or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




NELA-ITS Spring 2008 Workshop

   June 12th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Library-Wide Proficiencies PresentationLibrary-Wide IT Proficiency Workshop
New England Library Association, Information Technology Section
June 12, 2008 - Bryant University, RI
Gary McCone & Grace Sines

I'm writing today from the NELA-ITS Spring 2008 workshop. The handouts are available below, so I'll just be annotating with a few points throughout the day, and also trying to add pictures to flickr.

Here are the handouts, that were provided to all attendees on a flash drive:

Part I
Overview of the National Agriculture Library, and the services they offer. Being a national library, they are a resource for everyone, so check them out.

Library-Wide IT Proficiencies

  • Why are IT proficiencies important? It's important to get IT support right the first time with the end-user, so front-line staff need to feel comfortable in both doing the support and managing expectations (we cannot "fix the internet").
  • Keys to success Enable non-IT staff, excellent communications, understand end-users (needs, vocabulary and skills), know where knowledge or information lies within the organization, don't get stressed - we're all working towards the same goal
  • Get to know your users Know their generation, but get past stereotypes - teach based on how different generations learn
  • Expect things to change Technology will change, staff and users needs and skills will change - must expect change and be flexible to accommodate it
  • Listen to end-users Meet with end-users in a non-threatening way to learn directly from them what they need (although it might be delicate, focus on what is wrong, because no one is happy with IT), and work to get ongoing feedback

Part II
Roadmap to creating an IT-Savvy Library Staff

  • Technology Core Competencies Abilities, knowledge and skill required to do the job - can be itemized based on areas or tasks, such as "printer & copier," "operating system," "email," etc.
  • Types Can be task-based (skill: refill printer paper) or descriptive (knowledge: know how to surf the internet)
  • Get involvement from everyone Everyone should be involved in defining them and what is needed to achieve them (management, professional staff, front-line staff, etc)
  • Plan implementation Everyone knows what's happening and what to expect, and how competencies can be met
  • Resources
  • Why have them? Promote customer service, increase motivation, address fear/threats of technology or people with limited skills (and don't be afraid of providing incentives and praise)
  • IT Liaison Program Designate one person from each department to be the lead liaison with the IT department - hopefully someone interested in IT, to be the first point of contact
  • Ideas for training Experts in the library leading sessions, creating fact sheets (your own knowledge base), online training/webinars (free and fee), weekly tips. mentoring programs, regional trainers, keep track of what library staff don't know (FAQs)
  • Topics for training Evolving technologies, real-world issues (spam, phishing, flash drives, etc), tour the library website, Google labs, digital rights management, RSS, media formats (flash, audio, interactivity, etc), hardware petting zoo (new gadgets, gizmos and games)


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Upcoming Workshop: Library-Wide IT Proficiencies

   May 1st, 2008 Brian Herzog

Unshelved Comic StripToday I'm peddling a workshop that a committee on which I serve is holding in June. The committee is the Information Technology Section of the New England Library Association, and it'll be fun, and interesting. Check it out:

"Library-Wide IT Proficiencies"
The workshop is focused on teaching technology self-sufficiency, so library staff in every department can feel comfortable handling common technology issues. Using a "train the trainer" format, the presenters will emphasize sharing the practical knowledge and skills IT staff may take for granted. The goal is to reduce the fear factor many library staff have when dealing with common technology, from changing printer cartridges to navigating the network.

Date: Thursday, June 12, 2008
Location: Bryant University, Smithfield, RI (Directions to BU's Bryant Center)
Cost: NELA Members - $55 Non-members - $65

Program Schedule
8:30 Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00 - 12:00 Part I: Proficiency, IT Staff and End Users
12:00 - 12:45 Buffet Lunch
12:45 - 3:00 Part II: Roadmap to Creating an IT-Savvy Library Staff
3:00 Questions and Program Wrap-Up

Each workshop attendee will receive a flash drive containing all presentation materials and handouts!

To Register
Secure online registration & downloadable mail-in registration [pdf] are both available at http://www.nelib.org/its/conference.

More About The Workshop
IT staff must be able to assist in maintaining a library-wide level of competence and confidence not only in using current IT resources, but also in learning new ways of working smarter. The workshop begins with the basic elements of end user education to promote departmental self-sufficiency and moves on to the higher level of assisting librarians with cutting edge technology awareness and use. Participants will receive tools, techniques and many ideas on ways to increase the IT proficiency of all library staff.

About The Presenters
Gary K. McCone and Grace R. Sines work in the Information Systems department of the National Agricultural Library. As Associate Director, Gary is responsible for the development, maintenance and quality Assurance of computer systems and NAL databases, and has significant experience in providing consultation for the establishment of libraries in developing countries. Grace, Deputy Associate Director for Information technology, has over 20 years of experience in managing information technology services, and has authored numerous Federal policies and procedures concerning the implementation and operation of information systems.

For more information, please contact Rick Taplin, ITS Chair at ITS@nelib.org or call 508-655-8008, x201.



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Neat-o Catalog Interface

   June 7th, 2007 Brian Herzog

At the open source workshop yesterday, Joshua Ferrara of LibLime showed a Koha catalog interface designed for kids - amazing.

catalog, catalogs, childrens, interface, interfaces, ipac, ipacs, koha, libraries, library, nela-its, opac, opacs, open source, public libraries, public library



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NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Wes Hamilton

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Wes Hamilton speakingWes Hamilton, WMRLS
As a compliment to the previous presentations, Wes focused just on Linux as an operating system, rather than the applications that run on top of it. He started with an interesting evolutionary history of Linux, which put into context all of the different flavors available today, and why there are so many.

He also pointed out that, even without knowing it, almost every internet user is already a Linux user, even if indirectly. Some of the post popular websites today (Google, flickr, Wikipedia and YouTube) are all being run on Linux platforms (and in Google's case, Wes said that over 450,000 Linux servers power the search engine - that is an unfathomable number of servers).

A few websites of note from Wes' presentation:

   [view Wes' presentation]

Speakers

drupal, firefox, libraries, library, linux, nela, nela-its, open office, open source, randy robertshaw, userful



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NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Randy Robertshaw

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Randy Robertshaw speakingRandy Robertshaw, Tyngsborough (MA) Public Library
Randy has converted his small public library over to as much open source Linux applications as possible.

His goal in this conversion was to save the library money by paying less for hardware and software, and by saving staff time in supporting the library computers. Randy's presentation focused mostly on available open source applications, such as Firefox, Drupal, Open Office, and on a company they use to maintain their Linux clients, Userful, and offered a lot of practical implementation tips (download his presentation below).

But Randy does not see open source software (OSS) as the be-all and end-all or library computing. He covered both pros and cons, in that it offers reduced cost and high flexibility, but the trade off is that the software isn't necessarily as high-quality or as stable as commercial software. When deciding to go with OSS, we really need to evaluate both what we want to accomplish as well as the available OSS tools, to find the best fit.

   [download Randy's presentation: pdf (5.2M)]

Speakers

drupal, firefox, libraries, library, linux, nela, nela-its, open office, open source, randy robertshaw, userful



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NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Joshua Ferraro

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Joshua Ferraro speakingJoshua Ferraro, LibLime
Although representing a support service company, Joshua was really here to talk about the Koha ILS. I didn't know much about Koha before this, but during Josh's sixty-minute talk, it became my favorite library tool.

It originated in New Zealand, but has since been implemented in American libraries, too. The beauty of its open sourceness is that libraries are not tied to a single vendor for support and developments - we can do things ourselves, or benefit from the contributions of others in the community, or pay companies like LibLime to do the development for us.

And of course, this is all to our specifications and on our timetable, rather than that of a vendor who is more interested in profiting off of us than in serving our patrons.

Here's a few things I really liked about Koha (using the Nelsonville (OH) Public Library's catalog as an example):

  • Intelligent ("field-weighted") searching works like patrons expect: searching for "it" returns relevant matches, rather than junk. Also, searching for "Stephen King" returns different matches than "King, Stephen," because the catalog presumes the latter is a search for books by King, rather than information about and by him
  • Facetted search results show on the left, to let patrons easily and quickly refine their search
  • Native rss feeds available for every search (allows people to keep up to date with new acquisitions)
  • Multiple sort options, including currently available items only (and that's live data, not based off an indexed file)
  • Extensive and powerful advanced search options
  • Records and editions grouped via FRBR and xisbn
  • Book jacket images, reviews, description, and more right where patron can find it, from Amazon (for free) or companies like Syndetics (for a fee)
  • "Virtual Shelves" for both award winners, best sellers, staff-generated lists, etc., and patron-generated lists (once they've logged into their account)
  • Patrons can also submit purchase suggestions
  • Supports multiple data formats, not just MARC - even websites
  • Offers built-in federated searching with something LibLime calls MasterKey

Obviously, I took good notes on this section. My library has been reviewing another open source ILS, Evergreen PINES, and since LibLime supports both, it was interesting to hear Josh's comparison of them. It basically broke down like this:

  • Evergreen: 1.5 years old, used by 1 library system, and is designed for top-down control (a single decision is made by the administrators for the entire system)
  • Koha: 8 years old, used by 500+ libraries, and is designed for local control (each libraries can make custom interface changes independent of the others in the consortium, while still sharing data)

Koha also offered some other cool features, like a page translation option, varied interfaces for adults, kids, etc., and much more.

Speakers

evergreen, ils, joshua ferraro, koha, liblime, libraries, library, nela, nela-its, open source



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