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Evolving Tech Services to Manage and Deliver E-Resources

Candice Kail, Colleen Major, John Coogan, Li Fu

Candice Kail, Colleen Major, John Coogan, Li Fu


This session featured presentations by librarians from University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and Columbia University discussing changes in their services as a result of the introduction of discovery systems and other e-resource products. Li Fu and John Coogan from UMUC began by noting that the changes are wide-ranging and evolutionary, affecting many areas of the library. They are using EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), which they have branded as UMUC OneSearch. After they installed EDS, they went through every option in the administrative module and set up connections to as many additional vebdirs as possible (including JSTOR, ProQuest, and Lexis-Nexis). They also implemented subject searching for special areas of high concentration, put an EDS widget and links to help pages and tutorials on the library home page, and made EDS available to mobile users. In general, resources are embedded rather than simply linked to.

A UMUC digital repository has been established which has required additional processing of submitted files, cataloging (using Dublin Core), and securing author agreements.

Library users were formerly authenticated using a separate library ID.  In the future they will use their university ID to authenticate, but this has caused problems because if a problem arises it cannot be resolved at the library; the user must resolve it at the university’s centralized help facility.

The reference staff is now receiving many technical questions such as “how do I…”, and in response has developed technical support pages on its website to help students deal with browser problems, firewall issues, and procedures such as “How to download an e-book”.  Systems librarians monitor e-mails and respond to technical questions and vendor malfunction issues.

In the past, librarians had no idea what users were doing on their website; now thanks to Google Analytics for EDS, they have lots of data including search statements, what platforms and browser they are using, etc.  The librarians’ core values are unchanged, but their mindset and skill sets are evolving.  They must be able to adapt to new workflows.

Candice Kail and Colleen Major described the e-resources in use at Columbia University Libraries, which include Serials Solutions and ExLibris. Database pages and e-resource order forms have been developed locally.  An OpenURL results screen directs users to the catalog when a locally held item has been found by the discovery service; mobile users are redirected to vendors’ mobile interfaces.

Columbia has entered into a partnership with Cornell University, 2CUL, to pool resources and provide content, expertise, and services that are impossible to accomplish acting alone. Vendor platforms and services will be reviewed, and joint subscriptions will be obtained.  The challenge has been to determine which services should be included in the joint service.

Group decision making, though sometimes hard to resolve, frequently offers the best solutions to problems.  Some staff members have felt untrusted by the formation of group committeed, and they have had to be motivated to take advantage of the decisions made.  Theoretically the work can be divided, but distributed projects can be a challenge: some results have been very positive, others have been mixed. Some projects would have never been taken on without the advantages of the group.  E-resources are managed by multiple groups, which has been very challenging. When people move on to new jobs, maintaining continuity in the group can be a problem.

Wikis, email, and shared Google Docs have been used for communication.  Because this has not always been part of staff workflows, communication with other parts of the organization has had mixed success.  Determining what to communicate broadly has not been defined, so it has been done on an ad hoc basis.  There is a delicate balance between making staff feel entrusted and empowered with the responsibilities of group processes.


Becoming TechCentral

Becoming TechCentral

Becoming TechCentral


The Cleveland Public Library’s TechCentral concept grew out of an “innovation team” that was charged with redesigning library services.  Originally the library had 60 public computers in 2 buildings with 9 locations and 2 signup stations, which was chaotic for users and a huge inconvenience. There was a need to consolidate, but also a strong desire to inspire and make TechCentral the most flexible space in the library. A process approach to the redesign of the space was taken to respond to community needs.  Raised flooring was installed in the space for maximum flexibility because the staff knew that it would change, and they wanted change!

TechCentral now occupies 7,000 square feet in the main library.  Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, CJ Lynce, and Olivia Hoge (see the previous post on myCloud for their photo) discussed some of the considerations in the design of the space and its current features.

TechCentral Floor Plan

TechCentral Floor Plan


TechCentral is divided into 5 zones as shown above, according to usage:

1. Learning space where people can get help.  Learners and teachers are on equal footing next to each other at a table.

2. Play.  An exhibit of devices for users to play with.  This area lets people experience an iPad, Kindle, etc.  Staff are stationed there to help.

3. Connect.  A place for people to get help with their new devices.

4. Create.  An area where people can set up new devices, etc.

5. Get things done.  Space and computer for people to work.

Over 1/3 of visitors coming to the library go directly to TechCentral  It started with 1 professional and 3 part time assistants.  TechCentral is more than just a computer lab; it provides new technology that patrons may not have access to, offers technology classes for staff and public, and provides a maker lab.  TechCentral staff must be creative, curious, resourceful, and have good thinking skills and a fundamental understanding of technology.  TechCentral is now staffed by a manager and 10 assistants.

A TechToyBox lending device program began by allowing patrons to have access to new technology.  Patrons could check out devices so they could learn how to set them up, try them out on their own, and experience what it would be like to own them.  They were only permitted to be checked out at the main desk, and identification and a phone number was required.  The loan period was 1 week, and there was a $3/day overdue charge.  After the device was a week overdue, it was considered lost and patron was billed.  The devices were not reservable, which led to the staff receiving many phone calls to see if an item was in.  Some people even came into the library and waited for them to get returned. But eventually all the devices went missing!  Even requiring patrons to sign contracts agreeing to return the devices failed to prevent losses, so the ToyBox service has been put on hold.  However, this effort showed that there is a widespread need for people to be able to try out devices before purchasing them.

The same program, called TechToolBox, was instituted for staff.  In that case, the library bought devices for staff to check out.

The library’s myCloud service was developed by TechCentral (click here to read a posting about it).

Other services offered by TechCentral incude:

  • 3-D printing to produce models.  This photo shows the printer and some models.
    3-D Printer and Models

    3-D Printer and Models

    This service is priced on amount of plastic used, most models cost $1-3 to print.  It is not an easy process to design models for printing; ThingIVerse software to create models works well. Here is a photo of a model produced using it

    Model produced using ThingVerse

    Model produced using ThingVerse

  • Maker kits allow people to be creative.  Connect Kits use hubs and spokes to create structures.  Users can snap electronic circuits components together and learn how they work
  • Maker labs offer a tutorial how to to a process.  Custom 3D cutters were created using CookieCaster.  Staff often demonstrates how to do something then guides patrons in doing it on their own.  One staff member can help 20 people because everyone helps the others.  Labs on other subjects, such as panoramic images, video slide shows, digital kaleidoscope abstarct art, and font making are also offered.  Anyone can participate; no special skills needed.
  • A digital “graffiti wall” was installed with a laptop, projector, web camera, and laser pointer. This wall allows users to create graffiti with digital “spray paint”.

TechCentral is an ongoing idea that is always changing.  Future plans and hopes include:

  • An improved version of the TechToyBox program with at-home checkouts.
  • An electronics soldering lab will be offered this summer in conjunction with a program using Raspberry Pi to learn how to create a mini-computer.
  • Dedicated space for all create programs.
  • A/V recording with musical instruments provided by TechCentral.
  • Expansion of myCloud to all branches
  • Adding mini-TechCentral space in some branches to include 3-D printing etc.

TechCentral is a mantra and an example to libraries for developing and offering innovative spaces and services for patrons.



Social Media for Customer Connections

David Lee King

David Lee King


David Lee King, Digital Service Director, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library and author of Face2Face (published by Information Today) said that we have embraced the social web as individuals, but not so much in the business world yet.  We have the tools–a website, some social media–but we are not sure organizationally how to use them.  Our customers are talking about us, taking photos, making recommendations, and sharing them, but what is missing is “face2face” interaction: real online connections with customers. Is that taking place online in your social media?  In general, online engagement works through conversations in Twitter and Facebook accounts.

There are three ways to transform your library into a face2face library:

  1. Listening.  You can be very purposeful.  Why listen?  To hear your customers’ conversations about you and so you can respond.  Connect with customers and get a pulse.  Listen for mentions of the library, service areas, who is saying something (especially local influencers to whom you should listen more closely), power users who have opinions, and where the conversation is occurring (if you are not there, maybe you need to have a presence too).  Set up Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as Google Alerts. Respond if somebody is spreading wrong information, and thank people if they are favorable.
  2. Basic communication (online).  Write conversationally in a “business casual” style.  Sound friendly and professional.  Remember that you are writing for your organization.  Use casual language.  Add pictures and video if possible.  People love photos, which humanize a blog post, help your customers get to know the write and organization, and draw people into the conversation.  Be informal; you are having a conversation!  Keep videos short.  Be “you” online, but remember you are still representing your organization.   Photo suggestions:  pictures of staff, new employees, customers.  Never post photos of an empty building–wait until  you are open and people are there.
  3. “Doing” community.  We have customers who are communities, and we have the same thing online.  We can interact with those communities.  But remember that you have a little less control of your message when using social media because you are not in charge.  Respond to critics.  You will get opinions.  Listen first, then wait and cool off, then admit and apologize.  Be nice.  Sometimes be quiet–you don’t always have to respond.  Develop a thick skin.  It’s a conversation, and everybody has an opinion.

Where to start:  Ask for suggestions and ideas.  Do a fill-in-the-blank post: people love to fill in forms.  Set some goals and a strategy to meet them.  Think about the type of content you want to share.

Figure out who will do the work in your library: who runs the Facebook page–what gets posted and when, content management, who friends people and who will you friend, who answers questions and responds to comments, etc? Make this part of a formal job description.  Measure success using tools on the social media sites.

Creating great customer connections starts with you!



Innovative and Awesome Technologies: The Tuesday Evening Session

The always popular Tuesday evening session gave us a look into the future at some upcoming technologies that might find use in libraries.  It was very fast paced and entertaining (and impossible to blog in detail!). Before the panel presentations, Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life project and a frequent speaker at ITI conferences, presented the results of Pew’s latest study of libraries.

Lee Rainie

LibLee Rainie

Here are the major findings from the study.

  1. Libraries are beloved.  91% of the respondents said that libraries are important to their community.
  2. People like librarians.  85% said that librarians were “very helpful”.
  3. Libraries have rebranded themselves as tech hubs.  77% say free access to computers and the internet is very important.
  4. E-book reading is growing; borrowing is just getting started. The e-reading device market continues to grow.
  5. People are open to even more technology in libraries.
  6. African-Americans and Latinos are especially enthusiastic.
  7. The public wants librarians to be more involved in knotty problems.  They want more coordination with local schools and free literacy programs.
  8. Libraries have a PR problem/opportunity.  Many people do not know much about what their library has to offer.
  9. There is churn in library use.  When children or grandchildren are involved, library usage increases.  But for getting books or doing research online, people say the internet is more convenient.
  10. There is a truly detached population out there that matters to libraries.  20% of the population never saw a family member use the library when they were growing up, and 16% have never visited a library.

Pew would like more participation in the study.  Click here to sign up.

Following Rainie’s presentation, the panel discussion took place. Here is a brief summary.

The unquestioned highlight of the evening was a recitation of a long poem by Michael Edson of the Smithsonian Institution which he composed and recited from memory.  You can find the poem and a video of his recitation here

When one of the branches of the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore was closed and the historic building in which it was housed was scheduled for demolition, neighbors mounted large protests, and the building was saved, remodeled, and reopened as a community center for the neighborhood.  One of the innovative accomplishments was the establishment of a Little Free Library, where users can borrow a book from an outdoor kiosk, read it, and return it.  This is part of a Village Learning Place project.

Library Box is a miniature computer built using Raspberry Pi which stores files and allows access to them anywhere within the vicinity of the box. One simply accesses the box with any Wi-Fi enabled device, launches a web browser, and downloads any page.

Shelley McHugh and Kristin Yarmey from the University of Scranton gave a very futuristic presentation on near field communication  (NFC) and how it might impact not only libraries but life in general.  Much of it was speculative but very entertaining.