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See You Next Year

It was a wonderful conference!  Be sure to put next year’s dates on your calendar (notice that they’re a week earlier in 2011).  

The Endnote: Adding Value With Visualization

Elizabeth Lane Lawley

Elizabeth Lane (“Liz”) Lawley returned to IL to give the endnote address.  Liz is Director of the Lab for Social Computing at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and she also consults for Microsoft.  Her topic this year was Adding Value With Visualization.

Visualization is not new.  In 1992, Edward Tufte published The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.  Most people are not good at visualization.  We are drowning in data; one of the best ways we can make sense of it is through visualization.  There are 2 views of the world;  one is with us at the center, and the other is other people in aggregate (the big picture).  Here is a good resource for this.

Data visualization is a new way for us to express concepts.  The best way for people to learn about visualizations is to make them.  But be sure your visualizations are not misleading.  Shaping data is hard.  It requires visual thinking.

The power of visualizing data is in the trend line, not the individual points. What feedback loops can we get out of our data?  Most library visualizations are about the large aggregate, but we are more interested in the details. There is also a move to treat visualizations as art, but the best visualizations are the ones where we can immediately identify with the data.

The Feltron Report presents data about a year in one person’s life. Mint is another system to generate visualizations of personal data.  Data on communities of people can be found at SparkPeople.

Visualization lets us see shifts immediately.  The New York Times has been in the lead in producing these types of fact-based visualizations.  Google also has some excellent free tools.  Eye tracking and click tracking are forms of visualization.

You can see Liz’s examples and slides on her blog.


The DOK Library Concept Center

Erik and Jaap

Erik and Jaap, the Shanachies, run the Delft Library (DOK) Concept Center. DOK won an award for the best library in the Netherlands, which is largely due to the staff working there.  The community is the most important part of the collection. For example, the pictures in DOK’s annual report are those of neighboring shop owners and their products.  Everything in the future will be mobile.  At DOK, for example, you can get audio books downloaded to your mobile phone by Bluetooth.

A library cannot be without games.  It’s all about people and what they want. If we care for them and allow them to share their stories, we have done a great job.  The library becomes the place to be.  DOK even has a download station at the Schiphol Airport library (the first library in an airport in the world).

The library was designed by 2 architects–one for the outside of the building, and one for the interior furnishings, etc.  The offices are directly connected to the library so the staff can see and hear what is happening.  Bookshelves are made of cheap material so that moving them around or shrinking the collection is easy.  In the youth department, the shelves are on wheels so the reading area can be transformed into an area for activities.  Bookshelves have no top shelves because those shelves tend to just collect dust.  All art works are digitized and can be borrowed for lengthy periods to decorate the borrower’s home.  Floors are brightly colored and are hard, not carpet.

The entire library is self-service.  Cards track loans, returns, charges, etc.  The ILS was built in-house in 8 months by 3 programmers.  It has been licensed to other libraries in the Netherlands.

There is always music playing in the library, but there are also quiet spaces for reading, research, etc.  Most of the staff move around mingling with the users, so there is only one small reference desk.

Signage runs on the Nintento Wii.  Branding is very important; the library has an old bus that is used around town.

Gaming has long been promoted in the library.  Large companies sponsor games in the library, with the result that sales of games at local stores increased.  A mobile game station can be put anywhere in the library.

We need more industrial designers of libraries.

4,000 people have come from all over the world to tour the library.  Here are some of the things they have seen.


Critical Thinking Skills for Research

Kendra Smith and Kevan Huston

Kendra Smith and Kevan Huston, Library Program Managers, partner with the Bing product group at Microsoft to influence development of the Bing search engine.

Three information access models:

  • The iceberg with the tip and 90% hidden that librarians know how to access.  The user is intimidated, and there is lots of gate-keeping.  The epistemology is the known unknowns.  Users are aware they don’t have the information they need, and librarians are the enablers.
  • The fire hose with huge amounts of information.  There is no gate-keeping and a highly democratic access model.  Overconfident users assume that if they can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.  The epistemology is unknown unknowns.
  • The beehive with decentralized information.  Information is ambient and decisions are low latency and socially intermediated.  The epistemology is unknown knowns.  Users exist in space and time.  Social media, cloud services, the Internet of things, and mobile networks are there for the user.   The unpredictability and irrationality of users can be a benefit.

All 3 of these models exist, but the beehive is the prominent model today.  Drivers are low cost, location-based positioning, smart phones, etc.  Knowledge is about where you are, who you are with, and when.  Not all information is contextual.

Questions on critical thinking and verifying sources:

  • What does the information access landscape mean for critical research skills?
  • Has the explosion of information on the web changed the way we conduct research?
  • Considering the “too much information” syndrome these days, how do you apply critical thinking to your research?

We always have a role in expanding people’s horizons.  How we do research has profoundly changed.  You must be sure you do not succumb to tunnel vision.  Humans are creatures of habit, but it’s important to push the envelope and consider how to frame the question differently.

At Microsoft, they always ask their users to look at the authors and their affiliation when they consider using information.  It is very difficult for end users to differentiate the quality of the information.  The best research tool you have is the telephone, which still works!  We are on a journey, not at a destination.

What research tools do you use at your job?  What special features make you a more savvy researcher than when you started your career?  Bing is a reference interview, but it’s about making decisions.  Commercial (paid) databases are still in use as well, but social networking tools are being used more frequently.  For example, news alerts now include blog postings.

Some content providers simplify the user interface at the expense of functionality.  Librarians should urge them not to mothball older systems (like Dialog Classic!).

Bing has tried to make searching more efficient by incorporating advanced features: saving search history by date; searching for a term in blogs; tabs for news, images, etc.; video previews by hovering the mouse over the thumbnail without having to click through to the video; categorizing most commonly searched entertainment areas and providing tabs to access them; etc.

Maps have turned into a research tool.  Some apps have been created by Bing; others have been submitted.  For example, data can be visualized on a map and mashed with photographs, street view, etc.

Advanced operators include intitle, site, domain, Boolean operators, language, location, and norelax (additional terms in sentence are not optional).

Lots of these features are improvements on pioneering systems.