Archive for July, 2010

Let’s call the whole thing off

I’m a little bit confused about Thing 19. Apparently advertising is “only 10% of marketing (if that)”, the rest of it being what we *actually do* and the services we offer. But in the same paragraph I read that “a lot of libarians offer brilliantly appropriate services or tools for their users, but they just don’t wield the megaphone enough in order to get the message out there” um, but surely ‘wielding the megaphone’ is the advertising part, so what are we talking about- marketing or advertising?

If I’m honest, I haven’t come across anything in the Cam23 programme that is going to fundamentally change the services we offer our users. It hasn’t turned up masses of vitally important information that we were previously unaware of and that our students must know about, but it has shown me several platforms that could be adopted for more successful ‘megaphone wielding’. To me, reaching users on as many different platforms as possible is a way of advertising our library, and to argue that it’s not advertising because it’s ‘connecting and conversing’ seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to avoid saying that we *need* to advertise our libraries. Conversation can only develop when there’s something there to engage with, and the only way we can make our users more aware of our presence is by advertising.

Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for me. The social media we’ve been exploring has shown me lots of new and exciting ways of presenting the information that is already there. Yes, these new platforms offer huge opportunities for engaging on a personal level with our users, and the fact that both librarians and users can interact in meaningful ways has got to be a good thing, but the boundaries between advertising and social media are becoming increasingly blurred.

Arguments about whether it’s advertising or marketing aside, what’s the one Thing I think our library could adopt to help engage with our users? I’m afraid the answer has to be Facebook. There are several reasons for this:

  • It’s versatile and flexible
  • Most of our users will have an account (and will have had for several years)
  • It’s fairly universal
  • We can set the tone easily
  • At least some of our librarians are comfortable using this format (if not particularly comfortable with the personal/professional divide)
  • Facebook has the critical mass needed to make it really successful, something even Twitter hasn’t quite managed yet
  • It’s interactive and can be used to engage as well as advertise
  • It can be used to help further a sense of community – something especially useful in the college context

Now I’m not a huge fan of Facebook on a personal level, but over the past few weeks I’ve come across quite a few good library pages and have been convinced that it can be used to good effect if we were ably to get enough support. Facebook page addresses can easily be added to library guides and literature for incoming students, to email signatures of library staff for further coverage, as well as a link on the library web pages. I can easily believe that it might be something that users would look at and engage with if bought to their attention, and well maintained, well-judged page (like the Jerwood Library’s) would do a great deal to promote the friendly and approachable face of the library.

Advertisements

Three, Two, One…Zotero

Sorry, I know it’s a bad title but I can’t help it.

Zotero seems like a really useful little gadget to help you get your references in order. I wish I’d had something like this when I did my Undergrad and Masters dissertations, but I have to admit to doing it the hard way – and it was painful! With the explosion in online resources available, it’s really neat to be able to add and organise references with a couple of clicks, and even more impressive that you can subsequently use these as your citations while you write. However, I do still believe that it’s important for students to be aware of how and why a bibliography is constructed, and would encourage them to get to grips with the basics before plunging straight in and using something like Zotero or Endnote.

As a resource for our users these programmes are really valuable, and it’s important that we know how they work before we blindly recommend them to students. Whether it’s linked from a library web-page, the focus of an online tutorial, included in resource guides or simply recommended by word-of-mouth, Zotero and similar reference-management programmes should be brought to the attention of our users.

As an in-house tool, I’m not convinced it’s quite so useful to libraries. Yes, we can use it to make available bibliographies for particular subjects, or recently published papers by memebers of a department of college, but this to me smacks of making work for ourselves. Reading lists should be compiled the experts in that particular subject, and recent publications are more often found on department or group profiles – Zotero does facilitate the sharing of these, but we should be careful not to cross the line from Information management (what Librarians do best), into Scholarship (what the Professors do best).

My own little play with Zotero kicked up some interesting articles on Antonio Canova:

and I even discovered that there’s an eqivalent to the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Online (now Oxford Music Online) at Oxford Art Online! Bonus 😀

For those of us in the midst of, or due to embark on, their LIS courses Zotero takes the terror out of compiling accurate and comprehensive bibliographies. Bookends (for Macs) looks good and has some great reviews so I’ll definitely be interested in trying that out when the time comes!

LinkedIn

I’ve been aware of LinkedIn for a little while now, but have never really thought of creating an account for myself on there until now. It seems to me to be the perfect solution for those of us who want to perserve the distinction between work and private personas, but would still like to take advantage of what social networking can offer in terms of career development: keep Facebook for socialising and use LinkedIn for work relationships.

I haven’t created an account yet, partly because I can’t face creating yet another personal account, partly because it’s Friday afternoon and I’m feeling lethargic, and partly because I’m not entirely sure that an account has a huge amount to offer me right now, but may well do in the future. Perhaps I’ll wait until I’m qualified and feel like a ‘proper professional’ (!) before registering.

Having spent some time nosing around other people’s accounts I can see that it’s great for keeping in touch with other Information Professionals, people you’ve worked with, people you hope to work with, making contacts in other (related or unrelated) professions, and generally keeping up with what’s going on in the industry. Overall it seems like a sensible use for the Facebook format.

I’m currently unaware of any downsides to an account on LinkedIn, aside from the obvious having an extra account to keep up to date, but this is mainly because I don’t actually use it yet. I’ll be very interested to read the posts by current users of the service to get a better idea of the pros and cons of it as a network.

And the prizes go to…

English Faculty and the Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall. These two Facebook pages show really well what can be achieved with Facebook and the enormous range of uses it can be put to. Opening hours, new displays, new collections, events, exhibitions, feed back from users – all these things an be catered for in one fell swoop, in addition to creating an online community focused on the library. I particularly like the way the tone of the two pages mentioned above reflect the different feel and purposes of the Faculty/College library. The Jerwood page is friendly and approachable with a real ‘community news’ feel to it, with the English Faculty catering for a much larger contingent of users and pushing it’s new collections and exhibitions, as well as pointing fans towards outside news articles that might also be of interest.

Another library that uses Facebook relatively well is our own Central Library in Cambridge. This is just as well, really, because their website is frankly rubbish, but they do seem to use Facebook and Twitter to their advantage especially for publicising events. If they paid as much attention to their website as to the other two accounts, I’d probably give them game-set-and-match.

All these things are great, providing libraries actually reach their users this way. Facebook pages, as with all social media,  need to be well maintained and up-to-date if people are going to pay them any attention, so you need to be sure that the effort is going reap some reward. We recently had some work-experience students visiting our library and I took a little bit of time to talk to them and show them a bit about the Cam23 programme. I was particularly interested in their responses to the ways libraries use social media – they have grown up with Facebook, and will be our users in a couple of years time. Opinion was divided over the use of Facebook; they were all users but the first group admitted that they’d never even thought of Facebook as a resource for ‘useful information’. Having seen a couple of library pages they recognised how it could be a useful platform for disseminating information, but agreed that they would probably still carry on using Facebook socially and weren’t persuaded that they wanted to combine it with ‘school stuff’.

The other student was considerably more engaged and fully appreciated the potential of Facebook as a way for libraries to communicate with their users. However, they were also quite definite that they expected this information to be available via a library’s main website, AND, that they would always use a library website as the main source of information over and above anything else (visiting that first). This begs the following question: if users still expect to be able to find all the information they need via a library website, do we really need to duplicate all that information (and time and effort) elsewhere?

I’m not sure I know the answer to this – part of me says that reaching out on multiple platforms is a ‘good thing’, we do after all want to reach as many of our users as possible, but the other part of me says ‘this is the main problem (as I see it) with web2.0 and social media in general’; namely that most of the ‘useful’ stuff is all duplicated information, and the rest of it is just white-noise about the aforementioned useful stuff.

It seems as though we’re getting more and more impatient, and less and less adept at searching out useful things for ourselves, but before I start ranting I’ll stop there.

I’m not going to talk about the social use of Facebook – I’ve been on it for a number of years and am becoming increasingly ambivalent towards it:

…you make EVRYTHING sing…

Meh, it didn’t work so here’s a screenshot instead!

Some of my books on LibraryThing

LibraryThing… You make my heart sing…

My Library at LibraryThing

Yep, I was right – I love LibraryThing. Having now managed to create an account and add some books I can confidently say that here is the Thing I like best so far about Cam23. It took a little time at first to get used to navigating around and finding the best way to add records for my books, but a little bit of patience goes a long way and I’ve been having great fun adding books to my shelf and tinkering with the details to get them ‘just so’.

Having explored a bit more, I think I would stick with my initial impressions and say that this is something that works best for small libraries with little resource for cataloguing, and new acquisitions or discrete collections in larger libraries. I agree with Miss Crail when she says that, as an institution if you’re going to go down this road it needs to be done professionally and not half-heartedly. And I can imagine that Girl in the Moon, as an ‘inveterate tinkerer’ could be kept going for several weeks by this site.

I’ve gone for a personal account and added 20 or so books out of the hundreds on the shelves at home – my other half keeps hinting that, as a librarian, perhaps I’d like to catalogue our collection(!). The answer is ‘No’, but this may be just the thing (excuse the pun). I’m not sure that I’d bother to review many of my books, unless I felt particularly moved to – there aren’t enough hours in the day, and I could spend the time reading :-), but I like being able to ‘rate’ the books and it’s interesting seeing the variety of tags that can be assigned to the same book.

On the downside, I find it a little bit irritating that you can’t seem to browse LibraryThing from your homepage – the easiest way seemed to be through the ‘add books’ tab, which isn’t really what I want. And I’m not convinced this widgety thing is going to work when I hit ‘publish’, but both these minor niggles could be entirely due to my own ineptitude rather than anything else.

Overall, a huge thumbs up for LibraryThing! Hurrah!

What’s on my bookshelf?

Clangers, courtesy of diamond geezer's photostream

Well, books for a start. Probably a half-drunk cup of tea, some pictures (both in frames and out of frames), some loose change, several coasters, a Clanger (one that makes clanger noises when you squeeze its tummy), and almost certainly lots of other bits and pieces that I can’t remember right now. It would appear that LibraryThing only deals with the ‘books’ part of the list though – maybe they could add a ‘nicknaks’ widget next…

My first impressions of LibraryThing are very favourable – I like the ethos of its creator, Tim Spalding, who seems adamant that it’s something that should be left to grow at its own speed and who refused to sell out to the first person that exprerssed and interest; I like the collaborative aspect; I like the idea of user-generated recommendations and tagging; and I like being nosey.

Having set aside this hour to create my account and start adding books to my bookshelf, it is fairly predicatble that LibraryThing is currently down. However, I’ve had a look at some library websites that incorporate LTFL into their catalogue dsiplays and think that it’s quite a good way of implementing what many of us talked about in Thing 8, namely integrating user tagging into library catalogues as an extra point of access alongside LCSH.

I can’t imagine larger libraries going wholesale for the LibraryThing thing, but for discrete collections or recent acquisitions it seems ideal. Could it also be used to encourage students to develop their own book collections? Or as a tool for collection development? Perhaps even as a way of managing recommendations? The possibilites are huge, but would require careful monitoring and wide participation for it to work really well.

Perhaps I’ll have a better idea when I’ve explored a bit more – I hope it’s not down for long, I’m keen to get going!

p.s. Things seem to keep breaking just after we start exploring them – is the Cam23 programme systematically trashing the web2.0 world?

Reading and ‘riting (but not ‘rithmetic…)

Word cloud

Apparently I have a mild read/write learning preference. This could go some way towards explaining why I have a spider-diagram and an A4 sheet of handwritten notes in front of me as I am writing this post. I don’t seem to be able  (or have the confidence) to organise my thoughts on a screen in the same way – if in doubt, a piece of paper and a pencil will go a long way to sorting things out.

So here are some of my thoughts on Cam23 so far:

Skills & Knowledge

In terms of technical knowledge, I’m far more comfortable playing around with pictures, links and banners to add to my blog. I can take screenshots (which I couldn’t before), and I can blog (which I’d never thought of doing before). I’m also becoming more adventurous in trying various avenues before crying for help.

I’m getting better at exploring sites and resources beyond their face value, looking for pros and cons, and considering how different approaches can be useful even if they don’t suit me. And I have found that I’m most likely to write a balanced evaluation of something that I haven’t had a strong reaction to one way or another. This leads me on to…

Confidence and Competence

My awareness of the community aspect of web2.0 has improved hugely, as has my awareness of the community of librarians in Cambridge 🙂 As I’ve said before, it’s great to be part of a collective endeavour like this. I’m also much less timid about forming my own opinions (of web stuff) as I feel I now have the experience to be able to say “I don’t like the way it does this…”, or “I think it could be vastly improved by…” and can usually just about justify why it is that I think that.

Relevance of the “Things”

I loved this one: “Have the ‘Things’ covered everything that you need to know?” Um, how would I know? Surely the only people who can answer that question are the people who know the things that I don’t know, and can therefore decide whether I need to know them (or not)… Otherwise, I’ll just carry on in happy ignorance 🙂 I think these are usually called Unkown unkowns, but I could be wrong.

Deep philosophical considerations aside, in general I have been more impressed with the Things that have covered resources, rather than the Things that have covered the management aspects of librarianship. I have to confess that this is largely a reflection of my current job, which is relatively independent and does not require me to attend or schedule lots of meetings, and means that these tools aren’t really useful to me at present. I am, however, aware that they may well be of use in the future.

Changes for the Future

I’m quite happy with how I’ve approached the learning aspect of the programme so far but I feel that I’m quite a passive participant in many respects. I will therefore be trying much harder in the second half of the course to comment on other blogs more often, and to reference the lots of interesting things being said by other participants. Perhaps I need to come up with a cunning way to extract the juicy bits as I’m reading the first time, rather than just thinking “Oh, that’s interesting/relevant/eloquently put” etc. [delete as applicable] and then not being able to remember where the hell I read it by the time I come to write my blog post.

Recommendations

These are the three Things I would recommend, without hesitation, to anybody:

  • Flickr (including CC licensed images) – for the enormous variety and creativity (and amount of time you can waste looking at pretty pictures)
  • Doodle – for it’s sheer simplicity (and the fact you don’t have to create an account)
  • Delicious – probably the only thing that I’d recommend without being a convert myself

Yum yum

Delicious:
1. a. Highly pleasing or delightful; affording great pleasure or enjoyment.
1. b. Intensely amusing or entertaining.
2. a. Highly pleasing or enjoyable to the bodily senses, esp. to the taste or smell; affording exquisite sensuous or bodily pleasure.
2. b. designating a variety of eating apple of North American origin.
3. a. Characterized by or tending to sensuous indulgence; voluptuous, luxurious.
3. b. Of persons: Addicted to sensuous indulgence; voluptuous, luxurious, dainty.

I have a confession to make. I didn’t find Delicious highly pleasing or delightful; it didn’t afford me Great Pleasure (sensuous, bodily, or otherwise); it wasn’t intensely amusing or entertaining; and it wasn’t an eating apple of North American origin either :-S. HOWEVER, it does appear to be useful.

My first impression of this Thing was ‘what’s the point?’. It seemed to me to just be yet another way of searching the internet, except this time the results were based on people-tagged relevance rather than Google-extracted information. So, is this better? Having thought about it a bit more I think the answer is ‘yes’. You’re unlikely to retrieve sites that are entirely irrelevant to the search terms you used, but may gain a few results that a search engine lacks the subtlety to turn up. 15-love in favour of Delicious.

Having explored a few collections of bookmarks I must say I am particularly impressed with the Casimir Lewy (Philosophy) Library’s public account, mainly due to the obvious time and effort that has gone in to creating and maintaining it. From a library’s point of view the option of adding a brief synopsis of the content of a site is brilliant, allowing the user that extra little bit (excuse the pun) of information to help them decide whether it might be relevant. 30-love.

Tag clusters seem to be an excellent way of grouping related sites whilst still allowing an extra degree of detail. This is particularly useful when using this as a resource for users, as sites can sit easily in multiple sub-sets without interfereing with subject-specific grouping of information. Navigation around the site, and around individual accounts, is simple(s) and intuitive, but to me the interface strikes me as a bit flat and could do with a bit more contrast (picky, I know). Probably 40-15 by now.

Delicious is an excellent way of keeping and sharing bookmarks, especially if you travel around a lot, or have to use more than one computer (and is great if you’re nosy like me, and want to see what other people find interesting). But, Librarians beware! before rushing to open an account for your library and adding lots of useful bookmarks – make sure you’ll have the time to keep it up-to-date and well maintained. This can be very time-consuming, but is important especially for an institutional account, as nothing will a bad impression like broken links or out-of-date websites. 1 game-love in favour of Delicious.