Monday, 24 December 2012

Squaring the Circle (#squaring12)

Last week I attended a one-day conference in Birmingham City University, entiteld Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand, decreasing budget.  This was probably the most useful conference I've attended in the last year, because the topics were all relevant (to some extent) to my day-to-day job, but not ones that I have already researched. Damyanti has already blogged her thoughts on it so do go read those too.

The first two talks were actually in areas that I don't have much to do with at the moment, but it's possible I would have in future.  KnowledgeBase+ appears to be extremely useful to anyone dealing with eresource licensing issues, combining information about historic agreements with current advice from the KnowledgeBase+ team to ensure that universities have the information they need to get the best deal possible, while the Journal Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP) aggregates usage statistics to help to inform decisions on which ejournals to subscribe to in the first place.

JUSP infographic

I had heard Paul Stainthorp talking about Phase I of the Library Impact Data Project before, so it was really interesting to hear Graham Stone giving an update on what happened in Phase II.  The results in this more focussed study still appear to support the idea that library use has an impact on grades attained, but goes into further demographic detail on the results from one university (Huddersfield), issues of retention and more.  The possibility of developing this sort of data analysis as a service to other universities was mentioned - it sounds extremely useful but I suspect they'd have fun trying to get the stats they need from our 100+ libraries in Cambridge! Graham's presentation is on the Huddersfield institutional repository, along with the methodology and lots of other interesting-sounding articles, must investigate further later...

The presentation I found most useful and relevant of the lot was Martin Fautley's one, which gave the academic's perspective on how the library could/should be involved in Faculty research.  There was an element of preaching to the converted - yes, as information professionals we have considered the difference between information and knowledge, at length - but also an interesting and useful insight into what we could be doing.  Some are already happening in the English Faculty Library (consideration of what makes a quality library, involvement in the REF, ensuring that we are spending time on the things that are most relevant to our users),  some we are taking steps towards (be more involved in promoting Faculty research) and some we do informally but not in the structured way described (booking all research students in for a one-to-one session with a Librarian - useful for library to know what research is taking place and for the student to get a better idea of the resources available in their subject area and training/support available through the library). One idea that we haven't explicitly used yet (but probably will now) was that of explaining the research process to undergraduate students. Why do it? What are they aiming to do in their dissertations? How is that similar to/different from what academics do when writing a research article? How can students start to position themselves in the field when they're not yet familiar with the key names and concepts? This last point rang very true for me - as mentioned previously I felt I was just reaching a sensible level of knowledge to start from when I had to start writing up my dissertation.

The last two talks related to ebooks.  Jill Taylor-Roe shared Newcastle's experience of introducting patron-driven acquisition of ebooks, and the impact this appears to have had on responses to student satisfaction with library services.  Ebook purchases are triggered when the same item is requested by three different users - Newcastle specifically sought a provider that could give this level of data so they could tell which subject groups were availing of the service.  There were some problems, such as the ebook being listed above physical copies that were actually available in the library due to richer metadata available from the ebook vendor. Their solution - to suppress the 505 field.  I'm curious as to what cataloguing colleagues would think of reducing the information available in the catalogue - or maybe they just excluded the 505 from the search process? 

Jenny Rowley finished by presenting some research on ebook promotion.  I thought it unfortunate that it was based on research from a few years ago and would love to know how much has changed since this initial research, but it's always interesting to see what techniques other libraries use to promote ebooks.  This sparked some discussion, with several people arguing that we should be focussing on discovery tools rather than on specific formats.  I don't disagree that we need to promote and teach discovery tools, but would argue that no matter what we do some individuals will have a preference for walking into a library and browsing the shelves.  I think we need to both promote formats and make sure the students have the skills they need to search for the materials in whatever formats are available.  I don't see how these two things can be mutually exclusive.  Besides, I can't say I found LibrarySearch+ particularly helpful in my own research - far too many results with not the most effective options to refine by. Think I'll personally be hanging onto those subject databases, with Web of Knowledge for the broader context searching.

I was very impressed with the overall organisation of the event too, maps, directions and wifi instructions (!) sent a week in advance, lots of extra library staff about at registration and any time we had to move room so there was no fear of getting lost (extremely welcoming and easy to chat to), talks organised so that they flowed really well from one to the next.  Just generally smoothly run and they seemed to have thought of everything, so a huge thank you to the staff of Birmingham City University for hosting us!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Calling new professionals in the East of England

Reposted from LISNPN:

I'm taking over from Charlotte (@lottiemsmith) as New Professionals Support Officer for the CILIP East Members Network from January... 

I'm really interested in hearing from any new professionals living or working in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, to make sure that you're getting the support, advice and networking opportunities you need.  You don't already have to be a member of CILIP, I'd like to get in touch with as many local new professionals as possible. 

I also have a Grand Plan, to be revealed next year.  Curious? I'd like to form a group from across the region and different sectors to get the ball rolling, so join that and you'll have a sneak preview of the idea and you can tell me if it sounds like it would be useful to you. 

You can contact me here, on Twitter (@niamhpage), by the CILIP East email ( or on the LIS New Professionals Network.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

#infolit discussion group update

I've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for this group, thanks everyone!  Sheila Webber has kindly set up a blog that we can use as a central point for this discussion group, and I've added an introductory post suggesting ways to participate (all thanks to suggestions from interested participants).  We have a Zotero group that's open for anyone to join, and we're tweeting using the tag #ILread.

Looking forward to joining the discussion!

Monday, 10 December 2012

LibTeachMeet update

I've just realised that I've been terribly remiss and haven't mentioned here a (fairly) recent publication:

Tumelty, N., Kuhn, I., & Birkwood, K. (2012). TeachMeet: Librarians learning from each other. In P. Godwin & J. Parker (Eds.), Information Literacy Beyond Library 2.0 (pp. 191–201). London: Facet Publishing.

In this case study, we present the TeachMeet concept, discuss how we adapted it for use by librarians and consider how this model is spreading beyond Cambridge.  In particular, we consider the role social media had in the inspiration for and organisation of these informal peer support events, and in the dissemination of information about the events once they had taken place.

I have submitted the pre-publication version to our institutional repository or you can find the prettier published version in a library near you!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Online #infolit reading group anyone?

I have done some research in the area of information literacy, but the further I got into writing my dissertation the more I realised I still hadn't read on the subject and the more I had to consciously put articles that looked extremely interesting but weren't directly relevant to my research questions to one side for later.

Now that I'm no longer tied to a specific research project, I'd like to get back to reading some of those other articles and books that I couldn't give time to before.  Anyone interested in joining me? I'm actually interested in user ed even more broadly, for example including the learning development stuff and technical/IT skills that might or might not fall directly into definitions of information literacy.

The plan would be to hold the discussions on Twitter and through blog posts and comments, keeping things as open as possible.  I've always wanted to join the Second Life information literacy discussions but have had so much hassle trying to get the programme working properly that I haven't yet been able to, but maybe we could also link in with that if the organisers don't have any objections.

I have some initial suggestions for things I'd like to read, but feel free to suggest more in the comments:
  • Badke's Research Strategies (reading at the moment)
  • Christine Bruce's Informed Learning (suggested previously by Susie Andretta)
Things I've already read but probably should be included as well for those who haven't:
  • Revised Seven Pillars of Information Literacy and the lenses that have been developed for it
  • A New Curriculum for Information Literacy
I know there were lots of articles too, I'll go trawl my Zotero library for possibilities...

Update:  Sheila Webber, Helen Blanchett and I are now running a blog-based information literacy journal club, aiming for one discussion each month.  Check out

Saturday, 8 December 2012

MOOCs - What's the big deal?

I have been following the discussion of MOOCs in various higher education publications with interest, but the debate seems to be lingering longer than it needs to.  The conversation always seems to come back to whether the MOOC will wipe out the university, and I just don't get it.

Did the correspondence course wipe out the university? Did iTunesU and lecture podcasts stop students actually enrolling on university courses? Did the availability of factual books in public libraries mean that nobody bothered to get a formal education? Of course not!

I know others have pointed out this fact before, many times, but yet another THES article suggesting soothingly that maybe MOOCs "needn't mean the chop for universities" drove me to state the obvious.

All of these things supplement formal education and are to be welcomed, maybe even learned from! For example, I've had a look at the Learn to Program course from the University of Toronto and it's really nicely done - video intros and very clear explanations, screencasts so you can see what they're doing, in-built evaluation to reinforce learning and all at a decent pace.*  This is what distance learning should be.

The reality is that these courses are a nice taster for a subject area, a useful way to brush up on an area that you have some experience in or a way to do free CPD.  If enough short courses were linked together in a particular subject with proper assessment models this approach could replace the physical lecture hall for some individuals, but that still requires proper investment and most students need at least some face-to-face contact for motivation purposes and to fully retain the information received.  Besides, I have a vague feeling someone's thought of that model of education already...

*I usually find technical training gets pitched at the complete computer novice or is geared towards the technical professional, with very little aimed at the reasonably technically-minded person with no real training but some basic experience to build on (= me!).

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

#Chartership chat summary

Thanks to everyone who joined in with the #chartership chat on Twitter this evening.  We hit on quite a few topics in the hour!

What stage is everyone at?
We had the full range, from people who are just beginning to think about chartering through to some who are finished and/or revalidating.  Someone asked about the introductory courses: watch out here for one you can get to.

General consensus seemed to be to look for someone from a different institution/role in order to get a different perspective on things and a neutral view. Some people were asking if it was still difficult to find a mentor in the East of England, but it was pointed out that the upcoming mentor training should help even if it's difficult at the moment.

How long after qualifying did you start preparing for Chartership?
This varied, with some (especially distance learners) getting on with Chartership while they're still in study mode while others prefer to take a break first.  It is possible to register for Chartership and start gathering evidence once you're finished the diploma part of the Masters.  I have ten years' library experience so it feels right for me to start with it, but I can see why with a couple of years' experience and then the full-time Masters many would wait. There's also the Pathway 2 option, which doesn't require a librarianship qualification, but you need to show that you're already working at a professional level and Chartership period is at least two years instead of one.

Would Chartership really help develop my career?
Pretty consistent response to this question - don't expect that Chartership=Professional post, but it is valuable for your personal professional development, getting practice at reflective writing and filling gaps.  All of this can make you a better candidate for positions that do come up.  The point was made that the Masters is now so common in at least one workplace that you need to charter to get an edge over others in the recruitment process.  Liz Jolly has said before (and confirmed during the chat that it was her!) that the Masters is seen as the theoretical basis for librarianship, while Chartership gives you the applied element. At least one person has change career direction as a result of chartering.

Areas for development (PPDP)
CILIP's Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) was recommended as a starting point for identifying areas to develop, although some found it vague, confusing and jargonistic so the promised sector profiles should help with this.  People have included a range of areas in their PPDPs, including user education/information literacy, staff development, cataloguing, leadership, marketing, finance/budgeting skills, social media/outreach, collection management, project management, coding/technical skills...

Chartership equivalents
One person was based in Ireland so is considering Fellowship of the Library Association of Ireland (FLAI) instead. It's also portfolio-based, and sounds very similar to Chartership.

Thanks everyone!
If anyone's interested in organising another one go ahead!  I'll link this blog post into the Chartership wiki in the meantime.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Introduction to #chartership

Yesterday I attended the chartership/certification course in Cambridge Central Library.  Although I have read most of the bits and pieces to do with it and have The Book sitting on my desk at the moment, I found the day really useful.

Particular highlights:
  • Time to think about the things I could include and more importantly what I should possibly leave out
  • The importance of showing how aspects of my professional development are important in my current role - a lot of the things I was thinking of including are additional to my job, but there are plenty of things I could use that are more closely linked to my daily work so that's one to think about
  • The importance of not overlooking the obvious - as MG said, of course I can do that!
  • Any time I find myself describing something in the evaluative statement, move that information to another part of the portfolio
  • Think about the mentoring relationship and how to get the most out of it
  • Set up a couple of possible visits - to Anglia Ruskin to see what Jenny's doing in the way of staff development and training and to MML to explore aspects of Hélène's role (similar to mine, but different library so different practices)
  • Met some very interesting people, including some to contact when I get into my role as New Professionals Support Officer for the newly formed CILIP East Members' Network
The best thing about these kinds of events is always the renewed enthusiasm though.  Better get on with it while that energy is still there!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Using Scrivener collaboratively

I have the pleasure of working on an article with Jo Alcock at the moment and thought this might be a good opportunity to try using Scrivener collaboratively.

There is no inbuilt support for this, but you can share the .scriv folder (Scrivener project folder) using Dropbox and edit directly from there. This means that any changes made will be synced across all computers working with the relevant Dropbox folder. Also useful if you want to edit your own work from multiple computers, of course!

Word of warning: Dropbox can't really handle having multiple people editing the same file at the same time. Their solution is to create a copy of the file to ensure that conflicting edits are not lost, and there doesn't appear to be any way to merge these documents afterwards.  It's probably best to stick to something like Google Docs (or Drive as they now call it) if you want to live brainstorm or are likely to need to work on the same project simultaneously.

If anyone can suggest alternatives that would facilitate version control I'd love to hear about them.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Scrivener as a #chartership portfolio tool

I mentioned in a previous post that I am using Scrivener as a tool for Chartership.  I thought a post about how I'm doing this might be useful for others considering it.

What is Scrivener?
Designed by an author, this tool is ideal for drafting and redrafting ideas.  It's available from the Literature and Latte website and a 30 non-consecutive days trial version can be downloaded if you want to try it out.  I heard earlier in the year that some of our postgrads have found it useful, thought I should try it out and immediately adopted it for my dissertation.

What do I like about it?
Break large documents into manageable chunks: this makes it easier to see how the portfolio will be structured and to jump from one section to another, rather than doing lots of scrolling in Word or working with multiple different documents.

Corkboard view: This allows you to see index cards for each section of a particular folder. You can then drag and drop to reorder the content - one of our grads does this at sentence level! - and label sections so you can clearly see how finished they are or what areas of development they apply to.

Scrivenings view: You can select different sections of the document to see how they would flow in a continuous document without actually reordering them.

Store resources in Scrivener: I've imported useful documents such as the Chartership handbook into the folder itself, which means that I can easily get at any relevant information without having to click out of the programme.

Side by side view: I can have the Chartership criteria or handbook in one pane while working on my portfolio in another.

Word target: You can specify that you're aiming for a particular section to be a certain length. Useful for the evaluative statement?

I'm a convert! I'm really still exploring it though so I'd love if others could chip in with questions or suggestions in the comments below.  All I need now is for them to develop an iPad version of it... and maybe integrate Zotero properly...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

#chapowrimo commitment

Many will be familiar with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and even Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo), but I'm not participating in either of them. Instead, I'm participating in Chartership Portfolio Writing Month (ChaPoWriMo), brainwave of the fabulous Helen Murphy and further explained by the lovely Emma Davidson in this blog post.  

So what does this mean for me?
I am committing to doing a little bit of work on my Chartership Portfolio every day in the month of November, or if I can't get to it one day I will do a double-dose the next.

This may take a number of forms:
  • Scribbling initial thoughts on particular items in my little blue notebook
  • Writing full reflections on this blog or in Scrivener, as appropriate
  • Organising my materials using Scrivener (more on that later)
  • Meeting up with other Cambridge-based Chartership candidates
  • Participating in #chartership chats on Twitter 

Speaking of which, time for another chat anyone? Specific topic or general chat?

Saturday, 20 October 2012

What next?

Me, until a week ago:

Brilliant depiction of how dissertation-writing feels by Kirsty Rolfe, via her blog, Avoiding the Bears. Click to enlarge.

But no longer! My dissertation has now arrived at Aberystwyth (according to the tracking service, but haven't had my confirmation email yet... hmm...) It sounds like I won't know how I did until March, so I'm working on the (hopefully not too foolish) assumption that I'll pass and celebrations have been planned.

So what to do now? The obvious next step is Chartership, so I've spent the morning looking through the paperwork and guidance from CILIP and re-reading Joeyanne's excellent blog post about it (congrats again on passing Jo!).  I met with my mentor when I was back in Ireland earlier in the year - it's really important to me that I keep links with the library scene back home and thought this would be a great way to do it.

Some may be surprised that I'm planning to go start Chartership so quickly, but I feel I have built up a lot of useful experience over the last couple of years, between my roles as Assistant Librarian in a faculty library and as Co-Chair of the East of England branch of CILIP, my involvement in TeachMeet and 23 Things for Professional Development, and various other bits and pieces.  I think it would be missed opportunity to let all of those experiences slide by without recording them properly and systematically.

So, who's up for a Chartership chat? Thursday 25 November, 8pm, on Twitter, #chartership. Past chats are available on the wiki, and I'm particularly interested in advice on where to start!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

It's been quiet around here...

...and for good reason! I made a decision near the end of last year not to write another blog post until I'd submitted my dissertation. Have I done that? Well, no, but although I have a long list of things to blog about there's one thing I really feel I need to reflect on while it's still fresh in my mind.

On Thursday I chaired my first proper meeting. [I've led staff meetings in work before, but that feels less formal, if you know what I mean.] Never one to do things by halves, my first proper attempt was a two-hour meeting sandwiched between two 1.5 hour drives (don't think I've ever driven more than an hour in a day, let alone three!) There were around eight people present at the meeting, plus three following remotely via Google Docs.

The Good
- Kept very well to time, finished five minutes before finish time
- Everyone in the room contributed
- Material, including most reports, circulated in advance, so people had time to think about issues
- Wifi worked, so remote participants were able to participate(!)

The Bad
- I forgot to specifically state that since the reports had been circulated in advance, officers should just draw attention to highlights and the bits for which they needed input of the committee. As a result, the reports section took longer than necessary.
- We had a second person lined up to field comments and questions from remote participants, but the interweb at the meeting room didn't like her computer so our poor secretary ended up valiantly fielding comments while taking notes. Next time, ask more people to bring computers so this is less likely to happen!
- Google Docs seemed to take a while to update and froze from time to time, so the remote participants were sometimes playing catch-up. We need a better solution. I don't think Skype video or audio quality would be good enough on library wifi, any better suggestions?

The Worst
- Three of us ended up rushing from a bank appointment around the corner, which started a full hour before the meeting start time. Anyone who knows me knows that I'd rather be an hour early than just barely on time! Luckily I'd gone through the papers lots of times and made sure in advance that they were in the right order so I felt less flustered by that than I might have done.

I think it went quite well, but definitely some improvements to be made. I'd welcome any suggestions from others at the meeting to help me to do better next time!