May 27, 2015, 3:25 pm

The Evolving & Expanding Service Landscape Across Academic Libraries

We all know there has been a national decline in reference transactions. Here is some raw ARL data suggesting that questions have dropped nationally from 20,000,000 in 1995 to just barely 5,000,000 in 2014.


from Association of Research Libraries

Librarians have responded by introducing new models: the one-desk model, the tiered model, the drop-in/office hours model and even the no desk model.

While I admire this ingenuity… this post isn’t about that. But it is about people who have questions.

During this same time — while reference transactions were declining — other service points migrated into our environments. Writing Centers, Communication Studios, Multimedia Studios, IT Help Desks, and Adaptive/Assistive Technologies Support Spaces are all common today.

[caption id=”attachment_4739″ align=…

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May 26, 2015, 3:20 pm

Ending my blog in 50 days

And so here we are.

When I first started blogging it as fun. There were many of us out there trying new things and sharing our stories. We were learning on the fly and forging our digital (and professional) identities.

That was a decade ago.


Me at Georgia Tech, East Commons
Photo via C. Bennett

My blog became popular largely because I worked at Georgia Tech. It was an amazing environment. I learned that you don’t need a large budget to push the envelope—and they are still pushing it today.

The nature of my blog changed when I moved into administration. I was also writing for American Libraries and blogging became a chore. When the Chronicle picked up The Ubiquitous Librarian my creative spirit was renewed.

I started reaching a broader audience – vice provosts, CIO’s, and student affairs…

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May 4, 2015, 2:48 pm

FORENSIC BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECONSTRUCTION: tracking down troublesome citations and the problem of lost knowledge

I’ve been reading Applied Ontology (Munn & Smith) and really connect with this idea:

 “…goal of increasing our knowledge about the world, and improving the quality of the information we already have. Knowledge, when handled properly, is to a great extent cumulative. Once we have it, we can use it to secure a wider and deeper array of further knowledge, and also to correct the errors we make as we go along. In this way, knowledge contributes to its own expansion and refinement. But this is only possible if what we know is recorded in such a way that it can quickly and easily be retrieved, and understood, by those who need it.”

Do we have a professional responsibility to not only collect, describe, evaluate, store, preserve, and share information—but to also improve it? I was thinking about this when my friend Tara was telling me about her interlibrary loan (ILL) work.


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April 20, 2015, 6:00 am

An Early Look At BRODY: Steelcase’s new personal study pod

I’m probably going to get in trouble for this post. Last time I wrote about an emerging product they called and said I revealed too much. This time they made me sign a non-disclosure agreement. Today I was informed that I could share… but I’m not sure how much. Here we go. 

Update March 20: I seems that the Steelcase sales group got ahead of the official marketing release. They asked me to delay this post for a few days–sorry for the confusion. 


Study carrels at Virginia Tech’s Newman Library

Study carrels have not evolved much. Most libraries have focused on collaborative environments, modular furniture, technology integration, and soft flexible seating.  But sometimes people want to hide. They come to the library to focus. Quiet Space: that rare precious commodity that’s increasingly harder …

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April 14, 2015, 3:20 pm

Your Assignment: Host A Campus Wide Event (libraries and active learning)

eventAs a follow-up to my post last week about our seven classrooms, I wanted to quickly share an example of how we are impacting teaching and learning.

We’re hosting a Financial Literacy Event today that is part of a class project. It is a digital showcase bringing together students from a Financial Counseling course to offer educational engagement with students in a Financial Management course. Both courses are taught by Oscar Solis.

Here are the topics:


There are many things I like about this.

  • It brings two courses together—this is one of my constant aspirations.
  • It encourages peer-to-peer mentoring.
  • It promotes financial literacy.
  • It fosters active learning. This could have just been traditional talks at the front of a classroom where everyone speaks for a few minutes and where most students are distracted and nervous about their own presentation. Instead we…

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April 10, 2015, 2:15 pm

7 Classrooms: library as pedagogical incubator

Three years ago we had two classrooms in our library. They looked like this:


The former “training-based” classrooms at VT Library. Photo: R. Miller

These were suitable for training-based instruction but our program has evolved. Librarians wanted to be able to reach more students (larger class sizes) as well as utilize many different teaching methods. We’re upgrading both rooms this summer.

One is based on Steelcase Verb:

The other will be a Node classroom:

This all started with a partnership between the Library and VT’s College of Science when we built a SCALE-UP classroom together.


Scale-Up – VT Library

Shortly after that we introduced a Multipurpose Room….

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April 6, 2015, 5:01 pm

Think Like A Startup: 3 Years Later


Three years ago I published a white paper: Think Like A Startup. A lot of people downloaded it.


Over the weekend I reflected on the essay and I’d like to share a few thoughts:

Mental Model
“Thinking like a startup” is meant to be a mental model, not a business model. This confuses people who didn’t read the paper. I had been hearing from administrators around the county who were frustrated because they could not motivate their employees to embrace new directions. I wanted my paper to help with strategic planning and related conversations. It’s a chance to say—ok, for this afternoon let’s change our lens. Instead of thinking like a library, let’s consider how a startup might approach this service. What are we not doing? How would they operate? I viewed the paper as an invitation to brainstorm and a process that provides safety while encouraging experimentation and team …

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March 31, 2015, 3:37 pm

TOOLS FOR LEADERS: 5 Tables To Expand Your Thinking

I have an assortment of tables, graphs, and charts that I have been collecting related to leadership and problem solving. Here are a few that I have found particularly useful:

1. An organizational hierarchy of IT needs


This comes from John Borwick, Director of IT Services at the Virginia Tech Libraries. He adapted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into an IT context. The gist is that if you want to get involved with strategic conversations then you must ensure that basic needs are met first. “If IT cannot deliver a reliable production environment, no one is going to want to talk with IT about anything else.”

This applies elsewhere. If I want to talk with faculty about new services or their pedagogical practices, I need to ensure that their basic library needs are covered. If an instructor is upset because of something we are doing (or not doing) then she will be less open to…

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March 25, 2015, 8:52 pm

IMPROVING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE (scaling the commons beyond the library)

I wrote earlier about serving on a Student Experience Task Force. This was a yearlong project that brought together students and faculty with people from the budget office, facilities, student affairs, the Provost’s Office, and other units. It was an eclectic mix resulting in many diverse conversations. Personally, it was a perception-shifting experience and I learned to appreciate different challenges across campus.

Here is the final report.

The most glaring aspect we encouraged was a spectrum of disparity. Students in a living learning community had different encounters than those in older residential halls. Students attending classes in upgraded facilities had completely different experiences than those in older rooms. It was interesting to witness how a sense of place directly impacted emotional connections and output. Our charge was to consider ways to reduce the existing…

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March 17, 2015, 6:39 pm

TALKING ACROSS THE GLOBE: Tinder as a prototype for intercontinental serendipity

I’ve been experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon lately. This is when you discover a new word, concept, song, book, product or whatever and then it seemingly appears everywhere. In my case this has been related to maps and global communications.

After reading The Victorian Internet and it opened my eyes to just how transformative the telegraph was. Pre-telegraph, it took a full day on horseback to deliver a message one hundred miles. The telegraph reduced that to a matter of seconds.

When Samuel Morse and others began building the network (around 1844) it took ten weeks to send a letter and a response between London to Bombay. Thirty years later, with over 650,000 miles of wire, messages could be exchanged between those two cities in less than four minutes.

There was much enthusiasm and a great optimism.

poem_tech via…

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