Cheap Skate or Pioneering Information Professional?

21/03/2014 § 1 Comment

I’m not going to say that my graduate student budget forced me into the world of open source software, but it certainly didn’t hurt.  There was a time when “open source” was synonymous with “free of charge”, but with the proliferation of mobile technologies and free apps, the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit software are now blurred.  Therefore the distinction must be made that open source software contains a license, which allows the user to modify the code and to freely distribute the software to anyone, for any purpose.  As a result, this software is often community developed, and widely distributed.

So why should you invest your precious time in learning how to use these free alternatives?  Let me consult a recognizable mantra.  Some of the triumphs of open source software come right out of ALA’s mission statement: “Equitable Access to Information, Intellectual Freedom, Education and Lifelong Learning”.  There can be obstacles to early adoption, primarily the learning curve, but grad school is the ideal time to conquer these technological challenges.  Here are some open source software examples I have adopted in my pursuit of information literacy.

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The Highs and Lows of Teen Tech Week

04/03/2014 § 9 Comments

If you work in teen services you are probably already elbow deep in programming, but for the rest here is a reminder: it is almost Teen Tech Week! Next week, March 9-15, libraries across the country will be celebrating YALSA’s “DIY @ your library” theme by providing programs on coding, knitting, music recording and everything in between. Unfortunately I do not (yet) work in a teen services department, but that does not mean I (or you) cannot join in on the celebration.

3Dprinter_faces

Miniature human face models made through 3D printer via S zillayali, Wikimedia Commons CC

As a young LIS professional it is easy to get absorbed in the biggest and shiniest trends: 3D printing! Tablets! Computer programming! It is even easier as a teen librarian-in-training to get overwhelmed by feeling the need to be an expert in all-the-things to land a job. Another common factor may be a limited budget and time; making programs like TTW seem out of reach.

In a previous post I shared resources on how technology can be used effectively in the classroom, but here I want to discuss how you do not need high-tech gear and excess funds to explore emerging technology trends.

First we need to step back and ask, “What is technology?”

When defining technology I initially think of computers, smart phones and gaming consoles — devices popular in the here and now. But what about cars, televisions, typewriters, pens… are these not classified as technology as well? By definition technology is “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” Breaking down TTW would mean YALSA is then taking a week to promote teens’ creativity and problem solving skills in a public service environment — and isn’t that what libraries should be about anyway?

From brainstorming with fellow colleagues in the real and virtual world, here are possible low and high-tech activities for TTW — or for your own personal creative downtime:

  1. DIY Crafts: Do not let the term “technology” scare you into thinking you need to dump out your wallet for a brand new 3D printer. Host a crochet-your-own phone cozy party or make jewelry from miscellaneous computer parts.
  2. Media literacy: Underneath all this talk about media and technology lies a very real issue needing to be discussed, most teens do not understand how mass media works or how to use technology wisely. TTW is a great time to facilitate a conversation by creating interactive media literacy lessons like analyzing photographs, creating media or watching a documentary.
  3. Gaming: If you already have a gaming system and videogames, plug it in and you are good to go. Otherwise, ask teens to bring in their favorite games to swap and play. For a more guided program see how you can use Minecraft as an educational tool.
  4. Learn to code: All you need is a computer, internet access and a program like Codecadmey, Code Year or Squeakland depending on the audience’s age and skill level.
  5. Visit a makerspace: Don’t have the tools to solder a portable USB charger kit? I bet your local makerspace does! These community centers invite people in to use their tools to the best of their imagination. Now plan a field trip to the nearest makerspace and create!

These are only a few options of how you can get involved in Teen Tech Week, but you can find more resources at TTW’s website in the forum discussions, event toolkits and free webinars.

 

How is your library celebrating Teen Tech Week? What low-tech/low-cost programs have you facilitated for patrons of any age?

Creating and Curating Your Digital Professional Learning Network

29/01/2014 § 7 Comments

Hello, hackers! Do you have a digital PLN?

If not, this post will explain the concept and share some tips for success. I discovered the concept of the digital PLN (a web-based personal or professional learning network) through an information literacy instruction class I took in Fall 2013. One of the major class projects was to select and curate digital resources to facilitate our lifelong learning as librarians, according to our career goals.

What is a PLN?

PLN infographic

A traditional PLN consists of actual people with whom you have collaborated or shared ideas. A digital PLN is more open-ended. Digital PLNs are collections of web-based human, technological, and other resources selected judiciously, classified, and accessed using curation tools of your choice. Whereas e-portfolios showcase your own aptitudes, e-PLNs curate resources from other people that have helped you—or will help you—to enrich your LIS skills. You can organize resources into categories, create RSS feeds to monitor changing content, and demonstrate your professional engagement by sharing your PLN publically or collaborating with other librarians to build one. Teacher-librarians are likely to have PLNs because schools encourage them to do so, but anyone can create one.

Why should I have a PLN?

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DH and Open Access

23/01/2014 § Leave a comment

openaccess_type

Image courtesy of the J. Murrey Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte

Open access refers to free and unrestricted online access to publishing, especially scholarly research. Examples range from articles, theses, and dissertations to conference presentations. In some cases, open access work is free of copyright or licensing restrictions, meaning researchers can copy, use, and distribute the work as long as the author is properly credited. Sometimes open access is delayed and journals will provide access to articles after an established embargo period, usually six months to a year. Open access intersects with digital humanities where research in the humanities is concerned.

Open access began as a response and solution to expensive journals and databases. The ever-increasing costs of these subscriptions limit the ability of many universities and libraries to provide access to information and knowledge. Even scholars at institutions that do have large budgets may experience difficulty accessing information. Items may only be available via interlibrary loan from select institutions, which can take time to receive, especially if they are already being used by other researchers. Though it does offer a solution to the information gap, open access can be a controversial subject. Some scholars are hesitant about open access, as they fear having work copied or stolen. Others worry that open access limits the effects of peer review or results in scholars having less control over their work. Those in favor of open access have rebuttals to these concerns. Since open access scholarship is available to anyone, anywhere, for no cost, scholars have the opportunity to have their research read by a much wider and more diverse audience, broadening the scope of academic conversation and debate. The more a work is accessed, the greater the potential for recognizing (and thus, limiting) plagiarism, especially since more readers equals more citations.

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Image courtesy of the Australian Open Access Support Group

I’ve had the good fortune to work directly with open access on a project archiving the MFA in Studio Art theses and MAEd in Art Education applied projects at the university where I’m employed, which is one example of the benefit of open access to digital humanities. Our goal is to make the final work of the graduate students publically accessible via the institutional repository (IR). Previously, only print copies of the theses and applied projects were kept in the department. The department will still keep print copies, but the electronic versions allow for instant access on campus and beyond. The benefits of including graduate student work in the IR are huge for students, faculty, and the institution. Graduate student work doesn’t often have the chance to be widely read or referenced beyond committees and peers, but the IR makes student work accessible to a worldwide audience. Archiving scholarly research in the institutional repository increases the visibility of the university’s faculty and and student work. The IR is indexed by Google so it’s easily accessible to researchers outside the institution. Each work in the IR gets a permanent URL that students can put on their website or CV. This helps immensely on the academic job market. A benefit especially useful for art and humanities students is the ability to use different media, such as images and video, which is ideal considering the merging of art, humanities, and technology. Prints are not always able to showcase the vivid color, texture, and depth of images, plus they are not easily available to the public. Digital images can be manipulated at 360 degrees to allow viewers to see entire installations, archaeological sites, and more. The possibilities are endless.

The IR is run by digital archivists who are kept up to date on the latest archival standards for the digital preservation of documents. The electronic theses and dissertations have a much better chance of survival than their print counterparts. The IR itself is searchable by issue dates, authors, titles, subjects, or keyword. Students are expected to add their work to the IR, but are given the chance to embargo the work for six months before it’s available online. The institution does not make any claims over the work; it simply makes the work easily accessible. When the project to archive and make available online art graduate student work was first proposed, we had a favorable response from faculty, but I’ve heard getting approval to make theses and dissertations publicly available can be a real challenge. This is an issue those hoping to work in academic libraries or digital archives will have to face.

Resources:

ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit
Open Access by Peter Suber
What is Open Access – SHERPA/RoMEO
What is Open Access?
Open Access Overview
Right to Research
Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook (OASIS)
Open Access Week

What are your thoughts on open access and its relation to digital humanities?

Google and the Librarian: Best Frenemies Forever

27/12/2013 § 8 Comments

I hope each one of you have had a happy holiday season, and warm wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Perhaps it’s the end of the year, or the end of the semester, but I’ve been reflecting quite a bit lately on my work over the past few months and trying to get a clearer picture of what lies ahead for me in LIS. Although I’ve met many wonderful, smart, hardworking people in my program and beyond, I’m worried about a certain lack of vision and ambition. We also seem to thrive on anxiety about changing technology and society, and all too often our responses sound like something out of The Desk Set: Big Bad Business wants to replace librarians with machines! They nearly succeed! But machines are flawed, and librarians save the day with their special human touch!

More than fifty-five years later, this storyline clearly continues to resonate with us. Yet I’m concerned that we’re still on the crisis phase, and I think an important task for us right now is to direct as much imagination as possible toward creating new roles for ourselves — what, exactly, do we bring to the table that an algorithm doesn’t?

This semester, I’ve seen that professional anxiety directed especially toward Google. In my core introductory class, we were assigned a final paper on Stephen Levy’s 2011 In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives, and were asked to discuss the ramifications of Google for librarianship. Although the book has a positive spin, my class focused, almost to a person, on negative aspects of Google: privacy, poor search skills, and more. Google absolutely has its problems, but I believe we cannot continue to use it as a labor-saving device on the back end while decrying it as an evil empire devaluing our work on the front end. I have a lot of ideas about how we can think about our relationship to Google a bit more productively, but this post is really meant as a brainstorm-starter. I want to hear from you about how we, as a profession, can build off Google’s successes and add real value to the services they provide. Please add your thoughts in the comments — I’ll be checking in as often as my work schedule allows to foster the conversation — and please also note that my words, as always, do not necessarily reflect the views of Hack Library School as a whole.

After reading through Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s 1998 article introducing Google (it’s a good read, and surprisingly accessible — I recommend checking it out) I fundamentally believe that Google developed to tackle the exact same problems that librarians are trying to handle right now: information overload, reliability, discoverability, and neutrality. They’ve got exponentially smarter people on it (sorry, but it’s true), and they’ve figured out how to make gobsmacking loads of money from it. Whatever Google’s problems may be, it’s hard not to admire that.

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