Maps, people, information….

I’ve been interested in maps for a long time. When I was young, my brother and I would spend hours looking over the Washington State Atlas and Gazetteer, planning trips and connecting routes. I was also an avid reader of Fantasy, referring to the maps in the front of the books to see where the characters in the current story were roaming.

History and Social Studies were two of my favorite classes in junior high. Later I became more aware of and interested in the interaction (interplay) of physical geography and humanity, with its effects on population, economics, and culture. In college I took a few geology courses, with one class that talked about local high-end houses built on unstable, slide-prone rock formations. And, another that was all about geology and energy, from passive solar houses to nuclear power plants.

Recently I’ve been a heavy user of county and city GIS resources while looking for real estate in a few different cities over the last number of years. Some sites have been easily helpful, with a usable interface catering to the public as well as professionals. Others took more work to delve into the data, still offering an online option, but with more cumbersome controls and limited data in particular map sets. And still others required downloading special GIS software and near expert level knowledge to set up the data (or shape files).

Now I’m a librarian/information worker with an interest in user interface design, information architecture, big data, GIS, economics, politics, and yes, I still delve into a good (and sometimes bad) fantasy epic now and again. The trick now will be to see how to tie all these interests together (and make the time to figure that out).

Library Remodel

Here is a brief update on our library remodel project at work. We mostly completed phase one just after students came back at the end of August. There is still some minor painting that needs to occur, along with a few other things to get buttoned up. We hope to receive some additional funds for a phase 2 next year.

We fully occupy two stories in our three story building and have a couple storage rooms in the basement portion of the building. We moved half of our reference materials upstairs from our main floor to our general collection and most of our periodical backlog to basement storage. This freed up a lot of room for creating more study space for flexible collaboration along with maintaining a number of single user computer stations, a periodicals/reading lounge, and a reference study area. Last year we moved to a single reference, information, and circulation desk model. We carried that over to this year after last year’s pilot project was a success.

Upstairs we did a major weeding project and opened up some room to have more study rooms built. We added two large rooms for 4-8 people and four small rooms suited to 1-2 people to our existing two large study rooms. We also created more space for individual quiet study with more single person computer stations, wide desks for students with laptops and multiple books, a few lounge seating areas, and retained a selection of carrel options.

We built the tables and bought good quality used chairs to make our $20,000 furniture fund stretch to meet our needs. We are still waiting for the installation of glass barriers at our entrance to block off the non-security gate area between the walls and gate. Our study room construction budget of $15,000 covered materials and the cost of our university maintenance department employees time to build the rooms.

Next year we hope to convert our computer lab, which we were able to make into a 24 hour study space for the first time this semester, into more of a microcosm of the library (minus books). So, we hope to add some study tables, make a couple of collaborative computer stations, add some lounge seating, and try to retain enough flexibility to still use it as a small teaching lab/library instruction space.

Working on a small campus with a small student body, while trying to provide services and facilities at a high level, can be difficult with limited resources, but I think we did a good job utilizing what we were given.

 

Moving On

I just removed my Drupal site from this website and took it completely offline. I created my MLIS portfolio and directed fieldwork (internship) documentation using Drupal 6. Now that I am well into my third year as a librarian, the information contained there seemed to be increasingly irrelevant as promotional literature. I also quit maintaining the Drupal product which has moved on to version 7.

While I enjoyed dabbling with several content management systems when I was a student, there is currently no need to try to keep current with several products when I won’t be using them anytime in the foreseeable future. Our library is going to transition in the next few months to using WordPress to run our website, so moving my site to WP awhile ago will certainly help in my job going forward.

I have to finish backing up the last install of Drupal from the server, and then delete the files there.

Changes

The past few months we’ve been experiencing some changes at work. We’ve had some staff turnover, rearranged many staff and patron areas in the library building, and we are adding more services online. It has been an interesting experience so far, with more to come. One thing I hope we will start doing better is managing the changes with more staff and user input.

Another area in which we need to improve is communicating changes and expanded service offerings. Currently we don’t really have a way to share with the rest of our campus community when we have additions in service, changes in staff, physical changes to the building, add new products, revamp the website, etc…. We tried adding a feed from our blog to the front page of the library website, but content was not updated regularly, so in the latest iteration, that feature went away. In years past a newsletter was shared with faculty and staff, but it has been a few years since that last occurred. We have sent very little to students either.

We can’t justifiably lament a service not being used if we don’t tell people we have it. So, hopefully we will have some good discussions on what type of changes we communicate in advance, what things we highlight as having recently changed, and when we involve others in the dialog. And then, start communicating!

Mobile Libraries

We’ve been experimenting with a mobile version of our website at work. Right now it is a basic homepage with the vital library and patron information available. We’ve turned on the mobile version of several of our databases in conjunction with this. Currently our ebook platforms don’t have mobile versions, nor do they allow for downloads, but one of them is supposed to offer something soon. Then we’ll probably be ready to roll out the site amidst much fanfare. We don’t have a large mobile user base yet, but it will be interesting to see if that grows much with a more mobile friendly layout and suite of services. We will also hopefully be able to roll out a char and/or text reference service sometime this summer.

Campus (& Library) Orientation

Today was campus orientation day for new incoming students starting Spring Semester (which starts Monday). The library has used a video for the last several years – at least since I started here almost six years ago. We try to get a few years out of each recording so they don’t feel too dated. That, along with the fact we’ve had a little staff turnover the past few years, dictates the need to produce a new video this summer (if we continue to go with this medium for orientation). Our current video is a news show format with some short ‘commercials’ to change the pace a bit. Previously the video was a skit about a student’s journey through the research process.

I’m not sure what we’ll try for the coming year, but it is likely time to start thinking and gathering a team to produce it. I’ve been wondering about trying to get some people outside the library involved a bit more with this, but it may be too late at this point. One of our student workers who is in a music program here, works for a recording studio, and has a band, volunteered to work on a song for the new video. It could be a great way to add something different to the mix next year. We try for around a 20 minute video (with opening and closing credits).

We have several learning objectives we want to hit with the video – pretty basic stuff. There is a library. It has a second floor. The people are helpful. We have the resources your professors will accept for academic college level work. Etc….

I’ll update more on this as we develop a plan.

Moving Content

I started moving some of my old content from other platforms where I had done some library related blogging under the librarylimbo moniker. I think I lost some decent content along the way as I moved from one format to another, and again when I removed some more work related posts when I left my previous staff level position to take time to focus on my second year of graduate studies. I guess I didn’t do a good job archiving my posts or perhaps I lost them when I killed one of my computers a few years ago. It was unfortunately well into the intervening period between one of my then less frequent backups. I will have to hunt around the digital detritus and see if I just labeled something less fully than I ought.

Library building use planning

I recently met with the university’s facilities manager at work to talk about future uses to which the library staff would like to put our building. The general plan has been that the library would acquire the basement (lowest of a three story building) when the most recently built academic building was completed. Unfortunately, that new building was scaled back and it seems unlikely that our acquisition of the lower level, which has three classrooms, will occur any time soon. We would like to relocate all of our current ten years worth of periodicals to the lower level, where we currently house any periodicals older than ten years in two closed stack storage rooms. Co-locating all the periodicals in an open location would reduce a lot of staff work and make materials more easily accessible to users. It would also free up some prime floor space on our main floor so that we could reorient services and create a little more space for students to spread out.

The two floors the library occupies are overfull. Without shifting materials to another location, we will not be able to rearrange our current use, let alone effect some major space usage changes. We are running out of shelf space on our top floor which houses our general collection, along with four more discreet collections. We continue to reduce our print book and periodical subscriptions, moving more online, or just going without (both intentionally to serve a broader clientele and due to prices increasing in the midst of budget stagnation, regression, or total cuts in materials budgets). We have a bit more time to figure something out since we aren’t adding as much print material as in the past. We could do some more strenuous weeding, or switch to an ‘add one, remove one’ collection development model to keep our collection from growing totally beyond our ability to house it.

We have two study rooms, but would like to offer more spaces for group work. We have large tables with six to eight chairs around them on the ‘quiet floor’, sending mixed messages to students who need spaces for group work. Our study carrels are crammed back to back, such that two people are not likely to use facing spaces. So, in addition to the periodical move to the lower level, we’d also want to utilize some existing offices as study rooms (maybe add an inside facing window or glass in the door as a safety measure though). This would still leave room on the lower level for relocating some of the large tables for a more open space where groups could work, along with some of the book collections from the top floor, freeing up more space there to create more inviting and roomy individual study spots.

Those are some ideas we have, but it really seems like it will be a major uphill battle to continue to try to convince others on campus that it is worth the effort and expense.