Saturday, February 28, 2009

Presentations, etc.

I tend to avoid personal posts, but I have a few things to share that may be of interest to some readers. I have updated my short vita page to list upcoming presentations. Among those, I will soon be headed to the Library Technology Conference at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN to give a keynote presentation on information commons and a session on using video creatively in your library. This really looks like an outstanding conference, and I am so excited to be a part of it. If any readers are attending, please be sure to say hello.

In other professional news, I am running for SLA's Board of Directors for the position of Division Cabinet Chair-Elect. I have been heavily involved with the IT division of SLA since joining the organization, and last year I led the petition drive to launch the brand-new Academic Division of SLA. I am also serving on the SLA Centennial Commission and Annual Conference Planning Committee. I know I have written about this previously, but if any of you are curious about SLA (or perhaps don't think of yourself as "special"), get in touch. I would love to tell you more about my professional organization.

Finally, I am delighted that the Frye Leadership Institute class of 2009 has just been announced. I am so thrilled to be part of such an esteemed group. If any readers are past or current Fryers, give me a shout.

What a busy year this is becoming, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Case You Were Looking for the Next Meeting

Zombie Attack Planning
Originally uploaded by thehubatwts
The whiteboards in the Hub often make me laugh. Today I learned that in addition to the CS215 study group, zombie attack planning is to be held in the student computer lab. Check out some of our best whiteboard art and commentary in thehubatwts photo stream on flickr.

Bookmark This!

Searching for 29 recent reports on the future of the academic library? Look no further as John Dupuis (Confessions of a Science Librarian) has compiled them. I've read a number of these and commented on several of them on this blog or another, but I'm delighted to see them all together for quick reference:

29 Reports about the Future of the Academic Library

Link via Stephen's Lighthouse

Monday, February 23, 2009

Creating Innovative Learning Environments

Thanks to my colleague Steve for suggesting this video presentation on learning spaces. Creating Innovative Learning Environments, presented by James Jorstad of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, is a 50 minute video full of ideas for learning spaces. Early on Jorstad shows examples of older classrooms crammed with technology--I'm sure you know what I mean--and describes how effective remodels or starting from scratch can yield spaces with "translucent technology." Basically this is a technology-rich environment where the equipment does not dominate and overwhelm the space.

In the presentation, he shows a number of successful real-world examples of lighting, projection, digital signage, displays, furniture, space flow design, tablet PC application, and more, with many from information commons spaces. You could get some great ideas here.

More on the iPhone

Recently I wrote about several iPhone projects on other campuses. It's interesting to see how the device can be used across campus--as you think about building applications, the possibilities seem endless. I just read this Campus Technology article which describes several campus mobility projects. It's worth a read, and it's worth our time to think about how we can better integrate library and campus tools into mobile devices. According to a recent Pew report, by 2020 most Internet users will rely primarily on a mobile device to get online. So think small!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Student Technology Forum

So often we make assumptions about what students want, based upon our reading or casual observations or our own experiences as students. Instead of making assumptions, why don't we talk to students more often?

Last semester a few colleagues from IT and I met with Student Government (SGA) leadership to discuss technology and library issues on campus. What's working, what's not, what can we do to provide better services for students? I did not expect some of our best students--our campus leaders--to admit to Googling for resources for a paper or to not know about many of our services such as chat reference and one-on-one consults. The students in the group who used library resources tended to stick to just one database such as JSTOR or Academic Search Premier. The discussion was lively and enlightening, and we decided to offer a much larger student forum in the spring.

I was delighted that SGA and IT took me up on my offer to hold the student forum in the Hub. We felt that offering the event in the evening in a heavily trafficked location like the library would provide a much bigger turnout. The previous event was entirely attended by Student Government leadership, likely because it was in the middle of a Thursday afternoon in a small meeting room. Plus there were no incentives like free pizza or giveaways.

So on Tuesday, February 17 at 7:30 pm, IT and SGA invited students to come to the Hub to talk about technology but also to take advantage of free pizza and a drawing for the iPod Touch (five of them!). The date and time were carefully chosen--away game, wasn't televised until 9 pm--to draw maximum attendance. IT advertised on Facebook and sent an email to all students. We posted flyers around campus, and about an hour before the start of the event, we talked to students on every floor of the library and distributed flyers.

To our amazement, over 250 students came to the forum. While it was nearly impossible to have a substantive discussion with a group this large, we did ask them some questions before we turned them loose on the pizza. What they told us wasn't too surprising--they wanted more wireless on campus, particularly in their rooms in the residence halls, they wanted more cell phone coverage inside of campus buildings, they loved the Hub (hooray!) and wanted more places like it around campus. In general, they greatly preferred wheeled furniture and wanted more whiteboards. When I asked them if they had ever used "the help desk" or even knew why it was there, I got a lot of blank looks and had to explain. Several students made comments about individual issues, and I suggested they visit "the help desk" in the Hub. They appreciated the advice, though that made it even clearer that they were unfamiliar with our services.

Once the pizza line formed, many of us mingled with the students and asked more questions. I found it useful to talk with students in the pizza line--captive audience, can't escape. Seriously, I had some good conversations and heard many of the same comments repeatedly about wireless, furniture, and so forth.

The ticket for the prize drawing was a short survey about their communication preferences, what kinds of devices they own, what services they are familiar with, what other services they would like to see, etc. IT staff are still compiling the results, and I am very curious to see the responses. I have heard already that some students answered the "what other services would you like to see" question with: moving sidewalks, Segways for all, deer with antler-mounted lasers. At the very least, these will be fun to read.

So what to do differently next time?

We had some obvious logistical issues, but that happens when you have events that large. I've learned a great deal about these things from my experience with the Hubbub parties, so we'll just add our observations to the list of things to do differently next time.

While I love hosting events in the Hub, we may move the forum to a new location next semester to attract a different group of students. Several of the campus computer labs have been designated as "hublets" by IT--basically spaces that are information commons-like, so perhaps one of those locations will be the next host. We are also considering holding a forum focused more on faculty and graduate students--perhaps a wine and cheese party?

Photo by Tony Jenkins

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Facebook Listens to its Users

No doubt you've already heard this morning that Facebook has backed down on its new terms of service, largely as a result of user comments. I did find it interesting that Zuckerberg said today that "if Facebook were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world." A little more than a month ago, if Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populated country in the world. Is Facebook really growing that fast? I know it seems that way to me at least--in the last few weeks I've gotten so many requests from grade school friends, high school friends, and even people that didn't like me at all. That's a weird phenomenon unto itself, but still, it's pretty evident that the Facebookiverse is growing at an impressive rate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

There's a Place I Know...Weigle

A friend in library school sent me this video over the weekend, then I saw it on Tame the Web this morning. It's definitely making the rounds so you may have already seen it, but I thought it was worth posting anyway. The video promotes the Weigle Information Commons at UPenn. Creative, clever, catchy--while we've had our own fun here with promotional videos, I'd like to take it to the next level--the music video!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Where are you, Mister Golden Sun?

A group of students had some fun with the Hub's student message board earlier this week. I wish I had captured the entire board as it was rather elaborate.

When Calculus gets you down, sometimes all you can do is draw a cute little bunny.

Other Blogs on the Commons?

So I've noticed lately that more and more of my blog traffic is coming from searches such as "information commons librarian blog." That got me wondering if there are others blogging specifically about the information/learning/research commons environment--readings, best practices, commentary, etc. Could I be the only game in town?

Please comment if you know of other blogs focused on the commons environment. Thanks!

Kentucky Adventures in Second Life

I haven't written much lately about University of Kentucky activities in Second Life. Yesterday a colleague compiled a list of all the Spring 2009 happenings at UK in Second Life. This includes courses taught as well as research projects currently being conducted in world. It is such an impressive list I thought I would share. For more information, check out the UK Second Life blog.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Art of the Press Release

Recently I was in a meeting where we were discussing a new initiative with a campus department and a colleague said: "I really should take a page from Stacey's book and write a press release on this!" Everyone chuckled a bit and I slunk down in my chair a little, reminded of being teased by an old college friend about my Facebook statuses. My friend had said: "I haven't been to the UK campus or even Kentucky in ten years, and I know all about your Hubbub party!" So I admit, maybe I am a little over the top occasionally with promoting the Hub and related events/services. I have stated more than once that I'd like everyone on campus to at least know what the Hub is (an ever-changing population of over 26,000 students--how tough could that be?).

One of my many strategies for promoting the Hub is through press releases. I know, many of you are thinking: how many undergraduate students actually pay attention to those? Probably not many, but the editors of the student newspaper do, the local media do, and so do many faculty and administrators. Sometimes it can be very effective to reach one audience so that they can inform another.

We have an excellent PR team on campus, and I'm lucky to work with someone who understands the library and is always looking for the right angle (you are awesome, Whitney!). We've worked together on a series of press releases. These are featured on the main campus website and are also available via RSS feed or email. As I was rearranging some of these last week in my publicity binder, I thought it might be helpful to share a few to give you an idea of different ways to promote your commons space:
Help Desk hours expanded. This one just went out yesterday. We now have a librarian at the desk from 5-10 pm on Sundays and have also expanded our chat hours (until 10 pm Sun-Thu). Also I felt this served as a good reminder about some of the things we do at the Hub.

Head of Hub honored. OK, this one is more about me, but we mentioned the Hub several times, as well as The Uncommon Commons. Once again, the Hub is out there.

Celebrate Archives Week. This is one of many releases we've done for a video windows exhibit. This press release triggered yet another student newspaper article about the "Mustaches" part of the exhibit.

Hub's appeal continues to grow. This one announced the Hub video and provided some updates on new services and furniture. It also, once again, reinforced who we are.

What's all the Hubbub about? This is one of many, many ways I advertised the Hubbub party.

Diversity on display. Another press release on a video windows exhibit. After this release, we were featured in the staff newspaper, in the student newspaper, and even in a short spot on a local station.
I have many more in the binder, but perhaps this sampling will give you some ideas. Feel free to take a page from my book and write a press release about it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Complicated: More on the Library/IT Relationship

The current issue of C&RL News includes an article about how library and IT staff can effectively work together, "Hang Together or Hang Separately: Improved Information Services through Communication and Culture." Those of us in a commons environment are often particularly interested in building better relationships between the library and IT. I know our commons would not be nearly so successful if we did not have such an excellent relationship with campus IT.

One of the things that particularly interested me with this article is that it is written by a library staff member who moved into an IT department and an IT person who moved into a librarian position. As I was an IT librarian for several years, I appreciate those who can work well in both camps. Some of the points are fairly obvious, particularly when it comes to respect and communication among both groups, but it is still worth a read. Read the full article online.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rethinking Public Computers

Yesterday over on the Translational Technologies blog, I wrote a little about how the library public computing model as we know it will change if we start relying more heavily on cloud-based technologies. I managed library public computers for over six years before moving into the commons role, so this remains a topic near and dear to me. In the commons environment, how the library public computers are managed remains a critical service issue for us.

With this new model, basically the overkill days would be over--we would no longer use individual desktops that are far too expensive and robust for the simple web browsing and typing function they serve. (Keep in mind that these are library public computers, not lab computers which can easily offer hundreds of instruction-related applications--those are a different animal entirely.) For those of us who have been around for awhile, essentially our public computers would be like thin clients/dumb terminals: the operating system, applications, and storage are centralized. So yes, everything old is new again.

Michael Stephens offers a nice summary of what cloud technologies might mean for libraries in his 10 Technology Trends for 2009. If you haven't seen that post yet, make sure to take a look at it at least for trends two and three: the changing role of IT and the value of the commons.

Choosing the Winners

"To an extent, teaching users to use IP-restricted databases is to prepare them for rare experiences."
While it has been a couple of months since I read The Tower and the Cloud, I continue to think about a number of themes in the book and plan to write about them at some point. In Bryan Alexander's essay, "Social Networking in Higher Education," this one sentence (p. 200) continues to stick in my mind. I think about the typical instruction session or online tutorial, and we do tend to focus on mechanics--this button takes you to the full text, click this box for peer-reviewed articles, use this search interface when you know the title of the item, etc. These things are not unimportant, but in the end, when the student graduates and loses access to (and any sort of interest in) library databases and catalogs, what have we really left them with? What happens when they have a personal information need, such as buying a car or a home, dealing with a medical condition, making an important financial decision, or a more scholarly issue such as doing research at work for a presentation or for making mission-critical decision? Likely the proprietary databases they used in college will not be available to them, and likely the interfaces would have long since changed anyway.

Of course many instruction sessions and tutorials cover evaluating resources, but to what extent? Shouldn't that be the central message?

In the fall, as part of several new initiatives for first year students, we launched a new online tutorial in four parts. The fourth part, Choosing the Winners, focuses on evaluating resources, but it mostly serves to get students started. We realize that we need to do more, and one of our projects for the year is building more tutorial content.

In an ideal situation, we would weave information literacy skills throughout the curriculum (along with technology literacy, but that's another post). Here at the University of Kentucky, we are currently in the process of establishing a new general education curriculum. One of the key learning outcomes from the new curriculum will encompass information literacy skills:
Students will be able to identify multiple dimensions of a good question; determine when additional information is needed, find credible information efficiently using a variety of reference sources, and judge the quality of information as informed by rigorously developed evidence
It is wonderful to see such an emphasis on information literacy; in fact, the curricular team for each broad subject area includes a librarian (myself included).

So perhaps we will soon be fortunate have a curriculum that integrates information skills into the classroom to a greater extent than ever before. In the meantime, what other things can we be doing? What kinds of tutorials and other content can we create to help students be prepared for the common, everyday experience of finding and evaluating information?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Statistical Analysis of Whiteboard Use

It's another cold, snowy day in here Kentucky. This made me laugh so I thought I would share. While much serious work is done on the whiteboards in our information commons, particularly around exam time, other times I think our breakdown is more like this.

See a few of our favorite images of whiteboards past at the Hub.

image via GraphJam

Monday, February 02, 2009

Forthcoming Book on Information Commons

Here's another item I'll be adding to my reading list: A Field Guide to the Information Commons by Charles Forrest. From the description:
Technology has enabled new forms of information-seeking behavior and scholarship, causing a renovation of libraries that revisits the idea of the "commons"--a public place that is free to be used by everyone. A Field Guide to the Information Commons describes the emergence, growth, and adoption of the concept of the information commons in libraries. This book includes a variety of contributed articles, and descriptive, structured entries for various information commons in libraries across the country and around the world.
found via The Ubiquitous Librarian