Archive for the ‘Things’ Category



My Wordle (just from latest posts)

Here’s my Wordle. If I hadn’t left it so late (and had so much wine in the writing of my Thing 23 post), I would have liked to paste the text of my whole blog into Wordle to create it and get a proper overview. However, here is the one created from the latest posts. Please note the little “cataloguing” placed in the bottom right-hand corner!


Plus ça change… (thing 23)

It’s frustrating and yet strangely reassuring to find that I haven’t changed at all in roughly 20 years of having “coursework” to complete. As soon as the 23 Things blog posted about the stay of execution, I just knew that I’d be writing this at the last minute on Monday night, even though I was well on track to complete by the original finish date of 27th August. Memories of various dissertations and even Alevel coursework flash across my mind, hastily compiling bibliographies (from index cards in the pre-Zotero days) into the early hours and checking page numbering while standing in the queue at the printers’. Sigh. I can take some solace from the fable of the hare and the tortoise maybe? So long as I get there in the end.

Image by Jehsuk, via Flickr

I’m determined to cross that finish line and collect that voucher certificate, so I’ve made sure that I’ve posted and tagged on each thing, up to and including this one. I’ve actually done it, 23 Things.

To fulfil the requirements, a quick summary of what I’ve thought of the various Things, though those thoughts haven’t changed much since I first blogged about them.

Things I was already using or liked so much I bought the company will continue to use: Google calendar, Google docs, RSS feeds (how did I manage without them?) and Google Reader (I tried out some other feedreaders but have always returned to Google Reader), Doodle, wikis, Twitter (more of this one later), blogging, commenting & tagging, youtube & podcasting (though not necessarily in a library context for the last two)

Things I really like even though I’ve not returned to them yet: LibraryThing, Zotero/Mendeley, Slideshare, Delicious

Things I am suspending judgement on, pending further use: LinkedIn

Things that are Not For Me: Facebook (no surprise there), iGoogle (I just haven’t really used it since I set it up despite using the calendar and reader functions several times a day)

It seems like a long time ago since the launch. A lot has happened since then and it’s been interesting to look back at my earlier blog posts and remember the early stages of this journey (yes, I used the j-word, live with it). I hoped to find out more about social media and specifically how they apply to libraries and I have. Through the various Things, I know more about what is going on in libraries in Cambridge and beyond as well as thinking about what else could be done and what that would mean. I know that’s the point of the programme and it’s been great.

However, I’m going to be self-indulgent and talk more about what it’s meant for me personally and professionally. If naked narcissism offends you, look away now.

When I started this blog, I wrote specifically about what I was hoping would come out of my participation in 23 Things.

I am particularly interested in seeing the new connections, friendships and working relationships that might be born out of the peer support and social networking that form an integral part of 23 Things.

This has been the best result of the programme for me, because I think I have made new connections, friendships and working relationships. As a direct results of 23 Things, I’m on the organising team for the Cambridge Librarians Teachmeet, working with 4 people met only through commenting on blogs and who have been great fun to work with, using tools (Doodle, Google Docs, wikis) that formed an integral part of the programme. It’s been a fantastic opportunity and I’m really looking forward to the event itself, which I think will be extremely interesting professionally but also in terms of continuing the peer support and networking that has begun with 23 Things. The communication meeting was also a direct outcome from the 23 Things programme, dealing with something that was hugely important to me. That conversation and discussion has already started, in ways that wouldn’t have really been possible before, and I am very hopeful that it will continue.

I agonised about anonymity when starting this blog, something I talked about in  Batgirl & me. I’m glad that I didn’t aim for total anonymity because being identifiably me has made it easier to get involved in Teachmeet and the communication discussion. I’m actually surprised how much I’ve been willing to put my name on during the course of the last 12 weeks – I now use my name on my Twitter account, on the Teachmeet wiki and elsewhere. It’s a real departure for me and I’m still getting used to it. I think, though, that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

Certainly Twitter has been the big revelation of 23 Things for me. I was highly sceptical at first, lumped it in with Facebook. I lurked there, looking at tweets from conferences or training events that I couldn’t attend. I thought being an active tweeter wouldn’t bring me much more than lurking, but I was very wrong. Twitter has been invaluable in creating the sense of community I was hoping for. More broadly than that, I have found it a fantastic professional awareness tool because there are so many great librarians/information professionals on Twitter, linking to interesting blog posts/news stories/projects. I’ve also found a real benefit of the informal communication style is that I’m more likely to contact someone or ask a question or follow up on something via Twitter than I would be by email, for example. I’ve had fascinating discussions, found help with details of organising the Teachmeet and got involved in projects this way. I’ve used it for other non-work projects that I’m involved in. I have really enjoyed commenting on blogs as well, it seems that there is real value to be gained from being a contributor as well as a consumer of web 2.0 content.

All of this – Twitter, rss feeds from great library blogs, Teachmeet – has come at a time when I really wanted to get back on the professional development train after a few years where maternity leave and balancing work and home became more a priority. This experience and writing a blog has helped enormously, there is now burbling under at all times a real sense of professional development. I have several objectives in mind for the next year (useful as staff review is coming soon), which have crystallised due to my time spent doing 23 Things. It’s amazing to think about it really.

I am thinking very seriously about continuing to blog, something I didn’t expect. I definitely will keep going until after the Teachmeet as I want to blog about that and then of course there’s Teachmeet 2011. I also have a couple of posts formulating in my mind that I haven’t had time to post yet. I’m unsure if I have enough to sustain in the longer term though, and I’m also unhappy with my blog title if I continue to blog post-cam23!

Image courtesy of Creativity & Thomas K Hamilton, via Flickr

What is left to say? Just a big thank you.

Thank you to organisers and thank you, a great big thank you, to all the participants. You know who you are, those people who commented on this blog, those who posted great, funny, entertaining, thought-provoking posts that I commented on. Thank you for the very many conversations I have had with so many of you, most of which could only have happened because of 23 Things in the many virtual spaces for conversation that this programme has created. Thank you for Twitter, RSS feeds, countless great recommendations and links. Thank you for renewing my enthusiasm for my profession and for giving me the chance to re-engage with the things that drew me to this job in the first place.

I’m going to leave now before I turn into Kate Winslett at acceptance speech time. I’ll save all that for the wrap party.

Well Wiki’d

Here we are, the final push for the summit and completion of 23 Things. And it’s wikis, possibly the Thing I have the most experience with (apart from blogging).

Earlier this year, we had a wiki within our department for staff to contribute ideas as part of a collaborative contribution to the UL’s strategic framework. We used the wiki in CamTools for this, which was easy to use and extremely effective for this form of collaborative working between almost 20 different people. It was much easier than attempting to do something by email or scheduling several meetings in person. This way, by the time we did all meet in person we had a body of work to discuss and refine together. I actually think that this wiki was better for collaborative working than using Google Docs, it was less slow and more stable. It also required no special login as we were registered on the CamTools site by our existing Raven user names and using our work emails. I would recommend the CamTools wiki function – the only problem I had was that it doesn’t seem to have a way of telling you when someone else is actively working in a document at the same time as you (or maybe I just haven’t figured this out, I can’t say I looked very hard) whereas Google Docs tells you very clearly who else is looking at the document (even though often this means they just had it open recently but are no longer actually active there).

Unlike some of the other wikis mentioned, CamTools had the advantage of being available to anyone invited (since we were all University staff) while remaining a private space, not indexed on Google or visible more publicly. A bit of privacy is sometimes a good idea when you’re working on drafts or brainstorming ideas that aren’t quite ready for public consumption yet.

Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet logo

logo by Girl in the Moon

Andy very kindly mentioned the TeachMeet – as one of the organisers of the Cambridge Librarians TeachMeet, I’ve looked at other pages on the general TeachMeet wiki pages as well as contributing to our own TeachMeet page. I’m very glad to hear other people reporting that they found it easy to use. It’s a good use for a wiki and we haven’t (as yet) had any issues with spam or malicious posting.

I looked at all the suggested links, there were some really interesting uses of wikis in the library workplace. If you haven’t read everything yet then it’s really worth taking the time to look at Antioch University’s wiki page on Staff Roles and Responsibilities or, “Rules the Man has come up with for you; the person sitting at the front desk right now”. Number 9 is “no knitting”. Not pandering to any librarian stereotypes there. And number 10 is something that one would like to this goes without saying, but obviously doesn’t.

I’ve come across the use of wikis for internal documentation before as I have a strange fascination for and interest in library documentation. I’m not sure this affliction has a name but I do like reading procedures and protocols for other libraries (and cataloguing/technical services departments in particular). It tends to be more usual for US libraries to make their intranet documentation publicly visible but I was pleased to find (via the Library Success Wiki) that Ireland are also more open with their documentation – University College Dublin has a Cataloguing wiki as do the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick (a different UL).

With a colleague, we have discussed the possible use of a wiki for our departmental documentation and we’re talking about what to do for the bigger TeachMeet we’re hoping to hold in 2011 (yep, that’s right, we’re already thinking about the next one!) and that might involve setting up our own wiki so there may well be more wikis in my professional future.

Hear no library, see no library, speak no library

hear no evil monkeys

image courtesy of johnsnape on Flickr

So I’ve reached Podcasts and YouTube. Listening and looking.

Like many other cam23 bloggers, I do already subscribe to podcasts (from Radio 4) as well as viewing things on YouTube (mainly things people send me as links and songs from Disney films for my 3 year old, not my first choice of entertainment). I haven’t thought very much about either medium for libraries.

The examples of podcasts were very interesting. I particularly appreciated the University of Aberdeen offering transcripts with all of their podcasts so the information is still accessible to those without sound cards or headphones or the right equipment. The JISC podcasts were a good length and very interesting. There is definitely room for offering audio library tours/induction/information for those library users who seem to walk round perpetually attached to their earphones. I can envisage this kind of material sitting happily on a library website along with traditional print, pdf, html pages. I know that lectures are already often available in this way. However, strictly speaking a podcast is regular audio output to which users could subscribe and I think that is harder to do. What kind of ongoing content would be appropriate in this kind of format? I am struggling to imagine it in the context of my library or anywhere I have worked.

The videos were all quite good fun. Setting aside the jokey ones (more a US trend than UK, perhaps) I liked the Social Science library tour from Oxford and the silent movie style of the University of Liverpool’s guide to electronic resources (versus “Goggle”). It’s a fine line to tread between genuinely funny and toe-curling though and I’d be interested to see what some students thought of some of the videos there.

podcast image

image courtesy of Colleen AF Venable from Flickr

Podcasts are a bit lifestyle-dependent though. I say this because it’s taken me quite a long time to find enough time and the right equipment to listen to all the recommended podcasts and view the YouTube videos. A few years ago, I regularly listened to podcasts or live radio on my mp3 player as I walked to work and back or just around the house. I had a sound card and all the necessary stuff on my work computer but – more importantly – my own office so that I could view videos or listen to audio at work even. Podcasts in particular would have been a perfect output for me at that time and useful for keeping up to date with things. Now, I drive everywhere and am forced by the passengers in the car to listen to nursery rhyme CDs rather than radio or podcasts. I don’t walk anywhere by myself any more so never have the chance to listen to things on headphones (apparently it’s frowned upon when in sole charge of small children). I work in a large shared office and have no headphones to use there (I borrowed some recently to listen to a webinar and felt very odd sitting there with headphones on as people tried to approach me with questions). So to view the videos, I had to wrestle the laptop from my daughter’s Disney-obsessed grip. My lifestyle makes audio/video a bit more difficult.

So any library thinking of developing podcasts or videos should bear in mind that these forms of communication will only reach or appeal to a certain proportion of their users and should be just one part of a whole range of communication methods.

Everything she said

If I had just waited a day before writing my marketing post, I could have simply pointed to this fantastic post by Laura over at Laura’s Dark Archive. Laura was one of the people who ran the Oxford 23 Things programme earlier this year and here she is reporting about the 23 Things summer camp with an excellent summary of everything to think about in terms of a social media strategy. Read it!


I have been putting off writing about marketing (Thing 19) for a number of reasons. I have read some great posts on the topic over on other cam23 blogs and wanted to digest and maybe even respond to some of that. It’s a huge topic and I still feel that there is just too much to say, especially when I am aware that I’m falling behind and really, really want to complete all 23 Things in time for that voucher. The specific requirement on the Thing 19 instructions to blog “specifically about one tool or strategy you are going to adopt to promote your service as a result of your participation in Cam23” makes this a difficult topic for someone like me, who is not in a position to make decisions about the use of social media for marketing in my place of work. There are many other people in the same situation, who have dealt with it in a variety of ways – Librarianintraining takes the opportunity to play “fantasy librarian” (and request a larger office), Birdbrain points out that “surely this kind of thing has to go through SMT” (bit of a UL in-joke, but very funny and almost certainly true).

The issue of marketing raises some related questions that I do also want to look at, even though they aren’t directly answering the question posed in the Thing 19 instructions.

The marketing opportunities offered by social media

Social media marketing cartoon

Lots of people have already blogged about this very well. I think that social media do offer new avenues for marketing, especially if you see communication and visibility as important part of how a library markets itself to potential users. A Facebook page (setting aside my personal dislike), a Twitter account, a blog that users can subscribe to via rss feeds, audio podcasts – these are all communication methods that allow libraries to be more visible and to communicate in various media and in a number of online “locations” with users.

There is, as always, an issue of time as many have already pointed out. Many of the social media tools we’ve been looking at require a responsiveness and even an immediacy that does cost in terms of staff time and effort, even if the tool itself is free. A Twitter account is no good if nobody answers the questions that it inevitably will attract. I have found myself that it’s much easier and therefore more appealing to tweet a question to an institution than it is to track down an email address or phone number to ask that same question. Same goes for a Facebook page. If a library sets this up they need to be prepared to devote the staff time and energy in maintaining the content and responding to communication (not just using these as means to “push” publicity messages out to people).

This has all been covered in more detail and with prettier pictures. At the UL, there are already several initiatives on marketing the library using social media (blogs, rss feeds, videos, twitter). So, rather than repeat the same again (with less pretty pictures) or play fantasy librarian about “what I would do if I were in charge”, I’m going to say some other things that I want to say when thinking about marketing, social media and libraries.

Marketing the librarian rather than the library

One aspect of social media is an element of personalisation. Of moving things from a remote, impersonal institutional level (the Library website, the catalogue) to a more personal, immediate, conversational level (the Library twitter account is often a single person, the ability of blogs/Facebook to allow comments, interaction, response, images). I think it’s a good opportunity to think of marketing the librarian (or rather all members of library staff) as well as the library with its resources, databases, facilities, training. It’s the chance to become more visible, engage with people and demonstrate the added value that library staff can offer that way.

Every encounter, training session, question at a reference desk, query to a passing member of staff in the corridor is in essence a marketing opportunity. What social media does is moves this chance encounter, this passing conversation, friendly interaction outside of the library walls and into other arenas. Be where the users are, as everyone says. It’s what Miss Crail already recognised with her marvellous poster (I had to find a way to reproduce it here, I very much hope she doesn’t mind):

Miss Crail's, Your Librarian, Your Friend

courtesy of the marvellous Miss Crail

I’m going to go a step further too. In a very large library like the UL, there is also an issue of internal marketing. Marketing to the rest of the 300+ members of staff who you are and what your work contributes to the library, what services you can offer in your particular role to the rest of the staff. This is much easier if you’re in a very senior position or in a very public-facing position, where you are carrying out training or inductions. It’s harder for other members of staff whose work is less visible (that includes a huge number of people in the UL, it has to be said). While taking part in 23 Things, I’m starting to see the opportunities social media can offer for this internal marketing and communication both within the library and within the wider Cambridge library system. It would have been almost impossible for the various people who have commented on Andy’s “blog post that wouldn’t die” over on Libreaction (it’s long but worth a read if you haven’t already seen it) to have had that discussion in any other media, there’s no email list or event that would allow it (maybe in a discussion at the libraries@cambridge conference but then there’d be people who couldn’t make it, or who were a bit intimidated about speaking up in person at a large event… you see what I mean).

Social media should be explored as a means of offering a personal presence for librarians, for marketing to the rest of the staff in their library (if it’s a large institution or if, like me, you work in a “backroom” kind of function), for marketing to other libraries and library staff in Cambridge and – just as importantly – for marketing the librarian (and thus the library) within the University  to academics and students, as a way of demonstrating what value librarians can add, by showing how librarians can contribute to research and teaching. A blog, a twitter account, whatever it takes.

Since I (reluctantly) joined Twitter, I’ve already answered several cataloguing questions of varying degrees of obscurity and also used it as a (surprising) forum for discussion on RDA cataloguing rules. I’ve been able to use the new contacts and communication methods to point people in the right direction if I can’t answer a question. This is something it can be very hard to do as a cataloguer. It’s good to be “visible” in this way and a huge number of benefits can come of it, both personally, professionally and for the wider library community. It gets us out of the “echo chamber” if we can do it right (or at least get cataloguers out of our own particular version of it, but that’s an idea for another time). It reminds me of the whole concept of “embedded librarians” which works well for subject librarians but not for cataloguing staff – social media offers the opportunity to try to become more “embedded” whenever possible.

Working in the cloud

Cloud image

Image from Flickr, by kevindooley

Back on a computer, so I’m taking the opportunity and skipping Thing 19 for now, to write about Thing 20, Google docs, because I know what I want to say and it won’t take long.

It won’t take long particuarly because Girl in the Moon already said it all. We used Google docs to create a number of documents as part of our preparations for the Cambridge Librarians Teachmeet. We each used it for a different kind of document and then added things to each other’s work. It was really easy to use and very useful in that context. The benefits are obvious for collaborative working (avoiding all those emailed attachments, etc). I am still left with some negatives though:

  • As Girl in the Moon mentioned, you have to know the correct email address for someone’s Google account (or they need to create one specially to collaborate with you if they don’t already have one). That led to a bit of back-and-forth with us and it is interesting to note quite a few of us choose different email accounts for different things.
  • The documents in Google format are fine for simple structures where you don’t want to do much in the way of formatting. However, when I tried to change the layout of something to landscape… nope, not possible, at least as far as I could tell.
  • Transferring documents from Word to Google and back again did create some oddities in formatting again, which were quite frustrating and would be even more so if I were using Google docs on a regular basis.

I was glad of the chance to try Google docs out with a real purpose and was impressed with the way you could add location-specific notes to explain what you’ve done to a document and why. However, I wonder whether there might be some options for collaborative working offered by CamTools that might have worked better in the case of the Cambridge Librarians TeachMeet organisers since we’re all Cambridge University staff with access to CamTools.

Standing in the kitchen at the Zotero party

It’s a shame that Zotero came towards the end of 23 Things, where life around me seems to be operating at breakneck pace and my holiday means I’m playing catch up and desperately trying not to fall too far behind. Zotero warranted a lot more of my attention than I have been able to give it this week. I don’t really need to say much about Zotero, obviously it’s very good. I was impressed with all the help available on the quick start guide and the video. It was easy to install and I tested it with a Newton and JSTOR search, no problem. I have followed with interest the discussions of Zotero and Mendeley over in the comments of both Girl in the Moon’s blog and the marvellous Miss Crail’s ruminations (if you haven’t already seen them then you really should have a look, very informative).

While working on Thing 18, though, I have had the nagging feeling that there’s a whole party going on and I’m standing in the kitchen, clutching a tepid glass of something, with lots of interesting conversations going on around me that I can’t join because I’m not quite sure what they’re talking about. Any minute now, I’ll have to get my phone out to fiddle about with it so that I feel less awkward.

I know very little about reference management systems like Zotero because I haven’t really needed to compile a bibliography for anything since the turn of the millennium (I’m another one who kept bibliographical information on index cards for dissertations) and I haven’t worked in a user-facing library post for 4 years. Truth be told, I didn’t know anything about them even in my last post which was very much user-facing. And I feel I should know, because I’m a librarian and this is precisely the kind of area where librarians have so much to offer their users. Librarians can help with queries, resolving problems, suggesting solutions, training and supporting the use of tools like Zotero (and Mendeley and the others that I also know very little about but hear about on the reference/citation party grapevine). It’s part of the value-added service that librarians could and should (and in many many cases do) offer.

I hope to have more time in the near future to look at Zotero more closely and might even have a project for which it would be useful. For now, though, you’ll have to excuse me, I need to just reply to a text message.


Having ranted about Facebook and outlined my aversion to the whole social network thing, I’m going to do an immediate u-turn and admit I can see the point of LinkedIn from an individual professional perspective. In theory, if you were the joining up and joining in type, you could have a Facebook account for the social (friends, family, people in the adjoining tent at the Folk Festival) and LinkedIn for the professional (colleagues near and far, people met at conferences, etc).

I have created a (fairly private restricted) profile on LinkedIn and joined the groups. Over the course of 23 Things, I’ve definitely been breaking some of my rules about online presence, using my real name, being identifiable. I’m blogging, tweeting (just added my full name there) and through the TeachMeet now have my full name associated with both the blog and my twitter account. I’ve joined the LIS New Professionals Network for goodness sake! (Comments on my lack of actual newness not appreciated, thank you very much). My attitude may be bending on the question of online presence. However, I cannot imagine ever being comfortable putting my whole CV on my profile or adding my education details. I can see the benefits though and I do understand the potential of this particular Thing in the professional life of librarians.

On a final note, explain this to me. When I created a LinkedIn account this week, I found I already had one invitation from someone I do know who lives in the US who probably sent the invite a year or more ago (I suppose she sent the invite out without checking whether or not I had an account but weirdly LinkedIn has saved my email address in case I ever joined in future?). More worryingly, it makes suggestions of 2 people “I might know” and I cannot figure out how it has done it: one is someone I’ve collaborated with on a library blog c. 2000-2004 (so I imagine possibly his address book had my address in it and he did that thing of letting LinkedIn look at his address book?) and the other is someone I was at university who I wasn’t actually aware had my email address at all but who, bizarrely, is one of my very few “friends” on my neglected Facebook account. I cannot figure that one out and it makes me feel quite uncomfortable, like someone is watching over my shoulder…

Declaring an interest (or lack of): Facebook

A week’s holiday and I’m behind on 23 Things again, so playing catch up as quickly as I can. The week I was on holiday was Facebook and LinkedIn. Some of you who know me may have been suspicious that I ran away to the other then of the UK specifically to avoid these social networking sites. I’ve been trying to write this post for a few days and failing. Apologies in advance.

Facebook cartoon

I’m not a fan of Facebook, I just don’t “like” it and never have. I do realise this is primarily my problem and that the social networking types are leaving me behind but Facebook makes me feel like writing a Miss Crail-style rant (if only I had her talent for disliking things with a passion!). I checked the list of 23 Things that this programme would cover and was hugely relieved that the Facebook Thing only looked at library Facebook pages, if it had required much personal “facebooking” it would have been a dealbreaker for me and I’d have had to kiss all hope of that voucher goodbye.

Facebook is not for me. I do, to my own surprise, have an account. I set it up in the very early days when a good friend who is also a librarian invited me (made a friend request, whatever it’s called) and I didn’t realise exactly what it was. I promptly found myself “friended” by a friend from undergraduate days, the person who supervised my library Masters dissertation, someone I was at school with, a very good friend who lives in another city and someone I knew (vaguely) socially in Cambridge.


This is the stuff of nightmares for me. These were all people from completely separate spheres of my life, from almost completely separate personae as far as I was concerned (see my Batgirl post earlier). I found it incredibly uncomfortable seeing them all in one place. Yes, I know that’s probably an odd reaction. I did try to delete my account. Only to find that it was pretty much impossible so I deactivated it for a while. I reactivated it when my little brother moved to Korea so I could see what was going on with him (he refused to really keep in contact by any other means, though he’s now dealt with his own privacy issues by posting only in Korean so I still have no idea what is going on in his life. He does put up some fantastic photos, at least). I don’t make friend requests, I try not to add friends, I don’t post status updates. I will admit it’s quite nice to see updates from people that I genuinely like and that I am not good at keeping in touch with. However, I feel it’s a bit of an unfair relationship where all I do is lurk and read (sometimes intimate) details of their life while not sharing any of my own. I feel I will be deleting my account properly some time soon.

All of that is irrelevant, however, as it’s about my personal feeling about Facebook, whereas the instructions required us to look at library pages/groups. I read everything suggested and it was interesting. Concerns about privacy and “invading social space” come up, but also some positive points. The library pages suggested were nicely presented and did show some (limited) evidence of interaction with users, though no real discussions as such. Maybe that takes place somewhere that a non-group member cannot see. I fully accept that Facebook is hugely popular and that the vast majority of students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) will spend a large amount of time on Facebook, doing all the edifying, informative things that are available there. So I can see some merit in trying to have a library presence there. However, nothing I have read or seen as part of this investigation has changed my basic attitude to Facebook personally or my scepticism about its place in library interactions with users.

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