Friday, 28 May 2010

iGoogle Revisited

I am one of the fools ones attempting to do #cam23 alongside #cammed23.  Glutton for punishment, I know, but actually I don't think it will be too bad.  There seems to be a bit of overlap and I have done some of the things before.  Besides, I'm hearing things about certs and vouchers, how can I resist?  We'll see how far it goes.

So, a second look at iGoogle to add the new requirements.  I have already set up set up an iGoogle homepage and added tabs, added 'stuff' and RSS feeds to the tabs, compared iGoogle to Netvibes and Pageflakes and looked at alternative RSS readers for the medical version of 23 Things.

Now I've added a library tab as well, including COPAC and other useful resources to it.  I did a search for other library-related gadgets and found quite a few libraries with catalogue access widgets (including two for Cambridge), one that picks a children's book each day, and one that lets you track when your library books are due back.  Must look into that one more closely, could be useful given the number of libraries I borrow from!

RSS feeds

23 Things continues at the Medical Library and this week we're looking at RSS readers.  I am a big fan of RSS feeds as an easy way to check updates from a large number of sources very quickly.

First I looked at browser-based RSS readers in IE7 and in Firefox. I can see that these might suit some users, especially if they always work with a particular computer or only have a small number of feeds, but this approach to feeds is definitely not for me.

I prefer to work with a web-based RSS reader, since I tend to work on different computers and like to be able access things remotely.

As you can see, I use Google Reader a lot!  I tend to use 'list' mode so I can scan the headlines, getting an overview of what's been going on before clicking into the headlines that interest me.

I like the fact that I can sort feeds into different folders to browse related feeds all at once.  It's also possible to mark things to read later or to email an item of interest to yourself or a friend if you want to take a bit longer reading things.

MyAthens was new to me, since I don't have a personal account.  I logged on using the issue desk account and added a new feed to the page there.  This could be very useful to medical staff and students if they wish to draw all work-related information into one place.

So how could RSS feeds be used in the medical library?  The most obvious use is internally, to stay aware of what is happening in the medical field so that we can then inform our users (or know what they're talking about when they ask us!)

Another good use might be to pull recent book acquisitions and the tables of contents of journals we subscribe to into the medical library website via RSS so that staff and students can also see at a glance what is new in the library.

Now, off to delete the things I added to the issue desk...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Librarian as Teachers: the new professionals?

Just arrived back from an excellent day at the University of Warwick, more convinced than ever of the importance of teaching and training skills for librarians.  Antony Brewerton started off by giving us a tour of the Teaching Grid, a flexible space within the university library.  The area can be divided up into different sized spaces depending on requirements of a particular training session.  Staff can also use this area to try out technologies such as interactive whiteboards prior to using them in a teaching context.  I liked the Ladder of Loyalty as a way of thinking about library relationships with our users.  Our challenge is to bring staff members into an active partnership arrangement with the library.

Debbi Boden gave the keynote speech, discussing the evolution of the profession.  We need to know what we are in order to decide where we're going, and we still have that stereotype to fight.  She argued that any librarian that is teaching needs some knowledge of the background theories, and suggested that HEA Fellowship may be more valuable than CILIP chartership for some library professionals.  We need to know the language of teaching if we are to work in closer partnership with academic staff.  The current economic situation can be seen as an opportunity to collaborate more, develop more online services and make more use of social media within a library context.  Jo Webb continued this thread with some background to options for professional recognition through the HEA framework, but highlighting concerns about a shift in policy that appears to exclude librarians from the Fellowship framework.  She argued that there is no dichotomy between HEA and CILIP qualifications- we have a dual identity as librarians and teachers.

Sally Patalong presented her experiences as student and later teacher of the PG Certificate.  Her recommendations are to observe other people teaching from as many different disciplines as possible, to get feedback from students and to keep evidence of everything you do to reduce likelihood of being cut!  After lunch we had some more interactive sessions, looking at the essential ingredients for teaching (Geoff Walton) and how we could use different types of space for teaching and training (Emma King).

The panel discussion at the end was great for pulling together the messages from throughout the day.  It also helped me clarify a possible topic for my masters dissertation – I'd really like to look further into the teaching role of the librarian and what should be included within LIS programmes to prepare new professionals for this role.  I'd love to hear from anyone with suggestions on this!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Working Smarter 3: Fund-raising

At the Career Development Group conference last week, Kathy Roddy discussed the 3 Rs of Fund-raising: Relationships, Research and Recipients.  I found this speaker overwhelmingly enthusiastic and positive about the potential sources of funding and our ability to raise funds for our libraries.  She made it sound easy!

Relationships: "Fund-raising is friend-raising." We need to be out talking to potential funders, making sure to contact them by phone or in person before filling in the forms.  Asking if they fund this sort of project, and if they say they prefer to fund "y" then discuss other projects they may be interested in funding. People give to people they know, respect, know will do a good job.  It's also far easier to get money from people who gave before, so maintain these relationships!

Research: Find out who the potential funders are, what the need is for this service and what your outcomes will be.  If you can't prove a need or identify worthwhile outcomes, you won't get the funding you're looking for.  Remember that funders don't fund institutions - they want to change the world for the better.

Recipients: Who will benefit from what you do?  What are their needs?  Outcomes and impact are essential and we have to prove that we meet these.  Libraries change lives!  We need to convince funders that our projects are a massive investment opportunity that will change things for the best, who wouldn't want to invest in that?

The British Library is very good at tapping into the different types of funding streams.

Funding streams
  • Statutory
  • Lottery – Good to start with Awards for All, it's very easy to get this funding and not limited to charities.
  • Trusts and foundations – their job is to give money away, our job is to make it easy for them!  Look up Guide to the Major Trusts and identify the ones that might be interested.
  • Company sponsorship
  • Individuals – one-off donations, committed giving schemes, major donors.  Major donors are giving more than ever before, the only sector that's growing! Legacies are the most cost-effective method of fund-raising.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Blog search with Google

As I'm attending the Librarian as Teacher event next week in Warwick, I decided to use this topic for my blog search.  I found this site which pulls together e-learning resources.  It's disappointingly old for a top hit within UK websites - surely there must be more recent resources here?  It isn't a blog itself so I'm not sure why Google brought it back.  Other parts of the site appear to have been updated more recently though and I'm sure some of the resources listed will be more current.  Worth bookmarking anyway!

Working Smarter 2: Training and development on a shoestring

This is the second of a series of posts following the Career Development Group's national conference 2010, 'Working Smarter'.  Carol Brooks gave a great presentation on finding ways to further your professional development even if there are no funds available - it's our responsibility!  We should always be watching for learning opportunities and how they will benefit us.

We need to take a systematic approach, identifying skills that we need to develop and finding ways to fill these gaps.  Start by doing a needs analysis, then identify what you will gain from each training opportunity.  Training does not have to cost a lot - look for night classes, CILIP groups, workplace and other sources of cheap/free courses. Courses could be planned internally for staff and using staff skills and knowledge, meaning that the learning is much more specific to the needs of the organisation. Skills can be exchanged with another authority.  Special interest groups looking for a venue for training courses will usually be happy to reserve places for your staff in exchange.

If planning a course, don't start from scratch – tweak to make more relevant, but don't reinvent the wheel.  Consider how long the training needs to be - a shorter course may be more economical and more focussed.  If trying to convince employers to allow staff to attend, highlight the risks of not having the training.  Consider the various learning styles in developing the course.

There are lots of opportunities for CPD on the job, from shadowing and secondment to mentoring and coaching. Induction training is the most important  opportunity for an organisation and doesn't cost much.  Everything the new employee learns during induction will be specific to your organisation.  Never underestimate it and never cut it short!

I liked the suggestion of mystery shopping as a tool for customer service training.  Other good methods include learning hour (colleagues come together to hear about something you've been working on), learning sets (topic brought in by one person, everyone in the group contributes questions/solutions to the problem) and shadowing programmes (either at own level or more senior level). 

Learning resources
  • youtube
  • web2 applications – e.g. using facebook for learning sets
  • web-based emails
  • rss, discussion groups, blogs, twitter
  • professional press: read it, but also consider writing an article
  • professional networks: make friends and contacts
  • Forums: contribute and share ideas
  • committee work: attend meetings, perhaps take on a role
  • organise meetings, fund-raising events or training courses.
I am already very committed to my professional development and have made the most of working part-time to follow up topics of interest to me through conferences, blogs, discussion groups etc.  Just a couple of weeks ago I discussed the possibility of shadowing a colleague here in the medical library to gain an insight into cataloguing in an academic environment.  I have to confess that I could take a more structured approach to identifying skills gaps and filling them.  My first priority at the moment has to be completeing my MSc though!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

23 Things: Personalised Homepage

I have an iGoogle page that I used quite frequently for a while, but stopped in favour of using a bookmarks toolbar in my browser and links on my laptop organiser.  As part of 23 things I've taken a second look at iGoogle and really like some of the features they've brought in since I last used it.

The option of tabs didn't exist when I first used iGoogle, and is a nice way to divide the resources you may want to link to from a homepage.  I have set up tabs for procrastination and study, in addition to the 'Home' tab, and changed the theme.  I have added some gadgets, widgets and RSS feeds and rediscovered the joys of 'Frogger' in the process (although back in the days of our Vic20 I definitely knew it as 'Hoppit').

I then explored Netvibes, which I recently discovered through CILIP's Conversation page but had never used myself.  I entered 'library' selected a photo from a selection of related images and clicked a button to produce a starting dashboard.  Slightly disappointed that none of the images reflected the IT dimension of libraries these days - a photo of the new library of Tallaght would have been lovely, but never mind.

Netvibes ran a few searches on my behalf and pulled the information into one place for me with very little work on my part.  I can easily add and remove content to make the results even more relevant to what I am looking for.  I like the layout, with tabs along the top and information from various sources presented in separate blocks.  I can see the value of this resource especially for educational contexts, where different tabs could represent different subject or research areas.  I also like that there is no requirement to sign up fully to use this service.  I also had a quick look at Pageflakes, which seems similar to Netvibes but requires subscription before setting up pages.

I think that, of the three, iGoogle is probably most suitable for personal use, especially if you use other Google services already, since you can use one log in to Gmail, iGoogle, GoogleDocs etc.  Netvibes would be particularly useful for presenting information to targeted user groups, and it would therefore be worth considering using it within the library context.

Working Smarter: The hidden costs of meetings

On Monday, I attended the Career Development Group's national conference, Working Smarter: making more of an impact with less, a really useful day with some very inspiring speakers.  I'll highlight some of the points that stuck from each session in separate posts for ease of reading/reference.  The event was kindly tweeted by @bethanar (#cdg10) and I believe the presentations will be linked from the CDG website.

Susie Kay: The hidden costs of meetings

Meetings serve a purpose, but in some organisations more time is spent in meetings than doing other work!  This means that there is very little space for flexibility if something urgent comes up.  If running from one meeting to another there is no time to process what was discussed, little time to follow up on required actions and not enough time to prepare for the second meeting.

Susie Kay suggested looking at electronic and other alternatives to meetings - I particularly liked the suggestion of having running discussions displayed on large whiteboards around the organisations.  I know of another organisation that does it using post-its on a particular wall - simple but serves the purpose!  Discussion boards on an intranet can also be used, and should be managed by a particular person - not necessarily at management level.  There is, of course, the fact that staff still need to make time to read this and some will be more diligent about following the conversations than others.  I think a certain amount of chasing and drawing in might still be required using this approach.  Other options such as conference calls were mentioned, but these are more open to technical problems.

Messages: If someone suggests that a new recurring meeting is needed in your organisation, consider whether a meeting is really necessary, and if it is, whether it really needs to be as long or as frequent as proposed.  A five-minute 'scrum' every day may be more appropriate than a weekly meeting that lasts all morning.  If you do have a meeting, keep it on track! Start on time, stay focused and don't discuss anything that is not on the agenda - note those issues for later discussion.  Most importantly, ensure that everyone knows at the end what the conclusions were and what they need to do as a result.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The blogging begins!

For those who know me and how much I love RSS feeds for keeping on top of information, it may seem strange that I've never blogged myself.  I've resisted it so far for a number of reasons - never liked the idea of having an online diary, unsure about putting myself out there electronically, certain that other people have more interesting things to say... the list goes on.

Why the change of heart? I've been to a number of CPD events recently and the 'reflective practitioner' idea has been sinking in for a while.  I know I've benefited from reading posts by other new professionals who use blogs to reflect on their own experiences.  Now we're doing 23Things at the medical library at Cambridge, so I thought, why not?  So I've started this blog mostly as part of this programme, partly for the fun of it, and who knows, maybe I'll continue long after I've finished my 23Things.

In case anyone's interested, here are some blogs I've found interesting/useful:
Oh, and of course,