Tech Tuesdays

The Simple Newsletter

CJCLS has been using newsletters to communicate with community college librarians for a long time. You can visit the American Library Association Institutional Repository to read section newsletters dating back to the 1940s. Our most recent newsletter will be coming out sometime in October. If you are a section member, you’ll receive a copy via email or you can visit the CJCLS newsletter webpage.

I ran across a recent article from the Atlantic, the Internet’s Unkillable App: The noisier our digital lives get, the more popular the humble newsletter becomes by David Pell. Reading it inspired me to do an inventory of the newsletters I subscribe to. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites in this month’s Tech Tuesday column.

An envelope with the word News written on it with a wing on each side of the envelope.
Newsletter, Julian Kücklich, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

What newsletters do you subscribe to? Please share your suggestions!

Tech Tuesdays

Chat Training Resources

One of my favorite parts of my job is doing virtual reference. My library participates in a collaborative of Michigan libraries called Research Help Now. When I first started doing chat, fifteen years ago, I found every chat I picked up very stressful because I thought I had to quickly find an answer and was intimidated to try to help students on unfamiliar websites. Now, when I pick up a chat, I see it as a fun challenge and view myself as a partner with students as we work through their research questions together. I often get ideas for improving my library’s website by helping students do research on unfamiliar websites. Sometimes I find problems with my own library’s website by browsing chat transcripts. 

Here are some virtual reference training ideas: 

  • Librarians can choose one of their own transcripts to review and think about what went well and what could have gone better. Or all librarians can review the same transcript and share observations. This can work for an online meeting using a shared Google Doc. If you’d like, use virtual reference best practices to guide the discussion.
  • In our Michigan collaborative, we have a yearly best transcript competition. We use a rubric to evaluate transcripts and choose winners to recognize for their excellent work. I learned a lot about doing chat well by volunteering for the committee to review transcripts.
  • Organize a panel of experienced chat librarians for a local or regional workshop. A colleague and I invited best transcript winners to speak on a panel at our Michigan Academic Library (MiALA) Conference, Celebrating Our Successes, Improving for Our Future: Best Chat Transcript Awards. It was a great opportunity for librarians to share virtual reference strategies. The session was recorded and I share the recording with new chat librarians at my institution.
  • Here are additional chat training ideas that participants brainstormed during a workshop I facilitated with a colleague, Trust Me: Collaborative Chat Training for Uncertain Times.

What tips do you have for doing virtual reference? What training resources do you have to share?

Tech Tuesdays Technology

Web Team Show & Tell

I am the lead for our library’s web improvement team. We meet once a month and at every meeting, we set aside about 10 minutes for a team member to share something they have learned about technology related to libraries. Sometimes people share an article they read or information from a webinar or workshop they attended. By calling it “show and tell,” I try to emphasize that it isn’t a formal presentation, but an informal chance to share.

Show and tell. The l of tell has teeth to look like a month and a speech bubble next to it.
Show-n-tell by Johnny Goldstein is licensed under CC By 2.0

Here are some of the sources I encourage team members to use in looking for content to share:

Do you have other sources to recommend? What types of informal information sharing do you use at your library?

Tech Tuesdays

Crowdsourcing a List of Regional Groups of Community College Librarians

A few years ago, I gave a lightning talk at our local Michigan Academic Library Association annual conference as part of a panel of community college librarians. The panel was organized by our Michigan Community College Libraries Interest Group. I enjoyed sharing ideas with other community college librarians in Michigan and that experience inspired me to join CJCLS. As a CJCLS member, I have had the opportunity to meet community college librarians from many different states. You can read about some of these librarians in the Member of the Month feature on  the CJCLS Blog.

As I have become more involved in CJCLS, I was curious to find out how many states have regional groups focused on community colleges like we do in Michigan. So, last month, I shared an empty Google Sheet in our CJCLS ALA Connect group to crowdsource a list of regional community college groups. So far, librarians have added groups from Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, and Washington. 

Do you have a group to add to the list? What do you find valuable about being a member CJCLS or of a regional group community college librarians?

Tech Tuesdays

Website Usability Testing

One of the most useful tools I’ve found for creating usable Library website content is website usability testing. At first, I was intimidated by the prospect of doing usability testing. Then I learned more by reading Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy, observing usability testing facilitated by Matthew Reidsma at Grand Valley State University, and taking an online course with Rebecca Blakiston.

At my college, we’ve done usability testing in a variety of ways. We started out doing formal testing where a group of staff were in one room to observe testing in another room via online conferencing software. More recently, we moved to more informal testing. Members of our web team go out on campus in pairs to find a few students, staff, or faculty to test. One staff member is note taker and the other is the facilitator. We don’t record the tests, just take notes. Then we meet up as a group and discuss what we observed and decide what changes to make. During the pandemic, we did testing completely online via web conferencing. 

Last semester, I started doing short usability tests to onboard new circulation staff members. I used to meet new staff for 30 minutes to introduce them to the website by walking them through the website page by page. After doing this twice, I decided instead to do a short usability test as part of the onboarding. I explain what usability tests are and that we do them each semester to get feedback on our website. Then after the test, we discuss any challenges the staff member faced completing the tasks. Each time, I have found at least one small change I can make to improve the website. The best part is that later in the semester, these staff members have contacted me to share additional problems users were having with the website.

In the future, we’ll continue with informal, in person usability testing, as well as some online testing. It is not a huge time commitment, and it helps staff who create web content see that less is more on the web. Doing tests with around 5 participants can yield helpful results. It also is an opportunity to reach out to people who use the website (or even those who haven’t used the website) to get feedback. You can learn more about usability testing on my college’s Usability Testing LibGuide. It includes templates for notetakers, sample testing scenarios, and materials to train facilitators.

Tech Tuesdays

Take the No Mouse Challenge

I recently subscribed to Minnesota IT Services’ Digital Accessibility newsletter and last month I did the “no mouse challenge.” The idea is that you try to do your job for 15 minutes on your computer without using a mouse. You can print out a Keyboard Shortcuts Quick Card (PDF) to help you. I searched for a newspaper article in my library’s discovery system, booked a study room, and looked up the library’s weekend hours without using a mouse.

black computer mouse on white table
Black Computer Mouse on Table” by dejankrsmanovic is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

All functionality on a website should be available without the use of a mouse.

Keyboard Compatibility video by WC3’s Web Accessibility Initiative

This brief video above explains why keyboard compatibility is “essential for people with disabilities and useful for all.” The WC3 Keyboard Compatibility webpage explains that a variety of people “depend on this feature:

  • People with physical disabilities who cannot use the mouse.
  • People who are blind, and cannot see the mouse pointer on the screen.
  • People with chronic conditions, such as repetitive stress injuries (RSI), who should limit or avoid use of a mouse.”

Learn more about keyboard accessibility on WebAIM.

Visit Minnesota IT Services Digital Accessibility website for accessibility resources and to sign up for their monthly Digital Accessibility newsletter.

Take the “no mouse challenge” and share what you learn about your library’s website or your LibGuide. Are there improvements you can make based on what you experience?

Tech Tuesdays

Chat Waterfalls

I wrote a previous post about strategies for using chat in online library instruction. In December, I participated in a professional development workshop at my college and the presenter used what she called a “chat waterfall.” Since then I have been experimenting with this method in library instruction and online meetings.

Victoria Falls waterfall
“The Smoke that Thunders – Victoria Falls” by is marked with CC BY-ND 2.0.

The difference between regular chat and a chat waterfall is that you ask participants to type their responses in the chat, but tell them to wait to press Enter. When you say Go, a flood of responses come in the chat. I have found that there is greater participation in chat with this method as it is less intimidating to send a response when everyone isn’t focused on reading it. Also, as a participant, you don’t need to be concerned with comparing your response with others before you submit. So, there may be multiple responses that are similar, but there is greater participation.

I’ve used the chat waterfall in library instruction to elicit keywords about a topic or to ask students to share research tips or questions. Recently, I used it as an icebreaker at the beginning of a library team meeting.

I adapted some slides with instructions with permission from science teacher, Mari Venturino. Feel free to use the slides as you wish. I’d love to hear how you have used chat waterfalls.

Presentations Tech Tuesdays

Presentation Templates

I want to share a great source of presentation templates, Slides Carnival. The website provides free PowerPoint and Google Slides themes for your presentations. You can search the themes by color or by categories such as playful, inspirational, creative, or formal.

The templates are free to use with a Creative Commons License and created by Jimena, a designer living in Spain.

Some of my favorites templates so far include:

The website also has presentation design tips. If you need help finding images for your presentation, check out my previous finding images post.

It is always good to have a backup plan if you have technical difficulties with your presentation slides. In graduate school, I attended a training about what to do if technology doesn’t work. As luck would have it, the campus network was down during the presentation and the speaker didn’t have a backup plan. In contrast, I attended a recent presentation online at my campus’ professional activity days and when the speaker’s slides didn’t work, she didn’t miss a beat and worked through the problem by paraphrasing her slides and asking participants to respond to questions in the chat. It is always good to have a backup plan!

What presentation templates or tips do you have to share?

Tech Tuesdays Technology

Finding Images

Pileated woodpecker on a tree
Pileated Woodpecker by Suzanne Bernsten

Need to find images for a presentation, blog post, or website? I wanted to share some websites I like to use to find images. Please share additional suggestions in the comments!

Creative Commons
Search websites for images you can share, use, and remix. Creative Commons allows creators of works to release them into the public domain or license works by placing some restrictions on their use.

Images that Reflect Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
List of repositories of free or openly licensed photos and images featuring people of color, trans, non-binary, indigenous, and other diverse population groups.

All photos are free for any personal and commercial purpose.

Free, high resolution photos for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Tech Tuesdays Technology

Using Chat in Online Instruction

orange sheets of paper lie on a green school board and form a chat bubble with three crumpled papers.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Moving to synchronous virtual library instruction during the past year, I have experimented with lots of different types of technologies such as Google Docs, Padlet, and Poll Everywhere.

 I found that one of the easiest ways to make online instruction sessions interactive is simply using the chat box built into the web conferencing system. The advantage of this is that students are already familiar with the tool, and they don’t need to leave the web conferencing interface in order to respond. Also, students can choose to respond to the whole class or just to the instructor. I find that students often use this feature when I point it out in my introduction.

Here are some questions that my colleagues and I have used in chat during instruction: 

  • What is one question you have about doing research?
  • What is one tip you have for other students about doing research
  • Find an article about your topic. Put 2-3 new ideas from the article in the chat.
  • Ask students to respond with a number for quick feedback, e.g. Have you used the research databases before?
  • Find an article and copy and paste the citation information in the chat.

A technique I have used a lot is to give students time to search and then ask them to cut and paste the citation for an article that they found in the chat box. This can be very helpful to see if students are on the right track. Students often send a private chat during this time if they are having trouble, and I can give them tips. When we get back together as a group, we can look together at one of the articles shared. It is also a way to make sure students know that databases can generate citations and that sometimes those citations need to be tweaked to follow proper formatting.

How do you use the chat box in online library instruction?