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This is to be a “best of” my blog entries, but it’s always good to close out the semester checking in with tech news from The Onion:
 

To me, this is what technology is all about: finding someone to talk to who actually understands.

This semester, I’ve been talking a lot to myself and anyone who reads this blog. What I now have is a fine display of many blog entries labeled as “uncategorized,” a terrible thing for librarians. We categorize everything, and no matter what a thing is, we can’t wait to stick a subject heading or two on it. In previous library classes I took in another institution and wound up with a different Masters degree (proving what others have theorized that I am not only insane by also enjoy pain and suffering way too much), I had a professor who said we should even be barcoding and cataloging our mops and buckets. After all, they could be checked out and we wouldn’t know who has them.  I suppose the subject heading in the catalog would read:

Mops–United States–21st Century–Biography

I think it’s a matter of comfort for people to organize things in their own place so they know what they are called. People like their clutter because it makes them feel secure in their stuff and wouldn’t know what to do without it.  It’s a threat to say everything is miscellaneous, chaos, or uncategorized. It means you’ve got to make things up as you go along…that there is no ultimate meaning or reality you have to follow but that you create what you want. But many, including catalogers, would be greatly disappointed  to learn there are more questions than simple answers, and ultimate truth just isn’t there, so we may as well get used to things that are uncategorized:

This for me is why the hyperlinked library is such a fascinating thing to explore.  There is no real model of what “hyperlinked” means because it is a fluid understanding of what the library is becoming. Once you define it, you stomp it down and  destroy what it could be. It avoids definition because once you think you know what it is, it has already changed. Probably the most redeeming thing to happen in my life was when the concept of postmodernism (as a philosophy), clicked on a lightbulb in my head and I realized there cannot be one big mega daddy meta narrative to explain all of life and instead we are surrounded by many mini narratives we use to make sense of the world.

We can say the hyperlinked library is not one meta narrative, but a collection of many mini narratives that focus on user experience, participation, community, engagement of the user, transparency, mobility, creating things, and reflection. There are many ways to do this through a storytime with kids, video with teens, Twitter feed with the public, Idea Box for anyone, or e-book instructional class for senior citizens. Hyperlinks keep going and take us to many places we would never have known.

Much of my reflections and ponderings have dealt with the big, ultimate questions of life and how I fit in it and the library world. Others made no sense at all. That’s life. But here are some highlights:

* At the beginning of my high school library school year, we had a guest speaker with many probing ideas to explore. One video he shared was one I related to our course:

I remarked then:

Much like the above people on the escalator, so teachers, and librarians tend to be. But our jargon is great. We talk 21st Century, web 2.0, technology, social networking, and all kinds of techie words, but we have no idea how to really implement them. So we make a blog that is updated every two years, a Facebook page with few followers, or other tools which are never utilized. Our speaker on that Friday also asked how many of us are truly prepared for students wearing Google glasses and accessing the web through their voice (soon to be available in contacts), or having a hologram-type keyboard emanating from their watch as they access the web. I can barely push the buttons now…no idea how I’d do that.

(the entire post is found here).

* I have shared a struggle I have with constant computing:

The constant computing thing though has me baffled. I have a Facebook page but little interaction. Many are former students. I have a Twitter I see no reason to tweet about. I follow library blogs, and have my own blog. I still have a flip phone because (and I have looked into this for a long while) I see no need to pay a ridiculous price for something I don’t even use now. If I use 300 of 1500 minutes for $30 month, that is rare. I know how to use smartphones, but see no need for one. Emails are mostly professional.

I seem to be missing something when it comes to this networking thing. There is a blurring now of personal and professional. I still have found teachers at school who don’t own any electronic devices or even have a computer or home email. How can you be effective? I am certainly not like that, yet in a constantly connected world feel disconnected often.

The personal and professional is a big struggle for me, conceptually if nothing else. But we have to “take it personally” because a separation of public and private life no longer exists for many people. That doesn’t mean we have no privacy at all or are transparent about everything, but it recognizes we can’t keep up with a job that is only a job. It’s nice to turn technology off regularly so we can unwind, but to separate completely keeps us out of touch. I still work with teachers who don’t use their computer at home or have a personal email address. How can someone be effective in their job like that? We live in a hyper-connected world that never turns off, so we have to somehow connect our lives to it.

You can read of my continuous computing rambles here.

* I rambled on about a typical day in my librarian life in which nothing works I find workarounds: everything from computers to TV’s and copiers. Not much of the “convenience and relevance” Dempsey wrote about. But this ramble is here.

* Oh yeah, I did a podcast book review of Daniel Pink’s book Drive: the surprising truth of what motivates us. What is significant is not the brilliance and intellect of my review. Actually it didn’t have those qualities anyway. But what it did have was me trying to get through the podcast with a string dangling from my tongue. This was on a Friday night. On the previous Monday I had a biopsy done on my tongue and it was now sown up with stitches. Do you know how hard it is to keep your tongue from playing with those stitches? Anyway, I should bite my tongue more, but on that night it hurt like hell. You can hear the podcast here.

* In dealing with technology being a connection, I posted this:

So I am thinking not only of my own identity, but also of the library as an institution and what the Hyperlinked Library means. I personally find all the trinkets and toys we call “participation” shallow and watered down. I have a Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc etc., but find little connecting or stimulation from them. Godin talks about how we can link ourselves to any possible group in the world. I must be doing something wrong.

It is indeed true technology is making us antisocial with our phones, tweets, things sticking out of our ears, and now Google glasses. But this has happened before, and people of an earlier age complained about this:

What’s the matter with these people, anyway? It’s not like the good old days when people talked to each other more.

* I made a post that pokes fun of people I used to work with because they illustrate perfectly why we need this class. THEY are still out there somewhere. Here is that post.

* YouTube is a great example of Seth Godin’s discussion of tribes. YouTube Channels are another social networking place people connect, so I did this for one of the assignments as an example of going where the users are.  I wanted to show how academic libraries can use YouTube Channels to showcase their stuff. I may have spent just as much time running around YouTube, however, looking for examples of college library channels and getting sucked in to retro 80’s junk I remember. But that was part of the point for me: other people like 80’s retro junk too, so someone out there understands me. Well, they follow a channel too. This YouTubing assignment was fun, and it can be read here.

* I examined a little more about privacy and online and offline tracks. We need to be transparent and authentic, which is something a lot of people are not doing, even though they expose a lot of their life online. It is still hard to find people being honest or authentic about things. We still, however, need to be mindful of people watching what we say and do online and in the sense of organizations, who we represent. Someone is always watching.

* I pondered how users are really just people with needs, including introverts and non-mobile people who feel out of place in society. This was further expressed in my post reflecting on technology & society in which all of this stuff is critiqued. This tech age shows our longing for connection, yet fear of true intimacy. Since the web is open to everybody, anybody can contribute (the “cult of the amateur”), and we find some amazing stuff but also some junk. Just like physical life, actually.

Social networking can be enriching or shallow, depending on the user. But no matter what we see, we can pretty much all agree that we have a longing for connection and community. This is where libraries do not change. We are here to serve the patron, the user, the human beings with needs who come to us. They need more than just a book, a half-hour on the computer, or a glance at the paper. They need to know they are welcomed and valued by someone, somewhere, and may only get it in the library. The younger generation uses technology to do that, but still the seeking is the same. Libraries cannot be measured by what we have or give out, but the community we build.

Based on the idea of the “Idea Box,” I suddenly realized the bulletin board in the children’s room at the public library I work at could have some potential. So I created a “Story Wall” that encourages kids and parents to write stories and draw pictures on different themes, which in this case is holidays:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=611081148951738&set=a.228399223886601.57291.130949140298277&type=1

So I guess you have to start somewhere.

* This was supposed to be a “best of” my blog but I’m not sure what it really is. But as a final thought: as classes come and go and assignments done, I find myself more reflective of the whole process. We come together and learn together, then go our separate ways to try and make libraries and communities better wherever we are. The people we meet and help are as varied as the communities we live in. We learn from each, and are better for the experience. It reminds me of the best final TV episode ever made: the final episode of M*A*S*H*, now thirty years ago.

Goodbye, farewell, and amen.

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The following is a fictitious proposal recommending the use of the LibGuides content management system for a college library. While budgeting would be a major consideration in any proposal, it has been left out here since exact pricing is not available publicly.

Director’s Brief  11/24/2013
To: Dr. Stuffee, Library Director
From: Bob Dreeming, Reference Librarian
RE: Implementing LibGuides into our library

Introduction:

I am submitting the following proposal for the purchase of the LibGuides content management service for our library as it will better serve the needs of our students and faculty.

LibGuides, used by many other libraries similar to ours, have found success using this platform. It is my intent to show you how LibGuides would work in our university library in an era of financial discomfort and constraint. While we have had numerous conversations over the past year on how to utilize web 2.0 tools (such as mentioned above), we have not yet discussed how a platform such as LibGuides can help us organize all of these other tools in one location.

What are LibGuides and what do they do?

LibGuides are the solution to the problems we reference librarians have been having. We know our print subject guides are not only outdated, difficult to maintain, and often incomplete, but also they are based on an obsolete model.

Over 1,700 libraries use LibGuides not just for content management but also knowledge dissemination. LibGuides can gather our research tutorials, connect with web 2.0 applications, and serve as what we once termed a “pathfinder.” (Roberts & Hunter, 2011, 68). LibGuides is tab-based with a variety of boxes and columns (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 2010, 642). RSS feeds, chat widgets, embedded videos, and pictures are just a few of the resources which can be places in those boxes. Everything can be shared with the social networking bar  to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Since we will always have staff not proficient in html code and web design, LibGuides does all the work for us with a simple interface. Also, by creating a template, we create consistency and can be more efficient with time (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 644), while also having the option of not using the template and creating a guide from scratch according to class needs.

Roberts and Hunter also break down the need for LibGuides in three areas: New Library; New Librarian; New Student. “The new library goes where the student is. The new student is on the computer. Librarians are aware of this and are working towards a better, more versatile library” (Roberts and Hunter, 70).  The breath of new life for the library is actually found in what we have always done: provide whatever the patrons need. As we seek to be an emerging library meeting patrons where they are, we can find a willing in ally in LibGuides to help us organize and distribute our content.

Ultimately the new library is adaptable. The library is not a lone silo relying on its internal staff to be experts in various fields. The new library allows for more collaboration amongst teaching faculty, students and librarians.                                                                                                       (Roberts & Hunter, 70).

LibGuides take us to where the college student of today is. We will continue our role of providing information in an organized fashion. Students need well-organized, easy-to-find guides for doing research. We need to connect with the user as they connect to everything else, mainly web 2.0 tools. LibGuides is designed to take us there. LibGuides is a system:

where students can submit links for classmates to review…Students can rate items and comment on boxes on any guide… Students appreciate this type of social networking where they can add to the discussion in a meaningful way…This creates a new type of online classroom where learning has no boundaries to a time and place. (Roberts & Hunter, 72)

LibGuides are a user-centered tool. They can be viewed on a phone or tablet, so students have access wherever they are.  Librarians have the ability to belong to the LibGuides community whereby we can copy (with permission) a box or page from another contributor and others can do the same with ours. We can also reuse our own boxes so that a box with “History databases” could be simply copied from one guide to another so that we don’t have to duplicate the same material.

What else can we do with it?

Indiana State University has a LibGuide designed specifically for distance learners: http://libguides.indstate.edu/distancelearning

Their page is a model we could use. They have several tabs which function as a library orientation for students who are not physically visiting the campus or library. The home page gives valuable information for getting students started and how to contact the library staff. Their purpose was to provide the same quality of information services to distance learners as on-campus students received (Arvin, 2009, 26).

screenshot1

 Gonzalez and Westbrock (2010) describe the influence LibGuides has had at New Mexico State University:

Using the LibGuides platform, guides can be created, updated, and changed relatively quickly. Since creating guides was becoming much less burdensome for librarians, they are able to create guides to meet specific, and often changing , needs of students and faculty. Without any input from faculty besides a syllabus or assignment, course/assignment guides can be created, shared, and used to open the door to future partnerships. These guides provide faculty with a vetted, organized set of tools to provide to their students (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 2010, 649).

The value here is obvious: we would not only assist the student-user but also the faculty-user who would see the value of the library staff and seek us out for further help.

screenshot2

Understanding how to reach our users is not as intimidating as we make it out to be.  Wayne Bivens-Tatum (2010) says all we really need is imagination and sympathy. “How many studies do we need to tell us people like ease, familiarity, simplicity, and quality and in that order?…Users want simplicity, ease of use, and quality resources. Well, guess what? So do I.” (Bivens-Tatum, 2010, 8). So don’t we all.  LibGuides can do a lot for us with simplicity and quality.

Schmidt (2010) uses “UX” to abbreviate the user experience, saying “UX is about arranging the elements of a product or service to optimize how people will interact with it. ” This is why our print guides need to be replaced with a more user-active system.

What do we need to talk about?

One issue we will need to discuss is who will have administrator rights.  Indiana State also cited this as an issue which needs to be decided upon before activation (Arvin, 2009, 24). Whether professors and/or students will have access to add boxes, comments, or other features will also need to be discussed.

Gonzalez and Westbrock (2010, 640) describe several practical issues that could make or break how effective LibGuides could be. The LibGuides must be easy to find on the library website and be findable to the user through several points of access. If LibGuides are buried, then we are wasting our time.

Gonzalez and Westbrock also found that course related guides were much more effective than general ones (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 640). Building a U.S. History LibGuide with several tabs and boxes would overwhelm users doing a specific project on the 1890’s. Not only should the LibGuides be course-specific but even some cases assignment-based. The user needs to see an immediate help and application.

To avoid confusion we would need to be consistent in what we call LibGuides, as some libraries choose “subject guides” “reference guides” or other various names. We would need to set a name and stay consistent (Gonzalez and Westbrook, 648).

McMullin and Hutton (2010, 795) describe their experiences with LibGuides at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. To get faculty involvement requires communication and collaboration, not to mention their individual personalities and your past relationship with them.  One way to do this is a “tips for faculty” page including screencast tutorials on how to embed the LibGuide into their own class website. An example is found here:

McMullin and Hutton (2010) go on to conclude that LibGuides “have allowed us to sort through and repackage our resources to suit the immediate needs of a group on our campus, and do so very quickly. They support the personalization of the research process and will help us to serve the new influx of distance education students” (McMullin and Hutton, 2010, 797).

Conclusion

LibGuides can greatly assist us in connecting with the user, especially the distance-learning user. We have great resources to offer but need a more attractive format with which to organize and allow them to be found by the student. LibGuides are exactly what we need.

Schmidt (2010) gives us a good concluding thought of users being people who have needs and are trying to accomplish goals:

People will notice, though not necessarily consciously, if we take the time to think about them when we’re developing our services. The secret here is not to think of library patrons, users, or customers: we need to think of people. We need to consider their lives and what they’re trying to accomplish. This act, which can only be done by cultivating the skill of empathy, is the most important—and perhaps the most difficult—part of user experience design.

As an institution which focuses almost exclusively on the needs of distant learners at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, LibGuides can serve us immensely, both in organization of library and subject content, and also as a platform for promoting our other web 2.0 services, such as embedded YouTube and other videos, numerous hyperlinks to other sources, RSS feeds, tagging, polls, surveys, sharing via social networking sites, as well as annotated bibliographies. LibGuides will help us utilize all these other tools.

I hope we can purchase LibGuides for our library and college community so we can do a better job connecting with our users.  I believe we would find success and higher usage statistics of our resources by having them linked on LibGuides. Other colleges such as ours have found similar success.  As we have watched the classroom change as more students are taking hybrid classes or even classes fully online, so the library needs to adapt. The classroom is emerging, so must the library (Roberts & Hunter, 2011, 69).

I hope we can consider the purchase of LibGuides and train our staff in delivering this content to our college community.

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