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Impact Survey and the Edge Initiative

Samantha Becker

Samantha Becker

Samantha is the project manager for two new tools developed at the University of Washington (UW) Information School to help public libraries evaluate their public access services and get the information they need to improve them.

The Edge Initiative

Edge is a benchmark framework, to help public libraries assess public access technologies and how they are used, and identify ways to strengthen or enhance public access technology, and engage with key leaders on the role of the public library in communities..  The Edge toolkit has 5 modules:

Edge modules

Edge modules

Pilot libraries that have been affiliated with the project from the beginning conducted trials of Edge:

  • Miami, OK:  The city manager wanted to know the needs of the library.  They found that the staff did not have the required technology skills and implemented new training for staff.
  • New Braunfels, TX:  The librarian realized nothing was being done to make the library accessible to people with disabilities.  An assessment helped to develop strategic areas to improve services and make a difference in the community.
  • El Paso, TX:  The library was not supporting creation of digital content by teenage users.  It learned about teen use and opened teen maker space.
  • Sacramento, CA: The staff was the most impacted by the assessment.  Needs were identified and planned with everyone included.  A system to discover staff needing more support was created.  It supported the use of technology for health and wellness information and helped users with their own devices.

Edge is helpful internally and externally.  It looks internally at operations and externally at relationships in the community and how to manage them. The official launch will be on January 20, 2014 when the tool will be available to all public libraries.  It will be possible to open accounts and create a dashboard for the library, then take the assessment and view a report of the result.  Libraries can find out where they excel and where improvement is needed.  Edge also provides avenues to look at community and get to goals.

After assessment, librarians can take training on how to get out into the community.  The system also has information on technology management, advocacy and outreach, library leadership, and how to engage with city managers and councils.

The tool allows creation of an action plan of initiatives to be undertaken over the next year–what you intend to work on and why.

Impact Survey

What is the Impact Survey?

The Impact Survey measures the impact of services provided by the library by going directly to users.

Survey areas

It is designed as a web survey tool (same survey as administered by phone to reach people who typically won’t take phone surveys).  In 10 weeks with 400 libraries, over 50,000 surveys were collected by the system.  The developers then devised a way for libraries to develop a survey themselves, helped them use it in their communities.  The system was launched October 10, 2013 in beta mode.

The tool gathers information on how technology is used and suggests surveys a library might want to offer.  It is easy for libraries of all types to use and only takes 10-15 minutes to include a link to a survey on a library’s web page, creating a link to UW’s survey.  It does not collect any personal information, only the library’s ID number.

After a library has run the survey for 2-4 weeks, PDF results can be downloaded the next day after it is finished and color reports for presentations.  A library can customize its report with a logo and/or photo. Technicians are available to help libraries solve problems with the survey. Libraries with multiple branches have a selector map automatically generated for users to indicate what branch they are using.

Results:  Using data about library technology in advocacy efforts gets results. One library was able to get money from a budget cut restored as a result of the survey data; relying on anecdotal evidence is not sufficient today.  City managers want data to prove the library’s point.

Edge and the Impact survey work together.  Edge gathers information about technology resources; Impact Survey measures results and creates reports.  Impact survey can help with community needs assessment.

Impact Survey is open now; Edge will launch in January 2014. Both are in beta mode and are currently working.  A PDF version of the Edge assessment is available now.  Libraries are encouraged to get a head start on using the systems and give feedback to the developers.  Both are free now, but Impact Survey will likely charge a small fee starting next year (a sliding scale based on size of library).





Community Engagement Info Blitz

Community Info  Blitz Panel

(L-R) Ryan Hess, Rebecca Cooling-Mallard, Patrick Sweeney, Willie Miller, Zoe Chao. Donna Scheeder, Moderator (standing)


This panel, moderated by Donna Scheeder from the Congressional Research Service, was entitled “Community Engagement Info Blitz” and was in a more serious vein that Tuesday evening sessions at previous IL conference. Each of the panelists gave a short presentation on innovations at their library, which was followed by audience reactions.

Patrick Sweeney, Branch Manager, San Mateo County Library, began by describing The Story Sailboat, a library and literacy advocacy project which takes discarded books from the San Francisco Public Library to various communities by boat around San Francisco Bay.  Other than being enjoyable for Patrick and his colleagues, there was little impact from the project, no tangible goals, and no followup so it was considered a failure.  Patrick also founded everylibrary, the only national political action committee (PAC) for libraries. This project had high impact, tangible goals, measurable results, and clear followup, so it was a success. Everylibrary supports campaigns for funding on behalf of libraries and in the last 6 months, it has raised $8.7 million for libraries. Lessons learned and things that can be done:

  1. You are a library’s best advocate.  People do not vote for buildings or books; they vote for you.  So create a message.  We do not have a clear message now.
  2. Manage your message.  Teach it to your staff.  Get people back to your mission statement.  Use your message to build a coalition of ravenous supporters.
  3. Keep people engaged online.  Email is still very effective; direct mail is not.  Use an email platform to send messages every week to all your users.
  4. If you want to be a good librarian, you must get out of the library!  Go out into the community and talk to people.  Do canvassing: door to door library signups and get email addresses.  You can also do phone banking or send texts (especially to teens) about what is going on in the library.
  5. Celebrate libraries and librarianship in the community by having a party.  Have a letter writing party to send letters to Senators asking for their support of the library.
  6. Advertise in paid media.


Gaming the Library
Willie Miller, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

A game was developed to allow staff to farm out some of the things that would be done on a library tour.  Digital natives like instant gratification.  The game was called The Missing Project and is a 3-week long video series.  Students follow along with a character whose iPad is missing.  It is an online scavenger hunt.  Finding the clues brings you to the next segment.  25 people got to the last video.  One of them won the iPad in a drawing.

Student developers were given a list of things to be included in a video.  350 people went to the first game.


Leveraging Library Techknowledgie
Ryan Hess and Rebecca Cooling, DePaul University Library

A typical emerging service model bridges the gap between user needs and the technology that supports those needs.  We have a digital scholarship crisis: the world is flat but information is still a mountain.  Victims of this are researchers, alumni, faculty, students, and enthusiasts.  They are not thinking about information like librarians do. They don’t think about preservation and don’t manage the content.

A case study used letters from the Vatican archives at a university in Ireland.  When the Irish government went broke they lost the funding for their server.  Librarians know how to ask for requirements and how to gather them.  They have experience with CMS, metadata expertise, digital collection expertise.

DePaul stepped in to rescue the collection. Project requirements:  stable server, low cost, non-technical CMS, preservation, interoperability, standardized metadata, findability and SEO.  The platform chosen was Omeka which is designed with non-IT specialists in mind.  Omeka is a WordPress-like system with these features:

Omeka Features

Omeka Features

The data were restructured from the original spreadsheet into valid metadata.  It was encoded using HTML character encoding and put into a CSV file which could be imported into Omeka.  Researchers’ unique fields were mapped to Dublin Core fields.

Best practices for working with non-technical people include communication, relevance of librarians, understanding client expectations up front, and dealing with technological baggage:  People don’t understand what goes on behind the scenes in these systems, which provides opportunities for libraries to educate people about metadata.


Where’s the Duck Pond? Looking into UNM Map Search
Zoe Chao, Metadata Librarian, University of New Mexico

Zoe redesigned the web search interface for the campus map.  It was a cooperative project between the library and campus IT.  The original map site was organized by building number but not by name, which was useless.  Google Map code was used to redesign the map.  Libraries were marked on the map, but people still couldn’t see them.

Reasons for failed searches:  new buildings, misspellings, no exact match in the metadata.  Even though they had autocomplete in the system, searches still failed. People did not read the suggestions because they are in a hurry! If it is not in the metadata, you cannot find it.  Exact match doesn’t work well because people can’t spell.  You must take time to put in all the details.

Version 2 of the map search is being developed; here are some of the enhancements under consideration:

Version 2 enhancements

Version 2 enhancements



Internet Librarian: Josh Hanagarne Keynote

Community Engagement: Inspiring Insights & Stories

Josh Hanagarne

“The City Library is a dynamic civic resource that promotes free and open access to information, materials and services to all members of the community to advance knowledge, foster creativity, encourage the exchange of ideas, build community and enhance the quality of life.” Imagine having a client, a homeless person, quote the library’s mission to you. Inspiring? You haven’t heard anything yet! Josh Hanagarne believes in curiosity, questions, strength, and that things are never so bad that they can’t improve. At an imposing 6’ 7”, Josh is a performing strong man (he ties horseshoes in knots!), bookish nerd, devoted family man and a twitchy guy with Tourette Syndrome. Hear Josh’s entertaining stories about libraries and engagement and be ready to return to your library or information service, no matter what type it is, inspired and renewed.

Josh Hanagarne’s Closing Keynote address begins on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 3:30PM Pacific time and will be streamed right here.

Watch the Closing Keynote Here

Beyond Literacy: Exploring a Post-Literate Future (The Wednesday Keynote)


Michael Ridley

Michael Ridley

Michael Ridley, librarian and former CIO at the University of Guelph, Ontario, spoke about the welcomed demise of literacy (yes, it’s welcomed!).  He said reading and writing are doomed; literacy as we know it is over.

DIsplacement of Literacy

DIsplacement of Literacy

Welcome to the post-literature future.  We are all prisoners of literacy.

There are all kinds of literacies.  This talk focuses on visible language; reading and writing.  It is inevitable that will be replaced by something else.  This is advantageous, not some new dark age.  We are going forward, not back.  Ridley published an online e-book and conducted a thought experiment, teaching as he was writing and engaging in collaborative authorship and networked conversation.  The bibliography was set up on a Pinterest site.  Reactions from readers were interesting.

Why are we thinking about post-literacy? Marshall McLuhan said “we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”  You have been shaped by literacy.  Socrates had this idea, calling literacy “the show of wisdom without the reality”.  It was the end of dialog between people and changed the way we think.  Only about 3% of languages are visible; it is therefore rare that literacy exists.  So why do we do this?  There is too much information.  We face this problem frequently.  The reaction is often to invent something that helps us move forward, which is why the alphabet was developed.  Our writing systems are hard to learn, difficult to use (they require a certain kind of environment), slow to process, prone to error, insufficiently powerful (even though we have some great writers), and addictive.

Candidates for post-literacy:

  • Bio-computing and neural prosthetics (adding computing tools),
  • Telepathy and “techlepathy”.  We are all telepathic and just don’t know how to do it.  Techlepathy is when people connect themselves cognitively to a network using one;s nervous system to be able to transmit information among one another.
  • Collective unconscious and consciousness.
  • Drugs and cosmetic neurology.  Possibilities of using interventions.
  • Machine intelligence–may be the real solution.  We are very close to computer systems that are much smarter than we are.  Machine intelligence is not alphabetic intelligence.
  • Post-humans.  It’s not about us at all.

All these possibilities have threats to them.  The transitions include disruption, suspicion and distrust, a sense of loss, unsophisticated use, early adopters, elitism and power, and the mainstream.  We will need to go through this transition.

The physiology of information is a rapidly moving field; new research comes out every week about how we think.  The brain has neurotransmitters,  biochemicals, proteins, connectivity, neurons, synapses.  That is information and what you know.  Everything you understand can be reduced to these substances.  What if we could create a drug that could grow an understanding in your mind?  For example, take a pill and learn French.  Where we get the pill could determine how we learn.  Telepathy involves that we connect ourselves pathologically.  Mindmelding by William Hirstein is a fascinating and relevant book.

How will we become post-literate?  Aliens?  The best thing we can do is fail, then try again (and fail better!).  So Beyond Literacy Radio was started by a graduate class to explore what other kinds of literacy would be like.  This has become a collaborative process with several other professional societies.  Reading and writing are doomed; we need something better.