My Experience with a LibraryBox

Posted July 9, 2014 By Abigail Goben

Last summer, I had the opportunity to support Jason Griffey’s Kickstarter to improve the code for LibraryBox.  At ALA this summer, I got to take mine on a test drive.

LibraryBox is an open hardware project aimed at getting documents, information, and entertainment in places where wifi does not abound.  I’ll be describing what you get if you buy one from Jason already set to go–he also has all of the code freely available and very clear instructions on what hardware you’d need to build your own.

My LB about 2.5 inches square by about 1.5 inches high. It came with a preloaded USB drive and a power cord. It is very light–this easily disappears into the large purse that I carry everyday.  I also was able to run it off of the Anker battery that I’ve started carrying.

Once I plug it in, in about 5 seconds it shows up in my wifi options on my computer or my phone as “LibraryBox  Free Content!” (I need to rename it, this is just the standard name). On a PC or Android, opening a browser window takes me to a webpage from which I can download any content that is on the LibraryBox. On a Mac (and I assume Iphone), you need to navigate to librarybox.us, which will reroute you to the download page.

My primary use for this was my preconference: I was bringing data sets with me that I wanted my preconference attendees to download and use on that day.  I have been to too many conferences and watched wifi crash too often to trust that I could rely on the convention center internet, so I loaded everything onto my LibraryBox, which was as simple as plugging the content USB into my laptop and creating a new folder.  On that day, my attendees just needed to connect and download.

That same day, one of the other presenters had slides that he’d not yet had a chance to share.  He presented in the morning, transferred the slide deck to my USB at lunch, and that afternoon our attendees could get the slides to take home.  If we’d realized it first thing, I’d have grabbed them before his presentation but at least everyone had them before leaving.

I didn’t use my LibraryBox much the rest of conference but I see a lot of possibilities.  Right now it needs to be supplemental: it does assume that your users either have a laptop or a smart phone that can connect to it, but it’s another way to give handouts to people, to transfer documents to people in the room, to offer free library content at the park or farmer’s market. One folder on my LibraryBox is the collected works of Cory Doctorow, who has licensed his fiction in a way that we can share it this way. If my Box is plugged in, you can get a lot of books to read.

One question I got from Madame Storyteller (I was showing her this in a restaurant–hence the battery test), was if I could still use it to connect to the internet and the answer is no. LibraryBox only lets you connect to the content loaded onto it, there’s no web browsing.  This could have it’s own benefits, letting people download and access only what you want them to see and use. I could see setting up a LibraryBox for middle/highschool students that would have specifically curated material on it.

I also see great options for this in emergency settings or medical settings. If all of the forms or updated information could be sent out on a flash drive, all you need to do is power your LibraryBox and materials would be available to first responders, for download in a hospital (could we do extra patient ed this way?), etc.  You can power it either by plugging it into the wall or a battery or via a battery–Jason had a solar pad on his backpack that he was using in Vegas, what with it being so sunny there…

I see a lot of possibility with LibraryBoxen, now I just need to figure out what work’s best for me and also to rename mine.

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LITA Education: Under the High Wattage

Posted July 7, 2014 By Abigail Goben

With last week’s ALA Annual conference, I resume fully my hat of Madame Chair. It’s the hope and goal that I will be the last two year chair of the Education Committee, as we’re slowly transitioning to a Chair/Vice Chair model for LITA in order to hopefully improve communication and handoff.

Over the past six months I’ve served as the first vice chair for LITA Education, with the idea of determining where some of the challenges for the committee were and identifying what needed to be changed, where we could improve, and determining our strengths. I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my Board Liaison, Andromeda Yelton, who has been giving LITA Education and the budget for LITA a great deal of brain power.

A major challenge for LITA Education is that without much infrastructure or particularly clear expectations it has become one of the primary revenue arms for the division. Having this particular obligation with some other challenges means that there’s a sticker shock of how much money it is anticipated we will generate–especially as historically the committee has not set those numbers themselves. With this ALA came the advent of a new LITA Financial Advisory Committee and I’ll be working closely with them (and Andromeda, let’s not pretend) to determine a realistic level of budget to try and target towards–keeping in mind that this work is nearly entirely reliant on volunteers who all have full time jobs and far many other obligations.
Beyond that, though, the committee needs infrastructure rather desperately. With a group of constantly rotating volunteers, we need better documentation of process and procedures if for no other reason than it gives us a jumping off point to say “we need to change what we’re doing” Currently it’s really hard to do that because we don’t know what we’re doing.There were specific areas that I outlined for the LITA Board at their Monday session (thank you again to now-Past President Cindi Trainor for giving me time on the agenda and to the Board for listening and discussing these points with me). If you’d like to hear my presentation to the Board, it’s available here. I start speaking at about 14:30 and continue for about 9 minutes. Our entire conversation was about 30 minutes.  For those not interested in listening or w/o headphones, here’s what I brought before them:

*Overall the LITA Education is a reactive committee, waiting for presenters to come to us, lacking documentation and training, and in severe need of infrastructure to carry us through from year to year.

*I have major budget concerns. To date, the group has been given goals in terms of program numbers, not revenue or expected registration. Those program numbers have assumed registration we haven’t been meeting and yet  the financial expectations have grown greatly without any input from the committee and without giving them any feedback as to how they have been doing in meeting those goals. For example, in the budget Andromeda pointed to in June, a third preconference was added to Midwinter 2015. Those preconferences are under the LITA Education purview, but that information was never conveyed to the incoming chair.

*The committee needs more formalized relationships and communication with other revenue generating committees: Program Planning, Forum, and Publication. Right now those relationships are in place only because I know the chairs and have no problem shooting them an email and vice versa. I will rotate off, as will they, and we cannot rely on personality. Nor should that soley be the work of the chairs.

*The committee should also be soliciting education from our Interest Groups. We had one IG do a webinar earlier this spring and it was well received.  The IGs have a wealth of knowledge and capacity and education would be an additional opportunity for them beyond the meetings at Midwinter and Annual, and would probably let others participate in programming who cannot attend the in person meetings.

*It’s very unclear how we handle partnerships. I’ve been approached by a LITA member who wants to reach out to an organization. He has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do and it seems reasonable in my head, the problem is that I have no idea how much it would cost. I want an approximate checklist to start with.  [Note: one of the board members has taken on this particular task]

*We need a better marketing plan because various people tweeting about our educational programs is insufficient. Part of this must be driven by education planning more than 2-3 months in advance so we can make various deadlines that are further out but most of that shouldn’t be coming from the content generating committee.

*Infrastructure is needed to better support our presenters.  There’s always a question of money–when it’s expected speakers will be paid versus not. But beyond that, we have other things that we can offer and aren’t: feedback from post-course surveys that we’re already sending out, improved format options and a submission process, better appreciation from the committee itself.

What are my goals? 

1. Establish infrastructure and documenation of procedures

2. Formalize relationships between other key LITA committees and Interest Groups [This includes the new Communications Committee, I had a chat at Annual with the founding chair Nina McHale.]

3. Proactively align with other division offerings: this spring LITA Assessment worked with LITA Education to survey what other divisions are doing. We have the raw data, now we need analysis.

4. Identifying the needs of our community. [A survey on this is going out to the LITA members soon. I am hoping this will identify not only needs but also potential instructors.]

5. Recruit the best instructors, collaborate with other divisions, expand our partnerships.

What I asked from the board

1. What other infrastructure ideas did they have that I’m missing?

2. What partnership ideas did they have?

3. How does LITA Education fit into their strategic vision for the next couple of years?

—————

This generated a lot of discussion among the group and some definite tasks that other people are taking on.  It also spawned about 400 new emails for me but hey, that’s pretty standard.

Why am I telling you all of this?  My final point to the board was the need for TRANSPARENCY. No matter how much I talk to people, I am only one person and I know that the ways of committees are often too opaque. It was something I tried very specifically to work to improve for the LITA Program Planning process.I have nearly an entirely new committee serving with me for the next two years including one veteran from my PPC years who I’m thrilled to have as a partner again. I also have a vice chair who’ll be working even more closely with Andromeda and I.  I am sure that everyone will have ideas about what else education needs to do and I can’t wait to hear them.  I am hoping to build this infrastructure with them so that they can take great leaps and our educational programs can truly meet the needs of librarians wrangling technology.

If you have any input on LITA Education or are interested in teaching a web course or a webinar, please feel free to check out:  or you can send me an email [MyFirstNameMyLastName@gmail]. I may hand you off to a committee member for further details but I’m happy to be first point of contact.

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Three Things Wednesday: the ALA edition

Posted June 25, 2014 By Abigail Goben

Somehow, I’m leaving for ALA tomorrow. I’m not entirely sure how this happened and I’m not wholly convinced that I really will be standing in airport security in 24 hours with packed bags, handouts for my preconference, and snacks. We who are about to get no sleep for the next 24 hours salute you.

Anyway, an ALA edition this week.

1)  I’m speaking to the LITA Board on Monday about LITA Education, of which I become chair as of this conference. I’ll blog about it after, my notes are already rather detailed, but if you’d like to follow along, you can Livestream that meeting (Meeting II) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojATtBYTv_Q

Meeting 1 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u44mmPw2v0I on Saturday should also be well worth watching

2) If you haven’t read Andromeda Yelton’s extremely thoughtful blog post on the state of the LITA budget, stop and go read it right now.

3) LibraryBox  is a cheap/easy portable file distribution system. I bought one from LibraryBoxenMaster Jason Griffey. Last night I set it up, which took all of 10 seconds.  I’m loading handouts, notes, data sets, and other things on there for ALA this weekend.  It’s going to save me from having to fear wireless access on Friday for my preconference.  I won’t be the only one, so check your wifi channels for LibraryBoxen in the wild.

   

The slow transition…

Posted June 24, 2014 By Abigail Goben

Today began the handoff of Pharmacy to one of my new coworkers. We started talking about it last week but this week I started scheduling meetings with various people and we went together to a faculty meeting. There, I handed  her the packet of meeting stuff and  just sat and pointed out the various people she’ll meet in about two weeks.

We’re in a rare position being able to do this. Pharmacy’s last two liaisons have left due to new jobs and things have been far more abrupt. This time around, we have not only more time but I will still be here and the Pharmacy liaison at one of the regional campuses is still here too.  I’m hoping it makes for a better transition.

I am pleased by the response I’ve gotten from the Pharmacy faculty and staff I’ve reached out to as I’ve asked for meetings. Every single one of them has been gracious, immediately responsive, and more than willing to sit down with my new coworker and I for 30 minutes to go over things, talk about possibilities, etc. One even volunteered to set up a more formal meeting with several other people.

I mentioned to some peers that on one hand, I’m glad that I’ve gotten this far that they’re willing to do this at my request; on the other I’m sad that I haven’t had the brain space to reach out and more expansively do this over the past year.  Pharmacy needs a good liaison and I’ve been very much in the hold-down-the-fort mode. Part of that has been tenure, part staffing, part self-preservation.  I have great hopes for my new coworker.

After July 15, I really expect to be done with Pharmacy except from an occasional question kind of way.  Of course, Dentistry’s happy to have my full focus back, they have lots of things for me to think about.

 

   

In My Office, There Are Snacks

Posted June 23, 2014 By Abigail Goben

When the construction starts in my building later this year, I’m going to have to move my snacks. Currently there in a cabinet that’s attached to my cube, and that’s not going with me. It’s a slightly daunting prospect: there are a lot of snacks in there.

Frequently days turn into back to back to back meetings recently, the temporary lull that was early summer has faded and now everyone is trying to do all the things before fall and the new semester and new students kick in.  That means sometimes meetings get rated by if/what I can eat during them. Today’s dept meeting started with only a decent rating but it skyrocketed when my coworker brought chocolate from her recent trip abroad. The peach raspberry white chocolate was amazing and I say that as a woman who doesn’t like white chocolate.

But if you need a snack, I’ve got lots of cereal in my office and a case (well, a partial case, it’s been there a while) of individual packs of Chex Mix. I also usually have at least a small tupperware or two of nuts.  I should keep dried fruit or some such, but haven’t had as much remembering to eat that when I’m snack seeking.

There is also, always, the giant bag of mini-Snickers in the bottom desk drawer. The Cheerios are usually a good deterrent when I feel the desire to pig through 3-4 candybars, but the chocolate and protein punch certainly doesn’t hurt.

Several people have tried to talk me into Graze boxes, but I haven’t gotten into that. It feels, somehow, too indulgent for me, though I know it’s working well for them. For now my snacks will keep me going on the crazy-no-other-time-for-lunch-and-I-left-it-in-the-fridge-anyway days.

Do you have a snack stash?