Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Library’s Buzz

Dani Guzman, Product Marketing Director, Ex Libris

As the summer is drawing to a close, the Library Buzz looks at the just-concluded Summer Olympics (no, not the one in Rio). We also note the start of the school year with articles on the role of library media specialists and makerspaces in education today. Then we peer just a wee bit into the future, with news of a tool being developed for preserving our digital history, a call for smart copyright risk management, and a robot making librarians’ lives easier.

The University of Dayton held its first-ever Library Olympics in early August, as reported by the Smithsonian website. The events included both physical and mental challenges, such as a tricky speed sorting event and a campus treasure hunt based on LOC call numbers. Champions were also chosen in such competitions as balancing bound journals on one’s head, running a book cart through a twisty course, and tossing journals toward a target. Go for the Gold here >>>

Makerspaces – collaborative spaces in which to gather and share skills, tools and information for creative activity – have come to American community colleges. As the website of EdSurge notes, nearly half of undergraduate students in the United States are at community colleges, where these makerspaces are taking off. The teachers are volunteers, including professors and students on equal footing, and the spaces they use are any available library rooms. The “maker movement”, as it is coming to be known, is “about community, creativity, and experiential learning.” Enter the ‘makerspace’ here >>>

Jenna Grodzicki writes that “library media specialists foster some of the most authentic learning in schools today,” in a brief, but very persuasive, article in Knowledge Quest, the Journal of the American Association of School Librarians. She explains how library media specialists help schoolchildren today (also mentioning the value of makerspaces – see above) and challenges the “naysayers who don’t appreciate how crucial we are to our schools.” Find out here >>>

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried an article in its Education section describing a new research tool under development at Washington University, in collaboration with the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities and the University of California-Riverside. The project is called DocNow and it is designed to collect and curate those digital records of historically significant events that may be lost with time, especially real-time comments, images and interactions on social media. Read more here >>>

On the website of CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), a recent lecture by a member of the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) is reviewed in depth. In an “excellent talk”, as it was described by the reviewer, Naomi Korn focused on the current balance between copyright related risk and risk management. Although “fair use” remains a somewhat unclear term, Korn does not want libraries shying away altogether from copyrighted material. Our own Leganto Course Resource List solution, for example, uses incorporated tools for mitigating the risk of copyright infringement. Korn also stresses the need for copyright policies and procedures to manage the risk. Read more here >>>

Finally, we may have come full circle back to a focus on the physical and mental demands on librarians. In this case, however, we look at how one of their more menial tasks can be taken over by a newly designed robot. Singapore’s National Library Board, the Library Journal reports, is already using AuRoSS (autonomous robotic shelf scanning system), a robot that systematically scans library shelves for misplaced books and issues a report to the librarian. Meet AuRoSS here >>>

Thursday, August 25, 2016

6 Principles Librarians Can Apply to Write Better Social Media Posts


Beth McGough, Communications and Creative Services Manager

Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it's right, it's easy. It's the other way round, too. If it's slovenly written, then it's hard to read. It doesn't give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.
Maya Angelou
Social media writers, perhaps, need to be the most careful writers. Constrained by character counts and short attention spans, tweets and Facebook posts must be concise. 
If a librarian has focused on developing strong academic writing skills it can be difficult to take the opposite approach to writing. 
I won’t call academics long winded but...
...academia certainly values detailed writing. 
In social media, writing needs to get to the essence of a message in 140 characters. 
If you find yourself writing tweets for the library - or even for your personal accounts - the principles below will help you shift your mindset from academic writing to social writing.
1. Be hyper-focused on the audience. Whether writing for students or other librarians put them first as you craft social posts. 
2. Intent. Consider intent from your point of view and the reader’s point of view. What is the purpose of the social message? Does it align with the purpose for which people use social media? 
3. All posts should be useful, educational and/or entertaining. Adding to the conversation and providing content readers will benefit from are central to social media posts.
4. Casual but grammatically correct. Stay away from a formal academic voice. Social media is an opportunity to bring out the humanity in your messages.
5. Concise – no fluff. Use only the words necessary to get your point across. Not only is this a good writing practice but shorter social posts are easier to share.
6. Use images to extend your message. The importance of images in social posts cannot but ignored. Images will catch the reader’s attention and can be used to extend your message. Images should be carefully chosen to reflect the message. You can also take advantage of this extra space to add more text. 
Like all writing, writing for social media is hard, but these principles will get you off to a good start.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Value of User-Centric Design for the Modern Library

Nathan Turajski, Ex Libris

Many of us grew up with an inborn sense of the value of libraries. The library is an oasis within the community, a tranquil environment in which to find, discover and engage. For some, libraries are one of the few public spaces where they feel at peace.

Libraries are that important public place not bound by commercial interests. They give us a place to navigate our interior space, free from the marketer’s siren song. They can support the dignity of the person and encourage personal growth by offering a harbor from the storm of marketing messages that seek to shape our consumer identities.

Notably, the library can play a role in the awakening of the individual to their human potential and the realization of that end. It is a uniquely benevolent enterprise, wherein we seek to transfer a legacy of knowledge and understanding. Libraries preserve and promote our shared mindfulness.

Today a host of entities compete for access to online information seekers. Web search engines influence what, and even how, we see. Speed, utility, usability and trust are significant factors in selecting our preferred information sources. Our search behaviors and expectations are shaped by our day-to-day online experiences.

In her 2015 article, Markers of Quality, Leslie Stebbins highlights some issues users need to be aware of when conducting online research. Among these, she includes heuristics leading us to “systematic biases or errors in judgment”; “Eli Pariser’s ideas about echo chambers”; “false certainty”; and “single study syndrome.” She writes, “Librarians have a long history of curating and filtering information, and we need to continue to transition this important work onto the web.”

Clearly, there is an important role for libraries to play in providing access to unbiased information and teaching information literacy skills. The challenge lies in aligning library services with the online experience our users have come to expect. Libraries seeking to raise their profile and improve service quality have tried a variety of methods to increase user engagement. It goes without saying that technology plays a critical role in this endeavor. Yet, given the accelerated rate of behavioral adaptation to emerging and rapidly evolving technologies, it is a serious challenge for under-resourced libraries to adapt to changes in user expectations.

In the pursuit of delivering more engaging services for our users we can look to companies like Google and their user-centric design model. By taking design cues from popular websites libraries can deliver services that delight users. To accomplish this goal, library services must utilize modern user experience and user interface design. A few guiding principles libraries can adopt to increase user engagement: 
  1. Beauty has utility”. Beauty draws users in and encourages them to stay.
  2.  The interface is the brand”. To many users your website and online services environment are the library. Make them highly usable by embracing “minimalist design.
  3. Create a responsive web environment that fosters connection between users and library staff. Consider "automated" ways that you can leverage the knowledge and expertise of your staff to support users’ information-seeking behaviors.
Deploying a Discovery Service is one way libraries have used technology to help users navigate information. But they are not exempt from the need to deliver engaging user interfaces. They must adapt to the changing expectations of our users. It is imperative that we as library vendors partner with libraries to deliver services that execute on effective UX and UI design. When we get this right, it opens up a world of possibilities for libraries to empower users by guiding them to important library-mediated collections and resources.

For further reading on this topic, see our recent white paper “Core Principles for Designing Library Discovery Services”.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Learning from our Customers: Lessons from the Library

Here at Ex Libris we’re particularly proud of our customer community, and it's our good fortune to always have something to learn from our customers. Here is some food for thought from recent testimonials.

Consortia and Collaboration
Anya Arnold of Orbis Cascade Alliance notes that for a consortium “it’s not about the system – it’s about the policies and procedures and how you work together, and the building of trust among your libraries.” In Anya's opinion, the goal for consortia is expanding “depth of collaboration”: not just resource sharing, but also collection development, technical services, and leveraging expertise at each library to serve the consortium as a whole.

Engaging Both Students and Faculty
Carl Grant of the University of Oklahoma sees the search interface as a means of engaging with students and faculty. The University of Oklahoma uses both curated content and meetings with the student advisory group to engage with students, but Carl emphasizes the need to provide students with the electronic materials they demand through Primo Central. For university faculty, who prefer print, “in-house” items, the library created a “local search” option within the Primo interface.

Enhancing Blended Search
Mike Rogers of the University of Tennessee explains how the University of Tennessee library enhanced their blended search in Primo through the customizable discovery skin, stack mapping, and remapping resource types.

Pushing library resources to faculty and students
Mary Ellen Spencer of the University of Oklahoma chose the Leganto reading list solution to “push” library resources to students and faculty. She explains how the library recruited faculty as beta-testers of Leganto and ensured faculty buy-in through posts and face-to-face meetings and demos.

The Same, But Different
Mehmet Cehlik of KU Leuven provides a developer’s view of the new Primo user interface and talks about the customizable aspect of Primo as a “toolbox.” Quotable quote: “Everyone wants to have the same, different Primo.”

Stay True to Your Expertise and Resources
Laura Guy of the Colorado School of Mines emphasizes their preference for an out-of-the-box implementation, while Allie Verbovetskaya of the City University of New York talks about the importance of the Developer Network.

Want more? Visit our customer testimonial page, and explore testimonials for every product in the Ex Libris family.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Primo Innovative Uses: Enhancing the Discovery Experience at Curtin University

One of the things we love to highlight in this blog series is when libraries take advantage of Primo's flexible customization capabilities to engage patrons and enhance the use of their collections.

This time, let’s take a look at how Curtin University in Australia customized Primo to actively promote its book collection, while simultaneously – and cleverly – engaging visitors with the library homepage.  

Riding a Dynamic ‘Virtual Bookshelf’ Carousel

Take a look below at the “New Books” carousel widget created by Curtin University, as featured on the right side of their library homepage.

The carousel presents a visitor to the website with a regular update of selected new titles added to the Curtin Library collection. Clicking on any book featured in the carousel takes you directly to that title’s full record, as it appears in Primo.

For a closer look, clicking on the heading “New Books” leads to a full-page view of the carousel under the title “Virtual Bookshelf.”

On this interactive page, the carousel can be used by the user to circle through the titles. Alternatively, the carousel view can be exchanged for a virtual bookshelf interface.

With this feature, Curtin Library is able to promote a specific part of its collection, increase usage, and present a more dynamic homepage to its patrons by leveraging Primo.

For more examples of innovation from Primo customers around the world, check out the Primo Innovative Uses booklet!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pokémon GO - To the Library?

Yotam Kramer, Ex Libris

All of us who know and love libraries regularly paraphrase Mark Twain: “The rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated.” Libraries are a powerful thing in today's world, especially with all the creative activities going on within their walls. And libraries make a difference: Research shows that engaged library students and students who visit the library the most are also the most highly engaged with their university and the least likely to consider leaving school before completion. Today as always, libraries are critical hubs for learning and growth.

What are some of the things you can do to increase engagement with your community and make it clear on campus that your library is the home for both books and students?

Libraries can tap into current world trends. For example, invite students to find Pokémon in your library and create a specific event around it, directing them to books on gaming culture, gamification as a motivation tool, and other relevant topics. Stay current on the trends and learn to quickly react to them so that you stay relevant. Be interested in the world of your community and remain an active part of it.

Who doesn't like a good game? Don't stop at Pokémon GO. You can create a game that suits your needs and promotes a connection to your library. For example, O'Neill Middle School in Illinois, winner of the Follet Challenge for innovation in education, created a game called Conquest of the Realm that encouraged students to collaborate, solve puzzles, read and more. It was brilliant – and perfect for their purposes. Sit with your staff and create a game perfect for yours. Click here to read more about the game at O'Neill Middle School.

Immediate Gratification
University students today were less than 5 years old when Wikipedia was founded and only just born when Google came on the scene. Students expect to get immediate and relevant results when doing research. In order to provide service for this generation, library services must be simple, easy to use, and accessible everywhere.

While it may not seem intuitive, the more accessible you are online, the more students will see your service as relevant and remain engaged with you in your brick and mortar sites. The internet is the first and natural port of call. Having presence and easy accessibility on the web fosters engagement with services and businesses of all kinds. There’s no reason for this not to be true of libraries, and in fact, it is.

Do students need to go through hoops to take books out of the library? If they do, they may just not bother. Kansas City and Nashville linked Student IDs of public school students to their library cards, taking away an obstacle and increasing library usage in the process. Are there any obstacles in your students' path? Identify them and get rid of them.

Highlight the Students
Find innovative ways to highlight student projects and showcase their work, physically and digitally. For example, the University of Pennsylvania created a Scholarly Commons which showcases student works and allows them to be downloaded across the globe. When you are committed to students, it shows. And it makes the feeling mutual.

Engaged Library Staff
When library staff are happy and have time to roam the floor, they can engage powerfully with students, which helps students to connect to the library and want to spend more time there. Human communication -- and presence -- is key. 

Although libraries are definitely places to be quiet, by the very nature of the works they house, they are hotspots for conversation. Bringing lectures on amazing topics, screening an evening of TED talks on a certain theme or creating a community round table event on an idea that is of interest to your community keeps you relevant and a central part of your community's life. 

Revise alone in the quiet area? Meet with a study group? A library that supports different learning habits makes everyone feel "at home" when they are visiting the library.

It's what we do best. Let's make sure to do it when it is about engaging our students. There are innumerable online resources and ideas about how to engage the modern student. Find out what engages your students by keeping track of campus events and student concerns.

Do you have any additional ideas on how to engage library students?
Comment below!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Does the term ‘password fatigue’ strike a chord? Beat it back with social login!

Yotam Kramer and Barbara Rad-El
Ex Libris

Ever heard of “Password Fatigue?” You might be suffering from it but had no idea it had a name.
We all suffer from having to come up with numerous username and password combinations for logging into an ever-growing number of systems and applications.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could log in to Alma with an existing username and password? Just think of the benefits – no more hassle of thinking up new variations of a password every few months, no extra overhead for system librarians to manage, and of course no worries about encryption and security issues over the web.

Social login to the rescue! In all seriousness, librarians are looking for a really simple and convenient way for logging into library systems, and what better way than using their existing social accounts like Facebook, or Google+?

The benefits are clear: Simple, Easy, Fast -- with no IT hassle.

We are pleased to inform you that in our latest (August) release, Alma fully supports social login. Staff will be able to use their Facebook or Google account details to log in to their Alma accounts. Check the August 2016 Release Notes and the Ex Libris Developer Network for more details!