Privacy & The Hyperlinked Library – Reflection

Apparently I need to go back to a remedial data entry class…  I entered all my assignments from last week (for all my classes!) into my calendar as being due this week.  Sooooo, I’m playing a little bit of catch up here.

 

Despite coming to the party late, this week’s ‘choose your own adventure’ style was pretty fun!  I initially was planning to go down the rabbit hole of hyperlinked public libraries, but my brain kept coming back to issues of privacy — specifically I kept thinking of the incident with US customs and border patrol agents detaining a US citizen returning to the states until he told them the password to unlock his phone.

 

If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can read the details here, but the gist is that US officials detained a US citizen and pressured to give them access to his phone.  The phone was issued by NASA and contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared.  Long story short, US officials were given the PIN and the phone was out of the owners possession for 30 minutes.

 

https://xkcd.com/538/

 

Quincy Larson discussions the implications of this (apparently legal!) action in his article titled ‘I’ll never bring my phone on an international flight again.  Neither should you.’  He mentioned that the US is not the only country that does this — and that there is software our there that can ‘suck down’ all your photos/contacts/passwords/etc in a matter of minutes.  So even if the phone is only away from you for a short while, if it’s unlocked, the data is not secure.

 

In the article included this week about privacy and information sharing , Rainie and Duggan make the point that many Americans are balancing convenience and risk when determining whether they are willing to disclose personal information.  Many people disable location services on their smart phones, or prevent apps from accessing the phone camera in order to increase privacy and lessen the risk of information leaks.

 

But how many people think about potentially leaving their smart phones are home when they travel out of the country?
I mean, personally, I have tons of information on my phone…  location-tagged photos, data from my apple watch, my library account information, passwords for all my social media, medial prescription information, saved email passwords, banking information, and probably a lot of things I don’t even realize…  but I really can’t imagine traveling, especially traveling internationally without it.

 

It’s definitely something to think about when balancing that risk, but it feels like a reality that I’m not exactly ready for.

 

Emerging Technology Planning

The Plan: Scratch Coding Camp

This is actually a project that I’ve been working on trying to implement at my library, so I’d love some feedback.  I might get a chance to try it out for real, which is very exciting, but so far, it’s still in the planning phase.  So here’s the plan —

Explore your curiosity for coding at our 4-day Scratch coding series. We will work together to make mini-games in Scratch, learn skills at an individual pace, and produce creative projects with other students. After four days of hard work, bring your friends and family for a celebration of your success and a showcase of your Scratch creations! No previous coding or Scratch experience necessary! All materials and equipment provided.

Goals/Objectives

Expose students to the basics of coding and computer programming. Participants will learn the basics of the Scratch programming language with a combination of individual and group work. All participants will produce mini-games throughout the week.

Description of Community

6-8 graders.  I work for a mid-sized urban/suburban library district and one of our branches used to be located inside a school.  We recently built a new building and moved the branch out of the school.  It’s just across the street from its previous location, but we’ve noticed a significant drop in the number of middle school kids who visit the library.  I propose partnering with the school to temporarily ‘bring the library back’ to the school and deliver this library program as an after school program in the school computer lab.

Action Brief Statement

Convince parents that by allowing their children to ‘play’ with computers they are actually learning valuable computer coding skills which will make them better prepared for the world because computer programming is now part of basic literacy.

Evidence and Resources

Teen Coding Programs at other public libraries:

I could keep listing coding programs at libraries for a while, but that is just a small sample of different sized libraries + different demographics, all doing coding programs for teens.

This article from American Libraries Magazine shares ‘lessons learned’ from libraries who have started coding initiatives:

  • Collaboration is key. Don’t do anything in isolation, because you don’t have limitless resources.
  • Don’t overthink it. Just dive in, start small, and build from there. It doesn’t take a lot. Three or four computers and an instructor are all you need to get started.
  • Make sure you’re connecting with the needs of the community. Anticipate needs , even if community members don’t yet know what those are.
  • Go for it. Most libraries underestimate the demand their communities have for technology training. It’s a great service, and it adds value to the library’s role within the community.

This Scratch coding camp can be a relatively low-commitment way for my library to enter into teen coding education.  It will be implemented at one location, with a small target population, so we’ll be able to start small and grow from there.

Mission  

Coding is mentioned in the Arapahoe Libraries 2016 strategic plan — As technology becomes even more entrenched into everyday use and the dependence on gadgets grows, the need to make every experience matter for patrons by expanding their basic technology skill set is becoming increasingly important.

Funding Considerations

If the school gives us after-school access to their computer lab, then that should take care of computers and internet access.  Scratch is a free coding language that students can access in-browser.  Additional supplies are minimal — pencils, paper, etc.  For the pizza party, $100 should suffice, which the library should be able to provide.

Action Steps
 
  • Develop an instructional outline
Each student will work at a computer in the school computer lab (max 16 students).  Each day will begin with orientation (day 1) or a brief review (days 2-4), followed by an introduction of new concepts.  The new concepts will be demonstrated by the instructor on a projected screen.  Then the students will have the opportunity to test out the new concepts in an original project. At the end of the week, we will host a pizza party for students, family, and friends, and the students will get to show off all of their original projects.

  • Construct curriculum
– Day 1:
– concepts: introducing scratch, scratch account, sprites, sequential logic
– projects: basic cartoon, basic animation, maze game
– Day 2:
– concepts: conditionals, pen blocks, keyboard interactions, basic looping
– project: basic drawing, looping drawing
– Day 3:
– concepts: looping, variables, parallel threads, operators, basic custom blocks
– projects: basic math game, collection game
– Day 4:
– concepts: variables, lists, custom blocks, advanced operators
– projects: word game, advanced math game

  • Additional logistics
Communicate with school staff to coordinate use of computer lab.
Allow library staff time to familiarize themselves with the curriculum and Scratch projects.

Staffing Considerations

When teaching coding to kids, enthusiasm and personality matter almost as much as actual coding skills, so it’s important to have staff who actually enjoy Scratch coding projects.  Staff training should be minimal, as Scratch is a pretty easy language to learn.  And I’ve assembled some resources to help staff get started.

Training

Luckily Scratch is a computer language with a very gentle learning curve.  The visual components of the language and projects make it fun and library staff should be able to pick it up pretty quickly.  I’ve assembled and annotated some resources that might be useful when staff are working through their own Scratch projects.  I will add those at the bottom on this post.

Promotion & Marketing

Since the target audience is small and they all attend the same school, word-of-mouth advertisement to the middle school teachers and flyers in school computer lab should be sufficient to fill the program.  The promise of a pizza party on Day 4 won’t hurt either!

Evaluation

During the week of coding camp, tracking student progress and making sure they are actually learning the programming concepts is an important way to evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum.  If students are coming back on subsequent days during the week, then it would indicate the camp is fun and worth their time — 6-8 graders are certainly old enough to skip out on activities they don’t want to attend.  Ideally, I’d love to see this program pull some of these students back into the library after the week is over.  If they enjoy coding, hopefully they will see the library as a resource where they can continue learning these skills and making computer games.  Talking to the middle school teachers about the kids’ reactions to the coding camp would probably also be valuable.

Annotated Resources for Scratch Coding

This annotated bibliography is intended for library staff who are learning Scratch coding.  A lot of Scratch can kind of be figured out as you go, but these videos were helpful to me when I was learning, so I figured I’d pass the knowledge on.  I know this wasn’t really a required part of the assignment, but I thought I’d include it at the end in case any of you guys are interested.

Awesome567.  (2015, September 19).  Scratch episode: 1 play button [Video File].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvYLk3oH92M

This tutorial video could benefit from some editing, but despite its somewhat scattered presentation, it contains a lot of valuable material.  Most helpful to me was the tip that you can copy/paste a block of code from one sprite to another by dragging it from the working area of the first sprite onto the image of the second sprite.  Aside from that, the video steps through the process of creating a menu screen and a ‘play’ button in Scratch by utilizing the broadcast blocks and ‘when this sprite is clicked’ block.  It shows how to hide and show different sprites and how to change the background when ‘play’ is clicked.

Blank Editor.  (2013, September 2).  Maze – invent with Scratch 2.0 screencast [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YXwcx0rSlY

This resource is a step-by-step tutorial video explaining how to create a maze game using Scratch.  I chose this video because I found it was a concise, yet informative introduction to many elements of game-making with Scratch.  It shows how to edit the sprites, add new background images, and have the sprite interact with the background.  The logic required for this game is fairly simple, so even if the user is unfamiliar with programming, they should still be able to construct a maze game by following along with this video.

Lewis, Colleen. (2013, July 25).  Broadcast: programming in Scratch 2.0 [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnYbOCiudyc

This resource is a practical explanation of how to use the broadcast function in Scratch to animate a conversation.  I chose this video because I found it to be very helpful in creating my cartoon for the assignment this week.  Understanding how to use broadcast is essential when doing animation work with Scratch.  Especially useful was the side-by-side look at the ‘broadcast message’ / ‘receive message’ blocks while concepts were being explained.

Paget Teaches…. (2014, February 21). Using the clone blocks in Scratch [Video File].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHrkUsrv9p4

This tutorial video covers the basics of using clones in Scratch.  When I was thinking about how I was going to code my collectables project, I came across the idea of clones.  This video talks mostly about using clones as a substitute for coding many identical sprites with very similar behavior.  Clones allow your program to do the same thing, but much more efficiently.  I ended up using clones differently than he does here, but I still found this information valuable and would like to share it.

Radhafille [Screen name].  (2013, September 8).  Make a block – Scratch 2.0 [Video File].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ert5PtU6Zjk

This video is a very helpful step-by-step walkthrough of how to create a custom block in Scratch.  It includes answering the basic ‘why bother with custom blocks’ questions by showing how custom blocks can actually make your code easier to understand and easier to modify.  At the 6 minute mark she jumps to a demonstration of a specific Scratch plug-in (called LeapScratch), but the first 6 minutes have great info about custom blocks.

Schafer, Ben.  (2016, May 28). Unit 6, lesson 2, how to create functions in Scratch [Video File].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqyukTJB8-c

This video is a great introduction to using functions in Scratch.  He uses a very simple example of drawing a half-circle to explain the advantages of programming with functions, aka a piece of code you can call over and over again.  Although it can seem like more work up front to create functions, but the payoff comes later because changes and troubleshooting your program are going to be much easier.

SchoolPlusScratch. (2013, March 14). Scratch 2.0 – more blocks tutorial [Video File].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jM2SIDKM0Q

This video goes through the process of how to send variables to a function using the example of making a sprite jump to different heights, depending on the button pressed.  The speaker has a slight accent, so if English is not the viewer’s native language, it might be a little harder to understand the commentary, but every step is clearly outlined in the screencast, so it should be possible to follow along.

Skeletons888.  (2014, March 15).  Scratch tutorial – making a home screen [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL6UUPdeTw0

The tutorial in this video starts about 30 seconds in, so be sure to skip ahead if you are in a hurry.  Also the user in this video is programming with an older version of Scratch, so some things may look a little different.  I included it here because it clearly shows how to switch backgrounds when clicking a button (aka a sprite).  In this older version, the block that is used is called ‘When <sprite name> is clicked’ and in the current version the block is now called ‘When this sprite is clicked’, but the idea is still the same.  It also shows how to hide menu buttons during game play and how to introduce sprites after the menu screen.

TheLogFather [Screen name]. (2014, April 22).  Removing ask-and-wait [Scratch project].  Retrieved from https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/21056899/

When I was first putting my project together, I was frustrated that there seemed to be no way to get rid of the ask box (the blue bar across the bottom of the screen) without quitting the program.  Obviously if the user enters input, then the ask box will go away, but sometimes you might want to remove it (or give the player the option to remove it) without entering information.  This project shows how you can ‘hack’ the timer feature in Scratch to remove a lingering ask box.  It’s a pretty neat trick that I didn’t actually end up needing this week, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway.

York, Ryan.  (2014, March 30).  Broadcasting in Scratch [Video File].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v1OFTKaTGc

This resource demonstrates another aspect of the broadcast function — cause and effect relationships between different sprites.  It uses a simple example to show how utilizing ‘broadcast message’ / ‘receive message’ is the most common way to facilitate communication between sprites.  This video was also helpful in that it mentions the importance of defining a starting position for sprites that move throughout the course of the animation.

Hyperlinked Communities – Reflection

The article this week about communal kitchen spaces in public libraries (here) kinda blew my mind!
I’m shocked by how much I love this idea and by the fact that I’ve never heard of it before.  Libraries are already so much more than bookshelves — with more and more libraries incorporating makerspaces, recording studios, cafes, game rooms, theaters, etc into our branches — but the idea of having a space for food is fantastic!
Food provides such a great opportunity for community gathering and cultural exchange, and food preparation is a vital life skill to have.  The library can host programs about healthy living, cooking on a budget, cross-cultural food exchanges, and so much more.
A kitchen in a library is a great example of how to apply the principles discussed by Aaron Schmidt in his article about asking the right questions (here).  If you asked library users in Madison (where one of the kitchens is being built) what they’d like to see in their library, I doubt very much any of them would say ‘You know what? Let’s build a kitchen!’.  But like Schmidt says, it’s not their job to come up with new library services — that’s our job!  So when our community tells us that they like learning new things in a social setting, it’s on us to realize that a kitchen space, for example, can provide an opportunity to do exactly that — learn new skills in a fun, hands-on environment.
Now I just need to figure out which library boss I need to talk to about this kitchen thing…  I would LOVE to have one at one of our library branches!

Context Book Review

 

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

 

While I appreciate the long list of book options, was it hard for anyone else to decide what book to review?  After figuring out which titles didn’t have a long hold list at my library, I eventually settled on Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.  I’d previously read and enjoyed Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Outliers, so I figured I would find this title interesting.

Spoiler alert: it was really interesting!

 

The fundamental thesis here is that ‘decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately’.

 

Gladwell quickly draws you in with the story of an ‘ancient Greek’ statue about to be purchased by the Getty Museum — an unbelievable well-preserved work — that passed extensive authenticity testing before the purchase was approved.

At some point an art historian was brought to see the statue and immediately declared it to be a fake.  A few other experts had similar reactions — unsure of the trigger for their reactions, but certain their gut instincts were correct.  You can probably guess where this story is headed, but these accusations lead to more investigation, which uncovered the fact that the statue was indeed a forgery.  Blink is about those subconscious gut instinct reactions, trying to help the reader understand the cognitive processes happening in those first few moments of processing information.

 

Gladwell is a good storyteller and he brings the reader though a series of examples to defend his thesis — that we are all making these judgements all the time, and decisions based on them can be as accurate cautious and deliberate decisions.  However he is careful to make clear that often these snap judgements are nothing more than manifestations of superficial stereotypes, based on misperceptions about race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.

Warren Harding  (seriously!)

His story about our tendency to conflate attractiveness with intelligence, courage, and integrity is discussed as the hilariously titled ‘Warren Harding error’.  The heartbreaking story of the shooting of Amadou Diallo tragically highlights how our cognitive biases affect our ability to make good decisions based on a snap-judgements.

 

As I was reading this book and thinking about how it relates to libraries, I kept coming back to something that seems almost like a reversal of the premise.  Gladwell is saying that we are all making these snap judgements and that our resulting decisions are no better or worse than well thought out decisions.

 

I work in a public library — so it’s reasonable to assume that all the patrons in my library are constantly having gut reactions to their environment and making (subconscious) decisions about how they will interact with the library in the future.  So we should almost be targeting our patrons’ subconscious when it comes to trying to convince them that the library is a great place, right?

This might be a bit of a tangent, but at my library we have a policy (that we lifted straight from Disney) called ‘Everything Speaks’.  The idea is that every detail of the physical environment says something about our library.  Ok, this isn’t rocket science right?  You don’t want to spend time somewhere that is messy or dirty — but after reading Blink, I feel like I’m finally understanding that the point of ‘Everything Speaks’ is to influence these split-second gut reactions that our patrons have while simply being in the library.

 

That horrible ‘Director Only’ parking sign mentioned in a previous lecture is an great example of something speaking VERY LOUDLY about the tone and environment of that organization.  But even smaller things like fluorescent lights buzzing, or un-shoveled sidewalks, or trash in the recycling bins will communicate messages about your organization to your patrons — whether they (and you) realize it or not.

 

I would also like to include that as a public library employee — well honestly, everyone should do this — it’s important to continuously challenge your own biases and try to see how your subconscious-driven snap judgements might be affecting your behavior in the way that you treat certain people.  It’s a hard thing to do, trying to balance trusting your intuition with awareness of implicit bias, but what can we do but try to get better?

 

References:
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: a guide to participatory library service.
 
Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

 

Hyperlinked Library – Reflection

Ok, 1% of people start their information searches at their library website?

 

 

I know that might be depressing if you are in charge of your library’s web design, but honestly that number seems a little high to me.  I’m surprised that ANY people at all are using the library as their initial avenue to finding information.

I’m an avid library user and library employee, and yet if someone comes up to me wanting to see if we have the newest Baldacci novel, I’ll typically google ‘newest Baldacci novel’ to find the title, and then search for the title specifically in our library catalog.  …hope that doesn’t make me a bad librarian 😉

Our web team has been working on trying to get catalog results (or our general library page) to show up in google search results — if someone is geographically close to our libraries when they are googling for books (or other materials we may have) — as a way to remind users that we exist and to try to bring some of that google traffic to our page.

 

Looking at another aspect of the hyperlinked library model — my library recently underwent a ‘rebranding’ focusing on creating a VIP user experience and streamlined services — centered around the following question:

 

 

We sometimes give our marketing department a hard time, but honestly, they’ve done a really good job getting staff to dial-in on providing each individual ‘customer’ with a unique and positive library experience.  Part of the rebrand is to move away from the idea of ‘library = books’ and try to create a feeling of ‘library = community’.  Libraries need to be dynamic to reflect and cater to their changing communities, and we are trying, but change can be really hard.

 

We opened a makerspace at one of our branches about two years ago and it’s been really successful, both in terms of patron participation and staff enthusiasm.

Some of our more expensive and dangerous machines (laser cutter, CNC mill, 3D printers) have traditionally only been operated by trained library staff.  As you might imagine, this restriction limits the availability of these machines to patrons.  There have been a few of us tech staff who have been advocating for the start of a program to train members of the public to become ‘certified’ to use this equipment — which would allow them to use it outside of the limited hours when staff are available to help.

Predictably, this proposal has caused some MAJOR handwringing and worry on the part of administrators.  However, after about a year of pestering them, we are being allowed to proceed with a pilot test of certification for our 3D printers.  So far, so good (fingers crossed!).  Hopefully you won’t all read in the news that Castlewood Library in Colorado has been destroyed due to rogue 3D printing!

In the long run, some of us are interested in potentially having the space open for certified users after the library closes — the makerspace has an exterior door, so access to the main library could be limited — so I found the article this week about the Open+ system to be very interesting, though I suspect the very idea would give some of my bosses a heart attack!

 

Hello hello!

Hi classmates!  My name is Carrie and I work as a technology specialist in a public library in the Denver, CO area.  I’m in my last semester of normal classes at SJSU — in the Fall I’ll be doing the e-Portfolio and then I’m done! — so I’m excited to get this semester underway!

I live here in sunny Denver with my husband, our 21-month old daughter and our two dogs.  We are also expecting another baby this summer (after the semester has finished, fingers crossed!), so things are about to get to a new level of busy around here…

I look forward to working with all of you this semester!