Which Comes First – Strategic Plan or Technology Plan?

Last week at the Future Tech Strategies for Libraries symposium, Rebecca Jones (of Dysart & Jones Associates) spoke about digital strategy. She always has good things to say, so I always listen closely.

She said this (my summary of it): Technology drives what the organization does. So, should the organization’s strategic plan come first, or should the technology plan come first? It’s starting to shift to the technology plan.

On the one hand, if you have a good strategic plan that is including technology … meaning that your tech manager is with it and has helped develop those strategies … then following a good organizational strategy makes sense. That’s how I’ve always operated. There’s no need for a real technology plan, because it’s embedded in the plans of the library.

On the other hand, today’s technology is driving the organization in many ways. Even something as “traditional” as new computer purchases, updating an OS, or replacing a telephone system (doing that this year!) can have a big impact on the organization’s budget, on planning, on training, and on organizational capacity for the year.

Then, when your “new phone system” is moving from an out-of-date system to a VOIP system with unified messaging, hand-off capabilities to a mobile device, internal chat messaging, etc … that can have a HUGE positive impact in how the organization does its work, and can … yes … have a big impact on the library’s strategic plans.

So – what do you think? Chicken or the egg? Strategic plan first, or technology plan first? Please share!

Pic by Kyle Van Horn

Five Things to Remember when Opening a Makerspace

My library just opened our new makerspace, called the Make-It Lab, on Monday. If your library has opened a makerspace, or is thinking about it, remember this – it’s a very different type of service to create, and you most definitely WILL be surprised by something.

Here are some things we have learned through the planning and opening of our makerspace (I’m sure there are more than these!):

1. You can’t train for everything. When you create a service involving stuff you simply haven’t done before, like digital music creation, 3D printing, or offering Mac computers … I guarantee you will be surprised at something. So make sure to train for flexibility, and know who to call when you get stumped.

2. You don’t have all the equipment your customers want. You won’t have everything your customers want. On our opening day, an older gentleman who was interested in seeing the space started asking questions. He liked our VHS-to-digital transfer tools, but wondered if we could also do cassette tapes, VHS-C tapes, and DVDs. We had to say no to some of that because we don’t have all the equipment needed, but told him that we’d keep track of the request and see what we could do as we adjust the room for our customers.

And that was just the first day.

3. You have more stuff than you realize. You didn’t just buy a camera, a 3D printer, and a microphone. You bought a camera (and a power cable, and a battery, and [hopefully] a battery charger, and an instruction manual), a 3D printer (and probably an extra spool or two of filament), and a microphone (and probably a microphone holder, maybe a mic stand adapter, a mic stand, and an XLR cable). You have to figure out where to put everything, how to label all this stuff so it makes sense for customers and staff, and how to check that nothing “accidentally” walks away.

4. There are a TON of details. I’ll admit – details are not my strong suit. Thankfully, I work in a library with some remarkable detail-oriented staff! We had to work through some processes like: how do you check out the room; do you check out the room or the computer; how many people can be in the room at the same time; how, exactly, do you pay for your 3D print; how do you go about getting equipment to customers, etc.

And each of those processes have multiple steps behind them.

5. 3D printers are persnickety. We first bought a Makerbot 5th Generation 3D printer (my earlier post about the Makerbot still holds true – no improvement). As of now, it has not worked well enough for us to feel comfortable putting it out for public use. Makerbot’s “SmartExtruder” is not so smart – it jams every couple of prints. So we did some more research, and purchased an Ultimaker 2. In the week or two that we’ve had it, it has worked great – no jams!

Bonus point – have fun! If you’re opening some type of makerspace/hackerspace/digital media lab, you have a good chance to attract people to your library that don’t usually use your services, or you might introduce a regular, more traditional customer to a fun, new experience.

What’s not to like about that?

My Presentations at Internet Librarian 2014

 

Last week, I gave four presentations at Internet Librarian 2014. As usual, it was a really useful conference, full of takeaways for me.

Here are the presentations I gave:

Web Trends to Watch in 2015: web design trends to watch for, think about, and maybe adapt (included in this post).

Emerging Technology Trends in Libraries for 2015: 10 emerging technology trends, and how they might affect libraries. This was a three hour pre-conference session.

Make your Website UX ROCK: All about basic website UX improvements.

Five Firsts of Website Strategy: This one was presented at the Library Leaders Digital Strategy Summit, which ran concurrently to Internet Librarian. Fun time! I prepared slides, and then the format changed at the last minute. So instead of slides, I gave short table talks about my topic. Much fun and some good discussion happened.

Enjoy!

Guidelines for our Makerspace

The team of staff working on my library’s makerspace gave some good thought to policies, procedures, and more functional guidelines for use of the space and equipment.

For policies … well, we don’t have any. Other policies like our customer behavior policy and our computer use policy really cover everything we need. So we have a list of more functional “procedures” that can change as the space changes. Here’s what we have so far.

MakeIT Lab Procedures

Customers:

  • Normal customer behavioral guidelines apply
  • “Respect the space, respect the staff, respect the equipment, respect each other”
    • Hang this up in the room
    •  Refer to the customer conduct policy
  • Age limits:
    • Kids with supervision (under age 12)
    • Ages 12 and up without supervision

3D printer:

  • What can you print?
    • Whatever you can print in 3 hours
    • Stay with your print job
    • If the print has to finish after hours (i.e., customer started printing at 8pm, but print won’t finish until 11pm), staff will put finished print behind desk, and customer can pay the next day
  • How to print:
    • $5 per print
    • Pay using the checkout Kiosk, then get a receipt
    • Take receipt to Media Desk
    • Media Desk staff will set up the print job for customer

Room Procedures:

  • No prerequisites for room use
    • We will have tipsheets and some “getting started” videos, plus staff will know how to turn on the Mac, open up software, plug things in, etc.
    • If more help is needed, customer should schedule an appointment with a librarian
  • How many people in the room at the same time?
    • Up to 6 people in the room at a time
  • Checking out the room & time limits
    • 3 hours a day
    • Two door keys, with barcodes. We’ll technically check out the keys.
    • Customer will check out a key using Polaris (MakeIT Lab Key #1 and #2)
    • No reserves – first-come-first-serve basis
    • Staff will need to monitor the room to make sure customers aren’t going over 3 hours
    • Close when the library closes at 9pm

Reserving Media bags:

  • Use Polaris, like the other bags
  • 7-day check out
  • Customers can place it on hold
  • Pick up at the Reference desk

That’s what we have right now. Are some of your policies, procedures, or guidelines different than ours? Please share!

Guideline image from Make Magazine

Equipment for my Library’s Makerspace

M-Audio USB 25-key keyboard controllerMy library is putting the final touches on our fledgling makerspace/digital media lab. It opens December 8, assuming all the details fall into place! I thought it might be interesting to do a few posts on our plans – to share equipment ideas, policies and guidelines, and planning – in hopes that someone else will find it useful.

We are calling it the MakeIT Lab. Our goal is to allow customers to use computers and digital technology to make stuff, including:

  • edit and manipulate photos
  • create digital art
  • create and edit videos
  • record music, podcasts, and oral histories
  • transfer videos from old formats to newer ones
  • scan photos and documents
  • and make cool stuff with our 3D printer.

We’ll let customers do this inside the building in the lab, and outside the building by checking out a Media Bag. We’re placing the 3D printer in a very public area with signage about the MakeIT Lab in hopes that it promotes the rest of the makerspace just by … being cool (fingers crossed on that).

This is very much a pilot project for us. We have a starting list of equipment, procedures, trained staff (still working on that one), and a small room. If it goes well, we might need to expand services – more on that next year!

Here’s our starting list of equipment:

For the room:

  • Two Apple iMac computers
  • Alesis Elevate 3 studio monitors for the computers
  • flatbed scanner
  • Wacom digital drawing tablet
  • MakerBot 3D printer and filament
  • Canon Vixia camcorder
  • Elgato A/D converter
  • tripods and video lighting
  • M-Audio Oxygen 25 USB Keyboard controller
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio interface
  • Microphones (Audio Technica AT 2020 and Shure SM57 mics)
  • Microphone stands and cables

For the Media Bags. These are bags of stuff that you can check out. We do lots of “bag” things, including Travel Bags, Health Bags, and Book Group in a Bag. Each of the Media Bags will have some basic equipment and a Dummies Guide book in the bag. Bags include:

  • Video bag: Canon Vixia camcorder
  • Photography bag: Canon PowerShot digital camera
  • Field Recording bag (for podcasting, oral histories, etc): Zoom H1 digital recorder
  • Songwriters Bag: Tascam DR-40 Portable digital recorder, Audio Technica AT 2020 microphones (2 of them), mic stand and cables.

Software:

  • iLife suite (GarageBand, iMovie)
  • Google Sketchup
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • And probably some other software that I’m forgetting at the moment.

Should be a fun project!