12 October 2011

Library Camp 2011 - can we do that again please?

The sponsor's display - with artistic addition!
On the 8th October I joined over 150 other librarians, information professional and fellow enthusiasts in Birmingham for Library Camp UK 2011. The event had been a sell out within a few hours of the ticket release and originally I had not got a place. Luckily for me a few last minute dropouts meant I got a place with a week to go.

I was intrigued by the unconference style of the event. Basically people could suggest ideas on the wiki before the event, but the timetable would only be set on the day after people had pitched their idea in the introductory session. They then placed the topic in a slot on the blank timetable of the day. Once all those interested in facilitating a session had pitched their idea there was a short break for coffee and cake. The cakes deserve a mention in their own right - many delegates had baked a cake to bring to the event and the selection was amazing. Even the sponsors got in on the act with Swets putting on a photogenic display of cupcakes!

It was at this stage that people could choose the sessions they would like to attend. I really loved the informality of the event – and I particularly liked the fact that the sessions took the form of discussions between the participants. As a result I got much more out of them than the usual presenter/audience style of session. One picked up good ideas and made many useful contacts this way. I also loved the way that each session grew out of those present – giving them all a unique flavour.

Which to choose?
For the first session I chose cataloguing. It was good to have a mix of novice and ‘expert’ cataloguers, and also system librarians who could give us different viewpoints on how data is used. Useful also to hear how different establishments approached cataloguing and people’s thoughts on what users want out of the records.

My favourite session of the day was on Special Collections - this really illustrated how the mix of people in a session led the discussion. Laura (@theatregrad) started the session by giving a brief outline of her dissertation. The discussion then moved onto whether digitising collections and putting them online was a good idea if this meant it raised people’s expectations of being able to come and see the original article (the consensus was yes, as it gave many more people a chance to see it in some form, and one could put ‘disclaimers’ on the site to the effect that access to the original article was limited). The comment was also made that access to special collections online can raise not only the profile of the library, but also the parent establishment as well – this can in turn raise the profile of the library within the establishment. Equally it was pointed out that one can find out useful related information on collections once the information on it is available more widely and researchers studying related areas can provide useful information.

The discussion then moved onto a commercial company who have records that are virtually unused, but which are of potential interest to others. Many useful and interesting suggestions were made  - from accessing the reprographic equipment of a local university, to seeing if a local institution would house the whole collection (with advice on how to chose a suitable institution should there be a choice). It was also pointed out that housing the collection elsewhere could benefit both the company by having smaller insurance costs, and the researcher who could conceivably view several related collections in one visit.

After lunch I attended the session on “Learning from Retail”
I was familiar with some of the basic concepts, such as don’t put items you wish people to look at/browse in the ‘landing zone’ – do put information /displays in areas where people will have to queue anyway. However it was good to hear how people do this in practice, and also to pick up some information on more background reading, and companies that specialize in this area. I loved the idea of making ‘moveable’ zones – as users needs may vary throughout the year (e.g. quiet in exam time). There was an interesting discussion on cafes within libraries  - which should be seen as “learning coffee spaces” it was suggested (i.e. an integral part of the experience not an add-on). It was also pointed out that cafes within meant that users did not have to leave the building, so avoiding the scenario of students leaving for a coffee and not returning.

The importance of  staff backing changes was stressed  - for example leaving newly returned books on the trolley in public view encourages people to borrow as they are attracted to what others have just borrowed – however this relies on the staff not shelving them too soon. Training also needs to be ongoing to allow for staff changes. And the closing thought – “just try it”.

The penultimate session I attended was on collaboration – and where the library/information service sits within an organisation. Some people said they are invited to meetings withing the organisation which raises their profile (introductions by senior managers etc – can help raise the standing of the information professional amongst those attending). However it was also stressed that collaboration did not need to be formal – for example joining the committee for an organisation's charity event could be equally effective.

Another way of raising profile is taking the service out to the customer – for example in the Judge Business School where the Information Service ‘sets up shop’ in communal areas.  This attracts people who might not go to them otherwise, and lets others know about the services they provide.

Personalisation of the service ("Sue can help", rather than "the library can help"), and outgoing personalities were suggested as useful attributes when  trying to sell the embedded model. The benefits were felt to be worth the effort – making the service ‘business critical’ being a worthwhile achievement in the current economic climate.

My last session of the day was with the founders of #uklibchat. I had been aware of the fortnightly chats on Twitter, but had not as yet joined in any. It was interesting to hear their plans and listen to discussion of how the idea had developed and is developing. I now feel inspired to join the conversations.

After the final get together people were loathe to go their separate ways. Various groups went for drinks or food – I joined a group at a coffee shop, as by now the very early start was starting to tell and alcohol did not seem like a good idea!  Needless to say the chatting continued till we had to catch our trains.

The format of the day was brilliant – I really appreciated the discussions – and the people at the event really made it a success. I have never been great at networking – usually only talking to those I already know. However the friendliness and camaraderie was amazing. Virtually all the time between session and before and after the event I was talking to people that I did not know, or knew only through Twitter. Everyone made me feel welcome. I left the event completely invigorated (though physically exhausted!!), and look forward to #libcampuk12. The organisers deserve a medal for putting on such a successful and enjoyable event – (and I suspect a long rest!!!).

6 October 2011

QR codes and libcampuk11

I've been wanting to explore QR codes ever since I discovered their existence at the UC&R and CoFHE Conference at Exeter last year. The impetus finally came, firstly from buying a new phone (theoretically so I could send/receive e-mails) and secondly, the clear easy instructions on how to create QR codes from Katie.

I love Katie's idea of linking a cake recipe to a QR code and displaying it next to your cake - however, not being the best cook, I decided to use one on my name badge for Library Camp (Apologies to Katie for taking inspiration from her name badge!)


22 September 2011

CILIP AGM Livestreamed

As I was unable to get to the CILIP AGM I decided to watch the livestream and follow the Twitterfeed at the same time (#cilipagm11). I confess I went into it with trepidation, having had some bad experiences of livestreamed events before - but I must congratulate CILIP on producing such good quality images and sound (despite the occasional hiccups with the mikes).

I tuned in as soon as I finished work at 5.30 - and was a little surprised it  was already underway ... but at least attending remotely there wasn't the embarrassment of trying to sneak quietly in! It took me a few minutes to settle into watching it and following the twitter conversation at the same time - but once I got into the swing of it, it was a great way to take part. I really enjoyed the asides from fellow watchers as well as those present. -see Llordllamas point 12 on his blog :-)

It would have been great if we could have voted online at the time too (it was useful to hear the questions being asked prior to the voting taking place), but I can see that this would probably be too hard to achieve. What would be quite feasible however would be to take some questions from the twitter attendees (perhaps @cilipinfo could be persuaded to ask questions on our behalf next time?)

Towards the end we watched with interest to see if they would leave it running when the drinks reception started - but no such luck. This was one of the downsides of watching remotely - instead of drinks and a chance to network, all I had to look forward to was the drive home. On the plus side I was home in half an hour.

All in all a great success. Thanks CILIP - here's to next year.


I was very keen to try dropbox, after hearing my daughter singing its praises. I found it very easy to install and to use. I like the way that you can access it via the web, rather than having to install it on all the computers you use (I did consider installing it on my laptop, but as I use a version of Linux not listed on their installation guide, I chickened out of downloading it).

Sharing a file was also easy as my husband already uses dropbox, but it was good to see that you can also share it with others who don't have an account. I like the fact that you can store multiple file formats, as I have been frustrated by the limitations of Google docs, when you want to do something that is more than a basic document. I can see therefore that I will use this more (though mainly for text-based documents so hopefully the limits of the free account should not give me too much of a headache).

I have been warned by those that have used this in the past, that one has to be wary of dragging and dropping a file into a dropbox folder, in that the original copy is lost (the person telling me this had then deleted his dropbox copy, and was rather dismayed to find he no longer had a copy at all).

All in all, a great tool, which is likely to be added to my list of favourites....now all I need to do is try it on my phone...

Widgets, screenshots and screencasting

This week I decided to take a detour on my way through the 'extra things'  to look at a couple of the regular 'things' that I was unfamiliar with.

I was interested in trying LightShot - unfortunately although I appeared to be making progress  (I got as far as the feather icon appearing in my Firefox toolbar),

Only a feather!
...and an error
all attempts to use it resulted in an error message.


I had more luck with screencasting. I was very impressed with screen-o-matic - it was easy to use - and the results looked very professional (not sure about my content though!). I created a short instructional 'video' on how to use library search. I liked the way it was possible to create a useable guide without having to add a soundtrack.

Unfortunately I failed to manage to get it to upload  to YouTube - so you will be spared having to watch my first attempts :)

Library Widget

I have used the Cambridge Libraries Widget before - however this was an opportunity to add it to my iGoogle page and set up an RSS feed. As promised in the Cam 23 2.0 blog, this was very easy. I like the idea of having it in a location that I use daily rather than having to go to a specific webpage. The ability to set up a loans feed is a clever idea, an inspired use of RSS feeds.

Good as the widget and the RSS feed are - for me the winner has to be the ability to set up a feed to my Google calender. I was impressed how quick it was to do - now I will have no excuse for not returning my books on time (especially as my Google Calendar is synched with my phone!). Maybe if we can persuade our students to set this up, we should have less people returning books late because they didn't see the e-mail reminder... perhaps!

Twitter extended

I have to confess to being a great fan of twitter clients. In fact for me it was the turning point - from a irregular to a regular user of Twitter.

I use Seesmic - mainly because this was the first client I came across, and I like its style. I love the way you can have multiple columns - viewable at the same time. This means you can see your 'home' list, mentions and direct messages all at the same time. You can also view various lists, and for me this is the real advantage. The lists I have set up for myself include a list of librarians I follow, and also my quicklist.. This is a relatively select list, of those people whose tweets I most want to read when time is short. This is a great time-saver. I love they way you can quickly scroll through the tweets on Seesmic - (something that was missing from Twitter when I first started using it). I also like the way you can add and subtract columns at will - for example adding one for a particular hash-tag.

You can also set it up for multiple accounts. I gave this a try, thinking this would be a good way of keeping tabs on both my personal and work account - however after finding I had tweeted something I had meant for my personal account on the work one - my advice is make sure you know how it works before experimenting!! (thankfully it was library related).

I've used Bit.ly a lot in the past, but again Twitter now shortens URLs automatically,  so I use it less. In the future I may try Twittermail -  I can see it could have potential, but don't have a need for it just now.

Extra, Extra

Time is flying by... and despite two draft posts waiting in the wings, I've not published anything in months! At last I have a little spare time to try and catch up, so I plan to whizz through the Cam 23 2.0 extra things.

I am not sure that I have the artistic skills to make my blog beautiful, but I did take a bit of time when I set it up to get the look I wanted. This was because I had set up a web-page to practice my html skills, and I wanted to try to embed the blog into it (I've not updated my web-page in a long time - another thing I need some more time to work on...). After trying a couple of templates to find the one that best suited,  I added the lizard picture on the top. However I then found the standard font (colour and position) for the template I had chosen meant that it was obscured by the picture. After a bit of trial and error, the above was the result - not perfect, but readable :)

I've now added a few widgets - nothing very exciting - a share button, follow me by e-mail, and a statistics widget. I'd be interested to see how much they get used  - though I doubt I have a hoard of prospective followers waiting in the wings ;)  What I really need to do now is update my profile - but that will have to wait for another day when inspiration strikes!