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Looking for a viable path forward for professional associations

SLA LogoBy Rick Kowalski,

Local chapter member Michael Gruenberg  recently wrote an article in Online Searcher titled Finding Value in Professional Associations: Management and Membership Issues. Gruenberg takes a hard look at the current value propositions of professional associations and the uphill battle they face in maintaining viability. While he enumerates the many challenges with which library associations are confronted, he also finds optimism in the management approaches by MLA and NFAIS.

It’s worth a read as it addresses many of the issues that SLA is dealing with at the moment, as members consider the SLA Recommendations Report.  The report recommends many major changes to the structure and activities of the association. If you have questions, comments or concerns about the report, please contact Tara Murray (secretary@sla.org) by June 23, 11:59 p.m. EDT.

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Allen Overland: My Boss. My Colleague. My Friend.

Allen OverlandBy Tim Myers

In October 2013 I said good bye and good luck to Allen Overland, my boss for over 13 years. Allen was leaving his position as the Director of the Democracy Resource Center (DRC) at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington, DC to take on new challenges as the Supervisory Librarian for the Research Library and Archives of the Export-Import Bank.

Allen began his career at NED in 1994, when he joined the staff of NED’s newly established International Forum for Democratic Studies to create a library which would support the work of Endowment staff and its grantees. The collection he developed would grow to over 18,000 titles, and the DRC’s audience would expand to include not only NED staff and grantees but also the fellows of the Forum’s Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. Allen took great pride in the collection he built and the services his library would provide throughout his years as director, and he found tremendous satisfaction in helping each person who walked through its doors.

However, a successful library needs more than books, journals, and patron services. It needs a leader to create a positive environment, and Allen did just that. His managerial approach allowed those of us who had the pleasure to work for him to succeed. As one of my colleagues put it, “There was no time when Allen would ever say ‘I don’t have time for you,’ or ‘Do as I say because I’ve said it.’ He always had time to discuss, to listen to our opinions.”

Allen was that rare boss who took a genuine interest in the welfare of his staff. Monday mornings would find him at your desk, not to assign tasks for the week, but to inquire how the weekend went and to be sure all was well. Fridays he would leave wishing you a good weekend, but with Allen it was more than an expression. He meant it. He really wanted you to enjoy your time off.

Allen mentored me throughout my career, encouraging me to enter graduate school to obtain that all important Master’s in Library Science. After he left for the Export-Import Bank, he and I would meet every few weeks for lunch at our favorite restaurant. I enjoyed seeing our relationship transition to that as colleagues, especially now that I was in charge of the DRC. His advice and support was instrumental in helping me find my way as a first time manager.

On January 23, 2015 Allen died as a result of complications from Systemic Capillary Leak Syndrome (SCLS), a rare disease he battled for many years. He left behind quite a legacy, not only in regards to the library he created, but also with his character. Some of his professional colleagues in the DC library community have described him as “a community builder,” “a pillar of encouragement,” a man with an “irrepressible smile,” and simply as “a dear man.” Zeinab Mansour’s moving post on Allen described his determination, and he had that in abundance. You can’t battle SCLS without it because this disease rears its ugly head in the form of recurring attacks that appear without warning. Allen’s inner strength drove him to rise above this reality, to recover from these episodes, and to live again.

I’ll never forget Allen’s kindness, his patience, or that laugh of his that accompanied that “irrepressible smile.” And I’ll also remember Allen for the quiet resolve he mustered while facing the disease he was afflicted with. He was a good man and will be greatly missed.

And now, regrettably, I must say farewell. Not to my boss. Not to my colleague. But to my friend. Rest in peace, Allen. You are gone but you will never be forgotten.

Note: A celebration of Allen’s life is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at Foundry United Methodist Church, 1500 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C.

Read Allen’s obituary here.

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My Memories of My Friend Allen Overland

By Zeinab Mansour

Allen Overland

In the Spring of 2011, Allen Overland participated as a speaker in an event sponsored by the DC/SLA  International Relations Committee.

Allen began his presentation by saying how happy he was to see in the audience a friend of over 20 years as well as a fellow librarian. I was that friend. I considered myself to be so  fortunate to be Allen’s  friend , who was a great source of inspiration to me all these years.

In  1991,  we met at the School of Library & Information Science at Catholic University of America here in Washington, DC. I was 50 years old when I started to pursue that degree, and it was a challenge to have classmates the same age as my daughter. Allen empowered me to pursue my dreams and to never give up.

After graduation, our friendship not only continued, but  grew into  professional collaborations.  Since Allen and I shared a passion for international librarianship, we became  managers of  libraries in international research institutions, with him serving at the  National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and later at Export-Import Bank of the United States. Allen also was the coordinator of the Washington International Librarian’s Group (WILG)

Throughout his career, Allen displayed the characteristics of  creativity, passion for the field and determination

I noticed that determination when I saw him for the last time in August 2014.  We met to celebrate Allen’s birthday, unknowingly, his final birthday celebration.

On that hot summer day, while having lunch not far from his work place in McPherson Square, I saw a man who, despite his grave illness,  had the determination to live his life, and had the will to pursue his dreams.

On  Friday, January 23, 2015,  Allen Overland passed away. He bravely struggled with health issues the past few years.

I will always remember and cherish Allen’s friendship and how he inspired me, and  many others by his own example on how to live life by not giving up, and to pursue our dreams despite all odds.

I will always remember his gentle smile… and perhaps,  just perhaps, he is now looking at us from above with his beaming smile for honoring and remembering him as a good man who never gave up till the very end.

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Going with the Flow: The Intersection of Information Strategy and Time

Going with the Flow: The Intersection of Information Strategy and Time

By Suzanne Grubb

It’s pretty common to talk about information services as a flow, dropping metaphors about content streams and information pipelines (or fire hose-strength deluges). But it’s much less common to find librarians grappling with the practicalities of working with a flow-based medium. I was inspired by a recent blog post philosophizing about the application of flow-pacing processes to UX strategy to take a deeper look at my own library, and how our platforms, users, and policies are starting to evolve into a flow-based model.

Information Events (Static) vs. Information Performances (Dynamic Flow)

It’s traditional to view information sharing as a static event: We provide articles, citations, search results, compiled facts and headlines. We have gotten very good at tracking usage in downloads, page views, and people served. We’ve developed a wide variety of mechanisms to evaluate the success of a library program in terms of the information delivery event — How many times did we connect a person with a resource? On a scale of 1 to 5, how useful was this resource? Do users find what they are looking for?

Information flows








Image Credit: Peter Morville, CC Attribution License 2.0

But we don’t have a lot of ways to track and evaluate our information services as a dynamic “performance” that occurs across time, with varying levels of intensity. When you analyze the flow of information in your library, it raises questions like these:

  • At what rate do users typically digest library content (i.e., the amount of information or resources provided / the amount of time set aside during the day for study and review)?
  • How many words-per-minute — or resources-per-minute — does a user skim through while searching? How does this rate vary on the library platform versus a standard Google search?
  • How often does a user re-read/re-play/re-visit a selected resource…on the day of discovery? … later that week? … later that year?
  • How frequently do users re-run the same search queries? … and for what reasons?
  • How many times each day (or hour) does a user refresh the data on a dynamically updated page? How does the rate-of-refresh vary…from morning to afternoon? …by location?

We live in a world where it no longer makes sense to think of book, articles, reports and resources as static objects. While tracking information events is a relatively easy, brute force way to see trends in our reach and demand for services, tracking information flow provides a nuanced, sophisticated model for how our services support the larger organizational/academic/public ecosystem.

More importantly, it forces us to redefine information service delivery in a more strategic, forward-looking way. Instead of asking the old-fashioned question of, “What can we do to deliver the right information to the right people?” we need to start thinking, “What can we do to help people better integrate this information into the existing rhythms of their work/study/life?”

Information Flow in the Wild

Once you make the mental shift from “static” to “dynamic” information systems, it’s easy to spot evidence of a global shift toward flow-based strategies. Here are a few of my favorite examples of ways information publishers, users, and platforms incorporating components of time and fluidity into their models:

 Content Streams and Scholarly Communication

  • Many prominent journals have shifted to “continuous publishing” models, releasing new contributions to the science base upon acceptance (“papers in press”) and electronically publishing outside of monthly or quarterly print issues (“online first”). While the concept has been in existence for over a decade, publishers and librarians are still struggling to resolve several technical issues in managing metadata and records for articles that are part of this flow.
  • Academics and information workers are still figuring out what it means to move idea exchange “from the Cathedral to the Bazaar” where the accessibility of real time exchange and discourse is changing our timescales for scientific discourse, as well as our measures (e.g., altmetrics alongside citation tracking).
  • Automated big data information flows have created a valuable, broadly accessible stream of content-snapshot products that are force us to redefine the way we deliver, evaluate, and track information products (e.g., the GDELT project has been a recent obsession of mine, with its ability to generate daily trend reports, daily world leaders sentiment analysis, and on demand ad hoc reports through Google BigQuery).

User Expectations

  • Continuous flow of information isn’t just a creator-to-library phenomenon, but also a library-to-user expectation. Traditionally, digital products were delivered to desktops: now, they are delivered to people – wherever and whenever they are. This goes beyond considerations of responsive design into models for just in time library services.
  • While push notifications, social sharing, and targeted RSS channels have long let users control how they tap into “streams” of information, we’ve only recently starting solving the problem of maintaining citation metadata within the flow of user-directed snippets and remixes. My library has recently started experimenting with adding org and Open Graph data to our own websites to help metadata flow with our content, and we’re keeping an eye on emerging services like figshare which promote the citable sharing of figures and other objects traditionally embedded within larger works or repositories.
  • One of the most overt nods to the user-time continuum I’ve seen online is the recent inclusion of a calculated “average reading time” for articles on content platforms like Medium, and it will be interesting to see the impact it has on user engagement.

Screenshot of Medium







Platforms and Tracking

While we are still largely lacking in metrics and vocabulary to talk about information service delivery in terms of time-based rhythms, the “real time” reporting feature in Google Analytics can be a great help in wrapping your brain around how to start visualizing rates of information flow.

Screenshot of Google Analytics


    • For my library, I’ve reworked a few of our content analysis reports: Where I previously monitored month-to-month changes in user interest across categories and keywords, I’ve now also started monitoring trends such as the rate of change of user interests across time and categories. Data collection is still in its early stages, but I’m excited to see what this analysis reveals, and whether I can use this information to predict future content needs more strategically.

    Of course, that’s just scratching the surface of what’s possible and what’s out there. If anyone else is experimenting with building flow-pacing into their library services, monitoring user information rhythms, or deploying other tools and protocols to evolve into a continuous-information universe, be sure to drop a note or a link in the comments.

    Suzanne Grubb is a digital librarian/instructional designer and all-purpose info-geek, currently building a Clinical Research Education Library for a DC-based association.

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    Six Steps of Video Production for People Who Don’t Do Videos (Part 2)

    Six Steps of Video Production for People Who Don’t Do Videos (Part 2)

    By Suzanne Grubb

    This “Six Steps” guide is posted in two parts. See Part 1 in the September issue of Chapter eNotes.

    In Part 1 of this post, I covered the process for planning and creating a timeline for a library video tour, using a video I recently created as a working example. In Part 2, I’m going to continue on from where we left off, and share some thoughts on the process for creating the video that you (Step 1) planned and (Step 2) drafted a timeline for

     Step 3: Get the Pieces

    A note about production.

    I’m going to avoid going into the specifics of multimedia production, because we all have our strengths and preferred software.

    But I wanted to make the important point that as long as you create a plan that plays to your personal strengths and knowledge, you can use absolutely any video editing software and end up with a clean, well-structured video.

    The video tour that I made was my second attempt at a creative video. For my job, I do a lot of editing of lecture/presentation recordings, so I happen to have Song Vegas (professional video editing software) installed on my computer.












    But I could have created this same exact video using Camtasia Studio (a very inexpensive, incredibly easy to learn video editor that I highly recommend for anyone looking to dabble in instructional videos.)

    And I could have created about 90% of this video using Powerpoint to create the static visuals



















    And Windows Live Movie Maker to synch up the static visuals, screencasts, and audio.








    The point being – if you know how to use professional video editing software, it’s a great tool that can speed up the production process and let you incorporate some fancier/more complex ideas into your video.

    But it is not at all necessary or important to have (or know how to use) fancy software to make a video. In fact, if you’re intimidated by visual design, and think you don’t have the skills – Powerpoint can actually be an extremely effective, easy-to-use tool. Here are a couple of things I do to set up PowerPoint to create ready-for-video screens:

    • Change the page size. By default, Powerpoint slides are 4:3 length/width ratio. Go to Design -> Page Setup to change the page size to 16:9 to create a standard widescreen video.
    • You’ll need to Export all of the slides in JPG format to use them in a video editor. By default, exported JPGs are low resolution, resulting in a fuzzy video. You can change your settings to export high resolution images that will be clear and crisp in your video.
    •  You’ll save a lot of time if you customize the default fonts, colors and layouts in the Slide Master to match your video style.
    •  Don’t ever use the slide animations. However, if you keep things simple, you can build interesting faux-animation effects by duplicating slides and using the flip-book principle.

    Whatever tools you choose to use, understand their capabilities and limitations. If you aren’t sure how to get a visual effect to look right in your chosen software – just don’t use that effect, and brainstorm a different technique that you know you can do well.

    Gather all your files.

    Once you’ve decided on your tools and approach, use the timeline you developed as a checklist of elements that need to be found or created. Search the Internet for Creative Commons licensed images (don’t forget to credit in your video or description), take photographs and/or shoot video, find music and/or record audio, record screencasts, and find, make, beg, borrow or steal whatever visual elements you need.

    As much as possible, stick to the timing and specifications you outlined in your timeline. If you find that a live action video or screencast needs more seconds than you allotted, it’s okay – just remember that you’ll need to cut time from something else later.

    As you’re gathering your files, make sure that objects that will be used for similar purposes look (or sound) consistent.

    • Screenshots: Did you clean up your browser, so you’re not showing bookmarks/other personal information? (Pro Tip: You can use Firebug, or Chrome’s “Inspect Element” to tweak a page’s html to change log in names, change article titles, remove ads, etc. to better highlight a concept – or to hide details you don’t want visible).
    • Images: If you’re doing a series of similar images or screenshots – are they all the same (or of a complementary) width/height? Do the borders all match? Do the corner settings match (round vs. square)? Are they all high resolution? Do you have any that stand out as unintentionally “oddball” for any reason (e.g., nine photographs taken in front of a white wall, one taken in front of a bookcase)?
    • Audio: If you recorded your own audio, do all of the segments have a similar volume? Do they have a similar amount/type of background noise?
    •  Video: If you recorded your own live action video: do any of your segments stand out as “oddball” when compared with the others (e.g., three well-lit shots, but one shot is much darker because you forgot to turn on the lights)? If you plan to stitch together several shots in a sequence, do you have visual continuity (e.g., does a person have a hat that disappears/reappears)

    Once you’ve got all of your files, and you’ve checked to make sure all of your files look like they actually belong in the same video, it’s time to start putting it together, in sequence.

    Step 4: Edit Mercilessly – Put it Together

    Make Your First (Very Rough) Draft

    Using the timeline you created in Step 2 as a guide, lay out all of the visuals that you just created/collected in their intended order, and compare it to your audio track(s).

    If you’re using my PowerPoint technique, build all of your screens, in order, then run through them like a flipbook as you play your audio. If you’re diving straight in and using a video editor, place all of your visuals into the timeline, and drop in your audio however it fits.

    Congratulations! You just created the first draft of your video!

    Revise Mercilessly

    1. Check your overall timing. Are you running way too long, or way too short? Revisit your timeline and add or delete material until you are in the right ballpark.
    1. Refine your pacing, and optimize audio synching. As you are running through your video, pay attention to your pacing. Do you feel like you are rushing through certain screens too quickly? Do certain parts feel like they are dragging? Adjust your timing accordingly.

    Check your visuals against your audio track to see if adjusting your order, or slight timing tweaks can better line up your visual concept with your audio concept. Are visual transitions occurring in time with the music? If the music builds and falls in intensity, would a different ordering of your visuals help support this sense of rising and falling?

    Remember that if you add time to a screen in one place, you’ll need to make cuts elsewhere – either by removing an element, or combining two elements. If your live action video or screencast elements are too long – look for opportunities to speed up the footage (e.g., instead of typing out each letter in a screencast, show the first two letters being typed, then cut to a completed form).

    1. Consider your order and tweak your visuals. If you’ve had to cut out a bunch of material, make sure you video still makes logical sense in the current order. If you do reorder elements, make sure you adjust your visuals as needed (e.g., if you decide to reorder items in a Countdown Top Ten list, make sure that the numbers you display still count down in the right order).
    1. Improve your transitions. How does it feel moving from one screen to the next? If it something feels too abrupt, consider adding in some whitespace or a screen with a keyword between the scenes. If it feels too confusing, try a different order – or if you are attempting a fancy fade/wipe, try simplifying your technique.


    One you’ve finished revising your first draft, put it away for an hour. Then repeat the process with your second draft. Keep repeating as needed/until you are happy with how everything looks, sounds, and flows.

    Create Your Final Draft

    Once you’re happy with your visuals, your audio, your transitions, and your timing, create a final draft of your video.

    If you’ve been working in PowerPoint so far, it’s time to export your slides as jpgs and synch them to your audio using your video editor. (In most programs, you will be able to “select all” and drop all the slides in at once).

    If you’ve been working in video editing software this whole time, it’s time to render the video (i.e., “export” or “share on YouTube”).

    If you need help with this step, Kent State University Library has a great collection of Video Production Tutorials, including iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, and links to free software and resources.

     Step 5: Edit Mercilessly

    Polish once you’ve got a final draft that you’re happy with, you’re almost there. You’ll just want to review your video carefully (or, better yet, have someone else review the video) in order to catch any potentially embarrassing errors.

    1. Pause the video on every single text screen. Proofread for typos, and be especially vigilant with any proper names.
    1. Listen to the audio to make sure there aren’t any technical glitches like unexpected silence or skipping.
    1. Watch the visuals carefully, especially at transitions, to make sure there aren’t any unexpected blips or blackouts – pay attention to the first and last second, where errors often slip in when you edit.

    And, get your video ready to post online.

    1. Create a descriptive and compelling title and brief description for the video.
    1. Decide whether (and if so, where) you want to add an “annotation” with a link to your site, if your video platform allows.
    1. If your video contains speech, consider making it accessible to a wider audience (as well as to search engines) by providing a transcript or closed captions.

    Once you’ve tidied everything up and created your final video, you’re ready for the last important step

    Step 6: Share







    Like I said at the beginning of Part 1, I decided to share my experience with producing a library tour video because there are a lot of folks out there looking for tips and suggestions on how to get started.

    My way works for me, but it’s certainly not going to work for everybody – so I hope you’ll share your own experience and advice. And if you made (or make) a video, be sure post a link in the comments to help inspire someone else!

    Suzanne Grubb is a digital librarian/instructional designer and all-purpose info-geek, currently building a Clinical Research Education Library for a DC-based association.

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