Librarians’ Research Institute: Report

art at carleton library

Public Art in the Carleton Library

Last month, I participated in the Librarians’ Research Institute, sponsored by CARL and hosted by Carleton University in lovely Ottawa. The LRI is a 3 1/2 day workshop developed by librarians, for librarians to “provide practicing academic librarians in Canada an opportunity to immerse themselves in sustained conversations and activities related to scholarly research, inquiry, and publishing.” This was the 3rd iteration.

What was it like?

The Institute brought together 30+ librarians from across Canada including, for the first time, colleagues from non-CARL and Quebec institutions. It was a diverse and engaged group, with a wide variety of research experience. I am firmly at the novice end of the spectrum, but never felt as though that meant I had less to contribute. I was impressed by the level of focus — no one was multitasking (unheard of!). I am fortunate to have made connections with such an ambitious and inquisitive bunch.

The entire thing was run by 5 ‘Peer Mentors’  – practicing librarians who are accomplished researchers. Our Peer Mentors were: Selinda Berg (Windsor, also the LRI Co-Chair),  Cara Bradley (U Regina), Marwin Britto (U Saskatchewan), Pascal Lupien ( U Guelph), and Tony Horava (U Ottawa). They represented different career paths, research interests, and methodological leanings. The Institute was very thoughtfully planned, including a variety of formats, and it is clear that a whole lot of heart went into this.

no walkens poster

On a door in the Discovery Centre, Carleton Library

Insights

Given the  differing levels of experience and reasons for attending, I expect that the ‘take aways’ were highly personal. These are mine:

Know Yourself

Take into consideration your temperament and strengths when designing a research project. It’s okay and, in fact, wise to play to those strengths. For example, if you are introverted, you may not want to be cold-calling dozens of interview subjects. Some librarians might work best in collaboration, some might not. We don’t have a strict model, since we operate across the disciplines.

And pick something that excites *you*. That will help to sustain you through what can be a long, hard slog.

Remember the Broad Spectrum of Methods

Somewhat related to the first idea, I was reminded of the wide variety of research methods available to us! We discussed the categories: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Critical/ Theoretical. It was suggested that LIS tends to value quantitative methods & we have lots of love for a good ol’ survey. But that doesn’t make the other methods less valid! Don’t feel locked in by the methods that have high occurrence in our field.

Heck, you can even invent your own damn method.

Do Your Homework

Also, there are plenty of strong reference books on research methods — whether in LIS or broader fields of study. Use them. They might just have smart things to tell you.

We were discussing a scenario & the notion of assessing student confidence came up. I suggested that this is really hard to do & someone pointed me to a major researcher on this topic. Ahh right. I had recently been involved in creating a survey to assess the effectiveness of a library tutorial & we stumbled through the design of measurements, completely in isolation. I bemoaned the fact that we didn’t think to do some RESEARCH on the topic. This is a case in which research should have informed my practice, but it did not. That said, I am resolved to try and think bigger picture next time around.

Carleton discovery centre

Carleton’s Discovery Centre & model by architecture students

Focus on the Positive

From the start, the peer mentors acknowledged that there are very real barriers for librarians doing research (lack of time, skills, support, etc.). But, throughout the institute, they effectively maintained a strengths focus: Yes, barriers exist — so, what are strategies to overcome them? I believe this will be a useful lens for re-starting these conversations back at my home institution.

For example, we talked about the importance of making our research work more visible. Whether that means blocking ‘research’ time in our shared calendars, or negotiating that you will temporarily withdraw from another task in order to focus on your project.

LRI Resources & Exercises

The workshop materials included a few gems that I will refer back to, including:  a list of peer-reviewed LIS journals, tools to help you articulate your research question, and a compendium of research methods complete with examples of each method in the LIS field. Unfortunately, the program materials cannot be shared publicly online. :(

Several of the exercises really stuck with me. For example, in groups of three, we worked to articulate our research themes. The feedback from group members was very insightful. In another exercise, we discussed whether practice informs our research, or vice versa. The group talked about setting goals: One peer mentor said that she had her research goals posted in her office (ex. Submit 2 articles to peer-reviewed journals in 2014).

 Where does that leave me?

Despite the personal nature of the experience, one thing I expect all attendees had in common: It was a rare privilege to focus on research for 3 1/2 days straight, with support from the these mentors and fellow participants.

I returned from the LRI to a mountain of Summer Projects, as we do. So, truthfully my energies are focused elsewhere right now.

But the LRI came at a good time for me: I am trying to build towards something. I’ve written a review essay which is currently in the editorial process. This past year, I’ve served as a peer reviewer for two LIS journals. This is all helping to build my confidence & understanding of the mechanics of publishing. And now, with this ‘research bootcamp’ under my belt, I feel better equipped to move forward.

‘e-magine the possibilities’

Last week, I attended WILU, hosted by Western University in London. It was a strong couple of days, with a sweet combination of high calibre presentations and impressive organization. Everything ran very smoothly & the smiling volunteers were ever-present. Oh, and they closed Weldon early to turn the circ desk into an open bar for the opening gala. C’mon. That’s some nice work, organizing committee!

Thresholds

A thread running through the conference conversations was the upcoming shift in our thinking around information literacy. We were fortunate to have the ACRL IL taskforce co-chairs Craig Gibson (Ohio State University) and Trudi Jacobson (University at Albany, SUNY) for the opening keynote. The new framework is moving away from the emphasis on skills, towards concepts and ‘knowledge practices/ abilities’. Discussing the threshold concepts is a bit of a mind-bender, but I am convinced that this is a good move for our profession. It is a more thoughtful and critical approach to our work. I have to say, it helped to have it explained in person (v. reading the updates online). There were several other common threads:

  • librarians applying for and receiving on-campus tech innovation grants
  • plenty of great examples of us experimenting, exploring, taking risks
  • implementing variety of modes of instruction: blended, flipped, in-person, online synchronous (like a webinar)
  • many of us trying to sort out what to do with general drop-in library instruction
  • we are all trying to get into the LMS:  there is a wide variety on levels of embeddedness (not a word, I know)
  • when f2f and online drop-in instruction is directly compared, we still see higher numbers for in-person (fascinating)

Related to that last point, several presenters also iterated the insight (realized at the end of pilot or research project) that there was a need to better understand the target user group, their goals & needs. It had be thinking about building this UX method into the early stages of info lit planning, especially larger-scale ones. I presented, together with my Brock colleagues Colleen MacKinnon and Denise Smith. We talked about the Advantage Plus program: the evolution of general (as in not subject-specific)  library instruction at Brock, our adventures with Soft Chalk, and what we’ve learned related to pedagogy and assessment. It was valuable reminder  for me that we are doing is not routine: developing an online general ‘research basics’ workshop that incorporates active learning & integrates in the LMS and can be counted for credit. We’re working without a template! This should remind me not to get so frustrated. Our slides are embedded below & also found in Western’s IR.

Action

I found two presentations especially inspiring and thought-provoking. Karen Nicholson & Melanie Parlette-Stewart from Guelph talked to us about their participation in the ACRL ‘Assessment in Action’ program. I’d never heard of it. A little more info:

Librarians who participate in the AiA program, supported by a blended learning environment and a peer-to-peer network, will lead their campus teams in the development and implementation of an action learning project examining the impact of the library on student success and contributing to assessment activities on their campus.

The terms “action research” and “action learning” are new ones for me. I’ve got some reading to do! But they sound like a meaningful and compelling way to link our practices with research. I much appreciated Karen and Melanie sharing their research design & what they would do differently next time. They wanted to learn about student research practices and the impact of f2f and online instruction. This team of librarians studied student assignments before and after the ‘one-shot’ intervention in order to understand the impact of their instruction. While their project encountered a number of hurdles, their conclusion in this case study was: No impact. There was no significant difference in student work pre- and post- intervention.  I tweeted about this insight with the hashtag #oneshotmustdie. I’d love to repeat their experiment here at Brock. The closing keynote was closely aligned with the Guelph presentation: We heard from the delightful Megan Oakleaf, professor at the Syracuse iSchool. She spoke to us about operationalizing the threshold concepts and considerations for how we will assess the implementation. How will we know if we achieved our outcomes? Skills are easier to measure: how will we determine if the student has learned that “authority is constructed and contextual“?? Megan introduced us (well, me at least!) to the method, “performance assessment.” She discussed studying the artifacts resulting from student research or instruction workshops, such as a reflective paper, annotated bibliography, one minute paper etc. You need a sound rubric & she mentioned rails — again something I hardly know anything about. She closed by encouraging us to experiment with performance assessment, especially given that in an elearning environment (particularly in the LMS), all sorts of data is captured and ripe for analysis. So, all in all, great stuff. I left thinking about hatching dangerous plans and with plenty of new ideas to learn more about. If you want to read them, here are my full notes.

wikipedia on the brain

I can’t stop thinking about Wikipedia lately. Again.

About two years ago, I got all fired up when I read about the gender gap among editors on Wikipedia (aka Wikipedians). I’m not sure what article it was specifically, but something like this piece in NYT ‘Define gender gap? Look up Wikipedia’s contributor list‘.

‘No way,’ I thought, ‘I am going to get out there and start contributing.’ So I created an account. And poked around a little at the back-end of things. This is where things stalled. Sure, I was comfortable enough with basic wiki mark-up, but there’s a whole lot of policy in place at our favourite ‘free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.’ But beyond that, a peek at the ‘talk page‘ behind any article reveals a whole universe of perplexing Wikipedian culture.

At least they have a behavioural guideline stating ‘Do not bite the newcomers‘?

I edited a little, but not much. Yet my interest in Wikipedia and desire to contribute remained.

Then I went off and had a baby, took another year’s mat leave, and returned to work at Brock last month.* And then happened upon this article by Adrianne Wadewitz, ‘Teaching with Wikipedia: The Why, What, and How.’ Yes!

So now, here I am — all fired up again. I read up on the Wikipedia Education Program — there’s a way for me get involved! I start doing some digging around Brock: is anyone already getting their students to work with Wikipedia? How might we work together? I’m still trying to find out (please contact me if you know of anyone…). With the traditional undergrad research paper going the way of the dodo, perhaps Wikipedia assignments are an option to explore?

And then the stars aligned & I caught wind of  ‘Wikipedia, Scholarship & Pedagogy‘  at University of Toronto Scarborough (More details here ).** With Dr. Wadewitz as keynote. It was an impressive event with a great talk (her slides are here) & active debate from faculty who had experience using Wikipedia in the classroom, and those interested in doing so. Attendees also included students who are involved in the Wikipedia Education Program as ‘campus ambassadors,’ supporting instructors with these assignments.

So, what are my next steps?
Step one: Edit (more).
Step two: Become a campus ambassador. I need to get more experience editing in order to be useful to faculty and students.
Step three: Have some conversations at Brock to find out who is already doing this, who is interested. Maybe host a similar event in the not-so-distant future?

That’s the plan.

* That’s my excuse for not having blogged in so long. And I just gave the blog a wee makeover & it’s still ‘under construction,’ so please pardon any mess  :)

** Thank you to the co-hosts Centre for Digital Scholarship & UTSC Library’s Digital Scholarship Unit, and organizer Leslie Chan for permitting me to attend.

conference report: Access Conference 2012

Sculpture on a McGill student that I snapped on Sherbrooke St. Details unknown, but welcome!

Sculpture of a McGill student that I snapped on Sherbrooke St. Details unknown, but welcome!

I attended my first Access conference last month. Access Conference 2012 , “Canada’s premier library technology conference”, took place in Montreal over October 19-21. Um, I was impressed.

I’ve shared my complete notes here, but I’ll also reflect on a few highlights and take-aways below.

A Different Kind of Conference

Attending this conference was a good reminder for me that I’ve really only been to a few different conferences in my career as a librarian thus far, and that I should continue to look beyond the ones-I-always-go-to and push myself to attend ones that look like they’ll be a bit of a stretch for me, content-wise. When considering attending Access, I reviewed the programme and worried that it would be too technical, or just beyond my realm. As it turns out, they had the full spectrum and the majority of the conference was entirely accessible (*wink wink*) for me.

I really appreciated the ‘human touch’ that the organizers brought to this event. They went above and beyond to make it a great few days in Montreal, whether that was in the form of a Sunday morning bagel run, an organized morning walk & run up Mont Royal, or the Google Map with recommendations for the best latte in between the conference location and hotel. Dude, I want one of those Google Maps for OLA & I lived in Toronto for several years — I just don’t know the Front St. area & always end up eating at the over-priced hotel or chain restaurants.

The high calibre of presentations was impressive. I don’t know if this is as a result of their newly instituted peer review process, or just the Access tradition. The speakers were knowledgeable, prepared, and a strong presence at the front of a room of 200+ . In a single stream format, we moved smoothly from grand ideas to more modest pilot projects, valuing them both. If there was one drawback to the single-stream style, it would be that attendees tended to sit in the same spots & with the same people — you don’t get those smaller-scale conversations or mixed-up mingling from attending different sessions together.

Ok, but what did I learn?

Enough of the meta stuff, on to the content: I appreciated that this conference filled in some gaps for me. I mean sure I’d heard about “big data” and read about all sorts of digital humanities projects, but my understanding of these ideas was pretty abstracted. At Access, I was able to be immersed in them for ~45min and come out finally able to wrap my head around them.

Lisa Goddard’s Adventures in Linked Data presentation was a glimpse into the complexity of a semantic web project coming out of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory, complete with machine-readable definitions for the relationships between people and texts and places … I don’t think I can summarize it very well. But she made this type of work visual and meaningful for me.

I also appreciated Alistair Croll‘s discussion on Big Data, Answers, and Human Rights. Not only did he clearly explain Big Data, he also identified some significant ethical issues around how we use this data or the inferences we draw from it. Looking at big data’s potential through a human rights lens, Alistair highlighted the precarious relationships between prediction and prejudice, and personalization and prejudice.

Mike Kastellac pretty much blew my mind with a description of the new Hunt Library under construction at NCSU. They are really pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a library, and what sort of work, study, and play we support in our spaces. He suggested that the library’s traditional services focused on ‘supporting the consumption of documents,’ and while we still need to attend to this, we cannot ignore the growing needs of what he called ‘the technographic paradigm.’

In a similar vein, Marc Comeau, Riel Gallant and Michael Groenendyk of Dalhousie shared their early results aftera brief stint of offering 3D printing and scanning in the library … (wait for it) at the help desk. It sounds like they’ve already made some interesting connections with certain faculties and user groups, and they made a pretty convincing argument for the feasibility of this service in an academic library. Fascinating.

Finally, the conference wrapped up with a very thoughtful keynote presentation from Bess Sadler of Stanford ( an adapted version of her talk available on her blog). I won’t even attempt to summarize a talk with a title like Brain Injuries, Science Fiction, and Library Discovery, save to say that she drew some compelling connections between the impact of emotion on decision making, and how this could look in our online library interfaces.

As you can see, I struggle to extract a few pithy quotes from this conference experience. Truthfully, it was a real exercise in thinking deeply and pushing outside my comfort zone for 2 1/2 days & I’m grateful for it.

UX in Ontario Libraries Network: inaugural meeting

'We Are Not Our Patrons' pencil

'We Are Not Our Patrons' pencil, photo by Colleen MacKinnon

User Experience. It is without a doubt a buzzword in the library world these days.

Last Friday, a small group of interested librarians showed up for the inaugural meeting of the UX in Ontario Libraries Network (generously hosted by U of T’s iSchool). It was organized by Robin Bergart of University of Guelph Library, Shanna Pearson of Seneca College Libraries, and well, me. We drafted up a little mandate for our group:

  • To share experiences of UX at our home library (research methods, recruitment methods, results, etc.)
  • To develop our knowledge of UX design and research methods through invited speakers, book or article clubs, field trips, etc.
  • To form a network for continuous exchange of ideas, sharing knowledge, posing questions
  • To support libraries with no designated UX staff member in their efforts to learn about and implement UX activities

Of the three organizers, I am the newest to UX — I’ve been interested for a while, but really became a convert with my recent (and ongoing) involvement with the implementation of a web-scale discovery service (I blogged about it here). I found the UX design process an ideal way to focus our work on user needs, and the approach has carried over to how I look at my other projects these days. Speaking of discovery though, ‘SuperSearch’ is live and in beta!

The meeting on Friday was an opportunity to speak with other librarians bringing the UX approach to their work, whether it is in their job title (as it is for Robin and Shanna) or more of a personal interest. We had representation from the public, college, and university sectors which brought a great variety of perspectives to the conversation.

The day opened with with a framing of UX by Robin. She talked about how empathy is the cornerstone of this field, and that a sound understanding of our users is the basis for developing collections, library programs, instruction, facilities and so on.

Robin then split us up in groups & led us through an Empathy Map exercise, asking each group to select one specific user group and use our collective wisdom to develop a persona. For many of us, this was a valuable lesson in identifying what we in fact *didn’t* know about our users, whether they be incoming grad students, international students, or upper-middle-class moms.

Next, Shanna sent us out into the wild (ok, Robarts) with the goal of experiencing a key UX methodology: observation.  Armed with an observation checklist (adapted & abbreviated from the Customer Service Walkabout by Joan Frye Williams), we paired up and selected an area of Robarts library to sit and watch. This was a short exercise, just 15 minutes, but I can see how that’s all that is really needed to gain terrific insights that we otherwise miss when breezing by our various service points. The group re-convened to share our observations over lunch.

For me personally, I can see how I could use a little more practice in observation — perhaps trying it out in environments outside the library world a few times. I imagine the hardest part is to sit down and observe the goings-on in your institution with an open mind — without thinking “x user group just doesn’t want this service” or “I’ve been telling the y department about that problem for months.”

After lunch, we were fortunate to have our guest speaker, Dr. Jenna Hartel, share her presentation ‘An Introduction to Ethnography and its Use in Libraries.’ Jenna helped to draw out the similarities and differences between the fields of ethnography and user-centred design. She clarified that user-centred design has a prototype at the centre (such as the library website, or help desk), whereas ethnography is more open-ended inquiry (something like ‘how do undergrads do research at Brock?’).

She also walked us through some major concepts in ethnography and encouraged us to ‘go get the seat of our pants dirty’ via research in situ, in the spirit of American sociologist Robert E. Park. She shared some key studies in libraries applying ethnographic methodology, especially the landmark work Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester led by Nancy Fried Foster. There was so much more, but I will do a disservice to Jenna by trying to sum it up in a few sentences. Lucky for us, she’ll be presenting at the 2013 OLA SuperConference!

An interesting topic that emerged from the day was situations in which UX research was conducted & lessons learned from the users, but the recommendations were not implemented by the department or institution. Tricky. This reminded me of a great piece by Aaron Schmidt, Is Your Library Ready for a UX Librarian? He makes some valuable points about fostering institution-wide buy-in for UX as a process.

Lots of food for thought coming out of this meeting & I’m looking forward to a future gathering. We’re still in the process of sorting out what this network should look like & how it might operate. Either way, it was a great opportunity to chat UX for a day.

big news in my corner of the universe

Two Cows

Two Cows by Martin Gommel, via flickr

Just a brief post to share two pieces of news that impact our work at the library at Brock.

Brock University signs Access Copyright license.

It was announced on July 5th that we have signed on to the Access Copyright model license. More details, including the email message from the Provost and fact sheets are available on the Copyright page :  http://brocku.ca/library/campus-copyright-information . This was disappointing news, especially following the letter that we librarians submitted urging the University not to sign:  http://bufa.ca/files/files/BUFALibrarianLetterforAUCC.pdf . Following the announcement, Sam Trosow tweeted:

Brock buckles on #ACDeal  … ignoring well documented call for rejection from librarians …

Well, that’s it on that front I suppose. It is interesting to follow Sam’s list of institutions opting-out of the deal.

SuperSearch beta launch: Web-Scale Discovery at Brock!

On a more positive note, I’m pretty excited that about this beta launch since much of my work these days has been focused on this web-scale discovery implementation project. It’s out there now & we are soliciting feedback from any and all users. You can read our  news brief, or try it out here (guest access enabled). There are known issues of course (we called it ‘beta’ for a reason) & we hope to have many of them sorted out in time for a splashier launch in September.

This is a big step forward for our team and man, has it been a lot of work to get to this point.

conference report: OLITA’s Digital Odyssey

Two weeks ago, I attended my first Digital Odyssey, an annual one-day conference organized by OLITA (check out the full program here). This year’s theme was Liberation Technology, and included various explorations of the relationship between information technology and the pursuit of social justice.

I was intrigued by the term “liberation technology” – I’d never heard it before. It’s a clear reference to liberation theology, a radical Christian movement originating in Latin America in the 50s and 60s (wikipedia page, decent summary from BBC). Many years back, I did a year-long internship with Franciscans International in Geneva and became more familiar with this history.

I googled a little to see who is using this term and how. Many write-ups point to a 2010 article by Larry Diamond for the origin of the term. And it looks like Stanford has a Program on Liberation Technology — they define the field like this:

Lying at the intersection of social science, computer science, and engineering, the Program on Liberation Technology seeks to understand how information technology can be used to defend human rights, improve governance, empower the poor, promote economic development, and pursue a variety of other social goods.

I also came across an interesting little blog post by Mary Joyce distinguishing between liberation technology and digital activism. This was useful in helping me reflect on the OLITA conference. So yes, let’s get back to the conference.

A highlight for me was Fiacre O’Duinn‘s presentation Inside the Black Box: Hacker culture, librarians and hardware. I’ve heard many people speak excitedly about hacker spaces, but this is the first time I’ve heard a thoughtful consideration of where there is ‘room for improvement.’ Fiacre discussed many issues including gender, the isolated and “uniquely invisible” location of hacker spaces, and the outsourcing of physical labour to places where human rights standards are poor. I took away a few key thoughts (forgive my poor paraphrasing, Fiacre was much more eloquent):

  • In libraries, we have the social capital to break laws. We need to do it early and set the precedent.
  • Making something open source does not make it hackable. People need to understand, then be supported and encouraged.

All four thunder talks were impressive. I found Rebecka Sheffield‘s discussion of ‘citizen archivists’ to be especially memorable. She filled us in on a National Archives (USA) project crowdsourcing the transcription of historical documents: http://transcribe.archives.gov/. In her brief talk, she raised issues of inclusion and exclusion, and how both are present in this project. It’s a pretty fascinating website & worth a look.

The conference closed with a very strong talk on digital copyright in Canada by Carys Craig, a law professor at Osgoode Hall. She argued quite compellingly that we need to resist the property metaphor and ownership narrative when discussing copyright. Instead, she insisted that authorship is an expressive act that is social in nature — therefore, copyright is actually about the regulation of speech, not property.  Moving from theory to legislation and licensing, she had two strong statements that had special resonance for me:

  • We should not herald the passing with C-11: It features the addition of piecemeal exceptions rather than what is needed: a broadening to allow for a more principled, common sense approach.
  • Resist the AUCC model license : there is no need for it. She called upon librarians to speak out, be involved, and be vocal.

I left this talk feeling pretty fired up, which was great!

All in all, a very strong day and a great opportunity to meet colleagues across sectors (sometimes I get a little too siloed in the academic library universe). My full notes are here.

help! replacements for meebo?

Angela Hamilton broke the story for me. Late Sunday night, she tweeted mysteriously that Meebo is “going away.”

Sure enough, I investigated on Monday morning and, following an acquisition by Google, four of five Meebo products are being discontinued effective July 11th.

meebo-widget

Here at Brock, a number of liaison librarians use the handy little Meebo Messenger chat widget in their research guides (and elsewhere?) to offer virtual reference for their subject areas. For example, I’ve got that little guy on the left on all of my LibGuides pages.

Keen E-Learning Librarian that I am,  I promised my colleagues I would come up with a short-list of alternatives. This service is pretty important for some of our librarians, especially those who support substantial distance education populations.

I should say though, our situation is not as dire as other libraries who use Meebo for their entire virtual reference service. Fortunately, we’ve got Crafty Syntax Live Help in place for that. (Be warned: if you click on that link, the creepy eyes dude may haunt your dreams.)

I got cocky. I’m coming up short. Can anyone out there help me out?

Here’s what we’re looking for, in order of priority:

  • free!
  • offers an easy-to-embed chat widget, ideally doesn’t open a new window for chat
  • doesn’t require a sign-in or account for the user/ student
  • some sense of being a reliable or stable service (am I deluding myself with this one?)
  • ideally web-based client for librarians, but desktop is doable

I haven’t yet found anything that meets this criteria. There are a few sites and blog posts out there on alternatives to Meebo, but few of them offer widgets and many of them require the user to have a particular account (e.g. Yahoo, MSN, AIM) & require the chatters to have ‘added’ or ‘friend-ed’ each other. Blarg.

I’ll share my best suggestions so far:

yahoo-pingbox1Yahoo Messenger Pingbox

WARNING (Jan 8/ 2013): **Pingbox was discontinued by Yahoo in December 2012**

This actually looks promising, even though I don’t love that it’s Yahoo (I’d have to create a personal Yahoo account, as I’m sure others would).

It meets all criteria really, except that I can’t exactly make it work with the web version of Yahoo Messenger: it never seems to recognize when I’m online & available.

I quickly downloaded Yahoo Messenger for Mac on my laptop (could never do that on my work machine of course!) & it worked perfectly! So, we’d have to ask Systems to put Yahoo Messenger 9.0 on our desktops for this one to work.

digsby-widgetDigsby

I don’t know much about Digsby & have never used it, but it seems to have positive reviews. I couldn’t experiment with it on my laptop because they don’t have mac or linux versions. I’ve submitted a ticket to get it on my desktop (sigh) — I’ll update when I know more. [enter curses about the hampering of innovation here]

It appears to offer a sweet little widget and that Digsby kid is cute (complete opposite of the Crafty Syntax creep).

They were bought out by Tagged (?) this spring, but all communication suggests that the service will continue to be supported.

So yeah, that’s all I’ve got.

I got excited about a Google Talkback Badge, but have since learned that it’s no longer supported by those folks at Google? Darn.

Suggestions, feedback, “oh my god, don’t pick X — it’s the worst!” — all welcome.

trying new things

Talking to myself

'talking to myself' by aindhy


Today, I presented in my first webinar!

The two-part webinar on Localized Video Production was hosted by OCUL (Ontario Council of University Libraries), and organized by Jacqueline Whyte Appleby. The concept was smart, and I think it worked quite well. Jacqueline put out a call to OCUL librarians soliciting anyone interested in offering a brief webinar presentation sharing what they’ve learned about in-house video production.

The result was a series of diverse topics and a window into the work happening in other libraries. Personally, it provided me with a list of contacts to follow up with on various video issues and questions. I was impressed by the unique approaches happening across OCUL — far beyond your typical database demo.

My topic was ‘Beyond A Basic Upload: Taking Advantage of YouTube’s (new-ish) Advanced Features‘. I’ve shared the slides via Google Docs — my notes are pretty comprehensive & I hope they help make sense of the image-heavy slides.

It was a good experience, though I must say that the webinar format is a strange one. You don’t have any in-person feedback to gauge how the presentation is going for your audience. Apparently some listeners had trouble hearing me, so I mostly yelled the whole thing. Oiy.

I also didn’t realize until I started the presentation that I would be hearing myself speak through my headphones (with an ever-so-slight delay). It was hugely distracting and strange. I would look into correcting that if I do something like this again.

Anyway, preparing this presentation definitely got me thinking more about our videos and optimizing our usage of YouTube as a platform. There are many simple tweaks with good potential for impact.

conference report: Great Lakes THATCamp

Great Lakes, No Clouds

"Great Lakes, No Clouds" by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

This is the conference report submitted to my colleagues about the Great Lakes THATCamp I attended April 20-22, 2012 in London, Ontario.

A little background: THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) is, in their own words, “an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot” (http://thatcamp.org/)  You can find a  nice overview of THATcamp and the concept of an unconference on this About page.

This was my first unconference and I’ll admit I went in with considerable curiosity. In the end, I was very impressed with how the event unfolded. Scheduled workshops ran on Friday, and Saturday was a full day of sessions which we scheduled on the spot in the morning based on the group’s ideas and expression of interest. The process by which this scheduling occurred was very effective, and I’d be happy to explain in more detail if anyone is interested.

Since the unconference is participant-driven, there is no passive attendance. In order to attend #glthatcamp, I submitted a topic proposal: “nature of community in online forums.” It turns out there was a substantial interest in this topic, so I loosely moderated a discussion in the afternoon. I was impressed by the mix of participants: there was substantial librarian representation, but also graduate students, faculty members, public librarians, and even a toy inventor.

Highlights & Take-aways:

At the Libraries as Hackerspaces workshop, there was a very engaging discussion around the role of public space, gender and technology, and the logistics of operating a hackerspace.

The Storyboards are Visual Writing workshop was run by James Caswell, a professional storyboard artist and instructor in the Sheridan animation program. I plan to apply his suggestions to future video/ screencast planning, and perhaps even get brave and attempt some animation. He insists what it really takes is practice, not talent.

In the What’s wrong with the Digital Humanities? session, there were interesting parallels to the discussion of e-learning and the fading ‘e’ (DH and the fading ‘D’?).

It was wonderful to share my fascination with the information behaviour happening in forums and hear other share their ideas, thoughts & experiences in the session on Nature of community in online forums.

The final session on digital literacy included mostly faculty talking about their challenges integrating digital literacy in the curriculum, and the need for digital competencies both for fellow faculty members and students. The role of the library and librarians was discussed, and the group was interested to hear about our faculty workshop offerings.

Read my full notes in this Google Doc (open for commenting).

Copyright © 2014. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.