Sciences Advisory Group – Notes from Fall 2011 Meeting

The Sciences Advisory Group met on December 13, 2011

Attending: Cluss, Bob; Scharstein, Daniel; Ryan, Peter Crowley; Dorman, David R.; Sandwick, Roger K.; Arndt, Jason D.; Graham, Noah M.; Hegman, William; Darrow, Alison P.; Sax, Shel; Bertolino, Steven J.; Carson, Bryan P.; Raum, Hans L.; Lloyd, Andrea H.; Simpkins, Terry W.; Irwin, Rebekah L.

The topics of this meeting were:

  1. Virtual computer labs
  2. Specialized software issues
  3. Communication between LIS and the Departments
  4. Faculty Authors Collection
  5. Information Literacy pilots with CHEM and HARC
  6. Updates and announcements

1. Virtual computer labs: What are they, and what to do if you’re interested

  • Software can be installed on virtual machines, students log in to those machines from their own laptops to use the software
  • Purpose is to offset any lack of availability of physical computer labs
  • Mac or PC, shouldn’t matter.
  • Graphics-heavy, lots of processing – should test in advance.
  • Interested? Software survey.


  • Virtual lab was discussed at the science heads meeting.  There has been  interest in the sciences, so here’s a recap:  LIS offers a virtual computer option that enables students to access specialized software when not in a specific location.  It also enables faculty to teach in a room that doesn’t have the requisite software.  If interested, faculty can find more information here: Using the Virtual Computer Labs.  If faculty want it for spring 2012, they need to include it in their response to Mary Backus’ recent software survey.
  • Virtual software has to be installed on the client machines – it is client independent

2. Specialized software issues: Chem would like to have a single contact person

  • Chem Dept uses ChemBioDraw, needs to be renewed each year.
  • LIS wants the process to be as easy as possible.
  • Renewals are handled completely externally, by the vendor. Works best when the user does the renewal and goes straight to ChemBioDraw with questions.
  • LIS is trying to get a single contact point at the vendor.
  • Other software requires renewals too, eg Mathematica.
  • If other departments have experienced difficulty with annual renewals, please let us know and we’ll see what we can do.


  • External renewals seems to be a trend.  
  • Noah mentioned that it is important to have someone at LIS be the main contact.  
  • Roger reported some frustration with needing to start from scratch each year, especially if get a different person on the Help Desk.  Would like LIS to consider having a specific science contact for labs configuration, teaching space issues, etc. Seems there is some variability in who will respond, the level of service and the response time.  
  • Bob will follow up on this request with Mike Roy. 
  • Daniel noted that CS has Dave as their sys admin and have expanded support to include Rick and Jim and wondered if something similar could be done for Chemistry. 
  • Bill noted that Geography is producing training videos to minimize person-to-person contact needs and wonders if this might be a useful way of reducing demands on the Help Desk. Various folks wanted to see Bill’s training videos.  
  • Note also:  We have a new subscription to which has many short and helpful training videos.

3. Communication between LIS and the Departments: Are departments/programs adequately informed of changes made by LIS?

  • LIS plans for communications regarding major changes to important services, so faculty shouldn’t find themselves surprised about – for example — change from Measure to Moodle.
  • Let us know if you encounter a communication breakdown, we’ll try to figure out what happened
  • There might always be small surprises (that seems to be the nature of technology), but we should be able to avoid the big ones.
  • Question: How do you want to learn about changes? One long message or several small messages?


  • Dave noted issues with upgrades of software; there have been times when software is updated on some machines and not on others. These inconsistencies cause problems because faculty and students use different versions and therefore instructions for assignments do not always apply. 
  • LIS software page (go/software) needs to be current and should include version information
  • Noah gave example where Rick maintains a server for him and gives him personalized service when issues arise.
  • In response to the question about what types of communication are preferred:  Daniel would like to get frequent smaller emails so that he doesn’t have to scroll through a long email to find the information that he needs.  There was general agreement on this.

4. Faculty Authors:  Science books and articles to Armstrong display/collection?

  • Currently, books are on display over at Davis Family Library
  • Proposal: Science faculty author works go to Armstrong Faculty Authors Display:  Books and articles are represented (color copy of book jacket or journal cover, eg). Add sign to Davis Family Library Authors Collection (“Science Faculty Authors at Armstrong Library”). 1c of book, housed in Armstrong stacks.


  • Rebekah talked about rotating signs – e.g. rotating book cover or journal cover or first page of journal article. At some point, could consider setting up monitors to visualize the location of some of the journal articles.
  • Bob thinks this is a great idea, other faculty concurred.  Also wants the Armstrong Library to be called the Armstrong Science Library
  • Suggestion that perhaps faculty could send pdf files to LIS and they could then make them part of the display

5. Information Literacy pilots with CHEM and HARC: Update and next steps

  • Task: Plan for teaching and assessing intermediate and advanced skills that all majors should graduate with
  • Progress: Chem has list of skills and target classes.
  • Next: plan for assessment


  • Basic skills covered in first year.
  • Intermediate and advanced skills should be determined by the department
  • Chem Dept. volunteered to participate in the pilot for intermediate and advanced skills
  • Chem Dept has worked with Carrie on developing a list of requisite skills
  • Next step: how to assess that grads actually have these skills
  • History of Art & Archictecure has taken a somewhat different route but they might find it useful to see the model that Chemistry has developed.
  • Bob: want to know what the effect of the College Writing courses and the skills developed in research during the thesis process

6. Updates and announcements

  • Science Data Librarian request
    > Noah questioned why librarian vs tech support person
    > Carrie clarified that it’s not an either-or situation, several requests will be made
    > Then followed a discussion about what a data librarian is and how it would help principal investigators with their data sets, particular as it relates to NSF grants and appropriately archived data
    > Seems to be the opinion of science faculty that they need both – Andi said that there is a need for tech support but data management and archiving support is also needed
    > Carrie feels that it may be possible for data librarian to to do some of both
  • Software survey and Windows 7 – Deadline for software requests (Friday Dec 16, early so that we can test on Windows 7)
    > Jason gave example of his using specialized software for his research but that he uses it his teaching and if his software won’t run on Windows 7, what does he do?
    > Noah says he has the same problem
    >Answer:  Most software should be fine since Windows 7 has been out for a while.  In some cases, an upgrade might be needed. 
  • Web of Science (current coverage) ends this month

Leftovers (not discussed at meeting; might be discussed in spring):

  • Classrooms and labs: Plans for upgrades: Currently there are 44 “non-smart” classrooms on campus, plus several other spaces used as classrooms during the Language Schools. What is the best method and what should be the schedule and priority for converting them? LIS will convening a group this fall to prioritize upgrade requests, resulting in a budget request for conversion. This group will also be looking at near-future technologies such as small portable projectors that might impact the upgrade decisions.  Question: to provide input into the process regarding which classrooms should be prioritized? Answer: Bob Cluss is making these decisions, so faculty should probably contact him directly if they want to advocate for a specific classroom space
  • Ebooks: 44,000 ebooks added to MIDCAT. Can be read online in a browser or downloaded for offline use. We save money by paying only for the books that are used.
  • Summon: Your students are using it – do you know what it is? Do you like it? Summon is the Library’s Google-like search box. It’s a single search for books, newspaper articles, journal articles and citations, and more. Summon will try to link directly to full-text if we have it. It searches MIDCAT, the Library’s Digital Collections, and over 90% of our journal articles. For more details see the What’s Summon link next to the search box on the library homepage.
  • Scopus: Replaces Web of Science. Similar coverage and easier to use. Thoughts?
  • Innovation: Digital humanities, cyberinfrastructure: Three College-wide task forces on innovation have been created, each of which will have LIS representation. Additionally, LIS is forming a group to provide services to the community relating to digital resources and ideas relating to their use in a liberal-arts pedagogy. The LIS group, led by our Head of Collections and Digital Initiatives, is still in its formative stages, but they will be charged with thinking about the services needed and how best to deliver them. This may include an inventory of what is already happening on campus. LIS is investigating how digital resources from special collections, the lecture archive and other sources could or should be integrated. Midd Lab may fit in as sort of a “PR” arm to highlight interesting uses of digital technology in humanities research and pedagogy.
  • Moodle and course hub: Is up and running. The number of classes using either Moodle or WorPress is similar in number to the numbers of Segue sites in the past. Segue will become read only by the spring and migration tools, or the ability to archive material on the sites as static HTML or PDF will be available in the spring. Workshops will be offered during J-term, so look for future announcements or see go/lisworkshops. Also short Moodle video tutorials are available on http://go/lynda.
  • Google/MSLive evaluation: Shel Sax is heading up an evaluation of moving email hosting from the college to the cloud. LIS will be evaluating two services – Google and MicroSoft Live. There are a number of questions/issues: cost, ease of migration, functionality, service level agreements with the vendors, etc. Should we change mail services, there will be a way of migrating any information stored in our current system and we will retain a address.

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