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Virtually Interacting With Books and Exhibits

Ben Andrus , Juan Denzer , John Shoesmith

(L-R) Ben Andrus , Juan Denzer , John Shoesmith

This session featured two presentations on interacting with rare books without the need to physically handle them, which is highly desirable because of their fragility.

John Shoesmith, Outreach Librarian at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, began by describing his library and its collections. Established in 1955, the Fisher library is part of the University of Toronto, but it is also open to public.  It is the largest rare book library in Canada, with over 730,000 volumes. It is the only Canadian library to have Shakespeare first folios, Alan Ginsburg papers, Leonard Cohen’s papers, Margaret Atwood first editions.  It has a traditional outreach program through Facebook, an Instagram account, and a Flickr site (which has 10,000 photos).  Its building was designed especially to house and show rare book collections.

Exhibitions are a significant part of the library’s outreach; however, they are very hard work and when the exhibition is over, they just disappear.  So the library wanted to turn exhibitions into an online environment, which would ensure extra exposure and preservation of the materials shown.  Beginning in the early 2000s, some born-digital exhibitions were created, and although they had the desired effect of increasing exposure to the collections, they were done on systems no longer supported and required a lot of time and resources.  An online exhibition using Drupal was tried, but it was not esthetically pleasing and required significant handholding.  Omeka, an open source content management system, provides an exhibit builder plugin which was more successful and was being used by the university’s museum studies program.  Islandora, a digital object repository, works well with Omeka and was adopted by the Fisher Library.  Here are the library’s future plans and lessons learned.

Plans Going Forward

Lessons Learned and Advice

Juan Denzer and Ben Andrus from the Binghamton NY University Libraries described their Atenaeum in Motion (AIM) Project, which was initiated after the Dean of Libraries went to the National Library of China, saw a prototype newspaper reader using the Kinect system, and upon his return, asked the systems department if they could develop a similar system.  Juan investigated and found that Kinect required awkward motions to turn pages, so he tried a device by Leap Motion which was much smaller and better: the user just sits in front of a computer or screen and uses conventional hand motions to turn pages.  Juan therefore approached Ben to get content.

The Leap Motion system starts with original scans of rare book images to produce JPG files of images that are cropped as needed.  The scans are displayed on an overlay of a 3D book model; the user does not have to create the 3D objects.  Natural hand motions are used to turn pages, rotate the book, and zoom in and out.  The first photo below shows Ben in front of his laptop demonstrating the system, and the next two depict what he sees on his screen.

Ben Andrus

Screen View 1

Screen View 2

The system has the advantage of allowing the viewing of rare books without handling them, so there are no problems with disappearance, damage, etc. sound effects were added to mimic sound of turning pages.

Juan is now working on a project to create a new way of reading that preserves the look and feel of reading a book using the same software that AIM uses.

Making Libraries, Making Makers

CJ Lynce

CJ Lynce

CJ Lynce, Manager, TechCentral, Cleveland Public Library (CPL), described CPL’s innovative TechCentral environment that was  opened 2-1/2 years ago at the main library.  TechCentral has many of the facilities of a computer lab, but it is more of a learning center in an open inviting environment than a computer lab.  Lynce’s initial acquisition was a 3D printer, which was a mistake because they did not know what to do with it at first. After buying maker kits, audio synthesizers, and Lego sets for users to play with, TechCentral began to attract significant numbers of users.  Cleveland’s first Maker Faire was held at the library, and it proved to be very popular.  In the Faire’s second year, over 100 makers attended and the Faire filled two library buildings.  Many people did not know they were makers!  After that, TechCentral offered hands-on programming, opened an official maker space, and acquired a laser engraver, music instruments, and more 3D printers.  They now have 15 staff members with a wide variety of experience, and users can “check out” a trainer for an hour to help them on any topic.

Here is the definition of a maker space from

Makerspace Definition

Notice that a makerspace is defined by what it enables, not its collection of tools.  Makerspaces are learning environments with tools to facilitate learning and creating projects.  Many of them have collections of instruction manuals for projects that users can create (see below)–quite different from convential reference collections!

Lynce showed slides describing some of the equipment useful to have in a makerspace and its costs.  He discussed equipment for photography, music production, programming, wiring, 3D printing, a vinyl cutter, and a laser engraver.  All of his slides are available on the conference website.  It is important to note that it is not necessary to buy everything; in fact, much of it can be made or improvised.  Here are some of Lynce’s comments on the equipment:

  • Soldering kits are needed to create many of the projects, so those are not appropriate for young children. However, one of the most widely used pieces of equipment, the Arduino computer does not require a soldering kit.
  • 3D printers do not, by themselves, give you a makerspace, but they open people’s eyes to the world of making.
  • Extra-hold hair spray is very useful for fasteng models to the printer bed.
  • The laser engraver is TechCentral’s most expensive machine; it took half of the maker space budget to buy. But it is the most used piece of equipment.
  • It is important to make sure you have proper ventilation in your space because many of the machines use toxic chemicals or materials and create vapors from melting plastics.
  • Library patrons aren’t the only ones making things; the staff does also! They make things for the library.
  • Much of the equipment needed in a makerspace is easily transported, which allowed local TechCentral facilities to be established throughout the city.

Available space in branch libraries is used for maker spaces, particularly for projects involving programming.  Most programming is free. TechCentral has no software budget and uses as many free resources as possible.  Lynce recommends buying a case of laptops if possible.  iPads are invaluable.

Here are some of the projects created by TechCentral users (see Lynce’s slides for details):

  • Abstract art using (comparable to GIMP in many ways)
  • Audacity for audio mixing
  • Virtual jam session–garage band app
  • Sticky Note speakers
  • Tough wallet using a mailing envelope
  • Duct tape wallet or purse (created by a user)
  • Coding–KidsRuby
  • Easy loom knitting
  • Touchscreen compatible gloves for when it is cold outside (using conductive thread sewn into the finger)
  • 3D Pet Monster (doesn’t require a 3D printer)
  • 3D custom cookie cutters
  • 3D papercraft (low-tech non-3D printing)–thinner cardboard is better
  • Font making
  • Codes & Cyphers (“007 Lab”)
  • Camera Obscura (pinhole camera)
  • Construction kits–Lego, K’nex, Erector Sets, etc.
  • Homebrewing (up to the stage where the yeast was added and it became alcoholic)
  • T-shirt making

Things to consider if you are considering launching a makerspace:

  • Making is messy!
  • It is noisy–when people are having fun, they get loud and share with others. Encourage this!
  • You can make anywhere.
  • Go out to as many community events as you can.  Library attendance will surge after you do a program.
  • Encourage critical thinking skills.

Is Technology Changing Our Brains? The Wednesday Keynote

Josh Hanagarne

Josh Hanagarne

Josh Hanagarne, Librarian, Salt Lake City Public Library, and Author, The World’s Strongest Librarian, returned to IL after his inspiring closing keynote last year to keynote the final day of IL 2014, asking the rhetorical question, “Is technology changing our brains?” He then immediately answered it with another question: “Who wouldn’t say that technology has changed our brains?”

He has spent a lot of time learning to have an attention span because of his Tourette’s syndrome affliction.  For nearly 20 years, Hanagarne read 200 to 300 pages every day.  Then in 2008, he enrolled in an MLS program, completing two years worth of courses in one year. During that year, he spent more time online than he had ever spent before. He found that after his college study, it became harder to read what he wanted to for leisure. His brain had changed; suddenly he had to pay close attention to everything. He also noted that TS Eliot observed a similar effect:

TS Eliot Quote

This is an example of technology changing a brain.

If you can, think about what your brain does. When you wake up in the morning, everything is recognizable because of your brain. It stores our past and is our decision-making machine. We do well to pay attention to it when it changes. Most of us do not feel that our memory is as good as it used to be. If our memory deteriorates, what do we do? Working memory is what you hold in your head to get something done. Long-term memory is like a file cabinet. The ability to remember is dependent on getting as much working memory into the cabinet as possible.

What characterizes the brain of an addict? Addiction is a hyper-association with something that makes you feel better than it should. It is an unwillingness to be uncomfortable, once you get to the point where you need it. Internet addiction is real. You can log in to Facebook wishing you were doing something else. What would fighting Internet addiction look like? If you feel loneliness and jealousy more frequently (one result of Internet addiction), that is a change in your brain. Does it change our habits? Of course it does! Does it change the way we think about ourselves? What do we mean by that? What if technology limits the way we can think about ourselves? Does it change the nature of experience? It can. Do you go on a hike just to share a photo of going on a hike? Do you get excited because something is happening or because you can share it?

If you strip images out of conversations you rob them of their emotional power. If we are scanning documents we lose the power to generate images in our heads. The most important question we can ask ourselves is how something works, which is necessary to solve any problem.

What does it mean to know something? Knowing where an answer is can feel like knowing an answer. Shame on us if that means you do not know anything besides where the answer is. You must be able to engage with ideas.

What might this mean for libraries? Is something useful if it’s not being used (such as books)? What are libraries for? What is actually at stake is freedom in our mental environments. A library exists to be a symbol of unasked questions and to make people free to ask them. It is a chance to encounter all the questions we may not have the opportunity to ask. There is no off switch to adaptation. By asking questions, you will get better. Our mission is to keep as many minds in the game as possible, both personal and professional.

Libraries and the Internet of Things: The Tuesday Evening Session

Lee Rainie

Lee Rainie

Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Internet & American Life Project and Co-Author, Networked: The New Social Operating System (MIT Press, 2012), spoke on the Internet of Things (IoT) at the popular Tuesday evening session.  He began with the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the IoT:

“Development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data”

The big change with the IoT is that our connected stuff will be helping us: machines interacting with machines.

Here are some of the effects of the IoT on libraries:

  • It is the 4th digital revolution in libraries (after mobile, social, networking).
  • It will reshape who librarians are and what they do.
  • Everything will have an IP address, which will reconfigure library spaces and media.
  • It redefines the role of libraries in their communities.

The Aspen Institute recently issued a report, Rising to the Challenge, which describes the re-envisioning of public libraries.  Pew Research has also issued a similar report presenting the results of a survey in which 2,800 experts gave their opinions on the greatest effects of the IoT on society in general.

Major Effects of the IoT

Major Effects of the IoT

Rainie showed a fascinating video from Corning Glass showing some of the far-reaching effects of the IoT.

In a new Pew Research survey, one question asked what would be the most significant effects of our uses of the Internet on humanity between now and 2025.  The general conclusion was that the Internet will become like electricity–less visible but more deeply embedded in people’s lives for both good and ill.  And when asked whether the IoT will have widespread and beneficial effects on everyday lives of the public by 2025, and overwhelming majority (83%) of the respondents said that it would.  The upsides will be enhanced health, convenience, productivity, safety, and vastly more useful information.  Downsides include privacy challenges, over-hyped expectations, technical complexity, and lagging human adaptation to new realities.

Here are some examples of applications of the IoT:

  • Wearable monitors for babies
  • Smart medicine dispenser caps to remind you to take your medicines
  • Get the most of your medicines–pill sensor
  • Monitor family members
  • Make sure the oven is off–smart outlets
  • Track down lost keys
  • Avoid disasters–monitor remotely
  • Water plants to keep them alive
  • Trash bins signaling when they’re full
  • Pollution warnings
  • Share your findings–“aircasting”
  • Monitor pollution
  • Track water quality
  • Help protect wildlife
  • Advanced warning of mudslides etc.
  • Know the variables (tweeting bumblebee) in other locations
  • Monitor trees to detect illegal movement

Potential applications of the IoT for libraries center around three major areas: people, place, and platform, as follows:

  • People: technology experts, visionaries for the knowledge economy, experts in sense making and context, curation of relevant material, monitors of algorithms and lifelong learning.
  • Place: physical space is changed, artifacts are connected with data, test beds, community information and media stewards (server farm operators).
  • Platform: Community Resources: trusted institution and privacy watchdogs, advocates for free and open information and for closing digital divides, maintenance of data and collection repositories, enablers for entrepreneurs, civic specialists, issuers of credentials.