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This is the room in which I spent nearly all of my time at the ACRL conference in Indianapolis. My biggest role here was as co-chair of the Cyber Zed Shed Committee, a strange name, but one with a long history at the conference. The “Zed Shed” was a place on a ship where people could try out new knots and new techniques of seamanship. So the Cyber Zed Shed at ACRL has been a place where innovative new applications of technology could be tried out and vetted. I stayed in this room for 8 sessions with three presentations each. It was fun to see the names and faces connected with the proposals that we judged back in December. I will give the highlights, rather than a blow-by-blow.

The most predominant theme was that of data visualization. A number of papers showed how much more dramatically images can portray meaning, compared to spreadsheets. Libraries have built informative and visually appealing dashboards for presentation of usage statistics, collection analysis, and user information. My imagination ran wild and I came back with all kinds of ideas on how we can spice up our statistical presentation.

A number of other papers addressed digital collections, digital humanities, and digital initiatives of every kind. Since we are recruiting for such a specialist right now, it was instructive to see how many different directions the digitalist could take. Some focused on institutional repositories, some on presentation of digital collections, some on analysis of BIG DATA. One even used a supercomputer facility to analyze subject headings from the catalog to create the most beautiful abstract images. Fun stuff.

Social media was another popular topic. One person creatively mined the Twitter feed on his campus to intercept and then respond to tweets from his students. One person gave up on Facebook and found much greater success with Instagram. One library changed from broadcasting mode to listening mode in their use of social media.

Instruction librarians used technology to implement “personal librarian” programs and to provide a digital orientation EXTRAVAGANZA for distance students. One adapted the SCVNGR game to update the old-fashioned library scavenger hunt. Two different libraries talked about replacing Meebo chat reference with even better products. A scholarly communication librarian devised an interactive decision tree to guide faculty members in copyright decisions.

One of the most fun talks was about the Makerspace concept, which has been more popular so far in public libraries than in academics. It involves the “maker” concept of 3D printing. If you can dream it, you can make it, is the philosophy. When they talked about Makey Makey software, I was hooked, and wanted one really badly. Who wouldn’t want to turn a banana into a piano?

Our neighbor Beth Filar Williams at UNCG talked about implementing HTML 5 for video in library tutorials. The chair of the IFLA Newspaper Section talked about crowdsourcing to correct millions of raw OCR conversion of newspaper text. The champion non-paid volunteer was from Australia who personally corrected 1.4 million records per year, just for the fun of it. People are really strange.

I got out for a few other non Zed Shed sessions, but they have all been covered by others. All in all, it was an exhiliarating experience and Indianapolis was a great host city. Tomorrow, I am meeting with our University Library Group peers, but I will save that for a separate post!