Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Thing 20: Library Routes

Well I already did this one in Thing 10 so I thought I'd had a little read through some other people's journeys and see how they compare to mine. I've always found when attending events and looking at other participants of things like CPD23 that preey much everyone else seem to be working in academic libraries, so I was thrilled to find that the first post I read was of a library assistant who had started out in public libraries before getting qualified, having previously toyed with the idea of publishing (just like me)! It was fascinating to read a story with so many similarities to mine.
Here's a few links to the stories I read:
Zoe Sharp, Library Assistant.
Penny Robertson, Assistant Librarian - Extended Hours, Oxford Brookes University.
Jennifer McParland, Deputy Music Librarian, Bodleian Libraries.
Nikki Herriott, Information Services Librarian.
Emma Cragg, Senior Information Librarian, University of Oxford.
I pretty much just picked random ones, but I was also drawn to anyone who mentioned Oxford in their description, since that's where I'm based.

Thing 19: Catch up week on integrating 'things'

So far, this programme has introduced me to many new things and made me try out a whole load of things I knew existed but just hadn't quite got round to playing with yet. So which has been the most useful?? There are a couple that come to mind, but the I think the thing that has had the most impact is definitely Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events. After reading this post I dragged myself to a CILIP Thames Valley event (having previously had a bad experience)and actually enjoyed myself. Granted it was Phil Bradley talking about social media which I was probably guaranteed to enjoy but still, it broke down a few barriers in my mind. The evening not only encouraged me to try and get out there a bit more, but it also in a very practical way introduced me to some new tools just like CPD23. The best of these has to be Zite which I have now use daily. It's a brilliant app/website that creates a personalised magazine for me that is constantly updated. You tell it what your interests are and it searches the web for articles and collects them all in one place for me. I find it is particularly helpful for keeping up to date with things going on in the library world as I can see so the headlines of so many articles from all over the place and pick out the ones that interest me most. Because the articles come from so many sources I am continually discovering things that I would never have otherwise found. And because I can give stuff a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' the content is gradually becoming more and more readable. So there we have it.. the most useful thing that has so far come out of CPD23 is Zite, so thanks to Phil Bradley, and thanks to Jo who wrote the post on Thing 15.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Thing 18: Jing / screen capture / podcasts (making and following them)

Argh! I keep meaning to do this one at home as I can't download Jing on my work computer but I keep forgetting. I want to press on and I don't like going from Thing 17 to Thing 19 - it just feels wrong! - so I'm writing a quick note to remind myself to do it this evening. I would like to use it to create a couple of guides to help people searching the public catalogue. We often get questions like "How can I see a list of DVDs you have in stock?" and it would be so useful to have a couple of videos showing how to set up a search to get this info. It's a bit difficult to explain in writing or over the phone so having something available to email or even put up on the website would be a massive improvement!

Thing 17: The Medium is the Message- Prezi and Slideshare

Well there's nothing like seeing other people's professional looking Prezi presentations to make you feel completely incompetent! I tried, I really did, but I am no good at this. I think I have difficulty visualising the bigger picture - because the templates are set up so you work on an area at a time I find it hard to imagine what it will look like when I'm finished. For me to be able to do this properly I think I would have to design on paper and then copy into Prezi which at the moment I just don't have time to do. I do have an idea of a presentation I would like to make, but it will just have to wait until I have a bit more time. And some better graphics. There would be nothing worse than a well made presentation peppered with clip art images!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

This week's Thing struck a chord with me. As a public librarian (a rare breed, it sometimes seems) I am well aware of the need for advocacy. In the period where the most news of libraries closing was reaching the public and during our own authority's consultation period I was in an interesting position. At various points during our consultation I have been: a library assistant in a village library at risk of closure; a student at library school, following the news about library closures from an academic and research perspective; a librarian at a busy city centre library, and at all times; a library user. At times it has felt a bit like being on the front lines - particularly in a village library. The response to the possibility of closure of the library was very interesting. People were obviously very upset and wanted to save the library, but the way in which they wanted to do it took me by surprise. Over and over again we heard the same mantra - "we'll take it over if we have to; we'll run it for free." This was a nice sentiment and was obviously well meaning - it showed just how much people cared, but as a member of staff it was a bit dismaying to say the least. It reinforced a feeling that I often get that many people don't really understand what it is that librarians and library assistants do. I remember a library campaigner coming to speak in one of my lectures who really annoyed everyone with his constant assertion that everyone had forgotten that libraries are about books, and his aggravation at the fact that CILIP "won't admit they are about books either". There is no doubt that libraries are about books, but they are about so much more than that: they are about people and getting people the information they want and need. The staff that are there to help are trained to do just that (and people would probably be surprised by the kinds of things we are asked to do every day)and if you take them away, or expect people to do it for free, then you run the risk of turning libraries into book depositories, where people can do no more that pick up and return books. When it comes to advocacy, my own personal crusade is probably less about the saving of libraries as about the saving of library professionals. I continually feel like I have to fight against people who, upon finding out what I do for a living assume that I have some kind of wonderful stress-free job. (It is wonderful, most of the time, but it's certainly not stress-free)! At one stage, the popular moneysavingexpert.com recommended that anyone wanting to make a little extra money might consider working in their local library as it is such a nice easy job. A quick look through the forums will reveal that there was such an uproar in response to this that it was removed from the site. I have to be honest and admit that I don't think I've done a great deal to try and change this image of library professionals, but I would certainly like to. I particularly liked the article what it takes to be a 21st century librarian. Building on what I said in Thing 15, perhaps this a possible topic for presentation at a conference?

Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events

I always like the idea of attending events more than I like actually going to them. To date I have been to the London Book Fair and the Online Information event. I also managed to get a funded place on the LIKE Ideas 2012: The Business of Social Media conference, but I was unable to go because of work. I think the problem is that I tend to go on my own and I'm not a particularly outgoing person, so I sort of drift around the areas that interest me and hope that someone else starts talking to me. This is definitely not a very good approach! Maybe actually speaking at one of these things would help me get over that barrier. I generally hate any kind of public speaking and have in the past made a complete fool of myself several times. Recently however I've been coerced into giving a library tour and induction to year 10 students; presenting a certificate in an adult learning class and holding a training session for volunteers. Each time it has gotten easier and I'm not quite as freaked out by the idea as I was. I think I need to get more organised, decide which events I want to attend and sort out time off, then work out the funding. And maybe sometime soon I will feel confident enough to find something to say to others. Some of the most valuable presentations I have seen tend to be people talking about their own experiences (and in the process sharing good ideas without really realising it), so maybe I have more to offer than I am aware of. Something to think about anyhow.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / CiteULike

Reference management systems are invaluable when you're writing essays or articles, and have probably saved me not only from incorrect referencing but also from accidental plagiarism! I only wish that, as a student, I had known there were so many alternatives available. During my undergrad degree the University had a subscription to Endnote, which to be honest completely baffled me. I don't know what it's like now, but I remember it being needlessly complicated and I was both too stupid and too proud to get myself to an information literacy session and learn how to use it. As a result, I of course needlessly and laboriously typed out every single reference one-by-one and wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent. By the time it came to the MSc I had learnt my lesson and a very useful session with the research methods librarian gave me a working knowledge of RefWorks. This definitely saved me a lot of time and mistakes but it still wasn't the easiest of tools to use. It may well have changed by now, but it was always a bit of a pain to log in to, as I had to remember the University's unique code.. and then when you did log in it wasn't exactly user friendly. It had one of those interfaces I've come to associate with incredibly useful databases: ugly looking and impenetrable at first glance, eventually becoming a mine of information only after lots of training; much losing of the will to live and a great deal of exclamations about the choice of font and graphics. It certainly did the job, but it was probably too good for my needs. What I really wanted was something simple with a user interface that didn't make me want to cry. CiteULike: I tried out CiteULike because it is the only one that doesn't require a download. As I'm sure I've mentioned many times before on this blog, anything that needs to be downloaded to the PC is pretty pointless at work as we all hot desk a lot so it would need to be installed on every PC. My first impressions are good - I like that you can just log in to the site and then post URLs but also that you can add a bookmarklet to your browser to make it quicker and easier. I am particularly a fan of the fact that you can copy articles from another user's library to your own. This could be really useful for collaborative working. I also think that it has applications in a public library. We get a lot of enquiries about certain topics and have been using either delicious or the favourites on our web browser to help us get to repeat information quickly. The problem with this is that we only add the homepage of websites due to the issue of changing URLs. Sometimes useful articles turn up in the most unlikely of places and so this isn't necessarily a good way to aid rediscovery at a later date. This would resolve this, and the article recommendations might come in useful too, although the nature of enquiries we receive may mean that the diversity of articles we choose to save throws CiteULike off the scent a little bit!