Thing 8 – Curation Tools

Pinterest, Flipboard and Storify – I’ve used all three. Pinterest and Flipboard on a personal level. A Pinterest board for my friend’s wedding was so much fun. However, for work purposes I love Storify. Any organisation with a Twitter account should consider how they can use Storify to collate and curate tweets of interest to them. I’ve used Storify to create stories about conferences or events, and when I was part of an LAI group we used it to exhibit a twitter chat we had so that people who couldn’t participate at the time could still feel part of the conversation.

Unfortunately I missed the Rudai twitter chat (very disappointing) but I can’t wait to see how they use the Storify tool to put it all together!

We also use Storify in work. I think it’s a great idea for projects – create a hashtag and then collate all the tweets. It’s a quick win as it is very easy to set up but is visually appealing and accessible for stakeholders to see not only the work that is being done but also the interest the audience has in the work you are doing as it shows RTs and favourites.

If you’re using Twitter then I definitely recommend giving Storify a go!

I also love the idea of using Flipboard to create a magazine for young adults or children, I’m certainly willing to spend more time thinking how it could be useful in my domain.


When it comes to preservation of cultural heritage is technology friend or foe?

Last week I hated technology! Those that know me might be surprised because I usually have my phone permanently attached to my right hand, but having spent a holiday in Africa with limited access I’m becoming more and more interested in powering off from time to time and I’m far more easily irritated by all things ‘IT’. I was having a moment, my computer wouldn’t let me do what I wanted, and I didn’t want to see (or wait around for) any more emails. I wanted to go back to a simpler time, a time of letters, a time of less urgency about everything, back to when librarians were all about the printed word, bound volumes that smell like book mould. Ah, the romance of it all. But then on my walk home – reading from my smartphone (isn’t it ironic! don’t ya think?) I had a change of heart. I read about the ancient scrolls charred in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that are now being deciphered due to new X-ray imaging techniques. Technology can do wonderful, wonderful things. Amazing, right? I was back on the technology bandwagon – there’s so much opportunity. And we’re only really beginning.

Then this week I chose to forgo lunch to attend a public lecture in Trinity’s Long Room Hub. The lecture was entitled ‘Stewardship and Preservation of Collections in the Digital Age’ and was delivered by Cliff Lynch from the Coalition for Networked Information. Cliff was introduced by Trinity’s new Librarian, Helen Shenton and began by acknowledging that we are currently coping with increasingly unmanageable amounts of cultural records but then made us feel all warm and fuzzy about technology by explaining that it really can create amazing digital objects from physical things. So much so that the age-old skepticism of ‘there’s no substitute for the real thing’ may no longer be 100% true. Yes, physical objects that have been around for centuries are important and interesting but is it the object itself that is of interest? Or is it what that object can tell us? For those who browse museums, archives and libraries just to amble and casually cast an eye over one thing or the other then the physical probably is the important thing but for scholars, academics etc. the object itself is maybe not the important thing but actually what it can say – especially when we can date it, zoom into it and now link it to other collections worldwide. At the end of the day digitisation makes things more accessible while helping to protect and preserve these wonderful objects for the future.

But, (and of course there has to be a but) while we’re doing great things for the cultural heritage of past generations, what are we doing for the future historian that wants to study the goings-on of our generation. The problem with digital objects is that someone has to start making an intentional effort to preserve these. Physical objects have lasted hundreds of years, some with no help at all, others thanks to collectors and institutions that have taken it upon themselves to act as stewards and custodians of the past. Digital objects will not last in the same way. Technology is moving quickly, for many things decay will occur in the digital world far more quickly than in the physical.

Letters have become tweets, texts, posts and emails. How do we know what to keep? Video games, for example, are a relatively new phenomenon that need to be documented. Journalism which documents the political, environmental and entertainment landscapes, to name a few, may move away from print media. Music, books and images are being born digital. While this is innovation and progress at work – what happens to this born digital material in the future? And because these things are being born into the digital world the fact is it is far easier to restrict access and ownership. Licensing issues etc. mean that there will be no hand-me-downs, there won’t be ownership unless you are the company that effectively rents the items to the users. What does that mean for the future?

We need to ask ourselves – what constitutes cultural memory? What will remain of us? Technology lets us do amazing things right now but is the price that we will leave nothing of us behind for the future generations? I don’t have the answer and my feelings about technology are now even more conflicted, but as I like to ponder and contemplate the world around me that’s probably a good thing as it gives me plenty to think about.

Social Media: A blessing or curse for librarians and libraries?

Last week I tweeted a link to an infographic which looked at the role of social media in the recruitment process, particularly employer’s use of social media to screen potential candidates.

The tweet got a fairly big response with various attitudes towards the subject matter expressed.

Some felt that social media would take over from CVs, others felt that social media should be outside the realm of the professional and that it was intrusive of employers to ‘google’ employees. However, despite the infographic claiming that 43% of employer’s used social media as a reason NOT to hire versus 19% using as a reason to hire, the majority felt that social media offered opportunities rather than problems as long as people take the right approach.

I suppose the biggest issue in terms of social media is that you might say something inappropriate or offensive or post pictures of yourself that aren’t seen as being professional. Social media is something which has huge potential in terms of showing different sides of yourself to the rest of the world. I think the biggest piece of advice I could give is to decide the audience for each of your social platforms and then consider the implications.

The reasons employers gave for not hiring candidates were:

Inappropriate content posted online

Information about the candidate drinking or doing drugs

Bad mouthing a previous employer

Poor communication skills

Discriminatory comments

Lied about qualifications

Although you might hope that people would be aware enough not to post this kind of content (or lie in the first place) I understand there could be slip-ups when you might say something about a bad day at the office that might FBbe taken the wrong way.  Or, take for example, you are of the opinion that your Facebook is social and for friends and family only, you post pictures and make jokes that taken out of context could be off-putting to a potential employer. Or, perhaps your friends have a tendency to write silly comments or tag you in images. Employers realise people have a life outside of work but if they are looking for reasons NOT to hire then it is probably best that you keep you private life just that, private. There is an easy solution to ensure this does not happen and that is to make your Facebook private. There are plenty of how to guides on doing just that and there is even a feature that lets you see how your Facebook looks to the general public.

Twitter is a tfacebook.twitter button (1)rickier one as people may want to use it as a way to bring their opinions to a bigger audience using hashtags etc. Some keep their Twitter private but change settings in order to get involved in chats and for conferences etc. However, a good rule for Twitter if you don’t want to use privacy settings all the time would be this – if you wouldn’t shout it out in a crowded room filled with a mix of friends, family, employers and strangers, then don’t shout it out on Twitter. Essentially without privacy on Twitter you are talking to the approximately 241 million monthly active users. Any one of those users could be your boss, your colleague, the person you are about to meet at interview. Be smart!

There is the option of using a more anonymous handle and avatar but this means that all the great things you say won’t be attributed to you.

Facebook and Twitter are just two examples I have used because they are the most well known. These and other social media platforms have amazing potential to showcase why you are the perfect candidate. You can highlight your ability and your interest by the things you share and the discussions you are involved in. Being involved on social media also means you know how social media works; more and more libraries and other organisations are using social media for public engagement and engagement with their users, being able to use it well means that you have another skill employers will be able to utilise. On a personal note I have found social media to be extremely beneficial in terms of getting to know other librarians and in keeping up to date with hot topics and trends. I know many solo librarians who feel that it has really enhanced their job by allowing them to be a solo librarian but still have a sense of community and a network to engage with and pose questions to.

Libraries, including my current place of work, have been able to market their services to a wider audience and communicate in a quicker and easier way since they have started using social media. Yes, there has to be policies in place and procedures about how to use the platforms but as far as I can tell the benefits far outweigh any negatives.

Personally I think that libraries have a great opportunity to engage with users about social media. A lot of librarians use social media to network and keep on top of trends and have good knowledge about the area. Libraries could assist researchers in finding and sharing information through social media, perhaps look at the copyright issues that are becoming more of an issue because there is such ease in sharing information, help soon-to-be graduates to make the best of their social media profiles in order to impress potential employers and generally help students to be a little bit smarter when it comes to the big wide world of social media. There has been study after study in recent years about how digital natives aren’t necessarily as digitally savvy as you might think and you just have to have a quick look online to figure that out.

Some libraries have already gotten in on the action:

University of Leicester has information on keeping up to date using social media

University of York has a section on how to become a networked researcher

The LAI HSLG group have a link to a great guide to using Twitter for academics on their website. Created by the LSE Public Policy group but definitely adaptable for libraries.

Queen’s Library, New York have put together a Slideshare for those using social media as part of their job hunt – very relevant to students nearing graduation.

There is huge potential for libraries to get involved. Libraries have already taken the step of using social media to communicate and market so there is every reason they can get involved and help users use social media to its full potential both socially and professionally.

social media

I know a great deal more could be said about social media and its effects on our lives but I hope my thoughts are in some way useful and show how librarians can use social media effectively and without fear that the social will get mixed up with the professional parts of life.

New Professionals Day 2014

On Saturday the 1st of March I attended the New Professionals Day 2014 event in the John Paul II Library in NUI Maynooth. The day was broken into workshops and then ended with a very informative tour of the beautiful Russell Library. Many remarked at how serious we must be about cataloguing to give up our Saturday and I have to say it was most certainly worth the time and the journey to Maynooth.

In my current role I am involved in cataloguing older books, from as far back as the 1500’s, up to more recent books in our reference collection. When I began as a librarian I didn’t realise I would enjoy cataloguing as much as I do. There is something very cathartic in having such an ordered and logical approach, as is required when cataloguing, in order to maintain attention to detail. I wanted to attend the workshops to learn a bit more about other forms of cataloguing and I wasn’t disappointed because presentations by Grace Toland in the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Brid Dooley from RTE Archives were very enlightening in terms of cataloguing items that are not books. The presentations are well worth a look and are available on the NPD site here

I think people get the impression that cataloguing, be it books or other items, can be a boring and monotonous task but in fact there is a lot more to cataloguing than meets the eye. I have found that while cataloguing you have to be able to take on and manage various different things:

  • Language (Google translate can be a godsend when cataloguing books in Latin, German, Italian etc. etc. all in one day)
  • Data protection V Freedom of Information – This was highlighted very nicely by Captain Claire Mortimer’s workshop. More of an issue in archives than in libraries but I think it is good that she made the attendees aware of this. I have come across this in my current role where we deal with patient information and it is something that is of huge importance.
  • Preservation while allowing public access – This is especially important for older materials. The more information that you can give about an item in a catalogue record the more likely it is that members of the public can identify whether or not it is the item they need and this prevents the materials from being handled and moved if it is not necessary.
  • Time management – This leads on well from the previous point because you have to make as detailed a record as possible but be aware that there are constraints on your time, you have to find balance.
  • Indexing – At the end of the day it is about the user being able to find the information that they need to you need to use something that is relevant and understandable for the user.

There is a lot to think about and I’m sure others could add to this list.

I really enjoyed the final workshop of the day which dealt with rare books because I feel like it filled a gap in my knowledge. I still think that UCD should bring back a rare books module and possibly deal with the issues of digitisation and rare materials, but if groups like NPD continue to hold fantastic events and enlist such knowledgeable speakers then this becomes less of an issue, which is extremely helpful. Barbara McCormack, who led this workshop, then brought us on a tour of the Russell Library which gave us a great opportunity to see the items she had spoken about. For many people learning is a very practical and visual thing so incorporating this was a great approach.

Russell Library

Russell Library

Another notable part of the day was a tour around the new library in Maynooth. The building is a brilliant example of a library responding to the wishes of its users. The ground floor is open and collaborative with the addition of the bean-bag room where groups can work and discuss projects and ideas without the fear of the dreaded ‘shushing’. As you go upstairs the library becomes quieter with silent study areas on the top floor. This is a fantastic way of catering for all students and the different styles of learning.

The students wanted more power but less waste and the library has delivered by utilising green initiatives in an attempt to create a sense of balance.

There are full windows and planting that bring the outdoors into the students and this creates a great atmosphere in the building. My only gripe being that I haven’t had the opportunity to study there. Many thanks to Hugh Murphy for the tour.

A big thank you to all the presenters, Jane Burns (the wonderful MC) and all the organisers and helpers for what was a really informative day.

Unfortunately, my Twitter wasn’t working with me during the event but a fellow Class of 2012/2013 MLISer Shona has also written a great blog and added her Storify of the events.

Finding a balance

elephant-balanceThis is my first post in quite a long time and the reason for my lack of blogging is really that I haven’t been able to find a balance in my life. When I was doing the MLIS I threw myself in the deep-end and was happy not to resurface into my normal life until I was finished. I figured it was one year out of my life to concentrate really hard on one particular thing and that I’d get back to normal once the Capstone was handed in. I’m happy that I took this approach because I’ll be graduating with great grades but the thing is, once the Capstone was handed in there was a hundred and one things waiting that I had pushed to the back of my mind, and I had so many people to visit and hang out with before I was completely disowned.

I had so many plans to continue with my learning and to get involved in library organisations etc. but I became totally consumed by the parts of my life that I had abandoned while studying in the last couple of months. Plus, I had spent the summer volunteering and once I finished that I started straight into my internship. I was tired, too tired to build up the energy to make an effort. I think I let myself burn-out a little.

Now, I have realised how much I regret not sitting myself down and finding a balance sooner. There were things I wanted to do that I let pass me by and being tired really isn’t an excuse. Looking back at the MLIS I was so productive, whereas right now I feel extremely lazy and I think I allowed myself to make excuses for the past few weeks. There have been really interesting blogs and stories from the library world I have wanted to write about and my Twitter favourites list hasn’t been looked at in far too long.

So now I think I have to set myself some goals:

I want to write at least one blog-post every two weeks.

I want to set time aside for reading each week

I want to attend events and get more involved if I can so I am really looking forward to the CDG AGM.

I would also love to do a short course or MOOC (suggestions appreciated!).

The thing is though, I don’t want to dive in like I did last year. I want to have time for friends and family, time to read books (ones that don’t have libraries as the subject), and time to relax. I think this balance will be good for me and will make sure I don’t burn out early in my career and become a ‘zombie librarian’. That would be a disaster!

I love that I’m a librarian and that part of my job is to continue to learn, and to make sure I am engaging with other information professionals and what other organisations are doing. I want to continue to love my job and find my career exciting. And I think while doing this I need to have a life outside of libraries. I think balance really is the key.

The Hollywood Librarian

Yesterday, as part of the Heritage Week festivities, the Royal College of Physicians opened the doors of their Heritage Centre to the public and screened ‘The Hollywood Librarian‘ in one of their fabulous lecture theatres.

They described the film as one which “focuses on the work and lives of librarians, and promises to hold some surprises for people who may think they know what librarians do.” ID-100176170

Basically, the documentary uses clips from movies and clips of ‘real-life’ librarians talking about their jobs and their love of libraries. There is even a very emotional clip of a man who is speaking about how the library changed his life by helping him to become literate and able to open a bank account and hold down a job.

The film is very sentimental. Starting with reminding us that “humans alone can save their language” and that reading is also “a uniquely human privilege.” The ‘power of the book’ is illustrated as many movie stars read the opening passage of David Copperfield in various movie scenes. This importance of books runs the whole way through the documentary. Now, I love books so it does pain me to say this but I think the importance placed on books in this film is overpowering and the makes me feel as though the documentary was filmed in a very different era, not 2007. However, you can see where the film-makers are coming from, trying to tug at the heart-strings of the general public. They are trying to get them to reminisce about how they used to read as a child, how books can make the world a smaller, safer place and how they can educate and inspire you. The nostalgia of childhood in the library. (I must admit they got me with a clip of Matilda leaving the library with her red wheelbarrow piled high – I used to think Roald Dahl wrote it just for me.)

While I was a bit peeved at all the book references – one thing I really enjoyed about the film was that it really showed the growth in the stereotypical view of the librarian, ‘the bun-head,’ ‘the irritated shusher’ and the ‘bespectacled stamper of books.’ The first librarian mentioned is Hypatia, the Alexandrian mathematical scholar and lecturer. We are told of a time when librarians were revered and held in the highest esteem by those of the highest powers, working as trusted advisers and tutors to those in the top ranks. Then we move to more recent times, clips of the stereotypical librarian like the ‘spinster’ from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They bring us to the 1800’s when becoming a librarian was one of the few positions a respectable women could hold, alluding to the fact that this is why librarians are perceived to have a ‘proper’ or ‘no-nonsense’ air. We see women shushing, and stamping and shelving books.

Now in order to dispel these stereotypes, the film-makers included interviews with librarians talking about their jobs, programmes they run in their libraries and their attitudes about the profession. Unfortunately, as far as I was concerned they really didn’t make enough of this opportunity to showcase the work of librarians outside the world of public libraries. Again, I think this was because the intended audience was the general public, most likely to come into contact with a public library service but they really had an opportunity here to show that librarians are needed in healthcare, law, special libraries and other organisations. These various paths are mentioned but not really explained in great detail. For example, a medical librarian speaks about her frustration when people questioned the need for her to get a degree but instead of taking this opportunity to show how the information she organised or provided aided in patient care, they just kind of glance over this and launch into public libraries again. I appreciate that they are trying to show that there are so many aspects to a librarian’s role and so many avenues for librarians and their skills but I would have liked them to delve a bit deeper into how the work these librarians do affects people.

The work of public libraries is beautifully displayed, everything from programmes for very young children to develop literacy, to language skills courses and cultural events, to the development of peer literacy programmes in the a prison library. They also do a pretty decent job of explaining that a librarian does more than just catalogue information. They show how librarians can be the teachers, problem-solvers, business people and sometimes all in one day. Another very positive aspect was showing the strength of librarians against things like censorship and being fiercely determined to protect their readers privacy when faced with the Patriot Act.

There was a small amount of time given to information technology, a quick mention of an information architect (with actually a rather lovely comparison between information architecture and creating ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics) and a insightful moment when a librarian talks about how card catalogues were really the first hyperlinks. Really in order to focus on the work of librarians, I personally felt that this wasn’t enough.

Something which I hadn’t noticed before but that struck me as being very poignant in this time of financial crisis for libraries was that films that deal with the end of civilisation often depict a library in ruins. “The Time Traveller,” “Battlefield Earth” and “The Day After Tomorrow” are a few examples. I really understand this motif because to me the end of libraries is in some part an end to our civilised world. People talk about cutting libraries in order to save money but by doing this the are really taking the last resource away from the poor that really and truly need it. People without money need libraries for education, for a space to go, for access to the technology that unfortunately some people assume everyone has at home, and a whole host of other reasons. Closing libraries really does mean marginalising people and it would a backwards step for all of us. The happy ending of this film saw closed libraries re-opening after community support but this is an issue that is not going away any time soon and it is something we need to be aware of.

After watching this documentary I started thinking about stereotypes and how we can change them. My go-to librarian in TV world is Giles from Buffy because I’m a total Whedonite (and I’m mentioning him here because I was disappointed he didn’t feature in the doc at all). Anyway, wouldn’t it be great in a re-make of Buffy if Giles was digitising all those old books to make it quicker to find out what monsters they were dealing with (and you-know, store them in the cloud so that they don’t all just disappear when the Hell-Mouth opens.) I mean, House should have featured a librarian, where the hell were they getting all the info for their crazy diagnoses? (I volunteer to star in Grey’s Anatomy if they’re looking.) How many movies have we seen about lawyers and yet no law librarians sorting them out with the information?

Anyway, its a very interesting 96 mins and I would recommend a watch, especially with someone who isn’t a librarian in order to get their thoughts. If you do see it or have seen it I would love to know what you thought.

Final Reflection on the MLIS

I have mentioned in a previous post that I had done my research and I was prepared when I began this course but even still this year has been surprising for many reasons. After completing my English MA in 2009 I felt that librarianship was the next step for me but student loans meant working for a few years in order to finance another year in college. One thing I have discovered about myself in the past few years is that when I am determined to do something I will put everything I have into making it happen. Starting the MLIS was such a great day for me because after three years of working in retail I finally felt like I was doing what I am supposed to be doing. This feeling of being in the right place has remained throughout the year and the support from lecturers, fellow students, librarians and other information professionals I have met at conferences etc. has only served to convince me that I was born to be a librarian.

In the first semester I took on four modules, Information Architecture, Management for Information Professionals, Information and Reference Services and Research Methods. Information Architecture was a really eye-opening module and I found it fascinating because it was something far outside my comfort zone. It was the first time I really realised the extent of an information professional’s skills and how they can be used in different careers. In semester 2 I took on Digital Libraries, Research Methods 2, Organisation of Information, Cataloguing and Metadata, Contemporary Issue in Professional Practice and Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator. I had a class everyday and this semester was a lot of hard work and quite a bit of stress but I really enjoyed it because I really took a lot from the modules. Not to say that the first semester wasn’t very enjoyable but I found this semester I was truly immersed in the library world and I really began developing my thoughts on the profession and its future. I found Digital Libraries fascinating and it was a class where we were encouraged to read blogs and follow Twitter to follow the ever occurring changes and issues. Personally, I see librarians as teachers and collaborators so I really enjoyed my teaching module and I think that I learnt a great deal of relevant information in that class and the group work each week allowed us to be creative. However, it was my Contemporary Issues module that I was really encouraged to reflect and to go out into the world and attend events and conferences outside the MLIS bubble. This made the second semester very special for me because speaking with librarians and information professionals and being encouraged and supported by them means a lot to someone finding their feet and I only hope I will be able to provide that kind of encouragement to others in the future. There is so much benefit in having a network and I really appreciate the kindness and generosity of the library community.

I used to worry that my lack of work experience in libraries would hamper my progress in the course but I have learnt that my determination, hard work and willingness to learn and throw myself into new things is also very important in a career as a librarian. You have to be willing to adapt, ask questions and be aware of what you don’t know and find out. When I started I thought I was the opposite of tech savvy but after a few short months I can use loads of open source systems to create websites etc. I have used Google Sites, Omeka and of course, WordPress. Now I would love to do a Web Publishing course and I feel very confident that could master at least the basic of these skills.

There are a couple of things that I think would make useful additions to the course. I have mentioned I would like to see the Rare Books module brought back for those who are interested in Special Collections. Perhaps more collaboration between archives and SILS would be beneficial for both parties, where archivists could benefit from something like Digital Libraries and the librarians could get some archival expertise. I have just completed an environmental scan looking at copyright and DRM in the digital world. I feel like a module or at least some classes dealing with this would be very useful. Also, things like budgeting or proposal writing could be useful additions, even just some guest lectures by people with this kind of experience would be great.

At the end of the day I have gotten so much from this experience that I can’t even put it down in words. Like I have said, it’s been the hardest but the best year of my life so far and I sincerely appreciate all the people that have helped me get to this point. I especially want to thank my boyfriend Jono who is extremely supportive and helped keep me sane throughout the process. The next step now is the Capstone and hopefully to get some work experience over the summer to put my newly acquired skills to the test. I’m very excited about the future and although, times are tough, I truly believe this is the right career path for me so I’m more than willing to put in the hard work that is required and I know I’m going to enjoy every minute of it even when I’m stressed and tired.

So to sum up, its May, I’m finished classes and I’m exhausted, I’ve felt very stressed and under pressure for at least 4 weeks straight but I’m happy, I’m feeling prepared, I’m excited and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.