12 August 2010

Farewell Cam23

23 things in three months - how time has flown. It has been great to have an excuse (and a gentle prod) to explore new applications, and become better acquainted with old ones. Some were old friends well used and familiar, but Cam23 still cajoled us into looking at them in a different light, asking such pertinent questions as "would you use them in your library". Others were new and exciting. Some 'things' one instantly saw the point of, and how to use them. Doodle will now be used whenever the need arises. Other 'things' were slow burners. I was unsure about Delicious, but now find myself constantly adding  my "items to read later" to it.  Some I need yet more time to get to know ... Zotero, Wikis and Google Docs are definitely works in progress.

Which has been most useful? - a hard question - so many to choose from. Doodle for ease of use but of course only used in very specific circumstances. Twitter is brilliant for networking and CPD, and many of the posts themselves can be thought provoking. (Google docs caused much provocation of my thoughts as I attempted to achieve what I wanted, but that's another story). Least useful has been LinkedIn, but I think in fairness that has been because I have not paid it enough attention and need to investigate it further. I have persisted with most - RSS feeds, Doodle, iGoogle, Google Calendar, Twitter, Flickr, Slideshare, Delicious Facebook and Google documents, with a brief sortie into Wikis. The rest will be revisited later.

Web 2.0 and social media, are part of the world we (and our users) live in. To fully support our students, we need to embrace them (Web 2.0 and social media that is!). That is not to say that we have to accept them wholesale - like any other tools, we need to pick the right ones for the job, ones of sufficient quality and pedigree, and almost as importantly, not be afraid to move on as the web develops. Libraries and users WILL change - to best serve our customers (and to enjoy our role) we need to change with them.

Cam23 as expected has led us all to try things we would perhaps have put off or avoided. However it has had other benefits as well. The camaraderie and the support from our fellow travellers has been terrific. Not only have people given helping hands, and pointed us in the right direction when lost, but they've also introduced us to yet more applications, and gadgets to try, which I am itching to explore. I hope that this can continue and we can keep encouraging each other to carry on learning, not losing the impetus now that we have reached the 'finish line'. The sprint is over - long live the marathon! Now just off to play with "thing" 24, and 25 and...

11 August 2010


Until recently my experience of wikis was limited to the use of Wikipedia (only ever as a consumer rather than as a contributor). Then a few weeks ago (after exchanged comments on Cam23 blogs), I became involved in the Cambridge TeachMeet. The TeachMeet Wiki has been a useful site for giving out information  - and receiving information from interested parties - at a time that suits those interested, without having to wait for replies from e-mails etc. It also means less duplication of effort - as the contributors put their details directly onto the site - complete with live links to their blogs. I have heard of the Library Routes Wiki before, but had not considered contributing - perhaps after Cam23 is completed would be a good time to give it a go (My career to-date will make it more of a scenic tour rather than a motorway journey... but watch this space!!)

I like the thought of using a wiki in the workplace; it would be very useful to have one at work to form a readily accessible repository in which to put all the procedures information. The one thing that has made me hesitate however is the issue of security. I would not wish to go down the public route chosen by Antioch University:- "This Wiki is public on the Web. Never put personal or security-sensitive information here ... All sensitive information resides in the library in private places."  - as this seems to negate the advantages of having all the information in one place. However it concerns me that even having a wiki that is nominally private, but hosted by a third party, in itself could be considered a security risk.

In conclusion I love the idea of wikis but I would want to look at them in much greater depth before using one for anything I was worried about others reading.

Podcasting and YouTube - a little light relief

And so to "Thing 21". This was great fun - I've not had much previous experience of podcasts, but fear I may become hooked!

First stop - looking at the BBC's offerings...listening to Cumbrian Ospreys  and Mike Harding talking about the Cambridge Folk Fest on his Folk and Acoustic podcast. Next - onto more library related podcasts. These seemed to be variable in quality, and one felt that they had not always thought through how to present them, or listened to them with the ear of a novice library user. The first library tour podcast I listened to was confusing - the layout of the webpage was not obvious, and the podcast I felt went into too much detail so that I quickly found myself "switching off" Goldsmith's tour on the other hand was clear and to the point, the webpage was easily navigable, and yes I could imagine walking round the library listening to it (although preferably when it was fairly empty ;) I listened briefly to the JISC and CILIP podcasts. These were not really ones to dip into, but I could imagine listening to them when I needed the information.

Some of the podcasts were easier to listen to than others - one discussion I listened to didn't work for me because the second person was not adding anything, and it would have worked just as well as a monologue. Another seemed much more like a genuine discussion and was therefore much easier to listen to. I also found myself getting irritated when someone introduced another speaker, and then the second speaker also introduced himself! At least one benefit of listening to a variety of library related podcasts is that I will know what to avoid if I ever make one myself.

More light relief followed when looking at the suggested YouTube videos, The Ninja Librarian and A Plagiarism Adventure were particularly good fun (perhaps we should include the Ninja librarian in our induction sessions?!) It became apparent that one did not need to make them over complicated to be effective. I particularly liked the "silent movies" style used in the Goggle Vision and Social Science Library Oxford Library Tour videos.

Would we consider making podcasts or YouTube videos for the library? Making a podcast seems feasible, but one should bear in mind that they need to be well planned and presented. To make a successful video I think requires fairly outgoing personalities, (as well as technical expertise). To make a bad video would be worse than not having one at all. Would it be worth it? I can see that for some people (myself included), being shown how to do something would have more impact than just being told. Therefore I can see their place, as a teaching tool or as an addition to a library tour for example. However, given these requirements I think it will be a while yet before we attempt either.

Now if you'll excuse me... I'm just off for a spot of Croquet... (Thanks for the link "Girl in the Moon")

10 August 2010

Documents in the Ether

Google docs is another Cam23 'thing' that I think would benefit from more in-depth exploration. Getting started was quite easy, but I got frustrated by the limited range of formatting available. As the idea of Google docs is to use it instead of the ubiquitous 'Word', I started off by trying to create the sort of documents I would normally create at work. Although these would seldom need sharing it seemed a reasonable test of the software. Straightforward typing was fine. Creating a table was alright, although I failed to turn off the gridlines despite following the instructions in the help section. My attempts at creating columns however failed completely. Looking in the help section it suggested creating a table with one row and the required number of columns. In 'Word' when column one is full the next column on the same page is used - a quick experiment with Google Docs showed it using column 1 on page one then column 1 on page 2 etc.(see the screenshot of print preview). This is obviously going to take more work to master. I next had a look at Zoho to see how it compared. This felt more like 'Word' to use, however again I failed  to create columns.

Next to sharing documents. Having already received a couple from other Cam23 colleagues organising the TeachMeet, I was aware of some of the potential pitfalls (I made sure I used their Google enabled e-mail addresses). At first I couldn't work out how to differentiate who added what - I have since discovered that highlighting the relevant text and selecting insert then comment creates a box on the right of the document with your comment and your Google id. (I wonder if there is a more obvious way of differentiation within the document other than each choosing a different coloured text?) That done, sharing a document was easy, and a good way to add material to a shared document in a  fairly painless way.

So what are my thoughts on Google docs? A great idea that is worthy of further exploration (as is Zoho, and probably CamTools). I feel it would be even better (and get used by more people), if it was more compatible with 'Word'. Most people are so used to using 'Word' as a word-processer, that any alternative, really needs to match, if not exceed it in usability. I also am slightly wary of handing over my documents to a third party - although in reality for most of the documents I produce this would not be a major problem.

All in all - a good application for sharing documents with colleagues - despite my reservations. One I am sure I will return to.

8 August 2010

Marketing thoughts

The Cam23 programme had been great for introducing us to a wide range of Web 2.0 applications. The question is how will we use them in the future in our libraries, especially with reference to marketing? I think the critical points are addressed in the Slideshare presentation on marketing library services. Plan what you intend to do. Find the particular needs of your users. Decide what you are hoping to achieve, and then choose the application that best fits those needs. I also think it is important not to think of social media in isolation, but as part of a wider marketing strategy.

I loved the social media card idea in theory - though I confess I would feel a little wary of mixing work with
personal account information - I feel there is a danger of blurring the line between being friendly, and potentially being seen as unprofessional. The other examples seemed more practical. To me the critical factor that has attracted me to the Twitter accounts/ blogs/ Facebook pages set up by various libraries has been that they are informal, friendly and informative. Each application has a place in marketing our libraries.

Twitter is great for short sharp, immediate communication - maybe the best for opening up a channel of communication? Assuming someone already has a Twitter account, having a "Join us on Twitter" button on your website (as well as details on printed literature), requires little effort on their part. Added to this they don't have to actively decide to look for you, click on your page, or visit your blog. I think this would be ideal for more sporadic information. With the ability to use Twitpic and links, one can plug events, show new acquisitions and so forth. In this way one can still get a fair amount of information across (and there is something irresistible to having a small amount of information, with the promise of more if you just click here....!!!)

Blogs and Facebook pages are also good marketing tools IF they are well maintained. It could have a negative effect however if you have a Facebook page, or blog that is never updated. Having said that, a well maintained Facebook page can be a useful addition to a library - as long as one remembers that it is their choice to go to it (or not), so it has to be enticing enough, and/or informative enough for them to want to come back. Blogs perhaps work better in bigger libraries, as they rely on having enough material to make it worthwhile for a user to come and look at it. If it is little more than the basic information already on the website then why would they use that instead? (One can however imbed a blog in a website fairly easily )

The source code for putting this blog into a website!!

As to what we would do in our library, I am not in a position to make that decision. Whatever route we take, the first priority has to be to consider in greater depth what we are intending to achieve, and how we will do so. After that talking to other libraries who have used Twitter, Facebook and Blogs  would a good next step. Personally I would think that Twitter might be the gentlest introduction to using social media for marketing…but I am open to ideas… and advice :)

3 August 2010

Zotero - not a 'Thing' to rush

I was really looking forward to this, having found EndNote so useful for keeping track of what I had read, and what I thought about articles when studying - so I approached Zotero with enthusiasm. First obstacle was "Download Zotero". I need to ask permission and get the IT Department to download anything. As my boss was away, the easiest way was to download it at home. That achieved - next I 'just' needed to discover how Zotero works. I've had a go capturing references from Newton, and to archive web-pages and pdfs, had a quick go at "dragging and dropping a citation, and created a quick bibliography.

 First impression is that it is an efficient bibliographic referencing system - which has a large range of features. I like the fact that it stores the pdfs etc., which are searchable, and one can therefore use the quotes etc later - but I can see that this could cause storage problems after a while. However I've not found it as intuitive as EndNote to use, and really feel I have only scratched the surface of it. I think this is an application that one can really only discover the full capabilities of with extensive use (using it for a purpose, rather than just 'having a go'), as only then will one really fully appreciate what it can do for you. I would be even happier with it if it were web-based, so one could easily use it wherever you want to access it from - in the course of a week I could easily be on 6 different computers!

Personally I can't see us using it in our library, although I can see its place in a departmental library. It will however be useful to have an understanding of it, to be able to answer student's queries, and as an alternative to EndNote for personal use. Setting up a group could also be useful for collaborative ventures.

  Still must get on - more to explore....now I wonder what Mendeley is like?