Tag Archives: library

Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

This year I have written only 17 blog posts, in 2017 it was 21 blog posts, in 2016 it was 43 blog posts, in 2015 I wrote 24 blog posts. In 2014 I wrote 11 and in 2013 I wrote 64 blog posts and over a hundred in 2012. In 2011 I thought 150 was a quiet year!

Do signs work?

The tenth most popular blog post in 2018 was asking So do signs work? This article from 2013 described some of the challenges and issues with using signage to change behaviours. So do signs work? Well yes they do, but often they don’t.

The post at number nine was my podcast workflow, published in 2011, this article outlines how and what equipment I use to record the e-Learning Stuff Podcast. This is only one way in which to record a remote panel based podcast, and I am sure there are numerous other ways in which to do this. I have also changed how I have recorded over the two years I have been publishing the podcast due to changes in equipment and software. It’s probably time to update it, though I am not doing as much podcasting as I use to.

Dropping three places to eighth was 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip. This was a post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE. It included information on the many free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet out there. It is quite a long post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

The post at number seven, climbing one place, was Comic Life – iPad App of the Week. Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

Sixth most popular was a post from 2018, called “I don’t know how to use the VLE!” This blog post described a model of VLE embedding and development. This post was an update to the model I had published in 2010.

In at number five, is also a post from 2018, Why does no one care about my digital strategy? This post described some of the background to the leadership briefing I wrote with Lawrie Phipps on the digital lens.

digital lens

Holding at fourth, is Can I legally download a movie trailer? One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back, this one was in 2008, I am still a little behind in much of what is happening within copyright and education, one of things I do need to update myself on, as things have changed.

Dropping one place back to third, was Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week, still don’t know why this one is so popular!

FrameMagic - iPhone App of the Week

Back in 2015 I asked I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean? in relation to the Area Review process and this post was the second most popular post in 2018, last year it was in sixth place, so it’s getting more popular.

Once again, for the sixth year running, the number one post for 2018 was the The iPad Pedagogy Wheel.

The Padagogy Wheel

I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”. It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

So there we have it, the top ten posts 2018.

The Intelligent Library #CILIPConf17

So what is the intelligent library? What is the future of the library?

library

At the CILIP Conference in Manchester this year, on Thursday 6th July, I am delivering a high level briefing session on technology, specifically looking at the library within the intelligent campus space. The session will explore the potential technologies and the possibilities that can arise from the developments in artificial intelligence and the internet of things.

There has been plenty of hype over artificial intelligence and the internet of things. Is it time to put aside the cynicism that this kind of hype generates and look seriously at how we can take advantage of these emerging technologies to improve the student experience and build an intelligent library?

library

The internet of things makes it possible for us to gather real-time data about the environment and usage of our library spaces. It is easy to imagine using this data to ensure the library is managed effectively, but could we go further and monitor environmental conditions in the library, or even, using facial recognition software, student reactions as they use the library so that we can continually refine the learning experience?

Most smartphones now make use of artificial intelligence to make contextual recommendations based on an individual’s location and interests. Could libraries take advantage of this technology to push information and learning resources to students? If we could, it offers some interesting possibilities. On-campus notifications could nudge students to make best use of the available services such as the library. Off-campus notifications could encourage them to take advantage of the learning opportunities all around them. Could we use approaches like this to turn student’s smartphones into educational coaches, nudging students towards the choices that lead to higher grades and prompting them to expand their learning horizons.

As we start to use a range of tracking technologies, smart cards, beacons, sensors we are facing a deluge of data in the use of buildings, spaces and equipment across a college or university campus. We are faced with a breadth and depth of data which can be challenging to use effectively and have greatest impact. These tracking technologies are already widespread in environments such as airports and retail. Often using wifi tracking to track users via their wifi enabled devices and smartphones. In addition sensors are used to track space utilisation and occupancy. Interpreting the data is fraught with challenges and difficulties, as well as potential ethical and legal issues. However this wealth of data does offer the potential to deliver more satisfying experiences for students and staff as well as ensuring the library is used as effectively as possible.

books

Looking in more detail we can outline some potential use cases for the intelligent library, and we may want to think which of these are desirable, but also which are possible with the current state of technology.

We can imagine an intelligent library which not only knows what seats and PCs are free, but can learn from history and predict when the library will be busy and when it will be emptier. The library then provides this information to students via an app, pushing the library when there is more availability of places and computers.

Having a deeper understanding of the utilisation of the library, will allow for more effective and efficient use of space. Could this also mean we have a flexible library that expands and contracts as demand for space in the library changes over the day or over the year?

Could we use wireless technologies, such as RFID, not just for issue and return, but also track those resources as they are used within the library itself? Could we also use the same technologies to track resources across campus to identify areas where they are being used or stored (or even lost)? Could we then enhance those spaces to improve learning?

Could we use facial recognition to monitor regular users of the library and provide insight and data into learning analytics? Could we go one step further and use facial recognition technology to discover when students are “troubled” or “in need of help” and then make appropriate interventions to support them in their studies?

books

If the library is getting full, could we identify those students who have been in there a long time, and push a notification, incentivising them to take a break with a free coffee from the library coffee shop? Could we go one step further, and promote wellbeing, by doing the same, but with a free coffee on the other side of campus, so they have to go outside and get some air and exercise?

using a mobile phone and a laptop

Is there any benefit in providing a platform to help gather this data from a range of systems in a standard format that makes it easier to analyse and act upon? Would it be useful to have a national view over this data? Would that enable us to find new patterns that could help us discover the story behind the data, to make appropriate interventions and improve the use of our libraries? Could we build the tools and practices an institution would need to use to gather, organise and push this data to student’s smartphones as well as exploring novel user interfaces such as chatbots?

Of course all this tracking and data collection has huge implications from an ethical perspective. We already gather large amounts of data in the library, sometimes this is anonymised, but sometimes it relates to individuals. At a basic level, we have seen physical counters to determine the number of users in the library, as well as using library management systems to gather data about the usage of resources and the borrowing behaviour of library users. The intelligent library as outlined above takes all this initial tracking of users one step further.

library

As the technology in the intelligent library space grows, we need to consider various questions on why we want to use these technologies, how we use them and if we should. We already use a range of systems to collect data, do we want to put in new systems to gather even more data? Some data we need to collect regardless of our concerns, a library management system by definition will collect and store huge amounts of data about resources and users. What happens less often now, but may increase in the future is the processing of that data. This is the analysis of that data and displaying that data in a way that shows a picture. The next step is taking action about what that data shows. It could be an organisational action, but could equally be action related to an individual user. How do we ensure that we have consent to collect data (sometimes this is implicit by using the library), how do we ensure we have consent for us to process that data and finally do we have constant to take action on that data?

What is the future of the library? This session at the CILIP Conference will explore the potential technologies and the possibilities that can arise from the developments in artificial intelligence and the internet of things. Can we build an intelligent library? Do we want to?

Can I book a PC please?

old books

When I managed libraries in FE you often had to field calls from suppliers of PC booking systems. They were always surprised, when I not only said we weren’t interested in their product, but I didn’t see the point and how they improved teaching, learning and assessment.

I know for many libraries I realise that a booking system for the PCs is seen as a vital piece of software, alongside the Library Management System.

However have you ever asked yourself why you have one, and what would happen if you turned it off?

iMacs in the library

We removed the PC booking systems, as no one could come up with a good business case for them.

Reasons given included to restrict the amount of time a student could use a PC for… never quite understood that one. Yes students should take breaks when using a PC, but is this down to software or better done through education and understanding?

Another issue with time restraints, is that it implies, if you have a one hour limit, that learning takes place in one hour chunks and only one hour chunks! That doesn’t happen!

Other reasons, is that there isn’t enough PCs in the library to meet the demand, so yes a booking system will help constrain demand, but isn’t the issue then to get more PCs, rather than a PC booking system?

PC utilisation data across the whole college, will probably show that there are unused PCs in classrooms, one question to ask is how can they be used more effectively?

I do understand, coming from an economics background that with limited resources and unlimited wants, you can have shortages. The question is do you go down the planned economy route or go for a more laissez faire approach.

The planned approach does cost money in terms of software, hardware, support as well as operational staffing costs. The laissez faire approach means allowing the learners to make decisions about when and how they use the PCs.

One feature of one of these systems said

Whether you use predefined or open text messages, there is no need to physically approach users.

…and this is a good idea, because you wouldn’t want to talk to the learners would you, enabling you to build a working relationship with them, so that they know who is who and whom to go to when needing help.

The sales pitch goes onto say…

“Possible confrontations are avoided, cultivating a more studious environment.

Well we wouldn’t want staff to talk to the learners would we, why would we want that?

From my experience, the opposite is what happens. The staff become more distant from the learners, the library staff see their role is about managing resources and not about supporting learners… resulting a more confrontational environment when it comes to anti-social behaviour, as the learners don’t have a working relationship with the staff and don’t respect the staff or the environment.

We need staff to talk to the learners, we need to build relationships through effective communication, it enables learners to understand that the library staff are a key part of the library and can be a wealth of guidance, knowledge and information that will support the learners in their learning and supporting them in their assessments

We had one complaint from a student who liked to book a PC, so it was booked and reserved, so they could then go and have breakfast… leaving the PC booked, but not being used.

Usage patterns after removing the booking system, demonstrated increased use and higher utilisation.

What we also found with booking systems was that students would book a PC at say 10am. The previous booking would leave at say 9:50am, another learner would find the PC, but knowing it would only be available for 10 minutes doesn’t use it, the learner who booked the PC, then fails to turn up at 10am, we wait 10 minutes before freeing up the PC. This means PCs were “unavailable” as they had been booked, but weren’t been used.

We also found that learners wanted to book PCs so they could sit with their friends and be social, not having a booking system did mean that they could all use a PC, but not necessarily together. This resulted in less behavioural issues in the library.

If someone was desperate and wanted to book a PC for a specific time, then no problem, we did this manually. In other words booking was the exception rather than the rule. The learners could even manage such a system themselves.

As Ofsted noted when they inspected the college:

Outside lessons, many learners make constructive use of the college’s libraries and resources.

No mention of booking systems, or issues with PC access. I should also note that at least one of the inspectors sat in the library alongside learners when working rather than sit in the base room we had provided.

So here’s an idea, why not turn off your booking system for a week, just as a trial and see what happens. Confusion, possibly, chaos, probably not. Another option is, if that idea is too radical, why not have some bookable PCs, but allow others to be fully open access and record utilisation patterns.

I understand that for some library staff they see the PC booking system as a critical component of how they manage resources, from my experience, and especially in times of reduced funding, they are probably one thing that can be removed and the funding used for staff or learning resources, with minimal negative impact and potentially a more positive environment in the library itself.

Visitors and Residents: Useful Social Media in Libraries

Old Book Shop

Ned Potter has published an interesting slidedeck on the relevance of Dave White’s work on Visitors and Residents on social media in libraries.

He describes the many different ways in which libraries can engage with users and visitors using a range of social media tools. One of the challenges when using social media in libraries is to focus on using it as a broadcast mechanism and not thinking about how to engage and interact with users.

There are lots of existing and new tools out there that can be used to promote, engage, collaborate and inform.

He does make the usual assumption of seeing the concept as separating visitors from residents into two distinct groups, when as Dave White makes clear in his video is much more of a continuum. When it comes to social networks people can be both visitors and residents depending on the context and what they need or are doing. You can be a visitor to Facebook, but you can also be a resident in Facebook. Resident in a personal capacity interacting with friends and family, and a visitor in a professional capacity, going to Facebook pages as and when required.

I made the same assumption myself when I blogged about Visitors and Residents back in 2008.

Dave’s recent video on Visitors and Residents and the mapping exercise shows much more clearly how the concept can be used to describe how an individual interacts with social media, and additionally the continuum between professional and personal.

Understanding how both the concept of Visitors and Residents and  social media can be used to increase usage and engagement with users of the library is really useful, and Ned’s slidedeck and accompanying blog post gives you lots to think about.

One suggestion that I found helps, is if the entire team engage in using social media and that the tools are also used for internal purposes. This helps build familiarity with the tools, but also helping to understand what sorts of activities on social media work and what may not. One of the questions you will need to ask is how are you going to increase the social media capability (media literacy) of your team?

Image source: The Shop of Books.

 

It’s not just about the rules…

Cassoulet

At lunchtime today I was at my desk eating a very nice bold cassoulet soup from EAT reading e-mails from the various mailing lists I subscribe to. There was an interesting discussion on one of the lists about how different colleges deal with food and drink in their libraries.

I know from experience and walking around that most staff eat their lunches in their workrooms. I also know when writing or working that I quite like having a cup of coffee or a cake (or two). What this tells us is that most people may want to at some point eat or drink while they work and write. It is not too difficult to understand why learners may want to eat and drink as they study. Of course you may not always be able to accommodate eating and drinking; not everyone likes the smell of food, there is the issue of rubbish and there may be an overarching policy that says no food or drink in learning areas. So it may not be that easy to allow food and drink and that rule has to be in place.

Even if there are rules, these are often ignored so as a result the library staff are spending too much time “policing” the library rather than helping learners. Another strategy is to attempt to change behaviour by putting up signs, but experience says that doesn’t work.

One way that I have been looking at this problem, is by asking why is it a problem in the first place. Rather than ask how to stop students eating and drinking in the library, ask why are they eating and drinking in the first place?

Most colleges are providing some kind of area for eating (where do they buy the food from), why aren’t they staying in those areas to eat or drink, what’s making them move from those areas to the library.

On one campus of my current college, the eating establishments only provide food in takeaway containers, partly I guess to save on washing up and partly I guess to encourage students not to stay (as the spaces are quite small). So guess where the learners go when it is cold (as it is today) a nice warm place, the library. On another campus they use proper “china” and the library doesn’t have the same issue with food and drink. Sometimes the issue is outside the control of the Library and a more holistic approach needs to be thought through.

Conversely why aren’t they using the eating spaces for learning, why do they feel they need to move from the canteen to the library? Why not turn the canteens into libraries? Make them environments for learning.

When I was at my last College our (final) policy was to allow bottled drinks only. We had NO signs about food or drink and to be honest it wasn’t really a problem. I remember when we merged with another college, their library was full of “no food” signs and the library was full of half-eaten food. By changing the culture and the respect that the learners had for the environment, the food issue became a non-issue. The main way it became a non-issue was the respect the students had for the space and the staff. Build relationships with the learners and most issues such as rubbish disappear. I also ensured that the team went around and picked up any rubbish, regardless of the fact that there were bins about. The key was ensuring the environment was tidy and nice, not about getting the students to throw away their rubbish. If the learners see a nice environment they generally like to keep it that way.

Of course there will always be exceptions, but I see food and drink in libraries is more about external factors and respect than just what happens in the library and signs.

So do signs work?

Do signs work?

So do signs work? Well yes they do, but often they don’t.

A simple question, what signs work and what ones don’t? On my way to work I often encounter advertising billboards extolling the benefits of cars, soft drinks and others that to be honest I don’t recall. Can you remember all the billboards you saw this morning? Are you the type of person who buys everything you see advertised? No, of course not, advertising is about influence and persuasion, but not enforcement.

Enforcement is different, if you look at speeding enforcement and how speed limits are done, the red circle indicates that the sign needs to be “obeyed”. Ask yourself have you ever exceeded the speed limit, either through a lapse of concentration or because you were in a “hurry”? Or have you ever seen others exceeding the speed limit ignoring the signs.

As a bit of a generalisation, people who read signs prohibiting a kind of behaviour are generally those people who don’t need to read them…

This sign is from a shelter on the promenade in Weston-super-Mare, not sure of the age, but if I was to guess I would say from the 1950s.

This sign is from a shelter on the promenade in Weston-super-Mare, not sure of the age, but if I was to guess I would say from the 1950s.

I would ask the question, did this sign stop people spitting? It’s not just the assumption that the sign would stop people spitting, but there’s the language and what you can’t see from the photograph is that it was ten feet up, as a result not at eye level. If you think logically about it, if you want to stop people spitting to the ground, why not put the sign on the ground, though I doubt that would work either.

One of the problems with signs that prohibit behaviour is that where do you stop and when do you stop putting up signs. I recall when I asked a learner to stop eating in the library, he asked where was the sign prohibiting food and drink in the library? Now you may think he had a fair point, how would he know what the rules are if they are not displayed?

There are two key issues here, there wasn’t a sign saying “No Cycling” however I think most people that having learners cycling around the library isn’t conducive to others studying in the library. Yes that is a bit of a silly example, no one would cycle in the library, but the key question when you prohibit behaviours where do you draw the line. No drawing or highlighting in the books please. Please do not put chewing gum on the underside of the tables and desks. Should there be a sign saying “No Fighting” as you don’t want learners fighting in the library. Well would such a sign work anyhow?

The issue with having prohibition signs, is where do you draw the line, and where do you stop. You start to have a large number of signs, with an end result of lots of visual clutter and little impact on the behaviour, which you were trying to change in the first place. The problem is exacerbated when you allow different kinds of behaviour in different areas of the library and the only thing demarcating those areas are signs. Suddenly the library becomes a plethora of signage, which has little impact on behaviour, but can have an impact on learning. Visual clutter has a very negative impact on learning, it creates distraction and has a compounded impact on those with visual disorders.

The second key issue was that the learner who was complaining about the sign, had in fact signed a student code of conduct in which it was quite clear that eating or drinking in classrooms and libraries was not allowed. The learner probably either had forgotten, or not taken notice of what they were signing. Ask yourself how many times have you read an EULA for a web service or a piece of software. Even if you do, how much do you remember?

Relying on signage to change behaviour, is a flawed premise. So the important question is how do you change behaviours if you don’t use signs? Well that’s going to be another blog post.

Would you like fries with that?

I spoke at the UKSG e-Resources for FE event in London today.

Research from the University of Huddersfield shows that the number of visits to the library has an insignificant impact on learner achievement. However in the same study it was shown that students who took out more books, or used more e-resources achieved higher grades.

How can a library service engage learners who visit the library to utilise more of the resources available to them?

What strategies can be used to increase the use of e-resources and the lending of books?

Can we learn from major retailers, high street chains and other companies and implement their ideas into the library?

James Clay from Gloucestershire College discusses the strategies they have been using to increase the use of books and learning resources by learners.

Turn off that mobile

This is the presentation I gave in July at the event, CILIP’s Mobile Technology Executive Briefing.

Is there a role for mobile devices in the modern library? What are the issues, challenges and opportunities of using mobile devices to support learning and resource discovery in the library? From communication, collaboration, storage, notes, books, journals and more, mobile technologies are changing the way in which users can and are using libraries.