30 New Media Tools in 30 Minutes

I have just got back from a really interesting session at the Judge Business School, run by Meg Westbury who also co-led the session on chat services in libraries that I wrote about a while ago.

This session was a whirlwind experience of Meg cramming in 30 interesting new tools into 30 minutes! I was very impressed that she managed to do and still give us enough information about each item so that we understood what each thing was for.

The list of tools covered is as follows (and yes it is more that 30 actual things but Meg was giving us some bonus ones too!):



































I’ve provided direct links to all of the items covered in the session so you can have a quick look yourself. Meg had a really cool way of keeping track of what would be useful and what might not be so useful by handing out three coloured index cards for people to note things down. One was green for “definitely useful”, one was yellow for “maybe, not sure” and one was red for “totally not useful!”.

I found myself writing fairly even amounts on both the green and yellow cards with a few items on the red card. My personal red card items were Reddit, Pearltrees, Focusbooster and StayFocusd. I don’t really like Reddit and I have used it before without much enjoyment. Pearltrees just didn’t grab me and the focus-keeping items just felt a bit controlling. I mean, they would be great for a procrastinating student but I certainly wouldn’t use them. I multitask and I always have lots of tabs open with different things going on so I would find having certain things being blocked to be frustrating and would get in the way of my work process.

I added a few to the yellow card, such as SimilarPages and Bubbl.us. They just didn’t draw me in immediately, but I will look into them and have a play around a bit more when I have a spare moment.

On the green card, I added 18 items that I really liked. In my top three were, in no particular order, LightShot, Screencast-o-matic and Dipity. They all look like really handy tools that I could easily use in my day-to-day work. I also green carded the Academia.edu social media network, which I will definitely be joining.

I would write about each individual item more but I think it is best for you to look at them and see what you think. How I work and the things that I would like to use in my library work and reader engagement may well be very different to what you would like to do or prioritise. Plus Meg did such a good job at explaining everything really well and quickly! There is also a neat post about it all here.

So have a click around and see what you think! Even comment about it if you feel like it!


Chat reference enquiries

Today I went to a really interesting session about using chat for enquiry work in libraries, at the Judge Business School. The session was run by Meg Westbury (JBS) and Libby Tilley (English). It was a fascinating session that confirmed a lot of what I already knew about chat and presented interesting ways of coping with the impact of chat on the workplace.

I just wrote an assignment on the reference interview in the Information Age (I might post extracts on here when it has been graded) and chat came up as a factor. Many of the papers that I read discussed how essential it was to keep the good library practice used in the typical face-to-face reference interview when using chat. This was confirmed by a lot of what Meg and Libby said in their talk.

One criticism of chat, from the papers I looked at, was that chats were cut off too quickly and users didn’t feel that their enquiry had been dealt with in a satisfactory way. While chat is very quick and instant, it is so critical that it is seen as just the same as a telephone conversation or a face-to-face meeting. Don’t say in chat what you wouldn’t say in person and don’t be abrupt in signing off. Leave the door open for that user to chat to you again, or even come in to see you in person once they have made that initial contact.

Initial contact via chat is so important. Rather than create barriers by not being able to see the person you’re talking to, the anonymity of chat actually allows users to feel more comfortable in approaching and information professional with their queries. No-one likes to feel stupid or to ask an embarassing question in person, and the online option is certainly a preferable one. Again, this approach was supported in the session, with an emphasis being placed on mentioning your name and encouraging students to contact you again, or to even come in and chat in person if the research need requires that level of involvement.

My main concern which chat is one that most people can understand and will probably face themselves: staffing. With instant responses expected in this communication medium, how can small teams of librarians manage to staff the chat “enquiry point” as well as the physical enquiry desk and other points of contact? Well, as Libby said, with good management. It is possible to run a good chat service but you have to have the right amount of people available and to be able to post useful messages to users if you are unable to be at your desk for a certain period of time.

The limited opening hours of most libraries limits the 24/7 nature of the chat enquiry service, however I feel strongly that it is still a worthwhile venture. For example, trying to get a straight answer out of a lengthy email chain could be greatly improved by the quick t0-and-fro of the chat conversation.If you have the staff and can see a practical way in which the chat enquiry service option can be integrated into your existing service provision, then go for it! From the experience that we heard today, it can be tough and there will be need for rapid change but if you manage to pull it off, it could provide another excellent way for users to get in touch. The online visibility of your library could be improved through this new measure, and if the technology catches up, the chat service could go mobile through apps. The possibilities are excellent but the work has to be put in.

I would like to introduce a chat service at my library at SPRI, but with our big migration project looming and a reworking of the entire library space, I think it’ll have to wait a few years until we’re in a good position to try it out.

I love infographics!

I found this infographic on the fabulous Ange Fitzpatrick’s tumblr and I wanted to share it too!

Click to enlarge

I found the stats very interesting and some were more surprising that others.

I was shaking my fist slightly at the fact that I am now just too old to be counted as the super special 1% age bracket but that’s ok! I also liked the hope that the small print provides to us younger, early career librarians with the comment about a lot of older librarians are coming up to retirement. Of course, losing all that knowledge and experience is a terrible thing but it does also guarantee that higher posts become free for people to move into, thereby freeing up lower down posts creating the chance for movement within the library community again.

We went through a stage here in Cambridge where no posts were being advertised, or if they were they were only part-time ones. This was all around the time when funding was being threatened and people were rather uneasy about their departments. Thankfully that has eased somewhat and several College Librarian posts have come up so the flow is back and people are able to develop and grow within a very competitive environment.

The wages statistics are interesting too. I’m not sure about the exact correlation with UK wages but I doubt that there is much difference. Yes, it is a shocker. Librarians don’t get paid that much. However, I think if we were all honest with ourselves, we hardly went into this profession to earn the big bucks like they do in the City now did we? I’ve never been one for chasing high paid jobs because I’d rather get less money and do something that I love. The old adage of money doesn’t make you happy is very true. Sure it helps pay the bills but I think we can get so much extra from our roles as information providers than we would doing a high-paid and soulless job, and if you’re not enjoying it then get out and find something that you do love! We spend so much of our lives working, we may as well enjoy the thing that dominates our waking hours so much!

Moving on, we use both sides of our brains. Brilliant! I have had friends who have said that being a librarian must be easy and could not understand why we needed qualifications and training to “stamp books”. As the diagram shows, we do so much more than that and it is nice to see it all listed out and divided appropriately. We librarians are definitely smart cookies when it comes to multi-tasking and having a wide skills set!

While I like that librarianship has given a lot of opportunities to women as a career environment, I do not like how we dominate it so much. With the statistics of a feisty female 78% versus a measly male percentage of 22%, the numbers are certainly skewed. I personally feel that having a balanced workplace benefits everybody. Both genders have different ways of working and different ways of looking at things, and I really feel that having a balanced team works out for the better. When I used to work at the UL, I felt there was a really nice mix of people in the various departments that I worked with. However, I have worked in other environments that are almost exclusively female. While this is not a problem for me personally, I do always ponder on what we are missing out on by having such a potentially one-sided approach to problems and working methods.

I am curious as to why the female factor is so dominant in the library world. I can understand why nursing is traditionally seen as a predominantly female role (even though this is a ridiculous stereotype!) but I can’t quite figure out what is so “female” about books and the educational environment. Surely, with all of our rather specialised technical skills and analytical thinking, this is just the industry that would appeal to men. We do many similar things to gaming developers, for example, yet women are often struggling to make an impact in that sector. I’d like to know what people think. I’m sure there are some very simple reasons, such as the stereotype of the old lady in her cardie looking after the large-print section in the local public library.

Finally, I love the statistics about librarians’ interests. Shame we don’t seem to do more of the active stuff like SCUBA diving, but we do a lot of creative and outdoors-y activities too which makes us all rather nice and balanced as people. Well done us!

Even though this infographic was predominantly American, I feel that there aren’t that many differences here in the UK and it is nice to see some interesting facts about your profession popped into a legible and fun format.

23 Things 2.0

So, this is my first proper 23 Things post of 2011. I’m quite looking forward to this!

Thing 1: Set up a Google ID and create an iGoogle page

I did this last year and posted about it. I’m still using my iGoogle page as my homepage at work and it is rather handy! I have gadgets for blogs that I follow, arty things to give me a bit of a creative boost during the day, the news and weather and of course my Google Calendar so I know what I’m supposed to be doing on any given day. I liked it then and I love it now, especially as I am in a job where I can actually use it to its full potential.

Thing 2: Creating a Blog

Clearly, another thing that I have already done. I changed up my theme the other day and I quite like the Hitchcock vibe that I have going on now. Is it legible though? Feedback would be appreciated! Leave a comment! I quite like noir and horror stuff so it fits in with my interests/aesthetic quite nicely.

As an extra “thing” I decided to add a cause to my blog. Under my current blog theme, it appears at the very bottom of each page. I am supporting the Trevor Lifeline and with a few clicks of a mouse, you can too! No money involved! Just play with some sponsored ads and you can accumulate points which will equal enough for one call to Trevor. Seeing as one call could easily save someone’s life, seeing as this charity works with LGBTQ youth and focused specifically on suicide prevention. So, if your call is used by someone on the edge, just think what a difference the lovely people at Trevor could make for that individual. Thanks!

Thing 3: RSS Feeds

Did these last time. Love them, still use them. An excellent way of keeping tabs on all the things you are interested in. I’ve added loads of RSS feeds to my iGoogle page and I can now relax in the knowledge that I won’t miss any important updates from my blogs of choice!

Thing 4: Twitter

When we covered this last year, I was rather unimpressed by the whole thing. I got very “harumph” about the whole thing.

However, since then I have used Twitter to follow people of interest such as Neil Gaiman, my favourite author and I have just recently linked this blog to my Twitter feed with the hope that once it has all synched up, my posts will pop up there too!

I’m still a bit shifty about the whole thing, and I can’t really explain why anymore, but I’m slowly warming to it. By the way, the bunny is a Rabbit of Disapproval. Its a meme.

All the extra bits to this Thing look fab and I have been already using some of them without realising. I just mentioned that I’ve synched my blog which is the Twitterfeed taken care of and I love Bit.ly. So so useful when you have one of those essay-length addresses that you either want to blog, share or email. However, if short stuff isn’t your thing, then visit this URL lengthening website. Sounds painful! It does keep you safe so you can check what you’re being linked to in case its pr0n (web speak for the naughty browser history stuff) or a virus.


Right! So that is my first 23 Things post done! In fairness I know I have an unfair advantage by having done a lot of it all before but it has been fun revisiting old posts and old thoughts about all this fancy tech stuff!




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:


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.


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.


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 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!