To 3D or Not 3D: That’s just one question

One of the most popular place in the #clanoise exhibits was the California Library Association’s own makerspace area, which came fully loaded with soldering stations and three-dimensional printers for conference attendees to explore through use. Libraries and makerspaces have been a trending topic at both library conferences and in local and regional initiatives. With today’s online-accessible Smithsonian X3D Conference underway, it seems a good time to talk about 3D printing in a way that contextualizes its possibilities in Califorrnia public libraries.

The Smithsonian presenters note: “We want to make sure any technology we bring in is in service of our mission” (at 2:25 of the Overview video linked above). This might be the begining point, too, for any local public library when considering including a 3D printer in their makerspace provisions. In your library, would three-dimensional printing, as a service provision, be about explorationand discovery of knowledge through access to information? Or, as lots of conference goers in Long Beach seemed to find, is the thrill of producing the driving force the library hopes to highlight?

Let’s take another step back, however, before analyzing what a 3D output experience might do for your own community. Public libraries didn’t “invent” makerspaces, in spite of the increasingly rapid adoption of them as a kind of plug-and-play program element…or a desirable program element. Themakerspace ethos grew up in a variety of communities and among several related movements. In its broadest terms, the makerspace is a publicly accessible collection of cooperatively held tools and experts in applying them to find project solutions. (Hmm, the public library’s print collection comes to mind, complete as it is with library staff (experts) who connect members to “solutions” to whatever their projects might be, from pleasure reading or listening to figuring out how to compute health insurance costs).

As well to consider is that makerspaces have developed “out” in the community, frequently with a monetary charge for membership. Bringing the makerspace into the public library does the same thing for access as the public library providing an alternative to fee-based services and experiences such as the newest books, live performances, and even classes in citizenship or test taking. So, maybe the first question would be: what are the demonstrated needs for a makerspace in your community? Followed by: where are the community-based experts who can shepherd the energy into the public library purview?

Now, back to 3D printers and printing. Revisiting the question at the end of paragraph two here: to what purpose would this investment respond? In a library context, there are some uses of three-dimensional printing that are definitely off the table: we aren’t going to provide access to printing dental crowns or other body parts, a technology now used in medical practice. We can provide access to printing out plastic bot-sized bits; will that be the occasion to teach children (and adults) about trademark infringement? Or we might want to put the 3D printer to use as an element of exploration that is less about reproduction and more about exploring; if that be the case, how would we fit it into our library’s larger program of service? Is it then a makerspace item or independent of makerspace-ness and instead in the suite of service tools that include software and hardware employed to deliver a wide variety of information and experiences, both mediated and unmediated by staff?

Now, here’s hoping you get some time in the next two days to peek in at the Smithsonian X3D.

Lots of training news!

Is there really a slow time around Infopeople training roll outs?  Nah! And so far, this August is proving to be busy for those of us creating lots of new content areas and formats for library staff training and development!

Here’s an overview of what’s happening, and a glimpse ahead, too:

With the Affordable Care Act approaching a new stage, that of health insurance enrollment, libraries and library staff have been called upon to prepare to assist our community members to accessing information and the tools needed to expedite individual and family enrollments. There is a humongous amount of information for us all to recognize and absorb–and we know you are already busy. So, upcoming very soon is Infopeople’s online resources page dedicated to leading you and your staff to the most urgent Affordable Care Act news and resources. By “soon,” you can think “end of this very week.”

Also in the hopper related to the Affordable Care Act is a webinar featuring our excellent Kelli Ham, along with the ever knowledgeable Barbara Bibel, and another panelist from Covered California. The one-hour webinar is scheduled for noon, on Monday, September 9. Kelli, besides being a librarian at UCLA, is Infopeople’s link with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region. Barbara has been certified by the Medical Library Association and regularly provides training to public library staff around health and wellness materials.

As of Sunday, the independent online learning series Infopeople has hosted for UC Davis, titled Health and Wellness Competencies, has moved to Infopeople’s direct aegis.  Any generalist who wants to gain a better understanding of how to deliver health and wellness information to his or her library community, making use of best practices, can enroll in this six-module wholly asynchronous series by registering on the Infopeople training site. While this series does not address the Affordable Care Act, we have another series of independent online learning rolling out in September, titled Affordable Care Act @ Your California Library.

And speaking of independent online learning series, what had been called CORE 2: Subject Area Reference is now titled Subject Area Reference. We’ve returned its layout to that of a single strand with six modules, one evaluation and one certificate of completion.

With two fully developed independent online series already underway and a couple more in development, this is a good time to remind everyone that these series are low cost ($25 for Californian library staff, with free registration for rurals, and $50 for out of state participants). Each series is available for registration any time and each one runs all the time. A participant has two months to work at his or her own rate on any of the modules within the series for which he or she has registered.

Now, if you would like to receive such updates in breaking moment and perhaps more specifically concise way, here’s a reminder that you can follow Infopeople on Twitter (@infotweets), receive updates on Facebook by “liking” us there(, connecting your RSS feed to Infopeople’s home page, and/or making sure you are subscribing to this blog.



Google’s news your staff needs to know

Many library staff members who work directly with the public continue to have less than timely understanding of how the World Wide Web is used and can be used, how search engines function, and the roles of software and browser settings in their own and their library computer users’ searching and search results. With those realities in mind, it’s important to make sure that your library staff understands the meaning and import of the announcement made by Google on Saturday.

The subject of child pornography is certainly a difficult one to discuss in a constructive manner. However, a discussion of it is pertinent to the provision of library services that are relevant in terms of social and political realities (on an international as well as a local scale), the functionalities of internet browsing and image searching, and the management of both in library user behavior and staff roles related to user behavior.

Certainly the announcement from Google provides a platform for such discussions with staff. The possibilities for outcomes well beyond staff member understanding of the implications of the announcement on their work is enormous.

To aid these discussions, please refer to the Flipboard magazine linked here for a collection of online resources addressing definitions, basic browser setting information and news discussions of Google’s announcement. [Note: some relevant resources contained in this resource guide are British and are not intended to be used as legal information, but rather because they outline an illuminating array of considerations, staff knowledge and awareness needs, and international concerns that may be an aspect of a local situation.]

2012 Trends Every Librarian Needs to Know

Thanks to the California State Library’s Rush Brandis, many of us received this presentation in email form today. The story told by these new figures, and suggested applications for creating a responsive information future, include an array encompassing health, education and much more besides commerce and entertainment.

In one interesting section of the story these slides tell, we get the chance to consider how technology and its adoption provoke society to evolve from being asset-heavy (think your old vinyl record album collection) to asset-light (MP3 playlist, of course).

Don’t just sit back and watch this show: let’s start brainstorming the opportunities we have to evolve as asset-light services that deliver more broadly and with more depth than can our asset-heavy tradition.

Apps for Librarian Productivity

Caveat! This post isn’t intended as technical review, but one busy librarian’s experience!

A few days ago, I received another in a growing line of requests for a list of iPad apps that I find most useful in my workaday life. While the list does, of course, go through the necessary evolution that is part of contemporary tech, maybe sharing a current snapshot list here is in order.

First off, I use my iPad for both work and play. I teach online courses from it, develop curriculum on it, file as well as read email, Tweets and assorted blog-posted sites I think warrant return visits. And I move around a lot while I work so the iPad travels in my small backpack and is protected by a well-padded cover that has both a fold out stand and a hand strap to support it should I want to read, write or converse while lounging. In other words, my iPad is a practical extension of my hands as well as my workspace. With all that in mind, here are the apps that keep me productive:

For word processing, I use Pages. This app allows the finished (or finished-for-now) doc to be emailed in Word. (For less polished, private notes I just use the built in Notes app and like how it stores past ones, as well as providing instant sharing options.) Pages also allows for loading pictures and you can insert tables or shapes to further format the document you are creating.

One of the apps I am most excited about is the collaboration-oriented SynchSpace, which allows multiple users to work on a shared whiteboard, or to share and add to documents in the same space. It allows docs to be created with typing , but also with freehand drawing (such as arrows) and emailing as a pdf so that content can’t be altered by the recipient.

Skitch allows me to take screenshots and then annotate them. You can also annotate photos and maps, or draw freehand on a blank. You can choose text colors, fonts, etc., and can share the resulting page. And never a big spender (except for books!), this one has the added allure of still being free!

Flipboard is another one I really love, both for its visual-tactile connection and the time-saving it offers.  It allows you to make your own personalized “magazine” by compiling your Twitter account(s), rss feed(s), and any other social media (such as news feeds from specific sources like Mashable or comic strips) into a source that presents you with the actual content, rather than the link to content. So, instead of seeing that the Guardian has a link to a story on a particular person, I am seeing the opening paragraph of the story itself and with one click am at the full story, able to go back to the Flipboard page with one tap, and also able to email, Tweet, or otherwise share the full story with one more tap.

Keynote is what I use for creating presentations (along the lines of Microsoft’s PowerPoint) and with a portable projector, the iPad can be plugged in to actually provide the presentation to a group!

The iBooks app allows me to save pdf’s I receive via email as “books” on its shelf, so I can much more readily refer back to lengthy ones, like government reports. The fact is, that storing such lengthy pdfs in a bookcase-like setting makes it far more likely that I will refer to the document more attentively. The iBooks library feature also shelves pdfs and books separately, so I can locate those reports much more quickly than when they arrived as spindly 25-page papers that I had to hold up on my professional bookshelf by slotting them between probably unrelated titles.

Since the iPad is a mobile device, not a computer, I don’t store my own documents on it, but rather on my laptop. However, I do create documents on it, and the only way to NOT store the ones I create there is to willfully delete them, so the default is actually storage.

This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, nor a sales pitch, just a more thorough response than I’ve been able to provide those who ask me for a quick reply about I get my work done efficiently with my iPad. How do you?