Recent Events

Author Archive | Marydee Ojala

Virtual Open Houses

Nykol Eystad and Susan Stekel from Walden University, which is a completely online university, shared their experiences in trying to create a virtual open house to engage students and introduce them to library services. With Walden students being adult learners spread across the world, hosting an open house presents some challenges that a physical open house doesn’t have. You can’t distribute fliers around campus. You can’t invite people to walk into an actual building. You can’t offer food.

At Walden, the library website is the library. Asynchronous instruction is the norm.  The objective of the open house was to showcase the library as a strong resource and reveal that there are real people here, they’re not bots. The library wanted to alleviate student stress and help them understand research and the databases.

The open House planning and execution involved having a dedicated open house webpage. The library conducted its open house at the beginning of the academic year and it ran for a week. The librarians didn’t want it to look like just another webinar, so they included a scavenger hunt, gave away Amazon gift cards as prizes, hidden treasures, librarian videos, and a virtual reading room. Their takeaways were:

  • Consider adding a virtual open house even with a physical library
  • Incorporate your website and online resources into open house
  • Identify your partners and stakeholders
  • Divvy up workload and responsibility
  • Create multiple activities to mix and match for future events



AI & Our Future World

The second day of Internet Librarian was kicked off by a talk from Meredith Broussard, Associate Professor, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University. She is also the author of Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World: How Computer Misunderstand the World. She began by telling us that AI is “just math.” It’s computational statistics with numerous subfields, the prominent being machine learning.

Technochauvinism seems endemic to math and computer science, since the founders and luminaries of the discipline were well-educated white males. It’s technochauvinism that fuels the belief that computers are superior to humans. Since women and people of color are not well represented in math or computer science, bias occurs. Who knew that a soap dispenser could be racist? Positive asymmetry stems from the idea that if it works for me it must work for everybody. Hence the soap dispenser that only works on light-colored skin. It’s a good example of why we need more diverse workforce. She thinks we should assume that discrimination is the default in all automated systems.

Furthermore, we should work to avoid tech Columbusing, which she defined as claiming to discover something that is, in fact, an existing field of study that has been producing vibrant, engaged research for decades. Needed is  collaboration between AI and social scientists.

Moving to the issue of preservation, something dear to hearts of librarians, she decried the fact that early stuff on the internet is gone, even articles she herself wrote. We need to make sure we can read today’s news on tomorrow’s computers since we already can’t get yesterday’s news on today’s computers.  The internet is not forever.

One reason for disappearing news is how content management systems work, how the pipes are hooked up. Adding to the problem is the contracts between companies like LexisNexis and EBSCO and the news organizations, which were signed decades ago and did not anticipate today’s technology. Plus, we no longer have very many news librarians and no one maintains the morgue. Information created “digital first,” which is often cutting edge news, is disappearing. It would be nice if the Internet Archive could preserve everything but it can’t. Archiving digital content is a “human in the loop” process.

Broussard wants us to move to the world as it should be.



Successful Beacon Auction

The auction conducted yesterday using Beacon technology was a huge success! It raised $600 for the Monterey Public Library. What a wonderful announcement from Jane this morning!

Getting Smart About Search

Monday afternoon in the Discovery, Navigation, and Search Track ended with a discussion between a veteran searcher, Marydee Ojala (that would be me), and a current library school student, Sheridan Reid. Sheridan also works with 5th graders. We started from the position that search technology does not stand and that obsolescence is inevitable. Sheridan noted that her generation and the children in elementary school are phone-centric. Marydee talked about the AI technologies, particularly machine learning and predictive analytics that are being used to determine relevance.  Boolean search strategies, the reliance on controlled vocabulary, and copyright restrictions have little meaning to younger people.  That’s not all bad, since Boolean doesn’t really work with web search engines and controlled vocabulary is giving way to contextual and conceptual analysis or word choice.  As for ignoring copyright, that may not be generational at all.

What’s clear is that the convenience factor of getting to information, whether it’s on the web or in a subscription database, is very important. Sheridan made the point that not everyone she knows is wedded to online information. Sometimes a print book is more appropriate than an ebook. Both speakers see a future filled with multimedia searching.

The session ended with thoughts on “magical thinking.” Everyone searches well. Everything you find on the internet is true (or nothing you find is true). Searching library databases provides comprehensive answers. All three are magical thinking.