CIL Presentations

I know that the link has been up for a while – but it looks much more populated now. If you missed CIL and want to see some of the presentations take a look on the InfoToday site. When you find a presentation you like you can do a blog post search to find more info on the presentation (since I know that some slideshows just aren’t enough to get a feel for what was really said).

My conference coverage (which I never finished) is available here.

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Thoughts on Twitter – Part 2

A little over a month ago I posted that I saw no purpose to Twitter … I was wrong. I don’t really have a day to day need to post what I’m doing, but while at Computers in Libraries I signed up because everyone around me was communicating and I felt left out.

David Lee King writes:

Twitter rocks. Sure, it might be a fad. Sure, it might end up being a waste of time (I ultimately don't think so). But with a mostly reliable wifi connection in the conference rooms, there was a constant undercurrent of short one-liner discussions that were fun, and in some cases, really added to the conference. For those participating, it allowed you to see what others were thinking while the speaker was still talking. And make dinner plans"¦ and pass a bunch of insider jokes"¦ :-)

And it was true – at Internet Librarian last year I was never sure where people were going for dinner – or after dinner – this way I was able to keep up with everyone. It was also neat to hear tidbits of other presentations from around the conference center.

So – final verdict? I don’t need Twitter on a daily basis, but I’m certainly going to keep using it at conferences to keep up with everyone and everything – except maybe the Code4Lib conference where everyone is on the IRC channel anyway :)

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Screencasts of Intranet Presentation

At CIL I promised that I’d create a screencast for those who couldn’t see the screen – and those who weren’t there at all. I have just created my first 3 screencasts!! There is no sound and nothing fancy, but you can at least see what I did in my presentation. This is my first attempt at something like this – so be nice :)

On my server:

On YouTube (bad quality):

[update] Okay, I viewed these videos and they’re impossible to read – I’m up for any tips on how to record these screencasts so they’re optimized for YouTube. [/update]

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Bittersweet CIL Summary

Helene Blowers has a great post summing up what she learned at CIL – and it’s not pretty.

My CIL experience this year was bittersweet and I find myself personally leaving with a lot more unanswered questions and frustrations than new ideas and inspirations.

This type of frustration I heard echoed in almost every conversation (but thankfully not all) I had over the past three days. And given that this is about the 3rd Computers in Libraries conference highlighting the same tools and trends (wikis, blogs, user-generated content, the long tail etc), I'm beginning to wonder if what the profession really needs is just to give some administrators a good swift kick in the head. Those that I spent my time talking with clearly got all the 2.0 concepts, in fact they were apostles. But after trying to move their libraries forward for the past year or so, they felt stippled and oppressed by stale management and old world politics.

My heart melted a bit every time I heard a story from a passionate librarian whose gallant efforts to provide new and fresh services were crushed by the old guard. Clearly things need to change"¦ but I'm struggling even myself with exactly just how?

Like Helene, I had many such talks with librarians. In fact – I actually had the (sad) opportunity to sit near some of these people who have probably held back their passionate staff members. What were they doing at a conference with the “Library 2.0″ theme? They probably just come every year and go through the motions. Also like Helene, I got to talk to tons of passionate librarians. I learned just as much from librarians after hours as I did during the sessions.

I agree with Helene – we have to keep up the enthusiasm and battle for change as best as we can because in the end it will pay off:

It's hard to fight battles through small change, but with enough small battles, it creates some erosion. And the thing about erosion is … that if it continues long enough, it eventually leads to an avalanche of new opportunity!

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Future of the Catalog

Tennant and Spalding on the Future of the Catalog
Originally uploaded by madinkbeard.

Tim Spalding of LibraryThing started out with his talk entitled “The Fun OPAC”. Tim quotes Casey Bisson who said that the OPAC was broken in three ways: usability, findability and remixability. Tim argues that that is not enough – he also thinks it’s missing funability.

He gave us an example from Big (the movie) where Tom Hanks says that one of the toy ideas isn’t fun. Tim says that everyone is a toy company now. Users expect the web to fun and easy. If a site doesn’t change from visit to visit it’s boring – and our OPACs never change!!

Unlike other speakers on this topic, Tim thinks we need to bring the catalog out front and center. He says so used to hiding it behind our websites because we’re ashamed of it – and we can’t change it (which is very true).

So, how do we make it fun?

  • Allow inbound links!
    links into our catalogs are always timed out when you find them in search results. People want to link into this information and they assume it will always be there. One way to solve this is to provide a permalink – like Google maps – but I’d argue that this isn’t enough either!!
  • Allow links outwards
    The more you link outwards the more people will come to you. This includes links out of your catalog. Tim said that some libraries say no to this because they won’t link to commercial sites. Tim asks, why? Your patrons know about the bookstores! Good websites don’t work like malls, where all of the exits are hidden and they try to keep you inside.
  • Link around
    LibraryThing links to 500 libraries around the world and makes everything clickable (the author, title, tag, subject heading). There is also a page for every author, tag, etc etc. Most catalogs do link subjects – but nothing else. You can also link to wikipedia (people are going to go there anyway).
  • Dress up your OPAC
    Dress it up with covers from Syndetics (if you get them from Amazon you have to link to them).
  • Get your data out there
    Stop thinking you’re the only people who can work with your data!! Wisdom of crowds!! There are bored techies out there who want to do fun things with your data. People will think of things to do with your data that you haven’t thought of yourself.
  • Provide remixable content
    Users don’t want your data. They don’t want generic new book lists, they want their own content. RSS feeds for specific searches, authors, tags. They want a way to tell people what they’re reading with widgets. If the user freely consents to show what they’re reading to others, then there are no privacy issues to worry about

Next up – Roy Tennant!!!

No Future for Catalogs

Roy was worried that we were all there to see Tim, but everyone stayed to hear what he had to say (well, I left a tiny bit early to make a lunch meeting – but I really really really wanted to stay).

Roy started by telling us that he refused to use the “O” word. And then told us that catalogs have no future – you’ve gotta love him!

Roy does clarify that when he says catalog he is not referring to the ILS (which libraries still need for internal operations). He is no suggesting the death of the ILS just that we rework the finding tool which is the catalog.

He sees a future where there is no local catalog and in his future, all discovery will take place on the network level. If however it stays on the local level, few people will want to limit their search to just books – they’re going to want something that can pull together all of the info on a topic no matter what format it’s in.

This means that we need to look at new models of finding information.

In the new world order, discovery will be disaggregated from the ILS (Google, Open WorldCat, meta search, others). This makess sense because users typically want to find anything they can on a topic. Now we have to explain that you have to look in different places for articles. People don’t like pain so they want to search in one spot and if they can’t then they won’t use your tool.

Most ILS lack cool new features and fall behind our expectations and the market doesn’t look great that we’re going to see these things anytime soon.

Open WorldCat is offering some of the cool tools we want (facets, integrated article index, clean easy to read display) all for free. They also have WorldCat Identities tool which allows for every author to have a page. Maybe the answer is that WorldCat replaces our union catalogs. OCLC already has all of our data (I don’t quite follow this – not being a cataloger – but it sounds good to me). Another tool that they have is Fiction Finder (both this and Identities like the things Tim was talking about with LibraryThing).

These tools are great at exposing the richness of the records we’ve been painfully creating over the years (and this is true – i had a horrible time creating MARC records for one of my assignments).

At this point I had to leave for lunch – but it all makes sense to me and I’ll keep an eye out to see if Roy’s predictions come true!

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Blogging a Conference

Over at The Compass there is a post about blogging a conference:

I found that knowing my notes/blog would be publicly accessible motivated me and helped me focus more critically than if I had been a passive listener, recording notes privately on a notepad.

This prompts another hypothesis. Blogging was promoted as a teaching tool at CIL. Could blogging become an effective educational assessment tool (i.e. requiring students to blog their notes from a lecture or reading)?

This is very true – blogging a conference requires you to pay a bit more attention. I think it would be great if students did things like this – I doubt it could be required for all courses – but it certainly makes me pay more attention than I might normally.

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Rob Cagna from University of Pennsylvania came to talk to us about PennTags. The last time I saw this it was a bit rough – it has grown up a lot since it’s birth!!

PennTags is like for members of the Penn community. They can save pages from anywhere on the web, from the catalog and from campus resources to PennTags and share it with the world. They can also keep their bookmarks private if they’d like. Penn has also released bookmarklets to allow people to tag things from their browser without logging into PennTags first (like with extension for firefox).

One neat feature of PennTags is that the users can make projects – which are files of different documents in a particular subject area. This way you can see just a new books list ( Projects can also be made private if the user prefers – Rob doesn’t think that many people have done this.

If you look at this record in the UPenn catalog, you see an Add to PennTags link at the bottom and below that you’ll see the tags and annotations from PennTags – very very very cool!! This is done with Oracle and Perl – you can email Rob if you want the more techie details.

One way this has been used is as an on-demand subject guide. Reference librarians create a project and add links. They then send the project URL to the patron! Students can use these projects as bibliographies – or working bibliographies as they write their papers. And because every page has an RSS feed the patrons or students can subscribe and see new additions as they’re added!!

I am very impressed – and a bit jealous!!

If you like what you see, Rob is looking for partners to help work with the code and make it open source! Email them at:

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Guiding Libraries and Info Pros Through Change

David Lee King gave an amazing talk on handling change within our libraries. He started by asking a few questions and reading a few quotes. The first question was how many of us have had a hard time changing things in our libraries – lots of hands were raised. Then what kinds of change are hard – tech or other? Both! How many of us had to change ourselves while trying to implement change? A good number.

David, like a few others, recommended reading Stephen Abram’s article in OneSource on change within libraries.

He then read a quote from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins which basically said that spending time to motivate people is a waste of effort – the right people will be self-motivated – but the key is to not de-motivate them! What a great quote!! I don’t have the book, so I can’t write the exact quote, but the gist is right.

Change is gonna happen whether we like it or not – just take a look at librarian want ads these days – they’re all full of new (fun sounding) jobs.

So what is change? Change the old way:

  • leaders simply ordered changes
  • goal: getting the change accomplished
  • when it failed the leaders would review change to see what went wrong

The problem is that they were looking in the wrong place (within their organizations) – because change is external. Transitions (reorientation people have to go through inside before the change can work) however, are internal. The reason most changes failed was because leaders focused on getting the change done instead of getting people through the transition.

Saying Goodbye

So, what are the stages of transition?

  1. Saying goodbye (letting go of the way things used to be)
  2. Shifting into neutral (in between state – full of uncertainty and confusion)
    This is where you focus on the details. You have to want to change to get past this phase and unfortunately, some people get stuck here. These people don’t let go of the old ways. On the other end of things, some people get frightened and leave
  3. Moving forward- requires people to begin behaving in a new way

Of course there is going to be resistance to change, in fact, “nearly 2/3 of changes in corporate environments fail”, but resistance isn’t the problem – management’s reaction to resistance is the problem – resistors aren’t seeing it as resistance – they see it as survival!

Three levels of resistance:

  1. info based – not enough info with the new thing, don’t understand, disagree with the idea, confused
  2. physiological & emotional – job threatened, future with organization threatened, respect of your peers at risk (loss of power – feelings of incompetence) – all in your head (but still real!)
  3. bigger stuff – personal histories, significant disagreement over values, etc

So, how do we navigate through change?

Tips just for leaders & techies:

  • remember that you’ve already come to terms with the change, but others still have their own stages to go through
  • understand why people might not want to change
  • understand that it’s the transitions, not the change, that’s causing waves

Steps to take in helping change run smoothly:

  • describe the change succinctly (1 minute or less) change and why it must happen
  • plan carefully
  • help people let go (explain why they have to let go – why it’s a necessary change)
  • constant communication
  • create temporary solutions when needed (things to make the change move smoother)
  • model new behavior – practice what you preach, don’t say we need a blog and then never contribute
  • provide practice & training in new things)
  • if you want staff to use web 2.0, you better have an RSS reader and you better be actively using it and reading blogs etc etc

David than reminded us not to do these things:

  • don’t confuse novelty with innovation
  • don’t confuse motion with action
  • don’t keep something going if it still has a “few good years of life left”

More tips & reminders for techies:

  • you might be able to change quickly
  • there are areas where you don’t change quickly (it departments have to stop saying no first – think it through)
  • always share too much… (and do too much training) it should feel this way to you – cause you’re not the user
  • technojust(ification) – make sure it makes sense (the opposite of technolust)

After all of this if you still won’t change, you need to remember that refusing to change will lead to missed career opportunities and missed changes to expand your network and meet new people (like I do at conferences and through my blog). Most importantly, you’ll miss out on the possibility of shaping your new destiny and reality – don’t get me wrong, it will be shaped, the question is who do you want to do it – you or someone else?

Some final pointers from David:

  • learn all there is to about change
  • break old habits
  • work on stress management strategies
  • whine with purpose (constructive criticism is good)

What an awesome talk!!! I hope I did it justice in my summarization – and I hope you’re all motivated to change the way you handle change in your institutions.

[update] See David’s Slides [/update]

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Core Competencies & Learning 2.0

Before even starting her talk, Helene Blowers posted her presentation information on her blog – check it out here.

Helene walked about the room using her new presentation remote (the same one I have) and talked to us about core competencies and learning 2.0 at her library. She told us a story of librarians in her library who would put an out of order sign on the printers if they were ever out of ink. When she asked why, people would say that it wasn’t their job – it was the IT staff’s job. That means that until IT gets into the library the patrons have to go without printing. By telling staff that they can’t do things like change ink, we’re telling them that technology is someone else’s responsibility -do we really want that? She didn’t so at her library they created some core competencies.

All librarians should know how to do some basic things such as saving documents, printing, entering timesheets online and basic troubleshooting. After that Helene’s library set up three more core levels. See all of the levels here. Other tools for coming up with core competencies can be found on Web Junction or in the newest Library Technology Report.

I like Helene’s definition of core competencies. Core competencies are developed to support changes that have already happened within our daily work lives. To address the future they decided to do Learning 2.0. This way they could make people familiar with the tools that are coming out now.

Before developing Learning 2.0, Helene tried tech talks – short talks on specific technologies. With these talks, she only reached 64 out of 540 employees and was only able to cover 2 topics – at that rate it would take 10.5 years to teach everyone everything she wanted.

Instead she started Learning 2.0 which was a 10 week program that introduced staff to 23 technologies – it was not a training program, it was a learning program and encouraged the staff to experiment with 2.0 tools. At the end of her program – 356 staff members had started a blog – a number that would have taken a lot longer than 10 weeks to achieve using the old way.

Towards the end, Helene asked us how many of us were encouraged to play at work – not many hands were raised!! Hopefully after this talk, people will go back to their libraries with ideas for change in the way technologies are taught!

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The new information design

I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ve talked about others who have said it – but this topic bears repeating – over and over until it’s stuck in everyone’s head!! The way we design web pages needs to change – it’s changing all around us and it’s time to learn from others and use those new rules on our library sites. Today I got to see a test version of a new site for a public library (sometimes public libraries get to do the coolest things!) and it was amazing! I made notes and shared them with work (who are considering a redesign this year). Last week I wrote about user-centered design (an awesome topic). Today, I’m writing about Ellyssa Kroski’s talk on the new information design.

The fact is (if you hadn’t figured it out) the user experience with the web is changing. Users are changing the way they consumer information, the technology is different and most importantly the user’s expectations have changed. Today’s web design should be simple, social and provide alternative navigation structures.


Ellyssa included a quote from The Paradox of Choice: “The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better … there is a cost to having an overload of choice.” And then showed us a picture of MS Word with all of the toolbars turned on!! That is bad choice!

New web apps are just showing the user what’s necessary, there’s a lower learning curve this way. This is also known as the “less is more” philosophy – we’ve all heard it – now we just have to apply it to our web redesigns. Lastly, and we all know this (but most don’t do anything about it) users are expecting a DIY (do it yourself) service model!!

Today’s websites (mostly web 2.0 sites) have clean simple designs. Sites need to be designed with a purpose, just for design’s sake (no need for flash on that library homepage just cause you took a flash class last year). Some formatting choices we’re seeing often are:

  • centered pages
  • round edges (provides a casual feel)
  • san serif fonts
  • lowercase fonts
  • large fonts for important concepts
  • simple persistent navigation
  • strong colors
  • bold logos
  • subtle 3D (like the site I saw a demo of) using reflections and shadows
  • original simple icons (like our intranet)
  • zen like feeling by using white space effectively (provides a fresh look)


Just like every other talk at this Library 2.0 themed conference, Ellyssa reminds us that what used to be personal and singular is now shared (pictures, videos, etc). Users are expecting to interact socially with information on the web. This means commenting, ratings, send to a friend, subscribe via RSS, save for later and the ability to see all of that for the other users of the site.

Alternative navigation

Ellyssa showed us some need options for navigation (things librarians would never go for because they’re too chaotic). Some sites are trying to use a visual representation of what’s important on the site. Steve Krug writes in Don’t Make Me Think (great book by the way) that we don’t read pages, we skim them for important items – things that catch our eye. An example of an alternative method of navigation is a tag cloud. Others I’ve seen have included web like graphics linking pages together. Neither should be used as the main navigation – but the option can be there for users who like that sort of thing – it’s an easy addition.


Pretty simple! You have to evolve, be nimble and be willing to abandon bad ideas!! Doesn’t sound to hard – does it?

[update] More from Ellyssa [/update]

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