Joan Smith: Riding the Technology Wave
As chief technology strategist, Joan Smith has a formidable job – steering the Emory Libraries into the digital future.
Smith joined the Libraries in late August and quickly started tackling a to-do list that included overseeing the redesign of the Libraries’ Web sites, reorganizing the technology staff, and cross-training that staff so they have the knowledge to fix any problem that crops up.
The big question many in the Libraries want to know: When will the new Web site go live? Soon, says Smith. The goal is to have four of the main Web sites redesigned and launched by mid to late September – the main Woodruff library site, the health sciences library site, the business library site and the MARBL site (the recently redesigned MARBL pages will look the same, but the underlying software supporting them will be changed). Some of the internal sites are getting a makeover as well; the Staff Web has been redesigned and should launch by the end of June. Due to the short time frame, an outside vendor is handling the redesign of the Libraries’ Web sites.
New Web sites will have two levels of branding – an outer level, which should be instantly recognizable as Emory University; and an inner one, which reflects the mission of that individual library.
“MARBL is a really good example of that,” says Smith. “You know it’s MARBL, and yet you know that it’s Emory University, as well.”
Surprisingly, the Libraries have 147 websites, including those for the Voyages project, global disease eradication and other sites. Some haven’t been accessed in a long time, says Smith, so the redesign team is trying to figure which ones can be archived while keeping them accessible.
With a variety of people who need to contribute to the Libraries’ overall Web site, the process should be easier than it is, says Smith. But currently, most people in the Libraries can’t post content to their own Web pages – they need someone to do it for them.
“Part of the goal is to have a Web site that is usable by the people who need to add content to the site, so we can take the programmer out of the loop as much as possible,” says Smith. “What we really want to do is push the ability to work with the technology out there in a way that makes sense for us to get our jobs done more easily.”
Smith has always been involved with technology. Prior to coming to Emory, she was living in Chesapeake, Va. She earned her Ph.D. in computer science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and worked as a graduate research assistant for Michael Nelson, who received grants in digital preservation and web architecture and was named a digital preservation pioneer by the Library of Congress. Smith is a former software engineer and technical project manager, and she was an instructor for a time at a small technical school.
Smith and her husband live near the new public library at Mason Mill Park. Their move to Decatur was a change of pace from Chesapeake, where they had a sizable piece of land.
“We wanted to scale down anyway, but it took a little bit of getting used to city life. You have a lot more traffic on the road all the time – not just at rush hour,” she says. “But I do love it. I love that there’s almost anything nearby.
“I love Emory University,” she adds. “I’m really impressed with the commitment people who work here have to the university. They are fully engaged with what they’re doing here, and that is such a wonderful thing to have.”
One of Smith’s accomplishments shortly after she started her job was the reorganization of her department, including absorbing the UTS staff that had been working on library projects.
“Instead of people being organized by project, which is only one dimension of what you do, I organized them into professions, so there’s the software engineering team, the systems engineering team, and strategists,” she says. “That lets each of those groups have a professional identity, so they can look at tools and methods that can help them improve the way they work overall.”
Smith embraces the concept of more people knowing how to do more things, particularly in solving their own technology problems (even though there will always be problems that only a specific person can solve, she says). And she wants to set up a core team of people who can solve any problem. Right now, the Libraries have a few people who know how to handle problems with the video systems, a few others familiar with the tools in the work study rooms or the Learning Commons – but no one who knows how to fix most or all problems.
“The goal is to have sustainable projects,” says Smith. “If I’m the only one who knows how something runs, and something happens to me, what happens to that project? You have to have a way for things to continue beyond your own existence, beyond your own time in a particular job.”
More training opportunities, such as lunchtime courses where staff members could learn to solve certain problems, would benefit the staff greatly, says Smith. “I think everybody would feel a greater sense of not just ownership but satisfaction,” she adds. “It’s important for users not to feel helpless in dealing with technology.”
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor
The Red Rubber Ball at Work: Elevate Your Game Through the Hidden Power of Play by Kevin Carroll
“The Future of Conferences”
—Thanks to Susan Klopper for sharing these readings.
“Judge Dismisses Software-Licensing Case Against George Mason U.”
June 5, 2009
—Thanks to Joan Smith for sharing this reading.
. . . to the winners of the Significant Contributions Awards, given at the Mad Hatter Service Awards Program on June 2:
Community Building Award: The 2008 Holiday Party Committee of Lisa Hamlett, Winnie Johnson, Katie Stine, Beverly Turner, Nancy Watkins and Amanda Welter.
Quality Service Award: Julie Delliquanti, individual; DQM Label Project Group of Laura Trittin, Katie Stine, Angela Nash and Bonnie Jean Woolger, team.
Creative Initiative Award: Ida Martinez, Rebecca Koeser.
Leadership Award: Chuck Spornick.
More High Fives
. . . to the planning committee for the Mad Hatter Service Awards party – Lisa Hamlett, Amanda Welter, Claudia Dale, Sarah Ward and Alain St. Pierre. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed the food, which included tea sandwiches and fancy desserts such as bite-size tortes. Additional kudos to Marty Ike for the table decorations, Beverly Turner for the tea sandwiches and some of the desserts, and to vice provost Rick Luce for wearing the Mad Hatter hat!
… to Liz Cooper, who is slated to become chairperson of the Anthropology and Sociology Section of the American Libraries Association (ALA)/Association of College and Research Libraries in July 2009. In addition, Cooper is a social sciences standing committee member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). Cooper is the anthropology and journalism librarian and reference services leader for the Robert W. Woodruff Library.
. . . to Pam Deemer, who has been elected vice chairperson/chairperson-elect of the American Association of Law Libraries Technical Services Special Interest Section. Pam is assistant law librarian for acquisitions and cataloging services for the Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library.
. . . to Betsey Patterson, librarian for reference, who is the psychology section editor for the 12th edition of the ALA’s Guide to Reference. This is the first edition of this vital librarianship handbook to be issued electronically. ALA has asked Patterson to serve as ongoing editor for the psychology section in the coming year, as well; she’ll be updating it with new sources and serving as online resource for librarian interaction and discussion in the field. Patterson was psychology section editor for the 11th edition – the last to be issued on paper – in 1996.
. . . to senior software engineer Rebecca Sutton Koeser, who was a runner-up in the Open Repositories 2009 Developer’s Challenge held in Atlanta in May. She developed FedoraFS, a utility that allows items stored in the open source Fedora operating system to appear as if they were stored on a simple file system, rather than being accessible only through additional, complicated interfaces.
. . . to Lea McLees, Randall Burkett, Kim Collins, Elaine Justice, Guo-hua Wang, Mayfred Nall, Terry Brown and Emory Photo/Video, who contributed to the Emory Libraries Report to the Community (the annual report), for winning The Communicator Award of Excellence in two categories: educational institution and non-profit. Emory’s report was among 7,000 entries this year.
Charles Forrest attended the Atlanta Area Bibliographic Instruction Group conference at the State University of West Georgia in Carrollton in May. The keynote “The Evolving Commons: Information, Teaching, Learning, Research” was delivered by D. Russell Bailey, library director at Providence College and co-author of Transforming Service through Information Commons and The Information Commons Handbook.
Sharing Our Expertise
Erika Farr attended the 45th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Mich., in May. She was on a panel focused on the Emory Women Writers Resource Project and gave a talk, “Paratext and Pointy Brackets: How Early Modern Archives Inform Digital Collections.”
. . . to Amy Boucher, department head for access services. Amy was head of circulation in Widener Library at Harvard, where she has also served as head of interlibrary loan and head of the periodical division.
. . . to Ben Ranker, senior software engineer for the software development team. Ben comes to Emory from IBM, where he worked for their WebAhead office developing software to help IBMers collect and organize the information they needed from the Web and the IBM intranet.
. . . to Steve Collins, operating systems administration and senior analyst. Steve brings many years of experience with operating systems and applications from Georgia Technology Authority, among others.
. . . to Sarah Quigley, project archivist in MARBL. Sarah will work on the records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Her position is part of a grant project funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) for Cataloging Hidden Special Collections.
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor
And on Bass . . . Moffett Morris!
Bass player Moffett Morris added an extra bit of enjoyment during the Libraries’ holiday party, where he accompanied spoken-word performer Karen Garrabrant and vocalist Sarah Ward on an upright bass. And when he’s done with his mail clerk duties, Morris spends his time playing local gigs, sometimes traveling to jazz festivals to perform.
Playing music was always a part of his life. “I was the only person in my family that was interested in music,” says Morris. “I remember getting a drum set at age 6, and taking piano lessons from about 9 to 12 years old.”
He recalls he was always tapping on the table. When he didn’t have the drum set any longer, he would take the cardboard off wire hangers and drum on the couch.
Morris started playing the electric bass at age 13. His father, who was in the heating and cooling business, got the bass from a customer who didn’t have the money to pay him.
“My father came home and said, ‘Here, take this. I know you’ll do something with it,’ ” he recalls. “That’s when I started playing bass.”
He began performing with friends around the neighborhood and starting bands. In high school, he took music theory classes and played in the school’s jazz band, picking up trombone and tuba in addition to bass.
Morris hasn’t stopped playing since that first drum set. He still plays both electric and upright bass, performing with Dwight Andrews and Gary Motley (both are part of Emory’s music department) in the Gary Motley Jazz Quartet and the Vega String Quartet at Emory.
The three performed together at Carnegie Hall in 2007 and at the Chamber Music Festival in Highlands, N.C. for several years. Morris has played with the jazz quartet at the Atlanta Jazz Fest and for Jazz Vespers three times a year – spring, fall and holiday vespers – for Rock of Ages Lutheran Church.
He also performs with trios during dinner at local restaurants such as Social Vinings (Tuesdays during June and August), Feast (Thursdays until 10 p.m.) and the patio at Mulan (Fridays until 10:30 p.m.).
Morris has played at a lot of weddings and has performed with a piano player between readings at 12th Night. He performs at the Intercontinental Hotel and played for four years at the Ritz Carlton at Lake Oconee. He’s even accompanied tango performances at the Rialto Center for the Arts.
In his travels, he’s played at the Cape May Jazz Festival, and in festivals and nightclubs in South Carolina, Alabama, St. Simons Island, Ga. and Washington, D.C.
He’s also recorded several CDs with a variety of artists, including contributing to the Grammy-winning Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, the CD that spawned the hugely popular “Hey Ya!”.
“Yes, I get to say I’m a Grammy-winning artist,” he laughs. “They only had two hits off that project, and I’m not on either one of those.”
Other CDs include three with Motley, one with the Vespers and chorus, two with singer Janet Metzger (who’s also an adjunct professor at Emory’s law school) and one with jazz pianist Tyrone Jackson.
Though he has thought fleetingly of pursuing the starving-musician life over the years, he enjoys working at the Emory Libraries and appreciates the flexibility to pursue his music after hours. “I’ve got the best of both worlds,” he says.
—Maureen McGavin, KeyWords writer/editor