28 July 2010

Cambridge Teachmeet

If you have been following Isla, Niamh, Katie or Celine, on blog or twitter you will by now have heard of our meeting to arrange a teachmeet on the 27th September, and have some idea of what this entails. What more can I add? Well here goes - just a few thoughts.

-Come along whether as a participant or an observer - who knows, you might be inspired to join in next time.

-The slots are deliberatly short (and open to flexibility timewise - just an indication of what to aim for).

-It is a great way to dabble your toes in the water - short and sweet - maybe it will encourage/inspire you to consider a longer presentation at other library events?

-Feel free to approach the topic from any angle - it could be an event/idea/application you have tried that worked brilliantly that you wish to share - or equally something that didn't quite hit the mark, and that you would do differently next time.

-'Cambridge Librarians' is just a rough indication of whom we expect will want to attend, however we are open to librarians/library assistants from all types of libraries - academic, public, commercial etc etc... and I am sure you wouldn't be turned away for being just over the border ;)

So be brave - join the fun - if someone as tongue-tied as myself is prepared to give it a go, I am sure anyone can!!!

21 July 2010

Linked but undecided

Photo - flickr - by gmajsicmtc
I must admit this is the first Thing that has left me completely cold. Most new applications I try  I want to play with, experiment, explore. With LinkedIn, I just felt completely non-plussed. Having said this - I suppose it is no surprise that since being invited to join I have done little to my account - despite the encouragement of the invitee, who waxed lyrical about how good it was for professional networking.

With this in mind I discussed LinkedIn with my husband who has been on LinkedIn for a number of years, and asked his views on the value of LinkedIn, and it's potential use for the library world.

Plus points for him included-

-good for maintaining the network of work colleagues you have built up at various places of employment - a certain amount of proof for potential employers that you have actually worked where you say you have if you have them in you LinkedIn network.

-network can mean that the people you are networked with may, when a job vacancy comes up, both remember what your particular skills are and have a way of finding you again, or passing on the details to the potential employer of a way of contacting you.

-some job agencies keep a network set up of people who are interested in jobs, having it set-up to alert them to changes to your profile. This can be useful to them to keep up to date with your skills, and useful to the job-seekers who keep reminding the agencies of their presence!

Personally, I still feel a little wary of how much I want to display to how many, and I still need to consider in that case how useful the above points would be (my husband had much more of his profile visible when job-hunting - now much is private again). As for current awareness -  I feel Twitter is much more user-friendly.

He did make an interesting point on the nature of Cambridge's libraries however... saying we seemed to have a very good active actual network of librarians. Many of us know each other personally and professionally, so in this kind of environment perhaps we have less need of a network such as LinkedIn... whereas in the generally more spread out world of work LinkedIn comes into its own (which is perhaps why my friend was so enthusiastic about it, working for a commercial rather than a library within the university). Perhaps he suggested it would be useful to link our close-knit network with one at Oxford?

I can now see some of its possible advantages as a career development tool, - as yet I am less sure of its use to the library itself. I can see this is a 'Thing' I need to explore some more, and perhaps visit again later in this blog!

19 July 2010

Facebook - friend or foe?

I have been on Facebook for a number of years. I have friends spread out across the globe, and Facebook seems to be the perfect way to keep in touch. I have never been the greatest letter writer, and I like the chatty regular comments people write, things that one wouldn't necessarily put in a letter, but which one would say at the pub, or over coffee. This makes me feel much more connected with friends who unfortunately I am unable to meet as regularly as I would like. Privacy can be an issue - mainly if you don't take the time to check your settings regularly when things change on Facebook. I would say that if you take care there is little that others can find - my children both decline to be my friends (they like to keep their social life private which I understand), but it can be a useful check for us to see what we can find about them, and vice-versa - as a 'safe' way to find out what the rest of the world could find ;)

The article Libraries and Facebook made interesting (if dated) reading - considering how quickly Web 2.0 applications develop. This speed in itself can be a problem for institutions - there is always the danger of either getting left behind, or of having others set up an unofficial presence for you instead. For example - do a quick search for Christy Moore (a singer) - this brings up one highlighted page, and a link underneath saying "see more results"....which would you assume was the official page? - in fact it is not the highlighted page, or the one with the most fans (presumably as these were set up first and come higher up in the list.) In this example, I am sure that all support Christy as a singer...but for some organisations these unofficial sites have been set up by those with a grouse against an organisation, and are not portraying the image that the organisation would like the world to see.

My personal view for libraries - is it can be worthwhile having a presence. As is rightly pointed out - having a page, does not necessarily mean people will use it regularly, but it is a means of communication, and if people want the information the more ways of connecting the better. The Facebook page has the advantage that it can be more informal and chatty, in a way that the 'regular' library homepage often fails to be. Having a more chatty presence, can connect with different people, and may encourage more 'real-life' interaction if they perceive you as friendly. This of course all assumes that one makes the Facebook page relatively light. Looking at the local examples given - for me the Jerwood Library hits just the right note - informative but friendly, with plenty of images to draw one in.

One other factor that can be important for some libraries is the feeling of being in control with a Facebook page, whereas the "official" library page can be strictly controlled by the institution or the IT department (and could explain some of the resistance to libraries etc setting up Facebook pages in some quarters)

So for me a thumbs up - a useful addition for libraries trying to connect with their users... and potential users.

16 July 2010

Another Day - Another Thing

Library Thing was an application I was aware of, but I really didn't see a lot of point in cataloguing my own books. To me the main point of a catalogue has always been to find the book you want, and although my family has an extensive collection, we can usually find the ones we want (and even if we can't put our hand on them immediately it is always a good excuse to browse the shelves).I admit that until I had a play with it, I was unaware of the other features it contained, such as clicking on other's review of the books, or that one could download records from such a variety of sources. I can see the attraction of having recommendations and seeing other similar books that are around whether in, or out of print.

With great trepidation I uploaded details of a few of my books - including the book my father wrote on the Overseas Rugby Club - well it has to be the star of my collection :) Once my records were loaded it was interesting to see how many other members had read the various books - and their comments. Obviously it was no surprise that mine was the sole entry for my Dad's book ... however I was surprised that the most read of the small selection I had chosen to input was "The Medieval Tailor's Assistant", a book on making clothes for re-enactment.

Which brings me to one of the perceived benefits of inputting Library Thing data into your OPAC mentioned by John Wensler in his article Library Thing and the Library Catalog - that with Library Thing's large membership more tags will be available for each book than will be available if only your patrons input tags ...it depends on the book. For a specialist book, or a specialist library your own patrons may put in more relevant tags to help their co-user find the book.

I was also wary of the comment that the recommendations for what you would like to read would be more accurate than the famous online bookseller, not being based just on what you had bought (Social Networking for Bookworms). However unless you input all your books onto Library Thing I suspect that this will be similarly biased... I am sure I am not the only one that carefully selected the books that I wanted to show to the world as books on my bookshelves - no cheap and 'cheery' whodunnits here :)

In conclusion - an interesting tool to play with - possibly useful in a library situation, but definitely as an 'added extra', not in place of traditional records.

12 July 2010

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Well half way there and time for reflection. Has Cam23 been worth it? Definitely - I've tried new applications that I'd just viewed from afar before. Some such as Delicious, personally I could take or leave. Others such as Doodle, I will use from now on. It has also encouraged me to look in more depth at applications I already use. My Google Calendar has been modified to be more useful to me (now why had I never considered making the "month view" the default before?!)

I've also taken the time to look at other ways of viewing Twitter (thanks to the person at the UC&R conference who showed me her Seesmic account). I can now look at several different feed at the same time!... well you know what I mean. I have organised the people I follow into several lists. I made the 'mistake' of subscribing to the British Librarians on Twitter TweepML list wholesale rather than being selective on whom to follow. This was far too many people to follow sensibly, and the people I had originally chosen to follow were lost in a mass of tweets. Now I have a list for my 'regulars' (which I look at most days), another general library list (which I skim when I have time), and a couple of other lists I can dip into. You can also follow hashtags such as #Cam23, or other searches. I am sure I would have hesitated on trying out a reader such as Seesmic had it not been for the impetus of Cam23.

I have really enjoyed trying out the various applications suggested, and look forward to trying out the rest of the applications. My knowledge and skills level in several of them has definitely improved and I can see great potential for some of them (now just to persuade my boss to revise her luke-warm view of Google Calendar...).

I hope my increased knowledge and confidence will stand me in good stead as I progress towards the next step in my career. Hopefully I will be a little less hesitant in trying new applications, and will remember how much I enjoy learning something new. As to what I would recommend - that is hard, as there is so much that would be useful in the right situation - but I suppose Google Calendar and Doodle, closely followed by Twitter, have to be worthy of recommendation.

Reflection over ... roll on the rest of Cam23.

9 July 2010

Quite Tasty

Before getting to this 'Thing', I had come across Delicious, but never actually played with it. Looking around the various examples, I was quite impressed with it. As a personal tool, I can see the advantages of it, as one who has access to a number of different computers at home and at work. Equally I can see that if one has a job where one moves around - for example demonstrating information skills to groups of students - having your links at your fingertips could be very useful. In a static library setting I am less sure - the ability to be able to tag webpages with one's own tags is good, but unless your users can also tag them, I am not sure that they would necessarily find them any quicker using Delicious as opposed to a 'static' website.

Next step was to try and set up a Delicious account. This entailed setting up a Yahoo account (I am sure I had one years ago, but the details escaped me)...I am afraid that as they virtually wanted one's life history, I felt uncomfortable going any further. Here I had a bit of luck - my husband has a Yahoo account, so we set up a Delicious account on that. My view was that Delicious was very easy to use - once we spotted that tags were just separated by spaces not commas. Setting up Tag bundles enables one to sort into 'folders', which looks useful.

I also had a go at a search - I like the idea that one can then filter the search terms.

All in all - a useful tool, but not one to rave about.