Archive for Cambridge 23 Things

Fallen at the final wordle…

Sorry, couldn’t resist!

So long and thanks for all the fish

The final post! (well nearly – I’m saving my wordle for last). Time for a bit more reflection methinks:

In my first post I wrote that my hope for the outcome of the  Cam23 project was that “I will have marshalled some convincing arguments in support (or otherwise) of web 2.0”. And now we’re at the end I hear you ask? Mission accomplished 🙂 and I have to say (much to my surprise) that most of my arguments are Pro web 2.0, not against. Obviously not everything I’ve tried has been to my taste, but there has been nothing on the course that I would dismiss out-of-hand. To have tried the Things and come to a balanced conclusion about whether they’re useful to me now/in the future/not at all is very satisfying – and to have tried them thoroughly enought to be able to recommend them to others, regardless of my own opinion of them, is a win-win situation.

Here’s a brief run-down of what I’ve found useful:

  • iGoogle has made it into everyday life, along with Google Reader and RSS feeds
  • Facebook I already used in a personal capacity, but I’ve becom more aware of it as a tool for reaching out to users
  • Doodle I’ll use as and when I need it
  • Flickr has already proved very useful, and I may even set up a personal account on there one day
  • Creative Commons is a great idea
  • GoogleDocs for accessible-anywhere work

Here’s some Things I’ll keep in mind for the future:

  • Delicious I might revert to when my bookmarks dropdown menu becomes so large it obscures my screen
  • LibraryThing I might delve back into at some point, but it’s ended up as one of those gimmicks that I’m enthusiastic about for 5 minutes and then forget about
  • LinkedIn, for when I’m feeling a bit more professional!
  • Zotero, definitely for recommending to users and for my library course
  • Wikis for collaborative projects
  • Blogging, to keep users abreast of events, interesting snippets of information and generally to give our wonderful library a bit more of an online presence
  • Podcasts (but mainly for personal use)

and some Things I don’t think I’ll be using again (but you never know):

  • Twitter – I can see the point, it’s just not for me
  • Slideshare – I found this the least engaging of all the Things
  • YouTube – not in a professionalt capacity, and hardly ever personally


At the end of the programme I’m a lot less intimidated by web2.0, trying out new things, and making my own mind up about what’s useful and what isn’t. Whether we like it or not, social networking is here to stay and we should use it to our advantage as much as we can, but never to the detriment of the face-to-face service we provide for our users. All the resources we’ve discovered over the last 12 weeks should enrich the service we provide, not forgetting that librarians can often be the most useful resource of all.

Wikis and light at the end of the tunnel

Before this Thing I had absolutely no experience of Wikis whatsoever. I’d heard of them, but I’m not sure I could have given a succinct definition of what one was. Happily, this situation has now been rectified and they appear on first investigation to be very useful things.

As many of the Cam23 bloggers have already said, they look to be great for collaborative projects where information needs to be available and editable by many different people in diverse locations. The excellent and obvious example of how useful they can be is currently being demonstrated by the TeachMeet team.

External projects aside, wikis can be usefully employed for all sorts of things – a staff intranetty type thing is one that springs to mind, where you could incoporate departmental announcements, calendars, training plans and logs, and any other useful documentation that you want to be contributed to and available to all staff.

I’ve got one particular project on the go at the moment where several members of staff are working on various bits at various times, and a wiki would be an excellent way of co-ordinating our working practices and charting our progress – could be a great start to my Wiki career!

Obviously a careful eye has to be kept on contributions and edits of available information – a problem that has plagued Wikipedia from the start, but current Wiki software appears to offer quick and easy control over this, and so as long as you keep on top of things there is no reason why this should become a problem.

15 minutes of fame

Podcasting. I have to admit I got a bit stuck on this one – I decided to leave it until ‘after I’d returned from holiday’ and since then I’ve been procrastinating and putting off doing my homework (never do today that which can be left until tomorrow – that’s my motto!). HOWEVER! I have now done it (and it wasn’t as painful as I thought) and will attempt to collect some semi-sensible thoughts on the uses, or otherwise, of podcasting.

Sandy ToksvigI’ve never really used podcasts before – I mean, I’ve been aware of them for ages and keep thinking to myself every time I miss an episode of The News Quiz ”I really should sign up for their podcasts’, but somehow never get round to it. I wouldn’t necessarily  search out media on specific subjects, there are things I like to listen to but if I haven’t made the effort to catch up on iPlayer then the chances it wasn’t that important to me anyway and it’s no great loss. That being said – I do use the BBC’s iPlayer regularly, and I have been known to watch the odd TED talk now and again (I would particularly recommend Maz Jobrani’s Did you hear the one about the Iranian-American? and Alain de Botton’s Kinder, gentler philosophy of success).

Personal use aside, I think I’d have to class podcasts in the ‘gimmick-nonessential’ group of Things. If you have enough time on your hands, and the final product looks really good, then a podcast could be a real asset to your library website. But if you and your staff are pushed for time then there are 101 other directions in which your time could be better spent (ok, maybe 101 is an exaggeration). I do, however, have to confess to aspiring to Ninja Librarian status – which Library School teaches that, I wonder?

JISC has some podcasts on interesting professional topics, such as the Future of Libraries and Library spaces for the ‘Google Generation‘, but I’m not sure I agree with the use of Podcasting for library tours etc. Yes, they would be useful as a ‘quick reference’ tool, but nothing to replace face-to-face contact with users (which I think we should be encouraging more of).

To summarise, then: Podcasting seems to be an engaging way of disseminating information to users and information professionals alike, but for your ‘average library’ (whatever one of them may be) it’s probably only the icing on the cake – much better to get the actual cake sorted out first 🙂

Google Docs

You can tell that Cam23 apathy is starting to set because I am no longer able to think up silly titles to do with the Things we are supposed to be exploring. That being said, Thing 20 was easy-peasy-lemon-sqeezy 🙂 I have had a little bit of experience using Google Docs before, mainly for organising training timetables and sharing training plans for coming weeks, and also as a useful place to back stuff up, but I’d never tried the process of creating the document and sharing it.

I decided to create a little drawing and share it with a couple of colleagues – the drawing document type is very similar to ‘paint’ in that you can paste in a [cc licsensed] photo and draw silly things on it. This done, it was a simple (or so I thought) process to add their addresses to the ‘share with’ box and all’s done an dusted. In reality, if you have more than one email address for the intended target you need to make sure it’s the one they use to log in to their Google account with, otherwise they can’t get to it. You do have the option of sending them a link in an email that wil allow them access, but I haven’t always found this reliable and it works on the assumption that they’ll always be able to follow that link. Girl in the Moon, in the spirit of exploring things thoroughly, took the opportunity to edit the drawing, and that worked fine.

All in all, Google Docs is an excellent and simple way to work collaboratively on projects and library documents. I’m not so sure that it lends itself to sharing information with users, as I think there are more elegant and suitable ways to do this, but for staff document sharing it’s great – especially as it makes location no object at all and can be used from anywhere. Usual proviso of everyone needing an account for it to work well, and Google taking over the world blah, blah blah…

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.

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

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