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Technology continues to integrate into our personal and work lives on a daily basis. And as this happens, institutes like Stanford University's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) are leading individuals and communities in conversations related to digital engagement.
The Digital Civil Society Lab within PACS is specifically investigating "the challenges and opportunities for civil society to thrive in the digital age." Recently, the lab initiated a series of talks, guided by input from Stanford undergraduates. These events delve deeply into how technology can simultaneously help and harm civically motivated initiatives to increase mobilization and representation.
Two TechSoupers went to a recent lab event titled "The Active Citizen in the Digital Age: Mobilization and Representation." Let's look at some key takeaways from their experience.
The Persisting Success of Human InteractionDigital Civil Society Lab executive director Lucy Bernholz opened the talk by sharing her own background. Her mother was an elected official and on the state board for the professionalization of teachers. Her father was on the state mental health board.
Her parent's district (CA-District 10, which encompasses an area in the northern end of the Central Valley) was home to a hotly contested congressional race in 2018. By the time of election day, every door in the district was knocked on — twice — and a Democrat newcomer and venture capitalist won out over the four-term incumbent Republican.
This story underscores a motif throughout the talk: Even in this age of digital connectivity, person-to-person interactions and proactive engagement continue to play a huge role in the mobilization of an idea. Throughout the talk, Lucy and the panelists continued to highlight how technology may help, but it certainly cannot replace the value of human-to-human interactions.
Lucy facilitated questions between the three panelists to explore technology's impact on digital engagement in terms of infrastructure, information, and action. The three speakers each represented one of those areas.
Click here to continue reading about the different areas the speakers covered...
The shopping season is underway! The ACLU's article "The Privacy Threat From Always-On Microphones Like the Amazon Echo" about the privacy implications of “always-on” recording devices came across my path yesterday, and it got me thinking and looking for a good video or two that would highlight some of the current concerns about "smart," internet-connected devices. I found these two, which I think are definitely worth a view.
(9 min) "What your smart devices know (and share) about you"- Once your smart devices can talk to you, who else are they talking to? Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu wanted to find out -- so they outfitted Hill's apartment with 18 different internet-connected devices and built a special router to track how often they contacted their servers and see what they were reporting back. The results were surprising -- and more than a little bit creepy. Learn more about what the data from your smart devices reveals about your sleep schedule, TV binges and even your tooth-brushing habits -- and how tech companies could use it to target and profile you. (This talk contains mature language.)
(17 min) "Internet of Things Security" - Ken Munro shows us how insecure Internet of Things products are and how easy it is to hack them. The big question is: how can we use these products in a safe way?
The takeaway for me from the videos was not that IoT devices = BAD, but that users of these devices should be aware of the privacy and security implications. If you are considering purchasing devices that connect to the internet (and there are a lot of them these days!), make sure you know what you're getting into and weigh the potential loss of privacy (and security risks) with the benefit these devices will bring to your home.
And if you opt for smart devices, here are some of the security recommendations from the second video:
I'm still looking for some good articles about IoT devices and their uses in libraries. So far I've found a couple that talk about the potential (people counting, program attendance, etc), but none that really weigh in on what patron privacy concerns there may be. (If you have any recommendations, please let me know!)
What internet-connected smart devices have you added to your home? Your library? What do you love or hate about them?
Library Extension App
A thoughtful library director shared a great internet tool with me (thanks, Joan!). It is called Library Extension and it is only available for the Chrome web browser. It will allow you to see if any book/item you find on Amazon or Goodreads (or wherever) is available at a library or within a system without having to switch windows to check your catalog.
For some reason, it only has a few NFLS libraries listed - a couple InfoSoup and Brown County. This app can still be beneficial as you can pick any library as a placeholder in order to see if the title is somewhere in your catalog.
To get this app, go to Library Extension on the Chrome Store website and select the blue Add to Chrome button on the right.
A Solid State Drive, known as "SSD", is simply a variation of the current, traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD). It is the part in a computer (laptop, tablet, etc.) that stores data, programs, and the operating system. An SSD is the same thing as a flash drive (a.k.a USB stick, thumb drive, memory stick), just larger. The defining difference between the SSD and HDD is how the information is stored and retrieved.
Let's first clarify some terminology. Two words of note are read and write. When information is first sent to the drive to be stored or to change existing data, you are writing to the drive. When we "retrieve" data to look at it and/or it use we are reading it. The important difference here is reading changes nothing whereas writing affects the drive by adding or changing something.
So, one difference between an SSD and an HDD is that and SSD can only be written to a limited number of times while an HDD can be written to indefinitely. With that being said, normal use of an SSD will still give you 10, 15 or even 300 years of service. Not only is this way beyond the normal lifespan of a computer, but it is significantly based on how much the drive is written to since that is what wears it out. Keep in mind, however, that our public computers never get written to except for an occasional update. Also know that an HDD is not bullet-proof as parts of it (known as sectors) can become corrupted (go bad) and eventually cause the drive can fail.
Another more pertinent difference is how quickly data is read/written; this is where the SSD blows away the HDD! The HDD is a metal box about the size of two decks of cards and is filled with about five or six platters, which are basically double-sided CDs. They are stacked on top of each other with just a little space between them. There is also a mechanical arm (like on an old record player) in there. This arm literally swings in and out of the stack of platters reading and writing information through a needle-like sensor on its tip. An SSD, on the other hand, is made up of little processors and has no moving parts. Thus, the HDD is much slower at both reading and writing because it is limited by its mechanical movement. This makes the SSD noticeably faster at all aspects of the drive's operation - like having a 5-10 second boot-up time!
The technology in the SSD is newer and therefore more expensive but, as we have seen with the smaller flash drives, it continues to drop in price. Though still more expensive than an HDD, it has finally become affordable in smaller sizes. One option some people choose is to have a small-ish SDD (128 GB) with the operating system installed on it but then also have a larger HDD for their main file storage. This is a nice blend of the two drives but, unless you store huge amounts of data, I would think you could spend a little extra on a 256 GB (or larger) SDD to enjoy its benefits across your entire computing experience.
Here at the libraries, the HP 400 G5 computer we are now offering with the 256 GB SSD option also comes with 8 GB of RAM. Random Access Memory (RAM) is the memory that the computer uses while working on tasks. The combination of this larger quantity of memory and an SSD makes for a really fast machine. I believe it is definitely worth the $60 up-charge.
Earlier this week, SCLS along with 10 other library systems,co-sponsored our annual Tech Days workshopsin Fitchburg, Appleton, and Franklin. Financial support was also provided by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Public Library Development Team with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Jason Griffey was the keynote speaker for this year's event and he spoke on Preparing for the Future: Technology to Watch. We learned about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how ubiquitous some of these products have become. For example, you can get "smart" light bulbs, thermostats, outlets, door locks, security cameras, and even stickers! Jason also talked about all of the "voice assistants" like Google Home, Amazon's Alexa, and others. You can now get Alexa for your car with Amazon's Echo Auto and also for your microwave - who knew? Jason talked about the application of these technologies for libraries and some of the problems they present.
Jason shared lots of ideas and information about Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and robots. There are some really cool VR applications (and we have a VR kit that SCLS libraries can borrow). Jason explained the blockchain and talked about cryptocurrency. I understand it a little better but am still learning about the implications of this emerging technology.
The AI and machine learning part of the presentation was probably the most interesting and the most scary to contemplate.For example, you've all heard about the driver-less cars and trucks that are coming soon. There are also robots that are providing security services, helper robots in the hospitality industry, and even a robot barista in San Francisco.
There were afternoon breakout sessions at each workshop and you can find the handouts and slides for all the presentations here. Hope to see you at Tech Days next year!
Sophia Guevara describes these cool tools for readers of the TechSoup website:
In whatever work environment you are in, you gain lessons from your experiences every day. From learning about a new resource to finding an innovative solution to a common problem, lessons learned from personal experiences can be shared with colleagues to help them in their own work and in the service they provide to customers. With that being said, what are some solutions to help you communicate lessons learned or new resources to others? Three tools for you to consider are PowToon, Animaker, and Emaze. This post will focus on the free aspects of each of these tools, all of which also offer paid plans.
PowToon: Telling Your Story with Video
Animaker: Focusing on Animation
Emaze: Improving Your Presentation with Amazing Graphics
Here is the full story: http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/blog/3-free-visual-marketing-tools-for-your-library
Did you see the news? As of September 4th, OverDrive has a new status page to communicate service issues at https://status.overdrive.com/.
OverDrive’s new status page is available to all staff and end users. You can visit the page at any time to view the status of browsing and searching, signing in, downloading, and reading and/or listening to a book. If services on the OverDrive side are running smoothly, their status will be listed as Operational. If a service is degraded or experiencing an outage, the status will be updated accordingly.
To be notified when issues are posted, you can follow the @OverDriveStatus Twitter account which will be automatically updated, or sign up for alerts via subscription options in the lower right corner of the page.
Please take a few minutes to visit the status page and feel free to share this with your staff. WPLC project managers will continue to send service alerts to the WPLC Announcements list and to the Google WPLC Support Community.
(Original post here.)
Tech Soup's Julia Campbell has some great insight to share:
Starting out on social media can be a scary proposition for many nonprofits. Horror stories abound — staff members "going rogue" and posting inappropriate Facebook photos, volunteers tweeting too much information, negative comments being left in LinkedIn groups.
And of course, there's the story about the hapless American Red Cross employee who tweeted about #gettngslizzerd from its official account.
There's lots of fearmongering on the destructive use of social media and other online tools. And so, it's no wonder that some nonprofits are wary of jumping into the social media pool.
At a nonprofit organization, discretion, respect, and trust are paramount. A serious online mishap could lead to a loss of donors, volunteers, or community investment, or worse.
Common fears include
Although these fears are understandable, they are also counterproductive. The benefits of using social media to interact with donors and to tell stories vastly outweigh the potential negatives.
Here are five steps you can take to help assuage the fears at your nonprofit as you bring your organization into the social media fold:
Rose at SCLS shares a great way to fix formatting issues.
Noticing unwanted formatting differences in the text on your website, email, Excel, or Word document (where one line looks good, but another is a hair bigger or smaller)? Many times there is a little button intended to fix it! Just highlight/select the text in edit mode, click the button—voila, wonky formatting gone. Here's a guide to what to look for in some common tools:
Future Proofing Your Library
David Lee King has some ideas on how to "Stay On Track With Tech":
Our world is going through some major technology upheavals. The way many of us do simple things like reading a book is changing, and these transitions affect libraries. What once worked may not work anymore.
Most likely your library still has traditional customers who ask questions at the reference desk and check out physical books. You also have a new breed of library customer who brings in any number of electronic devices and expects those devices to work with your library’s technology. They want to plug into your public computers. They want to connect to the library’s Wi-Fi network. They want to upload and download content from their device to Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. They want to download ebooks, digital audiobooks, and music. And they want to recharge their devices.
Libraries need to figure out how to serve this new subset of their customer base. If we aren’t successful in making this technology transition, patrons who have transitioned already will simply bypass the library by finding answers (though not always the best ones) through Google, purchasing books through Amazon, or downloading music from iTunes.
Technology affects our traditional users too. The books, magazines, and newspapers they love to read are moving to digital formats. Library staff must be ready to help these customers find their news and entertainment sources in online and digital formats.
Here are some things you can do right now to futureproof your library.
Having no plan for staying on top of technology change guarantees failure and irrelevance. Instead of that bleak outlook, let’s learn to ride these technology changes as they happen and be ready and waiting for our customers when they come to us with new tools and questions.
Learn from Kayla at SCLS:
Get more out of your searching - by getting less results (but more relevant ones)
I search for some really weird, hard to find stuff. Part of my job is doing authority control, which basically means I have to look up really obscure items (mostly foreign movies and anime) and make sure everyone in our catalog record is actually associated with that item and their name is spelled correctly. My searches have to be very narrow so I can find what I am actually looking for.
Here are a couple of the tricks I’ve picked up to get better results.
These two tricks work on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.
There are many more tips, but these are the two I use the most. Here are a couple of my searches I’ve done in the past for authority control work:
Effective Communication Training
From Google's Applied Digital Skills team:
The ability to communicate effectively can help your students[/patrons/staff] stand out in the interview process. In the workplace it can help them build stronger relationships with their colleagues, as well as impress their supervisor.
We created our newest professional development training, Effective Communications at Work, to give people a simple, quick way to boost workplace communication skills.
In this video training, an instructor will show students how to facilitate a team meeting, collect feedback with Google Forms, and give a presentation like a pro.
David Lee King recently posted about findings regarding teens' social technology habits:
Pew Research Center just released a report titled Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018. It’s full of interesting facts (as most Pew reports are). Check it out!
Implications for libraries?
John's collection of tech tips, trends, and training for NFLS librarians
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