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

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Reflections on blogging (Thing 11)

After a shaky start I’m really enjoying blogging and can see a place for it in both personal and professional areas of my life. However, upon reflection I’m inclined not to mix the two. The subtitle for my blog was “libraries, dance, the wild world and more”, but I’ve changed it, to reflect that I will only be using it to post about library- and professional-life-related issues. I know that a well-rounded professional has a full and active personal life too, but thinking of my blog as a communication tool (rather than a podium for self-indulgence), it feels much more appropriate to stick to one area of my life per blog, so that readers, who will usually (if at all!) be reading a post because of what it’s about, and not because they’re interested in me (partner and mum aside!), don’t have to wade through a load of posts that don’t interest them at all. So, because it’s my day-to-day interactions and experiences of the natural world that most inspire me to blog, I’ve set up another, Natural selections, to record this kind of thing.

My nature diary...

I still feel some unease about the vanity of blogging (something touched upon by Becky in her recent post on Library Thing, and narcissism). Who really cares what I have to say? Is it really pathetic to blog if no-one reads it (partner and mum aside again!)? But I’ve realised that blogging is an excellent form of reflection (or record keeping, in the case of Natural Selections, which I hope will be my online nature diary). Writing the posts helps you consolidate thoughts and opinions and is extremely valuable as an exercise in itself. Why not then post these on a blog? At worst no-one reads them, but you’ve learned something yourself by writing them; at best, you connect with somebody else, either now or in the future, and that’s just brilliant!

Thing 11 - Reflections

A lake in sunny Lincs.
I'm a little late with my first bout of reflecting, which I should have been doing in week 6. But actually, I think my reflections are the better for being so far behind that which they reflect upon, as I've had more time to mull over/absorb/digest/reject etc.

I've had a really busy summer at work, continuing with my regular duties as well as some extra projects, which has been great, but has left me little time for exploring Things. I certainly don't regret signing up to the programme, as it's been a great way of giving me the push I needed to explore the topics/technologies covered, many of which I'd heard of but just never gotten around to investigating before, and some of which I was just plain prejudiced against (Twitter, for instance!). Not only am I learning about these new Things, but I'm also much more professionally aware and engaged generally, which is excellent news for my career.

I've tried to organise my reflective thoughts about the Things in this table. Where my opinion is still reflected accurately by my original blog post about it I've created a hyperlink to that post; otherwise, I've tried to give a brief summary of my thoughts about each Thing upon reflection.

Things I like  J
Upon reflection…

Thing 2:     Blogging

I've too much to say to fit in this box, so I've saved it for another post!

Thing 3:     RSS feeds

I’m not great at checking Google Reader regularly, but am always glad of it when I do. It’s a great way of keeping track of information and news without having to remember/find time to check the source sites. This way I know I won’t miss anything because the reader is storing it all up for when I do have time.

Thing 4:     Twitter

Great for current awareness, both at a local level, by following other Cambridge libraries and librarians, and nationally/internationally, by following various organisations and other useful tweeters. I’ve picked up on a lot of news, helpful links and tips already. I just wish I had more to say myself! I can’t imagine myself using it socially, but for keeping in the loop as a librarian it’s great, and employed as a tool to ‘market’ a library/collection I think it has real potential.

Thing 5:     Screenshots
Thing 6:     Screencasting
Thing 7:     Doodle
Thing 9:     Google Docs
Hmm. I was initially reasonably enthusiastic about this, but wonder how much I will use it. There are issues regarding formatting of text that make me still more inclined to reach for the memory stick or email attachment than make a Google doc…
Thing 10b: Evernote
Things I don’t like   L

Thing 8:     Google calendar
Thing 10a: Pushnote
Other Things   K

Thing 1:     iGoogle

Just over a month ago my computer hardware was upgraded, and I got the new Windows 7 operating system. The upgrade left me signed out of everything, and iGoogle is one of the things I just haven’t been bothered to sign back into. The iGoogle page took a frustratingly long time to load, and all the things I had on the tabs can just as easily be reached from my web browser favourites list.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Thing 10 - Evernote, virtually a notebook

I've just spent an hour installing Evernote, reading the simple "Getting started guide", watching several helpful tuition videos, and then having a play around with the application. My first impressions are that I really like it and I think I will use it a lot for various research projects I have on the go. Being able to save web content is the main draw for me, and is something that I have, before now, been doing very inefficiently and precariously. My web browser favourites folders contain a lot of addresses saved because I wanted to archive particular content on a particular page for future reference. Saving the address is not a sensible way of archiving the content, because once the page is taken down or moved, you've lost that content forever. With Evernote, even after the page disappears, you get to keep the content. This is great! It's only taken me a few minutes to create a notebook and clip into it several web pages and screenshots that mention/show my grandad (George Hunter), whose career as a jazz musician in the 1940s, 50s and 60s I've been trying to piece together over the last few years. Fans of Ted Heath, Jack Parnell and other pioneers of big band are few and far between nowadays, so I'm glad to have archived this content before these websites disappear.

I like the way you can tag content, create multiple folders, search, make notes - generally engage in all those satisfying activities that made me want to be a librarian in the first place (organise, analyse, classify, catalogue etc.)! Another great feature is that you can save tweets to Evernote. Lots of useful pieces of information and links are disseminated via Twitter, so it's great to be able to archive these.

I've mentioned before that I'm a stationery fiend. I love having a notebook on the go for jotting and clipping useful snippets in. I definitely won't be abandoning that practice any time soon, but for me Evernote's real power lies in being a notebook for online stuff. I can cope with having two notebooks - one real, one virtual. That's not messy, that's just good sense.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Thing 10 - Pushnote? I think I'm missing something...

At the risk of sounding narrow-minded, antiquated and just plain un-cool - I don't 'get' Pushnote. What's it for? Erin tells us (in her well explained and mercifully easy to follow post on Thing 10), that it's for "when you want to comment on web pages". But I don't think I've ever wanted to comment on a web page; certainly not in a way that didn't involve ranting to whoever happened to be in the room with me, in a very informal way that really should not be transcribed and archived. If I had some criticism that I thought was actually worth making I suppose I feel that I'd be better off emailing the webmaster than commenting on Pushnote. And for sites and pages that I like and think are worth sharing, I'd rather use Twitter, or my blog, or an email, or a real life conversation. It's not that I'm averse to the idea of classifying, evaluating, organising, archiving etc (I'm a librarian after all). I know I could use it purely for my own purposes to, as Pushnote puts it, "rank [my] all-time favourite things on the web", but there are other ways I would rather do that, like using the (I don't like to boast, but) frightfully well organised favourites list in my web browser. I know a favourites list doesn't allow you to make notes in the way that Pushnote does, but Pushnotes really pushes this ranking and sharing business, which really doesn't excite me. I think Evernote, geared towards helping you organise and make notes for yourself, not for the benefit of others, and without using stars, is going to be more up my street (goodness, I'd not realised how selfish I am before I wrote that!). I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm happy with the methods I currently use to evaluate and share thoughts about web pages, and won't be using Pushnote any time soon.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Thing 9 - My tale of woe, and the moral of the story: Google Docs.

Yet another really useful Thing that I wish I'd known about before! Only last week I got myself in a complete muddle of the sort which could have been entirely prevented by using Google Docs. I had been asked to write up my experience of the recent T.S. Eliot Society (UK) Festival, which I duly did at home on my flatmate's computer. I then saved it to a memory stick, but also emailed a copy to my work email (just in case of, well I don't know what really, my memory stick blowing up or something - I tend to be quite paranoid about these things!), intending to check it the next day (after work on my work computer) and then email it off. However, somewhere between saving to the memory stick and emailing myself I must have saved some new changes, because after making a few alterations to the version on the memory stick the next day at work, I decided it didn't seem quite as I remembered it and that I really ought to check out the one I'd emailed to myself, which did indeed turn out to be different (are you keeping up?!). Aaaargh! Suffice it to say, I was completely confused...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Sticky Notes - unsophisticated technology!

My computer was upgraded last week and I am now getting to grips with the Windows 7 operating system. I'm sure that there is plenty of sophisticated functionality and work-flow enhancement that I should be excited about, but instead I have to tell you about my new favourite thing.... Sticky Notes! Sticky Notes are virtual Post-it notes that you 'write' (type) and leave on your (computer's) desktop. It comes as no surprise to me to learn that the Post-it note, although invented in the late 70s, made it big in the 80s. Yet another element of 80s culture (I've already confessed to leotards, leg-warmers and dance movies in my post on Thing 8) with which I feel a deep affinity! In all seriousness, ignore anyone who tells you Sticky Notes are just a silly gimmick (that's you, long-suffering colleague). If, like me, you are forever scribbling down lists and things to do on scraps of paper (or genuine Post-it notes) which float around your desk and are in danger of being swept off or buried at any moment, then Sticky Notes may be just the ticket. I wrote a couple last night to remind myself of some things I need to do today, and sure enough I'd forgotten all about these things until I saw the Sticky Notes on my computer desktop when I logged on this morning!

On a more philosophical level, I've been trying to work out why it is that I like Sticky Notes so much. There are many ways in which I could have harnessed computer, mobile phone and web technology to remind me about the things I have written on the notes (for example by setting reminders in Microsoft Schedule+, or an online calendar, or my phone). However, the key for me here is that the Sticky Note replicates almost exactly the unsophisticated and very visual in-your-face way in which I do things outside my computer (i.e. scrawling on Post-its or scrap paper), and it's more efficient (won't blow away or fall off the desk etc.). It suits the way my mind works. Sometimes technology can be too sophisticated. I think the Sticky Note is a perfect example of the effectiveness of keeping it simple (so there, long-suffering colleague!)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Thing 8 - Google calendar vs. my 80s lifestyle

My diary...
I don't have a lot to say about Google calendar. It was easy to set up and seems easy to use, but I currently have no use for it. At work us staff members use Microsoft Schedule+ to record, for our own and each other's benefit, appointments and activities. There are at present no plans for any kind of public facing calendar (one step at a time - we barely have a website at the moment!), but I can definitely see that Google calendar would be a strong candidate if there were. As for personal use - well, outside work I'm still living in the 80s. Not only do I spend a lot of time in a leotard and leg-warmers and watching movies like Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, and Footloose, I don't even have a computer at home, let alone internet access; and my mobile phone, although not the size of a brick, is definitely not internet enabled. Instead, I organise my life in a good old-fashioned paperback diary. I did briefly think about using Google calendar as a sort of back-up, in case I lose the hard copy, but therein probably lies the path to mix-ups, double-bookings, or complete no-shows, because I put an event in one and not the other, etc. etc. So I'm going to stick with the paperback. Which reminds me, in a few weeks time (or maybe already - I've not been into Paperchase recently) I need to make a date to trawl the shops for next (academic) year's diary, an exercise which I find ridiculously fun. Now, where's my diary...

Monday, 25 July 2011

Thing 7 - Doodle is a doddle

I really, really like Doodle. It's a simple idea, easy to use, and extremely effective. Before I became a librarian I spent a year working as an administrator in the Old Schools. I used to spend a ridiculous amount of time 'birdcaging', by which I mean making elaborate tables in Word or Excel to record the results of my contacting various extremely busy people's secretaries to find out when they were available for meetings. Doodle would have had a significant positive effect on my work-flow, freeing up a lot of time for me to spend on the many other things I had to do!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Thing 6 - Screencasting

Screencasts are a great idea. They are a really useful aid to training and education, and I think there is a big role for them to place in libraries communicating with their users. But... I am not a natural born screencaster.
Here's what I came up with on ScreenCast-O-Matic:

It's dreadful, really. What I'm trying to inform you of is pretty useful I think. But the way I've done it is appalling! I think I could do better with a program that enabled me to edit, and a bigger mouse-mat (I could never get the cursor where I needed to go in just one smooth move!); however, the fact that most other people managed something pretty decent (I'm thinking particularly of Gareth's fab video, with music!), persuades me that I am not naturally gifted in this area...

For some eloquent, simple instructions on how to do what I attempt to show in my video (subscribe to an RSS feed of new items by subject heading), see Rachel Marshes notes on the UL Service Development Blog (Raven ID required)!

Twitter again

I'm off on holiday this weekend (Duns, near Berwick-upon-Tweed). Naturally I'm looking forward to it, and looking forward to the break from work (even the keenest librarians surely need a change of scene now and then?!), but - and I could never have predicted this - I'm going to miss Twitter!!! I have no mobile internet, and am unlikely to be spending my holiday time on a computer at the nearest library/internet cafe, so I shall be going cold turkey. No tweeting, no blogging, no 23Thing-ing.

I mentioned in my first post about Twitter that I felt "as if I'[d] walked in on a party that started a long time ago", and that it was "full of unique vocabulary and networks of which I'm not a part". I felt quite overwhelmed, and a bit of an outsider. But no longer! Little by little I'm working out what things mean (#ff being the latest revelation!), and building up a list to follow, and getting involved in conversations. And to my surprise it's fun and useful and effective and informative, and I begin to see (and realise) it's potential as a tool for communication in the library world, my professional life, and beyond. It's a great feeling to have 'learned' a new technology, to start thinking about the opportunities and potential it presents - basically to get excited about something new! And isn't that what 23Things is all about?!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thing 5 - Screenshots

At last, a Thing that I didn't find daunting! The LightShot add-on is great and really speeds the process up, although (like Erin) I am a little confused about the uploading option, and am currently saving my shots and browsing for them when I want to insert an image. I have put a couple of shots into my post on Thing 1 (iGoogle), which helps to break this relatively long post up and hopefully make it more readable/appealing. I have also downloaded LightShot to my desktop, and had fun taking this shot of my 23Things-in-progress desktop.
A little cluttered don't you think?! (Also a little contrived - I don't usually have all these things open at once. In fact my computer started making such awful racket when I did that I quickly closed most of the windows!)

How many librarians does it take to change a lightbulb?

In this case, none. We had to call in the scaffolders! This light fitting hangs above the stairwell, and changing the bulbs without scaffolding would mean risking your life hanging off a stepladder above a very long drop. Why is the light fitting there in the first place? Who knows, but it was certainly designed in the days before health and safety. Moving it doesn't seem to be an option. Lets hope the new bulbs are very long lasting...

Many librarians here in Cambridge are blessed (or cursed!) with working in very old or architecturally unique buildings. I feel that it's a privilege to work in such an environment, but it can certainly give rise to some extraordinary situations!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Thing 4 - Twitter, and the joy of 23things

Well, I've signed up (murmuringgirl), I've sent (tweeted?) a couple of tweets. But that's as far as it goes at the moment. In fact, I hate to admit it, but I've just printed off some stuff from the help pages to read over the weekend, to try and get me on track (I don't have the internet at home)...!!

In all seriousness, 23things is already proving to be an extremely worthwhile experience. It's forcing me to try out things that I had decided were (for no good reason) not for me, and also helping me realise that it doesn't take long to get to grips with new things. At this precise moment Twitter seems like chaos to me, full of unique vocabulary and networks of which I'm not a part - as if I've walked in on a party that started a long time ago. But to judge from my 23things experience so far, by the end of next week I'll be a pro...(well, almost!)...

Thing 3 - Google Reader again (or rather, Google Launchpad)

Having just spent the last fifteen minutes quite happily reading through the new items that had been syndicated, really simply, to my Google Reader 'inbox', it looks like I'm going to have to admit that my initial panic was misplaced. I had some really helpful comments to my last post (thank you!), which brought me around to a new way of thinking about the reader. In response to my comments about the bland, visually unexciting presentation of feeds in the reader, several other 23thingers mentioned that they often have a quick scan of what's new in the reader, and then click through to see the items of interest at their source (i.e. with all their formatting and visual stimulation etc). So, I've started to think of Google Reader as a launchpad. It's brilliant in gathering into one place what's new from the various sites and blogs that I'm following, but it needn't be the prison I feared, holding me captive whilst I plow through reams of monotypic text, framed by all that clutter (and in fact, as I've just spent a quarter of an hour quite calmly browsing, I think perhaps this fear was a monster of my own making!). I am still very wary of the potential for RSS to be completely overwhelming, and in light of this I will be careful to limit the number of subscriptions I make, and be sure to check regularly for new items. Like Erin, I feel strangely compelled to read everything that is fed to me, so I really want to avoid being inundated. If I'm conscientious about it, I think I can make Google Reader work for me...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Thing 3 - RSS and Google Reader

Some quick first impressions...

Google reader gives me a headache! It's so cluttered and monotonic. The feeds themselves appear in the same font size as all the clutter down the sides and above, which means that, regardless of content, they just don't make me want to read them! I can probably change this somehow, but at the moment I'm feeling so frazzled and overwhelmed from looking at it for even a few minutes, I just can't be bothered. I'll have to investigate further tomorrow...

My instincts tell me that, in theory, RSS is a great idea, but if it means losing all the formatting, colour, variety and visual stimulation that you get from reading the same text in its natural environment, so to speak (e.g. Judith Mackrell's dance reviews on the Guardian website, rather than fed to Google reader), then I think I'll stick with web browsing to get my information.

I think I'm taking a risk with this post. It's gone 5pm (home-time!), I'm hungry, tired, and haven't really researched the topic thoroughly yet. Is this blogging suicide? Oh well. No doubt I will learn a valuable lesson regarding the foolishness of posting in such circumstances...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Thing 2 - Blogging (the psychological side!)

I've learned a valuable blogging lesson already - don't post about future postings! It's now week 2, Thing 3 is out there, and I haven't finished Thing 2 yet, largely because I foolishly promised, in a previous post, to post about my "blogging neuroses"! So, I'd better get this out of the way before I look at RSS feeds...

I feel uncomfortable about blogging. I think I'm talking here about blogging/posting that goes beyond a professional remit. Blogs like those of the UL Tower, Incunabula and Sassoon projects, for example, seem to me to be an excellent idea; and blogging for/about 23 Things is equally worthwhile, as by participating in it I am developing, learning and pursuing an end. It's beyond this that I get a bit anxious.  For example, I've published a couple of posts that are not about any of the 23 things, but about things that I, personally, am interested in. They are beyond what I need to do to complete the programme, they offer my own opinions and feelings about things - is there any place for these on a blog which has been set up as part of my professional life?

Why not refrain from publishing these personal posts in the first place? It is, after all, a little presumptuous to assume that anybody will read them, let alone be interested. Yet for some reason I want to, I suppose in the hope that they will connect with someone. Would I have been better to create a separate, anonymous blog for this kind of material? My instincts tell me not to publish anonymously - I want people to know who I am (not just in my blog, but generally in life!) and I feel that anonymity would undermine these connections I'm seeking. On the other hand, I'm imagining how I would feel knowing that, for example, a potential employer had read these posts. It's not that they have 'inappropriate' content in the general sense of that word, but that they give an insight into me beyond my persona as a librarian. In a professional context I want to be judged by my conduct as a professional, not my personality/personal interests.

Has anybody else had any thoughts on these issues?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Early printed excitement

I've just put the finishing touches to the bibliographic record for the final item bound in a fascinating volume of early printed material which I've been lucky enough to be cataloguing over the past few months. The volume contains 105 items, mostly broadsides ("single sheet publications" in DCRM(B) terms) published in the reigns of Charles I, James II, and William and Mary. The collection seems to have been assembled by  Robert Brady (1627?-1700), a doctor and historian, who was directly involved in some of the events the broadsides document. Item no. 47 (one of a few folio format publications bound in the volume) includes a deposition, delivered by Brady under oath before the king and an "extraordinary council" at Whitehall on the 22nd October 1688, in which he gives an account of his part in the events of the 10th of June 1688 at St. James' Palace, where Mary of Modena gave birth to James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales. Brady's deposition is one of 41 (surely they can't all have been present in the Queen's bed chamber?!) printed, "by his majesties [King James II of England] special command", in which he responds to reports that "very many do not think this son with which God hath blessed me, to be mine, but a supposed child" and in the belief that "the Prince of Orange, with the first Eastwardly wind, will invade this kingdom". Item no. 48, which responds to these depositions, is one of my favourites. It includes a map of St. James' Palace, "describing the place wherein it is supposed the true mother was delivered", on which a dotted line indicates the route by which "the child was conveyed to the Queen's bed-chamber"!

Cataloguing this volume has been an incredibly interesting project. I knew very little of the history of this period beforehand and, to be honest, wasn't at all interested in remedying that. But working with these sources captured my imagination, made the events described and recorded in them vivid and exciting, and really inspired me to find out more. I was reading about the events through the eyes of the people involved; their propaganda, their proclamations, declarations, depositions, petitions. What a wonderful experience, and a personal reminder that the collections of early books and materials which many of us look after have the power to inspire and educate in a way that textbooks and lectures can't. What a brilliant resource this volume, and others like it, would make for engaging with members of the community both within and beyond the college's walls...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wildlife in the library

My longsuffering colleague just found a beautiful moth on the floor, which I've just released back into the wild. This isn't the first time wildlife has found its way into the library. We do our fair share of fairly run-of-the-mill (but still quite scary!) evictions - wasps, bees, flies and spiders. Slightly more unusual are the pigeons. At least once or twice a year the library staff here can be found coo-ing, shoo-ing and running around flapping papers, brooms, feather dusters and other bird scaring paraphernalia in an attempt to encourage stray pigeons to leave. A student once offered to bring in her father's pet falcon to dispose of a particularly persistent pigeon - thankfully the pigeon found his own way out soon after! On another occasion I came in on a Saturday morning to discover an amazing dragonfly, measuring about 10cm long, and shimmering blue and green, at the enquiry desk. I have also seen plenty of wildlife from my office window - a heron on a rooftop at my eye-level, just a few metres away across the passage; skeins of geese, teams of ducks (nouns of assemblage are wonderful things!); a swallow, which sat for a good half an hour on the open office window; a robin singing on the window ledge. This year I've had the pleasure of watching a juvenile magpie get to grips with flying, using the rooftops of the college as runways and launchpads. And then there is the daily chorus of blackbirds, each keenly defending their territory at the top of their voice. Wildlife is everywhere, even in libraries...

Thing 2 - Blogging (the technical side)

Here I'm going to talk a little about my experience of setting up the blog. The technical stuff. In my next post I'll talk about the psychological/emotional (yes really!) stuff - which for me is a much bigger deal! I thought I'd break it into two posts so that anyone reading who doesn't want to be privy to my blog neuroses can avoid them by just reading this first post...

I have to admit I'm finding Blogger quite fiddly to work with. It was really easy to sign up, name, and choose a basic template, a definite point in Blogger's favour, but once I began to want to fine-tune things (font sizes, font colours, etc.) I started to feel a bit dazed and confused! I am at best a third-rate techie, and have to keep asking a longsuffering colleague for help (which he willingly gives). When I'm in the advanced tab of the template designer I'm not always sure which option corresponds to which element of the blog design. I'm sure once I've spent a bit more time fiddling around I'll get the hang of it, and in fact the kind of changes I want to make are probably barely perceptible to anyone else, just personal whims regarding the size of this text with relation to that, or the amount of space between things (if you read my first post, you'll know that space, be it white or, in the case of my blog, a pale custardy colour, is important to me!). I'm sure there are very good reasons for Blogger to work the way it does, so I don't really mean to suggest that my niggles should be catered for, but it's just a bit frustrating to have an idea in your head of how you want something to be, and for it not to be immediately obvious how to achieve this.

One final thing - I wanted to use one of my own photos for the background, but it has to be under "300K", and seeing as all my photos come from a fairly decent digital camera, the file sizes are much larger. Can anyone help me with this? Is there a simple but effective way for me to reduce the file size of my photos?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Thing 1 - iGoogle

Earlier this week I set up an iGoogle page. Google has been my search engine of choice (and in fact my web browser home page) for as long as I can remember, chosen over others for the clean feel of the interface – for me the visual simplicity was the great appeal. It was therefore with some reluctance that I proceeded to, as I saw it, clutter up my iGoogle page with gadgets. Furthermore, I found it difficult trying to anticipate what I would find useful. I hoped that using the search facility or looking at the favourites under “add stuff” would give me some ideas; however, completely different searches gave me very similar results, and clicking on the “you might also like” link produced some downright bizarre suggestions! I did persevere, and currently have a home tab (BBC weather, BBC news, mini Wikipedia, Google calendar), a library tab (Cambridge libraries widget, COPAC searchbox) and a travel tab (National Rail train journey planner, tfl tube map, Google map search). My minimalist tendencies held me back from exploring the more light-hearted gadgets (quotes, photos, etc.), but hopefully I will mellow…

It’s taking me a while to get used to using iGoogle, largely because of habit, rather than conscious resistance. I still head, without thinking, to my favourites list to go to websites, rather than using the gadgets on my iGoogle page, even when the gadget would supply me with all the information I need. Once I get into the habit of using these gadgets I think I will appreciate having them all in one place right in front of my face (as opposed to hitting my browser’s favourites button and scrolling down a list). It goes without saying that, as a librarian, the opportunity iGoogle presents me for categorising, organising and consolidating my resources is very appealing! I am still very much a fan of the visual simplicity of classic Google, but having set my iGoogle theme to ‘Swan Lake’ (a photo of ballerinas in tutus), I get a balletomanic thrill every time I view the page, which mostly makes up for the lack of white space.

Over the coming weeks and months I will, no doubt, get used to iGoogle, adding gadgets and rejigging my tabs and pages as certain situations present needs, opportunities and inspiration. Exciting!