Thursday, 9 December 2010

25 Research Things

A while back I noticed that a 25 Things programme has been developed in Huddersfield, this time geared towards researchers rather than librarians.  What a great idea for user ed!  Unfortunately there only seems to be a small number participating in it.

I suspect the programme works better with library staff for two main reasons: there is a sense of community and support between librarians across the university and we're in CPD mode rather than major research project mode.  It's very interesting to see what researchers make of the things that we consider for work purposes - I'll follow it closely and see how it goes!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A tangent from a brown bag discussion

Last Wednesday I attended another brown bag lunch in Cambridge, inspired by the British Library debate on whether the physical library is redundant.  Katie has already posted an excellent summary of our discussion so I won't repeat any of that, although I did find the point that only three of the 150 most used books in the Economics library are even available electronically very interesting.  A few related items popped into my RSS reader just after the discussion:
  • Ed Chamberlain reported on the FutureBook conference, including stats that show that even most publishers don't believe that ebooks will make up the majority of sales in the market in the near future
  • Libby Tilley shared a comment from one of our academics on the value of holding classes in the IT Suite within our library, rather than elsewhere in the faculty
  • Louisa Brown's research on the use of ebooks in the Education Faculty Library here in Cambridge showed that their students still prefer the printed book - they use ebooks when "forced" to because they are unable to make it to the physical library
  • Disturbingly, an academic opened a University Science and Technology Librarians Group conference in Oxford by claiming that library funding should go straight to researchers (so each researcher would have to purchase the articles they need, no sharing of resources and good luck to the poor unfunded undergrads?!?)
Instead of repeating what others have said (no, I don't think the physical library is redundant, and besides, there's more to a library than a building with books in it!), I'd like to follow one of the tangents that cropped up during the discussion.

A parallel was drawn between the fate of record companies because of easy availability of music online and the difficulties of digital rights management, and that of publishers who are trying to work out how best to monitor the use of their ebooks and ejournals.  Although this is undoubtably a headache for the publishers, is it really as much of a problem for the researchers?  How many of them make anything from academic publishing in the first place? Perhaps they could follow the example of musicians, who have been able to take more control of the distribution and promotion of their own music by releasing only part of a track, or an individual track from an album.  It is already clear that articles that are freely available online are more likely to be cited.   I know of one person that posts draft or  pre-publication versions of his own articles to a blog (when possible) in a conscious attempt to raise the profile of their work, as well as submitting work to his institutional repository and to open access journals. The main difficulty is having some sort of quality control, but there are various ways to do that and besides, isn't that why critical appraisal is so essential?

Thinking about all of this brought me back to a post by Anne Collins on the Librarian of the Future.  In it she suggested that in addition to the teaching, marketing and management roles, we could support our researchers by providing "copyright advice, help with getting published, help with citations, help with indexing terminology, open access advice".  This kind of added support chimes strongly with the tailored boutique library service idea that is gaining momentum at the moment thanks to Libby and Andy.*  The Contemporary Music Centre provides some similar services to their composers, but I was wondering if anyone knows of other libraries that provide this kind of support already? Or are there other services that academic libraries are providing that might not be considered standard?

* Someone needs to put up a post about the boutique library idea so I have something to link to!  Or maybe you could point me towards an existing one...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Costs vs. Benefits: Texting students

Last week, representatives of a number of different libraries got together to discuss the JANET text messaging service - how we've found it, problems we've encountered, resolutions to the problem etc.  Thanks again to everyone who came along or followed remotely, and especially to Sarah for reporting live via the chat functionality in the Cambridge_Librarians Camtools site and to Emma, who has pulled together the information about what the different libraries do and added it to the Cambridge_Librarians wiki

For anyone who can't access this, the main uses to which libraries here have put the service are:
  • Notifying students that books they have requested are now available
  • Reminding students to return overdue books
  • Organising emergency invigilation if evening staff can't come in at short notice (I'm stealing that one Hélène!)
  • Alerting all library users to unexpected closures - especially useful for library members from other faculties!
  • Letting people know that we've found their lost property (if an owner is identifiable)
  • Helping faculty out by sending messages to students.
Advantages
  • In the Education Faculty Library, they have found that very overdue books are being returned more quickly when a text has been sent.
  • Books on the "hold" shelf tend to be borrowed or returned to circulation more quickly (students will often text to say they don't need the book any more.)
  • The message reaches the students far more quickly than an email would, especially in subject areas where students tend to check their email less frequently.
  • The students are less likely to ignore a text than yet another message in their already crowded email inboxes.
Problems to be aware of:
  • Now that several libraries are using the service, we need to identify ourselves in the message!  (Students may be members of multiple libraries and may not know which one is contacting them.)
  • The default is set to send messages from JANETtxt rather than from the phone number we were given (which means that the student can't reply to the message, defeating the point of having the two-way service).
Tips:
  • Identify yourself!
  • Set up templates to reduce staff time
  • Keep an eye on the character count to avoid the message running into two texts
  • Check what your group limits are - we use the group function to set up year groups, but there is a default limit to the number of people you can have in a group (contact PageOne to change this if needed)
  • Import patron name and email address from a spreadsheet, so that when the first years arrive in October you just need to add their phone numbers
  • Add the patron barcode number to the name field so you know you're sending the message to the correct person (thanks Simon!)
We were joined at the meeting by a number of people who have not yet used the service but are considering it.  I think the most interesting discussion arose from the question "Why pay for text when you can email?"  I think we came to the conclusion that it depends very much on your library - some faculties use Camtools very heavily which means that student inboxes are full of (often irrelevant) update messages, which in turn means that the students just don't check or see the messages they actually need.  Others find that sending an email immediately rather than waiting for the automated message through Voyager works just as quickly as sending a text.

We've only been using the service for one term, and my experience has been that we often catch people while they're still in the library, saving them an extra trip to collect their book/lost property/whatever it is we want to let them know about!

So why pay? A lot of the things we do cost either in time or other resources without necessarily having any resulting income.  As with everything else, we need to consider the cost in relation to how much it helps our students and what value it brings (e.g. in returning books more quickly to the shelves / providing the personal touch that we aim for in this library).  I think it would be interesting to find out from students in our next survey whether they like the text service and whether they would prefer to receive emails as they have in the past.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Future-proofing libraries

Today I attended my first ever 'brown bag lunch'.  Once a month, librarians from around Cambridge get together to discuss recently published articles.  This time, it was hosted by Lyn Bailey at Classics, and the articles related to future-proofing libraries.
  • Bell, Stephen J. "Fit libraries are future-proof: A dozen ideas for whipping your library into shape." American Libraries Magazine, 21 September 2010. http://tinyurl.com/3yvbb5b
  • Miller, R. "Future-proof your library." Library Journal (2008), 133(13), 30-31.
Thoughts beforehand: reading Bell's article, I was reminded of the article by Andy Priestner and Libby Tilley in the July edition of CILIP's Update magazine.  In it, they emphasise the importance of tailoring your service to meet the needs of the library users, arguing that the faculty library network in Cambridge allows for closer relationships with staff and students within the subject and greater independence and flexibility, which means the librarian is better positioned to meet the needs of these library users.

We did wander from the main focus from time to time, but only to interesting and thought-provoking topics:
  • The balance - and sometimes conflict - between professional core values and the expectations of the institutions we're affiliated with
  • Building a ladder of loyalty - developing our borrowers from casual browsers to committed patrons and on to become our advocates (and defence!) in times of cutbacks
  • Ranganathan made an appearance - with some debate on whether in fact every book did have its reader
  • On to collection management, particularly weeding and how the act of removing of a book from the shelf and showing it to academics can in fact cause the book to be borrowed, thus removing it from the 'to be weeded' list...
  • ...and back to the whole expectations debate, the librarian's perceptions how the library should work versus the perceptions of staff, students and other faculty members.
I'll look forward to the next one, at which (I believe) we'll get to hear some more from school librarian Jenny Horler.  Jenny spoke at our recent TeachMeet about how she tries to build a link for her 6th form students so that they're properly prepared for third level.  Her talk then was only two minutes long, so it will be great to have some discussion on it and find out more about how she does it.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear what other people think about the articles - whether or not you made it to the discussion!

Monday, 25 October 2010

TeachMeet II: The planning begins

I've just spent a lovely evening with Celine, Chris, Katie and Isla, wrapping up the last bits and pieces from our (lib)TeachMeet and preparing the next one.

We've sent out a questionnaire about the last one to see how people feel about it after having time to reflect and hopefully put some of the tools and tips into practice.  We also talked about how to share what we've found so far (more on that in due course...)

So for now, a few questions to help us plan the next one, for anyone who attended the last one or thinks they might like to attend future ones:
  1. How long do you think it should be?  Two hours in the early evening (as we did last time), a full afternoon or other?
  2. What day of the week suits you best?  Is it easy enough to get away from work during the week or would it be better to hold it at the weekend?
  3. Can you recommend a venue for future events?  We're thinking 50-100 attendees and interested in different types of room / space, so all suggestions welcome.
  4. Would you be interested in joining the CamLibTM team?
All suggestions, opinions and enquiries welcome!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Library visits

Today I got a glimpse of how they do things in corporate libraries... well, in one of them anyway.

I met Jill of all trades for lunch and we compared experiences.  Because the organisation she works for is scattered around the world, the main emphasis is on providing services for remote users through document delivery services and an electronic library.  This also means that the team of librarians/information specialists are based in different countries, so team meetings require video conferencing.

They do have a print collection as well, cleverly designed so that it flows into their canteen area as well.  I really liked this because it means that the library is easily accessible to the members of staff that do actually work in that location.

I found our conversation today really interesting, so thanks again @libclare!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

TeachMeet and the LAT Network

Well the night came at last, the first Cambridge (lib)TeachMeet has been and gone and quite well I think - I hope the attendees agree!  There was a great mix of content, from the Cephalonian Method and resource blogs to Prezi presentations and Flashmeeting software.

I spoke for two minutes to introduce the LAT Network, a new site for librarians who teach.  This network was established by Johanna Anderson following an enthusiastic response to her blog post on the subject.  She's now looking for ideas for its future development in terms of content (resources? blog posts? advice?) and for volunteers to help with looking after the site itself.  If anyone's interested post a comment below or visit the forum section of the site.


We're pulling presentations and posts about the TeachMeet together on the wiki, through a Delicious feed and on Twitter so visit any of these sites to find out more.  We're also planning a bigger and better event early next year so watch this space!

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Librarianship Qualification

This is a difficult one (following from discussions here, here and here).  As mentioned before, my first full-time library job was as Music Information Officer at a specialist music library, doing all of the things a 'proper' librarian would have been doing - if there had been one there - and I think I did a good job at it too.  They did recognise the value of the qualification, encouraged me to go for it and have appointed people that were already qualified to the position since then, but in a lot of ways the fact that I had a strong music background was more important to the post than the librarianship qualification would have been.  I remember feeling frustrated that I was doing so much in that post but couldn't get the job I was already doing elsewhere without getting this 'piece of paper'.  Luckily, I love learning so was more than happy to do a Masters.  I looked into the options and went with Aberystwyth - a distance learning programme that even had an optional module on music librarianship.

I'm now about to head to my last study school in preparation for the dissertation and I've come around to the value of the qualification as more than just a way to open doors.  Our course included the theory, but a lot of the assignments encouraged practical application - business plans for new services, reports for collection management, analyses of information retrieval systems, a journal article for actual potential publication, an entire module on Studies in Management - and we did have the option to specialise in areas such as music, archives, health, schools and knowledge management.  We didn't spend lots of time actually cataloguing or classifying, but then, that's the kind of thing that's best learned on the job.  I think the balance between the practical and the theory was perfect, although I would love to be able to take more of the other optional modules.  (Please let us do them as CPD when we're finished the Masters!)

Do I think a Masters is essential to be a good librarian? No.  I know I did a good job without it, and in fact a postgraduate diploma is the norm in Ireland, not the full Masters.

Do I think I would do things differently if I was back at CMC now, with what I've learned from the Masters?  Absolutely.  I have a much better understanding of approaches to collection management.  I have thought through the issues involved in deciding between electronic and print.  I've done some research on what's done differently in other Music Information Centres.  I've realised the importance of evidence-based learning and feeding my experiences back into the literature.

So, do I think you should have to have a postgraduate qualification in librarianship? It was valuable, it did prepare me for working in all sorts of libraries, it taught me to think beyond the here and now and look for better ways of doing things.  I don't think someone with years of experience should be overlooked because they don't hold that piece of paper already - their practical experience might be worth more than the qualification.  Isn't that why CILIP allows Associate members that are working in what is essentially a librarian role to apply for chartership, even without the qualification, provided they can prove that they are working at that level already?
I think the real point is that any applicant for a job as Librarian should be able to prove that they have the skills and knowledge required for the position.  The piece of paper is a useful short-cut, but it's not enough.  Experience is needed as well, and more than a certain amount of experience should be enough to be called for interview, even without the qualification.  If someone can stand up against other candidates that have a Masters, then they should get the job.  I think the best-placed applicants will always be the ones with qualification and the experience, and even sometimes additional qualifications that are relevant to the job, such as a background in the subject area.  If there's a glut of people with a Masters, it's always going to be more difficult for the people without it to prove that they can do just as well, but if they can prove it, they should have that chance.  I'm grateful to the English Faculty Library for taking me on even though I'm still working on it!

Just my thoughts...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Library Routes and Roots

I've been aware of the Library Routes project since its inception but have put off participating until now.  First I had no blog, then I was only working a few hours a week so it didn't seem to be the best time to do it.  Now, with the #aberils dissertation school next week and a new job around the corner, it seems like a good time to add myself to the wiki.

My background is in music (NUI Maynooth) and education (Trinity College, Dublin).  Fortunately / unfortunately there weren't many full-time jobs for music teachers at the time, so I found myself teaching part-time and working part-time as a library assistant at the Contemporary Music Centre (CMC).  This first library job involved lots of photocopying and binding of musical scores, with a few general library duties thrown in.

A year later there were still very few music teaching jobs coming up, so when the position of Music Information Officer opened up at CMC I applied and I got the job!  This was a fantastic place to start with libraries, because there were two of us working full-time in the library and I got to do a bit of everything - acquisitions, cataloguing, creating content for the web / other publications and lots of user support.  I attended one of the IAML study weekends, realised that I actually preferred library work to teaching and applied for the MSc Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth.

My next position was as Senior Library Assistant on the Changing Libraries team at An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The Library Council).  This position gave me more line management and training experience and I was involved in projects such as the redesign of the Ask About Ireland website and a book digitisation project, among others.  I took a career break from this position earlier this year and moved to the UK.
Ask About Ireland website

Since March, I've been working a few hours a week as a library invigilator at the medical library in Cambridge and working on my librarianship qualification.  I've been making the most of the time available and opportunities that came up, attending CILIP events, doing the 23 Things programmes and helping to organise the first (lib)TeachMeet (limited places still available, sign up here!)

I'm now at a bit of a turning point in my career.  Next week I'm off to Aberystwyth for my third and final study school, and the week after that I'll be starting as Assistant Librarian at the English Faculty Library, Cambridge. I'm very excited about this job - I have an interest in the educational role of librarians and think a faculty library is probably the best place to be for this side of things.  I've met most of the team and am really looking forward to working with them, and from what I've read and heard, this library always has lots going on.

I have to say, I feel really lucky to have had the broader early experiences from CMC and the Library Council while I was studying.  By working while studying, I've managed to avoid the Experience Catch-22 that Bronagh talked about at the New Professionals Conference, and I've been able to draw on this work experience in completing assignments throughout my course.  It's been a long slog, but I don't regret taking the distance learning route to qualification.  Roll on the dissertation, chartership and future opportunities!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Customer Journey Mapping

Flicking through CILIP's Gazette this evening (while, of course, reminscing about my Friday nights), I had one of those "of course!" moments.  In it Erika Gavillet outlines the idea of Customer Journey Mapping.  The idea is that you ask users (or staff acting as users) to go through the process of doing something, for example using a new service or finding a book, perhaps using a comments sheet for feedback, and revising the format/signage/facilities accordingly.

It's not rocket science and there's nothing new about it really, in fact, we've done a bit of it recently as part of the Follow that... programme at the medical library.  It's just one of those blindingly obvious things that we sometimes need people to spell out for us.  It's a simple form of evaluation that we have used before, but I will certainly use more consciously in the future.

Friday, 27 August 2010

What are hashtags?

I was going to tweet this, but realised that people who follow tweets probably already know what a hashtag is.  So for any #cam23ers or others reading this blog that looked at Twitter but couldn't figure out what the #s were all about, Phil Bradley has posted a great explanation of what hashtags are and what they're used for over on his blog.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Communication in Cambridge University libraries

In case anyone's missed this, there's a discussion starting at 11am in Selwyn college  and Lyn Bailey has kindly volunteered to report live using the chat functionality in the Cambridge_Librarians CamTools site.  Looking forward to it!

Friday, 20 August 2010

E-books

My first experience of using an e-book was as part of my librarianship studies at Aberystwyth.  As a distant learner, based (at the time) in a different country, in a small specialist library and with very limited access to university collections, it was great to be able to access at least one of my books easily whenever I liked.  At the Library Council, we digitised more than 300 books ranging from art and music to education, industry and trade, and this digital collection can now be freely accessed on the Ask About Ireland website.

For this Thing, I started by using the Cambridge e-books CrossSearch option to find ebooks with the word 'surgery' in their titles.  This was a useful task because although I knew that there were ebooks available here I had never tried accessing them from this angle.  I think the other route suggested, via the main library catalogue, is the one that will be used more by students because it's really the content they need and the format would be secondary to that.
I hadn't looked at MyiLibrary before, but (at a quick glance) like the way the search and browse options work.  I was already familiar with Project Gutenberg and also Archive.org - a very 'busy' site, but I like the range of options it provides for viewing the books.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Notes on using Zotero

I'm now using Zotero to write an article and a few interesting points have arisen.

Errors
The JAVA uno error came up again when I tried to insert my first reference.  I fixed this as before and citations have been working properly ever since.

Set-up
You have to have Firefox open while inserting citations.  This makes perfect sense since the citations are stored in the browser. 

Styles
If you're unfortunate enough to have to cite using one of the many different Harvard styles, it's very difficult to see which one you should be using.  For example, for my masters I need to use Harvard APA and for the article I'm writing I need to use Sage Harvard.  These styles are not clearly listed in either the pre-installed list or the Zotero Style Repository.  This means librarians may need to track down the correct house style or edit styles to get it right, ensure that their students know which one to install and use and that, for example, Harvard APA means the American Psychological Association style as opposed to the styles that actually have Harvard in their name.

Bookmarks and Reference Marks
Because I was working with OpenOffice, the default was to save references as ReferenceMarks.  It seems that this format works only with OpenOffice - a bit pointless since most people I'm likely to send it to would be working with MS Word.  In order to minimise the chances of the references disappearing, I had to save as .doc and select the Bookmarks option instead.

Other potential issues
I suspect that there could be a problem with the browser taking longer and longer to load if there are a lot of citations stored on it, but this problem has not yet arisen for me.

Once I sorted out these problems, I found it very easy to insert references and create a bibliography - it really is worth the effort.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Lost in translation

Inspired by Vanessa's wonderful Greek Wordle, I decided to run my blog through Google Translate. (Apologies to the non-Irish speakers out there!)

The result was hilarious, including attempts at direct translation

"so here you go" = "agus mar sin théann tú anseo" = "and so you go here"

...and some incomprehensible attempts at sentences:

"Off I went to see if I could find a clear and simple explanation of how to do this using free software and do you think I could find any?"
=
"Off Chuaigh mé a fheiceáil má raibh mé in ann a fháil míniú soiléir agus simplí ar conas é seo a dhéanamh ag baint úsáide as bogearraí saor in aisce agus is dóigh leat raibh mé in ann teacht ar bith?
=
WHAT???**

Some surprisingly nice-sounding phrases too though, it has to be said:

"As my faithful readers know" = "Mar is eol do mo léitheoirí dílse")


This reminded me of a wonderful email my husband received last month to his old (Irish) university account:

Tá Bunachar Sonraí Cothabháil Ríomhaire atá ar siúl faoi láthair ar ár Ríomhphost gréasáin Message Center. Ár Teachtaireacht Center is gá a ath-shocrú mar gheall ar an méid ard de phoist a fhaighimid spam laethúil. Beidh Cothabháil a leagan síos agus cabhrú linn cosc a chur ar an aincheist seo go laethúil. Hanover nua ríomhphost Gréasáin Software a sholáthar pop - uaire le bloc de roinnt focal teoranta ó thaobh spam,.

*Chun revalidate do bhosca ríomhphoist do thoil:
Cliceáil anseo: [LINK DELETED]

Is é an Bogearraí Hanover Ríomhphost Gréasáin go tapa agus cur i  bhfeidhm meáchan éadrom go tapa agus go héasca le rochtain do r-phost. Má theipeann ar revalidate do bhosca ríomhphoist a bheidh do r-phost a fhágáil i-ghníomhach ó ár mbunachar sonraí.

Go raibh maith agat
Riarthóir Córas


Now it was far too much work to figure out what this was meant to be about so I stuck it through Google Translate and got the following:

Computer Database Maintenance is currently underway in our Webmail Message Center. Our Communication Center is required re-arrangement because of the high volume of spam mail we receive daily. Maintenance will be laid down and help prevent on this dilemma daily. Hanover new Web mail Provide Software pop - off several blocks of limited word spam terms.

To revalidate your email box please:
Click here: [LINK DELETED]

The Hanover Email Software Web quickly into light weight application to quickly and easily access your email. Failure to revalidate your mailbox to be your e-mail left in-active from our database.

Thanks
System Administrator

A remarkably comprehensible translation, don't you think?  Some spammer out there has gone to a huge amount of effort to translate their messages for the benefit of their Irish targets.  I wonder if I keep translating into Irish and back again would it end up saying what it was originally supposed to say?

I've removed the links because, while I don't know where they led, I don't want to be responsible for forwarding them to others.  Just in case.


*P.S. I particularly love the sentences where English words were left in alongside the Irish translation attempt:
Chun revalidate do bhosca ríomhphoist do thoil...


**P.P.S. Oh, ok, so the translation isn't all that bad, considering it was done by a computer!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

23 Things Wordle

Looking at other completion posts, I've just realised that I never did my Wordle, so here you go:

Zotero Success!

As some of you know, I've been having trouble with Zotero recently.  I added it to my browser, no problem, and synced to my online account, but was getting two error messages every time I opened OpenOffice no matter what document format I opened and with new and existing documents (Error loading BASIC of document...).  Closing the error messages allowed me to work with documents as normal, but I couldn't use the citation software with it.


I searched the Zotero support section and couldn't find any useful answers.  Taking a second look at the Word Processor Plugin Installation page, I noticed some advice for when the Zotero options weren't displaying at all.  This wasn't my problem, but I tried their suggestion for that issue and it worked.

In Firefox, go to Tools→Add-ons→Extensions→Zotero OpenOffice Integration→Preferences and click “Reinstall OpenOffice components”.

Now I had a new error message though:

Zotero OpenOffice Integration could not communicate with OpenOffice.org because the Java UNO runtime directory specified in the Zotero OpenOffice Integration preferences does not contain a “ridl.jar” file.
I couldn't find a solution on the suggested troubleshooting page, so back I went to the Zotero forum to see if there was an answer for me.  I had better luck this time, using the advice from the last post on this page.  I installed the package openoffice.org-java-common using synaptic package manager. Then I went back into Tools→Add-ons→Extensions→Zotero OpenOffice Integration→Preferences and clicked 'Detect OpenOffice.org paths'.
This fully solved my problem.  I've now been playing with Zotero citations within OpenOffice and I love it!  I will once again try to use this the whole way through the article I'm working on and see how it goes.

A coordinated and strategic approach to LIS Research

As my faithful readers know, I am about to start the dissertation part of my MSc at Aberystwyth.  I was very interested to hear about the LIS Research Coalition, and particularly like the sound of this "coordinated and strategic" approach that they're facilitating.  I would have loved to go to their recent conference, but unfortunately the student opportunities seemed targetted at PhD students only - fair enough, but that ruled me out.  I'm following the Twitter feed and I think it's great that they pull together information about funding and research results.

Here's my question: I'd like to contribute usefully to LIS Research, so went looking to see if they have come up with research priorities.  I don't see any on the site - are there any?  I think what they're doing is really valuable, I'm just not sure how I can fit my research into this strategic approach.  What am I missing?  Any help would be wonderful!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Curvy text using Gimp Image Editor

I was recently asked how to put curved text on a logo.  Off I went to see if I could find a clear and simple explanation of how to do this using free software and do you think I could find any? Lots of complicated explanations or ones that expect that you already know about paths, lots that left bits out so you were left scratching your head and wondering why it didn't work for you, but nothing clear, simple and taking you the whole way through.  So here we go, especially for The Lizard Lounge, curvy text using Gimp - and so I don't have to figure it out a second third time!  I'll assume you've downloaded the software and go from there.

Step 1: Draw a path
Select the Path tool (left).  Click on two different spots to make a line.

Step 2: Shape the path
Click and drag the line to create a curve.  You can change the degree of the curve by clicking and dragging the little squares that now appear.


Step 3: Write the text
Select the text tool (left).  Write the required text and click 'Text along Path'.  You can clear the text box once the text has appeared on the curved line.

Step 4: Select the text path
At the top of the image window, select Dialogs, then Paths. Right-click on the text path and click 'Path to Selection'.

Step 5: Create a new layer
In the image window, select Layers, then New Layer.  Select the Bucket fill tool (left) and click on the image window.  Your text should now look something like this:

Step 6: Rearrange the layers
Open the Layers dialog box (Dialogs>Layers) and drag the layers into the correct order.  Alternatively, you could right click on the image, select Layer, then Stack, and rearrange using the options there.

Step 7: Flatten image
Before saving the image as a .jpg or .png, you need to 'flatten' it.  In the image window, select Image, then Flatten Image.

Step 8: Save the file
So far we've been working in Gimp's own image format, .xcf.  At this stage you'll probably want to save it in a different format for web or print use.

The finished product!

Don't ask me why it's so complicated, it's one of my pet hates of image editing, but I hope that works!

Monday, 9 August 2010

This is the end...

... of the main 23 Things Programme, although we're still working through the medical one.  There were times when I thought I was crazy to be trying to do both, thinking we'd never get to the end, but now it seems to have flown by.

Looking back at the half-way mark, I still agree with what I said then.  The most valuable part of the programme actually had nothing to do with the tools - it was the community spirit that came out if it, and now also opportunities such as my involvement in the first Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet, (27th September, St John's College).  I think it's been valuable personally for raising my profile and helping me to dive into the Cambridge library world.

In terms of things, I'll build on my previous list:
Tools that I am likely to keep using:

  1. This blog: I've never kept a blog before, but am finding it a very useful tool for reflecting on events attended and have now set up a private blog for tracking my thoughts on articles for my masters as well.
  2. RSS feeds: I was already a convert for this one and love scanning headlines for interesting articles/posts rather than visiting the websites themselves.
  3. Doodle: We've used this already to plan a discussion on Defining our professional future and are now using it to discuss organising a TeachMeet in Cambridge.
  4. Google Calendar: Another one that I use personally, but I can see that it could be very useful in a library context.
  5. Twitter: A new convert, I'm finding this really useful for keeping up with what's happening and especially for networking.
  6. Flickr: with a very big pinch of salt
  7. Delicious: Although when will I ever have time to go through my "to read" pile?
  8. Youtube and podcasting: I'll have to think some more about how to approach this in real life though.
  9. Social networking sites: Facebook (in library context, but not as a librarian, if you get what I mean), but also LinkedIn, LISNPN and the LAT Network for my professional development and making more contacts.
  10. Zotero: we're still having a bit of a tiff, but I'll get around to sorting that problem any day now.
  11. Google Docs: Very useful for sharing raw thoughts with others - not so much for the formatted finished products though.
  12. Wikis: Already useful for #camlibtm but I'm sure they will prove useful for other projects in future too.
Things I am less likely to continue to use
  1. iGoogle: I prefer to track RSS feeds using Google Reader and am happy to use tabs to open other pages I need.
  2. Slideshare: I would put a presentation up there for the benefit of others, but it doesn't suit my style for catching up on events I haven't been able to attend. Please keep blogging, everyone!
  3. LibraryThing: Sorry Tim! Although maybe this will be useful for specific promotional purposes, we'll see.

And so I'm done - luckily we have the TeachMeet to look forward to in September, catering to all who are suffering withdrawal symptoms!

Wikis Mark II

This will be another short one because I've already covered it in CamMed23.  since that post I've been using wikis as part of planning the (lib)TeachMeet (have you signed up yet?) and at the medical library for putting together the answers for a quiz.  I still think the most obvious use for wikis in a library context is internally for staff manuals and shared information.


And again, if you haven't visited it yet check out the #camlibtm wiki!

Podcasting

I used to listen to podcasts on a daily basis on my way to and from work - until I mislaid my ipod (it's got to be in that house somewhere!)  It was great for following programmes that were on at awkward times, such as the arts and Irish language programmes on "mainstream" channels.  As mentioned previously, my first library job was at the Contemporary Music Centre which was one of the first arts organisations in Ireland to use podcasts to promote what they did.  I've mentioned podcasting and Youtube at CMC already as part of the medical library programme.  I think podcasts are most useful if they provide regular features from the library, such as a series of talks, rather than as library tours.  I am open to that idea though, has anyone used them and found that they've worked for this purpose?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Google Docs and Waves

Here's one I've done earlier for the medical library's 23 Things programme (don't you just love when they overlap?)  We've also been using Google Docs in planning (lib)TeachMeet, as Katie and Celine have already mentioned.  I find it handy for keeping a back-up of work-in-progress documents such as essays or for sharing content with others, but the formatting problems mean that I wouldn't bother working with it all the time.

Since I'm here, I might as well mention the demise of Google Wave.  I did post a comment about this on Ange Fitzpatrick's post but it's not appearing yet.  There, I agreed with those who say Wave's problem was the lack of purpose - it was fun to play with but it never made sense as a standalone product.

There is definitely scope for its functionality to be incorporated into Google Docs and also into GMail though, and I think this would make collaborative working online much easier for all of us. 

[This image of a kayaker catching a wave comes courtesy of Tommy P World. Another blast from the past, not that I was ever the best paddler in the world...]

Marketing with social media

I'm going to keep this short since others have discussed it so well already.  I think a social media strategy needs to be included in the marketing strategy of every library - in fact, I think it would help if every library had a coherent marketing strategy in the first place!  It can't replace traditional marketing and advertising approaches, but it certainly can enhance them.

Image courtesy of phonogalerie.com
So, which social media tools I would use?  It all depends on your users, which makes it difficult for me to answer right now - I'm not currently working in a library full-time and only know the few library users that come in on a Friday night.

Of the tools covered so far in #cam23, I think a library blog is possibly the most valuable, but Twitter, Facebook and Flickr could all play an important role in marketing the library.

Other Things (Netvibes, Google Calendar, Doodle, Delicious, Zotero, LibraryThing, Slideshare) would, I think, be more useful to us in delivering services than in marketing them, although it does all add up so it's important to consider how these are presented too.

I think this is a question I'll have to come back to when I'm in a better position to talk about marketing a specific library.  In the meantime, (this bit's for thewikiman) you may find more to think about in my previous post about the use of social media at the Contemporary Music Centre or in this post on UKOLN about a user survey at the English Faculty Library.

(Hmmm, so much for keeping it short then...)

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Inspiration at dawn

There's nothing like waking up early to get the creativity flowing!  Not only did I (finally) come up with something to present at the Cambridge (lib)Teachmeet on Monday 27th September, this morning I thought of a teaching approach to use for it.

I'm going to present the new network for Librarians as Teacher (thanks Jo!) using a simple training approach used a few years ago during team-building sessions for Rangers and young Guide leaders (aged 16-26) in preparation for sailing Asgard II from Inverness to Dublin.

Curious?  Come along to the wiki to sign up to speak or lurk.  I'll also be looking for feedback on what you'd like to see on the LAT Network site, so don't forget to bring your thinking caps!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Zotero

One more assignment submitted and I'm well on my way to the MSc, all without using referencing software at all.  Never underestimate the power of word processing software!  And yet, so often along the way I've thought "there was an article for one of the other modules that might be useful for this one... didn't need it for that essay so have no citation to check... which one was it again?"  followed by more trawling through folders for that elusive article.  I had a glance at Mendeley a few months ago but was mid-assignment at the time, I tried out EndNote when doing a different course (music? education? can't remember when it was!) and didn't find it to be worth the effort, I then resorted to creating my own Access database to manage references - I completely empathise with Miss Crail latest rant.  I am now about to start another assignment so this is the perfect time to explore Zotero - properly!


Big plusses with this one - it's browser based so all I have to do is click an icon to save references.  It was really easy to install and works with OpenOffice (a deal-breaker for me).  I love that it opens up just below your browser window so you can see it all properly, including the different folders you've set up to manage different pieces of research.  I suspect this would be even better on a "proper" computer rather than my little 9" laptop.


So far, so good!  And with that, I'm off to do some searching for an article on information retrieval.  I'll report back after the practical experience of using Zotero for an entire project.

TeachMeet for Cambridge Librarians

Following on from the post over on thingblogging, we've allocated a hashtag (#camlibtm) and delicious tag (camlibtm) and have a wiki page on the way for a TeachMeet for librarians.  What we need next is a venue - any suggestions?

It's happening on Monday 27th September in Cambridge and we're planning to focus this first one on tools and techniques we use for user education in our libraries - whether they worked for us or not!

We're going to be calling for people to present short (2 or 7 minute) items, using whatever format they like - presentation, poster, off the cuff, demonstration, anything at all!  The idea is that it's all very informal, a bit of fun and chance for us to learn from what other librarians are doing.  We think everyone will have some piece of experience to share, so get thinking and watch this space!

Related posts:

    Friday, 23 July 2010

    Social Networks for Librarians

    Facebook and LinkedIn - I have profiles on both of these sites but I can't say I've found either of them particularly useful professionally.

    Facebook is good for keeping in touch with family and friends and occasionally I'll share an event, rsvp, 'Like' a page, or add myself as a friend of a library/group/university but I can't imagine using my personal profile here for work or study purposes.  I do think it's worth having a library presence here because some people do like to use it as their starting point for study as well as leisure, provided it's kept up to date and represents the sociable face of the library.  Here's one of the frustrating things about it though - is it possible to see the pages you've 'Liked'?  How useful is it if the user can't find your page again easily?  Am I missing something obvious here?

    LinkedIn is more useful professionally, but I think it really depends on the sector.  If you are looking for a job work in business or computing and live near London it's useful to be there because recruitment agencies will find you.  It may be useful for corporate information workers too, but I'm not convinced it will ever work for me in this way.  I have joined some library-related groups such as CILIP, LIBER, New Academic Librarians, YEP! and Irish Public Libraries and sometimes an interesting discussion crops up on one or other of these, but nothing worth writing home about.

    Two new networks aimed at UK librarians have been set up, both of which I think will be more useful to me professionally than LinkedIn or Facebook.  The LIS New Professionals Network was set up to support, well, new professionals in the library and information sector (what gave it away?).  There are already some interesting discussions, useful resources and a blog to follow on this site.

    The second network (as mentioned previously) is the Librarians as Teachers Network, set up literally this week by Johanna Anderson to support librarians in their teaching role.  This site is very much in development, so come along and help us to decide what should be on it!



    Edited to add: I've just heard of academia.edu via Magister et Mater's blog and am off to explore.  It seems to be closely linked to Facebook though...

    Maps and Mapping

    Of the online map tools mentioned on the Medical Library's 23 Things programme, I'm most familiar with Google Maps.  I regularly print out a map and directions to bring with me when going somewhere new.

    Distances from my house to the medical library:
    • GoogleMaps: 14.8 miles
    • Bing: 14.6 miles
    • Streetmap.co.uk - if this allows you to get directions and distances I didn't stay long enough to find them.  The moving ads in the background are very distracting!
    • Mapquest: 14.5 miles
    • Navteq: 14.41 miles - more annoying ads, but not as bad as the Streetmap ones
    So I'm surprisingly not the furthest away from work here.

    The image here is of some random houses, not mine, but I got it from Google Street View.  It's actually quite shocking how clear they images are, especially since I'm living in a relatively small town, but at least it's not showing live information.  Imagine how much fun burglars would have with it if it was!

    I've glanced at OpenStreetMap before but not used it much.  I think the main advantage here is that walking routes and shortcuts are marked in on the map as well.  I had never heard of OpenCycleMap before but this could be very useful if I wanted to check out possible cycling routes.


    Instead of using the suggested optional task, I thought I'd show you something we worked on in the Library Council (I hope you don't mind Isla!)  Scans and data from Griffith's 19th century valuation of tenements was being added to the AskAboutIreland website, so we arranged to have the Ordnance Survey maps of the time, including plot markings, digitised to accompany this information.

    We then had the 19th century maps overlaid onto Google Maps, and it is now possible to slide between the old maps and the new.
    You can also zoom in and out to see the area in more detail.  Don't take my word for it though, it's much more fun to play with it yourselves! (You'll need to do a search by family name or placename first though.)

    For all the teaching librarians out there...

    I'm very excited about the new network that Johanna Anderson has established for teaching librarians.  It was established really as a support for librarians that are working on the PG Cert education courses but I think it will be a useful resource for librarians at all stages, with or without the qualification.

    Escaping the echo chamber

    There was a very interesting talk in Leeds yesterday on the issue of the library echo chamber.  Ned Potter and Laura Woods talked about the problems we have with people's perceptions of us and what we do, and with most of the rebuttals coming in the form of blog posts and tweets that are only read by other librarians and do nothing to change the wider picture.  They did also point out some examples of people that have managed to break out of the echo chamber, including fellow Aber student Ian Clark and his recent Guardian article.



    I really liked the presentation itself.  I've seen Prezi used very well once before, but this one was excellent.  I wish I could have been have been there, but Leeds is a bit of a trek from Cambridge. 

    The most interesting thing for me (apart from the importance of the issue itself) was how easily I could follow the presentation remotely.  Ned and Laura both blogged in the morning about the event and linking to the presentation. They used future tweets so that they could send out their talk in real time for those of us that couldn't make it (including a bit of the back-and-forth nature of the presentation) and called for our participation in feeding ideas back to the room.  Now, admittedly there was  a bit of a time zone mix-up that meant I got to read the presentation an hour before it actually happened, but in a way I think that's a good thing.  Often there isn't enough time for remote followers to get their input into the discussion - having a bit of a head start meant that we had more opportunity to join in.  The tweets have been archived using TwapperKeeper.

    I think we all have a lot to learn from the way this presentation was organised.  I'm definitely going to try their approach in future - although I believe Prezi is supposed to be very difficult to do well.  No different from Powerpoint then.  Oh, and I mustn't forget to tell the world what we actually do and try to become another echo chamber escapee!

    Monday, 19 July 2010

    LibraryThing

    Another one of those sites that I thought sounded great, signed up for, and then forgot all about.  I think the whole idea behind LibraryThing is great, and surely every book club should be on it.

    I have never looked at it from the point of view of libraries themselves.  I can see how valuable it would be for cataloguing a small library collection, but I wonder how easy it is to export the records - anybody know?  You wouldn't want to spend all that time cataloguing your holdings only for LibraryThing to change/merge/fold altogether!

    Wenzeler's article was very interesting and I really like the idea of enhancing existing library catalogues with user-generated content from LibraryThing.  I believe AquaBrowser, when it comes to Cambridge, will create a shinier, happier user experience anyway though, so do we need LibraryThing?

    Friday, 16 July 2010

    Slideshare and Delicious

    I was so organised until about a week ago, keeping up with both 23 Things programmes - how did I end up with four Things to do for Cam23?  Catch-up time!

    I alluded to Slideshare already in my reflective post. I'm not a visual person at all, I'm not likely to click through presentations or videos in blogposts and would much prefer to read a summary.  I do know that that's just because I'm a strange, strange person and obviously try to cater to other more normal people in my own posts.  I do see the benefits of Slideshare for providing access to delegates after a course or conference and for sharing your ideas more widely.  I would put presentations up there, but I'm not likely to spend hours looking through presentations I haven't seen first-hand.

    Here is one of the presentations from the New Professionals Conference I attended a couple of weeks ago:
    Proving the value of peer networks
    The nice thing about this one is that you can get it even if you weren't there on the day.  Bethan put the whole presentation together using quotes she received from her peer network.  I was going to provide bonus points for anyone who correctly identified the quote from me, but it doesn't seem to be on this version.  Maybe it was just one she read out, or maybe I was just imagining that feeling of fame and glory.  Hmmm....

    Here's the prize-winning work of another of the presenters:



    Delicious - here I'll cheat a bit and refer you to my previous post for 23 Medical Things instead.

    Wednesday, 14 July 2010

    Youtube and music libraries

    I've been thinking a lot about my first library job recently.  I worked at the Contemporary Music Centre for four years, first as a library assistant and then as Music Information Officer, and have followed their news feeds ever since.  I was very sorry to hear that their Director, Eve O'Kelly is stepping down, but I am sure know she will be very successful in her 'freelance career in cultural management and research'.  Evonne Ferguson has been appointed Director and I would like to wish her all the best in this position.

    What does all of this have to do with YouTube, I hear you ask?  Well, one of the most interesting things about CMC, for me, is how forward-thinking they are and how well they use social media to promote themselves and the music of Irish composers.  They have an active presence on Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, MySpace and flickr, and provide RSS feeds of news, features and opportunities.  They were one of the first arts organisations in Ireland to create monthly podcasts [feel free to correct me if I'm getting any of this wrong, Jonathan!]  I strongly recommend checking them out if you're looking for good ideas.

    Here is their latest feature, based on their recent conference The Future of Music in the Digital World.

    Tuesday, 13 July 2010

    Follow that........ reader!

    I had had a slight problem doing this one because I wasn't working last week.  Luckily, I have had experience of some of these tasks before.  My very first library position was as a music library assistant at the Contemporary Music Centre in Dublin.  In this position I photocopied and bound scores of music by Irish composer for use in the library and for sale.  Photocopying and binding are therefore second nature to me.

    Wireless access in the library, as mentioned before, is something I avail of nearly every Friday.  I have also had the pleasure of helping Medical Library users to add printing credit to their library accounts and to scan documents.  The scanner was easy to use, but I think it's a pity that there's no option to scan the image as a pdf.  I would recommend installing Irfanview or similar software on the computers to address this problem.

    For extra credit (as Ange Fitzpatrick is fond of calling it), the Medical Library does have the following books, recently requested by a user:
    1. Imaging picture tests for the MRCPCH / A.P. Winrow. WN 18.51.1
    2. 250 questions for the MRCPCH part 2 / J.L. Robertson, A.P. Hughes. WS 18.115.1
    3. Get through MRCPCH part I : BOFs and EMQs / Nagi Giumma Barakat. WS 18.117
    4. Data questions for the MRCPCH Part 2 / J.L. Robertson, A.P. Hughes. WS 18.76
    5. MRCPCH part 2 paediatric : practice exams / P. Gringras, D.K. Pal, M. Greenberg. WS 18.92
    6. Paediatric grey cases for the MRCPCH / Alan C. Fenton ... [et al.]. WS 18.86
    7. MRCPCH part 2 : questions and answers for the new format exam / Kate H. Creese, Colin V.E. Powell and Patrick H.T. Cartlidge. WS 18.125.1
    We do not appear to have the following:
    1. Towards MRCPCH Part II theory examination / Tapabrata Chatterjee M.D. (Author), Suraj Gupte M.D. (Editor)
    2. Questions for the MRCPCH Part 2 Written Examination / Nick barnes & Julian Forton
    3. MRCPCH Part 2 Practice Exams / Giles Kendall & Ian Pollock

    Friday, 9 July 2010

    Pause for thought

    Well, I have been working my way through the 23 Things Programmes at the Medical Library and the University Library and have so far been able to (pretty much) keep up the pace.  Some of the Things were already familiar to me, but most were new or had more to them than I had realised.  These programmes have been great for thinking about the various tools and how they might be applied in a library context.  There are, of course, far more tools to be explored than can be covered in 23 Things, but it's good to get a structured start on them.

    [Image found on flickr, with thanks to visualage]
     
    The VARK questionnaire showed that I'm not a particularly visual person but pretty much any other approach suits me and I have a "mild read/write preference".  This doesn't surprise me at all - I have to consciously think about including images in my blog posts and I confess that I skipped some of the embedded videos and presentations (oops...)  I much prefer if people would write out the key points of the presentation instead!  The programme has used a combination of text, images, presentations, videos and opportunities to meet in person, so I think it has catered to most learning styles. 

    Tools that I am likely to keep using:
    1. This blog: I've never kept a blog before, but am finding it a very useful tool for reflecting on events attended and have now set up a private blog for tracking my thoughts on articles for my masters as well.
    2. RSS feeds: I was already a convert for this one and love scanning headlines for interesting articles/posts rather than visiting the websites themselves.
    3. Doodle: We've used this already to plan a discussion on Defining our professional future and are now using it to discuss organising a TeachMeet in Cambridge.
    4. Google Calendar: Another one that I use personally, but I can see that it could be very useful in a library context.
    5. Twitter: A new convert, I'm finding this really useful for keeping up with what's happening and especially for networking.
    6. Flickr: with a very big pinch of salt
    7. Delicious: Although when will I ever have time to go through my "to read" pile?
    Things I am less likely to continue to use
    1. iGoogle: I prefer to track RSS feeds using Google Reader and am happy to use tabs to open other pages I need.
    2. Slideshare: I would put a presentation up there for the benefit of others, but it doesn't suit my style for catching up on events I haven't been able to attend. Please keep blogging, everyone!
    Do I feel more competent and confident?  Perhaps not in terms of the skills themselves, because I was already using quite a lot of the tools and am comfortable with picking up new ones.  I am certainly more confident about putting myself out there by blogging and tweeting and am already experiencing the benefits of that.  Every day I discover a new resource, make a new contact or explore something I have been meaning to look at for a long time.  I think the programme has also helped me to establish myself a bit more in the UK library world - very useful since I moved so recently!

    I think that perhaps the most important part of the programme for me is the sense of community I've been getting.  I have only been working in Cambridge since March, and only one evening each week (with the occasional extra session) so it was hard to understand how I fit into the system in Cambridge.  Through 23 Things I have had an opportunity to get to know more of the staff in the other libraries.  Through some of their blogs I have been able to get a hint of personalities, of interests beyond librarianship and of how things work in the other libraries.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the Things, but I'm looking forward to all the "extracurricular" posts even more.