Improving Broadband Access for Rural And Tribal Libraries

I’m so happy to work on this project — an IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) sponsored effort to improve broadband performance for rural and tribal libraries in the US.  The idea is to create a stand-alone, self-guided resource that *anyone* can use — despite their level of technical knowledge — to understand their data network and discover ways to improve their connectivity.

I’ve been working on the project for the past 1 1/2 years with the most excellent Susannah Spellman and James Werle of Internet 2.  After creating the toolkit together, we’re now thick in the pilot phase, visiting libraries in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Idaho, Washington, Texas, Alaska and more to come before the pilot wraps up in the spring of 2018.  The purpose of the pilots are to try the toolkit out in the field and make improvements — in realtime — to make it even better.

We wrote a little bit about the program for the May/June 2017 Issue of Digital Libraries (D-Lib). Read all about it here.   Thanks!

 

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The Future Comes to ALA Midwinter!

The 2017 ALA Midwinter conference in Atlanta, Georgia featured some forward-thinking sessions sponsored by ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries gathered under an umbrella called “The Symposium on the Future of Libraries.”  As a member of the Center’s Advisory Committee, I was honored to join others in reviewing proposed sessions, and provided some write-ups for American Libraries of the excellent sessions selected.  The full articles available online here and here.

Here are my raw notes and photos from the sessions I covered:

Sustainable Thinking for the Future of Libraries

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich will, as she says, talk to anyone with 5 minutes to spare about sustainability.  Not in terms of what water bottles or recycle bins are the best, but the in terms of strategic directions to have the “capacity to endure.”

“I want to make sure we’re fulfilling our missions in a way that matters – especially in terms of ensuring policymakers in our communities have an understanding of modern libraries and are worthy of investment.”
Photo of Rebekkah Smith Aldrich

In a fiery, inspirational style — and citing the many disruptive factors in the environment, politics, society, technology, and more — Rebekkah stirred the audience (including several calls-and-responses, including several “hell yeahs”) to engage on some of the pressures libraries are feeling and how sustainability is attainable throughout all of the change.

One place for librarians to start is by exploring what they believe (in terms of values) and expressing those to empower, engage and energize their libraries and communities. Using the “Triple Bottom Line” test (Is this environmentally sound?  Is this economically feasible? Is this socially Equitable?), librarians can ensure that the most important bases are covered as they make decisions about services, buildings and — hopefully — engaging in their communities beyond library walls.

One of Rebekkah’s key messages is that in all times — including time of crisis — libraries are one of the most important places in each community to not just respond, rebuild and restore — but to thrive and endure.

Interested in more?  Rebekkah invites all librarians to Join the Sustainability Round Table: http://www.ala.org/sustainrt/

 

Immersive and Interactive: Virtual Reality In a Contextually-rich Learning Environment

You might have heard about VR (Virtual Reality).  How can Virtual Reality content be used in learning?

Photo of Presenters

Matthew Boyer (Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations, Clemson University College of Education) and Stephen Moysey (Associate Professor, Clemson University Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences) explored that very question at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Atlanta.

VR is currently available in several forms — including forms involving “Google Cardboard” viewers that offer VR on mobile phones to more immersive experiences that require more powerful computing hardware such as Oculus Rift.

One application that the pair demoed is a VR-powered visit to the Grand Canyon.  Called a Virtual Reality Field Trip, the use of VR here is to “bring the field to the students.”  Good VRFT design is tied, of course, to good course design.  The VR experiences are aligned to the content and learning goals of classes with the “in the field”-like experience of interacting with the geography and elements that one might experience in a real-life trip to the Grand Canyon.

There are lots of options to dabble in VR, including a wealth of pre-recorded VR content online (viewable via Google Cardboard).

For those wanting to try making their own VR, there are fancy 360-degree cameras available, but much simpler approaches are also possible.  Through the use of Google Street View on a mobile phone, nearly anyone (those physically able to move the camera to cover the 360-degree field — the software “stitched” the image together t make things seamless) can manually capture a 360-degree photo that can be viewed in a VR context such as Google Cardboard.

The presenters are also fans of what they call “emancipating VR” – although for some the technology seems like science fiction (and only suitable for expensive gear and development platforms), using simpler approaches like Google Streetview and online services such as Thinglink (https://www.thinglink.com/) to put things together, the onramp for library VR may be simpler and quicker than many think.

21st Century Library Ethics

San Rafael, California Library Director Sarah Houghton – a renowned library ethics advocate (see her popular blog at http://librarianinblack.net/ for more) — brought her message to a standing room only session Monday morning at ALA Midwinter.Sarah Houghton

Making note of political tensions among librarians in the wake of the new US presidential administration, controversy among librarians in light of the new US administration (“I’ve seen librarians eating librarians in the hallway…”) Sarah encouraged the crowd in a deep breath (in and out) and think about ALA’s founding documents as a north star to steer by in challenging times.

Quoting a popular – and controversial — tweet from the Storytime Underground “LIBRARIANS ARE NOT NEUTRAL AND LIBRARIES ARE NOT NEUTRAL SPACES,”   Libraries are inclusive, Sara says, but certain materials libraries make available and the publics served by libraries offend people every day.

In her talk, Sarah used the framework of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights to revisit what librarians say about their own ethics and apply them to current situations.  One easy rallying point for most libraries — and with little controversy among librarians – is fighting censorship in all of its forms.

Despite ALA’s Code of Ethics’ theme of freedom, Sara says parts of the code create the most heated discussion among librarians – with each statement (and even segments of each statement) drawing a wide range of opinions and interpretations.

In terms of ensuring the free-flow of information, Sarah called out Digital Rights Management (DRM) that allows content creators to “lock” content that can only be opened with a special digital key – meaning without that key it’s possible and even likely that information will not be available in the future.

Currently under threat is the concept of “Net Neutrality.”  There are commercial interests that want to create “Internet fast and slow lanes” instead of today’s open Internet – which is another way of censoring information by virtue of making it slower to access.  Also problematic are vendors libraries working with libraries – with some sacrificing user confidentiality and privacy.

Resources to equip librarians include the Library Privacy Project, the Library Digitial Privacy Pledge, the IFLA Statement on Privacy in the Library Environment, and ALA’s soon-to-be-released Library Privacy Guidelines (in checklist form friendly to all sizes of libraries).

Despite Sarah’s personal convictions – and referring to item VII in the Code of Ethics — she urges the librarians to check personal biases and preference at the library door when coming into work to best serve the entire community.

Sara’s session covered much more ground – I’m not sure I’ve seen as many people in a library conference taking careful notes — all at the same time.

 Created with Andy Woolworth, Sarah shared a new project called Operation 451 (http://operation451.info/) to suggest positive ethical actions for librarians in challenging times.

Registration is open for my Management of Technology Class!

It’s that time again!  Registration is open for an online course I teach called “Management of Technology” designed to help library workers of all stripes have  a better understanding of concepts and tools to use tech more powerfully to serve their communities. The class begins in February!

Signup info from the American Library Association is below!

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Management of Technology<http://ala-apa.org/certification/competencies-standards/management-of-technology> | Cost: $350 |

 

REGISTER

 

Dates: February 6 – March 19, 2017
Instructor: Carson Block<http://ala-apa.org/certification/carson-block/>
Times: Online asynchronous sessions with access to recordings.

*   Sessions and materials will be made available on six sequential Mondays.
*   There will be a recorded lecture each week as well as occasional live sessions in which the instructor will address specific questions and context from the participants regarding the course material
*   A link to a recording of each session will be made available to the students shortly after each session concludes

Course Description: This course puts the full power of information technology into the hands of library managers and leaders. You’ll start with a clear vision and an understanding of technology policy.  Next, you’ll consider the nuts and bolts of managing technology.  Technology planning is next followed by technology implementation, and finally, evaluation. The course is presented in plain language with many concrete examples and exercises. Topics include: connecting your library’s goals to technological possibilities, monitoring and administrating technology budgets, assessing resources, drawing a line between efforts and impacts, evaluating those efforts and making course corrections, and understanding and using emerging technologies. You will assemble your own Technology Planning Kit, which will help you create your own library technology plan. Course tools include spreadsheet and tally sheet templates for you to download to evaluate budgets, inventory populations served and electronic services provided, inventory hardware and software, and calculate the relationship between the cost and value of a technology investment.

Technology Requirements: Reliable Internet connection; Java-enabled web browser; PDF Reader; IBM Compatible PC with at least 400 MB RAM with Windows XP/7 or above or Macintosh with OS8 or above; 128 MB RAM; sound card with speakers and/or earphones; color monitor with at least 800×600 resolution. Contact: Pamela Akins, pakins@ala.org<mailto:pakins@ala.org>

Logo for the Certified Public Library Administrator program

Logo for the organization for the advancement of library employees

Talking Tech Trends and Privacy at DPLA Fest

What does the future hold for technology in libraries?  I had the honor of joining two smart, passionate people-you-should-know at Digital Public Library of America‘s DPLAfest at the Library of Congress in Washington DC during the spring of 2016 to discuss the possibilities.

DPLA’s page on the session, including a transcript, is here.

Speaker Biography: Alison Macrina is a librarian, privacy activist, and the founder and director of the Library Freedom Project, an initiative which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries by teaching librarians and their local communities about surveillance threats, privacy rights and law, and privacy-protecting technology tools to help safeguard digital freedoms.

Speaker Biography: John Resig is a staff engineer at khan academy and the creator of the jQuery JavaScript library. He is the author of the books “Pro JavaScript Techniques” and “Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja.” He has developed a comprehensive Japanese woodblock print database and image search engine: Ukiyo-e.org. Resig is a board member of the Japanese Art Society of America and is a visiting researcher at Ritsumeikan University working on the study of Ukiyo-e.

Thanks to Jamie Hollier, DPLA Board Member and President of Anneal, Inc. for organizing this excellent panel.

 

 

 

 

Apply Now! Library Tech Leader Position…

Are you a technology leader, ready to blaze trails and lead a top organization into the future?

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) has created the new position of Head of Digital Innovation and Technology Services to help create the library of the future in Little Rock.

Are you an excellent communicator? Do you love the excitement of bringing new technology solutions to life? Do you enjoy working with an exceptional organization to serve people and communities? Then this position is for you!

We are looking for a dynamic leader who understands technology, has a heart for service, a vision for collaboration, and who approaches each day with a sense of fun and possibilities.

CALS is an organization where professionals flourish in a top-rated community where the quality of life is high, the cost of living is low, and the opportunity for innovation is boundless.

For the full job description, please use this link.

To learn more about the position, CALS and Little Rock download the position brochure:  CALS-DigitalInnovationAndTechnologyManager06.22.2016

Some SXSW 2016 Trends

imagesWhat’s hot at SXSW this year – and how might things impact libraries?

The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference held in Austin, TX each March is actually four separate-but-related umbrella events:  EDU for the education field, Interactive for digital technologies, Film and Music – and there are other SXSW offshoots (Eco and the currently-in-limbo SXSWV2) held during other parts of the year as well.  The Interactive conference is one of my primary avenues for learning, sharing, and, well, interacting.  I’ve attended since 2011 – and honored to have presented several times at Interactive & Film, and even played a gig last year during music!

SXSW Interactive is where the creators of our digital present and future gather to exchange ideas and inspiration.  There is quite a mix  – coders, CEOS, marketers, geeks, venture capitalists, developers, social good advocates, artists and yes – even librarians.  Those who attend Interactive are often among the smartest people in the room back on their home turf – but in Austin they are just another conference attendee looking for fresh ideas, new friends and opportunities.  As a library technologist, SXSW is a key place for me to get a sense of what is to come as I help libraries serve patrons now and plan for the future.

SXSW is a place of (positive) collisions and collaboration – and especially for first-time attendees – sometimes confusion.  Within this very beneficial churn are lots of opportunities for libraries to get a sense of trends that will affect our communities – and us — within the next 3-5 years.

Even though my annual SXSW experience always impacts my work, I’ve never written about it in detail.  The conference is big, it’s broad, and sometimes the significance of things are not immediately clear — especially in considering how one thing may impact other things.  This year I decided to write and share – ready or not — with the hope that there is something worthwhile for you in my impressions and (undoubtedly) rambling thoughts.

In no particular order (and with no jargon – I’m writing this for folks who may have never heard of SXSW before) here is a first installment of just a few things that got my attention at SXSW in 2016.

 

Social Trend: Women are Leaders 

It’s no secret that there is a battle of the sexes within the tech ranks.  Silicon Valley and other bastions of tech tend to be a boy’s club. Women in technology positions still trail behind men in terms of compensation.  Women in tech – despite their skills and accomplishments – are often disrespected by men.  And sometimes it’s even much worse.

Despite a very public controversy last year over cancelled SXSW “gamer gate” panels (designed to address discrimination against women in gaming – the panels were cancelled after threats of festival violence from anonymous voices on the Internet) women were visible everywhere at SXSW this year.   Even a casual glance at the schedule shows a good number of technology sessions featuring all-women panelists or at least an equal balance between female and male voices.  This might sound surprising, but it’s part of an ideal expressed by SXSW: in the process of selecting official panels, diversity of voices (gender, cultural, rural/urban, and more) always earns extra points from SXSW organizers.  This year, though, it seemed that actual gender diversity on panels was stronger than ever.

In her Film Keynote, legendary producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens, The Walking Dead, and so many others) offered a powerful, unflinching and ultra-feminine take on the challenges of being strong, smart and right in a male-dominated world (even 20160315_120734taking on the “B” word ) and through her words and actions shared both inspiration and a path for others to follow.

(As a side note, at SXSW you get to “ask the question you’ve always wanted to ask” – my question during Hurd’s keynote is at the 28:45 mark on the video. :0)

Even my own daughter hosted a panel that addressed age and gender issues for young filmmakers – and she wasn’t the only one to host a session tackling similar issues.

Is this enough? No – and I hope the presence and influence of women in the SXSW community continues to grow in significant and visible ways.  My family is trying to do its part – and will continue to support others as we move into the future.

 

Political Trend: SXSW is Important to National LeadersScreenshot 2016-03-22 08.37.46

Both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke (on different days) at SXSW, causing massive attention and gridlock to a city center already brought to much of a standstill by the conference.  SXSW has long attracted political leaders (see a listing of 2016 policy events here) — usually those involved in “Smart City” initiatives, economic development, and those cultivating digital communities.  The presence of the Obamas as bookends to the Interactive conference during an election year also demonstrated the political importance of courting those who attend SXSW.

 

Technology Trend: Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) is Ready for its Close-up
_DSC1545As SXSW 2015, experiencing Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (also called VR/AR) was a rare treat, with only a handful of places to experience devices such as Oculus Rift.  This year, VR/AR was everywhere, including the subject of a number of panels (including a special track during the gaming convention), a special selection of VR and AR vendors featuring ground-breaking use of the technology (not just from a “gee whiz” standpoint, but also as a way to personalize advocacy su_DSC1465ch as a Google Cardboard item from Planned Parenthood), physical capture devices to allow anyone to record 360-degree spherical images – (such as dedicated cameras and these special mounts for GoPro cameras),  and authoring software enabling the creation of VR experiences in a manner similar to basic video editing.  Further, there were live demo opportunities galore — such as one vendor that also tracked participant’s heartbeats in response to the virtual images and sounds they were experiencing.

Clearly, vendors are gearing up for a major push of VR/AR technologies.  Why should libraries care?  I know – the headsets may look bizarre and people experiencing VR can look especially comical from the outside – but many (including Facebook, Microsoft, and so many others) are banking on AR/VR to be the next frontier of interaction between humans and the digital world.  As anyone who has tried VR/AR can attest, there is certainly entertainment value – but there are also deep opportunities for education, communication, and much more.  In a workshop I facilitated for tech and tech-enthusiast librarians in Maryland last fall (called MD TechConnect), VR demonstrations were a major draw.

If you don’t know much about VR/AR, this is the time to start dipping your toes in the water.  It’s coming fast – and will soon find its way into our lives and many of our libraries.

Virtual Reality (VR) Example: Oculus Rift

Augmented Reality (AR) Example: Microsoft HoloLens

Basic VR/3D using a smartphone:  Google Cardboard

 

Technology Trend: Reading Emotions

By statute and by culture, libraries protect the confidentiality and privacy of library patrons.  For most of us, that means not collecting unnecessary data about our patrons.  When we do go beyond the basics of name, address and email we most often allow patrons to choose to share their personal information via “opt-in” (such as those who find value in storing their borrowing history within their ILS account).   Even in other “opt-in” situations (used by our savvy library marketers) the amount of data we collect is relatively tiny.

For the rest of the technology world, it’s a drastically different story.  Not only is data on all of us broadly collected, harvested and used to allow companies to connect to us more intimately, but it’s used to predict how we might respond to new things or future events (sometimes called “predictive analytics”).

I know that many of us in libraryland aren’t fond of this sort of data collection and tracking – even though most of us experience the results in our everyday lives as users of commercial websites and mobile devices. For instance, if you’ve used a navigation application on your smartphone, you’ve also shared information about your own activities on the road (including starting point, route, ending point, speed and time of day).  Companies use this data – among other things – to let us know if the road ahead is moving smoothly or not.  In most cases we trust our service providers (such as Google – for Google maps) to adhere to their own privacy policies and keep that data safe from unauthorized eyes.

Many non-technologists are sometimes startled when they learn about the data that is collected about our personal activities.  Although the topic is essential in libraries – this blog post is not addressing confidentiality and privacy issues, but to provide context to how technology is being developed commercially to dig an even deeper data mine and develop even more predictive services.

The next frontier is using data to connect to each of us emotionally.  Since this is an election year (and in the US politics are increasingly polarized – invoking strong emotions) it’s a prime time to test tech that can guess how we’re feeling.   Building upon research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one company has a product (soon to be launched) that can guess – and report – a user’s emotions as they view a video on their mobile device.  By digitally interpreting common facial expressions that indicate happiness, sadness, confusion, anger and others, the company claims they can tell, for instance, how a particular audience (both as individuals and in aggregate) responded to different candidates’ speeches or debate styles.

 

Stay tuned for my next installment:  The Library Community at SXSW: Evangelizing, Learning and Sharing.   Activities this year included the lib*interactive group; the trade show booth (sponsored by the American Library Association), the #ideadrophouse, the official library meet-ups, the emphasis on EDU (and generally a new approach to specialized communities at the conferences), coverage by American Libraries, and more tech trends!

 

****Update June 2016:  I’ve had no time to write the next installment!  Lots to write about – but I’ve had a full schedule working with a wonderful variety of libraries and teams across the country.  Next blog post when the smoke clears! **** 

 

Let’s do I.T. again!

One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a library technology consultant has been traveling across Texas helping rural librarians learn how to make, break, fix and manage their data networks.  It was so much fun (and produced such great results) we’re going out again this year!  This time the topic is hardware and software!

I’m working on the cirriculum right now and I can say we’re going to have a lot of *fun* — including  the hands-on chance to tear down PCs so that we can learn together what all those pieces and parts do individually — as well as what they all add up to.  We’ll also explore operating systems, essential software, and some computer configuration.

As librarians across Texas have witnessed, some hands-on and learning time can transform technology bewilderment to technology mastery.  Being part of that transformation is what makes my job so, so wonderful!

Are you a librarian in Texas — or do you know one?  If so, we (including the most excellent TSLAC staff of Henry Stokes, Katherine Adelberg and Cindy Fisher) hope to see you at a workshop during the spring and fall of 2016. More details here!

 

You can DO IT image

Have you LITA’d lately?

Is LITA (Library Information Technology Association) on your radar?  If you want to know (and use) cutting edge technology in libraries, you should make LITA and its brilliant brain trust your next deep dive into what makes libraries great.

The LITA forum – this year in Minneapolis – just wrapped up and I was blown away by what I learned while there.  A mea culpa – for reasons unknown (yet mightily embarrassing) I let LITA fall off my radar.  I’m changing that today.

While it’s true that LITA membership is predominately from academic institutions, there are public libraries in the mix.  I think this ratio of ALs : PLs is a great thing.  With new student populations to serve frequently, academic libraries are perhaps the most underutilized resource for ideas and inspiration for public libraries.  If you’re on the PL side and want to track generational sea changes, look at what’s happening in academic libraries.  As well, many institutions have access to technology and programming talent that public libraries most often can only dream of. This dynamic makes the LITA membership mix a compelling environment.

Just a couple of highlights from the 2016 conference that even non-technology librarians can appreciate:

  • Sessions about patron privacy & privacy literacy in the digital world
  • Application of gaming to create a better experience for library users
  • Developments in Linked Data to help us discover and use our electronic resources much more powerfully
  • Providing ebooks without vendors
  • A custom app designed to help make meeting room acoustics more pleasant
  • Supporting STEM through training & design
  • Girls in tech
  • Effective project management techniques
  • New and better ways to collaborate & share computer code
  • …and many more!

There’s lots more.  Check the LITA Forum site to see the full schedule.  The twitter feed – archived here – is well worth a look.  Hit the tweets and I promise it won’t be the last click you make in pursuit of fresh ideas and approaches to library services.

As well, I was honored to give the closing keynote and used the opportunity to challenge this brilliant group to dig even even deeper and deliberately design the impact they want to make by not just connecting with our current communities but stepping outside our hangouts, mixing it up, and coming back. The reaction afterwards and on social media was exhilarating and enlightening – lots of positives and some thoughtful negatives.  In retrospect, I realized this is the first time I’ve given a talk to my own community where the emphasis was on challenge instead of comfort, and all of the feedback helped me realize when I properly landed the message I wanted to deliver, and when I missed.  LITA – thanks for the openness.  I ended the talk inviting the group to participate in a six-month experiment to see how we can keep the conference glow burning after the reality of our work lives kick in.   I’ll share the results of that experiment in six months.

If you don’t know LITA or you haven’t checked in lately – this is a great time to do it.  Solutions to our big problems are currently being incubated though the work of LITA members and I can wait to dig more deeply myself.

LITA Top Tech Trends gets some press!

So thrilled to have such great conversations at the ALA Top Tech Trends panel at ALA 2015 in San Francisco!  Library journal did an excellent job of covering the conversation at several different points — please see links below.

Rethinking Privacy at the LITA Top Tech Trends Panel

San Francisco Deets (scroll to bottom for Tech Trends Panel info)

ALA Takeaways (please scroll down)

 

Miles and Miles of Texas – Part II

Think you can’t understand your data network?  Well, think again! It’s time for the second round of visits to rural Texas for “You Can Do I.T. – Basic Network Technology Training” where participants share a day filled with fun, adventure and accomplishment, including creating network diagrams and logging into a router — breaking it — and fixing it!

Don’t believe me?  Hear the words of class participants in this nice video produced by my host – the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The first round got rave reviews from participants — and I can’t wait for the next round of visits in Tejas!

PS:  The homepage image (also below) shows the sites (with yellow and green pins);  the blue pin shows places where I’ve spoke or presented in Texas (in Austin multiple times — at SXSW and Texas Library Association conferences) and the red dots are my Texas clients.  Yowsa!

 

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