30 Mar 2015

CONUL Annual Conference 2015 - Call for Papers

Guest post by John McManus on behalf of Conul Conference '15 Committee

CONUL Annual Conference 2015
Innovation and Evolution: Challenges and Opportunities for 21st Century
Academic and Research Libraries


The inaugural annual Conference of the Consortium of National and University Libraries will take place on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th of June 2015 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Athlone.
The overall aim of the conference is to consider the broad challenges facing academic and research libraries in Ireland. The conference will identify and debate these challenges and provide an opportunity for staff to network, learn, discuss and share their expertise and best practice.

CONUL invites papers and posters which address the following areas:
The Digital Library; Diversity and Internationalisation; Open Data, Open Scholarship;
Emerging Roles and Skills Sets; New/Emerging Services; Library Space; Resource Discovery;
Building Successful Partnerships (within and between institutions); Value and Impact of Research Libraries ; Unique and Distinctive Collections (UDCs)

ü  Papers (20 minutes with 10 minutes for Q&A)

ü  Lightning Talks (10 minute presentations)

ü  Roundtables (10 minutes each, with 2 sessions of each and a 10 minute feedback session afterwards)
These roundtables will provide an opportunity for staff to learn about a particular subject or area which falls outside of their current roles.  Participants will join a host at the table and receive a clear and concise overview of the latest developments and practices in a particular area. The title for the Roundtable should be:  “Everything you need to know about x but were afraid to ask”.

ü  Poster (A1 size)

Please email your proposal abstracts to abstracts@conul.ie on or before 13th of April, 2015 and include:

ü  Title of the Paper / Poster
ü  Name, Affiliation and Title
ü  Abstract (300 words for all talks; 100 words for posters)
ü  Session Type
ü  Theme(s) addressed
ü  Contact Email Address
ü  Short Biography

Monday 16th March, 2015                        Call for papers opens
Monday 13th April, 2015                           Call for papers closes at 5pm
Monday 27th April, 2015                           Notifications issued

Please note that conference speakers will be required to register for the full residential conference.

26 Mar 2015

Useful Web tools to support literacy - @Libfocus Special version

Guest post by Craig Kemp, an Educator from New Zealand. This post, in an earlier version, was published on his site

As a global educator I am connected with some of the finest librarians in the world. Librarians are some of the hardest working people I interact with. They work with hundreds of students and adults on a daily basis and are knowledgeable about all literature and its contents.

Librarians inspire me in the way I integrate technology in my classroom. My interactions with librarians from all over the world have given me these tools to support literacy in the classroom. These tools might be of particular use and interest to those of you working in Children's Libraries.

Into The Book is a FREE reading comprehension resource for K-4 students and teachers.

Reading Eggs is an exciting addition from the team at 3P learning (creators of Mathletics). It is a paid subscription but covers all forms of literacy with a focus on comprehension. An amazing tool for ALL classrooms, I can’t recommend it enough.

Angrybirds,com ia free online tool that allows children to learn through play. It is a cool way to inspire children to tell the story / inspire them to think what could happen next / tell stories from the point of view of the birds / pigs etc.

Wordle is a common and frequently used tool in any classroom. A great way to use this as a tool for the editing stage of writing is to copy and paste the story into Wordle to see how many times they use words. This could help them make changes / make it more exciting for their audience - be great as a focus on synonyms

Story Jumper is the perfect tool to create an e-book fro. It is FREE and you can upload your own art or use their images – unfortunately you can’t embed. It is best to screenshot them and add them to YouTube video / iMovie.   You can also use this as a resource during planning stage to see what props there are to help them write their story.

Screencast-O-Matic is a free online video screen recorder.

Chrome Awesome screenshot – great tool for capturing and recording and circling and typing over text easily.

Use YouTube for reading. Most books are online and free – e.g. the very hungry caterpillar

Tumble Books – online books for kids. Go through Hamilton libraries link so that it is free

We Tell Stories is a FREE online story creation tool

International Children’s Library is another FREE story book's online. It is awesome to use during reading session's.

Speakaboos is a site with several stories that are read to you from a variety of authors.

Rotorua East Lakes Learning Community  contains hundreds of literacy resources

Lit Works contains a variety of resources / links for literacy for a variety of levels.

If you have your own links / literacy tools please post them below with a short description.

Craig Kemp
Twitter: @mrkempnz

18 Mar 2015

New Professionals Day Ireland 2015: The Open Source Library

Picture courtesy of Marie-Therese Carmody 
Guest post by Damien Wyse, Librarian & Information Officer at An Bord Pleanála

On Saturday 7th March 2015, New Professionals Day (NPD) Ireland held their annual Spring event in the impressive surroundings of Maynooth University Library. The title of the event was New Professionals Day Ireland 2015: The Open Source Library, and throughout the day attendees were treated to a range of workshops and demonstrations of open source technologies for the library.

NPD Ireland were fortunate to have the ever engaging Jane Burns as MC for the day and Jane kicked off events by introducing one of NPD Ireland’s very own and newer members, Shona Thoma, to give a live demonstration of the library’s Ultimaker 3D printer. As the printer whirred into action so too did Shona, demonstrating how to use Cura, the open source software needed to process 3D designs and prepare models for printing. As this software is open source and freely available, attendees were encouraged to download it themselves at a later date if they wanted to investigate the 3D printing process more closely. Shona gave an interesting example of the application of 3D printing in the university, where a printed replica of a Celtic cross was reproduced. Students can examine similar replicas of fragile objects without risking damage to the original artefacts. For her demonstration Shona had opted to print a little elephant instead of a Celtic cross and explained that the elephant would take over four and a half hours to print. The printer was left to whirr softly, providing a pleasant background hum while the workshops began.

Picture courtesy of Marie-Therese Carmody 
The first workshop of the day was given by David Hughes, Systems Librarian with Dublin Business School (DBS). David discussed Koha, a web-based open source library management system, and how this was successfully implemented in DBS in 2013. Before he delved too deep into the benefits of Koha however, David highlighted that open source software may have drawbacks such as being complicated to install or providing haphazard technical support. But the strengths of open source technologies; cost, no contracts or licences, and the potential for customisation far outweighed the weaknesses from DBS’s perspective. As he began his presentation David invited the attendees to log on to a Koha demo installation, so they could investigate some of the aspects of the software while he spoke.

Picture courtesy of Marie-Therese Carmody 
David focused on a number aspects of Koha which he found particularly useful. The ability to enter Authorised Values is used primarily for cataloguing but by customising Koha, DBS has added shelving location information specific to their own libraries, improving their services. Management of Patron Data was administratively more simple with Koha by allowing the library to connect to and import from the student management system. Additionally, by defining custom fields associated with patron records, the library was able to capture data that would otherwise not be stored in patron records, enhancing the scope for reports. The extensive reporting capabilities of Koha was another aspect emphasised by David and again, this is an aspect of the software which has a large capacity for customisation. Finally, as a web-based platform, DBS had to consider the impact a loss of connectivity would have on their library service and as it turns out, Koha had also considered this and provided an offline circulation module to mitigate against such an eventuality.

In closing, David mentioned other pieces of open source software used by DBS; Loughborough Online Reading List Software (LORLS) and Zotero for reference management. He used these three pieces of open source software to skilfully demonstrate how open source applications can work seamlessly together in the library. It was an excellent closing statement in David’s argument for the open source library.

After a break for lunch and for some networking, NPD Ireland’s second workshop was given by the excellent Padraic Stack, Digital Humanities Support Officer for Maynooth University. Padraic’s workshop was on Omeka, a web-publishing platform that allows anyone with an account to create or collaborate on a website to display collections and build digital exhibitions. Before setting the eager attendees loose on Omeka, Padraic provided some useful context to the software by using a digitisation project case study published through Omeka; The Teresa Deevy Archive.

Picture courtesy of Marie-Therese Carmody 
Teresa Deevy was an Irish playwright whose work was featured in the Irish Literary Theatre (later the Abbey Theatre) during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Teresa Deevy Archive features 18 of her plays, short stories and essays, correspondence, theatre programmes, manuscripts and other assorted works. The goals of the project were to make Deevy’s writing available and to implement Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to index documents for search retrieval. In this regard, Omeka would compliment the archive with other resources available online. For example, Omeka allowed the Teresa Deevy Archive to link to resources held by Radió Telefís Éireann (RTÉ), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the National Library of Ireland, University College Dublin (UCD), and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) among others.

Picture courtesy of Marie-Therese Carmody 
Padraic also discussed the application of 15 Dublin Core metadata elements to the Teresa Deevy Archive. This would be an important part of his workshop on Omeka during which attendees would create an Omeka site of their own. David helpfully guided the attendees through this process making it clear how user-friendly Omeka is. He recommended several plugins which are used by Omeka to add functionality including a Dublin Core Extended plugin, which adds the full set if needed. It was quite impressive to see how quick and straightforward it was to learn the basics of Omeka but Padraic noted that a greater appreciation of the depth in Omeka would require a greater investment of time. As he closed, Padraic reiterated David’s thoughts on the cross compatibility of open source software using examples of sites where Omeka had been integrated with other platforms. 

With the workshops finished, the attendees returned to the 3D printer where Shona’s elephant was about to be born. As it was teased reluctantly from its nest, the baby elephant unfolded its movable legs and stood for the first time, delighting everyone in attendance. Perhaps for some, New Professionals Day Ireland 2015: The Open Source Library was a similar first step into an exciting new world.

Picture courtesy of Caroline Rowan

13 Mar 2015

2015 Horizon Report

The twelfth edition of the annual Horizon Report was released in February. As every year its purpose is to survey for six trends, six challenges and six developments around key technology initiatives that are likely to find traction and adoption among higher education institutions over a five-year time horizon (2015-2019). Essentially, the review aims to guide universities and colleges in their learning technology adoption and decision making at strategic and application levels.

The Horizon Report is commissioned by the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI); it is produced by a 56-strong panel of technology experts from a variety of professional backgrounds.

Quantimetric Self-Sensing apparatus (Source: Wikipedia)
This post highlights this year’s trends and challenges and points towards some subjectively picked cited examples in the field. 

Trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education
1.    Advancing cultures of change and innovation (five or more years)
This topic refers to the idea that higher education institutions are ideally placed to drive innovations by encouraging student creativity and collaboration through an emphasis on new-technology adaption.
Example: Report to the European Commission on New Modes of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (European Commission, October 2014.) The European Commission’s High-Level Group on the Modernization of Higher Education has created guidelines for governments and institutions to develop comprehensive strategies at both the national and institutional level for the adoption of new modes of learning and teaching.
2.    Increasing cross-institution collaboration (five or more years)Collaboration and collective action among higher education institutions aims to establish a better deal for learners in order to increase accessibility and quality in education. 
Example: Competency-Based Education Network. The Competency-Based Education Network is a group of colleges and universities based in the United States working to address challenges in designing, developing, and scaling competency-based degree programs.
3.    Growing focus on measuring learning (three to five years)
The creation of data-driven learning and assessment is of growing interest to high ed. institutions as this can lead to building better pedagogies, which in turn improve student success and course completion rates.
Example: Code of Practice for Learning Analytics (A literature review of ethical and legal issues). The complex ethical and legal issues surrounding student data are creating barriers to the development and adoption of learning analytics. In response, this review draws from 86 publications to express the questions raised on the subject, and extract the ethical principles that can be used to advise a code of practice.
4.    Proliferation of Open Educational Resources (OERs) (three to five years)
OERs create opportunities to tap into and re-use/adapt well-designed digital learning content, including full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, videos, tests, software etc.
Example: Open Washington is an open educational resources network managed by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and is dedicated to providing pathways for faculty to learn, find, use, and apply OER.
5.    Increasing use of blended learning (one to two years)
Despite the rapid rise (and burnout) of MOOCS, blended learning (the combination of online and face-to-face tuition) is something higher education institutions are increasingly exploring.
Example: What is E-Learning? This overview of online learning describes how it has evolved over time and provides examples of both form-based and free-form authoring tools, methods for tracking learner results, and more.
6.    Redesigning learning spaces (one to two years)
More institutions embrace the idea of the flipped classroom and other strategies, such as facilitating project-based interactions and cross-disciplinary problem solving, in an attempt to rearrange learning environments for student-centred active learning.
Example: The Evolving Classroom: Creating Experiential Learning Spaces. Meshing technology with classroom elements such as furnishings, lighting, and writing surfaces is helping educators create an environment that allows near-ubiquitous use of computers and networked devices, as well as facilitating experiential learning through simulations and collaborative projects.

Challenges impeding technology adoption in higher education
1.    Blending formal and informal learning (solvable challenge = we understand them and know how to solve)
The trouble with blended learning is the difficulty in acknowledging and qualifying non-formal learning that happens beyond the controlled environment of the classroom. Measuring such learning experiences also represents a challenge.
Solution example: Open Education Resources and the Rising Importance of Non-Formal and Informal Learning. (IFLA, accessed 4 January 2015) In a review of literature of social trends, IFLA highlighted that increasing use of OER will intensify the need for recognizing skills gained informally by learners.
2.    Improving digital literacy (solvable challenge = we understand them and know how to solve)
Lack of consensus on what comprises digital literacy hinders many higher education institutions from formulating adequate policies and programmes that address this issue. Further, it is important to understand that digital literacy skills differ amongst audiences. Teachers require a different skill-set as opposed to learners.
Solution example: Journal of Digital and Media Literacy (JoDML). JoDML is an academic, peer-reviewed journal that seeks to examine the ways people use technology to create, sustain, and impact communities on local, national, and global levels.
3.    Personalising learning (difficult challenge = we understand them but solutions are elusive)
Personalised learning denotes educational programmes and supports that address the learning needs of the individual. The problem is to create solutions that are informed by data-driven approaches via learning analytics (although this approach is rapidly evolving).
Example: Personalized Learning Changes Everything. The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s proficiency-based learning approach allows students to choose how they learn best and progress at their own speed, demonstrating their knowledge regardless of whether the learning takes place online, in the classroom, or through an off-campus internship.
4.    Teaching complex thinking (difficult challenge = we understand them but solutions are elusive)
Complex thinking refers to the application of systems thinking and the ability to deconstruct ideas that result from interacting applications and their individual components over time. Logical analysis and organisation of data, for example, is one area that informs complex higher-order thinking. The challenge here is to introduce complex thinking to students that have not yet had exposure to these modes of problem solving.
Example: UW Interactive Data Lab. Faculty and students at the University of Washington’s Interactive Data Lab design new interactive systems for data visualization and analysis for domains ranging from large-scale text analysis to population genomics.
5.    Competing models of education (wicked challenge = complex to even define, much less address)
Multidimensional learning through formal and informal online approaches combined with human interaction (e.g. via MOOCS) creates considerable competition with traditional on-campus and/face-to-face methods. A shift towards competency-based education, which tracks student skills instead of accumulated credits, also upsets current orthodoxy. Combined they challenge the appeal of traditional education and make it hard for non-performing universities to compete successfully.
Example: Are We Ready for Innovation? A Bold New Model for Higher Education. San Jose State has proposed a framework that universities can use to transform their undergraduate education offerings in ways that adapt to the modern educational landscape.
6.    Rewarding teaching (wicked challenge = complex to even define, much less address)
Emphasis in higher education institutions is increasingly placed on institutional research imperatives rather than teaching quality. Research quantity and concomitant quality are often considered more important than an individual instructor’s teaching talent and skill. The scholarly imprint is everything.  How could this problem be addressed?
Example: Student Outcomes Assessment Among the New Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Majority. This paper presents three current courses of action for campus leaders to consider that would allow them to foster more robust assessment models to support the work of today’s faculty and improve conditions facing non-tenure-track faculty.

Important developments in educational technology for higher education
1.    Bring your own device/technology -- BYOD/T (one year or less)
This refers to the practice of students bringing their own devices (laptops, smartphones etc.) to learning environments, e.g. the classroom, library or student commons. This is already a very familiar sight and increasingly common in higher education. Encouraging BYOD/T policies in higher education settings potentially increases productivity among students.
Practice example: BYOD at King’s College London. King’s College London implemented a private cloud platform that allows students and faculty from 150 countries to use their own devices to access a virtual desktop.
Further reading: Preparing for the BYOD Invasion on Your Campus. This list of guidelines describes how universities can prepare for BYOD while balancing critical security needs by conducting an in-depth analysis of network visibility and security, creating a policy that enables remote registration and guest access, and communicating that policy effectively.
2.    Flipped classroom (one year or less)
The flipped classroom model rearranges how learning takes place in the sense that ownership of learning shifts onto the student. It overlaps with blended learning, inquiry-based learning, and other instructional approaches that are designed for flexibility.
Practice example: Flipped and Blended Learning Course. The University of British Columbia created a course on flipped learning that outlines teaching philosophies aligned with the model and explores four case studies. The course provides three discussion activities to promote dialog between educators on the utility of the approaches.
Further reading: BU Collaboration and Network Enhanced Course Transformations. Boston University has developed and begun implementing a new flipped course model that depends on building local, collaborative learning communities of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students in departments and colleges.
3.    Makerspaces (two to three years)
Makerspaces are about realising innovative design and creativity. A practical library based example is NUI Maynooth’s 3D printing service. Makerspaces encourage higher-order problem solving through hands-on design, construction and iteration.
Practice example: Digital Media Commons Design Labs. The University of Michigan’s Design Labs allow students to bridge disciplines as they collaborate on projects. Student content experts serve as consultants who can help guide research and learning activities as well as prototyping.
Further reading: The Maker Movement and the Humanities: Giving Students A Larger Toolbox. This article underscores that makerspaces, though often tightly tied to STEM departments, are also an integral part of liberal arts education.
4.    Wearable Technology (two to three years)
Wearable technologies are relatively well established in the consumer sector, see e.g. the smart watch as a manifestation of the quantified self, which is to be regarded with a most critical eye. Higher education institutions also experiment with this aspect of applied technology.
Practical example: E-Textile/Wearable Education Incubator. The E-Textile/Wearable Research Team at New Jersey City University is exploring educational applications of wearable technology and e-textiles. They are working to build technical capacity among non-technical educators to teach with e-textile kits.
Further reading: Imagining the Classroom of 2016, Empowered by Wearable Technology. A technologist envisions applications of wearable devices in learning environments, such as creating instructional videos. He also advises that university leaders will need to begin factoring in wearable technology for BYOD policies.
5.    Adaptive learning technologies (four to five years)
The idea is that data driven learning technologies adapt to the intellectual needs of the individual learner by providing relevant learning materials and supports at the point of need. Two adaptive learning approaches can be considered: the first reacts to individual learner data and adapts instructional material accordingly; the second leverages aggregated data across a large sample of learners for insights into the design and revision of syllabi.
Practical example: Flat World Education. Education content and software company Flat World Education partnered with Brandman University in California to offer an online, competency based business administration degree using deep adaptive learning technologies.
Further reading: The Great Adaptive Learning Experiment. Conclusions gathered from early adopters of adaptive learning technologies, including Arizona State University and Rio Salado College, have contributed to a growing body of research in support of adaptive learning.
6.    The internet of things (four to five years)
The IoT connects objects of the physical world with the world of information via the web. The launch of TCP/IPv6 back in 2006 made this possible. Think of the needs of your fridge that talks to you via your smartphone.  In higher education, “hypersituating” refers to the ability of IoT to amplify learning on the go.
Practical example: University of Wisconsin Internet of Things Lab. The University of Wisconsin Internet of Things Lab is a campus hub for learning, research, and hands-on experimentation to discover and demonstrate applications of the Internet of Things.
Further reading: How Universities Are Adapting To The Internet Of Things Revolution. This article explores how the academic world is leading the way in IoT innovation both in the classroom and through research.

The full report can be accessed here.


11 Mar 2015

LAI Academic & Special Libraries Annual Conference, 2015: The Inside out Library – Collaboration, Inspiration, Transformation

Guest post by Shona Thoma, IReL Officer at HEAnet

On the 26th and 27th February 2015, The Academic and Special Libraries Section of the LAI held their Annual Conference in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin. The title of this year’s conference was The Inside Out Library: Collaboration, Inspiration, Transformation. With a varied panel of speakers and sponsors, the conference certainly lived up to its name.  There were approximately 140 delegates in attendance and so there were plenty of colleagues to network with and some good opportunities to do so at coffee breaks and the drinks reception on Thursday.

The conference sponsors were IEEE, ProQuest, LM Information Delivery, Taylor and Francis, Dublin Business School, IET and EBSCO.

The first Keynote Speaker was Malachy Browne of Reported.ly. He provided fascinating insights into chasing stories and checking facts; sharing and explaining tools that are useful for searching and substantiating online information. The parallels with both information literacy and verifying catalogue records were recognised by the assorted librarians in the room. In order to report on global stories as they occur, Browne spoke about the need to collaborate with his various sources on the ground, and Reported.ly colleagues across continents.

The need for libraries to publicise the unique in order to get noticed beyond the institution was noted by Helen Fallon in her Case Study on publicising The Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive, and reiterated by Helen Shenton in her Keynote on Friday morning. Both Fallon and Shenton spoke about the need to collaborate with those outside the LIS field in order to draw on their skills and be heighten success.

This reaching out beyond the institution was a real triumph of the Sir Henry’s exhibition in UCC Library, the subject of Martin O Connor’s Case Study on Thursday evening. Born out of a Twitter exchange between The Irish Examiner, Martin O Connor, and Stevie Grainger  it turned not just the library, but also UCC, inside out, as former patrons visited the exhibition to indulge in nostalgia for the legendary nightclub.

The transformative effect that Social Media is having on library and archives was frequently commented on in the various sessions. Tom Maher and Mick O’Dwyer spoke about the role that social media has had in promoting The Forgotten Zine Archive. It has also allowed them to reach out to other zine archives, sharing advice and support as they work outside the mainstream. As with the Sir Henry’s exhibition, online collaboration has assisted in sourcing items for their collection.

Whilst the digitisation of zines may be contentious due to the sometimes private nature of their content, or lack of copyright information, digitisation of unique and distinct collections is increasingly important for all manner of institutions. As Shenton discussed, the more you make accessible - the more the collections get used. Creating collections that are multi-platform was noted by Malachy Browne to be an important way to preserve and share our stories. A number of speakers mentioned the need for skills development in libraries in order to be successful in reaching wider audiences.

Libraries can develop these skills through collaboration, as noted by many of the speakers, but as Shenton also noted, collaboration needs diplomacy and negotiation skills. Aoife Lawton spoke in her Case Study about measuring the impact of collaboration in order to justify the time and effort involved. She pointed out that people can often feel threatened in the face of collaboration, and that there is a need to be clear on expectations. Lawton identified a number of areas where more collaboration could be taking place between Irish libraries, saving time and other resources.
One example of collaboration in Ireland that has shown to have a very positive impact for its members is the IReL initiative. How exactly the impact has been measured was explained by Arlene Healy and Fintan Bracken in their presentation on eJournal Analytics and Bibliometrics. The IReL universities working together have resulted in better funding opportunities and improved research outputs.

Thursday afternoon’s Pecha Kuchas from Laoise Doherty, Mary Delaney and Jenny Collery, all dealt with the benefits to be gained from collaborating with new partners in order to improve the library’s offerings from archiving and curating to expanding the learning environment.

As Monica Crump pointed out in her case study, how the library supports the learning environment has changed significantly over the last 20 years, with an increasing number of new roles for librarians. Crump outlined how it is important for us to step outside the comfort zone and show the value of these new roles and skills to colleagues beyond the library by getting involved in external projects. It is not just the librarians’ role that is changing, but also the students’. Today, team work is as important as autonomous individual working, and Jane Burns’ workshop examined how collaboration could be fostered through games. Elaine Bean delivered a case study on the fantastic partnership between Maynooth University Library and second level schools improving everyday information literacy and easing students’ transition to third level education.

The conference closed on Friday afternoon with an exciting look at Maynooth University’s pilot of offering a 3D printing service to students and academics. Hugh Murphy provided an overview of how 3D printing fits into the library as the next step in a well-established course of offering innovative services to users. Michael Leigh then offered an explanation of the technical aspects of the process and what users can expect from the service. Although not all library projects and collaborations can be as high profile as 3D printing, the innovation that it represents and the need to attract the attention of external partners in order to offer the best service we can, was a common thread throughout the sessions I attended.

More information on the breakout sessions and workshops I could not attend can be found here and here.

The Poster Presentations were very informative, covering a wide range of topics in a clear and visually appealing way. These snapshots echoed the themes of collaboration and creativity that extended to all the conference sessions.

Kudos to the A&SL Committee for putting together this fantastic programme, resulting in a conference that continues to go from strength to strength, reflecting current professional practice in librarianship.

9 Mar 2015

College Library V Public Library: A great exchange and a fabulous initiative!

Guest post by Marianne Heffernan, Celbridge Library, Kildare Library & Arts Service

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it." - Samuel Johnson

As a branch librarian, used to working in the busy, public-centred setting of Celbridge Community Library, I was thrilled to get the chance to spend the day in the academic world of the Pope John Paul II College library in Maynooth. This opportunity arose as part of the 2014 Library Ireland Week Job Swop initiative.

The Library is set in a beautiful courtyard on the campus of Maynooth University, and is surrounded by trees on the edge of the Lyreen River. The grounds are quiet and peaceful in the early morning, but when you walk through the revolving doors, you cannot help but get sucked into the hustle and bustle of the place and the energy you immediately feel. The warm, comfortable and welcoming environment of this 'state of the art' library made me long to be a student again!

I was given a guided tour of the library and was in awe of the sheer size of the place. I could have lost my bearings several times between the 'Silent Floor' and the 'Post Grad Room' and the fabulous moveable shelving that holds such a wealth of information, though my favourite area has to be the flexible learning space, namely the 'Bean Bag Room' - lucky students!

Image provided by Maynooth University Library
The advances of technology now also afford NUIM students a facility to borrow laptops. At present, this is not an available service in our community libraries, though we do offer WiFi, which is free to our users. In the public library we provide a service to the community in which we focus, not just on lending requirements and eServices, but also on facilitating focused programmes for adults and children. We strive to satisfy the needs of our communities with a broad base of quality information, education, culture and leisure activities. I love the versatility and intimacy of the public library, where we get to know our regular members, whereas I would think it might be quite difficult to have that connection in a college library as students come and go.

The staff in John Paul II Library are so welcoming and helpful, which of course, is an integral part of any library service and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to spend time there and to get to know such friendly people. I want to sincerely thank  Helen, Bernie and Saoirse for making my experience a memorable one.
Posted on Monday, March 09, 2015 | Categories:

6 Mar 2015

The Sectoral Consultation on Building Digital Capacity in Irish Higher Education: Digital Roadmap – Phase 1

The Sectoral Consultation on Building Digital Capacity in Irish Higher Education: Digital Roadmap – Phase 1 by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.

A review by Marie O’Neill Head of DBS Library Services

'There is a quiet revolution taking place in education….but despite the opportunities that are opening up I worry that many of these recent and valuable developments in technology will be held back by a natural, and in some cases understandable, educational conservatism. It’s quite possible that these fears will get in the way of the type of ambitions that could allow Ireland to become an educational exemplar to the rest of the world.’ David Puttnam, Irish Times, 20 May 2014

‘It is not a question of whether or not digital technology will transform Irish higher education, but rather it is a question of who will lead that transformation.’  (Digital Roadmap p.6)

The above two quotes are taken from the report, The Sectoral Consultation on Building Digital Capacity in the Irish Landscape: Digital Roadmap - Phase 1 by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. They establish the tone of the report’s impressive vision and articulation of how a cohesive approach to digital innovation could revolutionise the teaching and learning experience in the higher education sector in Ireland.

The Digital Roadmap exhorts higher education institutions in Ireland (public and private) to work together to exploit new and existing technologies for the benefit of learners, teachers and researchers. It also enumerates a number of recommendations that have emerged from a sectoral consultation which took place in April and May of 2014. The report concludes with an outline of a number of immediate actions that need to be taken to modernise use of technology in the sector.

The Digital Roadmap states that

‘The current approach to building digital capacity in the sector is not cohesive, sustainable, or sufficiently evidence-based…a national roadmap will support, connect, and enhance efforts at local or regional levels, and will help to point to the collective ways in which the sector can work to build digital capacity to enhance and develop learning in Irish higher education.’ (p.6)

The report refers to a number of local examples of pedagogical innovation across disciplines and institutions all over Ireland which have facilitated online interactivity and collaboration such as Web 2.0 technologies and virtual learning environments.

The report goes on to state that

‘for a number of reasons, technological potential is not being utilised as fully or as creatively as it could be in higher education environments. Flexible and online teaching remain the exception rather than the rule in most Irish institutions, and digital technology often remains under-utilised for on-campus programmes….key digital resources (for example, virtual learning environments) are not being used to their full pedagogical capacity’ (p.7)

The Digital Roadmap has been informed by national and international research and by recent and current developments across the sector. It has sought inputs from academics, tutors, researchers, managers, librarians, technologists, students, leaders and policy makers, both in face-to-face sessions and through online contributions.

The aims of the report (p. 11) are to:

  • Prioritise the strategic development of digital capacity in institutional and national policy and quality frameworks
  • Develop a consistent, seamless and coherent digital experience for students in Irish higher education
  • Engage with students and teachers to develop digital literacy
  • Strengthen and support collaboration within and between institutions, and with different parts of the higher-education sector
  • Develop shared policies and infrastructure that reflect the complexity of an increasingly digital learning environment
  • Develop digital capacity in tandem with a strong evidence base for enhanced pedagogy
The report identifies a number of shared values which must be embraced if the vision outlined in the Digital Roadmap is to be realised. These include a team approach to exploiting digital capacity; sharing and developing across institutions; linking teaching and research; parity of esteem for teaching and research and a commitment to including students as partners in education.

The report reflects the goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) and recommends that issues such as cybersecurity, personal privacy and identity, copyright, interoperability and standards, digital literacy, digital capacity in the context of student assessment, the principles of open education and open access (including institutional repositories) also be considered. The report also refers to the Government’s Principles on Open Access Policy Statement.

Actionable first steps include: individual institutions developing a digital development strategy; a systematic review of technical infrastructure across the sector; the establishment of a collaborative approach to digital innovation across the sector; leveraging digital innovation to modernise student assessment; piloting a strategic approach (inter or intra institutional) to the incorporation of digital innovation into programme development; the adoption of open education principles by higher education institutions and the piloting of a collaborative and shared approach to academic and technical support.

This Digital Roadmap is exemplary in terms of its vision and the wide reaching sectoral input and research/evidence base that informs it.  The report encapsulates cutting edge educational ideals such as open education and open access. More inspiring still is the articulation of realistic and achievable actions/pilots for implementation on a collaborative basis with the goal of modernising the digital landscape in the Irish higher education sector within the context of constrained budgets. The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning has also allocated money via a research fund to support multi-institutional bids which enhance digital capacity in the sector.

To find out more about the consultative process that informs this report, please refer to:

4 Mar 2015

Dodgy cursors, wonky links and alarming fire alarms...

Those who know say write from experience. In the spirit of that sage advice I'm going to focus in this post on what happens at a conference presentation when almost everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
The wonderful ASL annual conference took place this year 26 / 27 February. I was very kindly invited along to speak about the SirHenrys2014 expo that ran last summer in UCC library. Overcoming my very brief initial urge to say no and swiftly run to the safe hills I happily accepted the invitation. My first conference paper - happy days as we used say in Henrys! And so began the work on the actual presentation. After many versions and rewrites  I had a presentation to go that would, I was informed by my no way biased colleagues, rock the proverbial house. 
My paper was to be the last paper of the first day and set to start at 16.40. Appropriate graveyard slot for a paper about a nightclub. From 13.30 till 16.40 I sat and watched some great papers and did battle with the punk butterflies moshing away in my stomach. But I felt happy all would be well and right with the conference world. 
At 16.40 I was introduced and slowly walked to the podium. Proceeded to say thanks for the warm introduction and audible words actually came out. I saw this as a good start. After a few fluffs, stumbles and halts at the beginning of the actual presentation I began to get into a comfortable stride and began on a roll and began to enjoy standing up there in front of about 100 people talking passionately about how we did the expo. I said to myself hard bit over enjoy the rest.  
I hadn't counted on technology...
My screen and cursor froze. I consider myself adequately techie but couldn't resolve it. A&SL Committee member Eva Hornung rushed to my aid at the podium and fixed it. Issue sorted. Panic over. I proceeded through my section on the collaborators. Got the requisite laugh for the slide of the three curators in our - much - younger days. 

I then proceeded into the substantive part of the presentation - the crowdsourcing aspect. I laid out the social media platforms we used to promote the expo and to gather our material - the physical and the intangible by way of memories and stories. Next was to come an explanation of each platform in more detail providing examples and exposition. For example, Twitter was essential for creating a media buzz. I had many examples - but as I clicked on Colm O'Callaghan's Twitter account the proverbials hit the fan. Computer froze. Crowd froze. I momentarily froze. Eva again gallantly rushed to the podium. Two minutes of us trying to fix it. And then we Reached a new level.

Of course, like a typical Irish crowd we all sat there looking at each other as if nothing untoward was happening. My nerves began to dissipate. Good sign, nobody was using the fire alarm as an excuse to leave the room.
I decided to skip live links and dance on. This meant a complete on the spot restructure of the paper. My section on our Blog -which had worldwide reach thanks to the Cork diaspora - now involved me talking about the blog posts without showing or reading them. Facebook threads and the role that FB played in creating community, buzz and momentum had to be explained verbally. And a most wonderful two minute RTE news piece by Jennie O'Sullivan that I had intended to play to show the impact that social media can have had to be verbally explained. And finally, the piece that was to leave them literally dancing in the aisles, the announcement of the winner of a straw poll to pick the song that resonated most with the Henrys community could not be used. Everything that went wrong could go wrong. Or almost. it was pointed out by many that at least the sprinklers didn't go off.

It was actually okay. I actually was okay. And I enjoyed the whole experience immensely.

When the 'challenges' began to happen I actually felt a collective wave of empathy,  sympathy and support coming from all the delegates and sponsors. People put themselves in my place. This relaxed me. When everything goes wrong you have nothing left to lose. If things don't go according to your plan, don't panic. Just go with it.

Will I do anything different for my next conference presentation? [subtext - not scared off by the experience]
Firstly, I will make sure to embed all video in my presentation. Live links create a variable factor. I will try to eliminate as many variable factors as possible.
As far as is possible I will make sure the technology works for my presentation by doing, if possible, a run through on the day in the venue.
I will be aware that technology can be a demon and place 'challenges' in your path. No matter how well organised the committee is, (and the A&SL Committee were, and always, are remarkably organised) things unforeseen can still go wrong.
So, I will be so ready for the unexpected.
And, I will retain my sense of humour.
And in the event of everything really going wrong -  I will remember this advice from Charlie Brown and quietly leave the podium and sit with the crowd.


For the Twitter reaction to the 'challenges' and more, click here.