LibTech Conference 2016 – Day One

This year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend LibTech 2016.  LibTech is one of my more favorite conferences, and this year did not disappoint.

The first day began with a keynote from Safiya Umoja on the ethics of algorithms.  She talked about how the Google search algorithm is not an informational algorithm, but an advertising algorithm.  This can be seen based on the first page of search results.  Safiya also showed how, before Google updated its algorithm, a search such as “black women”, would yield mostly porn sites.  This was an eye opening session, and one to make one think.  I do however find that her talk focused more on the technology, and not necessarily the people behind the technology.  One of my favorite quotes is from Doctor Who, “Computers are sophisticated idiots, they do exactly what you tell them to do”, and I do not think the Google algorithm is an exception to that.  Another thing Safiya said that I found interesting was, “We have more data and technology than ever, and more inequality and injustice to go with it.”  While I do not think this statement is entirely wrong, I do wonder if maybe the inequality and injustice have always been there, and the fact that technology has broken down the barriers of distance, is it more that we just hear about things more often than we did before social media, and technology?

One of the sessions I attended was called Innovation on a Shoestring Budget by Louise Alcorn.  This session I found very useful, they showcased a lot of free, web based tools that can be used in the library.  I will discuss a couple of the ones I found interesting, but for a full list a link to the presentation can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/lalcorn/innovation-on-a-shoestring-free-and-cheap-tools-for-ltc2016.  A great tool that she mentioned was called Canva, which is a web based photo editor that can be used to make great looking header images and graphics for both a library website, or social media postings.  Of course they discussed Google Apps, which of course I am a big fan of, but won’t go into too much detail.  But if you are not a Google fan boy like me, another web based option for a MS Office alternative is Zoho.  Zoho offers a lot of the same features as Google Drive, but without having to be in the Google ecosystem.  But in addition to the normal Office tools that you would expect to find, Louise mentioned that it also has something similar to Quickbooks, if you are looking for a finance manager software.  This is something I am very eager to check out.

The final session I went to on the first day was called “Top 10 Google Apps Tool Tips”.  As I already stated, I am a Google fanboy so this session was the easiest one for me to pick.  It was done by Suzanne Durkacs from Macalester College.  While she covered many great Google tips and tricks, I am going to focus on a couple, but a copy of her presentation can be found at, https://goo.gl/IgZ6dY.  The first trick she shared is in Google Drive, you can add a Google Doc to multiple folders, creating more of a label system like Gmail or Evernote.  To do this, just highlight the document you hit Shift+Z.  This will bring up a menu, allowing you to add the document to another folder.  The second trick, and probably my favorite from the entire conference, was the ability to display Google Docs in a preview mode.  This is very useful if you link Google Docs to your website and make them publicly viewable.  If you have done this, you will remember that the Google toolbar is still displayed at the top.  By changing the link Google gave you to share the document, remove the /edit at the end and replace it with /preview.  This will put the document in a preview mode, and make it look a lot like a web based PDF file.

The first day was full of great sessions, and I was definitely tired and my brain full when I got home.