The Need for Digital Literacy in a Digitally-Connected World

by Darnell Epps and Kurtis Tanaka

We loved this post so much, we have to share it with our readers! Originally published in the Ithaka SR blog on 15 March 2021: https://sr.ithaka.org/blog/post-nchep-reflection/ . This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution/NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

If you have a topic you would like to read about, please drop us a line at digidexbloggroup@lists.caval.edu.au.

We also welcome contributors, so if you want to write a post yourself, please let us know!

Open knowledge activism for lifelong learning, independent research and knowledge translation

By Clare O’Hanlon, La Trobe University Library

e: c.ohanlon@latrobe.edu.au

Open knowledge activism in libraries is about more than negotiating transformative agreements and making research available in repositories and open access journals. It also involves helping researchers and students give research back to communities in an accessible and meaningful format for their needs and contexts. Academic library worker support for student and academic digital literacies development, particularly information, media, and data literacies; collaboration; community and participation; and digital creation, problem solving and innovation, plays a crucial role in this. Local public library and community archive and museum workers provide extensive digital literacies, local history, STEM, and creative programming in their communities. Together we can do more to support lifelong learning, independent research, and knowledge translation.

Open knowledge activism by night

Volunteering with the Australian Queer Archives (AQuA) by night to preserve and make research and more knowledge available for and with LGBTIQA+ communities within and beyond the academy in multiple formats (from queer history walks and exhibitions to an Honours thesis prize and beyond) has helped me see that research can be a collective, generative, and transformative process. Our collection and work may not be open in traditional academic “Open Access” ways, and it is not safe for our collection to be completely open to all, but we are open in the inclusive sense of the word. In her Open as in dangerous talk, Chris Bourg illustrates the importance of individual privacy and protection from abuse and harassment, and warns that Open Access publishing can perpetuate existing systems of oppression and inequality and that opening up collections can potentially lead to a loss of context that is then extracted and shared in diverse ways. Bourg’s warnings and my work at AQuA by night motivate me to advocate for the collective, generative, and transformative kind of research and openness in the sometimes extractive and competitive academic environment I work in by day.

The Australian Queer Archives reading room
Australian Queer Archives reading room ready for visitors (author supplied).

Other ways that library workers can support open knowledge activism by night might include participating in learning spaces outside of universities, including but not limited to:

Open knowledge activism by day

Below are some ways I have helped and seen others help support lifelong learning, independent research, and knowledge translation through open knowledge activism by day:

Additionally, we could help connect academics and students with local public library, archive and museum-based STEM, local history, literary and creative programming rather than compete with such programs. Some examples of this public library and related programming include:

We must keep in mind the amount of labour involved in opening up research, translating it into practice, and making it accessible to communities and recognise that this is not always adequately acknowledged and supported. With increasing focus on research impact and engagement, this is changing, and I hope this post will encourage academic and public library workers to collaborate with each other and academics and students to open research with and for communities.

Large protest on Flinders Street in Melbourne with a trans flag and placard with the words 'Change the System' written in rainbow-coloured letters and two Aboriginal flags on it.
Protest in Melbourne (author supplied).

The OER Capability Toolkit – Reflection and Learning

by Frank Ponte, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library

E: frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au or
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/francoponte/ and Twitter: @ponte_frank

The OER Capability Toolkit

Cover of the OER Capability Toolkit from RMIT

Read and download the OER Capability Toolkit from:
https://rmit.pressbooks.pub/oercapabilitytoolkit/

Eighteen months ago, I formed a team to investigate how we would address OER awareness, adoption, support and capability for teaching staff. We addressed these needs through the development of an OER Capability Toolkit designed for the RMIT University audience but shared openly for others to adapt.

The authoring and development of this work was conducted remotely in the shared Teams environment. The OER Capability Toolkit was published in July 2022. The published work also spawned a set of four open education self-directed modules via the university HR platform for onboarding of new staff and professional development, an authoring toolkit and a style guide. Collectively, these works are the fundamental building blocks to open education knowledge building and all designed to provide the support structure required for educators to successfully author an open work.

Building the OER Capability Toolkit allowed me to reflect on the process that was undertaken and share the learning from our project.  

Sustainability

Sustainability is key driver in the development of an open publication. Educators are tasked with bringing together large groups of authors, and consequently need to ensure clarity and purpose. Therefore, a strong foundation of support is required. The library has provided this through the aforementioned publications, self-directed modules, and the Pressbooks authoring platform. In addition, the library created an open publishing team to reinforce our commitment to open education, streamline the support the library provides, and assign each open textbook project an open publishing team member to provide advice and guidance for a successful outcome.

A publishing workflow

When we embarked on our project to develop the OER Capability Toolkit our understanding of an open publishing workflow was emergent. In retrospect, it would have been a simpler task if we had a clearer understanding of the fundamental principles, processes and tasks associated with publishing rather than vacillating between authoring and addressing complex problems. The subsequent emergence of the CAUL publishing workflow  now anchors our support with educators and ensures that the seven stages of publishing and associated tasks are addressed at the appropriate time.

Creative Commons licensing

The OER Capability Toolkit is a remix. That is, the publication is a combination of existing creative commons resources and original content. Lessons learned include:

  • Ensuring there is an understanding of the license type you are publishing under from the outset. This will determine what resources you have at your disposal and can use in the adaptation process.
  • Knowing a non-derivative license cannot be used in any adaptation.
  • Maintaining track of what was being used in the adaptation. Doing so, assisted in creating the reference list and acknowledging the original resource.
  • Reflecting on your level of comfort with releasing an open work. That is, are you happy for your newly created work to be adapted, remixed, or monetized.

Formative and summative assessments – H5P activities

H5P is a plugin available in Pressbooks which allows the author to create formative and summative assessment tasks for learners. There is evidence to suggest that this kind of interactivity assists learners to stay focused and engaged with the content.  I wanted to include these activities in the OER Capability Toolkit as learning and engagement was a critical element to building and delivering this work. The toolkit contains a number of H5P activities used as formative assessment and presents a summative assessment called the “open pedagogy plan” in Part 5 as the culmination of this learning.

Open publications that contain formative and summative activities have the capacity to be embedded within the context of a broader course curriculum and provide the flexibilities required for educators to engage with open pedagogical practices.

Referencing

Ensure that attribution and citation are clearly defined and articulated from the beginning.  Even though the terms share characteristics, citations and attributions play different roles and appear in different places. A citation allows authors to provide the source of any quotations, ideas, and information that they include in their own work based on the copyrighted works of other authors. It is used in works for which broad permissions have not been granted.

Attribution on the other hand is used when a resource or text is released with an open licence. This legal requirement states that users must attribute — give credit — to the creator of the work and encompass these critical elements at a minimum:

  • Title of the work
  • Author (creator) of the work
  • Source (link) or where the work can be found
  • License of the work

Peer review, front and back matter

Peer review was an important element to get right. We engaged in three rounds of peer review. Starting by reviewing each other’s chapters within the authoring group. This exercise provided an initial opportunity to assess, grammar, language, the use, or overuse of acronyms, and finesse language and comprehension. The second peer review involved an external cohort of colleagues from other Australian universities who provided a similar overview but from an external perspective. A third peer review was undertaken using a tool called Hypothe.sis. This tool is a plug-in in Pressbooks and allows for social annotation with students. It is also a useful tool to implement as part of a peer review process. All commentary is contextualized within the chapters and responses are received by email and easily edited.


Front and back matter was important to include as part of the publication process. Including the front and back matter provided completeness to the work and offered context to the reader. The front matter introduced the new work and helped the reader understand the evolution of its creation and the back matter included a glossary and appendix.

In conclusion

The open education philosophy seamlessly interconnects with RMIT Library’s ethos of sharing knowledge and supporting learning. RMIT Library is well positioned to work with academic staff to create, produce, and disseminate open works via open platforms for maximum impact, and the library as publisher, can lead and shape the transformation of curriculum pedagogy where every learner is supported and valued.

A collaborative approach to student digital skills support: The UOW Digital Skills Hub

By Kristy Newton, Digital Literacies Coordinator (UOW Library)

Digital literacies, digital capabilities, digital dexterity… no matter what you call them, these are an essential and complex set of practical skills, attitudes and contextual understanding that help us navigate and interact with the digital world. They can span everything from learning how to use a new piece of software, to understanding how communication styles differ depending on the channel you are using to communicate, to developing a growth mindset that enables you to engage in a process of continual learning and development. This post outlines the process of developing the UOW Student Digital Skills Hub as a strategy for supporting student digital skill development.

A collaborative approach

At UOW, we recognised that a collaborative approach was essential for supporting student digital literacies and that this collaboration needed to be seamless for students to access. There had been collaborative work on developing an institutional approach to digital literacies for a few years, but the unexpected challenges of COVID19 and the rapid transition to remote learning meant that a lot of that work was paused to allow staff to address the immediate challenges presented by the pandemic. Libraries are often champions of digital literacy development, but the complex interplay of practical skills and digital behaviours means that digital literacy support at an institutional level spans several units with areas of expertise. The IT support units are an obvious match for the development of technical skills, but the development of digital capabilities at University also incorporates clever learning design that means students encounter these development opportunities in ways that are meaningful for their learning, and a future careers perspective that contextualises their skill development in relation to their professional post-University lives. 

Stakeholders from the Pro Vice Chancellor (Students) Unit, Information Management and Technology Services (IMTS) Unit, and Learning Teaching & Curriculum (LTC) Unit are all strategic partners in the creation of the Digital Skills Hub. While the Library has a strong history of supporting digital literacies, as well as supporting the more traditional information literacies, it was important to us, that the site was not recognised solely as a Library site. We felt that this might compromise the value of the site for students who might think it was just about using databases rather than the broader range of digital skills and behaviours that make up their everyday lives.

The Digital Skills Hub

In late 2021, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Student Life) revitalised the institutional conversation about digital literacies as part of a strategy for supporting student success, and identified the Library as a key stakeholder in this initiative.  In response, we created an online Digital Skills Hub – a one-stop shop for students to be able to access all the digital literacy support that they needed. The Hub provides a consistent location for students who don’t know where to find digital literacy support, recognising that they often need to seek support from a variety of different units and departments, but don’t know which unit to approach for help with their specific problem. Having all the content in one place makes this an easier proposition, particularly for students who are less digitally literate. Pragmatically, because we had the support of the DVC (A&SL), we were able to secure support in embedding a link to the Digital Skills Hub in all the subject Moodle sites. This means that it was easily accessible for most students, in a location that they were already accessing for academic purposes.

One of the factors that made the Digital Skills Hub possible, was the acquisition of the JISC Digital Capabilities service. This included the Discovery Tool, a tool which allows students to undertake a self-assessment and receive a personalised report on their digital skills. Alongside the Discovery Tool, the JISC site provided a suite of support resources, and capacity for us to create UOW specific support resources that are embedded in the JISC reports. The JISC interface also provides us with valuable information in the form of an institutional dashboard. This highlights student skills across the different capability areas and provides a heat map of where the strengths and areas for development lie across different student types and different faculties. The data is de-identified, so we can’t see what a particular students progress might look like, but it does give us a good idea of trends, enabling us to target support services where they are needed.

A one stop shop for digital skills information

The front page of the Student Digital Skills Hub

There are three main ways that the Digital Skills Hub supports students:
– It provides them with access to the JISC Discovery Tool, a self evaluation tool that illustrates each student’s personal strengths and weaknesses in relation to digital skills and provides them with a customised report and suggested actions/resources for developing those skills further.

– It explores Digital Capabilities through the lens of the JISC Digital Capabilities Framework, and highlights how those framework areas relate to everyday skills and digital behaviours

– It provides them with easy access to a knowledge base of FAQs on a variety of digital skills topics and gives them the opportunity to chat/ask a question. This knowledge base incorporates existing relevant FAQs as well as newly created FAQs that are specifically designed to support the needs of the Hub.

There is also a rating system for students to rate their satisfaction with the site, as well as a link for them to provide feedback. 

Key points to consider

For institutions interested in doing something similar, the following points are worthy of consideration.

  • It’s important to get the strategic support of the different units that make up the digital literacies support services for students. Creating a site where some support is offered, but students need to go elsewhere for different kinds of tasks, just creates barriers for students.
  • An accessible and well-designed platform is key to the success of the site. You want to make sure that students with lower levels of digital skills can access the site and find it easy to navigate. 
  • Centre the development of the site on the needs of the students who will be using it. We are using an iterative design process, which means that we take on board student feedback and insights from the literature to inform the way the site develops. We see the Digital Skills Hub as a constantly evolving resource that will continue to be shaped and developed by the needs of the people using it.

Six months on from the creation of the site, we are currently engaged in a process of seeking feedback to inform the way that the site develops in the future. This is driven by an iterative, human-centred approach to content development that commits to continuously evaluating whether the site meets user needs, and adapting and evolving the site to ensure it continues to do so.

Introducing Ateliers sur demande | Instant Workshops free, open, and bilingual digital skills microlessons

By Mish Boutet, Digital Literacy Librarian, University of Ottawa (Canada), mboutet@uottawa.ca

Bonjour and hello. I am a Digital Dexterity Guest Champion, Mish Boutet, from the University of Ottawa in Canada. I would like to introduce Ateliers sur demande | Instant Workshops, free and open short lessons on digital skills for higher education in French and English. 

The Instant Workshops home page with its welcome message and three most recent workshops.
Image of the Ateliers sur demande | Instant Workshops home page. The image is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Context

The University of Ottawa is bilingual. To serve our community, it is important to have resources in both French and English. It isn’t always easy to find good quality, digital dexterity-building resources available in both languages though. This being the case, I tried to make some. 

Not by myself. I had the gracious help of collaborators from six other Canadian universities. It has been an excellent teamwork experience. 

We got a bit of funding. I mention this not to boast but to explain why I am now copy-pasting the following acknowledgement: Ateliers sur demande | Instant Workshops was made possible with funding by the Government of Ontario and through eCampusOntario’s support of the Virtual Learning Strategy. Check. 

The Concept

We set to work on this for about a year. We had an idea about the kind of resource we wanted to create: the kind we always hope to find when we search for stuff. We wanted a series of ready-to-go video-based microlessons that lone learners could use for self-instruction or instructors could include in their courses. 

On top of this, we wanted all content to be:

  • available in French and English, 
  • free, 
  • accessible, 
  • reusable under a Creative Commons Attribution License
  • focused to not waste learners’ time, 
  • flexible to support multiple learning preferences,  
  • humanised to mitigate the distancing effect of instructional videos, and 
  • structured to help creators develop content more easily. 

I believe we did a good job meeting most of these criteria most of the time. 

The Content

We used Jisc’s digital capabilities framework to scope the range of topics from which we could choose. Based on identified needs and on collaborators’ interests, Instant Workshops topics include: 

  • using password managers 
  • using content blockers 
  • introducing infographics 
  • creating bibliographies with ZoteroBib 
  • linking Google Scholar with your library 
  • identifying peer-reviewed content 
  • avoiding plagiarism 
  • adding tables of contents in Word 
  • adding page numbers in Word 
  • saving as PDF/A in Word.

Each workshop follows a consistent structure and includes: 

  1. a French and English version, 
  2. a title, 
  3. a brief description, 
  4. a short video lesson, 
  5. video subtitles, 
  6. video chapters, 
  7. an interactive transcript*, 
  8. written instructions, 
  9. a brief task for learning and review question, and 
  10. a downloadable text-based version of the lesson.

Our hope is that this structure keeps workshops straightforward yet flexible for learners, as well as manageable for workshop creators.  

*Interactive transcripts let you jump to any part of a video by selecting any bit of text in the transcript. We were able to include these thanks to the free, accessible, browser-based media player, Able Player

The Continuation

My university’s Teaching and Learning Support Service built the great website that houses our workshops. We launched the project with 12 workshops earlier in 2022. We are proud of what we accomplished, but we realise that our content scarcely begins to cover all that is possible with digital dexterity development. So, we are currently planning Instant Workshops, Season 2. I’m interested in more content around digital creation and digital wellbeing. I’m also interested in identifying new collaborators to bring their expertise to create even more content. 

So, there you are. Please use Instant Workshops if you think it looks useful. And feel free to reach out to let us know what you think of it.

Merci and thank you. 

Happy Birthday Digital Skills GitBook!

By Bryony Hawthorn and Nica Tsakmakis  Digidexlibrarians+gitbook@gmail.com

Gosh, how time flies! On the 6th of August the Living Book of Digital Skills (You never knew you needed until now) turns one! And what a year it has been. 

Image CC-BY-SA The Living Book of Digital Skills

Like any first year of life, the Digital Skills GitBook has had its fair share of trips and falls but has learned a lot and grown along the way.  

As proud parents, the GitBook family has shown off its many possibilities around Australia, including taking it to Canberra for ALIA National and Melbourne for VALA, to the Research Support Community Day, and to eResearch Australasia. 

We’ve also been feeding our young GitBook a regular diet of Shut Up and Write sessions. These are helping our book grow like a tree. We have been writing content for the GitBook on heaps of suggested topics.  

Just like any family, people come and go, and move around. We know it takes a community to raise a child and write a book. We now need our community to help shape our baby into a young adult.  

We are looking for people keen to help us keep our baby growing! You can contribute by: 

  • Suggesting a topic for the book 
  • Helping us maintain the book 
  • Giving us feedback on the book 
  • Contributing a chapter that you write on a suggested topic or a topic of your choice 

If you think you might be keen to write a chapter, you don’t necessarily need to write new content. It could be that you already have suitable content you’ve written for other projects. We will credit you as authors for your work.  

Don’t be shy about contributing! We have a helpful short video for anyone who wants to know how to join our family and support us by adding useful content so others can grow from the fruits of our book. This video takes you step by step through using GitHub to contribute – what an awesome skill to add to your repertoire! 

If after watching the video, you’re still a bit nervous of contributing via GitHub, that’s ok. Just email your content to us and we’ll do the rest. 

Another option is to join the camaraderie of one of our Shut Up and Write sessions. Come to the next session on Tuesday 9th August and SUAW with a bunch of other folk, so the GitBook can continue to branch out. It is productive and fun. You can even write with a partner on a topic that interests you both.

If you can’t make this date, just email us for the next one. We have one a month for the rest of the year.

While we’ve given this book a personality, we do need your help to make the book a successful reality.

So please contact us via email Digidexlibrarians+gitbook@gmail.com if you have any questions or have content you can share.  

Hybrid working post COVID: how young professionals can optimise their time in the office (and why they should)

By Gemma Dale, Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Law, Liverpool John Moores University

The conversation logo

This week, we are republishing an article originally published in The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

During the pandemic, around 100 million people in Europe switched to working from home – nearly half of them for the first time. This shift was rapid, with employees quickly noticing the benefits of remote work. These can include freedom from commuting, more time for personal wellbeing and increased productivity.


You can listen to more articles from The Conversation, narrated by Noa, here.


As we move on from pandemic restrictions, we’ve seen a strong, global demand for more flexible forms of working, particularly to retain an element of remote work. While some employees want to work from home permanently, most want what’s coming to be regarded as the best of both worlds: hybrid working. Only a minority of workers now want to return to the office full time.

One group which may be particularly keen on hybrid working is young professionals. And for this group, time spent in the office could be especially valuable.

Young people and remote work

Surveys undertaken during the pandemic indicated that generation Z (those born after 1996) were more likely to say that they were struggling with work-life balance and post-work exhaustion than older generations.

There are several possible reasons for this. Younger people may find it more difficult to establish a good homeworking set up, depending on their living arrangements. Those early in their careers may have smaller professional networks, leading to greater isolation. Or they may simply have less experience managing the boundaries between work and life outside of work, which can be made more difficult when there’s no physical office to leave at the end of the day.

Despite this, emerging evidence suggests that younger workers want remote and flexible work rather than a return to the office full time. Surveys vary, but generally indicate that around two-thirds of members of generation Z working in office jobs want a hybrid working pattern in the future – and they’re prepared to move employers to find it.

According to a recent survey by management consulting company McKinsey, employees aged 18–34 were 59% more likely to say they would quit their current role to move to a job with flexible working compared with older employees aged 55–64.

Young people looking at a computer

Younger workers are interested in flexible working arrangements.Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

It’s worth going into the office sometimes

Remote and hybrid working can bring many benefits. For employees, remote work provides the opportunity to reallocate costly and sometimes stressful commuting time into activities that support work-life balance and health. Indeed, more than three-quarters of hybrid and remote workers report improved work-life balance compared with when they worked in an office full time.

Meanwhile, hybrid work provides autonomy and choice for employees. They can combine time at home for focused and independent work with time in the office for collaboration and connection. A hybrid working model can be good for productivity, inclusion and motivation.

However, the belief that work is best done in an office environment is pervasive – and young people in particular are thought to need to go into the office to build professional networks and to learn.

There could be some truth to the idea that young people early in their careers uniquely benefit from going into the office. Research conducted prior to the pandemic has associated being out of sight while working remotely with also being out of mind. Notably, people who work exclusively at home are less likely to receive promotions and bonuses.

Conversely, being with colleagues in person has been associated with greater career advancement. In part, this is probably because being physically present in the office appears to signal commitment to the organisation.

Can hybrid work address the risks of fully remote work and preserve the rewards associated with face-to-face interactions in the office? Only time will tell.

woman working at home with cat

Working at home has its benefits. Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash 

Finding the right balance

Before 2020, remote work was still relatively rare. Hybrid working at scale is a new concept.

But throughout the pandemic, perceptions about working from home have improved globally. The latest UK data suggests nearly one-quarter of working adults are now hybrid. So in the future, we’ll need to understand more about the impact of remote work both on organisations and the people who undertake it.

The challenge for younger employees is to identify an effective working pattern that suits both them and their organisation – and supports their career goals. As tempting as it may be to ditch the commute as often as possible, younger employees may instead wish to consider a more strategic approach.

When in the office, they should focus on personal visibility, and building and maintaining relationships with colleagues and managers. Networking and learning must be the focus of working in-person, and wherever possible, online meetings or independent work should be saved for remote working time.

Combine this with good wellbeing practices when working from home, especially around switching off from work, and hybrid might just deliver on its promises of better work for everyone – young and not so young alike.The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

Long social distancing: how young adults’ habits have changed since COVID

Working in the metaverse: what virtual office life could look like

Six misunderstood concepts about diversity in the workplace and why they matter

Open Source and Digital Dexterity – software solutions at Auckland University of Technology Library

By Craig Murdoch, Manager, Online & Open Initiatives, Auckland University of Technology Library

What if the products we choose to work with could help us become digitally dextrous?

At the Auckland University of Technology Library we’ve made a conscious decision to prefer open source software solutions where possible. We recently completed our implementation of the Koha library management system, adding this solution on top of VuFind for search and discovery, DSpace for our institutional repository Tuwhera and Open Journal Systems for our publishing initiatives. It’s fascinating to talk to people about why we’ve gone in this direction. The over-riding assumptions are that the main driver is either saving money, or because we have a fabulous pool of skilled staff who can ‘work’ these systems.

Of course it’s true that in some cases we have saved some money by going open source, but it is far from the primary motivation for us. In fact, the reasons we prefer open source are more about what it means for us as librarians, and I believe this ties in strongly with the goals of the Digital Dexterity framework for library professionals.

So, what benefits do we get as staff from working with open source technologies?

  • We build capacity and capability in our staff. By taking ownership and control of our software solutions we can improve our own engagement and motivation. We learn new skills, we understand systems on a deeper level, we develop new abilities to communicate with those working in areas like IT, documentation, research, security, and data.
Quote from Demian Katz, Director of Library Technology Services, Villanova University, that reads "Working in open source has strengthened my belief that the true purpose of software is to empower people to solve problems"
  • We get to control our own destiny. Sounds dramatic but it’s true! We gain the flexibility to be able to decide what we want to do with our systems, what is important to us. We drive change rather than responding to it (or not seeing it at all). We get to try things, make mistakes, and most importantly, take ownership for fixing them.
  • We get to work closely with a huge global community of librarians, software developers, and vendors to improve and extend the systems we use. When it comes to the development of new features we are partners, contributors, and sometimes even funders.
  • We learn more about, and take more responsibility for, safeguarding our data and that of our institution’s members. 
  • We improve our decision-making, analysis and planning skills with respect to software development and spending (partly driven by the fact that we can no longer say “it’s the vendor’s fault”). 

Where does this fit with the Digital Dexterity framework?

In a sense the answer is “Where doesn’t it?” but these are the words that jump out for me, because working with open source fosters growth in all these areas:

Confidence
To contribute meaningfully to complex discussions and broader communities.

Creativity
To courageously think outside the square and build our own future.

Collaboration
To work with generosity in a culture of sharing.

Capability
To build and enhance the skill sets we need.

Critical thinking
To support decisions which we must take increased responsibility for.

Which I think is a long way of saying that open source has created an environment where we are enabled to become better librarians, smarter humans, and more capable digital citizens. I’d love to hear whether this resonates with others.

Reference:

Katz, D. (2022, May 4). Open Perspectives: VuFind. https://communities.ebsco.com/posts/open-perspectives-vufind

Our Future (and Present) with Folio at Massey University Library

by Kat Cuttriss, Associate University Librarian (Client Services), Massey University Library, Te Putanga ki te Ao Mātauranga. k.cuttriss@massey.ac.nz 

Background

Massey University Library had been with our previous Library Management System (LMS) for the past 27 years. It had served us well in what was formerly a print-dominated environment. But changing times called for a fresh outlook, and so in 2021 we went through a comprehensive tender process and selected Folio – the Future of Libraries is Open – as our new Library Services Platform (LSP).

The key drivers for moving to Folio were its newly-built, microservices architecture (which makes it more flexible and future-proof), and it providing all the benefits of open source (e.g. ability to build our own functionality and user-driven development), combined with the reassurance of being hosted and supported by EBSCO. We were also keen to realise patron benefits, arising from better integration of catalogue data into our EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) and improvements in accuracy of eResource information and our full text holdings.

Implementation approach

We put an ambitious time frame in place for implementation, as we wanted our new LSP fully up and running in time for the start of semester 1, 2022. This meant we had 4 months between our kick-off meeting with EBSCO in September 2021 and go-live at the end of January 2022.
 
To meet this time frame (spoiler alert = we did!), we took a “whole of team” approach. Our first step was for library staff to get together and co-create our project’s guiding principles to keep us on track if (actually, when) the going got tough.

We decided we would:

  • Aim for simplicity over complexity 
  • Design for the majority rather than the minority of needs  
  • Be open to new ways of doing things at every point, and
  • Accept an MVP (minimum viable product) for go-live

Our second step was to set up Functional Groups, for Circulation, eResources, Discovery, Metadata, Acquisitions, and System Administration. The Functional Group leads were assigned, reported to the Project Steering Group, and met weekly with EBSCO as part of the Implementation Team. 

We then put out a call for EOIs to all library staff to join a functional group of interest to them. We weren’t looking for tech experts; we were looking for people with enthusiasm (ideally infectious), a natural curiosity about how a library system works, and a problem-solving mindset. Huge levels of interest resulted, resulting in large (but not too large) groups comprising representatives from the full library team. 

The next step was to set up robust communications channels, open to all library staff, and actively monitored and curated by the functional group members. As a result, we have a stunning back-catalogue of posts on our Teams site, all meetings recorded and accessible there, process maps that describe our workflows in our former LMS and now in Folio (used as the basis for training manuals) and issues registers, where we track progress with migrations and any surprises we find during testing. This ‘repository’ in and of itself is a taonga (treasure) but it’s the daily monitoring from various staff to keep the dialogue alive and issues responded to that is the real gift.  

Our journey to go-live

Without getting into all the nuts and bolts here (there is a mechanic’s workshop full of them!), suffice to say that Massey University Library is reasonably unique with our large distance-based student cohort (about 45% of our overall student population). We therefore need to provide the ability for all patrons (distance or on-campus) to select their fulfilment preference (pick-up or courier delivery to a specified address) at the point of requesting. We also have extended fixed due dates rather than rolling loan periods and rely on recalls to keep the print collection circulating well. 

Building the necessary logic in our circulation settings to get all these components working as they should was quite a challenge, and kept us on our toes! We struck quite a few “what’s going on here?!” moments that have since led to a few of us setting up daily “stand ups” (accompanied by strong coffee) to temperature check how things are going, do some quick-fire diagnostics on recent issues that have emerged, and provide each other with mutual support.

Where we’re at now

We have just gone through our first upgrade to the latest Folio release (Kiwi, so aptly named!) and while things still feel a bit ‘mid-stream’ vs. ‘crossed the river’, the functional groups have put us in a great, collective place. We now have an amazing amount of distributed capability across our wider library team, filled with folks who can ‘crowd source’ problems, understand and describe what’s going on, and resolve (or escalate) as required. This is a result of our functional group members developing their knowledge, their confidence, and honing their desire to support their colleagues in turn with their Folio skills. 

Folio’s open-source community approach is a step forward for us, as well. We are yet to ‘flex’ fully into that space, as up until now we have been so focussed on getting through to go-live. But this is where our future lies! 

Logo that reads, "folio future of libraries is open"

A new direction: Our journey creating a chatbot

By Bryony Hawthorn, Information Services Manager, University of Waikato Library, bryony.hawthorn@waikato.ac.nz

Background
The University of Waikato Library has been using a live chat service successfully for more than 14 years. This is a very popular service with students – and that was even before the pandemic flipped our lives upside down!

In 2019 library staff numbers were reduced, and we realised we may not always be able to staff the live chat as we have done in the past. This led to the idea of a chatbot.

Chatbot box. University of Waikato Library.

Meet our chatbot, Libby
We chose to build our chatbot using the LibraryH3lp platform as we already use this for our live chat service. So bonus = no extra costs! We named our chatbot Libby.

Libby’s interface is similar to live chat so it creates a consistent experience for users. The only difference is the colour: green for live chat and orange for the chatbot.

We create the responses that Libby sends. The chatbot administration back end has been set up to be simple to use and this means library staff creating responses don’t need to be tech experts. We’ve chosen to focus primarily on library-related topics.

Bumpy beginnings
Libby was very basic when we started. We struggled to get her to reply to keywords (the user had to type the EXACT word or phrase we had in our response bank) and she couldn’t return multiple responses to a single question. Because of this, Libby’s most common response was, “Sorry, I could not process your request. Please try a different word or phrase”. Let’s just say it was a bumpy beginning and a frustrating experience for our early users.

Stepping up
The road became a lot smoother when we introduced a natural language toolkit. This included:
● Text filtering – keywords can appear anywhere in a user’s question so no need to type an exact phrase anymore.
● Removing stop words (e.g. a, at, the, not, and, etc).
● Tokenizing – isolates words so they are compared separately.
● Stemming – allows for different endings for keywords.
● Synonyms – increase the range of words that trigger a response.

We also improved the way Libby greets users and made it clear how to receive help from a person. Most recently we added a module to assist with spelling errors.

One of our biggest successes has been introducing a prompt to encourage users to type their email address if they want a follow up from a librarian. Prior to Libby’s introduction, if the chat service was offline, users were told to email the library for assistance. This didn’t happen very often. But now users find it easy to add their email address and thus allow us to contact them. This has markedly increased the number of users receiving further help.

Example chat with chatbot. University of Waikato Library.

What we learned along the way
● Don’t do it alone. Use those around you with the right technical experience.
● Simple fixes can make a big difference.
● Make it clear to your users they are chatting with a bot who won’t be able to answer everything.
● Make it easy for users to request a follow up from a librarian.

Libby is still a work in progress and our journey is ongoing. Who knows where the road will lead. There are other ways to build a chatbot and some are simpler than what we have done. If you are interested in creating something similar, do look around for options to find something that will suit your needs.

If you’d like to learn more about our journey so far, you can watch our presentation from the LearnFest2021 conference.