My Recent Webinars

florida library webinars logo - a bird and a computerThis year I’ve had a great opportunity to present a series of webinars for Florida Library Webinars. I love that they record all webinars and publish them freely online afterward! I’ve neglected posting links to mine here, so here’s a catching-up list:

I plan on doing at least a couple more webinars with them, including an introduction to Google Tag Manager in early February.

Spring Webinars on Usability Testing & WordPress

8c20ccc1d53c5bd8bb8b15b50bafe2a1I’m excited to announce two free webinars I’m doing this spring with ASERL – one in March, and one in April. Registration (again: free!) is open for both. Recordings will be available afterward. (And I know March 11th isn’t technically Spring, but I like to pretend it is.)

Assess Your Website Cheaply or Free

Friday 3/11, 2PM EST

You don’t have to break the bank to test your website! This webinar will introduce you to tools that you can use for free to remotely get in the heads of your users.

You’ll learn about common remote usability testing techniques like:

  • Card sorting
  • First click testing
  • A/B testing

Services like Optimal Workshop and others make it possible to use all these techniques at low or no cost. And you can do it all remotely without even placing a burden on your staff. In this webinar you’ll get an introduction to these tools and hear about how they’ve been used to improve the UNC Libraries website.

Building an Academic Library Website in WordPress

Monday 4/11, 2pm EST

WordPress isn’t just the most popular blogging software in the world, but also a powerful content management system that runs more than 23 percent of all websites. The current version alone has been downloaded more than 30 million times, and the WordPress community has built more than 43,000 plugins to extend and enhance the system. Academic Libraries are using WordPress to create community-oriented websites, blogs, subject guides, digital archives, and more.

This practical session will walk you through the entire process of creating a basic WordPress website for your library, including:

  • Setting up a simple WordPress website from scratch
  • Selecting a theme and customizing the look of your site
  • Using plugins to enhance and improve your WordPress site
  • Maintaining and updating your WordPress website for the long haul

You’ll also learn about how UNC Libraries migrated their website to WordPress, including challenges encountered and tips learned along the way.

Library Technology Essentials Webinar

logo_500x500[1]Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be doing a webinar with some of my co-authors in the Library Technology Essentials series. I’ve got 6 minutes and 40 seconds to talk about why I love WordPress and what’s covered in my book, Pecha Kucha style. This is my first time presenting in this format, and I’m extremely excited about it.

Because the format doesn’t leave much time or space for links, here’s a list of things I mention in my slides:

ALA 2014: My Session is Available Online

title slide

Earlier this summer I gave a talk with Emily King at ALA 2014 in Las Vegas: Focusing on the Big Picture: Re-Imagining the Library Website.

The session was recorded, and the audio and slides are now available online to conference attendees. We had a full room, and some great discussion! We covered our whole website redesign process – how we moved from 20,000+ flat HTML files to a nicely managed WordPress site with a few hundred pages.

(I’m also kind of thrilled to be able to check off “be listed in the same conference proceedings as Stan Lee” from my bucket list.)

ALA 2014: My two WordPress presentations

After a couple years off, I’m returning to ALA’s annual conference this year. I’m obviously excited to see colleagues and the Vegas sights, but I’m also looking forward to my two presentations there. If you’d like to come hear about how we redesigned the UNC Libraries website and moved it into WordPress, you’ve got two options:

I’m running through a short lightning talk style overview of our process at the Tech Speed Dating session organized by LITA’s Code Year Interest Group. That’s Saturday, 6/28 from 1:00-2:30 in Convention Center room N119. There’s a bunch of other great talks in that session on the list too, including a demo from SparkFun.

Think of that as the preview for the full session on Sunday. Emily King and I have a whole session to ourselves where we’ll walk through our redesign and content strategy development process from start to finish. This one’s Sunday, 6/29 from 4:30-5:30 in Convention Center room N243. Late in the day, I know, but come rest and learn before hitting the strip.

Both sessions will cover how we made WordPress work for us, how our migration worked, and what our ongoing content & site maintenance has been like since launch. I hope to see you there!

My presentations from Computers in Libraries 2014

I was fortunate enough to have two presentations accepted at Computers in Libraries this year in DC. As always I’m not sure if my slides make much sense without my accompanying narration, but I’m happy to answer questions about them.

Both sessions were collaborations. I presented “Moving Forward: Redesigning UNC’s Library Website” with Kim Vassiliadis, and “Rock your library’s content with WordPress” with Chad Boeninger. Thanks to all who came out! We had some great discussions during and after.

Semi-Automatic Chat: Speeding up reference questions in Pidgin

This is an expanded write-up of a lightning talk I presented at the 2014 LAUNC-CH conference:

Some background: We answer reference questions via chat at the reference desk using the amazing Libraryh3lp service. We log in and conduct chats with Pidgin. Libraryh3lp isn’t required for this to work, but Pidgin is.

A few months ago, a colleague asked me if there was a way to quickly cut and paste frequent responses into a chat. We end up repeating ourselves quite a bit when a common question comes up, and it seems rather inefficient.

Thankfully, Pidgin has a built-in plugin called (aptly enough) Text Replacement.

To get it up and running:

  • In Pidgin, go to the Tools menu.
  • Click Plugins.
  • Check the box next to Text Replacement.
  • While Text Replacement is highlighted, click Configure Plugin.

This is the screen where you configure your text replacement. The basic idea is that you set a keyword. Whenever a user types that keyword, Pidgin automatically replaces it with a pre-set block of text. So for example, in our case typing “$hi” will produce: “Hi, how can I help you today?”

To add a new replacement at the Configure screen:

  • Fill out the ‘you type’ and ‘you send’ boxes appropriately. I recommend starting each ‘you type’ trigger with a $, which should help avoid accidental replacements.
  • Uncheck the ‘only replace whole words’ box.
  • Click Add.
  • click Close.

Now your text replacement is active! Repeat as necessary to create others.

We use Pidgin at multiple computers simultaneously, so I wanted to be able to duplicate these replacements at each station without having to do it manually.

Pidgin stores the plugin’s text replacement library here:

To move this file to another computer:

  • On the destination PC, repeat the first chunk of steps above to enable the Text Replacement plugin.
  • Copy the dict file from the source PC to the same location on the destination PC.
  • Restart pidgin on the destination PC.

Now we’re in business! The next step was to figure out exactly what we wanted to replace. Read more if you’re interested.

Webinar: Learn how to learn to program

I’m doing a webinar next Wednesday for NCLA all about how you can learn to do a bit of programming.  Here’s the official info – note that it’s free and you don’t have to be an NCLA member to drop in:


Please join the NCLA Technology and Trends Round Table for the next webinar in our series, coming up soon!

Wednesday, March 20, 3-4pm
Teach Yourself How to Program
Leader: Chad Haefele, UNC-Chapel Hill

Programming skills are in demand, but it often seems like an intimidating topic to learn. When we surveyed roundtable members, the number one thing we heard was that you wanted to learn to program. While we can’t quite do that in one short session, we can do the next best thing: teach you how to teach yourself. Many programmers have little or no formal training, and picked it up as they went along instead. You can do that too! We’ll talk about what it’s like to learn to program, provide some guidance on what language to learn, and look at a number of free web-based teaching tools and resources. No prior experience is necessary.

Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 20 at 8am using this link:

All webinars will be conducted using Blackboard Collaborate. A link will be sent out to all participants on the morning of March 20.

If you have any questions, email Kathy Shields at kshields[at] or Jenny Dale at jedale2[at]

PaLA Northwest Chapter presentation.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be presenting a workshop for the fine folks at the Northwest Chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Aside from being a good excuse to get back and visit my old stomping grounds, I’m quite excited about my presentation and the afternoon hands-on session.

Here’s the handout of links I mentioned in the talk, and the slides themselves:

(As usual, my slides may not be entirely useful without my narration. But here they are anyway!)

Status Check: Public Library Ebook Friction

I’ve been asked to speak later today on a panel about ebooks in public libraries. Thanks to the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough for the opportunity! While my day-to-day work is in an academic library, not public, I still try and keep current on the issues faced in our sibling institutions. If we learned nothing else from a recent ebook survey on campus, it’s that our students bring their perceptions of popular-fiction ebooks and apply them equally to academic ebooks.

I’ve been asked if my talk would be recorded or streamed, and I don’t think it will be. But here’s my slides:

I admit many of them don’t make much sense without my accompanying narration. So here’s a summary:

-Popular Fiction publishers love the word ‘Friction’ when applied to ebooks. They’re terrified that if it becomes too easy to get an ebook from a library, customers won’t have any motivation to spend money to actually buy ebooks individually anymore. So they want to introduce friction into the process. I can understand this fear to a point. But major publishers’ reactions is so swift and violent that they don’t seem willing to even experiment and see if their fears are justified. They’re shutting libraries out without a second thought. There’s also other arguments like the idea that libraries create lifelong readers, who turn into publishsers’ best customers. But others have made that argument much more coherently than I can.

-Why are libraries different? Why can’t we just buy a Kindle book like anyone else and then lend it out, the same way we do with print copies?
For one thing, when someone buys an ebook they’re not purchasing the book itself. We’re purchasing a license to use that title for personal use only. The terms of Amazon’s license, for example, specifically note that “…you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense, or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party.” So, no library lending is allowed. Barnes & Noble and other ebook vendors all have similar language in their licenses.
Even if we could negotiate a better license for library use, we’re still limited by Digital Rights Management in the books. DRM is programming which restricts each purchased ebook title to use on the original purchaser’s device. I could email you a Kindle book I bought, but you couldn’t open it on your own device. Some publishers like TOR are toying with DRM-free ebooks, but their licenses still prohibit library-style lending.

-What’s left for libraries? We have to rely on vendors like Overdrive and 3M. These are companies who act as middlemen; they negotiate with publishers for a license which allows lending, then sell a license to the books (laden with DRM) to libraries. But even that isn’t simple. Let’s look at six of the major publishers and how they sell to libraries through middlemen:

  • Penguin used to sell ebooks to libraries, but stopped in February. If a library previously bought an ebook from them, they can keep lending it. But Penguin disabled the option which allows a Kindle to directly download the title. They introduced the ‘friction’ of requiring a user to download the book and move it to their Kindle with a USB cable.
  • HarperCollins sells ebooks to libraries, but limits them to 26 checkouts. After that milestone is hit, the ebook evaporates and must be re-purchased. I think this is crazy. HarperCollins argues that no print book lasts forever, so why should a library be able to lend an ebook in perpetuity? This is true, but most print titles last much much longer than 26 checkouts. A popular HarperCollins ebook will expire in just one year.
  • Random House sells ebooks to libraries, but at significantly higher prices than individual users pay. Titles average a 35% increase in price, and some go as high as 300%.
  • Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and MacMillan won’t sell ebooks to libraries at all. This is why you won’t ever find Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs in ebook form in a library, among many other titles.

Think this is wrong? The San Rafael Public Library has a great webpage with contact info for all the publishers mentioned here. Let them know how you feel.

Other restrictions further impact how easy it is for libraries to lend ebooks. When an ebook is purchased from Overdrive, it won’t appear in the library’s catalog. Borrowers must know to go to a whole separate catalog to browse ebooks. Libraries also can’t re-sell ebooks, a fact which could impact fundraising efforts down the road. Overdrive and other library ebook vendors also limit checkouts to a two-week period with no renewals. That simply isn’t long enough to read many ebooks, such as the 1000+ page sequels to A Game of Thrones. Alternatively, if you finish a short ebook quickly there’s no way to return it early. The next person in line has to wait for those two weeks to be up before they can get the ebook. More friction.

So that’s the state of things. I don’t claim to know what the solution is, or where we go from here. Some libraries boycott ebooks under these limitations, and others want to provide any limited service they can. I go back and forth on that debate. But at the very least I think library users should be informed about the issues. I think public libraries of 20 years from now will be almost unrecognizable from today’s branches in a number of ways. Ebooks represent only one of those changes, but it’s a big one.