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Archive | IL2018

Measure the Future: Next-Gen Metrics for Libraries

Jason Griffey

Jason Griffey

Jason Griffey, a consultant formerly at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, was also librarian at the University of Tennessee. The library staff wanted to measure the attention of library visitors: where people tended to go and how long they stayed there, which can be thought of as similar to Google Analytics for a building. 

Traditional Library Statistics

Traditional metrics did not work well for the planning they wanted to do. 

Commercial systems

Commercial systems exist that are used by big-box retail stores to drive purchase decisions, but they are not appropriate for spaces where one might have an expectation of privacy. So the library decided to build its own system, which was built on open source software.


Possible ways to measure where people go include putting sensors on doors, tracking cell phones (but this ignores people not carrying a device, particularly children and recent immigrants). So they decided to use a camera  as a sensor to see how movement happens in a space. No pictures are taken.  Sensors were tested in the reading room at the New York Public Library (NYPL). A webcam was used as a sensor inside a 3D printed case. 

Webcam in case

Webcam in case

The software is entirely open and runs on the Linus platform.  It tracks moving pixels and stores location and time data. No pictures taken—only data paths. Results are displayed as a “heatmap” of activity counts. No photos or videos of library users are saved, and data are recorded in 15 minute blocks.

The NYPL wanted to know whether people were using the reading rooms to read or whether they were just taking a picture and then leaving (which is what they did). Over about two weeks, there were 480 visitors to one area and 2,630 to another. Most of them took a picture. Most of them did not move into the main space. The raw data were put into a database for analysis of counts and times. 

At the University of Oklahoma, a local museum wanted to know how people were moving through it and which exhibits attracted the most people. An overlay of the data was created to see the popular exhibits. The goal of this project is to give it to as many people as possible so that spaces can be analyzed and changes tested. For example, one could evaluate how people use the stacks in a library and whether they are necessary, or give data to funders to prove how busy the spaces are. This project is built by librarians for librarians; it was not built by a vendor. See

From Makerspace to Solve Space

Makerspace Panel

This double session was a mini-workshop with tips and techniques on setting up a makerspace. Chad Mairn from the St. Petersburg College library said we need to try new things and not be afraid to fail but learn from them. If you don’t try out something, it will probably not be a good fit with your makerspace. Document what you are doing with pictures. Field trips to the community are very useful and will bring more people into the library. Your makerspace can be everywhere.

VR ad AR classes use the Merge Cube which lets you hold holograms in your hand. Kids will become coders. Use a “Gadgets for Good” program to recycle old phones, computers, printers, etc.  Tactile 3D prints help visually impaired students. Many companies will be glad to work with you; also invite local developers to share their prototypes. To demystify STEM, it is not necessary to be a scientist or engineer; you just have to be curious with a desire to figure things out. Critical thinking is important. Every chance you get, share what you do. Dream, think, and create.

Tod Colegrove, Head of the Library at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR), said that even as we are changing, some things are staying the same. Makerspaces support active learning. Many print materials about makerspaces have been migrated to open space. Many libraries now offer 3D printing as a service just like any other library services; UNR was the first academic library in the US to do this. We engage a different part of our brain when we are handling things.

Laser cutters cut by burning things apart, so get the fire extinguisher out when you get one! The cutters are used for prototyping things.There is lots of interaction between prototyping and coding.

UNR was featured in an article on the most interesting makerspaces in America.

Susan Considine launched the first makerspace in the US in a public library. While spaces and technology continue to change in libraries, what do we do when our staff feel threatened or not on board of the new changes? We need to ensure we are consider our most valuable resources—our people—first. It is necessary to apply new thinking to hiring and training new staff.

Brian Pichman helps libraries around the world with leadership strategies and funding partnership incentives. He founded the Evolve Project to renovate a Children’s Library. When he approached companies and asked them to market to libraries, he found that they thought libraries were only about books. When they remodeled the library, kids thought they would have to stand in line to get in. Libraries are evolving. Kids will have to learn to be solvers in order to thrive. see his video.

Following the presentations, the audience participated in a group discussion. A  “road map” is at Here are some points that were raised in the discussion.

  • The key to making makerspaces work is to find people who are passionate. It is important to find ways to contact all the demographic groups in the community and engage them to get them to come into the library.
  • Find out what people’s strengths are and use them to promote growth. Challenges include staffing and having people to commit to the goals and changing mission of the library.
  • Many people approach the makerspace like they are in a retail space; the message must shift to focus on the process instead of the product.

If you are just thinking about starting a makerspace, your most important resource is your people. Don’t leave the staff in the dark. Have a conversation with them about why you are doing this. Then bring them on board to do the work of having conversations in the community. Everyone is an ambassador; ask people if they would be willing to share their expertise and knowledge. Once the staff understands that they will be led by the community, they will become enthusiastic.

If you are planning tools and facilities, tap into what the staff is passionate about and what their expertise is, and have them understand that it will be shared. You will be amazed about your staff!  Those interests often translate into learning opportunities, and you will not need to hire more staff. The goal is for everyone in the organization to have the same level of general knowledge. Involving the staff at the beginning is essential.

If you are in the process of establishing a makerspace and are having challenges with the staff,  it is frequently because of their fear of what the changes will mean for them and their jobs. Find ways to do things better than you have ever done them before, and stop thinking that knowledge sharing has to come from a library worker. We are simply facilitators; let the community lead your development. Put surveys everywhere; you will be amazed at what people will tell you.

You may need a rebranding effort to make the community (and the staff!) know what the makerspace is for. The community should understand that they will gain an increase in their level of expertise.

Accelerating Your Market Input: Creating Positive Outcomes: The Thursday Keynote

Jane Dysart and Susan Schramm

Jane Dysart, Program Chair (L) and Susan Schramm

Susan Schramm, Founder and Principal, Go To Market Impact (a consulting firm helping organizations in times of change), is not a librarian, but she is a very zealous promoter and supporter of libraries. She believes that libraries will be catalysts for transforming smart communities. Change is going on, and there is a gap that libraries can fill.

Smart Communities

A smart community  has an infrastructure that allows its residents to be connected, so that information is gathered and available to be connected to create efficiencies.They are a way to  flourish and are based on data. A city has a personality; a smart city is one you like to hang out with. Smart social services might take information from silos and start to create open data models so they can share transformations and identify trends. Smart parks or airports are components of smart cities.

Work to do

We used to talk about “how” or “if”; now we talk about “when”. The human capital of the community makes it come to life. What are the jobs that need to be filled that we don’t have the skills for? What about the issue of ethics? They are built into the infrastructure. We need to deal with decisions that are based on lack of information.

Libraries' role

Some of the challenges are opportunities for libraries to insert themselves into the discussion. Upskilling

Some of the less common areas are being tackled. How do we raise our impact?

Roles for libraries

Top challenges (every organization has these).

Top Challenges



Lessons learned:

  1. Clarify our value proposition: Why are we doing something? Why us? How you provide something makes you different. Why now? Creates urgency. What is your customer’s urgency? Do not launch a program without asking why now.
  2. Target our audiences: Do a stakeholder map. Who wants to solve the problem? All of your stakeholders can be investors and can be asked to carry your message. Choose them wisely.
  3. Help customers “buy”: Customers are very knowledgeable about problems they want to solve. They don’t want to be sold to. Create a customer experience journey map; it’s the fastest way to figure out where they are getting stuck. Brainstorm commonly asked questions and those that are difficult; then brainstorm answers. The result is consistency and confidence.
  4. Ask the hard questions; have courage. Decide what to stop doing, not because you think so, but because there is analysis that everybody can understand. Partnering is important, but not just with friends. What are you going to do as a leader?

Transformations in our cities call for the library to have a role. Think about expertise in your team that can be used to solve problems. What is your next step? 

Are Librarians Smarter Than a Machine?: The Wednesday Evening Session

Wednesday Evening Panel

Wednesday Evening Panel: (L-R) Stephen Abram (Chair), Ryan Hess, David Lee King, Amy Affelt, Gary Price, Susan Considine

The always popular evening session this year featured a panel of information professionals and several voice-activated devices plus a robot. Panelists on this session were Steven Abram (Chair), Ryan Hess, Dan Lou (not shown in photo), David Lee King, Amy Affelt, Gary Price, and Sue Considine.

Each panelist presented a short opinion on the devices, and then the audience was given the opportunity to interact with them and form their opinions. After that, audience participants reported on their experiences. The panelists huddled to determine prize winners; six prizes were given including two Alexa Dots, two Google Homes, and two copies of Peter Morville’s book Planning for Everything,

Questions to be answered included: How do we make sure that people learn how to use these devices? How do they fit into the Internet of Things trend? Are the devices smarter than librarians and will they replace them? Here are the panelists’ opinions:

David Lee King: When these things work really well, they will be easy for your grandmother to use. Not everything is quite that simple yet. Some things don’t work really well. Others work well—except when you don’t want them to (David was frequently interrupted by the Alexa on the speakers’ table).

Sue Considine: From a reference perspective, she is not convinced these devices are a substitute for the type of reference we do. Most people coming into a public library want to talk to a person.

Gary Price: We have a vocabulary issue with these things. (See his bibliography.) There are many privacy issues.

Amy Affelt: When she gets a good answer, she is surprised and delighted, but she has grave concerns. Now, we are being tracked without interacting with the device. What happens to a generation of kids using these devices for their homework? We still have a chance to teach young kids about quality news. What if the devices are dispensing fake news? The recordings can be used in a court. Who is storing the conversations? Are they ever deleted? We are giving up a lot in exchange for convenience.

Ryan and Dan: The No.1 cause of anxiety with these devices is if they will work. Before the robots take our jobs, we want the public to know how cute they are (they showed Dewey, a robot).

Members of the audience tried several of the devices with greatly mixed results. They generally agreed with the panelists that the devices are good for ready reference and facts, but they cannot process empathy and feelings, so they are not good for many reference questions. The reference transaction is a social interaction; we may lose the opportunity to provide that social connection. Sources are important; how are going to find them? We need to look at how to train these things to be useful. The knowledge resides in us; the future of these devices has a lot to do with what is in our brains.

Here are photos of the devices:

Dan Lou With Dewey the Robot

Dan Lou With Dewey the Robot


Dewey the Robot

Dewey the Robot


Google Home

Google Home


Alexa Dot

Alexa Dot

Peter Morville's Book

Peter Morville’s Book