14 December 2012

"Managing Your Online Presence" update

We ran this course again this term, this time with much more success (i.e. it ran!) and it was a fun class. As well as those who attended, I had a lot of email enquiries about future dates and we are running it next term as part of Employability Week.

Before the session ran, I checked the content and found that Facebook has altered its privacy tools, removing the extremely handy interactive tools that we used to recommend. The URL still works (annoyingly) but if you click on the link to "Preview your Profile" you now get a page not found error... The way to preview your profile is now done from your Timeline. There is a little settings icon which has a "View as" option.

You can choose the Public view or the view of a specific friend - you have lost the ability to view as "Friend of friend" which used to be handy. I can see that this must have become unwieldy as the greater levels of customization for items and lists but it's still a great shame to have lost this option.

"Preview your Public Search Profile" also takes you to a Help page with fresh instructions on the (much more complicated) way to do it. Having followed those instructions, the resulting page has a very plain URL:
Perhaps one can just use that URL as a short cut, replaced with your own username? Maybe someone can try it and let me know!

Anyway, all this meant re-vamping our teaching materials and I noticed today that another change to Facebook's privacy settings is being rolled out imminently so that will mean another update. The ever-changing Facebook privacy mess is a pain - it's tough to help our students monitor their online profile on a regular basis with inconsistent tools.

1 November 2012

Thing 23: What next?

Wow I've made it! The final Thing! Enough of being giddy, I need to get on with it...

Gaps in my Skills:

  • Management experience: see my Thing 21 about this. I have no real idea how to get any additional experience - I have done some managing staff but the bit I need is the real serious stuff: appraisals and the like - the sort of thing you can't get outside a real management role. Yet every manager must have started somewhere so I live in hope!
  • Cataloguing skills: I'm working on this one! I'm doing cataloguing so technically I am getting experience but I definitely need to get some foundation of knowledge about what I'm doing!
  • Welsh: always important for any job in Wales. I have just re-started learning Welsh, mostly motivated by my children going to a Welsh school, and this would also be useful at work. The uni is trying to strengthen its Welsh language provision so it is quite a hot topic right now.
  • Social Research skills: I'd like to work up to doing some evidence based library research one day. For this, I need social research methods - a total blank in my current knowledge but something I can read on, maybe even find a MOOC... No time at the moment but perhaps something for next year.
We do have an appraisal process once a year where this kind of thing gets logged and I do have some of the above down for the current year so hopefully will make some progress. 

Reflecting on the programme:

Short answer: it's been good!
The best things for me have been...
  • Starting this blog: I will try to keep it going now it's already 6 months old!
  • Connecting with people: I've really enjoyed the cross-commenting on blogs & having a common purpose shared by so many at (roughly) the same time. It has encouraged me to comment more on blog posts generally.
  • I've tried some new tools and revisited ones I've been using already - it's also reinforced my conviction that some of the tools ARE worth persevering with (Prezi - I'm going to get to you one day soon!)
  • The whole series of Things is very useful in terms of the training we do for researchers - many of the tools we have used crop up in our teaching too.
I don't have any negatives really. Perhaps some of the Things were not so relevant to me right now - I'm mid career, not seeking to change job any time soon, for example. It's always good to refresh one's thoughts on these things but I preferred the Things that pushed me in more relevant directions. 

Thing 22: Volunteering

I have been reading around this Thing for a while before I actually tried to write anything. I find myself sitting on a fence: I think the idea of volunteering for experience is a good one but it excludes those who can't manage to sustain themselves financially while they do it and that is a very bad thing. I hate the idea of cutting back on paid librarians to staff libraries with volunteers but if that is the only option on the table, isn't it better than nothing? When do you accept defeat and seek damage limitation? No easy answers to these questions for me.

I have only done a little volunteering in recent years (I did a lot as an archaeologist back in the 90s!) - at the moment I do a few bits of work for our local community woodlands society. I do that because I like the woods and want to contribute something to the local community, however small. For me, the important thing with any volunteering is to be realistic about what I can manage and only offer to do things that I can fit into my limited spare time. I find it easiest to do web-based stuff - not attending meetings or events so much unless the kids can come along too.

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

It may be taking a while but I'm getting there...Thing 21!

I'm not super-motivated with this, I must admit, as I have no intention of looking for another job any time soon but of course one can never feel totally sure that a terrible axe may fall on one's current job in the current climate.

I have been keeping an Evernote note on my job achievements / things I've done for a while now and I had a recurring to-do task to update it fortnightly. It only took a minute so not particularly onerous. (A recent changeover from Remember the Milk to Wunderlist has meant this stopped - now reminder back in place!)

I think getting my current job was the greatest success of my career as I was up against incredibly tough competition and didn't rate my chances! I did use a lot of the advice about job applications - I stuck right to the criteria and showed how I met it all - plus I used the lessons from a day course on Presentations to create something I was happy to present and so did it with a bit more confidence than usual. I also wanted it really really badly so I did a huge amount of preparation.

For me, the one thing I always lack - and I think this would be an issue if I went for another job one day - is management experience. I did manage staff way back in about 1998 & 2001 but not for long - maybe a year at most. I never did appraisals or anything like that, it was just in terms of managing their workload and delegating tasks to them. This experience is not something I can see myself getting in my current role and it always seems impossible to progress to a management role without it (chicken / egg scenario). Therefore it feels like a particular hurdle I will never get past :o(

12 October 2012

Thing 20: Library Routes

I've learned to love my routes. It's been a long, winding road that has actually ended up back where it started - when I was in my late teens I wanted to be a librarian. So much so that I took a Saturday job in Oak Farm Library and spent half my weekend shelving books, issuing them on little cardboard tickets and coming home feeling my hands needed a good wash. All for a real pittance of pay, especially once bus fare had been deducted. Still, I enjoyed it - the company was good and, as Saturday jobs go, it wasn't a bad one.

Next thing that happened was I fell in love - with my degree. I followed my heart and did Ancient History and Archaeology, specializing in Egyptology - and did well enough to go straight on to a PhD. You could do that in those days. Looking back, it was a mistake in many ways, even though I met my own condition of having to secure funding (thank you AHRC!). I knew nothing really of research so it was very uphill: there was very little in the way of support or research-skills training and, worst of all, I was so GREEN! I didn't have a clue about getting published, networking, or anything at all to take me beyond those 3 years. I loved my subject and I loved studying but I also spent a lot of time working as a barmaid to pay my way. I'd say, until now, that was my favourite job - I like customer service and I was lucky enough to work in the most beautiful spot in the whole wide world.

So after that, I looked around for a "proper job" - anything - I was broke! Applied for various graduate posts only to wind up as a trainee Computer Programmer for a company that liked non-tekkies for our "people skills" - the rest they taught you on the job. I spent a total of six years living in London, working in financial institutions in the City a lot of the time, learning various coding languages. And, yes, it felt a monumental struggle and I never felt like I was very good at it. The skill I learnt the quickest was how to find something someone had already done, try to work out how they'd done it and copy it before anyone noticed I didn't really have a clue.

That life took its toll. My heart wasn't in it and I had never wanted to move back to London. It felt like a wonderful release to get a job back in Swansea again but that turned out to be such a job from hell that I ended my IT career for good. After taking off on a wonderful road trip round Scotland, I came back and was both glad and lucky to a get a job on the issue desk at the University library. Yes, it was a huge pay drop from my IT days and, yes, it was worth every lost penny in terms of happiness and quality of life! I did that for nearly 2 years before heading off to Aber to do the library masters and my career as librarian was finally back on track, some 20 years later.

I can see now that everything I have done has been an enormous help in being a librarian. I have a research background, even though it was a long time ago, and the "Dr" doesn't hurt when you're dealing with academics. You never lose tekkie skills - it's about having a confidence and an understanding of how things work, not specific systems or languages - and I believe these are essential for library work anywhere today. Even being a barmaid was invaluable - providing good customer service often under pressure and with the occasional difficult customers.

I wouldn't want to be anywhere else now - I love working at a university, I love Swansea and I have fantastic colleagues. I know how lucky I am to be able to say I love my job - I never forget the horrors of my London days (stress, long LONG hours, bankers). I don't regret the long road it took to get here. Who knows where it will lead next?

Thing 19: Integrating Things

My breather for Thing 19 turned out to be oh-so-much longer than a week! But it is the busiest time of the year so not unexpected... Now I come to reflect back, I'm feeling a little downhearted as I'm not sure I have made that many changes to my ways of working so far. I think this is partly due to the fact that I was already using some of the tools a lot (Dropbox, Google Docs, Evernote, Screencast-o-matic) but it was good to know that use of these was recommended. Then there are tools that I do want to use better (Google Calendar, Prezi, Mendeley) but I just haven't yet had the chance to develop this use. The timing of the course has been bad for me as I was on holiday for a chunk of August, then we start getting really busy with teaching after that. Excuses, excuses....I'll blog if I get there!

I do think however CPD23 has changed my way of thinking about networks and events and getting out there more. I find I'm scanning event announcements quite eagerly to pick my opportunity to get out and about. I also look with regret at the network meetings I can't go to in Wales! I sincerely hope I WILL be going to the ALIS Wales conference in November as long as work will to pay (pretty please!) and look forward to meeting other Disability-support staff there.

16 September 2012

Thing 18: Jing / screen capture / podcasts (making and following them)

This Thing:

We have been doing screencasts for a while now and use Screencast-o-matic. It has completely hit the spot in terms of being easy to learn, quick to get going & simple to share once done. We even added subtitles. I can't recommend it enough therefore if you just need to do it with no frills.

Personally, I find it easiest to write out almost a script to have in front of me. I also accept it's not going to be perfect. I genuinely believe anything over 2 minutes is too long - no time can be wasted on intros, you have to jump right in and be as quick as you can. They can always be re-watched...

The issues we hit were
  • Media complaining about the quality and other aspects, compared with more professional tools. Basically, they expected us to be using Camtastia or similar. However, we don't HAVE copies of a posher tool nor do we have the time to learn it. The quality is definitely sufficient to tell someone how to do something and that is all we need. (Media were only involved at all as they said we have to host the videos on "estream").
  • Backing them up. We tend to link back to the website but really we ought to download them just in case it went pear-shaped. We are supposed to put them on our institutional "estream" so this would achieve this.
  • Finding a place to do them. We have an open plan office so to do one you need to book a room, use a laptop, find headphones, get it all set up to work etc. It's a huge faff! This is particularly annoying as I'd love to be able to do a quick screencast sometimes to answer a question - so many of our queries are about accessing online resources and it would be ideal for that.
  • We already have a whole swathe to update this summer as interfaces change. This isn't a huge problem - I was able to reuse the "script" from before so it didn't take as long as the first time to do.

Hate listening to podcasts & don't make them. That sounds terribly churlish but I felt the screencasts were enough for one year! Also I prefer a visual medium - I'm not sure I have anything to pontificate on that would fit an audio format?

14 September 2012

Thing 17: The Medium is the Message- Prezi and Slideshare

Link to the Thing

I've had so many false starts with Prezi I've lost count. I'm not a fan of its zoominess but I'm not letting that be a barrier to using it as I assume I can control it how I wish. I think it looks good and I'm a big fan of mind mapping so having a nonlinear approach suits my way of thinking. At our SALT Learning & Teaching Conference this year I was so impressed when one of the student presentations was done with Prezi, completely showing up the other academics' fusty old powerpoints! (Not a comment on their content - by its very nature, Prezi makes any PPT look pretty fusty....)

But it's just been too hard! Hard to get my head round it, hard to find my way around, feeling you need to use it well or not at all, feeling it always needs more time than I have to get to grips with it... I've been really trying to improve my presentations but I have focused on the content and planning so much I have less time for design. I think that is probably the right approach but I'm determined to master Prezi sooner rather than later... I looked at it again today but, even though I have watched the intro guides, I'm still a little lost on where to start. I do have an expectation that things will be easy to use, probably unrealistically so.

One big drawback: we are using clickers in most of our classes and of course that relies on Powerpoint interaction so I can see that being a reason not to use Prezis, although you could break up a class into different presentation formats if you were really keen.

I have used Slideshare a little and it performs a wonderful service in making things available. I have very little stuff that is for external viewers rather than our own staff and students but if I do, it will go up there. Here's my profile:

13 September 2012

Thing 16: Advocacy for the profession and Getting Published

This thing makes me feel a little uncomfortable, as I know I haven't been as active as I should in advocacy and activism. I know a little about Voices for Libraries - enough to know I agree with it wholeheartedly - but  I do other stuff (Amnesty) in the very small amount of time I devote to such things. I think you have to find your own balance in life with these things and I'm not going to get stressed about it.

I work in an academic library and I do try to push and promote our services whenever I can, but this is usually only on a one-to-one basis. I think we seriously need to be bigging ourselves up on campus but there's only so much a pleb like me can do - it really needs a strategic lead & message. Demonstrating value / impact is key to this and I am desperate for time to catch up with all the research on this that's been going on. There must be a good message we can distil from it and use.

Getting published is a real ambition of mine and something I need to focus my efforts on in the next few years. This isn't just a vanity thing - I'd love to know I'd done something interesting enough to write about! I feel a real barrier of not knowing where to start or what to do - a publishing mentor would be very useful at this point I guess. When I think about publishing, I'm thinking of an academic journal - part of the point for me is to go through the process and get the research experience.

10 August 2012

Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events

Goodness me, keeping up with the Things has never felt harder than on a hot, sunny August Friday...just before I go off for a week. This particular thing is also something I don't have too much to say about. As mentioned before, I'm a terrible stay-at-home these days unless there's something devastatingly interesting (rare!) or I'm forced into going (Gregynog!). Actually I really enjoyed my day at Gregynog, despite having to present, as it was full of friendly Welsh librarians, some of whom I'd not seen for a long time. So that will teach me to try to get out more...

I made a colossal effort with my presentation not to be death-by-powerpoint and I was boosted when someone complimented my first slide (a pic of an owl!) right at the start. So this is the tip I would share - make the effort to find good pics, nuke any bullet points and follow the advice of the presentation links in this Thing. I feel like I am on a steep presentations learning curve which is taking me far from my comfort zone. I still make many fundamental errors in boring an audience, but I do feel like I'm improving by trial and error.

A splendid owl (free use pic)

I'm going to pledge this year (2012-2013 academic year!) to try to attend one library event, no matter how far, as I definitely need to kick myself out of my lethargy.

3 August 2012

Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / CiteULike

This thing is something I have dabbled with in the past as I try to keep up with referencing tools. Supporting students and researchers is a key part of my role and I think this ought to include information management if I can manage it. At my university we have a licence for EndNote and EndNoteWeb so this is promoted as the tool of choice and we run plenty of training on it too. It's OK but these are the defects:
  • It's not social: you can only share libraries with other EndNote users
  • I don't think it's a good idea to put your eggs in a subscription basket as most students and researchers will find themselves moving around in their careers and may not have an EndNote sub. However, you can always export and import your library to a new system.
  • It's not the prettiest or the friendliest tool out there.
  • EndNote the software is only available on campus PCs - for your own laptop you need to shell out around £60. EndNoteWeb is a cut-down version accessed via the web.
It does integrate well with Word and the full EndNote package is bells and whistles. I try to use EndNoteWeb myself as I have to train on it and need to know how it works.

I have tried Mendeley and used it for a project where we wished to share a list of references with the wide world. It worked well for that. It's also fab at indexing a load of PDFs but generally speaking I find it a bit clunky to use. You need to download and install it, and then there's the web interface.

Zotero I used once about a year ago and found it OK - again, I liked being able to share my references. I think you can see them here? They are part a work thing and part a Welsh flora thing I did as part of some voluntary work for the National Botanic Gardens of Wales.

My big problem is that I am accumulating various bits of library-related stuff and I have no way of indexing it all and keeping it neatly together. Some of these are articles but others are blog posts or reports etc. I sort of shuffle along in a disorganized state, Googling things I already found, re-downloading things I already have etc. It doesn't take too long - that's the problem! If I ever undertook some serious research or writing again, I'd have to put my eggs in one basket and I'd probably pick Mendeley.

25 July 2012

Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

I'm a huge fan of two of these but I will never be the Wikilady...

Google Docs

Google Docs I have been using for a long, long time - in fact I had a Writely account before Google took it over. Reasons for this are many:

  • Aversion to Microsoft Word (sledgehammer to crack a nut for most of my docs) and not having it on home laptops.
  • Using several PCs to do stuff: we have a home PC, a laptop and then I have a work PC. I like to be able to read or write my docs wherever I am without worrying about whether I have suitable software installed.
  • Collaboration at work: in this job and the last, I have often ended up using a sneaky Google Doc to avoid using Sharepoint. It's SO much quicker for opening, reading, editing, tracking changes etc. 
  • Sharing documents: there is no way for us to SHARE a document with the wide world using the ironically named Sharepoint and I find myself wanting to do this more and more. It's a moment's work to make a Google Doc public and send out a URL. 
The down side?
  • Backing things up: I do tend to trust the cloud but I also back up important stuff somewhere else. I don't do this religiously but I work under the assumption that I'm willing to risk things I haven't backed up and most of the time that's OK.
  • Clunky interface: using Google Docs on my mobile (Android) and iPad is not the easiest, even with the app. Definitely could do better. Evernote does do it better, in fact.
  • Uploading word docs and downloading them does mean you lose the finer points of formatting and it can go wonky (that's a technical term).
Ways of using Google Docs:
  • In one of our library groups we have been doing the minutes as we go on a laptop using Google Docs. If you have your own laptop or device, you can see and amend what the minute taker has written if you wish (doesn't happen a lot!). It's also there ready and shared for the next meeting.
  • I have created several teaching resources and shared them with students using Google Docs. My only alternative would be to put them in Blackboard and this immediately creates a login barrier. For example, the 3rd year social work students we presented to on social media will lose their university accounts at the end of August but will still be able to view the resource sheet we created. I also do it so we can give out an URL (always a small one!) and reduce the waste of paper handouts. We also tend to handout paper with long URLs on which students then have to type on. This is silly!
  • Forms: wonderfully quick and easy to create a survey with results going into a spreadsheet. Maybe not as good-looking as SurveyMonkey but no restrictions on numbers. We have just run a Google Forms survey with over 450 responses and still going. It took less than an hour to put up there and circulate.


Of course Google Drive is now rivalling Dropbox but I'm sticking with my existing Dropbox usage, at least for now. Why I use Dropbox:
  • Backup: we have it installed on our home computer / laptops so anything is duplicated across those and also available via the online interface for access from anywhere. We do also backup to a hard drive but that is more sporadic. This is instantaneous.
  • It's soooo easy! You install it and it's just there as a folder to copy and paste or save into etc.
The down side?
  • It's just a file store. So if you put a powerpoint presentation on there, you need Powerpoint (or OpenOffice or whatever) to open it installed on your machine. In my opinion, this is less desirable than sharing a Google Doc which needs nothing to view other than a browser.
  • It requires a software install.
  • I won't install it at work even if security allowed that - I don't want my personal files on my work computer - so I just use the web interface which is a little clunky.
The only time I have used Dropbox to share stuff publicly is for the teaching materials from our "Managing your online presence". These are linked to from this site - again, I hit a problem using our corporate systems if I want to share stuff with the wider world. Otherwise I only use Dropbox for personal and home stuff.


I hate wikis! Really - I avoid them like the plague. Clunky, usually password protected with a password I have long since forgotten and not particularly nice to look at. Apart from maybe Wikipedia which is in a league of its own.

20 July 2012

Thing 12: Putting the Social into Social Media

I've found myself being more social than ever before thanks to the CPD23 programme and I think that is one of the major benefits of taking part. I think I behave the same on social media as I do in real life - if there's a big group conversation going on I tend to feel quite shy about joining in and think I have nothing worth saying...unless I have something I am burning to say when I will eventually work up the courage! Social media has an additional speed element to it that often defeats me - I'm not lurking on Twitter all the time and sometimes I'll find there was a conversation a day ago that I would have enjoyed but everyone has moved on already.

I'm lucky in that I have some friends working in different careers but with a shared interest in social media so that gets me out of my comfort zone a little. I try to follow more general topics such as social media and education so that means I'm not just engaging with librarians - although most of my top tweeters to follow are librarians (our profession just has such quality people...)

As with many things, time is an issue - I haven't had much time lately to follow Twitter or check the blogs I follow - but when I do find a moment, I shall keep trying to engage a bit more and lurk a bit less.

Lurker by Robert Stok on Flickr
(This breaks my secret NO CATS rule!)

12 July 2012

Thing 11: Mentoring

I had a mentor when I did my Chartership and really liked the idea of having someone who was not at my workplace and not my manager to meet with occasionally and review my progress. Since then I haven't had anyone who would quite fill that role but there are several people whose opinions I respect and advice I seek. I'm not sure I feel the need right now to seek out a general mentor - and I'm not sure who would fit that bill - but it could be answer to some specific areas I wish to develop.

One big problem I am having in my current job is my lack of cataloguing experience combined with a lack of any cataloguing procedures. It's kind of assumed we all know what we're doing and, whilst I can slowly and laboriously try to work out the right answers, I'd love to be sure of what I'm doing and speed up a bit! It occurred to me that having a cataloguing mentor may be an answer to this - someone who can explain and check my work occasionally so I can rest easy that I'm making progress. I'd also like to engage in evidence based research over the next few years - again, this would be a good area to find a mentor for advice and guidance. 

Mentor needed: to help me accept the things I cannot change....

5 July 2012

Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

For me, the heart of this Thing is formal, recognized learning vs. informal CPD. The former is good for job hunting or proving something to yourself or other people but usually comes at a high cost of money and time (both to you and your workplace perhaps). The latter is more responsive and flexible, can be free, yet is hard to get recognized in the long run unless you can do wonderful things as a result. 

I have a silly amount of qualifications amassed over the years. I did the library Masters purely because it was the only way to get a "proper" librarian job where I wanted to work - I'd loved working on the Issue Desk but I also knew I'd want to move on in years to come. As I was already maturing (like a good cheese), I decided I didn't have time to waste so took a leap of faith and went off and did it in a year full-time at Aber. I have to say it was quite a dreary course apart from the utterly wonderful Local Studies module (we begged for more at the end!), the more tekkie Internet Searching stuff and of course anything taught by the brilliant Geraint Evans (now author) was worth attending. It did the trick and without the MScEcon I wouldn't be where I am today...

I did go on and get Chartered. I'm not entirely sure why, looking back - I think I just felt it was the logical conclusion if you were a librarian...I'm not too sure I'd feel that now? I enjoyed the discipline of it and the reflective practice. I also did it at a time when I wasn't employed in a library (I was an e-learning advisor for a few years) so it meant I kept a focus on librarianship. 

I would only do another work-related qualification if I was very sure it was going to be interesting and practically useful. A teaching course is the one thing I'm pondering at the moment as I'd love to have a better understanding of teaching theory and improve my practical skills (which have all been learned on the job). However, with two small children and other things that need to take priority (learning Welsh to keep up with my son's homework), I can't see it happening for a few years. Otherwise, I try to research and learn about things as they crop up in my job - I've just been scanning around for any good practice or ideas on library inductions as tomorrow we are discussing what to do different this year. 

2 July 2012


Those who have worked with me for any length of time will know that nobody's heart sinks faster than mine when a meeting is threatened. I don't like negative thinking about work but past experience has taught me that nothing can be as soul destroying as hours spent trapped in a room inching through an agenda the way a slug eats a lettuce leaf...

Ideas factory or torture chamber?

In the spirit of reflection and progress, I have often pondered the key to successful meetings. I have read articles on the subject and considered practical rules (meeting conducted standing up?). Unfortunately I am not in a position to control most of the meetings I have to go to so I'm not able to implement anything too radical (this is probably good thing for those involved!)

Last week however I had at least 2 meetings which were an absolute joy. One of which was close to 2 1/2 hours long. So what were the reasons for their success?
  1. Very nice people: everyone at the meetings was considerate, sensible, good humoured and generous. There was no talking for talking's sake, no weird tensions or disputes going on, everyone was working to a common goal.
  2. The purpose of the meetings were clearly defined and, in my opinion, extremely important. We knew what we were there to do and, just as importantly, when to stop.
  3. The surroundings were comfortable - light, airy, good chairs. Trivial, but it helps!
  4. Nobody was fiddling with phones or laptops even though we had them there, we were all focussed and engaged. This was partly because everyone's comments were important and constantly being requested.
  5. We all cared about what we were there for. 
  6. Not everyone knew everyone else at the beginning but I detected a sense of satisfaction as the meeting progressed and we realised we were on the same wavelength.
  7. There was a feeling of progress and accomplishment at the end (relating back to point 2).
Obviously not all meetings can be like this but some of the above are factors that can be controlled. Regular meetings - progress reports, group meetings etc. - often lack the sense of purpose. They've been going for so long that the real reasons for being there (making sure everyone is up to date, improving our service, sharing ideas and information) are often not articulated. This could be linked to No.5 - if you restricted a meeting to those who really wanted to be there and articulated the reason for the meeting properly, this could be a huge improvement! Of course, if you choose not attend a meeting you can't complain if you don't like the outcomes.... ;o)

My quest for the perfect meeting formula goes on - in the hope that one day if I'm the one calling a meeting I can make it bearable. If anyone else has thoughts on this, or how to turnaround a meeting from hell, I'd welcome them!

21 June 2012

'Managing your online presence' : Promoting Digital Literacy

I've just uploaded my presentation from the Welsh HE librarians conference at Gregynog to Slideshare (tweaked slightly as the original was mostly images):

It's really a pitch to get librarians thinking about students' social media awareness and whether this could be part of our remit. I think it should! It's digital literacy and, if you consider what a great source of current awareness and resources it can be, it's an information literacy issue too.

I had already been thinking about this before the whole Liam Stacey/Twitter incident but when that news story broke it really brought it home to me how much we could do to help students think about their social media use. We have only really just started thinking about this at Swansea Uni and, as you can see from the presentation, our attempts to do something about it have been a bit two steps forward, one step back... Still, to continue a dodgy metaphor, it does feel like it's an idea with legs!

There was lots of positive reaction on the day - for which I was very grateful! I'd love to hear opinions / experiences from anyone doing or thinking of doing anything similar?

PS There's a link at the end to our teaching resources, shared under Creative Commons. We will be adding to these as we develop more stuff.

19 June 2012

Thing 9: Evernote

The latest thing is preaching to the converted for me as I'm a big fan of Evernote. Having said that, I can see I'm not nearly using it to its full advantage as I rarely clip or store things, I mostly use it for writing my own notes. It has replaced a notebook for me (apart from when I'm in meetings and have no computer) to store my thoughts, plans, research etc. Why I love it:

  • I can access it anywhere: from home, on the desk, on my mobile. Very quick & easy to look something up. A little bit trickier to edit and write notes via the web interface but I have it installed on my office PC which is where I usually do most of my work.
  • Requires no additional software to open e.g. you don't need Word.
  • I like the organization of it: notes filed in notebooks or tagged or very easy to cross-search all your notes.
  • Easy to share something: usually I use the Email option to send some notes to somebody else. I'm not very public with my Evernote as it's all my informal notes rather than polished documents.
The only bad side to Evernote is that its updates have a bit of a heavyweight installation (everything needs to be closed) but then again that's nothing compared to Windows Updates which grind my computer to a halt and ask me 20 times a day if I want to restart now (NO!) and then do it anyway when I'm not looking...

Not many excuses for a photo of pretty elephants but Evernote is one!
Photo courtesy of  Photo Catcher on Flickr under Creative Commons licence

Example things I use Evernote for: keeping all my cataloguing notes together; writing up meetings or events for my own reflection; researching ideas on a topic e.g. how to spice up inductions; keeping everything on a topic together (so I may copy in emails as well as notes).

I agree that it's more flexible than Google Docs - I tend only to use Google Docs for drafting "official" documents where I need to collaborate or make them public. However sometimes I do get myself in a tizzy with stuff in both places.

18 June 2012

Thing 8: Google Calendar

Image by Santa Rose OLD SKOOL on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licence

I have been using Google Calendar for personal reminders and this has worked really well: I've set up birthdays, contract or insurance renewals and any other reminders so that it emails me automatically a set number of days beforehand. Hopefully this means I remember to buy the present and post the card or hunt around for a better deal in time! I don't use it for appointments or events however - I still use my paper diary for those but I can feel the time coming (especially now I have an android phone) when I may make the big changeover.

At work we use Microsoft Exchange so there really isn't much scope to be using anything else. Most of us share our calendar within our team, for example, and room books are on there for teaching sessions. We're starting to use the option to send out invitations a bit more to streamline meetings or teaching. I don't like Exchange - in particular I don't like the clunky webmail and especially I don't like hitting my mailbox limit when someone sends me a whopper attachment. These are things that should be things of the past (cf. Gmail!).

We are hoping to find a better way of displaying our library opening hours and Google Calendar has been suggested for this. I have had a look around but I can't really see how we can do it without some development work using the API and that means involving more people and there's an issue of time and money. Just trying to use it straight, I couldn't get round weirdness in the display from our 24 hour opening hours or closing at 2am for example. I think when the idea of developing something has been mentioned, the answer has been we ought to use Exchange as it's already in-house but I'm not sure how that works? It's an ongoing task to try and find out.... Anyway, here are my links so far from looking at this.

I know I'm doing a very speedy catchup on my Things as I have got so behind. Thing 8 = ticked!

Thing 7: real-life networks

This is where I fall down badly at the moment but, in my defence, I used to do a lot better... After I got my first library job I joined CILIP and the excellent CDG Wales. I became Treasurer and really enjoyed the involvement, if not so much the paperwork, accounts and quarterly tax returns! That still remains virtually my only professional experience of handling money and budgets and accounts so it was extremely valuable and something I'd whole-heartedly recommend. I resigned when I went off on maternity leave and I'm sad to say I have not rejoined CILIP or CDG Wales since returning. No reflection on them - just on my own priorities and lack of time. Where once I used to do work stuff, I now volunteer with the Troserch Woods Society - our local community woodland association. I'm currently setting up some social media for them and also sorting out their archive of paperwork.

Having said that, this month is turning out to be my real-life network month: I went to Gregynog, our famous Welsh HE librarians conference, and then this week I am also going to my first ALIS Wales meeting in Cardiff. I shall try and make these excursions a bit more regular!

PS This book looks very useful!

Tardy Thing 6: Online Networks

Image by Patrick Hoesly on Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons
I'm very grateful for online networks as I really don't get out much these days.... Having travelled a lot in my last job - and also now having small kids - I don't enjoy days out as much as I used to. I also don't feel the need with so much online - conference tweets + presentations + reflective blog posts.

I don't really think of LinkedIn as an online network, more of an encyclopedia of people. I do 'get it' more than I used to but it seems a very static thing, rather than active connections. Maybe I should do more with Groups? I'm resisting treating it like trading cards and collecting people other than those I really do know well. I've tried to add more to my profile, but it's still a work in progress. I found it very useful to look at the sample profiles on this Thing and I hope to incorporate some of their ideas.

I've been on Facebook a long time now and wouldn't be without it for keeping up with far-flung family and friends. I have it locked down and I don't friend anyone I don't know reasonably well in real life but I do take a chance sometimes on people I know a little at work. It's then a refreshing surprise when you find you have more in common than you thought, and that then feeds back into work in a positive way. So I think it's worth taking a few cautious chances there.

I haven't really done much with LISNPN: I don't feel like a new professional (2004 was probably when I called myself that) and I kind of like the idea that there's all this youthful enthusiasm going on there without feeling the need to join in!

Improving my teaching is something I really want to work on next (academic) year so I think I will have a proper look at Librarians as Teachers later in the summer. I'll be hoping for tips and resources I can use and perhaps a sounding board for ideas.

I'm no longer a member of CILIP so I'm not really minded to try the Communities. I guess I feel that I have Twitter as my main online community - that's where I get to meet new people and join in conversations. I don't really feel a need to add to that at the moment. It's all about keeping it manageable...that's where I struggle!

14 June 2012

Belated Thing 5: Reflective Practice

Image by Kevin Dooley on Flickr, used under CC licence

Nooooooo I can't believe I'm so behind already! It's been a busy few weeks what with being off for half term, going to a brilliant librarian wedding in Nottingham, the Gower Folk Festival and then a very long day trip to Gregynog to give a presentation. Unfortunately preparing said presentation hung over all the preceding fun stuff and took up way too much time! Anyway it's all done and dusted now...

In fact it's a useful event to discuss for this Thing. Ever since doing my chartership, I have tried hard to reflect on stuff: it really reinforced the value of it for me. I tend to write notes (using Evernote) on events or training, then add some ideas I want to follow up to my ever-expanding list (I use Remember the Milk). So after Gregnog, I scribbled down what I got out of attending as well as quickly writing up the notes I'd jotted down on the day. What emerged for me in particular was how the little incidental comments that people made were often as useful as the main event. Just catching someone saying what they were doing or a tool they'd found useful. Then I also focussed on the good and bad things about my presentation: how I should have done things differently, things I hadn't thought of that came up in discussion, bits of it that didn't quite work or come out right etc.

I do find a blog has limitations for reflecting as I often find my completely honest thoughts aren't always suitable for broadcasting and it's often the outrageous ones that I want to remember the most as a spur to action! However a blog invites shared experiences and alternative viewpoints which can send my reflection in new directions. So clearly I need private notes AND public thoughts for best results!

7 June 2012

Best source of free images? My top 2 sites.

Having wrestled with producing a conference presentation today, I found myself up against the clock trying to find suitable - and fun - images. I resist all most temptations to fly in the face of copyright so that means Google Image search is a no-go. In the past I've seen many sites recommended and have amassed a collection of bookmarks but, these days, when it comes down to it I'm just using these two. Mainly because I am most confident I understand their licence terms and I find they do the job:

Pros: Images are free to use, including commercial use, and require no attribution. The least fuss option!
Cons: The site kept bombing out on me a bit today with intensive use but if you are patient, it seemed to work again. Also, not the widest selection of images - have to be creative with search terms. Some produce weird results!

Do a search from the main page, then I usually opt for "Commercial" license.
Pros: I like the interface, searches well and you can scan results quickly; better standard of images than Morguefile.
Cons: you need to attribute. I don't mind this on presentations or blog posts but it can be messier on publicity materials. I've also had them subsequently re-used without attribution.

As an example, here are some ones I amassed when planning our "Managing your online presence" session for students. Aside from a couple of genericky ones, most of them are to illustrate what you wouldn't want a potential employer to find if they search for you on social media (the drunk dancing bunny-man is my favourite). I'm hoping to share all our materials on this and had the idea of using Pinterest to group the images as they aren't mine to share but could be helpful to locate. I've been really enjoying using Pinterest for arty stuff but this is my first time using it for work.

Do you have a favourite source of images? Let me know in the comments if so - tips gratefully received!

31 May 2012

Thing4: Postscript on Storify

I found a use for Storify today! I hoped to harness the power of Twitter by throwing out a request:

(Icon from Iconfinder)
"Any (other) HE librarians out there teaching social media / managing your online presence skills? To students or staff? (Please RT!)"

I was fortunate enough to get a load of RTs and the information started flowing in. Even though I use Hootsuite which is pretty good for controlling the stream of Twitter, I felt a little panic at keeping track of what I was learning. So I remembered Thing4 and went over to Storify to store the replies I got:


One thing I found is that now I am trying to add some extra tweets and all my requests time out. I find that using Twitter once the US comes online can be frustrating in terms of searching or viewing older tweets etc. Just need to get it all done in the morning!

28 May 2012

Information Overload?

Image by Khalid Albaih on Flickr - used under CC licence

I picked up this on Twitter last week (sorry - can't remember who from...)


It created very mixed feelings in me. I could relate instantly to the "perpetual sense of 'missing out'" - the more you engage in social media, the more it gets it hooks into you. I find it particularly difficult as I work part-time so I'm always missing out on the first part of the week (I work Wed/Thur/Fri). It means I'm never going to be a consistent tweeter and often I miss out on news stories that come out on those days as they've sunk way down my stream by the time I get to work on a Wednesday. As will all the other down-sides of working part-time, I try to cultivate calm acceptance (2 days off a week are great)!

The main conclusion - "To be clear, information overload is a symptom of over consumption and the inability to refine online experiences based on interest and importance" - this got me narked initially. I felt a bit bludgeoned by that statement as I *do* experience information overload sometimes and I don't like being told it's all my inability! Seems to me, this is HARD - it relies on a constant editing process of selecting and learning new tools, refining your sources / feeds and critically engaging with them. It's not like just picking up your daily newspaper of choice.

It's up to every individual to decide how important social media is to them, and it won't be to everyone. I do see it as a vital source of information and I believe - as an information professional - I ought to be evangelizing (in a focussed, relevant way) to others about it too. This means I'm keen to take part in social media sessions here for researchers and students and I'll try to keep on top of social media sources for the subjects I support.

I also think that "refining online experiences" is a key digital or information literacy skill. I think this is something we should be able to teach or advise on as librarians. So I try to educate myself in how to do it as much as I can. That's an ongoing process and sometimes seems very uphill. And that's where CPD23 comes in. :o)

25 May 2012

Thing 4: Twitter, RSS and Storify

Twitter Bird Sketch by Shawn Campbell on Flickr, used under CC licence - ta!

I've been on Twitter for some time now as @rscsam. My moniker (there's a word I don't use very often) is related to my old job which isn't ideal but I can't get my head around changing it. I have a separate personal account - which I rarely use - dating again from my previous job when we were told not to say anything political during the general election as we were on government pay. That proved too hard to bear! I keep my personal account as it has a separate non-work-related bunch of stuff that I follow - local news & councils, music stuff, friends and family. My work account is an invaluable source of library-related information, ideas, news and trivia. I do use it more for listening than tweeting and I think I ought to make more effort to have a conversation now and again. I've watched and learned from How Not to Tweet! I've never used Storify, because I've never had a reason too yet, but I'm sure it's a great tool. I'm going to keep an eye out for a reason to use it...

Now I hate to gripe...but I'm going to anyway! I do struggle with the whole tweeting from conferences thing sometimes. Your feed gets swamped for the duration (although there are clever tools to weed out hashtags e.g. some mentioned here) and often it can be all soundbites with no substance. I want stuff I can USE. When people tweet links or examples of people / places doing something interesting that you can follow up then that's superb. My other pet peeve is paper.li : usually random stuff in an irritating format. I'm sure it's great in the right hands but it's just not for me.

For current awareness, I'm finding there's a real tussle going on for me between RSS and Twitter. A lot of stuff comes through on Twitter and then I find it duplicated in my RSS feeds. However, particularly being part-time, I just can't keep up with Twitter enough to rely on not having missed something vital. I use Google Reader and have a set of folders dividing up my work feeds (library blogs, Welsh library stuff, subject-support related stuff, information literacy stuff, learning technology etc.) and my personal ones (news, art blogs, music blogs, pretty pictures on Flickr, archaeology feeds, vegan recipes, green stuff). I manage my feeds quite closely and get rid of one if I find too many posts just aren't interesting me. I think you have to be ruthless or it becomes unmanageable.

My best RSS feeds?
For work, the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog has been going great guns lately on academic research-related stuff. Personally, I always enjoy the feisty Heritage Action blog for the latest on heritage issues - there's an ongoing investigation into the trashing of a prehistoric stone row by a wind farm on Mynedd y Betws which is almost visible from my front room on a good day (I don't mind wind farms but I do like stones). Epic Fail! and the gentler Win! used to have me howling with laughter but I couldn't keep up so they've been axed!

16 May 2012

Thing 3: Personal Brand

The whole personal brand thing seems unavoidable so I'm not going to quibble it. What I've not thought through is what exactly I'd want to convey...something to think about on the walk/drive home tonight.

I've done a bit of Googling myself but I'm confused - presuming that Google is "personalizing" my results in its own particularly irritating way, I'm guessing what I see may not be what you see? A quick Google using a different browser where I'm not logged in gave different results... I try to keep up with Google's tricksy goings-on by reading Karen Blakeman's excellent blog, for example this post here.

Anyway, my Google Profile came up for me before anything else so I've just done a bit of tidying up on that. I didn't realise replies on Ask Cymru were on the web but one of mine comes up. Twitter links feature quite heavily too, as does LinkedIn which I really need to revisit as I'm still not totally sure what I'm doing on there. Some links come up from a local history website I did a few years back on the road in Swansea where I used to live and which I'd pretty much forgotten about! This blog comes up on page 4 - not bad for two weeks old I suppose!

Checking images specifically, the first one of me is an old one from the RSC Wales blog I used to maintain but I guess there's no harm in that - at least I'm younger and smiling. It was also rather nice to find some more old pics from my RSC Wales days - that was quite a visible role and we got out and about a lot so I guess the evidence will linger on for a while.

My conclusion is that there's not much I'm bothered about people seeing but I'm not really presenting any kind of coherent online presence. I'm pretty new to this so maybe I'll try again in a year's time and see how I fare then?

11 May 2012

Getting Published: Session for Postgrads

The highlight of this week was our fully-booked session for postgrads on Getting Published. I felt a little out of my depth in this one as I've not done it before and I have zero publications to my name. Luckily we had a fantastic academic come along to give his experiences of the whole process along with plenty of tips and advice. Quite rightly, he got highly praised in the evaluations. You can't beat hearing from someone who's actually done what you're trying to do. (I'm trying not to harbour a sense of abject failure that I never published anything from my PhD!)

The librarians then covered the following:

  • Where to publish? Included a hands-on looking at Journal Citation Reports and Scimago / Scopus.
  • Open Access (my bit) - a quick overview with some useful resources
  • Copyright: including making sure you look after your own Intellectual Property and also not infringing anyone elses...
My bit was a little tricky as our institutional repository is not yet fully operational and that's kind of a cornerstone of open access. Hopefully this time next year (if we run it again) Cronfa will be all systems go.

I learnt a lot from listening to everyone and also am now fully up to date on Open Access which is useful knowledge to have. You can't beat the worry of imaginary questions to get you swotting up on something....

9 May 2012

Thing 2: Being a Social Blogger

It's POURING here in Swansea this afternoon!
Well I soon discovered I could spend all afternoon happily reading all the CPD23 blogs...had to rein myself in! I'm not usually much of a commenter unless there seems something that glaringly needs to be said but I enjoyed feeling part of the CPD23 community so therefore with a licence to be a bit more chatty.

My most useful finding was courtesy of Veggie Haggis who shared the 12 blogging mistakes to avoid post. These struck me as extremely sensible suggestions and I'll try to take note...
I soon realised I ought to set up my Blogger profile properly to be public so I've done that now too.

Thing 1: Blogging the start of CPD23 2012

I've been reading about CPD23 for a couple of years now and delighted I can finally take part, hopefully at the same time as everyone else as I like the idea of sharing ideas and comments and having the momentum of that to keep me going. I'm dead keen on all social media / web 2.0 and have my little set of tools I use to keep my professional life ticking along. This is my chance to think about some alternatives, to see what others are doing, to think about the bigger picture, how everything fits together, to pull everything together perhaps - and I'd like my blog to be something I keep on and use on a regular basis. Time will tell!

The other angle for me is that I believe we should be able to educate our students (and staff) in how to use all this kind of stuff - it's all part of Digital Literacy, having the skills for 21st Century living, making sure they know how to use some handy little tools to make life/work/study easier or more fun. Doing CPD23 will be a great opportunity to be a student myself and I hope to learn a lot from that too!

2 May 2012

CPD23 2012

Just signed up for CPD23 2012! Nervous about time commitment, excited to be taking part! Roll on next week....