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IST Conferences

So What Happened at the Information Services Team June Event?

July 10, 2014 | Mary-Beth | Comments (0)


P6260034Staff gathered at the June 26th IST event to hear what TPL’s Alan Harnum had to say about “Computational Thinking” -- how we effectively use computers and other technology to assist us in our work.  While we may sometimes feel the ability to use technology is most critical, Alan reminded us that it’s just as important to be able to think critically about the powers and limits of the technologies we use, and to conceive our goals in ways that computers can assist us in solving them.  Alan discussed the four stages of computational thinking: decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern generalization and algorithms design, and drew analogies to functions in the library, one of which was the reference interview.  To view his slides check

We also heard from Jennifer Peters, Teaching and Learning Technologies Librarian, & Ewan Gibson, New Media Services Technician, both from Seneca College Libraries.  They spoke about “Supporting Digital Literacies in the Library” and provided an overview of Seneca’s “Sandbox”.  The Sandbox offers instructional programs and physical spaces to support digital skill development.  It is a place where one can create things like animated and live action videos, digital stories, infographics, websites and podcasts.  Maker tools like Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and MakeyMakey kits are also available. Librarians have worked with faculty and students to create an online learning environment.  Go to and explore the resources from their workshops and access video instructions, infographics and more.

For more by Jennifer see Check out her projects, videos, publications and more!

Pictured above: Jennifer Peters & Ewan Gibson

2012 IST Fall Conference: UX and You

December 3, 2012 | Diana S. | Comments (1)

The 2012 Information Services Team Fall Conference theme is all about evolving reference services, highlighting the strategic plan initiative of supporting a city of innovators.

One of the keynote speakers was Amanda Etches, Head of Discovery & Access at the University of Guelph Library, where she spends her time guiding teams and projects that are all about making the overall library experience better for users, both in-person and online. The user comes first and understanding user behaviour and using that understanding to guide the way services, spaces, systems, and interfaces are designed go a long way in providing good customer service. Her presentation was a conceptual introduction to the principles of user experience (UX) design as well as some ideas into ways library staff can incorporate them in their provision of (reference) services.

Amanda Etches

Design is everywhere in the library (furniture, signage, service desks, etc.) and design decisions should be made with the user in mind, giving what the user wants and not what you want. Userability is a quality attribute, designing and building things that work the way our users work as opposed to expecting users to adapt to them. Amanda Etches outlines 10 specific principles to user experience design decisions.  

You are not your user/know thy user
For the most part, design decisions made are convenient for us, representing insider opinions rather than users’.  We should give people what they want, not what you want.

User is not broken
How something is consciously designed affects how another experiences it. Any issues can be fixed by modifying the design, not the user.

Empathy required 
Stepping in a user’s shoes is a good way to find out what a user needs.

Can’t build great experiences without research   
Researching is required to get to the heart of user’s opinions and what they are thinking or what they want to accomplish. There are two types of research: attitudinal, the user’s views that are obtained through surveys, focus groups, and interviews; and behavioural, the user’s behaviours observed through usability testing.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a useful paradigm for design specifics
In order for a design to be successful, it must meet the basic 'hierarchy of needs' before it can move ahead to satisfy the higher-level needs. The design must work as it is intended.


Good/best user experience (UX) design is to have as little design as possible
People need functionality and less design that gets in the way.

Good design is universal 
Using universal design techniques (i.e. equitable, flexible, simple & intuitive, perceptible, tolerant of error, low physical effort, etc.) to guide design decisions will result in a successful design project that will serve users with a variety of learning styles, abilities, experiences, and cultural backgrounds.

Balance user needs with library needs
User needs and library needs are illustrated as a triangle joined by the context. Depending on what is being designed, they can be a shifting and balancing between the three components.

TriangleNeeds01     TriangleNeeds02


Good user experience is more than good customer service
People will barely take note of the time, effort and hard work it takes to make their user experience a great one. This is as it should be. It's a measure of the success of UX professionals when the focus is on user's satisfaction.

Good user experience is holistic 
Every element of a design has to work – what the building looks like, the smell, furniture, lightning, customer service, website, programs & services, policies (how user friendly), staffing and how empowered they are, rules, hours of service, signage at all the appropriate places, website, social media presence, etc.


User experience is basically all about the people. It’s all about the users and what they really want and need to accomplish and how we can enable that. Every decision you make affects how people experience the library.

IST Spring Conference – The Role of Mobile Phones in Youth Social Networks: a Study in Transitions

June 13, 2011 | Mary-Beth | Comments (0)

The second speaker at the IST conference was Dr. Rhonda McEwen, a professor at the Faculty of Information at the University of  Toronto.    She spoke about her study on how young people use mobile phones during the first year at university – a time of major transition in their lives.   

IST Spring Lecture - June 1, 2011 001 She studied 175 University of Toronto and Ryerson University students, aged 17-22.  58% were female and 60% were Canadian born.  43% had left home for the first time, and were feeling vulnerable and lonely.  So it makes total sense that 85% called their friends and family on a daily basis.  Mobile phones are the technological ties that bind.

Mobile phones were used to cover up anxiety and shyness.  Many admitted to using their mobile phones to pretend to talk to someone.  Walking home alone at night they pulled out their phone for a "talk" while they walked.  Or instead of initiating a conversation with the new person sitting beside them, they pretended to talk to an old friend on their phone.  And at first, over 40% were not comfortable calling a new person’s mobile number and most definitely would not call a number given to them by a third person. 

Students admitted that they do not feel that they are alone if they have their phone with them and they constantly and virtually have access to their network of friends and family.  Always on and close at hand – even to the extent of being under their pillow at night.

Luckily by the 2nd term they had adjusted, but their mobile phones help them make that adjustment by calming their anxieties and giving them instant access to their family and friends.  Dr. McEwen plans to do a follow up study of these same students in their final year at university so it will be interesting to see what changes have occurred.

For more on Dr. McEwen’s research see

IST Spring Conference - Augmented Reality

June 6, 2011 | Mary-Beth | Comments (0)

First there was the real world, and then there was the virtual world.  Reality and virtual reality.   And now, there’s augmented reality, or AR for short.  

Fiacre O'Duinn from Hamilton Public Library gave us a fascinating talk about AR at the IST Spring Conference last week.  

Amsterdam AR is a technology which allows virtual data to overlay the real world.   Layar is the company which is dominant for AR at the moment and comes already loaded on many mobile phones. (Check to see if it is loaded on yours!)  Layar is open platform with over 2 million users and offers opportunities to experiment with AR. 

Here is a real estate example of AR from Amsterdam.  Hold up your phone and a red dot appears, revealing the properties for sale and their asking price.  Phone numbers are included so all you need is to call up for a viewing appointment.

Another example is Street Museum.  Carnaby street Again hold up your smart phone to view the street in front of you and view a scene superimposed on the screen of a period back in time - here it's the swinging Sixties on Carnaby Street.  If you tap the screen, historical facts pop up describing what happened on the spot in the past.  All the images showcase the collections of the Museum of London and allow visitors to view them live, juxtaposed against the current reality. 

O’Duinn quotes Koert van Mensvoort when he says “[while] our environment was previously made up of objects, now it consists of information”.  The place surrounding us becomes the interface with all the complications that this brings...

Geoloqi was another platform which piqued my interest.  It is a private real-time mobile and web platform for securely sharing your location data.  Using this will supply you with ambient information.  For example, you pass by a grocery store and your device reminds you to buy eggs, or you walk by a library and are reminded to pick up your holds… Food for thought!

Augmented Reality promises to have as profound an effect as the Internet, according to O’Duinn.  For more about AR see his presentation and other documents at and see his web site at

Stay tuned for part 2 next week on the IST Spring Conference.

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