The ultimate guide to proper SSD management

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Chris Hoffman@chrisbhoffman

There’s no understating it: Solid-state drives are awesome. If you’re still using a mechanical hard drive on your computer, the biggest real speed boost you’ll see comes from upgrading to a solid-state drive (SSD). A solid-state drive will speed up everything that requires disk access, from boot times and application launches to in-game load screens. Upgrading to a SSD provides a more noticeable speed boost than a $1000 Nvidia Titan graphics card when doing most things.

But SSDs aren’t the perfect replacement for a mechanical hard drive just yet, thanks to their far higher per-gigabyte costs compared to traditional drives and a few unique quirks. Read on for tips and tricks on how to put that rip-roaring SSD speed to best use.

Plan what goes where

Boiled down, an SSD is (usually) a faster-but-smaller drive, while a mechanical hard drive is a larger-but-slower drive. Your SSD should hold your Windows system files, installed programs, and any games you’re currently playing.

If you have a mechanical hard drive playing wingman in your PC, it should store your large media files, productivity files, and any files you access infrequently. Hard drives are an ideal location for your MP3 library, Documents folder, and all those video files you’ve ripped over the years, as they don’t really benefit from an SSD’s blinding speed.

Move programs and games

You’ll probably want most of your programs on the SSD so they’ll load lickety-split, although large programs you rarely use are well-suited to a slower mechanical hard drive.

When installing a program, choosing the destination drive for it is easy: Just select an install location on another drive.

choose steam library folder
Adding new folder locations for game installations is dead simple in Steam—just open Steam’s Settings, select Downloads, click the Steam Library Folders button, and add a new folder on a different drive.

Moving programs after the fact is often more difficult. Some programs can be moved easily—for example, you can just move your entire Steam folder to a new drive and run the Steam.exe file to launch it. However, most programs will display errors if you attempt to drag and drop their folder to a new location. You’ll either need to uninstall and reinstall the program to the new location, or use symbolic links.

Symbolic links (or “symlinks”) will allow you to move a directory while “tricking” Windows into thinking it’s at its original location. This sort of trick allows you to move your installed programs and games without much trouble. Say you have a game installed at C:Game. You could move the game folder to D:Game and create a symlink that points from C:Game to D:Game. Whenever a shortcut, registry entry, or anything else looks up C:Game, the system will transparently redirect it to D:Game. The symlink is just a pointer that says “hey, look over there,” so the program won’t take up any space on your SSD.

move folder to ssd and create symbolic link on windows
Creating a symlink from an “Example” folder on a C: drive to D:Example

Use the mklink command in a Command Prompt window to create a symbolic link. (Search for cmd.exe in Windows’ Run tool to bring up the Command Prompt.) If you want to create a link outside your user folder, you’ll need to open a Command Prompt window as Administrator. To move C:Example to D:Example, you’d move the C:Example folder to D:Example using Windows Explorer. Next, you’d run the following command: mklink /d C:Example D:Example

Arrange Windows system folders

Your main user data folders can be moved easily. To move your Videos folder from your main system drive, an SSD, to a mechanical hard drive, just locate the Videos folder—you’ll find it in your user folder at C:UsersNAME. Right-click it and select Properties, then open the Location tab and select a new location for it. The Videos folder will still appear at C:UsersNAMEVideos and be part of your Videos library, but its contents will be stored on the other drive. This also works for your Music, Pictures, Documents, and Downloads folders.

move user data folder to another drive
While moving other folder types from a hard drive to an SSD can be a pain, Windows makes moving user data folders dead simple. Just click the Move button here!

You can also choose the drive in which Windows itself is installed—you’ll want it on your SSD for lightning-fast system performance. If you’re setting the PC up from scratch and installing Windows yourself, click the Custom option in the installer and choose your SSD as the destination. If you’re getting an SSD later, you can move your Windows install to a new drive with a drive-cloning program, or just reinstall Windows (after backing everything up, of course).

Keep some space free

SSDs slow down as you fill them up because the drive will have a lot of partially filled blocks, which are slower to write to than empty blocks. It’s tempting to fill up an SSD to the brim, but you should leave some free space on your SSD—plan on using a maximum of 75 percent of the drive’s capacity for the best performance.

ccleaner free up disk space nvidia install files
CCleaner can help you find and eradicate junk on your SSD, like Nvidia’s driver installation files and browser cookies.

With space at a premium, you’ll want to regularly free up space and avoid wasting those precious flash memory cells on junk. For example, NVIDIA’s graphics driver updates leave an unnecessary folder under C:NVIDIA after you install them. This folder contains the installer files, which you’ll need only for reinstalling or repairing the driver. They take nearly 500MB of space that you could put to better use.

A tool like the free CCleaner can help tremendously, scanning your hard drive forunnecessary temporary files and deleting them for you. Meanwhile, WinDirStat is an ideal tool for figuring out where your storage space is going.

Reduce writes to your SSD?

It’s true: SSDs only have a limited amount of writes before they start to fail. Yes, it sounds scary, but in practice, don’t sweat it.

You’ll get many, many, many years of normal use out of an SSD without bumping into its write-cycle cap—especially if you’re storing basic media and productivity files on a mechanical hard drive. And even if you’re not doing that, you’re probably more likely to buy new hardware long before your SSD packs it in.

You could achieve fewer writes by not saving temporary files to your SSD—for example, you could redirect your browser cache and PhotoShop scratch disk to a mechanical hard drive—but this will lead to slower performance when your system needs to access these files. You’re probably better off sucking it up and accepting the greater amount of writes for the increased performance.

DON’T defrag your SSD!

You shouldn’t defragment an SSD. Period. Shuffling all those bits around on an SSD won’t improve performance like it will on a mechanical hard disk, but it will generate many extra writes that will reduce the lifespan of the drive.

Modern defragmentation tools and operating systems should refuse to defragment a solid-state drive. However, old defragmentation programs may not know the difference and may happily defragment an SSD. Don’t let them!

DO let TRIM run wild

TRIM, however, is essential for keeping your SSD in tip-top shape.

When writing data, the SSD can write only to empty sectors. This means if an SSD needs to modify a filled sector, it has to read it, note the contents, modify them, erase the sector, and write the modified contents. If we wanted to overwrite a sector, we’d have to erase the sector and write the new contents to the now-empty sector. The extra steps take time.

Operating systems typically just delete a file by marking its data on the disk as deleted and erasing the pointer to it. The file’s data is still there on the disk, but it will be overwritten only when the operating system needs that “empty” space to write new files to the disk.

The TRIM command tells the SSD to erase and consolidate cells that are no longer in use, so writing to those sectors in the future will be just as fast as when the drive was new. If not for TRIM, writes would take longer, and an SSD’s performance would deteriorate as you filled it up and deleted files from it.

To confirm that TRIM’S enabled on your WIndows 7 or 8 PC’s SSD, open the command prompt and type fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify (without any end punctuation). If you get ‘DisableDeleteNotify = 0’ as a response, you’re set. If you don’t, confirm that your SSD drivers are up-to-date.

Windows 7 and onward has had TRIM enabled by default, so there’s nothing special you need to do if your PC is using one of these newer OSes. TRIM won’t work on Windows Vista or Windows XP (you’ve upgraded from XP, right?). You’ll need to use third-party SSD management software (like Samsung’s SSD Magician or Intel’s SSD Optimizer tools) to force TRIM on those operating systems, or the trick outlined in PCWorld’s guide to restoring an SSD to peak performance.

Unless you need to force TRIM on an older OS, however, skip the “SSD optimization” software that’s out there. These programs promise to optimize your SSD by shuffling files and running TRIM, but your operating system already TRIMs by default, and your SSD’s firmware has “garbage collection” tools that performs housekeeping tasks to optimize performance. There’s no evidence a third-party utility can improve on this.

The good news is that SSDs are getting bigger, cheaper, and ever-longer-lasting. One day we’ll hopefully have large-enough SSDs that we won’t have to worry about juggling files between drives. Heck, if you don’t need much local storage or don’t mind spending top dollar for abundant speedy solid-state storage, that day may have already arrived.



Thanks so much! – Tausend Dank!

Food with a View


This should be a rather long post with many pictures to put in words our excitement. But we will need some time for recovery after two days of foodie tour. Nevertheless, we can’t wait to tell the news and share our happiness: our blog’s macarons in cool morning sidelight have reached first place at the Food Blog Award 2014 in the best food picture category. Truly great pictures have been nominated along with us which makes the honor even bigger. We are so very happy, and we would like to enthusiastically congratulate allwinners, runners-up and nominees in all categories. Don’t miss to take a look at all great participants – so much blogging inspiration in just one place.

Thanks so very much to the jury; to all sponsors and foodies; to everybody who has been involved and contributed to the event in so many ways; major thanks to…

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A Nationwide Outpouring Of Support For Tiny Ferguson Library

November 27, 201410:02 AM ET

Library volunteer Jeanne Million talks with Ferguson resident Phillip Sampson at the Ferguson Public Library.

Library volunteer Jeanne Million talks with Ferguson resident Phillip Sampson at the Ferguson Public Library.

Elise Hu/NPR

The Ferguson Public Library is just a block away from the center of demonstrations at the Ferguson Police Department. As we’ve reported, when violent protests this week led to the burning of more than a dozen businesses and the uncertainty caused schools to close, the library stayed open.

It has become a quiet refuge for adults and children alike in this St. Louis suburb. And the nation has taken notice. The outpouring of support for the library has reached “orders of magnitude” more than any previous amount, says library Director Scott Bonner.

He’s the only full-time librarian there — and he started his job in July, just weeks before the town became an internationally known name. Bonner says the donations may allow him to hire another person to help.

Scott Bonner, the Ferguson Public Library’s director and its only full-time librarian, holds one of the “healing kits” that kids can check out.

Elise Hu/NPR

For community leaders and business owners, the library has become a place to convene.

“Whenever businesses have been hit, North County Incorporated needed a meeting space, and I said, of course, yes. Small Business Administration came in and did staging of emergency loans out of the library,” Bonner says. “When there’s a need, we try to find a way to meet it. I have a very broad definition of librarianship.”

Since the latest unrest began Monday night, more than $175,000 has poured in. More than 7,000 people had given something as of Wednesday afternoon, many in $5 and $10 amounts. Donations so far this week are 10 times what they were during protests in August.

It all started with a few tweets from the library’s account, which Bonner’s wife helps with in her free time.

“Before I knew it, [there were] thousands of tweets with encouragements to donate, including retweets from people such as Neil Gaiman and LeVar Burton,” Bonner said.

With the donations this week, Bonner plans to purchase more “healing kits” for children to check out. The kits include books about dealing with traumatic events and a stuffed animal that they can keep.

The level of support the library has seen this week can buy even more than healing kits.

“It means we can do a whole lot more programming that’s focused on the community, [and] long overdue updates to the library. We have infrastructure needs that should have been taken care of 10 years ago. But what I really hope I can do is to get a full-time children’s or programming librarian,” Bonner says.

“No matter how much I work,” he says, “it’s not anywhere what a dedicated person who thinks about community all the time can do.”

Correction — Nov. 28, 2014

In a previous version of this report, social media attention to the Ferguson Public Library was attributed to Neil Gaiman and others. In fact, Buzzfeed writer Ashley Ford prompted the calls for donations.


Major Trends in Academic Libraries

March 26th, 2014 by Lydia Wasylenko

Major Trends in Academic Libraries

The academic strategic consulting and research service Ithaka S+R has just issued US Library Survey 2013 compiled by Matthew P. Long and Roger C. Schonfeld. (Like the JSTOR digital library and the Portico digital preservation service, Ithaka S+R is affiliated with ITHAKA, “a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways.”)

US Library Survey 2013 is the outcome of the second cycle of a multi-year project; the first cycle of the survey was completed in 2010, and the next cycle is planned for 2016. Focusing this time on the “leadership dynamics” of the libraries at not-for-profit academic institutions other than community colleges, US Library Survey 2013 used a sample drawn from the Carnegie Foundation’s database of higher education institutions. Nine “basic” Carnegie classifications were covered, including “Doctoral/Research Universities;” “Research Universities (high research activity);” and “Research Universities (very high research activity).”

The overall response rate for the 2013 survey was 33%. Within the subcategory of doctoral/research universities into which Syracuse University falls, 276 institutions were invited to participate and 123 (44.6%) responded to the survey.

The goals of US Library Survey 2013 were to track “the strategic direction and leadership dynamics of academic library leaders” and to “understand the strategies they are pursuing and the opportunities and constraints that they face” within a rapidly-changing higher education environment that is characterized by:

  • “loss of primacy” of library print collections.
  • increasing importance of remotely accessed online library resources.
  • new discovery services affecting the  library “gateway” role.
  • emphasis on computational research methods and the concomitant demand for new and customized support services.
  • development of “online and hybrid pedagogies.”
  • “cost-of-education sensitivity” that is causing college/university educational outcomes to be scrutinized more intensely.

To learn about academic library directors’ priorities and about their perceptions of the role of academic libraries, respondents were asked to rate the importance of six basic library functions:

  • serving as a faculty starting point/“gateway” when seeking information for research.
  • paying for resources needed by faculty members, including academic journals, books, and digital resources.
  • serving as a repository, i.e., archiving, preserving, and keeping track of resources.
  • supporting and facilitating faculty teaching activities.
  • providing active support to contribute to the productivity of faculty research and scholarship.
  • helping undergraduates to develop information literacy, critical analysis, and research skills.

Some key findings of the US Library Survey 2013:

  •  At all types of institutions, library directors are overwhelmingly dedicated to promoting undergraduate information literacy:  “97% of respondents reported that helping undergraduates to ‘develop research, critical analysis, and information literacy skills’ is very important at their institutions.” In a significant shift within the doctoral institutions category, the proportion of library directors rating the “information literacy” function as highly important rose from 86% in 2010 to 94% in 2013. But whereas library directors expressed “confidence that it is principally the library’s responsibility” to foster undergraduate research skills and information literacy, faculty members may “have a more mixed view of where this principal responsibility may reside.”
  •  “Providing reference instruction to undergraduate classes” and “providing a physical space for student collaboration” were identified as two core services of great importance.
  •  At institutions offering some online academic instruction, a substantial share of survey respondents lack confidence in their libraries’ abilities to provide support to the students in online courses.
  •  A very large majority of library directors believes that the expansion of local print collections is becoming less important. Even among doctoral institutions, only a minority focus heavily on acquisition of print materials in building collections.
  •  With respect to journal holdings, “the shift from print to electronic collections has been, from a budget allocation perspective, nearly completed.” Not all faculty members are as comfortable with this transition as are library directors. With respect to book holdings, a shift from print to electronic format is “occurring at a more measured pace.” And in a reversal of the positions that prevail with respect to scholarly e-journals, faculty members may be more “aggressive” in moving to e-books than library directors.
  •  Only a minority of library directors are confident that their libraries have well-developed strategies for serving library users’ changing needs. The minority of respondents who did express confidence in this area were directors of libraries that had established formal assessment programs.
  •  The “vast majority” of survey respondents strongly believes in the importance of inter-library resource-sharing and collaborative approaches to serving user needs.
  •  Library directors at larger institutions are the most likely to feel as if they are part of the senior academic administration at their universities. However, at doctoral institutions, library directors tend to feel that they have less institutional support to allocate library resources to fulfilling undergraduate library needs.
  •  Not surprisingly, all library directors are very concerned about budget constraints. Many agree that they would allocate new financial resources to increasing staff and to acquiring more online/digital content (both journals and e-books). Additional funding priorities at doctoral institutions are special collections and repository-related or publishing-related services for faculty members.
  •  Library directors are very concerned about funding for both new staff positions and for salary increases for existing staff. There is an expectation that new positions will be allocated primarily to emerging/growing areas such as web services, digital preservation, and instruction, instructional design, and information literacy services, while fewer staff members will be concentrated in traditional areas such as reference, technical services, and print collection management.

Top trends in academic libraries A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education

ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee

Every other year, the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee produces a document on top trends in academic libraries. This year, after numerous discussions and literature reviews, the committee decided upon a unifying theme for current trends: deeper collaboration. The committee found examples of either recent library collaborations or current collaborations within higher education that we believe could benefit from library participation. We focus on the following large categories within higher education: data, device neutral digital services, evolving openness in higher education, student success initiatives, competency-based learning, altmetrics, and digital humanities.


New initiatives and collaborative opportunities

Libraries, IT, research administration, and grant support will have to collaborate to find the expertise necessary to provide data management support through the research process. Analyzing the data needs of researchers across institutional domains may require the library to identify and connect researchers across formal and informal functional units for sharing, analyzing, and reusing data.

Increased emphasis on open data, data-plan management, and “big data” research are creating the impetus for academic institutions from colleges to research universities to develop and deploy new initiatives, service units, and resources to meet scholarly needs at various stages of the research process. Institutions providing data-related services exist along a continuum of light-to-heavy involvement, while funding organizations, academic institutions, researchers, and librarians continue to struggle towards a shared vocabulary with commonly understood definitions and to develop strategies to support these new initiatives.

Universities are rolling out graduate and certificate programs to prepare professionals for careers related to the analysis and manipulation of big data. Programs such as the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University1 and the graduate certificate in data mining offered by Stanford University2 place new demands on libraries for cross-disciplinary expertise in data collection access, metadata, curation, and preservation. For example, the iSchool at Syracuse University3 and the University of California-Berkeley School of Information4 provide specific training for librarians and other information professionals in the use of complex data.

Cooperative roles for researchers, repositories, and journal publishers

Repositories such as Dryad, which stores data associated with specific publications, provide discovery and access options for researchers to locate data for verification, scrutiny, re-use, and citation in new scholarly endeavors. FigShare,5 which is discipline and format agnostic, provides free private and public storage space for data that may not necessarily be associated with publication and may in fact have been deemed useless for the original research project. The discovery and re-use of small and large data sets require high-quality metadata and curation and libraries are uniquely positioned to provide this expertise.6

Journal publishers, such as BioMed Central7 and PLOS,8 now require authors to make underlying data for published articles available to readers. This will continue to place more data in the open domain for sharing and will allow data cited in peer-reviewed publications to be re-used and analyzed more efficiently. This may create new challenges to librarians as issues related to attribution, citation, and unique identifiers will multiply around data sets, figures, images, etc.

Partnerships related to discovery and re-use of data

Journal publishers and aggregators are also coming under pressure to make their content available for large-scale text mining and harvesting projects. In February, Elsevier removed most barriers to researchers so that data could be extracted from a huge number of articles.9 While this provides new research opportunities, it may also bring renewed pressure on library budgets to provide access to “big” journal packages to support these types of data-harvesting investigations.

Web-based tools to manipulate, clean, and transform data are emerging, as well. Open-Refine,10 formerly Google Refine, is an open source project that will allow researchers to locate, scrub, and connect to data sets and re-use data for new purposes. Librarians may find this a useful tool not only in terms of assisting researchers, but also for manipulating and using data gathered within their own institutions.

Device neutral digital services

The mobile device market expanded and diversified over the last two years with an increasing number of providers and screen dimensions. In January 2014, the Pew Research Center reported over 42% of U.S. adults own a tablet (up 8% from just four months earlier).11

Further, the 2013 ECAR study emphasized high student expectations for mobile access to materials and the importance of all things “device” to be neutral,12 while the Horizon Report, after including tablets on the “one year or less” adoption horizon for the past two years, has stopped listing them in the most recent 2014 report.13 It is no longer enough for libraries and their partners to design digital services for only desktops or mobile phones.

A solution growing in popularity is responsive design, which facilitates having only one website that automatically adapts to the size of a visitor’s screen. Many universities and colleges (e.g., Dartmouth University,14 Earlham College,15 and the University of Michigan16) are already moving to responsive design for their web presences, so this trend presents an area of opportunity to collaborate with overarching web services departments and perhaps even take the lead. Library websites using responsive design include Grand Valley State University Libraries,17University of Toronto’s Library Catalogue,18 Princeton University Library,19 and University of Arizona’s Special Collections.20

There will also be growing hope for database and other platform vendors to offer device neutral solutions, as most currently only offer mobile sites and/or apps. Breaking this trend is OCLC, who will launch a new WorldCat Discovery interface (merging WorldCat Local and First Search and offering a link resolver) in 2014 that adjusts to any screen size.21 Academic librarians must advocate and collaborate with vendors for seamless design that works for all screen sizes.

Evolving openness in higher education

Open access

There continue to be significant efforts to support and incentivize open access to research22 and to the benefits of higher education more generally.

Following the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation mandates for open access to research, there is further emphasis on national legislative and executive activity to promote open access to taxpayer-funded research outputs, including data, articles, and educational resources.

For example, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill requires certain agencies to provide timely online access to funded articles. In addition, draft public access policy plans from the Office of Science, Technology, and Policy will be made available in early 2014. Other current, relevant legislation, such as the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, would “codify” public access to federally funded research. This flurry of activity suggests that there is continued interest in formalizing, funding, and coordinating public access efforts.

Academic libraries and their institutions continue to support open access publishing through the implementation of institutional-wide open access mandates evidenced by the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions23 and through entering into agreements to pay or reimburse open access publisher fees to faculty. The Compact for Open-Access “supports equity in business models used for scholarly publishing” by committing each university to “the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication charges for [open access] articles.”24

Open education

In addition to supporting payment or reimbursement for open access publishing fees, academic libraries are beginning to provide financial support for and promotion of open educational resources (OERs). Two examples are the Oregon State University Libraries and Press Open Textbook Initiative25 and the Open Alternative Textbook Initiative at Kansas State University.26 Other collaborative publishing funding models are developing in the area of academic monographs and imprints, e.g., Knowledge Unlatched, which “depends on many libraries from around the world sharing the payment of a single Title Fee to a publisher, in return for a book being made available on a Creative Commons license.”27

Other OERs could possibly benefit from library participation, massive open online courses (MOOCs), for example, if they become an established norm. There is yet no clear direction or timeline for how this will happen. While an estimated 500 MOOCs are being offered by more than 100 well-known universities, an acceptable, sustainable business model for their development and deployment is yet to emerge. Cathy Davidson notes that online delivery of instruction requires significant start-up investment and is an ongoing, labor-intensive enterprise. Higher education institutions have managed this burden in the past, but have not realized monetary gain from it.28

In this rapidly changing landscape, researchers will continue to require support and guidance from information professionals in navigating the requirements of open access and the development and promotion of OERs. In addition, librarians will need to stay informed and lead the way in collaborating with their institutions, publishers, organizations, and other academic libraries to develop new funding mechanisms and incentives to support faculty involvement in open access publishing.

Student success

An emphasis on student success outcomes and educational accountability by states, accrediting bodies, and individual institutions, as well as a shift in some states from public higher education funding based on enrollment to funding based on outcomes, such as retention and completion, have implications for academic libraries. These changes in the higher education environment necessitate that libraries engage across the institution to contribute broadly to student success as well as articulate and demonstrate their impact through assessment.

In some states, formal collaborations between librarians and other stakeholders are growing out of this emphasis on student success.

Funding, student success initiatives, and accreditation

While performance-based funding is nothing new, many have identified its resurgence in several states as a trend in higher education and new models have earned the term “Performance Funding 2.0.”29 Numerous initiatives related to educational access and student success, such as Achieving the Dream30 and its Developmental Education Initiative,31 as well as many others,32 address a national college completion agenda identified by President Barack Obama in 200933 and form “a growing national movement focused on increasing student success and educational attainment.”34 Many of these initiatives are aimed at community colleges, whose students amount to 45% of U.S. undergraduates.35 At the same time, accrediting bodies continue to expect colleges and universities as well as academic libraries to make the articulation and measurement of student learning outcomes a central part of their programmatic and departmental assessment activities.

Libraries, student success, and demonstrating value

The increased focus on outcomes (e.g., student learning, retention, persistence, and completion) over inputs (e.g., enrollment,) and the ongoing emphasis on demonstrating these outcomes, will have an impact on academic libraries going forward. The academic library’s connection to student success, persistence, and retention has already been discussed in the literature.36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43 The culture of increasing accountability for outcomes will require libraries to find better ways to document these connections.44

Programs such as ACRL’s Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success,45 part of the Value of Academic Libraries Initiative,46 are designed to equip more librarians to do that. At the same time, collaborations between librarians, other academic support professionals, and faculty to develop student success initiatives both serve students and provide opportunities to demonstrate library value.47 Libraries must also align their missions with institutional and state student success missions, and focus resources on those students most in need of support.

In California, community college librarians are involved in two statewide collaborative responses to the increased demands on academic institutions to demonstrate their value and focus on student success, persistence, and retention. The Council of Chief Librarians of the California Community Colleges recently developed a three-pronged strategy to achieve its goal to “strengthen the capacity of California community college libraries to support student success through the attainment of information literacy.”48 The strategy includes the development of more consistent ways of teaching and measuring information literacy, the gathering and sharing of data documenting librarians’ roles in supporting student learning outcomes on information literacy, and the formation of a statewide Information Literacy Advisory Committee.

California’s 3CSN (California Community Colleges’ Success Network) is an example of an effective collaboration between multiple stakeholders, including librarians. 3CSN fosters student success by training community college faculty and staff to network and “create communities of practice that will produce powerful learning and working across campuses.”49 It encourages collaboration to develop coordinated student support efforts between libraries, peer assisted learning programs, and noncredit or basic skills level programs such as ESL and developmental English.

Competency-based learning

While the concept of awarding college credit for learning accomplished outside of the college classroom is not new, national incentives50,51 and state pressures on higher education institutions to perform, innovate, and reduce costs for students have ignited renewed interest in developing alternative models for assessing current and prior learning. The result is an increased emphasis on competency-based learning that can provide new opportunities for libraries to embed information literacy and research skills and strategies into the fabric of institutional curricula.

Various models are being used to accomplish documentation of student learning. Some models link competencies with credit hours while others explore “direct assessment” of student learning that is independent of student credit hours or other traditional metrics. The University of Wisconsin (UW) system, for example, offers the “UW flexible option” program52 that is self-paced and based on assessment of the mastery of skills, knowledge, and abilities, regardless of where the learning takes place. Other models, such as those at College for America (a subsidiary of Southern New Hampshire University) and Capella University, include options for programs independent of credit hours.53

Alternative options for documenting student learning like these require that institutions re-examine the basic measure of learning they intend to use, including the core outcomes they want for their graduates. Programs are based on desired program-level competencies that may or may not be associated with courses and credit hours. The process of articulating and defining program outcomes provides an opportunity for libraries to collaborate across the institution to further define fundamental information literacy concepts and skills as well as to explore new models for how students will be assessed in their achievement of these competencies.


The expanding digital environment drives changes in the criteria for measuring the impact of research and scholarship. As the web matures and the researchers’ works are referred to or published on the web, it is important to have a method for tracking the impact of their work in these new media. Altmetrics, short for alternative metrics, is a quickly developing methodology for measuring the impact of scholarly works and research published on the web.54,55,56,57,58 Proponents of altmetrics note that article citations and journal impact factors do not accurately measure the impact of web-based articles or the ensuing scholarly communication among scientists, scholars, and researchers. Altmetrics, then, supplement the traditional means of measuring scholarly impact and the slower peer-review process.59

These new metrics are both a product and tool of the web, counting the standard social media outlets such as Tweets, Facebook “likes,” and blog posts, as well as web activities, such as bookmarks and downloads.60 These metrics become increasingly important as researchers use web programs to organize and share articles with colleagues through Mendeley, Impact Story, and PLOS, or via article-sharing social network sites such as and ResearchGate.

Academic libraries have a long-standing tradition of collaborating with academic departments and their research faculty to demonstrate the impact of their scholarship through providing “scalable scholarly filters.” Librarians anticipate continuing this role by providing access to, and instruction in, the appropriate use of altmetrics to promote the impact and value of the scholarship produced at their institutions in the global scholarly community. According to a NISO report on altmetrics, the large number of Google results mentioning both “Libguides” and “altmetrics” “indicate that libraries are already incorporating altmetrics information into resources for scholarly communication, impact, and citation management,” but the report concludes that “the efficacy of these guides remains unknown.”61

In 2013, NISO began an ambitious project to develop standards and practices for altmetrics.62 Whether standardized or not, “ambitious scholars have been including altmetrics on their curricula vitae for years.”63 Potentially, altmetrics could have a bearing on the faculty evaluation and tenure process by providing review committees supplemental information about the social or interdisciplinary effect research is having on scholarly communities.64 Altmetrics could also potentially affect grant writing and the endowment of awards.

“If researchers can show that their recent research is generating a lot of interaction in the scholarly community, that information can provide an advantage in this tight funding environment.”65

Digital humanities

“DH (digital humanities) can be understood as the place where traditional humanities research methodologies and media/digital technologies intersect.”66Academic libraries can play a key role in supporting humanities faculty in their research by creating partnerships and collaborations and helping to connect with other campus units needed to implement and carry out digital humanities research. With the rise in opportunities to involve undergraduate students in an authentic research experience, academic libraries can identify and organize resources and partner with humanities faculty to teach the skills necessary for effective humanities research.

How are academic libraries preparing to play a role in digital humanities? Some academic libraries have responded by creating new positions to support digital scholarship and others are focusing on partnering and collaborating with other units at their institutions to support this form of scholarship. To be successful partners and collaborators, academic librarians need to seek out and be aware of the digital humanities research that scholars at their institution are engaged in.67

Examples of successful academic library collaborations with digital humanities centers include the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland-College Park,68 the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia,69 and the Digital Scholarship Commons at Emory University.70 Not all academic libraries need to establish centers for digital humanities in order to support teaching and research, and before doing so librarians should carefully consider the culture and environment of their institutions.71

For those academic libraries exploring digital humanities and seeking effective ways to support their institutions, the ACRL series “Keeping Up With…” offers a detailed list of resources and information to consider.72 For more information and examples of academic library partnerships and collaborations, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has published an ARL SPEC 326 kit devoted to topic of digital humanities.73

Academic libraries are logical partners for digital humanities collaborations because they have already developed the skill sets necessary to sustain and preserve a digital archive.74 Through experiences gained creating digital repositories, working with faculty to manage federally funded research, and creating metadata and organizational schema for unique collections and resources, academic libraries can play a key role by partnering and collaborating with humanities scholars in digital humanities projects.

Members of the committee

Members of the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee: Cheryl Middleton, chair, is associate university librarian for learning engagement at Oregon State University Libraries & Press, e-mail: cheryl.middleton{at}; Wayne Bivens-Tatum is philosophy and religion librarian at Princeton University, e-mail:rbivens{at}; Beth Blanton-Kent is librarian for physical sciences at the University of Virginia, e-mail: blanton{at}; Heidi Steiner Burkhardt is head of digital services at Norwich University, e-mail: hm-steiner{at}; Ellen Carey is librarian and instructor at Santa Barbara City College, e-mail:eecarey{at}; Steven Carrico is acquisitions librarian at the University of Florida, e-mail: stecarr{at}; Jeanne Davidson is assistant university librarian for public services at Portland State University, e-mail:jeanne.davidson{at}; Chris Palazzolo is head of collection management and social sciences librarian and team leader at Emory University, e-mail:cpalazz{at}; Barbara Petersohn is liaison to the College of Education at the University of North Georgia, e-mail: barbara.petersohn{at}


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  50. 50.“FACT SHEET on the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class,” August 22, 2013.
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  73. 73.Tim Bryson, Miriam Posner, Alain St. Pierre, and Stewart Varner, “SPEC Kit 326: Digital Humanities” (November 2011) SPEC Kit 326: Digital Humanities(November 2011) Association of Research Libraries, 2011, web, April 26, 2014,
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How Libraries are Advancing and Inspiring Schools and Communities

| November 20, 2014 | 1 Comment

Students learn how to take great product photographs using equipment provided by Etsy’s pilot Craft Entrepreneurship program held at the Chattanooga Public Library. (Courtesy of Mary Barnett)

It’s well known that public libraries are no longer just about the books — even e-books. Many community libraries are receiving 21st century digital-age makeovers: Numerous digital technologies, maker spaces to invite creation, even video production suites and 3-D printers now inhabit many libraries across the country.

But a report just released by the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries asks us again to reconsider how the library can serve communities in the 21st century. “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries” aims to “capture the momentum and excitement of the innovations taking place in public libraries across the country, and the impact these are having on communities,” said the group’s director, Amy Garmer. The report asks: With all the new technology and layered networks, what can be done beyond current advancements?

The Dialogue on Public Libraries group is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Program and is made up of 34 library field leaders, business executives, government officials, education experts and community development visionaries. The group aims for more than just holding up great examples of libraries working well in the digital age.

“We want to provide a catalyst for new thinking about libraries as platforms for learning, creativity and innovation in their communities, and the creation of new networked forms of libraries,” Garmer said. If the report could spark engagement at the local, state and national levels to rethink how to use libraries and then constructively act on it, Garmer said, then the group’s goal will have been achieved.

The Chattanooga Public Library. (Courtesy of Mary Barnett)

Meeting Real-World Needs

Two cities in the state of Tennessee, Nashville and Chattanooga, were highlighted in the report for their bold reimagining of what a library could be, and how their communities have responded in overwhelmingly positive and successful ways to the changes.

When Corinne Hill got appointed executive director of the Chattanooga Public Library in 2012, the city had just received a harrowing report on the state of its library. “It was a really bad report,” Hill said. “The consultant came in and basically said the system was broken.” Because the library needed rebuilding from the ground up, she said, the board was open to doing something really different, and she saw an opportunity.

Visitors from New Zealand check out the Chattanooga Public Library's loom, in addition to the library's digital capabilities. (Courtesy of Mary Barnett)

At the same time, Chattanooga was undergoing a transformation. City leaders had recently provided the entire city with a one-gigabit-per-second Internet speed as a municipal utility, the first in the Western Hemisphere. Hill saw a great opportunity to leverage the brand-new“GigCity” to improve — and expand — the library.“Having that kind of speed in a library is crazy-ridiculous-amazing,” Hill said. With the help of grants and the library’s operating budget, she invested in outfitting the downtown library with infrastructure to handle the highest-speed Internet, and then got to work on what they would offer.

The fourth floor of the library had historically been used as storage, but Hill decided to rip it all out and transform it into a space the community could use. “We emptied all of that [storage] out, and turned it into a raw space with all the appeal of a 1930s factory space, with concrete floors and everything that goes along with it,” she said. “It’s now a public space. If you’ve got an idea, you can develop it here.”

Currently, the fourth floor is home to several businesses, including a wedding-dress maker who uses the space to cut out patterns, and a writer in residence. One of Hill’s goals was not only to offer the high tech — like a popular 3-D printer available to the public — but the decidedly low tech, too. “We’ve got sewing classes, we’ve developed these popular programs about making stuff, which is a natural extension of the space,” she said. “And we’re now in the textile market! We brought in a loom and it’s really popular. We’re becoming where the community can come and make stuff. Yes, the gig is sexy, but this other stuff is very real, very much a maker movement.”

And very soon, the fourth floor will be adding the GigLab, “a separate but inclusive gig-connected space designed specifically for gigabit-related experimentation and learning,” according thewebsite. That level of connectivity, according to Hill, will create new opportunities. “Our job then will be to help the community figure out what to do when you got a gig,” Hill said. “It’s like back in the days when electricity was new. Once you turn the lights on, what do you want to do next? What do you do with all that electricity? We’re doing the same thing.”

Nearly 700 kids and teens per day pour through the library’s second floor, which is dedicated to youth. Not only are kids enticed by the 3-D printer and video arcade, but they can also learn how to edit video using software provided by Mozilla, go to coding camp or lay down on the floor with a Chromebook and do research for a school project. Hill and her team have also joined with the online craft marketplace Etsy to help teens get their own Etsy stores off the ground. “When I was 14, I worked at a pizza place. Can you imagine if your first job can be your own shop?” Hill said.

While many parents and teachers worry that all the tech gadgets will draw students away from reading books, Hill said, she’s finding that reality is the opposite: So many students now associate technology with school that they find reading print books pure pleasure.

Much like the missions of Nashville’s Limitless Library and the Aspen Institute’s report, Hill said she hopes to transform the Chattanooga library “into a catalyst for lifelong learning, especially in the age that we live in.”

“Giving people access in a public space is a great use of tax dollars,” Hill said. “We’re not really expanding the role of libraries. It’s doing what we’ve always done, we’re just using different stuff. We are a place for the curious, for creativity, a place for learning, a place to experiment. It’s always been the mission of the library. We’re just using different tools.”

Beyond Mobile Libraries

In Nashville, Mayor Karl Dean had an idea to “break down the walls” between the public library and the public school libraries. Dean, who is also a member of the Dialogue on Libraries group, noticed that technology changed how students received information in every area of their lives, but school libraries struggled to keep up both in the quality and relevance of the materials they could offer.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean (left) with a student at Dupont Tyler Middle School. The school participates in the Limitless Library program and recently had its library renovated through the program.

So together with then-Library Director Donna Nicely, Dean created the Limitless Librariesprogram, a way for public school students to access the entire public library catalog without ever having to leave school. Students can check out any material the public library has to offer — including books, music and DVDs, but also iPads and e-readers — through their school library, and the public libraries deliver the materials directly to the schools every day.Beginning as a pilot program in 2009 with just a handful of schools, Dean can proudly say that Limitless Libraries is now available in every Nashville public school. The effects on the students and the libraries have been staggering. “Out of 28,000 students who have registered [for the program],” said Dean, “15,000 have used the public library for the first time because of Limitless Libraries. And circulation at school libraries has increased by 79 percent.”

Limitless Libraries has also helped teachers, Dean notes, by giving students access to the millions of volumes in the public libraries, which means better access to quality materials for research papers and projects. And, above all, the program gives access to books and materials to many kids who can’t afford them on their own, or have difficulty getting to a library from home.

Dean said he is a “big believer” in libraries, and they are far from becoming irrelevant. “People need to have access to computers, digital books and DVDs,” Dean said. “Libraries are also gathering places for a number of reasons,” he said, which is why he’s building two new Nashville libraries, one as part of a community center inside an abandoned shopping mall. “They’re tremendously popular, every community wants one, and the demand isn’t going away,” he said. “They’ll play an even more important role in cities going forward.”

Garmer said Dean is a “visionary leader when it comes to connecting and supporting the public library in the community,” and a great example for the report. While schools are an obvious partner for libraries, she said, because they come out of different parts of the budget and are part of two different professional communities, their “silos” are difficult to break down. “When leaders step outside of the box and really reimagine what a library is capable of doing in the community,” she said, “the new partnerships and collaborations will start to flow naturally.”

Looking to the future, Dean has even more plans for the limitless nature of Nashville’s school libraries, investing in the physical places to make them “the coolest spaces in the school,” as well as upgrading their technology. “If what you want a city to be is filled with lifelong learners, and be a creative place, you have to have libraries,” Dean said. “Libraries are the best way to get that done.”


This secret power menu unlocks Windows' visual effects options

Ian Paul @ianpaul
Most people probably don’t give much thought to the way Windows looks and behaves. We just accept it and get on with our work. But there are lots of little settings hidden on your system to change the way your PC behaves.Don’t like all those windows animations? You can change that. Want to have a small shadow underneath your mouse pointer or disable Peek? No problem.

These tweaks were originally designed to help low-powered systems improve performance, but there’s no reason you can’t use these tweaks to suit your own personal tastes.

Here’s how to get started.

Finding the visual options treasure trove

The Performance Options window in Windows 8.1.

Open the Windows Control Panel, then click on System. (Select the Large Icons or Small Icons “View by” setting if you don’t see System—a separate option from System and Security—in the Control Panel.) Now, select Advanced system settings in the left-hand navigation panel. This opens a smaller window called System Properties with theAdvanced tab selected. UnderPerformance click the Settings… button.

Finally, we’ve made it to where all the action is: the Performance Options window. Everything we want to look at is under the Visual Effects tab.

By default, the radio button labeled Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer is selected. Just click theCustom label to start choosing your preferences.

A popular choice, for example, might be to turn off animations when you minimize or maximize a window. If you turn this off, your application windows will appear and disappear as you minimize and maximize, without the shrinking and expanding animations shown by default.

You can also turn off the “show desktop” feature that is triggered when you hover or click the small empty space on the extreme right of the taskbar. To do this, deselect the check box that says Enable Peek-ON.

There are tons of little changes you can make to tweak how your desktop behaves and most of the items in the list are self-explanatory.

As with any Windows feature, you have to click the Apply or OK button before your changes will take effect. Keep in mind that if you click OK that saves your changes and dismisses the window, while clicking Apply keeps the window open allowing you to make more changes.


Global Libraries Project – Jamaica Library Service

About JLS

The Jamaica Library Service (JLS), an Agency of the Ministry of Education provides information as well as recreational services through a network of public and school libraries.  Over 65 years of operation, the JLS has established the institution as an internal part of the nation’s educational and cultural life providing a wide range of print and electronic resources.

The organization is the single largest provider of free access to computers and the Internet and is seeking to repositioning itself to empower communities through the provision of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for national development.

About the JLS Global Libraries Project

The Jamaica Library Service (JLS), an Agency of the Ministry of Education has been awarded grant funds of approximately US$2M through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative supported by co-funding from the Government of Jamaica in the amount of US$1.1M.

This project will provide Jamaicans with increased access to Information and Communication Technology through the provision of additional ICT resources across 127 public libraries in Jamaica, new and enhanced programmes/services as well as training in ICT skills and other related areas for JLS staff and library users.

Jamaica – First and only Caribbean Grantee

Jamaica is the first and only grantee from the Caribbean to receive a grant through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries Initiative.

Beneficiaries of the Project

The direct and ultimate beneficiaries of the project will be users and potential users of public libraries including marginalized groups, senior citizens, uneducated individuals, persons from rural communities, the unemployed and persons with disabilities including the visually-impaired – all finding opportunities to enhance their quality of life and able to have access to technology through membership/usage at public libraries.

Overall Objectives of the Launch

  • To engage key stakeholders and advocate for additional support for public libraries.
  • To raise increased awareness about the JLS brand and  the value of public libraries in communities to build local and national support.

Objectives of the Project

  • To provide Jamaicans with increased access to ICT services.
  • To provide ICT training and other training programmes to promote personal, organizational and national development.
  • To provide new and enhanced programmes and services responsive to users/non-users’ and stakeholders’ needs.
  • To promote programmes and services to existing and potential users to increase library usage.
  • To create greater awareness of the value of public libraries in communities in order to build local and national support.


Main Funder:  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Libraries