Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Computers in Libraries 2011: Day One

I love this conference. The topics are all interesting, and it's easy to find tracks that are completely relevant to my day job. I'm tweeting the conference full-force, so by all means follow me at @hhibner!

Here's the best of day 1:

Demonstrating the Impact of Public Access Technology
Samantha Becker, Research Project Manager, University of Washington Information School
Michael Crandall, Senior Lecturer, Information School, University of Washington

Report with terrific stats on who uses public access computers, and for what: Opportunity for all: how the American public benefits from internet access at U.S. Libraries

One of my personal pet peeves was discussed as a barrier to the success of people who use public access computers: time limits and use policies. We exist to connect people to information in all of its formats. If our procedures get in the way of that, we need to re-think them. People chose us, they trusted us, and they believed that the library was the best place to get the information they were after. We need to make sure they get what they came for. Surely we can come up with some ways to be flexible so that our patrons can be successful.

-Using data works, but pair a story with a stat.

Impact Survey: Your public access technology evaluation tool
-Sign your library up to take the survey. All you have to do is put the link on your web site. Direct patrons to the survey. At end of survey period, download report with charts/graphs. Beta test next month (April 2011), available this summer.

Circulating Kindles
Between sessions, I had a conversation with some people sitting around me. A library in Illinois is circulating Kindles. They register the devices with various Amazon accounts, load them with titles, and then de-register them before circulating so people can’t buy new content. This makes the device no longer attached to credit card. He said that people do delete content from the devices. The library then re-registers the device, re-downloads content, de-registers, and circulates again. This sounds like a lot to keep track of and a lot of time spent on this collection...but if you want to circulate Kindles, it will work.

Innovative Marketing Tools and Strategies
Stacy Bruss, Reference Librarian, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Nancy Allmang, Reference Librarian, Information Services Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology

The speakers talked about making podcasts, video podcasts, and screen capture videos.

Add free music from GarageBand to podcasts.
Also add rotating pictures to podcasts to add visual interest for those listening on a computer.

Video podcasts:
Lessons learned: do it yourself, keep it short
Film 4 to 3 aspect ratio for downloading to ipods
Use iMovie software
Save in two formats: .mov for streaming, .mp4 for downloading to ipods

This is a wonderful, free screen capture program. You can make click-by-click videos that teach patrons how to use databases, how to do specific things in Word, Excel, and any other computer activity. I had dinner with some librarians, and one person suggested keeping CamStudio ready on reference desk computers so that when you teach a patron how to do something on a computer, you can then email them the screen capture tutorial. Cool!

Performance Measures: Illustrating Value to Your Community
Rebecca Jones, Managing Partner, Dysart & Jones Associates

Meaningful measures demonstrate that the library makes a difference.

Questions driving measures often include:
What’s the library doing?
How much is it doing?
How well is it doing it?

The question we should be asking is:
What difference did the library make?

Stories have replaced statistics in terms of importance.

Increasingly, library staff are doing follow-up discussions with a few clients rather than full surveys to determine how the library was used and the impact it had on what they were trying to do. This doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping usage stats, just looking at them differently.

-OCLC report: "From Awareness to Funding: A Study of Library Support in America finds library funding support is only marginally related to library visitation. Perceptions of librarians is an important predictor of library funding support. Voters who see the library as a "transformational" as opposed to "informational" source more likely to increase taxes in support. And yet, we market ourselves as information institutions.

I signed up for one of the "dine-arounds." Basically, they pick a topic and people sign up to have dinner with others while discussing that topic. You buy your own meal, you network, and you learn a thing or two. What a great idea! I chose "Screencasting, Using & Managing Video."
I already mentioned the CamStudio-at-the-reference-desk idea. Another nugget if gold was the suggestion to use Windows Moviemaker software, not the software that comes with the Flip video camera. I knew it existed and had a lot more capabilities, but I wasn't sure it would work with the Flip. Using Moviemaker would allow us to add captions, audio overlays, and other editing features that the Flip software doesn't have. This is probably my first practical take-away from this conference, as it is easily implemented, free, and will make an immediate difference when I get home.

Stay tuned for #cil11 Day Two!


  1. CIL 2011 sounds like it had a lot of useful information that can be taken back and used in our libraries! I followed a couple of the things Librarian In Black took away as well and posted on her blog... I really like the Camstudio idea as well. Also glad to hear stories are becoming a more credible way to measure the success of library programs and projects, rather them relying on numbers alone.

    I agree that time limits on public access computers can be frustrating for patrons, but I don't really see how else to get around them, since we want to make Internet access and computer use as equally available as possible to as many people as possible-- at the public libraries I work at, I have no problem extending someone's time on a computer, as long as no one else is waiting to get on. Also, I am a lot more prone to give someone more time if they are, say, working on a resume or job hunting, than if they are browsing on FB.

    I honestly don't mind how people are spending their time on the computers within the time limit they have, but if we are going to have library policies about computer use that include time limits, I'd rather make exceptions to the rule when someone is doing something useful on them...

  2. They made a good point in that presentation about our judgments of what makes one person's computer use more "important" than someone else's. Someone could be randomly browsing Facebook...or they could be keeping in touch with their Peace Corp volunteer family member in another country. Some companies and classes have Facebook pages that people might want to look at before an interview or as part of an assignment. That, to me, is the really hard part of time limits. What looks on the surface like something less useful could, in fact, be very important to that person. Thanks for your comment!