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Mighty Little Librarian

Think before you post!

Last week in the library, we did an activity that fostered a lot of great discussion and serious thoughts about posting on social media. Students honestly don’t put much thought into the things they post — and it’s scary how quick … Continue reading

Battle of the Books

Today we hosted the first Battle of the Books at CMS! I’m beyond pleased with the way the event turned out and know this is going to become a favorite tradition at our school. I have to give a HUGE shout … Continue reading

The Digital Diva

SLJ News

Washington Library Media Association Releases Op-Ed: “Look in School Libraries for Graduation Rates”

Two Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) presidents, future and current, have written an op-ed article urging the public to take WLMA’s new impact study, connecting student achievement with teacher librarians, very seriously.

Be Part Of The Solution | SLJ Spotlight

Three standout nonfiction titles spotlight social justice causes.

Common Sense Education Launches Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Gaming Platform

Digital Compass, a choose-your-own-adventure gaming platform, aims to teach middle school students about the opportunities and pitfalls of the digital world.

Capstone Announces New PebbleGo Dinosaurs

At the Texas Library Association annual conference in Austin this week, Capstone unveils its pre-K−3 database PebbleGo Dinosaurs.

Avant-Garde Children’s Lit: Mac Barnett on “The Skunk” and Writing Picture Books

Author Mac Barnett talks about his new picture book illustrated by Patrick McDonnell, The Skunk, and muses on the intelligence of young readers and the role of experimentation within the world of children's literature.

ALA TechSource

App Learning for Librarians

Nicole Hennig would love to see more librarians reviewing apps.

“Have you noticed how uniformed many of the app-store reviews are?” she asks readers of her recent Library Technology Report "Selecting and Evaluating the Best Mobile Apps for Library Services." Often people write a review without understanding what the app was meant to do. Or they dash off a technical support question. Librarianship has a long tradition of reviewing books. Now is the time to apply those well-honed skills to apps and help your community find what they need in a chaotic marketplace.


For a general guide to reviewing, Nicole recommends the the thorough Elements for Basic Reviews: A Guide for Writers and Readers of Reviews of Works in All Mediums and Genres,from the ALA/RUSA CODES Materials Reviewing Committee (2005).

She supplements that guide with her own checklist for reviewing mobile apps.

Nicole Hennig is busy writing and presenting on all things apps for librarians. She will be leading the ALA ecourse “Apps for Librarians: Empower Your Users with Mobile App Literacy” starting Monday, February 2 (also Groundhog day). In addition to selection and evaluation criteria, she covers a full range of library services, including accessibilty, content creation, and reference. For a taste of what’s covered, check out the recording of her November 2014 webinar. Visit Nicole’s web page for for additional information about the course, a self-study version, and her other offerings. 

CES 2015 Press Day

Jason Griffey reports on what he saw at CES press day-- a few 3D printers, including Ultimaker, a good library option; another small robot programmable in Google's Blockly, a visual programming editor; Samsung's SSD; and a drone. The soundtrack starts rough, but is much better after one minute.

Jason's coverage of CES is sponsored by Spingshare. Visit his blog Pattern Recognition for ongoing reports.

ICV Partners Acquires SirsiDynix

A new era in the corporate history of SirsiDynix, one of the corporate giants of the library technology industry, has begun. After more than eight years of ownership, Vista Equity Partners has sold SirsiDynix to ICV Partners, with Vista retaining and company executives acquiring minority stakes in the company. While it is too early to assess how new investment owners will shape the direction of the company going forward, it is clear that SirsiDynix remains a major force in the industry with a very large number of libraries relying on its success.  

SirsiDynix, along with other Ex Libris, Innovative Interfaces, and Follett Corporation, ranks as a giant in the industry, which also includes dozens, if not hundreds, of mid-sized and small companies. Each of these four companies has earnings in the range of $100 million and develops strategic technology products for libraries. However, they follow quite different business strategies and serve distinct profiles of customers according to type and geographic region. Globally diverse, SirsiDynix supports customers in more than 70 countries.  

The acquisition of SirsiDynix by ICV Partners brings to close a fairly dramatic chapter in the history of the library technology industry. In 2006, prior to being acquired by Vista Equity Partners, SirsiDynix was still working its way through its merger.  Both Dynix and Sirsi Corporation were large and complex companies with multiple products under their charge through their own development efforts and via previous acquisitions.  Any of a variety of courses of action seemed possible.

San Francisco-based Vista Equity Partners acquired SirsiDynix from Seaport Capital in January 2007 in a deal with an estimated value of around $260 million. Vista is generally known to follow a “playbook” that outlines an aggressive approach to business integration and operations, which centers on product consolidation and cost reduction. The acquisition of SirsiDynix was made on the premise that considerable savings could be achieved through focusing the efforts of the company on a single platform.

The initial aggressive business strategy executed by Vista Equity Partners proved not to be a great match for the library technology industry, or at least for this particular scenario. The abrupt change in product strategy led to decreased confidence in the company, not only for the Horizon product that was initially abandoned, but also for libraries using Symphony. The absence of a new-generation product in a time when libraries generally felt that their current products were not living up to expectations also proved problematic. In recent years, SirsiDynix has deviated from the more austere version of the Vista playbook, channeling more resources into product development, support, and marketing. These efforts have paid off in terms of increased customer satisfaction, retention, and stronger sales.

SirsiDynix has been able to forge a path forward by making adjustments to its initial product and business strategies. Reasserting its commitment to Horizon has slowed the pace of libraries moving to competing products. More importantly, the development of the BLUEcloud suite provides a path forward that leverages existing ILS implementations, avoids the need for short-term migration, and demonstrates the ability to deliver products based on current technology trends. Vista’s aggressive business integration has paid off in terms of building a more centralized company able to efficiently deliver support and develop new products. The more positive performance in the last few years is likely a factor in the Vista’s ability to sell this long-overdue investment.  

ICV Partners was founded in 1998 under the name Inner City Ventures as a minority-owned private investment company. The company continues to operate as a certified Minority Business Enterprise. ICV Partners manages a pool of assets totaling $440 million, considerably less than the $14 billion currently managed by Vista Equity Partners.  

No information has been released regarding the value of the transaction. As with other acquisitions of this type, it is likely that it includes both direct investments by ICV Partners as well as bank loans, usually structured as senior debt and secured by the assets of the company. Executives in the company have also contributed to the equity of the transaction, which ensures continuity in the management of the company and indicates that the new owners are not likely to replace the incumbent management team.

It is interesting to consider the sale of SirsiDynix by Vista to ICV Partners in the context of other possibilities could have happened but didn’t. This transaction did not result in additional consolidation, but was a simple transfer of ownership. Had SirsiDynix been acquired by one of its competitors, there would have been another potentially painful round of product consolidations in an arena where the available options have become uncomfortably narrow. The company also was not acquired by an entity in an adjacent industry, such as the acquisition of Geac by Infor or Talis by Capita, both companies with broader interest in business solutions for the public sector. OCLC has been on a streak of acquiring ILS companies, though none approaching the size of SirsiDynix. These theoretical possibilities may not have been practical options given that further industry consolidation may cross the lines of what might pass regulatory approval or push what libraries might tolerate in terms of narrowness of technology choices. Relative to possible outcomes, the sale of SirsiDynix to ICV Partners does not seem to bode toward disruption in the industry.  

While ICV Partners remains an unknown quantity in the library technology industry, it opens new opportunities for SirsiDynix to pursue strategies that may go outside the repertoire of its previous owners. Any new investor enters the industry with the benefit of observing the strategies that have previously proven successful in the industry and those that haven’t. It will be interesting to observe how SirsiDynix navigates its course under its new ownership.  

Note: This blog post includes excerpts from the February 2015 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, which presents a longer and more detailed account of the acquisition of SirsiDynix by ICV Partners, along with additional background and perspective.  



Reports from CES 2015

Jason Griffey is attending CES 2015. We'll be sharing a few of his videos as he looks at upcoming consumer electronics with an eye to library service. In the first day's press event, among the technology he saw was the Ozobot, a small robot that is programmable using Google's blockly programming editor.

Visit Jason's blog Pattern Recognition for ongoing reports.

Operational Sofware in 3D Printing

Editor's Note: This post is one of a series excerpted from Jason Griffey's Library Technology Report "3D Printers for Libraries."

I’m using the term operational software to refer to your direct interface with the 3D printer, whether you’re preparing STL files for printing or actually creating the output file that the printer understands. This post focuses on the software needed for Fused Deposition printing, as that’s the most likely to be of use in a library. And once you get into SLS and other types, the software/process will likely be proprietary.

Much like a desktop printer doesn’t speak “Microsoft Word,” even if that is the most common filetype that you print, 3D printers don’t actually print STL files. An STL is a mathematical representation of a shape, while the 3D printer itself needs instructions: how much filament to extrude, where and how fast to move the nozzle, how far and when to lower the build platform, how hot the extruder should be. The actual mechanical movements are encoded in a separate file, and the filetype depends on the printer. Most FDM printers use an open filetype, called a G-code file, that is an ascii representation of all of the values needed to create the object. G-code is handy; because it’s simply a text file, you can manually alter known values in order to change the way the print is done. If you want to lower the extrusion temperature, no need to re-encode the file. You can just change the value, once you know where it is. G-code is also open, which means there are multiple programs that can generate it.

The process of moving from STL file to G-code for 3D printing is called “slicing,” because you are in effect taking the 3D object and slicing it into thin layers that the printer will reproduce. Some slicing software has a ton of control, letting you “plate” the models. Plating means to place them on a virtual representation of the build plate of the printer, allowing for printing of muliple parts simultaneously by plating more than one STL. Other slicing software is more bare bones, allowing you to just make choices as to printer settings during the print process.

The most popular slicing engine is called, appropriately enough, Slic3r. Slic3r is an open source project that is usable as by itself, but is probably more commonly used as a backend slicing software for more popular packages that include plating and other options. These would include MatterControl, Pronterface, ReplicatorG and Repetier-Host, the most popular management software for 3D printers. Slic3r does allow for rough plating of objects, but its strength is in the detail given to the slicing process.

Slicr3r has three main areas of control: print settings, filament settings, and printer settings. Each can be saved independently of the other, allowing for a collection of presets to be designed around your most common printing needs. The simplest of these areas is the Printer setup, which allows you to set the size of the printer build platform, as well as details about the extruder. Generally speaking, you only need one printer setup for each printer that you want to use with Slic3r. The filament settings are also not likely to change much, as it only allows you to set the diameter of your filament and the desired printing temperature for the extruder and bed. The real power comes from the print settings, where you have almost total control over every other aspect of the behavior of the print. Under print settings, you’ll find options for layer height, infill, speed, skirt and brim, support, and more.

We’ve discussed layer height, but the other settings are likely to be a bit mysterious. Infill controls the solidity of the print, the amount of material used to fill the interior, expressed as a percentage. The software does the math and determines how to arrange the type of infill you choose (square, hexagonal, etc.) in order to achieve the correct percentage of infill. As an example, if we were printing a 200mm by 200mm cube, and wanted it to be totally hollow, we would set the infill to 0. Setting the infill to a very low percentage, between 1% and 10% or so would result in very large square or hexagonal infill on each later, and as you increased the percntage, the infill would become more and more dense, until at 100% infill you would get an actually solid piece of plastic. You would almost never print an object at that infill, as there is a dimishing return for increasing the infill as it relates to strength versus the amount of plastic used. More than 60-70% or so, you’ll likely not find any actual structural advantage unless there is a specific geometry that needs to be solid. I find myself printing most objects at less than a 20% infill, which is a sweet spot of strength and weight to amount of plastic (and thus cost to print).

Speed is the rate at which the print head moves around the build plate. FDM printing is a slow effort, and one way to speed the process is to make the print head move faster as it’s depositing the plastic. Simply cranking the speed up has issues though. As you increase the speed, you’ll reach a point at which you will begin to decrease the quality of the output. The speed for moving and cleanly extruding plastic has its limits, and each printer has a sweet spot of speed for producing great looking prints as quickly as possible. The other issue is the weight of the print heads on these printers, which is fairly heavy, with their motors and metal heat sinks and brass nozzles. As you begin to move this not-insubstantial mass faster and faster, you create a significant amount of inertia that can be more than the printer body can contain. Videos online show printers “walking” across a desk as the print head is thrown back and forth across the build plate.

The last part of the print settings that you want to pay particular attention to is the support material settings. This includes both raft settings as well as support settings. A raft is a thin (2-3 layer) platform of plastic that can be printed as a sort of buffer between the build plate and the print itself. For certain prints, this can help with adhesion and curl issues. Also important are supports, which are vertical structures built not as a part of the model but to support an overhang in the model, giving the printer a base layer upon which to print it. You can choose whether to use supports and their shape.

After you get all of these settings tuned for your particular printer, few changes are required from print to print. Slic3r supports saving profiles, so you could do a series of printer settings for the slight variations that you might do most often, like 10% infill, 25% infill, etc. Or if you print with multiple filament types, you could have one profile for PLA, and another for ABS, with all of the appropriate temperature changes and such preset.

Slic3r works with any 3D fused deposition printer that speaks G-code, which is the vast majority. The bad news is that the most popular 3D printer for libraries doesn’t use G-code, isn’t compatible with Slic3r, and instead uses proprietary software and slicing filetype. I’m talking, of course, about Makerbot and Makerware.

Makerbot is by far the most popular consumer 3D printer company on the market today. They’ve likely sold more FDM printers to consumers than all other printer manufacturers combined, and they have chosen to go their own way when it comes to software to run their printers. Makerbot printers made prior to this year use software called Makerware to manage their printing, and it’s a far more user-friendly process than I’ve described for Slic3r above. The newest Makerbot printers (their 5th generation printers) are designed to use even more powerful software, Makerbot Desktop. We’ll talk a little about both below, although Desktop was in beta at the time I prepared my Library Technology Report.

Makerware is an all-in-one Makerbot management tool. It will take one or more STL files, allow you to place them on the build platform, rotate, scale, and otherwise manipulate them, and then set all of your printer specifics before hitting print. It’s visual, easy to use, and designed for first-use 3D printing. If you have a Makerbot model with multiple extruders, it also allows you to set the specifics of each extruder, and designate which parts on the build platform get built in the respective plastics.

Makerware also has the ability to output a printable file that can be moved to the printer on an SD card, although Makerbot doesn’t use the standard G-code format that most other 3D printers use. Their proprietary file format (x3g) isn’t compatible with other printers. You can also print directly to a compatible Makerbot printer that is connected by USB. Most people with experience recommend printing from the SD card, rather than live from computer, because it eliminates possible problems like a reboot or a program crash.

Makerware is compatible with all of the Makerbot printers prior to the 5th generation (the Replicator, Replicator 2, Replicator 2x).

Makerbot Desktop is the newest 3D printer software for controlling Makerbot 5th generation printers. Those are the Replicator Mini, the Replicator (5th Gen), and the Replicator Z18. They require a different software, because they’ve added a lot of hardware features not found on other 3D printers, including built-in webcams, wifi accessibility, “smart” extruders, and more.

While the interface for Makerbot Desktop is slightly different, the basic functionality is the same as Makerware. You can import, position, rotate, and plate STL files to prep them for output. But that’s the least of its features, as it also includes access to the new Makerbot Cloud service, allowing you to maintain a library of 3D designs in the cloud, and access them from any computer running Makerbot Desktop simply by logging in. They have also introduced yet another filetype, the .makerbot file, which is used as the printable output file for the 5th generation printers.

The addition of cameras in each of the new Makerbot printers also enables Makerbot Desktop to be a visual monitor of your prints, regardless of where you are. You are able to view the printing locally or remotely, and control the printer remotely, including pausing or cancelling prints. You can even use it to snap pics for uploading of your model to Thingiverse.

For libraries, the biggest impact might be felt by use of one of the smallest actual feature additions to Makerbot Desktop. When you plate an STL file in Makerbot Desktop, it can give you both a time-to-print estimate and a total amount of plastic used, both of which are almost impossible to determine before you print on pretty much any other platform.

Share your cutting edge practice!

OITP, LITA seek nominations for cutting-edge technology practices

Washington, D.C. – The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the Library & Information Technology Association (LITA) are soliciting nominations for best library practices using cutting-edge technology.

“Cutting edge” refers to tested and successful implementations of technological advancements used in services such as:

  • Improvements in traditional services and processes by inventing/re-inventing/twisting technology
  • Introduction of new, innovative services that are flexible and responsive to community needs
  • Methods for connecting libraries to their communities
  • Funding initiatives or organizational models that ensure library information technology will remain current
Nominations may be may for work in any of the following sample areas:
  • Application development (apps)
  • Architecture and design
  • Circulation (sorting, remote distribution, materials handling, delivery mechanisms)
  • Collections
  • Community services (to include equity, outreach, programming and assessment of services)
  • Curation
  • E-resources management services
  • Instruction/information literacy
  • Knowledge creation
  • Open source
  • Pathfinders
  • Patron services (to include self-services and privacy protection)
  • Participatory services (e.g., student-created content, community polling, wikis)
  • Professional development
  • Readers’ advisory
  • Reference services
  • Staff management (use of self-scheduling, recruitment and evaluation)
  • Unique missions
  • User interface
  • Web services
  • Other

Nominations should include the following:

  • A description of the project/service
  • An explanation of how the service/procedure is cutting-edge
  • Information about the evolution of the project (identification of need, why it is novel, funding sources/options, challenges, how success was measured, and recommendations)

Applicants may also submit supporting materials in a variety of media, such as Flickr, YouTube, video, audio, blogs, etc.).


  • Must involve the use of technology
  • Must be a novel idea or implementation of a service
  • Must be able to be documented for replication
  • Must be for a library that has been involved in the development of the service or product (can’t just buy something off the shelf) or has enhanced the product for added value

A joint committee of members from the Subcommittee on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century and LITA will review all nominations and may conduct selected interviews or site visits to identify those libraries that are truly offering a best practice or most innovative service.  Libraries or library service areas will be publicized via the OITP and LITA websites, as well as highlighted through ALA publications and programs at the ALA Annual Conference in 2012. 

The nomination form (.docx) is available online and may be emailed or faxed to Larra Clark at or fax 202-628-8419.

Learn more about the program and past winners on the OITP website.


ISTE Conference! Join us in Philadelphia

Connected Learning. Connected World.

Check out ISTE at a glance 


Kindles in the library

Started by Pat Rideout Apr 2.

Brain Hive?

Started by Kelly A. Clark Mar 16.

Rationale for Library Redesign 3 Replies

Started by Elizabeth Ullrich. Last reply by EJ Mar 16.

I'm not a teacher....

Started by EJ Mar 6.

Primary librarian - library program/curriculum from scratch 1 Reply

Started by EJ. Last reply by Christina Jan 29.

How quiet is your library? 2 Replies

Started by EJ. Last reply by Alice Sajdera Jan 29.

Fines in Secondary 7 Replies

Started by Suzanna L. Panter. Last reply by EJ Jan 8.

Lesson plan resources for pre-k through 6th grade - New Librarian 3 Replies

Started by Amy Skrovan. Last reply by Judith Bloom Fradin Jan 5.


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And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

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Posted by BJ Neary on April 18, 2015 at 3:01pm

Noggin by Jon Corey Whaley

Noggin Noggin by John Corey Whaley

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I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was Here I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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I Was Here by Gale Forman

I Was Here I Was Here by Gayle Forman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what a gripping read but yet another winner from Gayle Forman!!! Cody was a character perplexed and… Continue

Posted by BJ Neary on April 10, 2015 at 5:15pm

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this audiobook as part of an April book discussion…


Posted by BJ Neary on April 5, 2015 at 7:47pm

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this amazing novel-in-verse about family, basketball, and twins in one sitting.… Continue

Posted by BJ Neary on April 5, 2015 at 7:31pm


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And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We Stay by Jenny HubbardMy rating: 4 of 5 starsEmily Beam is a confused girl who has lost her boyfriend (killed himself in the school library), was sent to a boarding school, and must now try to figure out her own…See More
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Noggin by Jon Corey Whaley

Noggin by John Corey WhaleyMy rating: 5 of 5 starsI loved JCW's first book, Where Things Come Back and Noggin is just as awesome! Even though the premise is as Whaley says, "ridiculous" his writing, his characters, and his…See More
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