Nailing a Giant Jello® to a Wall: Issues in Electronic Serials Management

Tech Tools

by Tech Talk Editor Ellie Dworak

EllieSadly, this being the last issue of  the Idaho Librarian, this will be my last “Tech Tools” column. I’ve enjoyed exploring ideas in my quest to bring you a column that is both useful and interesting. Perhaps I will write this column or something like it elsewhere. Until then, salut!


Ellie Dworak
Tech Talk Editor

Last month, I spent some time with Nancy Donahoo the Library Section Manager for Serials Albertsons Library, Boise State University; and Nancy Rosenheim, the Library Head of Acquisitions & Collections, also here at Albertsons Library. Trust me when I say that these two know their stuff.

Thank goodness that I had only booked an hour for our talk – not because I was bored, mind you, but because the transcription software (to remain unnamed) produced a 35 page document of some pretty hilarious text.

For example, take this snippet from a section that didn’t make it into the article. Apparently that’s a good thing, because I made no sense:

Typically a stalker is proprietary of the content to do the copyright of them by the provider for these small but culture. Right now you would not disclose terms of the agreement right typically hum.

Am I right!? That said – the transcription hilarity was totally worth it. The conversation was both informational and fun, and I hope to have more in the future.

The following is a curated version of our conversation. The written word requires a narrative, while the verbal can traverse several at a sitting. I have done my best to use my editorial skills for good, and not evil, which is to say that my goal was to represent the truth within the narrative thread that I chose to weave into the account below.

Aside from interpreting the transcription software’s creativity and editing to create a readable text, I have used the language as spoken during the interview. I use the convention of square brackets to indicate blocks of texts wherein I paraphrased, summarized, or created context in my own words. I did not, however, use ellipses to indicate removed portions of verbiage. This was written not as a means of archiving history, after all, but as a column that I hope you enjoy, whether it’s all news to you, or you are nodding along as you read.

Nailing a Giant Jello® to a Wall:
Issues in Electronic Serials Management

 Ellie Dworak So tell me about issues in managing electronic resources.
 Nancy Rosenheim One of the biggest issues in electronic resource management are transfer titles. The transfer of titles from one publisher a platform to another and the transfer of the content and your rights and having to track that. So instead of just having to deal with title changes, which used to be one of the biggest problems of a serials librarian or [professional], there is the issue of title changes and title movement. (Looks to Nancy Donahoo) Do you have an opinion?
 c I agree wholeheartedly, that’s been particularly the case in the last 2 years as the small publisher has been eaten up by the big 6.
 Ellie Dworak Ah, so a lot of things transferred.
 Nancy Donahoo Yes, and it’s not just titles moving back and forth but the post-cancellation perpetual access which is supposed to be mounted wherever UKSG says it is. [UKSG,] the United Kingdom Serials Group started ETAS – Enhanced Transfer Alerting Service. The whole purpose of it was to identify when a title was going from one provider to the next and where the historical online access was going to be mounted, whether it would remain with the old or go to the new. And that’s important so that we know where to document that we are entitled to an early earlier content than the provider may think we do, and in some cases the buyout creates a problem.

My favorite one is Portland Press. They had a publication that ranged from 1947 to the present. We began getting it in 2010, so that means we were entitled to content from 2010 forward but out of the generosity of this publisher’s heart they gave us access to the historical content back to 1947 . . . Portland Press sold its holdings to a large vendor and when it went over, you only had access from 2015 to the present. You had to buy the historical content. So all of a sudden we lost this content.

And here’s the irony – we had subscribed in print up until the end of 2007 and then we stopped getting the subscription and we quit binding it. So we were able to prove to them that we had back to 2010 electronically, and we had in print to 2007. So that means now we do note have the whole run. The only way you can get that content is to buy the entire historical archives because they will not sell you year by year. That’s an example of the chaos that’s created.

 Nancy Rosenheim Nancy referenced the United Kingdom Serials Group, which has provided leadership in establishing the NISO [National Information Standards Organization] Code of Transfer Practice, which is great because there is now a standard which all publishers who transfer titles comply with the ETAS that [Nancy] referred to is the Enhanced Transfers Alerting Service, so we each get different emails that tell us when titles are transferring from one publisher or platform to another. Often the publisher will inform us, it is usually is at this time of year however sometimes they don’t tell you, and you find out some other way.

And there are some serious implications for the transfer in addition to tracking our holdings and making things available because there are budgetary implications. Right now we’re looking at different packages that we have and we have a title that used to be included in [one package] and it’s moving to another. It’s not huge but that happens all the time.

 Ellie Dworak And it’s something where you don’t want to have a hole in the subscription?
 Nancy Rosenheim Right, or you have to make a decision. Do we subscribe to something we haven’t had a discreet subscription to before or do we . . .
 Nancy Donahoo And some don’t give you choices . . . If you have an existing contract and journal titles move into these packages then you either pay an up-charge on the cost of your package – so you have your base and then you have an up charge because they know you had it before and for the life of your contract they’re going to continue to get money from you.
 Ellie Dworak Even though it may be a different price?
 Nancy Rosenheim It’s part of the contract.
 Nancy Donahoo Which makes it not very useful to have multiple year contracts because even though you might pay 6 percent instead of 5 percent, you pay through the nose for these individual titles that have moved into the database because you have to maintain them . . . some of them are less than $1000 and others are . . . $5000. We saw one that was $16,000 . . .  just the single title. So I mean we have no control over those prices.
 Ellie Dworak You can just wake up and the budget expense chart is totally changed?
 Nancy Rosenheim Different publishers, or different providers have different license terms . . .  it was a really hard concept that you have to retain a subscription and pay additional costs, because the whole point of [of these serials packages] was that you pay a flat rate and you get everything.
Nancy Donahoo Well, and we do for some. Project Muse is one of those that we pay a flat fee, and you see an inflationary costs, but you pay a flat fee and anything goes that goes into Project Muse you’re entitled to. The University of Chicago Press package is the same way. So there are still some of those out there.

The latest twist is that in the past we have had all the way back to some historical starting point and that’s been consistent.

Now [some publishers will] only provide a 20 year historical rolling wall. So that means that even though you’ve paid for all this content, and access to it, all these years . . . the very fact that we didn’t buy the archives means that they will start giving us 20 years rolling back. So if you start in 1997 now in 2018 year old I have as far back as ‘98 and the next year you only have back to ‘99.

 Ellie Dworak So it’s like a reverse furlough?
 Nancy Donahoo It is. It forces you, then, to go buy the historical archives.
 Ellie Dworak Were they always available at the time you started [subscribing]?
 Nancy Donahoo Most of our subscriptions began between 2006 and 2008 and most of them have been static with a historical starting point. They had the archives prior to that point but they never had a rolling wall on the back end. But now not as many people have money to buy it, or have already bought it if they want it, which means in order for them to make more money they are going to this roll, so that it forces you to buy it if you want that content.
 Ellie Dworak Tell me about leased collections. What are those?
 Nancy Donahoo Meaning that for your willingness to not cancel your existing titles and to continue buying them every year, or buying access to them, within 10 percent, meaning you might want to cancel one but to pick up another so there’s a little fluctuation, they give you the choice of buying what’s called their leased collection that has an untold number of titles in it. You don’t have post cancellation perpetual access but you’re not having to track those titles separately, you don’t have to worry about ownership of them. Students and faculty have access to them.
 Ellie Dworak I see, so for agreeing to maintain your core subscriptions, they throw in a bunch of other stuff for cheap.
 Nancy Donahoo One reason we make that distinction is because it has an impact on how we maintain our records and the level of documentation that we have to record.

When I took over in serials when Rose Marie left in 2014, the biggest thing she did for me before she left was basically tried to come up with a description of the types of purchases, leases, types of subscriptions that we have. She did a really good job, even s those, since she left they’ve changed and it’s – you know I think sometimes people think that this is very straightforward and there’s nothing straightforward to it, because as soon as you’ve got it figured out there’s a new spin on it . . . and then they make platform changes. Which makes it even more interesting.

 Ellie Dworak What does that mean?
 Nancy Rosenheim We talked about titles that transfer from across publishers or platforms, and now Nancy’s referring to the fact that we also have to track what platform they’re on. Sometimes the publisher is the platform like Elsevier, and sometimes the platform is the publisher, and that would be like Metapress. They published content from other journals on their platform, but they also published their own journals that were there too.

It’s an issue related to licensing because you need to be sure that you can have IP authentication when you’re reviewing the license for the resource and you might have to read a license for the platform. When we’re tracking usage statistics we have to track the usage statistics from the publisher as well as sometimes from the platform.

 Nancy Donahoo Every time [platforms changes happen], you have to change links; reestablish IP authentication; reestablish where you’re going to get usage statistics and if it complies with COUNTER 4; how they’re going to send it to you; if they’re gonna send it to you. So it’s like starting all over. There is no one point where you get everything done and it’s static. It’s very fluid and it’s like nailing Jell-O to a wall.
 Nancy Rosenheim While it is those would be among the bigger challenge is also part of what makes it fun.
 Nancy Donahoo Certainly interesting.


 Nancy Rosenheim It really interesting and keeps it from being just checking in issues of Time.  It really does require a lot of thought and a lot of tracking trends through literature and keeping up on where content is going.
 Nancy Donahoo So then you have people talk about open access. You can’t count on historical open access content to remain static and always be available. So, people are processing interlibrary loan requests and send links to the journal A-Z list with content identified by Serials Solutions as open access will get an email [from the patron] saying “I can’t access that.” And what it is, is that [the journal] went from Gold open access, which means that it was full-blown, to article level open access, which means you’ve got some paid content.

It would take an untold number of man hours and people constantly checking things to actually determine is it still the way it needs to be.

 Ellie Dworak Wow, I’m surprised everything works as smoothly as it does.
 Nancy Donahoo Be amazed, be very amazed.
 Nancy Rosenheim You know, I’m not surprised because we have really amazing people who are experienced and knowledgeable. But there are a lot of challenges.
 Ellie Dworak It must be a lot of work bringing somebody up to speed.
 Nancy Donahoo It takes a year. You have to go for the entire cycle to really understand the issue.
 Nancy Rosenheim Well, you know, there are a lot of published lists of competencies that are needed to be able to work with electronic resources. But it’s there’s always something to learn in a fun.

We talked a little bit of we talk about the transfer titles which is a huge thing and actually documenting perpetual access is the challenge that we’re coming to you now because we had a big package, which we don’t have any more. So our serials unit will go back, because we actually own access from 2008 to 2013 for a select group of titles. We need to be able to document those because it’s almost the same as having print.

 Ellie Dworak So you just have to dig through things like the old invoices and licenses?
 Nancy Donahoo You know when we first started getting into electronic content, I don’t think anybody could have ever imagined how very different it was from documenting paper subscriptions. I mean, you know, it’s on the shelf or it’s not on the shelf. You checked it in or you didn’t check it in.

You know, we thought “oh this is going to be so much easier.” Well it is easier in the sense that you don’t have to worry about it getting mailed to you and checked in and down on the shelf and somebody can walk out the front door with it. But it brings its own set of problems and part of that is the historical documentation. What license entitled you to what, and at what point did the license change. We find ourselves constantly going back and reading those things.

Even a new subscription you have to look at indemnification and where the government jurisdiction is because of the implications for Idaho law. We’re not attorneys but there are key things we have to look at. We can’t automatically renewed something. We can’t be in a position to not be able to cancel, so we have to have an out clause. If we lost our funding we have to have the ability to get out of the contract without going the court.

 Nancy Rosenheim When we are licensing things, there are issues that have to be resolved, and it really is a two woman job. We’re not attorneys, but the responsibility to review the licenses and be sure that we’re in compliance is ours. It’s something that we take really seriously, and we worry, but then again, we try to be decisive and move on.

Tech Tools – Flashcards with Flair

EllieWelcome to (or back to) Tech Tools, a regular column of The Idaho Librarian devoted to informal discussion of practical technologies. As always, I welcome your comments, ideas, and feedback on this post or other technologies you would like featured in this column.

Flashcards with Flair

I’ve come across online flashcards a few times and been curious. Do they work well in an online format? Do online flashcards offer benefits that old-fashioned 3×5 cards lack? There are a number of free web-based tools that offer this functionality. In hopes of answering those questions, I signed up for several free online flashcards products, tested them out, and chose three to review: Quizlet, Flashcard Machine, and Cerego.


Quizlet is a free tool for creating and using flashcards, which can be used to generate quizzes and games. After creating a free account, you’ll be taken to a dashboard screen which will show your (as yet non-existent) activity.

Creating cards: It’s super easy to create flashcards in Quizlet. From the top navigation area, click on Create a Study Set. Then, fill in the blanks with one field for one side of the “card” and one field for the flip side (which Quizlet calls a definition).

3-18-2016 1-13-20 PM

To the right of each card, there are 3 icons to: add a photo, add a sound file, and search for definitions/answers within the flashcards from other Quizlet users. However, you cannot upload your own photos or audio with a free account. The search for definitions feature functions nicely, letting you review a list of matching definitions. Click to select one, and edit if you wish.

Flashcard collection: Quizlet contains a library of flashcards created by users. I could not locate information about how large this collection is, but I didn’t have trouble finding material on a variety of topics.

Search/browse: Quizlet allows for a simple keyword search, after which you can sort by relevance or date. There is no browse option.

Reusing flashcards: Once you find a study set that meets your needs, there are number of ways to reuse the cards. The two that I found most useful are copy and add to folder. Once cards are copied, you may edit them, whereas add to folder just saves them for you to use later.

Studying: Quizlet’s strength is in the many ways that you can study using flashcards. The options include:

  • Flashcards is very similar to using actual Flashcards. Click a card to flip it over, click the forward arrow to view the next card in the set.
  • Learn mode presents the flashcards as a fill-in-the-blank quiz. This is a good self-assessment next step.
  • The Speller option is interesting. It reads material from the study set, which you then type. I think that this is meant to help with retention, since in doing this you’re hearing, seeing, and typing the words.
  • Test presents a test with a variety of types of questions including fill-in-the-blank, true-false, matching, and multiple choice.
  • The Scatter game presents words with definitions in random boxes. Drag one to another to make them disappear as the timer counts up.
  • The goal of the game Gravity is to type in the definition (or the term) as the meteors fall toward Earth. With this game, you can choose from 3 levels of difficulty as well as whether to see the term or the definition first.
3-18-2016 3-32-54 PM.png
The only thing missing from Gravity is sound effects.

Overall:  onestaronestaronestaronestaronestar grey 
If you just want to create a set of flashcards, Quizlet is a great option because it’s easy and fast to create the cards, and you’ll have many study options. If you’re interested in finding cards that have already been created, Quizlet is pretty good, but the search/browse functionality falls short.

Flashcard Machine

Flashcard Machine is a very flexible flashcard creation tool, but it’s a little old school in terms of interface. It’s not difficult to use, but sometimes you have to click more than once to get to the screen you want to use.

Creating cards: To get started, create a free account, then click Create a Set. You will be prompted for some basic metadata about your new set and be given options for sharing your cards. I appreciate that both subject and education level are controlled vocabulary (with a pop-up list), which ultimately should make sets easier for others to locate.

Once you’ve created a set, creating cards is easy using either the Quick Editor or the Advanced Editor. The Quick Editor is two columns of text boxes, one for each side of the card. Fill them in, and click Save. The Advanced Editor has word processor functionality, and includes options for adding images and audio files. The down side is that you have to create one card at a time.

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The Quick Editor is easy to use. Create as many rows as you want cards.

Flashcard collection: Flashcard Machine contains over 111 million flashcards in its library. I don’t know how many of them are world-class flashcards, but that’s the price you pay for crowd sourcing. The up side is that the flashcards I looked at were accurate and useful.

Search/browse: With 111 million flashcards, thank goodness that the search and browse features in Flashcard Machine are awesome. The browse options include subject, most popular, highest rated, and top authors. Wow! The search functionality is equally impressive and includes keyword searching along with several field search choices.

On the results page, you can sort by relevance, topic, subject, date created, and rating. I’m not sure where the topic option is coming from, since I wasn’t directed to assign one when building my set of flashcards.

Reusing flashcards:  You can add any set of flashcards to a list of favorites or you can save the set, which allows you to edit the cards.

Studying: There are three games that you can use to study with a set of flashcards.

Quiz Me is a multiple choice game. If you get the answer right, you can move onto the next card. If you get it wrong, you have to keep guessing until you get it right.

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My favorite game is Quiz Me, probably because it’s the most like using actual flashcards.

Speed requires you to choose the correct answer from a column of moving cards, which are blank until you click them. It involves a lot of mousing, so it’s not the best game for those of use with repetitive strain injuries, but it’s engaging.

In Pop Quiz, you fill in the letters of your answer on a Jeopardy style screen.

Overall: onestaronestaronestaronestaronestar grey Flashcard Machine is not flashy, but it’s flexible and completely free. I suggest this tool for those who fondly remember using Pine as a text editor for email.


Cerego is the flashiest of the three products I reviewed, and it is (so far as I could tell) completely free.

Creating cards: After creating your free account, click the Create button in the left-side navigation bar, choose to make your set public or private, and proceed to name your set. Next you’ll have the opportunity to choose an attractive image to be featured on the set.

Here’s where the magic starts. To add a card to your set, choose one of the seven templates listed on the start page. These are more than just layout templates, they guide you through creating flashcards with different activities. The template options include:

  • Associations, which are basic flashcards.
  • Vocabulary, which are like basic flashcards, but you can include examples of the word in use.
  • Passages allow you to remove important words from a phrase to create fill-in-the-blank questions.
  • Regions let you map words to hot spots on an image.
  • Sequences are used for outlining processes or procedures in the proper order.
  • Patterns are used to teach characteristics, such as for plant identification.

The dashboard for my flashcard set. On the left are templates to choose from. To the right, Cerego adds your items in a visual layout.

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The dashboard for my new Cerego flashcard set. Template choices are on the left. To the right are my cards in a visual layout.

Some of the options, such as patterns, were a bit confusing to set up. That may be the nature of creating this type of content, and therefore not the fault of Cerego’s user interface.

Flashcard collection: Cerego has fewer sets than do the other two products, but they appear to all be high quality. Cerego hosts a Google Group for content creators, and perhaps this more hands-on approach includes curating flashcard sets. In addition, many of the sets are authored by Cerego themselves.

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Browse categories in Cerego.

Search/browse: Cerego offers simple keyword search as well as the option to browse content. The browsing options are organized by broad disciplines, with one layer of subdisciplines.

Reusing flashcards: You can copy any set of flashcards and edit it to be your own.

Studying: In Learn mode, Cerego takes you through a process of reviewing the flashcards followed by quizzes. They promise a patented process designed to maximize learning. I found the process to be both engaging and, in the short term, effective.

Overall: onestaronestaronestaronestarhalf star Cerego is a great tool, and using it to learn is straightforward. Creating flashcards takes some practice. I recommend this product to anybody who likes tinkering and has content that is worth the time investment of building an excellent learning tool.

Other Cool Cards

There are many online flashcard creation tools, and I couldn’t review them all, but I did look them order and rate them, using the same five criteria that I used for the longer reviews. Here are my brief notes and ratings.

  • Cobocards – purplepurplepurple3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM Free, with paid options. I found some broken links in the site and user interface is awful, but for the most part it appears to function.
  • Course Hero – purplepurplepurplehalf star3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM Free with paid options. Course Hero offers tutoring services and other study resources in addition to flashcards.There’s a lot of good content in there, but you have to hack your way through a thicket of “join now!” messages along the way.
  • Cram – purplepurplepurplepurple3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM Free with a paid option. Appears to be similar to Quizlet in functionality, with some additional free features.
  • Duolingo – purplepurplepurplepurplehalf star Free high quality flashcards for learning languages. I’ve signed up for Welsh.
  • Learn that Wordpurplepurplepurple3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM Free with a paid option. This product specializes in English language vocabulary. It’s kind of ugly, but it seems to work and contains a lot of vocabulary words as well as several ways to study the flashcards.
  • Memrise – purplepurplepurplehalf star3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM Free with paid options for more learning modes. Memrise is focused on language acquisition, though there is plenty of other subject content in the collection.
  • Study Blue – purplepurplehalf star3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM3-22-2016 11-55-20 AM I would have scored this higher if I were reviewing the paid version, as it looks pretty good. However, though you can create flashcards and study them on Study Blue, you’ll have to pay in order to gain access to the collection of flashcard sets.

I didn’t sign up to use the following three products because they require a software download. They may be amazing, who knows? If you give any of them a try, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Comment below if you have any thoughts on this article or suggestions for the next Tech Tools column. I love hearing from you!


Children’s Apps and Games at the Meridian Library District

Shalini Ramachandran works at the Boise State University library and is an MLIS distance student at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

With the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, web technology has become part of our everyday lives. Because the touch screen is simple to use, it has made our busy, multitasking adult schedules a little easier to navigate. There is an app for everything from shopping, to getting directions, to finding classes at the local gym. Children are also drawn to the mobile devices that they see their parents use. Because touch screen technology is more intuitive than a computer, we see more children, under the age of 5, playing and interacting with screens. There are also hundreds of apps and games available for children of all ages, many of which claim to be educational or help with school achievement. As a mother of a 10 year old and a 4 year old, both of whom use my phone and tablet to play games, I have wondered about the quality of these games and whether they are actually beneficial for children. I decided to do some research to find out more.

brain puzzle
Image credit: Toca Boca. Some rights reserved.

On the one hand, there is a school of thought that any media exposure, whether through T.V or computer screen time, is harmful to young children. On the other hand, there are companies that advertise astounding intellectual gains for children from use of their digital products. The reality for parents is that we have to look somewhere in between. Zero screen exposure can be unrealistic for families; most homes with children have mobile devices, and often, younger children see their older siblings playing a game and want to join in as well. Fortunately, there is credible research being conducted on gaming technologies and some of their positive effects. Not all of the “educational” apps are truly educational, but there are many really good ones. As a graduate student in library science, I took a class called Apps and Games for Children this summer, and came across some excellent resources that I will share here. I also visited the Meridian Library District in Meridian, Idaho, as public libraries can provide carefully considered suggestions for both reading materials and media resources for kids.

I found the three criteria recommended by educational media analyst, Lisa Guernsey, to be especially useful for how to choose high quality apps and games for children. Guernsey calls it the 3 Cs: Context, Content, and Child (cited in Julius). Context is about the purpose of the activity, what happens while the child is using the program. Young children learn through their senses. They learn best when they are being interacted with, talked to, read to, and played with. Some of you may have seen this sign, often posted in libraries: “There is no App to Replace the Lap.” Most early childhood research confirms that this is the case. What this means in terms of app usage is that for children under 5, the most beneficial apps are those that we can play together with them. Of course, most parents need time, here are there, for a break where we have children tinker independently with devices. There is no harm in that. But the biggest learning benefits for small children come from the human interaction, not just the app; a well-designed app promotes both hands on learning and social connection. The second C Guernsey mentions is Content. Researchers give high marks for apps and games that are creative and open ended. In contrast, games with violence and developmentally unsuitable content receive poor reviews. The final C is the child. Children learn in a variety of ways: active, exploratory, and sensory. The screen is just one of the ways to learn and play. Too much screen time can take away from other important activities such as reading, writing, socializing, pretend play, and active play. Balance is key.

When I visited the Meridian Library District this summer, the library was humming with children and parents, reading and checking out books, playing at computers, and on iPads. I asked Youth Services Librarian, Laura Abbott, about how the library selected their games and apps. She explained that all the technology in the Youth section was chosen for high quality educational content, good reviews from independent sources (such as Commonsense Media and Library Journal) appeal to kids (fun, interactive, and intuitive), and age appropriateness. Clearly, the Meridian Library pays close attention to the 3 Cs guidelines.

A question that is sometimes raised in discussions about childhood education is why have technology as an interface for learning at all? After all, many of us learned to read, write, and think, without apps. Why not just have pencil and paper, like the old days? This argument has some weight. In terms of the learning process, an app may not be superior to the low-tech ways that we gained knowledge in the past. However, there is good reason to expose children to technology at an early age, the main one being that computers and mobile devices are part of modern society. Not being able to use them with expertise will become a significant drawback as children proceed through school, into college, and the workforce. As the NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center joint paper on technology and media for children points out: “Young children need opportunities to develop the early ‘technology-handling’ skills associated with early digital literacy that are akin to the ‘book-handling’ skills associated with early literacy development (National Institute for Literacy 2008). The International Society for Technology in Education (2007) recommends basic skills in technology operations and concepts by age 5.

child with phone
Image credit: Spitzgogo_Chen. Some rights reserved. Cropped.

I was heartened to observe that children had a lot of opportunities to handle technology at the Meridian Library District. Even toddlers were enjoying tapping buttons and making things happen on the screen. Even if they may not be playing a game “correctly,” they are gaining valuable skills. In addition to the young ones, Meridian also caters to the technology needs of tweens and teens. The teen room had a lot of collaborative gaming going on when I visited. The library also holds Game Nights, where teens play “Hunger Games” (via Minecraft) in a group setting.

Given the aggression in the storyline of The Hunger Games, I wondered about the level of violence in the game content during the library’s group gaming events. Guernsey and others have raised concerns about early exposure to intense media content. Gratuitous violence in video games is problematic, but the Meridian library is careful about screening for such negative content. Besides, some exposure to higher conflict themes can be developmentally appropriate for older children. My own 10-year-old plays Minecraft, and I figure that childhood play scenarios that involve difficult and even somewhat scary situations can be ways for children to understand and negotiate the world around them. In previous generations, children participated in backyard war games, “cops and robbers,” or other dramatic play. Today, some of that gaming action has shifted to virtual screens. Interestingly, education researchers Jose Bidarra, Meagan Rothschild et al. point out that online game-play may, in fact, have created more dynamic learning experiences for the current generation of youngsters: “[F]reedom of choice, challenge, participation, transparency, integrity, collaboration, fun, speed, and innovation has become a part of students’ learning experiences. In this context, playing games may be an important aspect of learning as this generation’s game-playing experiences are more widespread than the game-playing experiences of previous generations.”

The Meridian Library District’s technology resources are very good and thoughtfully chosen. Laura Abbott was also excited about the library’s plan to develop a new space for tweens, 10-13 year olds. The library studied the youth demographic in Meridian and found that the 3 top ages of library-card holders are 11, 12, and 13 year olds, whose needs are a little different from the older teen population. The library is, therefore, investing in books, board games, card games, and iPads for tweens. Apps and games are another tool in the arsenal for childhood learning, in addition to reading, school, and sports. Parents and educators can harness children’s natural enthusiasm for games to enhance their learning and academic skills. The Meridian Library District has recognized the advantages of introducing kids to technology at an early age, and is a leader in Idaho for creative digital programming for youth.

List of Apps available at Meridian Library District
ABC Theater: The alphabet Song
Adding Apples HD
Adventures of Captain Underpants
Alphabet Fun
Angry Birds
Animals in Pieces
Another Monster at the End of this Book
Ansel and Clair: Jurassic Dinosaurs
Apha Books
Art Makers by ABC
Atlas Matter (By Kid’s Discover)
Bobo explores light
Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe
Bug Zoo HD
Children’s Picture Dictionary
Color Uncovered
Critter Corral
Curious George at the Zoo
Cyberchase 3D Builder
Daisy the Dino
Don’t let the pigeon run this app
Dr. Seuss Bookshelf from Oceanhouse Media
Draw along with Stella and Sam
Easy Studio
Eddy’s Party!
Elmo Loves 123’s
Endless ABC
Faces iMake
Felt Board
Fish School HD
Geography Drive USA
Growing Readers
iLuv Drawing Animals
Kids Discover Space
Kids Maps
Musical Me
My Storybook Maker
OM Bookshelf from Oceanhouse Media
Pete the Cat
Press Here
Reading Rainbow
Tacky the Penguin
The Sneetches
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Toca Band
Twinkle Twinkle
Wild about Books


Bidarra, Jose et al. “The AIDLET Model: A framework for selecting games, simulations and augmented reality environments in mobile learning.” International Journal of Web-Based Learning and Teaching Technologies. 8(4) Oct 2013: 50-71.  Retrieved July 20, 2015.

Julius, Gloria. “The 3 Cs for Choosing the Right Technology (Mobile Apps) for Children.” Feb 18, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

“Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.” A joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. Adopted Jan 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

Making Makers in Your Community Makes Sense

By Sue Walker, Library Consultant – Idaho Commission for Libraries

This article shares information compiled for a presentation at the 2015 Association for Rural and Small Libraries. The presentation focused on making activities in rural libraries and was developed to document how libraries are incorporating the maker culture into their programming and to demonstrate that making does not require large budgets, spaces, or numbers of staff.

Because STEM has been emphasized in making through Idaho’s “Make It at the library” and Montana’s “Montana Makers” projects many of the respondents had worked with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) tools and programs.  However, respondents also shared information about other making programs that demonstrate the variety of ways making can enhance programming, attract different audiences to the library, and allow the library to address an unmet need in its community.

The following information is taken from the two page executive summary.  The entire document linked below provides detailed analysis of the information gathered and shares specific programming ideas that have been successful in libraries in Idaho and Montana.

Background: Making is a hot topic in many educational organizations, including libraries.  For rural libraries, new trends raise concerns about staffing, programming, and funding new initiatives when staff may feel overwhelmed by current program needs.

Staff from the Idaho Commission for Libraries and the Montana State Library developed projects to introduce the making concept to libraries.  Cara Orban, Montana State Library Statewide Projects Librarian, and Sue Walker, Library Consultant at the Idaho Commission for Libraries, collaborated to develop a better understanding about making in the two states’ rural libraries.

Methodology: Library staff in the two states were invited to complete an online making survey which focused on the following topics: materials, training, space, partnerships, cost, and programming.  Follow-up was conducted to elicit more specific information on some questions.

Staff from two libraries in each state were interviewed to highlight their programs in more detail. The information is compiled in an electronic document that contains the survey questions, each library’s response to the survey, the full responses from each of the four highlighted libraries, and summaries of responses to each question.  The survey is arranged by library size to allow libraries to identify libraries of comparable size if desired.

The full document can be accessed here:

Respondent overview:

  • Response: 35 individual libraries: 28 public, 2 school/community, 4 high school, 1 middle school. In addition, 4 library branches from 3 different library organizations submitted responses, and staff from 4 libraries submitted more than one response.  All submissions are included in the electronic document.
  • Respondent demographics: Library size was determined by the number of cards issued for public libraries, and the student enrollment in school libraries. Libraries were segmented into the following categories: <5000 card holders, 5000-15,000 card holders, > 15,000 card holders.

Survey findings:

  • Materials: A large variety of materials are used in making. Since the Montana State Library and the Idaho Commission for Libraries provided materials to libraries in both states, those types of materials were the most commonly listed.  STEM tools currently are generating interest, especially newer tools such as 3D printers. However, the materials listed include everything from construction and deconstruction, textiles, photography, robotics, circuitry, and tools to create music and movies.  The type of materials used depends on the community’s needs.
  • Training: Most of the respondents had received some formal training as part of the projects sponsored by the two state agencies. This training was supplemented by hands on experimentation and learning from others. Training needs expressed focused on better knowledge of STEM topics such as robotics, engineering, and 3D printing.  Respondents also noted ways to better incorporate the tools into programming would be useful.
  • Space: More than 50% of respondents do not have a dedicated Maker Space. Meeting rooms, teen spaces, and other library spaces are used as needed.  Space components most libraries listed: tables, computers, shelving, and access to electricity. Space components depend on the tools used. Access to the space used for making varies widely. An equal number of libraries provide access whenever the library is open and only when maker programming is occurring. Most are as flexible as space and other programming allows.
  • Partners: Partners are an integral part of making. 100% of respondents listed at least 1 partner, two thirds listed 2 partners, and 11% listed 5 partners.  Partners included trainers such as teachers and professors, musicians and artists, and volunteers to help with activities. In-kind partners provided supplies, refreshments, and publicity.
  • Cost: Initial cost depend on the types of materials purchased, and many libraries received tools from their state agency. 25% of libraries estimated the initial cost was less than $1,000.00 and 70% less than $5,000.00.  Comments focused on the ability to start small and add tools as needed.  Several libraries used grant or gift funds or received material donations.
  • Programming: Many respondents had access to STEM materials provided by the state library agencies and used these resources with teens and other audiences. 3D printers are a big draw-even if participants are not designing or printing designs themselves.  However, other programs such as knitting, construction/deconstruction, and circuitry are also popular.  Programs that were initially designed for teens and tweens have expanded to include other audiences.
  • Program goals and achievement: The reasons for incorporating making into library programming are diverse, but all focused on providing more access to different resources to a variety of audiences. Most respondents feel they are slowly reaching these goals, but the progress is slow and varies from library to library.
  • General comments:
    Comments covered a variety of issues and should be reviewed in their entirety. General themes and accompanying comments:

◊ Don’t be afraid or intimidated
Don’t be overwhelmed just take baby steps and it will all come together.

◊ Start small and build from there
Start small and do it. Watch tutorials online, experiment and get your hands dirty. Try everything first; that will help ease fears and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

◊ Don’t try to do it alone-need staff support and partners
Staff must be interested and excited about the activities they choose to offer to the public. There are many activities and a library may choose some and leave other activities for partner organizations to offer outside the library. The library should be open to having guest instructors who are experts in their field. If a volunteer will help in the lab as a regular instructor or mentor, run a background check on that person and provide them with a “volunteer” name tag so they are perceived as official.

◊ Making is a culture which requires community involvement
The community that you are serving should guide the programming that is provided.


Tech Tools – What the Font?

EllieWelcome to (or back to) Tech Tools, a regular column of The Idaho Librarian devoted to informal discussion of practical technologies. As always, I welcome your comments, ideas, and feedback on this post or other technologies you would like featured in this column.


Microsoft Word 2013 includes 67 fonts, which seems like enough for any one person in a lifetime. But that number doesn’t even scratch the surface – in 2012 there were over 90,000 typefaces available for download, and that number is growing daily (Yves). It’s amazing to me that there could possibly be 90 variations of a single, recognizable letter of the alphabet, much less 90,000.

the letter q
14 variations of the letter Q. From L to R: Agency FB, Calibri, Calibri Light, Antique No 14, Arial Rounded, Baskerville Old Face, Bebas Neue Regular, Bernard MT Condensed, Bell MT, Dekar, Californian FB, Century Gothic, Century Schoolbook, Myriad Pro

What is one supposed to do with all of these fonts? How does one pick? Why does it matter? These are the questions that I attempt to address in this column.


There are several terms that mean something different in the typographic world than they do in common use. Below is a brief glossary of the most important. For the sake of brevity, these definitions refer to contemporary use, and do not include historical references.

bullet Font – A collection of symbols (usually letters, numbers, and punctuation) that are used to render type. Technically, a font includes only one style, i.e. Arial Black.

bullet Font family – A package of styles that is available for a given font. For example, the Calibri font family includes 6 styles – light, light italic, regular, italic, bold, and bold italic.

bullet Font Style – A font style refers to a variation such as bold, italic, heavy, or light. Some fonts come in so many styles it makes my head spin, while others may only come in 1 or 2.

swirlywind A font is what you use, and typeface is what you see. – Norbert Florendo, Font or Typeface?

bullet Point size – The size of the characters as well as the space around the characters. If you’ve ever noticed that some fonts appear larger than others at the same point size and wondered (as I have) why, now you know.

bullet Text – The words themselves and the structure of a series of words in order. Sometimes used as shorthand for body text, which is the text of the main body of a work, excluding elements such as the table of contents.

bullet Typeface – The design elements (style and shape) of a collection of symbols that comprise a font. This is an important distinction to typographers.

swirlywind Ty­pog­ra­phy is the vi­sual com­po­nent of the writ­ten word. – Matthew Butterick, Butterick’s Practical Typography

bulletTypography – “The practice of creating, selecting, and arranging or setting type” (Rosendorf).

swirlywind What font is used on the Absolut Vodka bottles? I don’t know. But I can tell you that the name “Absolut” is set in the typeface Futura Extra Bold Condensed. – Allan Haley, They’re Not Fonts!

In common usage, font and type are often used interchangeably, and the word font is used to describe an entire font family. Unless otherwise specified, I’ll use this convention.

Why do Fonts Matter?roundswirl

Make no mistake, your choice of type fonts is as important (if not as meaningful) as the content of your work.

swirlywind At­ten­tion is the reader’s gift to you. That gift is pre­cious. And fi­nite. And should you fail to be a re­spect­ful stew­ard of that gift—most com­monly, by bor­ing or ex­as­per­at­ing your reader—it will be promptly revoked. – Matthew Butterick, Butterick’s Practical Typography

Functional Impact

Font choice impacts your readers ability to focus on your writing in the following ways:

  • Fonts can give (or not give) structural cues about a document. These cues help readers find their place on the page and form a cognitive map of the information (Higgenbotham; Queen).
  • Fonts indicate the relative importance of portions or sections of the content within a document. (Higgenbotham).
  • The shape of the letters themselves (and the white space surrounding them) impact reading speed, comprehension, and attention (Santa Maria).

swirlywind Our ability to recognize words is affected by the shapes they form. All-caps text forms blocky shapes with little distinction, while mixed-case text forms irregular shapes that help us better identify each word. – Jason Santa Maria, How We Read

Aesthetic Impact

On an aesthetic level, your font choices have an immediate visceral impact on viewers. You have about 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression (Levy, 2008), and whether you do or not effects readers’ perceptions of the credibility, value and usability of your content (David).

In addition to this split-second first impression, viewers also experience
emotional responses based on aesthetics. Not only does this matter in terms of how your patrons feel about the library, it can have an impact on reading comprehension. This is because, while a pleasant aesthetic experience increases focus, an unpleasant one splits the readers’ attention between content and the negative emotional experience (Levy).Aside: The jury is still out when it comes to how fonts effect learning comprehension and retention. A 2011 study found that subjects presented with information in more difficult to read fonts were better able to remember the information 15 minutes later. The theory posited by the researchers is that individuals associate ease of reading with mastery, which results in decreased retention. (Diemand-Yauman, Oppenheimer, and Vaughan) However, other studies have shown that if the amount of information or the level of difficulty exceed the capacity of working memory, cognitive processes may be impaired (Yue, Castel, and Bjork).

Finally, consistent use of good font choices in marketing materials enhances brand recognition and keeps readers from becoming confused by materials that are visually diverse yet related (David; Higgenbotham).

Types of Type

There are many ways of classifying fonts, but for our purposes, we’ll talk about four broad categories:

bullet Serif (or seriffed) fonts have a small extra stroke at the ends of each letter. Most books use serif fonts because they flow nicely in large blocks of text.

Times New Roman has serifs


bullet Sans Serif fonts
don’t include these extra strokes. Though the adage that sans-serif fonts are best for on-screen reading has been called into question (Cousins), many of them are optimized for digital publishing.

Calibri is a sans-serif font

bullet Script fonts are designed to look like calligraphy or handwriting and come in two types: formal and casual.

Edwardian Script is quite formal. This type of font is most appropriate for wedding invitations and the like.

Architects Daughter is one of my favorite casual script fonts. I reserve it for personal projects such as designing daily planner printables, though I might use it for a handout if the situation is informal or the topic is artsy-craftsy in nature.

bullet Decorative (or display) fonts are unique fonts that are most often used in advertising, . Most decorative fonts look best when used for just a few words, and at larger sizes.

Archicoco is a decorative font So is Bauhaus 93 This is Magnifica, another decorative font. As you can see, this category includes a wide variety of font designs!




bullet Sometimes fonts overlap categories, such as in the two examples below:

TrashHand is an informal script font that is also decorative

Brush Serif – Colin is both an informal script and a serif font.

Font Personalitiesroundswirl

Another way to look at font design is to consider personality (also called voice). You may have heard that fonts have personalities and presumed that this was a colorful figure of speech.  Actually, believe it or not, people research this, and it’s

examplestrue – people associate fonts with personality characteristics. For example, one study grouped fonts into several personality categories, including directness,
gentleness, and cheerfulness (Li and Suen). Side note: I find these categories to be really weird, do you?

In addition to correlating fonts to personality traits, researchers in the field of visual rhetoric also try to identify the design features that lend a font its specific personality (Mackiewicz).

While this line of inquiry is interesting, it is probably not necessary to learn how to analyze typeface anatomy in order to choose a font that suits your purpose. If you think about it, these studies focus on perceptions that we already have. Therefore, in many cases, font selection is intuitive.

If you aren’t convinced, try the quick “Spot the Voice” test offered by typography expert Even Sorken in his article The Voices of Type. You’ll have to scroll down just a bit to see the quiz. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

swirlywind  When thinking about a typeface’s voice, its categorization/classification is not important. Instead, we need to know if the type is cheerful or dour. Is it relaxed or in a hurry? Is the type serious or frivolous? Luxurious or downmarket? Young or old? Fragile or robust? – Eben Sorken, The Voices of Type

Done? Great! I’m sure you passed the test with flying colors, but just in case, the next section offers some more concrete font-selection advice.

Font Tips

Consider your audience. Older adults will need a more legible font in a larger point size; teenagers may like something a bit flashy, and little kids – I have no idea, you tell me.

Save decorative fonts for titles, headers, and similar brief passages of text that you want to draw attention to.

bulletBe consistent – use the same size, font, and style for headers of the same level, for example.

bullet Don’t use all capital letters, as they’re harder to read. Also, I had a colleague once who used all caps to type emails, and IT SEEMED LIKE HE WAS YELLING ALL THE TIME.

bullet When using more than one font, they should be quite different in form. For example, if you choose a sans-serif font for a title, select a serif font for the body text.

bullet Except under extraordinary circumstances, two fonts is enough.


This column barely scratched the surface of what there is to know about typography, typefaces, and fonts. If you’re interested in the topic, or would like to explore, below are some resources that you may enjoy.

Finding & installing fonts

So the 67 fonts already installed on your computer aren’t enough, hunh? Me either. You can get free fonts from many sites. Fortunately, Creativebloq has a list of 36 Sites to Download Free Fonts.

Need help? Stephanie Evergreen of Evergreen Data has posted excellent instructions for both PC and Mac in her post titled Finding Fonts & Passing them On.

Tools for font afficionados

Flipping Typical is a website that displays your fonts in a browser window. Type text into the input area at the top of the screen, and you can compare how it looks in various typefaces.

flipping typical
I love Flipping Typical!

My Fontbook

Similar to Flipping Typical, but create a free account and use the Font Viewer to organize and rate your fonts.

Font Viewer

Further reading

Fonts in Use – You know how fonts are on signs, packaging, advertising, billboards, everywhere? This website tells you what they are.

Fontology – A typography workbook with a very nice glossary.

I Love Typography – A great blog with interesting and informative articles.

Professional Web Typography – If you’re composing for Web display, things are a bit different. This free online book has the details.

Typedia – An online encyclopedia of typography.

Typography Deconstructed – A very good reference for type anatomy.


David, Alicia, and Peyton R. Glore. “The impact of design and aesthetics on usability, credibility, and learning in an online environment.” Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration 13.4 (2010).

Diemand-Yauman, C., Oppenheimer, D., and Vaughan, E. “Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Italicized): Effects of Disfluency on Educational Outcomes.” Cognition, 118.1 (2011): 111-115. Print.

Higgenbotham, Daniel. Clean Up Your Mess: A Guide to Visual Design for Everyone. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Li, Y, and C.Y Suen. “Typeface Personality Traits and Their Design Characteristics.”Acm International Conference Proceeding Series. (2010): 231-238. Print.

Mackiewicz, Jo. “How To Use Five Letterforms To Gauge A Typeface’s Personality: A Research-Driven Method.” Journal Of Technical Writing & Communication 35.3 (2005): 291-315. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Queen, Matt. “How Much do Fonts Matter Really? (Hint: A Lot).” Creativelive blog. 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Rosendorf, Theodore. The Typographic Desk Reference: TDR. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 2009. Print.

Santa Maria, Jason. “How We Read.” A List Apart. 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Yue, Carole L., Alan D. Castel, and Robert A. Bjork. “When disfluency is—and is not—a desirable difficulty: The influence of typeface clarity on metacognitive judgments and memory.” Memory & Cognition 41.2 (2013): 229-241. Print.

Yves, Peters. “Bold & Justified: The Typographic Universe in Just One ideographic.” The Font Feed. 7 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Tech Tools: Got to Move it Move it!

Tech TalkEllie smiling

Welcome to (or back to) Tech Tools, a regular column of The Idaho Librarian devoted to informal discussion of practical technologies. As always, I welcome your comments, ideas, and feedback on this post or other technologies you would like featured in this column.

Got to Move it Move it

I’m sure you’ve heard that “sitting is the new smoking,” a turn of phrase coined by Dr. James Levine, head of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative (McVean, 2014).  Many librarians have jobs that are comprised in large part of desk work, and do not have access to sit-stand workstations, much less the treadmill workstations that Dr. Levine recommends. This makes it difficult to incorporate movement into one’s workday, especially when deadlines loom, and when do they not loom? With that in mind, I’ve reviewed several free online tools to help you get moving throughout the day.

belly dancers
(c) Jeannie Fletcher, some rights reserved.

FitBolt –

FitBolt is too that reminds one to do a brief exercise or stretch at regular intervals. For $3/month, the premium version will additionally provide nutrition and ergonomics tips. The FitBolt website provides instructions for integrating with FitBit, RunKeeper, and Daily Mile, though I have not tested this feature.

FitBolt is available as a Chrome or Firefox plug-in, as a desktop application, and as a Web app. There is very little difference between the options, except for where the FitBolt window is viewed.

The browser plug-in option displays an icon next to the address bar, as with any other add-on. The desktop app does the same on the toolbar of your OS – in Windows, this is the bar at the bottom of your screen showing what you have open as well as anything you’ve pinned to it. The Web app displays on a Webpage that is left open while using FitBolt. All of these options are easy to install/launch from the FitBolt Dashboard. For this review, I’m using the Chrome plug-in.

This partial view of the FitBolt user dashboard shows the four ways of using FitBolt on the right.  Settings are on the left.
This partial view of the FitBolt user dashboard shows the four ways of using FitBolt on the right. On the left side of the screen several settings options are shown.

Settings include frequency of exercise reminders, a chime on/off toggle, a browser notifications toggle, and the choice of stretches, quick exercises, or both. Once FitBolt is launched, it isn’t necessary to keep the Dashboard open. The dashboard also displays an area titled “last 7 days use,” but I wasn’t able to get this feature to work.

fitbolt app
The FitBolt icon shown on Google Chrome to the left of my, Pomodoro timer, Pinterest, and Pocket icons. Hovering over the app will display a popup box showing how much time is left before a break.

To use FitBolt, click the icon to see a popup window which includes a countdown to the next exercise session; buttons to pause, do an exercise immediately, and view exercise history; and a link to the user dashboard.

When the timer indicates that it’s time for an exercise session, click the FitBolt app icon to see concise instructions with photos. If you don’t like the stretch/exercise on tap, click the little running man on the top right to generate a new one. All of the stretches and exercises can be done in a small space and do not require equipment.

The FitBolt popup window during an exercise session. The portion above the blue arrow near the top right shows what will display in between exercise sessions.
The FitBolt popup window during an exercise session.

I like the flexibility of being able to set the timing for my breaks and I found it easier to take breaks when assigned a quick exercise. I found that I didn’t lose my focus as much as I do when taking free-form breaks. I recommend FitBolt to those who have trouble taking breaks and find that the extra structure is helpful.

Regular Breaks –

Regular Breaks is a super-simple Web-based timer system. After registering for a free account, you can set up breaks by intervals or specific times and track your progress by clicking the chart icon.

regular breaks
Regular breaks is an easy, streamlined break timer.

Changing the settings for your break reminder is easy – just click the gear to the right of the reminder window. Setting up a new break works the same way, but start by clicking the “+Add” link near the top of the screen.

The options for a break reminder are simple, but it does what I need.
The options for a break reminder are simple, but thoughtful.

When it’s time for a break a browser notification (and a sound, if chosen) will alert you to this fact. Click in the browser notification window to record the break, which will allow you to track your progress over time by clicking the graph icon displayed to the right of each reminder.

The browser alert popup for Regular Breaks.
The browser alert popup for Regular Breaks.
To validate a break, move your cursor into the area outlined in gold for 10 seconds. No need to click your mouse.
To validate a break, move your cursor into the area outlined in gold for 10 seconds. No need to click your mouse.

I like the simplicity and usability of Regular Breaks, and appreciate the ability to track progress but I did not find that I was as likely to take breaks without the addition of an exercise reminder. However, because it’s easy to set up multiple breaks of any duration, one could certainly create a program with specific activities scheduled throughout the day. Regular Breaks is a great tool for people who are motivated by seeing progress but don’t want to be told what exercises to do and/or for people who want the flexibility of setting up multiple breaks.

PYV (Protect Your Vision) –

OK, so the “sitting is killing you” thing isn’t about your vision, but eyes do involve muscles, and staring at a computer screen all day causes eye strain. PYV is a Web-based app that reminds you to take a break from looking at the computer screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. There is also an “Eyes Gymnastics” feature, which provides instructions for a series of 4 eye movement exercises.

The PYV screen.
The PYV screen. I’m not sure what the character is supposed to be, but s/he is certainly cute.

No account is required for PYV, just go to the Website and click start. There are three themes to choose from, including Sunny (shown), Space (what it sounds like), and Simple (plain background).

Since PYV is Web-based, your Internet browser must be open while PYV runs. However, it is not necessary that you be using it, since a pleasant alarm reminds you that your eyes need a break. At this point, return to the browser window and choose to take a 20-second break, to have PYV remind you in 3 or 5 minutes, or skip the break. During a break, the computer screen is blacked out, which I found rather soothing.

I like the short breaks (who can’t take a 20 second break, right?) and found it helpful to give my eyes frequent rest. Having more than one app remind me to do do something got to be a bit much, so I would suggest choosing one break reminder, and using it as a reminder to move your body and your eyes.

How to Pack A Room: 3D Printing at Albertsons Library

by Deana Brown & Amy Vecchione

Images by Heather Grevatt

Reasons for a maker culture in an academic library

Libraries have a history of helping their communities create, whether it’s writing a paper or acquiring new information on a topic. Libraries have always helped communities learn new skills, and sometimes those skills are best acquired through creating. As technology has advanced, libraries too have evolved to boost individual’s digital fluency skills by providing tools and resources to help understand and experience new technology. Albertsons Library strives to helps students, staff, and faculty innovate by encouraging collaborative opportunities that promote information access and digital fluency skills. Providing campus-wide access to a 3D printer fits perfectly with this aim by bringing students, faculty, and staff together to investigate a new technology.

Faculty, staff, and students exploring maker culture and technology at the MakerMixer event in Albertson Library's Collaboration Lab, October 2014.

Albertsons Library supports the makers on campus through a variety of methods, including yarn bombing activities during finals, displaying student’s artwork, and hosting a MakerMixer event where all campus makers could connect. Most recently, Professor/Librarians Deana Brown and Amy Vecchione collaborated with History Professor Leslie Madsen-Brooks on the creation of an ornament for the White House and Instructables ornament challenge. The creators viewed this as an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of how best to learn 3D design and printing. This process served as a way to begin developing a 3D printing service by investigating and troubleshooting common issues where the end goal is to provide 3D printing services to the entire campus community.

Our RepRap, built by Citizen Scientific Workshop.Aside from increasing students’ digital fluency skills there are lots of reasons that academic libraries should have a 3D printer. Prototyping is something that students in all disciplines will have to do in an ongoing manner. Developing a 3D design is an academic work, and can be stored in your institutional repository alongside peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. This will also increase access to your work, and provide a means of establishing ownership over the design. Overall, it’s a great reason to teach individuals about author rights and Creative Commons licensing. Faculty members are requiring students to create a 3D print as an assignment. Faculty are also creating 3D objects to use as manipulatives for their classroom. Some faculty members are even using the 3D prints as a way to make topographic maps accessible to individuals with varying degrees of sight ability. Lastly, on our campus, some individuals are using 3D printing for sculpture and visual poetry, even being included in their thesis or dissertation.

Digital Fluency

College students arrive at Boise State at varying stages of digital fluency, but this critical skill is incredibly important to be successful in academia, and in their future employment. Libraries promote all kinds of literacy, and the digital know-how is something we can provide for free in a democratized environment. Equal access to digital equipment can give students an advantage in their job searches.

Companies are expecting students to be able to code in HTML, or to design an object or create something from start to finish. The digital fluency skills students acquire in the 3D design and printing process translate beyond 3D printing. Working through the process gives users an opportunity to work on their problem solving skills in a supportive environment where a “failure” isn’t seen as a roadblock, but as a speedbump. The reward being a sense of satisfaction in going from idea to tangible object.

The Mobile Learning Initiative defined digital fluency for Boise State as “an evolving aptitude that empowers the individual to effectively and ethically interpret information, discover meaning, design content, construct knowledge, and communicate ideas in a digitally connected world. We believe this aptitude thrives when inquiry, play, and exploration are valued and encouraged as meaningful learning experiences.” Albertsons Library is excited to empower our community to increase their digital fluency skills through inquiry, play, and exploration in a supportive environment.

As Albertsons Library is the informal learning hub on campus, we will begin offering a 3D printing service on campus in Spring 2015. Our other maker technology includes hundreds of computers, scanning equipment, video editing stations in the Collaboration Lab, green screen, and our technology check out which includes raspberry pi kits, iPads, video camera, and more! Albertsons Library is poised to facilitate the expansion of of digital fluency across campus.

Connected Learning

Two main factors help students succeed in college: direct, one-on-one contact with a faculty member, and the creation of a group of peers who can help them through the roadblocks towards graduation. To facilitate and encourage the creation of these learning networks, we have held a Maker Mixer event and started a student 3D printing/ maker club. These have served the purpose of connecting people to one another, and to tools to further their learning. The connections made in these informal learning environments provide continuity and awareness of connections not previously seen by the campus community members.

As we work together towards creating a 3D print with a student, we help them become aware of a myriad of services – information sources like databases, faculty members interested in their field, or volunteer and community oriented interests – that they may be really interested in pursuing. These connections help the library become a hub of dynamic information and learning.

Our Process

When presented with this new endeavor, our first reaction was to go into research overdrive. We looked at news articles, academic articles, started following 3D printing blogs, watched webinars, joined social media groups, searched for other universities offering 3D printing, and borrowed from their LibGuides. This was all before we’d even had our first training with the printer! Once we had our first training with the printer, we had a better idea how long prints would take, the amount of prep work needed to get files ready, and the particulars of our printer. This informed our understanding of how the printer might be incorporated into the library’s current services, and lead to another round of information gathering. This second time around we were more focused on service models and how to incorporate it into the curriculum.

Getting Engaged

While learning to use the printer, the team started to think about the process of getting other faculty, staff, and students involved. Since the goal of having the printer located in the library is to make it available to everyone on campus, we wanted to create opportunities to connect and educate. To get these conversations started, we decided to begin by educating stakeholders within the library. The team hosted a talk where the basics of 3D printing were covered, concerns around “Why in our library?” were discussed, as were plans for a 3D printing service. Erica Compton also spoke about maker culture and design thinking principles. This first talk allowed the team to connect with internal collaborators while educating all staff about 3D printing. Shortly after this first talk, the 3D printing group had their first training for library staff and work study students.

After a few months cutting our teeth on the printer, the team felt confident enough to start training other staff on the basics of 3D printing. We invited staff from the 3D printer group, and select staff members, to participate in training on the 3D printer. We asked trainees to arrive with a 3D model they had either created from scratch, or downloaded. They were put in the “driver’s seat” and given a tutorial to walk through. This gave them valuablehands-on experience, while providing a safe and supportive environment where a 3D printer team member acted as coach.

While the 3D printer team was working on developing the tutorial and their skills, there was a very soft release to the campus community about the printer. An online form where users could request a 3D printer consultation was shown to internal staff and promoted at the MakerMixer event. This tool and event were used to spark interest and connect with collaborators across campus. It worked! Through this tool, students and faculty have contacted the library about 3D printing, and a student club for those interested in 3D printing and making is evolving.

We placed a white board marker outside the window where the 3D printer resides and have been asking people who stop by what we should name the 3D printer. We don’t have a name yet, but have lots of suggestions from Big Dilly to Big Blue to Trois D.

Window with dry erase marker where community members can offer printer name suggestions.

Creating a service model

We held weekly meetings to discuss how to begin a 3D printer service. Many staff members were interested for a variety of reasons that ranged from wanting to know how to actually use the printer, to knowing those in their liaison areas would be interested and therefore asking about it. Our proposed service model evolved as we learned more about the 3D printer. After the printer arrived, just a few people ended up working with the printer on a daily basis. The comparative 3D printing services on our campus are open to a limited number of students who are taking one highly specialized course, or the cost is prohibitive as it is for businesses in the community. A library offering this service is democratizing access to an important learning tool.

In general this is what we have learned: be prepared to change as your perceptions about the service and user needs change; no two libraries have the same service model; keep in mind what your stakeholders needs are as you develop the service.

Learning from failures

Uttering the words, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” can be both frightening and exhilarating. Frightening, because we are often sought out for our expertise, and uttering these words means a lack of knowledgeable. Exhilarating, because saying these words means you are starting a new adventure, and pushing yourself to learn something new. Learning something new can leave one feeling vulnerable, so we wanted to give ourselves the necessary room to learn, and be supportive of each other’s learning process. With these ideas in mind, the library’s 3D printing team began the journey of learning how the printer works, while modeling how we intended to facilitate users’ learning.

Some of the objects created with the 3D printer

There were high and low points during the learning process. Some days we were very excited to work with the printer, other days it languished as other responsibilities took precedence. The more we learned, the more comfortable we felt troubleshooting. The more troubleshooting we did, the more confident we felt in our knowledge, and were comfortable sharing that knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge took the shape of a 3D printed object, sometimes it was knowing how to adjust the printer’s settings. Those printed objects didn’t always turn out how we wanted, but we were okay with that, because we were still able to learn from them. We kept all of the misprints, and now use them as learning tools when showing others where we started, and where we are now. We are not done learning. We have only just begun a journey, for which we do not know the end. It is both frightening and exhilarating.

Deana Brown is an Assistant Professor and Librarian in the Reference and Instruction unit at Boise State University. She liaises with the Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology departments, and is active in working groups investigating user experience, space needs, and emerging technologies. Areas of interest include breaking down physical and mental barriers to access, developing instruction tools that effectively incorporate technology, and discovering areas where art and design intersect with librarianship.

Amy Vecchione is an Associate Professor and Head of the Digital Access Unit at Albertsons Library, Boise State University. As a leader she cultivates team work, develop user centered services using user experience principles, encourages experimentation, has a strong customer service ethic, believes in seamless access to resources, and constantly strives to make libraries they best place they can be using assessment of user behavior.