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Transformation and Community Engagement


Susan Considine

Susan Considine

Susan Considine, Director of the Fayetteville Free Public Library (FFPL) in Fayetteville, NY (near Syracuse) and a pioneer in makerspaces in libraries, described how her efforts have affected the community. She noted that no matter what type of environment we are in, we work with people. We often hear about transformation in our industry, and we are involved in transforming people, lives, and communities. We must understand our roles; true meaningful engagement with people in our communities informs us. What do we know? What are our talents? What is challenging in the life of our community today? We need to create access to support transformation at the individual and community level, and librarians can facilitate this transformation.

The FFPL has a history of innovation leading to transformation. In 2010, they noticed people were becoming curious about technology, but they had nowhere to go locally to access disruptive technologies. A student intern developed a proposal to make 3D printing available in the library. Making was a natural fit for FFPL’s existing mission in the community: “to provide free and open access to ideas and information”. The key ingredient was the people, and making could provide a new hands-on end to fulfilling their needs. Traditionally, literacy has been defined as the use of printed materials to achieve one’s goals. In the 21st century, it encompasses many other skills, including making. We focus on transformative technologies.

STEAM education in the community

Supporting STEAM supports the local economy. Some knowledge of it is vital to informed decision making. It is up to libraries to create fun and interesting STEAM learning opportunities, especially for kids. The best way to do this is not to ask them what they want to be when they grow up; instead, ask them what problems they want to solve. Get them thinking they can make a job, not take a job.

The Innovation Challenge:  Taking the First Steps

Key Innovation Strategies

Don’t wait to start on developing innovation until you get everything you think you need.  Build on small successes incrementally and grow from there. Involving staff early is important.

Identify needs and priorities. FFPL’s maker space (the Fab Lab) was created so that the library to fill needs in the community. Here are some photos from the Fab Lab.

The Fab Lab

The lab started with donations of 3D printers, and there was a huge community response. Community members began to contribute ideas, which formed the basis for adding other technologies to the Fab Lab.

The best way to develop your makerspace is to see where your successes are, then grow and adapt accordingly. Involve staff across all areas of responsibility early and often. All new innovations have implications in every area of library operations. No one should feel like innovation is happening in a vacuum and therefore has nothing to do with them. At FFPL, monthly meetings are held to discuss all areas of technology, including those in the Fab Lab. Making is not seen as just one member’s or one department’s responsibility; everyone has a share in the success.

Key funding strategies include partnering (both inside and outside of our industry), applying for grants (many are available), and asking what you can stop doing so you can reallocate your budget. Once a maker program is underway, there are opportunities to apply for grants. Every time a staff member writes an article or does something similar, you are increasing your library’s visibility and promoting it as a player in the do-it-yourself or maker areas. Resource reallocation is a critical strategy. Most items in the Fab Lab were purchased from funds that already existed in the library’s budget

Resource Reallication

Outcomes and impacts

The current data being used by many libraries is not doing them justice because it is outdated. Librarians need to convene the right discussions and implement change and innovation. Be relevant through action; spend time doing and promoting the true value in the community. For example, some local entrepreneurs got their start in the Fab Lab, and the Lab collaborates with many small businesses.

Libraries are not only resources for passive information but they can serve as a catalyst for real world problem solving. Here are some areas supported by STEAM learning.

Resource Reallication

The library hosts tours regularly for people who want to find out about new technologies and how they can be used. Local area high schools have toured the lab and then set up their own maker spaces.

Assessment tools and strategies

A variety of assessment forms, some of which are listed below, are used as tools to capture the impacts of its programs. Constant organization-wide assessment promotes growth and ensures that library staff that they are collecting the data that tells them what they need to know.

  • A proposal template is used to ensure that programs are developed with a view toward the community.
  • User surveys are used to collect feedback on whether the programs met their needs, hear users’ stories, and develop marketing opportunities.
  • A story capturing form collects meaningful evidence behind the user stories. Over 4,000 people to date have been trained on Fab Lab equipment, and this tool lets us hear the impact of their use of the lab.
  • A community participation form is used to identify expertise that exists in the community and whether people would be interested in sharing it with their neighbors.

There has been an amazing response to FFPL’s programs. Samples of the above assessment tools as well as others are available at on FFPL’s website.

A personal note: I visited FFPL and it was a fascinating experience. If the opportunity for a visit arises, I highly encourage it. You can also read my article entitled “Making and Community Engagement in the Library” in the October 2015 issue of Information Today about my visit. The article also includes several photos of the Fab Lab.


Technology That May Impact Our Future — The Wednesday Keynote

Larry Magid

Larry Magid

Larry Magid, CEO,, columnist for the San Jose Mercury and, and a Tech Analyst for CBS News, has been covering technology since the 1980s. In common with many other speakers, he noted that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here is his list of technologies that have significantly affected our environment :

  • Hardware: The IBM PC, Apple 2, and Mac computers,
  • The Windows operating system,
  • The commercial internet,
  • Search engines that fundamentally changed the way we acquire knowledge,
  • Smartphones: The Blackberry, iPhone, and Android.
Technological change

We are now on the precipice of amazing technological changes such as voice recognition. The Google Pixel Phone even has some artificial intelligence in it. (Larry demonstrated the phone and how it can converse with him.) The phone can converse in different languages, which means that we are approaching simultaneous translation, and that will make a whole profession disappear. Facial recognition is already here; Larry’s computer can look at his face, recognize him, and let him log in. This technology is already being used by law enforcement; there is a database of 117 million faces that is available to them. We must recognize that privacy is disappearing.

Artificial intelligence–machines mimicking cognitive functions–still has a long way to go. Huge investments are being made by Google and IBM to make machines smarter. Soon machines will teach other machines to get smarter, which has major implications. Knowledge workers will be very much affected by AI. Reference librarians will not necessarily be replaced by computers, but they will be augmented by them. The information profession has evolved, but we still need the human interaction and that will not go away.

Manufacturing will come back to the US, but not necessarily the jobs.  Cheap energy will make robotic processes possible. People will have to design, repair, and program the robots. We are seeing the annihilation of high paying jobs without a college education. These changes will have profound implications for our workforce. The world must embrace the technology and build a society that profits from it.

Drones are here and will become more widespread. There is already a company in Silicon Valley that has drones in Rwanda delivering medicine to remote communities, and Amazon has said that they will use them to deliver packages. There are many privacy implications of this. We have an aging population; telemedicine will soon make it unnecessary to go to a doctor’s office because there will be robotic nurses and pharmacies.

The other side of technology

Things are also changing in ways that are not so great. We need to help kids be safer on the internet. Cyber bullying is an issue for both kids and adults; 60% of young women have been harassed online. If you make a comment on a news article, you can become fodder for abuse. Hatred is becoming widespread; attacks are nothing new, but they have gotten worse in the last few years. Some people have had to leave systems because they became too emotional for them. We see this in the current election campaign. An increasing number of minorities are becoming very depressed after watching the news. These effects will not go away. All of us who work with children, communities, and information need to rethink our roles.

In all of our jobs, we interact with people. Compassion, empathy, kindness, and leadership cannot be replaced by a computer.  Those who work with children have an especially important role. Think through your role and how you interact with people. There is reason for optimism but also for cynicism. Help people understand that we can overcome divisiveness, which will take a concerted effort and leadership. There is reason to be optimistic about the technological revolution.

In response to a question, Larry said that anonymity has its place and has some positive aspects, but it does not mean that you are not accountable.

Computational Text Analysis (a.k.a. Text Mining)

Cody Hennesy

Cody Hennesy

Cody Hennessy, E-Learning and Information Studies Librarian at the University of California-Berkeley (UCB) noted that there has been a large growth in the amount of digitized text available. There are now over 15,000 books in Google Books, which allows one to access a lot of digitized text at once. The HathiTrust Digital Library has started the HathiTrust Research Center to give access to text and allow researchers to ask questions about it. Scanned journals and newspapers are now in licensed databases, so you can trace how a word has been used over time, for example.

Google Books cannot be read by a human because it has over 15 million books (12% of all published books, with 500 billion words–361 billion in English). Many analysis questions are being asked across disciplines.

Professor Marti Hearst at UCB wrote an interesting article in 2003 with a definition of text mining.  Here is her definition.

Text Mining Definition

The goal of mining is to discover unknown information, not get what you know is there.  Franco Moretti proposed the term “distant reading”, which allows us to focus on units much smaller or much larger than the text by writing Python or R code to run statistical analyses on it.

Distant Reading

There are thousands of books that nobody has ever read or are not being read any more.  Distant reading allows us to look at those texts as primary sources. People are now pairing text mining and distant reading. So for example we can count the numbers of novels written in the first person or third person over time.  More frequently, people are now looking at syntax, which is done using code written in languages such as Python or R to run statistical analyses of word frequencies or neural networks.

For example, here is a word cloud of the topic labeled “female fashion”.

Word cloud of terms related to female fashion

Word cloud of terms related to female fashion

The conclusion from this research is that female authors are more than twice as likely to write about women’s clothing or “fashion” than men.

Using sentiment analysis, a study found that Trump’s Android account uses 40-80% more words related to disgust, sadness, fear, anger and other negative sentiments than his iPhone account does, which led to a speculation that the iPhone account was being used by a staff member.

What does this have to do with libraries?

The DLab of the Computational Text Analysis Working Group (CTAWG) is dedicated to curating and developing innovative methods of computational text analysis for the research community at UCB.  Roles of people in the group are informal, with no expertise required. “It’s OK Not To Know” (IOKN2K) is a guiding principle. There is no curriculum; if you keep showing up, you are embedded into the group. Here are some opportunities:

  • Connecting researchers with sources such as the Congressional Record,
    • A large amount of data
    • In the public domain
    • Spoken and written text
    • Related to other data: metadata about members of Congress, Voting records, Funding, Committees
  • Reviewing vendor opportunities,
  • Auditing library collections
  • Identifying new research opportunities.

Data sources include:

  • ProQuest Congressional (1789-present)
  • (1994-present)
  • ICPSR: 104th to 110th Congress
  • An XML database of the complete Congressional Record which was purchased from ProQuest

Most major vendors do not know how to support this kind of research yet (which may mean that they don’t know how to sell it). Some vendors are open to experimentation. What to ask of vendors:

  • How good is the OCR? (Ask for examples, when the files were scanned because OCR has improved greatly over time, do they do OCR correction?)
  • Do they follow data management best practices (is there a Readme file, are the files organized consistently, is there documetation of how the data was created)?

library guide to text mining is available.


Internet Librarian @ 20 — Looking Forward Retrospectively: The Tuesday Evening Session


Tom Hogan Sr. and Jane Dysart

Tom Hogan Sr. and Jane Dysart

20 years ago, Tom Hogan, Sr., President of Information Today, Inc. (ITI)  had a vision about a new conference. He took us back to 1995 when ITI ran the National Online Meeting (it existed from 1980 to 2003). The Internet killed the NOM. Roger Bilboul ran the International Online Information Meeting, and Alan Meckler ran Computers in Libraries. In 1995, Mecckler was on the verge of starting a conference called Internet World. He approached ITI and offered to sell them CIL, which started in 1996. Tom asked Jane Dysart to be the Program Chair and she agreed. After ITI took over CIL and focused it on libraries, attendance went from 500-600 in 1995 to 1,800 in 1996. Jane sent an email to Tom asking if there would be room for a west coast version of CIL.

After about 6 months, Kathy Hogan (Tom’s daughter) and Tom came to California to look for a venue for a west coast CIL and wound up in Monterey. They visited the Portola Plaza Hotel, looked at the town, and decided to have a conference. Alan Meckler suggested that it be called “Internet Librarian” (IL). At the first IL, there were 1,100 attendees. After the first year, there were no dates available for the conference, so it was held in Pasadena, Palm Springs, and San Diego, but it eventually returned to Monterey.

Jane said that at that time, everybody was trying to find out more about the internet.  This thirst for knowledge gave the conference a big boost. Some things like digitization are still important. Monterey is a special place, with its Aquarium, Fishermen’s Wharf, etc. The programs have always been around tips, tools, and knowledge sharing. Most people say they always learn something at IL.

Richard Hulser moderated the rest of the program and showed some word clouds from past IL programs, and it is interesting to see the changes over the years.

Clcik to enlarge the individual word clouds below:


Erik Boeksteijn sent a video of the 2007 Shanachie Tour . It was about making and telling stories. When they got to Monterey and started their session, there was an earthquake. In a succeeding year, they “defrosted” Steve Abram.

Erik Boekesteijn

Erik Boekesteijn

Bill Spence sent a presentation about 12 steps showing how technology has changed. (He noted that this was the first IL that he has missed–he is in London at  Internet Librarian International.) Some of the 12 items are:

  • Internet access
  • Dialup for emergencies
  • 3.5 inch drives
  • A Dropbox account for speakers to upload their presentations into
  • Better PCs
  • More reliable Wi-Fi

All of these improvements have led to better internet librarians.

Marshall Breeding reviewed technology trends over the last 20 years. There are now about 200,000 links to libraries in his guide. The promise of the internet has been fulfilled; libraries have learned to inhabit the Web. Then we learned from the business world how to monetize and become better libraries.

He showed graphs of how topics were mentioned over the years. Here is one for Google, for example.

But it is the people of IL that are important to build a professional network, make a personal collection, and expanding information and experience.

Darlene Fichter, Frank Cervone, Steve Abram, Marshall Breeding, Rebecca Jones and, Roy Tennant presented their thoughts about the past 20 years ,what was the biggest change they have seen, and what they think will happen next.

  • Rebecca: we continue to talk about evolving roles and services and our basic premises about linking people with what they need.
  • Roy: The biggest thing libraries do is empowerment. In the past that happened through books and journals; now we are finding other ways like maker spaces to empower communities. A few things from the  programs through 2006 were eXcite, Dublin Core, metadata issues, XML, turning text into data, e-books, digitization of LC, weblogs, Google, federated searching, digital repositories, web 2.0.
  • Darlene: Some of us have been friends for a long time. We go home and try new things. IL is a chance to share. The big issue at first was access, then content, services, and the library community becoming more permeable. Now people come and start companies. There is a willingness to be open and innovate.
  • Frank: The shift from purely technological to more of the strategic and creative thinking about how we can integrate ourselves in many different information situations.  There are many people devoted to understanding how to move things forward and improve their professional practice.
  • Marshall: Things are changing faster than they ever have before. Never expect things to be static because change makes for a more interesting world.
  • Steve: This is a thoughtful conference. We are not all librarians talking to librarians. Jane has ensured we have a balance and has evolved beyond technology into emotion, collaboration, how we behave towards each other.

David Lee King created a video of the entire session which is available here. Thanks, David!