2023 ETS Best Emerging Technology Application Award

Matthew Toro, Robert Cowling, Eric Friesenhahn and Jill Sherwood for 3D Explorer


Janet Lee and Tegest Hailu, M.D. for the Kindle Early Language Learning

Chosen for the 2023 Best Emerging Technology Application (BETA) Award Sponsored by Chatstaff and LibraryH3lp

Established in 2019, the ETS Best Emerging Technology Application Award (BETA) offers $3,000 to an individual or group in recognition of a technology application that directly benefits library users. This award is sponsored by Chatstaff and LibraryH3lp.

3D Explorer

Bob Cowling
Eric Friesenhahn
Jill Sherwood
Matthew Toro

“For developing an original technology that benefits the library and its patrons. 3D Explorer is an innovative online tool for scaling the discoverability and access of library resources for global audiences, virtually mapping the library space and information assets contained in the space.” – Award Committee Statement

The 3D Explorer [https://mapgeoasu.github.io/3dexplorer/] is an original, custom-built web application that holistically maps and virtualizes library space, as well as the library information assets contained in that space. One might consider the application as a “digital twin” of its physical library counterpart. The application integrates open source web development technologies with state-of-the-art geographic information systems (GIS) and 3D modeling technologies. Users are empowered to explore and discover the virtual library environment as they would the physical library environment.

The 3D Explorer application virtualizes the interior space of a specialized library unit called the Map and Geospatial Hub, based at the Arizona State University (ASU) Library. The Map and Geospatial Hub [https://geospatial.asu.edu/] is ASU Library’s dedicated unit for cartographic and geospatial information resources. It is a traditional library-based map collection fused with a modern GIS center. While this particular instance of the “3D Explorer” application is tailored to the spaces and assets of one specific library unit, it could quite easily be implemented for other library spaces and assets. Other library organizations could adopt the novel “spatialized library” technology embodied by the 3D Explorer application with low costs, low technical barriers, and low levels of maintenance.

Matthew Toro is a broadly trained geographer serving as the Director of Maps, Imagery, and Geospatial Services at the Arizona State University Library, where he oversees technology, engagement, collections, and research operations at the Map and Geospatial Hub. Matthew envisioned and oversaw production of the 3D Explorer application.

Bob Cowling is a GIS Data Librarian at Michigan Technological University, where he programs GIS web applications to act as discovery, management, and dissemination tools for geospatial data and historical cartographic content. While working as a fully remote intern for the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub, Bob served as the software architect and engineer of the 3D Explorer application.

Eric Friesenhahn is a Map and GIS Specialist at ASU Library, where he serves at the Map and Geospatial Hub’s frontline staff member for service related to map and GIS resources. He coordinates collection maintenance, software license distribution, workshop and event scheduling, map digitization, web map indexing, and other projects. Eric performed all of the GIS and 3D data modeling for the 3D Explorer application, along with metadata processing and other related tasks.

Jill Sherwood is currently a Senior GIS Analyst at the Salt River Project. She previously worked as a Geospatial Data Analyst at ASU Library, where she was responsible for the collection, processing, documentation (metadata), and dissemination of the thousands of geospatial datasets and other digital assets made available through the Map and Geospatial Hub. Jill contributed her programming skills to automate metadata and imagery processing workflows for the 3D Explorer application.

Kindle Early Language Learning

Janet Lee
Tegest Hailu, M.D.

“For applying existing technologies in novel ways that benefit the library and patrons. Kindle Early Language Learning is an innovative way of replicating the library and its resources for children living in difficult conditions in Sudan’s Hasheba Refugee Camp, helping them learn reading, writing, and languages in engaging ways.” – Award Committee Statement

The Kindle Early Language Learning Project in Hasheba Refugee Camp in Sudan introduces first language resources to refugee school children in a joint library/classroom through the use of Kindle technology. The children, many of whom are orphans, fled from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, when conflict broke out in November 2020 forcing them into exile in Sudan.  As basic housing and health services were implemented in the camps, housing over 60,000 refugees, it became apparent that the children needed educational resources and a sense of normalcy that a school would provide. An agreement was made among the refugees, NGOs and the Sudanese government to share classroom space with existing Sudanese students.  Among the refugees were Ethiopian-certified teachers, taking up the charge of teaching the students.  Since resources such as books and supplies are scarce, printing costs prohibitive, and shipping expensive, the project introduced the use of specially configured Kindle devices that were loaded with storybooks and first language reading aids in the languages of Tigrinya, Amharic, and Arabic. The Kindle device is ideal because it can hold hundreds of book titles in a variety of formats, is easy to hold, emulates a print book, and can handle the script of Tigrinya, Amharic, and Arabic.  Since the storybooks are downloaded, access to the books is available offline. In a remote area of the world such as in the refugee camps in Sudan, with little access to Internet and few print resources, the Kindle Early Language Learning Project provides needed resources in an attractive and affordable way.

Janet Lee:

Professional Activities:

Member of ALA

Member of ALA, IRRT

Co-chair, Denver Sister Cities, Axum, Ethiopia Committee

Chair, International Library Cultural Exchange Interest Group, Colorado Association of Libraries

Awards & Grants:

Recipient of International Library & Cultural Exchange Interest Group (Colorado Association of Libraries) Grant for African Storybook Project 2017-2018.

Recipient of the first IRRT Mission Enhancement Grant for Chromebook lab at the Axumite Heritage Foundation Library, Axum, Ethiopia. 2018

Fulbright Scholar, University of Aksum, Ethiopia 2017-18

Recipient of the 2021 John Ames Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award.

Recipient of the Alpha Sigma Nu Magis Medal, a national recognition of scholarship, loyalty, and service. 2019.

Tegest Hailu, M.D.:

Professional Affiliations

Private medical practice

Founder and CEO, ISBHA (The International Society for Better Health Access)

Board member, Health Professionals Network for Tigray (HPN4Tigray)

The BETA selection committee was Chaired by Beth Caruso.

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