Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Internet Librarian 2008 in Monterey, CA

Presentation on Search Widgets & Gadgets for Libraries

Jason A. Clark, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Montana State University Libraries
Tim Donahue, Instruction and Outreach Librarian, Montana State University

As web content continues to grow and the signal-to-noise ratio increases, it has become important for libraries to find ways to get into users’ common web paths: the social networking sites such as Facebook, the web portals such as iGoogle, even learning management systems such as Blackboard. Clark looks at creating widgets or gadgets that allow users to have basic library search functions in these new user environments free from the catalog or library website. He shows live applications that provide different search functionality for library materials: a Google Gadget that allows gateway searching for library journals, books, and articles and a series of OpenSearch plug-ins that let patrons search library content from within the web browser. Donahue looks at creating user-activated animated research tools such as Flash-animated subject maps leading users directly to books. He also looks under the hood at the FLA files and design methodology and examines the underutilized applicability of Flash technology for library resources such as digital exhibits, online tutorials, and other types of library maps. Come learn about the simple tools and steps you can take in your library.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Loex West 2008

Last week I attended LOEX of the West 2008 in Las Vegas. This conference was titled, “Hit the jackpot: Successful experimentation and innovation in instruction”. I’ve never sat down in a room filled with 250 instruction librarians, so exposure to a group endeavor so tightly focused on library instruction was a new experience for me. I’m sharing a few of the notable highlights below:

The keynote speaker, Greg Niemeyer from UC Berkeley, presented us with an overview of game theory to point out how games and gaming informs instruction pedagogies and learning styles. Greg was not suggesting that we must play games in order to instruct, but that we think of games and gameplay in order to make our instruction sessions more dynamic and interactive. Audience participation and shared outcomes can contribute significantly to successful class outcomes.

Anne-Marie Deitering and Kate Gronemyer, instruction librarians from Oregon State University, gave a very compelling presentation on the ways in which Web 2.0 technologies are changing scholarship and research. Many publishers are now promoting access to pre-publication literature through blogs and other web tools. Are these sources scholarly before they are peer-reviewed? Should students learn to question and challenge the lofty status of peer-reviewed publications or is this a challenge to the core essence of the institutions from which they are seeking degrees? What role should librarians fill in pointing students toward non-expert generated information like Wikipedia? Do our loyalties reside with the scholarly traditions our institutions belong to or should we be facilitating access to broader and more popular sources? Where is the TRUTH in all of this?

Bee Gallegos from Arizona State University demonstrated a online game that is being used by ASU to introduce students to library research and information literacy concepts. It took four librarians, a computer programmer, a graphic designer, and multiple Flash animators three years and whopping big budget to create “Quarantined”. This game is set on campus during a lethal virus outbreak. Students must locate research within the library that is critical to finding a cure for this virus. Interestingly, the main antagonists are government agents who are locking down the campus and blocking access to the library. If they catch you, you dissolve into a green goo, but luckily than can be bribed with chocolate bars!

Shall we play games with our students? How cutting edge do we want to be? What traditions would we like to challenge?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Virtually Yours - AISTI Mini-Conference 2008

I returned last week from the 9th Annual AISTI (Alliance for Information Science and Technology Innovation) Mini-Conference in Santa Fe, NM titled, Virtually Yours! Information, research and learning, through gaming and on-line relationships . As with most AISTI conferences, the focus was on innovation through cutting edge technologies. In this case, virtual worlds and dynamic online relationships. We are a member of AISTI and it was a privilege to represent MSU Libraries at this conference.

Of the eight presentations on the two-day program, three were directly related to the virtual web space called Second Life and the others more generally addressed new technologies and information agencies. The Second Life presentations included histories, overviews, and demonstrations of Second Life. Presenters discussed the benefits of conducting chat sessions visually within the 3D web and suggested that the quality and experience of communication is enhanced by a sense of physical space and presence. Many conference members and presenters commented candidly about the challenges and blocks to effective use of Second Life for educational purposes, but there was a strong impetus and belief that Second Life is only the first test bed of many virtual worlds to come. Many conference attendees confirmed that libraries should keep an eye on these virtual environments for potential use in the future.

Stephen Abrams, President of SLA (Special Libraries Association) was the first presenter and set the tone with an engaging talk about CHANGE and new information strategies. Stephen pointed out that libraries are paradoxically both leaders in the world of information evolution, and unfortunately, institutional anchors that resist change and the implementation of newer technologies. A claim he made that leapt out at me was that all recorded human knowledge in every format will be storable on an ipod by the year 2030. SLA had a strong presence at the AISTI conference.

Martha Russell from Stanford University presented a survey of “geniuses” at her institution to identify common denominators that propel innovation. She claimed the results show that a big amount of collaboration in a small organization was the best chemistry for innovation. On the other hand she pointed out that nothing stifles innovation more than concerns over legality.

Here are some random facts I observed at the conference:

-Most of the members and attendees were from government information agencies. Information Specialists seemed more prevalent than librarians.

-Regional attendance predominated. Most attendees came from within New Mexico.

-One out of six attendees was actively engaged on their laptops throughout the conference.

-One out of four attendees was male.

-Eight out of ten attendees were older than me (I’m guessing).

-Several of the presenters referred to themselves and others as “futurists” (An interesting job title).

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