2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Aliss Summer Conference 2011

Aliss organised a one day summer conference around the topic of Social media, Libraries, Librarians, and Research Support held on 20th July 2011. When I saw the programme I knew I wanted to attend as it promised to be an interesting day and indeed it was.

First up was a talk by Jeremy (aka  Jerry) Jenkins ( British Library) with  the engaging titles “#LadyGaga’s Breakfast: Social media as a curators tool”. The title for his session came from a blog providing advice on twitter for academics.

Jeremy suggested that there were three responses to social media: Ban it, Tolerate it, Make it compulsory. Currently the BL, like a number of organisations does not have a separate social media strategy and it can come under the remit of Communication and / or IT strategies. In some ways not having a formal strategy for social media was liberating, there were no constraints and it was possible to explore what social media tools could be used to enhance Jeremy’s day to day role as a curator. Though other speakers during the day felt having no social media policy was a barrier.

At the moment the BL use:

  • Blogs – started blogging 5 years ago and there are 17 active blogs. They used to have more but feel that blogging is going out of favour and people are blogging less. Not sure if I agree with this, as a relative newbie to blogging I think it seems like people are still active and with programmes such as CPD23 which are encouraging blogging. Perhaps Jeremy meant organisational blogging was in decline…
  • Facebook – used for 3 ½ years and over 32,000 likes
  • Twitter – there are a small number of followers on Jeremy’s feed but it means more focussed messages can be disseminated
  • Youtube
  • audioBoo

Jeremy made reference to Modus Cooperandi’s 10 Principles of Social Media and gave useful advice on what to consider when using social media

  • what’s the message
  • who’s your audience
  • what the best medium to use
  • Time – when to send the message? What is the commitment to keep things up-to-date?
  • Future Proof – when happens when you’re preferred tool is no longer available?

Next up were Paula Anne Beasley & Linda Norbury who presented “Advocating Professional Social Networking to Academics” about a project they had undertaken at University of Birmingham. They surveyed staff within the faculty of Engineering & Physical Sciences and found there was a knowledge and skills gap on web 2.0 technologies.  They were keen to remedy this, demystify social media and demonstrate how these tools could benefit academic staff in their teaching and learning. Results from the survey were used to inform training content and the session was offered to 31 members of staff. However they found they were not able to cover all the content they had wished as they found the level of IT knowledge amongst the academics was lower than anticipated. Feed back from academics about the training session was that they had managed to take away the fear factor. Instructions were produced and although they need to be updated the intention is to make them available on an opensource.

Alison Wootton, the Accessibility and Inclusion Adviser at Jisc RSC West Midlands, gave a whistle-stop tour of the support they provide to enable e-learning to be embedded in teaching and learning. The advice and guidance Jisc RSC provide is primarily aimed at further education and they will loan out accessibility kits, which include iPads, video cameras and Sony e-book readers, to learning centres  for a period of 4 – 6 weeks. They have produced guides on how to make resources more accessible and made the delegates aware of EduApps, open source software which offer support with writing, reading and planning as well as sensory, cognitive and physical difficulties.  There is one college in Birmingham which has installed this on all their PCs so it is available to all.

After lunch there was a session from Miggie Pickton (University of Northhampton) who gave a very thorough talk about the web tools that are available to a researcher at each stage of the research process and this session consolidated the Netskills webinar I attended a few weeks ago. Miggie has produced a handout for researchers and made suggestions about what tools to use for searching, collaborating, communicating, disseminating and keeping up-to-date. What became apparent is that my knowledge of what’s out there needs to be improved. I know I can’t know about everything but I need to up my awareness levels and try things out to see what works for me, what’s fit for purpose. Miggie also reiterated what Jeremy had said earlier in the day that web tools come and go so it’s important to have exit strategy for when they stop working.

Final presentation of the day was from Sarah Oxford (University of Worcester) who spoke about her experiences of using web tools to collate and share information with her learners and researchers.  Sarah started investigating web tools to look at how to get information out to distance learners and part-time students and as a way to engage with academics as she was new to her Liaison role. Initially she started using Delicious, but began to find it unwieldy as her bookmarks and tags grew, and Ning but this became a subscription service. Now she uses Netvibes and flavors.me as a way to rationalise all her links and these are publicised on her email signature, business cards, at Boards of Study, and official documentation. I think Sarah’s approach is really interesting but I’m unsure whether it would be possible to adopt these strategies here to promote resources as these web tools don’t meet university standards with regards to marketing /branding.

In the plenary findings from a survey conducted by Emerald & UCL were also presented by Heather Dawson (on behalf of Anna Drabble, Emerald). This study looked at the impact of Web 2.0 on the workflow of a researcher and they were asking essentially ‘does  social media mark a watershed in the research process?’ but found ‘not really’. Academics still seem to want to disseminate their information and research in a traditional way, through academic journals. Interestingly though, at the LSE, whether Heather is employed there is a move to get things published on blogs seen in the same standing as things published in journals.

I found this one day conference really interesting and informative. Aliss put together a good programme.  I also tried live tweeting, and I don’t think I did too badly on the old event amplification, if you excuse the rogue spelling, sometimes forgetting to include the hashtags…

Copies of the presentations can be found here & here and there is another review of the day by Judith Thompson.

Netskills webinar: Supporting researcher engagement with social tools

Today I attended (if that’s the right word) my first webinar entitled “Supporting researcher engagement with social tools”. The session was presented by Alan Cann (Leicester University) and hosted by Netskills. When I first logged in to the webinar I was concerned about whether I would be able to follow the discussion as there was a webcam of Alan, the slides and a chat box where participants could post questions or comments. When attending a conference I am always in awe of people who can listen and tweet at the same time, I am yet to master this skill. Despite my inital concerns I was able to keep up and what followed was a really interesting discussion on how, through the use of social media, researchers can improve the quality of their work as these tools facilitate their ability to find, use and disseminate information.  Alan and some colleagues at the International Centre for Guidance Studies have written Social media: a guide for researchers which hopes to enable people to make informed decisions about getting the most out of social media. They took quite a broad definition of social tools, covering these aspects:

  • Communicative (e.g. twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Collaborative (e.g. Delicious, CiteUlike)
  • Multimedia (e.g. Flickr, Second Life)

(for a full list of what they classed a social media go to page 7 of  Social media: a guide for researchers).

Alan presented some case studies of researchers who feel that using social tools has made them better at what they do, using them has become  an integral part of their working life which has resulted in to name a few; effective data sharing, information being found much more quickly, networks are established with respected individuals. In  fact one participant of the webinar cited an example where she has had a proposal, which was written in collaboration with someone they met on twitter – they have not met face to face -, accepted.

There was a discussion about the differences between visitors and residents of social media. Alan suggests that some people feel like they don’t have anything relevant to say or contribute so ‘lurk’ on the parameters of these tools.  Sometimes I feel like that, a lurker, reading blog posts and not commenting, not tweeting in response to a discussion and this is something I need to redress, hopefully in part by participating in #cpd23, it’s a confidence thing.

There was also a look at some of the criticisms levelled at social media; privacy, banality, work-life balance. It was nice to see a couple of people comment that they don’t mind the banal aspects as it makes the person seem more ‘human’ and can give an alternative perspective on that person’s life , their ideas and motivations. (Good to know when my tweets are probably high in the banal quotient ).

Alan also talked about good and bad networks and I think this is the key thing I am taking from the webinar – it’s not about the social tools themselves, it’s about how they are used to create the right network, an effective network.

Library Assistants – their future role

On 1st June 2011 I attended an event organised by WESlink (West Midlands HE Library training group) which looked at Library Assistants and their future role. This was a manager’s workshop and a few months before the same session had been run with Library Assistants. The structure of the event meant there was feedback from the library assistant session, an update of changes that were occurring at Warwick University followed by small group discussions around what changes were happening at each institution and the (potential) impact on a library assistant; skills required, type of person needed, and what staffing models should be implemented.

In terms of the changes and challenges being faced by academic libraries it was a similar and familiar picture and below are some of things discussed:

 Wordle - library assistants

It was interesting to hear about the positive things that were happening at other universities, for example, the library at Newman University College is moving into a new building in time for the start of the new academic year and at Warwick they have developed an app for the iPad to record enquiries when staff are roving out on the library floor.

Concerns that Library Assistants have about their role were also talked about. A common experience was that when a library assistant left the role would not be filled or the post would be changed to term-time only. At some places students were being employed to participate in projects such as discards or to staff IT help desks. This begged the question of whether the days were number for a library assistant. To partly address this and develop the skill levels of library assistants some institutions have adopted a rotational approach so, after say 12 months experience in Document Supply the library assistant will move on to Technical Services or  Collection Management or another site to consolidate their knowledge and experience. From my experience this is a good thing, when opportunities arose for me to move departments within the library I took this up and it has given me a good overall view and understanding of working within an academic library and how things fit together.

I think the main thing I took from the discussion is that there are exciting but unsettling times ahead working in libraries. I have been following some of the #SLA 2011 tweets on twitter and there were two comments I read today which resonate with this WESlink session I attended:


@annenb Getting rid of librarians because everything is online = getting rid of accountants because everyone has a calculator on desk. #sla2011



If I could sum up the common message of most (or all) of the library thought-leaders I’ve heard speak, it’d be… #sla2011 (1/2)

 (2/2) Libraries & librarians are actually on the cusp of an incredible opportunity, so let’s not stuff it up, & let’s be BRAVE. #sla2011


Things have changed, things are changing, things will continue to change and staff who work in libraries and information need to be flexible, adaptable, forward thinking and accept that change happens (which can be difficult), so change within an organisation needs to be communicated well, managed effectively and sensitively.

Libraries and Facebook

Yesterday I attended a WESlink event which was looking at the changing roles of library assistants. Representatives from local universities talked about what changes are being made in their library and what impact this is having on the skills, knowledge and experience of a library assistant. One area discussed was the use of social media, in particular Facebook. The general consensus was that people were uncertain about how useful Facebook was as a tool for libraries to use with someone describing it as ‘when your parents turn up to a party you’re at uninvited’. Cut to this morning and catching up on meeting minutes I learn that our library is interested in having a Facebook presence. So I wondered what other university experiences were & posted a question on twitter “Calling academic librarians: does your library have a facebook page? how has it been rec’d by students? Thank you”. Lots of people asked for a collation of responses so here it is and if I get anymore I will be sure to add them.

University & response

  • University of Brighton

No, difficult being split site. Do we have one for each library or for the service. Something for our comms strat!

  • University of Wolverhampton

Yes have FB page

  • University of Sheffield

Yes have FB page, work in progress, used for basic information but had a number of check-ins so looking at developing the page

  • Specialist library

Not yet, We’re multi-site with v different users + seeing if fb or tumblr would work better.

  • Bodleian social science library

Yes have FB page, no of ‘fans’ has been slow but steady, not much interaction from them, a few likes/comments.

  • Montana Tech

Yes have FB page, Lukewarm so far. Wonder if it’s not cool in our institution’s culture to “like” the lib page? Working on promo ideas.

  • Swansea Met

Yes, set up in the last week and have 36 followers so far, a good proportion of those are students

Thank you to those people who responded and the retweets.

How I got into Librarianship

This blog post forms part of the Library Routes project started by Ned Potter & Laura Woods. I’ve meaning to write this for some time, ever since I attended the New Professionals Information Day back in October 2010, so not too overdue then… At every talk the presenters emphasised the importance of enjoying what you do and many discussed the creativity, variety and flexibility that working in libraries often affords reminding me in some ways of why I wanted to work in libraries in the first place.   In fact much of the advice given was not new to me but was worthwhile being refreshed.

So how did I get into libraries…

I could start with how I worked in the library at secondary school for my last year at school one day a week but I can’t really remember much about it (‘twas 16 years ago!). While studying for my A’ Levels and it came to making choices for UCAS librarianship came up but I decided to opt for Psychology (for various reasons I needed to live at home if I went to university and there was only one local library course so I was advised not to choose this). So in the year 2000 Psychology degree complete, uncertain about what I wanted to do but knew I wanted to use my degree in some way so I got a job in a secondary school supporting students with learning difficulties. After a year there I did my PGCE and taught A’ Level Psychology for three years at an FE college.  Whenever asked what I did at the time people would always say something along the lines of “Oh teaching at A’ level… I bet that’s better than working in a secondary school… the students will be motivated… they’ve chosen to study” and each time I would need to de-bunk that myth.   Those three years were pretty stressful and by my third year I knew I needed to be doing something different. But what? I briefly flirted with the idea of teaching at degree level but that was quickly dismissed. I was still eligible to access the university careers service from studying my PGCE. These sessions were really useful as it helped me decide that I wanted to work in libraries. The transition from teaching to libraries was not a smooth one though and I found it difficult to get my foot in the door. I left FT teaching in August 2005 and spent the next few months applying for jobs and not really getting any interviews, all quite demoralising and at times made me question whether I’d made the right decision. Then I’d remember how I’d cried on the way to work because I really didn’t want to go in and that strengthened my resolve. I started asking for feedback on my application forms so I could improve my personal statements and make sure I was hitting all the criteria with explicit examples. Staff selecting in academic libraries seemed used to this and gave some useful tips. As a result of one conversation I signed up to do ECDL so I could prove my ICT skills. Staff in public libraries seemed surprised I would ask for feedback. I didn’t get shortlisted for one public library job as I had not put I could use a telephone (they rang me to tell me this). I arranged to shadow librarians at two academic libraries and an NHS library which confirmed I was making the right career choice. These things helped and I got a couple of interviews for PT work on Saturdays as a Library Assistant at local public libraries and then… I had two jobs to choose from. PT work was obviously not ideal but I had my first library job, yay!   Around the same time that I’d been offered my job in the public library I was also offered FT work as a Personal Adviser for Connexions. It was a busy week as I’d had three interviews in the space of as many days. I took up both roles at the start of 2006 and was working 6 days a week. I was really enjoying my PT  library job but not so much my role at Connexions (I’d been based in a pupil referral unit) so continued to look for other library jobs. I’d applied for a job in July 2006 as a Library Assistant at UCE, four weeks came and went so I assumed I’d been unsuccessful. Then in October 2006 HR rang and asked if I was still interested in the post and whether I’d like to attend an interview, “yes please”. I was interviewed for both FT and PT posts and was successful in gaining a FT position and started as a Library Assistant (Serials) in January 2007. I’ve been at UCE, now Birmingham City University, ever since. My roles have changed in that time and before becoming the Serials Librarian (my current role) I also spent time as a Library Assistant in Document Delivery. Moving around and gaining experience in different departments has given me an overview of working in an academic library and certainly helped when I was completely my MA Information and Library Management which I studied via distance learning.

Are you being served? – ALPSP Conference

“The big deal is the best thing since sliced bread” Dirk Haank, CEO of Springer Science and Business Media

Haank made these comments in the January 2011 issue of Information Today but after attending the ALPSP  ‘Are you being served?’  conference a few weeks ago it appears that many from the library and publishing world would challenge this remark.

My understanding of big deals is perhaps limited compared to others. To give some context I work as a Serials Librarian and have done for just over a year and my predominant focus has been print subscriptions. The post has now relocated to the eLibrary team and now I am attempting to inhabit two worlds. I have not been involved in the setting up of any big deals for my institution but my awareness of their restrictiveness came from completing my first renewals process last summer when I had to inform some Collection Management colleagues they were unable to cancel certain titles because they formed part of a big deal package. Nick Lewis (Library Director at UEA)  one of the speakers described it as “irresponsible”  to continue to sign these big deals because of their lack of flexibility and that libraries and publishers need to work together to develop new business models. This idea was echoed by Chris Bennett (OUP) who suggested that deals need to move away from being linked to print subscriptions and this is one of the problems I have come across.

Big deals were brought up periodically throughout the course of the conference but it wasn’t the main focus. Instead it was ‘shared services’, looking at how librarians, publishers and intermediaries can work together to make services sustainable in what are difficult and challenging times.

There are a number of interpretations of shared services but JISC (2008) has defined it as:

“Institutions cooperating in the development and delivery of services, so sharing skills and knowledge, perhaps with commercial participation”

Louise Jones from Leicester University gave an interesting talk about the considerations that need to be given when addressing shared services including “What shared services should be developed?” and “Who do you collaborate with?” as there may be various options:  Locally  Vs. Regionally Vs. Nationally Vs Internationally Vs. Other sectors.

There were also talks on some examples of shared services with updates on the following projects:

SCONUL shared services; KBART ;  & JUSP .

 What was apparent was that for shared services to be successful there needs to a culture of collaboration and the system needs to be supported by all levels of the institution.

Sharing services also raises concerns about how a library maintains its ‘brand’ and reputation.Marketing libraries is something which needs to be developed and it was suggested that perhaps we need to draw on the experience and expertise in the publishing world to help build the library brand.Another potential threat to shared services is the competitive advantage that will become more prominent as universities charge higher fees – could this mean that institutions pull away from shared services and lead to fragmentation? Anne Rossiter (SCONUL) suggested that to minimise this we need to be clear about what services we are sharing (ie tasks which are duplicated or repetitive) and clear about where there would be local differentiation, thus helping with the brand recognition. 

 Another key theme throughout the day was about how we can add value and Return on Investment (ROI). Ann Lawson (EBSCO) looked at it from the subscription agent point of view outlining their role in adding value through, for example, outsourcing basics, providing better licensing terms, making more content available. Whilst Carol Tenopir (University of Tennessee)  condensed nearly 30 years of research and experience into a 30 minute slot! Carol’s research focus has been to look at how to measure the value of academic libraries through implicit, explicit and derived (ROI) measures, thus providing evidence that library collections contribute to income generation such as research grants. Carol is now involved with JISC  & 6  UK institutions to conduct similar research here and the findings should be collated Summer 2011 so it will be interesting to see the outcome.

All in all it was a full programme, giving me the opportunity to see how shared services are developing.

A slice of Birmingham

The International Office  at the University have a great blog aimed at international students and hopes to ‘ provide information from the university and it’s support networks to living and entertaining yourself in Birmingham, giving you the chance to learn more about the opportunities and experiences the second largest city in the UK can offer you’

Library and learning resources have also added a few bits of useful information to the site, raising awareness of the Student Living collection and a brief tour of Kenrick Library.  There is a wealth of information on the blog and some really interesting contributions from current international students about thier experience of living and studying at Brimingham.

Why blog

I have been blogging for a number of years and have found it an effective way to keep a record of activities, explore new ideas and share experiences. With the abundance of widgets its also now a lot easier to pimp up your blog to hopefully enhance or possibly distract from your posts.

I hope this blog will provide a useful method of communication for the eLibrary team to communicate about the projects they are involved in as well as share anything of interest they come across.