Archive for June, 2010

Anyone?

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Slip-sliding away…

Slideshare is not something I’ve ever explored or had the occasion to use before. I’ve never had to give a powerpoint presentation  and, until now, I’d not thought of revisiting presentations that I’d been to, or catching up on ones that I’d missed (mainly because I didn’t realise they were available) in this way. So I’ve had a bit of a nose around and watched a few presentations – Let’s get it On(line) from Heriot Watt Universty Library, Andy Priestner’s Cam23 presentation, and several presentations about blogging for libraries and the uses of social media – and get the impression that this is quite a useful resource in many ways. You can:

  • Re-visit presentations you’ve seen
  • Catch up on presentations you’ve missed
  • Explore subjects you’re new to
  • Gain different perspectives on subjects you’re familiar with
  • See what engages you in a presentation (and what makes you switch off)
  • Get ideas for presentations of your own

In terms of it’s use as a resource for a library, it’s particularly useful to be able to store presentations that are used repeatedly (such as library inductions) in a place where staff and users can find them and re-cap; to be able to point staff to useful presentations that they may have missed (especially if only one or two members can attend a meeting where a presentation is used but it’s relevant to all); and if your library has a ‘laser display board’ it’s a good way to display presentations to users within the library setting.

The fact that the presentations on Slideshare can also be linked with audio makes it quite a versatile tool, but, like many of the Things we have explored, you have to be selective. The content of presentations can be duplicated in others on similar subjects, and there are only so many ways you can introduce people to web2.0 using bullet-points and a limited number of slides!

Slideshare isn’t really of use to me at this point in time, but it’s certainly something that I will keep in mind with regards to ideas for presentations and user oureach in the future.

Flicker

It’s interesting that, given the nature of photography, that you can’t actually capture the essence of ‘flickering’ in a single photo. This is one of the many images retrieved by searching for ‘flicker’ on Flickr (image courtesy of Timothy K. Hamilton). But it would appear that there is also a bird called a Flicker, which looks like this: (thanks this time to Norm Townsend)

Very handsome – looks like a member of the Woodpecker family to me, and indeed Wikipedia tells me I’m right.

So, Flickr, it turns out, is a very useful resource. I’ve used it a little bit before – mainly to look at sets taken by friends – but have never signed up for an account because the photography gene evidently missed me out. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking at photos but I can never be bothered to take them. Could be something to do with being brought up with mad-keen photographers in the family and getting sick of traipsing round after them.  I’d like to think that, as a result of the aforementioned childhood, I have quite a discerning eye when it comes to photography and I find a well-taken photograph generally more satisfying and engaging than a well-painted picture. Basically, I could spend hours on here browsing through other people’s efforts (I would particularly recommend Richard Heeks’ photostream and his amazing captures of bubbles popping).

I had not come across Creative Commons liscensing before Thing 10, but I’m very impressed with the way it allows people to share their images and still retain a modicum of control over how they’re used. It’s also great for those of us who would like to use the images, rather than create them, as it makes it very clear if/how/and for what purpose a picture or pictures can be dowloaded and modified – I for one feel much more comforatble that it is made clear in this manner.

Bluemarla’s Rainbow Books (all rights reserved, unfortunately), is an example of how I’d like to organise my library. At least that way when someone comes to me saying ‘I’m looking for a book, it’s got a blue cover…’ I’d know where to look, although I’d probably go one step further and arrange each subset by size to cover the ‘It’s blue and *waves arms around* this big’ eventuality.

And finally, because I’m probably supposed to be finding pictures of books that I can legally use:

An aesthetically pleasing Belgian Bookshelf (thanks to mcsdwarken)

Tag…

Or, as we used to call it at school, ‘It’. I don’t think Librarians play this game nearly enough, and what the profession definitely needs is more running around in the fresh air trying to catch other people so that they can then be ‘It’.

Not that kind of tagging you say? Oh. Ok, well to be honest I found that essay kind of confusing – I sure hope they’re a good public speaker. Here are some of my thoughts relating to tagging/categorization/classification/ontology/whatever:

1) It seems to me that there are two different basic concepts here. The first is ‘categorization’ which is charcterised by a pre-existent system that tries and fails to cover every eventuality when organising information. This is what we, as librarians, deal with on a day-to-day basis and is governed by the need to fit LOTS of books into a limited physical space in some kind of sensible order. The second is ‘tagging’ for which there is no system at all (other than on an individual basis, and sometimes not even then). This is not imposed, but applied after you know what the content is. It’s infinitely more flexible and vastly less standardised, and is ultimately not governed by any particular need to orgainse or any physical limitations.

2) These two approaches lend themselves to two different sources of information; the library and the virtual environment respectively. I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that we replace classification schemes with tagging in libraries, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason why we couldn’t run concurrent systems and reap the rewards of both, just as they’re doing over in Ann Arbor.

3) One of the main problems that people flag up with tagging is it’s inconsistency, and concerns that it either links you to information that’s not relevant, or that you miss out on retrieving stuff that is. Um, call me Mr. Silly, but isn’t that the case with any kind of tagging/calssification/categorization/information retrieval system? Why are we all so lazy? We are NEVER going to be able to come up with a system whereby we retrieve everything that is relevant but nothing that is surplus to our requirements! For a start ‘what is relevant’ is entirely subjective anyway, as is the content of a particular book or article or post. At some point we have to do some of the leg-work ourselves and actually use our brains. Where we put a book on the shelves, or which tag(s) we give our blog post, is just a starting point – as information professionals we have a reponsibility to categorize in the way we think will be most useful. Yes, there’s subjectivity involved, but we can’t escape it, and if we (as users) aren’t prepared to ‘read around’ then we have to accept that there’s something we might miss.

Am I ranting?

4) By the time you’ve a) looked at the tags given by the person who created content and b) looked at the tags given by other people who’ve read the content, you c) may as well have read the thing in the first place and made your own mind up? I realise that this is slightly extreme, and there can be a lot of value in gauging other people’s reactions and interpretations of things, but I’m not sure that tagging is necessarily the best medium for this.

To conclude (you’ll be glad to hear):

Yes to classifying, categorizing and tagging! – people find these useful as ways of linking and accessing information, but we shouldn’t be scared of  encouraging people to make their own minds up too, and therefore people shouldn’t rely on another’s interpretation of content. Phew!

Now where did I put that band-pass filter…

Right, so, Twitter. This is the one Thing that I was dead against when I first looked through the Cam23  list – without ever having tried it I was convinced that it was full of celebrities with nothing more interesting to say than ‘I’m bored/on a diet/getting married for the thirteenth time*’ [*delete as appropriate]. Sort of like Facebook status updates but thousands of times worse. So imagine my surprise when I created my account and found it far less intimidating than expected, and full of genuine (if sound-bite ish) debate. Hot topics this week have included the #CILIP1 campaign and their response, or lack thereof, to various items in the news over the last few days.

This is not to say I’m a complete convert. I agree with evans_above at 1-23 one step at a time on the overwhelming volume of information that appears on the screen, and Miss Crail’s description of it as ‘white noise’ seems particularly apt, but it would seem that there is some use to be made out of this particular forum for discussion.

Personal use aside, Twitter seems useful as a means of creating and maintaining a ‘real-time’ community of librarians from across the country and round the world. Discussions can be started by anyone and easliy contributed to using the hashtag system, and for those, like myself, who prefer to follow quietly, the hashtags mean you can search for lots of different discussion threads. Replies and re-tweets can be totally bewildering to follow for a newbie, but once you get used to the layout you can usually make a little bit of sense out of things by a bit of judicious clicking

The limited characters format can do one of two things depending on your tweeting personality: It either encourages a weird form of verbal diarrhoea, or forces you to consider exactly what it is you want to say and to then be succinct about it. On the downside Twitter can absorb an awful lot of your time if you’re not careful, and the immediacy of response seems to be both a blessing and a curse.

Unless you’re actually using it to engage users in discussion, I think Twitter is less useful as a tool for disseminating information about your library and more useful as a support network for information professionals. To engage users, you’d need to employ someone almost exclusively to tweet and respond in real time (and very few libraries that I know of have that level of resource available), if you’re just using it as an information service for users – what’s the point? You can say more in an email or on your website/blog and be no less sure that the information will get through to your readership.

Tweetiepie

If people who tweet are ‘Tweeple’, what’s the singular? A ‘Twerp’?!

Just a thought…

Eyes to the left, nose to the right…

Ok, so here’s the Doodle poll I threatened earlier in the week. Basically I’m interested in finding out if there’s a correlation between left-handedness and libraryness. I realise that this is a fairly limited poll to start off with, but if the results from you lot look interesting, I may be tempted to try reaching a wider set of people!

Thanks for voting!

W

I know what you’re doing next Wednesday…

Right, so much for Thing 5. The next Thing was even easier, mainly beacuse I’d already got an iCalendar and I’d already added it to my iGoogle page (swot!). It looks a bit like this:

What an interesting life I lead...The benefits of this little piece of technology could be considerable, if well applied. It’s chief triumph lies in the fact that one calendar can be shared between several colleagues, or even embedded in a website and made public. The first allows you to have a shared calendar between your library staff – something that is particularly useful for a relatively large/busy department – and means that you can see at a glance who is expected where and when, and what events are happening that day/week/month etc. No excuses for not knowing that the Librarian is out all day, or that vacation loans start on Wednesday! The second facet means that you can post a ‘Library Calendar’ on your library’s web page, detailing changes in loan periods, forthcoming events and even room bookings if required.

So, what’s the catch? The only downside that I can really see is that, to be able to add to or edit the calendar, the person or persons you have shared it with must also have a Google account. This more problematic for the shared office calendar than the public one, obviously, but is definitely worth thinking about before embarking on this particuar mission. Some people are simply happier with paper versions, and for the Google one to work it really needs to be the *main calendar* that is used, otherwise you end up with yet another calendar to check along with the 2 or 3 others that may already be in operation. Having said that, if you can convince everyone to partake then it’s well worth doing.

As far as personal use goes, I actually find it easier to use my brain rather than a computer as a substitute-brain. Maybe it’s just that I’m blessed with the kind of memory that’s good at this sort of thing, but I rarely forget where I’m supposed to be at any particular time. It’s shocking, I know, but I get really wound up with the laziness that computing engenders. I was reading a blog this morning where the author dismissed one of the sites they’d investigated for feed-reading because it *didn’t remember what they’d read for them*. I realise that this is slightly out-of-context, and can see that it if you follow more blogs and websites than you can remember then it would be useful to see what you’ve already looked at – but it does bring me back to information overload, and whether it really is *useful* to have this much at our fingertips.

Doodlebugs

After spending far more time than I could really justify on Cam23 Things last week, I’m pleased to say this week has done a lot to bring the average down. Using Doodle to set up a meeting was really very easy and straightforward – much more my kind of level of technical expertise. I’d definitely use it again if the need arises, and the benefits of using it to organise meetings involving a wide range of participants are obvious. It can be used for anything from a local meeting of colleagues in your office, to departmental, institution-wide and even inter-institutional meetings (providing you have their email addresses to hand).

Librarian on Fen Edge has come up with another use for Doodle and is  busy collating info on the respective ages of Cam23 bloggers. This has given me an idea about something that I’ve often observed: the left-handedness of librarians. I’m sure there are more left-handers working in the library industry than any other, but I’ve never had any proof other than my own limited observations – maybe when I have five mintutes I’ll set up another poll to see if I’m right (or left, as the case may be!).

On blogging

I realise that I didn’t say much about Thing 4 in that last post, so here’s a quick one on my blogging experience so far:

As a complete blogging novice, I found wordpress a little daunting at first. However, having received a lovely comment about how nice my blog was I am now very glad I persevered 🙂 I’m sure that the next few weeks are going to be a steep learning curve, but I look forward to being a complete pro by the end of the course.

I have spent quite a bit of time looking through the other Cam23 blogs (see the list of bloggers on the left-hand side) and it’s very heartening to be part of a collective endeavour like this. To know that other people are struggling, and to aspire to some of the whizzier ones, is great. It’s also reassuring to realise that I don’t have to like everything I try! It seems obvious now, but sometimes it’s a bit disappointing to discover,once the gimmickry has worn off, that the thing you’ve set up isn’t really that useful after all…

I’m finding the process of blogging surprisingly theraputic. A nice way to organise my thoughts and clear my head (I promise I’ll try not to rant too much). As a closet Calligrapher I’m already well versed in the calming benefits of ‘writing stuff down’, and I love hand-writing things in general, but blogging is a bit different. I guess it’s almost as theraputic [as calligraphy] – I mean, you get bash away at a keyboard for a few minutes, and you don’t have the irritation of not being able to form your letters evenly and consistently – but it’s less aesthetically pleasing (to me, anyway)!

Anyhow, I think that just about covers it for me for today. I’m hungry.

Toodlepip.

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