Connecting with new students – the making of a LEGO Library Stop-Motion Movie

Every year academic libraries around the world make a great effort to reach out to the new students that starts at universities and educational institutions. It’s a tough crowd to reach. First of all they don’t need the full library packed when they start and we really really wonna tell them how important a player we are in there study life and all those great things we can do for them. We need to tone that down. Many of them are starting a whole new life and the library is not the center of that. Beers, who to hang out with, who to make out with and a new life of lectures, campus life and studying is was at the center for them.

Library service brick by brick

At The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University, we found a model were we collaborate with faculty IT department and study counseling department to reach the students in the intro weeks. The collaboration means we more or less reaches everybody since the programs the study counseling department organize are mandatory and we simply send librarians out to these events to briefly introduce the new students to there library services; locations, opening hours, course literature, print and copy (it’s important for them!) and stuff like that. No more than 10 minutes. And then we like to give them just a little bit extra to make sure they remember us and gets a good first impression of there library. That little bit extra turned out to be a LEGO Library Stop-Motion movie lasting 2:59 minutes.

And it looks like this:

I got the idea from a LEGO stop-motion movie explaining the concept of open source. Understanding what open source is all about is not rocket science but this movie just explained the philosophy so great that I was captured instantly. And then it got another thing going; In my mind open source doesn’t have a body, it’s a bit palpable you know, it’s an idea, a philosophy, a bit mute (bur great for sure). But the well known and loved LEGO universe gave it a language. A mouth for explaining the great concept of open source. After seeing it I immediately wrote my library tech maven Marc Sales and pitched the idea of using a LEGO stop-motion movie to introduce the library. Marc was game (who wouldn’t be by the idea of playing with LEGO at work), he teamed up with information specialist Hazel Engelsmann and three months later we were ready for the big premiere.

Hanging out at the LEGO Lab: 60 hours , 75 US dollars 

The movie is made simply with an iPhone and the app iMotion (free) and the voice over is recorded with a Neumann mic into a Macbook Pro with the program Logic Pro X. After the voice recording the sound files was cut into different pieces so it could be puzzled into the different scenes of the films. We sat up a little LEGO Lab in a meeting room with different background photos of library scenes (from The Faculty Library of course) and a lot of LEGO. It took approx 60 hours to make the movie and a total cost of 500 danish crowns (75 US dollars) used on LEGO. It will for sure be faster to make next time now that we are more familiar to the technology and the timing of film clips and sound.

Yours truly and Marc Sales at The LEGO Lab at Faculty Library of Social Sciences. Photo credits: Emma Flokstra Nielsson

The impact of the movie has been extraordinary. The first time it was shown for in an auditorium for 80 new students of political science there was an standing ovation afterwards (that has most certainly never happened at a library intro at UCPH before). The dean contacted me and praised it. A French system librarian which I’ve never meet wrote me an email asking if I had any job openings and put it like this: “..not just because of your LEGO movie but your library seems like a really cool place to work...”. The University Post stopped by to write an article about it. But most importantly: the new students really connected with the movie. And I don’t believe that they sad back with a feeling of “wow, now I no everything about course literature and printing facilities at the library” but the movie and the LEGO universe had probably helped them bridge and connect to a world that they never really thought about. And then hey, LEGO is just plain cool, just like the library – sometime people just don’t realize the last part so we need to help them a bit with that.

No doubt: A Library LEGO Movie is not the most important communication tool to connect with (new) students. That is, without any question, the skilled and hardworking librarians that meet them face to face and welcome them to there new study life with great professionalism and a smile at there face. But I do believe that this little LEGO movie – combined with the librarian and all the other communication we do – just bridge the world of libraries to the newbies at campus a little stronger. And if it doesn’t no harm is done – everybody loves LEGO, right?

Next step is a LEGO stop-motion library intro to the whole Copenhagen University Library and it’s gonna be massive. Production is going well and and we are starting filming in June so it should be ready for the 8.000 new students that starts in September.

Meet the cast here:

The stop-motion LEGO movie on open source that started it all:

Linked Open Data in Libraries

– Written by Library Lab Fellow Knut Anton Bøckman, library system consultant at The Royal Library, Copenhagen

Linked Open Data (LOD) is a method for making structured data more useful on the web. I thank Library Lab Blog Boss Christian for the opportunity to use this post to give a few reasons why libraries should care about it. Since I work with The Royal Library’s discovery system, REX, my main focus is on how libraries can use LOD to improve the discoverability of their collections. In a later post at The Library Lab, I’ll get to how this is done in a project at The Royal Library.

The mechanics of LOD

Data get more useful on the web when they are open and interoperable. Open data in this case are not only web accessible, but also reusable, i.e. the data must be Public Domain (CC0), or CC-BY or CC-BY-SA. For library metadata, i.e. the stuff that makes up catalogue records, this is often straightforward (The Royal Library metadata is CC0).

To be web interoperable the data need to be machine readable. This is the trickier part. Humans read texts very well because we infer meaning of words from the context they’re in. So if we search a library database and find this record..


… we know that Pierre Bourdieu is the person that wrote a book called La Distinction, because his name is mentioned as Author on the record for this book. We also know a whole lot of other things just from looking at this record, because we are able to infer from context.

Computers, however, need this spelled out much more clearly – which first of all means breaking the catalogue record document down into simple propositional statements, e.g.: “Pierre Bourdieu has written La Distinction”

This is a simple statement of a relation (“has written”) between a subject (Bourdieu) and an object (La distinction). In order for a machine to infer from this, e.g. in order to find other other books written by the same person, we need to explain this context. This is done by providing links that uniquely identify the data elements and the relation between them. So the sentence above can be restated as a triple of links:

Try it yourself – this triple restates the sentence using unique identifiers (URIs), over the http protocol, it provides useful information and links to further discoverability. Thus, it complies with the principles for linked data set forth by Tim Berners-Lee.

True, this is only one simple statement out of many from the catalogue record document. Having the same for all (or all relevant) data in all catalogue records means a lot of triples for the computer to run through (in REX you search hundreds of millions of records). The great thing with computers is that they’re really good at such repetitive tasks. (Humans are not and make up for it by being really good at contextual understanding). But how about creating these statements from the text-based catalogue records we now have? Since library data is fairly structured and standardized, and since the library world is no stranger to the use of authority files (like the ones used for linking above), this can be automated to a very high degree. Still, there is significant work involved, and in a subsequent post, I’ll describe how we are starting work on this at The Royal Library. For now, I’ll turn to why doing so is important to libraries.

Why LOD in Libraries?

Libraries were information hubs avant le mot. They should be uniquely positioned to prominence in a society whose fabric is increasingly permeated by demands for and production of information. The social transformation has come about through information turning digital, of course, but in fact libraries were pioneers in this process, too. It started long before the last decade’s surge in digitization of special collections and in acquisition of e-books and e-journals. The infrastructure of their knowledge base, the catalogues, by which you can search library holdings and get access to resources that fulfill you information need went digital decades ago, and have been made available through the web since web began. And to boot, use of a library’s resources are free (or more correctly: already paid for) to the community it serves.

In spite of all this, library resources are not easily discoverable on the web. True, you can go to a library’s discovery site, like REX for the Royal Library, and search for your stuff. Notice that you first need to find out where to go before you can start finding out what you want to know. This is suboptimal in a web based society, meaning libraries lose potential patrons and, more importantly, people’s information needs are not met as efficiently as they could. Optimally, doing a web search should provide you with information from your local library. Why is this not happening, even though libraries have web sites and their catalogues and discovery sites are on the web?

One reason is the difference often alluded to between being on the web and being of the web. While this slogan has a range of meanings, suffice it here to note that being of the web means exploiting standard tools of web interoperability to create knowledge in a distributed system. This distributed system is the web, and the distribution is performed by the web’s key element, the link, that connects one piece of information to another. Library catalogues, on the contrary, are isolated knowledge systems available on the web, but they are not web interoperable. They are silos. The last 7-8 years have seen the gradual integration of more databases into one discovery system – like in REX. So these silos are getting bigger and presumably serve their users better with one as opposed to hundreds of user interfaces – but they are still silos.

Hold on, you say, aren’t there lots of links in library catalogues? There are, but have a look and you’ll see these are mostly links to internal functions in the catalogue, such as performing a new search on an author’s name from a record, or making a request for an item. (Additionally, there are links to documents retrieved through search, of course.)

OK, but if we just publish all our catalogue records on the web, they’ll be indexed by web crawlers, and so retrievable by regular search engines, sending users to our catalogue, right? This is one option and many libraries do this, but it is not very efficient. The main reason is that every record will be indexed as a web document, and search engines tend to prefer web documents that other highly rated documents link to – this is not often the case with catalogue records. Moreover, the bare textual content of a typical catalogue record does not give the search engine much other information to determine whether it will be of relevance to its user – and this is the search engine’s main objective. (There is a whole Search Engine Optimization industry built around this, which I’ll not get into.)

What we need instead is for the elements of the library catalogue itself to be linked, so a web search engine would know what the elements are and what role they play, and from this are able to infer their usefulness to search engine users. This kind of inference requires, among other things, that the elements are uniquely identified, and that the links between elements are uniquely identified, and that their meaning is expressed in a shared, machine-readable vocabulary. It means increasing the semantic meaning of the web. It means giving search engines meaningful links to follow, instead of just text strings to index. It also requires that the elements are made openly available on the web – and that the links link data elements (like a person or a place), not whole documents (like a catalogue record) to each other. Improved discoverability is one major promise of linked open data for libraries.

To be continued..

LOD – the graffiti way

What librarians can learn from weather channel people

A day in March I had the pleasure of visiting Columbia University Libraries in New York and at lunch the conversation with the great Columbia folks somehow turned to the expansion of weather related stories on TV.

Do you remember the days when the weather was just a short section in the end of the news block? Those days are long gone. In Denmark we don’t have separate weather channels but weather has always been a permanent block on the news – a block that has been growing dramatically over the years.

I remember when I was a kid and we only had one TV channel: the weather always came last on the news and it was just a brief overview of the next 5 days of weather. These days the 10 pm news on upcoming Danish election, Boko Horam massacre in Nigeria and drowning immigrants in the Mediterranean is getting some serious completion from pollen numbers, low pressure wind streams and cumulus clouds. What happened?

First of all the weather somehow concerns us all so even though we can’t do that much about it – it’s a thing we all have in common so I guess that gives the weather channel people an upper hand. But this still doesn’t explains the radical expansion of the weather section.I believe it’s because they are good story tellers. A few examples:

Exhibit 1: The naming of weather phenomenons. It’s perfectly ok to name massive weather destructive phenomenons like Hurricane Katrina and Hugo but in recent years every little storm (at least in Denmark) has been given a name for absolutely no reason but to create a story. Sure, the storm Bodil knocked over my bike and Allan move the doghouse at my parents place two feeds but still – why giving it a name? If those storms would have remained nameless they would have been long forgotten.

Exhibit 2: Making a drama. Being allergic to pollen is no fun at all but it’s not Ebola. Somehow weather people manage to talk about increasing pollen numbers as it’s The Plague raging over the country. They do interviews with suffering pollen allergic people with tears in there eyes and give us scientific background facts (I actually like that part). And don’t get them started on one of before mentioned storms – they treat that like it’s The Apocalypse.

Exhibit 3: Breaking news and live reporting. Inflation has struck the breaking news concept. It seems like there has to be a handful of breaking news stories every day and the weather is getting there share. If there is the slightest chance the water will break the dikes you’ll find a dozen weather reporters in rain coats on the pier. Just them brave souls, the seagulls and the nature.

“As you can see here is a lot of water” – being a weather reporter is an action-packed job 

So well done weather channel folks. I bow in respect. Even though your stories annoys me you managed to tell some stories with impact and conquer TV terrain from important world news and my beloved sports.

What can librarians learn from this?

In Denmark public libraries has been victims of budget cuts as long as I can remember. Libraries has been closing and librarians has been let go. And that in times were the public in every poll show great appreciation of the libraries and many studies points out that libraries creates value to the local community and economic growth to the society. Academic libraries has not been doing much better.

Obvious there is many reasons for this sad picture but I think one of them is that we are not always the best story tellers. Or maybe we tell the wrong stories. Like the weather people are fighting for TV time with the news, the sports and the economy section the library is fighting cultural institutions, sports clubs and other community based institution for public funds. And in Denmark we are losing that battle these days. Here is a reason why: A while back I saw a story on TV about self service terminals in libraries. The angle of the story was budget cuts on libraries and they used the entrance of self service terminals as an example of this – exit librarian, enter machine. They interviewed a woman who said that “she missed the librarian that could help her check out books…”. But the self service terminals didn’t enter the libraries due to budget cuts. They entered the library to free time so skilled librarians could use more time on core library tasks like information retrieval, supporting information literacy, connecting community with cultural experiences (public) or students and faculty members with digital tools (academic). Why did we not manage to tell that story? Why did we not have the impact to shape the story so it showed that the librarian is not only a person who check out books?

We need to find those great core stories and values of the library, reshape them to 2015 and speak out loud – on both local, national and global level. And we will win like the weather people have won on TV. Obvious library organizations plays a big part in this but every librarian in every library should everyday, anywhere be able to tell a good story.

So start telling. And do it loud.

Jen Carfango  3
Librarians! Look at this – it’s a picture of success


“The Library is a strong brand” – new issue of REVY is out

I have the great pleasure of being editor-in-chief of Danish library journal REVY. REVY is journal for Danish Research Library Association and is published four times a year in 2.100 copies per issue and open access online at On board I got a great team of editors: Mikael Elbæk (Technical University of Denmark), Lotte Thing Christensen (University Library of Southern Denmark) and Anders Bonatto Fisker (The Royal Library).

We just put out issue no 2 of 2015 which among other contains my interview with new head of the library at Technical University of Denmark, Gitte Bruun Jensen, Mads Korsgaard’s article on a great qualitative survey of the researchers information seeking patterns and library service needs at The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library, a status on the Danish work with research data from Mogens Sandfær and a great piece by library student organisation BADASS on the need for focus on data analysis and handling in education at The Royal School of Library and Information Science in Denmark.
Front cover of the new REVY issue: Gitte Bruun Jensen posing 

“The Library” is strong brand

My interview with Gitte took place back in the beginning of February. Gitte came from a position as deputy director for The Library at Technical University of Denmark  so she knows the ship she will be sailing. It was a great talk circling around leadership, library outreach to researchers, reinvention of the physical library space and the library as a brand.

Interesting note on the last subject is, at the library at Technical University has been changing name for a few times. It was original called a library but turned to the term “Knowledge Center” some years ago. This was during a process were they wanted to re-brand and re-new the function of the library and I guess it’s sometimes makes that process easier or more palpable if you change the name of what you are trying to get away from – in this case probably to get away from the book image that is connected with the library brand. I think this often turns out as a mistake. Instead of communicating and working around changes connected to the original brand (Library) you invent a whole new brand (Knowledge Center) which you need to fill with content from the beginning often conflicting with discurses connected with the old brand. Who on earth knows what a Knowledge Center is? It could be anything anywhere and as Gitte puts it: “The Library is a strong brand and people knows what it stands for – we are here to help the University educate and research”. Now they switched back to using the term “Library” again.

Read the interview here (in Danish)

Call for articles

If you have a great library story (or related to library somehow) and looking for at place to publish it please write me at cula at kb dot dk. REVY both publish articles in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and English. All articles in the current issue is in Danish.

The editorial team of REVY: from left Anders, Lotte, Christian and Mikael


Fellowship of Data Labs touring NYC – the quotes

New York City & The Labs  – the looking back part II

If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library
– Frank Zappa

I love quotes. There is nothing more satisfying than picking out the perfect quote for a speech or nailing someone in a discussion by trowing a Hemingway or Kieth Richards quote on the table. There was a lot of good talks on our data lab trip to New York and during those there was a lot of good quote-potential. I’ve picked out the best ones (in no particular order):

The trick is to lead and serve
– June Winland (Columbia) on the subject of saying no without saying no

A library approach focusing only on study space and information resources is not valid
– June Winland

I don’t give fish away, I learn people how to fish
– Ashley Jester (Columbia) on her approach to student and faculty support

Evidence, evidence, evidence
– Ashley Jester on the importance of collecting data on the use of software

We are past the area were the task of the librarian was to find stuff on a shelve
– Bob Scott (Columbia)

The old librarian sad in a glass box in the library like the fish in the tank at Chinese restaurants – no one notice the fish and not one notice the librarian
– Bob Scott

Lectures and books on digital humanities is not enough – we need to re-skill ourselves by getting down and dirty with the actually research process of faculty members
– Bob Scott

We need to interact a paradigm shift in scholarship towards more awareness of digital methods and tools
Matt Gold (GC Digital Initiatives)

Merging digital media, scholarship, and learning is not only good for student grades but it’s also valuable skills and projects that helps them get jobs after they leave the institution.
– Andrea Ades Vasquez (GC Digital Initiatives)

We need to look at data in a whole new way and connect it to people and projects instead of just looking it as something that should be store
– Ben Vershbow (NYPL Labs)

I take the “public” in “public library” very seriously
– Ben Vershbow

We are a faculty for everybody
– Josh Hadro (NYPL Labs) on the role of The New York Public Library

Sometimes I fell like a digital scholarship therapist
– Shana Kimball (NYPL Labs) on her role towards working with students and faculty members

Very well spoken New York City



Fellowship of Data Labs touring NYC – the pictures

New York City & The Labs  – the looking back part I

There is no way a camera can capture the awesomeness of New York City or the gold mine of library lab experiences and inspiration we consumed during the week in NYC. The taste and smell, people and buildings, streets and skylines, beat and feeling of the Big Apple you have to take in while you are there but a picture is a good reminder of great stuff you came across.

So with no further introduction – New York City and The Labs in pictures: