Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Creating the Ultimate Information Experience from the AISTI Conference

This morning at the Alliance for Information Science and Technology Innovation (AISTI) Conference we heard from Tom Frey, Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute. In his presentation, "Creating the Ultimate Information Experience: Planning Our Next Generation Libraries," he talked about how we are moving from a product-based to an experience-based economy. How can libraries create a better experience for our users? How can we create that third place for our users? Our users are increasingly moving from consumers to producers of information--how can we best support that? Here were a few of his ideas, which I just had to share:
  • Create a Search Command Center. Isn't this just a reference desk? This would be a space where the library would have expert staff there to help users devise good searches and get what they need. But why not call it something like this? Does it resonate better than "Reference Desk" for the users of the future?
  • Blogging stations. He points out (rightly so) that users can blog on any library computer. But why not label a few stations as this and have staff on hand to help with blogging. Wouldn't that be more appealing and compelling?
  • Podcast studios. Some of us are doing this already, of course. He does have an interesting suggestion--involve corporations and have them provide the equipment. Maybe they'd even do training for library staff. It's good advertising for the vendors.
  • Audio/video capture and editing studios. Same as above.
  • Band practice rooms. This is a really clever idea. I can only imagine what some of our more traditional colleagues would think. But as he points out, there are 2.2 million bands in MySpace and all want to use your garage! Why not offer them a (soundproofed, of course) space for practice?
  • Time capsule room. Libraries archive information about the community, so why not set up a space for community members to share information and artifacts--you could even involve community members to support this project.
  • Mini theaters and mini planetariums. We know that Google is indexing the stars, so why not have a space to look at them?
  • Second Life stations. Similar to the Blogging Stations concept--computers labeled for this purpose and staff there to help.
  • Exercise areas. Now this is pretty out there--offering exercise equipment for patrons to use. As he points out, many of us want to do something while reading a book or listening to one, so why not?
We might not be ready for all of these ideas yet, but I really like exploring them and thinking about the future. I admit I'd love to offer bands a place to practice in the Hub! :-)

Monday, May 12, 2008

AISTI Conference

I'm in beautiful Santa Fe right now at the 9th Annual AISTI Mini Conference. It's been a terrific experience so far--excellent session content and networking opportunities--and I'm delighted to have had a chance to speak to this group. I'll be posting more of my notes from the conference soon, but in the meantime, here's my handout from the presentation:

Handout from AISTI session, "Using Second Life for Real Life Collaborations"

Library Orientation Video: Saving Student Brian

I've written about our video Saving Student Brian before, but I wanted to mention it again as we just presented on the experience of creating the video at the LOEX Conference last week. If you missed it, we'll be doing an online encore for the LOEX Conference on Wednesday, May 21. We are also featured as the April 2008 ACRL PRIMO Site of the Month which includes an interview with me about the video. We also may be speaking on a panel at ACRL 2009 about the video if the proposal is accepted. Who knew we'd get so much mileage out of Brian!

With summer here, we've already started drafting the next script for the further adventures of Brian. Yes, it's time for a sequel. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

LOEX 2008 and the Learning Commons

I attended two excellent learning commons-related sessions at the 2008 LOEX conference. I am still compiling my notes from the conference, but here are a few specific points I'd like to share:

From Paint Chips to Laptops: Creating a Learning and Teaching Center in a University Library
Erin Daniels
Instruction Librarian, Sonoma State University

  • Instruction room setup works much better with movable furniture and wireless laptops. Students can easily work in groups with this arrangement. It's so easy to configure room for a class of 5 or 45 quickly and easily.
  • Some design on a dime ideas: find images from a stock photo warehouse and print/mount inexpensively (they spent less than $400!). These images really make their space colorful, vibrant, and gives the space a fresh new feel. I'm reminded of how important it is to make the information commons a space which fosters creativity.
  • Another design tip: have students brainstorm inspiring words about the commons. Take those words and print out window clings for glass and mirrors in your commons. This is another inexpensive and clever way to bring some color and interest to your walls easily and inexpensively.
  • "Wireless doesn't mean wire free." You will always need more power outlets in your information commons. Be sure to plan for as many as you possibly can and even then be prepared to upgrade to more. (I know exactly what she means!)

Learning Infused Libraries: Honest Talk about what it REALLY takes to create a Learning Commons
Laura Baker
Interim Director of the Information Commons, Abilene Christian University Library

  • "Of course you can fit more computers in rows. That type of space is a space designed for the computer, not for the user." What is important is not how many computers you have, but how you arrange them. Based on their user studies (and our own experience, I'm sure), students prefer spaces where many can gather easily for group work and collaboration.
  • The importance of a relaxed atmosphere. In their student survey, zero percent of students said they would not prefer a Barnes and Noble-type atmosphere in the library. As Baker points out, how often do you get complete agreement from the students?
  • ACU has put an art gallery in their space which to me affirms the importance of fostering a creative, inspiring environment
  • Baker said that at one time: "If I had to choose between buying a book and a chair, I'd choose the book." But increasing comments from students like these ("I come to the library only when I have to--I just get what I need and go") has made her see the importance of interior design. It is more than window dressing--it serves a much deeper purpose. We must make the library a comfortable place in order for students to spend time there. This includes creating a culture of YES--lose the "no cell phone" signs at the front door for starters. Amen to that!

Technical Support Roundtable at SLA Annual Conference

I've mentioned this already on the SLA IT Division blog, but I'm trying to spread the word widely. For the third year in a row, the SLA IT division is sponsoring the Technical Support Roundtable. We've been billing it as an "unconference" session--essentially what I do is lead a discussion among the audience members on technical support-related issues in libraries and information centers. The session has gained several regulars at this point, and our audience grows each year. If you will be attending the SLA Annual Conference in Seattle in June, consider dropping in on this session. Previous sessions have included such varied topics as favorite professional development resources, using blogs in libraries, dealing with client security, using SharePoint effectively, favorite Firefox add-ins, best RSS aggregators, and so forth. This year I've already compiled quite a list of topics--one I plan to focus on for sure is cloud computing and how it will affect libraries.

Friday, May 02, 2008

LOEX 2008 -- Creative Collaboration: Setting the Course for the Future of Library Instruction

This morning’s keynote speaker at the 2008 LOEX Conference has really set the tone for an excellent meeting. Attending this conference for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the conference. Laurel Ofstein, Assistant Director for the Center for Creativity and Innovation at DePaul University, presented the session, titled “Creative Collaboration: Setting the Course for the Future of Library Instruction.”

An engaging speaker, she started out by asking how many of us had ideas shot down by administration. Certainly we have all experienced that at some time or another, and heard many of the things from her “killer phrases” slide:

“It’s not in the budget”

“We tried that before”

“We’ve always done it this way”

“The boss will never go for it”

“Get a committee to look into that”

So how do we get around these roadblocks and encourage creative collaboration within our organizations? A few broad points:

Be open to possibilities

Include many different viewpoints

Start with wild or unusual ideas

These things are fairly obvious, and we may be doing these things already. I think of planning our Hubbub event at UK—certainly we are open and wild in our idea generation (have I mentioned we’re considering a makeup counter for makeovers and Zumba dancing in the library for this year’s event?). But what about making these ideas a reality? What organizational climate is needed for creativity?

To address this, Ofstein presented nine dimensions of the creative environment—essentially the things needed to support creativity and change. Some notes from the handout:

Challenge and Involvement—To what degree are people personally involved in the business of and in the success of the organization?

Freedom—To what degree to people have the autonomy to define much of their own work toward the common objective?

Idea time—To what degree do people take time to consider suggestions that are not part of their assignment?

Idea support—To what degree are new ideas greeted with affirming encouragement as opposed to judgments?

Degree of conflict—To what degree do people engage in departmental “warfare” or spend effort to “best” their internal competitors?

Discussion—To what degree do people engage in lively discussion about the issues (as opposed to discussing each other)?

Humor and play—To what degree do people feel relaxed and are willing to express humor and tell jokes at work?

Trust and openness—To what degree do people willingly put forward their ideas and opinions?

Risk taking—To what degree do people feel supported to “take a gamble” when there is ambiguity?

Dreaming of an Ideal Tomorrow

Typically we develop ideas through conventional thinking, essentially thinking by going from point A to point B, which really does not address the future. Ofstein suggests we try working backwards—start with the solution by first determining where you want to be, then figure out what it will take to get there. So often we start with problems—basically "it’s too expensive," "we can’t do it," "we don’t have money," etc. These kinds of statements turn thinking off and give people reasons not to act rather than motivating. Try turning these statements around instead with: "Wouldn’t it be nice if…"

At this point in the session, Ofstein asked us to create two or three of these opportunity statements of our own on index cards, starting with the phrase: "Wouldn't it be nice if..." We then mixed up the cards at our tables, read the statements aloud, and discussed emerging themes. While I have seen similar group activities in the past, this was very engaging. At our table we discussed staffing and space issues as well as captivating the interest of undergraduate students. The notecards were an excellent jumping off point to get the discussion and ideas rolling, and starting out on a positive note did minimize the negativity and endless dwelling on problems and obstacles.

Oftsein recommended this technique with the notecards to generate ideas. Certainly the technique is easy to implement, and it gives everyone a voice, drawing out quieter members of the group and making the environment less authoritarian. As she put it, it levels the playing field and is a quick way to get some input. A couple of us discussed this exercise post-session and have decided to try it back at work.

We didn’t have time to work through the second exercise, but basically it involves challenging your assumptions. List two or three assumptions and then reverse them. Looking at them from the opposite perspective creates an opportunity for breakthrough thinking. If you have to focus on the opposite, suddenly the reality may seem more manageable. She concluded by encouraging us to define the course. We really can make a difference by dropping negative thinking and considering the possibilities.