Friday, January 9, 2009


I just wanted to drop a quick line thanking those who planned and carried out yesterday's meeting. The subject matter wasn't entirely what I was expecting, but in all honesty, I think what happened was more useful than what I was thinking would happen.

I really enjoyed talking to colleagues I rarely have a chance to see, and I was deeply impressed with the insights generated, as well as the straightforward, honest, optimistic manner in which they were communicated and received.

I am proud to work with all of you.

Retreat White Board Photos

Here are the photos of the white board text from the retreat yesterday. I've tried to add a little bit of context information to hopefully help you remember when the lists were made and why. If you click on the image you'll get a full size version where the text is quite easy to read.

Snow Card exercise lists Tables 1-4 top 3 topics

Snow Card exercise lists Tables 5-6 top 3 topics

Snow Card exercise Questions and Out-liers

Speed Geek Topics

Speed Geek Trends board 1, left hand side

Speed Geek Trends board 2, right hand side

Fulcrums, some of the important end of the day stuff

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Deep Thoughts...not by Jack Handy

(This is a duplicate of what I sent in email)

I am sure some of you are wondering...What exactly are we doing on Thursday? Is there homework? How should we prep for this?

First, I fully expect the day will be interesting and fun. Yes - there is a mechanism in place to help us identify common themes and focus our thinking on these themes - and some of you may roll your eyes at this. But when it comes right down to it, we are all going to get to talk about what we like to do, what we want to do, and what we should be doing!

In short, the purpose of the day is to try to identify the issues and opportunities that are in front of us. Where do we want to go and how do we get there? What's important on the horizon to our world?

Will we walk away with answers? Maybe. Maybe not. That's not necessarily the goal of the day. But at a minimum I hope to walk away with a better understanding of the issues and a set of ideas/projects/problems for us to focus on. If we actually solve problems at the same time - all the better.

So, to prepare for this, you simply need to be thinking about these types of questions. What do we do? What holds us back? What do we want to do?

If you have looked at the blog, you will see a wide variety of concerns, issues, questions...they are all fair game for Thursday. The limitation on the discussion is simply: is it relevant to what we do? So talking about existing projects or policies or practices (or lack thereof!) is appropriate. So are new ideas for technologies and services we could or should provide.

We are all smart people - who are confronted daily with challenges and opportunities. Here's a chance for us, as a group, to work together to identify what is important to us and to our users.

Looking forward to this discussion!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The bleeding edge

Reading the agenda for the Thursday meeting, I confess I feel a little discouraged -- not because it's poorly-planned or a bad idea, but because the way it's being organized looks to me as though it will herd attendees toward safe, obvious, well-travelled, non-controversial paths.

I live on the bleeding edge. (For those who don't know me, I'm responsible for MINDS@UW, the UW System institutional repository.) Libraries in general and the UW in particular are far from settled or sure about what they should be doing vis-a-vis scholarly communication, knowledge management, data curation, digital preservation, et cetera. I sometimes find myself the only champion (or nearly) for these emerging issues and their technical requirements.

It seems impossible for me all by my lonesome to make these issues a priority in a consensus-based, majority-rules environment such as Thursday's session, much less the top-down environment that is the normal state of things here. That's not necessarily good or bad -- I may be a flaky nutjob, after all -- it just is. I am well aware that I have not created sufficient buy-in; in the scattered environment this retreat is partly intended to address, I don't have any readily available ways of earning it.

I doubt my constellation of issues is unique. There are, I'm sure, a number of bleeding-edge ideas or issues or technologies that individuals among us are interested in and have no way to move forward on. Some of them are huge (like data curation), some are relatively minor (e.g. somebody wanting a wiki). Some of them could be production services, some of them are internal-efficiency improvements. Sometimes they're just things we'd like to throw up on a server somewhere and poke at.

Does the bleeding edge have a home here? What are the implications if it doesn't? How do we mainstream bleeding-edge products and services, if we manage to work with them at all? On Thursday specifically, how do we keep potentially important minority issues from being roundfiled forever as "passing fads" or "buzzwords"?

Who's at the retreat?

I have had a few requests to include a list of everyone who is included in this retreat. If I miss someone, misspell a name, etc, just let me know...

Mark Beatty (facilitator) (WiLS)

Julia Fleming (LIRA)
Mark Foster (LIRA)
Kay Gehrke (LIRA)
Tim Lehmann (LIRA)
Jim Liedeka (LIRA)
Jim Muehlenberg (LIRA)
Scott Prater (LIRA)
Keith Rye (LIRA)
Anne Schilling (LIRA)
Mike Simpson (LIRA)
Rose Smith (LIRA)
Laura Caruso (UWDCC)
Steven Dast (UWDCC)
Peter Gorman (UWDCC)
Andrew Gough (UWDCC)
Melissa McLimans (UWDCC)
Sandy Paske (UWDCC)
Dorothea Salo (UWDCC)
Brian Sheppard (UWDCC)
Meredith Thompson (UWDCC)
Vicki Tobias (UWDCC)
Pat Tuchscherer (UWDCC)
Leah Ujda (UWDCC)
Dave Luke (GLS)
Pete Boguszewski (LTG)
Andy Craven (LTG)
Sue Dentinger (LTG)
Edie Dixon (LTG)
Ryan Freng (LTG)
Brendan Giese (LTG)
Lisa Haller (LTG)
Mitch Lundquist (LTG)
Mark McClung (LTG)
Stephen Meyer (LTG)
Curran Riley (LTG)
David Waugh (LTG)

Monday, January 5, 2009

What will be UWDCC's role in this new working environment?

Generally speaking, the UWDCC been focused on content creation. We work with campus faculty, librarians and students to digitize resources that support teaching and research. These resources are delivered to users by the systems and platforms developed and supported by LTG and LIRA. In the past, most of us in UWDCC have not been directly involved in this technology development process. Like other units within the library, we are an end user of those systems and platforms created by LTG and LIRA.

At one point, there was discussion as to whether or not UWDCC should continue to be grouped with library technology, with suggestions that collection development, preservation or public services might be a more appropriate place for our group to live within the library system. I'm not advocating one way or the other but simply asking:

1. What will be UWDCC's role within this new UWDCC/LTG/LIRA working environment?

2. What is the expectation for our group? More digitization? Less digitization? Different formats? Quality vs. quantity? More staff? Different skills sets?

3. What about digitization for preservation vs. digitization for access?

4. How might we be more involved in the technology development process (platforms, systems, widgets, etc.)? Should we be more involved in the technology development process?

5. While it's exciting to ponder development of new technologies, the UWDC is a large digital collection that requires day-to-day maintenance. How can we be sure our trouble-shooting needs for core systems/platforms (e.g. EFacs, SiteSearch, Litmus, etc.) are given priority over new development? For example, our production staff depends on Litmus functioning correctly. When Litmus dies, our production "machine" screeches to a halt, the result of which may be 10-15 students with no work for several hours (wasted resources), pushed or missed deadlines, unhappy content providers (faculty!), or all of the above. With 60+ projects in our production queue at any given time, any system breakdown is problematic, especially when some of our projects are grant-funded with inflexible deadlines.

Retreat Menu

Here's a taste of what we're planning for the retreat, on
Thursday, January 8th, 2009, noon - 4:30pm at the Pyle Center, Room 313.
It's a listing of our preliminary agenda and ideas for the retreat. Hopefully it will help everyone with their thinking coming into the session. Also please remember to continue checking out the retreat blog at:

Noon – Pizza for Lunch
• Self selected seating and gossip time
12:45 – Intros and first exercise
• Ice breaker, tagging yourself
• David – 10 word or less, statement of the days intent
• Mark - Framework and Rules for the day
• First exercise – Snow Cards
  • Mixed up seating at tables
  • Write ideas on cards and put into "kitty" on your table
  • Table group then prioritize and rank cards looking for commonality
  • Tables report out their top 3 to the whole room
  • Vote as a whole on top 5 or 6
2:30 – Break

2:45 – Second Exercise
• Speed Geeking
  • Self selected tables or birds of a feather
  • ID experts, one per table. Could be a facilitator for a specific idea/issue/question
  • Experts/recorder stays at their table with flip chart
  • Everyone else rotates on command, about every 5 minutes
  • Everyone visits every table in order
  • Discussions are captured on flip charts
  • Report out by table/expert/recorder to white board
  • Looking for key ideas, common concerns etc
4:00 – End of day
• Start integrating ideas from both sessions
• Lists could include:
  • Items, issues, questions, concerns
  • Priorities
  • Additional associated lists could include:
  • Low hanging fruit
  • Commonalities with outside agencies
  • Parallels with other systems and developments
4:30 - David and Mark wrap as necessary and goodbyes

Communication & documentation

One day-to-day logistical issue that I think we should spend a little time talking about is how such a large, physically separated, diverse group of people can best communicate with one another.
  • How does a project that one person starts impact the work of others?
  • What are the best trouble shooting methods for various problems?
    • Who is the proper person to contact
    • How should progress on solving the problem be shared with all impacted people
  • Do the people you're talking to know what you're talking about?
    • With so many individuals, and so many different projects in progress, it's important to make sure everyone in a meeting/email chain/whatever is up to date on the issue at hand and any history behind it.
    • How does one avoid getting buried in jargon? We all have technical roles to varying degrees, but different areas of expertise.
  • How can we improve documentation of conversations, decisions, technical rules and requirements?
    • Who are different audiences, within and outside of our group, that might need to know this info?
    • Is documentation useful/useable to all of these various audiences?
    • Assess worst case scenario documentation- if all of us are abducted by aliens, could a new group of people figure out what we were doing and pick up where we left off?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Forward. Thinking.

Here are a few thoughts on some of the original questions put to the group.

What do we do well?

  • We get things done
  • Design, build and support an infrastructure
What services are users/librarians going to be asking for that we will need to provide?

Good bread and butter services:
  • Make searching our lists of books, articles and databases not suck
  • Let me personalize my library online, whether at your website or one of my choosing
  • Be intelligent about things you should know: single sign-on/profile services (know which courses I am enrolled in)

What are some new and interesting projects that we are debating within our peer groups or teams?
  • Personalized library home page
  • A Netflix-like experience with the library (fun, endless)

What new techs are out there that we will/should take advantage of?

Forget new technologies – 98% will be passing fads, let’s spend our time beefing up and modernizing our old technologies: our websites, search indexes, user profiles.

How can we help drive service improvement, rather than simply react to demands?
  • Prototype
  • Iterate
  • Prototype
  • Iterate
  • Prototype

What do we need (staff/resources/space/training/time) to meet the demands of the library?
  • Support from our colleagues in the form of trust and well-defined communication mechanisms (willingness to communicate and good-faith efforts towards understanding each other)
  • Clear direction on the priorities and expectations in broad general terms
  • Freedom to define the particulars:
    • what technologies we will use
    • what services will work together
    • who our collaborators will be

What holds us back?
  • As peter once put it in the context of the Google book project: "letting the perfect be the enemy of the good"
  • Pursuing buzzword technologies for the sake of being buzzwordy
  • Seeking out collaboration w/ people for the sake of collaborating and forcing a shared purpose when none exists

Google Data falls down, goes boom

So Google Research Data didn't make it.

Do we, collectively, Libraries and IT both, have a place in this space? If so, what is it?