Monday, 31 October 2011

Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events

Attending conferences
The benefits of attending conferences are endless; from learning about new things and keeping up with stuff going on in your professional community to making the most of networking opportunities and forging valuable contacts. However, the downside is that these things tend to cost money. This is partly the reason why it has been a very long time since I’ve attended any. Even with discounts offered by organizing bodies such as CILIP, ASLIB and ARLIS, the costs can be pretty high. That said, if something came up that I felt I really needed to attend I think that my line manager would try and get it sorted.

The benefits were brought home to me recently when my colleague Kristine at Taken for binding went along to the very first Library Camp UK and came back with lots of new and interesting ideas. She has written a series of posts on the sessions she attended on her blog.

Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to attend some presentations and workshops organised by Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation [CLIC] and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Mostly they are presentations given by different kinds of Librarians in and around the South Wales area. In fact, the next one I am attending is this month and is on the subject of social media in libraries. CLIC events are very well organised but retain a relaxing and informal atmosphere and quite frankly, there’s nothing I like more than listening to other Librarian’s experiences especially when they work in a library so very different from my own. The great thing about these types of events is that they invariably conclude with a tour of the hosting organisation and I really enjoy a good old nose about!

This is something I have a serious problem with – speaking in public. I’ve always been the same. When I was doing my first degree we had to give weekly seminars to the rest of the class [only about 25] and I worked myself up into a right state over them. I struggled through but was always being told I rushed them and I got the most terrible headaches after doing them. Well, that was all a very long time ago and I have been fortunate enough not to have had to do anything like that since. However, things change and there will probably come a time when will be called on to talk publicly about my place of work and I would hate it if I had to cry off. I hope I’d be okay, I’m certainly not as nervous as I used to be and think that if I was 100% organised, I could get through it. I loved reading Phil Bradley’ article on speaking in public; it actually made me feel like I really could do it!

The exercise for this thing was to blog about experiences with conferences [which I have done] but also about organising them; which is something I have never done. I am a fairly organised person so I think I’d probably be okay [and enjoy] the leg-work but I can imagine that the actual event could be horrendously stressful but ultimately immensely fulfilling and exciting. Maybe I'll get the cahnce to organise something here in the near future, I do hope so.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The lonely red

This lovely little red is to be found in one of our many excellent natural history dioramas at the Museum. Now whereas most of them contain groups of animals, this little chap sits all alone with only a couple of toadstools and pine cones for company; and he’s old, seriously old going by those arthritic little claws. However, just across the way in the main diorama there are friends aplenty [a fox, three badgers and a stoat]; and we all know what happens in a museum at night don’t we…

Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / citeulike

I admit to not being familiar with any of these particular bibliographic reference tools and that in itself is a bit of a wake up call. In my defence though, during my first degree the whole course was hand written [yes, it was THAT long ago] and my dissertation was typed up by a friend [can you believe that?]. During my MSc [Library and Information Studies] I probably would have been able to use one of these tools or something similar but at the time I wasn’t sufficiently aware of them [I’ll never forget how difficult and time consuming sorting out the references was and I spent many a dark hour in front of the lap top on the verge of frustrated tears trying to catch and pin down that develish data as it swam before my eyes; happy days!].

As it stands, I currently have no need of this kind of reference management tool but I am more than happy to familiarize myself with it so I may impart the knowledge if needed. However, time is short and I am fully aware that there are some incredibly conscientious people that have actually finished the CPD23Things [yes FINISHED and ON TIME]; so for this reason, I am only going to look at one of these tools.

In order to choose I took CPD23 advice and looked at two citation reference comparison documents; the first by Martin Fenner was quite helpful but the comparison table on Wikipedia was just too much for me [take a look for your self – far too much information in one small area]. Next I watched the three introduction videos and from these I ended up choosing to look into Mendeley [although I thoroughly recommend Library Wanderer's witty [and well written] post extolling the delights of Zotero].

According to the Mendeley website, it seems to cover all bases with regards to general referencing needs plus I also found this informative comparison table. I think the free space is a tad limited compared to some of the others but to purchase an upgrade is reasonably priced.  However, it is limited in that it’s a desktop application only and there were comments on the website asking if there were plans afoot to introduce a portable version. The next step would have been to download the free version but since I have no need of it at present and time is of the essence, I’m leaving it there.

Incidentally there is another good post [in two parts] discussing Endnote, Zotero and Refworks on the Cambridge 23 Things blog here.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

The only one of these three file sharing tools I am already using is Dropbox and this has been primarily for personal photo sharing and it works very well. After looking at the other two I find Dropbox to be the most straightforward. The idea of an independent platform for file sharing would be very useful if I were to embark on a new project which I’m sure I will at some point. When I was writing up my MSc thesis it would have been great as I kept everything on a memory stick and along with always forgetting to put it in my bag I also kept uploading photos that exceeded its size capacity. The good thing about Dropbox is that it can be used simply to store files; you don’t have to have them all on share mode. So with this, I could have kept everything on file and ready to use and I would have had the added security of it being downloaded on my desktop and backed up on the web. However, I have only recently noticed that there is a 2GB free storage limit which would quickly be eaten up with multiple images.

Google Docs seems to be almost exactly the same as Dropbox but I’m sure there are small differences. However, Wikis look to be a little more involved, almost like creating numerous mini blogs which could be very useful. I do plan to contribute to the Library Routes Project and that will give me some Wiki experience.

For the time being I will continue to use Dropbox but now [thanks to CPD23] when the time comes I am now familiar with other file sharing services.

Friday afternoon suntrap

When a sunbeam hit the Librarian's spider plant it almost looked like a firework going off

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The forgotten robin

Isn't he lovely? I found this forlorn [and ancient] looking robin in a quiet corner of our newly refurbished Clore Discovery Centre and in amongst such shiny newness it looks like someone forgot to collect him. Like Bagpuss in the shop window…

Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

This is the one Thing I have not been looking forward to as I’m quite ANTI social media generally; however, that mostly relates to my personal life which is not on discussion here [thank heavens]. No, as far as using social media for professional and work purposes, I am finally coming to the realisation of just how beneficial it can be. Therefore, this post will mainly cover my experience of social media as a tool used for 'professional purposes' rather than an active tool for career develpoment as promotion of one's workplace is in essence, promotion of oneself.

I started off by reading Debbie Raven’s CILIP article with interest; she discusses how the images of sites such as Twitter and Facebook when used for work purposes have changed recently and are now seen in a more positive light. Moreover she says that by being part of what she calls an active community of practice helps the individual’s professional development. She mentions the research carried out by Karen Butterworth in LIS professional’s use of blogs and the surprising statistics this has unearthed [e.g. 54% regularly reading blogs with only 5% never reading them and 93% reading LIS specific blogs]. These LIS professionals saw this activity as a practical strategy making their daily networking and information-gathering tasks more efficient. However, on the downside Raven comments on the fact that there are still many libraries that do not encourage such activities in the work sphere and [apart from the odd tiny bit] I am not actively using these new social media tools during my work day but I hope this might change soon.


I also read a few Thing12 posts by other CPD23 participants and found those by Dark side of the catalogue, Palely loitering and Taken for binding not only very well written but also encompassing a lot of what has been my experience with social media so far. For me personally, the most amazing benefit [with regards to social media] from CPD23 is the access to a vast melting pot of like minded professionals who are all sharing their experiences and opinions via their blogs. The majority of them are streets ahead of me but that’s okay – I’m constantly learning about new things and picking up tips all the time. Secondly, I am really starting to get into my stride with Twitter but it has taken time. I didn’t take to its immediacy and transient languages straight away but have persevered and am now starting to Tweet about LIS and work related subjects instead of just replying to others and re-tweeting [although I am also enjoying a bit of Downton Abbey chit-chat J]. Thirdly the very act of writing these posts about my library experiences has given me [as an LIS professional] a new confidence and relevancy I have been [in the past few years] sorely lacking.

 I have only signed up to the very minimum of the social media tools covered during CPD23 but I can honestly say it is only because the time I can spend on this course right now is very limited and not because I couldn’t be bothered. That said, I also need to remember to use them when I do get the time and I can give you two examples of missed opportunities over the last few weeks. Firstly, we [that is my Library] were on television – prime time Welsh news [BBC Wales Today]! The Librarian had been contacted by the BBC and asked if we had an early Welsh map [yes just a fewJ] so he brought out a Humphrey Lhuyd map [published 1573 and showing the original county boundaries] as they wanted to show it in relation to a news story on recent new Welsh county border shifts. So he was filmed with said map along with two other members of staff working dutifully by [I was on leave - another opportunity for stardom missed]. Now, the Librarian did tell me about it two days before the piece actually aired, ample time for me to have a good old Tweet or blog about it but did I? Err no. The next example concerns the Librarian again, this time giving a lunch time talk in our lovely shiny new Clore Discovery Centre [on Powys: Land of Castles?] which by the way, was full to capacity. Now again, I knew about this talk months in advance but did I Tweet or blog about it? Err no. That said; I am getting better and only last week I Tweeted [in good time] about another talk given by the Librarian [on Siege and Destruction at Raglan Castle but this time at St Fagans: National History Museum] and you can see it in all its glory if you care to follow me at @SquirrelLib. I did sign up early on to follow Stephen Fry on Twitter but he posts so many Tweets and it was taking so long to trawl through them I had to “unfollow” him; am now concerned I have committed a sacrilegious act of epic proportions.  

In conclusion and with regards to personal career development, my blossoming relationship with social media has made me feel, on the negative side, a little "exposed" but on the positive side, more "visible" and I think both will do me good.