What is Inevitable about UTS Library (Pt 3 of 3)
In The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly discusses every surface becoming a screen in the Screening chapter, but this technological force isn’t just about converting surfaces into screens. He also discusses the possibility for libraries to become platforms for cultural life within their communities and he writes of the importance of encouraging contemplation and how online activities can provoke action. I think we’ve done some of this with our Artist-in-Residence and Curations programs. They’ve both led to ongoing actions and we think they inspire contemplation and further thought with at least some of our users. These programs have certainly had Interactive elements, with the current Artist Timo Rissanen actually creating his work in the central library stairwell over several weeks. Our Artists have asked questions of us and what we do that we’d not have asked of ourselves. This has enabled some reflection on our part and led to improved services, including with our search and discovery platform and our way finding signage.
At UTS Library the influence of Chris Gaul (our first Artist) cannot be overstated. He has had a significant impact on how we view our collections and this has led to ongoing improvements to discovery as well as search interfaces. His pioneering Spectogram has been recognised and reflected upon by several of our subsequent artists. He played a significant part in establishing a design-led visual identity for UTS Library.
Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw were asked to artistically interpret the use of our new Library Retrieval System in 2014. This ambitious project resulted in a truly amazing live data visualisation of the requests and returns to this huge robotically served underground storage system. Their work was inspirational and playful. It also added an important dimension to our identity as experts in data at a time when UTS was focussing itself on the importance of data and data analysis.
Zoë Sadokierski followed Elisa and Adam in 2015. She has been a long time collaborator with the Library through her design work on various experimental formats for ePRESS, in her artistic installations within the Library and by sharing her research on the intersection of print and screen technology (as opposed to the myth that circulates about these two being competitors). Her Residency explored the very nature of the book through research and by producing artist’s books. She also conducted a very interactive and collaborative production of a book live at the 2015 Sydney Writer’s Festival. Like previous artists her work has had a very significant impact on our visual and physical identity as a library.
Starting in late 2016, we added digital literacy kits to our collection. Including low cost technology like Sphero, Makey-Makey and basic VR, these kits have been incorporated into both our own staff development and our educational programs for academics and students. They represent a playful way to introduce technology literacies, expanding on our traditional role in developing information literacy skills.
What is Inevitable about UTS Library (Pt 2 of 3)
Open Access is something we strongly believe in at UTS Library. We have taken action in many dimensions: to improve our institutional repository; as an advocate for OA at UTS (& the sponsor of our institution’s OA policy); through our active OA publishing arm – UTS ePRESS; by participating in various OA related events and initiatives; and though our advice and assistance on all things OA to students, researchers and academics at UTS. UTS ePRESS has experimented with new forms of scholarly publishing that harness the potential of the web and digital communications and therefore question the very nature of traditional publishing. We’ve encouraged and modelled more open licensing to permit reuse and we continue to support the early days of the OA movement. Some examples of all of this are found in the following images.
Our institutional repository was substantially remodelled and fully integrated with the University’s research management system recently. We established new workflows to decrease or eliminate manual processes and the ingest outputs, made UTS research outputs far easier to find on the open web and have substantially increased our reach accordingly.
The Anatomy Quizbook was our first OER. This was also our first experiment with interactive text and importantly we were learning while making this happen. We have more OERs planned and will build on this initial adventure.
Lace Narratives was an ambitious and complex publication: it incorporated multi-media and was a major experiment in offering several different formats for a creative and scholarly work. An artistic process was openly shared through this publication and in a very limited edition high-quality hard cover version we were able to offer fabric swatches of the author’s textile art. This was one of our first experiments with different business models and distribution methods.
Project Management Research and Practice is a journal that is both unique in its field and which has evolved over time. The editorial board believes in OA research output and like our other journals have now achieved rigorous COPE and DOAJ standards. Their latest innovation is to publish as articles are submitted and reviewed. This “unbundling” of publishing containers reduces delays in research articles getting published and is much like the unbundling of albums on iTunes or the streaming of movies and series on demand like Netflix.
Our OA advocacy continues as suggested in the image above. We help others to understand OA, collaborate across boarders with like-minded people and organisations, and we raise awareness of the benefits and processes surrounding the OA movement.
End of Part 2. And Part 3 is right here. Don’t stop now.
What is Inevitable about UTS Library (Pt 1 of 3)
This is the guts of a presentation I gave at EduTECHAU on 9 June 2017. It’ll be a bunch of images, text to explain those images and a few links.
Thanks to my colleague Dr Belinda Tiffen for her assistance with this presentation: she is much smarter than me.
Last year I read Kevin Kelly’s book The Inevitable and I was struck by the way he described the 12 technological forces that he thinks will shape our future. The forces are named in the image above, but they’re not all that easy to understand. I’ve thought more about them and believe that at UTS Library we are actually making progress in all these areas, not always exactly as he describes, so I’ll outline what some of our initiatives are in the following images and text. For the sake of brevity, the only force I won’t be illustrating is Tracking, but rest assured that we are already doing some of that too and in fact you can see it in some of the examples I am using.
I am concentrating on three major areas: discovery and search; open access; and cultural and artistic stimulation.
For Discovery & Search I see our efforts are consistent with the four forces and examples illustrated above: Becoming; Accessing; Cognifying; and Filtering. We are in the process of completely redesigning our discovery interface on the basis of some in-depth UX research that we conducted ourselves. We have long taken an iterative approach to website and digital services development, and our latest work builds on that. In our UX work we have recognised that there is a spectrum of user needs and behaviours from search to discovery, so we are adding new features to aid and enhance discovery, but they are designed in a way that will not distract or delay those searching for known items and wanting to get out of there fast. Our collection development has seen major improvements with regard to collaborative borrowing arrangements and these options needed to be carefully included and distinguished in the search/discovery catalogue in order to increase the options available to our users, while not confusing them with respect to immediate availability. Finally as others like Amazon, Uber and Netflix have done we are introducing features that allow for a more personalised and tailored search and discovery experience, should the users opt in.
In response to our research insights and user feedback, the following slides outline the initial user interface concepts for UTS Library’s new search and discovery system. These solutions have been designed from the responses and feedback gathered from our previous wireframe prototypes.
The following design concepts will be developed into a working prototype where the new search engine can undergo further user testing in conjunction with the user interface.
Overall search page results in our catalogue. From left to right you see columns arranged to show search filter options; search results list and a new contextual discovery panel.
The addition of a contextual discovery side panel to provide the user with results that are personalized to the individual. This feature will assist the user in the discovery of information that the system believes will be helpful to them. Information will be displayed based on their search request and will provide related content matched to a logged in users profile.
Article results intergration: A common request amongst users of our current system is for the ability to combine Article results in a search with Books and Journals.
Using the default ‘All’ search, the new system will combine the top 3 Article results alongside Books and Journals.
This slide shows a few new features related to the item display within search results:
- Ribbon colour display: (LHS of record) Integrating the colour ribbon into the catalogue items establishes the direct link between the two. For users, this creates a better understanding of the search functionality the ribbon has. It also more directly displays the relationship between the search results and the items physical location within the library
- Shelf view: Shelf view button is located under the book cover display; this better suggests shelf views functionality to the user.
- Save item: Save item button enables a logged in user to quickly save an item of interest to a list.
- Item status: Improving the clarity of an items status means a user can quickly see an item’s availability and its location.
- Locate item: Simple and clear call to action buttons has been added to each item. This button describes the necessary action to preform in order to get the item.
- Call to action buttons (options are shown in the lower image above) The description on the call to action button indicates to the user where that item is located. For example, an item on the shelf will indicate where to “Locate item” or if an item is in the LRS it will indicate to “Request from LRS”. If an item is unavailable the call to action button describes to the user what further options are available to receive that item. When multiple resources are available for one item the button will display a drop down menu. This drop down will display the available recourse types to choose from.
Discovery of related items: The contextual discovery panel (“You may also like …” on RHS of full item page) will have the flexibility to provide related content to a particular item. On the Item page, the discovery panel can suggest related books by the same author or display items other people have viewed or borrowed.
It is of course fully responsive design, meaning the experience is fully optimised for mobile devices.
End of Part 1. Part 2 is here. Go there now. Do it. You know you want to.
Have a Sparkly Christmas!
Our 2016 card, designed by Emily Gregory.
Our Artist-in-Residence Program 2012-2016 & Beyond
I gave a talk to the VALA AGM earlier this week on our Artist-in-Residence Program: the thinking behind it, who has been involved, what has been produced and why we think it is a good thing. Below are the slides I used (29 MB PDF) and in many of the images there are links that take you much deeper into the works created by those artists.
I think my talk was very well summarised in one tweet by @StevenPChang (who is a Senior Research Advisor from La Trobe University Library). He said that I was “lauding the value of intuition, ambiguity, and aesthetics in a world obsessed with metrics and efficiency.” That is exactly what I was trying to do.
Some thoughts about academic libraries
These are the slides I used in a Skype presentation that I did recently for SCU Library. Just some random thoughts and observations about academic libraries from my perspective at UTS.
Some thoughts on Public Library Design
These are the slides I used for a talk I did for UTS undergraduate architecture students who were working on a public library project.
Public Library Design
Great Videos from the Aspen Leadership Roundtable on Library Innovation (Pt. 2 of 2)
In this second part, I feature the talk by Michelle Ha Tucker, from IDEO. She deals with Library Innovation By Design.
Michelle’s talk is very easy to understand and quite inspiring for those thinking of taking this path. It is the path we’ve been on for some five or six years in developing a design mind-set with the aid of several design mentors and guides from UTS and elsewhere around Sydney. I’d agree with her observations and recommendations.
She described user centred design or design thinking as more of an approach than a process and then runs through a few different ways to describe the various stages that you tend to work through such as Inspiration > Ideation > Iteration > Scale, or Explore & Understand > Synthesize > Prototype > Refine & Scale, or simply moving from Research through a Concept Prototyping phase into Design. What I liked most is that she also said the best way to learn about it is to actually start doing it. There are a number of guides and toolkits around that can help. For example Design Thinking for Libraries, the Design With Intent Toolkit, and the (Social) Innovator’s Toolkit.
Michelle sees three reasons libraries should try design thinking:
- Libraries are the last great living lab (for designers?): we have dedicated spaces, a steady stream of users who can be observed and questioned on a day-to-day basis. And you can prototype, experiment and co-create with a diverse range of people.
- Librarians are great service designers. They really know their users best and the challenge is empowering front-line staff to create better solutions.
- Libraries are networked community infrastructure. We are at the centre of the communities strength and resilience connecting education and learning systems, public safety, economic development and civic engagement. MIchelle believes the best solutions are systemic, complex and cross institutional, so with libraries at the centre of all of this, we’re well positioned to connect and make those partnerships deliver. The partnerships must be activated.
Michelle also recognised some tensions or barriers such as moving from:
- just reflecting on data (historical benchmarking) to imagining a future or possibilities;
- research answers questions to (design) research opens up new questions (be comfortable with ambiguity);
- organisation structured around operational teams to an organisation driven by strategic teams; and
- failure is avoided (at all costs!) to failure is invited.
Some resolutions or thought starters: hiring T-shaped people with one depth but a broad affinity with others and also X-shaped people who have developed expertise in two different areas (like art and science). Those people will lead changes in libraries.
On Innovation, Michelle said it was a verb (not a noun), both process and outcome, something that can be taught and about thinking big and starting small. It is not always new and she encourages taking something you see and contextualising it for your needs.
Finally she said that change happens at a large scale not top-down, but by empowering people on your front-line to act.
Great Videos from the Aspen Leadership Roundtable on Library Innovation (Pt. 1 of 2)
Over the last two days I’ve watched and noted a couple of great videos from a recent event in Aspen on Library Innovation. The two speakers were Michelle Ha Tucker from IDEO on Library Innovation By Design and John Seely Brown on Re-imagining Libraries for the C21st. I think they are both great talks and very relevant to what we are engaged in at UTS – designing a future library, its services and our future organisation. I recommend watching both videos, but for those too lazy to take notes, I’ve done that for you below, with a few of my own observations thrown in for good measure. So here we go, mind the step …
John Seely Brown (hereafter known as JSB) is talking about re-imagining public libraries in the C21st, but most of what he says can equally be applied within a university community.
He begins by saying that the challenge is not developing new ideas, but escaping old ideas. He says we face exponential advances in computational technologies that rapidly become almost irrelevant on what is now as short as an 18 month cycle. So how do we keep pace with that and plan a future library that can adapt quickly and transform as the eco-system changes?
I like the quote he uses from David Weinberger who says we live in a time of “Too big to know”. Knowledge is now in networks; topics have no boundaries and nobody agrees on anything. We must learn to deal with ambiguity in our daily lives and in learning.
We are moving from “stocks” (protected and fixed) to “flows” (tacit, created knowledge that flows and moves and this makes it much harder to capture).
Everyone now is embedded in vast networks with libraries already in or approaching a state of flux (certainly, we will be if we cannot adapt!).
So JSB sees libraries as:
- becoming hubs of communities
- making the most of digital technologies and creative media
- mentoring, connecting, guiding and curating
These are all the things we are saying about our role here in the UTS community.
We must move from “knowing” to creating and making. And the building of CONTEXT is now more important than CONTENT (collections). He says the basic architecting of context can result in amazing things. Learning how to read context is now as important as reading content. I think it comes with the environment of almost everything now being instantly available. The context helps you to navigate to what is most relevant and authentic. It also gives meaning.
He also talks about “reverse mentorship” – learning from the young(er) and I think we’ve done a fair bit of that over the last several years here, by empowering relatively junior staff and by hiring current or recently graduated students. They helped those of us who are not so young and who were trained and qualified well before this networked world understand the potential of new technologies and how these networks work best.
The importance of play is also stressed as this helps us to push boundaries and with the invention of things within spaces of rules. Play also helps us to unlearn and this too is critical.
He talks of the critical nature of IMAGINATION | CURIOSITY | AGENCY (or having some effect in the world). These are very important for libraries to understand. I’ve been saying for some time now that libraries need to understand discovery as well as search (they are quite different) and now I am suggesting that a major role for all libraries is in encouraging curiosity. Agency is something we’ve only just started to understand, but I’ve seen enough hints and mentions to realise that it too is important for us.
Now there is also networked imagination and JSB cites the example of communities playing WoW in which teams from across the world share their actions and plans in imagined connections. He also cites the example of Harry Potter fans doing amazing things with civic imagination behind the stories and achieving results in the less developed world accordingly.
Henry Jenkins talks of a global collective that students are used to creating (in their networks) that is intertwined within a networked imagination and asks us whether we are prepared for this? If not, we risk becoming irrelevant. Transmedia is very important in all of this.
The key challenges for us:
- Expanding the notion of literacy to include the visual, musical, procedural and cinematic
- Understanding that yesterday’s cutting edge is today’s dustbin – this is a big challenge for CAPEX and OPEX investment and also for staffing. He thinks we need a VISION that transforms and an evolving tool set.
- How to get our institutions on board with all of that? This is perhaps the biggest challenge, so he offers the following advice:
- “leverage the edge and let it pull you to the core” (don’t ask permission, take some risks & show results)
- show what you can do by “spiral” (as opposed to perfect) development
- gather metrics for you and others
- show rapid learning & results
- leverage open source and open
- engage a wide collection of beta-participants (especially skeptics)
- exploit cloud computing and social media
- THINK LIBRARY AS PLATFORM and a network of our patrons within an ecosystem (this I think becomes infrastructure)
I’ll cover Michelle’s talk in the next Part.
11-808 & Conversations : Artist-in-Residence, 2014
Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw partnered as the UTS Library Artist-in-Residence for 2014. Works from this Residency are now prominently displayed in the UTS Blake Library in Haymarket, Sydney.
Their brief was to provide an artistic interpretation of the UTS Library Retrieval System (LRS). Their resulting major work 11-808 is a live data visualisation that interprets the use of the LRS in real time. The purpose of the entirely underground system needed to be communicated to a wide audience, illustrating how the system was being used and demonstrating its value to the UTS community. The brief was extremely challenging, with a tight budget and deadline, but Elisa and Adam’s work has exceeded expectations.
The result is an elegant and poetic display of data that shows how this system is being used and, via the catalogue of library metadata, the dynamic movement of collections around the Library ecosystem. Through their artists’ perspective, beauty and the interaction of colour, Elisa and Adam have conveyed meaning and understanding to an extent that I think Joseph Albers* would have approved.
They also provided a playful sound installation, Conversations, that explores the random nature of the ways books are stored within the 11,808 steel bins of the LRS, arranged only by spine height. Here they have provided audible “conversations” between the books in selected bins.
Their work is artistically beautiful, superbly designed and technically very clever. Both works are eloquent in conveying meaning as well as exploring and highlighting the nature of this system. In doing so they have provided attractive and engaging works that appeal to the curiosity of Library users and that speak to them in very contemporary language.
* See also https://www.lib.uts.edu.au/news/304412/colour-on-concrete-exhibition