Category Archives: grad school

“In which we look to the future…”

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Most of the time, that just means applying for jobs. Just saying.

This time last year, I was gearing up for one last year of grad school. I am excited to announce that I have now completed my graduate studies in Library and Information Science!! It was tough going at times, particularly while juggling a full-time job and my personal obligations, but I am so happy to have persevered and finished. I am also thankful to my family and friends who supported me in achieving my goals. I know good people.

So what’s next? As most of you know, I am interested in working with African American collections and/or supporting research in African American history and culture. To this end, I have been seeking out opportunities on the job to create research tools and better support academic programs in this area. Most recently, this included creating a LibGuide for African American Studies. I’m continuing to work on that, as well as one for African American Literature. One of my courses involved developing a guide for African American Art and Artists, which was probably the highlight of that class. These experiences have helped me to not only navigate diverse information organization tools, but also to strengthen my skills in information design, user experience, and consumer outreach. I’m also taking this time to develop general practical skills in librarianship and information sciences. Part of that will involve working part-time as a reference librarian at my academic institution, which I am really psyched about. Hopefully, in the near future, I will be writing about my first teaching experience.

Oh, but speaking of African American art, I had the opportunity to stop by the National Museum of African Art this weekend and view the Conversations: African and African American Art in Dialogue exhibit. It was a beautiful and thought provoking exhibit. I encourage all to go see it! It’s not easy to comprehend the magnitude of the African diaspora, but the cultural context that is shared across continents…it’s something. It inspired me to return to my art form(s). There’s such a voice in creating. Art transcends boundaries and it challenges people.

Have a great beginning of the year!! Happy 2015!

Technology Trends: Adapting the Library for Mobile Users

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  • Kim, B. (2013). The present and future of the library mobile experience. Library Technology Reports, 29(6), 15-28.
  • Zimerman, M. (2011). E-readers in an academic library setting. Library Hi Tech, 29(1), 91-108.

Between circulating mobile devices and designing web apps and mobile friendly websites, libraries both have a long history with mobile devices and are currently seeking ways to better improve the experiences of users with mobile devices. Kim mentions how some libraries develop their own websites and apps, but because this process is costly and lengthy, most libraries simply utilize services designed out of house. DC Libraries was one of the examples of an institution that uses an in-house design. But it doesn’t stop at the website shell. For many academic libraries in particular, the databases are a significant part of their online offerings. Ensuring that database information systems support mobile search and browse is crucial. Because mobile platforms are generally not as detailed as desktop centric sites, the placement, visual layout, and size of icons and menus lends itself to a positive user experience. Also, the order within menus can help to direct users in their search for information, by making popular destinations the most obvious. With mobile devices being increasingly more sophisticated, as well as designed with greater speed, memory, and connection services, the range of activities patrons can undertake from a mobile device has developed. Planning for library services and web offerings should take this into consideration.

Along the same lines, library users have come to expect greater integration of electronic readers. Many public libraries support the download (or temporary download) of e-books through external vendors, such as Overdrive. Because of complications with vendors, licensing, and rights, academic libraries lag behind in this area. For libraries that do offer e-books, the format and appearance, as well as ease of use, tends to differ from one vendor to another. This leaves patrons without a real consistency and dissatisfied. Given the amount of reading that students in academic settings are required to perform, the cost of books and the physical challenge of transporting these materials around makes the possibility of e-books attractive. However, many e-books and electronic formats of books as available in academic libraries either do not allow for download of content to personal devices or to do so would be extremely cumbersome. Digital Rights Management (DRM) prevents copying and creating duplicates of electronic content files. Finding ways to work around these restrictions is something libraries have not yet accomplished. The struggle for open access and flexible content to support research needs is something that is ongoing. Right now, e-books are still entrenched in the for-profit tug of war between vendors, publishers, libraries, and users. There seems for be hope of future development, but right now it’s still slow moving.

Library 2.0

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  • Elching Chingiz oglu Mammadov. (2014). Opportunities for using Wiki technologies in building digital library models. Library Hi Tech News, 31(2), 5-8
  • Kaushik, A. & Arora, J. (2012). Blogs on marketing library services. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 32(2), 186-192.

Elching Chingiz oglu Mammadov discusses the possibilities in using Wikipedia to create interactive information system platforms. It would allow for more visible content and because user could participate in the building process, it encourages ownership and crowd involvement. Metadata would be incorporated as created. Possible downfalls to this model are a cluttered appearances, as it is harder to shape information for aesthetics in a raw display. Also, it would be necessary to establish rules and guidelines with users, to lessen the likelihood of irresponsible users. Benefits include the increased likelihood of collaboration, availability of information on a free and more easily manipulated system, and the ability to be transparent before user bases. Accountability of information accuracy and consistency is possible.

Blogging is very prevalent in social media. Per Kausik and Arora, about 120,000 blogs are created in a day and as of 2011, there were almost 160 million public blogs published to the internet. That’s a lot of voices and a lot of information content! Because blogs encourage communication and e-based connections, through comment features, they can provide wonderful opportunities to build support bases and share information across a vast expanse. Blogs that market library services are currently few and far between. Because of the ability to link to external (and internal) sites, videos, and other media forms through hyperlinks, blogging could be a great tool to announce upcoming events, share new content (research collections) or recently published/acquired materials. When/if institutions decide to engage in blogging, it is necessary to utilize tools that allow users to remain updated and plugged into the content, such as RSS feeds and podcasts. From my personal experiences, it seems that archives and research facilities are much more likely to publish blogs than libraries…but this may be just my limited experience.

Web Accessibility

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  • Fulton, C. (2011). Web accessibility, libraries, and the law. Information Techoolgy and Libraries, 20(1), 34-43.
  • Gruder, C. S. (2012). Making the right decisions about assistive techology in your library. Library Technology Reports, 48(7), 14-21.

Gruder mentions the college student who relies on the the academic library to provide access to the learning tools she needs to succeed academically. Fulton describes the scenario in which a visually impaired student is unable to adequately complete a quiz worth twenty percent of their grade. Accessibility, referring to support of users with differing accommodation needs, is something the library should especially be concerned with. Given that the library’s purpose is to facilitate information access for all patrons, accessibility of software, hardware and information systems is of utmost concern.

When making choices about what, how much, and when to buy, Gruder suggests not getting carried away over the shiny things. Most people are familiar with voice recognition software, OCR scanners, or text-to-voice options on popular software, such as Adobe. However, there are many other options. Know your users and make sure that whatever tools and technologies are purchased will serve them well and meet their needs. This includes taking learning abilities and prior technological experience into account. This would be especially prudent for public and public access libraries, as their patrons are such a diverse group. Also of importance is know restrictions on licensing for specific programs.

In some cases, libraries or other learning centers may have separate rooms, such as campus disability support centers. Marketing tools and technologies to users is also important. If no one knows the resources are available, they’re unable to take advantage of them. Also, training staff to be able to work with systems, troubleshoot, and otherwise support users.

Fulton mentions steps that can be taken to address basic web accessibility issues, such as proper heading data, alternative image descriptions, and captioning images and audio files. For example, when creating LibGuides at my place of employment, creating an alternative description for images, links, and embedded content is something that we’re mindful of. As Fulton mentions, individuals in  need of accommodations are consumers and patrons too. They deserve to get every as much out of the services they pay for as anyone else.

Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

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  • Gupta, R. (2012). Human comptuer interaction: A modern overview. International Journal of Computer Technology and Applications, 3(5), 1736-1740.
  • Moreno, A. M., Seffah, A., Capilla, R., & Sanchez-Segura, M.-I. (2013). HCI practices for buidling usable software. Computer, 46(4), 100-102.

Human computer interaction heavily plays into the user experience, including system functionality and the ability of system to support and understand user input and feedback. According to Moreno et al, when designing systems, it’s an important part of obtaining a positive outcome. The basic physical component of user interaction involves concrete workings with the computer itself. There is also the manner in which users comprehend and have a working engagement with the system on a higher order of thinking level. User satisfaction is important, because when users are satisfied, they’re more likely to use a product and become loyal consumers. Loyalty drives up sales and guarantees long-term use. Knowing who your system users are and what usability and functionality features they’re looking for will drive how the system is developed going forward. In terms of libraries, satisfied patrons guarantees return users and patrons who refer their peers, thus building the user base. More demand is a good thing, provided the supply meets the demand.

Gupta mentions speech recognition software is an example of systems supporting HCI, which lends to the idea that well-crafted HCI compliant systems could serve the dual purpose of accessibility. Customizing systems to user-based interactions allows users to benefit from and interact with systems that specifically designed to handle differences in information access, such as users with impaired vision or hearing. It could also prove beneficial to those with limited physical abilities, by compensating for individuals needs through differentiated screens, touch-based feedback, audiovisual feedback, and text appearance. Gupta mentions that today’s system and design capabilities create the possibility and likelihood of more active systems vs. systems that are passive in nature.

Even for those who are not in need of accessibility accommodations, the idea is that systems will become embedded in the everyday way of life, instead of computers being an “other” part of life. I’m curious, though, what part increased security concerns will play into these future goals. I was just reading an article earlier that basically stated security scares, such as Heartbleed, are not anomalies. They are the new normal and will only get worse in scope. It’s kind of depressing, but necessary to consider, especially in terms of system tools that may span across all areas of life and productivity.

Considering ILS Updates

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  • Yang, S. (2013). From integrated library systems to library management services: TIme for change? Library Hi Tech News, 30(2), 1-8.
  • Asher, A. D., Duke, L. M., & Wilson, S. (2013). Paths of discovery: Comparing the search effectiveness of EBSCO Discovery Services, Summon, Google Scholar, and Conventional Library Resources. College & Research Libraries, 74(5), 464-488.

Integrated Library Systems (ILS) developed in the 1990s were designed to support and foster accessibility to online public access catalogs (OPAC) and allow libraries to manage and update interior catalog records for printed materials, such as books, folios, and journals. Many libraries today are spending a significant portion of their budgets on e-journals and electronic database development, in addition to electronic books. While physical books still make up a large part of the library collection, they are not the only part. Particularly in academic libraries, the tendency is for library collections to be fragmented, meaning patrons may have to use different tools and access platforms to access specific items. Books may be searched in the catalog, while online journals are accessed via a discovery tool and print journals hover in this weird space that is catalog supported, yet difficult to find and differentiate from electronic journals. Given these issues, libraries are moving towards ILS that will bring all of these pieces together and utilize well crafted discovery tools to search for and facilitate access to collections.

When designing or implementing an ILS, it’s important to make sure it will lend itself well to discovery. Currently, in the academic library at which I am employed, we use an OPAC, the Serial Solutions Summon discovery tool, and an alphabetic searchable listing of journal titles, which links to Summon. There is also the option to search specific databases, which may not be readily apparent or included in “all in one” tools such as Summon. We also have a Google Scholar option that is linked to our consortium portal. All of these options may create headaches for students who are not well versed in library research. Most students tend to default to the Summon discovery tool, likely because it is the first one to present itself. It’s visual appearance also mimics the seachability of Google, which students are very familiar with. However, the search interface may not be necessarily designed for each of use, which sometimes results in frustration on the patrons’ end. Serial Solutions has made some good changes to their product in recent years, eliminating some of the headache encountered previous. There is still the propensity for students unfamiliar with the tool to neglect to tweak searches to get desired  results, which is where library courses come into play.

Another important issue is the ability of the system to handle electronic resources. Again, libraries are purchasing and gaining electronic resources at a much higher rate than ten years ago. Many journals have turned to electronic only publications. For books that update fairly quickly or would take up considerable physical space (serials), it is preferable to purchase e-copies. ILS systems would need to support these acquisitions in a streamlined fashion. Also, the ability to display these items should also be part of the demand from vendors. We constantly hear complaints and frustration with trying to access e-books. That would play into the electronic resource management process.

When considering ILS acquisition and implementation, in order to ensure the ILS is suitable for institutional needs, it’s helpful to have the input of all involved. Evaluation of the current system and the changes necessary, input from library faculty and staff, and the opportunity to test drive the ILS before implementing it permanently is advisable.  In this case, I mentioned the ability to support hassle free discovery by researchers in an academic environment and the ability to seamlessly integrate electronic resources along with print resources. A smooth transition is always desired, so doing all you can as an institution to anticipate the needs and address them up front in the ILS will go a long way. Discussion of new ILS options will take into affect both the needs of the researcher/student, but also the needs of the staff (access services, technical services and research & reference). How easy will it be to maintain and implement changes? In information literacy and outreach, are there significant challenges in teaching users how to navigate? Will it require constant updates? How clunky is it to maneuver? What changes need to be made to the ILS to meet the institutions needs? Does the cost outweigh the benefits? These are some of the questions that will need to be addressed.

Thoughts on System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and System Analysis

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  • Bhute, A. N., & Meshram, B. B. (2013). System Analysis and Design for Multimedia Retrieval Systems. The International Journal of Multimedia & Its Applications, 5(6), 25-44.
  • Spears, J. L. & Parrish, J.L.Jr. (2013). IS security requirements identification from conceptual models in systems analysis and design: The Fun & Fitness, Inc. Case. Journal of Information Systems Education, 24(1), 17-29.

Within the system analysis process, proposed systems need to meet the needs of the user, with user facing technology and internal server processes agreeing to produce informed and useful results. The systems analysis phase involves determining the purpose and intended outcome of the system design, measuring user requirements, and then establishing a model for testing systems to determine whether they comply with the necessary specifications. From there, the design phase involves planning, generation of coding support, and testing to ensure the structure is adequate. Databases provide the data needed to run and maintain information systems. Raw data necessitates the need for organization and curation (which is where metadata comes in).

Information security is a source of immediate concern when implementing system analysis. Given the increased usage of mobile applications and increased likelihood of information exchange via mobile devices, many developers are not planning for this when developing information systems.  This leads to a higher likelihood of security breaches and weakened mobile support platforms in the information architecture. Knowledge of user requirements informs needs in the planning stage. The problem is that security is not seen as a need, but as another detail on the package level. Spears and Parrish raise concerns about under-developed security planning in IS, especially with so much confidential data being collected and stored by entities in every area of human-computer interaction. Acknowledging that this is an issue is a good first step and hopefully more pressure will be placed on IS users to ensure this type of content is restricted to authorized users only and not just floating around the information web. This is where the importance of information architecture comes into play.

The System Development Life Cycle serves to promote system users having a voice in development. Communication and feedback are key. Instead of generic software packages being purchased from vendors with libraries and other organizations having little to no say over the products they use in information management, the SDLC would open the door for designers, marketers, and purchasers formulating a mutually beneficial product. Pros include a higher level of satisfaction from buyer, an increased level of communication and support from systems developers, and products that are custom designed for specific situations and environments. Cons may include increased cost (usually anything custom costs money) and possibly a more competitive market between vendors, due to a few providers working closely with the customer base. Smaller organizations would probably also be less likely to be able to co-design their information system, especially if there is a steep price sign.