Thursday, 27 October 2011

LibCampUK11 Session 5: Social media and #UKLibChat

This session was originally pitched as a social media surgery, but was split into two groups.  Those needing specific advice on aspects of social media stayed in the cafe area, and the rest of us discussed #UKLibChat led by members of the organising team.

#UKLibChat is a fortnightly discussion group that takes place on Twitter, usually from 6-8pm on a Thursday.  It’s only been going since July and was inspired by the #libchat sessions run by Natalie Binder on Wednesdays from 8-9.30pm EST.  All topics for discussion are proposed by participants and are added to an agenda posted on the #UKLibChat website and Twitter the week preceding the talk. After the discussions are over the conversations are summarised and placed on the site

We seemed to be evenly split between those who had never heard of libchat; those that had, but either rarely or never took part; and those that were regular participants.

 The #UKLibChat team, after explaining the background of libchat started asking for feedback, what people liked about it, what could be improved, what were the barriers preventing people from using it.
  • They started with asking those that had used #UKLibChat what they liked about it;
  • A lot of people talked about how they appreciated how easy it made getting in touch with other librarians, and learning about other sectors. 
  • There seemed to be a bit of a split between those who thought the agendas were very helpful for focusing thoughts, and allowing time to prepare, and those that found it a little too structured and contrary to the ethos of Twitter. 
  • There was a universal consensus that the write ups posted on the website after the discussions are very useful.
Then users were asked what they didn’t like;
  • Some felt that the question format was off putting, particularly if you feel you don’t have time to get your answers out, or if you have joined the discussion half way through, something a little less formal would be preferred.
  • Many people were not keen on the ‘introduce yourself first’ aspect, they felt it discouraged people from joining in if they were not there at the start when all the introductions were being made.
  • Some people felt that having it at a specific time was contrary to Twitter, but then there were plenty of others who appreciated having a focused time to chat.
From this developed a discussion with those people that don’t take part, and the reasons for doing so, and what the #UKLibChat team could do to remedy it;
  • There seemed to be a popular misconception that #UKLibChat was only for students, so they need to get the message out that it is not just a student thing.
  • People felt that if they had no knowledge or experience in the subject under discussion then they hesitated to get involved.
  • A lot of people find Twitter intimidating, and following live chats even more so.  The team already recommends the use of Tweetdeck or a similar tool to take part, but the suggestion was made that they could provide how-to-guides and tips on Twitter on their website as well.
Also discussed were the other Twitter chats that people took part in such as;
#tlchat  - school librarian chat
#ukedchat - the UK focused version of #edchat
And what #UKLibChat can learn from them.

An interesting discussion also arose as to whether there was a generational gap between those using Twitter and those using email lists.  There was definitely a feeling that mailing lists are more formal and an impression that you need to be an experienced librarian to use them.  At the opposite end Twitter chats seemed to be used more by newer professionals.

To close we had a more general discussion on using Twitter to create communities.
Some of tips included;
  • Have a core group that will always be dedicated to contributing
  • It’s better to start small, and have plenty of action, than to create something big that doesn’t see any use.
  • Take advantage of existing networks to advertise what you are doing.
  • Link to blogs so people can get extra information.
Even though I was flagging a bit from information (and sugar!) overload, I still found I got a great deal from the final session.  I'll be looking forward to the next Library Camp!

LibCampUK11 Session 4: Wikipedia, Wiki Commons and QRpedia

Andy (@pigsonthewing) mentioned this session during the special collections one when we were discussing how to use the internet to raise the profile of your collections, and it immediately caught my interest.

Unlike some of the other sessions, this one had more of a presentation feel.  Andy started off with an introduction to WikipediaWikimedia Commons and QRpedia and what it could do for your library for those of us that had never heard of it before (which was quite a few of us I think).

He explained the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) outreach project to us, which aims to encourage (and help) cultural institutions to share their resources with the wider public.

The two main points he put across to us were that you can;
  1. Release content to the public with open license via Wikipedia Commons
  2. Have Wikipedia volunteer editors write about particular museums (or libraries) and the objects in their collections
The criteria for Wikipedia articles were;
  1. They had to be notable, ie talked about elsewhere
  2. Those articles should be cited in the Wikipedia article

Wikipedia would then ask its volunteer editors around the world to translate your pages into their own languages.  In doing so you’ve already increased your collections visibility on the internet.  However Wikipedia is a voluntary service, so there is no guarantee that the articles will be translated speedily.  You could use incentives to speed up the process, for example invite people from the user groups you are targeting to come and have a back of house tour.  In addition, you can release images on a Creative Commons license, which can be added to related pages on Wikipedia and link back to your institution.

There are currently more than 270 different language versions of Wikipedia available, and Andy mentioned one that they are keen to expand on more is the Welsh Wikipedia (Wicipedia) which at 27,000 articles is the 59th largest Wikipedia edition (as of April 2010).
Wikimedia Commons – Encourages institutions to upload open license images from their archives.  The benefits to the institution are increased awareness of your collections and raising your worldwide profile.  You can also get Wikipedia editors around the world to help you find information about your items.  For example, the National Archives in the U.S.A. put photos with no metadata on Wikimedia and asked the Wikipedia contributors to tag them.

QRpedia – encodes URL of a Wikipedia article and when the QR code is scanned with a smart phone it returns the article in a mobile friendly format to the phone in the language that the phone uses.  This is particularly useful if you have a lot of tourists visiting your collections, it will save you the cost of translating exhibition panels.  It doesn’t even have to be your own article, it can be a generic one, or an associated one, i.e. next to a Van Gogh painting can be the link to the Van Gogh biography on Wikipedia.  I found this part of the session very interesting, as I immediately saw the benefits it could have where I work.
Scanning QR codes at Derby Museum (QRpedia site)
At the end of the session Andy set us all 'homework', he recommended we find an article on Wikipedia that has errors in that we could correct, or one that was a 'stub' (a short article in need of expansion) and add to it.  Although I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, I'm definitely keen to give it a go.

The Wikipedia entry for the National Museum Wales,
 which is currently a stub article

LibCampUK11 Session 3: New Library Models

I'm not entirely sure of the correct name for this session, I had it in my head that it was New Library Models, but I might have got that wrong.

The idea for this was a bit of a rip it up and start again mentality – if you had no budget/policy/time constraints what changes would you like to see made.

I have to be honest of all the sessions I went to this one turned out to be the one I got the least out of, I just felt it didn’t really deliver on what was pitched.  Instead of focusing on outrageous, there are no limits types of ideas we seemed to get bogged down very quickly in the more practical, realistic side of things. While it is understandable that we would, we do after all live in the real world, and we do have limits on what we could do, I was hoping for more radical ideas to come forth.

At one point we started discussing the way users search for information, and how they will often choose the path of least resistance.  I mentioned a study (I couldn't remember who by) that was done that showed that if users have to choose between the best source of information which takes effort to find, or 'good enough' sources of information which are very easy to find, they'll choose the easy option.  And that in some cases 'good enough' is just that, good enough for their purposes. 

This led to a discussion about falling research standards in academic sectors, students who would rather Google everything than use library resources, and that if these were the academics of the future wasn't it worrying.  I didn't speak up during the session but this attitude made me uncomfortable because at one point it started to stray worryingly close to territory that I'd seen here (also discussed here and link).  The comment I'd made was not to say, they are searching for information in the wrong way, but to try to highlight, if this is how people want to access resources, then shouldn't the library be doing everything it can to replicate that process.  Don't we ideally want to make it as easy to access the best sources of information as it is to access the 'good enough' material, so that people will always want to choose that instead.

We also had an interesting discussion on classification vs. categorisation, and one person gave an example of a very strange system of shelving, which seemed to rely solely on the discretion of the shelver as to where they felt it belonged.  This drew gasps of horror as we all imagined how completely impossible it must have been to actually find anything.

Finally we had a rather random discussion about trying to persuade Frank Skinner to be a library advocate, I can't remember now how it came about, but it seemed to involve us all stalking him on Twitter till he agreed.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who was at this session, and whether their perception of it was very different to mine.  At times I felt rather disconnected from it so I'm not sure I always followed the discussion correctly, I blame the post-lunch slump.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

LibCampUK11 Session 2: Special collections

This was the session I was most looking forward to as I work in a museum library with a number of special collections, and I always love hearing about how other people have promoted theirs (and steal ideas!).

I don't think I can top the excellent write up from Girl in the Moon (well it was her session!) but I'll give it a go.

We started with introductions, I think this was one of the only sessions I went to where everyone introduced themselves.  Forty-five minutes isn’t very long to discuss your topic and introducing everyone does eat into it, but it was useful to get a feel for the various backgrounds and experiences of special collections that people had.
Next Laura (@theatregrad) gave us a brief overview of her dissertation, which had focused on library exhibitions and the sorts of issues involved.

Our 'Book of the Month' case in the process of rearrangement
There were two points that came up in the session that were particularly pertinent for me, the first was that libraries can tend to be a little over protective of their special collections, and in some ways treating them more like private collections.  We become so concerned with saving them from wear and tear that we can restrict access more than is entirely necessary. 

The sign at the top of the stairs to the library
 - not the most welcoming of images!
The second point was that many libraries are still not taking full advantage of the benefits of the internet for online exhibitions and digitised access to material.  It was pointed out that if a collection is deemed special, it won’t just be the local population who find it so, it may well have worldwide appeal.  There was a concern that advertising too much will result in a flood of requests to visit the material that the library cannot possibly cope with.  But agreement was reached that in many cases most people would be happy with just consulting the online versions, so you wouldn’t see too dramatic a rise in requests to consult material. 

I think this may be where the experience of a museum library can slightly differ from some of the other types of libraries that hold special collections.  We already have a steady stream of visitors into the museum building to see our collections so we are more likely to get requests to visit the library in person.  Although we have always made it clear that we are an appointment only library, we often receive on the spot requests from visitors.

A very good point was made that raising the profile of your collections, can also raise the profile of your library within your institution, and that it can often be used as leverage to apply for more funding.

We tried to define what a special collection is, which was not as easy as we thought.  The general consensus was that it is a collection of material (books, photos, journals, letters etc.) on a certain subject or period, or gathered for a particular reason, or by a particular collector, that is kept together in a library often separate or distinct from the main stock.  The items could be valuable or old, but not necessarily as it is just as common to find special collections of contemporary items.  One thing we did seem to agree on is that they do tend to be unique in some way, either because of the scarcity of the items themselves, or in the way they have been put together.

An artists book from Shirley Jones of the Red Hen Press
 in the National Museum Wales library collection
This then led on to a discussion about the types of materials found in a special collection, and how easy it is for an organisation to not realise the value of what they hold.  Some rather harrowing tales were shared of people trying to rescue discarded items from skips because an organisation didn’t understand (or care!) about the significance of what they were throwing away.

A very interesting discussion rounded off the session, about the practice of small companies that cannot manage their special collections loaning them (on a permanent basis) to larger institutions with the necessary experience to care for them.  Some interesting questions were raised about how to choose an institution.  I have to admit I did privately think at this point, "you’ll be lucky to find more than one that wants it!"  If an institution takes on a collection from another organisation, they will usually be responsible for all care and conservation, housing it, providing access and promoting it to the wider public.  As they are likely be working with limited budgets and space requirements for their own collections, they may not be falling over themselves to take on the added burden of someone else’s, regardless of the prestige that may accompany it.  However, it was decided that if you did have the luxury of choice, to go with the one that already has similar material in their collections, as that way any researchers using the material can see it all in the same location.

Egenolff Herbal c.1536 in the National
Museum Wales library collection
Sadly the session felt like it was over way too quickly, I would have happily stayed longer if I could, as there were still so many other aspects we could have talked about.  But it did inspire me to take more of a look at how we are using our special collections, and ways we could do more.

LibCampUK11 Session 1: Real social networks

The first session I attended was on real social networks, as we started to get into the discussion I did get a feeling that I hadn’t picked the right session for me, as it was predominantly based towards public libraries, which I know very little about.  But I stayed with it because I felt one of the advantages of Library Camp was the opportunity to learn about other sectors, and I’m glad I did because it turned out to be very interesting.

The purpose of the session was to discuss some of the ways in which libraries can connect more with their communities.  Some good points were made about how differently patrons view their branch libraries compared to central ones.  Apparently many people feel more comfortable talking to their branch librarian than to staff in a central library because they often find the environment intimidating.  There seemed to be a perception from users that as central libraries were much busier, they might be bothering them, whereas a branch library tends to be much quieter so it wasn't so much of an issue.
A number of people shared their experiences of using the British Library, particularly some examples of poor service they had received.  It really highlighted how it only takes one bad experience, amongst many otherwise good ones, to put you off and that it's the bad memories that people are more likely to remember!

Some of the conclusions made at the end of the session included;
    Courtesy of @pigsonthewing
  • Stop focusing so much on the stats – but as one public librarian pointed out, this is easier said than done, if higher management use those stats to decide whether to continue with the service or not
  • Highlight that online use is still using the library as much as physical visits – again it was pointed out that physical visits can be more important because they justify having a library building.
  • Encourage book groups in the library as a way of getting people to socialise - here the problems of space were discussed, a story was told of a book group being asked not to use the library any more as it was getting too large for them to accommodate.  It was also pointed out how successful Birmingham book groups held in coffee shops were because people like the atmosphere.  However, a lot of discussion followed about the difficulties of outreach work, because they don’t add to physical footfall in the library space.
  • Remove social media blocks on library staff computers – this led to lots of horror stories about people having to run Twitter posts past line managers before posting them, which was time consuming and rather defeats the purpose.  Also of library staff wanting to update the library Facebook pages, but having to use the public computers because access to social media sites is blocked on the staff ones.
  • Librarians need to get involved in the designing of space when refurbishing/building a library – again this led to stories of buildings designed with little regard for how they will actually be used.  And that certain well used elements can often be off putting to patrons, for example security barriers, which are not a very welcoming entry to the library.  There were some interesting examples of successfully combining a library with an additional service (e.g. community centre) in the same building.  One example was of an after school club being led into the library to see books they had been discussing in their session, and another example was the success of placing the library in a shopping centre.
  • Be friendly and human - some people pointed out that if staff look too busy then people feel uncomfortable approaching them.  An example was given of a library that employs volunteers to go around welcoming people as a way to combat that problem.
By the end of the session I was starting to feel a bit (guiltily) relived that I don’t work in a public library.  Although we all have limitations on what we can do, there does seem to be a very significant divide between what public library staff (or at least those staff that were at Library Camp) want to offer to their patrons, and what they are actually able to provide within the limits of their organisation.  It was a bit disheartening to think that one of the more visible sectors of our profession is in many cases powerless to affect the changes they want to in order to meet the needs of their community.  I just got the impression that whenever they wanted to implement any changes (big or small) too many bureaucratic barriers were placed in their way.  It was definitely a real eye opener for me in that regard, and I'd be interested to hear if that has been other peoples experience.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Library Camp 2011

Last weekend I attended Library Camp UK 2011 in Birmingham, my first experience of an unconference (or any type of conference in fact).
An unconference works on the principle that participants decide on the programme at the beginning of the event (people had been posting suggestions on the Library Camp wiki in the run up to the day) and that all attendees get the opportunity to contribute to the discussions.
The idea is based on “Open Space Technology” (Harrison Owen) which has four main principles and one law:-
  1. Whoever comes is the right people
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. When it’s over, it’s over 
Law of two feet: If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds him or herself in any situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.
(Library Camp website)
Courtesy of Dave & Bry's Flickr stream
I was a little nervous about attending because I like structure and organisation and the unconference style doesn’t really fit that format.  I was also nervous because I’d never even been to a traditional conference before, and I was worried that I would find it all a bit overwhelming and over my head.  However, a lot of people on Twitter mentioned feeling the same way which helped bolster my confidence, and there was a growing sense of excitement in the twitterverse from attendees. 

The day started with everyone introducing themselves (in which I learned an awful lot of librarians are called Sarah!) which was time consuming, but I think it did help to break the ice.  Then came the pitches, followed by a short break to let the organisers sort out the timetable of sessions.  In an effort to force myself to get more involved I had put a proposal on the wiki the week before the event, but in the end I didn’t pitch it as there were a few other pitches on similar(ish) themes (and, if I’m truthful because I wimped out!).

The timetable board courtesy of The Lizard Lounge

The sessions I attended were;
Real social networks
Special collections
New library models
Wikipedia & wiki commons
Social media and #uklibchat
I will blog about the individual sessions later, but here are some of my general thoughts from the day.

My overall experience of Library Camp and meeting so many library folk for the first time wasn’t as scary as I’d imagined.  It might have been nice to have more time in advance to consider the different sessions, as it did feel like a free for all getting to the timetable board in between each session.  And there definitely wasn’t enough time for everything, I didn’t get to talk to nearly as many people as I would have liked.  I also wished some of the sessions were longer, some subjects really felt like they need more than just 45 minutes.  Although that might not have been such a good idea, as by the end of the day my head was spinning from all the information I had taken in.

The highs
  • The venue; it was clean and bright, with a never ending supply of coffee.  It was also really easy to find thanks to all the information put up on the wiki
  • All the cakes; there was so much more cake there than I was anticipating
  • Meeting loads of lovely people; I got to meet people I only knew from blogs and Twitter, catch up with people I already knew and meet lots of new ones as well
  • Learning about other sectors; I was the only museum librarian there, so it was a great opportunity to learn more about other sectors of the profession
  • That it was held on a Saturday rather than mid-week, so I was actually able to attend
  • All the chatter on Twitter, before, during and after the event helping foster a real sense of community

The lows
  • Realising that I do in fact have a limit to how much cake I can consume
  • That there were so many people, and so little time to meet them all
  • Not getting to all the sessions I would have liked to because of scheduling clashes (although that’s where the session notes section of the wiki will come in very handy)
  • The early start; I should have gone up the night before, I’ll know for next time!

All in all, I had a great day; I felt there was a real buzz and sense of enthusiasm at Library Camp.  I left feeling motivated and full of ideas, so roll on Library Camp 2012!

Thing 15 - attending conferences

I haven’t attended that many conferences, lack of funds has been a barrier in the past, but Jo Alcock's post on applying for funding has inspired me to be more proactive in trying to attend.  Last week I went to my first 'unconference' at Library Camp UK 2011 in Birmingham, you can read about my experiences here.

I have also gone to lots of CLIC (Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation) events.  These tend to either feature a particular training topic or provide an opportunity for different libraries in Cardiff to present what they do.  I once had to speak at one of these events, as I am a web administrator for the CLIC website and we were launching the site.  It was very nerve-racking as it was the first time I’d ever done anything like that, but I imagine it was far less nerve-racking than speaking to a room full of a couple of hundred people.  Still, even though I found it a scary prospect, if the opportunity comes up I’ll do it again, because I think it’s important skill to have.

Helen Murphy presenting at NPC2011

I found the tips on presenting at conferences from Jo Alcock and  Ned Potter very useful (I didn’t for example know about embedding fonts into PowerPoint, so thanks for that Jo).  I would just echo Ned's point about not reading from notes.  I’ve sat through plenty of talks and lectures where the presenter has never raised their head from their notes, not only is it off putting that they never bother to make eye contact, but the pitch and delivery become monotone and nothing is more guaranteed to make my thoughts start to drift.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Thing 14 - Zotero/Mendeley/citeulike

For this 'Thing' we are looking at tools that would have no doubt been very useful when I was studying, but for whatever reason (not entirely sure what that reason was!) I chose not to engage with them.

Instead I chose to type a list of all the references I wanted to consult in a Word document, then bit by bit I worked my way through it, added new ones when they cropped up and making notes next to them once they’d been consulted.  Once I’d decided to use a reference in my dissertation I moved it across into a new Word document, were it was slotted in alphabetically to the list that later became my bibliography.

This now, with the benefit of hindsight, seems insane, and I truly have no real explanation as to why I chose to do it this way, particularly as my dissertation was only 1 & ½ years ago, and there were loads of very good referencing tools to chose from, all well established.

So although I’m not doing any research at the moment, I still was interested to check out what I’d been missing, particularly as they might be useful to recommend to our library users.

I only had time to play about with one of the tools, as I’m falling a little behind on the things, so I picked Mendeley.  This was mainly because, ages ago one of the curators enquired about using it, so the name stuck in my mind.

I wasn’t able to download it to my work PC, so I used my laptop instead.  At first glance it looks very straightforward, and although I've only had a little play about with it so far, it does seem pretty user-friendly.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Building Your Library Career with Web 2.0

Isn't it typical that a few weeks after posting that I hadn't seen any books on using social media for career development, I would see one advertised for release this November!