Archive for Laura Creech

Transitioning to Online Learning with LibGuides & LibWizard at the Kent School

As librarians are figuring out how to reach their communities in new ways, we’ve loved seeing the flurry of resources and tips shared online, new guides, and all kinds of creative solutions. While we’ve created new training sessions and provided project ideas on the Springshare end, it’s often most helpful and reassuring to hear from someone who’s right there in the trenches with you.

Today we’ve brought in special guest Nancy Florio to discuss her experience as a research librarian at the Kent School as they quickly shifted to online learning, and how they used LibGuides CMS and LibWizard Lite to meet their students’ changing needs. She’s written a wonderful post. Take it away, Nancy!

LibGuides for Online Learning

Research Librarian Nancy Florio

For most educators and librarians, the COVID-19 pandemic became a demarcation line, on one side a “before”—when offering blended or online classes was optional—and on the other side an “after”—when schools closed world-wide and there was no option but to move to remote learning. The most current statistics compiled by UNESCO on April 8, 2020, list 91.3% of the world’s students are impacted by 188 country-wide school closings. This means that 1,576,021,818 students are currently without access to education or are learning in online classes.

I see these closings as a call to action for academic and school librarians, who in the “before” Covid-19 world were already curators of electronic resources and ed tech tools, creators of digital content, and educational collaborators. If you are one of the close to half a million librarians currently using LibGuides, then you know you’re in a perfect position to support your institution’s transition to online learning. Don’t miss this opportunity to prove your relevance in the age of freely available information found through any basic Google search.

Curate and Create Resources to Meet Your Specific Need

As my school community left for spring break March 6th, schools in Hong Kong, China, and Japan were closed and teaching was moved online. By March 11th, many public and independent schools—including ours—made the decision to close, at least for several weeks to assess the situation. Our plan was to begin with remote training starting at the end of March for our faculty, followed by online teaching on April 6th.

Educators, news organizations, ed-tech companies, and even parents are posting a wealth of information on how to do online learning. Whether you are involved in helping plan the transition, or hear about it through an email, this is a prime opportunity to use your institutional knowledge to create guides to support this effort.

Our library director, Amy Voorhees, was an integral part of the planning committee. We started by working our way through available resources and made our choices based on simplicity and the value they would add to the transition plan. These resources became the framework for the new LibGuide created specifically for online learning. The guide included resources and tutorials highlighting the tools faculty were required to use: PowerSchool (our LMS), Zoom (for synchronous classes and meetings), and Screencastify (to create tutorials for asynchronous learning).

I started to build out the guide by curating how-to videos along with pro tips, Twitter feeds for each specific tool, and infographics or other helpful information. Tabbed boxes were my go-to for the videos, as there were so many for each specific tool. Using a 3-column layout, I was able to put the videos front and center with supporting information on either side. This design was consistent for each page, which simplified navigation for the faculty. On the home page, our Remote Learning Plan was easily accessible as well as a Spark page that pulled together the principles of online learning. This interactive element was given a featured central position, while links to static documents were positioned on either side. In this way, the page not only provided valuable information, but also modeled instructional design principles for our teachers.

Our Director of Information Technology, Michael Siepmann, summed up his thoughts on the Online Learning guide: “Moving to remote learning during these unprecedented times was a large undertaking with just a few weeks to complete the task. With the school moving to multiple new platforms, we quickly realized we needed a central place to post essential instructional guides for our faculty and staff. LibGuides has been a key part of our success in rolling out our required tools for remote learning. The pages provide a modern, sleek design that gets users excited to learn.”

Don’t Expect Too Much from One Guide

Learning online can be a very isolating experience. Coupled with the current COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, your students may be struggling to feel fully engaged with school. I felt it was important to include tools that encouraged student engagement and connections with both classmates and teachers. Our second guide, Educational Technology Tools, was organized by specific tasks: assessment tools, student connection tools, and student-centered tools for content curation and subject-specific learning. I included educators and ed tech companies and organizations to follow on Twitter.

LibGuides’ flexibility allows us to present curated information in a way that is neither too much nor too little. Separating the guides based on their intended purpose means you don’t have to approach one guide as an “all you can eat buffet” by trying to cram too much and too varied information. Instructional design theory tells us this can lead to cognitive overload, leaving your user fatigued by too much information to process. Because the guides were related, I chose to put a redirect tab on each one leading to the other. This kept them together, yet separate.

In addition to these academically focused guides, Laura Zibro, our Instructional and Outreach Librarian, created a fun survival guide for our teachers and their families, which includes videos and links for exercise, webcams, storytime, and even virtual museum tours. 

Add Help at the Point of Need

If you’re like us, I imagine your community will be spending most of their time accessing content for courses through your school’s LMS, library website, and LibGuides. Common sense—and usability studies—tell us that help, like information, should be offered when and where it’s needed, in the format that’s most helpful to the user. Both of our new guides provide our teachers with the tools and information they need to create content and teach in ways that may be foreign or difficult. This transition is stressful enough; offering help on those guides was another small change we could make that just made sense.

LibWizard Magic

Enter LibWizard Lite, a LibGuides module that comes free with LibGuides CMS. Although it’s not as robust as the subscription level LibWizard Full, it allows you to create forms and surveys, which are a perfect way to increase your visibility and make it easy for your users to contact you at their point of need. Although I have been a LibGuides enthusiast for close to 15 years, I have never fully explored or mastered LibWizard. At a time when we are asking everyone to move out of their comfort zone and try something new, it made sense for me to do the same. So I watched a few tutorials, made a few test forms, and finally came up with a help desk tab that was added to both of the new online teaching guides, in addition to our library website and course guides with current research projects. The tab was styled bright red with all caps reading HELP DESK in white font. We tried different wording but ultimately felt everyone was familiar with that term. When clicked, the pop-up window contained information on who to reach out to for specific questions and included links to our Calendly pages for scheduling appointments and email for simpler questions. Again, help was there where it was needed.

Small Changes, Big Results

I absolutely love this one small change we made to our guides which made a big difference for our users. The tab is anchored, visible on each page of the guide, and moves as the user scrolls. Excuse me while I geek out—but what is not to love about my new favorite tech tool? Below you can see some of the ways we customized the help desk pop-up depending on the purpose and audience for the guide.

User-friendly Design

Like LibGuides, the LibWizard module is pretty user-friendly on the backend. There are drag and drop options with fields that allow you to customize your form, as well as a question bank to save and reuse common fields. You’re able to gather the information that will allow you to better meet the needs of your user. Simple to use, easy to duplicate, multi-use functions make using LibWizard a winning situation for our users and for us. Now excuse me while I find another guide that could use a help desk tab…

Thank you, Nancy!

We love hearing your approach, and it’s amazing how one or two small changes can really make a difference. Kudos to you for taking this opportunity to learn a tool and create something impactful for your users.

Staying Motivated: Springy Projects & Professional Development

In the U.S., we’re about two weeks into social distancing and/or working exclusively from home, and we’ve started to settle into the new daily routine… at least for now. If we’re lucky enough to have flour, we’re stress-baking. We’re watching every TED Talk. We’re enjoying nightly Shakespearean sonnet readings. We’re video chatting with friends near and far.

For those who’ve also found themselves figuring out new responsibilities while they’re at home or the library is empty (or they simply can’t sit still), now may feel like a good time to start on items lingering at the bottom of the to-do list. It may also feel like a great time to find ways to avoid that to-do list. 😉

In this spirit, we’ve created an “It’d be great if I…” list of Springy-related projects to help you capture that motivation, take advantage of your product’s features, learn a new skill, or pass the time! While we’ve separated it by product, some of these ideas and skills could be applied to more than one.


LibGuides

Watch all of our training videos!

  • Strategize SEO: Review and update your site’s content to improve your search engine optimization. (newsletter tip)
  • Prep for summer: Create attractive reading lists to support your online summer reading program. (training video)
  • Fix JQuery: Find it before you realize it’s causing a code conflict. (newsletter tip)
  • [CMS & optionally LibAnswers] Create a virtual workplace / staff intranet. (training video)
  • Learn HTML and CSS.
    • Take an online class through sites like LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) accessed through your local library, Codecademy, freeCodeCamp, or Udacity.
      • Some courses provide a live space to practice coding. Please use these and not your LibGuides site. 🙂 We are unable to fix custom code or create it for you.
    • Pro tips for adding custom HTML/CSS/JS into your site:
      • Use media/widget assets for all custom code added to guides so you can troubleshoot your code. We can’t stress this enough!
      • [CMS only] Create a new group to use as your sandbox and add code to its look and feel area.

Did you know that our newsletter includes LibGuides tips and tricks? The early March edition included Springy site cleaning ideas. Sign up to receive the next issue, slated for sometime this summer. 😀

LibAnswers

  • Create a robust internal staff knowledge base: Break out policies, login details, and staff-only information into individual restricted FAQs. It’s easy to search, browse, embed, and link them! (SpringyU FAQ groups and individual FAQ courses)
  • Start a virtual scavenger hunt using SMS. (training video)
  • Perform a full site cleaning. (training video)

Take the SpringyU course.

LibCal: Migrate from Room Bookings to Spaces

We haven’t set a sunset date yet, but it will eventually happen. Over the last few years, our development team has been busy adding new features to Spaces, the new room bookings module. Now is the time to complete the migration process, while your physical library doors are closed or your study rooms have reduced bookings.

Spaces features:

  • Easily set and change the opening hours rooms by campus/branch, location, or type.
  • Create and manage recurring bookings.
  • Set regular account permissions to limit who can create and edit bookings, mark who showed up, and adjust opening hours.
  • Create calendar events from the Spaces booking.

Take the SpringyU course pictured above and check out our FAQ that spells out this process from start to end.

LibWizard

  • Collect stories from students and patrons to build an online archive of your community’s experiences. (forms Springboard)
  • Survey your patrons to discover what types of online services they’d like to see. (surveys Springboard)
  • [Full subscribers] Create tutorials on how to access library resources, add LibGuides content to Blackboard/Canvas, or anything else that comes to mind! Extra credit if you create custom videos and images. 🙂 (standalone and embedded tutorials Springboards)

It can be difficult to stay motivated during this time, but we hope this list will provide you with some inspiration. For even more learning opportunities, register for an upcoming training session.

Thank you to everyone who has checked in these past few weeks. Wishing you all safety, good health, and even a few moments of peace during this crisis.

Resource Sharing with Patrons (and Fellow Springshare Users)

It’s an uncertain time for everyone, and while we’re all in this together as a community, some of us are literally in this together, sharing the same work and living space, for the foreseeable future. Parents (including our own Springys) may find themselves with children suddenly at home who may or may not have lesson plans or structured activities.

As schools are closing, people are hunkering down, and libraries find themselves grappling with the best way to serve and protect their patrons; sharing informational, educational, and entertainment resources online has become more important than ever.

To that end, we wanted to share some resources with you! These are for any fellow parents looking for kiddo distractions that encourage learning and librarians looking for guide inspiration and virtual programming ideas.

Here’s our list of interactive at-home learning sites our Springy parents have discovered or had recommended to them:

Do you have any sites to recommend? Add them as a comment. 😀

Sharing resources with Springshare tools

As you’re finding sites, videos, and other helpful resources for your patrons, here are just a few ways you can use Springshare’s tools to get the word out to your patrons:

Sharing resources with fellow Springshare users

For library staff able to work from home, now may be the time to update LibGuides and LibAnswers sites, create virtual programs and appointments using LibCal, and shift services in general. We’re here for you during this time! And our support ticket numbers tell us that you’ve found us, too. 😉

With many of us former librarians ourselves, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out all of the online resources we have available for you and your fellow coworkers.

Here’s what we have freely available to our customers 24/7:

Springshare Help Center

Springshare Help Center

  • The searchable Springshare Help Center is great for finding answers to individual questions.
    • For those looking to complete multi-step tasks, like setting up LibChat widgets and the LibCal Appointments module, take a look at our Springboards that combine FAQs with step-by-step guidance and planning considerations.
  • Our training video library of past sessions also includes help guides and resources. We regularly update videos with our newest sessions!
  • SpringyU, our self-paced learning platform, currently features bite-sized Blocks and full Courses for LibCal and LibAnswers FAQs The team is adding more content as it’s being completed!

Our training team is also hard at work creating new sessions for librarians adjusting to the recent shift to online services. Here are some upcoming training sessions specifically for digital services:

  • Teaching Online: Webinar Tips from the Springys – Here at Springshare we do the bulk of our training online. Join us for a 20-minute session where we will share some tips and tricks we have learned to make online teaching easier for you to do and easier for your users to follow.
    • Date: Thursday, March 19, 2020, from 1:00pm – 1:20pm U.S. ET (UTC -4)
  • Use LibCal Appointments to Book Virtual Help/Reference Sessions – With the changes in how we are interacting with patrons, learn how to use LibCal to allow users to book Online Help Sessions with Appointments.
    • Date: Thursday, March 19, 2020, from 2:00pm – 2:45pm U.S. ET (UTC -4)
  • Keeping Important Info Up-to-Date with LibAnswers – We will look how to manage important information about your library, school, university or business, etc, in relation to the current crisis by creating a Covid-19 FAQ Group in LibAnswers.
    • Date: Friday, March 20, 2020 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm U.S. ET (UTC -4)
  • Build-a-LibGuide for a Class That’s Just Gone Digital! – With changes to how classes are being conducted, we need to adapt our methods for sharing information and resources. Join us for a 40 minute session where we will look at creating a guide to support a course that’s recently just gone online.
    • Date: Monday, March 23, 2020 from 12:30pm – 1:30pm U.S. ET (UTC -4)

You can find all sessions related to online learning in response to COVID-19 on our training calendar.

Finally, we have a couple of resources for librarians to help each other!

  • The LibGuides Community site – searchable guides, institutions, and librarians
  • The Springshare Lounge – a dedicated place for Springshare customers to ask each other questions and share information
    • Current LibApps users can request access to the lounge by clicking Sign Up

Many of us are just beginning to adjust the new reality, and we hope these will help you in the process of getting information out to the community and moving library services online. Again, we’re here with you every step of the way. 🙂

LibAnswers 24/7 Chat Cooperative: Views from the Patron Side

We’re T-minus 9 days until the LibAnswers 24/7 Chat Cooperative launch (wahoo!). We’ve shown you some of the Co-Op’s functionality and snazzy features you and your librarians can use behind the scenes, but we know that, at the root of it all, the Co-Op is really about helping people. It’s about serving patrons you otherwise may not reach or a segment of your community you’ve struggled to engage in the past. 

In today’s blog post we’re going to focus on just that. We’re switching the view to two individual patrons: a student struggling to download a research article during peak times and a public library patron trying to access a tax form late at night. After setting the stage, you’ll see the chat as it happens on their end, and finish up by discovering how the 24/7 Co-Op’s features provided a way for an MLIS-degreed librarian from another school/library to seamlessly help these patrons as if they were their own.

So let’s pull up a chair and check out the action!

Using the Academic Cooperative to Turn a Missed Chat into a Successful Chat

The scene: Stewart is a Springy University student working on a research paper but is having trouble getting the article. He’s frustrated and needs help. It’s 5pm, one week before midterms, and all of his librarians are busy answering questions from other students. Luckily, his library has the Global Academic Co-Op as one of their chat widget fallbacks, so a Co-Op librarian can chime in if no one from Springy University responds within 15 seconds. 

The 24/7 Academic Cooperative chat (No audio): 

Not able to watch the silent video? (View the chat transcript)

We’d call this chat interaction a success! Stewart has the article he needs for his paper. Let’s take a look at how a Co-Op member from a completely different school was able to help Stewart.

  1. Right off the bat, Stewart was greeted with a message letting him know that a librarian from another college was answering his question. This text is customizable so that patrons know right away if they’re hearing from their own librarian or a Co-Op librarian.
  2. In the LibChat dashboard, the Co-Op librarian was able to see that Stewart started the chat from the library’s A-Z database page and was using Firefox. They were able to use the referring URL to go directly to where Stewart had started his search and ask a troubleshooting question.
  3. When that didn’t work, they logged into PsycDatabase to attempt to download the article. How’d they do that? By using the 24/7 Staff Policy FAQs available right from the LibChat dashboard! Springy University had already supplied the login information so that the Co-Op librarian could access it just as if they were a staff member.
  4. Since they didn’t have any trouble, the librarian used LibChat’s file upload feature to get the article directly to Stewart.
  5. Now that Stewart’s immediate issue has been addressed, they asked if Stewart would like a Springy University librarian to follow up with him. 
  6. Since he has had trouble in the past, he said yes. Then, all the Co-Op librarian needed was his email address to send the request directly to his library’s ticketing queue. Stewart will hear back as soon as a Springy University librarian is able to answer it.

Using the Public Cooperative to Reach Previously Invisible Patrons

The scene: Penny is a full-time working parent looking to start her own consulting firm, but she can only dedicate time to launching the business late in the evenings. One night, she’s having trouble finding the form she needs to create an Employer ID with the IRS. Springy Library is a member of the Public 24/7 Co-Op, so she can ask for help right from the library’s website at this late hour. 

The 24/7 Public Cooperative chat (No audio): 

Not able to watch the silent video? (View the chat transcript)

Some community members rarely make it to the library due to their busy schedules (work/life balance, what’s that again?). So when the chat widget is offline, patrons can search what’s available on the website and in FAQs, but if they run into any trouble they have to wait or get help from a friend or family member, which could take days. With 24/7 coverage, the Springy Library chat is never offline, so Penny can get personalized help and a view of the Co-Op librarian’s screen (which is all she really needed to overcome that hurdle). Let’s take a look at a few features the public Co-Op librarian used to help her out:

  1. Again, Penny was able to see right away that she was being helped by a public librarian from another institution. Since her library was closed, the chat went directly to the Public Co-Op, so she didn’t have to wait long for a response.
  2. Chat users can easily see the referring URL from the patron, so the Co-Op librarian hopped directly to the point where Penny contacted the library.
  3. When Penny expressed having trouble finding the right link, the librarian was able to create and share a video using their own screen capture software to share its link/ file. Penny was able to follow the steps on her end.
  4. Finally, since the Co-Op librarian could easily access the patron’s home library’s FAQs directly from the LibChat dashboard, they quickly found and shared the info with Penny, so she has those opening hours on hand.

Want to Learn More About the 24/7 Global Cooperative?

If you’re not a LibAnswers user yet, here’s a short overview video that gives you a tour and includes a deep dive into the LibChat features. 

The LibAnswers Global Reference Cooperative can be added to an existing LibAnswers system and includes hundreds of participating librarians and 20+ Springshare MLS librarians, delivering the highest quality co-op reference coverage for libraries.

  • The LibAnswers 24/7 Cooperative allows librarians across multiple LibAnswers systems to provide collaborative chat reference.
  • Librarians answer patron chats on behalf of all member libraries within the cooperative.
  • This means, all of your patrons can get library help, even when your physical doors are closed.

If you’re ready to get started, drop us a line!