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Friday, 14 October 2011


It's no secret that I'm a bit of a fan of QR codes and the possibilities they offer.  For orientation this academic year we created a QR trail round Marylebone library to link people to further information or video clips (e.g. QR next to the self-service machine went to a video of someone using that machine).  When I get the time I will be reflecting on this and how it went (probably just in time for next year's orientation at this rate.....).  But this blog post I wanted to mention an exhibition I attended at the V&A (as part of MasterCard's Priceless London-which is brilliant by the way- attend one of their free priceless events if you can) entitled "Power of Making".  This exhibition, from the V&A and the Crafts Council, invites you to consider the role of making while marveling at the many curiosities on display such as a gorilla made out of wire coat-hangers, a wooden carved lion coffin and a six-necked guitar.  The bit that caught my eye though was 'QR U' beaded dress and necklace designed by Thorunn Arnadottir, a dress decorated with Swarovski Crystals beaded into QR codes.  See pictures and info here.  Queue a small group of slightly tipsy girls (MasterCard are very generous with their free bar) waving their smartphones around and trying to explain to the uninitiated what was happening.  Eventually we made the dress one work and stood round mesmerized by the accompanying YouTube clip.

However we were less-successful with the QR code pictured which was earlier in the exhibition and was supposed to link to the schedule for events taking place related to the exhibition.  Whether it was the unsteady hands or the code itself is unclear......

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Amazing, still it seems, I reached 23.....


Title inspired by Jimmy Eat World (23)....

So we've come to the end of the road and in this post I look back at the highs and lows of 23 things.  Firstly I have thoroughly enjoyed this programme.  I think most people know I am a big fan of web-type things and I do try and keep up with new technologies.  So although I had already tried out several of the things I still learned a great deal from 23 things.  This is mainly due to the fact that it allowed me time to look at these tools properly and assess them in terms of how I could use them at work.  I personally feel it is an extremely important part of our jobs to keep ahead or at least up-to-date with these technologies.  To do this we need to be able to have the freedom and time (a scarce commodity...) to try things out, to see the relevance (or lack thereof) of the different tools from the end user's perspective and to reflect on what worked and what didn't.  23 things has enabled us to do that and I intend to keep this blog to continue my reflection on new technologies that come my way and to set myself a target of exploring and reflecting on something new every month or so. 

I can see how these  tools can help in all three aspects which form the core of the work we do (resource development, teaching and learning, relationship building).  Particularly from the fashion courses I support I have noticed that academics are looking to me to help them with both the technical know-how of to use these tools and also in helping them understand how they can use them in their work and with their students.  This maybe due to the fact that I am already very passionate about web 2.0 stuff and have the confidence in these technologies to be able to help, but I can see how programmes like 23 things (cf. CPD23) can help in providing those less confident with further skills and experience.

One of the things I liked most about 23 things was reading other people's blogs, it was great to see what other fellow 23 thing-ers thought about each thing and whether their opinions on the tools were different or similar to mine.  One of the things I disliked the most was the lack of momentum, I know it's difficult sometimes when there are distractions throughout the academic year and I appreciate that people need time to catch up but I think often the pauses were too loooooong.  I would have liked to do a full 23 too ;)

Most useful tool that I discovered through 23 things: Technically not one of the "things" in iteself but something I did discover through doing the programme was Google Reader's bundle facility. It is particularly useful for something like this where you have a collection of blogs and it is likely that someone will want to subscribe to the whole lot in one go, rather than subscribing to each blog individually.  There are also advantages for creating bundles by selecting blogs on the same topic e.g. fashion and providing that bundle to staff/students to subscribe to.
Most fun tool: Probably LetterJames- despite not seeing the relevance of this when I first used it I have since grown to love its simplicity in creating original-looking images- it has now livened up many a blog post/Prezi of mine
Least useful tool: Create your own search engine.  Not enough added value for the effort needed.
Most frustrating tool: Can create great sites really simply but I spend my time willing it to be so much more.
Tool I find most useful for work: Twitter- it simply has transformed how I get my information about the profession, stay aware of current issues, and get updates from e-resource suppliers.  It generally is a brilliant tool for my professional development and awarenessAlso very useful in its ability to disseminate things I have learned on 23 things and drive traffic back to my blog!

So 23 things it's been fun, farewell and win me an iPad so I can continue to play (I mean learn).....


Picture: Champagne bar at St. Pancras taken by Ellie

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Thing 15: Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)

Have you ever noticed that 15 is the new 23?  I believe that this is our last 23 thing, I think the reasoning behind this is that on some of the "things" we have looked at more than one thing and therefore we have reached 23.  .....No, me neither.

So our last thing is Social Media, I have used all the three sites listed for this thing regularly so all I have to do is review them and my challenge will be to do so succinctly.

Weirdly I remember the exact moment I first heard about Facebook, I was in my home-town during the University holidays and friends at Uni at Oxford and St. Andrews were talking about being on Facebook.  When it first arrived in this country it was restricted to those two Unis plus Cambridge.  Then when I got my trainee job at Cambridge Uni, and with it a email address, I was finally let into the Facebook world and have not looked back since.  Not long after that it was opened publicly so I only had exclusive access for a very short while.  I have always thought of Facebook as purely social, I would never use it to find professional contacts and information and very rarely add people I currently work with onto Facebook.  Not because I'm particularly private, just because I prefer to draw a line between work and play, and Facebook is my "play"-time.  It is the site I visit most regularly on the web and I store most my photos on there.  I do tend to check-in to places and update my status regularly just because it creates for me a nice archive of things I have done, perhaps as a substitute diary.  I keep in contact with friends who I see regularly in the "real world" but also it allows me to stay in touch with people I don't, for any number of reasons, see regularly.  I have noticed in the last couple of years a drop-off of people using it but I can't envisage it ever being the wasteland that MySpace and Bebo became.  I know many libraries are on Facebook but I have always slightly agreed with the argument that for students it is their social space and libraries on there are like the embarrasing dad dancing at a party.  Having said that with the now not-so-recent creation of "pages" organisations can create, what seems to me, a more professional and more detached (as opposed to the smaller, more personal interaction Facebook groups affords), stand-alone site which students can "like" to get updates.  So maybe my position on Facebook needs a rethink and maybe we should be discussing it as another option in reaching our net wider and making ourselves more visible.

P.S. for anyone on Facebook who hasn't tried Museum of Me- do so now- it's brilliant!  Thanks to Allan for the heads-up on that.

I'm on LinkedIn but that is as far as it goes.  I have never really used it beyond having a profile and connecting to work colleagues, I have never really felt the need to use it as a tool with which to interact with people.  I did add a widget to my blogs on there and as I am connected to academics I suppose that is another network in which I am advertising my blogs.  It seems to often be touted as a great career tool so I would love to know if anyone has found a job through it, for example.  I suppose it is good to be seen on a professional network though and so I will continue to maintain my profile and look for connections. 

I am absolutely a Twitter convert and find it one of the most useful professional tools.  To start off with I didn't really see the value and didn't really get it.  But I persevered and I found it made much more sense to me firstly when I got it on my mobile (timely information is a bit limited if you have to wait until your signed in on your PC) and when I had started following a good set of people tweeting valuable stuff.  I do have a separate personal account but don't really use that much as not many friends are on Twitter, it's connected to my Facebook account so if anything it's just another way to update that.  I have done training sessions for several academics now who are starting to see the benefit of Twitter but aren't quite sure where to start.  The most useful advantages of Twitter I find are:
  • Current awareness for professional development.  I find now I use Twitter I very rarely use JISC mailing lists.  I follow many librarians on Twitter and through them I am kept up to date with most things that are going on in library world, it's a fantastic awareness tool to help with professional development.  It provides more breadth than I could get from mailing lists unless I subscribed to a lot more than I do currently and as they are just quick alerts I can choose to follow them up or quickly scan through them.
  • Crowd-sourcing.  As there are so many (helpful!) librarians on Twitter (amongst other user-groups) it provides a great pool of knowledge if you want to ask a question.  I have previously asked questions on the use of QR codes and have got instant replies.
  • Information from business sources.  As well as library related current awareness it is useful to keep up to date with what is happening in the business world and things I have read about on Twitter have sometimes formed an idea for a blog post on our business resources blog.  Most database suppliers are also on Twitter and it is useful to follow these for developments and news.  
  • Connecting to academics.  There aren't a huge amount of Uni people I am connected to on Twitter but it is one more network where I can interact with academics and tweet/retweet relevant pieces of information to them. 
  • Some Unis use Twitter as a sort of Ask-A-Librarian tool and I have also had a couple of my students tweeting me questions.  The University Twitter account monitors and responds to student queries.
  • Monitor what is said about your service!  Twitter search offers invaluable insights into what is being said about your service and gives you a chance to respond.
It's quite clear that different social media tools offer different advantages and that we shouldn't just embrace everything but select the right tool for the job.  I think the best way to do this is to start using the tools yourself to really evaluate what their value is and how they can benefit our users, rather than just dismissing social media out-of-hand. Next tool to evaluate: Google Plus!

Further reading:
I recently presented at a CPD25 event looking with Emma Woods entitled: ‘Follow Us On …: Using Social Networks And Technology To Reach Readers’, Emma and I talked about our blogs, Dave Puplett spoke about what social media the library uses at LSE and Tim Fletcher talked about Twitter at Birkbeck.  To see a write-up of the event and links to presentations see the thoughts of a [wannabe] librarian blog.

Pic: Tree of networks, Lower Benefield, Northants taken by Ellie

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Thing 14: Create a podcast/vodcast......did I?

Maybe I did speak too soon. I thought the video would appear embedded in my previous post, instead you have to click on the post title which isn't very clear but it will hopefully keep my video clip hidden..... Also just followed the Feedburner part of the instructions here but I already had set up my Feedburner feed so I was already off-road in terms of the instructions.  I changed the setting in FeedBurner to activate the smartcast settings but now I have no idea whether it works and I'm not sure how you know whether it works or where you subscribe to just the podcast element of the blog.  At this stage I am losing the will to live so before my Sunday is swallowed up completely I am going to leave it there.  Video clip: done, vodcast: who knows.....

Pic: Durham Catherdral, taken by Ellie

Thing 14: Create a podcast/vodcast goes....popcorn at the ready....hopefully this is the video clip I created talking about the move from InfoLinX to Library Search (I hesitate to say podcast as, unless I get much faster at doing this, this will not form one of a series of webcasts and will continue to stand alone as a video clip....).  It did take me quite a while to create mostly because I kept deleting previous efforts through sheer vanity.

I think it's nice to have a visual clip such as this on a profile page, for example, as an introduction to yourself or discussing a particular topic but I don't see huge merit in creating regular podcasts for students.  I have no evidence either way but I've never thought of podcasts as particularly popular amongst students.  While I was doing my Masters the only podcast I ever wanted to listen to was the Ricky Gervais show....but maybe that's just me.  While it took me quite a while to create the video clip I was pleasently surprised at how easy it was to upload it to Blogger so maybe a podcast tied in with a blog makes more sense, especially if the podcasts were, say, once a term.  I haven't yet moved onto the Feedburner part of the instructions so maybe I've spoken too soon.  Anyway hope you enjoy! (I'm going to look away now....)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Upwardly mobile....

Hurrah!  Just discovered that Blogger now makes it very easy to make your blog mobile friendly.  To make your blog mobile friendly just go to settings-> email & mobile, select yes to "on mobile devices" and save those settings.  To see the mobile version of this blog enter its URL into your mobile browser or zap the QR code below.

Pic: Lincolnshire from a balloon taken by Ellie