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Library Technology Prototyping Service Assessment

Library Technology Prototyping Service Assessment

September 2014


Kirstin Dougan

Jim Dohle

Lynne Rudasill


After reviewing the LTPS documents and meeting with Jim Hahn and Beth Sandore, the assessment group feels that there is a continued need for a technology prototyping service in the University Library structure. Ideally we feel this service should:

a)      Have clear and specific input channels from library faculty and staff to propose projects and to provide input about prototypes in development

b)      Have clear collaborative relationship and communication with Library IT regarding project prioritization and development

c)      Have a clear definition of “prototyping”; with a structure for determining who will be responsible for full development, prioritization, and implementation of tools

d)      Coordinate all technology prototyping happening in the University Library so that all such projects align with the Library’s strategic goals and priorities

e)      Serve as a resource for library faculty and staff who wish to develop technology-related skills


While the model for this service has excellent potential for success, we feel that in trying to be both a new service and a diversity initiative the LTPS was attempting too much. While there is a need for both of these things in the library, it would be more effective to establish the infrastructure for the LTPS and then undertake a diversity initiative. Prototyping should be the focus of the service, not student mentorship.


We feel that the service should refocus its efforts on finding campus and/or consortial partners who are also working on technology prototyping or who have a need of these services (e.g., CARLI). The LTPS should investigate existing and developing technology needs and look to address those.


Specific recommendations based on the assessment plan are outlined below.




How effectively does the service communicate with Library faculty, staff and students about opportunities to have input into the development of prototype services?


LTPS has made a good effort at communicating with library faculty, staff, and students through open houses, email, and faculty meeting presentations. However, we feel that more effort should be made to gather input from these groups before projects are begun in order to identify needs and to determine what problems need to be solved. We understand that LTPS has felt their scope has been limited by existing infrastructure and time, that is, students need to be able to complete projects in a semester or less and it can be difficult to accomplish larger-scale projects in this manner.


What types of outreach have been pursued with campus groups and organizations who are working on similar activities?


We feel more communication needs to occur between LTPS and Library IT in order to best address issues of project prioritization and ongoing support and to determine which needs can be solved with purchased solutions and which should be solved via in-house approaches. LTPS has worked with other groups on campus to gain technical assistance in bringing projects to fruition, and has made initial efforts to contact groups related to diversity (e.g., Women in Engineering, Latinos in Computing)and other groups working on similar diversity initiatives (e.g., CITES, Illinois Informatics).




Goals and accomplishments


What are the service’s goals, and how do the staff and faculty accomplish those goals?


“The TPS has two overarching goals: 1) recruit diverse students and perspectives to library and information science careers by way of paid internships and 2) produce efficiencies in Library operations through the creation of lightweight technology products that advance services to end users and Library employees.”


The original proposal for this project more specifically stated that they were targeting students with diverse backgrounds who 1) have a two year degree in IT related field or 2) are enrolled in the informatics minor. It also stated that evaluations would be done each semester and that exit surveys would be conducted with the students. This has not yet been accomplished.


No definition was provided for “diverse” and no data has been provided about how students were recruited or what backgrounds of the hired students have (either ethnic or otherwise). To date there is no evidence of students entering LIS careers or programs.


In terms of producing efficiencies in the Library, this has been uneven. In some cases there have been efficiencies realized for end users (via Minrva and chat), but in some instances implementing the services created more work for library staff.





How do the goals of the TPS tie in with the Library’s strategic plan?


The goals of LTPS align well with the following goals named in the FY2012-2104 Strategic document released in 2011.

            Goal 1: Promote Access to, and Discovery of, Library Content and Collections, and

Goal 6: Promote Innovation


It also has the potential to meet Goal 5: Sustain Partnerships and Collaborations, but to date there is little evidence of this.


Educational / research/ mentoring mission


Has the TPS program influenced the perspective of students who participate to be more interested in LIS careers than they were prior to participating in the program?

            Data could be collected through exit interviews with undergraduate students; the GSLIS LAMP program might have a standard participant evaluation form that TPS could use as well.


Without feedback from the students, this is impossible to determine and the exit surveys/interviews have not been conducted.


Jim has arranged to have a variety of diverse staff speak to the participants about careers. We feel this is a very good approach to educating the students about different career options relating to libraries and lets them see that librarianship can be diverse.





Research mission


Is there a set of research methods that students learn by participating in the service?

To what kinds of research experience are they exposed, and what are the requirements for them to demonstrate what they have learned/accomplished?


Students are exposed to a variety of things and not all of them are learning the same methods. Some of skills gained include lightweight rapid prototyping and observational methods and data gathering. Some of the students take IRB training, at which point they must pass a quiz to show they’ve learned the principles of ethical research. They also use the data they gather by observing users to make changes to the prototypes/services, which shows they’ve understood what the users need and how to apply this knowledge practically. Some students have more programming knowledge than others, so this is also something they learn by working with the group and demonstrate by completing portions of the product/project.




How do the lightweight prototypes developed by the service meet needs of users and Library staff?


To date this includes Minrva and iWonder and it is difficult to know who is using the former.




If appropriate, has the TPS connected to the recently established Office of Undergraduate Research?


They have not yet, but are open to doing so.




This is another partnership that LTPS could pursue.