Technology: Helping to connect users and information agencies

What role does technology play in the relationship information agencies develop with their users?

Technology was a common theme in the presentations of information agencies across a broad spectrum in the Sydney 2 study visit session. The uses of technology within the information agencies were integral to the relationship each agency had with its users. Though different uses of technology developed different aspects of the relationship between agency and user, one of the key roles played by technology was that of “connecting”. Technology used by information agencies connects users: to information; to personalised expert help; to the selection process; and to community. These connections create, change and develop various relationships between agency and user.

Technology connects users to information held by information agencies. Furthermore, technology has enabled the location for information exchange to no longer be confined to the library’s physical location, but rather freed in a new virtual mode of relationship between agency and user. Many of the information agencies on the Sydney 2 itinerary had online public access catalogues (OPACs) and e-Resource collections and had digitised selected items from their collections. Providing round-the-clock access to information and resources online extended the reach of these agencies, both geographically and temporally. This enabled them to forge relationships with users that they would not have had contact with otherwise due to distance or time constraints on users’ ability to physically access the library during opening hours.

Wallpaper sample book
Wallpaper sample book from Caroline Simpson Library (c) 2019 Marika Simon (Digitised version at: )

For instance, the Caroline Simpson Library of the Sydney Living Museums has been contacted by users from around the globe in search of rare items that they have made available through their OPAC and through digitised items hosted on the Internet Archive (M. Stephens, personal communication, October 1, 2019). This interest from abroad in a small, specialised library whose main purpose is to provide support for the interpretation of historical houses would have been almost unheard of in the pre-Internet era. Woollahra Library owes approximately 10% of its circulation to e-Resources. It reports that a significant and growing number of its active membership maintains an exclusively virtual relationship with the library – never setting foot in any of the three physical branch locations (V. Munro, personal communication, October 2, 2019).  Those are just two ways that we see technology connecting users to information and developing geographically extended and virtual relationships between information agencies and their users.

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Testing access

Updated 15 September, 2018:
This was my post to test three different platforms I was considering for my final digital storytelling project. In the end, I didn’t use any of them, for the following reasons:

Adobe Spark (n.d.) – I was concerned that the requirement for reasonably up-to-date equipment and modern browsers could limit implementation in some public schools – especially as the video would not run on the Department of Education-networked computer in the Year Two classroom where I tested these three platforms.

Google VR Tour Creator (Google, n.d.) – The need to create 360 degree photos was a sticking point for this platform. Also, the limitation on the types of annotations you could include in the tour was frustrating.

Thinglink (n.d.) – I could not access this from the test computer under a student login. Since one way I hope to incorporate this project into the curriculum is to use my piece as an exemplar for student creation possibilities, this was an issue. I did learn how to request that a website be unblocked, but the process takes time and would be a major roadblock, especially for my context as a casual teacher – I cannot postpone a lesson for a week or two while waiting for EdConnect to solve my technical difficulties.

Note: As these were quick test objects, they have not had images fully referenced and cited, but all photos are in the public domain so there is no copyright infringement. I will take down the test projects after this session is completed.


Adobe Spark. (n.d.). Free creativity for everyone on the web and mobile, powered by Adobe. Retrieved September 15, 2018 from
Google. (n.d.) Tour Creator. Retrieved from
Simon, M. (2018a). Stories from quarantine [Video file]. Retrieved from
Simon, M. (2018b, September 1). Stories from quarantine [Annotated image file]. Retrieved from
Simon, M. (2018, September 7). Stories of quarantine [Virtual tour file]. Retrieved from
Thinglink. (n.d.) Ignite student creativity. Retrieved September 15, 2018 from

PEBCAK error: aka don’t leave discussion forum posts partially written

I am mad at technology, though technically I am experiencing the effects of a PEBCAK (problem exists between chair and keyboard) error. I am frustrated with technology because it was issues with technology that led to this particular user malfunction.

Unlike blog posts, discussion forum posts don’t have a draft-saving option. [ETA: Super PEBCAK error – they DO have a save draft function!!! Please tell me there is a reset button for the last 24 hours!] Therefore writing and publishing them is a one-stop-shop deal. However, my plans to get around that previously – writing my post in Evernote and then copying and pasting – have led to formatting errrors that I can’t seem to rectify easily on the forum. Since this aesthetic mismatch really bothered me in my first forum post, I decided to draft in Evernote but publish my final copy by directly typing into the forum box. As one does, I edited my writing along the way and added some video, graphics and hyperlinking. Midway through compiling my reference list last night, I realised that I was late for heading out to a farewell party and left the computer without saving my work in any way.

Happily, when I returned to my computer this morning, there was my post waiting oatiently for me. I jumped in and completed my reference list, closing the browser windows after carefully hyperlinking every website. At this point, a prudent, wise and non-congested technology user would consider not tempting fate and backing up more than an hour’s work by simply selecting all and copying and pasting to their Evernote file. Woe is me! I clicked submit and fell down the rabbithole of “I am sorry, but you do not have access to this area of the site.” Yes – my login had expired and all that work gurgled down the virtual drain. So – note to self (and anyone still reading – backup your work in whatever way you can, whenever you can, always remember to back up your work.

But at least I got a reflection post out of it … and one with no citations needed!

Review of Pymble Ladies College’s LibGuide

I was hoping to find an example of an Australian primary school library on LibGuides. Most of the libraries I found were private secondary schools, I suppose because most (if not all) NSW government primary schools use the Oliver System which gives similar functionality through the school portal.

I found Pymble Ladies College at The site has a lot of interesting features. There are many suggestion lists, relating to genres, authors and specific titles. There are feeds that show what others are reading. I was pleased to see links from the home page to other libraries, such as NLA, SLNSW and various public libraries in the local area. There are also subject and other specialty pages. I investigated the Year 6 set of pages as I was particularly interested in how this was being used at the primary level.

The home page for the Year 6 classes could have been utilised more effectively as it was completely blank. It merely provided access to the various Year 6 class tabs and the static sidebar options of “Quick Links” to the library catalogue, database and eBook catalogues and “About the Library” with basic contact and opening hours information. Two separate teachers had linked to a Year 6 Book recommendation pamphlet which I believe would have made a good home page display.

The various class tabs reflected a range of curation ideas. At least one teacher had nothing on the class page. Several had book recommendations with cover displays, reviews and links to the catalogue. Several teachers also had class-created content, such as review quotes, library search tips or class survey results linked to their class page.

I can see from my limited exploration of the main library site and more detailed exploration of the Year 6 sub-pages that LibGuides has a lot of potential as a curation site. It provides a way to share crowd-sourced and interest-based recommendation information and patron-created content as well as providing direct links to the library catalogue for accessibility – all key factors for a 21st century information management platform.

As a selection aid resource for external TLs there are limitations as some features require password access.

Technology giants, publishing companies and the library – why care?

Shatzkin (2016) discusses the change to the publishing industry brought about since the advent of Amazon in 1995 – the big tech companies have caused a paradigm shift in how people find out about, search for and acquire books. This is leading to a change in how publishers will work to market books. Shatzkin makes it clear why publishers need to be aware of the tech company trends and techniques, but why is it important for librarians?

Librarians need to know where to go to find out about new books and to assess the quality of books. In this transition time we need to know the new ways related to the tech giants but also the old ways that may still be used by publishers. To get the widest variety of choice we need to combine the traditional and how to make them serve our needs rather than dictate choices to us. We can either exploit technological methods or be exploited by them.

Additionally, Shatzkin’s premise (2016) that in order to readjust themselves to the current situation requires publishers to develop an understanding of how the tech giants actually work, especially the roles of Google and Facebook in marketing and readers’ ‘discovery’ of books has relevance to librarians. Just as the publishers need to understand the workings of search engine optimisation and social media promotion and how they interact with more traditional methods of book marketing to regain some amount of control in the fate of their products (Shatzkin, 2015), so librarians need to understand these topics to retain some level of control in the fate of their library collections. An understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques can help librarians locate materials they desire for their collections (Schiller, 2013). In addition, Rushton and Funke (2011) and Schiller (2013) describe how SEO can help librarians connect patrons to relevant material more easily. To remain relevant and valued in this digital age and avoid the risk of having bureaucrats make hasty decisions regarding libraries and technology that they then come to regret, as in the Canadian case of Windsor Catholic School District (CBC News, 2011) we must understand and ride this wave of change or risk getting wiped-out by it.

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