Tech Tools: To-do List Test Lab

Ellie Dworak

Tech Tools

Welcome back to Tech Tools, and thanks to those of you who read and tool the poll after last issue’s inaugural offering!

Tech tools poll

As you can see, only five people voted, which is not a great response rate, but the five of you who did respond seem to like, or at least sort of like, the column format. So, without further ado, I present to you this month’s column!


To-do List Test Lab

Does it ever seem as if managing your to do list (or lists!) takes on a life of its own? It does to me, and I am always on the lookout for ways to stop focusing on what I need to get done and start just getting it done. There’s an app for this, right? I’m kidding. But still, there must be an app that will make it easier, right? Of course, answering this question is a project in itself. A Google search for “time management tools” turns up an overwhelming number of opinions and online tools that that promise to improve my life via improved efficiency. Upon discovering a promising tool, the process of testing is time consuming, and implementing even more so. Knowing that I am not unique in this time and task management conundrum, I have compiled my research observations regarding three to do list products for this issue’s Tech Tools.


I chose to focus on just to-do list tools. While the products below offer bells and whistles of various sorts, I left the heavy duty project management and task tracking systems for another time. These tools are also all freebies. Though a premium version is available for each of the product below, my review will focus on the free version. Finally, all of these bad boys can be used on the Web and both Android and iOS mobile devices (iPhones and iPads) at a minimum.

Todoist –

Todoist is a great to-do list and task manager with little learning curve and is available on the Web with Android and iOS apps. If you are a tinkerer, Todoist also offers an impressive list of plug-ins and extensions to explore.

Once you’re set up, create tasks and organize them into projects. Assign a time (single or repeating) and a priority level from 1-4 to each task. Project lists can also be created as secondary (or tertiary, and so forth) to other projects.

Todoist login screen
Todoist start page example. This is the Web version, but the apps are very similar. My start page defaults to tasks due in the next 7 days. View only the tasks assigned to a project using the menu on the left side of the screen.
Adding a task in Todoist is super simple - choose the project list that you wish to add to from the left menu (in this case, "not work"). For tasks with dates, type in a date or use the popup menu shown here.
Add a task by choosing the project list from the left menu (in this case, “not work”). For tasks with dates, type in a date or use the popup menu shown here.


Network icon.

Clicking on the small network icon (shown enlarged to the left) above the task edit data window will give you the option of sharing or assigning tasks via email. The same is true of projects.

Pros: Todoist has a low learning curve with a well designed, visually pleasing interface. Even the Android and iPad apps don’t require decrypting an elegant but meaningless icon set. Does one thing (organize to do items) very well.

Cons: Adding reminders or notes to a task item are premium features. I cannot blame the developers for this, and at $29/year, the product is not overpriced by any means, but it is a consideration.

Recommended for:  Individuals who want or need to break activities down into their individual components and keep them organized but don’t necessarily need their phone or computer to remind them to do things (unless, of course, you choose to pay for a premium account). – is a beautifully designed task management app that is so streamlined that at first glance it’s hard to believe it does anything, when in fact it is quite busy at work for you.

Though can be accessed via the Web, I recommend downloading one of the mobile apps first if you wish to try this product. This is not to say that the Web interface is bad, just that the app really shines when used on its home turf.

anydo interface
The app as displayed on my Android phone. This is the list view.

There are two view options in, the “list view” (shown to the left) and the “date view.” Both views are very simple, with little detail to clutter the screen. Add a task using the box at the top of the screen or next to the lists themselves (which will auto add the task to that list).

Tasks can be added by typing (or “Swyping”) into the box next to a + sign or choose the microphone icon and talk, presuming that you have a device which will support this option. I didn’t think I would like this way of adding tasks, but I found that it is one of my favorite features. detail task detail view.







After adding a task, select it to see and/or add more detail (see the screenshot above). These are the sort of cryptic icons that I mentioned Todoist not using, and while I enjoy the elegant design, I prefer a bit more context. However, I could identify five of the seven without clicking on them.

Most of the options are useful but not unusual – there are icons to prioritize; set a reminder time and frequency; add sub-tasks; email; and move a task into one of your lists. One feature that is unique to the others in this group is the option to add a note that includes an attachment which will display with the task. This is demonstrated below.

Add a note, an image, and/or another type of file to your task.
Add a note, an image, or a file to your task.

Any’do’s signature is the “ moment,” which is a time each day (selected by you) upon which the app will remind you to “take a moment to plan your day” and displays a screen that shows the tasks that you have asked to be reminded of. Those who use’s sister calendaring app, Cal, will also see their daily agenda.

Pros: has created a very efficient way to enter and view to do items when using limited screen space. A free account includes all of the important functionality, while a paid account (currently $27/year) adds some bells and whistles such as location-based reminders (I am imagining “oh look, Albertsons! Pick up pasta!”).

Cons: This app is designed to be a virtual personal assistant, integrating one’s daily agenda into one gently nudging subordinate who knocks quietly to remind you that the boss is coming by at 4:30 and arrives with a martini just as you need one. This is tempting, but just not how I work. I want more control over my boundaries. For example, if I’m at work, I want to see my work to-do list exclusively, and will set an alarm if I have a pressing personal task or engagement to attend to. That said, this is a great tool, and I think that maybe some of you will love it. I hope so, it’s from a good family.

Recommended for: Individuals who want to add an item to their task list and not think about it again until it’s due, or those who always forget to pick up the pasta and really could use that nudge when they are near Albertsons.

Remember the Milk –

Remember the Milk (RTM to those in the know) is a handy little to do list app with a solid Web interface and apps for iOS, Android, and Blackberry. It’s been around since 2004, long before our phones thought they were smarter than we are, and is known for solid functionality without the glitz and glam.

RTM's Web interface
The Web interface for RTM isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done.

RTM is based on lists, which display as tabs. After adding a task, select it to add or review the associated information. Enter choices in natural language – for example, to repeat a task daily, type “daily” or “every day.” Other actions can be applied by checking the box next to one or more tasks and choosing “complete,” “postpone,” or one of the many other choices listed in the popup menu.

RTM more options
Detail of the “more actions” popup menu. The priority options are useful when sorting tasks.
RTM task data detail
Detailed view of the task data box. Notable alongside the usual suspects are the time estimate field and information about the number of times a task has been postponed.

Pros: Like Todoist, RTM lets you review your task lists individually or together, but RTM allows one to sort by priority, due date, or title of task within each of these views, which is helpful when managing more than one project or aspect of life.

Cons: Like Todoist, reminder notifications are reserved for paid subscribers (a pro account is currently on offer for $24.99/year). In addition, though the iOS and Android apps are free, synching is limited to once every 24-hours for those with free accounts.

Recommended for: Individuals who prefer to manage tasks on a computer and like to be able to focus on one project at a time while also being able to review due dates in one list. Those who rely heavily on mobile access or would like regular reminders may be better off with a pro account or another tool.

The Reveal

You may be wondering which choice I made. My top choice is Todoist, but in truth, I continue to use Google Tasks, because it integrates with Google Calendar, which is the the chosen calendaring system for Boise State University. Because I can see my tasks in the “all day” are of my daily agenda, I’m able to get a sense of my ability to fit them into a given day or week, and thus to keep most of my balls in the air most of the time.

google tasks
Google tasks displays to do items with dates at the top of each days agenda. On the right side is the popup window that displays when you click in the “All day” portion of that day’s screen and choose “task” (the default is “event”).

However, Google Tasks has some limitations. You can only view one list at a time, which effectively defaults me to using only one list for everything because otherwise I lose the benefit of reviewing all of them synchronously with my calendar. In addition, repeating tasks and prioritization is not supported and Google has not developed an app or fully functional mobile version of Tasks (I find Google Tasks Canvas to be barely useful). However, for those who do not mind the basic simplicity of the Google Tasks model, but require mobile access, there are third party apps which synch with Tasks – I use GTasks, available for Android devices.

But wait, there’s more!

There are, of course, many more options for those in search of the perfect solution. Four that have caught my eye but didn’t make the cut for this column (mainly due to the fact that they are more than to do lists and deserve more attention) are Wunderlist, TickTick, Toodledo, and Evernote. If you’ve used one of these (or something else) and have comments about them, please feel free to comment! I’d love to get a conversation started about how those of us in libraries manage to manage our lives.


Pound That Presentation: Connect with Twitter Users via Hashtags

Chances are that, as an information professional you have a pretty good idea of what Twitter is and its potential for libraries and educators. Twitter is “an online social networking website and microblogging service that allows users to post and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets” (Statistics Brain, 2013). That simple description belays astonishing numbers: over 241 million monthly global users, who send over 500 million Tweets per day (Twitter, 2014). This gusher has shaped the social, political, and cultural fabric of our connected world. If that sounds too grandiose let’s not forget how Twitter has continually managed to keep pace with text, pictures, and video on a global scale, with events such as the Sochi Winter Olympics, the socio-political unrest in the middle east, the so-called the Arab Spring that started in 2010 and, most recently, the 2014 Academy Awards, commonly known as The Oscars. The host, Ellen DeGeneres, tweeted the following status on her personal Twitter account:



That single tweet, favorited and retweeted (shared) several thousand times throughout the night and following days, broke the record for being the most tweeted status in Twitter’s history–it has garnered over 3 million retweets. Notice also the pound sign and keyword combination: “#oscars.” That lowly ‘#’ symbol is a big reason Twitter has been able to connect people in powerful new ways, and it is one aspect of Twitter I want to address.

The ‘#’ symbol followed by a keyword is known as a “hashtag” or simply “tag” in social media circles (I will use it interchangeably in this document), and it is “used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages (Twitter, 2014).” Twitter users created it, and hashtags have proved useful to content producers as well. These range from social media people and events, to cleaning products, to government agencies as a way to have their content recognized in media and social networks. By adding a tag to a show, concept, or presentation, they let viewers and participants know that by searching for a particular tag on Twitter they can find additional tweets or information about that event, and to share it accordingly to others in their own social networks. Twitter makes sharing that content easily by means of retweeting (or re-posting) said content.

For example, Boise State (2013) posted the following at the start of the 2013 Fall semester:


Others include television and cable programming, who have recently begun to use hashtags in their programming and especially in prime time shows. Examples include Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey which places a “#cosmos” tag above the station’s digital on-screen graphic:


AMC’s The Walking Dead (2014), which regularly adds badges and accompanying tags to keep an ongoing conversation about specific episodes, regularly tweets content related to its series, and adds multiple tags when appropriate:

For information professionals, Twitter is great tool for discovering and sharing conference proceedings, social events, or simple gatherings. These can be from local, city, county, state, regional and international entities; to nonprofit, for-profit, commercial, educational, and government circles.

As Twitter continues to grow (remember that 645,750,000+ figure?) it becomes apparent that your Twitter followers, big or small, will gain some nugget of knowledge as you tweet your experiences throughout the day, especially if those tweets contain research-related material. This is particularly true if your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a rich and well populated one. A PLN, according to Lalonde (2012), is “an informal learning network of people you connect with for the specific purpose of learning, based on reciprocity and a level of trust that each party is actively seeking value added information for the other.” Twitter enhances this particular type of network nicely.

I recently attended a free webinar on how to find reliable international statistics, and provided numerous website links. This was relevant stuff for anyone in education and information fields, something to be shared widely and enthusiastically. However, because this particular presentation did not include a hashtag (and, as it is often the case, at least for me, to multitask and share research-friendly tweets whenever I am able to), I felt the resources and ideas from this presentation were not fully shared to a potentially appreciative audience–mainly those research-happy Twitter users. This was a missed opportunity. First, it ignores Twitter folks as viable message enhancers–before, during, and after the event has taken place. Without a hashtag to unite under, users are likely to create their own to separate the witnessed event from their general Twitter status posts. Second, if several people attend the same event (some via online, some on-site) their potentially useful tweets will go unnoticed by others as there is no anchoring tag to keep the tagged conversation going; or many tags are borne out of the same conversation, thereby diluting the overall message. Third, it ignores the backchannel such events generate: hashtags provide the easiest way to help promote, keep track, and disseminate the presentation’s key concepts throughout and after the presentation; it helps unify the overall narrative and provides a channel that empowers conversation to take place–the impressions, links shared, and commentary that provide added insight even to those who come in late to the conversation, or where not able to attend altogether.

A simple search from the Twitter website, or at hashtag search sites like or offer countless tagged events linked to all manner of content useful to your Twitter followers or profession. The simple hashtag can change your event and open it up for wider discussion. And it is not only presentations that benefit, but ongoing conversations on Twitter supply a steady mix of subject and profession-specific tags. For example, library professionals can connect with others via popular chats or conversations with tags like #libchat, #library, #books, #reference, #librarian and many more. For educators there are even more opportunities to engage with others, such as Sean Junkins’ tweet, with the graphic “Make today “Invite a Friend to a Twitter Chat Day”:


And Doug Lederman’s (editor of Inside Higher Ed) post:


As an active Twitter user and information professional who enjoys sharing research tidbits, I strongly suggest adding a hashtag to your presentation (on every slide if possible), event, or social gathering. This digital stream of consciousness shared via tags is a powerful connector because it ties differing user experiences, on a variety of social media outlets, to a specific narrative or concept. And one you can revisit any time. A presenter who does not add a hashtag to their presentation–and it seems a simple enough task–misses an opportunity to have their shared to a wider audience. Let your Twitter PLN in on the action!

Here are some tips on how to best use hashtags for your particular event or presentation:

  • Use initials or keywords that best describe your topic, or that tie-in to a conference or event. Do not make them too simple or you will likely copy someone else’s tag. Check to see see if yours is available, or to make your own.
  • On a tweet, hashtags are hotlinked. Click on a hashtag to see all the tweets that contain your particular tag.
  • Do not use spaces, commas, or diacritical marks as they break the hashtag’s continuity and link.
  • You can combine letters and numbers but avoid special characters.
  • Make the hashtag as short as possible as the character length will count against the 140 character limit. You can add as many hashtags as possible, but it is considered gauche to add more than two.
  • Hashtags are not case sensitive so capitalize words to make them easier to read: #digitalarchives to #DigitalArchives.
  • Hashtags can be placed anywhere on a tweet.
  • Make your own hashtag if a presenter does not provide one. It will at least help keep your own tweets threaded.

Memo Cordova is a Librarian/Associate Professor at Albertsons Library – Boise State University


Boise State. [boisestatelive]. (2013, Aug 6). Soon, our beautiful campus will be filled with the best! Use the #boisestate hashtag when you share… [Twitter post]. Retrieved from

Druyan, A., & Soter, S. (writers), & Pope, B. (Director). (2014, Apr 6). Hiding in the Light [Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey]. FOX & National Geographic. Los Angeles, California: Fuzzy Door Productions. DeGeneres, E. [The Ellen Show]. (2014, Mar 2). If only Bradley’s arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars [Twitter post]. Retrieved from: (2012). Retrieved from

Junkins, S. [sjunkins]. (2014, Apr 14). Make today “Invite a Friend to a Twitter Chat Day”. [Twitter post]. Retrieved from

LaLonde, C. (2012, September). How important is Twitter in your personal learning network?.

Retrieved from

Lederman, D. [dougledIHE]. (2014, Apr 15). About to start an @insidehighered chat about

globalization issues in higher ed — hashtag is #iheglobal [Twitter post]. Retrieved from:

Statistic Brain. (2014). Twitter statistics. Retrieved from (n.d.). Retrieved from

Twitter, Inc. (2014). Using hashtags on twitter. Retrieved from

The Walking Dead AMC [‏WalkingDead_AMC]. (2014, March 29). Here’s your #TWD badge for watching #Isolation! #TheWalkingDeadMarathon [Twitter post]. Retrieved from

Tech Tools – Infographics, Free and Easy

big smile 2 by “Tech Talk” Editor Ellie Dworak

I have always had an affinity for the useful. When we learned origami in grade school, I was the one making little boxes, one of which I believe my father still uses to store paper clips on his desk. I suspect that many in the library profession feel the same way. And so I am happy to announce The Idaho Librarian’s new Tech Tools column, which is devoted to informal discussion of practical technologies and their application to a library setting. I hope that you’ll join the conversation by adding your own ideas, questions, tips, and experiences as comments; by letting me know what you want to know more about (and what you don’t); and perhaps even by guest authoring.

And so, without further ado, welcome!

Infographics: Free and Easy

Whether it’s a budget report, results of a survey, or trends in reference desk statistics, data is often better received when it’s presented in graphical form. Numbers come to life, trends can be clearly visualized, and survey results are shown with context. Even processes and ideas sometimes lend themselves to pictures, and of course no librarian is complete without the ability to generate an occasional Venn diagram! [nb. I’m totally kidding – most of us would survive].

The term “infographic” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data in an easily understandable form.”1 That definition encompasses a number of everyday objects such as maps and the instructions that come with Ikea furniture. To me, though, the word implies a certain amount of flair – more than a lone graph sitting on a spreadsheet or a diagram showing which screw to put in which hole.

There are a lot of options for creating graphs, charts, and other visuals. Microsoft ™ products such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all have tools built into them, for example, and of course there are pro tools for those who have the skills and the budget. All of those options have their place, but for those of us who want to create awesome visuals on the fly, there are a number of free online products designed specifically for the purpose of making it easy to present information graphically – and to do so with panache. Rather than writing “a number of online products,” should write “an overwhelming number.” Some of them are specialized, such as, which will generate an infographic based on your resumé and timeline JS, which specializes in graphical timelines (big surprise, I know). Others tools focus more on the “info” than the “graphics.”

Since I can’t cover them all, I’ve chosen two of my favorite general purpose, online infographics tools (which is to say, no download is required), both of which are easy to use, so that you can get in, get out, and get on with your job! Both of these tools allow you to sign up for a free account or you can sign in with Facebook or Google account.

Ease.lly – has one of those silly names with a dot in it, but I’ll forgive that because this is a great tool for creating infographics. In fact, it’s so great that it won an American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning award in 2013. is completely free, and is not just a toolkit, but also a site where creator’s infographic are posted. These examples be used for inspiration or as templates (aka vhemes). Just a few of these are shown in the screenshot below.


I recently used one of these templates to create a quick flowchart to guide staff from another library unit who help cover our email and text message reference services. I pulled this together in approximately 20 minutes (shown, slightly modified to protect the innocent, below) and it would have been quicker were I not a little OCD about the color and placement of every “yes” and “no.”


Though it’s fastest to use a vheme, you can also start from scratch. Menu choices are selected by dragging and dropping an item on to your work area. The screenshot (above) shows the menu options for background colors and patterns. Below you’ll see the lovely beige reptilian print that I’ve chosen for my new infographic, along with menu options for objects in the “music” category. On the left side of the screenshot a popup menu lists the other object menus. In addition to a plethora of background, object, shape, and text choices, images can be uploaded and used as objects.

Once completed, save your Infographic project, then click the ‘share’ link to get a custom URL or download your project as a jpeg file. In addition, your projects can be set to private or public.

As with any software, it’s important to review the Terms of Service (you all do that for every iTunes update, right?). I saw nothing particularly alarming about’s legalese, but sent them an email to clarify the legality of my use of screenshots in this article as well as any copyright restrictions on graphics created using the software. I received a response within the hour which read:

So you can use your creations in anyway that you please, we don’t restrict you in anyway. We do always like our users spread the word about our tool so that we can continue to grow.
Thanks for the opportunity!

After a few minutes of fumbling around, I found to be both intuitive and feature-rich enough to be fun and functional. The main limitation is that it’s not set up to manage data sets, so any charts or other representations of data have to be added in as graphical elements. This is no problem for static data that is relatively simple to demonstrate. In addition, the canvas size cannot be increased, so larger infographics will best be managed elsewhere.

Ellie’s almost scientific learning curve ranking for

easelly use scale

Ellie’s very nearly precision creativity ranking for

easelly creativity

Piktochart –

Piktochart is, like many free online tools, also available in a pro version for a fee ($39.99 a year for students and educators). I’ll cover the free version, with a few notes about the pro version.

Like, Piktochart’s main page displays a pleasing array of themes, which are templates to use as starting points. However, unlike, most of the awesome themes in Piktochart are only available to pro users. Still, there are a few themes available to free users, and they’re helpful for beginners. In the image below, I’ve used a theme called “Minimalist Presentation” as a starting point. It is also possible to begin with a blank slate, but I recommend trying out a template first unless you’ve used similar tools.

piktochart template

Piktochart is based on “chunks,” each of which represents a content area. Upon clicking on a “chunk,” a popup window offers canvas size and placement options, shown above in the center left. In addition, chunks can be resized and moved using your mouse to drag them. In this regard, Piktochart offers some creative flexibility over, since not only can chunks be resized or added, they can vary in background color or image.

Other elements such as text, graphics, charts, and maps are added to chunks by selecting them from menus. Like, each menu provides a number of options (and another invitation to “go pro” and retrieve more). In addition, a separate menu across the top of the screen offers file choices such as “undo,” “redo,” and “delete.” Below, the menus are shown along with some of the options for background.

piktochart yay

Where Piktograph really shines is in the ability to add data and have it display within your graphic. To do this, select “tools” from the menu and either add data to the spreadsheet that pops up or import data from a file on your computer. In addition, Piktochart offers a dynamic data option, but I am not that into data, so if you need to use this option, you’ll need to look elsewhere for insight. Below I’ve created a simple spreadsheet with a doughnut chart.

Along the left side of the chart area you will see other chart types, which you can click on to see how your data looks in a variety of representations. Additionally, colors and other look and feel options are available in the “settings” menu. Below is the same data represented in an icon matrix made of hearts. You’re welcome.

When you’re done with your customizations, save and choose a sharing method (image download, web, or email) and you’re on your way! Below you can see the Infographic that I created for this demo in whole.
Ellie's Infographic Fun House

Though I had not (at the time of this writing), hear back from Piktograph asking for clarification of any copyright restrictions that they place on work produced using their software, note that the free version of Piktograph does insert a small attribution at the bottom. It is my assumption that the company would like the attribution to remain in place for the free version of their software – in my view, a small price to pay for free. At any rate, I once again recommend reviewing the Terms and Conditions information.

While Piktochart has some additional features which add a level of complexity, I found the menus to be very usable. I prefer selecting items by clicking instead rather than dragging and found the prominent edit icons along the top to be a handy feature. In terms of creative flexibility, Piktograph offers some features that does not, but the free version does not come with the range of built in themes or objects.

Ellie’s almost scientific learning curve ranking for Piktograph
usability ranking piktochart

Ellie’s very nearly precision creativity ranking for Piktograph
creativity ranking piktochart


I love and Piktograph equally, and for different reasons. is free, robust, and super easy, plus they have great support. There are hundreds (thousands?) of themes that can be used as starting points, and it comes with a full set of icons and other objects. Overall, it’s a great tool if you’re seeking an quick and easy way to demonstrate fairly straightforward information visually.

I recommend Piktograph for tech-comfy users who want the added flexibility of a chunked canvas and/or who prefer to add data in a spreadsheet format – and who aren’t put off by the attribution. For those who have reason to create infographics regularly, the pro version appears to be well worth $40/year.

So . . . what did you think?


1. “info-, comb. form.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. Web. 6 May 2014.

Idaho libraries shake up the maker movement: Creating makers, then spaces

by Teresa Lipus

make it copyMakerspaces bring people together to collaborate, create, design, and share resources and knowledge. With increasing frequency these makerspaces are being started in libraries. By providing materials, instruction in the use of new technology, and an environment that supports the creative process, libraries are powerful equalizers that level the playing field for their users who may not otherwise have access to these hubs of community engagement.

Makerspaces were launched in five public libraries across Idaho through “Make It at the Library,” a pilot project implemented in 2012‒2013 by the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL). These pilot libraries represent diverse geographic regions as well as rural and urban communities: Ada Community Library, Community Library Network, Gooding Public Library, Meridian Library District, and Snake River School/Community Library. The project initially focuses on engaging teens through maker activities to draw them into these innovative spaces. The makerspaces will eventually be available to the entire community as the project evolves.

The “Make It at the Library” project provides the necessary materials and training for pilot library staff to implement creative, STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) programming for tweens and teens. The project also includes training on leveraging partnerships, involving community, and evaluating outcomes.

Getting started

ICfL project coordinators Erica Compton and Sue Walker looked at desired outcomes, available funding, ideas for tools, and various proven methods for achieving their goals. They built in face-to-face trainings and virtual check-ins to keep communication flowing; established timelines for programming requirements; and researched fun, open-ended materials and tools that could provide sufficient guidance for library staff and exploration opportunities for kids. They also developed evaluation methods and outlined staff requirements.

ICfL provided the pilot libraries with STEAM manipulative kits and materials; customized curriculum; intensive training focused on makerspaces, programming, and design process; technical support; and evaluation tools. ICfL staff also created a webpage that outlines project details and a Facebook page to document progress, share lessons learned, and highlight successes. Additionally, ICfL staff members and participating staff from the pilot libraries have presented locally, nationally, and internationally to share what the Commission and libraries are learning.

Expectations for pilot libraries

By the end of the pilot project each participating library will:

  • Attend six days of face-to-face trainings and three to five virtual trainings and check-ins.
  • Dedicate the staff and space necessary to create a temporary or permanent makerspace.
  • Use evaluation tools and anecdotal information to gather data on the number of teens participating in project events, interest in and efficacy of STEAM programming in the library, increase in knowledge of program topic areas, and best practices for improving and/or expanding programming for teens in the makerspace.
  • Create, implement, and submit eight teen projects/events using the STEAM materials/curriculum and at least six “stealth” (informal) programs to be implemented in the makerspace.
  • Complete all memorandum of understanding (MOU) requirements.

The three libraries with branches have additional requirements to demonstrate how to scale the project up within a library system, and were required to send multiple staff members to each face-to-face training session.


Pilot libraries were selected in December2012. Three webinars and three face-to-face trainings were scheduled from January through November 2013. Other webinars will be held to provide additional training as needed.

Materials and tools

ICfL wanted to provide a variety of STEAM materials and tools so libraries could explore many different programming ideas. Tools were Maker movement 2selected that support project objectives, align with Common Core Standards, allow for complex projects, introduce motorized designs, include curriculum and project ideas, and include trainers or local support when possible. Choices include materials from PCS Edventures!, Reuseum, Maker Media/MakerShed, and RepRap MendleMax 3D Printers.


It was essential to enlist an experienced trainer to work with the team, and PCS Edventures provided Kellie Dean to lead the workshops. Dean is an expert on experiential learning and helped build the foundation needed to implement the pilot.

The trainings included discussions on the design process, inventory management, partnerships, evaluation, and formal and stealth programming. Staff members were encouraged to work as teams, making their colleagues an invaluable support system as they moved forward. Plenty of time was provided to work with the tools and brainstorm ideas on how to best use them in library settings. Significant time was spent with the curriculum, learning technical nomenclature, building principles, and how to extend projects in new directions. Staff members were also given an opportunity to talk about their library’s unique needs and brainstorm ways to engage the teens in their community. Frequent check-ins helped make sure that everyone was comfortable with the content and only then moved forward with more challenging projects.Maker movement 3 Maker movement 4

At a November 2013 workshop, staff will be trained on 3D design and on using 3D printers. Maker Media out of San Francisco will train on e-textiles and circuitry.

Project evaluation

Compton and Walker designed tools to help evaluate the program on two levels:

  1. Library users: To evaluate the effectiveness of the makerspace activities and programs, they developed a survey tool to poll actual participants—as a group— before and after an activity. It is designed to record changes in skills, attitude, and behavior. So far there has been mixed success, but the survey is being modified as it is used and tested for effectiveness.
  2. Libraries: To evaluate the overall project from the libraries standpoint, ICfL is looking at attitudinal changes; circulation; attendance; space usage; and feedback from partners, community members, and library staff.

“We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone involved,” says Compton. “And after each training staff members are ready to move forward—exploring new tools and creating and implementing programs of their own.” Walker adds, “As we encourage the use of new technologies, we also tap local innovators, such as PCS Edventures! and Reuseum. We have recommended that libraries also team up with community partners and leverage local entrepreneurs. Pilot libraries have been creative in building partnerships, working with local engineers, artists, and other makers. Ada Community Library partnered with a local sheep rancher to learn all about wool production. Kids of all ages were given the chance to wash, card, and dye wool and then create a simple bowl with the finished material.”

Promoting the project

Excitement about the maker movement is huge. Idaho’s “Make It at the Library” project gained national attention this year and from there has attracted the notice of other countries interested in innovation at U.S. libraries. In 2013, ICfL project coordinators Compton and Walker and participating staff from the pilot libraries have presented to audiences at several venues including:

  • Boise Mini Maker Faire, which included TED-style talks at Boise Public Library on day one with Compton and Walker, and hands-on workshops and demos in a science fair format at the Discovery Center of Idaho on day two with Compton, Walker, Nick Grove and Megan Egbert of the Meridian Library District, and Travis Porter of Ada Community Library.
  • American Library Association Annual Conference, which included an overview, a brief hands-on opportunity with the tools, a presentation from Compton, an Animoto Videofrom Kate Radford of the Meridian Library District, and a Powtoons presentation from Egbert, who also related the presentation, as told through Twitter, at
  • Pacific Northwest Library Association conference, which included a presentation by Grove, Porter, and Jennifer Redford of Boise Public Library on how libraries are implementing makerspaces to engage community participation and creativity.
  • Afterschool Alliance webinar, where Compton noted the important role that libraries play in afterschool education and described how libraries are using the makerspace activities and related stealth programming to engage kids in STEAM learning.
  • Association for Small & Rural Libraries (ASRL) Annual Conference, where Porter and Timothy Owens, Senior Program Officer in State Library Programs at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, shared ways to reach teens by adapting ideas from the maker movement.
  • Idaho Library Association Annual Conference where Compton and Walker discussed using makerspaces to engage teens with STEAM.Maker movement 5 The importance of critical thinking, leveraging failure, and persistence in the design process were also highlighted.
  • Innovation in U.S. Libraries video conference broadcast into the U.S. Embassy in Paris, where Compton, Porter, and Egbert (using video teleconferencing equipment at ICfL) were joined by the Detroit Public Library Hypespace, Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the University of Pennsylvania. They described for high level French officials how Idaho libraries are fostering the acquisition of STEM and 21st Century skills with makerspaces.

Making it work

The libraries are doing an exceptional job implementing programs at their libraries. Below are some examples of how the pilot libraries have integrated the maker culture into their libraries and embraced making in all forms.

  • Some libraries implemented weekly open making time. Others have a variety of programs offered throughout the week—each with a specific topic or focus.
  • Not all programming is at a specific time and place. Stealth challenges prove to be a good way to expand the makerspace idea and allow participants to be creative on their own time schedule. Daily or weekly challenges are set out and require little or no staff time to implement. Some libraries tethered digital cameras near the challenge so kids could snap a picture of the finished project and enter it into a weekly contest.
  • One library is looking at creating an outdoor makerspace where gardening, nature, and other related activities can be implemented.
  • One library has set aside time for a Maker Day for staff.  All staff will have time to work with the tools to ensure that they are well-informed and actively promoting the project to the community.
  • One library incorporated the PCS Brick Lab® and Idaho’s sesquicentennial, providing new challenges that incorporate different parts of the Capitol Building or other parts of Idaho history.
  • Branch libraries jumped on board and tried out programming right away. Kits were thrown in cars and taken on the road.
  • One library’s bookmobile took their PCS BrickLab® out and had a mobile makerspace!

What we’ve learned

  • Training: Extensive training is vital. You need an experienced trainer, time to practice, reflect, and then come back for more. Scaffolding the learning (designing it to build on prior knowledge) is imperative.
  • Communication: Ongoing communication is essential. Having Maker movement 6frequent virtual check-ins, emailing reminders to staff about requirements, and keeping in touch through Facebook has enhanced the experience and helped ensure its success.
  • Inventory: Many of the resources provided had thousands of tiny parts. Inventory management is something each library needs to think through to discover what works in their situation.
  • Teen response: Teens learn fast and they naturally work together well. They can be competitive and enjoy a challenge. They have tackled feats of engineering and explored principles of physics, all while having a blast. One teen said of a soldering activity, “I never knew it would be so cool to melt things into other things.”
  • Space: Actually creating a permanent space for making is easier said than done.

“Not all of the libraries have dedicated spaces yet,” says Compton. “We started out thinking that every library would. However, we quickly found that this was going to be a major challenge. So we switched our focus from creating makerspaces to creating makers. One piece of advice I would give is to not let the lack of space stop you from starting a makerspace. I know that sounds contrary, given that it is a makerSPACE, but it’s not. Embrace the idea of temporary spaces, moving spaces, rotating spaces—and it all will work out.” Here’s how one library used a temporary space for making, over a time span of three hours:  time lapse video (1:13) of Meridian Library setup, programming, and take down in July 2013.

“The biggest surprise in adding a makerspace to our library has been how it made us rethink our entire library and what we do…going beyond just a collection,” says Egbert.

What’s next

With the increased emphasis on STEAM skills, it is a natural step for libraries to expand their role in helping  people learn valuable skills through makerspaces and other innovative programs. Libraries can provide the space, tools, encouragement, mentors, and support for people to create and make. Libraries are looking at their collections and space in new ways, reevaluating and re-envisioning ways to find dedicated space for the “Make It at the Library project” and keep their communities engaged in emerging trends.

Porter notes, “Making is unpredictable by nature so we need to be comfortable guiding the process wherever it wants to go.”  And Walker says, “Flexibility is key to everything we do. Each library evolved their programming, their space, and their philosophy slightly differently based on their unique needs. Every one of them had the experience of trying something, then coming back to the drawing table and saying, ‘Well that didn’t work like we thought it would. How can we make it work better?’ And, of course, that philosophy is at the heart of being a maker and so it fits right in!”

The “Make It at the Library” project is made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and a grant from the Micron Foundation. See more on the Idaho Commission for Libraries website at and on their Facebook page at

Teresa Lipus, Public Information Specialist, Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) with significant input from Erica Compton and Sue Walker, ICfL project coordinators.

Four creative ways to say yes in information services

by Damaris Lewer

It is easy to become entrenched in how library services have always been done and keep telling people “sorry, we don’t have that.” However, building a dynamic library service requires actively listening for the things patrons keep asking for, seeking out opportunities for growth, and finding creative ways to say “Yes.” Instead of dismissing ideas due to existing constraints, the Meridian Library created a wish list of services and found ways to implement them using a mix of new technology, existing resources, and ingenuity.

Offering Faxing and Scanning services

The Meridian library has long been a place that helped patrons complete job applications and other important paperwork by providing access to technology, loaning out USB drives, and offering printing services. However, we did not offer faxing or scanning services and often had to refer frustrated patrons to the nearest FedEx or UPS store. Though installing a dedicated fax line was too expensive, we still wanted to meet this demand and provide a one-stop service experience to patrons. Ultimately, the Meridian library decided to try offering faxing via online service as a cost-efficient alternative. We purchased space-saving Doxie scanners ($149), which made scanning easy once connected directly to the computer.  Once scanned in, documents could be saved as PDFs and uploaded for faxing or e-mailing. We tried several online fax services. The first, FaxZero, was free but restricted faxes to three pages per fax and limited the daily number of faxes sent to five. FaxZero also required users to have an e-mail address and required them to access their e-mail after “sending” the fax to authorize the actual sending of the fax by clicking on a link. The number of steps involved in the process was difficult to explain to patrons and the page limit required us to say no to a large number of people.  Since FaxZero did not adequately meet our needs, we switched to HelloFax and subscribed to a monthly plan (19.99$ per month for up to 500 pages sent). This allowed us to fax multiple pages easily and provided added options for signing documents and e-mailing scanned documents using the online service. HelloFax does not require the sender to have an e-mail address and allows information services staff to complete the entire faxing process at the desk. Documents sometimes take up to 15 minutes after sending to arrive, but confirmation of the sent fax can be conveniently e-mailed to the patron if desired.

Color printing and copying

The option to print and copy in color has been another frequent request by patrons, and, as with faxing and scanning, we had to direct patrons to a FedEx or UPS store. Our main obstacles to offering color printing were the increased cost of the color cartridges and the lack of adequate equipment. When we replaced our old copy machine, we eliminated the technical constraint by purchasing a color copier with scanning capabilities (Konica Minolta bizhub C224e) that allows patrons to copy in either black and white or color. We set up our public computer stations with an option to print to the copier to receive color prints. Our IT staff was able to set the color printing and copying charge to 25 cents per page instead of the 10 cents charged for black and white copies using our existing SAM printing system.

15-minute Express computers

Many patrons rely on libraries for convenient online access and printer use. Unfortunately, at the Meridian Library at Cherry Lane, waiting periods for computers of up to an hour are common during afternoon peak times. Even at our Silverstone Branch, there are times of day when patrons have to sign up for the computer wait list. Having to wait is particularly frustrating for those who only need to print a coupon or check their e-mail for a minute. To better accommodate short-term computer needs, we converted an existing search computer into a 15-minute Express computer that cannot be reserved. The Express computer still requires a patron to log on, but the wait to complete a quick computer task is never frustratingly long. As this computer is stand-up, patrons rarely use the computer for extended periods of time, even though they could theoretically log on repeatedly. The Express computer has worked so well that we converted a second computer at our Cherry Lane location and installed an Express station at the Silverstone branch.

Checking out Leapsters and early-literacy iPads

Since we began offering e-book and e-audiobook check-outs via Overdrive, patrons have often asked library staff for help using their various electronic devices, or sought out input on which device to purchase. We have provided assistance on setting up and using electronic devices, and provided an assortment of devices patrons could preview at the library as part of a “technology petting zoo.” In an effort to allow patrons to take home electronic devices and try them out for a longer period of time, we began to experiment with checking out Leapsters and iPads to the public in May 2013. With the goal of combining access to technology with exposure to fun and educational early literacy resources, we pre-loaded the devices with a selection of early literacy apps. (For a full list of the apps loaded onto our devices, see Appendix A).

Because the Leapsters had limited space, we split up the pre-loaded apps available on each device by topic—reading, math, science, and miscellaneous. While patrons were initially interested in the different Leapsters, demand dwindled within a few months to a few people who liked the devices and continued to come back for repeat check outs. Some patrons gave feedback that the Leapsters were prone to bugs and did not work reliably. Staff was also less excited about the Leapsters, since they are more work-intensive to recirculate. Since users are able to create multiple visitor accounts, the devices have to be reconfigured by IT staff each time they are returned. The iPads on the other hand have continued to be very popular, with about two thirds of the available devices checked out at the moment. The iPads require minimal maintenance: on check-in, we simply delete the browser history and delete any pictures. After re-charging, they are ready to be recirculated.

To facilitate efficient circulation, all electronic devices are set up so patrons cannot download new apps or delete existing ones. The devices circulate in zipper bags with chargers included. To ensure patrons understand their responsibilities in checking out an electronic device, they are required to fill out a form (see Appendix B and C) acknowledging that they understand the terms of use and that they are responsible for any damages. Devices circulate for 14 days and late fees are assessed at five dollars per day after a two-day grace period to encourage prompt return. Unlike our other library materials, which patrons from local LYNX consortium libraries can place on hold and request to have sent to their home library , electronic devices cannot be put on hold to prevent damage from transporting them in the courier. Overall, checking out electronic devices has been both popular and successful. None of the devices have been returned with damages, and we look forward to expanding the service in the future to include electronic device check outs geared towards tweens, teens, and adults.

Damaris Lewer is the Assistant Branch Manager at the Meridian Library @ Silverstone

Appendix A

Leapster Apps


  • Casey Cat Has a Hat
  • Finding Nemo: Lost and Found
  • Letter Factory Flash Cards
  • Clifford’s Rhyme Race
  • Super Why!: Royal Reading


  • Cha Cha Chicken
  • Monkey Soccer: Math League
  • Team Umizoomi: Street Fair Mix Up
  • Math Adventure to the Moon
  • LeapSchool Math
  • Number Bash


  • Busy Builder
  • Carnival Construction
  • Disney-Pixar Finding Nemo: Reef Builder
  • Garden Love
  • Scholastic Bug Genius
  • Scholastic Magic School Bus Dino Shuffle


  • Caillou: Outdoor Fun
  • Coloring with Leap, Tad, & Tilly
  • Cool Blox: Penguins on Tour
  • Sesame Street: Travel Songs

iPad Apps

  • ABC Theater: The Alphabet Song
  • Adding Apples HD
  • Alphabet Fun
  • AlphaBooks HD
  • Animaux en Pieces HD
  • Another Monster at the End of this Book
  • Ansel & Clair: Jurassic Dinosaurs
  • Art Maker by ABC’s Play School
  • Barefoot World Atlas
  • Bobo Explores Light
  • Bug Zoo HD
  • Children’s Picture Dictionary – A to Z Flash Cards
  • Color Uncovered
  • Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar for iPad
  • Critter Corral: Math learning games for preschool and pre-k
  • Curious George at the Zoo for iPad
  • Cyberchase 3C Builder
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App!
  • Dr. Suess Bookshelf
  • Draw Along with Stella and Sam
  • Easy Studio – Animate with Shapes!
  • Elmo Loves 123s
  • Endless Alphabet
  • Faces iMake – Right Brain Creativity
  • Felt Board
  • Fish School HD – by Duck Duck Moose
  • Geography Drive USA
  • Grow a Reader
  • iLuv Drawing Animals – Learn how to draw 40 animals step by step
  • Kids Maps – U.S. Map Puzzle
  • Musical Me! HD – by Duck Duck Moose
  • My Story – Book Maker for Kids
  • OM Bookshelf
  • Pete the Cat: School Jam
  • Press Here: the App
  • Puzzleography: World Geography Puzzle Game
  • Reading Rainbow
  • The Sneetches – Dr. Seuss
  • Tacky the Penguin
  • Toca Band
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: the Experience
  • Where’s My Water?
  • Wild about Books

Appendix B

Electronic Device Agreement – Leapster

My signature below indicates that I am 18 years of age or older and have read the Electronic Device Agreement and the Electronic Device Guidelines and that I abide by these conditions of use when checking out an Electronic Device by the Meridian Library District:

I agree to accept full responsibility for the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me.

  • I will not tamper with the Electronic Device, accessories, and digital books, attempt to load digital books, or attach any equipment not designed for use with the Electronic Device.   INITIALS _____
  • I will not place the Electronic Device in any of the book drops, but will return the Electronic Device and all accessories to the Meridian Library at Cherry Lane Circulation Desk, the Meridian Library at Silverstone Circulation Desk, or the Bookmobile. If I place the Electronic Device in a book drop, I will be subject to      financial penalties and will not be able to check out an Electronic Device in the future.   INITIALS _____
  • I will pay a late fee of $5.00 per day if I fail to return this Electronic Device to the appropriate desk by the date due.   INITIALS _____
  • I accept full financial liability for the Electronic Device and accessories, while in my possession. INITIALS _____
  • I agree to pay all costs associated with damage to, loss of, or theft of the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me. INITIALS _____
  • I agree that the Library may use any appropriate means to collect the amount owed for fees, damage, loss, or theft of the Electronic Device and that my record will be submitted to collections within 30 days. INITIALS _____
  • I acknowledge that failure to to pay any amount owing will be considered an outstanding debt to the Meridian Library District and will be added to my library record. INITIALS _____
  • I agree that failure to comply with any of these rules and guidelines will result in the in the loss of the privilege of borrowing an Electronic Device. INITIALS _____
Customer Name:  ___________________________________Customer Address:  _________________________________Customer   Signature:_________________________________

Customer Library Card Number:_______________________


1. Leapster Explorer   ($70.00)2. Leapster power cord   ($9.00)3.leapster charging unit ($40.00)

4. Bag ($2.00)


Staff Initials:   __________

Device barcode number:   _________________

Due   Date ____________________

The check out limit is one Electronic Device per household at any given time.  The Library reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who abuses equipment or is repeatedly late in returning Electronic Devices or who places the Electronic Devices in the book drops.

Appendix C

Electronic Device Agreement – iPad Mini

My signature below indicates that I am 18 years of age or older and have read the Electronic Device Agreement and the Electronic Device Guidelines and that I abide by these conditions of use when checking out an Electronic Device by the Meridian Library District:
I agree to accept full responsibility for the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me.

    • I will not tamper with the Electronic Device, accessories, and digital books, attempt to load digital books, or attach any equipment not designed for use with the Electronic Device.   INITIALS _____
    • I will not place the Electronic Device in any of the book drops, but will return the Electronic Device and all accessories to the Meridian Library at Cherry Lane Circulation Desk, the Meridian Library at Silverstone Circulation Desk, or the Bookmobile. If I place the Electronic Device in a book drop, I will be subject to financial penalties and will not be able to check out an Electronic Device in the future.   INITIALS _____
    • I will pay a late fee of $5.00 per day if I fail to return this Electronic Device to the appropriate desk by the date due.  INITIALS _____
    • I accept full financial liability for the Electronic Device and accessories, while in my possession.  INITIALS _____
    • I agree to pay all costs associated with damage to, loss of, or theft of the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me. INITIALS _____
    • I agree that the Library may use any appropriate means to collect the amount owed for fees, damage, loss, or theft of the Electronic Device and that my record will be submitted to collections within 30 days.
    • INITIALS _____
    • I acknowledge that failure to pay any amount owing will be considered an outstanding debt to the Meridian Library District and will be added to my library record. INITIALS _____
    • I agree that failure to comply with any of these rules and guidelines will result in the in the loss of the privilege of borrowing an Electronic Device.   INITIALS _____
Customer   Name:__________________________________Customer   Address:________________________________Customer   Signature:_______________________________

Customer Library Card   Number:______________________


iPad Mini ($338.00)iPad Mini case   ($64.00)iPad Mini charging unit- USB cord and AC charger ($9.00)

Bag ($2.00)


Staff Initials:   __________

Device barcode number:   _________________

Due   Date ____________________

The check out limit is one Electronic Device per household at any given time.  The Library reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who abuses equipment or is repeatedly late in returning Electronic Devices or who places the Electronic Devices in the book drops.

Information Professionals and Technology

by Nancy Venable


Those in the information professions are at the forefront of changes in technology and information access.  They easily see the impact of the changes on society and work to continue serving patron needs regardless of format.  There are, however, conflicting opinions as to whether there has been an explosion in information technology advances or whether there have been slow and steady technology advances that are only now impacting society.  To decide which is correct, the librarian as information professional must be aware of the technology progression and how they must work to meet patron needs in a changing technological society.


Understanding the history and attitudes involved leads to a greater perception of the arguments.  Whether arguing for or against rapid information technology, their advances and resulting impact on society are backed by the histories of libraries and librarians.  The records also detail the attitudes of librarians on a variety of changes, present and future, to library technology.

Grossman chronicled the history of several librarians and changes to libraries from 1895-1940.  To those who experienced it, the Progressive Era, 1895-1920, was a time of rapid changes through movable type and future scientific and moral progress (Grossman, 2011, p. 108).  One Italian librarian, Guido Biogi, saw the future post-1904 as a place of worldwide interlibrary loans sharing information with even the poorest country and making books available to all through sound recording (Grossman, 2011, p. 107).  His global interlibrary loan plans were well received; however, the technology of books as sound recordings was viewed as a threat to print material and a “radical speculation” (Grossman, 2011, p. 107).

The Depression Era libraries looked forward to further changes in technology (Grossman, 2011, p. 109).  These still early days of electronic technology were on the edge of a great unknown, a world increasingly open to information sharing and storage.  Ranganathan, author of the five laws of library science,  believed in 1931 that libraries would change in ways he could not even conceive, where “a day may come when the dissemination of knowledge [will be] by means other than the printed book” (Kwanya, Stilwell, & Underwood, 2010, p. 2).  Avery Craven, in 1932, saw libraries of the future economizing, planning nationally, and regularly using technology through microfilm for document preservation and television for interlibrary loans (Grossman, 2011, p. 112).  R.H. Carruthers, 1937, Sidney B. Mitchell, 1938, and Robert Bingham Downs, 1948, all saw microfilm as crucial to the future as libraries shared collections and stored information (Grossman, 2011, pp. 115, 120-121).  Ethel M. Fair, 1936, predicted technology would help librarians better serve individuals and society, rapidly turning over the collection, (Grossman, 2011, p. 120) while her contemporary, Robert C. Binkley saw microfilm as a way to “lead the whole population toward participation in a new cultural design” (Grossman, 2011, p. 121).  Overwhelmingly, these librarians advocated the sharing and preservation of information through current and future technologies.

The gradual move from accepting microfilm and sound recordings to using computer technology in libraries was definitely shaky.  The 1943 chairman of IBM, Thomas Watson, said, “I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers” (Schwirlich, 2010, p. 22).  Library advocate  Jesse Shera met with similar computer biases from librarians in 1956 and 1964.  Shera was promoting the computer as a way for libraries to deal with an increasing amount of information but was frustrated by librarian “fear of and resistance to the new machines” (Grossman, 2011, p. 124).  Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Company (DEC) said in 1977, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home” (Schwirlich, 2010, p. 22).  This mixed reaction to the future use of computers was a roller coaster ride for libraries until the 1990s and the advent of the World Wide Web.  The subsequent “rapid adoption of the Internet throughout society” (Grossman, 2011, p. 124) and the need for libraries to work with the advances in information technology could no longer be denied.  Regardless of pessimists such as Bob Metcalfe, who said in 1995, “I predict the internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse” (Schwirlich, 2010, p. 22), the Internet remains in existence with applications expanding throughout the world’s societies.

Kwanya, Stilwell, and Underwood argue that, while libraries have always been in a state of change, “…current societal change is so fast that traditional library change management mechanisms cannot cope effectively with it” (2010, p. 2).  The rapid change view is supported by UK studies of Internet use: in 1998, nine percent of UK households had home Internet access; in 2003, it was forty-nine percent; and by the end of 2006, it was sixty-seven percent (Morris, 2007, para. 4).  This is a remarkable increase of technology use throughout a majority of society.  Those without Internet are largely those cultures affected by age (over 65 years old), low income, and lower level of education (Morris, para. 7-8).  In Victoria, Australia, with under 55% at adequate adult literacy, household Internet connections went from 32% in 1998 to 78% in 2008 (Schwirtlich, 2010, p. 23).  Certainly this is an indicator of a rapid acceptance and use of information technology.

Technological changes have quickly affected the way members of society communicate.  The widely adopted ability to communicate electronically with technology has moved countless years of face-to-face interaction and many thousands of years of written correspondence into a back seat.  They have been replaced with the online interactions of social networking, Internet communications, and networked information and knowledge (Miller & Wallis, 2011, p. 122).  Online communication using the Internet is different than traditional methods.  According to Edwards and D’Arcy, online interaction necessitates “the ability to seek out and use others as resources for action and equally to be able to respond to the need for support from others” (Miller & Wallis, 2011, p. 123) on a technological level.  This is also expressed as “knowing how to know whom” (Miller & Wallis, 2011, p. 123), working and communicating collaboratively through the Internet regardless of borders.  This comes as no surprise to traditional college-age students, 18 to 24 years old.  These digital natives have grown up without knowing a time different from our technological information age.  To them, the use of online sites and Web 2.0 applications for education, social contacts, and working with the library is second-nature (Cassidy et al., 2011, p. 381).  A study done by Cassidy, Britsch, Griffin, Manolovitz, Shen, & Turney did find digital natives using social applications for peer interactions more often than traditional methods.  Education and learning applications were used only as needed for a class or when students found them convenient for multi-tasking, such as PodCasts, e-books/readers (2011, p. 382), and reference chat (2011, p. 389).  The changes in communication created by technology have been fully embraced by society with users eager for the next application development.

Librarians have differing opinions on the rate of technological changes and its influence on society.  Such dissimilar attitudes may have actually affected the librarians’ perception of whether information technology advanced and impacted society rapidly or not.  Those who have been open to changes have seen a pattern in the progression of technological advances.  Steady developments in information technology have a rapid impact when more people are affected.  On the other hand, they may see the information technology changes without looking at and understanding the impact that has been made on society; these people will believe that the changes have been slow, steady, of little import, and will refuse to apply them in their own information areas.  This writer finds little support for the arguments of the latter group.  The changes from clay tablets to typewriters spanned many thousands of years; the changes from fountain pens to i-Pads, from using pencil and paper to creating correspondence through a computer application, has happened in less than a generation.  While computers and information technology took some years to be adopted by general society, they were rapidly accepted and fully embraced when academic, household, and especially social applications were available.

No one can truly predict the future of information technology and libraries.  What librarians can do is understand society and societal influences, be aware of advances and declines in information and technology, and be open to support the patrons (Schwirtlich, 2010, p. 22) when they adopt a new technology.


The implications of technology’s impact on society relate directly to librarianship.  The advice of Jesse Shera in 1933 still applies, “the all-important fact to be remembered is that the library is distinctly a social phenomenon and as such is susceptible to all the influences that react upon our social structure” (Grossman, 2011, p. 125).  In a time of fast results through technology, society is increasingly used to getting what they want, when they want it.  They expect no less from the library and its staff.   As a result, and regardless of cost, libraries are expected to make their resources quickly accessible online, across many platforms, interactive, and easily located and researched (Schwirtlich, 2010, p. 23).  To meet all of these expectations, librarians must be creative and dedicated to the end service product of fulfilling patron needs.

In Victoria, Australia, libraries are working with the government to improve network access and benefit the community as the library becomes ‘borderless’.  It will exist on the Internet with librarian information brokers and on location as a place for community innovation and information sharing (Schwirtlich, 2010, p. 24-25).  These libraries are working within Ranganathan’s five laws: 1. Books are for use; 2. Every book its reader; 3. Every reader his book; 4. Save the time of the reader; 5. A library is a growing organism (Kwanya, Stilwell, & Underwood, 2010, p. 4).  While the term ‘books’ has become exclusionary in an age of technology, libraries are able continue Ranganathan’s laws by interpreting for changes in technology and working to continue the library’s growth in all areas.

Librarians must meet patrons’ skill needs by developing programs that help patrons become more comfortable, effective, and successful through technology literacy.  Bridging the digital divide, or the Internet and electronic technology information gap, is increasingly necessary for the vast population’s success.  In current society, “information and knowledge is power” (Morris, 2007, para. 11) and those without Internet access and skills are becoming the “information poor” (Morris, 2007, para. 11).   Since the library and its access to information exists everywhere, without physical barriers, it is also the library’s responsibility to create disintermediation, patron empowerment to serve themselves (Kwanya, Stilwell, & Underwood, 2010, p. 12) through training and technology access regardless of the patron’s setting.  In a time when technology links the globe’s information and knowledge in the blink of an eye, the information poor must be active and able information technology participants to also be societal participants.  As has long been a library mission, programs must be created to improve patron information access, regardless of format and regardless of the speed of technological changes.

To better develop and maintain the programs, librarians must regularly attend training, whether it is on how to teach patrons, how to use technological applications to develop resources, or how to be an content advisor (Pegrum & Kiel, 2011, pp. 583-584).  They must also be interested in emergent technology including those developments that may or may not become popular with society.  An awareness of what is being developed, how it would apply to information, reading, and research, and a basic knowledge of what it entails in cost and training is part of being a professional librarian.  This involves Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick’s categories of learning – knowledge, skill, and attitudes (Pegrum & Kiel, 2011, p. 587).  The librarian’s attitude must understand and be empathetic to the challenges faced by patrons working with technology (Miller & Wallis, 2011, p. 124) if both parties are to advance.  Libraries, librarianship, depth of knowledge, and diversity of skills continue to change; librarian attitudes toward technology must change, also, or libraries and society will suffer.

It has been argued that all things change, nothing is static; this is definitely evident in the rapid changes that have occurred, and are still occurring, in librarianship and information technology.  Recent and rapid changes in information technology have also had far reaching impacts on society.  Literally, in the time of this writer’s grandparents, letters from relatives were carried by stage coach over two months to their destination, then more rapidly by train, to a few days by airplane, and now by e-mail in less than a second.  Sharing knowledge with such speed and without the limits imposed by geography has a great impact on libraries and society as whole.  Librarians must be at the forefront of information technology changes and how it will apply to their work with patrons and the greater society.  “Although change is inevitable, it is largely unpredictable.  It advocates flexibility in responding to change” (Kwanya, Stilwell,
& Underwood, 2010, p. 13).  By recognizing that the future will bring changes that impact all areas of the library and society, librarians as information professionals will be in place to be successful.

Nancy Venable has worked in Montana school libraries for over 12 years.  She has an MA from the University of Montana and an MLIS from the University of North Texas.  This summer she began a new career as the county library director with the Big Horn County Library System located in Basin, Wyoming.  She can be reached at


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