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From Need to Want: How to Maximize Social Impact for Libraries, Archives, and Museums

At the NDP at Three event organized by IMLS yesterday, Sayeed Choudhury on the “Open Scholarly Communications” panel suggested that libraries think about return on impact in addition to return on investment (ROI). He further elaborated on this point by proposing a possible description of such impact. His description was that when an object or resource created through scholarly communication efforts is being used by someone we don’t know and is interpreted correctly without contacting us (=libraries, archives, museums etc.), that is an impact; to push that further, if someone uses the object or the resource in a way we didn’t anticipate, that’s an impact; if it is integrated into someone’s workflow, that’s also an impact.

This emphasis on impact as a goal for libraries, archives, and museums (or non-profit organizations in general to apply broadly) resonated with me particularly because I gave a talk just a few days ago to a group of librarians at the IOLUG conference about how libraries can and should maximize their social impact in the context of innovation in the way many social entrepreneurs have been already doing for quite some time. In this post, I would like to revisit one point that I made in that talk. It is a specific interpretation of the idea of maximizing social impact as a conscious goal for libraries, archives, and museums (LAM). Hopefully, this will provide a useful heuristic for LAM institutions in mapping out the future efforts.

Considering that ROI is a measure of cost-effectiveness, I believe impact is a much better goal than ROI for LAM institutions. We often think that to collect, organize, provide equitable access to, and preserve information, knowledge, and cultural heritage is the goal of a library, an archive, and a museum. But doing that well doesn’t mean simply doing it cost-effectively. Our efforts no doubt aim at achieving better-collected, better-organized, better-accessed, and better-preserved information, knowledge, and cultural heritage. However, our ultimate end-goal is attained only when such information, knowledge, and cultural heritage is better used by our users. Not simply better accessed, but better used in the sense that the person gets to leverage such information, knowledge, and cultural heritage to succeed in whatever endeavor that s/he was making, whether it be career success, advanced education, personal fulfillment, or private business growth. In my opinion, that’s the true impact that LAM institutions should aim at. If that kind of impact were a destination, cost-effectiveness is simply one mode of transportation, preferred one maybe but not quite comparable to the destination in terms of importance.

But what does “better used” exactly mean? “Integrated into people’s workflow” is a hint; “unanticipated use” is another clue. If you are like me and need to create and design that kind of integrated or unanticipated use at your library, archive, or museum, how will you go about that? This is the same question we ask over and over again. How do you plan and implement innovation? Yes, we will go talk to our users, ask what they would like to see, meet with our stakeholders and find out their interests and concerns are, discuss ourselves what we can do to deliver things that our users want, and go from there to another wonderful project we work hard for. Then after all that, we reach a stage where we stop and wonder where that “greater social impact” went in almost all our projects. And we frantically look for numbers. How many people accessed what we created? How many downloads? What does the satisfaction survey say?

In those moments, how does the “impact” verbiage help us? How does that help us in charting our actual path to creating and maximizing our social impact more than the old-fashioned “ROI” verbiage? At least ROI is quantifiable and measurable. This, I believe, is why we need a more concrete heuristic to translate the lofty “impact” to everyday “actions” we can take. Maybe not quite as specific as to dictate what exactly those actions are at each project level but a bit more specific to enable us to frame the value we are attempting to create and deliver at our LAM institutions beyond cost-effectiveness.

I think the heuristic we need is the conversion of need to demand. What is an untapped need that people are not even aware of in the realm of information, knowledge, and cultural heritage? When we can identify any such need in a specific form and successfully convert that need to a demand, we make an impact. By “demand,” I mean the kind of user experience that people will desire and subsequently fulfill by using that object, resource, tool, service, etc., we create at our library, archive, and museum. (One good example of such desirable UX that comes to my mind is NYPL Photo Booth: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2013/08/12/snapshots-nypl.) When we create a demand out of such an untapped need, when the fulfillment of that kind of demand effectively creates, strengthens, and enriches our society in the direction of information, knowledge, evidence-based decisions, and truth being more valued, promoted, and equitably shared, I think we get to maximize our social impact.

In the last “Going Forward” panel where the information discovery was discussed, Loretta Parham pointed out that in the corporate sector, information finds consumers, not the other way. By contrast, we (by which I mean all of us working at LAM institutions) still frame our value in terms of helping and supporting users access and use our material, resources, and physical and digital objects and tools. This is a mistake in my opinion, because it is a self-limiting value proposition for libraries, archives, and museums.

What is the point of us LAM institutions, working so hard to get the public to use their resources and services? The end goal is so that we can maximize our social impact through such use. The rhetoric of “helping and supporting people to access and use our resources” does not adequately convey that. Businesses want their clients to use their goods and services, of course. But their real target is the making of profit out of those uses, aka purchases.

Similarly, but far more importantly, the real goal of libraries, archives and museums is to move the society forward, closer in the direction of knowledge, evidence-based decisions, and truth being more valued, promoted, and equitably shared. One person at a time, yes, but the ultimate goal reaching far beyond individuals. The end goal is maximizing our impact on this side of the public good.

 

How to Price 3D Printing Service Fees

** This post was originally published in ACRL TechConnect on May. 22, 2017.***

Many libraries today provide 3D printing service. But not all of them can afford to do so for free. While free 3D printing may be ideal, it can jeopardize the sustainability of the service over time. Nevertheless, many libraries tend to worry about charging service fees.

In this post, I will outline how I determined the pricing schema for our library’s new 3D Printing service in the hope that more libraries will consider offering 3D printing service if having to charge the fee is a factor stopping them. But let me begin with libraries’ general aversion to fees.

A 3D printer in action at the Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL), Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore

Service Fees Are Not Your Enemy

Charging fees for the library’s service is not something librarians should regard as a taboo. We live in the times in which a library is being asked to create and provide more and more new and innovative services to help users successfully navigate the fast-changing information landscape. A makerspace and 3D printing are certainly one of those new and innovative services. But at many libraries, the operating budget is shrinking rather than increasing. So, the most obvious choice in this situation is to aim for cost-recovery.

It is to be remembered that even when a library aims for cost-recovery, it will be only partial cost-recovery because there is a lot of staff time and expertise that is spent on planning and operating such new services. Libraries should not be afraid to introduce new services requiring service fees because users will still benefit from those services often much more greatly than a commercial equivalent (if any). Think of service fees as your friend. Without them, you won’t be able to introduce and continue to provide a service that your users need. It is a business cost to be expected, and libraries will not make profit out of it (even if they try).

Still bothered? Almost every library charges for regular (paper) printing. Should a library rather not provide printing service because it cannot be offered for free? Library users certainly wouldn’t want that.

Determining Your Service Fees

What do you need in order to create a pricing scheme for your library’s 3D printing service?

(a) First, you need to list all cost-incurring factors. Those include (i) the equipment cost and wear and tear, (ii) electricity, (iii) staff time & expertise for support and maintenance, and (iv) any consumables such as 3d print filament, painter’s tape. Remember that your new 3D printer will not last forever and will need to be replaced by a new one in 3-5 years.

Also, some of these cost-incurring factors such as staff time and expertise for support is fixed per 3D print job. On the other hand, another cost-incurring factor, 3D print filament, for example, is a cost factor that increases in proportion to the size/density of a 3d model that is printed. That is, the larger and denser a 3d print model is, the more filament will be used incurring more cost.

(b) Second, make sure that your pricing scheme is readily understood by users. Does it quickly give users a rough idea of the cost before their 3D print job begins? An obscure pricing scheme can confuse users and may deter them from trying out a new service. That would be bad user experience.

Also in 3D printing, consider if you will also charge for a failed print. Perhaps you do. Perhaps you don’t. Maybe you want to charge a fee that is lower than a successful print. Whichever one you decide on, have that covered since failed prints will certainly happen.

(c) Lastly, the pricing scheme should be easily handled by the library staff. The more library staff will be involved in the entire process of a library patron using the 3D printing service from the beginning to the end, the more important this becomes. If the pricing scheme is difficult for the staff to work with when they need charge for and process each 3D print job, the new 3D printing service will increase their workload significantly.

Which staff will be responsible for which step of the new service? What would be the exact tasks that the staff will need to do? For example, it may be that several staff at the circulation desk need to learn and handle new tasks involving the 3D printing service, such as labeling and putting away completed 3D models, processing the payment transaction, delivering the model, and marking the job status for the paid 3D print job as ‘completed’ in the 3D Printing Staff Admin Portal if there is such a system in place. Below is the screenshot of the HS/HSL 3D Printing Staff Admin Portal developed in-house by the library IT team.

The HS/HSL 3D Printing Staff Admin Portal, University of Maryland, Baltimore

Examples – 3D Printing Service Fees

It’s always helpful to see how other libraries are doing when you need to determine your own pricing scheme. Here are some examples that shows ten libraries’ 3D printing pricing scheme changed over the recent three years.

  • UNR DeLaMare Library
    • https://guides.library.unr.edu/3dprinting
    • 2014 – $7.20 per cubic inch of modeling material (raised to $8.45 starting July, 2014).
    • 2017 – uPrint – Model Material: $4.95 per cubic inch (=16.38 gm=0.036 lb)
    • 2017 – uPrint – Support Materials: $7.75 per cubic inch
  • NCSU Hunt Library
    • https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/do/3d-printing
    • 2014-  uPrint 3D Printer: $10 per cubic inch of material (ABS), with a $5 minimum
    • 2014 – MakerBot 3D Printer: $0.35 per gram of material (PLA), with a $5 minimum
    • 2017 – uPrint – $10 per cubic inch of material, $5 minimum
    • 2017 – F306 – $0.35 per gram of material, $5 minimum
  • Southern Illinois University Library
    • http://libguides.siue.edu/3D/request
    • 2014 – Originally $2 per hour of printing time; Reduced to $1 as the demand grew.
    • 2017 – Lulzbot Taz 5, Luzbot mini – $2.00 per hour of printing time.
  • BYU Library
  • University of Michigan Library
    • The Cube 3D printer checkout is no longer offered.
    • 2017 – Cost for professional 3d printing service; Open access 3d printing is free.
  • GVSU Library
  • University of Tennessee, Chattanooga Library
  • Port Washington Public library
  • Miami University
    • 2014 – $0.20 per gram of the finished print; 2017 – ?
  • UCLA Library, Dalhousie University Library (2014)
    • Free

Types of 3D Printing Service Fees

From the examples above, you will notice that many 3d printing service fee schemes are based upon the weight of a 3D-print model. This is because these libraries are trying recover the cost of the 3d filament, and the amount of filament used is most accurately reflected in the weight of the resulting 3D-printed model.

However, there are a few problems with the weight-based 3D printing pricing scheme. First, it is not readily calculable by a user before the print job, because to do so, the user will have to weigh a model that s/he won’t have until it is 3D-printed. Also, once 3D-printed, the staff will have to weigh each model and calculate the cost. This is time-consuming and not very efficient.

For this reason, my library considered an alternative pricing scheme based on the size of a 3D model. The idea was that we will have roughly three different sizes of an empty box – small, medium, and large –  with three different prices assigned. Whichever box into which a user’s 3d printed object fits will determine how much the user will pay for her/his 3D-printed model. This seemed like a great idea because it is easy to determine how much a model will cost to 3d-print to both users and the library staff in comparison to the weight-based pricing scheme.

Unfortunately, this size-based pricing scheme has a few significant flaws. A smaller model may use more filament than a larger model if it is denser (meaning the higher infill ratio). Second, depending on the shape of a model, a model that fits  in a large box may use much less filament than the one that fits in a small box. Think about a large tree model with think branches. Then compare that with a 100% filled compact baseball model that fits into a smaller box than the tree model does. Thirdly, the resolution that determines a layer height may change the amount of filament used even if what is 3D-printed is a same model.

Different infill ratios – Image from https://www.packtpub.com/sites/default/files/Article-Images/9888OS_02_22.png

Charging Based upon the 3D Printing Time

So we couldn’t go with the size-based pricing scheme. But we did not like the problems of the weight-based pricing scheme, either. As an alternative, we decided to go with the time-based pricing scheme because printing time is proportionate to how much filament is used, but it does not require that the staff weigh the model each time. A 3D-printing software gives an estimate of the printing time, and most 3D printers also display actual printing time for each model printed.

First, we wanted to confirm the hypothesis that 3D printing time and the weight of the resulting model are proportionate to each other. I tested this by translating the weight-based cost to the time-based cost based upon the estimated printing time and the estimated weight of several cube models. Here is the result I got using the Makerbot Replicator 2X.

  • 9.10 gm/36 min= 0.25 gm per min.
  • 17.48 gm/67 min= 0.26 gm per min.
  • 30.80 gm/117 min= 0.26 gm per min.
  • 50.75 gm/186 min=0.27 gm per min.
  • 87.53 gm/316 min= 0.28 gm per min.
  • 194.18 gm/674 min= 0.29 gm per min.

There is some variance, but the hypothesis holds up. Based upon this, now let’s calculate the 3d printing cost by time.

3D plastic filament is $48 for ABS/PLA and $65 for the dissolvable per 0.90 kg  (=2.00 lb) from Makerbot. That means that filament cost is $0.05 per gram for ABS/PLA and $0.07 per gram for the dissolvable. So, 3D filament cost is 6 cents per gram on average.

Finalizing the Service Fee for 3D Printing

For an hour of 3D printing time, the amount of filament used would be 15.6 gm (=0.26 x 60 min). This gives us the filament cost of 94 cents per hour of 3D printing (=15.6 gm x 6 cents). So, for the cost-recovery of filament only, I get roughly $1 per hour of 3D printing time.

Earlier, I mentioned that filament is only one of the cost-incurring factors for the 3D printing service. It’s time to bring in those other factors, such as hardware wear/tear, staff time, electricity, maintenance, etc., plus “no-charge-for-failed-print-policy,” which was adopted at our library. Those other factors will add an additional amount per 3D print job. And at my library, this came out to be about $2. (I will not go into details about how these have been determined because those will differ at each library.) So, the final service fee for our new 3D printing service was set to be $3 up to 1 hour of 3D printing + $1 per additional hour of 3D printing. The $3 is broken down to $1 per hour of 3D printing that accounts for the filament cost and $2 fixed cost for every 3D print job.

To help our users to quickly get an idea of how much their 3D print job will cost, we have added a feature to the HS/HSL 3D Print Job Submission Form online. This feature automatically calculates and displays the final cost based upon the printing time estimate that a user enters.

 

The HS/HSL 3D Print Job Submission form, University of Maryland, Baltimore

Don’t Be Afraid of Service Fees

I would like to emphasize that libraries should not be afraid to set service fees for new services. As long as they are easy to understand and the staff can explain the reasons behind those service fees, they should not be a deterrent to a library trying to introduce and provide a new innovative service.

There is a clear benefit in running through all cost-incurring factors and communicating how the final pricing scheme was determined (including the verification of the hypothesis that 3D printing time and the weight of the resulting model are proportionate to each other) to all library staff who will be involved in the new 3D printing service. If any library user inquire about or challenges the service fee, the staff will be able to provide a reasonable explanation on the spot.

I implemented this pricing scheme at the same time as the launch of my library’s makerspace (the HS/HSL Innovation Space at the University of Maryland, Baltimore – http://www.hshsl.umaryland.edu/services/ispace/) back in April 2015. We have been providing 3D printing service and charging for it for more than two years. I am happy to report that during that entire duration, we have not received any complaint about the service fee. No library user expected our new 3D printing service to be free, and all comments that we received regarding the service fee were positive. Many expressed a surprise at how cheap our 3D printing service is and thanked us for it.

To summarize, libraries should be willing to explore and offer new innovating services even when they require charging service fees. And if you do so, make sure that the resulting pricing scheme for the new service is (a) sustainable and accountable, (b) readily graspable by users, and (c) easily handled by the library staff who will handle the payment transaction. Good luck and happy 3D printing at your library!

An example model with the 3D printing cost and the filament info displayed at the HS/HSL, University of Maryland, Baltimore

Post-Election Statements and Messages that Reaffirm Diversity

These are statements and messages sent out publicly or internally to re-affirm diversity, equity, and inclusion by libraries or higher ed institutions. I have collected these – some myself and many others through my fellow librarians. Some of them were listed on my blog post, “Finding the Right Words in Post-Election Libraries and Higher Ed.” So there are some duplicates.

If you think that your organization is already so much pro-diversity that there is no need to confirm or re-affirm diversity, you can’t be farther from the everyday reality that minorities experience. Sometimes, saying isn’t much. But right now, saying it out loud can mean everything. If you support those who belong to minority groups but don’t say it out loud, how would they know it? Right now, nothing is obvious other than there is a lot of hate and violence towards minorities.

Feel free to use these as your resource to craft a similar message. Feel free to add if you have similar messages you have received or created in the comments section.

If you haven’t heard from the organization you belong to, please ask for a message reaffirming and committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

[UPDATE 11/15/2016: Statements from ALA and LITA have been released. I have added them below.]

I will continue to add additional statements as I find them. If you see anything missing, please add below in the comment or send it via Twitter @bohyunkim. Thanks!

From Librarians

From Library Associations

From Libraries

From Higher Ed Institutions

Drexel University

Moving On as a Community After the Election

Dear Members of the Drexel Community,

It is heartening to me to see the Drexel community come together over the last day to digest the news of the presidential election — and to do so in the spirit of support and caring that is so much a part of this University. We gathered family-style, meeting in small, informal groups in several places across campus, including the Student Center for Inclusion and Culture, our residence halls, and as colleagues over a cup of coffee. Many student leaders, particularly from our multicultural organizations, joined the conversation.

This is not a process that can be completed in just one day, of course. So I hope these conversations will continue as long as students, faculty and professional staff feel they are needed, and I want to assure you that our professional staff in Student Life, Human Resources, Faculty Affairs, as well as our colleagues in the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement, will be there for your support.

Without question, many members of our community were deeply concerned by the inflammatory rhetoric and hostility on the campaign trail that too often typified this bitter election season.

As I wrote over the summer, the best response to an uncertain and at times deeply troubling world is to remain true to our values as an academic community. In the context of a presidential election, it is vital that we understand and respect that members of our broadly diverse campus can hold similarly diverse political views. The expression of these views is a fundamental element of the free exchange of ideas and intellectual inquiry that makes Drexel such a vibrant institution.

At the same time, Drexel remains committed to ensuring a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful environment. Those tenets are more important than ever.

While we continue to follow changes on the national scene, it is the responsibility of each of us at Drexel to join together to move ahead, unified in our commitment to open dialogue, civic engagement and inclusion.

I am grateful for all you do to support Drexel as a community that welcomes and encourages all of its members.

Lane Community College

Good Morning, Colleagues,

I am in our nation’s capital today. I’d rather be at home! Like me, I am guessing that many of you were glued to the media last night to find out the results of the election. Though we know who our next President will be, this transition still presents a lot of uncertainty. It is not clear what our future president’s higher education policies will be but we will be working with our national associations to understand and influence where we can.

During times like this there is an opening for us to decide how we want to be with each other. Moods will range from joy to sadness and disbelief. It seems trite but we do need to work together, now more than ever. As educators we have a unique responsibility to create safe learning environments where every student can learn and become empowered workers and informed citizens. This imperative seems even more important today. Our college values of equity and inclusion have not changed and will not change and it is up to each of us to assure that we live out our values in every classroom and in each interaction. Preparing ourselves and our students for contentious discussions sparked by the election is work we must do.

It is quite likely that some of our faculty, staff and students may be feeling particularly vulnerable right now. Can we reach out to each other and let each other know that we all belong at Lane? During my inservice remarks I said that “we must robustly reject the calculated narrative of cynicism, division and despair. Instead of letting this leak into our narratives, together we can bet on hope not fear, respect not hate, unity not division.” At Lane we have the intellect (and proud of it) and wherewithal to do this.

I am attaching a favorite reading from Meg Wheatley which is resonating with me today and will end with Gary Snyder’s words from To The Children …..stay together learn the flowers go light.

Maryland Institute College of Art

Post-Election Community Forums and Support

Dear Campus Community,

No matter how each of us voted yesterday, most of us likely agree that the presidential campaign has been polarizing on multiple fronts. As a result, today is a difficult day for our nation and our campus community. In our nation, regardless of how one has aligned with a candidate, half of our country feels empowered and the other half sad and perhaps angry. Because such dynamics and feelings need to be addressed and supported on campus, this memo outlines immediate resources for our community of students, faculty and staff, and describes opportunities for fashioning dialogues and creative actions going forward.

Before sharing the specifics, let me say unambiguously that MICA will always stand firm in our commitment to diversity and inclusion. This morning’s Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Globalization meeting discussed measures to ensure that, as a creative community, we will continue to build a culture where everyone is honored and supported for success. The impact of exhibitions such as the current Baltimore Rising show remains as critical as ever, and MICA fosters an educational environment that is welcoming of all.

In the short term our focus is to support one another. Whether you are happy or distressed with the results, there has been sufficient feedback to indicate that our campus community is struggling with how to make sense of such a divisive election process. You may find the following services helpful and are encouraged to take advantage of them:

For Students: Student Counseling maintains walk-in hours from 3:00 – 4:00 pm every day. Students are welcome to stop by the Student Counseling Center (1501 Mt. Royal Avenue) during that time or call 410-669-9200 and enter x2367 once the recording begins to schedule an appointment.
For Faculty and Staff: The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to provide free, confidential support 24 hours a day. The EAP can be reached by calling 1-866-799-2728 or visiting HealthAdvocate.com/members and providing the username “Maryland Institute College of Art”.
For all MICA community members: MICA’s chaplain, the Rev, maintains standing hours every Monday and can be reached in the Reflection Room (Meyerhoff House) or by calling the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Development at 443-552-1659.

There are three events this week that can provide a shared space for dialogue; all are welcome:

The “After the Baltimore Uprising: Still Waiting for Change” community forum attached to the Baltimore Rising exhibition takes place tonight from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the Lazarus Center.
An open space for all MICA community members will be hosted by the Black Student Union tonight at 10:00 pm in the Meyerhoff House Underground.
In partnership with our student NAMI group, MICA will host a “Messages of Hope” event for the entire MICA community that will allow for shared space and reflection. This event will be on Friday, November 11th, and will begin at 3:00 pm in Cohen Plaza.

In various upcoming meetings we look forward to exploring with campus members other appropriate activities that can be created to facilitate expressions and dialogues.

A separate communication is coming from Provost David Bogen to the faculty regarding classroom conversations with students regarding the election.

Northwestern University Women’s Center

Dear Northwestern students, faculty, staff and community members:

The Women’s Center is open today. Our staff members are all here and available to talk, to provide resources and tools, or to help however you might need it. Most importantly, the space itself is available for whatever you need, whether that is to gather as a group, to sit alone somewhere comfortable and quiet, or to talk to someone who will listen. We are still here, and we are here for all people as an intentionally intersectional space. You are welcome to drop by physically, make a call to our office, or send an email. Know that this space is open and available to you.

Portland Community College to the PCC Staff

As someone who spent the last several years in Washington D.C. working to advance community colleges, I feel a special poignancy today hearing so many students, colleagues, and friends wonder and worry about the future—and about their futures.

We must acknowledge that this political season has highlighted deep divisions in our society. Today I spent time with Cabinet speaking about how we can assert our shared values and take positive action as a PCC community to deepen our commitment to equity, inclusion and civic engagement.

PCC will always welcome students and colleagues who bring a rich array of perspectives and experiences. That diversity is among our greatest strengths.

Today it is imperative that we stand by faculty, staff and students who may be experiencing fear or uncertainty—affirming with our words and deeds that PCC is about equitable student success and educational opportunity for all. Never has this mission been more powerful or more essential.

I have only been here a few months, but have already learned that PCC is a remarkable and caring community. Much is happening right now in real time, and I appreciate the efforts of all. For my part, I promise to communicate often as we continue to plan for our shared future.

P.S. Today and in the days ahead, we will be holding space for people to be together in community. Here are a few of the opportunities identified so far.

Portland Community College to Students

Dear Students:

As someone who spent the last several years working in Washington D.C., I feel a special poignancy this week hearing many of you express worry and uncertainty about the future.

There is little doubt that this political season has highlighted some deep divisions in our society. Both political candidates have acknowledged as much.

At the same time, people representing the full and diverse spectrum of our country come to our nation’s community colleges in hopes of a better life. PCC is such a place – where every year thousands of students find their path and pursue their dreams. All should find opportunity here, and all should feel safe and welcome.

The rich diversity of PCC offers an amazing opportunity for dialogue across difference, and for developing skills that are the foundation of our democratic society.

Let this moment renew your passion for making a better life for yourself, your community and your country and for becoming the kind of leader you want to follow.

Rutgers University AAUP-AFT
(American Association of University Professors – American Federation of Teachers)

Resisting Donald Trump

We are shocked and horrified that Donald Trump, who ran on a racist, xenophobic, misogynist platform, is now the President of the US. In response to this new political landscape, the administrative heads of several universities have issued statements embracing their diverse student, faculty, and staff bodies and offering support and protection. (See statements from the University of California and the California State University). President Barchi has yet to address the danger to the Rutgers community and its core mission.

This afternoon, our faculty union and the Rutgers One Coalition held an emergency meeting of students, faculty, and community activists in New Brunswick. We discussed means of responding to the attacks that people may experience in the near future. Most immediately, we approved the following statement by acclamation at the 100-strong meeting:

“Rutgers One, a coalition of faculty, staff, students and community members, calls upon the Rutgers administration to join us in condemning all acts of bigotry on this campus and refuse to tolerate any attacks on immigrants, women, Arabs, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ people and all others in our diverse community. We demand that President Barchi and his administration provide sanctuary, support, and protection to those who are already facing attacks on our campuses. We need concrete action that can ensure a safe environment for all. Further, we commit ourselves to take action against all attempts by the Trump administration to target any of our students, staff or faculty. We are united in resistance to bigotry of every kind and welcome all to join us in solidarity.”

We also resolved to take the following steps:

We will be holding weekly Friday meetings at 3pm in our Union office in New Brunswick to bring together students, faculty and staff to organize against the Trump agenda. We hope to expand these to Camden and Newark as well. (If you are willing to help organize this, please email back.)
We will be creating a list serve to coordinate our work. If you want to join this list, please reply to this email.
We are making posters and stickers which declare sanctuaries from racism, xenophobia, sexism, bigotry, religious intolerance, and attacks on unions. Once these materials are ready we will write to you so that you may post them on windows, office doors, cars etc. In the meantime, we urge you to talk to your students and colleagues of color as well as women and offer them your support and solidarity.

As you may recall, the Executive Committee issued a denunciation of Donald Trump on October 10, 2016. Now our slogan, one from the labor movement, is “Don’t mourn. Organize!” That is where we are now – all the more poignantly because of Donald Trump’s appeal to workers. Let us organize, and let us also expand our calling of education. In your classrooms, your communities, and your families, find the words and sentiments that will redeem all of us from Tuesday’s disgrace.

University of Chicago

Message from President and Provost

Early in the fall quarter, we sent a message welcoming each of you to the new academic year and affirming our strong commitment to two foundational values of the University – fostering an environment of free expression and open discourse; and ensuring that diversity and inclusion are essential features of the fabric of our campus community and our interactions beyond campus.

Recent national events have generated waves of disturbing, exclusionary and sometimes threatening behavior around the country, particularly concerning gender and minority status. As a result, many individuals are asking whether the nation and its institutions are entering a period in which supporting the values of diversity and inclusion, as well as free expression and open discourse, will be increasingly challenging. As the president and provost of the University of Chicago, we are writing to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms our unwavering commitment to these values, and to the importance of the University as a community acting on these values every day.

Fulfilling our highest aspirations with respect to these values and their mutual reinforcement will always demand ongoing attention and work on the part of all of us. The current national environment underscores the importance of this work. It means that we need to manifest these values more rather than less, demand more of ourselves as a community, and together be forthright and bold in demonstrating what our community aspires to be. We ask all of you for your help and commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion, free expression, and open discourse and what they mean for each of us working, learning, and living in this University community every day.

University of Illinois, Chicago

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The events of the past week have come with mixed emotions for many of you. We want you to know that UIC remains steadfast in its commitment to creating and sustaining a community that recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person, while fostering an environment of mutual respect among all members.

Today, we reaffirm the University’s commitment to access, equity, inclusion and nondiscrimination. Critical to this commitment is the work of several offices on campus that provide resources to help you be safe and successful. If you have questions, need someone to talk to, or a place to express yourself, you should consider contacting these offices:

Office for Access and Equity (OAE). OAE is responsible for assuring campus compliance in matters of equal opportunity, affirmative action, and nondiscrimination in the academic and work environment. OAE also offers Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) to assist with conflict in the workplace not involving unlawful discrimination matters.

UIC Counseling Center. The UIC Counseling Center is a primary resource providing comprehensive mental health services that foster personal, interpersonal, academic, and professional thriving for UIC students.
Student Legal Services. UIC’s Student Legal Services (SLS) is a full-service law office dedicated to providing legal solutions for currently enrolled students.

Office of Diversity. The Office of Diversity leads strategic efforts to advance access, equity, and inclusion as fundamental principles underpinning all aspects of university life. It initiates programs that promote an inclusive university climate, partner with campus units to formulate systems of accountability, and develop links with the local community and alumni groups.
Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change. The Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change (CCUSC) are a collaborative group of seven centers with distinct histories, missions, and locations that promote the well-being of and cultural awareness about underrepresented and underserved groups at UIC.

UIC Dialogue Initiative. The UIC Dialogue Initiative seeks to build an inclusive campus community where students, faculty, and staff feel welcomed in their identities, valued for their contributions, and feel their identities can be openly expressed.

Through whatever changes await us, as a learning community we have a special obligation to ensure that our conversations and dialogues over the next weeks and months respect our varied backgrounds and beliefs.

University of Maryland, Baltimore

To the UMB Community:

Last week, we elected a new president for our country. I think most will agree that the campaign season was long and divisive, and has left many feeling separated from their fellow citizens. In the days since the election, I’ve heard from the leaders of UMB and of the University of Maryland Medical Center and of the many programs we operate that serve our neighbors across the city and state. These leaders have relayed stories of students, faculty, staff, families, and children who feel anxious and unsettled, who feel threatened and fearful.

It should be unnecessary to reaffirm UMB’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and respect — these values are irrevocable — but when I hear that members of our family are afraid, I must reiterate that the University will not tolerate incivility of any kind, and that the differences we celebrate as a diverse community include not just differences of race, religion, nationality, gender, and sexual identity, but also of experience, opinion, and political affiliation and ideology. If you suffer any harassment, please contact your supervisor or your student affairs dean.

In the months ahead, we will come together as a University community to talk about how the incoming administration might influence the issues we care about most: health care access and delivery; education; innovation; social justice and fair treatment for all. We will talk about the opportunities that lay ahead to shape compassionate policy and to join a national dialogue on providing humane care and services that uplift everyone in America. For anyone who despairs, we will talk about building hope.

Should you want to share how you’re feeling post-election, counselors are available. Please contact the Student Counseling Center or the Employee Assistance Program to schedule an appointment.

I look forward to continuing this conversation about how we affirm our fundamental mission to improve the human condition and serve the public good. Like the values we uphold, this mission endures — irrespective of the person or party in political power. It is our binding promise to the leaders of this state and, even more importantly, to the citizens we serve together.

University of West Georgia

Dear Colleagues,

As we head into the weekend concluding a week, really several weeks, of national and local events, I am reminded of the incredible opportunity of reflection and discourse we have as a nation and as an institution of higher learning.

This morning, we held on campus a moving ceremony honoring our Veterans–those who have served and who have given the ultimate sacrifice to uphold and protect our freedoms.  It is those freedoms that provide the opportunity to elect a President and those freedoms that provide an environment of civil discourse and opinion.  Clearly, the discourse of this election cycle has tested the boundaries.

This is an emotional time for many of our faculty, staff, and students.  I ask that as a campus community we hold true to the intended values of our nation and those who sacrificed to protect those values and the core values of our institution–caring, collaboration, inclusiveness, and wisdom.  We must acknowledge and allow the civil discourse and opinion of all within a safe environment.  That is what should set us apart.  It is part of our DNA in higher education to respect and encourage variance and diversity of belief, thought, and culture.

I call on your professionalism during these times and so appreciate your passion and care for each other and our students.

Virginia Commonwealth University to Staff

Election Message

Dear VCU and VCU Health Communities,

Yesterday, we elected new leaders for our city, commonwealth and nation. I am grateful to those of you who made your voice heard during the electoral process, including many of our students who voted for the first time. Whether or not your preferred candidate won, you were a part of history and a part of the process that moves our democracy forward. Thank you. I hope you will always continue to make your voice heard, both as voters and as well-educated leaders in our society.

As with any election, some members of our community are enthusiastic about the winners, others are not.  For many, this election cycle was notably emotional and difficult.

Now is the time, then, to demonstrate the values that make Virginia Commonwealth University such a remarkable place.  We reaffirm our commitment to working together across boundaries of discipline or scholarship, as members of one intellectual community, to achieve what’s difficult.  We reaffirm our commitment to inclusion, to ensuring that every person who comes to VCU is respected and emboldened to succeed.  We reaffirm that we will always be a place of the highest integrity, accountability, and we will offer an unyielding commitment to serving those who need us.

History changes with every election. What does not change are the commitments we share as one community that is relentlessly focused on advancing the human experience for all people.

You continue to inspire me.  And I know you will continue to be a bright light for Richmond, Virginia, our nation and our world.

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education to Students

Election Message

Dear students,

On Tuesday we elected new leaders for our city, our commonwealth and our nation. Although leadership will be changing, I echo Dr. Rao’s message below in that our mission outlined by the Quest for Distinction to support student success, advance knowledge and strengthen our communities remains steadfast.

At the VCU School of Education, we work to create safe spaces where innovation, inclusion and collaboration can thrive. We actively work across boundaries and disciplines to address the complex challenges facing our communities, schools and families. The election of new leaders provides new opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to build bridges that help us reach our goal of making an impact in urban and high need environments.

I encourage you to engage in positive dialogues with one another as the city, commonwealth and nation adjust to the change in leadership, vision and strategy.

Virginia Commonwealth University Division of Student Affairs

Dear Students,

We are writing to you, collectively, as leaders in the Division of Student Affairs.  We acknowledge that this election season was stressful for many individuals in our VCU community, culminating with the election of the next president.  Some members of our campus community have felt disrespected, attacked and further marginalized by political rhetoric during the political process.  We want to affirm support of all of our students while also recognizing the unique experiences and concerns of individuals. We want all students to know that we are here to support you, encourage you and contribute to your success.

We now live in a space of uncertainty as we transition leadership in our nation.  Often, with this uncertainty comes a host of thoughts and feelings.  We hope that you will take advantage of some of the following services and programs we offer through our division to support your well-being, including: Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, Self-Care Space, University Counseling Services , The Wellness Resource Center, Trans Lives Matter Panel and Survivor Solidarity Support, Recreational Sports, Restorative Yoga and Mind & Body Classes.

We encourage students to express their concerns and engage in conversations that further the core values articulated in Quest, the VCU Strategic Plan. We continue to have an opportunity to make individual and collective choices about how we work to bridge differences in a manner that builds up our community.

Our staff will have a table each day next week on the VCU Compass from noon to 1:00 p.m. ­­­to receive your concerns, suggestions and just listen.  Please stop by to meet us.  We want you to know you have our full support.

Other Organizations

Finding the Right Words in Post-Election Libraries and Higher Ed

** This post was originally published in ACRL TechConnect on Nov. 15, 2016.***

This year’s election result has presented a huge challenge to all of us who work in higher education and libraries. Usually, libraries, universities, and colleges do not comment on presidential election result and we refrain from talking about politics at work. But these are not usual times that we are living in.

A black female student was shoved off the sidewalk and called the ‘N’ word at Baylor University. The Ku Klux Klan is openly holding a rally. West Virginia officials publicly made a racist comment about the first lady. Steve Bannon’s prospective appointment as the chief strategist and senior counsel to the new President is being praised by white nationalist leaders and fiercely opposed by civil rights groups at the same time. Bannon is someone who calls for an ethno-state, openly calls Martin Luther King a fraud, and laments white dispossession and the deconstruction of occidental civilization. There are people drawing a swastika at a park. The ‘Whites only’ and ‘Colored’ signs were put up over water fountains in a Florida school. A Muslim student was threatened with a lighter. Asian-American women are being assaulted. Hostile acts targeting minority students are taking place on college campuses.

Libraries and educational institutions exist because we value knowledge and science. Knowledge and science do not discriminate. They grow across all different races, ethnicities, religions, nationalities, sexual identities, and disabilities. Libraries and educational institutions exist to enable and empower people to freely explore, investigate, and harness different ideas and thoughts. They support, serve, and belong to ‘all’ who seek knowledge. No matter how naive it may sound, they are essential to the betterment of human lives, and they do so by creating strength from all our differences, not likeness. This is why diversity, equity, inclusion are non-negotiable and irrevocable values in libraries and educational institutions.

How do we reconcile these values with the president-elect who openly dismissed and expressed hostility towards them? His campaign made remarks and promises that can be interpreted as nothing but the most blatant expressions of racism, sexism, intolerance, bigotry, harassment, and violence. What will we do to address the concerns of our students, staff, and faculty about their physical safety on campus due to their differences in race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, and sexual identity? How do we assure them that we will continue to uphold these values and support everyone regardless of what they look like, how they identify their gender, what their faiths are, what disabilities they may have, who they love, where they come from, what languages they speak, or where they live? How?

We say it. Explicitly. Clearly. And repeatedly.

If you think that your organization is already very much pro-diversity that there is no need to confirm or reaffirm diversity, you can’t be farther from the everyday life minorities experience. Sometimes, saying isn’t much. But right now, saying it out loud can mean everything. If you support those who belong to minority groups but don’t say it out loud, how would they know it? Right now, nothing is obvious other than there is a lot of hate and violence towards minorities.

The entire week after the election, I agonized about what to say to my small team of IT people whom I supervise at work. As a manager, I felt that it was my responsibility to address the anxiety and uncertainty that some of my staff – particularly those in minority groups – would be experiencing due to the election result. I also needed to ensure that whatever dialogue takes place regarding the differences of opinions between those who were pleased and those who were distressed with the election result, those dialogues remain civil and respectful.

Crafting an appropriate message was much more challenging than I anticipated. I felt very strongly about the need to re-affirm the unwavering support and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion particularly in relation to libraries and higher education, no matter how obvious it may seem. I also felt the need to establish (within the bounds of my limited authority) that we will continue to respect, value, and celebrate diversity in interacting with library users as well as other library and university staff members. Employees are held to the standard expectations of their institutions, such as diversity, equity, inclusion, tolerance, civil dialogue, and no harassment or violence towards minorities, even if their private opinions conflict with them. At the same time, I wanted to strike a measured tone and neither scare nor upset anyone, whichever side they were on in the election. As a manager, I have to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their private opinions as long as they do not harm others.

I suspect that many of us – either a manager or not – want to say something similar about the election result. Not so much about who was and should have been as about what we are going to do now in the face of these public incidences of anger, hatred, harassment, violence, and bigotry directed at minority groups, which are coming out at an alarming pace because it affects all of us, not just minorities.

Finding the right words, however, is difficult. You have to carefully consider your role, audience, and the message you want to convey. The official public statement from a university president is going to take a tone vastly different from an informal private message a supervisor sends out to a few members of his or her team. A library director’s message to library patrons assuring the continued service for all groups of users with no discrimination will likely to be quite different from the one she sends to her library staff to assuage their anxiety and fear.

For such difficulty not to delay and stop us from what we have to and want to say to everyone we work with and care for, I am sharing the short message that I sent out to my team last Friday, 3 days after the election. (N.B. ‘CATS’ stands for ‘Computing and Technology Services’ and UMB refers to ‘University of Maryland, Baltimore.’) This is a customized message to address my own team. I am sharing this as a potential template for you to craft your own message. I would like to see more messages that reaffirm diversity, equity, and inclusion as non-negotiable values, explicitly state that we will not step backwards, and make a commitment to continued unwavering support for them.

Dear CATS,

This year’s close and divisive election left a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty in many of us. I am sure that we will hear from President Perman and the university leadership soon.

In the meantime, I want to remind you of something I believe to be very important. We are all here – just as we have been all along – to provide the most excellent service to our users regardless of what they look like, what their faiths are, where they come from, what languages they speak, where they live, and who they love. A library is a powerful place where people transform themselves through learning, critical thinking, and reflection. A library’s doors have been kept open to anyone who wants to freely explore the world of ideas and pursue knowledge. Libraries are here to empower people to create a better future. A library is a place for mutual education through respectful and open-minded dialogues. And, we, the library staff and faculty, make that happen. We get to make sure that people’s ethnicity, race, gender, disability, socio-economic backgrounds, political views, or religious beliefs do not become an obstacle to that pursuit. We have a truly awesome responsibility. And I don’t have to tell you how vital our role is as a CATS member in our library’s fulfilling that responsibility.

Whichever side we stood on in this election, let’s not forget to treat each other with respect and dignity. Let’s use this as an opportunity to renew our commitment to diversity, one of the UMB’s core values. Inclusive excellence is one of the themes of the UMB 2017-2021 Strategic Plan. Each and every one of us has a contribution to make because we are stronger for our differences.

We have much work ahead of us! I am out today, but expect lots of donuts Monday.

Have a great weekend,
Bohyun

 

Monday, I brought in donuts of many different kinds and told everyone they were ‘diversity donuts.’ Try it. I believe it was successful in easing some stress and tension that was palpable in my team after the election.

Photo from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vnysia/4598569232

Photo from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vnysia/4598569232

Before crafting your own message, I recommend re-reading your institution’s core values, mission and vision statements, and the most recent strategic plan. Most universities, colleges, and libraries include diversity, equity, inclusion, or something equivalent to these somewhere. Also review all public statements or internal messages that came from your institution that reaffirms diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can easily incorporate those into your own message. Make sure to clearly state your (and your institution’s) continued commitment to and unwavering support for diversity and inclusion and explicitly oppose bigotry, intolerance, harassment, and acts of violence. Encourage civil discourse and mutual respect. It is very important to reaffirm the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion ‘before’ listing any resources and help that employees or students may seek in case of harassment or assault. Without the assurance from the institution that it indeed upholds those values and will firmly stand by them, those resources and help mean little.

Below I have also listed messages, notes, and statements sent out by library directors, managers, librarians, and university presidents that reaffirm the full support for and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I hope to see more of these come out. If you have already received or sent out such a message, I invite you to share in the comments. If you have not, I suggest doing so as soon as possible. Send out a message if you are in a position where doing so is appropriate. Don’t forget to ask for a message addressing those values if you have not received any from your organization.

 

Say It Out Loud – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I usually and mostly talk about technology. But technology is so far away from my thought right now. I don’t feel that I can afford to worry about Internet surveillance or how to protect privacy at this moment. Not that they are unimportant. Such a worry is real and deserves our attention and investigation. But at a time like this when there are so many reports of public incidences of hatred, bigotry, harassment, and violence reported on university and college campuses, on streets, and in many neighborhoods coming in at an alarming pace, I don’t find myself reflecting on how we can use technology to deal with this problem. For the problem is so much bigger.

There are people drawing a swastika at a park. The ‘Whites only’ and ‘Colored’ signs were put up over water fountains in a Florida school. A Muslim student was threatened with a lighter. Asian-American women are being assaulted. Hostile acts targeting minority students are taking place on college campuses. A black female student was shoved off the sidewalk and called the ‘N’ word at Baylor University. Newt Gingrich called for a House committee for Un-American Activities. The Ku Klux Klan is openly holding a rally. The list goes on and on.

Photo from http://www.wftv.com/news/local/investigation-underway-after-2-racist-signs-posted-above-water-fountains-at-first-coast-high-school/466146633

Photo from http://www.wftv.com/news/local/investigation-underway-after-2-racist-signs-posted-above-water-fountains-at-first-coast-high-school/466146633

We are justified to be freaking out. I suspect this is a deal breaker to not just Democrats, not just Clinton supporters, but a whole lot more people. Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump endorse the position that women, people of color, Muslims, LGBT, and all other minority groups deserve and should be deprived of the basic human right to be not publicly threatened, harassed, and assaulted, I hope. I am sure that many who voted for Donald Trump do support diversity, equity, and inclusion as important and non-negotiable values. I believe that many who voted for Donald Trump do not want a society where some of their family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors have to live in constant fear for their physical safety at minimum. There are very many white people who absolutely condemn bigotry, threat, hatred, discrimination, harassment, and violence directed at minorities and give their unwavering support to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The problem is that I don’t hear it said loudly enough, clearly enough, publicly enough.

I realized that we – myself included – do not say this enough.

One of my fellow librarians, Steve, wrote this on his Facebook wall after the election.

I am a 56 year old white guy. … I go out into the world today and I’m trying to hold a look on my face that says I don’t hate you black people, Hispanic people, gay people, Muslim people. I mean you no harm. I don’t want to deport you or imprison you. You are my brothers and sisters. I want for you all of the benefits, the rights, the joys (such as they are) that are afforded to everybody else in our society. I don’t think this look on my face is effective. Why should they trust me? You can never APPEAR to be doing the right thing. It requires DOING the right thing.

Of course, Steve doesn’t want to harm me because I am not white, I know. I am 100 % positive that he wouldn’t assault me because I am female. But by stating this publicly (I mean as far as his FB friends can see the post), he made a difference to me. Steve is not Republican. But I would feel so much better if people I know tell me the same thing whether they are Democrat or Republican. And I think it will make a huge difference to others when we all say this together.

Sometimes, saying isn’t much. But right now, saying it aloud can mean everything. If you support those who belong to minority groups but don’t say it out loud, how would they know it? Because right now, nothing is obvious other than there is a lot of hate and violence towards minorities.

At this point, which candidate you voted for doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you will condone open hatred and violence towards minorities and women, thereby making it acceptable in our society. There is a lot at stake here, and this goes way beyond party politics.

Publicly confirming our continued support for and unwavering commitment to diversity is a big deal. People who are being insulted, threatened, harassed, and assaulted need to hear it. And when we say this together loudly enough, clearly enough, explicitly enough, it will deafen the voice of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance and chase it away to the margins of our society again.

So I think I am going to say this whenever I have a chance whether formally or informally whether it is in a written form or in a conversation. If you are a librarian, you should say this to your library users. If you are a teacher, you should say this to your students. If you run a business, you need to say this to your employees and customers. If you manage a team at work, tell your team. Say this out loud to your coworkers, friends, family, neighbors, and everyone you interact with.

“I support all minorities and stand for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

“I object to and will not condone the acts of harassment, violence, hatred, and threats directed at minorities.”

“I will not discriminate anyone based upon their ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, disability, political views, socio-economic backgrounds, or religious beliefs.”

We cannot allow diversity, equity, and inclusion to become minority opinions. And it is up to us to keep it mainstream and to make it prevail. Say it aloud and act on it.

In times like this, many of us look to institutions that we belong to, the organizations we work for, professionally participate in, or personally support. We expect them to reconfirm the very basic values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Since I work for a university, I have been looking up and reading statements from higher education institutions. So far, not a great number of universities have made public statements confirming their continued support for diversity. I am sure more are on the way. But I expected more of them would come out more promptly. This is unfortunate because many of them openly expressed their support for diversity and even include diversity in their values, mission, and goals.

If your organization hasn’t already confirmed their support for these values and expressed their commitment to provide safety for all minorities, ask for it. You may even be in a position to actually craft and issue one.

For those in need of right words to express your intention clearly, here are some good examples below.

“The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.  Diversity is central to our mission.  We remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.  As the Principles make clear, the University ‘strives to foster an environment in which all are included’ and ‘all are given an equal opportunity to learn and explore.’  The University of California will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and urges our students, faculty, staff, and all others associated with the University to do so as well.” –  University of California

“Our responsibility is to remain committed to education, discovery and intellectual honesty – and to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are at our best when we come together to engage respectfully across our ideological differences; to support ALL who feel marginalized, threatened or unwelcome; and to pursue knowledge and understanding, as we always have, as the students, faculty and staff of the University of Michigan.” – University of Michigan

“Northwestern is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive community for all, regardless of their beliefs, and I assure you that will not change.” – Northwestern University

“As a Catholic university, Clarke will not step away from its many efforts to heighten our awareness of the individuals and groups who are exclude and marginalized in so many ways and to take action for their protection and inclusion.  Today, I call on us as a community to step up our efforts to promote understanding and inclusion and to reach out to those among us who are feeling further disenfranchised, fearful and confused as a result of the election.” – Clarke University

“As President, I need to represent all of RIT, and I therefore do not express preferences for political candidates. I do feel it important, however, to represent and reinforce RIT’s shared commitment to the value of inclusive diversity. I have heard from many in our community that the result of the recent election has raised concerns from those in our minority populations, those who come from immigrant families, those from countries outside of the U.S., those in our LGBTQIA+ community, those who practice Islam, and even those in our female population about whether they should be concerned for their safety and well-being as a result of the horrific discourse that accompanied the presidential election process and some of the specific views and proposals presented.

At RIT, we have treasured the diverse contributions of members of these groups to our campus community, and I want to reassure all that one of RIT’s highest priorities is to demonstrate the extraordinary value of inclusive diversity and that we will continue to respect, appreciate, and benefit from the contributions of all. Anyone who feels unsafe here should make their feelings known to me and to others in a position to address their concerns. Concerned members of our community can also take advantage of opportunities to engage in open discourse about the election in the MOSAIC Center and at tomorrow’s Grey Matter discussion.” – Rochester Institute of Technology

Please go ahead and say these out loud to people around you if you mean them.  No matter how obvious and cheesy they sound, I assure you, they are not obvious and cheesy to those who are facing open threats, harassment, and violence. Let’s boost the signal; let’s make it loud; let’s make it overwhelming.

“I support all minorities and stand for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

“I object to and will not condone the acts of harassment, violence, hatred, and threats directed at minorities.”

“I will not discriminate anyone based upon their ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, disability, political views, socio-economic backgrounds, or religious beliefs.”

 

Cybersecurity, Usability, Online Privacy, and Digital Surveillance

** This post was originally published in ACRL TechConnect on May. 9, 2016.***

Cybersecurity is an interesting and important topic, one closely connected to those of online privacy and digital surveillance. Many of us know that it is difficult to keep things private on the Internet. The Internet was invented to share things with others quickly, and it excels at that job. Businesses that process transactions with customers and store the information online are responsible for keeping that information private. No one wants social security numbers, credit card information, medical history, or personal e-mails shared with the world. We expect and trust banks, online stores, and our doctor’s offices to keep our information safe and secure.

However, keeping private information safe and secure is a challenging task. We have all heard of security breaches at J.P MorganTarget, SonyAnthem Blue Cross and Blue Shieldthe Office of Personnel Management of the U.S. federal governmentUniversity of Maryland at College Park, and Indiana University. Sometimes, a data breach takes place when an institution fails to patch a hole in its network systems. Sometimes, people fall for a phishing scam, or a virus in a user’s computer infects the target system. Other times, online companies compile customer data into personal profiles. The profiles are then sold to data brokers and on into the hands of malicious hackers and criminals.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/topgold/4978430615

Image from Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/topgold/4978430615

Cybersecurity vs. Usability

To prevent such a data breach, institutional IT staff are trained to protect their systems against vulnerabilities and intrusion attempts. Employees and end users are educated to be careful about dealing with institutional or customers’ data. There are systematic measures that organizations can implement such as two-factor authentication, stringent password requirements, and locking accounts after a certain number of failed login attempts.

While these measures strengthen an institution’s defense against cyberattacks, they may negatively affect the usability of the system, lowering users’ productivity. As a simple example, security measures like a CAPTCHA can cause an accessibility issue for people with disabilities.

Or imagine that a university IT office concerned about the data security of cloud services starts requiring all faculty, students, and staff to only use cloud services that are SOC 2 Type II certified as an another example. SOC stands for “Service Organization Controls.” It consists of a series of standards that measure how well a given service organization keeps its information secure. For a business to be SOC 2 certified, it must demonstrate that it has sufficient policies and strategies that will satisfactorily protect its clients’ data in five areas known as “Trust Services Principles.” Those include the security of the service provider’s system, the processing integrity of this system, the availability of the system, the privacy of personal information that the service provider collects, retains, uses, discloses, and disposes of for its clients, and the confidentiality of the information that the service provider’s system processes or maintains for the clients. The SOC 2 Type II certification means that the business had maintained relevant security policies and procedures over a period of at least six months, and therefore it is a good indicator that the business will keep the clients’ sensitive data secure. The Dropbox for Business is SOC 2 certified, but it costs money. The free version is not as secure, but many faculty, students, and staff in academia use it frequently for collaboration. If a university IT office simply bans people from using the free version of Dropbox without offering an alternative that is as easy to use as Dropbox, people will undoubtedly suffer.

Some of you may know that the USPS website does not provide a way to reset the password for users who forgot their usernames. They are instead asked to create a new account. If they remember the account username but enter the wrong answers to the two security questions more than twice, the system also automatically locks their accounts for a certain period of time. Again, users have to create a new account. Clearly, the system that does not allow the password reset for those forgetful users is more secure than the one that does. However, in reality, this security measure creates a huge usability issue because average users do forget their passwords and the answers to the security questions that they set up themselves. It’s not hard to guess how frustrated people will be when they realize that they entered a wrong mailing address for mail forwarding and are now unable to get back into the system to correct because they cannot remember their passwords nor the answers to their security questions.

To give an example related to libraries, a library may decide to block all international traffic to their licensed e-resources to prevent foreign hackers who have gotten hold of the username and password of a legitimate user from accessing those e-resources. This would certainly help libraries to avoid a potential breach of licensing terms in advance and spare them from having to shut down compromised user accounts one by one whenever those are found. However, this would make it impossible for legitimate users traveling outside of the country to access those e-resources as well, which many users would find it unacceptable. Furthermore, malicious hackers would probably just use a proxy to make their IP address appear to be located in the U.S. anyway.

What would users do if their organization requires them to reset passwords on a weekly basis for their work computers and several or more systems that they also use constantly for work? While this may strengthen the security of those systems, it’s easy to see that it will be a nightmare having to reset all those passwords every week and keeping track of them not to forget or mix them up. Most likely, they will start using less complicated passwords or even begin to adopt just one password for all different services. Some may even stick to the same password every time the system requires them to reset it unless the system automatically detects the previous password and prevents the users from continuing to use the same one. Ill-thought-out cybersecurity measures can easily backfire.

Security is important, but users also want to be able to do their job without being bogged down by unwieldy cybersecurity measures. The more user-friendly and the simpler the cybersecurity guidelines are to follow, the more users will observe them, thereby making a network more secure. Users who face cumbersome and complicated security measures may ignore or try to bypass them, increasing security risks.

Image from Flickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/topgold/4978430615

Image from Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/topgold/4978430615

Cybersecurity vs. Privacy

Usability and productivity may be a small issue, however, compared to the risk of mass surveillance resulting from aggressive security measures. In 2013, the Guardian reported that the communication records of millions of people were being collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) in bulk, regardless of suspicion of wrongdoing. A secret court order prohibited Verizon from disclosing the NSA’s information request. After a cyberattack against the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of California system installed a device that is capable of capturing, analyzing, and storing all network traffic to and from the campus for over 30 days. This security monitoring was implemented secretly without consulting or notifying the faculty and those who would be subject to the monitoring. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the IT staff who installed the system were given strict instructions not to reveal it was taking place. Selected committee members on the campus were told to keep this information to themselves.

The invasion of privacy and the lack of transparency in these network monitoring programs has caused great controversy. Such wide and indiscriminate monitoring programs must have a very good justification and offer clear answers to vital questions such as what exactly will be collected, who will have access to the collected information, when and how the information will be used, what controls will be put in place to prevent the information from being used for unrelated purposes, and how the information will be disposed of.

We have recently seen another case in which security concerns conflicted with people’s right to privacy. In February 2016, the FBI requested Apple to create a backdoor application that will bypass the current security measure in place in its iOS. This was because the FBI wanted to unlock an iPhone 5C recovered from one of the shooters in San Bernadino shooting incident. Apple iOS secures users’ devices by permanently erasing all data when a wrong password is entered more than ten times if people choose to activate this option in the iOS setting. The FBI’s request was met with strong opposition from Apple and others. Such a backdoor application can easily be exploited for illegal purposes by black hat hackers, for unjustified privacy infringement by other capable parties, and even for dictatorship by governments. Apple refused to comply with the request, and the court hearing was to take place in March 22. The FBI, however, withdrew the request saying that it found a way to hack into the phone in question without Apple’s help. Now, Apple has to figure out what the vulnerability in their iOS if it wants its encryption mechanism to be foolproof. In the meanwhile, iOS users know that their data is no longer as secure as they once thought.

Around the same time, the Senate’s draft bill titled as “Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016,” proposed that people should be required to comply with any authorized court order for data and that if that data is “unintelligible” – meaning encrypted – then it must be decrypted for the court. This bill is problematic because it practically nullifies the efficacy of any end-to-end encryption, which we use everyday from our iPhones to messaging services like Whatsapp and Signal.

Because security is essential to privacy, it is ironic that certain cybersecurity measures are used to greatly invade privacy rather than protect it. Because we do not always fully understand how the technology actually works or how it can be exploited for both good and bad purposes, we need to be careful about giving blank permission to any party to access, collect, and use our private data without clear understanding, oversight, and consent. As we share more and more information online, cyberattacks will only increase, and organizations and the government will struggle even more to balance privacy concerns with security issues.

Why Libraries Should Advocate for Online Privacy?

The fact that people may no longer have privacy on the Web should concern libraries. Historically, libraries have been strong advocates of intellectual freedom striving to keep patron’s data safe and protected from the unwanted eyes of the authorities. As librarians, we believe in people’s right to read, think, and speak freely and privately as long as such an act itself does not pose harm to others. The Library Freedom Project is an example that reflects this belief held strongly within the library community. It educates librarians and their local communities about surveillance threats, privacy rights and law, and privacy-protecting technology tools to help safeguard digital freedom, and helped the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to become the first library to operate a Tor exit relay, to provide anonymity for patrons while they browse the Internet at the library.

New technologies brought us the unprecedented convenience of collecting, storing, and sharing massive amount of sensitive data online. But the fact that such sensitive data can be easily exploited by falling into the wrong hands created also the unparalleled level of potential invasion of privacy. While the majority of librarians take a very strong stance in favor of intellectual freedom and against censorship, it is often hard to discern a correct stance on online privacy particularly when it is pitted against cybersecurity. Some even argue that those who have nothing to hide do not need their privacy at all.

However, privacy is not equivalent to hiding a wrongdoing. Nor do people keep certain things secrets because those things are necessarily illegal or unethical. Being watched 24/7 will drive any person crazy whether s/he is guilty of any wrongdoing or not. Privacy allows us safe space to form our thoughts and consider our actions on our own without being subject to others’ eyes and judgments. Even in the absence of actual massive surveillance, just the belief that one can be placed under surveillance at any moment is sufficient to trigger self-censorship and negatively affects one’s thoughts, ideas, creativity, imagination, choices, and actions, making people more conformist and compliant. This is further corroborated by the recent study from Oxford University, which provides empirical evidence that the mere existence of a surveillance state breeds fear and conformity and stifles free expression. Privacy is an essential part of being human, not some trivial condition that we can do without in the face of a greater concern. That’s why many people under political dictatorship continue to choose death over life under mass surveillance and censorship in their fight for freedom and privacy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation states that privacy means respect for individuals’ autonomy, anonymous speech, and the right to free association. We want to live as autonomous human beings free to speak our minds and think on our own. If part of a library’s mission is to contribute to helping people to become such autonomous human beings through learning and sharing knowledge with one another without having to worry about being observed and/or censored, libraries should advocate for people’s privacy both online and offline as well as in all forms of communication technologies and devices.

Three Recent Talks of Mine on UX, Data Visualization, and IT Management

I have been swamped at work and pretty quiet here in my blog. But I gave a few talks recently. So I wanted to share those at least.

I presented about how to turn the traditional library IT department and its operation that is usually behind the scene into a more patron-facing unit at the recent American Library Association Midwinter Meeting back in January. This program was organized by the LITA Heads of IT Interest Group. In March, I gave a short lightning talk at the 2016 Code4Lib Conference about the data visualization project of library data at my library. I was also invited to speak at the USMAI (University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions) UX Unconference and gave a talk about user experience, personas, and the idea of applying library personas to library strategic planning.

Here are those three presentation slides for those interested!

Strategically UX Oriented with Personas from Bohyun Kim

Near Us and Libraries, Robots Have Arrived

** This post was originally published in ACRL TechConnect on Oct. 12, 2015.***

The movie, Robot and Frank, describes the future in which the elderly have a robot as their companion and also as a helper. The robot monitors various activities that relate to both mental and physical health and helps Frank with various house chores. But Frank also enjoys the robot’s company and goes on to enlist the robot into his adventure of breaking into a local library to steal a book and a greater heist later on. People’s lives in the movie are not particularly futuristic other than a robot in them. And even a robot may not be so futuristic to us much longer either. As a matter of fact, as of June 2015, there is now a commercially available humanoid robot that is close to performing some of the functions that the robot in the movie ‘Frank and Robot’ does.

Pepper_GESTURE_ON-001

Pepper Robot, Image from Aldebaran, https://www.aldebaran.com/en/a-robots/who-is-pepper

A Japanese company, SoftBank Robotics Corp. released a humanoid robot named ‘Pepper’ to the market back in June. The Pepper robot is 4 feet tall, 61 pounds, speaks 17 languages and is equipped with an array of cameras, touch sensors, accelerometer, and other sensors in his “endocrine-type multi-layer neural network,” according to the CNN report.  The Pepper robot was priced at ¥198,000 ($1,600). The Pepper owners are also responsible for an additional ¥24,600 ($200) monthly data and insurance fee. While the Pepper robot is not exactly cheap, it is surprisingly affordable for a robot. This means that the robot industry has now matured to the point where it can introduce a robot that the mass can afford.

Robots come in varying capabilities and forms. Some robots are as simple as a programmable cube block that can be combined with one another to be built into a working unit. For example, Cubelets from Modular Robotics are modular robots that are used for educational purposes. Each cube performs one specific function, such as flash, battery, temperature, brightness, rotation, etc. And one can combine these blocks together to build a robot that performs a certain function. For example, you can build a lighthouse robot by combining a battery block, a light-sensor block, a rotator block, and a flash block.

 

A variety of cubelets available from the Modular Robotics website.

A variety of cubelets available from the Modular Robotics website.

 

By contrast, there are advanced robots such as those in the form of an animal developed by a robotics company, Boston Dynamics. Some robots look like a human although much smaller than the Pepper robot. NAO is a 58-cm tall humanoid robot that moves, recognizes, hears and talks to people that was launched in 2006. Nao robots are an interactive educational toy that helps students to learn programming in a fun and practical way.

Noticing their relevance to STEM education, some libraries are making robots available to library patrons. Westport Public Library provides robot training classes for its two Nao robots. Chicago Public Library lends a number of Finch robots that patrons can program to see how they work. In celebration of the National Robotics Week back in April, San Diego Public Library hosted their first Robot Day educating the public about how robots have impacted the society. San Diego Public Library also started a weekly Robotics Club inviting anyone to join in to help build or learn how to build a robot for the library. Haslet Public Library offers the Robotics Camp program for 6th to 8th graders who want to learn how to build with LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kits. School librarians are also starting robotics clubs. The Robotics Club at New Rochelle High School in New York is run by the school’s librarian, Ryan Paulsen. Paulsen’s robotics club started with faculty, parent, and other schools’ help along with a grant from NASA and participated in a FIRST Robotics Competition. Organizations such as the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University provides educational outreach and resources.

Image from Aldebaran website at https://www.aldebaran.com/en/humanoid-robot/nao-robot

There are also libraries that offer coding workshops often with Arduino or Raspberry Pi, which are inexpensive computer hardware. Ames Free Library offers Raspberry Pi workshops. San Diego Public Library runs a monthly Arduino Enthusiast Meetup.  Arduinos and Raspberry Pis can be used to build digital devices and objects that can sense and interact the physical world, which are close to a simple robot. We may see  more robotics programs at those libraries in the near future.

Robots can fulfill many other functions than being educational interactive toys, however. For example, robots can be very useful in healthcare. A robot can be a patient’s emotional companion just like the Pepper. Or it can provide an easy way to communicate for a patient and her/his caregiver with physicians and others. A robot can be used at a hospital to move and deliver medication and other items and function as a telemedicine assistant. It can also provide physical assistance for a patient or a nurse and even be use for children’s therapy.

Humanoid robots like Pepper may also serve at a reception desk at companies. And it is not difficult to imagine them as sales clerks at stores. Robots can be useful at schools and other educational settings as well. At a workplace, teleworkers can use robots to achieve more active presence. For example, universities and colleges can offer a similar telepresence robot to online students who want to virtually experience and utilize the campus facilities or to faculty who wish to offer the office hours or collaborate with colleagues while they are away from the office. As a matter of fact, the University of Texas, Arlington, Libraries recently acquired several Telepresence Robots to lend to their faculty and students.

Not all robots do or will have the humanoid form as the Pepper robot does. But as robots become more and more capable, we will surely get to see more robots in our daily lives.

References

Alpeyev, Pavel, and Takashi Amano. “Robots at Work: SoftBank Aims to Bring Pepper to Stores.” Bloomberg Business, June 30, 2015. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-30/robots-at-work-softbank-aims-to-bring-pepper-to-stores.

“Boston Dynamics.” Accessed September 8, 2015. http://www.bostondynamics.com/.

Boyer, Katie. “Robotics Clubs At the Library.” Public Libraries Online, June 16, 2014. http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2014/06/robotics-clubs-at-the-library/.

“Finch Robots Land at CPL Altgeld.” Chicago Public Library, May 12, 2014. https://www.chipublib.org/news/finch-robots-land-at-cpl/.

McNickle, Michelle. “10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare – InformationWeek.” InformationWeek, December 6, 2012. http://www.informationweek.com/mobile/10-medical-robots-that-could-change-healthcare/d/d-id/1107696.

Singh, Angad. “‘Pepper’ the Emotional Robot, Sells out within a Minute.” CNN.com, June 23, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/22/tech/pepper-robot-sold-out/.

Tran, Uyen. “SDPL Labs: Arduino Aplenty.” The Library Incubator Project, April 17, 2015. http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=16559.

“UT Arlington Library to Begin Offering Programming Robots for Checkout.” University of Texas Arlington, March 11, 2015. https://www.uta.edu/news/releases/2015/03/Library-robots-2015.php.

Waldman, Loretta. “Coming Soon to the Library: Humanoid Robots.” Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2014, sec. New York. http://www.wsj.com/articles/coming-soon-to-the-library-humanoid-robots-1412015687.

From Programmable Biology to Robots and Bitcoin – New Technology Frontier

A while ago, I gave a webinar on the topic of the new technology frontier for libraries. This webinar was given for the South Central Regional Library Council Webinar Series.  I don’t get asked to pick technologies that I think are exciting for libraries and library patrons too often. So I went wild! These are the six technology trends that I picked.

  • Maker Programs
  • Programmable Biology (or Synthetic Biology)
  • Robots
  • Drones
  • Bitcoin (Virtual currency)
  • Gamification (or Digital engagement)

OK, actually the maker programs, drones, and gamification are not too wild, I admit. But programmable biology, robots, and bitcoin were really fun to talk about.

I did not necessarily pick the technologies that I thought would be widely adopted by libraries, as you can guess pretty well from bitcoin. Instead, I tried to pick the technologies that are tackling interesting problems, solutions of which are likely to have a great impact on our future and our library patrons’ lives. It is important to note not only what a new technology is and how it works but also how it can influence our lives, and therefore library patrons and libraries ultimately.

Below are my slides. And if you must, you can watch the webinar recording on Youtube as well. Would you pick one of these technologies if you get to pick your own? If not, what else would that be?

Back to the Future Part III: Libraries and the New Technology Frontier

What It Takes to Implement a Makerspace

I haven’t been able to blog much recently. But at the recent ALA Annual Conference at San Francisco, I presented on the topic of what it takes to implement a makerspace at an academic library. This was to share the work of my library’s Makerspace Task Force that I chaired and the lessons that we learned from the implementation process as well as after we opened the Innovation Space at University of Maryland, Baltimore, Health Sciences and Human Services Library back in April.

If you are planning on creating a makerspace, this may be useful to you. And here is a detailed guide on 3D printing and 3D scanning that I have created before the launch of our makerspace.

I had many great questions and interesting discussion with the audience. If you have any comments and things to share, please write in the comments section below! If you are curious about the makerspace implementation timeline, please see the poster “Preparing for the Makerspace Implemnetation at UMB HS/HSL”  below, which my coworker Everly and I presented at the MLA (Medical Library Association) Meeting this spring.

(1) Slides for the program at ALA 2015 Conference, “Making a Makerspace Happen: A discussion of the current practices in library makerspaces and experimentation at University of Maryland, Baltimore.”

(2) Poster from the MLA 2015 Meeting: Preparing for the Makerspace Implemnetation at UMB HS/HSL