Friday, 30 September 2011

Thing 18 - reflecting again

Cambridge 23Things 2011 officially ended last week (hence the party). I resisted the temptation to hurry myself through the last Things because, reflecting on my experience of the programme up to now, I realised how valuable it had been and how much I had benefited from taking the time to discover, explore and evaluate each resource. I'm continuing with the Things at my own pace and hope to finish in the next month or so...

I'm still using Twitter, Google Reader and Delicious (or I was until yesterday, when all my bookmarks suddenly disappeared from the sidebar!) and there are plenty of Things which I've filed away for future reference to be used as and when the need arises. As for what's still to come: I'm looking forward to trying out Prezi, which I've recently seen used to great effect (both by other Thingers, and at a conference).

Before I started the 23Things programme I went about my work with a slight feeling of guilt. It was guilt that I was not really doing much to keep myself professionally aware and employable. I felt that I was not honouring the responsibility I feel as a professional to keep abreast of developments in and around the sector, developments which could help me better carry out my job and forge my career. 23Things has given me a new lease of professional life, introducing me to a variety of resources for gathering and responding to news in the library world, and to tools which I can use to help me work more effectively and efficiently. I've also put faces to quite a few more Cambridge library names and raised my own profile a little, I hope. It's been incredibly worthwhile for me. And the best thing is, it's not over yet!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Thing 17 - Podcasts

This is an enormous Thing to think about. Podcasts have been put to use in so many different ways, intended to inform, amuse, instruct, entertain etc. However, I've hardly any experience of them! I don't have a computer at home, nor an ipod (yes, I'm pretty much a dinosaur), so they've not had the chance to become something I take advantage of yet. Guided by the links in the 23Things post on the subject and by looking at other Thinger's blogs I've watched/listened to a fair few, and in this post I'm going to focus on podcasts as used by libraries, and specifically those intended to inform/instruct.

I know that there are numerous situations in which podcasts are the most effective or only possible method of communicating with a certain group of users. However, it's also clear from a browse on YouTube that there are an awful lot of really bad ones out there! I think I'm against libraries using this kind of technology for the sake of it, or as a gimmick. I think it undermines our credibility and the messages we're trying to communicate.

I know that there are times when using as many different media as possible is the key to communicating with the whole spectrum of users and potential users. But I also think that it's important to consider the merits of each medium (e.g. leaflets, posters, booklets, web content, etc) and choose accordingly. For example, a podcast will take longer to watch than reading a simple and short set of instructions. If you're making a podcast for instructive purposes (and not entertainment) I think it's important to bear in mind the same kind of things that you would if you were writing. Make it intelligible, concise, no waffling, no swanky panning shots of the outside of the library during which the viewer may well get bored and give up (although these might be appropriate in a podcast with a different aim)! Having said all that, I'm not completely against the more casual and informal. Watching/listening to a regular podcast in which staff talk about/show library changes/developments/news could be much more engaging than reading a newsletter.

Although I've neither the time nor opportunity to create one now, I would certainly enjoy the challenge of podcasting should the opportunity arise in the future...

Podcast, by derrickkwa, on flickr

Friday, 23 September 2011

Thing 16 - flickr

Flickr. I like it, but am slightly wary about the potential it opens up for bunging sometimes extremely tenuously linked photos into blog posts, presentations, poster etc., just for the sake of it.

Tenuous, by Road Fun, on flickr
See what I mean?! Sometimes words are enough! And even when an image is appropriate, flickr won't always be able to provideexactly what you had in mind, but it's tempting to find something sort of ok and go with that (equally, a search can bring up brilliant and inspirational results that you could never have anticipated!). Once or twice I've searched flickr, eventually found a photo that more or less illustrated what I wanted, and only at the last minute changed my mind and realised that taking my own photo would give me exactly what I wanted, rather than something that was just about ok! I don't want to be lazy and settle for just about ok, and I don't want to get hooked on taking the easy route - benefiting from someone else's creativity instead of using my own. On the other hand, coming back down to planet earth, I realise that there isn't always time to get out your easel and whip up a masterpiece, or even reach for the digital camera, and flickr is a great resource for these occasions. And if your use for the image is illustrative rather than artistic, why spend time taking a photo of something when it's already been done and you could save yourself the effort?

Reinventing the wheel, by Romain Vignes, on flickr
Flickr is good. I see it mostly as something I may use in the future for personal photos. I think for a work presentation or poster I would prefer to use something bespoke. But it's great to know flickr is there if I need it. And as for creative commons - what a great idea!

You may view what follows as a selection of totally unnecessary and completely irrelevant images, but you would be wrong. This post is about flickr; these photos are from flickr. It's perfectly reasonable...

Firstly, something ballet related, just for me...

Ballet shoes, by Jeff Medaugh
Next, a cute animal picture, a must for any blog post surely?...

Link in Profile, by Tobyotter
Finally, a source of inspiration...

Batgirl was a Librarian, by Super Furry Librarian, on flickr

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Thing 15 - LinkedIn. But I hate networking!

I signed up to LinkedIn yesterday. It was relatively painless and felt like something I ought to do. That was about the extent of what I had to offer in my blog post, so I signed in again this morning, hoping to find some inspiration around the site for my musings. But as I sat there, trying to think of people I know who might have an account that I could connect with - which seems to be what you're supposed to do -  I suddenly realised that I had no idea why I was doing it! (apart from the obvious fact that it's part of the 23 Things programme). I'm not sure that I understand the concept of networking. If it's what I think it is - making connections with people, socially or professionally - I think I prefer to do my networking face to face. And even then, I prefer relationships to develop organically. When I hear about networking events my stomach clenches in dread fear. The pressure of walking into a room full of people I don't know and having to force myself to start a conversation is really scary (something to with the potential for humiliating rejection en masse, I think!). I know that some people enjoy it, get a thrill from it even, which is great; but it's not for me.

I an going to keep my profile on LinkedIn, and make sure that I update it when necessary, just so that I have a presence on what is becoming an increasingly popular professional directory (and that's the only purpose for which I can imagine using it - to look people up). Other than that I'll be a passive presence; I'm not going to spend any time searching for connections. I do believe that it's important not to work (or live, for that matter) in a bubble of isolation, that it's important to form relationships with people who can support you and be supported by you, to share ideas, solve problems and generally help you to do your job to the best of your ability and enjoy it too. It's just that by nature I prefer to go about this spontaneously, making the most of opportunities to connect as and when they present themselves in my day to day working and living.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Thing 14 - Facebook

I was a little unsettled when I saw that Facebook was part of the 23Things programme. I'm not really a fan of Facebook, but I do have an account, which I set up for the purposes of keeping informed about the activities of the Cambridge University Ballet Club, of which I'm a member. I use it for sporadic social communication, and probably check my page about twice a week on average. I am also tagged in quite a number of photos, some of which are of me dancing. I'm definitely not saying there's anything on Facebook that I'm ashamed of, but I did balk a little at the idea of colleagues and professional peers seeing me in a leotard and tights!

Because I use Facebook as a social utility I have hitherto been fairly skeptical about the idea of libraries on Facebook. However, as Lyn rightly points out, "it could be argued that libraries should promote their services where their users are and if that is on Facebook then the library needs to be there". I've had a look at some existing library pages on Facebook and I think the ones that work are those that really exploit the functionality of Facebook as a tool for communication and are truly dynamic. The content of others is much more static and passive, and in my opinion better suited to a bespoke website, where the information can be presented to best possible effect, rather than squeezed into the Facebook template.

I suppose what I'm saying is that I don't think every library should be on Facebook for the sake of being on Facebook. And that if a library is going to use Facebook it should use it well. Some libraries show us that Facebook can be a great tool for libraries, and it would be great if all libraries were able to use such active and dynamic ways of communicating and interacting with their users; but if you haven't got the time to manage or support for the idea of managing a Facebook account, it's not a disaster. Other ways of communicating (websites, blogs, emails, flyers, noticeboards) are still viable!

Thing 13 - LibraryThing. It's a real shame...

I was really excited about LibraryThing. In fact, it was probably the Thing I was most looking forward to. I pride myself on maintaining a facade of normality such that, outside work, I am not instantly identifiable as a librarian, let alone a cataloguer. But the prospect of LibraryThing really had me excited, and I just couldn't be bothered to hide this, gleefully raving about its promise to my housemates over dinner. However, now that I've signed up, I have to admit to being pretty disappointed.

Firstly, it looks so horrid. It has a really dated feel about it. There is so much going on on my home page that I don't know where to look. And what is that colour?! It defies description - pink?beige? pinkish-beige?! If it were a pair of tights it would be "natural tan". That's no colour for an online library.
Busy and beige. Yuk!
(Hang on a minute - I've just previewed this page and noticed how well the LibraryThing screenshot blends in with my own pink/beige/pinkish-beige/natural-tan blog. How did this happen?! What shameless double standards I'm employing! I'm standing by my original assertion 'though - natural tan is no colour for an online library; for a blog, however...)

I was prepared to see past all of these superficial shortcomings. I was still very excited about cataloguing my books (oh dear) and set about adding some from my collection. Further disappointment ensued. I spend too much time cataloguing at work to want to have anything to do with detailed bibliographic description in my spare time. I understand that others may feel differently; I just wish you could create a personalised template record, choosing which fields you wanted. I know you don't have to fill everything in, but when there's a field I feel obliged to do fill it, especially when the data that is already there (courtesy of the downloaded records) is often inaccurate or inconsistently formatted - I just can't bear to leave it that way! On the plus side, at least you have some control over which fields display on the "your books" page.

My "your books" page - keeping it as simple as possible.

The final blow came when I learned that once you hit the 200 book mark you have to pay. I decided there was no point in starting when it seemed likely that I would easily reach that point. I felt thoroughly deflated....

However, since then I've discovered that the fee is almost negligible - $25 for a lifetime membership - and actually seems quite justifiable (to cover admin. and maintenance costs) rather than a shameless way of making mega-bucks. So, I'm reconsidering my position on LibraryThing. I love the idea of cataloguing my books, I like the reviews and I'm really keen to have "my LibraryThing" on my blog (as Gareth2.0 does). But I hate how it looks. It's such a shame! Cataloguing instinct versus aesthetics. It'll be interesting to find out which will win...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Thing 12 - Social bookmarking tools

As I've so many Things still to explore, and not much time to explore them in, I decided I would just try out one of the social bookmarking tools on offer. I plumped for Delicious, as it seems to be the most popular, and the one I'd heard of! It's a great idea. I'm a heavy user of my browser's 'favourites' facility, so to be able to have a favourites menu that transcends individual PCs and browsers is great!

I wanted to import all of my current favourites into Delicious but, despite trying to follow the instructions on the site, I just couldn't get it to work (I stalled each time at the point of selecting the file to export, repeatedly being told to "enter a valid file name"...). This is a shame, but I think I'll go back to it when I have more time, as I definitely feel it's worthwhile.

I'm really not that excited about the social side of Delicious. I'm not saying that I don't care what other people think generally, but in this context, as with Pushnote, it just doesn't appeal to me to share! I'm concerned with Delicious as a tool for organising and recording, rather than sharing. I do acknowledge that I'd almost certainly come across some useful links if I spent some time browsing the bookmarks of like-minded (either professionally or personally) users, but instinctively I would rather get my tip-offs from other sources.

P.S. It's annoying that there's no standardised tagging language. Commas? Spaces? - it's frustrating when you forget what the rules are for the site you're on!

P.P.S. In preparation for Thing 16, Flickr, I've finally worked out how to use flikr photos on my blog. Here's a ridiculous photo of an orange acting as a bookmark. I know it's only extremely tenuously linked to this post (it's a bookmark, it's delicious), but it might make a few librarians (perhaps my longsuffering colleague?) gasp in horror at the very idea of fruit in such close proximity to a book, and that's always fun!

Orange bookmark, by Jaqian