Wednesday, June 27, 2012


On Monday, one of the HighEdWeb Association regional conferences was held in Syracuse.  HighEdWeb Syracuse attracted people from across New York State as well as other regions.  There were even three people from South Africa.  (They are in the States for other events and decided to come to this too.)   Who attended this conference?  People that are marketing and web professionals in higher education.  The talks would have been appropriate for library professionals, too, and so I hope that the conference is marketed to librarians last year.  (I'm pleased that a few LIS students were able to attend.)

One of the threads through the day was on creating content that is accessible and relevant.  This sounds very simple, but it isn't.  Getting the message right takes work!   

Many of the presentations have been added to EDUniverseEventifier archived the tweets, photos and other content.  Marie Evans did a good summary blog post of the event (which she had crashed!).

I gave the opening keynote, which I was told set the stage perfectly for the day.  My slides are below.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Every librarian is a technologist

I have been talking with practitioners recently about their expectations of new library and information science graduates.  One thing is clear - they expect graduates to be able to use, learn, adopt, integrate, and teach technology.  Every library uses or is impacted by technology.  Yes, libraries are implementing digitization programs, installing general use databases, relying on integrated library systems, and circulating ebooks (and other digital media). matter where you work in a library, you will need to use technology.  Technology isn't compartmentalized.

Jill Hurst-Wahl using technologyHistorically as a profession, we have attracted people that are interested in books and reading.  Look at your library?  Are the books multiplying before your eyes or is the technology multiplying?  I would argue that technology is dominating libraries and so if you are interested in the profession because of books, I hope you're interested in ebooks, audio books, etc., because those are where important conversations and innovations are happening.

As for reading, yes, it is important, but so is information that comes in forms other than text, including audio, graphics, etc.  Our users don't just want to read and our librarian-technologist need to be comfortable helping them find what they want, no matter the format.

While every librarian-technologist does not need to be a programmer, each should understand how to communicate with programmers as well as library users.  The librarian-technologist needs to be able to talk about specifications, user needs, project requirements, etc. can't just push this responsibility off on someone else!  You...YOU...need to be an equal partner in the conversation and to do that, you need to be a technologist.

If you're a library science student, consider taking classes that will help you understand and use technology, including a good class on creating databases.  Do you need to learn a programming language?  I think the answer is "yes".  Does it matter which one?  No.  Part of learning a programming language is learning how programmers think and why.  Also, once you learn one programming language, it is easy to learn another.  (And you know, they keep changing!)

If you're entering a library science program and your interest is in books and reading, please be willing to expand your horizons.  That is the only way you will have the impact on the profession (and its users) that you desire.

Friday, June 15, 2012

ALA conference tips from T is for Training

These conference tips are from episode 100 of the podcast T is for Training. (link to MP3 file) I tried to capture who said each tip, although in a couple of cases, several people chimed in together on the same one!
  1. Don't make a schedule, make a wish list of sessions that you want to attend. (LibrarianKate)
  2. Use the ALA conference scheduler. (LibrarianKate)
  3. Schedule some downtime. (LibrarianKate) [like Craftcon]
  4. If you can't get to a session, find the presenter online and see if the person will share the handout with you.  (BaldGeekinMD)
  5. Schedule time for serendipitous discovery. (BaldGeekinMD)
  6. Schedule time to visit the exhibit hall. (BaldGeekinMD)
  7. Don't ignore the Twitter back channel. (PS)
  8. Use social media. (LibrarianKate)
  9. Go to some social events. (MLx)
  10. Dress comfortably. (MLx)
  11. Do wear shoes! (BaldGeekinMD) 
  12. Use a totebag from another conference, so you can easily spot your own bag.
  13. When you're outside of the conference, take off your conference badge.
  14. Set aside things to pack when you think of them, cause ya know you're gonna forget! (Jill_HW)
Do have any additional tips to share? Or links to tips? If yes, please leave a comment on this post. Those that are attending the American Library Association (ALA) conference or other conferences will appreciate it.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Should librarians be required to know another language?

Let me tell you three situations that have me thinking about this.

First, if you are trying to catalogue or create metadata for an item that is not in your native language, can you complete the task?  Would it be helpful to know another language?  We know that some languages have similarities, so could knowing one additional language actually help you navigate a few more than that?  And would it make you a more effective librarians?

Second, if you are working the reference desk in a city that has a diverse population, should you be able to service people in their own language?  In some industries that diversity in language is sought and valued (e.g., hospitals).  Should libraries also seek to have that type of diversity on their staff?

I have a student who is doing an internship in a public library.  He has realized that being conversant in Spanish would be a good thing.  In the U.S., a growing segment of our population speaks Spanish, so shouldn't our library staff speak Spanish?  (And if there is another language widely used in the community, shouldn't we have staff members that also speak that language?) 

Third, if you are build a service (e.g., digital collection) that will be used by a diverse group of people, would it be helpful to have text in their own languages that would help them use the site?  Would you want to outsource that work?  Would you want someone on staff to do that work or even know the language well enough to be able to supervise the work?

If you agree that knowing a foreign language would be useful for library and information science graduates, how do we encourage them to learn a language or maintain fluency in a language?  Should we ask existing staff to learn a language that is being used in the community and even tell them which language they need to learn?  (For example, you need to learn Mandarin, not French.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NYSHEI presentation: The Role of the New Librarians

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at the New York State Higher Education Initiative (NYSHEI) annual conference.  The slides below do not capture the conversation that occurred, which was rich in ideas and examples from libraries across New York State.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The importance of the third "R"

As a child, I went to school to learn "reading, writing and 'rithmatic", also known as the three R's.   Arithmetic (a branch of mathematics) is impressed upon us as being important; as important as reading.  However, since many of the devices around us do simple arithmetic for us, we tend to rely on those devices instead of our own abilities.  But can you be an information professional without being good at arithmetic and mathematics?

  • Can you create a project proposal for a new digitization program without calculating server space requirements, time estimates for specific aspects of the work, or costs of purchasing services?
  • Can you decide on the resources needed to create metadata for a collection without doing math?
  • Can you decide on the best deal for digital asset management software without using math?
  • Can you make decisions about your book or resource budget without doing any calculations?
  • Can you provide input on your organization's budget without math?
  • Can you analyze detailed cost quotes if you cannot do math?
  • Can you double-check a vendors invoice without math?
  • Can you evaluate a job offer if you cannot do math?
  • Can you...?
In other words, arithmetic and mathematics are not just for those people interesting STEM related professions (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Everyone in the information profession needs math skills.  Everyone.

Do you need to learn calculus and trigonometry?  Likely not, although you will give your brain a good exercise by doing so.  You do need to be able to sit in a meeting (or in your office), run calculations and know that they are correct.

Need a math refresher? 
  • Put away the calculator and start using a pen and paper. 
  • Don't rely on someone else to calculate something for you.  Do it yourself.
  • Check out the arithmetic and pre-algebra videos from the Khan Academy.
Yes, I selected the information profession because you believe it is a word-based field.  Surprise, it's not.  Instead this is a field where math skills are integral to what you will do everyday.  (I had two hiring managers today emphasize this!)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

NYAC Presentation: As We Move Toward the Future, How Are We Doing?

Last year, I was the plenary speaker at the New York Archives Conference and talked about looking ahead 20 years into the future.  During the Q&A period, someone asked if I would return this year to talk further and I am.  This year (June 7), I talked about how libraries are surviving and thriving.  Below are my notes in the form of a PowerPoint.  (I didn't use PowerPoint as I spoke.)   Enjoy!