Despite the recent snowstorm in the northeast, I was lucky enough to attend and present at the annual Library Technology Conference, held at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The conference highlights practical applications of technology in libraries. It seems that a majority of attendees come from academic libraries, but there was good mix of public, special, and school librarians in attendance.
The opening keynote speaker, Lauren Di Monte, discussed the impact of data science in libraries. She advocated the importance of data preservation, how libraries and librarians should collaborate on using and writing about big data, and how to link datasets to documents.
The first session I attended was entitled “Cold War in the Catalog: Comparing the user Experience of e-Book Platforms.” Nathan Carlson and Alec Sonsteby of Metropolitan State University conducted a usability test of three different eBook platforms. Their participants were both students and non-students, and were asked to find elements of eBook platforms, such as citation tools and search tools. This study highlighted usability and accessibility problems with certain eBooks. It also made me wonder if libraries could negotiate licensing with vendors to ensure that their services are usable. For instance, one eBook platform did not encode the text of their PDF, so searching for a particular word was impossible.
Alexandra Dolan-Mescal gave a videoconference presentation on DocNow, a project that collects tweets using the Twitter API. I was especially interested, as it involved Dan Chudnov and Francis Kayiwa, names I have recognized from the code4Lib listserv. Dolan-Mescal discussed how DocNow began as a means to record social movements, the technical aspects of DocNow, and the ethical concerns for harvesting social media data. The tool itself is very impressive, as it provides researchers a data visualization of hashtag searches.
“Taking the Next Plunge: Managing a Full Steam Upgrade to LibApps” was the next presentation I attended. John Hernandez of Northwestern University gave this talk about his efforts in trying to unify the NW libraries under a single LibApps umbrella, despite each library having their own subscription. I had met John at previous conferences, and he had invited me to speak at the LITA Drupal IG Meeting at ALA San Francisco a few years ago. In his presentation, he advocated the importance of the user experience in using the LibApps suite and how some tools improved the functionality of the library. This included linking LibApps with the campus LMS using the LTI protocol.
— Junior Tidal (@JuniorTidal) March 15, 2017
The final presentation I attended on Wednesday was “Becoming a Drupal View-master” by Angela Stangl. I was particularly interested in this presentation, as I use Drupal Views almost everyday at my institution. Stangl explained how her institution uses the Drupal module Views and Displays to construct pages on the library website. I had not seen Views used in this manner, yet it made sense as I learned that the University of Minnesota partitions sections of the site to the library.
The following day was opened by a keynote presentation by Patrick Meier, and his work on digital humanitarianism. Beginning with the Haiti earthquake in 2010, where his wife was conducting research, he aggregated social media posts to a map which was used by rescue teams and media to assist those in need. This also led to We Robotics, a group that uses drone technology to map out disaster areas and other humanitarian efforts.
The first session I attended was Stewart Van Cleve’s ventures in his library’s online tutorial videos. He explained the importance of video title cards, good audio for tutorials, and the proper planning to executing a 2-3 minute video. I will definitely bring back these slides to my campus, as we plan on shooting our own tutorials soon.
The second session I attended was “User Experience Strategies for Every Library. Yes, Even Yours,” a panel discussion featuring Jennifer DeJonghe of Metropolitan State University, Tony Hirt and Amy Luedtke of the Hennepin County Library, and Lacey Mamak of Normandale Community College. The panel was originated with Jennifer and
Lacey Amy both wearing cat shoes at the last LibTechConf. It was a very interesting discussion, that intersected the importance of UX between academic, public, and community college libraries.
My presentation was one of the final for the day, where I talked about mobile usability. Thankfully, it was a small attentive group where we spent 90 minutes on talking about mobile usability. I had participants test each other with a mobile usability tasks using their own institutions websites. It sounded like each participant walked away with finding problems in their own sites. I feel that this is a good thing, as it forces the importance of mobile usability to the forefront.
I feel very grateful in attending the LibTechConf this year. I met many librarians, and got a glimpse in the many technology projects that people are undertaking. One of the more interesting discussions I had was over lunch (where we had some killer tacos) talking about 3D printers and the problems with them. I hope that I’ll have the opportunity to return to LibTechConf in the near future, and encourage anyone interested in library technology to check it out.