Archive for the ‘23 things’ Tag

Creating spaces for cataloguing conversations to happen

At the start of year I said I hoped 2011 would be another Year of Cataloguing Conversations. I’ve realised that this is already happening in a variety of ways and I am thinking of more ways to create spaces for these conversations to happen. I hope this will continue over the rest of the year. At the moment, I’m tying up loose ends at work before going on leave so – in a similar vein – here’s a post pulling together all the disparate threads of cataloguing conversations and my thoughts about them (in case I don’t get much chance to blog for the next couple of months).

Catbkchat & Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century

The idea of a Twitter cataloguing book club was just floated on Twitter and then managed to embed itself in enough minds that we’ve been doing #catbkchat now for a few weeks. We’re currently reading our way through Conversations with Catalogers in the 21st Century section by section. It has been quite successful, there is now talk of a more general library book chat (#libchat), and an off-shoot of the first #catbkchat was Anne Welsh’s experiment with her Advanced Cat & Class students at UCL, opening up the classroom to Twitter discussion of a freely available chapter of the book. I think this is a simple model that obviously attracts a lot of people so I’d expect and hope to see more of this kind of Twitter chatting.  

CIG E-forums

Okay so this isn’t really a new communication medium as ALCTS have been doing it for a while now, but I am really excited that CIG is trying out the e-forum format too! I’ll be co-moderating the first one on RDA on April 18-19th and really hope it provides a useful, free, open-to-all discussion channel for cataloguing debate and exchange of views.

The keen but clueless cataloguer’s guide to… linked data/the semantic web/metadata futures

This is a particularly hard thing to define but is something I have felt increasingly concerned about over the last year or so. Lots of things are happening in the areas of open bibliography, linked data, semantic web. There are many exciting projects and collaborations. I feel very strongly that this is a future path for cataloguers and catalogue data, and we should be interested and actively involved. Yet, I hear people in the communities working on these projects that they struggle to get librarians – or even cataloguers in particular – interested and engaged. Meanwhile, I feel I know a little but not quite enough to participate in the conversations…

Last week I mentioned on Twitter (in yet another exchange about this favourite topic of mine) that I wish there was some kind of “Idiot’s guide…” or “… for dummies” which would help point someone like me – an enthusiastic and interested cataloguer but with very little technical expertise or knowledge in programming etc – in the right direction. A few pointers on where to start among all this information. What would I need to know to take it further. I’m not afraid to teach myself, I’m not afraid of technology, there’s just so much out there I don’t know where to start or what would be most useful/important. Particularly from the point of view of the data I work with on a daily basis (catalogue records, authority files, RDA/MARC, etc).

A few things are currently being mentioned in this discussion – the possibility of a future Mashed Library event with a focus on metadata/cataloguing is one really intriguing idea. But to gather more suggestions in rather more characters than Twitter will allow, @orangeaurochs has set up this “Cataloguing Technology Wiki“. If you’re interested, have suggestions or are someone working in linked data/semantic web and other similar areas and wish you could just let cataloguers/librarians know what you wish they knew, then please come and add to the conversation in the wiki.

Cataloguing 23 Things

As part of the Cataloguing Technology Wiki, @orangeaurochs also asked how cataloguers prefer to learn about this kind of thing. Which has grown into a much wider conversation after a brilliant suggestion (from @NunuThunder) of some kind of Cataloguing 23 Things. So please come and look at what we’re talking about with this. There’s already quite a lot of interest in cat23, but we’re trying to refine what exactly that might mean and whether it would be a separate thing from the original idea of an “idiot’s guide…” to linked data, semantic web. The 23 Things could be more about mainstream cataloguing, tools and open source programs, similar ideas. We’re hoping to set up a separate space for that particular conversation but in the meantime, if you’re intrigued or have some good ideas, come and add them to the wiki. There are already some great ideas there but we need to get a clearer sense of what the potential participants would be looking for, what we’d need to cover, etc.

Support for solo or self-taught cataloguers

The cat23 discussion has also touched on something I’ve been pondering here in Cambridge for a while (since 23 Things in fact) – the idea of some kind of online/drop-in support for cataloguing questions/queries. I have had it at the back of mind for a while but was unsure how to make it work even in an institutional context. There are many people here who are solo librarians (let alone solo cataloguers) or cataloguers by default. There are also lots of people trying to teach themselves new formats. I wondered about a regular drop-in q&a session (bring a problem, we’ll all have a look together and see what we think). I get a lot of informal cataloguing queries that I think people are reluctant to ask through “official” channels (think the query is too basic or they should already know the answer or whatever). I think there might even be some benefit to it being possibly anonymous(ish) so had looked into IM chat type functions, twitter.

The conversations about cat23 and cataloguing learning raised the issue of solo cataloguers or self-taught cataloguers – especially in an age where very few get much in the way of cat & class at library school. Who helps and supports these people? Where can they turn for the smaller questions if they’re not comfortable asking on Autocat and have nowhere obvious to turn?

I’ve been doing a bit of investigating about this as it must be a perennial problem – there have always been solo cataloguers and this situation is only worsening. I notice that the Cataloging & Classification Section of ALCTS has a Recruitment & Mentoring Committee which reported at ALA Midwinter 2011 that they are planning to roll out a mentoring programme within CCS. I’d love to hear more about that as well as any buddy schemes to partner up solo cataloguers with other cataloguers, any distance support networks or similar. Anyone know about anything like that or involved in the mentoring at CCS – I would love to hear from you in comments or on Twitter!

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.


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.

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.

Stopping for a breather

Hiking boots having a rest

image by alan_cleaver2000

Yes, I know it’s “reflection week” rather than “sitting down for a bit and getting the sandwiches out week” but you know what they say, the best reflection takes place while sitting down. Preferably with cake. It’s virtually my family motto.

My overriding feeling from the first 12 Things is that I am always playing catch-up. Almost from the outset, I seem to be behind and trying frantically not to slip even further behind. I could have done with some catch-up weeks built into the schedule to help with my poor time management. I admit I’ve used this reflection week to get a few more Things blogged and ticked off my list. However, it’s not really cheating as I’ve been reflecting the whole way through. I reflect as I go. It’s true, I’ve been surprised by how much the 23 Things experience has made me think: about the Things, about how they could be applied in my work, about my professional development, about all kinds of things. It’s been quite invigorating.

Part of the problem, as I blogged about earlier, is that my approach is completist. I still try to read every post on every blog and every comment too. It’s by far the most enjoyable and instructive part of doing 23 Things. I have everything feeding into Google Reader and I check it throughout the day. The trouble with this approach is that, since I’m always behind, I read everyone else’s blog posts on a Thing before I get to writing my own. It’s great, because it gives me lots of ideas, different points of view, sparks off things that I want to say in reply. However, it also means I have a huge amount to say or I want to spend all my time referencing other people’s posts.

I’m sure reading all the other blogs first contributes to my other major problem – Hi, my name is Céline and I write too much. I cannot write a short blog post. I’ve tried. I just can’t do it. This is part of the reason why I get behind, each post takes ages to write, edit, annotate with links and images, edit again, post, edit again. Sigh. I wish I could be more concise.

Thirteen Things in and the biggest benefit to me so far is that taking part has forced me to be more sociable than I would normally be. I am really enjoying commenting on other people’s blogs, getting involved in discussions and conversations that way (and to a lesser extent, Twitter, which is obviously a challenge for someone as verbose as me).  In my first blog post I said:

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.

I have high hopes that this will be one of the most lasting legacies of the programme for me. I still need to force myself to be more outgoing and build on these connections and relationships, but hopefully I’m on the right path to make that happen.

I was already fairly confident trying new things online and I could have tried these tools for myself. What 23 Things has done is given me a reason and an excuse to devote time to the various Things. It provided a structure – I’ve always been the kind of student who completes all her homework so I’ve made time even if it’s been difficult or if I’ve ended up getting behind in writing blog posts. Time is precious and it can be hard to carve out some space when there are so many other demands on your day so having 23 Things provides a useful focus.

The Things I’ve enjoyed most so far: Twitter (a bit of a revelation), Doodle (already recommended it to others and used in several different contexts), blogging (much to my surprise, despite the loss of my Batgirl disguise) and commenting on other blogs (I notice I’m more willing to participate by commenting even when not part of 23 Things). My own blog is very much specific to 23 Things so might not last beyond the end of the programme, so I don’t know if I’ll keep blogging in a personal capacity – and don’t know that I’d have much to say without the regular “homework” to write about – but I am enjoying it.  I absolutely LOVE rss feeds and Google Reader in particular, and would it recommend to anyone.

Reflection 2

image by Camil Tulcan

As I pull my hiking boots back on and put my thermos away, I ask myself what I will do differently in the second half of this journey? I’m going to make a concerted effort to blog about a Thing within the week, not let them carry over past the next Monday. Even if it means shorter blog posts. There are some really interesting Things coming up and I don’t want to get totally bogged down in one or two and end up miles behind with no hope of catching up with everyone in time for tea and cake. I will have a List, a List of Things I Want To Look At Some More – starting with Delicious (set up my own account and use it), but adding any of the future Things that I want to investigate in more detail. It almost always requires more than a few days to look at a resource, try it out, get to know it and work out whether it is right for you (or for your library). So this is an ongoing process and doesn’t stop with the blog post.

Information overload, See Personal information management

Personal information management LCSH
I am starting to struggle a bit with information overload (“physician heal thyself” I hear you cry, or rather, “librarian manage thine own surfeit of information”). I have this drive to be completist, read every post in every Cam23 blog, every tweet and every link from a tweet or post. I’m just about managing this but it means I spend a lot of time thinking “ooh I read something about that… somewhere…” without being able to recall exactly where. I need to tag my thoughts.

Thing 8 is tagging. I need to declare an interest. I’m a cataloguer. My very first job as a graduate trainee was 50% cataloguing and that percentage has only gone up in my library career since then. Actually, I’ve found this Thing hardest to write about because it is so closely related to what I spend the majority of my time thinking about/doing.

The Clay Shirky article was interesting. I’ve read some of his stuff before (though obviously can’t actually recall very much about it due to lack of thought tags). I do think he’s setting up a false dichotomy though. He speaks about classification being related to the physical need for books to be located somewhere and there being restrictions on space. Yes. But classification isn’t the same as LCSH or the same as controlled vocabulary more generally. They do different things. The way in which he talks about what a “professional cataloguer” would think or feel is monumentally irritating (and inaccurate).

The simple answer is that tagging is great. It works brilliantly in Flickr or blog posts and, in a more complex form, what Shirky is describing is happening in Amazon’s “people who bought this, also bought…” recommendations and in Google searching. And we all know how successful these discovery tools have been. There is real power in crowdsourcing (if you have a big enough crowd). The Ann Arbor example shows how tags could work in a catalogue. But it’s not an either/or and I don’t know many cataloguers who think it is.

Twittering on (with added footnotes)

Ah Twitter.

Facebook was the start*. The start of the feeling that I was getting old. Twitter confirmed it. It’s the name I think, the whole vocabulary (tweeple, tweets, retweeting, hashtags). Suddenly I felt that maybe things were passing me by. I’m Generation X and Facebook and Twitter feel very much Gen Y or Z**.

So I tried to ignore Twitter at first. A few months ago, though, it became harder to ignore and I started looking and lurking. I realised how useful it is to follow conferences/seminars using hashtags when you can’t attend. Just this week, I’ve been reading tweets with the hashtag #exeter10*** to see what’s happening at the CoFHE/UC&R conference. Lots of other Cam23 bloggers have already described the value of Twitter for this kind of professional development and networking and I can only agree. If I had a smart phone, I would see the value even more. In terms of professional development for individual librarians, it has huge potential and the only problem is finding the time to keep up as things move so fast (again a smart phone would make a huge difference).

Twitter screenshotI know “it’s a conversation” and you should get involved, so I have tried tweeting and replying to people. However, I can’t say that I have found that gives me a huge amount more than I was getting from being a Twitter lurker**** to be honest.

On an institutional level, I remain to be convinced. Particularly for the smaller libraries, where there are always pressures of work and only limited amounts of time, I’m not sure that Twitter is worth it. This seems to be borne out by the experiences recounted by many of the Cam23 bloggers on this question. If, as a library, your users are primarily undergraduates then it seems that Twitter might not be something they use very much. Of course, this might change over time. I’m following quite a few libraries and related institutions now so it will be interesting to see if my feelings about this change with experience.

* More about this in a later Thing, I’m sure
** Where are the generations going after Z? Are my children Generation AA?
*** Figuring out how to type a # hash sign on my Mac required a desperate Google search when I first started actually tweeting
**** Doubtless called a “twurker” [shudder]

Operator error

or, A calendar is only as good as the person operating it.

Google calendar

Google calendar screenshot

Google calendar looks good, was very easy to set up and I like the variety of views you have as well as all the options to set up regularly repeating events. So far so good. I’ve done a screenshot with a month to view, mainly because I don’t have a huge number of events in a single week. I have it embedded in my iGoogle page too but it irritates me that I can’t quite see enough of the detail there so I tend to click through to the whole thing.

So there are all these lovely whizzy features and I can see real potential in Google calendar as a tool, especially when I only work part-time and often want to refer to my calendar while away from the library. I have a diary at work, another one I carry about (very tiny and even then I often fail to have it with me when I really need it) as well as a wall calendar at home with family things on it. An online calendar sounds ideal and Google calendar does so much. Marvellous. However, it was brought home to me this week that even the cleverest calendar cannot make up for operator error. I managed to miss the West of Cambridge Cam23 meet-up organised by @ange_fitzpatrick because I failed to put it in my calendar. Nothing can help me with that I fear. I need a to-do list that tells me to write things into my calendar. Sigh.

I was very interested in the reading for this Thing, on how Google calendar is used by institutions and libraries in particular. Other bloggers have shown how it works in their library for rotas and leave and various other layers of information. At first I couldn’t quite see the benefits over a calendar in any other format but then I found out about the way you can import other calendars into your own and various other features that would make it easier for library staff or library users to have information where they needed it. Assuming they remember to use their Google calendar, unlike me.

CamTools calendar screenshotI can see the benefit though I still feel I would prefer not to have to create Google accounts for work. I looked at the calendar on CamTools and set some events up there too. It was easy to use though not as slick as Google calendar and I’m not sure if it has all the same features. I’d need to play around with a bit more but it seems more limited. However, I’d be more comfortable with the idea of staff being required to use CamTools than Google. That’s a feeling I can’t quite get rid of.

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