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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Wordle - that's all folks.

I'm glad to get the opportunity to create a Wordle since getting a mug with one on at the libraries@cambridge conference and quite pleased to see that the most frequently used words in my blog have been library and users - closely followed by one and may. I feel this is how it should be after all we exist for our users and aim to be an enabling force in helping them achieve their aims. Even if sometimes - after a particularly trying enquiry / task - we need to remind ourselves of this fact!

From among the 23 Things I think I would select blogging itself, the iGoogle page, FlickrCC, Slideshare, LinkedIn, Zotero and Googledocs as the most useful to me though I can see benefits to many of the others particularly LibraryThing, Delicious and Slideshare. Some obviously require further research and the usefulness of others will no doubt become apparent at various times in my career if not immediately obvious. Marketing, for example, is not something I am involved in at all at the moment.

In terms of what I found most thought-provoking, as a cataloguer, I would probably choose tagging. I am interested to see how successful this will be in the long-term compared to a controlled vocabulary as labels/tags come in and out of fashion.

I very much doubt, however, that I will ever revisit Twitter and become one of the "tweeple". This particular thing drove me mad - the restrictions on length of posts and the hash tagging system frustrated me.

Quite the opposite must be said of blogging, however, and since starting 23Things I now find myself one of the administrators of a professional blog - got to keep those skills fresh in one's mind! On a more personal level I think I will try and persevere with Zotero and I am likely to find uses for free images from FlickrCC in the future.

Web 2.0 media certainly cannot be ignored by libraries and with the opening up of so many things in society in general there is a demand for us to interact with our users in ways that we never have before. I don't think this is something that we should feel we are being forced into either. Libraries and library staff contain a wealth of resources many of which are untapped. Web 2.0 technologies are a way of making users more aware of what we have to offer but more importantly help us in ascertaining user needs so that we can meet them more effectively. Interaction is the watchword in librarian-user exchanges in the same way collaboration is amongst library, archive and information professionals / staff.

Twitter bird image courtesy of Matt Hamm via FlickrCC.

Monday, 16 August 2010


Seemingly like many other Cam23 participants my use of wikis has been limited to wikipedia which, like others, I make fairly extensive use of whilst recognising it has limitations. Indeed I have been quite surprised that it seems to be creeping in as a quoted source for NACO authority proposals recently. I've never contributed information to the site though. I don't really regard myself as a big enough authority on anything to do so.
With a few colleagues I recently considered creating a wiki for our departmental intranet pages but ultimately we preferred use of a blog. This decision came about after careful consideration of exactly what we wanted to use the new technology for - in this case sharing and archiving policy and practice issues relating to cataloguing and classification. These are generally issued by heads of departments or at least a small number of individuals and for this reason - we didn't really see the need for editing (though comments could still be made on a blog).
However, I can see the use for wikis - and think the key word associated with them has to be COLLABORATION. They are currently no doubt best used where input from as many people as possible is welcome. If editing could be restricted more easily the use of wikis may even widen.
Image for this thing courtesy of cogdogblog.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Podcasting and YouTube

Well, youTube is one of those things that, even as someone a little behind the times technologically, I could hardly have missed and I was aware of podcasting as an audio-visual medium for conveying information. I hadn't really grasped the connection with subscriptions and RSS feeds though so am glad to have learned about that. I have a programme in mind I'd like to subscribe to - just wish I could remember the name of it, then I might be able to see if that service is offered by said programme makers!

Some of the youTube videos suggested by the Cam23 team were very entertaining. Romance of the Living Book was great and you could see that sort of thing achieving a cult following amongst students. I am hugely in favour of using the audio-visual medium to reach library users. Podcasts / audio-visuals can be entertaining, often humorous and can convey valuable messages at a time that suits library users, at the point at which they need it and can overcome some of the anxiety associated with using the library or not wanting to admit to lack of knowledge. Though this is of obvious benefit to distance users its value to local users should not be underestimated. Students have a lot to take in when they arrive at university. Particularly, in Cambridge where firstly they call on college and faculty libraries. They, therefore, may not visit the UL until some time into their studies and then be embarrassed at not knowing things and may have missed earlier induction programmes. The UL is not an easy place to use - largely because of its size.

Podcasting / audio-visuals nowadays entail little expense and I can also see a value not only in providing short introductions to resources available but also in providing information on new services / resources offered by the library or changes to usual procedure which it would help users to know about in advance. I'm not sure we can rely on users subscribing to an RSS style feed for podcasts though and feel that links on library web-pages and e-mail links would also be necessary.

Image courtesy of derrickkwa via Flickr CC

Google docs

Ah, now this one I really can see the benefit of - but only amongst librarians rather than between users and librarians. How refreshingly easy it is to use too. My immediate concern though, and something I have not been able to find out about quickly and easily, is whether when a person edits the document the previous version is saved. It may be, for example, that one of the people you share the document with and invite to edit it changes something to something you are not happy with - can you then easily cancel the change or revert to the original? Similarly if one person edits something and then another later edits the same thing does the second edit overwrite the first one - is the first editor wasting their time - or are the 'participants' of the sharing process aware of all changes? I suspect this is something I will only become aware of after having shared a document and found out. So, now I'm more or less up-to-date, I'm off to do just that ...
Image courtesy of helenmoverland via FlickrCC

Can Web 2.0 save us? - only if we use it effectively.

Mmm, the big one - library marketing in the age of Web 2.0. Well, firstly I was very interested not only to discover that LC had much more out there than I had realised but that Orkney libraries had discovered that there was little duplication between their fans on Twitter and their fans on facebook. This already goes some way to highlighting the difficulties posed by Web 2.0 marketing, namely that there are just so many options available. Ensuring your users know what is available or can stumble across it in places where they already are is a must. Thus one of the more interesting points of one of the slideshare presentations was the need not only to keep content up-to-date but to duplicate that content in multiple places.

This leads to another important point. Though duplicating content in several places can be seen as a way of time-saving one of the other points of importance in the slideshare presentations was the necessity of not underestimating the amount of staff time involved in marketing your library. Being aware of 2.0 technologies and developing awareness of new ones is only part of the issue. Much time needs to be spent carefully considering what the library is trying to achieve, which particular users it is trying to serve and how best this can be done. Then, having decided this appointing someone who will be responsible for implementing that strategy / strategies. Furthermore, the process does not stop at implementation, staff time is needed not only to ensure that information put out there is kept up-to-date but that interaction with users - PARTICIPATION - keeps it relevant and that new opportunities are not missed. It would seem to me there has been a lot of experimental exploration of these technologies, sometimes by libraries, but more notably amongst individual librarians in recent times. Whilst this is important I think ultimately the library has to have an institutional presence. In the days of subject librarians pages of individual librarians may have been more effective, but in reaching out to users I question if this is the way forward. Surely an individual web 2.o presence is more important for interaction amongst other professionals, some of whom may be geographically very far apart but who have common career concerns, interests etc.

Working in a library as big as the UL I am thus finding it difficult to blog about one tool / strategy that my library should adopt to promote its services. In order to have an effective marketing strategy and exploit web 2.0 opportunities I believe this has to be done very much with the authorisation of the librarian and in a concerted and organised fashion. Perhaps, in this respect, the strategy I would suggest is having a publicised strategy that all staff are aware of. As someone who works behind the scenes I am looking forward to exploring wikis later in the programme as this may be a technology I can exploit on the departmental intranet pages.

Image courtesy of bensheldon via Flickr CC

From zero to zotero

Thing 18 and now 23 Things fatigue is starting to set in - already drinking Coke at 10am and doing this on my day off. Still, zotero is a welcome addition to my knowledge of new tools and one that may be particularly useful to research students. Perhaps one of the reasons I'm finding it hard to get excited about this one is I don't have an immediate use for it and don't see that I can really merit the time to explore it to the extent that would do it justice. Perhaps if I was currently doing research myself, rather than trying to learn Polish, I would be getting more excited. Similarly at work, I am usually behind the scenes providing the catalogue records that others may want to add to their Zotero library rather than in a position where I would be helping library users get the best from it. It does concern me slightly that if librarians are not using this themselves are they really the best people to be training others to use it - would this not perhaps best be done in the faculty by other students/researchers? I get the distinct impression that entirely successful use of this tool would require investing quite a lot of time and effort and unless you are continuously researching / publishing think you will only be using a small percentage of its capability. Still I will endeavour to keep using it for things of interest I come across, hopefully in this way becoming more familiar with it and recognising it's potential. I hope, as the computing service and others have suggested, that it won't slow my Firefox down too much and think it will be some time before I need to worry about the effect of a very large database of references.
Image courtesy of jazzmodeus via FlickrCC

Saturday, 24 July 2010

LinkedIn - should we be in the loop?

Loved this image but then was quite a smurf fan when little! Thanks to 99zeros via FlickrCC. Anyway to LinkedIn which I knew little about though had come across when working on NACO authority proposals for my Legal Deposit Libraries Shared Cataloguing. Can be quite useful for this! LinkedIn seems to me to some extent the other extreme from facebook. It has a much more professional/business feel and outlook. Profiles can look quite like CVs and I believe the site has been used for looking for jobs, conference speakers, etc. Libraries, however, need to question at least 2 things 1) Are their users here - for somewhere like CUL which operates as a Research Library for academics and not primarily as a lending library for undergraduates they may well be. 2) Do our users who are here expect to find us here? - do they associate libraries with business? If a library is participating in LinkedIn this would probably need to be advertised via other means -RSS feed on web page for example. Haven't spent as much time looking at this as I would like but think there might be potential for making contact with publishers, electronic journal providers etc. - finding out about what they offer, which new ones exist, keeping up to date with new technological innovations through a professional network and indeed expressing our own needs.