Monday, 31 October 2011

What I've been reading in October

Save Libraries

Peter Walker and Alison Flood, High Court Bid to Halt Library Closures Fails 

Lauren Smith, Just Another Liberal Whinger? (A brilliant response to this article by John McTernan) 

Alison Flood, Philip Pullman declares war against 'stupidity' of library closures

Voices for the Library, 22nd October 2011: Library Campaign Conference (includes full speech of Philip Pullman's speech) 

Library Camp

Paul Stainthorpe, Let them tweet cake: why Library Camp was unconferencing done right

Gaz Johnson, Camping

Saint Evelin, Library Camp: Call me Sarah if it makes things easier...


Ned Potter, 5 Easy Ways to Create Fabulous Slides 

Ned Potter, Student Induction, Libraries, Prezi, and Interactive Maps

Digital Resources

Micah Vandegrift, The Digital Public Library of America

Dan Cohen, Digital Ephemera and the Calculus of Importance

eBooks and eReaders

Simon Barron, Why I got a Kindle

Ian Clark, Why I have not got a Kindle... (I'm considering buying something to read ebooks on - Kindle, Kobo or Android tablet - so Simon and Ian's posts came at a great time! Any other advice would be very much appreciated.)

Digital Divide

Ian Clark, Follow your dreams - but it will cost you

Mark Herring, Fool's Gold: Why the Internet is no Substitute for a Library (London: McFarland, 2007)

Jobs and Careers

#uklibchat, Summary: Thursday 22nd Sept 2011. LIS Jobs and Careers 

Simon Barron, Thoughts on Military Librarianship

Carley Deanus, My Graduate Trainee Year: On Reflection... 

Games and Gamification

 Gerard LeFond, Why Education Needs to Get It's Game On

by Cindiann on Flickr

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Of libraries and learning and luminescent probes...

We're getting properly into the course now at UCL, and with the first assignment due in less than two weeks, I'm planning to spend most of this weekend doing some serious business stuff like deciding on subject headings for books about rabbits! Other assignments include an essay on the possibility of a paperless global information society, and one comparing a digitised item with its real world equivalent. So lots to think about at the moment!

Even though I'm leaving the house at 7am to get to university for 9am, I'm quite enjoying commuting at the moment. The train journeys seem to pass very quickly as I'm racing my way through George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. They are fantastic books, but I end up getting weird looks on the train when he dramatically kills off characters I really like and I go "nooooooo!" Maybe I'll have to switch to reading about collection management instead...

A perfectly justified Sean Bean photo
Meanwhile I'm still popping back up to Cambridge two days a week for work, which has been really nice. I've done a few induction tours for new students, and the last couple of days I've been in I have been typing up a handwritten card catalogue into a big Excel spreadsheet. Apart from a couple of indecipherable bits ("the author's name is....Snail?") this has been quite a nice project to work on. Also, even though I've only been doing my course for three weeks there's already been things we've learnt, especially in Cataloguing classes, that have made me better understand things I do at work. (But of course, having had a bit of practical experience of cataloguing has made the classes so much easier to follow!)

And on that note, it's time to stop procrastinating here and get on with those library school assignments!

PS: If you were wondering about the luminescent probes, we learnt yesterday that this was the first Library of Congress Subject Heading to be suggested by a Brit. Not tea making paraphernalia?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

[CPD23] Thing 23: Reflection - What next?

I've been putting off writing this post, partly because I don't have much time but also because then it will be over, and what will I write about when I don't have CPD23 people telling me what to blog?!

To be a master...
Photo by .noir photographer on Flickr
But of course, like most librarians I am a completist, and so I simply must write this last CPD23 post. I've never kept a Professional Development Plan before, and like the CV database I think it's a really good idea, and definitely something to have to hand when applying for a new job. I've copied Niamh's template and started to fill it in. I hope that doing a one year Masters degree will focus my energy into completing several goals this year. Well I hope I can complete number 1 on the PDP list, which is simply BECOME A MASTER! Another thing I want to accomplish this year which is already in motion is to get some committee experience, and last night I went to my second Cambridge Library Group committee meeting. Assuming I get nominated and seconded in absentia at next week's AGM (and you know what they say about assume...) I'll be editor of the group's newsletter, so that will be a good experience to put on the ol' CV. There are a couple of other things on my newly formed PDP that I hope to achieve this year (and have just thought of another as I'm writing this) so we'll just have to wait and see how productive I end up being!

And finally, my 6 word story. Ooh this is tough! How about: "Made me think, engage, try, reflect", or perhaps simply "Wish it didn't have to end..."

Sunday, 9 October 2011

#libcampuk11 session 5: #uklibchat and social media

The final session I went to yesterday was on #uklibchat and using social media to cross sectors. Four out of the five #uklibchat team members were there to lead the discussion - Adrienne, Sarah, Ka-Ming and Sam.

The aim of this session was to explore ways to move forward with #uklibchat.

What people like about #uklibchat: 
  • Having a set time that you can turn up and know you can have professional chat. 
  • Good for solo librarians who can feel isolated. 
  • Can watch without needing to join in. 
  • Agenda can be anonymous and means you can think about your answers beforehand. 
  • Write ups are great. 
  • Focuses twitter energy!
What could be improved: 
  • Intros at the beginning mean people might feel discouraged from joining in halfway through. 
  • Having an "agenda" feels rigid (possibly calling it something different would solve this). 
  • Having it at a specific time is at odds with how people use social media. 
  • Impression that it's just for students but it's not!
Other similar chats to look at:
  • #tlchat - teacher librarian chat - not at specific time
  • #ukedchat
General thoughts on social media:
  • Twitter is mysterious if you don't use it, who to follow, hashtags etc. Possibility of using the blog a bit more with tips and How To guides.
  • Twitter is less formal than mailing lists, you need to be grown up on mailing lists! They seem like things that you need to be experienced librarian to use. Twitter reaches the wider world so good for cross pollination. Generational divide between listservs and twitter - is uklibchat offputting to older people?
Ideas for the future:
  • Partner with experts for chats in particular area.
  • Encourage people to use the hashtag outside of the set time as well, to discuss anything library related.
  • How To guides for using Twitter, including clients.

Okay I think that is literally everything I have to say about Library Camp! Normally I end up writing one massive blog post after a conference, today I have ended up with 6 slightly shorter ones, I don't know which is better! Using Evernote to make my notes yesterday has made blogging about it afterwards a lot quicker and easier, so I will definitely be doing that again in the future. So a bit of CPD23 win in there too!

#libcampuk11 session 4: Wikipedia and Libraries

Have I hit the blogging wall yet? I don't think so! Let's keep going...

Session 4 was led by Andy Mabbett, who also had the job of shouting instructions above the hubbub of librarians throughout the day as he had the loudest voice! Andy is a Wikimedia Foundation volunteer, who has been involved in the GLAM outreach project (GLAM = galleries, libraries, archives and museums) which encourages organisations to release their content with Creative Commons licenses and get users to write articles about their objects.

Andy gave the example of Derby Museum, which gave a backstage pass to volunteer Wikipedia editors, including tours and talks by curators.  Curators prepared lists of museum objects that were worthy of a Wikipedia entry but hadn't already got one or that only had a stub. The museum also provided references for citations. Wikipedia volunteers wrote entries then and there, then the articles were translated. 1200 new articles were added to Wikipedia due to that event (including the translations).

While objects need to be worthy to get an article of their own, text and images from museums and libraries can be released under open access and used to illustrate other articles. As everything is attributed, all of this can increase traffic to the organisation's website. The only cost is the small amount of time required by curators etc. when the volunteers are there, and the volunteers feel valued as they get to access areas of the museum that are usually closed to the public.

Libraries sometimes have image collections with no metadata, and they can upload the collection to Wikimedia to crowdsource tags and descriptions. This makes something that usually isn't seen or used into something useful and more valuable. It also means people might use the images etc. in their own blogs which then must attribute to you. This also outsources the web hosting. The metadata is kept up to date and curated by other people.

We then moved on to talking about some other Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Foundation is the parent of Wikipedia and about a dozen other projects, including:
  • Wikimedia Commons - originally a place to put images for Wikipedia but it is now the biggest repository for freely usable material, mostly images.
  •  QRpedia - encodes URL of Wikipedia articles, but returns the translated version depending on the language your phone is set to, in a mobile friendly form of course. Use in museums/libraries to provide captions etc in multiple languages. Could also be useful in a library with minority group users.
  •  Simple English Wikipedia - for people with poor literacy skills or who are learning English.
Homework for this session!
Sign up for a Wikipedia account and fix an error, or convert a standard Wikipedia article into a Simple English article.

#libcampuk11 session 3: Mobile apps etc.

Another session pitched by Andy Walsh, and another topic I'm very interested in. Andy said right at the start that he had lots of questions but no answers, which is how I feel a lot of the time! The discussion bounced around quite a few areas of mobile library services, from general points to specific examples and back again.

  • Nowadays people rely on phones for reminders, meaning our memory is now in the cloud. Does this allow you more brain space to think rather than remember? Or just leave you with a terrible memory?
  • Museums get a lot of downloads for their apps. Why?
  • When people ask questions using a library's app, where are they, what kind of questions do they ask compared to face-to-face/email? Users say they would ask library questions from their mobile while in the library but not outside - seems strange, but the library isn't somewhere they think about when they are not there.
  • Apps vs mobile websites? Desktop.vs browser?
  • Is it good to have a mobile technology strategy?
  • How long should we spend thinking about and testing a new tool before launching it? Long procedures and checking means that when new tool appears it is out of date quickly, but untested apps can flop miserably.
  • Should we be teaching users the best ways to use mobile tech/cloud services such as dropbox? Not just how to use tools but how to organise stuff so that it makes sense and how it can be useful? E.g. CPD23 is about learning with peers, exploring and sharing ways it can be used not just how to use it is more useful than being given a static lesson on "this is how to set up a blog". 
  • Could we combine task apps with games? (See also my notes on Session 2: Games and Gamification)
Libraries are geared for people to be in a fixed location - but now we need to be wherever the person is at the time. However we're still in an office at a static desk so it is harder to explore mobile tech with users. Embedded librarians and roving support (sometimes even with an iPad) are becoming more common but there is still often a fear that "away from desk" means "not working". 

Members of senior management often get given an iPhone, then do nothing with them, it would be a better investment to give them to librarians!

Lots of academic databases are providing their services in a mobile format now but students have mixed feelings about them. Apps should be about making your life easier - tasks like topping up printer card, finding classmarks etc. are useful to do on a mobile, but reading articles and databases aren't necessarily things you would want to do on a mobile. It shouldn't be just about the device but about context/location.

The good thing about mobile apps is the cleanness of their design, with all everything pared down and unnecessary stuff removed. Standard websites could take hints! At the moment a lot of libraries aren't even getting basics right like making the home page mobile friendly.

Things to look at:

#libcampuk11 session 2: Games and Gamification in libraries

Session two was a very popular one, on a subject I've blogged about a bit before. Dave Pattern and Andy Walsh were facilitating this session, and they started off the discussion by talking about a project that they have been working on called Lemon Tree. Their aim is to gamify the library experience to encourage low or non users to get involved and learn how to use the library in a fun and challenging way.

One aspect of the game that they mentioned were a points system, where users gained points for all library activities, e.g. for taking out a book, and you get more points for taking out books from outside of your subject. The prize is simply to be good at it, and badges show who is "expert" in particular areas. Another side of the game is that the OPAC levels up as you do, so you get more features/functions as you learn new skills. People learn better in games, when they are "learning by stealth". They also learn better when it is a challenge. Someone mentioned the protein folding problem: once an unsolved scientific problem was turned into a game, it was solved in ten days.

Libraries have the same kind of repetitive behaviours that are involves in games. Turning this into a challenge has been around for years, for example in summer book challenges. Someone mentioned the pretty incredible statistic that the total time people have spent playing World of Warcraft is 6 million years. The man-hours spent playing games are phenomenal, and almost entirely untapped.

Another library (I forget who said this sorry!) has introduced xbox, PS3 and wii, and it has been so popular that they would recommend it to any other library. This has the benefit of getting kids into the library who wouldn't normally enter the building. The wii and xbox kinect have also been used as therapy, e.g. rehabilitation, and to help with dyslexia by associating words with movement.

Some of the fears are that games encourage violence, and games seem childish. Arguments against these: the average age of gamer is 34! Even in shooters, there is much educational potential. Creating maps and building is a creative and educational use of a game. Halo maps made of buildings have been used to test fire drills! (Our evacuation plan worka for fires and zombie apocalypse...). Other games such as Minecraft are all about creating and building.

Other ways to bring games into the library:
  • offer hacker groups etc. space in your building, and build up a relationship with this user group. They could teach librarians things!
  • take ideas from IGFEST (intelligent games festival). This is held in Bristol, and the games are played throughout the city including things like Augmented Reality zombie shooter games using an iPhone app, and QR code scavenger hunts.
  • Death in the library, treasure hunt with clues in books, learn about catalogue/classification through a game.
  • Games can be a great way to teach silver surfers how computers work. For first time computer users, solitaire is great for learning mouse control.
  • Games don't have to be tech based - board games, cards etc.
However developing games need thought, they can't be rushed or underestimated. Trying to choose a game to suit everyone will probably end up suiting no one. Instead of librarians choosing the games, why not let the user group buy the games - give them the budget and let them choose what they want. Or in an ideal world you could let users design the games.

If you are planning to bring games into the library, you will need to develop a thick skin as many will object that this is not what libraries do. ("Think of the children!" "Think of the Daily Mail!") Maybe good way to test would be to piggyback onto ALA's annual gaming day - 12th November, could be a good test for a wider programme.

And favourite suggestion of the session: Offer users a chance to clear their fines by challenging their librarian to game of Dance Dance Revolution!

Things to look at:

#libcampuk11 session 1: Managing the Transition between School and University

The first session I went to was run by Jo Alcock and Jean Allen. This turned out to be the most formal session I went to during the day, and was extremely interesting (not to mention topical, as we are still doing induction tours for new students at the library at the moment).

As we took it in turns to introduce ourselves, we also said what we hoped to get out of the session. There were a mixture of Further and Higher Education librarians, as well as librarians from other sectors and library school students who had an interest in  learning more about this area. Induction tours were mentioned quite often, and there seemed to be a general feeling that FE librarians don't know enough about what goes on in HE and vice versa.

The discussion can be pretty much split up into problems and suggested solutions (of which there were lots, which is always nice!)

  • Students arrive at university with few or no research skills.
  • Kids are often taught about the internet etc in primary schools and then at uni, but not in between.
  • When information and research skills are taught they are often taught in a vacuum, not embedded into the curriculum (this is sometimes the fault of the librarian if they are too protective over their info skills sessions!)
  • School curriculums don't make transferable skills explicit.
  • Teachers in schools don't realise the value of a qualified librarian as a resource, as they're trying to meet grade targets and cover the curriculum they often don't think they have time for wider skills. 
  • University students don't want to get lesson on induction when hungover - they only think about this when essay is due and they are in a panic!  However often induction is the only chance we'll get to hook them in.
  • Librarians, teachers and parents need to work together from the beginning - skills should be taught embedded in the curriculum not in a "library skills lesson". These are life skills.
  • Not just library staff, but teachers and management should be on board.
  • Librarians have to be in your face, WE CAN SAVE YOU TIME AND IMPROVE YOUR STUDENTS GRADES. Nab new teachers with cake and booze, get them on your side!
  • Start with what is readily available i.e. Google advanced search as they will most often turn to Google anyway. Then use Google Scholar as a stepping stone to library resources.
  • Practice inductions on local sixth form students. Encourage local schools to bring project groups into university libraries.
  • Don't be precious about info lit training, encourage teachers and lecturers to deliver sessions, to embed in curriculum. (Emma Illingworth - this is being done at the University of Brighton)
  • Sarah Barker - Interview with academic staff before start of term, what do you want from library? They usually say eresources, reading lists.
  • Important not to assume everyone has access to PCs/internet at home. Also important to remember that nfo literacy includes the physical library, not just eresources.
  • Children are only in schools for 15% of waking hours. Public libraries underpin whole process, beginning with BookStart.
Things to look at:

Library Camping

I plan to spend most of today right here on the sofa with this fleecy blanket and my laptop, so I will take the opportunity to get lots of blogging done!

Yesterday I crawled out of bed way, way before the sun came up, and began my journey to Birmingham for the first LibCampUK. I very little idea what was going to happen there, if I would like it, or even how to get from New Street Station to the venue.

For me, the idea of an unconference was a completely unknown entity, and as someone who likes to have a structure, I was a bit worried that with 175 people there, deciding what to talk about on the day wouldn't work that well. Also there was going to be lots of cake...and a poet? Sounded weird, man.

However, I decided to get over my initial fears, and sign up anyway. After all, it was free, there was going to be cake, and virtually everyone I followed on Twitter seemed to be going. I signed myself up, and Rosie too for good measure (and backup), and that was that.

I am so glad I did! As I said, it turned out to be a massive tweet up, so it was great to meet a bunch of people in real life who I had known through Twitter for varying amounts of time, and to see some familiar faces again. My worries about everything descending into a big mess were banished by the sight of a big whiteboard timetable, to which people stuck post-its describing what they wanted to talk about, and we could then choose what room we wanted to go to for each session.

Library Campers deciding where to go
So many different sessions were pitched (there were about 7 for each slot) that although there were over 150 people there yesterday, I don't think there was any one person who went to all the same sessions as I did. I'm looking forward to reading peoples' notes on the ones I didn't get to go to, as it was a hard decision for many of the slots!

For the first time, I made my notes using the Evernote app on my phone. I could pretend that this was a deliberate attempt to put a newly learnt tool into use, but the reality is that I forgot my notebook! Anyway, it worked really well, and I uploaded my photos to DropBox on the way home, meaning that I could start blogging straight away this morning, and copy and paste my notes instead of having to decipher my handwriting! I will blog about each of the sessions seperately, I think.

But I know what you were really wanting to know about! ALL THE CAKE...
We had high-tech cakes with QR codes linking to their recipes...
Low-tech cakes with post-its... (if you were the baker of the cherry brownies could you send me the recipe pleez?)
...and while no-one from SWETS could make it in person, they send a gazillion cupcakes!
Judging from the fantastic spread, librarians are EXCELLENT bakers, and very generous too. There were so many cakes there, not to mention doughnuts, cookies and Marmite crackers, that even with the 175 of us (and we did try our best!) there was quite a bit left over at the end of the day.

So yeah, it was a pretty brilliant day altogether. More posts to come about the actual sessions, but for now I'll just say another big thank you to the organisers and to everyone there for being so awesome, because that's what made it for me.

Friday, 7 October 2011

[CPD23] Thing 22: Volunteering to get experience

So far I haven't really done any volunteer work in libraries. It's something I would be quite happy to do to get experience if I was missing a criteria from a dream job's description, however I would always check that I wasn't taking a job away from paid qualified staff. I think there are a lot of ways that volunteers can do a lot of good for libraries though. I had a quick look around a Volunteering Fair at UCL yesterday, and Westminster Libraries had a stall there recruiting volunteers for a homework club scheme they run across the area. Running this kind of thing would take up a lot of staff time, and a library degree really isn't necessary to help kids with their maths homework, so this is a nice way to use volunteers to supplement core library services.

Okay so what have I done? I have done the odd bits and pieces of voluntary "stuff" such as lending a hand occasionally as an assistant Cub Scout leader, organising Cam23 2.0, and I've recently joined the Cambridge Library Group committee. Things like this always seem to be very useful things to be able to talk about in job applications and at interviews, as well as being good fun to do!

PS: Since I wrote my Thing 21 post about job applications and interviews, the summary has gone up for the #uklibchat on LIS Jobs and Careers, which is well worth a read.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

[CPD23] Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

A lot of thinking to do for this week's Thing, but right now job applications and interviews are just about the furthest thing from my mind! I have just started my MA, which I had an interview for waaay back in December, and another interview for funding a few months ago. It's nice to know I've got a break from applications for a little bit, while I concentrate on doing the thing I actually interviewed for! I do see the sense in keeping a record, or "CV database" of things that I've done, and I did keep an Excel file of this kind of thing while I was a graduate trainee so I'm going to aim to keep the habit going.

I feel like a total cop out leaving it at that, but I have bookmarked Maria Giovanna's excellent tips, and I solemnly swear to do this Thing properly next summer before I start applying to professional posts.

Here are a few blog posts I've bookmarked in the past because they have handy application and interview tips:
Laura Wilkinson, Tips for applying for library jobs
Becky Woods, Application, application, application
Katy Wrathall, Gizza job - from both sides of the desk
Ned Potter, What's the key to a good interview - beyond the usual trueisms we all know already?

And here's a blog post that I wrote last year about practical tasks in interviews. (Includes a crowdsourced list!)

By David Davies on Flickr

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Week One

UCL's main library is just behind the nekkid man
I've just finished my first week at UCL. This week has been an induction week, with introductory lectures for several of our modules, a bit of getting lost, and lots and lots of queueing! I've got my university card with a picture that apparently looks nothing like me (maybe it's actually that other Annie Johnson, the one who's stolen my email alias...) and have managed to make it through this unseasonably hot week without melting either on the tube or in the Freshers' Fayre tents!

As well as having introductions to our modules, we've also had several more general lectures on presentation skills, report writing, and an introduction to CILIP. This last was one of the most interesting, as we were debating the merits of joining CILIP and reasons not to join. I joined CILIP last year and I have blogged before about being a member. While I'm not the most active member, and I know I could get a lot more out of my membership if I put more in, I feel it is easily worth the £38 I currently pay. It was interesting to listen to the other side of the argument though, from Jen for example.

An important decision to make this week has been which optional modules to take. I have decided to sign up for Digital Resources in the Humanities and...dum dum duuuum... Cataloguing and Classification II. I've kind of surprised myself with how my attitude to cataloguing has changed over the last year - a year ago I felt rather like this, but as I've done more of it this has changed. I've especially enjoyed creating some records from scratch for our sheet music collection at Newnham. It's also important to me to get as many practical skills out of this MA, as it is after all a vocational course. When I did my undergraduate degree (which was in music), I ended up choosing lots of philosophical type of modules like Music and Ethics. These may have been very interesting, but yeah...not too useful really.

On Thursday we had a seminar in a room in Gordon Square, which was pretty much directly opposite this house:

Which, it turns out, is now this:

Statue of Newton outside the British Library
Also this week, I signed up for the British Library, which was a lot easier than I was expecting. I had my CILIP membership card all ready to enjoy that particular perk, but turns out they let pretty much anyone in nowadays, what is the world coming to?!*

I also went to my first LIKE event on Thursday night, at a lovely pub in Farringdon. The event was led by John Davies from TFPL and the starting point for the discussion was a TFPL report titled 'Connecting Information with Innovation', which examined the trends emerging in Information and Knowledge Management. My first impressions of LIKE were of a very intelligent group of people, and the debate was very lively. While I probably didn't contribute much of any use to the discussion, I enjoyed the evening and everyone was very welcoming to a first time attendee!

I'm looking forward to starting proper lectures next week, and Library Camp has been rather sneaky and somehow it is now only a week away so I've got that to look forward to too. The only question is will I have enough time this week to bake a cake...?

* In case it isn't obvious, I'm not being serious.