Library News
The Library, Emerging Technology…and a Monastery?
October 4, 2016

What do the Library, emerging technology, and a monastery have in common? To answer that question you have to understand the unconventional collaboration between two library units: the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, a unique professional development center that works with librarians around the world, and the Undergraduate Library’s Media Commons, a service space that offers faculty, staff, and students, the ability to create and edit digital media, and receive access to media-centric hardware and software.

This all began when the Mortenson Center received a grant to deliver leadership training to library workers in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and needed promotional marketing assistance. The Media Commons was looking to provide content for a variety of media viewing spaces throughout the Library including the new Visualization Wall (Viz Wall), part of the Grainger Engineering Library Idea Lab (GELIL), an emerging technology visualization workspace.

Susan Schnuer and Rebecca McGuire of the Mortenson Center had previously worked with Eric Kurt of the Media Commons to record a library training program in Windhoek, Namibia. It did not take long for this team to realize the potential, and efficiency, of working together to weave the two new library projects together. A trip to India, Nepal, and Bhutan seemed like an ideal way to begin.

Let’s pause a minute to answer two important questions. What is a Viz Wall and why does it need content? Visualization walls are many screens or monitors connected together to form a large viewing space, often with the ability to interact with the screen itself via touch. In this case, the GELIL screen is sixteen 16” X 50” 1080p screens combined together to form a very large monitor capable of showing a super high resolution image (7680*4320). However, this is only impressive if you have images and video to display at this resolution and size, and most importantly that content should be original to the department or University itself (not just borrowed from the Internet).

The 20-day journey began in July—starting in India, moving to Nepal, and ending in Bhutan.

What was accomplished?

During the trip, Susan and Rebecca trained 25 librarians in India, 22 librarians and project managers in Nepal, and 14 librarians and project managers in Bhutan. All of the participants were affiliated with READ Global, a non-profit organization working in rural Asia to build community libraries and resource centers (READ Centers) and launch small sustainable businesses. The two-day leadership training was designed to develop staff skills in the areas of library innovation, problem-solving, communication, and action plans. Eric recorded many of the participants talking about the impact of the training, and the videos will be used to create a promotional campaign for the training materials.

To capture content for the Viz Wall, Eric took over 2,200 photographs, videos, and 360 degree video. In beautiful locations finding interesting content was not difficult. The team visited READ Library Centers, markets, a street shoe cobbler (to repair a torn shoe), walked around urban areas, hiked a hill in Nepal over 7,000 feet (Susan called it a mountain but the guide sternly admonished her that mountains start at 8,200 feet), visited the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu, and journeyed up to the ancient, cliffside Bhutanese Monastery called Taktsang Palphug, or Tiger’s Nest.

The trip was a success and the team’s attention is now turned to implementing lessons learned during the training, and debating what media content to use for training promotion and the Viz Wall.

What does the Library, emerging technology, and a monastery have in common? The willingness of the University Library to support innovative, and even at times a bit far-fetched, ideas and projects that nurture library cooperation, and result in the production of rich content and services for our users.

For more information about this project, Library Friends can connect with Susan Schnuer (schnuer@illinois.edu), Rebecca McGuire (mcquire6@illinois.edu), or Eric Kurt (ekurt@illinois.edu).

For more photos from this trip to South Asia, visit http://www.library.illinois.edu/friends/south-asia-photos/.

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