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DC/SLA Chapter eNotes – October 2014

DC/SLA Chapter eNotes – October 2014

Featured Article

  • Going with the Flow: The Intersection of Information Strategy and Time – 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. – Suzanne Grubb

 Event Recaps

President’s Message

What’s Your Theme?

Food for Thought

Upcoming DC/SLA Events

Professional Development

​​Chapter eNotes is an e-newsletter from the DC/SLA Chapter.

  • DC/SLA Communications Secretary – Lisa Haakon Pogue; Rick Kowalski, Communications Secretary Elect
  • DC/SLA Communications Team – Suzanne Grubb, Jill Lynch, Zeinab A. Mansour, Amber Paranick, Megan Smith, Malea Walker, Jan Zastrow

DC/SLA Social Media Directory

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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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    President’s Message – Don’t be Scared to Fail

    President’s Message – Don’t be Scared to Fail

    By Chris Vestal, DC/SLA President

    With the monsters and ghouls running around in October, I think most people are paying a bit more attention to things that scare them. But there’s one fear in particular I think we all could be more mindful of: fear of failure.

    Failing when you’re taking a risk or trying something new isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We often learn a lot more from our failures than we do from our successes.

    One of my most colossal failures happened right after I graduated from college. As an undergrad I majored in psychology with a focus in substance abuse counseling. My goal was to get some real world experience and then go back to get my masters and become a substance abuse counselor. I wanted to help people by empowering them to put their lives back together.

    Just a few months before I graduated, I accepted my first full time professional job in the field – working as a residential counselor for troubled adolescent boys in a group home. All residents attended school onsite and lived in several cottages, and I’d be responsible for supervising the afternoon, evening, and weekend activities for a group of ten boys. This sounded exactly like the experience I was hoping for so I was really excited to start working.

    That excitement didn’t last long though. It soon became apparent that I wasn’t good in my role. I lacked the patient but firm demeanor that my more successful colleagues possessed. Some of the residents made derogatory remarks towards me and some made threats; for me it was impossible not to take them personally. The work environment wasn’t what I’d imagined either. I’d envisioned colleagues coming together working to help the residents, and while there were times when that did happen, more often the residents played staff against each other to get what they wanted. So after only six months of working there I told my manager I had to quit.

    At the time admitting defeat was crushing to my self-esteem. I’d been really successful in college academically and socially, so I wasn’t prepared for my first big taste of failure. It made me question my career plans and everything I’d worked for. But I did come out of it knowing that counseling wasn’t for me and my work environment was almost as important to me as my paycheck.

    Over the next couple of years I worked in nonprofessional jobs until one of my coworkers mentioned to me that her sister was a librarian, and told me about the work her sister did. I did my research and enrolled in Drexel’s MLIS program. Knowing what kind of environment I worked in was really important to me and hearing my some of classmates’ more colorful stories about working in public libraries, I decided to focus my career on working in special libraries and became active in SLA.

    And from there I eventually landed my “dream job” at LexisNexis and became President of SLA’s largest chapter. If you had asked me years ago if working at that group home was worth it or a good experience I’d have answered you with an emphatic “no!” But with the benefit of hindsight today if you asked me that question I’d tell you that it was such a valuable experience for me. Failing in such a spectacular way taught me that I wasn’t flawless and had to accept it, that even though I still wanted to help people there were certain types of “helping” I wasn’t cut out for, and that I wanted to work in collaborative team environment. If I hadn’t learned those lessons so early on I might have spent time in a master’s program that wasn’t really for me and not ended up in such a good place today.

    As librarians we need to take risks and to be innovative, and by doing so we open ourselves up to failure. Instead of avoiding it at all costs I think we need to embrace the risk of failure. But with DC/SLA’s focus on Community and Fundamentals you can take steps to reduce the risk of failure.

    We’ve created a Social Media Directory for chapter members! You can use this tool to find contact information and social media accounts for members who just might be an expert in what you’re trying to accomplish:


    I’d like to encourage you all to add your own information to the Social Media Directory to make it easier for your fellow members to reach out to you. You can fill out this form to have your information added:


    We also have several networking and professional development events coming up that you might find helpful.

    The DC/SLA Employment and Career Resources Committee is hosting a Career Happy Hour on November 13 at the Science Club. For more information or to RSVP: http://dc.sla.org/events/?ee=312

    DC/SLA is partnering with the SLA Solo Librarians Division for “Solo Project Management: When You are the Whole Team” webinar on November 18. For more information: http://dc.sla.org/events/?ee=313

    DC/SLA’s Holiday Party and Annual Meeting is always a great time to network with your colleagues and broaden your horizons. This year we’ll be having the Holiday Party at the National Press Club, a beautiful venue I know you won’t want to miss out on. So mark your calendars for December 9th and be ready for registration to open up soon for this event!

    Our Military Libraries Group is hard at working putting together a full day of programming on December 11 from 9-4pm with their Military Reference & Research: Sources and Resources program. So be on the lookout for more information and registration for that event as well.

    As always we have two great blog posts in our What’s Your Theme blog series.

    DC/SLA Past President Marie Kaddell writes about her theme Embrace core skills. Build new ones. Forge fresh paths. You can read her post at http://dc.sla.org/2014/10/19/whats-your-theme-embrace-core-skills-build-new-ones-forge-fresh-paths/

    Kelly Knight, one of the 2014 DC/SLA Leadership Summit Stipend Award winners, wrote about her theme, Being Present. You can read her post at: http://dc.sla.org/2014/10/19/whats-your-theme-being-present/

    You can read all the posts in our What’s Your Theme? blog series at:


    If you’re interested in writing about your own theme for the series please feel free to contact me.

    So the moral of my story is while sometimes failing can be hard, it’s not something to be avoided altogether. Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from something you want or know you need to do. Do your best, and if do you fail learn from it, embrace it, and move on.

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