Category Archives: Technology

Pretty Sweet Tech: Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Think about the last time you checked the hours of a business. Were you at home or running around town? Were you on a mobile device? Do you have a smartphone?

Statista.com shows that 48.71% of all web traffic comes from a mobile device. That number is estimated to climb higher in coming years. For this reason, many companies are adopting what they call “mobile first” strategies. This means they are optimizing their websites for smartphone screens and tablets. Sadly, this also means it may get harder for people without smartphones to access the information they need. Times are changing, and in some ways not for the better.

This also means libraries will have to adapt to stay relevant in a mobile-first world. Library customers are used to user experiences on Amazon, Google, and large department stores. If our library websites don’t have the same visual appeal, they probably won’t stay long. New customers will also be less likely to take action and come into the library.

So what can we do? If you’re familiar with web development, start by looking into responsive design and fluid layout as a way to make mobile-first happen. This will allow your content to automatically detect the size of the screen and display content properly. Just make sure your font sizes are legible and your objects are a good size for adult fingertips to activate. There are other ways to do this, including building a separate design for popular screen sizes, but that takes a lot more time and energy to maintain.

Mobile-first means we build for mobile, then make sure it works for desktop, rather than designing for desktop screens and hoping for mobile. If users have to scroll from side to side a lot, or zoom in and out to navigate and read text, they won’t stay on your site long. Next time you visit a website on your phone, think about why it works or doesn’t work for you, and why you click away. Stick with what works for your library.

But what if you’re not a developer, or don’t have that kind of time? Luckily, all you need are the right tools! WordPress is a great content management solution that makes it quick and easy to set up and maintain websites. Google “best responsive WordPress themes”. Choose one, make a quick test site, then hop on your mobile device and take it for a test drive. Can you read the text without zooming much? Can you click buttons without zooming, or missing the button? Is the navigation menu easy to use?

If that seems easier said than done, give me a call and we can walk through the steps of mobile-first design for your library’s website. If you already go through Nebraska Libraries on the Web, I can help you find a new, more responsive WordPress theme. If you want to make the switch, let me know at amanda.sweet@nebraska.gov.

To learn more about Mobile-first design, check out these resources:

Responsive, Mobile-First Design Matters Now More Than Ever (Intertech)

2019 Web Design Trends (Ironistic)

 

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

NCompass Live: A Conversation with Nebraska’s New State Poet, Matt Mason

You’re invited to join us on this Wednesday’s FREE NCompass Live webinar as we chat with Nebraska’s New State Poet, Matt Mason. Matt will discuss how the Nebraska State Poet can work with libraries and schools to promote and encourage appreciation of poetry and literary life in Nebraska.

Along with Nebraska Library Commission Director Rod Wagner and Communication Coordinator Tessa Terry, we will also be joined by Erika Hamilton, Director of Literary Programs at Humanities Nebraska; selection committee member, Chuck Peek; and Brad Modlin, Reynolds Chair of Poetry at the University of Nebraska Kearney.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • May 22 – Picture Book City: Reorganizing Our Storybooks by Subject
  • May 29 – Let’s Get Real About Virtual Reality
  • June 5 – Providing Passports at Your Library
  • July 24 – The Golden Sower Award: Nebraska’s Children’s Choice Literary Award
  • Aug. 28 – Eliminating Late Fines is a Win-Win for Your Library and Community

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

Posted in Education & Training, Technology, Youth Services | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

FREE PLA Webinar : Measuring the Success of Health Programs and Services

Public libraries are critical to their community’s health, serving as a go-to resource for individuals to access current and reliable health information. Public library staff have a deep understanding of the unique needs of their communities and the value of serving their patrons’ health needs. Now all they need is the data to prove just how valuable those services are. In this webinar, participants will learn how ’s new health survey will help public libraries measure the success of health programs and services. Participants will also discover helpful resources and training tools to enhance their health services. 

The Project Outcome health survey was developed in partnership with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), dedicated to advancing the progress of medicine and improving public health. To learn more, visit .

At the conclusion of this webinar, participants will:

  • Know resources and training tools to help create and improve health services at their library;
  • Understand how to measure the outcomes of their health-related programs using Project Outcome’s new health survey; and,
  • Be able to apply survey data for decision making and action.

Presenter:

Emily Plagman, manager of impact and advocacy, manages PLA’s performance measurement initiative, Project Outcome. Prior to joining PLA, Emily worked as a project manager at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning on an energy efficiency grant. Emily received her Master’s in International Public Affairs from the LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin and her Bachelor’s in Political Science at Marquette University.

REGISTRATION DETAILS: 

Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Time: 1:00–2:00 p.m. Central Time

Cost: The webinar is free, but registration is required. You can register for this webinar until it begins, or until space is no longer available, whichever comes first.

REGISTER NOW

Posted in Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Library Management, Programming, Public Relations, Technology, Uncategorized, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | Leave a comment

2020 Census: Key Roles for Libraries

In 2020, the Census will be conducted primarily online for the first time. Like past e-government efforts, this will likely impact libraries and libraries’ technology resources as staff work to assist people in participating in the Census. The 2020 Census also presents an opportunity to increase public awareness and use of Census data. To best position libraries to support our communities in the 2020 Census, ALA is engaging with the Census Bureau and other stakeholders to ensure that libraries are informed and represented in the policy discussions and planning process. ALA is advocating for a fair, accurate, and inclusive Census that recognizes the roles libraries will play in this vital civic effort.

Want to stay up-to-date on our work to prepare for the 2020 Census? Subscribe to ALA’s Census newsletter.

Why the Census is Important

  • Representation: The decennial count of all U.S. residents is required by the U.S. Constitution to determine representation in Congress and the Electoral College (known as reapportionment). This data is also the basis for drawing districts for federal, state, and local offices (known as redistricting).
  • Funding: The Census is key to the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funding to states and localities (such as grants to states under the Library Services and Technology Act).
  • Information: Data resulting from the Census is widely used by researchers, governments, businesses, and other organizations (to, for example, plan for library services).

Key Roles for Libraries

  • Partners in E-Government: In 2020, the Census Bureau for the first time will encourage residents to complete the Census questionnaire online, starting in March 2020. Like past e-government efforts, this likely will place additional demands on library staff and technology resources to enable people to complete the Census questionnaire. (Other response methods will also be available.) Libraries can use their experience partnering with government to assist their communities in achieving a fair, accurate, and inclusive count.
  • Education and Community Outreach: Libraries have the opportunity to educate their communities about the Census. In the 2010 Census, more than 6,000 library locations hosted Census Bureau outreach activities.
  • Public Spaces: Census Bureau field staff often utilize community rooms in libraries as affordable temporary workspaces, such as for staff hiring and training. Other community stakeholders may also use library meeting rooms to host events related to the 2020 Census.

Advocacy for a Fair, Accurate, and Inclusive Census

Learn More

Courtesy of the American Library Association:  http://www.ala.org/advocacy/govinfo/census

Posted in Books & Reading, Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Programming, Technology, Uncategorized, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | Leave a comment

Countdown to the 2020 Census

What Is the 2020 Census?

The 2020 Census counts every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories—once, only once, and in the right place. This census is conducted every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency.

Why We Do It

The results of the census determine your congressional representation as well as federal funding for states and communities. Every year, more than $675 billion goes toward hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and more.

It’s also mandated by the Constitution: The United States has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.

When You Can Take the 2020 Census 

By April 1, 2020, households will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You’ll then have three ways to respond: online, by phone, or by mail.

You can find a detailed timeline for 2020 Census activities here.

And for the first time ever, you’ll be able to respond to the census online! Sign up below for a reminder to complete the 2020 Census.

Everyone Must Complete the 2020 Census

If you live in the United States, you are required by law to participate in the 2020 count, even if you recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau. A complete and accurate count is critical, as the results of the 2020 Census will affect congressional representation, community funding, and more.

Posted in Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Technology, Uncategorized, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Smart Device Security

What if someone hacked your smart device and started talking to your baby through a baby monitor? It’s chilling, but it happened in Detroit. Smart homes are the cool new thing, but how do we secure our homes in a digital world?

Possibilities of Using Smart Devices

Some of you may have an Amazon Echo or another smart device nestled quietly in our living room. Other hardware can connect through Wi-Fi through a central smart device and you can control your home through voice commands or an app.

There are smart thermostats, security cameras, baby monitors, webcams, alarm clocks, home security systems, lighting, vacuums, and more. Much more. This opens the door to some infinitely powerful opportunities. Possibly more smart libraries too!

Possible Risks of Using Smart Devices

Now onto the part nobody wants to know about: how can we get hacked?

Norton, a company that specializes in digital security, wrote 12 Tips to Help Secure Your Smart Home and IoT Devices. This article describes some common ways cybercriminals can hack into your smart devices:

  • Router Hack: Cybercriminals can infect your router using malicious software, then sneak into your system through the backend.
  • Security Cameras: Unsecured network connections linked to a security camera can allow access points for cybercriminals to spy on you through your camera.
  • Data Misuse: Devices like your thermostat collect data about your home to run more efficiently. Unauthorized access to this data can allow cybercriminals to guess when you’re not home to break into your physical location.

I’ll leave it at those few examples for now. You can check out the article to learn more.

Smart Device Security

Now for the most important part. What can we do about this?

Have fun with your Smart Devices. Remember to do all you can to keep yourselves safe. With great power comes great responsibility!

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Leave a comment

NCompass Live: Small Libraries Can Run Code Clubs for Kids

Find out how ‘Small Libraries Can Run Code Clubs for Kids’, with tips from O’Neill Public Library, on the next FREE NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, May 8, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.

Running a code club at your library can be really intimidating – especially if you don’t know how to code! Prenda has helped hundreds of small libraries start and run thriving code clubs where kids are learning how to make websites, video games, apps, and animations using the resources you probably already have! And as a special treat, we’ll hear from Jeannie Mejstrik who is has been running an incredible club since 2017 at O’Neill (NE) Public Library, where their population is under 5,000.

Presenter: Luke Miller, Director of Customer Success, Prenda.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • May 15 – A Conversation with Nebraska’s New State Poet, Matt Mason
  • May 22 – Picture Book City: Reorganizing Our Storybooks by Subject
  • May 29 – Let’s Get Real About Virtual Reality
  • June 5 – Providing Passports at Your Library
  • July 24 – The Golden Sower Award: Nebraska’s Children’s Choice Literary Award
  • Aug. 28 – Eliminating Late Fines is a Win-Win for Your Library and Community

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

Posted in Education & Training, Technology, Youth Services | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

FREE 2019 Summer of Space Learning Program!

In the summer of 2019, 16,000 libraries across the country will celebrate space exploration in their summer reading programs. The slogan “A Universe of Stories” was chosen by library professionals to help inspire children of all ages to dream big, believe in themselves, and create their own story. The Collaborative Summer Learning Program and STAR Net are partnering to share STEM resources with these libraries.

This summer learning program will coincide with NASA’s 60 years of achievement and its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

This is a free program funded primarily by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. All giveaways, resources, and activities are available at no cost.

In order to participate, your library must be a public library within the United States and register at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/universe-of-stories-registration

The 2019 Summer of Space campaign does not require a paid subscription. You will, however, receive one newsletter a month highlighting resources.

You can register multiple libraries and branches in your system separately, providing  an email address and point of contact for each.

The benefits of registering are: Access to STAR Net’s webinar series, a chance to win everything from a telescope, tactile books, and Scholastic books to NASA Stickers and calendars.  New and exciting activities that connect well with A Universe of Stories and blogs highlighting events and competitions around the U.S.

Be sure to visit http://www.starnetlibraries.org/summer-of-space/ for more information and programming resources.

ALSO,  SAVE THE DATE!

On Monday, July 15th, join us for a Live Webcast Event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission. This live webcast, brought to you by the American Museum of Natural History, will feature a guided recreation of the Apollo 11 voyage – the space-flight that landed the first two astronauts on the Moon.

Note: More info will be available in future newsletters.

 

 

Posted in Books & Reading, Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Programming, Technology, Uncategorized, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Libraries Ready to Code

Coding is no secret. In fact, there’s an almost paralyzing amount of information available to people. So much that it can be difficult to decide where to start and where to go next. Knowledge of computers and technology is rapidly becoming vital to life, but many people don’t have a computer science or technology background. And that’s okay.

In 2017, the American Library Association (ALA) and Google saw this and partnered together to make Libraries Ready to Code. Librarians and educators from 30 different libraries worked on their own project to decide what “coding” means to them and how to best introduce it to their own communities. The result is s set of tools that has been made freely available to us all.

This resource is geared towards all experience levels, so you can filter resources by experience level: “I’m Getting Started”, “I’ve Had Some Practice”, and “I’m Experienced”. Some of these resources are further divided into subject categories like art and fashion, while others are parceled out by recommended age range. Either way, this resource is a great place to connect K-12 students with computational thinking and “coding” skills.

But keep in mind that this is just a drop in the bucket of what is available. Not everyone learns the same way either. Feel free to look to these learning tools as inspiration to build your own. Think of Libraries Ready to Code as a starting point on the long road towards future-ready technology.

Keep an eye out for students who devour every resource on this list, then ask for more. Ask them what they want to learn, then do a little digging to find out which resources you need to make it happen. You might not know every line of code that makes a product work, but you can connect interested students with the information they need to learn.

At one time, information took the form of books and journal articles. Now that information may appear in a Raspberry Pi or  YouTube video. It’s time to curate our ever-changing resources. But do yourself a favor and don’t try to learn every bit of technology on the planet. You would be in for a world of hurt.

Start asking students to teach as they learn. There is no telling what people are capable of when given the tools to learn. Take a look at this Virtual Reality headset and software built by a group of high school students in France. Their passion was to make technology accessible to all income levels. They learned more thoroughly with the intent to teach. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, machine learning and more are all at our fingertips.

Technology is not slowing down, and neither are libraries. We can work together to curate resources and pave the way towards a better future.

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Finding Free Images Online

Libraries the world over are using images from the web to build websites and other cool projects. It’s easy to do a quick Google search, find some cool stuff, copy, and paste. This is not always exactly legal though. This post will give you the briefest of brief overviews of image copyright, then dive into how to find copyright free images on the web.

What is Image Copyright?

First of all, image copyright can get complicated. Only a copyright lawyer will be able to give you sound legal advice about images. That being said, MIT put together a useful slide set about what copyright is and a Fair Use Quiz. Here’s a helpful rule of thumb from their slides: “if you are not the creator of the work, you don’t have the legal right to copy, share, or display a photo, figure, music, video or a piece of text that you did not create, and you could face penalties if you do so”.

The exception to the rule is the somewhat murky fair use of copyrighted material. The Fair Use Quiz also has a handy table describing the factors that go into determining fair use. Copyright.gov also has a lot more information about copyright law and application.

What are Free-to-Use Images?

Here’s some good news! There are some images where the author automatically made their stuff free for commercial and public use! You’ll know you found one because it will say “Free for Commercial Use, No Attribution Required”. Some may be free with attribution, meaning you need to add a small caption with the creator’s name, and possibly the original website from which the image came.

Finding Free-To-Use Images

  1. Google has an advanced search tutorial to filter results to free to use images
  2. Pixabay has a wide variety of free images. There is an optional donation to the author and to keep the site running. It’s also free to set up an account!
  3. Search Engine Journal put together a list of 41 Places to Find Free Images Online That You Will Actually Want to Use. Some sources also have video clips.

That list should keep you busy searching for a while. I hope you all have a fun, safe search!

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Do Libraries Need Their Own App?

Recently I was asked an age old question: do libraries need their own app? To answer that, let’s take a look at how apps are made:

The Life Cycle of an App:

  1. An Idea is Born: Your library has identified a need in the community. You have explored different technology options to solve this need and discovered an app will reach the most people since more patrons own smartphones than computers.
  2. Designing the App: You put your dream team together and brainstorm how this app will work. What are your main goals? What do you want people to get out of this app? How will the user interface look so it is easily navigated? There are many questions here. A simple navigation prototype in PowerPoint or on paper will work for getting ideas on paper.
  3. Getting User Feedback: Describe your app idea to your target audience. Is there interest in the app? Would people use it? Which devices do users have? Which platform should the app be built upon? iOS? Android? Both?
  4. Fundraising: Apps are not cheap to build. They take time to design, build and maintain over time. App development is a marathon, not a sprint. Depending on complexity, apps can take between $10,000 and over $200,000 for the initial build. Then $1,000 or more for monthly updates to keep the app working. More if you want a native built app across multiple platforms. Plus consulting fees.
  5. Development: If you’re developing in-house, you need to identify existing staff, or bring on new staff to complete the project. If you’re using an outside company, you’ll probably need to use a bidding process, then communicate clearly with the company to let them know what you want. This process takes time and effort.
  6. User Testing: It’s time to test your first build to see if it meets the need you intended. It may take time to raise awareness that the app exists and get people using it. User feedback can be tricky.
  7. Updates/ Maintenance: A good developer can translate user feedback into workable updates for product improvement, without losing (m)any features.

All in all, a good app should suit a specific need, be well-designed for user navigation, and be updated regularly to retain users. Think about the apps on your phone. How many apps do you download and use consistently? What is the shelf-life of your apps? Which apps are competing for your attention? Think about what makes you repeatedly click an icon.

Can your library design an app that will stand the test of time for your patrons? You won’t know until you try.

 

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Virtual Reality Uses and Pitfalls

For a while now, I’ve been gathering different resources about virtual reality and how it can be used in different industries. Here’s some cool collections of VR inspiration for your library:

Beyond Gaming: 10 Other Fascinating Uses for Virtual-Reality Tech (Live Science)

Applications of Virtual Reality (Virtual Reality Society)

25 Best Google Cardboard Apps for iOS and Android (Think Mobile) This is a good, low-cost way to test out VR if you’re just getting started. Just get a Google Cardboard for about $10 and download some apps on your phone.

If you’re looking for more advanced options, here are some things to watch out for as you’re searching for VR opportunities:

1. If you’re using a mobile app with Google Cardboard or another headset designed to use a smartphone as a screen, think about which smartphones you’re going to use. There will be different apps for iPhone and Android. Not all are created equally.

2. Using a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for smartphones to be used in headsets can be tricky. Some apps don’t work with different phone models. You might want a library device available for patron use when their own phone isn’t compatible.

3. When choosing a more expensive headset like the Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Playstation VR, or another headset, consider additional hardware expenses. Headsets like the Oculus Rift need to be hooked up to a computer with a really good graphics card. This graphics card can get pricey.

4. Not all games for the more expensive sets will work for every set. When games are designed, they are generally designed for a specific platform. So if you tested out National Geographic apps on Oculus Go, they won’t necessarily be available on every other headset. If you need a specific app, keep that in mind.

5. Many headsets have free options. You might want to start out with these and only add in a few paid options as you go along. This can keep costs down and allow your VR library to scale slowly.

VR is pretty awesome, so don’t let the potential pitfalls get in your way. It is just something to keep in mind as you’re choosing VR options and working out budgets. Feel free to email me at amanda.sweet@nebraska.gov if you have any VR questions.

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

NCompass Live: Ethics Behind Emerging Technology

What are the ‘Ethics Behind Emerging Technology’? Find out from our Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, on this Wednesday’s FREE NCompass Live webinar.

In the presentation on February 13, I covered what emerging technology is and how it relates to libraries. Now it’s time to dive into what that means on a larger scale. What makes technology good or bad? Who is really qualified to make that determination? Anyone who tracks emerging technology will start to think about how this technology will affect the future of our communities and the world. What will make a piece of technology influential and powerful in the world? Tune in if you want to learn more about the following topics:

  •     Which ethics matter most in technology?
  •     What makes technology good or bad?
  •     What potential dangers should we be aware of with new technology?
  •     What factors might affect society in the long-run?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions. The concept of ‘ethics’ tends to be a gray area for many, and understandably so. This presentation won’t give you a finite right or wrong stance on all technology. But it will provide you with the tools to make the decision for yourself.

Presenter: Amanda Sweet, Technology Innovation Librarian, Nebraska Library Commission.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • March 20 – Reading Diversely
  • March 27 – Health Education Resources with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine
  • April 10 – What is OER? Outstanding, Extraordinary Raw materials?
  • April 24 – Connect to Meetings, and more…Experts, Virtual Field Trips with Zoom

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

Posted in Education & Training, Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Where is the Humanity in STEAM?

A push to add Art to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning took storm a while ago. Then technology took over the world. But what about the humanities? The study of people is what made most technology possible. Ethnography, anthropology, psychology, linguistics, literature, and ethics are the driving force behind how and why technology is created, marketed, and how technology influences society as a whole.

Natural language processing would not be possible without breakthroughs in linguistics. Virtual reality games wouldn’t be very interesting without a good plot line to draw in gamers. Video game designers use psychology to study their target market and cater their product to the needs of the gamer. The internet is changing the way people think and interact with the world at large. To steer technology creation and use towards a positive impact on humanity, the humanities must be considered.

That is what we are doing with digital citizenship. We are asking people to look at how technology impacts themselves and others. We are asking people to look at the world today and ask themselves if their actions are making a positive impact on those around them. That is the core of ethics. What is the world today, and what do we want the world to be? How can we make a change towards the better? Can we agree on what makes life better, then work together to build a movement towards positive change?

Ethics teaches us to look at the complex nature of humanity and decide where we want to fit in the world. Are we making a positive contribution to our friends and community? What happens when everyone goes along with the status quo? What makes us do the things we do and how can we identify the need for change. Ethics.

Digital literacy will require us all to ask ourselves some hard questions. We are teaching kids to build an online identity that will make them look good to their friends and future employers. But what is their identity after they log off the computer? Making a positive impact in our small corner of the world means building introspection, empathy, and deciding who we are as individuals. How does an individual fit into their community? How does our community fit into the world? What can one human do?

There is no simple worksheet or lesson plan that will instill this thinking into growing learners. This will take large scale change in the world. It will mean looking at how technology affects us as individuals. It will mean guiding the use and creation of technology towards a greater purpose. There are no easy answers here.

Knowing how to use a tablet, a smartphone, a computer, and choosing the best device to suit your purpose is a good start. It opens doors to endless possibilities. But using that technology to shape yourself and the world into a better place is the real challenge.

The humanities are the beating heart of digital literacy. Humanity can exist without technology. But technology shouldn’t exist without humanity. And right now, it seems like the H in STEAM is silent.

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Leave a comment

Upcoming Webinars from WebJunction

 

Strategic Planning in a Deeply Weird World: The Flexible Roadmap Field Guide Approach

DATE AND TIME: Tuesday, March 26, 2019:  2:00-3:00 CENTRAL TIME

REGISTER

Join us to learn about Salt Lake City Public Library’s new ground-breaking approach to strategic planning, focused on human-centered service design.

It’s a big task to define the library’s future over the next three or five years, and strategic planning is becoming less and less effective in a rapidly changing world. The Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL) has created a new approach that is flexible, staff-driven, and human-centered. SCLPL’s Strategic Roadmap is not a 100-page plan in a binder-on-a-shelf; it’s an experiential learning tool that invites all staff to participate in the co-creation of meaningful outcomes and experiences for the community. The Roadmap focuses less on planning and more on building the capacity of staff to adopt a human-centered service design mindset and skillset. SLCPL staff are adopting a new perspective, continually experimenting with and adapting spaces, collections, services, programs, and their own roles, to responsively address community needs and aspirations in an ever-changing landscape. Join us for this webinar to learn how to cultivate new skills to help bring the Roadmap to life for your library’s strategic planning.

Presented by: Peter Bromberg, Executive Director; and Marilee Moon, Assistant Director of Customer Experience, at Salt Lake City Public Library

The Power of Small: How Rural Libraries Help Their Communities Thrive

DATE AND TIME: Thursday, April 18, 2019: 2:00-3:00 CENTRAL TIME

REGISTER

Learn how any tiny library can find more ways to support the needs of their community by thinking strategically and creating new connections.

All libraries provide vital services to their communities, but libraries that serve small, rural populations have the potential to go beyond providing information and access—they can inject the vitality that will help their communities thrive. Addressing the challenges faced by rural areas may seem daunting to a library with few staff and limited resources, but any tiny library can find more ways to support the needs of their community by thinking strategically and creating new connections with their stakeholders, patrons, and other library staff. Learn how small library director and 2018 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, Allie Stevens, applied the concept of growth mindsets to set her priorities, use resources and volunteers smartly, and avoid burnout as a solo librarian. Follow her lead to turn your library into a powerhouse for your community.

This webinar is presented in collaboration with the Association for Rural & Small Libraries.

Presented by: Allie Stevens, Director, Calhoun County Library & Museum, Hampton, Arkansas

The Library as Social Connector: Forging Community Connection

DATE AND TIME: Thursday, April 25, 2019: 2:00-3:00 CENTRAL TIME

REGISTER

This webinar will explore how libraries play a role in creating social connection and identify ways to more intentionally facilitate stronger community bonds.

Strong social cohesion is a crucial factor in a community’s resilience in times of stress and disruption. Unfortunately, studies show that our communities are experiencing a steady erosion of social cohesion, pointing to an increase in loneliness, depression, and separation because of too much time spent online and too little time spent in the community. Libraries have the position and the power to rebuild social bonds, offering that sense of community and shared place that humans crave. Active learning programs that bring people together for participatory, shared experiences are a boost to community strength, but they could go even further to amplify social connection and build social infrastructure. Join us as we explore library programs through the lens of social possibilities and devise strategies to be more intentional about forging stronger community bonds.

Presented by: Betha Gutsche, WebJunction Programs Manager, OCLC; and Jennifer Peterson, WebJunction Community Manager, OCLC

Posted in Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Library Management, Programming, Public Relations, Technology, Uncategorized, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Raspberry Pi: An Unexpected Discovery

I’ve had a Raspberry Pi and a mess of electronics components sitting on my desk for several months. My original Pi plan was to demonstrate how Raspberry Pi could be used in a functional project that could be actively used in the library. So I set it up using Python Programming’s Raspberry Pi Tutorial series. I’ve dabbled in Python before, but not extensively. It was kind of fun to play in the terminal again.

For those who haven’t used Python or Raspberry Pi, the Pi is a little $35 computer. But you do have to add your own monitor, keyboard, mouse, power supply and SD card. I use ‘$35’ loosely here. The Pi also has a set of GPIO pins that will let you add on motors, sensors, LED lights, and various other bits of electronic goodness. Python is a programming language that can be used for robotics, computer programming, machine learning, and many other things.

If you Google ‘Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners’, you’ll get an overwhelming number of ideas. My problem was finding one that wouldn’t just be another cool thing sitting on my shelf. Finding the motivation to learn as an adult is drastically different than when you’re a kid. To devote the amount of time necessary to learn more complex electronics, I needed a project that would motivate and mean something to me personally.

Then I got to a tutorial in the series that told me to uninstall Wolfram Engine to save space. This isn’t the first tutorial that has recommended doing this, and nobody seemed to really know what Wolfram Engine is. So, being a good librarian, I looked it up.

From their website, “the philosophy of the Wolfram Language is to automate as much as possible, so programmers can concentrate on defining what they want to do, and the language will automatically figure out how to do it”. Stephen Wolfram explains it better in his explanatory video on the site’s homepage.

Anyway, the language is fascinating, but what really interested me were the demonstrations of use that were categorized by subject. The demonstrations on this page show how math can make the real world come to life in a visual, sometimes interactive, diagram.

I discovered that Wolfram can be used in machine learning. So I waded into Google’s Machine Learning Crash Course to learn more. After going through a good chunk of that crash course, I returned to the demonstrations available on Wolfram’s website and explored them through a different lens.

You can learn a lot about how artificial intelligence works by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with AI Player. This player is found in the Life Sciences- Psychology section of the demonstrations. Machine learning looks for patterns the developer tells the program to look for and learn from. If you look in the “details” section below the player, you can see the factors that went into the algorithm behind the AI Player.

These factors are rooted in psychology. Other developers might place emphasis on different factors. This is a good reason to question the basis of machine learning algorithms. Depending upon the application for machine learning, we might all want to start looking deeper into the patterns these algorithms are told to look for in the data.

I digress. After returning to Wolfram, I then returned to the Pi. From a $35 computer, I discovered a fascination with machine learning. That led to a fascination with robotics and augmented reality. I returned to the Pi and still couldn’t find a project that really interested me for the library. It’s difficult to force learning when there is no real interest. But without the Pi, I would never have discovered a fascination with those other topics.

So what did I learn? Sometimes your learning outcome is drastically different from what you set out to learn. If you follow your natural curiosities and let them lead you where they may, you can discover a depth of passion that was previously unimaginable.

Given the right tools and information paths, your patrons could use the Pi to learn the basics of computing and pair it with other information sources and subject matter experts to create something the world has never seen. You can’t force learning, but you can encourage self-discovery.

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Leave a comment

NCompass Live: Improving Internet Access In US Libraries: the ‘Toward Gigabit Libraries’ Project

Learn how to Improve Internet Access in US Libraries with the ‘Toward Gigabit Libraries’ Project on next Wednesday’s FREE NCompass Live webinar!

While much worthy attention has been paid to improving “last mile” connectivity for rural and tribal libraries, it’s the last 100 meters (the network inside the building) that is often overlooked and in need of improvement. The IMLS-funded Toward Gigabit Libraries project aims to address that problem through a self-service toolkit suitable for even the most novice of library workers. In straightforward, easy-to-understand language, the toolkit is designed to take lay people through technical concepts and tasks to create a Broadband Improvement Plan for each library. The plan is designed to help the library where it’s needed most – including improvements to hardware, software and configuration, suggestions for training and education, resources to advocate for better connectivity, and more. Fresh from the overwhelmingly successful pilot implementation of the toolkit in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, the presenters will share the results of the pilot, lessons learned, and how this free toolkit applies to libraries of all types and sizes.

Presenters: Carson Block, Library Technology Consultant; Holly Woldt, NLC Library Technology Support Specialist; Tom Rolfes, Education IT Manager, Nebraska Information Technology Commission.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • March 13 – Ethics Behind Emerging Technology
  • March 20 – Reading Diversely
  • March 27 – Health Education Resources with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine
  • April 10 – What is OER? Outstanding, Extraordinary Raw materials?
  • April 24 – Connect to Meetings, and more…Experts, Virtual Field Trips with Zoom

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

Posted in Education & Training, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Does Everyone Need to Learn Coding?

It has been well established that everyone can learn to code. But “coding” is a very broad term that can apply to a lot of different things. Coding skills are used in web development, robotics, software development, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet of Things, and much more. But if a student is going to become an artist, graphic designer, marketer, sports therapist, or any other profession under the sun, why do they need to learn coding? How will technology affect their chosen professions?

Honestly, many learners may never go in-depth into the coding process. But it helps to have the exposure. How does anyone know they like something unless they try it first? That being said, even if everyone doesn’t learn coding, they should know about technology. All of the tech I mentioned will have a huge impact on every profession. We’re already starting to see that happen.

Internet of Things is working towards making smart cities and communities. Machine learning is powering many popular search engines. Virtual reality is becoming more popular to train new employees across industries. Augmented reality is being used in manufacturing and other industries to label parts and pieces for assembly. That is just a drop in the bucket of examples.

Different professions are also inspiring the design and creation of new technology. There is now a robot that is folded like a piece of origami. When the material is heated, it unfolds itself. This is being used for internal medication delivery in experimental medicine.

The study of animal locomotion and biomechanics has been used in robotics for quite some time. If a robot needs to thrive in a desert, why not give it the attributes of an animal that thrives in the desert? Computer networking is inspired by how bees communicate.

Psychology and sociology comes in handy when designing a virtual world that will not harm the user, whether mentally or physically. Those two fields also comes in handy when marketing the finished product for commercial use. Historians and ethnographers may be interested in how technology has shaped or will shape individuals and society as a whole.

Long story short, everyone may not need to know coding, but  in the near future, every profession will likely need to collaborate with someone who does code. This means having knowledge of how technology works, how to break information down into steps, and how to provide useful information during the design and iteration process.

Having at least minimal understanding of HTML and CSS may go a long ways towards walking a mile in a coder’s shoes. Knowledge of how technology works will also help individuals seek new and innovative ways to help shape the future of their chosen profession. Learning ethical, responsible use of technology early on will help guide users towards positive applications of technology later in life. These decisions affect us all.

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Tagged | 1 Comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Using Block-Based Computer Programming

If you’re looking for ways to introduce beginners to computer programming, block-based programming is a great place to start. These programming languages use graphical, drag-and-drop interfaces that make it easier to understand, develop, test, and tweak programs. In the case of Lego Mindstorms EV3 software, this program can control a robot made of Lego pieces that look similar to Knex pieces. Users just drag blocks into the programming area and change the settings to make the robot move, interact with sensors, display text or images on the screen, and more. This video made by Lego Discover will show you how to build your first program.

Lego Mindstorms is a more expensive option that the Library Commission uses through the Library Innovation Studios project. If your library wants to test out a powerful, free block-based programming interface, check out Scratch, made by MIT Media Lab. Scratch will let you program online stories, games, and animations. For free.

When learners want to expand their coding capabilities, they can transition over to text-based coding. Some good beginner options to look into are HTML and CSS coding to make a standard website from scratch. Add in Javascript to add more interactive features to the website. These links will send you to a YouTube video for freeCodeCamp.org, each video has a link to a written curriculum option as well.  There are a lot of other coding languages out there, but it’s difficult to choose a language until you know what you want to do with it.

Rather than get bogged down in which language to learn, libraries can focus on how to learn. The best thing we can all learn is how to break complex information into smaller, more manageable steps to learn from the ground up. After people learn how to think like a programmer, they can decide what they want to learn more about.  When people know where their interests lie, they can choose a program to suit their needs. Choosing a language without a purpose is a great way to quit before you start.

To encourage people to learn to code, try to connect them with good reasons to code. Technology is being used in multiple industries right now. People of any age or subject interest have a reason to learn programming. I will talk about more motivations to learn coding in future posts. Stay tuned.

 

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: What is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy has taken the library world by storm! What is digital literacy, you may ask. You will likely get a slightly different answer from every person you ask. The concept has also been called multiple literacies, technology literacy, 21st Century Skills, and similar.

What it all boils down to is that we are all trying to prepare students and all library patrons for the rapidly evolving digital world. There are 81 years left of the 21st Century. Nobody knows what the future will hold. But experts in digital and technology literacy have an educated guess as to the skills people will need going forward.

Here’s what the International Society for Technology in Education has come up with after working with a variety of leaders in education (excerpted from this table):

  1. Empowered Learner
  2. Digital Citizen
  3. Knowledge Constructor
  4. Innovative Designer
  5. Computational Thinker
  6. Creative Communicator
  7. Global Collaborator

For a description of what all of those mean, check out the ISTE Standard’s website. This will provide information for what students should know, how educators can prepare, and how coaches/ professional development assistants can prepare for the future. There is also information about Computer Science Standards on this website for those who want to dive a little deeper into the wonderful world of coding and the process of creating or adapting technology. Be forewarned, it’s a lot. And it won’t all happen overnight.

We all have a long way to go before we’re all ready for the rest of the 21st Century, but we’ll get there eventually. As we move forward into the technology revolution, take a moment to think about how much technology is too much technology. Be selective about what is probably just a fad and which tools might gain momentum and be worth your time and effort. Do the best you can, mistakes will happen, and the world will keep on turning. Keep in mind that just because a new technology exists, doesn’t mean we have to use it.

Students will still need to know how to use a paper and pen by the end of all this.  Soft skills and social skills will be more important than ever as people become tempted to isolate themselves in a digital world. It’s time to find a happy medium between digital and physical tools. We’re only human.

 

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Leave a comment