, energetically and enthusiastically.

1) Energy, enthusiasm, and/or passion for the topic
Rachel Ray is able to be fun and enthusiastic about nothing. Sometimes she's got to kill time during preparation, but the energy stays high.

2)Willingness to share your own personal feelings and experiences
This makes us more accessible and relatable. Personal stories can also fill dead air, like in between one-on-one assistance. For example, tell them what you personally have checked out from Summit.

3) Expert knowledge from getting paid to do what you love
Our audience already knows that we're expert - that's why they come to workshops. Don't waste time establishing expertise.

4) Ability to explain what you're doing while you're doing it
This either comes naturally or it doesn't. For people who struggle with public speaking, this is a challenge - how to both do something and narrate it simultaneously.

1) Let the audience know why they should care about this skill and do it themselves.
2) Explain what you're doing and why - and what to avoid
Include explanations about how to rescue from problems.
3) Prepare examples ahead of time
On-the-fly searches are good for engaging an audience, but require intense familiarity with database/catalog being searched. We have to be open to stopping the middle of a presentation to scale appropriately. For example, zoom into the important part of a screen using Control+.
4) Be prepared to skip steps to maximize your time (like a chef's mise-en-place).


What about students who are required to be at a workshop (can't change the channel)?
  • Try to find a connection; relate it to their class.
What about when you don't know the baseline knowledge of the audience?
  • We still need to own our structure: don't let their level of knowledge derail you. This is where preparing helps; you can refer people to different sources.
  • A participant suggests using a quick SurveyMonkey question sent out ahead of time to gauge knowledge level.

What about presenting to faculty - can we assume they respect the expert knowledge?
  • Depends on whether they've invited you (which is easier) or you're hosting an open house. Projecting confidence and owning your own expert knowledge establishes expertise. Confidence helps you be fun.
  • A participant points out that developing a connection with faculty over repeated interactions as a subject liaison supports their perception of expertise (like fans following a specific tv chef). Ideally subject liaisons should correspond to the librarians' experience and passions.

Don't be so concerned about being serious and cramming all the material in there. Feel free to use movie clips to make the presentation more accessible (try The Simpsons).

How can we develop different presentation personae for different audiences?
  • Be okay with a bit of artifice. An alternative persona can make it less intimidating to speak in front of groups.
It's okay to show mistakes and move on from failures. It helps the users see how to dig themselves out of their own mistakes and makes you more personable. Having stories prepared can also help cover dead times.

A participant reminds us to be visually interesting - use props, gesticulate. Props are fun.

How do you know when your audience is engaged?
  • End your presentation with where to find more information and more help. It makes it easier for them to capitalize on their own interest, but if they don't want the tools, there's only so much we can do.
Another participant suggests being enthusiastic about surprising discoveries.

How do you deal with disciplinary interruptions?
  • Remember that tv shows have commercial breaks. Don't do 1 thing for more than 10 minutes without shifting gears, and recap and forecast every 10 minutes. This allows for easier recovery from disruptions, and induces fewer disruptions. A participant suggests including irrelevant image slides for breathing room.
Another participant uses metaphors to persuade students that they care about the information and examples that are relevant to their own lives.

How can we as a profession help librarians develop public speaking skills?

#onw2010 Library in Your Pocket: Online Northwest Conference

Kim Griggs, Hannah Gascho Rempel, (and Laurie Bridges) of Oregon State University

Show of hands indicates few libraries represented have mobile sites now.

Background data
Over 4 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, but only 1 billion land lines. 85% penetration rate in the US, but it's higher in many countries. 51% of undergrads own a web-enabled phone, and another 12% plan to buy in the next year. 250 libraries use TextALibrarian. EBSCO, IEEE, and PubMed are the databases with a mobile-optimized option.

OSU Experience
They began by looking at best practices from W3C. They recommend that mobile access gets its own design - desktop/laptop design doesn't work on feature phones or smart phones. The site gets shrunken and difficult to navigate. This is especially problematic when big real estate is taken up by non-essentials (like new exhibits). Mobile users have specific interests - more immediate goals for specific pieces of information.
OSU also checked other websites, from both libraries and commercial firms. Mobile sites are not just miniature desktop sites. Mobile sites should have many fewer graphics, and more linear structures - avoid multiple columns and put the most important stuff at the top. Mobile sites have less information total. Consider how far the user is willing to scroll. Consider the differences between a feature phone and a smart phone - the optimization is different. North Carolina State University Library has an excellent example of both.
OSU saw the problem as the fact that their patrons were using their mobile phones to access the usual website, but that was cumbersome. The solution was to design a mobile-specific version.
They started with scenarios for three user groups: students, library staff, and the general public.
Based on the scenarios, they decided to include:
  • Time saving applications, like floor maps linked to call numbers
  • Location sensitive information
  • Native capabilities, like autodialing or videos
  • But not everything.
They broke the project up into stages, and defined their users. Then they identified which content to make mobile by looking at analytics, and through a poll on their desktop. They highlighted fast, easy, and fun content that would be easy to transform.

They also decided which devices to target. 85% of use is on feature phones, particularly with international students.

Key content
  • Hours
  • Ask A Librarian (chat, email, ref desk hours, phone, SMS)
  • Address & phone (with Google Maps)
  • How do I?
  • Where is it? (floor maps)
They then returned to scenarios. A main goal, indicated by the polling, was to connect the catalog to physical location. They also linked the available lab computers to a map, so users can figure out where to head to use a desktop right now.

There's also a mobile specific catalog interface, including reserves. The results privilege title, location (including call number), and availability. It gives the option to text or email a record.

User studies indicated that 100 users per day stayed for 4 minutes. iPhones were 75% of users.

Mobile specific URLs - multiple, guessable addresses - help users find the site, as did mobile directories, library news, and the home page.

To develop a mobile presence:
Consider the available resources.
1) Do nothing.
2) Miniaturize using CSS.
3) Create a mobile-specific site.
A mobile-specific site has a 64% success rate. Users on mobile devices have the same limitations as users with disabilities on the standard site.

Adaptation, or multi-serving, delivers data for each device, although standards are converging. Media types in CSS offer "screen" and "handheld", both of which are used by different mobile browsers - ie, Blackberry is handheld and iPhone is screen. Screen supports more images and more complexity.

php detection algorithms can direct mobile users from the desktop site to the appropriate media type. Don't, however, force the user - allow a way back to the main site, and a way to remember that preference.

An XML file called wurfl at SourceForge can let you know the exact capability of the user's phone, which helps direct them appropriately. Allow feedback from users to improve the directions.

Content can auto-adapt with open source tools, like Wireless Abstraction Library - a mark-up language to use with wurfl. It avoids the requirement for separate copies.

There are mobile site conversion tools for libraries with less programming capability:
  • Google Conversion Utility
  • MobiSiteGalore (free)
  • InstantMobilizer
  • Drupal Mobile Tools
Another option is to use RSS feeds.

For iPhones, create a specific stylesheet. Use the tag that creates a iPhone link to add to the user's home screen.

Design Recommendations
  • No more than 3 clicks
  • Access key number for each navigation link (so no more than 10 links per page)
  • URLs short; only alphanumeric
  • Don't rely on Javascript
  • Minimize typing with check boxes and radio buttons
  • No image >80% of screen size
  • Use tried and true patterns
  • Continuously valid code with W3C mobileOK test

Since testing on every phone is impossible, start with Opera and Safari. (Be wary of online simulators.) Downloadable simulators from the iPhone, Blackberry, etc are better. You could even ask for help from a retail phone outlet - they might let you use the phones in the store.

Future services OSU plans to add include databases, room reservations, and Text A Librarian.

Q: How much content revision was required? A: Hours is based on a database, so no change, but much else was drastically trimmed.

Q: What about mobile design suggested changes for the main site? A: Nothing yet, but it probably should.

Q: What was the time frame? A: First stage: from December 2008 to March 2009; second stage by December 2009.

#onw2010 Beyond Usability to User Experience - Liveblogging Online Northwest Conference

Keynote Address by Brandon Schauer of Adaptive Path

This address is going from theory to practice, including hands-on.

Adaptive Path has been engaged with user experience for 10 years. Their mission is to help organizations create better user experiences, for everything from entertainment to life-saving work. They invented the word "blog" and Ajax.

User experience emerged as a discipline from the '70s and '80s, from basic functionality on mainframes to basic window-style GUI. In the '90s, Jakob Nielsen helped move the field from utility to usability. What are people used to? What are their expectations? Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things helped move the field to user experience - using analytics to track how visual changes shaped user behavior. User experience shapes the value of the technology, whether profit value or mission value.

Where are we headed? Strategy. How do we choose the right things to develop? What are the right experiences? We can't build everything; there's no such thing as 100% usability. Strategies help us choose.

Example - The first consumer electronics device was the camera, which came with detailed instructions that created barriers to entry for users. The big transition was "You press the button; we do the rest." Eastman-Kodak changed the focus from technology to pictures: only 3 steps.

Example - In 1995, airlines decided to serve frequent flyers with Internet booking. The application was designed to allow for complicated flights, or simple access for simple flights. The goal was to make sure the application was 1) understandable - do users get the point of using it? 2) usable - were they able to complete the tasks? 3) useful - would they use it themselves?
They got 1 & 2, but travelers said they wouldn't use the system. Why not? They were always flying, so they couldn't dial in and needed to rely on travel agents - no time. That's a usability failure. They decided on the wrong experience.

Expected real world value - Usually organizations account for this by comparing development costs to future value, without accounting for risks: technical failure/inability to create, and real world failure/patrons' choice to use or not use.

There's been a lot of work towards avoiding technical failure, but there's still a lot of real world failure - creation of products people don't use.

Four Experience Hacks to Increase Your Chance of Real World Success
1) Get empathy into your organization. Understand your user - who is a different person from the developer.
Typical development goes from data to logic to user interface to user experience. But users black-box from interface to experience. The experience is the product.
Spend time with target users - recruit them from Craigslist, shadow them as they use the system, or screen share for distant users. Ask, "Tell me about the last time you [did the task I'm attempting to program for]."
Learn about their behaviors and motivations - why do they do what they do? Look for how they conceive of their needs, and which needs are unmet. Ask, "Why?" Users often don't consciously know, and may need coaxing to provide their tacit assumptions.
Connect these insights to organizational objectives.
2) Define experiences users will have. Good experiences are sometimes fun (depending on the product), sometimes simple (but not for tastemakers). Think about the brand - how do we look and feel? How do we talk? A style guide keeps the organization's visual brand consistent, but very few organizations think about how they interact. But answering the question, "How do we interact?" creates consistent experience principles. TiVo is an example of a company that did this consistently, as did Google Calender.
Good experience principles are memorable, like a mantra; inspirational for the team; and differentiating, addressing an unmet need.
Kahneman's research in economics shows that people remember the peak (high or low) and the end of their experiences. The average of the total experience is less relevant. It pays off to figure out the one absolute best part, and end strong.
3) Have lots of ideas, in the right places. Ideas are cheap. We think we're inspired, like Newton with his apple. (see The Myths of Innovation) Avoid getting stuck on the first good idea - keep brainstorming before hammering out details. There are a lot of different ways to solve the same problem. Typically, if people brainstorm 6 ideas, the fourth is the best. We typically focus on what we know, putting together the obvious that's similar to the past. Things we don't understand get avoided during the prototyping/design period, and are then ignored. Design the thing you understand least first.
4) Return to the user's context often. How do you know if you're succeeding? Diffusion of Innovations by Rogers argues that people choose by comparison to what they already have, simplicity, and ability to test it out and see others using it. Try a reversible pilot for a trial period. Do a dry run of one with a single potential user.
Creative Commons License
Libri & Libertas: Books & Freedom in a Web 2.0 World by Laura H. Wimberley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.