Published by Rosemary Arneson on 25 Jun 2012

Making a Makerspace

This summer, Simpson Library is involved in an exciting project.  We are working with the talented visionaries of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies and with George Meadows from the College of Education to convert our back classroom into a makerspace.

The back classroom, also known as the other half of Simpson 225 had become the place we put stuff we didn’t want anymore but couldn’t quite throw away.  We collected old computers, microfilm machines, software documentation, shelving, and all sorts of other goodies.  I’m sure we had a good reason to keep every item we put in this room — after all, you never know when microcards are going to make a comeback.


The DTLT MakerBot

Then our friends in DTLT bought and assembled a MakerBot.  Last December, I spent a fascinating day watching them put it together.  Being more of an old-school person, I worked on a sock that I was knitting.   But I was intrigued.

Tim Owens from DTLT and George Meadows will be teaching a First-Year Seminar using the MakerBots this fall.  And that’s where the library’s back classroom comes in.  Tim and George needed a space for the class to meet and where students can work on projects.   We had a space that wasn’t being used for anything other than storage.  I offered, and they gladly accepted.

Last Friday, June 22, we started clearing out the stuff we’d stored in the back classroom.  When we’ve finished creating the Makerspace, we’ll have two MakerBots, a Replicator, and all sorts of other tools and toys.  While there are public libraries that have created similar spaces, we think we may be one of the few academic libraries to do so.  How exciting is that!

Here are some “before” pictures and pictures of the first clean-out day.  As the summer progresses and we start bringing things into the space, I’ll post updates.

Hallway leading to Makerspace

The Road to Makerspace

Makerspace before


Old computers

Library junk

Published by Rosemary Arneson on 06 Apr 2012

The Entrepreneurial Library

Brian Matthews, Associate Dean for Learning and Outreach in the Virginia Tech libraries, blogs for The Chronicle of Higher Education as the Ubiquitous Librarian.  His post today encouraged librarians to “Think Like a Start-Up.

Matthews defines a start-up as “organizations dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”  Extreme uncertainty is certainly an apt description for the conditions facing academic libraries today.  Budgets shrink while technologies and user needs expand.

Great academic libraries are those that look at these conditions of extreme uncertainly and see opportunities to create something new.

So, here is your assignment:  read Matthews’ white paper.  Then send me your comments on how the UMW Libraries can become more entrepreneurial.  Let’s get a conversation going on what we can do to provide what Steve Jobs called “insanely great” spaces, services, and products.



Published by Rosemary Arneson on 23 Mar 2012

Aspiring to Greatness

A great university deserve a great library.  What makes a great academic library?  Ask that question, and the answers are going to look something like the word cloud pictured here.

A great library is an incubator for creativity.  It is a catalyst for change.  It provides a space for exploration and discovery.  And it inspires those who use it.

President Hurley’s vision for the University of Mary Washington is that it will be the best public liberal arts university in the nation.   With that vision in mind, the UMW Libraries undertook an evaluation process of the current state of the libraries.  Over the next several weeks, I will be using this space to post the results of our evaluation and what these tell us about becoming a great academic library.

Published by Rosemary Arneson on 18 Jan 2012

LMC Agenda, January 19

  1. Working groups reports
    1. Web
    2. Weeding
    3. Assessment
    4. Space Planning (on hold)
    5. Discovery Systems
  2. To Chamo or not to Chamo & other follow-ups on the VTLS visit
  3. What next?

Published by Rosemary Arneson on 18 Jan 2012

LMC Minutes, December 15, 2011

Reports from Working Groups

Paul Butler (Web Committee) said that all of the content on our home page that we intend to keep has successfully migrated to the new web page, which should be up by the start of the new semester.  He has asked Cathy Derecki a few questions, and she has responded to them.  The Web Committee will meet tomorrow, December 16.

Renee (Weeding Committee) said faculty members have until December 20th to go through the R’s that have been weeded.  Committee members have placed slips in the Q’s (through the QC’s) and she will soon notify the appropriate faculty members.

Jack (Assessment Committee) said that the committee has been addressing the questions asked in the ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education. Rosemary has used this information as she works on an evaluation of the UMW Libraries.  The committee members met yesterday and soon they will be looking at the library websites and catalogs of UMW’s COPLAC and aspirant institutions.  Questions they will ask themselves include: “Does this library do something that we may want to undertake?”  “On the other hand, do we do things that other libraries fail to do?” “How does our catalog compare with other library catalogs?”

Some years ago UMW’s Department of Institutional Research (now Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness) distributed “comment cards” in all of the academic buildings.  Simpson Library’s patrons occasionally filled out the cards, which Beth distributed at staff meetings.  The cards are no longer used, but the concept may be adopted by the Assessment Committee.  Christie suggested that an online form could be devised, and Paul said that the new website is particularly suitable for online forms.

An EBSCO representative recently met with interested staff members from both libraries and answered questions while she demonstrated her company’s discovery system.  Donna (Discovery Systems Committee) said that the committee also had a conference call with the Proquest Summon representative. Committee and libraries staff members are comparing both systems and reading comments from listservs.  If the libraries decide to purchase a discovery system, Rosemary will make a budget request.

Convergence Center Update

Rosemary said that the Convergence Center Committee has been discussing a number of items, including doors.  She added that planning and building details are “on track.”  She remarked that she, Carolyn, Paul Boger, and Jack recently went to the University of Virginia so they could talk to staff members at the “Scholars’ Lab,” which is UVA’s learning commons.  She said that administrators at the Scholars’ Lab are doing a great deal to support projects in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a cross-disciplinary field that we could also promote here.  Renee said that the digital Sanborn Maps are now available in a geo-referenced version.   Donna has contacted the Historic Preservation Department about their potential interest in this enhanced product.  Renee also mentioned that the USGS is now making their historical topographic maps available in a high-resolution “geoPDF” format.

VTLS and Chamo

Rosemary said that she will have a VTLS representative make a site visit to study our catalog and see how both we and VTLS can make improvements.  We are interested in upgrading to the new Chamo interface, which will change only what patrons will see while using the catalog (that is, nothing will change in the “back” or “staff” side of the catalog).  As we upgrade, she would like to see ways we can make the catalog work better for us.  We have money from the Pharos coin tower / printing, and the Chamo interface would be a good use of these funds.

Next Semester

Rosemary said that UMW will have a shortfall of roughly $2,000,000.  She does not know what that will mean for the institution.  Will positions be frozen?  Will line items be removed from budgets?  Simpson will have one opening, as Beth will retire on March 1.  Rosemary asked the Provost if we will be able to have a search, but he couldn’t say one way or the other.


Jean said that books from the Education Department are coming in.  These are identified by the blue labels over the call numbers and will be shelved behind the atlas case on Simpson’s first floor.  The Education Department, however, is not sending over all of its books but is keeping some of them.  If, however, the donated works are supposed to represent a textbook repository for Education majors, we need to have a comprehensive collection.  (Right now, for example, we have single volumes from multi-volume sets.)

Donna said that 1 reel of the Bullet has gone to Lyrasis for digitization.  If / when the resulting product has been approved, more reels will be delivered.

Rosemary said that the UMW Libraries’ Digital Repository Committee will soon be reactivated.

Paul Boger said that he and his staff are going through their books at the Stafford Library and stamping ones in Resources for College Libraries with an “RCL” stamp.  Months ago members of the Spacing Planning Committee used large white pages on an easel to elicit feedback from students.  Paul said that they have been doing something similar at the Stafford Campus.  Although the comments are few, they are all positive (students like the library, the staff is helpful, and it’s a quiet, comfortable place to study).

Wanda suggested that we move some of the chairs in the coffee shop area as they interfere with foot traffic a bit.  It was noted that that area is frequently full of students and we might want to conduct surveys / ask questions concerning this space.  For example, “How do you like the coffee shop area?”  “What would you like us to add?”

Renee said that some of the DVDs won’t play after they have circulated for just three times (though of course we don’t know how they were handled before we acquired them).  There are commercial products that “revitalize” DVDs.  Netflix does not offer accounts for libraries.

Donna said that circulation numbers have doubled for the Popular Reading collection.  She said that the location for the books certainly helps, as the volumes are now more visible to students.

Tim said that a new printer has been ordered for the microfilm / microfiche machines.

Published by Rosemary Arneson on 04 Nov 2011

Mind Full

The t-shirt I got at the launching of the University’s new website proclaims on the front that UMW is the place “where great minds get to work.”  On the back, it says “Mind Full”.

I have been out of the office for a week and a half, attending first the Virginia Library Association’s annual conference in Portsmouth and now at the Charleston Conference on Issues in Book and Serial Acquisitions.  I have heard a lot of great presentations, talked to a number of colleagues from around the country, and thought a lot about what all this means for the UMW Libraries.

And my mind is full!

It’s going to take a while to process all that I have learned over the past week and a half.  This post is my first attempt at trying to pull together some common themes.

1.  E-books, e-books, and more e-books.

There seem to be as many ways of acquiring and delivering electronic books as there are libraries.  The UMW Libraries already have a number of books in electronic format, but there are more things we can do with them.  We’re talking with one of our vendors about doing a pilot project that would explore a different way of acquiring e-books than our traditional acquisitions process, so expect to hear more about this in the coming weeks.

2.  Digital repositories are cool.

The UMW digital repository project has stalled a bit in the last couple of years, and this is an area where we need to do a lot of catching up.  We need to develop a planned approach to acquiring digital resources.  For example, is it part of our mission to preserve UMW blogs as part of the archive?  If so, how do we do this while protecting the rights of individual blog creators?

3.  Learning Commons are common

The Learning Commons has been the big thing in library building design for the last 5 years at least.  Now just about everyone (except UMW!) has one.  The Convergence Center will serve as something of a Learning Commons when it is built, but that building is also going to be serving a lot of other purposes.  How can we re-think both the Stafford Library and the Simpson Library into the Learning Commons model?  What can we do with these spaces now, without waiting for the Convergence Center to be built.

4.  Student learning is central to everything we do

I heard a great presentation from a librarian at Illinois Wesleyan about a project they undertook to interview their teaching faculty about how library resources support student learning.  It was a way for them to get at what resources they needed to add, as well as which ones were no longer useful.  The project also helped them raise awareness among the faculty about library resources, and it provided the opportunity for librarians to help faculty see new ways to use resources.  Don’t be surprised if we don’t start a similar project in the not-too-distant future.

5.  Library organizations

As library collections continue to evolve, lines of responsibility blue, and the old ways of organizing staff no longer work.  One of the questions I am always thinking about is if the UMW Libraries are organized to give us the greatest efficiencies in our processes and services.  Are we organized (here’s a thought!) with the idea the student learning is central?  Are there ways we can streamline processes to make better use of the staff resources we currently have?

6.  No one understands copyright

Well, actually the three panelists who presented on copyright this morning did.  But they were all lawyers.  The rest of us are all confused, and we’re working with a copyright framework that was built for a print-only world.  One presenter talked about a workshop her library offered to help faculty understand what rights they may be signing away when they sign a publication contract.  Many faculty, in the rush to get an article published and to get that credit for tenure and promotion, will simply sign the contract without paying it much attention.  In doing so, however, they may be signing away their rights to their own intellectual property.  This has implications for us as we look ahead to building a true institutional repository as well.

7.  Librarians are really wonderful people

At the Charleston Conference, I got to spend time with two librarians I helped get started in the profession.  One worked for me in her first professional job, and she is now a leader in the profession.  The other worked for me as a student worker, and he made his professional debut here by presenting a poster session.  Over the years, I have gotten to know many wonderful, talented, smart, creative, innovative librarians.  I’ve mentored a few as they moved into the profession, and I have been mentored by some of the greats.

Tired as I am at the end of this hectic couple of weeks, I can still say, “I love my job.”

Published by Rosemary Arneson on 06 Oct 2011

Passing Thoughts

Today, we mark the passing of two men who changed the world:  Steve Jobs and the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth.  Both died yesterday — Jobs at 56, and Shuttlesworth at 89.  Steve Jobs revolutionized the world of personal computing.  He changed the way we listen to music and the way we watch movies.  He leaves behind a legacy of visionary technology and exceptional corporate leadership.

Fred Shuttlesworth is a name that may not be as well known to you, unless you have studied the Civil Rights Movement or lived for a time in Alabama, as I did.  Shuttlesworth was serving as the pastor of an African-American Baptist Church is Birmingham, Alabama, in the 50s and 60s, and he was the organizing force behind much that happened there.   He founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and challenged Birmingham’s bus segregation laws.  He faced the fire hoses and police dogs that Birmingham public safety commissioner Bull Connor turned on the Civil Rights marchers.  With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  He met the Freedom Riders when they arrived in Birmingham, and helped many of them get the medical attention they needed after the violence they had encountered.

In his autobiography Lay Bare the Heart, James Farmer describes meeting Shuttlesworth on a trip to Montgomery:

Shuttlesworth, with two men from his church, met me at the airport in Montgomery. He told me that there was a
riot going on, with large bands of frenzied white men roaming the streets and now closing in on the First Baptist Church where King, Abernathy, Wyatt Walker (executive director of the SCLC), Diane Nash, and the young SNCC and CORE Freedom Riders were being held under siege.

“Can you get me into that church, Fred?” I asked.

“Wrong question, Jim,” replied Fred Shuttlesworth. “The only question to ask is: how will I get you in?”

Shuttlesworth was beaten by a mob.  His home was bombed.  Even after he left Birmingham to pastor a church in Cincinnati, he received multiple death threats.  He once told a group of college students, I tried to get killed in Birmingham and go home to God because I knew it would be better for you in Birmingham.”

Shuttlesworth remained an advocate for civil rights and social justice throughout his life and continued to serve his church and his community until his death yesterday in a Birmingham hospital.

The UMW Libraries own several copies of Farmer’s autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart, and it is also available electronically.  The Libraries also have A Fire You Can’t Put Out, the biography Andrew Mannis wrote of Fred Shuttlesworth in 1999.

For chilling primary source material on the Civil Rights Movement, check out the database We Were Prepared for the Possibility of Death:  Freedom Riders in the South, 1961.  This database includes documents describing the FBI’s surveillance of King, Farmer, Shuttlesworth, and other Civil Rights leaders during the struggle.


Published by Rosemary Arneson on 27 Sep 2011

Customer or Product

I just read this interesting post by Alan Henry on LifeHacker.  Henry describes how social media giant Facebook tracks the movements of its users as they move through the web.  If you’ve used Facebook, you know that it has an uncanny ability to reflect your current interests (or what it thinks are your current interests) through its ads.

Facebook isn’t alone in its efforts to keep track of your interests.  Google tailors its ads to match your search terms, and of course, the ads appear at the top of the results list, in the hopes that you will click there first.  Forget relevancy ranking; Google knows most people will only click on the first two or three links.  Why not have the first two or three links be the ones that paid the most money to Google?

All this brings to mind a question posed by Jaron Lanier during his presentation at ACRL last spring.  In his talk, he asked if Google and Facebook really see their users as customers.  Lanier says no, we are really their products, products they are selling to their real customers, their advertisers.

Advertising has, of course, been a part of mass media almost from the beginning, and producers of those media have had to balance the interests of their readers or viewers against those of their sponsors.  What makes the world of Google and Facebook ads different is the ability to target advertising tailored to the interests of the individual user.  Which means they are paying a lot of attention to you and what you do.

It’s a marketing person’s dream.   And privacy’s worst nightmare.

As I was writing this post, I checked my Facebook profile to see what ads appeared.  Facebook must have some interesting ideas about who I am and what I like.

One of the ads was for dentures.



Published by Rosemary Arneson on 20 Sep 2011

A Google a Day

Like many of my library colleagues, I am proud of my ability to search out elusive answers to difficult questions.  I don’t spend as much time at the reference desk as I would like, but I still enjoy the challenge of a good search.

So imagine how happy I was to discover Google’s A Google a Day!  Every day, Google posts a challenging question that you can use Google (or a handy reference book) to answer.  Today’s question, “What major historic attraction can you find on the road from Xcalacoop to Piste?”, was pretty easy.  I searched “Xcalacoop to Piste”, and found that the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza lies between these two Mexican cities.

Google is the search engine most people go to when they want to find something, and it is a powerful tool.  Earlier this week, George Williams wrote a piece in the ProfHacker blog about teaching students how to search more productively, and he mentioned the Google Search Education Evangelism site.  The site’s resources can help librarians and teachers build their own search skills and help them teach their students more effective search strategies.

How should we integrate Google search skills into our  instruction, in class and one-on-one? Can we teach Google search skills, such as truncation and phrase searching, that will translate into more effective searching in our advanced resources?  Can we use Google to help students think critically about the information they find?  We know that Google is where most students start when they are looking for information, and many of them never look beyond the first few sites their searches retrieve.   We can use students’ familiarity with Google as a starting point for building information literacy skills.

And we can play A Google A Day to sharpen our own search skills.  And because it’s fun.



Published by Rosemary Arneson on 06 Sep 2011

The Myth of the Quiet Summer

I have been an academic librarian for almost all of my career, and in every library, we have promised each other, “We’ll be able catch up on everything this summer, when it’s quiet.”   The problem is, summers are never quiet!

Yes, there are fewer faculty and students on campus during the summer months.  The compressed schedules for many summer classes make extended research projects impractical.   There are fewer meetings outside the library, and it’s easier for us to get away for a few days or few weeks of vacation.   But none of that means that things are quiet in the library.

Need proof?  Take a look at all that the UMW Libraries did over the summer of 2011:

  • We weeded thousands of books out of the collection, focusing on call number areas T-Z (Technology, Military History, Naval History, and Bibliography) and from the Reference collection.
  • We compressed the periodicals and newspaper collections and moved the microform cabinets to a better spot.
  • We added 10 new computers for student and faculty use.
  • We simplified the procedures for using the microfilm and microfiche machines.
  • We initiated a guest patron login to help us reserve more computers for student and faculty use.
  • We added shelving for the DVD collection, allowing us to get them out where our patrons can see them.
  • We worked with Sodexo to create a coffee shop on the main floor, and added new, comfortable seating in the coffee area.
  • We brought up a new service for handling reference and research guides.
  • We created about 50 reference and research guides to populate that service.
  • We added iPads, Flip video cameras, and digital cameras that students can check out.  Three of the iPads are at Simpson Library, and one is at Stafford.  Stafford already had cameras that circulate, so the new cameras are all at Simpson.

Whew!  That’s a lot accomplished in a short amount of time, and I’m sure I’ve left something off the list.

So, welcome back, faculty and students!  We’re glad you’re here again.  Maybe now we can get some rest.



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