January 21, 2014, 6:40 pm

… It’s How You Say It

The theme of language keeps popping up in my conversations. I’ve become very conscious with how we communicate with users – not just the content, but the tone as well.

A recent interaction with Google stimulated by thinking. They offered me a Glass upgrade and this was their confirmation message:

glass_email

I was struck by the informal conversational nature of the email. It’s totally on brand for them, but it made me feel happy. Obviously getting free hardware is a positive occurrence, but the whole sequence of transactions left me with a good memorable experience. They want me to feel excited about their product and my ongoing relationship with them.

Lauren and I have been talking about this concept. Could you craft a personality for a library? A common voice for all written transactions? An experiential brand that manifests through text? Think about how you would want to be treated…

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January 14, 2014, 7:45 pm

MIXED BAG: MOOCs, eBooks, Circa, and Bulldozers

Our spring semester begins next week. It’s always a shock to the system when the students return to campus. This is especially exaggerated in a small town like Blacksburg where they account for over half of the population.

I have several blog posts in the pipeline, but today I wanted to tie a few loose ends together.

MOOCs & NASA
There is a commentary in the Chronicle today about MOOCs. This sums it up:

 “Instead of 2014 being the year when talk of disruption in higher education ends, why not make it the year when pioneering ideas converge?”

The MOOC narrative has changed so rapidly. The Hype Cycle piece combined with Fast Company’s bubble bursting piece has taken us from 2013 being The Year of the MOOC to the death of the MOOC in twelve short months.

I’m very curious to see what happens next. This topic came up at a recent ASERL meeting and there were two…

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January 6, 2014, 3:41 pm

THE HARM OF BOOKLESSNESS

bookless1

The future of libraries… actually looks like an Info Commons from 10 years ago?

You’ve probably seen the press about BiblioTech, the first bookless public library system in the country. It is being hailed as a “big success” and “the future of libraries.”

While I can appreciate the marketing tactic they are using, I actually think they are doing more harm than good. This library has been hyping the “bookless” concept for a while now. In fact, I’ve had faculty and administrators on my campus forward me renderings/press and suggest that we move in a similar direction.

My primary concern is that this might (or already has?) create false expectations of what “all libraries” should become. It’s setting a precedent. The key issue for me is funding. Why do we need a library anymore? Let’s…

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December 17, 2013, 7:09 pm

Welcoming Students… On The Day They Are Accepted?

I’ve always been interested in reaching out to students as soon as possible. Conceptually I like that space in the summer – the metamorphosis from high school senior to college freshmen. It feels like a prime time to engage and cultivate a positive relationship.

I use to consider the traditional route. Devise a fun print piece and have that item included in a welcome packet or other mailing. Of course incoming students receive a barrage of info and you’d really have to standout. They also have immediate (deadline-driven) needs like financial aid, housing, course selection, meal plans, and football tickets.

Facebook groups are another possibility to start the conversation. I wrote about making a good impression on incoming freshmen several years ago. Students form groups (i.e. Class of 2014) and interact with each other on social and academic matters. I’ve engaged with…

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December 10, 2013, 7:48 pm

Confess Your Stress: selfies as therapy

Like many libraries, we do a lot of things for students during finals. We give away food. We bring in therapy dogs and cats. We add extra tables and chairs. We’ve done mindfulness (and related) programs. We’ve done games and gaming. We’ve done bubble wrap. Our folks are always looking for new ways to help students during this challenging time.

My new favorite thing: Stress Confessional Photo Booth.

stress_boothbooth_sideVirginia Tech has a portable photo booth that pops up at different campus locations; it’s a great value-add for events. Pretty straight forward — students snap their photos and print them out for free.

We’ve hosted the booth in the library before and it always gets a good reaction. This time we added a creative thematic element: stress confessional. The idea incubated via a Fast Company article How Selfies Are Re-Energizing The New York Public Library and we mashed that…

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December 3, 2013, 5:33 pm

What If I Paid You To Study In The Library?

teamwork2If I paid you to study in the library you would likely take me up on the offer. And if I paid you and your group to study there together, then you would definitely use the library more often.

That’s the gist of a recent economics study: Letting Down the Team? Social Effects of Team Incentives

This research was conducted while I was at UCSB. I gave the faculty access to a large group study space (50+ chairs) in order to conduct their experiment. They tested incentive reactions in two environments: a library and a gym.

They found that while individuals took advantage of the pay to study here opportunity, incentives tied to team performance resulted in strikingly greater participation:

“People in two real-world settings raising their effort level because a teammate’s payoff is at stake. Findings indicate that the magnitude of this effect can be considerably larger than that …

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November 21, 2013, 3:29 pm

A MONITOR ON EVERY TABLE? Rising student expectations

The aspiration was once a power outlet for every table– but the stakes are rising. Are we entering an era where students need (and expect) a monitor on every table?

monitors

Virginia Tech students bring their own monitor to the library for collaboration.

Earlier this week I heard about a group of students who brought their own monitor into the library. They were coding together and required a shared display to collaborative effectively. We do provide group monitors, but they are always in high demand… so they used their own.

While I appreciate the ingenuity of this group to improvise on a solution, I also feel like I let them down. As soon as some funding opens up in January I’m going to purchase a handful of monitors and have them installed at group tables. This has been in our renovation documents for a while…

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November 17, 2013, 5:42 pm

Who is your Masood Ashraf Raja? U of North Texas & Advocacy or: Library as cause, not just collections

UNT’s Willis Library

You’ve probably heard the news by now about the University of North Texas Library’s $1.7 million shortfall. Many operations are on hiatus while they figure out the funding possibilities. Apparently library administrators were caught off guard and are required to retroactively absorb benefits and other expenses. Their budget is almost entirely derived from student fees – which they cannot raise—and they will likely need to cut back on services and collections.

UNT provides us with a wakeup call and a great opportunity for scenario planning. How would you (or your organization) react if your Provost placed you in a similar situation? These are conversations we had all the time when I was the University of California, but if you’re not ready it can be quite a shock.

save_UNTTo me the most interesting…

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November 15, 2013, 7:31 pm

Further Thoughts on GLASS

I just gave a campus interview about our GLASS project. Here is the gist of my answers in long form.

glass_interview

Giving a campus interview. I’ll link out once the video is online.

I’m really excited to be involved with GLASS. It’s an interesting technology and wearable computing seems to be one of the next big things.

I love what Virginia Tech is doing by building a cohort of faculty who are using GLASS in different ways and representing different disciplines. Arts, sciences, building construction, public policy, it’s a wide mix.

And it is exciting for me to represent the library in that effort because I get to work hand in hand with faculty on rethinking their teaching and research practices. We want to build new apps together, new software together, new pedagogies, new capabilities. So it is valuable for me …

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November 13, 2013, 9:29 pm

Slayer & benchmarking of library collections

A friend of mine once remarked that Jack Kerouac judged diners solely on the quality of their apple pie. Apparently you can infer a lot about an establishment based upon the size, presentation, and taste of this classic dessert.

When it comes to libraries and bookstores I’ve always used a similar measuring device: Hermann Hesse. Most libraries have the classics (Steppenwolf, Siddhartha) but what really impresses me is seeing lesser-known (and in my opinion better) novels like Beneath the Wheel and Demian. And the pinnacle for me is Narcissus and Goldmund. To me this is his masterpiece.

As superficial as it sounds, I use to think that I could tell a lot about a library’s collection based upon these works. I liked to think that it revealed something about the library’s intellectual curiosity and that it suggested something about what else might be found in the stacks. I guess…

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