A Focus on Community at the IFLA Public Library Futures conference

The presentations and papers from IFLA’s Public Libraries conference 2014 held in Birmingham (August 2014) are now freely available online.

I didn’t attend all of the conference, so was pleased I could catch up with the presentations, as the tweeting over the two days it was held in August made it sound like some interesting and practical ideas were being covered.

Out of all the papers available, I thought the following were particularly interesting. I’ve copied the abstracts from the papers themselves.

Multimedia, creativity and new ways of learning: Vaikky, the new mobile library in Espoo, Finland

Välkky is a Mobile Library in Espoo, Finland, a city in the municipality area of Helsinki. The bus includes, among books and other lending material, interactive media technology such as ipads, a video projector and a screen and a big touch screen table. The space can easily be changed according to use. The mobile library Välkky, which started operating in the spring of 2013, is part of the so called Outreach services of Espoo library. These services are two mobile libraries, the other bus Helmi being a more traditional mobile library operating mostly in the afternoons and evenings, the home library , one small hospital library and the Espoo library logistics section. In the mornings the Mobile library Välkky visits schools and daycare centers as a modern children´s library. In the afternoons and evenings Välkky can be changed to a bus for different groups of children and adults, functioning as a writer´s bus, a movie theater, a multimedia workshop, a meeting place for a book club or a handicraft group.

Breaking down barriers between physical and virtual spaces in public libraries: leading practices in Guandong Province of China

The future of public libraries seems foreseeable through leading practices in Guangdong Province, of which the economy development is first ranked and Internet popularity third ranked nationwide. In new buildings, computers are placed in traditional reading rooms together with print collections. On websites, virtual visitors are able to enjoy lectures or exhibitions happening in physical spaces. In Microblog or WeChat communities, netizens not visiting library websites can also be informed. We find that barriers between physical and virtual spaces have been broken down; most of the resources and activities could be accessed by users inside or outside the library.

Let’s tear down the wall between physical and digital: ZLB Topic Room

The Topic Room of the Central and Regional Library of Berlin (ZLB) presents interdisciplinary material from the library’s collection concerned with a certain topical or cultural issue on a monthly basis. In order to cover current topics online information is integrated into the presentation of physical media via the ZLB Topic Room Application on iPads and a Twitter wall. The ZLB Topic Room is a project in which the ZLB cooperates with many different partners.

Bexar County BiblioTech – Bringing the library to the public

BiblioTech Digital Library is the first all-digital public library in the United States, located in Bexar County, Texas. Since the doors of the first branch opened on September 14th, 2013, BiblioTech has actively worked to bridge literacy and technology gaps in San Antonio and surrounding areas by establishing a community presence at the physical locations as well as an online presence through the digital collections and resources. (Taken from www.http://bexarbibliotech.org/)

Community building for public libraries in the 21st century: examples from The Netherlands

Community building is high on the agenda of the public library sector at this moment.
However, there is a lack of innovative examples of community building in the practice of
public libraries. In this article, we focus on two famous Dutch examples of innovative
community building in public libraries. The first example is The Stalwart Readers, a
community of readers, in Dutch called ‘Lezers van Stavast’, guided by librarian Hans van
Duijnhoven. The Stalwart Readers is not a traditional book club, but a community of
readers around a collection of (non-fiction) books selected by the librarian. Every
member is expected to read every week one book (but choice is free: not everyone reads
the same book). Once a month the group comes together and discusses the themes in
the books. The project started in September 2012 and lasted for one year. However,
because of the very positive evaluations by the group members, the community still
comes together. One of the innovative elements of the Stalwart Readers is the fact that
the community also looks outside the boundaries of the library; together, they visit
lectures or theatre plays if there is a relation with the themes in the books. The
community is an example of an innovative way of highlighting the library collection and
providing context around it.

The second example of an innovative public library community is a community formed
around a project called ‘Wisdom in times of crisis’, guided by librarian Marina Polderman.
Unemployed people came together for a period of seven months in 2013, to talk about the values for the 21st century as proposed by philosopher Alain de Botton in his manifest “10 virtues for the modern age” (2013). These values were linked to the library collection and people were asked to link stories to these values and discuss them together. This community shows the library in the 21st century as a place for good conservation.

The main thing that came through with many of these papers was the sense of community linked to these library services, and how those communities cut across both the physical and virtual worlds. In some cases those communities were already in existence, but in others the libraries helped build a community through the services, resources and activities it provided.

 

Open Street Map advice needed in words I understand

I’ve been asked if I can take a look at Open Street Map (OSM), with the intention of creating a local map that would feature information of an historical nature, rather than current information. I’ve only ever created custom maps like this before using Yahoo Pipes (classification map of the world linked to a library catalogue search) and Google My Maps (a map that displayed works of fiction mentioning local areas). and have never used OSM.

I’m not entirely sure how we’d achieve the same sort of thing (or better) using OSM without getting into some development that we don’t have the skills/money to achieve. After trawling through the wiki it seems as if we would have to set up a hosted site for a customised map; install appropriate map editing and rendering software to populate and display the map with the historical data; and export local current map data from OSM for the area we want to focus on into this customised map.

But I may be wrong.

If anyone can give me any advice I’d really appreciate it.

Signatories of the Lyon Declaration

The Lyon Declaration was launched by IFLA (International Federation of Library & Information Institutions) a few days ago. In summary:

The Lyon Declaration is an advocacy document that will be used to positively influence the content of the United Nations post-2015 development agenda. It was drafted by IFLA and a number of strategic partners in the library and development communities between January and May 2014.

The Declaration calls upon United Nations Member States to make an international commitment through the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.

At this stage 134 organisations have signed the declaration and for me one of the most interesting things about them is that libraries are sitting there alongside other organisations from around the world focused on human rights, voices for the underrepresented (including youth and women), open communications, cultural development, peace, freedom of expression, freedom of information, free and open internet access, publishers, the importance of IT in sustainable development, democracy, the alleviation of poverty, government transparency, education, and civil participation.

It’s good to see that libraries are in such company.

RFID Considerations for Libraries

As Technical Librarian I need to keep on top of what is happening in the world of library related RFID. I subscribe to a couple of RFID library discussion lists (UK focus; North American focus) to keep up with activities in other libraries, but we’re also very fortunate in UK libraries, as Mick Fortune has a very informative and supplier neutral site/blog focused on library RFID. On it he raises issues that I hadn’t always considered.

Recently Mick has highlighted a few RFID ideas/issues/points that will be useful to any library service using or thinking of using RFID, and I thought I’d summarise them here and encourage people to follow them up. 

Worldwide RFID in libraries survey

Key points include:

  • The survey covered libraries from all sectors (eg public; academic; school; health), but the highest response was from public libraries. About 200 public library services in the UK use RFID, but not necessarily for all of their stock or all of their libraries.
  • Self-service is still the dominant reason for using RFID, but theft prevention, collection management, access control and acquisition functions also figure highly.
  • Only a small number of respondents used NFC smart-phone or tablet enabled devices. This technology can allow users devices to be used as scanners/readers. Increasing numbers of NFC devices may lead to increased RFID related apps in future.
  • Most respondents use RFID for books, but also CDs/DVDs, Journals, Music scores, laptops (as well as other stock).
  • Most libraries still buy their tags from their RFID supplier, as they did before the agreement of RFID data standards, but buying direct from the manufacturer would give higher savings.
  • ISO 28560-2 is the most popular data standard ie what information is included on the tag.
  • The majority of libraries with RFID use HF (High Frequency) systems, as opposed to UHF (Ultra high frequency).
  • The majority of RFID systems are still relying on SIP to communicate with the LMS, but SIP wasn’t created to work with RFID and therefore has its limitations. SIP allows for the use of extensions to add further functionality. However since the extensions aren’t regulated/standardised they would not migrate well to another RFID system. The newer Library Communications Framework aims to overcome these problems.

The detailed survey responses are very useful (and frank) and identify how libraries use RFID, how they are getting on with it and issues they may be having. It is also a very useful pointer for anyone considering implementing RFID.

BIC guidance on NFC (Near Field Communication)

This document highlights potential issues with NFC – “smartphones equipped with NFC can now read and write data to and from almost all the RFID tags used in the world’s libraries.”. Issues of concern around this technology focus on digital vandalism (ie altering data on the tags), stock theft and data locking.

E.U. Directive on RFID privacy

This expects libraries using RFID to display signs indicating the fact, so that people are aware it is in use in the library. The library would also be expected to undertake a Privacy Impact Assessment to produce a Privacy Impact Statement that would be accessible by anyone who wanted to read it.

If you have any responsibility for RFID or data security I’d recommend you go and read the articles and survey results on Mick’s blog if you haven’t already done so.

Pi And Mash Library Techy Day #PiAndMash

A couple of weeks ago I attended Pi and Mash, which was a Mashed Libraries techy event at Senate House Library in London. It’s been a while since the last Mashed Libraries event, so I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately I could only stay for the morning session, but during that time I did get to run a workshop, which was primarily focused on Pocket Code and how easy it is to get ideas up and running quickly with it. Pocket Code is a visual programming tool for Android devices that is primarily aimed at teaching children the basics of programming and is closely based on Scratch by MIT. Most of the coding is done by dragging blocks around the screen and changing the data in them. It’s very flexible too and you can get working results from it within a few minutes – see this video for a compass app which was created in one minute.

It’s a programming tool I really enjoy using because, as I said it is so easy to use, and if you’ve got an idea for a program you want to try out you can easily prototype something within an hour. I ran through the basics of the system, including how to:

  • Create and edit programs
  • Find programs written by others to see how they work and tweak them for yourself
  • Work with the different coloured code blocks for different type of actions within the program eg orange blocks control the flow of the program; blue ones control the movement of objects on the screen; purple ones are for audio

The Pocket Code app itself is pretty much self-contained. From it you can do all of the above and also link to help screens, tutorials and upload and share you programs directly to the Pocket Code site.

I also put together a few rough ideas for how people in a library setting could use the app, including a Dewey quiz (match the image on the screen to the correct Dewey classification); a Pong-style version of the quiz; and Quiet please (it uses an audio sensor on your Android device to trigger a “Quiet please” message if it gets too loud). The aim was just to give people an idea of what they could put together with it.

Pocket Code presentation

Following on from this we also talked about other easy to use tools that people could use to create programs or manipulate/share data in various ways and we chatted a bit about Yahoo Pipes (it wouldn’t be a Mashed Libraries event without a mention of it) and ifttt.com.

I’m sorry I couldn’t stay for the whole event, but as I followed the Twitter event hashtag through the day I could tell there was a buzz and that lots of attendees at the wide range of sessions were keen to try out new ideas once they got back to their workplaces.

Well done to Ka-Ming, Simon and Andrew for organising it. They get bonus points too for arranging for a 3D printer to be at the event as well.

Thoughts on Janene Cox IFLA Public Libraries keynote

I attended part of the IFLA Public Libraries satellite conference today as a speaker, and I will post more details/links to the conference paper etc when they appear on the IFLA site.

I only heard a few of the speakers today and am looking forward to catching up with the conference papers as so many sessions sounded interesting. One speaker I did get to hear was Janene Cox (past President of the Society of Chief Librarians).

Janene spoke about the work the Society of Chief Librarians are doing. She highlighted that they are more visible now than in previous years and I’d agree with that and they are involved with some promising initiatives at the moment, including the 4 universal offers (reading, digital, health, information).

Janene had both positive and negative things to say about the current public library situation in England, which is understandable. One point she stressed was that advocacy for libraries is key. Things that stuck in my mind and I wish I’d commented on some of them at the time (I always raise my hand too late!) were:

On one hand Janene was talking about the great skills library staff have and how they are an asset in the provision of our library services, and on the other hand increasing numbers of libraries throughout the country are being handed over to volunteers.

Localism has taken a negative turn – mostly it’s (again) about handing libraries over to volunteers, not giving them an input into the library service direction to address local need, or supporting library services in a way that doesn’t leave them feeling dumped on. It’s localism that often suits councils, not necessarily localism that suits local library users.

Localism was also mentioned in regard to it being up to the local authorities to decide on how they deliver their local library services and central government in England is standing well back and giving no guidance or ensuring that standards are met. Guy Daines (CILIP) highlighted that Welsh libraries released their own report highlighting that their library standards will remain in place and annual reports will be produced to see how library services are shaping up, so why aren’t English public libraries doing similar?

Using Liverpool as an example of a council investing in its library services with the example of the fantastic central library that opened last year was ironic as it was reported last week that 11 smaller libraries in Liverpool are now under threat.

A member of the international audience asked at the end, if the delivery of library services in England is dictated to us by the current political agenda shouldn’t library service staff be getting involved in that political discussion? Personally I think if we don’t get involved in the discussions we and the people who use our library services stand to lose a lot.

This was sticking in my mind when in the final session Hans van Duijnhoven (Netherlands) said that we can’t be objective in the provision of our library services, we all have to make choices.

If we don’t make those choices ourselves (as the people who understand public library services best) the choices will be made by those who don’t truly understand the purpose and value of libraries.

Do we really want that to happen?

WordPress snapshot cards created in Processing

I’ve been getting to grips with Processing lately. Apart from creating a couple of small games and a handful of generative images I’ve also been experimenting with data feeds. One of the ideas I had was to create a visual card for WordPress blogs based on the content in them. I wanted the cards to give a snapshot of the blog at that specific time, and also reflect the content of the data feed visually.

twist2-000001The background of the card is generated by the program and contains either stripes or circles and the colour and size of the stripes/circles depends upon the size of the blog post title.

It also displays the title of the blog and the url, which it takes from whatever WordPress RSS you put in there.

Automated keyword tagging has been an interest of mine for some time (as some of my Yahoo pipe experiments have shown) and in this program I pull out all of the words in the description field of the feed and then rank the most mentioned words. I also filtered out unwanted words with a stopword list. It’s interesting to see the words that crop up the most, although as a second stage I’m considering stemming words, because for example both “library” and “libraries” appears in the top 10 words in my blog and I would reduce this problem of closely related words appearing.

When you run the program each top keyword is displayed separately for a few seconds (starting with the most popular) and then it moves onto the next one.

So, here are a couple of examples from this blog and also the Voices for the Library site.

twist-000001  voices-000001 voices3-000001The aim is really just to give a simple idea of what people might find on the blog – a simple taster of it, with a bit of creativity thrown in.

I’d like to develop the idea further – include more detail and possibly have quotes and images from the blogs, as well as using more data from the feed to generate the background. I’m also thinking that if I focused on just library and information service based blogs it might be a good idea to create a dictionary of terms to compare against, as well as having the top 10 words.

Anyway, I like the way they’ve turned out so far.

Full text RSS feed sharing with FeedsAPI

I’ve been taking a look at a service called FeedsAPI recently, after one of the team got in touch with me. It focuses on pulling through full text of articles, blog posts and news items in RSS feeds instead of just the stub of article text you often see in your feed reader. This is something I’ve used Pocket for in the past. You can also set up feeds for static web pages, so that you’re alerted when content has been updated on the web page, which is similar to Web2RSS.

Once you’ve subscribed to an RSS feed you can either get any newly published items sent to you as an email alert or you can add the feed generated in FeedsAPI to your feed reader. Obviously the benefit of having full text articles being pulled through and sent to you is in the time you save in not having to click through to another web page from your feed reader and also that it makes the articles easier to read without being distracted by content elsewhere on the original page eg. adverts; links to other irrelevant articles; etc. When you subscribe you can also decide if any links in the text remain as they are, are removed, or appear as footnotes to the item (I like the footnotes option).

On top of this it has some handy subscription features – you can add other users to subscribe to your feeds and add further feeds, and you can decide who gets to see what on a feed by feed basis. So, for example if I was a librarian responsible for maintaining current awareness in an organisation and I was pulling in feeds with a range of topics, I could share certain feeds with some subscribers based on their interests. So, from the single dashboard you could control all the subscriptions you need and ensure they are shared with the right people. I’d probably need a ‘Professional’ account for this. There is a charge for the service, but you can try it for free for 14 days. For the Professional account you also get access to the API, meaning that if you want to manipulate the data generated from your RSS in FeedsAPI you can.

I can see how this could be useful for people or organisations who would tick all/some of these boxes:

  • Would prefer to get their RSS articles as full text, rather than having to click out to the full article
  • Would prefer to read their article in as clean a style as possible ie without ads etc
  • Want to manage their RSS feeds and page alerts in a single place
  • Want to either get the feed as email or read in their RSS reader
  • Want to be able to manage subscriptions in a single place for an organisation

As I say, you can get a 14 day free trial, if you like the sound of FeedsAPI and want to find out more. It’s worth taking a look at.

(Originally posted on Discover Organize Share 27/07/2014)

Library A to Z update #LibraryAtoZ

It’s been over a month since the Library A to Z Kickstarter was funded and I just wanted to update you on how things are progressing. So far, the illustrator Josh Filhol has finished the art work. In the end he managed to produce illustrations for every letter, even those that didn’t have many words against them. The illustrations are vibrant and are going to look great in the book and on the other advocacy resources. Content for the book is also coming together nicely and Andy is in contact with designers for promotional items such as posters. We don’t have a definite timescale for when the resources based on the illustrations will be available for download, but we’ll make sure we announce it when it happens.

 

Making Games for Libraries Workshop

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop focused on making games for libraries run by Andy Walsh. The idea behind the workshop is to produce games used for information literacy instruction. As I am running a session at PI and Mash in August to introduce people to the Pocket Code programming environment and give them ideas for producing a library game, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a bit more focused.

The workshop gave us a brief introduction to different types of games that we could make; the tools you can use and game design, concepts, mechanics, goals/aims and rules; and how to progress through the design stages logically. Andy provided a range of materials eg blank cards; dice; spinners; pens; blank boards, etc and we were split into small groups to actually prototype a game. I thought this was a tall order for a 4 hours session, but all of the groups managed it. It seemed as if you kept the end focus in sight it was a lot easier than I expected. As an aside, this is something I’ll be keeping in mind when I’m creating my little computer games, as they tend to go off in random directions.

My group created a prototype for a classification based card game. The end goal being something that would improve people’s understanding of classification. It was called “Dewey or Die” and was based around the idea of collecting a set or run of similar Dewey classification playing cards.

This video explains the rules.

Here are the prototype set of lovingly created hand-drawn cards (possibly a collectors edition in future).

Prototype cards for Dewey or Die classification game

Prototype cards for Dewey or Die classification game

There were 5 games prototyped during the workshop and it was interesting to see the areas the other teams focused on and how they put their games together. They can all be found on Andy’s Making Games in Libraries blog.

I found the workshop enjoyable and fun and the ideas behind it are something I’ll be using in future.