Computers in Libraries, Day 2

CIL14_SpeakCrystal’s View of Day 2:

Every day at CIL begins with a keynote where we get to hear from notable people in the industry. Tuesday’s Keynote: Hacking strategies for library innovation by Mary Lee Kennedy, Chief Library Officer for the New York Public Library.

Kennedy focused on four basic concepts:

1. Determine what skills / services your library uniquely offers

. 2. Identify target areas of opportunity in your wheelhouse.

3. Change / pilot new ideas / assess their success and adjust

4. Have fun

Crystal’s favorite quote of this session: “Libraries are the delivery room for ideas” Thomas Jefferson

Kennedy introduced several interesting services and activities that NYPL has offered.

In an effort to make knowledge more accessible, the Iibrary’s map warp effort attempts to add more dynamic layers of value to a simple flat map:

They also have a very nice graphical knowledge mapping tool for archival data:

Crystal’s favorite special program was the idea of gathering a group of armchair scientists together to participate in one of the activities at Zooniverse: This citizen science site has been an expansion from galaxy zoo project…..Planet Hunters is part of this website. Here, the public can search astronomical data to help identify new exoplanets.  Very cool stuff for science geeks!

Crystal’s choice for top session today! Stop Being Generic: On Demand & On Target by Julian Aiken (Yale Law Library) & Chad Boeninger (Ohio University Libraries)

This is my second opportunity to hear Chad and I’m a new fan of his amazing business resource website ( blog). Yesterday I went to his WordPress session.  I didn’t blog on that session because it was more WordPress-tech. If you are interested in knowing more about that session here: /2014/04/07/rock-librarys-content-wordpress/

Julian started the session by discussing the new services now offered by Yale Law Library: Scan on demand: They offer a 24 hour turnaround for any article or book chapter.

Collect on demand: They track ILL requests and fill at least 90% of all faculty requests.

Deliver on demand: They will mail anywhere in U.S. and Canada. Not yet highly utilized so stay tuned for news on scalability of this.

Chad talked about his reference blog on business. He made a very insightful comment about a problem that students have with their research. They have significant difficulty applying the general pathfinder instruction to their specific project needs. I think this highlights a real disconnect between what the librarian thinks she is communicating and what the student can later achieve.

Chad’s answer to this disconnect is to blog any specific research question he receives showing very specific instructions on solving this research problem with library databases. He frequently makes video tutorials on the topic which he then loads to YouTube which makes it highly findable via Google, which we all know is the students’ go-to place.  Meeting our users where they are…Seems like I’ve heard that before!

Mary VIew of Day 2:
Day two is off and running – and I do mean running (or wheeling, in my case, since I am using an electric scooter) as we have events scheduled today from 7:30 am until 9:00 pm. The convention is good about scheduling breaks though, at least some of which they hope you will spend in the exhibitors hall.
The first panel I attended today, after the keynote, was Top Trends in School Libraryland: Perfect Storms or Sweet Spots? The speaker was Joyce Valenza, with whom Crystal and I did a Google Hangout recently.
Joyce illustrated that while many are in despair over the state of school libraries, there are exciting developments that are working for them now. This is a moment to hack the ways librarians serve their users, and Dr. Valenza talked about services or concepts to hack and the tools to use to hack them. She is a dynamic speaker, but needed about twice the time to get through her 300 or so slides!
She mentioned Dave Lancke’s quote that “a lack of imagination is killing libraries”, and that hackers believe that things can be better and never stop innovating. She also mentioned that students learn best when engaged. She also talked about a number of tools that sound both interesting and useful, more than I can cover, so I suggest taking a look at her slides for the full flavor of a fun as well as useful presentation. They are available from the Computers in Libraries 2014 website under Presentations.
The second session I attended today was Using the Cloud and Google Apps for Better Staff UX, by three librarians from the Gwinnett County Public Library system in metro Atlanta (Crystal’s home Library system, of which she speaks well). The three speakers were Michael Casey, Christopher Baker, and David Smith. Their system includes 15 libraries and 300 employees, and when faced with an expensive upgrade to their Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange system, investigated alternative options.

They decided to go with Google Apps for Education, they were very happy with it for several reasons, including:
(1)   Being in the cloud and on Google’ servers meant less technical support on their end

(2)   The fixed costs were much less.

(3)   Google had a good training page.

(4)   Fewer silos because the apps are in one information ecosystem which also led to

(5)   More collaborative work across the system.
In sum, they believe they wound up with a more collaborative, open, and accessible system.
The last session attended on Tuesday was by Gary Price, of INFOdocket. He was a last minute substitute for a speaker who had to cancel, and as always, gave a great presentation. He talked a lot about security and privacy issues as these seem more imperiled than ever. For example, he discussed using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) as these are encrypted. He also discussed a variety of resources in a number of categories which, while the might not be set up as educational sites do, none the less, are interesting and educational in a broader sense. He showed a price tracking site and a flight tracking site as examples. The full list of sites is available at

Stay tuned here for the exciting conclusion of the Computers In Libraries Conference tomorrow!

Computers in Libraries: Day 1

Here we are!  D.C.!

Good evening!   Crystal and I managed to make it from Atlanta to Washington DC without much trouble… although it took so long at baggage claim I had visions of doing our presentation in the ratty clothes I traveled in!

We attended the games, gadgets and makerspaces on Sunday night. Crystal’s favorite takeaway: I think students / patrons would find these very cool. Surround sound/filters out sound from outside the egg. Good for viewing videos, scype calls, phone interviews, recording multimedia. Pricey, but can pay postage both ways and try free for 90 days.

Monday morning the convention started.   The official hashtag is #cildc,  by the way,  if you want to follow along.   The Monday keynote speaker was Dave Weinberger.   The title of his talk was Hack Libraries: Platforms? Playgrounds? Prototypes?  The gist was that information is becoming more open and that that fact makes discussions and creativity blossom in many unexpected directions.   Libraries are mostly shut off from these conversations,  and without finding ways to be a part of them will be bypassed and irrelevant.

 Weinberger’ next major point involved the Swiss Army knife.   He showed a picture of one that is about a foot long,  weighs seven pounds,  and is loaded with such charming features as a fish cleaning tool and a laser sighting tool for a gun.   It will set you back a mere $1200 on Amazon,  at which point you will have a paperweight,  as it is so cluttered it is impossible to use.   So he asked,  now that linked data is finally becoming a reality,  what data do we want to link?   He suggested a new type of filtering,  that we filter forward by anticipating user’s needs.

He works with Harvard’s library and mentioned some of the things they are doing.   One that was heavily tweeted was the Awesome return box –  if the user thinks one book is really good,  they return it to the Awesome box.   They haven’t hooked those statistics up to the library catalog yet,  but are keeping track.   Also at Harvard is Stack View,  an open source software program I discussed in a post earlier this year.   Besides giving an idea of the book’s physical size and popularity,  it also connects to the Wikipedia page for the book (if any) and any available NPR story on it.

Now we can start building apps that utilize linked data,  and data is going to get much smarter much faster.  Librarians have more information than anyone on the planet,  so we can make connections using our expertise and draw in users to share their own expertise.   We can guide people to new sources,  both those that agree with them and those that challenge them.

Mary says: I went to a couple of other interesting sessions today.  The first was Enabling Innovation,  by Jill Hurst Wahl from Syracuse University.   She discussed brainstorming,  both rules and tools.   Her slides are available on the CIL site,  so I won’t go into too many of the rules… though one of the most important ones is to have only one speaker at a time.   She also talked about four kinds of brainstorming (1) Role Storming,  wherein the group approaches the topic as if they were a historical or fictional character –  Darth Vader,  for example.  (2)  Long List – the idea here is quantity,  trying to get 100 ideas in 15 minutes,  because the first ideas tend to be the least original and get better the longer the list gets.   (3)  Opposites – take the viewpoint opposite the expected one; and (4) Brand Storming – similar to Role Storming but from the viewpoint of a brand,  such as Apple or Disney rather than the viewpoint of a character.   Each table in the room then chose one of these four,  spent 15 minutes with a topic and used one of the four methods.   My table chose Role Storming and so brainstormed the kind of library Lady Gaga would design,  such ideas as special collections including video and images,  for fashion,  costuming,  and makeup,  a consortium with the Muppet Library,  a design full of unexpected features,  maybe something like a room filled with different textures to experience.   Then various tables reported out.   The whole program was a lot of fun and I plan to bring these ideas to my place of work.

The next panel I attended was Designing for Collaboration in Digital Information Environments, which was fascinating.   A high school librarian and English teacher,  working with a Rutgers University communications professor,  took an honors 9th grade English class and had them work in groups.   They collaborated using Google Drive,  and had to comment on each other’s work in threads.   Another assignment would be to write briefly but daily about their experience of the process of doing research – for example,  what they found difficult that day.   They got almost immediate feedback from the librarian and teacher,  who were treated as equals in the course.

Crystal says:

Super Searcher Tips by Mary Ellen Bates. Mary Ellen Bates always rocks any session I am lucky enough to see! I like to think I’m a pretty good searcher, but Mary Ellen always proves how much I have yet to learn. I couldn’t begin to share all I learned, but here are a few favorites: 1. Interested in searching social media for topics?      Try  It can adjust results by how often a link has been retweeted or how popular the search topic is via Facebook likes,etc.      An alternative is

2. Looking to keep your search unaffected by “smart” browsers who pre-filter your results based on prior searching?     Try

Crystal’s favorite quote today:    From Rock Your Library’s Content with WordPress.  Chad Haefele advised that is “free like puppies, not free like beer!  You still have a responsibility to take care of it after you get it.”

 Th-th-that’s it folks,  for today.   Stay tuned for more excitement!

On our way to Computers in Libraries 2014!


Mary and I are off to the Computers In Libraries conference in D.C.  We will be blogging our experiences at the conference next week, so stay tuned here for all the details.

If you are attending the conference as well, please stop by and see us at our presentation on Wednesday afternoon.  We’d love to meet our readers!

C305 – Rethinking & Retooling Academic Research
3:45 PM – 4:30 PM
Crystal Renfro, Faculty Engagement Librarian, Georgia Institute of Technology
Mary Axford, Faculty Engagement Librarian, Georgia Institute of Technology

One of the issues the increasingly digital academy faces is that students are not able to successfully find relevant resources because they do not “understand the language of academic research” or are not familiar with the topic and field of their research. Renfro and Axford, authors of, outline several new programs at the Georgia Tech Library, including the popular blog series, A Year to Improved Productivity for Librarians and Academic Researchers, which connects librarians with the academic community in new and vital ways.

Links Roundup #18

A PhotographerBlog of Interest

My Google Alert for Evernote just turned up a blog that may be of interest, called The Digital Researcher.

The Digital Researcher is a resource for writers and researchers who want to make the most of the tools now available. We bring you news, reviews and tutorials on all the latest developments, and also give you an opportunity to share your experiences with the rest of the community.

This site is maintained by me, Catherine Pope. I’m a publisher, PhD researcher, and technologist (roughly in that order).

So far there have been a number of clearly written posts on topics such as Reading and Annotating Journal Articles in Evernote, Writing Very Long Documents with Scrivener, and more.  The blog has a search engine, subscriptions by email or RSS feed, and a list of resources.  Brief list so far, but divided into the categories Brainstorming, General, Productivity and Software.

Creativity vs. Order

LifeHacker has an interesting post Why Creative Geniuses Often Keep a Messy Desk, that says that this is often true.  Given my messy desk, I like to think this is true, anyway.  ;-).  It mentions a study showing that those with messier environments tend to be more creative and more risk taking, and suggests that one can turn this to advantage by keeping a messier desk when trying to generate ideas, but when trying to be more productive, and/or act on a specific idea, it can help to clean up your environment.

Digital Portfolios

Creating digital portfolios has gotten much easier.  They allow students to gather together the digital projects they have created, so gives them something a potential employer could look at.  Take a look at this article from Free Technology for Teachers, called 5 Good Options for Creating Digital Portfolios.

Email Optimization

LifeHacker has a post Use the First-In-First-Out Rule to Keep Email Inbox in Shape (title is almost as long as the post!) which makes a valid point that by organizing your emails by oldest first it gives you more incentive to deal with those emails rather than letting them get stale.

LifeHacker, while strongly recommending that you keep your email and to-do lists separate, also has an article on an app that combines the two with GTD principles.  The app is called IQTELL.

Educational Technology

The 2014 Horizon Report from NMC (New Media Consortium) and Educause is now available:

This eleventh edition describes annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education. Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, giving campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.

As many of you know, this is one of the most influential reports on ed tech in higher education.


Jamie Todd Rubin has another good Going Paperless column Achievement Unlocked! Using Evernote to Track Achievements.  As usual, his columns show excellent organizational ability.  I had created a notebook in Evernote for my annual profile, but have not nearly been as organized about it as he has.

14 Ways to Get More Out of Evernote, by Kevin Smith, has a good rounup of some of Evernote’s most useful features.

Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites has a page of links about Evernote.  Looks like a great list, though with the caveat that Evernote changes so fast and so often that articles get out of date very quickly.  Thanks to Crystal for the link.

Jamie Todd Rubin’s Going Paperless column has another useful Evernote tip in Append to Existing Notes in Evernote via Email.  I love this tip, because I use the email to Evernote feature quite often, and have sometimes wished to be able to append rather than create a new note.

Springpad is another notebook software that I have not used.  LifeHacker reports that it has opened a virtual store with free templates one can use for to-do lists, travel planning, and more.

Huzzah!  IFTTT now has a Microsoft OneNote channel.

CNET reports that Microsoft OneNote Arrives as Mac, Windows Freebie.  No longer are you required to buy Office to get OneNote.  Does not have all the features of the Office software, but has most, and is adding new features.  It is now in a better position to take on Evernote.

Author John David Head has written one of the best articles comparing features of OneNote and Evernote I’ve ever seen.  OneNote vs. Evernote – No, Make That OneNote AND Evernote, does an in-depth comparison of the pros and cons of each from a writer who uses each.  The article is also up-to-date with the just announced features of OneNote.


IFTTT now has a Sunlight Foundation Channel.  This is great news for me, as one of my liaison departments is Public Policy.  The channel includes suggested recipes so that one can get notifications of bills going through Congress or laws passed.  The recipes includes things like get an email when the President signs a law, text me when Congress schedules a vote on a bill, etc. Since what government does affects most of us, this could be very handy.


Many libraries have gotten involved with makerspaces.  For academic libraries, one question to consider is whether professors want such spaces or will create assignments for students using them.  So I find the ProfHacker post Lego and Making Things interesting, as an indication that professors are indeed thinking about making things as a part of scholarship.

Mind Mapping

Free Technology for Teachers has a useful article Ten Good Online Tools for Creating Mind Maps.  Discusses the features of each.

PDF Management

TabTimes seems to be having a series of the format some number Best Android and iOS apps for some productivity task.  This one is 6 Best Android and iPad Apps for Converting Files to PDFs.

Productivity Apps

These 11 Apps are the Key to Productivity is a post from Sidin Vadukut, a London-based freelance writer.  It is interesting because it mentions several apps I am not aware of and also because he gives a detailed description of his workflow.  I don’t think his workflow would be one I would follow, but might fit your style well.  Apps mentioned are GMail, Google Calendar, Trello, Evernote,, Ulysses III, Daedalus Touch, Triage (which now seems to be MindCloud), Freemind (note:  it is on a Wiki, you have not been redirected to Wikipedia), Brainstormer, and IFTTT.  Note that some of these are iOS only.

Search Engines

NoodleTools has a great list of search engines categorized by the type of information being sought (I need to understand the scope of my topic, for example).  Very nicely done, although it mentions Intute several times and it hasn’t been updated since July 2011, and I don’t think that Infomine is being updated much either.  Sadly organizations who provided such wonderful services were badly hit by budget cuts during the Great Recession.

Task Management/To-do Lists

Tab Times has a useful article on 6 Best Android and iPad Apps to Keep You On Task.  The 6 apps are Todoist, SwiftKey Note, SimpleNote, Trello, WorkFlowy, and ListBook.

LifeHacker jumps in with an article Five Best To-Do List Managers.  The twist is that these were voted on by LifeHacker readers.  Apps mentioned are Google Keep,, Wunderlist, Todoist, and HabitRPG (which is structured like a video game).


ProfHacker has a useful roundup of their previous posts on Twitter –  From the Archives: Using Twitter.  Includes links to posts that introduce Twitter, how to use it in various ways for academics, including teaching and presenting at conferences.

Crystal pointed me to the Twitter feed for Evernote Teachers.  It may be primarily for K-12, but at a quick glance seems to have tweets also useful for academia.


Not saying goodbye, just taking an extended leave of absence . . . (from Elisabeth)

All the same, it’s been hard to make the decision that I can’t continue as a regular participant in the Academic PKM blog.  Other commitments have made it increasingly difficult for me to contribute on a regular basis.  While I continue to use the tools for personal knowledge management to manage my own material, and I promote the ideas and practice of PKM with students, faculty, and fellow librarians, I don’t currently have the drive to be continually searching for new methods and ways to use them.

Writing for this blog has been a great opportunity for me to put my thoughts in order and to force me to think about what I may know that is worth sharing, but it’s not sustainable for me anymore.  I hope to read every week and comment when I have something worth saying.  I look forward to following Crystal and Mary wherever they may take us.

May curiosity sustain us all, Elisabeth

 **  Note:  Mary and I wish Elisabeth all success in her current endeavors.  Given the loss of her contributions, we have come to the decision to change this blog from weekly posts to posts biweekly.  We hope to welcome Elisabeth back as guest blogger often.

Crystal and Mary




What’s the Right Toolset for Digital Humanities?

Female Carpenter 18th centuryWe live in an age of invention, with so many people participating in the act of creation.  This creates a multiplier effect – the more tools people create, the easier it becomes to create more.

So it is in academia…where, in particular, one’s job is more dependent than most on being able to bring something new into the world, and sharing the results of human thought and ingenuity with students and the rest of the academic and/or wider world.

There are many tools available to help academics be more productive, and we have spent, now, almost two years in talking about them.  We have mostly concentrated on tools useful to any academic, or librarian.  Now, however, I would like to start a series of posts discussing the tools for specific disciplines.

Why?  While most of you in our readership are academic librarians, we do have some researchers and other kinds of librarians.  Any of you researching or helping a researcher find and use information might benefit from finding out what tools are useful in a particular discipline.  The truth is that different areas of studies differ widely in what they are trying to accomplish and so in the tools they need to get their work done.

First we are going to take a look at the digital humanities (DH).  It is an exciting field, one that has grown enormously in the last few years, although its antecedents go back to around the 1940s.  Because it is such a big field, we will look at defining the field and at identifying resources for getting started in it.  Later on we will look at notable subfields.

Digital Humanities – What is It?

Definitions of the humanities differ,  so it follows that definitions of digital humanities will also differ.  The Wikipedia definitions will serve as a starting point.  First the definition of humanities:

The humanities are academic disciplines that study human culture, using methods that are primarily critical, or speculative, and have a significant historical element—as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences. The humanities include ancient and modern languages, literature, philosophy, religion, and visual and performing arts such as music and theatre. The humanities that are also sometimes regarded as social sciences include history, anthropology, area studies, communication studies, cultural studies, law and linguistics.

And next Digital Humanities (DH):

The Digital Humanities are an area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from the fields of humanities computing, humanistic computing, and digital humanities praxis (dh praxis) digital humanities embrace a variety of topics, from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital humanities (often abbreviated DH) currently incorporate both digitized and born-digital materials and combine the methodologies from traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) and social sciences with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, text mining) and digital publishing.

Starting Points for the Digital Humanities

Given that the digital humanities include both literature and computing power, it isn’t then surprising that the marriage of the two has produced a voluminous number of how-to documents and articles.  One of the best is the post Getting Started in the Digital Humanities, by Lisa Spiro,  on her blog Digital Scholarship in  the Humanities.  Spiro is executive director of Digital Scholarship Services at Rice University’s Fondren Library and founding editor of the DiRT wiki, which is now Bamboo DiRT (a tool we have talked about before and will again).  The post is a great roundup of ways to get started, from deciding what interests to pursue in DH scholarship to guides, social media, DH examples, tutorials and training opportunities, and more.  Includes a variety of links to specific resources.

One that it mentions is the CUNY Digital Humanities Resource Guide, another excellent place to get an overview of DH.  It includes DH definitions, examples, readings, hot topics, online discussion forums, DH on Twitter, blogs, journals, conferences and events, training/professional development, scholarships/fellowships, funding/awards/competitions, DH centers, organizations/associations, tools and methods, data management tools, research and citation management tools, writing process tools and methods, DH programs and syllabi, Git and GitHub, jobs, tips, and other resources.

Another good introduction is aimed at librarians, and is from ACRL’s current awareness trend watching service Keeping Up With.  In Keeping Up with …Digital Humanities, it discusses definitions and controversies over what DH is, the opportunities it provides for collaborations outside the library, training and skills librarians need for DH work, and types of contributions librarians can make.  After the conclusion, it has a section of resources, including recommended reading, associations and centers, courses and continuing education, all about data, tools and tutorials, and other sites of note.

Jeffrey McClurken, of the University of Mary Washington, put together a 20 page Google document Digital Liberal Arts Workshop Links and Resources, which was updated in January 2014.  It includes links to definitions of DH and digital liberal arts, links to projects.  Categories of tools are digital publishing tools, research/bibliographic tools, collaborative writing tools, geography and geospatial visualization tools, data visualization and analysis tools, video/audio resources for class, multimedia editing tools, social media tools, and other tools/concepts.  Then it discusses Google Docs for classroom use, integrating technology into teaching, digital literacy, and making the case to others.

The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a journalistic view of DH in its article How the Humanities Compute, which examines how some professors are using the topic and how they got involved in it.  Lists a few good resources at the end, including the CUNY guide already mentioned and UCLA’s Introduction to Digital Humanities Coursebook.  The description of the coursebook is:

Based on the Introduction to Digital Humanities (DH101) course at UCLA, taught by Johanna Drucker (with David Kim) in 2011 and 2012, this online coursebook (and related collection of resources) is meant to provide introductory materials to digital approaches relevant to a wide range of disciplines. The lessons and tutorials assume no prior knowledge or experience and are meant to introduce fundamental skills and critical issues in digital humanities.

The four sections are (1) Concepts and readings; (2) Tutorials; (3) Student projects, and (4) Advanced Topics.

Finally, there are a couple of resources about tools that should be mentioned.  The first is Bamboo DiRT (Directory of Research Tools), which we have mentioned before because it is the best directory of such tools we know of.  Its intended audience is digital humanists, despite the fact that it also serves the needs of researchers in many disciplines.

ProfHacker has a fascinating post ‘Ready to Eat’ Academic Computing Infrastructure.  It describes AMIs (Amazon Machine Images) designed by James Smithies of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  It is a way of setting up a DH web server that includes a number of ready-to-use programs such as Omeka and Omeka plugins, Open Journal Systems, GeoServer, Drupal, and Ushahidi.  This ready to eat server is designed for the new-to-DH academic to use as a sandbox to learn how to use these tools.

The digital humanities is an exciting field that is producing many new ways at looking at human culture, and creating new tools and new concepts about that topic.  Researchers interested in adding to this rich field, and librarians who support them, need starting points for getting involved, and the items mentioned above are examples of good ways to explore DH.  In the next posts on digital humanities I plan to explore the subfields of digital literature and then digital history.

Works Cited

Adams, J. and Gunn, K. (2013).  Keeping Up With…Digital HumanitiesACRL Keeping Up With … online current awareness column.

Edwards, C. and Gold, M. (nd).  CUNY Digital Humanities Resource GuideCUNY Digital Humanities Initiative (DHI).

Lawson, K.  (2014).  ‘Ready to Eat’ Academic Computing InfrastructureProfHacker blog, Chronicle of Higher Education.

McClurken, J. (2014)  Digital Liberal Arts Workshop Links and Resources.    Google Docs.

Parry, M. (2014). How the Humanities Compute in the Classroom. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 60(17), A28-A30.

Spiro, L. (2011).  Getting Started in the Digital HumanitiesDigital Scholarship in the Humanities (blog).