Library Technology Conference Report

Library Technology Conference Report

The Library Technology conference did not disappoint this year. Evocative and thoughtful keynote speakers began each day and sessions were useful, and each contained valuable insight. The snow was also melting on the Macalester College campus which was a bonus. It felt like spring was on the way.

Snow melts and the sun arrives for the Library Technology Conference at Macalester College.

Each year the Library Technology conference provides new intellectual energy and ideas. It’s a chance to meet up and talk to colleagues and hear what people are trying at their libraries or institutions. Lots of discussions happen each day, especially at the always popular lunch.

Packed lunch hour at the Library Technology Conference.

Visualizing digital archives

The keynote speaker on the first day, Shilad Sen, discussed algorithms, how they work, and possible inherent biases. The talk got thoughts going about how one could apply algorithms to digital repositories and how that could impact traditional methods of presenting digital resources. Here is a link to his keynote.

On the second day, DeRay McKesson spoke and provided a powerful, thoughtful talk about his activism and Black Lives Matter. There was a lot of value to his engaging speech. He does an excellent job of creating space for this conversation which can be viewed online here.

Peaks, plateaus, pitfalls: Lessons learned offering patron technology training in the library

Good humor, thoughts, and information came with this presentation. A key tip from this is that having a second trainer in the room is invaluable. This person’s job is to watch what is going on, help attendees catch up, and do other tasks that help move the class forward. This method is a tip well worth implementing as this would alleviate a lot of stress for the trainer or teacher. The presenter also provided suggestions for software that could help design technology training:

  • Davinci for video editing
  • Gimp for photo editing
  • Inkscape for graphic design
  • Scribus for layout

Outreach and flashcards

A lot of us have faced the central question of this presentation and been at a booth at a conference or other event. How do you draw more people to your table? How do you get them to talk with you? The presentation didn’t disappoint and provided insight into these difficult questions. Interactivity and engagement was a key message throughout. The presenters made the salient point that attendees should be engaged in a way that they will remember your booth and the interaction. The presenters stressed the idea of creating actual intrinsic actual value in the communication beyond just a sales pitch.

The presenters created a health care quiz with flashcards for their booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Through previous experience at the Fair, they knew attendees loved games and decided to create a quiz. It proved to be entertaining, engaging, and the additional value was that people learned valuable health information. Meaningful value like this is key to creating an impactful experience at a booth. Creating this value through a game is something to remember.

Creating a culture of innovation

Always an intriguing topic, there was a lot of useful information here.  The session discussed different possible methods to foster a culture of innovation, looking at various aspects of an organization.

The structure:

  • A flat organizational structure can be helpful
  • Cross-training employees is important
  • Give autonomy, but also some guidelines
    • Provide the mission for the team, but how the team gets there is up to them
  • Be cautious about having a Department leader represent the team (might not be the right person)
  • Choose teams carefully

Support mechanisms – Reward and recognition

  • How are you talking to people as a leader?
  • Are you allowing them to make mistakes? Or are you punishing them for mistakes?
  • Empower teams and show belief in them

Learning culture

  • Need to evaluate ideas fairly
  • Be open to new ideas
  • Mistake handling highly important
    • Want the ability to fail, and learn from mistakes
  • Allow people to take a risk
  • Open communication needed
  • Active listening
  • Focus on the purpose and goal of the project to help with resistance
  • What could be great? Focus on positive outcomes
  • “If we fail, we fail – we’ll learn something from it.”
    • No one is going to die.

Another point they made is that it can indeed easily feel like “things are about to blow up,” but this is all right. When this feeling gets strong, it can help to remember what is working, honoring what isn’t, and the shared purpose. It’s also essential to recognize incremental changes along the way.

One common obstacle to building cultures of innovation is meeting resistance. Focusing on the mission and showings its value and impact can help alleviate push back is a point the presenters stressed. 

If interested learning more about this topic, the presenters recommended The culture code: Secrets of highly successful groups by Daniel Coyle Bantam Books.A

Accessibility tips for websites

Accessibility is an area that can be overlooked but shouldn’t. This session had great information on how to make sites accessible and gave valuable tips to remember.

  • Need ALTernative tags
  • <!DOCTYP> declaration must be first thing in HTML document
    • Instruction to web browser about what version of HTML is getting used
  • Header tips:
    • Only need H1 to H3
      • H1 = Heading
      • H2 = Topic title/section title
      • H3 = subtitle
  • Contrast gets ignored often but is extremely important
    • Try 

A few basic rules for accessibility:

  • No fixed with or pixel width in tables or divs
  • Fieldsets instead of tables for item groups in forms
  • Tables for tabular data only
  • Font sizes in em or percentage
  • Alt tags for images and links
  • Title tags for images, links, for inputs
  • Tabindexes must be in order
  • Label tags 
  • Nav tags for site navigation links

The session also pointed us to the Penn State accessibility guide as a highly recommended source.

Sparking ideas and remembering the vision

As always the Library Technology conference did not disappoint. In particular, the keynote sessions were valuable this year. New questions got formed throughout the two days, and this conference always helps with remembering our purpose and mission. It sparks new ideas and conversations, and this is invaluable.