LITA Forum 2016, Fort Worth

I’m in Texas, y’all! I’m at the 2016 LITA Forum and very excited to present and attend. My day opened with a quick first-timer info session and a very thought provoking opening keynote with Cecily Walker.


Next, I attended Ken Varnum‘s program We Started a Library Analytics Program. You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next. Ken is from the University of Michigan and when their new Dean came into the position he brought in a campus-wide learning analytics initiative. The library had to adapt their privacy policy in order to contribute to this initiative. In the past, they deleted almost all data after transactions were completed and this was great for patron privacy, but not so great for drawing conclusions from library usage. They are in the process of building a pilot for piping access data into their storage solution and examining ways to share this information with the library and campus community.

After a magical pretzel, I attended Analytics Rosetta Stone – Get your metrics on the web and make them sexy presented by Joel Shields. Joel works at the Washington Research Library Consortium and they set up a Google Analytics workflow that manages data from source to web (via JSON) across all their institutions. The point from Joel’s presentation that’s most relevant to Stony Brook is that WRLC is using the Google Suite to translate and feed into all these interesting data things that they’re doing. I’m going to look much deeper into the cool stuff they’re doing when I get back home #datagoals Here’s a link to his presentation.

Then I hit Tabatha Farney‘s Using Digital Analytics to Assess the Real World (notice a trend here? I’m riding high on the Library Data track! They’re all in the same room too, which is nice. All I have to do is show up to this room and I’m golden.) Tabby did a great presentation about Google Analytics and Google Data Studio, which is a new offering from Google that lets users visualize and combine data across the whole Google Suite.

After that I went with a group of conference folks to La Perla, which was lovely! On Saturday morning I attended the opening keynote with Waldo Jaquith, the former director of U.S. Open Data who now works at 18F, which helps the federal government build or buy technology products. He talked about the framework of open government data that underlays technologies we use every day. He also told the story behind this amazing cake:

Next, I attended More Effective Library Applications with Application Vendor APIs with two folks from Queens Public Library, Christopher Carvey and Ankaj Patidar. They talked about shifting the balance from vendors to libraries using vendor APIs and creating better user experiences. Particularly they targeted different branding and different tools within library services and making the experience more consistent across all content in the library. They recently launched a website doing just this, combining two magazine platforms into one sleek wrapper. Then, Data Manipulation for ILS Migration presented by Jerry Waller from Elon University. He used SAS to help interpret MARC records.

The LITA Forum does impromptu lightning talks, which I was definitely too nervous to do, but ten brave souls made the plunge and talked for five minutes each to share strategies for data manipulation, Git magic tricks, a cool Suma plugin for R, digital displays, data information literacy courses, connecting call numbers to subject areas with a simple search, getting money from IMLS, scaling projects for the size of your staff and library, using technology to prep for a renovation, and evaluating digital initiatives software.

My last afternoon session was It’s Time for an Intervention: Using LibGuides Analytics to Enhance Usability presented by Jamie L. Emery from St. Louis University and Sarah E. Fancher from Ozarks Technical Community College. They talked about what they found when they looked into the LibGuides data at St. Louis University including that students were searching for guides rather than navigating through subjects, that marketing to students during instruction had a big impact on guide usage, and that many users were accessing from mobile devices and some of their guides were not pleasant on mobile (particularly the tab layout which Stony Brook also uses). Depressingly, they found a lot of non-use on the elements of the guides but were able to use this information to make sleeker, better guides. I think it might be time to do this in the Stony Brook LibGuides ecosystem too; it’s a hard thing to hear, but making guides good is way better than just having guides.

After that I visited the poster sessions quickly and then had my presentation. There were about 50 people in the audience and there were great questions. I was in a combined session with Robert Olendorf from Penn State presenting on An Adaptable and Scalable Framework for Managing, Analyzing and Visualizing Library Data. There were a lot of commonalities between our two projects, so it was a great session.

I was able to catch up with some Dallas family that evening at Little Red Wasp, which was also wonderful! On Sunday, I attended Data 2.0: Transforming your view of the library through innovative data gathering presented by Andrew See and Mike Taylor from Northern Arizona University. They talked about a really interesting project they have been doing with their wifi access points to track user activity in their library spaces. They compared use counts and user information from the access points and found that it was roughly a double count (their hypothesis is that most users have multiple connected devices). It would be great to get access to this data at Stony Brook. They’ve also started a pilot to monitor decibel readings via ipads on their student rounds to see if there is a correlation between users in the space and noise. Preliminary findings suggest that even though usage peaks at around 8pm, noise and activity in the space peak a few hours earlier.

The last session I attended was Staying afloat in the data sea or, How we stopped trying to represent it all presented by Melissa Gustafson and Heather Rayl from Indiana State University. It was very interesting to hear a cautionary tale about going too big with a data dashboard. Indiana State started theirs in 2012 and it was visualizing everything all across the library, eventually it was just too big. They were able to pare down their reporting by focusing on statistics that had demonstrable use for institutional change.

The LITA Forum was super and extremely dense. I’m pretty much exhausted! In the past three weeks I’ve travelled over 17,000 miles and in the last month I’ve given six presentations in three different time zones! I’m ready for a good rest over the holidays and I’m going to take a few weeks to tackle some writing projects. I met a lot of great people in my travels and had a blast, but I will definitely enjoy my winter break lull.