VALA 2016 – Day Three – Nancy Proctor, Karen Lauritson and so much more

On Day Three I both chaired a session and presented in another, so there are less notes, but I hope you still find them helpful/useful.


The museum as startup – Nancy Proctor (Baltimore Museum of Art)

Startup – human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty – Eric Ries, The Lean Startup.

There is a vast network of museums around the world, with China opening a new one every day. However, there is a paucity of models. Is it because there are no other models beyond finding deep pockets?

Core asset can be sold

Mission mandates access for all

One other…….

New citizen shift. First phase ran until WWII. Our identity was around country so if we were doing our job we were being good citizens. Then came consumer – your identity came from what you consumed. Now is citizen, where your identity comes from what you are involved in – being interdependent with others in the community.

Business model patterns.

  • Freemium – when the museum becomes free, the focus can shift from the people for whom the service is provided,to funders.
  • Open
  • Long tail – based on the Chris Anderson model. The long tail beyond the cut off is half the market, who can be difficult to reach. Going digital made the niche market much easier to reach. Museums have lot to offer the long tail. They are bringing more people to the museum by tapping into these niche markets. Eg. Podcasting, patchwork displays and more.

Museums are in the content business – they need to capitalise on what makes the unique. Not just the physical items, but the intellectual property that grows up around them, both by the museum staff and by external users. If this is true, care for your collection is paramount and then crafting, research and more around those collections.

Value comes not from the fact that the collections are important, but because you can demonstrate it is important. Projects like the interactive pen, where users can gather information digitally – gives the museum a traceable digital path. This measures impact and give actionable metrics.

Economics of curation – not just the collection, but people’s experience of it. Digital, partnerships and more will enable them to move into more personalised experience creation, not just for the masses, but reaching the niches.

Blue ocean thinking – see untested waters with little or no competition. What do we take for granted that we can lose, change or refresh? What is out there that we can tap into?

VALA 2016 Robert D. Williamson Award winner – Mal Booth

Re-aligning library technology strategy: questioning the role of tradition in today’s technology evaluations – Tony Zander

Vast majority of university libraries are still using legacy systems, rather than the newer next generations library management systems, such as Sierra and Worldshare.

The current time is the cheapest in history, to be running library software – building and hosting costs are dropping, but this matches with the drop in library budgets. On the otherhand, subscription costs are rising.

What is the role of the technology vendor? What is the role of the library in the relationship with the technology vendor?

Marshall Breeding’s latest technology report on LMS’s rasised some interesting concerns, with a common complaint being that what was being promised by new systems, was not being delivered. So who is actually desiging the next generation
library systems? Is the library community staying true to its roots?

Legacy Production Design Workflows from 1982 – 2002 was based around library interests which were seen as buisness opportunities. eg. ALEPH LMS, Open URL and VuFind catalogue were all developed at universities.

The innovation community is global and in the library.

Next generation product design workflow from 2012 – present is based around corporate interests to library practice. Library practice is now being dictated to.

Examples of corporate overreach:
1. Restricted hosting options
2. Restricted procurement options
3. Restricted business models

Does this affect ROI? Old model, pay for implementation then once for licence with low ongoing maintenance fee. New model – low cost implementation, but higher annual subscription costs.

Libraries must consider a model where libraries have choice, have freedom and transparency to exercise that choice, takes the front seat in defining next generation library systems and where vendors balance short-term profits with long-
term viability of hte library indudstry.

‘For many things, our attitudes come from actions, that led to observations, that led to explanations, that led to beliefs’ (McRaney 2013 – “You are now less dumb”)


Moving Beyond Search …. Towards Discovery – Belinda Tiffen

University of Technology Sydney is redeveloping their library space. 80% of their print has been movee to storage, which makes the library more about people. However, this can result in protest as people lose habit and serendipitous browsing.

That had to think about how their hidden collection can work in the online space. Search vs discovery, where search is targeted, linear, specific and discovery is open, exploratory and fuzzy.

Traditional library systems focused on search. Web-scale discovery tools do some discovery. Deep scale discovery can only really be done through physical browsing, but it not particularly efficient.

Coming to a solution, they focused on curation and recommendation and aggregation with a process of being human centred and with iterative design.

Iteration 1 – they installed Endeca as their discovery layer (2011). It does search but also shows similar and brings in facets. They introduced predictive search to link to university subjects and incorporated content across a range of data sources.

Interation 2 – 2013 introduced Find Articles, a new tool using the Primo central index with a HTML 5 interface. This brought in a new search option focused on scholarly articles and online resources. Brings up a tab when doing a main catalogue search, so the systems are seamless.

But what about discovery?

An artist in residence created a Dewey ribbon for them, which is a visual representation of the ranges of numbers related to the current search. It is a visual representation that helps users limit searched down to a granular level.

They also heave Shelf view – whcih allows users to browse items by Dewey range – this is available on all catalogue searches.

Where to next?

They have started developing their next iteration, with more user experience work, experience mapping on tasks and prototyping – from wireframe to test site. New features include simple format filters, recommendations and better access options. They are also doing more work on the architecture. They are moving from Endeca to Elastic as a discovery layer. Elastic is being used by the “cool kids” including Facebook, GitHub, Reuters and Uber. They are also looking at incorporating other open source tools.


Two roads, one destination: a journey of discovery – Wendy Abbott and Karen Joc
They conducted a usability study in 2015 on the transition of their catalogue from Summon to Primo. The change was due to better compatability with their new LMS.

Summon had very little customisation, but Primo has a lot more scope for this. When changing they looked at institutions for ideas and found them. A new Bond University website also helped drive their design, including structure and colours. (Library Search is an option on the university’s website search facility)

They did a study with undergraduates tgiven a $10 coffee voucher – through focus groups and test runs. Also demonstrated doing a live survey with the audience at conference, using

They asked students what their understanding was of different headings they used, eg. e-shelf. All test subjects did searching and not one of them used the drop down menu. Once shown, they didn’t understand the limitiations or the capabilities.

Eight students were involved in usability testing – completing 8 tasks in between 30 and 45 minutes. All were recorded using Camtasia and students were encouraged to speak their thought processes out loud.

Recommendations for any such change were to: have an excellent project manager, customise prior to launch, get the right structure, test your design, make sure its mobile accessible through testing and have a communications strategy.

What they noted was that students adapt easily to changing interfaces, but that they need to improve their search skills.
Inspiring creative partnerships through improv – Karen Lauritson

We do spend a lot of time worrying about the future. What we can do something about is the here and now.

What if we? – need to ask these questions. …….have fun together?

Two methods to have fun are Improv and Design Thinking.

What if we keep people at the heart of what we do?

Learn by doing – California Polytechnic State Uni – CalPoly. A top Uni because of its learn by doing philosophy.

Make / Document / Share – they made programs, documented it and shared it on social media.

What if we play together? They changed their staircase into a live game board. Also did DIY: crowd sourced gaming. (My idea – library as Pacman). Event around How to be a futurist.

What if we make our programs open? Introduce people to experts in a low key way. Open ScienceCafe – How to use data and design to tell stories – student proposed, organised and ran a talk. All videos so that could be further shared. Another group of students organised a RFID expert.

Rule 1 – Yes, and….. Miss Phryne Fisher is the quintessential “yes and” person. Story can’t continue without that.

What if we see everyone as part of our ensemble? We can discover unexpected things – we are all in this together.

The library is a yes and place already. It may not have the answer, but it gets the conversation going?

You man initiate an idea they support it …..QUOTE

You make other people feel good.

What if we give people gifts? We have to embrace what is happening. Ignoring it doesn’t change anything – you have to accept the moment.

A good improviser is someone who is not wide awake QUOTE

Making and sharing is part of the process. It’s exciting to look places where we may not know the outcomes.

Design thinking – empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test. Design thinking for libraries new resource.

What if we break down the silos?

Pitch Perfect competition with the Business Department. Video competition was changed to 60 second pitch. Money was increased to award winners, but also to make the winning projects happen.

What if we see libraries as t-shaped? How can libraries inspire community connect, to connect with people cultivating ideas.

What if we……..?