Bookgrrl, gap filler #blogjune

I have a tendency to get bored quite easily- witness the myriad of unfinished craft projects (actually only 2, or 3…), and the number of unfinished blog posts languishing in my drafts folder.

How does this impact upon forging a career as a librarian? For me, it has involved saying Yes to opportunities that arise and jumping across library sectors.

My first job was backfilling a maternity leave position, a twelve month contract which became ongoing and lasted five years. When I left it was because I wanted adventure. I’m not saying that working in public libraries weren’t eventful (Laurence the demon child at story time, Mr Poo Man, and Mr T the psychopath are characters which come to mind), but I needed a change.

I jumped to the State Library, working with staff in public libraries in promoting database usage, coordinating online content for a virtual library and putting out a library zine. From there I jumped to a Parliamentary Library, after going for an interview, for the experience.

Now I have been at my present place of work in an academic library for nearly 2 years and working in my fourth role. I have been involved in systems, statistical analysis, and research data management, and put my hand up for projects galore. Much of this role changing has been as a result of maternity leave, retirements and resignations. 

I think working in various library sectors makes me feel like a Librarian jack of all trades, a filler of gaps. I also feel very lucky to be where I am.

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Going to New York was a chance of a lifetime!

Who is the user? #blogjune

I have been involved in a project at work to showcase the history of our organisation. It has been a fascinating fact-finding process and one of the highlights has been to talk to staff and students who, over the years have been a part of the university. Hearing snippets of information about Very Important People has also been a highlight too :).

How the digital showcase was to be structured was a story in itself. The team met for the first time and wrangled with the question- how would people discover the stories? Members of the team wanted different ways- a search facility, a way to filter stories relating to a particular campus, or using keywords to jump to related items.

The challenge be of this was that the display was to be mounted as a touchscreen format, with no keyboard, so the navigation had to be as simple as possible.

“But if it were me wanting to use it, I would do this…”

It was really hard to disassociate the online showcase from a typical desktop experience, where you could interact and query the information with a keyboard. It was also really challenging not to think of oneself as the typical user.

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While the typical Tube user may not be a Dr Who fan, they know the value of a Tardis when travelling ūüôā

How often do you think how a user will interact with your services when you are in the process of designing them?

Do you have a clear vision of who your users are? Many businesses use personas, or visions of a particular user type to help them structure how a service will be accessed and used. 

Should libraries be developing personas to help them design services more effectively?

 

 

 

Is there anyone out there? #blogjune

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Fiji sunset, April 2014

This blog post has been simmering away for a couple of weeks. Every time I feel ready to post another post appears on the blogging and libraries and I have to review it again!

I was more a reader of blogs than a writer in the early days, and really only engaged with social media when Miss BG arrived in 2007 (when I was introduced to Facebook,and TwItter). When I first started writing there seemed a wide group of people I knew from Twitter who were blogging, and I developed a good list on my Google Reader.

When I started in 2009, I had something to say, and blogging at that time was a convenient way to say things. Working part time, studying part time and having full time family responsibilities were no impediments to finding the time to write. I could easily ignore the piles of stuff on top of my dining table, Mr BG did his ironing, and as long as little people were fed, I could write and study to my hearts content.

I still have things to say, but now I can say them through Instagram, or I keep them to myself. Whatever is said online is hard to erase and as Sally said, I don’t want my online presence to be a series of rants.

I often wondered were people listening to what I had to say? Yes, you were and I have been gratified over and again with comments, likes and retweets. The medium of blogging has been a way for me to connect to people I would not have otherwise met, and that is probably the best thing to have come out of it. (As blogging does feel like a way of broadcasting my thoughts, my written words are my voice, so people reading my words are ‘listening’ to me and my voice- end clarification :))

I have been a librarian that blogs, not really blogging about libraries. At the time I started it was more to do with the my workplace’s Code of Conduct prevented me from discussing anything in great detail. ¬†I think I still am prevented from speaking much in great detail about my time in Parliament other than to say

  1. Photocopying woes are ubiquitous;
  2. It’s a challenge to say no to someone who is used to being surrounded by people who say yes.

At the same time, I did feel like an impostor when it came to writing about the profession. There have always been writers who have been able to express and analyse libraries better than myself, and Sally highlighted many of them in her post a few days ago. With so many librarians already established in this blogging niche my thoughts were

  1. I work part time in a special library, and my postgraduate study is quasi librarianship, quasi IT- would my thoughts on libraries be listened to?
  2. Would I be limiting myself if I just spoke about libraries? (Because there is more to life than work)

This BlogJune there has been much reflection on library blogs- their “rise and fall”, as ¬†conduits for driving change and conversation, showcasing innovation, and providing a forum for conversation. The conversations generated on Twitter and through Alisa¬†Con’s, Kate’s Kathryn, and Katie’s many posts about creating a League of Librarians are¬†fantastic to read.

There are a few hopes that I have about this endeavour.

  1. I hope we¬†engage with people beyond those who already blog and who don’t necessarily use Twitter, otherwise we will be talking to the same people over and again.
  2. I hope we hear from new voices and a greater diversity in the people we hear from, from library students, graduates, from more library sectors, from different cultural backgrounds.
  3. Veering sideways, I hope we review the cost of conferences in order to make them more affordable for more people to attend. More voices, more energy, reinvigoration?

 

 

 

 

Twitter- Hello World!

I signed up to Twitter in…a long time ago. A friend at work had joined up and she was quite the savvy person, jumping into social media and all things Web 2.0, so I quickly followed!

Twitter has been a lifesaver, a saviour of my sanity, comic relief, a honing of my communication skills and developed my ability to¬† LOLspeak ūüôā

I have always seen Twitter as a conversation- it can be private, using Direct Messages (DM) or a private conversation in public where people can interrupt and add their own 2 cents, or a group conversation where people will be talking and casually add you to the conversation. Sometimes I can hop in and try and make pithy and witty remarks, and other times I will lurk, listening in to arguments, conversations and banter. I try and get on every day, but owing to work and family, I’m not on it permanently.

I’ve used my twitter handle as both a professional and personal tool, and the 2 spheres will often collide. I try and follow the maxim not to tweet when I’m angry, as I don’t want to say something on the public record that I will regret.

Professionally I use it as a collegiate, networking tool, sucking up information from article shared, blog posts, and conversing with all the librarians on Twitter- and there are lots!

Personally I use it for news gathering, following my own interests, other bloggers and interesting people. I  have followed quite a few Ballarat people, which has been great for meeting new people, and discovering good Indian takeaway in Ballarat :).

I have learned the power of a hashtag, which makes it an easy way to follow conference proceedings from afar, or keep abreast with what is happening on a trending event, or in politics (something to which our library is quite attuned).

Exploring Twitter in a mobile capacity though is quite a different matter. Tweeting from your phone is good for deft fingers, though much of the functionality of the desktop is lost on the phone applications. Much of the functionality of Twitter is best configured on a desktop, rather than from your smartphone, though there are a few tweaks you can do from your desktop to make your mobile experience an easier one.

1. Under Settings -> Mobile, you can customise Twitter for your phone. This is where you can select Text notifications for mentions, if people have retweeted your pithy tweets, or if people have replied to you.

2. Under this setting you can also put Sleep Settings. That way you are not getting bombarded late in the evening or early in the morning with replies or mentions.

If your library or greater organisation is somewhat reticent to use Twitter in an official capacity, please don’t let it stop you from engaging with the broader community yourself, or your users. Twitter ought to be seen as a way of being another avenue of reaching out to them. With any luck they’ll talk back to you.

On being invisible, handbots and Australia’s Favourite Librarian

I was talking to someone today about their local library. She was talking about how she could go into a library now, pick up books from the reserve shelf, check them out with the self-serve and leave the library without having talked to a staff member. And the thing about it was, she wasn’t all that happy about it.

“I remember going into the library and talking to staff about books,”she lamented,”and taking the kids to story time. It was part of the whole library experience, chatting to the librarians. I know they still do storytimes, but I miss talking to someone.”

It makes me wonder, have we become handbots– well-meaning, helpful, but ultimately faceless and anonymous?

handbot

Librarians have traditionally been mediators between the user and information, facilitating and filtering information to the user. Over the last 15 years, libraries have tried to make that information provision seamless, through an online presence, through discovery layers to their resources and trying to be in the background as much as possible. And I don’t think this invisibility helped us in any way.

ALIA is currently running Australia’s Favourite Librarian competition, to be announced during Library Week.¬† The librarians selected come from all over australia, from academic, school public and state and special libraries. My gut feeling was that it was largely children’s librarians who had been nominated. I created a Wordle cloud out of the nomination page (which not only provides who the librarians are, but their reasons for having been nominated) to get an idea as to the reasons for their nominations.
Wordle: Australia's Favourite Librarian

My gut proved me right! The words always, children, friendly, helpful, passion, dedication, reading , community, and love were quite prominent. From the wordle, it was the face to face interaction and the building of a relationship between the user and the library staff which were greatly appreciated and valued. It was also heartening to see that our knowledge was a reason for nomination :).

If we wish to be valued as a profession, we need to be more visible, and  engaging with our our users. We need to be advocating our service and our profession to our councils, schools and our institutions. We need to be present in the library space, and not hiding in offices or behind desks. We should be making ourselves more accessible to those who need us, and more visible to those who employ us.

Please don’t be a handbot.

Library Camp 2012- Enlightening!

Following on from VALA, an unconference or Library Camp was organised at the University of Melbourne. Nearly 200 attendees attended from academic, school, public and special libraries. It was free for delegates, thanks to sponsorship from libraries across Australia.

The day was a chance to extend discussions that had arisen from the previous three days, or to facilitate discussions on whatever took your fancy. The ideas were crowd-sourced and people then voted on the topics they wanted to hear discussed. There was also the opportunity to hear lightning talks of 3 minute presentations from delegates.

These were the sessions which had the greatest imapct for me:

Professional Reading in the National Year of Reading.

While the National Year of Reading is strongly focused on the recreational reading habits of Australians and to promote literacy, it was believed that this was a chance to promote reading of professional literature amongst library staff.In the midst of working and serving and reacting to our user’s needs, our own needs to continue learning about our own professional environment are often pushed aside. One delegate said she had to give herself permission to read for 10 minutes at the end of the day.

An online journal club was mooted, which sounds promising. It’s an idea which could be taken back to our places of work to get other staff reading more professional material- and not just the latest copy of incite. With aspects of librarianship becoming increasingly specialised, professional reading can often mean reading something which doesn’t appear in a library journal/website. If professional reading was tailored to a person’s specific interest and incorporated into their work day, perhaps more reading would get done?

Jason Griffey presented footage and discussed his time at the Consumer Electronics Expo in Las Vegas, which had 165,000 attendees. He was one of 6 librarians who attended (there really needs to be a greater acceptance of librarians attending non-library related activities to think outside the circle). He saw a tablet which could be powered by a handcrank, aimed at users in very romote places, and a Lytro camera which would never give you an out of focus shot again, through its plenoptic lens.

Librarians as researchers, or basically the need for librarians to undertake research as a means of getting published and achieving recognition as academics. While this has an academic library perspective, more librarians need to contribute to the profession by writing of their own expertise and applying research methods that they themselves try to instil in students. It often comes down to finding the time (this post was written over ten days in spits and spurts on the train and at home) and having the support of your parent organisation.

The lightning talks were…enlightening!

Amy from Melbourne City Libraries spoke of the experience of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer attending a library event, simply on the basis that they were asked. Lesson learned : Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Carolyn McDonald spoke of innovation and how people strive to be innovative, when in fact you should be thinking about the goals you wish to achieve. Innovation shouldn’t be your goal. Lesson learned: don’t do something just because it’s cool, but because it has a purpose and use.

At the end of the day the question was asked- What will you take away from this day? For me it was faces of people whom I had gotten to know very well on Twitter- this was another reason why I enjoyed my day at VALA. I ended up using the law of two feet and having a coffee and chat with Kate before heading to the Melbourne Uni Bookshop for a browse before appearing at afternoon tea.

Another thing¬† I took from that day was the pleasure of heading back to my old uni, at which I had the best time 20 years ago. I retraced my steps past Wilson Hall, through the Old Law quadrangle (I’m so old I remember when the law school was actually there!), through the Old Arts building, said a brief hello to Babel, the language building, then down the slope to the Baillieu Library.

The last aspect I took from that day was a question. How do you engage the staff who don’t have the opportunity or inclination to attend workshops? How do you get people enthused about seeking out professional development? To some staff, professional development is about being trained, or sitting passively in a room watching a demonstration. The challenge is to demonstrate the merits of professional development to a work force which is concerned with focusing on the present rather than the future.

5 Lessons from VALA 2012

Last week was a huge week on the Victorian library calendar with the biennial VALA 2012 conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

Having been to this conference over a few years, it was good to see how the infrastructure has evolved. The internet kiosk has grown smaller, but wireless connectivity had increased in power and relevancy. The charge up station for tablets, notebooks, and smartphones was a great place to meet people you had never met before. As always, the catering was delicious, the vendors were friendly and helpful, and it was good to see new and familiar faces amongst the crowd.

The favourite tote bag of choice appeared to be a cat tote bag from Baker and Taylor, which combined its cat branding with the librarian cliche of being cat people- a win-win situation! No, I did not one as I have lots of totes at home, and I’m comfortable with the fact I am a cat person anyway :).

I am in the midst of drafting up a report for work on my day at VALA (the library equivalent of singing for one’s supper), but these were the 5 top lessons to draw from the conference I wish to share.

1. You can learn a lot from outside your niche

VALA attracts a great deal of presentations from academic, school, public and special libraries. While librarians may comment on the lack of specificity to their specialisation at conferences such as these, it is a good chance to be exposed to different ideas and approaches to the ultimate question- how can we best help our users?

Eibhlin Roche, who spoke about the use of Guinness archives within the Guinness organisation was one such example. If you look beyond the fancy apps, the genealogical database, and the marketing spin, you see an archive which has linked its collection to the parent organisation’s overall mission and has been very strategic in developing projects which support that mission. The trick for special/corporate libraries is to make yourself indispensable by enmeshing yourself within the heart of the organisation.

2. Be a part of your community

I am talking about this on 2 levels- engaging with the library community as well as the community in which you live and work. The aspect I love about conferences is the chance to catch up and engage in discussions about the profession with those you don’t work with. The challenge is to continue that dialogue with your colleagues who were holding the fort while you were away.

At the same time, you can also reach out to your users through inventive programs, giving them what they want, but especially through talking to them.

3. I came to hear you talk, not you talk to slides

The value of a conference is a gathering of minds to tease out themes and continue the discussion that was started in the papers submitted. It’s not that I want to be entertained with slides of cute cats (okay I do), but if you are going to be putting heaps of words on a slide, make them a) succinct and b) readable. While the PowerPoint presentation is not your paper, over which you have thought, reflected and edited over and over again, it still is something into which presenters have to give a lot of thought.

4. Declare war on DRM, licensing and copyright.

Eli Neiburger’s presentation’s sentiment- ‘We share sh*t’ struck me as gold. While working in an environment where laws are actually made, I don’t think we can actually get away with infringing the law :). However Eli’s sentiment of freeing information for the greater good, a sentiment shared by all librarians, got me thinking on what data libraries have collected over the past¬† aeons that would be valuable to the greater community- photos, ephemera, papers, records? Such data was released and shared by National and State Libraries to be used in a Library Hack Competition, which attracted non-library users to engage with and manipulate library data.

5. Even librarians get the information overload blues.

Reading Twitter made it hard for me to concentrate on what was being said in front of me, and often reflected what had been said a couple of minutes earlier. I tweeted a bit during the first plenary session, and followed it for a while, but it brought home that I can’t do 2 things at once, and if I do, it’s in a very half-assed fashion. It didn’t help that it wras using up a lot of my power. I do applaud those who were there every day, tweeting and blogging and were able to speak coherently at the end of it. Michelle McLean the Connecting Librarian produced good notes of the sessions she attended,
I also resolved to weed my own RSS feeds, unfollow people on Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to be more mindful of who I follow. This will be an ongoing process, trying to refine the type of information I receive and making it more meaningful.

Being a professional

Walter was my Law for Librarians lecturer when I was ccompleting my library graduate diploma. Amongst teaching our class  law reports,  Hansards and Statutes, and the Copyright Act, he  drummed into us that we were professionals. If we were providing information we had to be careful what we provided as we were professionally liable for the content.

It is probably one of the few things from library school I have remembered and is still relevant to me today.  I am a professional and proud of it.

It’s also why I get slightly peeved when as a librarian, I’m not perceived in this fashion. I know there is a perception that all I do is sit around all day and read books, which is patently untrue (that’s what I do all day at home, when I’m not kid-wrangling, cooking, blogging, tweeting, doing laundry…).

I remember a patron from my public library days, who told me he wanted to become a librarian and was crestfallen because he did not have the relevant qualifications.”But I have a Masters in Mathematics!” he cried. I’m not disputing that there are some extremely capable and experienced staff working in libraries who are not qualified librarians. But this guy was labouring under the impression that there was not really much to my job. Plus he was a moron.

I can classify, catalogue and categorise both print and online material. I can research and provide authoritative information to my users. I have structured and built websites, and tested them using usability testing and card-sorting. I have conducted classes in information literacy to library staff across Victoria and colleagues at work. I keep abreast of trends on librarianship, usability and web development and am a strong believer in continuous professional depevelopment and lifelong learning.

I will assist in helping users with their computer problems, but I am not here to print or photocopy your speech or report. I will gladly look up a reference in a database for you, but not if you thrust a paper under my nose while I’m busy tapping at my keyboard assisting someone else with an enquiry. I will record my interactions with my users, but most definitely not classify them as ‘reference’ enquiries just to bump up statistics.

Why? Because I’m a professional, dammit.

This post is dedicated to the professionals  with whom I studied at the University of Ballarat, and Walter my lecturer.

A blinking cursor

Hello June 30, I can’t believe #blogjune is over!

I was going to title this post with ‘And now the end is here’ from the wonderful My Way, but that would indicate something else, such as I’ve gotten sick of writing every day for 30 days and I just want to go and bury myself in my warm bed and not get up until spring. Tempting, but no…

The challenge has been trying to find something to say when you don’t know what to say, and trying to silence that blinking cursor in the middle of a blank blog post. I have drawn inspiration from many of the participants through their posts and the wonderful memes which popped up. I know that the majority of you have a queen-sized bed and everyone seems to hate housework of some description. I’ve learned that the crafty peeps love softies, felting, knitting, scrapbooking and card-making. The interiors of our houses have come up for perusal, holiday snaps have been oohed and ahhed over (or was this just me?), and the use of pen and paper to illustrate a theme for a post has been cleverly used.

Local history has been a feature, as has social history and genealogy. I am also half inclined to take part in a week in the life project like Michelle and Tania, though my scrapbooking skills are not that great. I know my limitations regarding genealogy and with my other half having been bitten by the genealogy bug, I’m quite content to say I came from Ireland in 1972 and leave it at that for the moment :).

There has been a great deal of great library-related posts to emerge, but I think that the output of a post a day has meant that meant that posts have been lighter rather than meatier. Having said that, the collaborative posts from Libraries Interact, ALIA Sydney and The Room of Infinite Diligence have demonstrated just how well librarians work as a collective when collaborating on a blog. Several different voices, and different styles, all united by a passion for libraries and librarianship.

One of the good things which have emerged has been the 100 articles a librarian must read, which will make for a valuable read. Seeing the different libraries around the world Ellen wishes to visit whets my appetite for a busman’s holiday.

I have loved reading of people’s families, people’s recipes, and pets. I have really enjoyed knowing more of people’s musical and literary tastes and appetite for film. Fiona’s musical challenges have been cool and people have been very quick to answer them I feel spectaularly proud of the fact I can claim bragging rights on one of them :).

Apart from that, it has been a learning exprience for me. I have enjoyed the discipline of writing every day, and it is one I’ll continue to do. I’m going to take a couple of days off, make some muffins and some of the chai tea from Katie’s recipe, and make some plans as to what I want to do with this blog.

As for July, I have

  • a pile of books to read,
  • kids to wrangle during the school holidays,
  • a cardigan to finish knitting,
  • a gym to visit,
  • tax to do,
  • piles of laundry to sort (as always)

and above all, more writing to do!

I find stuff

Library and Information Week is a big deal in library land. Lots of activities, posters and bookmarks mark the event, including the National Simultaneous Storytime which was held today.

The theme of Library and Information Week is ‘We find stuff’. We do. Librarians locate obscure quotes, how many sheep there are in China, journal articles, speeches, yellow books on volleyball (I kid you not, that was a real request) and lots of bookmarks which get left behind in books. I even found two tickets to the Big Day Out in a book (which I returned to the ticketing office and which were eventually returned to their original owners, after they came into the library frantic for them).

It is something we librarians take pride in, finding stuff, so much so that the journey becomes more interesting than the item we’re supposed to locate. Unfortunately, our users are much more interested in the book or information than our explanation of how we managed to track it down, and not only that, library users are finding stuff on their own.

Regardless of how the statistics are interpreted, reviewed and monitored, reference statistics (or statistics referring to  information questions asked of librarians) are on the decline.

The Internet, digitisation of information and Google have democratised information- no longer is it necessary for librarians to be gatekeepers of knowledge. People can and do find things out for themselves, which is great- but if everyone can find stuff, where does that leave librarians?

Often a desk shift can be very quiet, save for requests to point out the toilet, or help with the photocopier/printer. The skill of the reference interview, considered traditional library work is one which is not in demand as it used to be. We’re still assessing¬† resources and information, but if people are bypassing librarians and getting all they need from Google, what’s the point of doing all this?

The thing is, not everyone can find stuff, or find stuff well. Many librarians are experts in information literacy and devote their time to helping people help themselves through teaching them how to locate quality information from reputable sources. This takes place in school libraries, public, academic and special libraries across Australia and the rest of the world.

You also have specialists in children’s literacy and literature, conservators, digitization specialists, usability and accessibility advocates.

While the reference librarian may be a dying species, the profession is still tackling with information and users and how best to bring the two together.

Librarians- we do more than just find stuff.