Wednesday, 31 August 2011

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


I don’t have a great deal of experience attending professional events, but I did attend the New Professionals Conference, both this year and last year. I enjoyed these conferences, particularly the most recent one, and came away feeling inspired and enthused. I feel intimidated by the idea of most conferences and events, but not the New Professionals Conference for some reason – I think because everyone’s in the same boat.

If you're nervous about attending an event, I recommend wearing something different or taking an unusual accessory in order to spark conversation. I took my teapot bag to the NPC this year and it worked - I got lots of comments!

I know I've posted this already, but it's so pretty...

I’m not really sure what else to write for this. Generally I would like to go to more events but I need to find the time and / or the money. I don’t actually work in a library at the moment so I’d feel a bit guilty asking for time off that wasn’t annual leave for an event that might not be directly related to my work.

As for speaking at an event, I hugely admire anyone with the courage to do this, but I could never get up in front of a massive audience and speak – the presentations I had to do as part of my MA were bad enough. Organising an event sounds more my thing – it would appeal to my personality and I’d prefer to take on a more ‘behind the scenes’ role. So this is something I might look into further.

Thing 14 - Organising references

Despite a first degree in History and a Masters in Librarianship, I’ve never used any referencing tools to help me with my work. I was introduced to Endnote last year during my MA as part of a computing skills module, but I found it quite difficult to use and never bothered with it further. This was partly because I didn’t have it on my laptop, and since I do almost all my work on there, this wasn’t much use.

When I was writing my Masters dissertation, like Isla, the author of Thing 14, I did all my referencing and compiled my bibliography myself. I didn’t find this too difficult – I’m very pedantic and trust myself to spot mistakes and follow a required style. Therefore I wasn’t sure if I would actually make use of any referencing tools. Also, I have no need of them at the moment. I’ve finished my MA and have no more essays to write. However, I decided to take a quick look at these tools, as they will be handy to know about if I ever get a job in an academic library and need to make students aware of them.

I’ve heard good things about Zotero but the fact that it needed a Firefox plugin put me off. I used to use Firefox but I switched to Chrome recently and didn’t want to go back to using a different browser just for this tool. However, I found out from Stephen Ayre’s blog that a beta version is now available as a standalone package (http://www.zotero.org/support/3.0) so this is reassuring.

I watched the introductory video and I have to say Zotero looks easy to use. I like how it updates over different locations so you can access your references wherever you are. I imagine this would appeal to students who do work on their home computer as well as at university. I also liked the function of adding notes and quotations to individual records. I used to write all my notes on random bits of paper and was then faced with the task of keeping them all in order, but this seems like a much more convenient way.

I watched the introductory video to Mendeley and liked the look of it too. I thought it seemed similar to Zotero in many ways. I’m not sure which one I would use – I think if I am ever in a position to use one of these tools I will investigate them both in a bit more detail before choosing one to download. I definitely want to pick one and stick with it rather than messing about with more than one.

I had a quick look at this and it seems interesting, but I already have a delicious account so don’t think I will bother with this.

I’m actually quite glad I had a look at these tools, as they do look quite useful and I would almost certainly use one of them in the future. Though they aren’t directly related to my life or work at the moment, they may well be in the future and at least I’ve got a bit of a head start.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thing 13 - Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

I was looking forward to this Thing as I’d heard of these tools but hadn’t explored them in any great detail. I’m forever emailing documents to myself so I hoped they would help me simplify the process of working on things from more than one computer. I'm a little late though as I've been spending a few days at home in the lovely North East.

Nice view of the Millennium Bridge, the Sage and the Baltic

Google Docs
I didn’t think I’d ever used Google Docs before, but when I logged in I found some documents there: a copy of my CV, a list of referees and a couple of other Word docs. I was briefly confused until I remembered that I’d uploaded them back in December when I was still looking for a job, so that I had access to them in different places. I prefer to keep Google Docs for professional use, as all my Google accounts are LIS related (I have a separate Hotmail account for personal email, for example) and will try to make more of an effort to store work-related information here, possibly including my Chartership portfolio, when I eventually get around to chartering. I haven’t actually converted any documents to Google Docs yet, and haven’t used the collaborative function either, but it seems easy enough to do and I can see that it might be useful in the future.

Dropbox
I’d heard of Dropbox but had never got around to exploring it properly. I found it easy to set up and straightforward to download, and the presentation was simple to understand. I had the usual problem with not being able to download it on my work computer, but this shouldn’t be a huge issue since I can download any individual item from the web. In any case, I’d probably want to use Google Docs for anything work-related.

Dropbox strikes me as an incredibly useful tool for backing up important files. Unfortunately the 2GB free limit means I couldn’t really store photos on there, although I have an external hard drive on which I can keep these. As a way to back up Word documents and similar it seems great.

Dropbox seems a bit like Evernote in some ways: both can be downloaded to your desktop and backed up on the web, although Dropbox seems more suitable for actual documents while Evernote appears better for web clippings, brief notes and lists. I really like the way that documents are stored on both your computer and the web: it seems much more reliable than straightforward cloud computing, since you can continue working on your documents without an Internet connection. When I’m spending three hours on the London to Newcastle train I don’t want to be unable to access my documents because I’m unwilling to pay for East Coast’s hugely expensive wifi.

I don’t think it’s likely I’ll want to share files or folders from Dropbox with other users, but it’s nice to know the function is there should I want it.

Wikis
Although I’m familiar with Wikipedia and have visited wikis before, I didn’t have any experience of creating or contributing to one. The benefits of Wikis seem many and varied but I just never had the opportunity or the need to manage one.

In order to practice editing a Wiki, I added my contribution to the Library Routes project by linking to my Thing 10 post. This was really simple to do and has given me confidence to explore wikis further should I need to in the future.

Uses in my job?
Although I think all of these things seem really useful, none of them are directly relevant to my current job. At work we have a shared drive and any files to be edited by more than one person are stored there. However, both Google Docs and Dropbox could be useful if I needed to work on a document at home. I will continue to use both of these tools, keeping Google Docs for documents relating to my career and working life, and Dropbox for more personal items. I can’t see that I’ll be using wikis any time in the near future, but I’m glad I now know how to contribute to one and set one up if I do ever need to.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Thing 12 - Putting the social into social media

Oh, we’re halfway there…

*Apologies for gratuitous Bon Jovi picture*

I am definitely a fan of social media, mainly for professional purposes although I use some sites for personal or ‘profersonal’ reasons. I found that my Twitter network started off very small but has grown considerably in the last year, and I’ve learned so much from fellow Tweeters, particularly from the blog posts and articles that are linked to. Twitter is my favourite social network but LinkedIn and forums such as LISNPN also have their part to play. A big advantage of social networking for me is an increased level of confidence when interacting with other professionals. Twitter in particular is an informal, non-intimidating environment and I feel reasonably happy about addressing random remarks to fellow Tweeters, which makes me a bit more confident in real life. However I sometimes feel that active participation in social networking can disadvantage those who don’t want or are unable to take part: perhaps they are too busy, relevant sites are blocked at work, or social networking just isn’t their thing. I don’t think people should feel obliged to use these sites and they shouldn’t be made to feel ‘out of the loop’ because of them. However, personally I have enjoyed using social networking sites and will continue to do so.

23 Things for Professional Development has been really helpful for me to make contact with different people. I’ve added several blogs to my Google Reader and try to make time for them, as well as dipping in and out of the cpd23 blog roll. It’s a perfect example of how social media can be used for professional development purposes.

I genuinely do believe social networking helps to foster a sense of community, and it’s great at enabling professionals to share ideas and items of note. However I think care needs to be taken not to exclude people, whether actively or by perception. I won’t go into details as Rachel Bickley and Lauren Smith have already written blog posts on the existence or otherwise of a ‘new professionals clique’, but I think it’s important that people don’t feel excluded, intentionally or unintentionally.

This week’s task was to add a new contact to a social network. I do make a conscious effort to add new Twitter contacts anyway, so I chose a blog to add to my Google Reader instead, ensuring I’ll always read their posts.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Thing 11 - Mentoring


I was interested to read the Thing 11 post on mentoring as it reminded me of Rachel Bickley’s presentation on establishing dialogues between new and experienced professionals at the New Professionals Conference 2011. Mentoring seems like a more individual, personal way of establishing a line of communication between a newer professional and a more experienced one.

I don’t have any experience of the mentoring process myself. The closest I came was earlier this year when I faced a huge dilemma over whether or not to apply for a particular job. I ended up emailing two of my friends explaining the situation and asking for their advice. Neither of them are librarians, but I’ve known them for a long time, they’re both successful in their own careers and I admire their outlook on life. In the end they both gave really good advice which I didn’t actually end up taking – but their advice was really valuable in the sense that it made me think about my priorities, what I wanted from a job and my life, and generally put things into perspective.

The coolest mentor ever?

I think the idea of having a mentor is a good one: benefiting from the knowledge and experience of someone more senior is helpful on a personal level as well as helping to facilitate the dialogue suggested by Rachel in her presentation. However, I personally wouldn’t know where to find one or where to start looking. I do hope to begin chartership in the next couple of years and since having a mentor is a formal requirement, I should be able to experience the process then.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Can anyone help with a copyright query?

My friend is in a brass band and they would like to promote themselves by posting films of them performing on YouTube. However the band performs a lot of popular and modern songs and some of the band members are worried they might be infringing copyright if they post videos of these.

If anyone can help or advise I'd really appreciate it!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Thing 10 - Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

I always meant to write about how I got into librarianship, and this Thing seems as good a time as any. Like many people, I didn’t want to be a librarian when I was younger. When I was at primary school, I was going to live on a farm with my friend Helen. She was going to be the farmer and I would look after the house. Realistically speaking, though I always wanted to go to university and knew from the age of about eleven that I wanted to study either English or History, I found it impossible to visualise a life after education.

In the end, I studied History at the University of York (2003-2006) which I loved. I briefly considered a few careers while I was there. I dismissed publishing and museum work because they were too competitive. I thought briefly about journalism and even wrote a couple of articles for one of the student newspapers, but didn’t pursue this. I volunteered in the Marketing department of York Theatre Royal and seriously considered a career in arts marketing, until I realised that it would probably require someone with a much more outgoing personality than I actually possessed. Ironically, I’ve now realised that librarianship is a. competitive and b. not ideal for the shy. If I’d known this at the time I would probably never have become a librarian, so it’s just as well I didn’t.

After university I went to St Petersburg, Russia, to teach English. I never had any intention of pursuing a career in teaching – it was simply a means to an end so that I could visit a country that interested me. I also wanted to experience going abroad, which I hadn’t been able to do much of previously – in fact when I got on that plane to Russia it was the first time I’d ever been on a plane in my life!


St Petersburg was lovely but I realised very quickly that teaching wasn’t my thing.
The adult classes weren’t too bad, in fact I came to enjoy them on occasion, but I was completely out of my depth when it came to the younger students. Also, I found having to stand in front of groups of people every day incredibly stressful. I left Russia after three months.


Back home, with no clear plan about the direction my life was supposed to be taking, I started temping and spent my spare time on the Internet looking for inspiration. Somehow I discovered CILIP, then the CATALOG website, and websites about other graduate traineeships. The more I read about librarianship, the more I felt it would suit me and the more I wondered that I’d never thought of it before. Not wanting to rush into anything, I decided not to apply for traineeships straight away, but wait for the next year’s round. I spent the next year working for my local council while volunteering at my local public library at the weekend, undertaking another work placement, and studying for the ECDL in my spare time while applying for every graduate traineeship on the CILIP website.

I ended up in Cambridge, as the Graduate Trainee at St John’s College (2008-2009). I loved the job, and was able to get experience in lots of different areas: reader services, cataloguing and classification, website design and archives and rare books, as well as visits to other libraries and training courses.

I wanted to study the Masters full-time so that I could get it over with. I applied for the MA in Librarianship at Sheffield (2009-2010) and was lucky enough to be accepted with AHRC funding. I really enjoyed the course, learned loads and met some lovely people. The practical experience vs formal qualification debate has been discussed before, but for me, the combination of both was ideal – I got so much out of both my traineeship and my MA and I honestly wouldn’t want to have missed out on either. During my course, I was Chair of the Library and Information Professionals Social Society (which chiefly involved trying to get my coursemates to the pub, with varying degrees of success), worked as a library assistant for a few hours per week and volunteered in Sheffield Cathedral Archives.

After the course, I couldn’t find a job straight away so ended up back home in the North East. I registered with an employment agency and a combination of my experience, qualifications and pure chance got me a temporary role as a Senior Information Assistant at Northumbria University, helping to administer the digital repository. I continued to apply for jobs in London, which is somewhere I’d wanted to live since I was a small child. Eventually I was successful and started working at the College of Law in February, helping to manage the VLE.

I would certainly like to charter at some point in the future, but not straight away. My current job is only a one-year contract, so I’d rather wait until I’m more settled before I get stuck in. Also, I feel that I’ll get more out of it if I wait a couple of years.

In the future, I’d like to work in an academic and/or research library; I would love to work with archives or rare books but I don’t know if this is a realistic option if I want to stay in London, which I certainly do. I’ll see what happens anyway!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thing 9 - Evernote

Dorothy Parker famously said that women and elephants never forget, but this woman certainly DOES forget, and on a regular basis – and that’s where the elephant comes in.

The incomparable Dorothy Parker - photo courtesy of Confetta on Flickr

That’s the idea, anyway. I’ve already had a brief flirtation with Evernote: after hearing good things about it, I downloaded it a few months ago, however I never really used it, and ended up deleting it once I discovered Diigo. Diigo is a bookmarking and note-making service, quite similar to Delicious. It’s very easy and simple to use, and you don’t need to download anything (except the optional Diigolet, a browser bookmarklet, which helps you quickly bookmark web pages and make notes – there is also a toolbar available). This means I can access Diigo from both home and work without having to download anything. I mainly use it for bookmarks, but also brief notes and to-do lists. Evernote does all this too, but it just seemed more complicated, and I never bothered.

I wrote at the beginning of 23 Things that I wanted to give Evernote another chance and investigate it properly. I reactivated my account, downloaded it to my computer and Android phone, and installed the Web Clipper to my Chrome browser. I don’t normally like things cluttering up my browser, but the little elephant doesn’t take up too much space.

I wasn’t permitted to download Evernote for Windows to my work computer, but was able to install the Firefox extension. In any case, it’s easy enough to use the online version and sync it later. For some reason, I was convinced that you couldn’t access it online and had to download it, which is one reason I abandoned it last time, as I thought I wouldn’t be able to use it at work. This will teach me to investigate things properly.

I decided to play around with Evernote by creating a notebook called cpd23. I saved the web page with the Thing 9 post, and was able to add notes and pictures so that I had everything to hand when it came to drafting my own Thing 9 post. I was impressed by how easy it was and how well everything worked, particularly how easy it was to click and drag images from the web to Evernote. This made it easier for me to write my post and is something I can repeat for future Things.


I tried using the Snapshot feature on Evernote for Android to take and upload a picture with my phone. Again this was very easy. I’m going to try out this feature some more this Saturday – I’m off to the Great British Beer Festival at Earl’s Court and will see if I can photograph some particularly appealing beers for future reference.

This time round, I feel like I’m getting the hang of Evernote and think it’s something I’ll continue to use in the future. I will still use Diigo as a bookmarking service – to me, Diigo is better for saving bookmarked web sites, while Evernote seems more suited to saving individual web pages with associated notes. Though I still find Diigo useful for quick notes, Evernote has more functionality and seems better suited to grouping notes of different kinds and bringing things together. As a compulsive list-maker, this is right up my street.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Thing 8 - Google Calendar

It’s somewhat ironic that I’m a week late for the ‘organising yourself’ Things. I had a lovely week in Portugal and have come back, I hope, refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things.

I used to be the sort of person who didn’t write things down, because I could remember them anyway. I’m not that sort of person any longer: whether this is down to my age, or the fact I have more going on these days, I’m not sure, but I certainly need to keep some kind of record of things coming up.

I prefer to keep a written diary, partly because I find that the act of writing something down helps me to remember it. Just after Christmas I bought this pretty Filofax. In all honesty, I tend to use it to keep a record of what I’m seeing at the theatre, rather than anything else.

Birds!

Having said that, I do like to have an electronic version of my calendar, as I don’t want to be carrying my Filofax everywhere I go. I’m familiar with Google Calendar as I have an Android phone which syncs my appointments, which means it’s easy to remind myself when my dentist appointment is or whether I’m going to the theatre on a particular evening.

However, before investigating this Thing, I hadn’t realised that you could get daily weather reports or add other calendars. So thank you for this! I’ve added the 23 Things calendar to my iGoogle page and synced it to my phone, which means I can instantly see what Things are coming up.

I don’t use Google Calendar for anything directly relating to my job, as we use the Groupwise email and calendar client at work and I need to be able to accept and view appointments using this. However, for everything else, I find it incredibly useful.