February 17, 2018

Willie Miller | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Innovators

Willie Miller


Informatics and Journalism Librarian, Head of Campus Outreach Group, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis


MLS, Indiana University, 2010


@LibraryWillie (Twitter); iupui_ulib (Instagram); iupuilibrary (Facebook); @IUPUI_ulib (Twitter)

Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

Guerrilla Assessment

For Willie Miller, informatics and journalism librarian at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Valentine’s Day has become a stealth data-gathering operation. He calls it “guerrilla assessment,” and it has transformed the university library (UL).

As head of the Campus Outreach Group (COG), comprised of about ten librarians and staff who promote the library’s services and resources, Miller launched the “I Heart UL” campaign in 2011, less than a year after joining UL. The COG sets up boards in the library lobby, and students put up Post-it notes bearing their likes or dislikes about the library. In the past five years, COG has collected and analyzed nearly 4,500 ­Post-its.

The campaign is a “quick, dirty, and cheap” way to find out what students really want and need, Miller says. “Acting on their feedback, we have added more scanners to computer clusters; changed our printer defaults to two-sided; added more computers to public spaces; bought new microwaves; created three new study rooms; improved our online study room reservation system; and created the Pop Shop, a new space for a popular reading collection,” he says.

Miller has “transformed a rather traditional public relations effort into a dynamic force for learning the needs of our student body, communicating those needs to appropriate offices within the library, and following up to see that recommended changes are put in place,” says nominator William Orme, associate dean for educational services at UL.

Miller has also been an “ardent proponent” of the library’s now robust social media presence, says Orme. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Foursquare—UL is on all of them, and Miller manages all the accounts. “When I started, the library’s social media [presence] had a collective 350 followers, and I led us to multiply that number by ten in three years,” Miller says.

Along with colleague Heather Coates, Miller has been leading workshops for faculty on how to collect information about their research impact using digital sources. They emphasize altmetrics—alternatives to citation counts and journal impact factors, including article views, downloads, and social media. Owing to these, says Miller, “our office of academic affairs has encouraged candidates to include altmetrics in their promotion and tenure dossiers.”

Miller “has a clear vision for keeping the library vibrant and responsive,” says Orme. Next, Miller wants to use guerrilla assessment tactics to create an ethnographic study of student use of the library. “Examining how they are using it and what expectations they have for our collections, services, and spaces can help us create the future of libraries,” he says. “For me, there is no more exciting project than that.”

This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Sherry Adams says: