Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Preservation Centre

So our group actually went on this tour back on May 18th, but I somewhat forgot to write about it.

I apologize for lack of pictures. We weren’t really allowed to take anything in with us, so the best I can do is describe it. Click on the image below though, they have a few pictures on their own site.

Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre

The architecture is really interesting since it’s inspired by the Prairies. The towers look like oil rigs, and the various connected buildings in and outside look like barns or silos. The Centre itself is also separated into two sections. The inside vault is basically in a big cement block and then there’s a large hallway space with a glass building surrounding it. To give you perspective on the size, it’s two football fields big and could fit 2 boeing 747s if the vault wasn’t in it.

The inside has 4 floors of vault and then an open floor above for work areas. Each vault floor has numerous vaults separated into rectangular rooms much like most places that store materials. Humidity and temperature is different depending on the format of the material inside as to be expected. Audio/video is of course as challenge due to the shifts in format/technology. The paintings are pretty neat. There were a number of Laurier portraits, the Churchill one was nice, and copies of the original Proclamation of the Constitution Act. The original we’ve been told is in a top secret vault (no kidding).

Proclamation of the Constitution Act

The top floor is the “village” where they have little huts with all the equipment they need to do restoration, preservation, and format transfers. They’re considered huts since they can be reconfigured (I imagine they don’t do it all that often though). Particularly neat was the page remaking process where they remake and fill in what’s missing of each page from a book, and also the cover remaking/rebinding. We got to watch a short video on the comparison between before and after a film restoration which was pretty cool.

It was a very cool tour. It’s definitely worth going if you have time!

Adjusting Management Styles and Organizational Cultures

I’m sure everyone has experienced it when they change jobs. Everyone has experienced the shift and the need to adjust to a new job, manager/supervisor, and organization. I think what’s really hit me is that I’ve gone from one end to the pendulum to the complete opposite (or so it seems).

Management

At my old job, I was basically given a one liner on what I should be doing, “go do x, and if you don’t know how, just read up on it and give it a go.” If I needed help though, my coworkers would be more than happy to. I used my time as I saw fit in working on projects, and attended workshops on campus.

Now, I get lots of detail on what is being asked of me. I also send everything to be vetted by my manager and sometimes other coworkers. I keep a list of everything I’m working on and completed as well. I ask permission to go to anything my manager hasn’t directly sent me to.

Organization

In general, yes, things were divided by units or departments, but we got good response time for the most part and had a fair amount of control over what we could do. It was fairly easy to contact people and find out what information you wanted or needed.

Now, things are not only divided, things sometimes frustrate me, because we get minimal to little support in some areas. I also find it difficult to get information, having to through unusual ways to get it frequently. Though I admit, I think a lot of it is having no control and being allowed to be given any. It’s irking especially to know that you could probably fix it yourself, but it’s not your job. Then again, it seems I’ve just been “lucky” to encounter a number of issues and it’s not that common for a lot of the little things to happen that have been bothering me. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of things do go very well. I have found people very helpful and willing to help, and IT help desk is great!

Conclusion

There is no better, just different and what fits better with your work style.

 

general, yes, things were divided by units or departments, but we got good response time for the most part and had a fair amount of control over what we could do. It was fairly easy to contact people and find out what information you wanted or needed.

Traffic Curbing in a “Collaborative” Environment

So, it seems like lots of social media is used here and a lot of it is done in house. WordPressMU blogs, MediaWiki install, video/audio repository, RSS feeds, SharePoint… you get the idea. However, other social media wouldn’t really make sense to do in house, like Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc.

However, bandwidth is limited for Internet usage (i.e. outside of the Intranet), but perhaps because general Internet usage is needed by many, it’s only certain types of sites that are restricted. Chat/external e-mail is just blocked, but some sites are simply limited by bandwidth; primarily social media sites (Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc.).  Facebook… okay, you got chat, games, apps, pics, vids… very bandwidth intensive stuff.  But why Twitter? It’s all just text. (Use of Google tools too is somewhat encouraged for the collaborative bits, and I have no problem with maps/reader/calendar, but google docs just stalls…)

The Solution? Third-party apps. As long as your supervisor approves of it, you can request to get it installed. So, I now have TweetDeck to post on twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever other social media I’d like to, and keep track of friends too.

In the end, I can’t complain too much, because they’re already way ahead of others in promoting and encouraging use of collaborative tools and social media for work purposes compared to many other organizations, non-government included.

About Portal

So the About portal really was just a redesign for the most part. The process was the usual inventory of pages of the current About section (see below left), trying to put them into cateogries, then coming up with a preliminary information architecture. For this portal, we also consulted with the Communications department to ask about what else might be added.

Attempt #1
The first attempt at the redesign was to use the existing design from the Help and Services portals (see above right). If you look at the full version, you can tell that the problem with using the existing design is that there is a lot of white space since each category only has 2-4 links. Everyone, who looked at this first attempt, agreed that it just didn’t work. We concluded though that since the About portal didn’t serve the same sort of purpose as Help, Services, and Find, it would be okay to use a different design. So, it was back to the drawing board.

Attempt #2
When thinking about how we might do another design, one of the ideas was to somehow bring the University Librarian’s message back to the foreground. We essentially ended up with the layout of the old design, just with the set of links organized in the new way. This didn’t work either since the navigation of the portal was essentially lost.

Attempt #3
Finally, I thought perhaps we could go with a simpler design. I looked at a bunch of other sites (library and otherwise) to see how they dealt with the layout and organization of their About sections. Based on those layouts and suggestions from others, we came up with the current design.

screenshot of current about
New About

The new About design uses the same organization as in the first version, but simply lays out all the links underneath a heading. It also has the first two paragraphs of the university librarian’s message, where if you click on the title, you will see the full message. We agreed that this was a nice balance between the first and second attempts.

Contact Us page
Most pages/posts were simply moved over, but all were in agreement that the Contact Us page needed a redesign. So, a redesign it was. We felt that the old page had too many links (all users who saw this page during the usability test said as much), especially since a lot of these links exist elsewhere on the site (namely on the Services Portal) and the front page as well in many cases. A couple of the forms were merged or updated to par down the number of links further.

Status
Migration of all the pages have been done and everything has been setup, but since the Newsletters were moved into Issuu, issues were embedded to posts (which worked fine), but then didn’t show up on aggregated pages (the embedded object would just be stripped out). Styling has yet to be done as well. Hopefully it’ll be live soon though.

The Ever Changing Project and Timeline

The Original Project
Not many people know, but when I began my current project/job, I was hired to revamp the Instructional Resources pages of the library website. Essentially, it was two pages. That’s right, two.

The Growing Project
Of course, trying to compile a list of all the instructional resources at such a large university still took a long time. And since part of the goal was to centralize these tutorials into one place and also migrate them to wiki, a whole web portal came out of it, which of course involved various staff and committees. The idea was to get it all done by the end of summer, but of course, because the tutorials also needed updating, that didn’t happen. To date, we have not migrated even half of the Help portal (of the list you see under Finding, only Journal Articles comes from the wiki). Nevertheless, we launched the portal page itself.

Redesigned Help Portal
Current Help Portal

The New (Related) Project
Out of my work on the one portal grew the plan for another portal, the purpose of which was to list the services the library provide. Our library has apparently never had such a page, which seemed odd to me, but true (I had never known of a page like that in all my time here).

Interestingly, this portal had much more user testing than consultation with others, because it was putting together a new portal and would not affect any existing parts of the website. We also rethought the design so that we minimize the amount of screen space we’d be using and in our testing, we found people had no problems with the navigation and those who tended to skim through pages found this design better/more useful than the older Help portal design, because they were forced to read the headings to move further on, and thus were more likely to read them than to skim.

Services Portal screenshot
Current Services Portal

Although some pages have yet to be migrated into WordPress/wiki, most of it is done even if it’s not all public. We prefer not to change things so close to the end of term (especially since some of them are really popular pages) and there’s a bug or two that need to be fixed with the WordPress pages. Soon though, I hope.

Two More Projects
So with Services launched, the plan for this term was basically the rest of the main site minus the home page (and Branches since that only really needs a migration). One is the Find Portal to replace the current navigation of Catalogues/Journals/E-Resources, and the other is About Portal to replace the current About Us section.

Ever Changing Timeline
It became fairly clear a few weeks ago that due to the need to prioritize other projects, my co-worker was not going to be available to do usability testing for the two new portals. After discussions with my supervisor, we decided that we’d have to push the timeline back for testing and we could really only go as far as preparing for it. Nevertheless, we’ll be pushing forward with About since that’s an area that is not used quite so much by our users and most of the decisions would come from other divisions. Find will go as far as a prototype site with preparation for usability testing.

Find Portal prototype screenshot
Find Portal prototype

Unfortunately, I struggled with the organization of the Find Portal, so another look will be needed before and after usability testing.

Here’s hoping that the new timeline goes through.

Ever Continuing Projects
So, beyond launching the actual portal pages, a lot of work has continued with migrating everything to WordPress and encourage staff to help update existing pages or provide us with new content. As I mentioned, much of Help is still simply linking to old pages (some were so out of date, we had to take them down), but Services is moving along and I hope to get it all done by the end of next month. Nevertheless, as all websites, it’ll be continual project that will be taken up by the rest of the team (and perhaps a new co-op student in the summer).

The Politics of Gardening a Wiki

Disclaimer: The purpose of this is not a criticism of anyone, but simply a reflection on the reality of things. Opinions written here are also my own and do not necessarily reflect the organization I work for, nor is it necessarily a reflection of what goes on in my organization as I have experience participating and managing numerous wikis. (This more or less applies to anything on my blog really…)

Normally, when you have a wiki, the idea is that the community collaborates to create and manage content. Others will not only suggest changes, but make them. There is little in terms of crossing lines or boundaries or stepping on someone’s toes beyond general netiquette, because what you begin, change, and read is created by a community of users whether that be a partner, team, organization, or the whole world (as is the case with large wiki sites such as wikipedia).

Nevertheless, because the wiki is a very open space, organization and managing content can become very unwieldy. Thus, in order to keep everything working and useful (i.e. not just a hodgepodge of pages), there is one or more wiki administrator and moderators.

So, what happens when a wiki is created within an organization? Hopefully people are educated about the purposes and the workings of a wiki. Then hopefully, as a result, if people start suggesting or changing things (especially moderators and admins), people do not ignore them or complain. However, in an organization where a set of content was traditionally created and managed by a single person who had complete control over what they do and how they do it without that really affecting anyone else, the idea of the wiki itself is hard to grasp for a lot of people, let alone the fact that it’s for community use and other people may come in and change things.

Many people also have a hard time grasping categories as it’s a different kind of organization and many people treat it like tags using their own personal organization without realizing that other people might change the hierarchy and/or use of the category as the wiki evolves. Most of all, because they use it as a personal tagging system, they don’t think about the larger use or organization of the wiki.

Because it’s obvious that some things are related to a specific unit’s or person’s project (but which will be used for greater use and public viewing), as one of the wiki moderators (and the one tasked with a specific area of it), I generally try to make suggestions instead of simply changing things in the hopes of not stepping on anyone’s toes. In some cases though, I simply get ignored or essentially get told “I/we don’t need your help, leave me/us alone”. Sometimes it’s all the harder because not only am I on a part-time contract, I’m also a student (which in some people’s view means I’m not fully qualified to do my job and/or make decisions for the organization without approval).

Perhaps the fact that I’m a student is an easy excuse or out, but whatever the reason, I think the real problem here is that our organization is changing the way we create and disseminate information. People will have much less control than they used to. This can mean more time for them to do other things, but as one who likes to have control over things, I can fully understand that people might not want to let go.

Getting people to understand the new system is one thing. Getting them to accept it is something altogether different. (And please don’t misunderstand, some people have been great about accepting and working with the changes that have been going on. I might even say the majority, but I don’t really know.)

What might be most interesting is that I will soon be passing this work onto someone else. Who that is, I don’t know, but I suspect it will be the next student to come along. It’ll be interesting to see how our wiki develops.

Ingrid Parent – Fast Forward: 21st Century Libraries in a Global Context

The university librarian at UBC presented today at the SLAIS colloquia. There were a number of interesting and salient points that she made, so I thought I’d summarize them here.

Fast Forward: 21st Century Libraries in a Global Context by Ingrid Parent

Information is worldwide and information seeking behaviour is rapidly changing along with technology. So do libraries change user behaviours or do user behaviours change libraries? Really, it’s both. “In the face of seismic shifts in technology and social organizations, librarians and library staff face changing roles” (2010, Gutsche), but this need not be a seismic change, but rather, a wave of adaptation. The sharing of knowledge and networking allow for collaboration and can ease this adaptation. Not a lot has changed in what the library is so much as changes are happening in how information is delivered.

“information overload triggered a crisis in the way people saw their lives. It sped up the way we locate, cross-reference, and focus the questions that define our essence, our roles – our stories…” (Douglas Coupland, Player One) Libraries and librarians are still needed to help our users even if they have direct access to resources.  Librarians’ skills in organizing information are needed more than ever whether in libraries or in other organizations.  More creative positions are being created in response, and employers are looking for skills including in areas of communications and marketing.

“If there is a future for libraries this is where that future will be made – in the digital realm.” (Allan Bell, Director of Digital Initiatives, UBC Library) A large part of the strategic plan is focused on digital projects and initiatives.

Assessment has also become critical, but the shift in focus is on the library’s impact by trying to measure the influence and success the library has with its users.

Convergence & Collaboration
An example of a radical convergence is the Library and Archives Canada. Convergence needs to happen in more areas, mostly in the form of collaboration. It begins with contact and may end in convergence.  The way to do this is through digital technology in order to converge the knowledge and information. Users don’t care who the information “belongs” to, but simply that they can use and find it. Collaboration not only serves our users, but allow us to do more. Even technologies are converging, such as cloud computing.  Digital libraries and collections are quickly growing.

Examples of Collaboration Projects

Still the perception is that libraries are only associated with books. Libraries have the challenge to change that perception to include management of information, accessible from home, and really, a “living lab.” This is important as “information consumers are shifting into ‘prosumers.’ These hybrid users are producing, classifying, and distributing content as well as consuming content from others.” (Tom Evens, University of Ghent)

We are up to the challenge of meting these challenges. Digitization is a key factor, collaboration and converging, and come to an understanding on how to best deal with all the information. We need to move forward together in a global world where information is available to so many and in so many ways.

Q & A

What academic librarians need to do in moving forward? More consistent messaging and communications because things are done inconsistently as well. Need to talk to students more. Need more community engagement, which Irving K. Barber is a good example. Train staff to go out to the community.

What are you looking for in new hires? What kind of skills and knowledge set? Understanding and willingness to understand the information community out there. Going out to find the skills. Teamwork. Not hired for one job for whole life. Looking for possibilities working in different ways, innovation, and creativity. Can we do something better even if done the same for many years before. Need to be open-minded on sharing ideas and knowledge.

How is the library helping with research? One of the major objectives is to accelerate research. Need to work with faculty more, but life sciences more open than some others. Librarians sometimes to help with grant proposal. [Okay, I didn’t quite get the complete question/answer here.]

Transition between high school to university is a hot topic. How is the university helping with that? Learning commons to support writing skills and other skill sets, which is well used. Online tools on how to write essay, manage projects, etc. Anyone who is interested can come. No dedicated approach in the high school community. Will bring the topic to advisory committee in order to discuss how best to help support students to have skills before they leave high school.

What are your ideas for initiatives and if you see any changes when your presidency of IFLA? Have yet to choose theme that cuts across libraries. Libraries drive you to knowledge, but what do you do with that knowledge? Trying to look from user’s perspective, so looking at how libraries impact people including looking at inclusiveness, multiculturalism, collaboration. One initiative/event that want to do: Indigenous knowledge and how do we approach expressions of traditional knowledge.

Going out to the community requires support of institution. What do you find works for advocating within an institution? It’s not really common in part because of funding. Part of it is setting up advisory group in order to be in touch with people. Becoming involved in associations, but it all comes down to resources and priorities, but see it growing.