Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Going Google - five gmail things

My workplace has "gone Google" today - moving staff and faculty over to use the same Google services that our students have been using for several years.

Personally, as a Google girl, I've been looking forward to the move, but some of my colleagues have been a bit nervous in anticipation, and adjusting to any new work flow, even an improved one, is change, and change can be hard. (I automatically opened Outlook about a half-dozen times this morning, before I deleted the pinned icon, because that's where my work mail has lived for years, and it's going to take a few repetitions to re-program that automatic action as I think 'email', for one thing!)

I thought it might be a good moment for a blog post, though, so I can note down what I'm doing as I 'move in', in case that's of any use to anyone else, but also because once you're in to your customised version, it can be hard to remember what the default experience is, and I may need to refer back.

Thing #1 - Conversation view. I kind of love conversation view, but I know plenty of other people who loathe it. If that's you, it's probably the first thing you notice about gmail, hence Thing #1.  There is a setting to turn it off.

You can access the settings screen via the little 'daisy' in the top right of your mailbox, with a down arrow next to it. (I think it's a stylized cog, actually, but almost everyone I've had to talk through a gmail screen over the phone recognises it as a daisy.) Click on the down arrow, and choose 'settings'. You're looking for an option about half way down the first, 'general' settings tab - there's a radio button to toggle Conversation View on or off.  

Thing #2 - Inbox layouts. Actually, while we're on that settings page, the other things I tweaked on this page were:
  •  Show "Send &Archive" button in reply - toggle to yes (default is hide). Once I have got auto-labelling working fluently, this becomes the most elegant way of 'finishing' an email - especially if you run (or aspire to) Inbox Zero. 
  •  Set email signature (this didn't get brought through from our old system, so needs to be re-set.) 

Thing #2 - Inbox layouts. (Settings - Inbox tab) The default setting us one giant list of everything. I prefer 'Priority Inbox' which shuffles out a) new unread email that is marked as 'Important' (the auto-filtering takes a little bit of training, but once trained does a good job), then b) things you have starred then c) everything else. There are a number of other options, too - just Important and Everything Else, if you don't use stars, for example.

Thing #3 - Labs. (Settings - Labs tab) Labs are a number of extra tools that Gmail makes available as options, while deciding whether or not to incorporate them into the main gmail experience for everyone. There are some really useful little tricks in here. I turn on:
  •  Canned Responses  (which I've always thought sound great, but had no use for in my personal mail)
  •  Google Calendar gadget (to get a quick view of my day's appointments on the mail mail screen) 
  • Mark as Read Button  (which just saves a few mouse clicks, but does so multiple times a day)
  • Quote selected text (another tiny time saver)
  • Smartlabels (although I may turn this back off - it's less obviously useful here than on my personal account) 
  • Undo Send (which gives you a few seconds to go 'Nooooo!' and summon the email back from the ether. Go back to 'General' once you've saved the Labs changes to set the time period for this one.)
  • Unread message icon (which I hate for my personal account, but suspect I will find useful for work.) 
There's also a 'Preview Pane' option here, for those who prefer that layout for reading their email.

Thing #4  Filters.  Filters are the quickest and most reliable way I know of to get auto-labelling to work well, where there are standard rules about how you want labels applied.  In my case, I typically want, say, all emails from the handful of people who I email with regularly about our LMS (and vanishingly rarely about anything else) to be labelled as "ND LMS", so I have set filters (Settings - Filters) with rules that email from Alice, Bob, and Cindi should be labelled "ND LMS" automatically, instead of my needing to manually do that each time an email comes in. (A little bit of work now, time savings every time and email comes in in the future.)  The easy way to slowly build these up over time is - every time you get an email that you think should be the basis of a filter, you can click on the arrow next to the reply icon, select 'filter messages like this', and set that up  (it defaults to the From address info - I have filters based on subject lines, and sig file text in my mix as well). I make pretty liberal use of the 'Always mark as important' filter action as well, which feeds back in to the way I have my inbox set up.

Thing #5 - Labels.  Gmail replaces Folders with Labels. For more recent stuff, this works very smoothly, but it does expose the mess that the previous systems 'after 3 months we automatically move things to deep storage' made of my record keeping!  The bulk of it, I'm just going to have to hide under the file tree, and trust to Google's search capabilities, because it isn't worth the time to re-set, but some things I really did need to fix up.

It's worth knowing that you can bulk change all the emails with a particular label by clicking once on the edge of the label name, and selecting edit. You can't directly merge labels  (so I can't change "Managed Folders ND LMS" into just "ND LMS"), but there is a work around. It is kind of fiddly and involved which is why I am only doing it for a minority of folders where I know I will regularly search by label, and need archive things to show up without having to remember to include both "ND LMS" and  "Managed Folders ND LMS" in my search criteria.  These instructions are pretty clear, although instead of their step 5, I'd insert a step 3.5 which would read  "If you have more messages under the label than can be displayed in a single screen, you will see the message "All 20 conversations on this page are selected. Select all conversations in [name of label]" - click on "Select all conversations" to do exactly that."  That saves the whole 'rinse and repeat' part of their instructions and will save you hours if you have a few hundred emails to re-label.  

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Notes on an essay

Earlier this week, I turned in my first academic essay in over a decade. Back in September, I started a part time MA in British History, and I've been really enjoying my return to being a student so far. Now that the first module is done, it seems like a good time to reflect on how the experience is informing my library work.
1) I knew this in theory when I applied for the course, but full time work and part time study makes mastering time management a key core skill. Fortunately, I've spent the time since I was last in the classroom building up those skills and habits and routines, and a toolkit that includes reflection and re-evaluation which means I am in the habit of asking myself "is this tool / technique / habit still working for me", and adjusting my course as needed. Knowing myself and my work patterns has been a huge help as well. Now, here's hoping I can keep this up!
2) Talking of tools, Zotero. I may be just a little in love here. Not just the being able to keep track of citations, although *not* having to hand type pages of footnotes and bibliographies is, of course, great, but actually for keeping track of readings and notes along the way. Having everything rationally and flexibly grouped together, and being able to add notes and metadata and attach files, and have the whole thing sync to the cloud and work on every machine I use, regardless of OS ... I ended up with a folder for class readings, and one for my research essay, with an entry for every book / article / website used, which had the biblio, the pdf for articles and the book chapters I had ILL'd, and a note in which I had typed up my notes on the item, and also kept any quotes I might want to use (with page numbers, bien sur). It's building out of my old notes system, which was to keep a giant Word doc for each class, with all my notes and quotations and citations, out of which I could C&P ingredients for an essay, but far, far more flexible. As I am already into my next module, and there are a couple of books that overlap, I'm just adding a second note for "notes with focus X" and appreciating having my existing work easily to hand.
Did I mention it integrates not only with Word, but with Open Office? And behaves on linux? And it's free? I would plan on using this for my next personal research project, and possibly for CPD stuff, as well as for academic essays. I met Zotero briefly during CPD23, but didn't really have a reason to dig deep enough into it to really see how it could help. The other options I considered for the module were Evernote and Google Drive, and while I'm still a Google girl in general, I'm happy with the choice I made. Zotero is a tool I'll be recommending to students in the future.
3) ILL librarian's are *awesome*. Although it's important to ask specifically for the notes when it's a book chapter with endnotes. (Neither part of this is news, but having first-hand user experience very much re-enforces it)
4) I have even more sympathy than I did before with the students who respond to being told something is available as an ebook, with a sigh and asking if there's any way of getting it in paper. Access to a text is better than no access, hands down, but format does matter, and so many of the academic ebook services are, frankly, a pain to use. You have to be online to use them. They're expecting you to be on a desktop or laptop, and may or may not handle the screen you're actually using, let alone an e-reader. They've disabled copying text, so you have to hand-type the quote despite the fact that it's right there, in a format that is inherently copyable. There's the log-in hoops to jump through, and getting timed out at annoying moments. The notes and the text may not be hyperlinked to each other, and flipping back and forth is fiddly. The load time for each page - and the fact it won't just go ahead and load the rest of the chapter in the background - made me want to grind my teeth, and then there was the particularly charming moment where one e-book platform decided that the time it took me to hand-copy a quote was evidence that I was done now and "check out" the ebook to another user, leaving me suddenly facing a "this book is being used by someone else - check back later" notice in the middle of a sentence. (That last one was the subject of some rude words, not least because if the book had been available in any other format than a £75 hardback with a 3-week lead time, I may well have purchased a copy for myself!)
5) Electronic access is wonderful. Even given all the above, I'd take e-access over none any day of the week, and the range and depth available is fantastic. E-journals particularly are just a thing of joy, and there are some types of (basically narrative) history where my personal preference is to buy an e-book and save my spine from carrying the hardback back and forth on the tube. Ditto institutional repositories and Ethos. Worlds of riches!
6) Research skills help - obvious, but true. Time spent mastering advanced searches, subject bibliography tools, and going on library introduction sessions was time well spent, but not time that you'll want to spend as the deadline approaches. I'm not sure how to get this message across to students who haven't experienced it yet, but I'm surer than ever that it's a message worth trying to send.
7) Related to the above, doing those induction sessions was a great reminder of how confusing and intimidating unfamiliar institutions can be, even if you're familiar with the type of institution, and how much of a difference a friendly face can make. The value of every interaction in creating an impression of your library, from the signage, to the website, to the front desk to the in-depth conversation. How much it helps when people act like human beings rather than automatons. That making explicit the expectations about the use a space or set of resources helps people meet them, but may also make them feel safer in the space, and thus more comfortable (and more able to learn).
8) Research as play to steal a phrase. This stuff is fun. Deadlines, not so much, but the process - even the writing and the editing - can be.
I won't find out how I've done in this essay for several weeks, but I really hope I passed, mostly because I'm really enjoying myself, and I want to carry on doing this!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Soho at Dusk

On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to snag a ticket to one of the series of photography workshops that Foyles have been organising for their WeLovePhoto! mini-festival.

The weather was against us - no golden hour through all the grey cloud - and I was thoroughly outclassed by the other workshop attendees, but still had a great time, and came away feeling like I'd learned a lot. The scheduled workshop leader was unwell, so Anthony Epes stepped in (which was quite exciting, as I recognise some of his projects) and did a grand job of balancing the technical, the practical, and the inspirational.

It's always a good thing to have a framework for roaming with a camera, to be encouraged to look differently at familiar places, and I came away with shots I wouldn't have taken without his encouragement and inspiration. Good, also, to stretch at the edge of comfort zones - this being a street photography workshop, and photographing people being something I'm not totally comfortable with. Interesting overlaps and resonances between AE's comments and advice and Paul Clarke's presentation at OpenTech a couple of weeks ago.

Things I came away thinking about
  • - leading lines *to* something rather than through them
  • - fresh eyes, actively seeking the non-obvious photo (it's behind you!)
  • - that being quick of the mark can be crucial to capturing something
  • - that it's ok to look, and frame something up, and then conclude that it's not working and walk away
  • - that I need better technical mastery to get some (many) of the effects that I'm seeing in my minds eye. (eg this, which is closer to what I wanted than this - which also has its flaws, but is less a case of my intent not being clear because of the technicalities.)
  • - better kit might actually result in better photos - being surrounded by folks with very shiny rigs indeed I was very aware of the shots they were seeing and shooting for that were well outside my *cameras* range, never mind mine.
  • - that my style, such as it is, is all about the details!  
My photo set, with notes, is over here, if you'd like to see more. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Why am I a school governor?

Just got home from a day spent at the school where I'm a governor - we do two days a year where we visit in school, do lesson observations, training, hear presentations from members of the school team etc, and then top off the day with one of the regular governor's meetings. They're always long days, but so rewarding. This one was a somewhat awkwardly timed long day, as our summer school students arrive tomorrow morning, but I've come away inspired* and proud to do what I can to support an excellent school team.

Some of my colleagues aren't familiar with the term "school governor", and many of my friends were really surprised to discover that you can be one without being a parent or working in a school. I think this video advertising the role may be my new go-to answer to those questions, as it's a really nice, brief, intro (and the associated website is really useful if you're thinking about volunteering.)

When people ask why I became a governor, my first answer is that I think that learning is basically the most important thing that humans do, so I wanted to step up and put my time to supporting that. (I can also admit to a secondary reason: at the point when I signed up, it was a way of getting some CPD training that I didn't have to pay for out of pocket, at a time when I wasn't otherwise getting training opportunities. Fortunately, that's no longer the case.)

What I wasn't expecting was how much the work of being a governor itself would teach me and inspire me to explore.

To be honest, I lucked in to the school where I volunteer - many of my colleagues have long-standing relationships with the school in various ways, whereas I applied through the local authority's one-stop-shop and they're reasonably close to me and had a vacancy - but I have learned and continued to learn so much from being a small part of their community.

When else was I going to be involved in the recruitment panel for a CEO of a multi-million pound turnover organisation, or get up-close to change management, quality assurance, appraisal, and the quest for constant improvement somewhere that isn't where I work? The chance to contribute somewhere where asking good questions is the primary point of our presence, and to observe any number of teaching approaches in action. To experience a truly masterful chairman at work, to experience and experiment with team formation within a disparate group of people who don't get to be face-to-face very often, but all share a common goal, and to fine-tune all the skills that go with committee work and formal meeting etiquette?.

Not everything's directly relevant to my work life, but an awful lot of it is transferable to some degree. And I've played some small part in hundreds of pupils getting an really high quality of education, in an environment that values them as whole human beings. That's well worth a few days and a dozen or so evenings a year.

*Tonight's addition to my reading list thanks to some synchronicity between work and today's sessions in school.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Writing Britain

The British Library's current paid-for exhibition is Writing Britain, and I finally managed to get over to see it this weekend - less than a fortnight before it closes.

I'm so glad I managed to squeeze it in, because it's a theme that really resonates with me the relationships of between place and writer, reader and location. It's also full of absolutely wonderful things - they have a "top items" hit list that's so jam packed, even things like Jane Austen's manuscript of Persuasion don't make the cut!

There are some beautiful combinations presented - George MacDonald's The Gray Wolf paired with a 12th century illuminated manuscript depicting Scottish wolves and romantic depictions of Tintern Abbey illustrating Wordsworth's letter describing his pleasure in writing there. Fay Godwin's photos are such a deliriously perfect match for the Ted Hughes poems they're intertwined with, it was glorious to see some of them in large scale prints.

The 1400 book telling the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Night is something magical to anyone with an interest in folk tales or the Aurthurian myths.

Also magical for me were the manuscripts and editing proofs revealing the hidden process of the writing - one that struck me was Seamus Heaney's proof edits on a poem in his Station Island, which he almost entirely re-writes on the page (which I'm sure thrilled his editor, but being able to see where he tightened the phrasing, re-set the beats... wonderful stuff!)

The exhibition also makes us of the Library's extensive audio collections - it's well worth taking the time to put on the headphones and listen, especially to the poets reading their own work - John Betjeman reading Metropolitan Railway was an especial treat, and the location right next to St Pancras magnified the effect nicely.

London does loom large in the exhibition as a whole - not only is there a whole section of the exhibition dedicated to depictions of London (Kureshi's MS of Buddha of Suburbia! Neil Gaiman's Sweeney Todd!. Angela Carter's MS of Wise Children!) but almost all the "suburbia" section is Greater London, and there are plentiful mentions elsewhere - such as Victorian sci-fi After London and Ballard's post-apocalyptic London in Drowned World in the "Wilderness" section (although I'm not 100% sure I didn't see that same pairing in the BL's sci-fi exhibition) Beautiful as art, as much as their writing connection, Steadman's illustration of the white rabbit as a suburban commuter fretting about missing his train, and the poster of The Napoleon of Notting Hill also stand out.

The exhibition runs until Sept 25th - £10 adult, £5 for students - and if you can't make it, the accompanying book is also a treat (and is in the LUP Library, if any of my students are reading)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The best laid plans ...

change Just got back from a CILIP in London event on the topic "The best laid plans ...", which was essentially about not just dealing with change, but thriving on it, which is definitely relevant to me at the moment.

Ray Philips, from The King's Fund, was the speaker, telling stories about his experience leading their library through a whole raft of changes - a physical move, changing LMS, changes in management, which all sounds really familiar, now I think about it. (Two summers ago my big project was the move to a new LMS - Koha. Last summer it was the move into the new library space, and right now there's organizational re-structuring going on, and some significant staff turn over.)

It has been a remarkably affirming evening, in fact, talking with colleagues and listing to Ray, and remembering that - hang on - I am an agent of change! That's why, even though my job title hasn't changed in many years, my actual job is almost unrecognisable from when I started. The core of what I do - supporting teaching and learning - is constant, but the manifestation has changed an incredible amount. My goal is "better", through evolution, iteration, and inspiration, and change is pretty integral to all of those.

OK, so the LMS switch was change I sought, and the library move was change I was actively involved in, turning a potential negative into a positive outcome (a smaller library, but a better learning environment, plus space for more resources), whereas the current situation is more of the waiting for decisions from on high variety of change, but that doesn't automatically make it bad - and at the very least it will be different.

Change is not always positive, and even positive change can be exhausting and hard, but there are silver linings to be mined, and while there's life - and change is life - there's hope. (There, I've used my cliché allowance for the month!)

This evening's event did give me reason to pause and think about the small-scale change I'm involved in at the moment. One of our lecturers has revised his approach to his film class, and I'm supporting that by setting up a dedicated short loan dvd collection, which I've spent most of the last two days getting set up. Over the last couple of weeks I've taken several groups of students off on reflective photo walks, changing what we did and where we went each time. In the past month, I've changed how I presented at orientation, and the kind of orientation events I offered to both current cohorts of students, pulling on new ideas, and responding to the new realities and changes in the wider arrangements for those groups, and also had my LMS swap from an external hosting service to in-house support. So, in other words, change is everywhere, and in everything, and that's a good thing, because change is a pre-requisite for improvement.

I didn't come away from this evening's meeting with as many concrete new things to try out as I have from some of the other LIS things I've been to recently, but I have come away feeling energised and having had some of my core perspectives affirmed, so thank you, Ray and Team CILIP in London!

The only constant is change: let's try to make it change for the better.

* Photo by MICHALA LIPKOVÁ , used under Creative Commons, with thanks.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A snapshot of my reading list

It's the last week of the current semester, so the past ten days have been super-busy, and the next few days will be similarly full-on, but today has been the eye of the storm, and so quiet I actually got to take my full lunch hour, and start to get caught up on my LIS blog reading!

Here's a quick snapshot of the posts and articles which most caught my eye today:


Defining “Authentic Librarianship” | Peer to Peer Review | Rick Anderson  
"to me, authentic librarianship is motivated primarily by concern for those we serve as librarians, rather than by concern for our own agendas or preferences." 


Library Instruction Outlines | Portland State University (pdf)


My Five Blocks of Library Outreach: conceptualizing the engagement impulse | Brian Mathews
"That’s when you know you are on to something—when it becomes less about the library pushing it’s own ideas, but instead, evolves into collaborating with that user community for the benefit of all."


‘I Need Some Help Over Here!’ | Brian Mathews 
"Shouldn’t our conversations always be about improving the user/student/instructor/researcher experience? Their success is our success, yes?" 


A study of the information search behaviour of the millennial generation | Arthur Taylor
"The longitudinal study detailed in this paper evaluated the search behaviour of millennial generation students conducting information searches in a naturalistic environment... Research has provided little insight into how information behaviour differs on the Internet, specifically with the millennial generation, and whether or not previously identified models are appropriate. Results could provide the basis for improved information search process models which better reflect current technology and the generation of information seekers raised with this technology."

(there's something about the tone of this report that bothers me slightly, if I'm honest, but actual research on US undergraduate business students is not to be sneezed at. Although - data collected in 2007, report in 2012? Think of the impact of ipads, e-readers and the like, none of which were around when this data was collected.)


How Do We Want Students to Feel About the Library? | Brian Mathews
"If we think about these life-defining chaotic moments then the first semester of college has to be one of those key times. Leaving home, moving away, losing friends, independence, academic stress, pressure to succeed, opportunities for fun and romance. It’s a swirl of commotion. And it’s a perfect time for establishing a relationship with the library."

(switch out "first semester of college" for "arriving in a foreign city" and it's like he just reached inside my head and articulated something that's been brewing away in there for a while, about our program, and about the library.)


Yes, that's quite a high concentration of Brian Mathews, but I seem to like the way he thinks!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Teaching skills for librarians.

University Library, Cambridge Last week, the CDG East of England Group hosted an afternoon of presentations and workshops at Cambridge University Library, on the topic of Teaching Skills for Librarians.  I found it both enjoyable and really useful, so - this is going to be a long blog post! 

It may not always be obvious, but teaching is an integral part of many library roles. Every time we interact with library users or create spaces and resources that support learning and personal development, we're teaching. Many of us also teach in more formal sessions: whether it's as embedded librarian teaching colleagues how information management can transform their project, a formal class on referencing methods or information literacy skills, or basic orientation sessions for new students, we're teaching.

That said, teaching skills weren't on the curriculum when I went to library school, and I'm honestly not sure when I switched from thinking of library orientation sessions as "presentations" and student's asking about how to research their assignments as "reference interviews" to thinking about both of those sorts of interactions as teaching, but somewhere in the past mumble mumble years, that change happened. "Teaching" is often the frame I use now, and it's a skill set I'm always looking to improve.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Boxes of books

Books without a shelf It's Climate Week this week, as well as my students' Break Week, which gives me both time to finish boxing up a batch of books for BetterWorld Books, and a moment to reflect on how that partnership has worked out over the past couple of years.

I hate the idea of things going to waste, but de-selection is as important as selection in managing any collection, so there are always going to be books going out as well as coming in.

Way-back-when, dealing with de-selected stock took up far too much of my time - I was sorting stock for it's suitability for three different charity shops, coordinating deliveries and collections to get the stock over there, stripping covers to make 'dead' books fit for paper recycling, and then there was this whole shelf of books that I was going to get around to selling to raise money to put back into the collection "someday"...

Our arrangement with BetterWorld Books put an end to all that, and over the past couple of years the stock we've sent to them, rather than to landfill, has (according to the figures they just sent me):
  • Saved 40 trees 
  • Saved 5 metres cubed of landfill space 
  • Saved over 8,900 litres of water 
  • Saved almost 8,250 Kwh of electricity 
  • Saved over 1600 Kg of greenhouse gases 

Not bad, for a service that's also saving me untold amounts of time and hassle, and generating income to keep our Travel section up to date!

Honestly, I can't quite imagine how I'd have handled the heavy stock weed and simultaneous library move last summer without being able to just seal up the boxes and send them on their way.

BetterWorld Books was started by three Notre Dame students, and it's a nice thought that we're doing our part from Notre Dame's London program.

* Photo by nofi, used under Creative Commons, with thanks.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Day in the life ... #8

The new LUP Library It's Round #8 of the 'Day in the life of librarians' project, and I am still a solo librarian in a small academic library. It's week 3 of the semester, and fairly quiet - a chance to draw breath after the hectic preparations for and start of the semester.

- First thing - pick up the post (newspapers still haven't arrived) and do a quick walk through of the library, checking that all's as it should be. It's Wednesday, so I also need to re-set the catalogue and self-check machines, after their weekly maintenance shut down.

- check to-do list, voicemail, and email. Send a few quick emails to take care of things that can be taken care of in a few lines.

- collect and return the library items that were dropped back after I left yesterday.

- hunt down a full citation for an article that a faculty member wants added to their class e-reserve, and pass the request over to my colleagues on campus.

- Open the post, and process the one book that arrived this morning - and find where I made a mistake earlier this week. Two books with the same main title, same editor, but different sub titles, and I crossed the wires. Oops. Fortunately it's an easy enough fix, and they're both reference books that won't be needed until later in the semester, so it won't have caused anyone any problems, but still - oops. Having the subtitle field added to all the reports and screen which display title is on my wishlist, and this reminds me why!

- Phone the director of one of our summer programs to check a couple of details, and then settle down to a solid batch of preparations for that program. They won't be here until May, but the turn over is tight, and the program itself jam-packed, so being prepared is absolutely key! I emailed the faculty teaching on it earlier in the week, and most of them have got back to me with their preliminary requests. Set up budget lines to track expenditure, and compile a spreadsheet of the textbooks they'll need, to price up and decide what we can provide through our Textbook Loan program, and what students will need to buy.

- Run over to The London Library, to collect a book on behalf of a student who wants to get a head start on a research project (this is our local ILL service - they are a fabulous resource to be able to pull on, and lovely people to work with.)

- Pick up the days' newspapers, which have finally arrived, and put them out in the library - just in time for the student's lunch break.

- Discover that the two self-check stations weren't powered back up after they were PAT tested earlier. Fix.

- Answer a couple of student questions - London related rather than research related, but that's good too.

- Chat to a pair of students about their travel plans for spring break, and how they might find information and decide on an itinerary.

- Continue working on an annotated bibliography for a history class, which leads to ordering a couple of books to fill some gaps where the external libraries our students have access to don't.

- lunch time. I'm reading a novel to review for Whichbook at the moment.

- Back to the bibliography - it's fairly labour intensive, but it's a worthwhile investment as it both makes it easier for the students to find their way through our patchwork of provision, and enables me to be ahead of their needs in terms of adding to our own collection.

- Walk a student through using our self-check system. One of the nice things about my new office is that it's much easier for students to come and tell me if they're unsure about something!

- Today is the first quiet day I've had this year, so I'm taking the opportunity to blitz a couple of admin-type jobs that have got a bit behind through the busy start of semester. One was re-labelling and officially moving a stack of books from the Reference section back on to the open shelves, which reflects the changes in courses on offer. I focussed on getting the necessary books *on* to the Reference shelves before the start of semester, so it's good to finally complete the other half of the job! The other was checking up on the status of older orders, and chasing the couple of titles that should have been here by now, and updating the expected dates on a couple of others. Academic publishing schedules can be somewhat flexible ;)

- Do a final walk through of the Library - I need to re-stock the printers tomorrow - and collect up and return the day's returns (few though they are)

- Set up my to-do list for the morning (key items: some testing on an updated version of Koha, our LMS, and some detailed admin checking on information about next Fall's courses.)

- Finish on time, with almost all of today's to-do list checked off. It's close enough to the start of semester that that still feels like something of a novelty.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Fun with numbers

The first day back at work seems like an excellent time to check in on the circulation stats from last semester.

We made a lot of changes last semester - the Fall group moved into new student accommodation, the building hours here at the classroom centre changed, and my library moved from the 1st floor to the 3rd, into a very different space - so it's almost impossible to attribute causation, but still interesting to look for patterns. (I'll be getting the results of our general student feedback surveys tomorrow, and the comments there may help me figure out some possible whys.)

Pure circulation numbers confirm that one of my fears about the library move did not come to pass. If the move the 3rd floor had made the new library 'out of sight, out of mind', or too much effort to visit, you would expect to see a drop in circulation figures. The stats say, that didn't happen. Last Spring was our highest ever circulation semester, both in raw numbers and in terms of items per student per teaching week, and we didn't hit those highs, but both measures were higher this past Fall than they were in Fall 2010. There's always more I can do with promotion, advertising, and making sure we have good resources available for people to borrow, but there's no collapse in circulation figures that would indicate that the move was a major problem on that front. (This matches my observations about the space in use throughout the semester, but it's nice to have some numbers to back them up!)

Mondays were, unsurprisingly, the busiest days for all sorts of transactions - loans, returns and renewals - and I wonder if the pattern of Tuesday's being the second highest loan day, but Wednesdays being the second highest returns day indicates a lot of people returning books after 6pm on Tuesdays, which then wouldn't get processed until the next day. There's a fairly solid band of loans going out over the weekends - hurray for self-check! Renewals get a spike on Sundays, which I'd guess is people getting ready for a new week of classes, and Thursdays are a popular day for dvd loans - something for the weekend, I wonder? Travel book check out is pretty even across the teaching week, but non-existent on weekends, which makes sense, as that's when the readers of travel books are doing their travel.

* Photo by Cara Photography, used under Creative Commons, with thanks.

Monday, 28 November 2011


CILIP in London organised a pair of half-day training days a couple of weeks back, and I'm really glad to have been able to go - the afternoon session on copyright is the one that was the most obvious selling point to my boss - and did, indeed, confirm some things, clarify some other things, and lead to a flurry of action items on my to-do list, but the morning session on reflective practice was, I think, the one which has had the most impact.

It wasn't so much new news - although there was some of that - as hearing the needed thing at the right moment. At the risk of sounding like a hippie, of being re-enforced and replenished, and having the framework of the course and time outside of my everyday, to think about the question in the abstract as well as in the specific through the exercises.

I'm busy - we're all busy - and this year seems to have been a real exercise in stress-testing and load balancing, with major changes in buildings, processes, and personnel at work as well as everything that's going on in the wider world. I know, intellectually, that reflective practise and iterative improvement are powerful tools, but this session made it so concrete to me - the speakers' passion and kindness, and working the exercises - being given permission to spend five minutes to breathe and reflect and re-focus... I came back full of ideas and energy and enthusiasm, and have been making use of some of the framework questions as I've run into things since.

Also - to tie this back to CPD23, which I am still slowly, oh so slowly, working my way through - the idea of 'Communities of practice' resonates so much more strongly than that of 'networking'. Maybe it's just me, but 'networking' and 'contacts' seem cold, harsh, kind of slippery - a totally different focus than building and nurturing and growing a community, or group of overlapping communities, which in turn support and nurture us. That last - that makes sense to me.

The last CILIP in London event I went to was the networking evening they arranged for Thing #7, which was, I must admit, a total wash for me. I managed to put my foot firmly in mouth in front of two of the three speakers, and while I did give my cards to a couple of people who I got chatting with, never heard from them again. Getting together with a group of fellow professionals all interested in learning about the same topics seemed much more organic, and the personal nature of the Reflective Practise session in particular lent itself to getting to know people, so I feel a lot more confident following up with my fellow participants.

(Photo by Camille, used under Creative Commons with thanks)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Not a thing ...

Between the Facebook furore, and Avos' "upgrade" to Delicious which has essentially wiped out the carefully curated sets of useful open-web sources I'd assembled for my students, I'm not really feeling the cloud-based techno-joy this week!

(I *know* this is the risk we take when we commit our energy, our work, our words and pictures and communities to projects and products that will be bought and sold and monetised above our heads, but so often the opportunities are worth the risks, at least for a while.)

The Delicious thing could not have been more comically badly timed if they'd done it too us on purpose, though! The webstats say that the curated links master page isn't used that often, but, sure enough, Delicious manages to set all our links to private while it was busy loosing the tags, bundles and associated meta data, and I get two emails within a couple of hours from students who'd fallen into the newly created information pothole.

Those two students got a hand-picked list of resources (open web, subscription online, and physical) and hopefully the delay while I put the lists together didn't throw their plans too much. On the one hand, that's a better service: on the other, the hypothetical students who hit the dead links but *didn't* get in touch, have zilch.

Reviewing and re-thinking that curated-web sources section has been on my long range to do list for a while, waiting patiently in line behind my day-to-day job, and the One Big Thing project, and the slightly-more-urgent projects. It's just jumped up that list, somewhat. At least, reviewing the process has.

I'm not sure I want to invest the time it will take to pick an alternative and import my back-up file somewhere else until I've taken some time to review, and to think about how best my curating web resources might help my students find the information they need. Is this something I even need to do? What's the best way to do it with the tools I have now, vs the ones I had four or so years back when I started using Delicious because that was the best fit at the time?

The short term fix of just evaporating the links on our site, at least for the time being, is really tempting. If nothing else, to give myself time to reflect and review before I react.

* Photo by macieklew, used under Creative Commons, with thanks.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Small things

Small frustrations - seeing links to an interesting Google Search Education Webinar after the event.

The links all go to the Webinar page (because they were written before the event) - which dead-ends.

Would it be so hard to put the line "Presentation will be archived here" in the description, automatically, always, for every webinar, so that people don't dead-end?

I mean, I know I found that link to the archive in minutes, but I had to *assume* that there would be an archive somewhere to find it, and what do marketing people say about assume?

(Irony factor of mentally lecturing Google on making information easily findable - high. Yes, I know.)

It does prompt me - again - to keep trying to see our own online content without my background knowledge, to try and avoid leading people into similar dead ends on our, much smaller, scale.

And to find an hour to sit down and listen to the presentation.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

CPD23 update and things#8 & #9

I could have predicted that I was going to fall off the CPD23 wagon during August, but I have managed to squeeze in various bits of progress, though, as well as keeping all the other balls I'm juggling up in the air.

For example, I've given Evernote (thing #9) a good solid test run over the past weeks, and it's currently fitting very neatly into my work flows. Specifically, I'm one of team of three keeping our program's Facebook page stocked with several-posts-a-day about free and interesting things going on in and around London. Being able to stockpile webpages and articles in Evernote as I find them - whether that's at home, at work, or out and about using my phone - has been a real boon.

(I already did the 'taking photos of notices to remind myself' thing, so having my photos turned into easier-to-find-again notes that I don't have to transliterate by hand is also easy win.) I've got in the habit of titling each 'note' in that notebook with the date in YYYYMMDD format, so a quick sort by title pulls the events-happening-soonest to the top, and also makes weeding old notes out very easy.

Two other organisational tools I wouldn't want to be without are spiral bound notebooks, because I've yet to find an electronic to-do list manager that works for me better than my paper process, and Google Calender (thing #8).

I can't really claim Google Calender as a CPD23 discovery, though, as it's been about three years since I gave up on paper diaries, and started layering up Google Calenders. Being able to toggle various 'layers' in and out is a fantastic tool for me, for planning my time, for scheduling both professionally and personally, and for keeping track of 'things to have in mind' but which don't warrant a firm scheduled slot on my main calendar, but which I want to be able to layer in easily when it's appropriate. To be honest, I wasn't particularly sold on keeping my calendar online until a friend of mine pointed out that you could have *multiple* calenders, and that was the killer feature for me.

We also started using Google Calenders for program calenders for use with the public and with students just over a year ago - all our students are on Google Apps for Education accounts, so making it easy for them to subscribe to our program events, and the calenders relevant to their specific classes seemed like an obvious step to take.


As the new semester beds down and the teething difficulties with the new library get fixed, it's starting to look as though I might be able to draw breath, get back to blogging more regularly, and try and catch up with the program before it draws to a close. Here's hoping!

* Photo by Incurable Hippie, used under Creative Commons, with thanks.