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.