Author Archives: Michael Roy

The whole point is lost if you keep it a secret: Musings on the LIS Blog

There’s a great scene in Dr. Stangelove where the existence of the Russian’s doomsday machine is revealed, but at a moment when it is too late for its explosion to be stopped.

For those not familiar with the movie, the doomsday machine is a nuclear device that can destroy the entire planet in a single explosion, whose triggering is automated, and once triggered, can not be stopped. In this critical scene, Dr. Stangelove complains that the whole idea of having a doomsday machine only works if you tell someone that it exists. Having a secret doomsday device is not a very good strategy. As he points out, “the whole point is lost if you keep it a secret.”

I think about this insight often when I think about our efforts to communicate with our community, and with ourselves, about all of the services and resources that we make available. Without an effective way to allow people to know about what we provide for them, we risk spending lots of time and money on things that few will ever know about. Thinking about how we are going to communicate when we change something or add something should be integral to the process of changing or adding something.

One of the major ways we communicate what’s new and what’s changed is via the LIS Blog. In turn, some items from our blog find their way into MiddPoints, the LIS eNewsletter, and our Facebook and Twitter feeds.  On a monthly basis, a small group sifts through the LIS Blog to assemble the eNewsletter. Of late, we’ve found that despite all of the changes we’ve made to our services, there is no corresponding posting to point to. Over the years, we’ve tried various strategies for being systematic about always posting to the LIS Blog when there is something new or changed that we want our community to be aware of. We hope not to have to return to the days when we had to hound contributors. That was annoying for all involved. To that end, I turn the question over to you: what can we do across the organization to get into the habit of always posting to the LIS blog news about what’s new and what’s changed in order to avoid having to be heavy-handed about this?

A second question about the LIS Blog that I have is whether or not we should continue to run the blog as a public blog. WordPress, the software that powers the LIS Blog, is now able to easily cross-post items to other blogs (that’s how we get posts from the LIS Blog to MiddPoints).  I wonder if we ought to create an LIS-only Blog where we post and where we read, and then create a mechanism for selected posts to make their way to a public LIS Blog and to MiddPoints. The advantage of doing this is that I suspect we might be more apt to make comments, to try out ideas, and to share more insider information if we knew that only our colleagues in LIS would be able to read the posts and the comments. Am I alone in thinking that this might be a good idea? What other ways might we accomplish the goal of encouraging more contributions, more dialogue, and more communication within LIS? (If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your thoughts on the public LIS blog, send me an email!)

Notes from Manager and Team Leader’s Meeting: September 2011

Here are the notes from this month’s manager’s meeting:
  1. We reviewed and added to the ‘what’s new this fall’ document. (See http://sites.middlebury.edu/lis/2011/09/08/what%E2%80%99s-new-or-will-be-new-this-fall/ )
  2. We reviewed the process for goal setting. All workgroup and team leaders will post their goals to the LIS strategic planning site by October 1. In addition, they will update their FY11 goals with a final status update by October 1. This year, we will check in on the status of goals on a quarterly basis.
  3. Mike talked about the theme for the year: the 4 Ss. They are simple, secure, stable, and sustainable. While we gear up for a more ambitious campus-wide technology planning that will start in the next year, this year we want to focus our attention on making what we have simpler for our users, more secure, more stable, and sustainable. While this theme will inform our approach, it is worth noting that we will no doubt also take on new projects that arise naturally either from these themes, or from demands from our campus partners.
  4. Chris Norris gave a tutorial on the latest version of the project directory. The new directory is using a platform called Roadmap. We have agreed that going forward, all LIS projects will be listed in the project directory.

Banner Hosting to Move Off-Campus

We have decided to move the hosting of Banner, our main administrative system, to a facility managed by SunGard, the developers of Banner. We have decided this for three main reasons:

  1. SunGard understands Banner better than anyone in the world, and we will be able to benefit from this expertise as we manage the application, and perform upgrades.
  2. The data center where Banner will reside is a world-class facility that will provide us with a level of protection, security, and up-time that is a major improvement over how we manage Banner today.
  3. SunGard provides a disaster-recovery facility where we can recover should their primary data center fail.

This change will have only minimal impact on campus. For the most part, users of Banner will notice no real differences. GO shortcuts will remain the same and will point users to the new Banner hosted servers. As we go through the migration of the system from our facility to the SunGard facility, we will at some point have to freeze all development efforts for a period of about 6 weeks. This is currently scheduled for the October – November time frame. Functional areas are already planning around this schedule with the understanding that any patches required for regulatory compliance or tax updates will be granted an exception. Once the migration is complete, we will be back in business and able to continue with our development efforts.

The timeline for this project is as follows:

  • from now until October: LIS is working with SunGard to establish the hosting environment
  • November: Testing of the new installation will be done by administrative offices
  • Mid-December: Go live on the new system

We feel confident that this decision will improve the performance and reliability of this critical system, and will allow us to focus our precious human resources on Middlebury-specific issues, as we no longer have to spend time thinking about the system optimization, back-ups, and other critical but aspects of running this system. While this may seem like a radical move, it is in fact part of an on-going trend in Information Technology in Higher Education, as schools leverage the power of the Internet, the cloud, and hosting services to provide improved services to their campus.

What’s new or will be new this fall

When our undergraduate students return to campus in the upcoming days and weeks, they will face a set of changes to our environment, and will likely have questions about these changes. To help us all understand what has changed, and who to point to if there are questions about any of these things, we’ve put together this handy index of changes for your perusal and as a reference.

Current Changes to Know About

Mobile/Portal
We’re launching a pilot project to provide mobile and tablet users a friendlier way to access our resources. This same project will also provide a customizable portal for desktop and laptop computers. Joe Antonioli can provide more information about this.

Campus Manager
We will be making significant changes to Campus Manager, the software we use to keep track of devices to our network. These changes will happen in mid to late September. Until then, we will likely not be using Campus Manager at all.

Virus Campaign
We’re starting a campaign to get 100% of all College machines to be regularly scanned for viruses. This may result in an increase in questions about how to use symantec. And to make matters even more complicated, we’re also looking at possibly replacing symantec with a different product. Stay tuned on that.

Summon (also added to 2010-11 Annual Report)
The library has implemented an integrated resource discovery system from Serials Solutions called Summon (go\summon).  Summon indexes over 90% of our library resources — MIDCAT, ContentDM, online databases, indexes, and journals — in one combined resource, making it far easier than ever before to get a wide spectrum of results when searching.  Summon also offers tools for filtering search results that are similar (although, in some respects, more powerful) to those found on common websites such as Amazon.com.

Music Library Move
In May, the library moved ca. 32000 music books and printed music, 21000 CDs, and 1500 DVDs from the Music Library in the Mahaney Center for the Arts to the Davis Family Library building.  Most of the printed materials are now located on the 3rd floor of Davis.  The CDs are behind the circulation desk (but available for check-out) and the DVDs, periodicals, and reference collection are being integrated into the main library’s collection.  The move when very well, a tribute to the fine planning done by the Space Team and others in the User Services and RCS areas.

Moodle and the Course Hub
We have just launched Moodle and the Course Hub (http://moodle.middlebury.edu and http://courses.middlebury.edu ) and are hosting training sessions for faculty for use this fall.

DVDs
We’ve moved thousands of DVDs to the circulating collection, which means easier browsing and many more DVDs available to check out from the library.  We have also combined what was a “split” collection (meaning, some titles were classed using the Library of Congress classification system, and some were classed using a locally-developed system using the “MCTR” prefix), which will help reduce staff processing time.

Ebooks
Through a partnership with a company called EBL, the library has added ca. 44,000 eBooks to MIDCAT (go/midcat) that are now available to users “on-demand.”  Under this pilot project, users can access any of these titles from any networked computer and from many hand-held devices as well.  Titles that are accessed 4 or more times are automatically purchased by the library.  For titles that are accessed 1-3 times, the library is charged a small usage fee.  We do not incur costs for titles that are not accessed at all (or only very briefly), thus ensuring that the titles we purchase are titles that are needed and used.  We hope this results in added convenience for users as well as a way to more specifically target acquisitions dollars to materials that are actively used and needed.

iPad Loaners
We’ll soon be loaning out iPads in the way that we loan out laptops and cameras and other devices. If you haven’t yet had a chance to try out an iPad, you might consider taking one for a spin.

PaperCut for Copiers, too
We’ll be using papercut to allow copying as well as printing. Details to be posted on the wiki.

The return of loaning/borrowing audio CDs for Interlibrary Loan
With the move of the music library to Davis Family Library, we will resume loaning and borrowing audio CDs via Interlibrary Loan.

Four New Smart Classrooms in the MCFA
Over the summer, we built four new smart classrooms in the MCFA, one of which has a built-in video recording capability.

Mac Management Tool
We’ve launched a new mac management tool (called Caspar) that will allow us to do system management on Macs in the same way that we can with PCs.

Lynda Video Tutorials
The recently launched lynda video tutorials (http://go.middlebury.edu/lynda ) are proving to be very popular.

Menu Feeds
We’ve re-written the way the dining application works so that it is possible to see the ingredients of the food served at Middlebury’s dining halls.

On the Horizon


Banner Hosting
As many of you may have already heard, we are moving the hosting of Banner to a facility in Florida that SunGard manages. This won’t happen until much later in the fall. Stay tuned for more details on how this change will impact users of this system.

Stats Lab
If you see architects in the ground floor measuring things, that’s because we are planning to convert  Library 140 to a stats lab for use by the economics department and others.

Mission Continuity / Disaster Recovery
Process inventory work continues with identified functional areas of the College and soon, Monterey.

LIS Focus: Summer 2011

As has become our habit, we again are publishing our ‘focus document’ that lays out by workgroup and team the activities that we will be focusing on this summer. While this list is not comprehensive, it is a way for us to both ensure that everyone in LIS knows about what’s being worked on now (and therefore will generate questions later), and to give a preview to the rest of the community of changes that will result from this work.

 

LIS Focus: Spring 2011

Below you will find the Spring 2011 edition of the LIS Focus document that outlines the activities that we’ll be focusing on this spring. For this quarter’s installment,  I’ve organized the document into a more traditional format that lays out the areas of focus for each of the workgroups and teams within LIS.

In addition to this quarterly snapshot of what’s keeping us busy, we still have our goals and our projects that provide another view into the on-the-ground view of what we are doing to achieve our longer-term vision for how LIS can support the ambitious goals of the College. The idea behind these quarterly snapshots is to provide a check-in to make sure that our annual and multi-year initiatives are making steady progress week-by-week, and to provide a transparency into what our priorities are. Continue reading