ConFab 2015 Talk: Collaboration in a New Landscape, by Lisa Welchman

After watching Lisa Welchman’s talk from ConFab 2015 (a content strategist conference held annually) on Youtube, there were a few important points that I took away. The gist of Welchman’s talk is that rethinking the way that information is shared and presented can help a department or organization.  She mentioned that content strategists are faced with a problem of having a ton of content and not knowing what it all is and where it all is. She posits that this issue is only going to become increasingly important as new technologies such as the Internet of Things become more prevalent, generating vast amounts of data that is then translated into content for consumption.

Welchman talks about ways that content strategists can face these issues of not knowing what content exists and lack of structure to the content that is being generated by imposing a standards-based framework to content. There are four steps that she outlines which can help in this process:

  1. Identify who is working on your team and what they are doing. This seems like a logical first step in applying standards but I think it’s also important to consider that in doing this, it is also important to not exacerbate the “silo” structure of an organization. Although it’s important to know who you’re working with and their roles, it’s also worth considering that people outside of your team can be helpful on certain projects.
  2. Along those lines, the first org charts had the boss at the bottom, disseminating information to lower employees, who were the branches. This organization has over time been flipped, with the boss now at the top and other employees passing their information up to the boss.
  3.  Welchman offers a solution to this hierarchical organization, which is to move from a hierarchy to an object-oriented team. This involves a different organization than the typical hierarchy, which places performance indicators and known metrics at the center of a kind of atom, with the employees all working towards fulfilling these performance indicators, depicted as electrons surrounding the nucleus of performance indicators. Although matrix management was at one time proven ineffective, Welchman believes that something similar would be more easily implemented today because of the prevalence of computers and the ease of communication. This put more importance on getting things done and less importance on reporting only to immediate superiors.
  4. The last step that Welchman suggested is to think about your department as an information supply chain and to consider what your role is in the chain. This involves getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

Although Welchman lists her steps in the order that she does, I think that they all touch on the same common theme, which is that it is important for a team to not hoard information when they are working together on a project, instead seeing the deliverables and metrics as the most important part of the project and therefore sharing information. She ends the talk by saying that the role of a content strategist is to make information flow.

I think Welchman’s idea of making performance the central goal of a team and encouraging members to collaborate in a more organic way is a great idea. The concepts she presents in her talk are applicable to many organizations, not just content strategists. The concepts of an information supply chain management and object-oriented organization instead of hierarchical organization can conceivably by applied in most situations to streamline a department’s efficiency. I invited you to watch her talk and check out some other talks from ConFab 2015

 

 

New databases for October

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the A-Z list of Resources, as well as those for which the vendor or platform has changed, from October 1-30. You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject guides. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month. You can also find a list of the newest resources, and those for which a trial is underway, at http://libraries.indiana.edu/electronic-resources-trials-and-new-additions.

Brill’s Medieval Reference Library
https://libraries.indiana.edu/brills-medieval-reference-library

Frank Leslie’s Weekly
https://libraries.indiana.edu/frank-leslies-weekly

Usability and Stagnation: Are you learning anything new?

In their usual frank yet informative manner, the Nielsen Norman Group posted an article that discusses the stagnation of user expertise. In fact, the article writes: “Learning is hard work, and users don’t want to do it; they don’t explore the user interface and don’t know about most features.” While the latter may be true, the former seems like a rather severe judgment. Yet, the article brings up several good points and draws upon interesting examples.
In both and old and new examples, Nielsen finds that even with a design of good usability, after people learn a core set of features, decades can pass with a user only learning a couple of new features. People, ultimately, seem to reach a certain, perhaps even then unclear understanding of the interface, and then don’t get much better. In one study of Microsoft Office, the UX team asked customers to suggest new features, but their requests were actually often things that had been a part of Office for years. More recent examples include usability studies with Apps for touchscreens. People were largely unaware of the basic features of the apps. For example, when using the Bank of America app, one user did not know a check deposit feature existed. And further, someone using MyFitnessPal did not realize she could track her weight or access information from a previous day. The article lists several other apps in which users were not using the apps to their fullest (or even sometimes basic) potential.

But why? Why are people not using these systems to the fullest when they must know that they are supposed to be useful and increase productivity? Nielsen’s answer: users are narrowly focused on the present. And furthermore, people don’t read manuals. They are set on one particular task and do not take the time to investigate the entire interface for possible features and functions. And it makes sense, often times we don’t look for something new until we realize we need it.

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So what can be done to encourage user learning? Nielsen argues fewer features, yet visible features and signifiers, just-in-times learning, forgiveness, low-commitment previews, and plain usability.  By providing fewer yet more visible features, people will be able to explore each one and likewise by providing error messages or quick previews demonstrating how something should be done could help increase the likelihood that someone will try it out.

And as I read through this article, I couldn’t help but think about how this applies to so many different aspects of learning and especially my current studies as Library Science student. With the continuing technological changes, improvements and innovations, how do people move forward and continue to actively engage and learn without stagnating. This article seemingly answers or at least suggests possible solutions that are adaptable beyond user experience. Helping users feel at ease to explore and provide them with the knowledge or information that makes the work feel easier and what they need in that moment is certainly one of a librarian’s goals. However, it easier said than done, right?

Nonetheless, this article proved an interesting and thought-provoking read as I consider my own personal and academic use of technology. Am I using any my resources/apps/databases to their fullest potential? That’s a really good question.

New databases for July

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from July 1 – 31 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

Cairn
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=27670877

Campus Verlag Ebooks: Geschichte 2002-2012
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=27351230

Product Launch Analytics
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=27511037

Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=27192124

Library App

Today cell phones with their huge capabilities are not only a communication tool, but it’s also a source of information and knowledge. With development of touch screen cell phones mobile apps are becoming spread and highly usable. People install apps to have an easy and quick access to information they need. Thereby libraries start to develop their own apps to provide a new experience to their clinets.
    The District of Columbia Public Library is the first library that launched free library iPhone app in Nation. It provides a quick library resources search for books and materials with reviews and summaries. Users can get information on working hours, locations and maps for all D.C. public libraries anytime. Moreover, it allows an online reservation for books and library materials for pick up. This great app allows more interaction for mobile app users. People want to use apps because it is something fresh, new and innovative.

 

 

However, university libraries have developed their own libraries for students to provide them better services. Cornell University is a good example for that. Their app allows to search the library catalog and books, get information on library hours, manage your own library account and ask questions of Cornell librarians.
    Today, apps are highly used and easy to develop. May be we will see Indiana University Library app in the near future with cool features that will have the highest downloads.

 

 

The Most Basic Interface

Here at DUX we are often concerned with the interface the user is presented with.  Usually, this involves the on-screen interface presented in a web browser.  However, we should also consider that the user is usually interacting with that interface via a primary physical interface (i.e. a mouse and keyboard).  With that in mind, exploring “non-traditional” computer interfaces and hardware can open up new ways of thinking about how users interact with our designs.

Alternative interface methods range from the expected to the bizarre.  Touch screens have been around for quite a while, and are something most users are familiar with now.  These generally offer faster interaction for simple tasks, however are less suitable for more complicated tasks.

Mouse and keyboard is the tried and true method for interfacing with the computer, but what about innovative versions of this hardware? 

Ergonomic designs are intended to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries.  The Safe Keyboard takes this to a new level by placing the most often used portion of the keyboard perpendicular to the desk.  Are ergonomic keyboards a more effective way for users to interact with the computer?  Probably not, but it might be as effective, while being safer.

The mouse is the other staple for human-computer interaction.  Touch pad mice appear both for laptops and desktop PCs.   While this technology isn’t new, it has become more ubiquitous as well as more responsive.

Of course, budget constraints lead to a lot of these “gadgets” being out of reach for libraries to have for every workstation.  The standard mouse and keyboard provide a cost-effective common ground that virtually every user is familiar with.  That said, there is some merit for considering alternatives to the most basic interface all our users are presented with.

Library Innovations

College and university libraries are finding a decline of traditional material usage and student visits. Not only students prefer dorms rooms or apartments for reading and studying, but older people find more pleasant nearby bookstores or coffee shops such as Starbucks rather than public libraries. As technology rapidly expands people are able to find quick answers online and prefer to make an online research instead of skimming books in libraries. Finding information online “made more sense” for 93% students in 2001 study and most of them said that they were not able to find needed information or didn’t have time to go to the library. Even today students come to library to study, socialize or work on something, however they don’t use library resources or services much. To solve the problem libraries try to change the way they approach not only students but public in general by making it innovative and pleasant and rethink the way they provide content to them.

One of the good examples is National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan that has an incredible architecture developed by BIG architects. The design combines universal archetypes and traditions. Its spiral shape transforms from a horizontal organization to a vertical organization. The architecture combines rotunda shape, form of Great Library Alexandria and Arc de Triomphe with the soft silhouette of yurt (Wikipedia: Yurt – dwelling structure traditionally used by Turkic nomads in the steppes of Central Asia).

Innovation used in the library construction and design might reshape people’s opinion and improve library visits.

 

  Some libraries such as University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin have contracts with Google that scans their material and digitizes it. It helps people to find needed content online and moreover damaged books can be recovered and combined. Lost pages can be found in another library and combined into one single source. Digitizing library materials and innovation of electronic readers makes book easier to find and access. Therefore, library web sites play a crucial role in providing needed services and materials to users. As technology expands alternatives to the libraries increase in their popularity such as Google scholar and Bing. It moves libraries forward to innovate and reshape the way people think about libraries. Nowadays, library architectures change and books are becoming digital.We might be witnesses of hi tech style libraries with e-books on the shelves in next couple decades.

read more about National Library in Astana

Games and Libraries – Bridging the Gap

Games have been a part of libraries for years now.  Whether it is analog board games (chess, checkers) or modern video games such as Playstation or Wii, libraries have been using games to attract attention — and potential users.

During my stint as a Young Adult librarian at a small public library, setting up video games was always a way to draw a crowd.  Whether it was a Wii, Rockband, or DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) gaming days at the library were always sure to bring in the teens.

Blogs and websites such as gamesinlibraries.org and the Gaming Wiki for Libraries provide up-to-date details and instructions on how to integrate gaming at libraries.  Many libraries, particularly college campus libraries, circulate video games and even gaming consoles like they would any other materials.  Games have proven themselves as both a way to attract users as well as serve as meaningful items worth circulating in their own right.

But here’s the problem.

Up until this point, games have been used largely to “bait and switch.”  “Hey kids, come to the library, play some games, and now check out these books.”  “Did you know you can check out games at the library?  Well you can also check out books while you’re here!”  While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, there is a definite lack of integration.  Even when games are incorporated into circulation, they largely serve to attract users to other materials available.

With the explosion of mobile app use, of course mobile app gaming has come part and parcel along with it.  The question has been, how do libraries get involved in mobile apps.  I think there is a big opportunity for libraries to marry their friendship with gaming and their need to become more mobile.

And more importantly this could provide a medium to really bridge the gap between library resources and games.  There is definite potential for mobile apps that incorporate library resources in game form.  The most successful libraries will be those that can use gaming to have users actually use their other resources in integrated and meaningful ways.