Wednesday, 23 November 2011

#cpd23 Thing 17: Slideshare and prezi

Slideshare is useful but not perfect.  A few things I've learnt the hard way that might be of use:
  • Make the text on your title slide good and big.  That way people will be able to read it more clearly on when it's shown as a thumbnail on your homepage and elsewhere.
  • Slideshare proclaims to upload your speaker notes with your slides.  In my experience, this only works for .pptx files (i.e. 2007 and later versions of Powerpoint), and only the first time you upload.  If you make changes and upload your presentation again, the notes won't be updated, and if you've added extra slides your notes will end up out of alignment.
  • Slideshare doesn't reproduced animation effects in your presentations, so if you have one slide on which various things appear one-by-one, they'll be there together in one go on Slideshare.  I get round this by making individual slides for each new appearing thing.
  • EDITED 23/11/11. Lastly, Slideshare only has a fairly limited repertoire of fonts that it supports automatically.  Embedding your fonts in a presentation seems to get round this OK if you save your file as a .pptx file (that's the newer version of Powerpoint, from 2007 onwards). Normally I'd recommend that you save your files as .ppt, as the newer .pptx format cannot be read by people who have the older software (or who are running open source software), but for the purposes of Slideshare it seems that .pptx is the way to go (see also speaker notes, above). If you don't have access to newer Powerpoint, your best bet is to check in advance whether your fonts will work: here are some slides that show a few fonts that do and don't work out of the box, or try uploading a test slide when you're planning your slides.
  • EDITED 23/11/11 I forget to say in the original post that you should never put important, or clickable (yes - add clickable links in your Slideshare slides, that's where they're useful, not in the slides you show in person) links near the edge of your slides.  You never know what will be cut off if the projection is bad, and clicking at the edge of slides on Slideshare makes them advance or go backwards.  So links near the edges are no use.
So, to be honest, I think Slideshare could be better. But it is better than nothing, I suppose.  If I'm giving a talk that I think will be of interest to people who didn't hear it in person, I make two versions of the file: one for use on the day (less text, fewer slides in total) and one to upload to Slideshare (added text, more slides in total).  Trying to make one version that suits both purposes is beyond my skill!

As for Prezi, well, I made a quick Prezi about that:

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

#cpd23 Thing 16: Advocacy, activism, getting published

I've had some success with publications, as you can see from my Google Scholar Citations page. You'll note that there's a serious (if not very good) academic article, a couple of papers about professional practice, and a Guardian piece advocating for libraries by highlighting the varied things that librarians do. I also regularly compile a bibliography for the journal Library & Information History and am writing a chapter for a forthcoming review book, and I've had a piece in Update (april edition) about the Fred Hoyle Project.

'Snowball' by Chip and Andy on Flickr
Did someone say advocaat?
Mostly these have come about through chance and luck, and not through serious planning.  I think, from a cpd point of view, I ought to work harder perhaps on writing about my main professional area of interest: rare books, special collections, and outreach.  I worry that my publication record so far is somewhat nebulous and disperesed, and perhaps doesn't give a focussed impression of what I'm interested in, or what I'm good at.

I've not been hugely active as an advocate for libraries, although I do try to do as much as I can (I realise, that if I prioritised differently then this would be a lot more. I shall write about guilt another time, I think). As well as the Guardian piece with Emma Cragg, I got involved with the public libraries day last February, and I made a (small) noise about the threatened (and now closed) Paul Hamlyn library at the British Museum.

I can see that advocacy and activism, as well as having positive benefits for society, can be useful cpd tools, as they give an opportunity to develop skills and experience in areas that you might not cover much in your working day.  Stealth advocacy is also an important tool: I talk to a lot of post-grad students one way or another, and I'm always trying to explain to them just how much the library can and does offer ('"do you know who pays for all those online journals...").  When I'm at orchestra rehearsals, and people ask me what it is librarians do anyway these days I make sure to tell them, not just to laugh of their annoying comments about Google.  Every little helps. I hope.

#cpd23 Thing 15: attending, presenting at, at organising events

I may as well just come out at admit it: I love speaking to an audience. I know that for many people it's daunting: pitfalls and potential embarrassments abound. But for me, even though I've my fair share of hang-ups and shynesses, it always seems much more of an opportunity than a threat.

'Folklore 009 - open air' by Martin Fisch on Flickr
Granted, I've never played to a crowd like this.
Who knows why that is.  Maybe it's because, having been musical since childhood I'm just well-used to being on stage.  But maybe not - I can still get tremblingly nervous before a concert.  Maybe it's more subtle than that - if you make a mistake on the cello it sounds *horrible*, but it you misspeak you can easily say "sorry, that's not what I meant to say..." and continue.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'm an irredeemable show-off.

I wrote the main post for this Thing, and a lot of my thoughts are already condensed into that post.  Most of my good advice is over there, but one thing I haven't said before is that a sure-fire way to feel better about presenting is to know your subject matter well.  If you're talking about something you've done, then it's hard to be tripped up: you were there, you know what happened, you know what the reasoning was.  Maybe that's why I prefer professional presenting to academic presenting...

I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at quite a few events in the last year.  Some of those were conferences and events I'd applied to speak at, and a couple have been invitations from organisers.  Being involved in a number of different projects and groups means I've had quite a few things to say!

As for attending conferences, I've enjoyed that a whole lot more since I've started to get to know more people via Twitter and other social media.  I wrote about that recently here.

Lastly - organising. Organising events is hard work.  That's really all I have to say right now ;)

Monday, 21 November 2011

HLF conference report 3: getting what we want

This is the third, and last, part of my write-up of the HLF conference on 15 November 2011.


Phil Sykes of the University of Liverpool, obviously a Jane Austen fan, gave the first talk of the day, under the heading 'Persuasian with Sense and Sensbility'. I must confess that I hadn't been certain quite what this talk was going to be about, but as it transpired, it was a very useful and straightforward exlanation of some of the techniques of persuasion that Phil has developed.

Phil believes that persuasion is built of two components: the logical part (sense) and the emotional part (sensibility).

He started with sense, which he divided into six aspects:

1) Get into the minds of the people you're trying to persuade, and imagine how the world looks to them. Phil gave the example of a library continually facing budget cuts and appealing for money by saing 'we're doing all this good stuff with the little you give us, so please give us more'. The people with the money will probably hear this as 'we're doing really well with hardly any money - why give us any more?'.

2) Once you've considered your audience, you can begin to pick off their likely objections in advance. Phrases like 'it might seem like... but...' are useful in this.

3) Consider how much time people will actually devote to what you're writing. Phil illustrated this with a story about a speech given in Parliament. There might only be 10 people listening to the speech, and 50 people in the bar. If you're going to be successful, you need the 10 who were there to tell the 50 in the bar what you said. Therefore make your point clear, don't waffle, and don't say so much that they can't easily summarise it.

4) What you say about what you've writtten is at least as important as what you write. If you're submitting a paper to a committee meeting, the chances are that at least some (if not most) of the people at the committee won't actually have read the paper in depth. So know in advance what you'll say when you're invited to comment on the paper at the meeting. (Also try and get your item high up the agenda so that it isn't guillotined if time runs short!0

5) Write clearly! Start by working out what it is you want your reader to know, and then write that in a way that they'll understand. You can make a big imapct by using 'humane' language. Say 'we'll be friendly' rather than 'our innovative new service model will deliver excellence going forward with a robust strategic emphasis'.

6) Adapt your arguments to suit the audience. The people who hold the purse strings will be movedby financial arguments, the media might be moved by 'public good' arguments, and academics can be hard to please.

The emotional side of persuasion is harder to quantify and often needs a long-term committment to come to fruition. Three things were suggested:

a) Build up your credit in the 'favour bank' - help other peple out and then they'll be more willing to help you out in the future.

b) Work your audience. If you're presenting something to a committee, sound out some of the members in advance. This doesn't have to be a hard sell, but ask them what they think of your propsal and whether they're willing to support it,

c) Don't necessarily puff yourself up or be over confident. Phil cited the rheotical technique of diminutio: using phrases like, 'Im no expert, but it seems to me...'. It was pointed out afterwards that this isn't always the best technique - sometimes you do just have to sell yourself and your library as loudly as possible.

I really enjoyed this talk - even though mine came immediately afterwards and I was prompted to refine what I was going to say to be a little more persuasive...

Writing an Heritage Lotter Fund grant bid

Jonathan Harrison, of Senate House Library, rounded off the day with a case study about Heritage Lottery FUnd bids at St John's College, Cambridge.

St John's College Library has made successful bids for 'Your Heritage' grants for cataloguing and outreach projects based on the papers of Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001), and Samuel Butler (1835-1902). Jonathan suggested that the St John's bids were successful because both Hoyle and Butler are interesting and controversial figures (don't be afraid to 'embrace the embarrassing' people that you might have in your collections), because of team working within the library (two pairs of eyes to read the appication), because of the College's willingness to open up to the outside world, and because those involved conveyed belief and enthusiasm.

Your Heritage grants:
  • are aimed at first-time applicants
  • offer between £3,000 and £50,000
  • are for projects that will last up to three years
  • have the priorities learning, taking part and preserving
  • will fund up to 95% of the cost of the project
  • have no deadline - you can apply any time
  • have a single-round application process
  • make a decision within 10 weeks of receiving the application
  • are hands-off once the project gets going
  • have a high percentage of successful applications

Jonathan's tips for making a successful bid :
  • Before you start, survey your collection: find out what you've got, and what needs doing (in terms of cataloguing and conservation)
  • Set out clear aims
  • Have a realistic project timetable
  • Explain who will benefit and how
  • Include evidence of consultation
  • Show how the project outcomes will be sustained after the end of the project
  • Set out your costs clearly
  • Include good visuals
  • Amass letters of support - from famous or important people, and/or from the 'everyday' people who will benefit
  • Make use of the HLF offer to look over your application before you submit it!

HLF confernece report 2: using what we have

I'm grouping my write-ups from the HLF conference loosely according to topic, not in the order appeared.  This is the second post of three.

Collections in a Cold Climate

Alison Cullingford, of @speccollbrad, 100 Objects Bradford, RLUKUDC and other fame, gave the third talk of the day. She spoke about 'Collections in a Cold Climate: Caring for and Sharing Special Collections in difficult times'.

Alison offered 5 arguments in favour of special collections, and 10 things for us to think about and do. (She apologised that this doesn't add up to 23.)

Selling points:

1) Special collections are a treasure trove. Their uniqueness is not merely pretty frippery: it can have hard financial benefits.

2) We're about much more than text: it doesn't matter if Google Books has the text, your particular book is still important because of its story.

3) The power of the real: things being online isn't the same - people still want to see the real physical object.

4) Learning, teaching and research. The style of teaching (across school and university, I think), is increasingly geared towards engagement with primary material. We're the people that can make that happen.

5) Sharing via Amazing! New! Technology! is now easier that every before. There are fewer gatekeepers to the outside world: we can talk about our own collections, rather than going through intermediaries.

The things we should think about in caring for and sharing our collections are:

1) Proclaiming our value. Don't hide light under a bushel, don't be afraid to use robust language and to speak in the jargon that the people with the money respond to.

2) FInd partners and use them. Work out who's speaking on your behalf in your organisation and make use of them. Identify the people with soft power, too.

3) Be 'lazy' - don't try and do everything yourself, but try and find people who'll do it for you, e.g. collaborating with museums on schools work.

4) Explore new tech. Know what's out there, but you don't have to use it all.

5) Think about mission and strategy, i.e. work out how everything fits together, and which things you don't have to do.

6) Make the best use of your, or your staff's time. Staff time may be the only resource you have, so value it.

7) Dare to think creatively. You can't do more of the same with less of the same, but you can do something different instead. In Alison's case this means exhibiting online, not in a physical space.

8) Skills matter. Use the Rare Books and Special Collections Group framework (or the ALA equivalent) to campaign for training. Market yourself as someone with specialist skills and knoweledge.

9) Know what's going on - what the agendas are, and how you can use them to your advantage.

10) Share your own number 10. Mine is to use the enthusiasms of the people that you have - Alison added that if you do that you have to account for what'll happen if they leave!

If you want to know more, Alison has a book coming out soon.

The RLUK Unique and Distinctive Collections Project will be producing a report about special collections of all kinds and not just in RLUK libraries next September.

Using volunteers at Bishopgate's Institute

Edward Weech spoke about how the Library of the Bishopsgate Institute using volunteers to enhance what they can do and offer.  He was clear that they do not use volunteers to replace paid staff, but use them to work on specific projects that couldn't otherwise be undertaken.

Volunteers are used in the library to help with a retrospective cataloguing project.  There are a number of rules governing the volunteers' work: each volunteer comes in for half a day per week, and there is a miniumum commitment of three months.  Their travel expenses are paid, are their work is also recognised with twice-termly tea and cakes, a newsletter, a volunteering certificate, and (for those who have volutneered for 40 hours or more) a reference.  It was noted that not all the volunteers want to have tea, cakes, newsletters etc. - some just want to get on and catalogue!

Volunteers are generally recruited from retired librarians, library school students, and people currently working in libraries who would like to gain cataloguing experience.  Volunteers are expected already to have computing skills, and ideally to have knowledge of library work, library management systems, and possibly cataloguing.  There are around 6 volunteers at any given time.  The longest-serving has now been there four years, but some, especially those who have negotiated time away from work to participate, will only stay the minimum three months.

All of the volunteers' work is checked by staff before it is unsuppressed on the OPAC.  This means that, along with training and supervision, there is quite a lot of staff time invested in the volunteering programme. Since the retrospective cataloguing project started in 2005, 50,000 records have been added to the catalogue in total, of which 8,600 were added by volunteers (that's about 17%).

The benefits of the volunteer invovlement is not therefore that they're a cheap way of creating lots of catalogue records.  The benefits, as described by Edward are that the staff learn from the volunteers (whether they're students with new ideas, or more experienced librarians who have worked in other libraries), and that the Library and Institute are promoted by the volunteers and advocated for when they go elsewhere.

Friends Organisations

Karen Attar spoke about the Friends of Senate House Library. The Friends were founded in 1988, and in 2009 had a relatively modest membership of 140. Karen noted that the library's posistion within London, and within the University of London meant that it doesn't necessarily have a distincitve attraction for the general public.  However, the Friends have contributed to the Library, particularly through funds raised from bequests.  They have bought books and other materials, paid for conservation work and materials, paid for cataloguing, and have developed a 'Befriend a Book' programme.

The Friends of Senate House Library organise a variety of events including talks, visits, book club meetings and a newsletter.  Interestingly, special exhibition viewings don't need to be 'private' - the addition of a curator talk and some refreshments makes it a good draw for members.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

HLF conference report 1: in summary

I'm just back from the Historic Libraries Forum annual meeting, held at the Royal Asiatic Scociety in London.

First of all, a few words about the HLF.  
The HLF is great - it's free to be a member, they offer advice about libraries under threat, how to run a historic library and so on, they have great training courses, a newsletter, a mentoring scheme, and both of their conferences that I've been to have been interesting and friendly. Do spread the word!

They have a Facebook page (if that's your thing) and are thinking about getting onto Twitter.

And now down to business
My talk was about cpd23, and particularly about its usefulness for small libraries in hard times.

I was pleased to see that quite a few of the audience had already heard about cpd23 (although only two of them were active participants), and that a lot of them were keen to hear more about how social media could be relevant to them.

A few interesting points were raised in the questions afterwards.

One person commented that this was the 'sort of thing that CILIP should be doing'. Which is maybe true (though it's worth noting that 'CILIP HQ' did help us with publicity, and that local groups held cpd23 meet-ups), but I think the beauty and success of ideas like cpd23 is that they're spontaneously (and somewhat anarchically) organised by otherwise unconnected groups of keen people. It was also pointed out that 'CILIP is all of us'.

A question was asked about real-life examples of how the cpd23 Things are useful, particularly in a historic libraries context, or in my own extra-professional interest in library history. On the first, widening access via social media (blogs, Flickr, etc.) is a big draw (and this is something that was discussed later), as well as using productivity tools to make your working life more efficient. On the second, what would I do without Zotero?

The issue of time was raised: how do I time to get this all done? Personally, it's by having a wonky work-life balance, but participants could and did do the course in work time (as it's professional training after all), or in their own time. It isn't necessarily a huge commitment of time. This tied into a correction of my assertion that cpd23 and similar courses are 'free'. It was rightly pointed out that they don't cost anything in monetary terms, but that they do cost time (for participants and, especially, for organisers). But on the other hand, that time is often still cheaper than attending traditional courses. Especially for freelance people, or those without solid institutional backing, for whom professional development can often be costly, or ignored.

I'd like to thank everyone there for being so welcoming to the cpd23 idea - I hope that, if people try it out, they find something useful!

Plugs and things
The Hurd Library, an episcopal library housed in Hartlebury Castle, former Bishops' Palace for the Diocese of Worcester has a blog. The Hurd Library has had a tough time in the last few years, but a really superb group of people are fighting hard to keep it in its rightful place, to care for the collections, and to enable access.

Omeka is open source, freely-available, online exhibition software.

Alison Cullingford is working on the RLUK Unique and Distinctive Collections project and is happy, nay *keen* to go and speak about the project. Invite her to your conferences!

Notes on the other (fab) speakers to follow.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

#cpd23 Thing 14: Zotero, Mendeley, citeulike

Regular readers may recall that last summer, during 23 Things Cambridge, I auditioned Zotero and Mendely for my regular bibliography-compiling, reference management needs.

'Crepes goodness' by Klardrommar on Flickr
a treat
Over the last year I've come to favour Zotero.  I like the Firefox add-on - it means that the reference organising happens, in the main, right where I'm finding articles: online.  I've found recently that you can now also add Zotero library items online, which is a real boon!  The synching works a treat, and so does having nested folders to keep my library tidy.

That really is all I have to say about it, I think.  It works, it's dead handy, it makes life easier.

P.S. If anyone's interested, you can find my bibliographies in the journal Library & information history.

#cpd23 Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis, Dropbox

Google Docs is ace. It makes organising things like cpd23 and TeachMeet, where the people in charge don't all work in one place, a whole lot simpler than it would otherwise be. But it isn't perfect, so here's my quick list of pros and cons:

pros cons
You can edit your documents from any location with web access, and don't need to carry them around on memory sticks/email them to yourself. It can also act as additional backup. The editing can be quite slow, especially on older machines or slower internet connections.
Lots of different people can work on a document together without needing to keep emailing between each other. Changes made by individuals are logged (i.e. there's version control) and can be viewed later.You can't trust Google to hold things forever, or in the same format. It's better as a temporary/pro-tem tool, than as a long-term storage solution.
There's an in built chat window, so you can discuss with collaborators as you type. (The cpd23 organising crew used this to hold remote meetings) While there are word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools, and the option to import and export MS Office formats, the formatting won't carry over precisely between the Google and MS versions.
The spreadsheet tool also works as a form/survey tool, which sends its results into a Google spreadsheet. That's really useful for sign-up forms, evaluation surveys, etc.

'Red World III' by Evan Leeson on Flickr
Wikis have their uses. Wikipedia is obviously a huge success - the idea being that the iterative action of thousands of editors will move the encyclopedia towards ever greater comprehensiveness and accuracy. The evidence, for Wikipedia, suggests that this works. But we can't all make our own Wikipedias, so what else are they good for?

They're used for registering participants in several events/programmes, such as Library Day in the Life and the Library Routes/Roots project. This lets participants sign themselves up, and visibly, thus saving the time and energy of the organisers. The by product is that the time and energy of the organisers can be diverted into cleaning up the wiki when there have been accidental formatting errors and deletions. I don't think that wikis, as currently used, are necessarily the best tool for this sort of use, but they are at least quick and easy.

'Kópavogur 2011' by Karl Gunnarsson on Flickr
One recent use of wikis that caught my eye was as a thinking place and recording place for unconferences. This happened with Library Camp - a record of write-ups and notes is available here, and also (in REAL TIME!) as a record of Curate Camp (in the USA, and for people who curate things and data, not for new priests).

And here's a thing: using a wiki to organise your Chartership work.

Lastly, Dropbox. I have an account (maedchenimmond at gmail if anyone has anything to share). I know it's there. I haven't actually *used* it yet, but I'm sure that will change.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

#cpd23 Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

Using social media has pretty much transformed my professional outlook from prematurely bitter whinger to, well, determinedly enthusiastic and thoroughly overworked busy bee.

Nothing to do with the topic.
Eighteen months ago, or so, I started trying out social media/web 2.0 tools as part of the 23 Things Cambridge programme.  I only really did it because I was starting Chartership and thought it would look good in the portfolio.  At the time I was, and had been since I finished my MA, feeling pretty detached from the profession. Sure, I knew quite a few librarians and library staff, and I'd cast my eye over Update most months, but none of it seemed to connect to what I was doing or how I was working.

It turns out, of course, that what was wrong was my connection to the wider world, and not the wider world's connection to me.  By getting involved in (or just eavesdropping on) conversations on blogs and, above all, on Twitter, I began to see that there all sorts of amazing people out there doing exciting and interesting things, and, more remarkably, that they're happy to talk to little old me!

Wandering up to someone Big and Important at a conference is scary.  Answering if they ask a question or start a discussion on Twitter is less scary.  That for me, is the magic of social media in the professional context: you can type out your little thought, have a look at it, see if it makes any kind of sense, edit it, and then contribute.  Much easier than wandering up to someone, blurting out something embarassing, and scuttling off to hide behind a tea urn.

And why does it matter that the talking to people thing is easier online? Well, you find out about all sorts of cool stuff that's happening and that's been written, and about cool people who want to collaborate with you, or borrow your ideas, or just meet up.  And then, when you do meet them, there's so much less hiding behind urns and so much more useful networking.

Lastly, social media doesn't mind if you're having on off day, or week, or month.  You can disappear off into the shadows for a bit if you need some time to yourself, and that's fine.  When you come back things are still going on and people are still happy to see you.  Magic!

Edited 1 February 2012: This post has been published in the CILIP East of England branch magazine Sunrise as part of a special issue on social media.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

#cpd23 Thing 11: Mentoring

So, I haven't written a cpd23 post in about three millennia.  Thing 11 has been a real stumbling block for me (even worse than Thing 10, which was quite an effort, and for the very same reasons).  Formal mentoring is a part of the CILIP Chartership process, and I've been feeling very bad about how I've neither worked on my portfolio or contacted my mentor in months and months.

Good news folks!  Before starting this post, I emailed my mentor.  Hopefully this will get me back on track with Chartership.  And with that weight off my back, I feel a little more able to voice my thoughts about mentoring more generally.

Mentoring is, I reckon, a Good Thing. But the practicalities can be difficult.  Take Chartership, for example.  There's a big list of mentors, arranged by region, and with a few details of where they work or what they're interested in.  When you start Chartership you pick one of these, meet up with them, and you both decide if you want to keep each other.  Sounds OK in principle, but in practice, I think there's a lot of picking at random(ish) (you might decide for a different sector, or an interesting workplace, but you very little about the person really), and when you meet someone for the first time it's rare to take such a dislike to them straight away that you'd do the socially awkward thing of telling them you don't think it'll work.

This isn't to say that I don't like my mentor.  But I do wonder if whether, had I been active on social media at the very start of the Charterhsip process, I might have found someone there with whom I really clicked.  And being mentored by someone you're already in contact with probably means you'll be better at riding through, or getting help in, the times when you're not getting anything done...

The crux of mentoring issue for me is probably that the informal mentoring that develops all of its own accord when you're not looking is certainly easier to maintain, and possibly more useful.  I suppose that formal mentoring is handy when there's a specific need or goal to address.  And Chartership, for me, feels so damn nebulous that the formal mentoring can feel a bit directionless: is it aimed at career progression/training and development, or is the mentor there to help you through the writing up, or what?

So all in all, I'm a bit confused.  But I've always been a difficult person to please in the realm of teacher-pupil/mentor-mentee relationships (just speak to some of my previous cello teachers!).  When it works, it *really* works, but much of the time it leaves me flat.   I should work out how to work on that... 

Visit to Ipswich: three libraries

On Monday 22 August 2011 Abby Barker organised a visit to three Ipswich libraries for the CILIP East of England Branch.  I went along because I'd never been to Ipswich before, and because the libraries in question sounded pretty interesting and were from sectors I know little about : a private institute, a large FE college, and a new university.

These notes have been languishing, half-written, for months.  They're clearly never going to get written up in full, so I'm publishing this post in note form.

Grainy camera phone picture by yours truly
An entrance to a hidden world
Ipswich Institute

  • Founded in the nineteenth century for the purpose of educating mechanics.
  • Today it offers members a lending library, a coffee shop, space in the centre of town to sit down and read, and educational courses and talks.
  • It inhabits two historic buildings in centre of town. One has been its home for a long time, the other was acquired recently.
So what?
  • As with any organisation using historic buildings, the facilities aren't ideal. There currently isn't access to the first floors of the buildings (where many of the talks take place) for those who can't manage stairs, for example.
  • As a member organisation, everything they do has to be approved of by the membership. This means that innovation can be hard - things like using some coffee shop space for part of the library can cause upset. 
  • The Institute seems to function as a public library for some of its members. Obviously it's a tricky issue to wonder whether this library 'takes people away' the public libraries: they've paid for something, so why not enjoy it? But given the trouble facing public libraries this did just make me a little uneasy.
  • Several of the people on the visit were fairly local to Ipswich, and said that they'd seen the Institute doorway in the middle of town, and never really known what it was. I wonder how many other 'hidden gems' there are out there - and how much public libraries (or others) are like this for many people. To be fair, the Institute said that it's numbers were healthy and that they weren't particularly marketing themselves to get more.
Now what?

    'Suffolk New College, Ipswich, Suffolk' by mira66 on Flickr
    The swirly  Suffolk New College logo
    Suffolk New College (Learning Curve)

    • This is the library for an FE college

    So what? 
    • Crowd control: the librarian said this was better than it could be, but she still had to work to get people not to eat, to behave appropriately, etc.
    • Getting the students to make the most of the resources
      • The librarian has brought material for particular courses together on the shelf, rather than sticking rigidly to Dewey.  All sizes are also together - no oversize shelves.
      • Trying to make stuff appeal
      • Success with some subjects in getting librarians into induction sessions - trying to spread this through subjects
    • Getting stuff back - only very few books at a time - many go missing
    • Wider responsibilities are being given to the library as part of the development/reorganisation of the College (it seems as though continual change is part of the furniture):
    • Uncertainty about funding/future - this year's intake only known at enrolment at the start of September
    Now what?
    •  Think about how HE institutions (or public libraries) can and should be helping students come from an FE background like this: the library was well-run, but small.  How can we mitigate the overwhelmingness of the libraries they'll face later on?

      'Ipswich Marina' by Martin Pettitt on Flickr
      The Waterfront Building
      University Campus Suffolk
      (The library's web presence is almost entirely via a VLE, with no outward-facing webpage, so sorry - no handy link!)

      • UCS is very new.  It offers HE courses validated by other local universities.
      • Most of the campus is housed in brand new buildings (such as the Waterfront Building, right). 
      • The library is in an old ('60s) building that has been refurbished.
      • The Library is in a separate building to the rest of facilities, across a road from the rest of the campus 
      So what?
      • As the institution's so new, there's no 'average' student yet - changing student profile(s) mean that the services required keep changing.
      • A new institution undergoes constant change: for example, initially there was a Learning Resource Centre (i.e. computer room) in the Waterfront Building, which was very popular with students.  This has now been removed to make way for a tiered lecture theatre (requested by the student body).
        • Another new innovation for the new academic year is the inclusion of the library in the 'infozone' in the lobby of the Waterfront Building: hope it will help people find out about the library and how to use it.
      • Students come from a lot of different backgrounds, often not 'typical' HE backgrounds, so there's a heavy emphasis in the library on the accessibility of resources
        • DVDs are interfiled with books, not kept separately
        • The journals archive is colour-coded according to broad subject areas, so encourage people to use it by browsing
        • There's an emphasis on making more time and space for learning support and info literacy teaching
        • The library offers taster study-skills sessions before courses start - these are popular with new students and they find them useful.
        • Students can book time with a  subject librarian
      Now what?
      • What can an 'elitist' institution like Cambridge learn from libraries like UCS?  They go all out on making access as easy as possible: what's the best way for us to do similarly?  What are the barriers to us doing this?


      Thursday, 27 October 2011

      Shameless publicity for Cambridge Library Group

      I suspect that there are few locals reading this who don't already know about the group, but I like to be thorough with publicity so here goes...

      Cambridge Library Group is a Cambridge-based independent society for anyone interesting in libraries, books and/or information.  The Group has roughly monthly meetings throughout the year that are usually some combination of talk, tour, visit or discussion.  Every meeting starts with drinks and nibbles and a chance to natter (you might also call that networking time).  We think that we're the only such group in the country (pitch in if you know otherwise!)

      Membership is open to anyone who's interested - you don't have to work for any particular institution or type of library (or indeed a library at all), belong to any particular organisation, or hold any particular rank.  Membership is £10 for the year (£8 for retired members) and that gets you free entry to all our regular meetings, exclusive entry to occasional members-only meetings (including a chance at some peaceful Christmas browsing in Heffers on 8 December, and the Twelfth Night party at the CUP bookshop), and a reduced price for the garden party in July.

      If you don't want to commit to a year's membership then regular meetings are £3 each.

      Either way, you can find this year's programme here, and details about how to become a member here.

      Our next meeting is on Thursday 10 November: a tour of the Scott Polar Research Institute with Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Collections, starting at 5.30pm for a prompt 6pm.  Most events are 'turn up on the day', but owing to the venue and the nature of the tour, numbers are restricted at SPRI.  Places are going fast - please comment here pronto if you want a place!

      Friday, 14 October 2011

      Digital humanities, music and the Material Text

      Yesterday's Seminar in the History of Material Texts was given by Professor John Rink under the title 'The virtual Chopin'.  I often go to the seminars, but rarely write them up here.  This time I will, because I'm on a blogging roll, and because I do after all have a degree in music and therefore actually understood the ins-and-outs of the talk and discussion.

      First photograph of Chopin, 1847
      from Wikimedia Commons
      What's the issue?
      Editing the works of Chopin is a tricky business.  Each work is likely to exist in multiple sources, and these sources generally don't agree with each other.  Types of source include:
      •  preliminary sketches
      • reject public manuscripts
      • Stichvorlagen (copies from which music engravers created the plates to print from)
      • proof copies
      • 1st editions
        • These were usually simultaneously produced in England, Germany, and France, for copyright reasons.
          • Getting exemplars to three separate publishers happened in different ways through Chopin's life: sometimes proof sheets from one were sent to the other two, sometimes copies of one autograph MS would be made by an emanuensis, and at the end of Chopin's life he would make three copies of the MS himself.
        • They were printed in very small numbers at a time (25-100 copies), and corrections could be made after each run, so there are very many varying impressions of each edition.
      • Other autograph sources, such as music written in visiting books or given as gifts to patrons
      • Other non-autograph sources, such as pupils' annotations on printed copies.
      Why does that matter?
      The result of this multiplicity of sources are that it's not easy for editors and performers to determine what is the 'right' version.  If the French and English first editions have different notes in them, how do you choose which to print and which to play?

      Rink identified a few places where copying or engraving errors have serious aural and structural implications for the music, most notably, the mistaken placement of a repeat sign in the first movement of the B-flat minor sonata.  The standard reading has the repeat marked as starting from bar 5, but Chopin's MS shows only a double bar here (no repeat dots) - the repeat should start from the very beginning of the movement, which makes a lot more harmonic sense.

      A way through the thicket
      It will be little surprise to hear that there is no 'right' answer to the question. Particularly in the case of Chopin, whose compositional methods and style are heavily influenced by performance and improvisation, a single definitive version of a work simply can't be pinned down.  But there are ways of helping to decide what you should do:
      • no source should be considered in isolation
      • don't take the contents of the source at face value: interpret them in context
      • the 'law of averages' is likely to be inappropriate: just because 7 sources have one thing and 1 has something else, that lonely 1 might be more 'valid' than the others.
      • multiple interpretations may be valid, even though you can only perform one at a time.

      Editors vs performers
      The solutions will be different for editors and performers.  Performers can only play one version of any given bar (or beat, or chord) at a time.  They *have* to choose--and they generally don't like to, wanting to be able to play the 'right version--but are also at liberty, if they can justify it on musical and historical grounds, to choose as they please (and perhaps even different version at different parts of a work).  Editors, however, have a responsibility to give the full picture, as far as is feasible.  In the case of the multiple variants of Chopin, it's pretty hard to show them all on a printed score.

      The digital bit
      Digital technology obviously ways of presenting all the variants that cannot be allowed for in print publications. Rink leads two research projects with online outputs:
      The second allows the side-by-side comparison of individual bars from manuscripts and first editions.

      It's amazing, and somewhat overwhelming, for the lay (or lay-ish) person to be able to compare all these different versions.  But it's certainly a good thing.  Without being overly flashy, or getting caught up in theory or grand claims, this is a very useful thing.

      And that's pretty much all I have to say.
      Screenshot of opening of Ballade no. 3 in A-flat, Op. 47. Note that the first printed bar (1st impression of French 1st edition) has a missing flat in front the the second D, which is corrected in the next image, the 2nd French impression.

      Thursday, 13 October 2011

      #libcampuk11 session 4: using wikimedia to improve access

      (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

      In this session Andy Mabbett introduced us to ways of using wikimedia (the parent organisation (owned by the Wikimedia Foundation) to Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikimedia commons, etc.).  Andy is a real evangelist for making the most of wiki* to benefit your own organisations or products.

      GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums)
      Wikimedia is actively seeking to encourage collaboration from heritage organisations, as you can see from the GLAM outreach wiki. Andy described a 'backstage pass event' he'd been to at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Wikipedia editors had been invited along to a day's event, to have talks and tours about and around the museum, and a cup of tea and a biscuit, all with the aim in getting more coverage of the museum and its holdings.  Andy pointed out that by doing a little to make people special, they will do lots in return: 1,200 new articles (and translations) were created as a result of this one-day event (including this one about a racing pigeon).

      There are all sorts of potential events that you can run to engage the local community, or the community of wikipedia editors, that will benefit your organisation in terms of improved visibility.

      Putting stuff on wiki*
      There are two criteria for including an article on Wikipedia:
      1. it must be about a notable thing - i.e. something that's written about elsewhere
      2. you have to cite what you say - you can't include original research or unsupported statements.
      This leaves a lot of scope for GLAMs to include articles about themselves, their collections and their notable holdings.  You can't have an article (or links to) every single hand axe in the country, but if you're is significant, or you have a copy of book that exists in very low numbers, than that's worthy of inclusion.

      You can also release images, video, audio and animations on Wikimedia Commons.  It's good to release material with a licence allowing reuse with attribution - and then your pictures can be used anywhere, and will link back to your organisation. 

      If you have a large volume of images, Wikimedia can help with batch imports, and they maintain their servers so that the images are preserved.  In addition, the pictures are now available to all sorts of people who'll be able to help identify them and items in them.

      QRpedia (intro | intro on GLAM wiki | actual site)
      QRpedia is a doohickey that makes QR codes to link to Wikipedia pages. When someone scans the code, QRpedia return the wikipedia page in the phone's language where possible (interesting discussion of 'difficult' languages here).  Why is this cool? It means that visitors can get information about things in your exhibition in their own language without you having to make three hundred different signs.  Obviously, if you link to a very specific page there will be fewer language options that a very general one, but translations are increasing all the time...

      We were encouraged to sign up for an account and to start editing Wikipedia pages, for example by correcting punctuation or by translating an article (e.g. into Simple English) (Andy suggested hitting the 'random article' button until you found something that needed tidying up).  I've set up my account, and have done my first editing (a very undramatic addition of a link at the end of an article).

      I found this session really useful.  Wikipedia is out there, and the very thing that means that some people view it as shady and disreputable is the thing that makes it powerful for us: we can edit it.  I think it's a great idea that organisations use Wikipedia to improve their online presence: people will be looking us up there, so why not give them good information, and decent links to our own sites?

      However, I can imagine that selling the use of wikipedia (e.g. via qrpedia as a help to visitors) might be difficult to sell to the organisation... or it might be seen as lazy.  Do other people think it's something they could get agreement to do?

      And finally...
      For those interested in that sort of thing, there's also a linked-data-y DBpedia: "a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available on the Web"

      Wednesday, 12 October 2011

      #libcampuk11 session 3: Enabling reuse of library/catalogue data

      (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

      This session was facilitated by Owen Stephens, who does lots of digital library stuff, is involved in mashedlib events, and is lovely. (He could probably write a better bio than that, though.)  I'm really keen to learn more about the techy side of librarianing, so I was really pleased to see him offer this session.  It was very interesting - and I've come away with an idea for something that would made catalogues more useful for some rare books users, and lots of places to start finding out more.  My notes are a bit sketchy - a lot of links and a few ideas. Sorry about that.

      The issues Owen said he hope to discuss in the session were "How do places with data interact with people who want to use it?" and "How do we make data available?".

      Why do organisations publish data?
      • Accountability: by releasing data people can see what's been done and for how much money. Etc.
      • To increase the available services. 
        • People 'out there' will be able to do things that you don't have the resources to do yourself.
        • They'll also think of better things to do with your data, and by combining your data with data from other places.
        • An example that covers both of these is the public toilet map.
      • NB, the government is currently consulting on what data Local Government should release: Making Open Data Real
      What does this have to do with libraries?
      Library catalogues have imposed on them librarian- or supplier-made decisions about what can/can't be searched and in what way.  Some of these decisions are limited by current cataloguing rules, but not all; often the data is recorded, but not in a usable way, or is there but isn't tapped by the intereface.  For example, in most catalogues you can limit by publication type to newspapers, but you can't limit by frequency of the issues.  Releasing data means that people can start to use it in the way they want to.

      Releasing data: issues
      Different uses will require different kinds of data release.  To work on the newspapers query above, a dump of all the MARC (i.e. cataloguing) information would be OK.  But for an app using circulation data you'd need to use a live API.
      Data protection is obviously a big issue for some kinds of data.  But it's not a deal-breaker.  You can base locations on postcode zone, not individual postcodes for example, or for course-based datasets (in a uni context), just not include data from very small courses.

      Useful links 

      Monday, 10 October 2011

      #libcampuk session 2: special collections

      (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

      In my best spirit of 'things will just work themselves out', I pitched a session for special collections librarians and anyone else interested at which we would (and I quote) "talk about stuff". Aim low, I say, and you can't fail!  We had a session. We talked. I got some ideas. I hope other people did to - thanks to those who came for making it good.  In retrospect (and based on experience in later sessions in the day) I reckon I could have probably been more of a proactive 'session leader', maybe by asking a starter question to get discussion going, or by starting off my describing my experience and ideas. I really didn't want to come across as hogging the limelight, or as though I was just telling people what I thought - I'm no expert, and I wanted to hear from everyone else.

      Anyway, here's my write-up...  This is a combination of my notes from the day and my later reflections. 

      The session attendees fell roughly into three types:
      1. People with responsibility for special collections, but not as their main work, who are trying to work out what to do with them.
      2. People whose job is special collections who're looking for ways to make the most of what they've got.
      3. People who want to know more about special collections/special collections work.
      We started off with a quick, impromptu, round-up of Laura's MA dissertation research into exhibitions in libraries (the full dissertation will be online in due course).  Laura looked at the ways in which different institutions create exhibitions, and the feelings of those responsible for them about what training and support they needed in their roles.

      Outreach: some issues
      Special collections have been for too long treated as 'private libraries' and that's just not right. Very very few collections are of purely local interest - they are all relevant to wider research, history, stories, culture, etc. Special collections might even be one way of helping libraries in this time of peril - they are by their definition unique.  They're a way of demonstrating the value of libraries, or a unique selling point for individual institutions. (Whilst this is true to some extent, I'm wary of using special collections as a rallying point, as it might be seen to imply that all the other work that libraries do is obsolete, which I don't believe for one second.)

      But getting started with widening access can be hard: time, money, co-operation from the organisation, hidden-ness of some libraries or special collections departments (it's hard to increase access if visitors have to be individually signed in and given a badge!) are all problems.

      Which is better: physical exhibition or online?
      If you have limited resources, which should you do? Is it better to draw out the stories behind objects, or to allow people access to the magic of the real thing? Both are good. Either are good. Any kind of improvement to access is good.  Andy Mabbett plugged his afternoon session about using Wikipedia (and Creative Commons licences allowing re-use) to increase access.  Other image/digitisation projects mentioned were Culture Grid, People's Collection Wales, and Europeana.

      What if we become popular?
      In small institutions it's easy to get scared that if you start to promote your collections, perhaps online via digital reproductions/blogs/etc., you'll suddenly be inundated with real-life visitors wanting to see the originals.  It's true that if you have information about your collections available online then the number of people enquiring about them will increase.  But this really shouldn't stop you showing off a bit: there are various ways to cope with the threat of popularity:
      • you can state outright that you have an online exhibition for the reason that you don't (currently) have facilities for physical exhibitions, and have no visitor facilities.
      • you can formulate a policy about what sort of visitors/readers can be admitted (e.g. 'academic research' only), and either publicise it or use it in response to queries.
      • if you do receive increased in-person interest in your collection(s) its a good way to demonstrate your collection's value to senior management, and possibly to gain extra resources. 
        • Anne from Ulster cited the example of The Ireland Collection, developed by JSTOR in association with Queen's University Belfast, which has raised the profile of the university across the world, but has also raised the profile of special collections within the university.
      What are 'special collections'?
      A good question! And one that it's important to keep answering.  Those 'in the know' might realise the breadth of the field, but those with small collections of 'special' things might not realise that they fall under the umbrella - they might think that 'special collections' might just mean the 'jewel in the crown' items like medieval manuscripts.  Some ideas as to what counts:
      • old, rare, fragile, valuable
      • coherent - items from a person/place/institution/time/purpose
      • significant - local, has a story, belonged to a person...
      • archival material (I'm editing out the long discussion of the overlap and interplay between spec colls and archives. I can't face trying to construct the necessary Venn diagram...)
      Special collections aren't just 'piles of books'. It was interesting to hear tales of items being rescued from skips (things that others didn't value but that libraries do) vs donations that we wish we could put in skips - even a donation of books previously weeded from the same library!

        Hidden special collections - some possibilities
        The part of the session that I found most interesting was a discussion spurred on by a librarian who works in a private company library - not your traditional special collections hunting ground. But it turned out that they have a small-ish collection of company archival material, including auction records, house plans, and other lovely things.  They get about one reader for it a year - which to my mind isn't bad for something so hidden away (there's a brief listing on their main library catalogue, which is a good start, cataloguing wise).  But it sounded like a collection that has huge potential - for research, for public engagement, and to enhance the prestige of a long-established company.

        Some of the problems I saw for institutions holding collections of this type were:
        • people don't know what their stuff counts as - special collections? archives? local history? none of the above?
        • they don't know what the audience for it is
        • they don't know how best to store it
        • they don't know how to promote it
        • they don't know who can help them with it
        And so it languishes in a store room, costing money in storage costs...

        What to do?  The one sentence answer (to my mind) is: find a partner institution, to help with storage/care/cataloguing but also access/promotion/development. Many libraries and archives will accept donations or deposits (the terms of deposits vary individually, but there are ways of entrusting a collection and the care of said collection to an institution whilst retaining ownership by the origination company) from outside bodies, according to their existing specialist areas, collection strengths, and collection development policies.  The same, or other, institutions might be able to help with getting the collection used - with research projects, with community projects, with all sorts of things. If I were a better librarian I'd add links here.  Comment if you have good examples!

        And finally...
        Not mentioned in the session but probably useful:

        Sunday, 9 October 2011

        #libcampuk11 session 1: cataloguing and classification (#hvcats)

        (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

        I suggested this session in advance on the wiki. Adrienne stood up to pitch for it on the day - thank you!  The session pretty much ran itself - after intros (some 'expert' cataloguers, some who 'only catalogue to in house rules', some who 'will have to start cataloguing soon and haven't much experience yet', some systems folk and some just interested) various ideas and problems were discussed by the group.  Here are my notes (I've removed identities to protect the innocent...):

        We started with a comment inspired by the introductions: "Lots of people say that they 'don't follow a proper standard'. So what is the point of major international standards? Maybe it's only the national libraries that need/want to follow such standards.  Perhaps RDA moves some way, with the idea of 'cataloguer's choice', towards allowing greater freedom for individual organisations to creat their own scheme."

        "Maybe the most important thing is to get the data in in some form or other - 'mark it and park it'.  We need to ask what the motivation is for creating 'beautiful' records using loads of different obscure fields and all the right punctuation."

        "Some places aren't doing that now. [E.g. libraries in private companies] But there is value in big institutions 'doing it properly'."

        "But what is 'doing it properly'? Different users have different needs [example given of a researcher wanting to look at e.g. female authors of poetry in a given century, but we don't currently record genders of authors.] MARC is difficult to use - it's hard to meet the users' needs with it."

        "It's hard to meet user needs because cataloguers don't get much feedback about how their cataloguing is used.  [Example: not having it explained that the date in the leader is what's used for date-limited searches, so it's really important that it's there... There are lots more examples like this]"

        "Do we have feedback buttons on OPACs so that users can report mistakes in records? Are we keeping our user data and actually examining it meaningfully?"

        "So how to standards fit into this? Do we want standards or not?"

        "We want good standards. Web-friendly standards, e.g. URLs  for authors (i.e. linked data).  That's a different issue to on-the-ground cataloguing issues which are about how to identify which author a given work has, for e.g. (matching to authorities)."

        "How good/useful is Dublin Core in this context?"

        "There are lots of things available (Dublin Core, SXML, JSON...?) - stuff that helps cataloguers.  But some people (e.g. rare books) nee more fields/more granularity than available in DC."

        "Dublin Core, or whatever, won't be the solution if we just use it in the old way - with a reliance on punctuation, not separating components of an author's name, etc."

        "What about classfication? [Insert institution name here] has a frightful mess."

        "[Company library] has a bad classification system because it's not fine-grained enough.  There are lots anf lots of not very similar books all at one number."

        "What the point of classification? Why not just label the shelves?"

        "If it's done well, classification marked in the catalogue can be used to subject retrieval."

        "Does anyone actually do that?"

        "Perhaps it could be done retrospectively for closed access material - classify, and then extract textual subject information from the class no. and display that on catalogue.  Then shelve by running nos, etc. as is more efficient."

        "[A library] use complicated UDC but isn't browsed much - a mis-match of effort vs use."

        "OCLC are using DDC for book recommendations.   But what is the point of DDC?"

        "A legacy of the physical library. Class at the shelf is useful in a physical library for browsing.  The OPAC/online world hasn't yet replicated this yet, and that's a big issue."

        "Also an issue for e-books."

        "[A question from a systems librarian:] Do we enjoy cataloguing?"


        "We need to see more of the systems people so that we can collaborate and explain our side of the story."

        "Cataloguers make good systems people - if you can write an all-singing, all-dancing MARC record, you can probably code just fine!"

        "So how do we get a systems job?"

        "Go to a mashlib event!"

        "Learn and practice in your own time. Try building something! Fashionable programming languages are: python, php, perl [and one that I wrote so poorly I really can't decipher it... sorry.] [ETA Adrienne has identified it as ruby]"


        Conclusions: we need to re-evaluate what we're doing and how in collaboration with the people who have the data about what people are doing and trying to do with our catalogues, and can build the systems we want.

        Resources (plugged at the end of the session):

        #libcampuk11: an unconference to remember

        I'm just back from the UK's first Library Camp: an unconference for librarians held in Birmingham and organised by a team of wonderful, hard-working people.  People were *really* looking forward to it - it seemed like all of Twitter was going to be there - so I was a little concerned in advance that it might not live up to the hype.  I needn't have worried: it was superb.  Even getting up at 4.15am (and not getting home again until 11pm) and two visits to New St station didn't put a damper on it.

        'Night Light' by avhell on Flickr
        I took part in the following sessions, and will write about those separately soon:
        My opinions and thoughts on the event as a whole:
        • Everyone was very friendly.  At the intros at the start lots of people said they were there to meet people, so that shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was really very, very nice.
        • I think there was a good balance between organisation and chaos.  
          • Having people pitch their session ideas ended up with a wide range of different sessions, which seemed to fall into a few vague 'streams' of  related topics.
          • The timings were pretty good, everyone seemed to respect the balance between enjoying the current activity and getting on to the next. Unlike a 'proper' conference there was no slow by steady creep of everything getting later and later as people keep on talking to their slides past their allotted time...
          • Not only was there cake, there was plenty of tea and coffee and a nice coffee area to sit and talk/eat/rest.
          • I was a bit dubious about giving everyone there a chance to introduce themselves (with name, where they're from and why they've come), but think it was a good idea.  It did take a while to do, and there's no way you can remember everyone there, but it's a nice way to identify a few people you'd like to speak to later, and to break the ice.
        • I only went to 4 of 5 possible sessions - decided to bunk off the last (nothing in particular attracted my attention, and I was pretty tired) and sat around with other crafters having #knitcamp instead.  All lovely people, and no feeling of guilt that I wasn't 'getting the most' from the event.
        • Sorry to people I didn't say hello to, or whom I only said hello and nothing more to. Would have loved to have time to talk to more of you!

        Saturday, 1 October 2011

        Can you help? British library history 2006-2010

        I've been invited to write the chapter on 'library history' for the forthcoming British librarianship and information work 2006-2010, edited by John Bowman.

        Obviously, I'm be scouring the literature myself to determine trends, significant publications, events of note, and suchlike.  But I would like to hear from others, too.  I am particularly keen to hear about:
        • conferences whose proceedings have not (yet) been published, and that I might otherwise miss
        • online projects, resources and databases that might not be mentioned in the traditional literature
        • any particular trends that you have noticed in recent years and think are worthy of note (ideally with supporting evidence!)

        The scope of the book is work in the UK from 2005 to 2010. You need not mention the Cambridge History - that will be getting a section all of its own.

        Please pass this message on to anyone you know who may have an opinion to share.  Thank you!

        Thursday, 29 September 2011

        Give your (#libcampuk11) cake a QR code

        I break my blogging drought with a quick post fleshing out an idea I had yesterday evening.

        You may have heard of Library Camp - an 'un-conference'-style event happening a week Saturday in Birmingham.  The good people organising it have invited attendees to bring along a cake (we all know that librarians like cake).

        Some people have been talking about making their own name badges, and including QR codes on them so that people with smartphones can find out more about the person in front of them.  Well, that's all well and good, but what about those of us who are more interested in new cake recipes than other people?

        And lo! The idea of QR codes for cake was born.  Thus far in life, I've been a bit QR-code ambivalent. But being able to get to the recipe for a cake you're currently eating - sounds perfect to me.  Carrying on reading if you want a step-by-step guide...

        Tuesday, 30 August 2011

        #cpd23, Thing 10: Routes into librarianship

        Well, I really enjoyed the elephants in the last post. 'Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation' is rather hard to illustrate with animals, though. But maybe there's something I can do with it. It's all about our 'journey' (cue slushy music) as librarians, isn't it? And when I think of journeys, I think of nothing so much as the majestic bison wending its way across the plains (cue David Attenborough)...

        'Bison herd' by Alan Vernon on Flickr
        "Here, in the Hayden valley, Wyoming..."

        Now, I've talked about my route into librarianship fairly recently, so if you want to know all the ins and outs I'll point you over here, and those that have already read the tale won't end up like this fellow:

        'Sleeping bison' by Carl Wainwright on Flickr
        What do bison dream about?

        In this instalment of the story, I really ought to talk about Chartership, and my progress (or lack thereof) towards it. Having completed my part-time LIS MA in September 2008, by early 2010 I had pretty much got used to my not having essays to write in every spare moment, and thought I was ready for a new challenge. I also new that the job hunt would be looming in a year's time. These two factors combined to convince me to register for Chartership.  I'd been engaging in a fair amount of professional development since graduation (the nature of my job demanded it), so I felt that I had the material for a good portfolio.  I found a mentor, went to some Chartership course, and got involved in things to add to the portfolio evidence.  I set myself an ambitious deadline for completion. So far, so good.  But things have a habit of not turning out how you think they will.

        'starting my qiviut lace scarf' by andreakw on Flickr
        Did you know that you can turn bison into knitting?

        The trouble is, that I got so involved with so many great things, that Chartership has fallen by the wayside. I made six months' decent progress: drawing up necessary development plan, meeting my mentor, writing up some of my experiences, and creating a beautiful portfolio template that just requires me to fill in all the blanks. Around about Christmas and shortly afterwards the job situation resolved itself (at least temporarily), my extra-curricular involvement stepped itself up another notch or too and Chartership really hasn't had a look in since.  Dear mentor, if you are reading this, sorry.

        It's time I faced facts: I need to sort myself and get on and finish this.

        '~ buff1 ~' by ViaMoi on Flickr
        A face you can't ignore. (I should point out that my mentor looks nothing like this. This is mor a representation of my inner annoyance at letting Chartership drag on.)

        Probably the first step should be to contact my mentor.  I've been putting that off and off and off not least because I feel I should have done some work first. So maybe I should do some work - draw up a plan, at least - and then get in touch.

        Hopefully this public self-shaming will encourage me into doing something, anything. All encouragement gratefully received. Is anyone else in a similar position? Want to team up, and motivate each other together?

        Yours, abjectly,