It rises!

Yes! I’m back! Not that anyone really missed me but I’m back all the same!

A lot has happened over the past year-ish since I last posted. I completed that pesky 23 Things which turned out to be a lot of fun in the end, I’ve moved jobs and have applied to do a Librarianship MA in September 2011! Lots of shifting around but it has all been good!

I thought I’d fire this old girl up again and try and stick to what I originally intended to do, which was blog about librarian stuff. Of course, I fully intend on segwaying into other related areas that you may find interesting, but I will try and keep it remotely on target to make it all still relevant!

The lovely people behind last year’s Cam 23 have started another one for those who didn’t get a chance to do it all last year. A large bulk of the “things” are ones that I did already but I have been tempted back with the promise of there being ones that I won’t have done and could still participate that way. So I will!

Reading over last year’s posts, I realise that I got rather fed up at certain things that I am now finding really useful but I am leaving my old posts the way they are because they reflected my mood at the time. I was very “grr argh” about things like Facebook but I have since created a Facebook page for our Library, created a library on LibraryThing to reflect our in-house New Books Display and have many plans in the pipeline with my Librarian to spruce up the Library website and make it shine with useful tech. That said, I’m still not a complete convert to the world of Twitter but I have converted to Prezi (as opposed to SlideShare) and other things that just were not relevant to me a year ago.

So, I will blog as often as I can. I will do the “things” when I spot ones that weren’t around last year and I will post anything else that I find interesting and hope you all do to!

Thanks!

23 Things, THING 23!!!!

Wow! I’m actually on Thing 23. I honestly cannot believe it. It has genuinely been a heck of a struggle to get to this point. I’ve enjoyed it but there is a part of me that wishes I had considered when I would actually have the time to do all of the Things without panicking about the deadline. As I do not have a desk or a computer at work, I have had to do many of the 23 Things at home. I started off not really minding all that much but at this point I’m quite looking forward to having my weekends back without having to think about which Thing I’ve forgotten to do!

But its not all bad! I have got a lot out of the programme. Most importantly I’ve realised that I don’t know as much about what is out there on the web as I thought I did. I’ve gone against my better judgment and tried out things that I wouldn’t normally have attempted. I still don’t like Twitter but I’m glad that I tested it out to make a truely informed assesment of it. However, I was wary of all the Google-based Things that we’ve covered, and I’ve found them to be very useful and they have a great deal of potential for future use.

To use the excellent scale of usefulness that Libgeek used on their blog Adventures in L-Space: the yay, meh, nay scale! (as originally used by an Oxford participant back in Thing 8) with lolcats for emphasis:

Yay:

iGoogle- very handy with RSS feeds and the Google Calendar all rolled into one helpful homepage.

Blogging- a great chance to really get to grips with a continuous blogging project rather than posting abstract and one-off posts as I have done in the past.

Doodle- excellent for organisation and time management.

Flickr- lots of great photos and….ooh shiny!

Library Thing- Fun and an excellent way of sorting out your books whether they’re personal or work-based ones.

Google Documents- handy for projects and sharing info.

Meh:

Facebook- I understand the appeal but I’m not convinced of its usefulness for a library.

Wikis- as I liked Google Documents a lot, wikis have to go in the meh pile.

Podcasts- if used properly, these could shoot up to the “yay” pile but as Podcasts are “officially” audio-based then I’m not in favour of them. YouTube videos are great though!

Marketing- see my post on the subject for more.

Zotero- its in the “meh” pile because I won’t necessarily use it that much, but at least I’ll be able to advise others on it.

Nay:

Twitter- I just did not enjoy it at all. I found it frustrating and not as useful as it could have been.

LinkedIn- Another Facebook in my mind and not something I plan on using any time soon, but I am open to it becoming relevant to me later on down the line.

SlideShare- I can see its appeal but I can’t see any way in which I will use it at the moment.

Delicious- I like the idea of sharing and tagging but that was about it for me.

I have really tried with 23 Things and I have enjoyed a lot of it but some of it I found quite hard to get through. Topics such as SlideShare and Twitter took me quite a while to get my head around and even longer to think up what on earth to say about them in my blog posts. However, I did stick with it and as I said earlier, I’m glad I did. Even though I haven’t loved everything, at least I’ve given it a good go and have been able to assess from experience rather than from a misinformed fear judgment. Its good.

As for Web 2.0 and its shaping of library services…well anyone who has followed my blog probably knows where I stand on this. To summarise, I think the web is great and can be used as a very effective tool but my great fear is that as we are focusing on all the new stuff out there, we’re forgetting the human connection. The face-to-face interaction with our readers. Sure being online is essential these days but I’m unsure as to whether having an account for everything is really the way to go.

People aren’t using libraries as much these days because “its all online”. Should we be encouraging that mentality through the services that we offer or should we be encouraging people to come in and chat to us? Nothing can replace the warm-blooded librarian, armed with a date stamp and a head full of obscure but relevant knowledge. Google can never be an effective substitute for the amazing people who have made libraries their life and career. Let’s get out there and show our students how bloomin’ incredible we are and what an untapped resource we can all be! Don’t forget the web entirely, but also don’t forget yourselves either!

Librarians are cool, tweed is cool, cardies are cool. I never forget the amazed faces of all the prospective students that I have shown around the UL when I tell them of all the incredible things that our staff do on a day-to-day basis. Eyes wide, mouths gaping. A simple talk on how much work our closed departments do bring about such reactions. People should be excited about libraries because of what they hold on the inside and not because of what they have accomplished on cyberspace.

To finish, here is my Wordle.

I have spent a lot time doing this:

and some time doing this: but now I’m done and I’m off to celebrate…by enjoying the rest of my Bank Holiday Monday!

Thanks to you all!

23 Things, Thing 22

Thing 22 is all about wikis. I’m not really sure about what I can write about this topic.

I’ve never used wikis in my work but after watching the video and SlideShare presentation on Cam23’s entry on the topic, I definitely can see the benefits. As I understand it, a wiki is pretty similar to the Google Documents programme that we covered a few Things back. People can log in, edit a document, add or remove things and generally contribute to the group’s discussion of a certain topic or project.

Sounds good to me! I did have a look around at some other library wikis but none really popped out at me as being particularly useful. They all achieved what they seemed to set out to do which is great. I supposed the Library Routes wiki was pretty handy as it gave me a chance to browse about on details of how other people got to where they are now as librarian which was quite interesting. I won’t be contributing however as I am not far enough into my own career to really have anything worthwhile talking about.

As for how I could use wikis in my day-to-day work, well…in the same way I can use Google Documents. Share, edit and collaborate over a project. I like the online method of sharing a mutual aim, especially if it avoids pesky paperwork and horrendously long email clogging up my inbox with about 100 replies all crammed onto one long message.

23 Things, Thing 21

So Thing 21 is all about podcasts.

I’m not all that sure as to how much statistically podcasts have really taken off over the years, but I know I have never really used the purely audio varient. I can see the benefit of them and how flexible they allow for radio listeners to be if they’ve missed their favourite show. Giving people the power to mould their media interests around their more pressing commitments such as work is a great thing and I heartily support them.

I’m not too sure how the purely audio podcast would work in the library setting. I listened to several of the podcasts that the Cam23 post for this Thing provided and they were very good, but I’m not sure how effective they could be. However, as YouTube has been mentioned, I can discuss the efficacy of that far better.

Having a visual guided tour of  a library is, for me, a far superior method of encouraging students to come in more than an audio description that could be very easy to tune out of. The joy of a visual podcast means that you can make your tour as fun and as colourful as you like, enticing a harassing student in to your shelves with helpful arrow animations and the occasional joke to calm them down.

I absolutely love this video:

It lightens the mood of a potentially stuffy library image, gets a smile from the viewer and also informs the individual about the services on offer without them even realising that they’re been informed. Its a brilliant use of an effective marketing campaign and applying it to the library world.

I think a library can benefit greatly from having a select few video on their introductory sections of their webpages. As far as having a more regular stream of podcasts, I’m not quite sure how that would work. Any new books or news would be broadcast on your news section surely? Having additional podcasts would just be time-consuming and expensive. I think the trick with podcasts and the libraries is: keep it simple. Have a tour video, have a walkthrough of Newton, have an example of a student going from needing a book to finding and borrowing said book. Simple!

23 Things, Thing 20

So Thing 20 is all about Google Documents which is a service that I have already had the chance to use to some degree.

One could argue that sharing a document in this way isn’t that different to emailing a file around for people to see. I would disagree because Google Documents allows for those who are on the “shared with…” list can edit and add to the pre-existing document without the need to re-email yet another file around for someone to download onto their already full work hard drive!

I had yet to create a document from scratch myself as I was often the recipient, so I found the chance to create and share very useful. I put something together, shared it will a fellow Cam23er and sat with them as they opened their GoogleDoc email that had automatically generated so I could see how my file has transferred across. It was a thoroughly painless process and I will certainly be using this Google service in the future. After all my reluctance with iGoogle, I really like this sharing idea and can definitely see its implementation when working on a group project. Not only does it allow effective sharing of items but it also allows for people to brainstorm ideas without the need for a structured face-to-face meeting which are often quite tricky to organise when many people are busy with conflicting schedules.

I know I haven’t written my usually large amount about this Thing but its really such a simple little programme that I don’t really have too much to quibble over! Definitely something that I’ve been glad to explore more and will use again!

23 Things, Thing 19

Marketing. That one word brings up a mixture of reactions for me. I feel a combination of terror shiver-down-the-spine and a touch of apathy. I have come to realise over the course of the 23 Things programme that I don’t get all this emphasis on being on every single online service going. Being on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Flickr/other is just a bit too much for me. As with everything, this is very much down to personal choice but I fear that all of this focus on the web is distracting us all from dealing with matters a bit closer to home.

While I agree that having a website and email contact address is pretty essential for any entity that provides some form of service, how far should that have to extend? My main issue with being online in many ways is that…well…are students even going to look on Facebook for you? If I ever need to find out about a department/company I will google them and go on to their website.  I won’t start off with Twitter or Facebook and work back to the website itself. Life just does not work like that.

Another issue I have with all this shiny tech is that, great…we look amazing and welcoming online but if the student walks through the doors of *insert library name here* and the first person they meet has terrible customer service skills then all of that work has been wasted. I’m not saying that we’re all terrible outreach people, but I have heard time and time again from students that they know all this stuff exists, but there seems to be this horrible myth going around that some libraries always have a notorious individual who have been hostile/difficult. Now I’m not pointing the finger at anyone in particular, but I fear that some of these myths may have some truth to them. Just working through the horrible attitude that a lot of students have towards the UL alone is an uphill struggle. Time and time again I heard students that I either know through work or on a more personal level ranting about how unwelcoming it can be and how they have had run-ins with people who have made them feel like never coming back again, especially when they can camp out in their college library overnight and not have to even bother trekking out across the river to the big Dark Tower of Sauron (not my nickname!).

I love the UL and I think its an amazing place, as is the University in its entireity but I feel that this issue is something that we desperately need to tackle and I’m not sure if the Web is the best place to do it. As many studies have shown, online interactions have a considerably less “real” feel to them than a face-to-face conversation. I feel that we should be putting our energies more into being present at Fresher’s Fairs and running forms of welcome days periodically throughout the year, with the offer of a cuppa and a chat with a librarian. Rekindle a warm and fuzzy view of the librarian rather than the net-savvy whizz that we seem to be trying to promote nowadays.

I’m not saying disregard web-based things entirely. There have been some excellent Things so far and I can see how they can be effectively used, but I just fear that people are moving on too quickly in the name of progress without stopping to reflect on the potential cracks that they are leaving behind. I know that the UL have orientation tours and other things to get students to get to grips with the complex layout of the place but I have noticed (as I have given some of the tours myself) that not many undergraduates have really been turning up. We need to become more integral to students’ lives so they can’t survive university without us. A lot seem to be doing pretty well and I have heard proud declarations of how some have never even gone into their departmental libraries and still have passed with a good degree. From personal experience, promoting the invaluable services that we libraries provide via effective poster campaigns in different colleges and departments has more of an impact than a Twitter announcement that not all students will see.

Ensuring that our marketing is effectively produced in Fresher’s packs, subject introductory packs, given to tutors to hand out at supervisions when appropriate….that’s what we need to do more of. Communicating our services with the people who have more direct contact with the people we’re trying to reach. I’ve never liked calling students “customers” but at the same time, they are paying for a service through their fees and I feel that we should be providing value for their money. Putting leaflets in students’ pigeon holes would be another excellent and direct way of doing things. Plus we could be very focussed and use student lists or library user lists to give out information that is specific to the individual rather than bombarding some poor NatSci with information about the MML library for example.

I know I haven’t covered much about the original topic: marketing with social media. After looking at the links provided in the original Cam23 post, I must say I really liked the examples presented by Erin Maassen. I love the idea of a eye-catching business card that has a trading/game card feel about it. This use of imagery and style breaks down the wall between user and provider, making them more approachable and reachable. This is the sort of thing we should encourage. Having actual people as the contact points for a library. If someone knows what the librarian that they need to talk to looks like and they’ve emailed them a few times, they’re going to be less intimidated about coming in to the actual building and engaging with that librarian further. I don’t feel that Twitter et al. provide this same sort of connectivity. While the contact cards that Erin provides have many contact points to Twitter and Facebook, the Head of Adult Services has a far less complicated contact card as she simply provides a few options of getting in touch with her directly. Unlike her presented colleagues who over-provide, she jumps out as being far more approachable as you are given a few services to contact her rather than the average individual getting lost in the forest of multiple links.

I apologise if this post has offended anyone, it really was not my intention. I just felt this Thing was an excellent springboard to discuss and present some concerns that I have been having for some time about Cambridge University and its libraries. I’m not saying we’re all doing a terrible job, far from it! I just feel we need to make sure we don’t drop the ball on this. Engagement with the user is critical, and we need to tread carefully as to how we go about it.

One final point about Twitter and Facebook: any student will tell you that such services are terrible procrastination tools. Are we ok with encouraging students who already spend too much time online to spend even more time messing around with a pretty Facebook Group rather than getting off their backsides and actually coming in to the library and benefitting more directly?

23 Things, Thing 18

Blimey! Thing 18 already! And with only another five Things to go, 23 Things is rapidly coming to a close! I never thought I’d manage to get this far but I have so yay!

So, Thing 18 is all about Zotero. When I first started blogging about the 23 Things, Zotero was one of the subjects that I quite happily admitted I knew nothing about. I had not even heard of it. At least with some of the Things, I have had a small glimmer of “Oh yeah…I’ve heard people talking about that…” but Zotero? Zip! Nada!

When I did a quick wiki search for Zotero, I disappointedly discovered that this Mozilla add-on had been launched in 2006. Now I cannot legitimately complain about why on earth Zotero did not exist for my undergraduate degree years! It did! Instead, I can complain about why on earth my library or lecturers did not let me into this tantalisingly amazing little bit of kit?

When I was writing my final year dissertation, I would have killed for a programme that allowed for me to record all of my citations in a quick and easy format! With all the JSTOR and other such online hunting that I had to do to get the obscure information that I needed, having to copy-and-paste or simply copy-down-on-paper anything that I used, my research took a lot longer and I was more at risk of losing all my sources will a simple misplacement of a sheet of paper or a file.

Installing Zotero on Firefox (which I already use) was fairly straight-forward. I must confess that I spent a good few minutes trying to figure out why the little logo thing that should have appeared in my address bar had yet to reveal itself but then it suddenly popped up and away I went!

Using Zotero on blogs has been an interesting experience. I tried testing it out on the Cam23 blog and Libgeek’s 23 Things blog (Adventures in L-Space) and it gave me the option of citing the whole thing or certain posts which was quite nifty. Webpages and other such more simplistic entities were pretty easy to get to grips with too. I then was not too sure about how all this cited information was going to look like or how I was going to be able to actually use it in any constructive fashion.

Thank goodness for the library function and the ability to get all the info in my library transferred onto a Word document. Just clicking and dragging the citations that I need onto a Word document saves a lot of time. It comes out in an acceptable MLA-esque format which means less fixing of your bibliography for essay submission standards. My only gripe is that I would have to go through each individual entry and change the date as it has come out with the frustratingly illogical American dating system (month before the day) and I would not be able to hand in work with such a glaring error, in my mind.

I feel pretty confident in using Zotero and I am amazed at how quick it was to pick up! As Ange Fitzpatrick says in her post on the subject, there is always that horrifying moment when a student appears out of nowhere and asks about citation. I’ve only ever witnessed such an event as an observer but I’ve always been waiting on edge for that one student to tackle me with the unanswerable question. Now thanks to this Thing, I feel more confident in my abilities as a librarian in asking what is essentially a simple question, yet surprisingly complicated if you don’t have the full amount of information at your disposal (or stored in your memory!)

So, students of the world! Bring me your citation queries and quibbles for I am a librarian who actually can answer those issues without looking at you in horror and stuttering my way to asking someone else instead!

I had a quick look at the other citation options out there and I must say that they are equally impressive. Mendeley particularly caught my eye and when I have a bit more spare time or have a new project that involves a lot of research, I might dip into using it as a helpful tool!

I found this on SlideShare and I feel that it really explains the MLA Citation Standards far better than  I was ever taught in university!