Tag Archives: Conference Reports

Innovative Users Group – a conference report

The annual Innovative Users Group conference was held in San Francisco April 23-26. Three from Middlebury attended. Here are some of the highlights from my perspective.

  • New CEO: In the last year or two, Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (the vendor of our “Integrated Library System”) was bought by a couple of private equity firms. The new CEO, Kim Massana, who took the helm last August, opened the conference with a presentation that this reporter found surprisingly candid and mildly encouraging. Among other things, he emphasized that Innovative is investing in staffing – they have hired 20 since last Fall and will add another 40 by the end of 2013 – and international outreach, opening offices and implementing library systems in China, many Middle Eastern and African countries, and Central and South America. He spoke openly (and emphasized that “The New Innovative” strives to be more open), acknowledging problems with previous product roll-outs and saying they should have done better. He also pointed out their new model of customer service – each library will be assigned a Library Relations Manager and communication of all kinds should go through the LRM.
  • Keynote speaker: Garry Golden, a trained futurist (yes that’s his real name and real occupation – you can’t make this stuff up), spoke about some of the trends he sees that will impact libraries in the next 3-5 years. One of his first points is that libraries have been communicating their primary value as “Access to Collections.” In the near future, he suggests that may evolve to “Mastery of Learning.” He described the learning environment over the past centuries as moving from the Era of Apprenticeship to, with the help of books and industrial work, the Era of Institutions (schools) and now, with the Web and the knowledge economy, it is becoming the Era of the Learner, as individuals develop self-directed curricula and “training.” He described the Web as changing from purely informational to more social and it is now becoming “a platform for managing our lives and personal behavior change.” Where the focus was formerly on access (“is it online or offline?”), the focus is rapidly changing to outcomes (“is it software-guided?”) He described adaptive learning platforms that actively respond to how the learner is learning, and suggested that “libraries need to get ahead of the adaptive” notion.

Conference sessions I attended focused on:

  • Collection Development: One session focused on Decision Center, a new III product that will launch in June. The general idea is that circulation data from item records and payment information from order records is uploaded nightly to a Postgres server that III hosts, enabling web-based querying using canned reports. It will greatly simplify extracting data to help with data-driven decision making in budgeting, purchasing, and weeding. The product manager is a former Collection Development librarian at a major public library system. III hired her about six months ago. Another presentation described an exhaustive weeding project. Three other sessions were presentations about what data to extract from Millennium for various CollDev tasks, how best to get that data, and how to analyze it. Let’s just say that Excel is a Millennium user’s best friend.
  • Catalog/System management/administration: I attended multiple sessions focused on loading catalog records, particularly those for eBooks. A particularly helpful presentation described intensive use of MarcEdit for pre-load cleanup. (They prefer to minimize the number of load profiles, because MarcEdit is so much easier, and it’s so nice to have streamlined load profiles.) Another interesting session described one library’s approach to sharing responsibility for their ILS.

Between formal presentations and open forum discussions, I have a number of “new tools in my toolbox” that I will be putting to work and sharing with colleagues. Additionally, while visiting Innovative’s Library Relations Manager booth, I learned that the New England Innovative Users Group will convene next month at the University of New Hampshire. The last such meeting was apparently over seven years ago.


Innovative Users Group (IUG) meeting – Chicago 2012

Arabella Holzapfel, Shawn O’Neil & I (Barbara Merz) were at the 20th IUG in Chicago – beautiful city – love the lake, parks etc. etc. The meeting was quite interesting too. We’ll give brief highlights of the sessions we found to be useful, and we’ll download the associated materials, which in most cases will include PowerPoint presentations, to the folder \orgs\LIS\LISstaff\ILS III Millennium User Materials\IUG 2012 materials for your enjoyment & edification.  An observation I (Shawn) had after attending these workshops is that Middlebury College is ahead of the curve to many other Institutes in technology. Our network infrastructure seems to be superior to others.

  • “Running a User Experience Group in the absence of a Sys Admin.” (BM). Bentley University. Without a Sys Librarian, III duties fall to a group of 7: 2 tech support, 2 reference, 1 circ, 1 tech services, 1 special collections. 8 staff can access the III helpdesk. Very interesting model.
  • “Sierra Roadmap & Update” (BM) III’s pitch for the wonderful new world of Sierra. Sierra will have 100% of Millennium functionality.
  • “Learning Library-Specific Context to Mobilize Library Catalog” (BM) At University of Miami concern for the usefulness of the OPAC on mobile devices, even though searching starts with Summon, led to the adoption of Bob Duncan’s mobile stylesheet, with modifications to take care of their OPAC customizations. Definitely worth follow-up.
  • Load Profile Forum (BM & AH). Useful review of resources available to load profilers. Wiki available but underutilized! Time for Middlebury to review RDA implications.
  • “Automation: Boost your Productivity a Thousand Times.” (BM) Good tech geek presentation. Use of Expect in various flavors, AutoIt plus Java to automate repetitive tasks e.g creating review lists from record numbers, barcodes etc.
  • Systems Managers Forum (BM) Mostly controlled by III staff member talking about transition to Sierra + how things would work in Sierra. Take away message – III’s efforts will be largely directed to Sierra development from now on, even though they insist that Millennium development is continuing. My conclusion – Middlebury should consider the future of our ILS with all due haste!
  • “When your item types just don’t work anymore” (AH) was a discussion about how and why a library totally revamped their item types (going from around 10 to 101) to help them better identify various formats of material, which in turn aided greatly in tracking statistics of all kinds for all reasons. Most of it is useful ‘inside baseball’ stuff, but one intriguing thing that came out is that they (a public library in Oklahoma) loan out bike locks.
  • Two useful sessions focused on using Millennium (and, in one session, additional assistance from an outside vendor) to aid in weeding (AH). (One library had 100,000 volumes in off-site storage to weed.) Interesting factoids: Jefferson County Public Libraries in Colorado (my home state!), with 10 branches, serving 548,000, orders 100-120 copies of bestsellers. They run their weeding list weekly and withdraw about 120,000 items each year.
  • Four useful sessions dealt with various aspects of batch record loads, particularly those for e-books. (AH) One session was presented by staff from San Jose State University, where they provide e-books from 17 different providers/platforms, and have patron-driven acquisitions programs from three different vendors. They use a combination of tools, including Excel and WinBatch scripts, to de-dupe and perform other necessary functions on batch records.
  • “Using circulation data to validate an approval plan” (AH) described one library’s journey towards refining their approval plan profile (for print books) to match or surpass the circulation rates for firm orders.
  • “Getting the most out of Print Templates” (SO) –creating and using print templates for everything from spine labels to hold slips.
  • “Centralized Weeding: using create list and icodes to streamline the weeding process” and “Millennium Makeover magic: weeding in an INN-Reach consortium”- (SO) The 1st presentation dealt with both public and Academic libraries and the later was an academic library that was involved with  INN-Reach. In both, faculty  was given a say over the weeding. There seems to be no standard method for choosing what is to be weeded.
  • “Creating lists for Beginners – Why created the wheel again” (SO)  In other words, use others’ lists (with permission).
  • “Confounding by Copyright?” (SO) It seems guidelines change all the time and you can “buy protection” for copyright privileges.

Top Picks from DrupalCon 2012 Denver

We (Adam and Ian) were in Denver, Colorado this week attending the annual US Drupal convention. In addition to attending sessions, we were able to connect with colleagues from other institutions including Amherst, Wellesley, Lawrence University, UNH, and CSUMB. We sponsored a “birds of a feather” session, with Amherst, to introduce interested parties to Monster Menus, a Drupal module that Amherst and Middlebury use to add a site hierarchy and manage permissions on our site. This session was surprisingly well attended by about thirty participants and we had a lively discussion about Monster Menus’ capabilities and limitations. We also attended multiple sessions on using Drupal in higher education to hear what people at other schools were doing with the platform.

All of the sessions can be watched on the conference website (use the tabs across the top to browse each day’s sessions). Adam and I will highlight some that we found especially engaging, but if there’s one we missed that you think others would enjoy, please share it in the comments.


Dries Buytaert: Dries is the guy who created Drupal and currently runs the leading Drupal consulting business and serves as President of the Drupal Association. His talk covered where the development team is focusing for the Drupal 8 release. There are three main areas of focus, (1) mobile compatibility, (2) modernizing the development API with the Symfony framework, and (3) improving the user interface for content authors. He announced a tentative release date of August 2013 for Drupal 8.

Mitchell Baker: Mitchell is the “Chief Lizard Wrangler”, the head of the Mozilla project that produces the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client among other efforts. She talked about the “Maker Ethic” and how the goal of Mozilla it to enable and promote the freedom to create, write, and publish. As she describes, the Firefox browser is but one product to enable this freedom and only one of the many projects Mozilla is engaged in.

Luke Wroblewski: Luke gave a very entertaining presentation arguing that we now need to develop web applications for mobile devices first and worry about the desktop experience second. He presents amble data backing up this assertion, which is guiding the mobile-first goal for Drupal 8. Adding responsive designs for mobile interfaces to our platforms is a 2012 goal for the Web Applications Development workgroup here, so we’ll be doing a lot of work in this space shortly.

Ian’s Picks

Designing Fast and Beautiful Maps: This talk describes the TileMill and MapBox mapping tools, showing how you can transform a simple spreadsheet into an interactive map interface that can easily be added to a Drupal site (or any other website). Though this is probably not something that we’d use for the main campus map it looks like a great tool for one-off mapping projects including student research. By the way, if you have a map that you’d like us to feature on the site or in MiddLab, contact me and I’ll be happy to help you get that map online.

I just want to edit a node and Five things we need to create an awesome experience for content creators: These discussions describe the initial thinking about the user interface for content creators in Drupal 8. While we won’t be moving to that platform until late 2013/early 2014, and some of the decisions about the platform may very well change by then, this is an early warning about what to expect. I should note that some of the features they discuss, like inline editing, are already available to us thanks to the Monster Menus module developed by Amherst.

HTML 4 S – While We’re Waiting for the Revolution: We spent a lot of time thinking and talking about adding HTML5 features to our sites, but that’s not always possible due to assumptions made by the back-end systems as well as browser compatibility. This talk discusses the steps we can take to get “close enough” on HTML5 adoption and some of the pitfalls we’ll encounter that are specific to Drupal, though much of the information here is Drupal-agnostic. I’ll give a small warning that the speaker is quite colorful and animated in his speech.

Adam’s Picks

Real World Performance Analysis: How to Identify Performance Problems in Your Own Sites: This talk provides a good strategy for tackling performance issues in Drupal sites without wasting time on optimizations that won’t have a big impact.

Keeping The Lights On – Operations and Monitoring Best Practices:  This session is focused on practical tools and techniques you can use to keep “your fingers on the pulse” of your site, from availability to performance to security.


Also, we were able to enjoy Colorado for a bit before the conference.

Looking forward to next year in Portland, Oregon, or perhaps Munich or São Paulo later this year!

NMC Summer Conference Report

Last week, I attended the 2011 NMC Summer Conference at UW Madison. It is a beautiful campus, surrounded by a charming and accessible city. The Terrace, on the backside of the Memorial Union, made me think of the Waterfront in Burlington. The stores and restaurants on State St reminded me of the feel of Church St, although I do not believe I could have found Ashak here in Vermont, which was delicious.


Brainbow image of hippocampal neurons. Courtesy of Jeff Lichtman/Harvard University

Anha Skop, Asst. Professor of Genetics at UW Madison, delivered a stunning opening plenary “Too Creative for Science.” Her message on the relationship between art and science was punctuated by images of Brainbows, a cell division video, and the Tiny: Art from the Microscopes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A message from the editor

A message from the editor

Next we used ARIS to create a simple alternate reality experience, led by David Gagnon. The platform has an intuitive interface, and has been used to create a number of experiences, including Mentira in Spanish. Future versions of the platform will include image matching, currently it supports QR codes.



Francisca Yonekura and Barbara Truman presented offerings at UCF in Everybody Wins: DIY Open Gamification 4All. Kogneato is a self-service platform that allows faculty to create games for assessment. Activities include labeling and flash cards, as well as crosswords and hangman. They also shared their online resource for information literacy.

Maria Woolson and I presented the Middleverse de Español project, where we used Second Life to create a conversation space for language learning. Our session was well attended and received, with a number of questions about the students’ experience and the impact on their learning.

Other Interesting Links from Conference

Games + Learning + Societyhttp//gameslearningsociety.org

IdeaLab at Carlton College, creative space for faculty, staff and students to show what can be done with technology - http://apps.carleton.edu/weitz/VirtualTour/IdeaLab/

Mystery at MIT - http://www.mit.edu/~puzzle/

Poll Everywherehttp://www.polleverywhere.com/

Head Magnethttp://headmagnet.com/

POPUP, Psychology project using Kogneato - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsuZ_FhxkGg&feature=share

Middlebury Links Related to Post

Science and Art
Student Symposium – http://www.middlebury.edu/academics/resources/uro/symposium
Middlab – http://sites.middlebury.edu/middlab/

Geo-located virtual information
Murmur – http://sites.middlebury.edu/seniorfellows/2011/05/17/murmur-hear-it-here/

Cataloging for Non-Catalogers

From Carrie:  This morning, I attended a Lyrasis webinar called “Cataloging for Non-Catalogers.”  Since I supervise a few librarians who do cataloging, I figured I could use a refresher.  Many years have passed since I took the required cataloging class in library school!

The instructor was enthusiastic (“We can catalog a-ny-thing!  Even the Dr Pepper I’m drinking right now!”).  The content was elementary (purpose of cataloging, cataloging terminology, examples of catalog records).  I’m glad to have a renewed familiarity with the work that our fine catalogers do.

From Rachel:  Also sitting in on the Cataloging for Non-Catalogers class, and learning to speak Cataloger.  I found the resources and links the presenter provided very helpful.  It’s great to have so much of this information easily accessible on-line.

From Carrie:  I’ve added these two sites to my delicious bookmark collection:

And of course, there’s lots of documentation for catalogers on the Cataloging page of the LIS Wiki.

Scholarly Communication Seminar

I attended an online ISIS (Information Service Instructional Support) seminar on scholarly communication this afternoon.  It was led by Marilyn Billings, Scholarly Communication & Special Initiatives Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Marilyn provided an overview of the current scholarly communication landscape.

Benefits of open access journals:

  • no cost to end-user
  • downloaded more, cited more
  • more opportunities for collaboration, interdisciplinary studies

Challenges of open access journals:

  • may or may not include peer-review
  • perception of faculty members (impact on promotion and tenure, concern about author-pays model)
  • during this transition period, Marilyn generally recommends new faculty publish in traditional venues til they have tenure

Reasons for library involvement:

  • advocate new form of scholarship
  • provide repository space
  • offer copyright advice
  • showcase student work in a place where community can see it; this is valued especially by service-learning projects

In general, the other institutions represented at this seminar seem to be in a situation similar to Midd:  they host an institutional repository and as yet, it has minimal participation.