Monday, June 25, 2018

CCLI 2018


On Friday, June 1, I attended the California Conference on Library Instruction, which was held at USF in Fromm Hall. The theme of this year's 1-day conference was Library Instruction by Design: Using Design Thinking to Meet Evolving Needs. This theme was inclusive and applicable to all the sorts of library instruction we do, conceptually flexible, and easily approachable. My main takeaway of the conference was to just try something new; in the process of design thinking, there are built-in pockets of time to reflect on how the new thing went and to adjust the application of the new thing to continually improve it. On the other hand, it is also important to remember the beauty of pilots: if it doesn't work, it is OK to cancel the new thing and try something else instead! The most important mindset to maintain is that improvement is incremental, and the stakes are rarely high enough to stop one completely from trying to improve the design of instruction sessions, assessment approaches, vehicles for outreach relationships, etc.: we can evolve towards something better with the luxury of making mistakes

Picture of Lauren Pressley
during opening keynote


I found the opening keynote address, delivered by Lauren Pressley, to be accessible and inspirational, sending me reaching for my notebook to take notes. She spoke of key moments in her career trajectory in where she used elements of design thinking, often emphasizing that a period that appears on the outside as inactive is many times the analyzing phase of design thinking, where one is taking everything in and gathering information sufficient to beginning the subsequent design phase.

The ADDIE model by grafispaten [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to the ADDIE model charted above, there are other models such as the SAM modelPlan, Think, Do/PDCA model, and Kotter's Cycle of Change; they all can be equally useful in the design process so one shouldn't spend too much energy defining or comparing the different models for adoption.

Or, we can put it this way:


  • talking with peeps
  • taking it in, marinating 
  • put self in position of users when approaching design (e.g. use library's public space for your own work) - walk through other areas of campus to see what peeps are doing 


  • divergent thinking
  • generate ideas
  • consider fringe cases
  • prototyping (e.g. post-it note on cell phone screen for rough UX design)


  • take to public before investing in doing it (they might not think it's as great as you do)
  • what other problems are arising
  • exploring what could come out of doing the thing

Pressley also called out a great resource: the Design Thinking for Libraries Toolkit and flashed a flagship quote for design thinking: Perfect is the enemy of good. If it's good, do it! And it's OK to say, "I need more time on this phase," whatever phase may be tripping you up, as you ask yourself, "What role can I play in my community, for what can I be a resource?"

Morning Session 

The next session I attended was called Every Citation Tells a Story: Framing a Collaborative Assessment Design of Information Literacy Skills, presented by Dale Vidmar. This was an interactive session where we got to apply the methods Vidmar used in assessing student information literacy skills by evaluating the introduction and references of a sample student paper. It turns out one rarely needs to read the whole paper to evaluate info lit skills, and that the citations -- from what types of works are cited to how well the citations are formatted -- indicates a student's mastery over info lit.

I can see this being applicable to archival research in addition to traditional reference and research services; this past spring quarter I taught a couple of classes in where the students used archival materials as a main component of their research for specific assignment topics; by evaluating and comparing the citations of archival sources with the citations of the secondary and tertiary sources, I would be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the incorporation of archival sources into the research process. This is another great example of checking in on students' final research outputs as a mode for assessment.

Note: Vidmar's slides and interactive exercise handouts are available on the CCLI 2018 website.

Afternoon Sessions 

Directly after lunch I attended the lightning talks, which I like because they offer a wide overview of the projects and initiatives my colleagues at other institutions have been up to, but for whatever reason I did not find any particular talk extremely useful or applicable. I also often feel like 10 minutes is not enough time to get into everything necessary for total audience engagement. Although folks in the audience had some great follow-up questions for all participants!

The last session of the day that I attended was Chasing Outcomes: An Exploration of Barriers to Progress in Designing and Assessing Library Instruction Program Learning Outcomes, presented by Caitlin Plovnick. Above all I found this session to be therapeutic for audience and presenter: Plovnick exposed the demoralizing factors she herself faced in her organization when trying to implement an instruction assessment program and by extension allowed us to vicariously give catharsis to any organizational or position-specific issues we ourselves may face. Yes, it is true: dysfunction is normal. As she eventually came round to the positive outcomes, which were sometimes made possible by things out of her control (e.g. a new library director being hired, one who came to her instruction assessment meetings and thus drummed up participation from other librarians), Plovnick's talk kept sight of hope and change. Her session often made me laugh and engage with the other participants at my table, creating camaraderie and a group zeitgeist to close out the day.

The Over Professionalization of Library Work 

It was also during this session that I had a major epiphany regarding a problem I had long felt resided within all aspects of library work. The over professionalization of librarianship is a product of us (academic librarians and library administrators) attempting to legitimize what we do to the rest of academia, which so often rewards research-conducting PhDs with sabbaticals and higher pay. We want a seat at that table; we want the benefits of working hard in academia just as our faculty colleagues do. The over-professionalization of librarianship has not been developed to make it more difficult for us and our colleagues but actually to help us make a case of our services and position us as integral to the academic enterprise. This epiphany gave me space to readjust my attitude towards trends that are indicators in the wider field of academia, like assessment, the need to publish and present, and promote our own rigor in what we do.

 Photo by edulabsde - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I definitely look forward to applying design thinking to the instruction I will begin planning for fall quarter, as well as reference desk and research inquiry workflow improvements that have been brewing in my mind. Lastly, of course I look forward to next year's CCLI, which will be held at USF on Friday, May 3, 2019! 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Soul Hunter

On Monday, March 12, I started my new job in Archives & Special Collections at Santa Clara University. I can now give authenticity and credence to the handle "bibliobebe."

Yesterday, while shifting the flats in the vault (the section of special collections monographs that are too large to safely shelve in folio), I discovered this thin pamphlet-stitched ditty devoted to Fr. Gleeson, the namesake of my old library at the University of San Francisco, on the occasion of the celebration of his 60 year anniversary of joining the Society of Jesus. It contains a poem written by Edward F. O'Day that was included in the program for the honorary evening.

Furthermore, we have the papers of Fr. Gleeson in the archives; he was the 13th president of SCU. In the last folder of his personal papers, there is a letter in which he discussed the building of the namesake library at USF. I will take a look at that next week and post a follow-up.

Connections are everywhere! Which is to be expected of 2 Jesuit universities located within 45 miles from each other. Yet maybe in a little way, Fr. Gleeson is watching over me at SCU :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NorCal IUG November 2017

This past Friday I carpooled down to Santa Clara to attend the 2017 NorCal IUG meeting. Two of my coworkers were presenting on their recent project of updating the public catalog, our WebPAC, so I wanted to support, as well as learn some new things about managing library systems.

The NorCal IUG agenda covered diverse topics and the presentations were informative and inspiring. From Bill Schickling, rep from Innovative, I learned that Innovative is looking to release automatic renewals in Q2 of 2018 probably, and he summarized Innovative's development strategy as a choice between
Build it?
Buy it?
which can be parlayed across most industries. Bill gave the group updates about Innovative's future as a company and the PPORs (product plan of record) for Sierra and Polaris.

The individual presentations were great. From Gem Stone-Logan I got pumped up to try scripting in Python. She herself has only been using Python for about a year and is self taught, and encouraged the use of the active listserv and Google in general. Her presentation, which is available on her website, gave a basic roadmap on how to get started. I really feel encouraged to try!

View out of a window near the large conference room on the 3rd floor of the SCU library. 

Next up was John Boggs, who mostly talked about automating tasks using MySQL as a way of saying "if I can do it, you can do it." I don't have experience with MySQL but my take away with Boggs's presentation, as well as Stone-Logan's, is that a lot of the work of systems librarians is repetitive--report pulling every month, for example--so the smart thing is to automate these tasks. And there is "more than one way to skin a cat" when it comes to automating.

Rounding out the presentations were Justine Withers and Anders Lyon, my colleagues from Gleeson. They gave the attendees an overview of our funky system of running Encore and WebPAC from the same interface (keyword goes to Encore, and every other type of search goes to our WebPAC, which we call Ignacio). They gave an overview of the aims of their project refreshing the interface, the function audit they performed, and how they are building buy-in and communicating with stakeholders. Although I already knew a bit about their project, I learned a lot--I thought it was especially wild that they discovered a pretty nice looking beta WebPAC sitting in the sandbox, already branded with USF logos and refreshed! I look forward to the day they give a similar presentation to library staff.

After lunch we got a chance to tour the SCU Automated Retrieval System (ARS). This system occupies where the old library once stood, and the current library is a new construction.

In the afternoon I attended the Circulation and resource sharing break out session. I learned of a lot of new types of collections public libraries are lending (hot spots, gardening tools, Chromebooks...), as well as new patron policies and types (forgiving fines, teacher p-types, etc.). That type of discussion was a refreshing nuts and bolts view of what libraries do that have a direct impact on the lives of their patrons, which is a far cry from the higher level topics at some academic library conferences. We also discussed the loss of the CSUs from Link+, and how the loss of the Claremont colleges may have been even a bigger blow. The conversation flowed freely, was respectful, and was well facilitated. I took special delight in the fact this session was held in SCU's bibliographic instruction lab (the equivalent to our Electronic Classroom) so I got to see what type of technology they use, how the room is configured, and how the room is secured. I was surprised to learn someone stole all the memory out of the iMacs in that lab at some point!

Picture of one group table of iMacs gathered around a wall-mounted screen. 

Picture of SCU's electronic classroom, with empty wired tables in middle, podium at front, projector screen at front, and one group table of iMacs gathered around a wall-mounted screen. 

Another picture of SCU's electronic classroom, with multiple group tables with iMacs and wall-mounted screens. iMacs sit down in a recessed area to create a better line-of-sight to instructor. 

All in all, I spent a wonderful day in the Santa Clara Library meeting with colleagues in the field and coworkers from back home. The campus is gorgeous and spread out, while the library--only about 10 years old--is spacious and well conceived. It is a model example of the learning commons framework.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thoughts on HR Workshop: Avoiding Bias in the Hiring Process

Last Friday (September 15) I attended a workshop put on by the HR department called Avoiding Bias in the Hiring Process. Mikael Villalobos gave the presentation, which was totally interactive, thought-provoking, and informative. My main motivation for attending this workshop was to increase my awareness of diversity issues and to help me recruit student assistants in the most equitable method possible.

I learned that bias happens because each of us is a product of our experiences, which have conditioned us to hold certain beliefs. We cannot rid ourself of bias completely. Accepting the fact we all are biased allows each one of us to have an authentic conversation about it, and can only help us work to mitigate bias.

We did an exercise where Mikael flashed photos of different people on the projection screen, and we jotted down the first thoughts that came to mind. I was embarrassed of the adjectives I wrote down, words such as woman, happy, black, old, white, sly, demure, professional. I learned that, you know what though? Those thoughts are natural. They are my observations.

Observations are fine. However, I can probe my thought process to determine if I am creating a story in my head around those observations based on my socialized values. If so, that story is bias. If I make a hiring decision based on that story I've created, I am enforcing my bias.

On the other hand, by exercising awareness I can go through the process of interrupting the circuit between observation, story, and action which results in enforcing bias. This can cause me to experience dissonance, which happens if I take a step back and acknowledge the system of inequalities/marginalization that clashes with my socialized values. Dissonance can be disorienting and uncomfortable, but it is also my learning edge, and is very valuable!

To apply the theory to the hiring process, I can employ interviewing approaches that mitigate bias. For example, I can ask interview questions that challenge or confirm the "dilettante/renaissance" persona of a candidate; I can conduct reference checks to ask questions about qualifications rather than creating my own story about qualifications; I can set up role playing exercises to allow the candidate to actively demonstrate whether or not they are able to perform a certain job duty.

In total, it feels liberating to recognize the bias we all carry, and I am already able to put new thought processes in action that short-circuit those stories I tell based on my observations. I feel less guilt while also feel more capable of encountering people from different backgrounds than myself with an open mind.

By Dietmar Rabich - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 4.0

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ebsco Study on Usability for Students with Print Disabilities

Yesterday a group of us at work got together to participate in the webinar EBSCO Accessibility Study on User Experience, presented by Jill Power, Ebsco technical product manager.

This webinar was not only enlightening regarding the ways in which students with print disabilities use Ebsco products, but in general how they do research, navigate graphic user interfaces, and what tools they use to do so. 

Here is a brief digest of the findings:

WCAG compliance ≠ accessibility 
• Accessibility ≠ WCAG compliance 
(For example, strident use of alt tags with images can impede the use of a webpage if they do not bring value to the visually impaired user. Ask yourself the question, what value do these alt tags bring, or are they repetitive?)
• No vision users use screen readers
• Low vision users use magnification and text to speech 
• Accessibility a journey, not a destination--there is always room for continue improvement 
• Ebsco Discovery Service (Fusion at my library) provided a positive experience for the participants in the study. The ease of doing some tasks should be improved, but overall, users could get what they needed and trusted the academic scope of the content. 
• Manual testing should still be employed, regardless of advances in automated testing. Each user drew on different tools and techniques and insight into those behaviors was enlightening. 

One visually impaired student said she really likes Google because the result display is high contrast and very well organized. I think as librarians we tend to think of reasons to use or not use Google for different reasons (mostly related to the content of the search results, questions of credibility of results, and mercenary driving forces like Google ad revenue). However, the Google result page still displays dark blue, dark green, or dark grey text on a white background (high contrast), unlike many sites that have switched to light grey text; furthermore, the Google result page is not muddied with floating ads or pop-ups urging viewers to sign up for an email list or another call to action, which often confuses the screen readers that visually impaired users employ.  

Screenshot of Google result page from August 3, 2017

The takeaways:
• Focus on accessibility rather than compliance
• Take a hands-on approach
• Remember the student's goal (write the paper)
• Consider the overall experience 

Some free tools:
• Accessibility tools that come in Mac OS 
NAVD screen reader -- free alternative to JAWS

After the webinar, a few of us discussed the webinar's takeaways in context of our workplace, and our role vs. that of the office of Student Disability Services. Sounds like there is interest in hosting the SDS folks for a library presentation to find out more! 

My own personal takeaway is to look into changing the text color on my blogs and website to improve the contrast--I am guilty of using grey text for both! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Reflections on Fake News Webinar

As many have pointed out, it's unfortunate that the term "fake news" has entered the daily lexicon only following the 2016 US presidential election because fake news isn't new and is only a small piece of the information literacy equation. Nonetheless it presents an opportune moment for information professionals to claim a leadership role in fighting an issue that is of mainstream attention. For these reasons I was happy to participate in a webinar through ALA yesterday with some colleagues. It was called Fake News, Real Concerns: Developing Information-Literate Students Workshop and was presented by Donald A. Barclay, who wrote a popular article on the topic earlier this year.

Barclay proposed thinking about the 1964 release of the Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health within the context of our current information landscape: how might have social media, the internet, memes, and predatory journals diffused the credibility of the report and waylaid a major public health improvement effort?

This ended up being a great context through which to examine the fake news issue of the current year, because we are so used to living with social media and living in an information glut that it is sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. It is important to inspect all contemporary driving forces and economic motivators of media influence on public opinion when evaluating information.

I had some very concrete takeaways from this webinar, which I live-tweeted.

When Barclay says "teach the tricks," he means these:

And when he says use the ACRL Framework, he points out that "credibility and applicability of most information is not an either/or proposition." He advises to rate the level of the stakes in order to gauge risk corresponding to the amount of time it takes to ascertain the "truth" of a claim.

Barclay also suggested using the concept of the Dunning-Kruger effect as a model for an in-class activity to expose students to their own overestimation of their ability to evaluate information. To engage students during a library instruction session, show students something that most would think is credible (for example, poll them, and then deconstruct why it is not credible according to the "tricks" above and the framework. It will make them realize how scrutinizing they need to be because their gullibility is exposed. I am looking forward to using this in some of the instruction sessions I will co-teach this fall!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Libraries and Accessibility for Print Disabilities

I have been working with the campus communication and marketing office to revise our print user guides, and I became concerned about the accessibility of the back panel (featured to the left) for people with print disabilities. Print disabilities are types of disability that affect people who are blind, vision impaired, dyslexic, etc. Due to the low contrast of white on yellow, people with vision impairment could not read the text. While the campus office of communication and marketing attempted to address my concern in one of the revisions, it became clear they do not employ standards of accessibility for the university's print marketing materials.

Accessibility is a diversity and inclusion issue. What campus departments are responsible for accessibility outside the office of student disability services or academic support services? Surely the web services department is a stakeholder, but what about the office of communication and marketing, IT, or the library?

This question got me interested in the issue of libraries and accessibility for print disabilities. To continue my education on the topic, I watched a video from the Spring 2017 CNI Project Briefings meeting called Advancing Accessibility through Libraries.

Advancing Accessibility through Libraries from CNI Video Channel on Vimeo.

One accessibility issue facing institutions of higher education and their libraries involve print disabilities--making course texts and library materials accessible to students with print disabilities. This is in addition to many other concerns, chief among them audio accessibility, which comes into play with captioning videos and providing transcripts for live panels and discussions; however, this is a specific topic for another post.

Image from
When it comes to providing reliable machine-readable text for students with print disabilities, texts must be scanned with OCR and then fine-tuned so that a DAISY Talking Book or the JAWS software, as two examples, can read the text aloud to the student. In the past, in my department (the Reference & Research Services Department), vision impaired students were often limited to doing research in the full text databases because the texts could be read by JAWS or the built-in database tool. If the student wished to consult a print book, they would need to build in extra time for the Student Disability Services office to scan the book or chapter.

In the CNI presentation, Laura C. Wood points out it is important to build collaboration within institutional departments (e.g. student disability services and library) as well as between institutions. The future may hold some exciting partnerships building shared repositories of accessible materials (e.g. scans of most used text books or files containing captioning of videos), which could eliminate double efforts. Also in the CNI presentation, Laura C. Wood communicated Beth Sandore Namachchivaya's part in Beth's absence, which reports on an exciting project between HathiTrust, Internet Archive, and University of Illinois to offer DAISY files for some of the textual items held in HathiTrust. The project is just getting going but it seems like it will be able to avoid copyright issues by nesting the DAISY files under the texts, which will not be viewable in general searches, and only available to print disabled readers when they are logged in.

Next week a group of us from the library will be participating in the EBSCO Accessibility Study on User Experience webinar. Considering that we subscribe to EDS as our discovery service and have therefore shifted to Ebsco as a vendor for many of our databases, I am glad they conducted this user study and very much look forward to seeing what they found out.